Act of Proscription 1746

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Act of Parliament
Long title
An act for the more effectual disarming the highlands in Scotland; ...
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.
Citation19 Geo. 2, c. 39
Territorial extentScotland
Commencement1 August 1746
Other legislation
Repeals/revokesDisarming Act 1716
Relates toHeritable Jurisdictions (Scotland) Act 1746
Status: Repealed
Text of the Act of Proscription 1746 as in force today (including any amendments) within the United Kingdom, from

The Act of Proscription (19 Geo. 2, c. 39), also called the Act of Proscription 1746,[1] was an Act of the Parliament of Great Britain, which came into effect in Scotland on 1 August 1746. It was part of a series of efforts to assimilate the Scottish Highlands, ending their ability to revolt, and the first of the "King's laws" that sought to crush the Clan system in the aftermath of the Jacobite rising of 1745. These laws were finally repealed on 1 July 1782.[2]


The British forces under the Duke of Cumberland had been brutal in putting down any hint of Jacobite resistance among Highlanders, and the Act can be seen as Parliament asserting the supremacy of the Civil Courts over unconstitutional military coercion.[citation needed]


It was mainly a restatement of the earlier Disarming Act, but with more severe punishments which this time were rigorously enforced. Punishments started with fines, with jail until payment and possible forced conscription for late payment. Repeat offenders were "liable to be transported to any of his Majesty's plantations beyond the seas, there to remain for the space of seven years", effectively indentured servitude.

The penalties for wearing "highland clothing" as stated in the Dress Act 1746 were "imprisonment, without bail, during the space of six months, and no longer; and being convicted for a second offence before a court of justiciary or at the circuits, shall be liable to be transported..." No lesser penalties were allowed for.[3]

Geographical Coverage[edit]

The elements of the act relating to the proscription of arms applied to the Highlands of Scotland, i.e. the counties of Dunbarton, on the north side of the water of Leven, Stirling on the north side of the river of Forth, Perth, Kincardine, Aberdeen, Inverness, Nairn, Cromarty, Argyll, Forfar, Banff, Sutherland, Caithness, Elgin and Ross.[3]

The Dress Act applied to the whole of Scotland.[3]


Dr. Samuel Johnson commented that "the last law by which the Highlanders are deprived of their arms, has operated with efficacy beyond expectations ... the arms were collected with such rigour, that every house was despoiled of its defence". They were also, of course, despoiled of the ability to hunt which, their cattle having been seized, meant starvation for many.

Sections of the Act[edit]

A new section, which became known as the Dress Act, banned wearing of "the Highland Dress". Provision was also included to protect those involved in putting down the rebellion from lawsuits. Measures to prevent children from being "educated in disaffected or rebellious principles" included a requirement for school prayers for the King and Royal family.

The most severe penalties, at a minimum six months' incarceration and transportation to a penal colony for a second offence, made these the most severe portion of this act.

Following Act[edit]

The Act of Proscription was followed by the Heritable Jurisdictions (Scotland) Act 1746 which removed the feudal authority the Clan Chieftains had enjoyed. Scottish heritable sheriffdoms reverted to the Crown, and other heritable jurisdictions, including regalities, came under the power of the courts.


  1. ^ Geoffrey Barton. The Tottenham Outrage and Walthamstow Tram Chase. Waterside Press. 2017. p 47. Vedaschi and Scheppele. 9/11 and the Rise of Global Anti-Terrorism Law. Cambridge University Press. 2021. [1]
  2. ^ "International Tartan Day". Burke's Peerage and Gentry. Archived from the original on 21 November 2008.
  3. ^ a b c "Act of Proscription 1747". Electric Scotland.

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