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Scotland and the Scots, 1707-2007

Christian Auer

V. Improvement

25. Learned Professions and Improvement, 1760

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1Archibald Grant of Monymusk (1696-1778) was an MP for Aberdeenshire and a passionate advocate of agricultural improvement. Grant devoted much of his time to the Monymusk estate. He transformed it into a prosperous estate, granting long leases to his tenants and providing local industries for those displaced by his enclosures. He wrote several books about agriculture, among which The Practical Farmer’s Pocket Companion, or a Brief Account of the Husbandry that now Prevails in Scotland (1766).

2Archibald Grant, A Dissertation on the Chief Obstacles to the Improvement of Land throughout Scotland, and Introducing better Methods of Agriculture throughout Scotland, Aberdeen: Francis Douglas, 1760, p. 31-35.

1. Landed gentlemen: much as to improvement of land depends on them, and they are under many ties both of duty and interest, to give much more attention to this in their respective estates, than is commonly done. Too many think they have nothing else to do with their lands, but to gather in the rents (if this be not committed to a factor) and to spend them, being either little acquainted, with the circumstances of their tennantry and estates, or not making any use of that knowledge if they have attained to it. Tho’ it is feared, there may be some, whom their tenants may have reason to wish not to have been so well acquainted with their circumstances as they are. But a gentleman, who views this matter in a proper light, must be sensible, that a duty to God, his country and his own family, results from his having the property of so much land vested in him by the laws of the community, for the discharge of which, he is so handsomely rewarded by the yearly profits and the security of his property. Landed gentlemen when employed in other stations in the society, cannot be expected to attend so minutely to the administration of their estates, as otherways would be incumbent on them; yet there are few situations that will not admit of their giving some attention this way. But, gentlemen not distracted by the discharge of other truths, must be quite inexcusable if they attend not to this, to which interest as well as duty so visibly tends to incite them. Some no doubt there are, who merit greatly of their native country by their conduct as landed gentlemen. But in general it is evident, that Scotland at present reaps not that benefit, which might be expected as to its improvement in the produce of land, from those gentlemen who ought both from duty and interest to be the life and spirit of the whole. Yet in any other view no country affords a set of men more eminent for good sense and many valuable accomplishments, than the landed gentlemen of Scotland generally are at present, and have been formerly.

2. Such of the learned professions as are settled in Scotland, and not comprehended in the former class. The number of those employed in learned professions in Scotland, is commonly reckoned as moderate as in any country. They indeed appear not to be numerous, in respects of the swarms of them that are to be sound in other nations; yet it may be doubted whether or not, taking all the professions together, they be not fully numerous in proportion to the number of inhabitants. The number thus employed in England will be admitted so to be. The inhabitants of England may be about five times those in Scotland. It is not clear that five times the present number of those employed in learned professions in Scotland would be very much inferiour to the present number of such in England. These may be very serviceable to advance the improvement of their country; and certainly are so, while they promote virtue and sound principles, good order, and the security of property, and the health and vigour of the body. Yet all this might be done very confidently tho’ each moreover superintended a small farm. Tho’ the lawyer, in the vacation in order to relax from the toils of the session, now and then retired to the cultivation of some acres in the country, admitting that in session time none could be spared to that occupation. Tho’ the physician should, in very healthful seasons, when his great hurry can be no excuse, endeavour to raise wholesome food in order to preserve health, as well as cultivate herbs necessary to cure diseases, and make such experiments as his skill in chymistry and botany best enable him to do for improving manures and adapting plants to proper soils; for tho’ a dunghill cannot just be weighed out in grains, and a plough cannot be yoked in an earth-pot, yet experiments with these, tho’ not so much in form, will be as much depended on by a farmer.

And lastly, tho’ the clergyman who endeavours to be eminent for promoting virtue and piety, should, as subservient to these be as eminent likewise in showing an example of industry in the exact cultivation of that portion of ground which the law allows him. Let none think that some attendance on this as a relaxation from the duties of their station, is inconsistent with the character of a pious diligent clergyman. St. Paul found time to do the work of an apostle and to work with his hands. The truth is, the portion of land alloted is generally too large for hand-culture, and too small to bear the expence of horses and servants. But tho’ a greater proportion of their income cannot be had in land, in order to be worth this expence, yet more may be rented, and a minister might superintend it with much greater propriety at leisure hours, than in sauntering, or idle amusements, and more for his health, than in too much reading and study. And the same too is the case as to the other learned professions. Nay, as every Mussulman is obliged by himself or a deputy to make one pilgrimage to Mecca, it could be no great hardship to oblige every Scotsman employed in the learned professions once in his life, either by himself or a depute to gain one acre of ground, formerly uncultivated, to his country, as a pilgrimage of gratitude to the society that fed them with a produce for which they did not toil.

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