Bastard Gaelic Man

Colin Kidd

  • The Correspondence of Adam Ferguson edited by Vincenzo Merolle
    Pickering & Chatto, 257 pp, £135.00, October 1995, ISBN 1 85196 140 2

Nurtured over two centuries ago in Scotland’s ‘hotbed of genius’, the ideas of the Scottish Enlightenment endure. Their genetic code lurks in the inheritance of Liberals and Marxists alike, while the New Right delights in a pedigree which reaches back to David Hume and Adam Smith. In the United States scholars have established the influence of Francis Hutcheson, Hume and Smith on the American Revolution and the making of the Constitution. This view has been widely disseminated – to the liberal left by Garry Wills, to the right by the Liberty Press, in whose catalogue the works of Hume and Smith are found alongside those of the Republic’s founding generations. On both sides of the Atlantic, furthermore, the Scottish science of man is embedded deep in institutions. Hume, Smith, Adam Ferguson and John Millar have become tutelar deities of campus and think-tank, the respected grandfathers of the social sciences and patron saints of the policy wonk. Yet, for all this familiarity, the otherness of the Scottish Enlightenment tends to elude us.

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