Today’s post is a guest post from Tim Worth, a PhD candidate at the University of Southampton. His thesis examines transatlantic Scotophobia during the late eighteenth century, and how ideas of ethnicity affected British and American images of empire.
Over the past couple of years I’ve followed the fascinating Junto debate about whether or not we can see the War of American Independence as a civil war. Tom Cutterham and Christopher F. Minty have both put forward some excellent arguments outlining the strengths and weaknesses of this model. Whether or not we should use the term “civil war,” a great many contemporary writers often described the conflict as a tragic war fought between Britons. Today, I want to add a little more to this debate by breaking these Britons down into their component parts, and briefly examining how popular attitudes towards one of the ethnic groups we’re left with, the Scots, affected English and American ideas of the war during its early years.
Most writers employed the term “civil war” in order to provoke a powerful emotive response amongst their readers. A civil war was, ultimately, a tragic war. The outbreak of war consequently presented American writers and printers with a dilemma; how could they encourage people to fight in a conflict which so much of their popular literature continued to lament as “an unnatural civil war” against a people with whom they were bound “by the tenderest ties”? How, too, could they fight against Britain without alienating their British supporters, many of whom were busily churning out petitions and raising subscriptions on their behalf?
What the Americans and their English supporters needed was a scapegoat; an outsider who could be blamed for the miseries of ministerial coercive policy, one who could be demonized and dehumanized into an enemy they would be willing to kill. As so often happens in these situations a common enemy was forged from an ethnic minority, in this instance the Scots. The position of Scots in Britain and America made them ideally suited to take on this role. A large proportion of Scottish migrants to America were relative newcomers who arrived during a surge of emigration from the Scottish Highlands in the 1760s. Many of these men, women and children settled in relatively insular communities in the Southern backcountry, and tended to side with the loyalists at the outbreak of war. In Britain, too, it was widely believed that Scots overwhelmingly favored coercion. Rumors circulated that a “Scotch Junto” of political figures led by the Earl of Bute secretly controlled the cabinet and the King. The Junto, it was whispered, had masterminded the Stamp Act in 1765 and the Intolerable Acts of the early 1770s, and was now driving war with the Americans forwards in order to extend Jacobitism and arbitrary power across the British Empire. English radicals commonly referred to the conflict as “this wicked Scotch War,” “the bloody Scotch war in America,” “this Scotch civil war,” or words to a similar effect.
American and English newspapers made great efforts to Scotticize the image of the British army at the outbreak of war, both in its composition and its manner of warfare. Reports of military recruitment claimed that the English and Irish were refusing to enlist, “so general is their abhorrence to being sent on a Scotch errand, to butcher their countrymen and fellow soldiers in North America.” Scots, however, were depicted as willing and enthusiastic recruits. A host of articles in English newspapers wondered at the “recruiting Parties [who] were never known so industrious as they are at present in most Parts of Scotland.” As an ever increasing number of English newspapers claimed that English soldiers were refusing to “wade through the blood of their countrymen,” American newspapers provided assurance that their soldiers were equally reluctant to fire upon the English. The Pennsylvania Packet, for instance, claimed that “the rifle-men resolve to take aim at the Scotch officers: it affords great diversion to the English to hear of the American rifle-men’s resolve.” For those Americans who were not yet willing to shake off their English or British identities, a shared Scotophobia enabled ties of Anglo-American solidarity to remain in place.
Other reports emphasized the violence of the Scots in the British army. In one particularly long and venomous letter to the London Evening Post, an English writer claimed that “Scotchmen, Hottentot-like, can rejoice in the midst of blood, can chaunt [sic] a Pebrugh, stained and bespattered with the blood of a yankee; and with their daggers fresh reeking from the sacrifice of freedom, can toss up their heels, caper, and dance a reel to the shrieks and yells of his innocent wife and helpless prattlers.” Such stories tended to originate in English newspapers, most likely as an attempt by English sympathisers to disavow themselves of responsibility for various atrocities reported in the press. Their circulation in America, however, helped to promote a very different image of the enemy. The Americans were no longer fighting their fellow-countrymen, but instead a demonic, Jacobite enemy who, if not resisted, would force them to ‘tamely submit to a Scotch yoke’ of arbitrary power.
As the war progressed, the need for a common enemy to unite against diminished. After declaring independence, Americans no longer felt much need to maintain ties of national identity with their English supporters. The English in turn grew less inclined to support America once the latter allied itself with France and Spain. But Scotophobia was certainly both powerful and useful during the early years of the war. By turning the Scots into a common and particularly hateful enemy, newspapers could continue to employ civil war rhetoric without discouraging troops from taking up arms. The Scots were British enough to back up the image of a civil war, but still alien enough to provide a foreign enemy who could be hated, demonized and fought against.
 Norwich Packet, May 11, 1775.
 A large number of English and American newspapers printed or reprinted rumors of the Scotch Junto. The radical weekly publication The Crisis in particular gained widespread circulation in both Britain and America, and regularly damned Bute and Scottish influence in politics. See for example The Crisis, no. V, February 18, 1775; reprinted in America in the New England Chronicle, June 29, 1775 and the Providence Gazette, July 15, 1775.
 See for example Public Advertiser, May 11, 1776; London Evening Post, May 10, 1777; General Advertiser and Morning Intelligencer, February 26, 1778; London Evening Post , March 10, 1778; St. James’s Chronicle, December 20, 1777; Norfolk Chronicle, March 14, 1778.
 Connecticut Gazette, April 28, 1775; Derby Mercury, February 10, 1775; Pennsylvania Packet, September 25, 1775. Similar sentiments appear in a let to the London Chronicle, August 10, 1776. In reality English military participation was higher during the war than at any point in the preceding century. See Stephen Conway, The British Isles and the War of American Independence, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 11-44.
 London Evening Post, February 6, 1777; Constitutional Gazette, November 29, 1775.