The Disarming Act
Disarming Act refers to the laws enacted by the English in the 18th century to disarm the people of Scotland. Unlike some think, there are several laws for this. The most well-known, which is also what is meant by the Disarming Act today, is the 1746 Act of Proscription issued as a result of the Jacobite uprisings.
Disarming Act of 1716
In 1707, the kingdoms of England and Scotland united to the Kingdom of Great Britain. After the Stuart dynasty was replaced in 1714 with the House of Hanover by the House of Hanover, it came a year later to the first uprising (The Fifteen) of the Stuart followers.
As a result, in early November 1716, the first Disarmament Act was passed, enacting an Act for Safeguarding the Peace of the Highlands in Scotland. It prohibited the possession, carrying or use of weapons in certain parts of Scotland. Dunbartonshire (now East and West Dunbartonshire), Stirlingshire, Perthshire, Kincardineshire, Aberdeenshire, Inverness-shire, Nairnshire, Ross-shire and Cromartyshire (now Ross and Cromarty), Argyll, Angus (Forfarshire), Banffshire, Sutherland, Caithness and Morayshire (Elginshire), but the law was not very effective.
Disarming Act of 1725
In 1725 another law followed: ‘An act for the more effectual disarming the highlands in that part of Great Britain called Scotland; (A law for the more effective disarming of highlanders in the part of Britain called Scotland and for better securing of peace and tranquility of this part of the kingdom).
Major General George Wade successfully enforced this law and confiscated large quantities of weapons in the Highlands. In the second uprising of the Jacobites (The Forty-Five), therefore, different, outdated weapons were used. Although the arming of the Highlander by captured rifles in the Battle of Culloden was better, they were nevertheless defeated.
Act of Proscription of 1746
After the defeat of the Jacobites, a new disarmament law was passed in August 1746:
An act for the more effectual disarming the highlands in Scotland; and for the more effectual securing the peace of the said highlands; and for restraining the use of the highland dress; and for further indemnifying such persons as have acted in the defence of His Majesty’s person and government, during the unnatural rebellion; and for indemnifying the judges and other officers of the court of judiciary in Scotland, for not performing the northern circuit in May, one thousand seven hundred and forty six; and for obliging the masters and teachers of private schools in Scotland, and chaplains, tutors and governors of children or youth, to take the oaths to his Majesty, his heirs and successors, and to register the same.
In order to prevent future uprisings after the experiences of the first laws, this time they also wanted to destroy the Can System.
Myths of the Act of Proscription
Associated with the Act of Proscription, some myths arose, some of which also found in the literature. Thus, the practice of Bagpipes, the gaelic Language and Gatherings was banned, but this is not mentioned anywhere in the law. The only mention of Languages can be found in the last section after registering private schools teaching English, Latin or Greek. In everyday life Gaelic remained the common Language.
The myth of the Bagpipe ban consolidated from 1749. In 1975, Seamus MacNeill, head of Glasgow’s College of Piping, wrote:
“The situation for piping changed drastically. From 1746 to 1782 to play the bagpipe was a criminal offence punishable by death.”
This Myth originated, because after the uprising in 1745 actually Piper were charged.
James Reid, one of these Pipers, was executed in mid-November 1746 -at that time the Dress Act was not yet in force- in York. He was convicted of participating in a rebellion and high treason-not bagpipe gambling-with James stressing that he was merely Piper. The judge replied that never a regiment marches without music and therefore the Bagpipe is part of the military Equipment.
In fact, between 1746 and 1782 there is a reference to the place of jurisdiction where a Piper was charged or convicted for playing a Bagpipe.
Repeal of the Dress Act
The Dress Act was repealed by law on July 1, 1782 and publicly announced in English and Gaelic:
Listen Men. This is bringing before all the Sons of the Gael, the King and Parliament of Britain have forever abolished the act against the Highland Dress; which came down to the Clans from the beginning of the world to the year 1746. This must bring great joy to every Highland Heart. You are no longer bound down to the unmanly dress of the Lowlander. This is declaring to every Man, young and old, simple and gentle, that they may after this put on and wear the Truis, the Little Kilt, the Coat, and the Striped Hose, as also the Belted Plaid, without fear of the Law of the Realm or the spite of the enemies.
But the knowledge of making and coloring the plaids, appearance of the Tartans, as well as their Clan assignment from before was lost.