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Scotland and the Scots, 1707-2007

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Christian Auer

I. Union, 1707

5. The Superior Advantages of Union, 1755

Texte intégral

  • 12 See introduction to text 26.

1Only two numbers of The Edinburgh Review (unrelated to The Edinburgh Review that was founded in October 1802 and that was to become the most influential journal and arbiter of literary taste in Britain) were published, the first in January 1755 and the second in July of the same year. The first paragraph of the preface read: “The design of this work is, to lay before the Public, from time to time, a view of the progressive state of learning in this country. The great number of performances of this nature, which, for almost a century past, have appeared in every part of Europe where knowledge is held in esteem, sufficiently proves that they have been found useful” (p. xix). The journal contained the first known published work of Adam Smith12, a review of Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language.

2The Edinburgh Review, for the Year 1755, London: 1818, preface, p. ii-iv.

  • 13 James VI (1566-1625), king of Scotland from 1567 to 1625 and king of England and Ireland as James (...)

Upon the accession of James VI to the crown of England13, the minds of men were entirely occupied with that event. The advancement of their own fortune became an object of attention to very many; whilst the general interest of their country was little regarded. The more unquiet it remained, the more influence would each particular share, who had ambitious desires to gratify. Thus unfortunately the interest of individuals was opposite to the interest of the public; and the improvement of Scotland was not at that time an agreeable idea to England, jealous and disgusted with the preference shewn by the Monarch to particular Scotsmen.

  • 14 James II and VII (1633-1701), king of Scotland as James VII and king of England and Ireland as Jam (...)
  • 15 The Glorious Revolution, also called the Revolution of 1688, marked the overthrow of King James II (...)

From this state of languor and retardation in every species of improvement, Scotland soon passed thro’ a series of more dreadful evils. The devastations of Charles I’s reign, and the slavery of Cromwell’s usurpation, were but ill repaired by the tyranny and oppression of Charles II’s ministers, and the arbitrary rule of James VII14. Amidst all the gloom of these times, there were still some men who kept alive the remains of science, and preserved the flame of genius from being altogether extinguished. At the Revolution15, liberty was re-established, and property rendered secure; the uncertainty and rigor of the law were corrected and softened. What the Revolution had begun, the Union rendered more compleat. The memory of our ancient state is not so much obliterated, but that, by comparing the past with the present, we may clearly see the superior advantages we now enjoy, and readily discern from what source they flow. The communication of trade has awakened industry; the equal administration of laws produced good manners; and the watchful care of the government, seconded by the public spirit of some individuals, has excited, promoted and encouraged, a disposition to every species of improvement in the minds of a people naturally active and intelligent. If countries have their ages with respect to improvement, North Britain may be considered as in a state of early youth, guided and supported by the more mature strength of her kindred country. If in any thing her advances have been such as to mark a more forward state, it is in science. The progress of knowledge depending more upon genius and application, than upon any external circumstance; where-ever these are not repressed, they will exert themselves. The opportunities of education, and the ready means of acquiring knowledge, in this country, with even a very moderate share of genius diffused thro’ the nation, ought to make it distinguished for letters. Two considerable obstacles have long obstructed the progress of science. One is, the difficulty of a proper expression in a country where there is either no standard of language, or at least one very remote: Some late instances, however, have discovered that this difficulty is not unsurmountable; and that a serious endeavour to conquer it, may acquire, to one born on the north side of the Tweed, a correct and even an elegant stile. Another obstacle arose from the slow advances that the country had made in the art of printing: No literary improvements can be carried far, where the means of communication are defective: But this obstacle has, of late, been entirely removed; and the reputation of the Scotch press is not confined to this country alone.

Notes

12 See introduction to text 26.

13 James VI (1566-1625), king of Scotland from 1567 to 1625 and king of England and Ireland as James I from 1603 to 1625.

14 James II and VII (1633-1701), king of Scotland as James VII and king of England and Ireland as James II from 1685 to 1688.

15 The Glorious Revolution, also called the Revolution of 1688, marked the overthrow of King James II and VII and the accession to the throne of William III and Mary II.

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