The Porteous Riot, 1736

H.T. Dickinson & Kenneth Logue describe the events of a Scottish protest against the Act of Union with England.

In January 1736 three Scottish smugglers attempted to rob an excise officer in Fife of about £200. The crime was hardly unique, and the attempt was a complete fiasco; yet the episode was to have profound consequences. It led to the City Guard firing on the crowd watching the execution of one of those criminals in Edinburgh; to a remarkable riot in which the captain of the guard was lynched; to a major Parliamentary inquiry which seriously embarrassed Walpole’s administration; and to an attempt to punish the city of Edinburgh that provoked the resistance of almost all Scotland.

These episodes made men question the treaty of union between England and Scotland, illustrated the great difficulty of trying to manage Scotland from London, and formed the basis of Sir Walter Scott’s celebrated, but highly-romanticized, story, The Heart of Midlothian.

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