Disarming Act

Extract of a letter from Lord Justice Clerk Thomas Fletcher to John, Marquis of Tweeddale, Secretary of State for Scotland (1742-1746) commenting on the political allegiances of the clans, 16 September 1745 (SP 54/26/25).


…I shall signify to your Lordship in plain words what authoritys [laws] I desired to have been sent down to impower [empower] the well affected [loyal] to appear in a Legall way for the defence of his Majestys person and Government.

And to explain myself fully on this head, your [Lordship] will be pleased to reflect on the state of this Country at present at the beginning of this Rebellious Insurrection which began about six weeks ago & at this hour is holding in dread the capitall of this part of the Kingdom.

Scotland may be divided into two parts the one disarmed and the other unarmed, By the former I mean the Highlands and by the later the Lowlands, The former produces as good militia as any in Europe, the later (with which your Lordship and I are most acquainted) are neighbourlike, but little accustomed to [&] the use of arms, [while] they are employed in a military manner.

The Highlands again may be divided into three classes. First what I shall call the Whig clanns, who have always bore that character since these names and distinctions were among us, of your sort your Lordship and every one acquainted with this Country knows the Chief are the Campbells, the Southerlands, the Grants, the Munroes, the McKays. The second class are the clans still professedly Jacobite and who at this moment are giveing prooff of it viz the Camerons, the Mcdonalds of Clannronald, Keppoch & Glengary and a few more of lesser note, the third class is made up of those who were engaged in the late Rebellion But whereof the cheifs now profess and practice submission and obedience to the Government among these may be accounted the McKenzies, McLeods, D.Gordon’s, Mcdonald of the Isles the behaviour of which last has been most exemplary and meritorious on this occasion.

By an Act of the 1st of the late King, entitled an act for the more effectual security of the peace of the Highlands, the whole Highlanders without distinction are disarmed forever and forbid to use or bear arms under penaltys.

This act has been found by Experience to work the quite contrary effect from what was intended by it, and in reality proves a mean for more effectually disturbing, the peace of the Highlands, and of the rest of the Kingdom, & his Majestys Government by and through those highlands, and the cause of this operation is now plainly visible. For all the disaffected clans retain their arms, and either concealed them at the fact of disarming, or have provided themselves since, at the same time that the dutyfull and well affected clans have truely submitted to this measure of the Government and Act of the Legislature and are still disarmed or have no quantity of Fire arms amongst them.

The Fatall effects of this difference at the time of a Rebellious Insurrection must be very obvious, & but too clearly seen, and by us in this Country felt at this Hour, I pray God they be felt no further South.

By that disarming Act as it stands, there is still room left for arming occasionally even the Highland or prohibited Countrys [counties] and the method reserved or expected from the prohibition is, when by his Majesty’s order & out of his arsenall the People are called out  and armed by the Lords Lieutenant of the Countys then they may lawfully bear & use such arms, during such number of days and space of time as shall be expressed in his Majesty’s order.

This is in plain words of a statute an answer to your Lordship’s question what Authoritys [laws] I desired might be sent down to impower the well affected to appear in a legall way for the defence of his Majestys person and Government.

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