Posts Tagged ‘1790s’

Tree of Liberty

434px-Tree_of_libertyAberdeen has traditionally been viewed as a rather conservative area, and following the French Revolution, although there were sympathetic individuals, it would appear there was no formal branch of the Friends of the People or United Scotsmen established. There were organisations active all over Scotland, in nearby Dundee, Montrose and St Cyrus, and those groups sent delegates to the 1st Friends Convention in December 1792. Most notable was the group in Dundee, where there was a very active Dundee Friends of Liberty. There was an earlier group in Portsoy, Banffshire, called the Portsoy Universal Liberty Club. This group formed in January 1792 and appear to have been active until mid-1792. It corresponded with the Jacobin Club in France, submitted an abolition of the slave trade petition and stated its aims: “…to correspond with other Clubs and Societies throughout the world, on the glorious cause of Liberty; the Rights of Man; a just free and equal representation, in Parliament; the abolition of the Slave Trade, and other disgraceful and oppressive laws existing in Great Britain”.

At this time a symbolic and defiant act was the planting of a tree ‘of liberty’. Inspired by the American Revolution, during the French Revolution, a tree was planted wherever the French troops established themselves. The tree was garnished with garlands and emblems, as a symbol of renewal and liberation. Trees were planted all across Scotland and were often accompanied by crowd disturbances of some kind. A tree was planted in Aberdeen in 1792 and there are also records of other trees being erected across Scotland, in Dundee, Fochabers and Stonehaven. For example, in Dundee in November 1792, rioters erected a tree with the scroll ‘Liberty, Equality and No Sinecures’ and decorated it with apples and lights.

References: Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires Preserved in the Department of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum, volume VII, 1793 – 1800 (M. Dorothy George, London, 1942), Popular Disturbances in Scotland 1780 – 1815 (Kenneth Logue, J. Donald, Edinburgh, 1979), Scotland and the French Revolution (Henry William Meikle, J Maclehose & Sons, Glasgow, 1912) and Scottish Society 1707 – 1830: Beyond Jacobitism (Chris Whatley, Manchester University Press, 2000).

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