Plea to overturn Acts of Attainders 2012

Newspaper article Scotsman
Duke of Argyll joins Jacobite rebels to petition Queen for clemency
Published on Sunday 13 May 2012 00:00

THE Queen is to be presented with a petition aimed at ending laws imposed by the British government on the vanquished Jacobite clans after the 1715 and 1745 risings.

After the failed insurrection to restore the House of Stuart to the British throne, Acts of Parliament – known as Acts of Attainders – deemed the blood of many rebels “corrupt,” confiscated their property, removed their family inheritances and exiled them to North America as indentured servants.

Now the descendants of those whose family names were tainted by the Acts of Attainder are to petition the monarch in the hope that the old legislation will be overturned as a gesture of goodwill during the Diamond Jubilee year.

And in a sign that centuries of animosity are being forgotten in today’s Scotland, the Duke of Argyll has joined with Jacobite descendants to sign the petition, which will be sent to the Queen’s private secretary and presented to UK and Scottish ministers on Thursday.

As the Chief of the Clan Campbell, Argyll is the head of a family which fought against Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Jacobite army at Culloden. One of his antecedents, the 2nd Duke of Argyll, led the government army at the Battle of Sheriffmuir, which defeated the Jacobites led by the Earl of Mar in 1715.

Yesterday Argyll, whose ancestral home Inveraray Castle is the seat of Clan Campbell, said: “2015 will be the 300th Anniversary of the rebellion and as time is a great healer I personally do not believe that the families should still be disadvantaged by the attainders, especially their descendants.

“Scotland is open for business and we welcome visitors from all over the world so if Her Majesty The Queen was able to grant clemency to the descendants I believe that this would be an honourable thing to do.”

The inclusion of Argyll’s signature on the petition has been welcomed by the descendants of those who his ancestors fought against.

“The Duke of Argyll has signed the petition and were they not outstanding supporters of the Hanoverians – so today the attitude is that these old quarrels should be forgiven,” said Peter Drummond-Murray, whose Jacobite ancestor, James Drummond, was the victim of an Act of Attainder in 1696.

“All this is about is what might be called reconciliation. There were tens of thousands of ordinary people who were forfeited and we would regard this as a general act of reconciliation.”

The list of those “attainted” by the Acts included all ranks from peers and lairds, who were stripped of their titles, properties and their inheritances, to clerks and commoners.

The Acts of Attainders were first passed after after 1688, when James VII of Scotland and II of England was replaced by his daughter Mary II and her husband, William of Orange. Many who refused to swear allegiance to William and Mary were tried for treason and “attainted.” Some were executed, some sent into exile and were punished by Acts of Attainder.

A motion tabled in the Scottish Parliament by the Conservative MSP Jamie McGrigor calling for the Acts of Attainder to be reversed has gathered support from Labour and SNP MSPs.

Yesterday, McGrigor said: “There are apologies being offered all over the world for various misdemeanors and perhaps we should start in our own country.

“The savaging of the clans after the ’45 is a pretty horrific chapter in our history. I don’t think my family got an attainder, but it is time to forgive and forget. This is for a general attainder. In her Jubilee year, it may be that Her Majesty might wish to do it.”

Buckingham Palace refused to comment.

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