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I came across the Monthly Repository while researching Harriet Taylor Mill. Her husband, JS Mill, wrote for the magazine, and so I thought it would be interesting to examine some of its publications. Although not a Scottish periodical, it revealed various links with the Scottish reformist movement, alongside echoing a clearly sympathetic line with regards to the wider Radical developments that occurred during its lifespan between 1806-1838.

Spanning thirty-two years of publication, I could not realistically read every issue from every year. Thus, I decided to focus on a small selection of the magazine’s output – namely, April 1820, April 1829 and June 1832. I chose these dates because they coincided with notable progressive events: the ‘Radical War’ of 1820, Catholic Emancipation in 1829 and the passing of the Great Reform Act (and its Scottish equivalent) in 1832. Not every article that I uncovered within each issue was related, at least directly, to the connected event of that month. However, there almost always was some correlation between the entry and the event, with some links being more tenuous than others.

The issue in April 1820 sees an interesting entry, dated 5th of April, dedicated to wishing King George IV well after a “short but dangerous illness which seized him almost immediately after his accession to the throne” . The article subsequently contains a prayer for the King’s health, upon which a selection of remarks regarding the poem were taken from an “Evangelical church magazine” for inclusion into the article. It is clear that these remarks (and the article in general) are much more religiously-oriented than politically-minded. For instance, they express concern that the use of the word “severest” within the prayer is inappropriate, since they assert that “we ought not… to speak of any of [God’s] dispensations towards his creatures as ‘severe’” . Moreover, the remarks further object that whole sentence which contains the word acts as a “oblique panegyric on the King for his trust in God… than a direct thanksgiving to God himself” . However, this is not to say that the entry never crosses into the political sphere. Firstly, the most glaring political connotation of this article is that it was written at the same time as the Radical War of 1820. Of course, a piece about the King’s health was clearly necessary during a time when it was threatened. Yet, it cannot be abstracted from the political context and therefore was surely not entirely coincidental that it was included at a time when in the north of the Kingdom, subjects were pushing to supposedly establish a ‘provisional government’. Furthermore, the lines between the religious and the political are blurred somewhat as one of the remarks declares that “a still greater defect… is that [the prayer] only prays to God to accept his Majesty’s thanks; not a word is said of the nation joining them” . The remarker clearly finds it abominable that we “pray God to accept the thanks of the King as if we had no concern in him ourselves” . Hence, the objection is stuffed with loyalist connotations; from their perspective, the King’s subjects should not merely be passive, but active and supportive, in such monarchical affairs. Additionally, in the same way that an objection is made regarding the appropriate use of language when referring to God within the prayer, they posit that “’our sovereign lord the King’ is a phrase so much oftener heard at the bar than in the reading-desk… surely it is an offence against… his loving subjects to repeat such a form of words as this misguided Thanksgiving” . What I do find intriguing is how an article that seems to be so abjectly staunch in its support of the King was permitted to feature within a magazine as politically radical as the Repository. This may have been because the article adopted a more religious than political angle. Indeed, anything political, such as the expectation that the nation prays for the health of the King, is evidently subsumed within the religious. Interrelatedly, at least from the perspective of both the Evangelical magazine and the Repository, there may not have been anything political about the expectation of national monarchical support. Although an anti-loyalist stance was being adopted in some areas of Scotland during this time, overtly criticising the monarchy as an institution or even demanding its abolition would not have been a widely-shared position within broader Radical circles, despite shared agreement on other socio-economic issues. Nonetheless, it remains significant that, aside from the fact that the magazine ran an article that evoked such stark political connotations, the issue contains no mention of the Radical War at all, since it embodied a movement that shared a great deal of values that the Repository’s editorial board held dear. I examined the subsequent issue to see if there was any belated reference to it, but to no avail.

The next edition of the magazine I explored was that of April 1829. This tied in with the passing of the Catholic Relief Act, a major reformist victory which brought about Catholic Emancipation throughout the United Kingdom. The issue of Catholic Emancipation, and indeed the knock-on effects that it had on other issues such as the push to repeal the Acts of the Union, connects to other posts about Scottish Radicalism within this series – for instance, the letter sent by James Browne to William Tait expressing his anger at the invitation sent by the Edinburgh Citizens’ Society to Daniel O’Connell, an eminent Emancipationist and later proponent of repeal. But articles within this issue also connect to wider societal concerns that Radicals across the Kingdom wished to address. One example is discussed within the April 1829 edition of the Repository – namely, the question of ‘National Education for Ireland’, as the article is titled. Of course, as the title asserts, the focus of the article is on Ireland, not Scotland. But this is not to say that there was no crossover between the Radical movements between those in Ireland and Scotland. Despite the fact that the article discusses national education in an Irish context, they display awareness that the “radical error” concerning all schemes of national education “is that they are schemes for the poor” . Thus, despite a man requiring “even more skill and dexterity in his art because the minds in which he is to work are in an inferior state of cultivation”, scarcely any talented man “will take charge in a pauper school” – though, the article asserts – he should take no issue with this “if he is to be one of a profession” . Hence, “the… machine of national education should furnish teachers for both [wealthy and poor schools]” so as to improve the lives and futures of pauper children. As was the case in Scotland as well as Ireland, the article refers to education that was conducted by religious authorities in replacement of governmentally-funded schools, and the problems that this alternative raised. Some issues with this were inherently Irish – for instance, in the south of Ireland “the plan of having two separate days for religious instruction, one for Catholics and one for Protestants, may do very well” , whereas in the north “it would never do” since “the divisions of Protestants among themselves would… render three days at least necessary for them alone” . But there is clearly some overlap between them; potential educational inequalities raised by the variation of religious inclination across Irish populations were realised in Scotland, where despite religious education widening “by the 1830s and 1840s… to include various other forms of schooling including mission schools, Bible societies, and improvement classes” , these forms of education were only open to Protestants.

