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Opposition politics in the reign of George II

Jacobitism, Opposition and Dissent
A Jacobite Chronology
  • 1688 James II escapes to France
  • 1689 James lands at Kinsale in Ireland; siege of Londonderry; Dundee musters Jacobites at Lochaber and launches Highland War;
  • 1690 guerilla war in Highlands; William defeats James at the Boyne
  • 1691 Scots Jacobites surrender
  • 1692 Glencoe massacre;
  • 1694 8 Lancs Jacobites acquitted of Jacobite conspiracy
  • 1696 'Assassination plot' discovered; mass arrests of Jacobite conspirators
  • 1703 Simon Fraser, 'Lord' Lovat concocts fake 'Scotch' plot in Highlands
  • 1708 Old Pretender arrives at Dunkirk and sail for Scotland but turn back
  • 1715 Bolingbroke flees to France; 4 leading Tories impeached; pro-Jacobite rioting in Midlands and North; Mar raises rebellion at Braemar; capture Perth; uprisings in Northumberland, Moffat, Rothbury, Kelso, Lancaster, Preston; Old Pretender lands at Peterhead
  • 1716 Old Pretender crowned James III at Perth; Jacobites retreat from Perth; Old Pretender leaves for France; Jacobite and Whig gangs fight in London
  • 1717 'Swedish' Jacobite plot aborted
  • 1718 Preparations for a Spanish invasion of England, supported by a Jacobite rising (the '19')
  • 1719 Marischal and Scots Jaobite army defeated at Glenshiel
  • 1722 Arrest of 'Atterbury' plotters
  • 1733 'Cornbury' plot abandoned due to lack of interest
  • 1736 Porteous riots in Edinburgh
  • 1744 British discover plot of French invasion, mass arrests
  • 1745 French defeat Cumberland at Fontenoy; Young Pretender lands at Eriskay; capture Edinburgh; enter England but turn back at Derby;
  • 1746 French invasion cancelled; defeated at Culloden by Cumberland; Charles returns to France
  • 1747 Jacobite demonstrations at Lichfield races
  • 1750 Jacobite rioting at Walsall
  • 1752 Jacobite riots at Exeter
  • 1753 'Elibank' plot betrayed; Cameron executed - last man to die for Jacobite cause
The Jacobites

Jacobitism although with hindsight unsuccessful proved one of the most enduring forms of opposition to the established regime in Britain from 1688 until the 1750's. It had a parliamentary base and much support in the country. There have been major divisions amongst historians who have looked at the contribution Jacobitism made to eighteenth century British politics. These can be divided roughly into the optimists; pessimists and rejectionists.

A) optimists - in some ways descended from the romantic tradition of Jacobitism created by Sir Walter Scott in the nineteenth century when the threat had long since passed and the Jacobite period was looked back on sentimentally. Sir Charles Petrie wrote in the 1930s arguing that Jacobitism was a genuine political movement with a mass following, rather than just an elite band of aristocrats. Eveline Cruickshanks argued in the Political Untouchables that the Tory party were deeply involved with Jacobitism. Paul Hopkin's study of the Highlands war from 1689-91 argued that this was not an unimportant event but a crippling civil war that bankrupted the Scottish state. Monod's study of the social history of Jacobitism suggested that Jacobitism infiltrated all levels of society.

B) pessimists - the main argument is that apaathy, the Revolution settlement and the power of the British state kept the Jacobites at bay and ultimately defeated them. George Hilton Jones wrote in the 1950s portraying the Jacobites as tools of their backers with little hope of success. Other historians have portrayed the Jacobites as out of touch and unpopular.

C) rejectionists - historians in the Whig tradition have tended to ignore Jacobitism, believing that it could only ever occupy the margins of history. It was defeated therefore it could not have won. Paul Langford's Polite and Commercial People; Speck's Tory and Whig and Colley's In Defiance of Oligarchy either ignore or dismiss Jacobitism briefly. The opposite view is Jonathan Clark's who uses Jacobitism to explain the existence of a deep vein of social and political conservatism running through British history until at least the 1820s.