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Scottish Thought and Letters in the Eighteenth Century

Introduction - History and Antiquities - Geography - Travels - Encyclopaedias - Libraries - Society and Clubs - Law - Philosophy and Religion- Economy and Social History - Adam Smith - Education Architecture - Science and Medicine- Literature


LAW, John. Money and trade considered.
[Edinburgh : 1705]
Mu 56-c.3

This book embodies Law's scheme for the establishment of a State Bank which was to issue paper money. Law's ideas, rejected by the Scottish Parliament, found acceptance in France. Law, the founder of the Mississippi Scheme to develop Louisiana, a company which gradually gained the whole of the overseas trade of France, was appointed controller-general of French finance. The Mississippi Company at first enjoyed a sensational boom, but in 1720 suffered an equally sensational collapse. Discredited, Law left France, declined an invitation from St. Petersburg to administer the finances of Russia, and for a time took refuge in England. He died in comparative poverty at Venice in 1729.

HUME, David. Political discourses.
[Edinburgh : 1752]

In this work Hume steps forward as an economist. How far he influenced his friend Adam Smith, twelve years his junior, remains uncertain: they had broadly similar principles and both had the excellent habit of illustrating and supporting these from history. Hume's calibre as an economist can be judged from his main contentions: for example, that wealth consists not of money but of commodities; that no nation can go on exporting only for bullion; that the amount of money in circulation should be related to the amount of goods in the market.


WEBSTER, Alexander. An account of the ecclesiastical benefices, the patrons of the several parishes, and the number of people &c. in Scotland.
Manuscript. [1779]
MS Murray 559

Adam Smith, in a letter to George Chalmers dated 10th November 1785, wrote: 'The late reverend Mr Webster, of all the men I have ever known the most skilful in political arithmetic, had made out what seemed a very accurate account of the population of Scotland as it stood in the year 1755. He had collected the lists of births, burials and marriages in all the different parishes in Scotland ... About ten years ago I had the use of this account for many months. By it the whole number of souls in Scotland amounted to little more than 1,250,000.'

Several manuscript copies of Webster's statistical account survive. The one on display was made in 1779 for presentation to Lord North. It bears the book-plate of Sylvester Douglas, Lord Glenbervie, North's son-in-law, and it was later purchased by Sir Thomas Phillipps and subsequently by David Murray, the Glasgow lawyer and book-collector.


ANDERSON, James. Observations on the means of exciting a spirit of national industry; chiefly and intended to promote the agriculture, commerce, manufactures, fisheries of Scotland.
[Edinburgh : 1777]
Dd. 1. 2

James Anderson ('a very diligent, laborious, honest man' - Adam Smith) was one of the best informed writers on Scottish industries in the eighteenth century. In agriculture he introduced the 'Scotch plough' and his interest in fisheries induced Pitt to employ him to make a survey of them.

This is the author's presentation copy to William Hunter.


SINCLAIR, Sir John. The statistical account of Scotland.
[Edinburgh : 1791-9]. 21 vols Bh16-e.1-17, Bh16-d.1-4

Although called 'statistical' in the title, this is a sociological survey, compiled from reports sent to Sinclair in response to a questionnaire which he had circulated to the ministers of the different parishes of the country, the clergy being the only members of the community with the education and leisure for the work. The reports are uneven, some ministers being more prolix than others, but the sum total of all their efforts provides a remarkable picture of Scotland at the time.