scottish enlightenment – founders and culture

Part two of my notes from The Scottish Enlightenment

The founding fathers of the Scottish Enlightenment were Frances Hutcheson and Henry Home (Lord Kames was his judicial title). Frances Hutcheson managed to become the chair of moral philosphy at Glasgow university to much opposition from the Kirk which still had a lot of power over the universities. He was the first person to give lectures in England rather than Latin, broadening allowing for a much greater audience than he would otherwise have. He was Europe’s first liberal and wrote about the importance of personal freedom and natural or civil rights. Henry Home was a succesful advocate who rose to become one of the countries highest judges taking the title Lord Kames. His writings followed on from Hutcheson’s and were the first to decribe the importance of property in a succesful social system. He described how the politics of Scotland had never truly been about loyalty to a king but about royal land grants, the most important political tool available to a monarch. He also oversaw the case of Joseph Knight which ruled that there could be no slavery in Scotland.

After the union the issue of culture had to be tackled. Should Scots speak in English or Scots? Gaelic was not considered an option, by this time it was relegated to the Highlands and Islands. It’s difficult to image how at the time English and Scots were distinct languages, the words and grammer were so different and yet related that Scots found it very difficult to not slip back into the mither toungue. On arriving in London Boswell said to Johnson ‘I do indeed come from Scotland but I can not help it’. The English considered Scottish immigrants to be scroungers, ignorant and corrupt. This is a pattern many other cultures have had to contend with, up to the asylum issues in today’s tabloids. Rather than reject English culture the lowland Scots mastered and conquered it, becoming bi-lingual and writing some of the greatest works of the time such as Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations in a foreign language. The backlash came from the highlands.

Clans were not family groupings of people, they were creations of Scotland’s feudal system which ment crofters had to get their land in return for servitude to a clan chief. The Chief had full power of law, taxes and military service over his clan. The Chiefs had to be loyal to the King to keep their lands and they were often used for political advantage. The massacre of MacDonalds by the Campbells was started as a command from the King. James IV outlawed the MacGregor clan and pardoned the murder of anyone who killed a MacGregor which led to genocide. The ban on MacGregors was not lifted until 1774 and the hope that it would be lifed was one of the reasons why Rob Roy agreed to join the Jacobite rising. Similarly many other clans joined the rising in a hope of regaining land and power. The richer clans did not join the rising.

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