An additional link to Scottish Radicalism that this article provided was that it contained a quote from an article written nine years prior titled ‘[an] Essay on the Evils of Popular Ignorance’, alternatively titled ‘The New Plan of Education for England’, within the British (its founders were a mixture of Englishmen and Scotsmen) Edinburgh Review. The Review, which was by 1820 in its third installation (having been established and then disbanded twice before, in 1755-56 and 1773-76), and, as a Whig supporting magazine, regularly called for political reform. The ‘Education for England’ article within the Review, despite evidently being concerned with the state of English education, also correlates to the question of Scottish education reform since with the problem of population growth “it became increasingly apparent that Scotland's educational system would collapse without… state aid” . Thus, the Review dispelled what they deemed to be “fallacious” arguments proposed by those who doubted the “expediency of the government interfering with the instruction of the people” , and made the case for government intervention within the education sector. Serious attempts made by the state to improve the condition of schooling within Scotland, however, would not be launched until nearly twenty years after the 1829 publication of the Repository, or thirty in the case of the Review. These forays would culminate ultimately in failure, but they would provide precedent for the 1872 Scotland Education Act which “took the control of education away from the churches and… into the hands of local popularly elected school boards” , as well as “mandated compulsory education for children aged 5 to 13” (with some exceptions in both cases).

Lastly, I explored the June 1832 edition of the Repository, Within the issue, it includes the ‘Reform Song’ which appears to be an adapted version of the 1793 song Scots, Wha Hae. The original song depicted Robert Bruce addressing his soldiers at the battle of Bannockburn in 1314, in which the Scots fought the army of the English King Edward II, and contained lines such as “Wha will be a traitor knave? Wha can fill a coward’s grave?”, “Wha for Scotland’s King and Law, Freedom’s sword will strongly draw. Freeman stand or freeman fa’, Let him follow me!” and “Lay the proud usurpers low! Tyrants fall in every foe! Liberty’s in every blow! Let us do or die!” . Indeed, the original 1793 version was not short of political controversy. As the lines given as examples clearly illustrate, their emphasis on liberty and freedom from their oppressors could be tied neatly with the desire for Scottish reform within the 1790s, which also coincided (and was likely exacerbated by) the French Revolution. Considering this alongside the fact that King Louis XVI had been executed in January 1793, it would have been a deeply contentious piece for Burns to write at the time – so much so, that “when it was published in the Morning Chronicle in 1794 Burns could not publicly acknowledge it” . But, because of its politically inflammatory nature, it became a favoured song among both Scottish reformists, and Radical bodies more widely, hence its inclusion within the Repository in 1832. With regards to the political backdrop of the time, however, the song was adapted and utilised not for usage within a strictly Scottish Radical context but within a broader reformist climate – namely, the passing of the 1832 Great Reform Act of England and Wales (with its equivalent in Scotland passed at the same time). Thus, certain lines had been altered to fit the triumphant mood within reformist circles; for example, “See the front o’ battle lour” was amended to “freedom is our nation’s dower”, and “Wha for Scotland’s King and Law, Freedom’s sword will strongly draw” was changed to “Gather like the muttering storm, wake your thunders for REFORM” . What I find particularly notable about the inclusion of the Scots, Wha Hae adaptation within the Repository, though, is that it reconciled Scottish Radical calls for change and interrelated movements (such as the French Revolution) of the late 18th century with 19th century advances in reform embodied by the 1832 Reform Acts. By replacing the wording of Scots, Wha Hae but retaining its spirit, the ‘Reform Song’ represented a new era in Radicalism which symbolised that, firstly, reform and the democratic representation that it brought was possible and, secondly, that those who desired change could not rest on their laurels but should instead reject satisfaction or complacency so as to effectuate further progress. But this epoch was only possible through the work done by the Scottish Radicals and reformists of the late 18th century, as well as those much earlier movements such as that of Robert Bruce’s in 1314 that laid the all-important foundations for later change. Scots, Wha Hae, and its form within the ‘Reform Song’, therefore reflects not individual and fractured moments of reformist thought, but rather a legacy of Scottish resistance towards the status quo and steadfast desire for change.