George Atherton Aitken.

The life and works of John Arbuthnot, M.D., fellow of the Royal College of Physicians online

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depredations from abroad, if divided from England ; and their
trade with England and the plantations would be entirely cut
off, and all their commerce precarious.

If some of their Burgh towns have been reduced, it has
been owing to their own monopolies and restraints upon trade,
which loss however has been abundantly compensated by the
increasing trade and flourishing condition of a great many
other towns and burghs.

The value of lands in Scotland is increased since the union ;
and that they have not advanced to a greater degree is owing
to the known turbulent spirit of the Highlanders, which
renders property more precarious there than in England.

The natives of Scotland have a much larger share in all
places, civil and militaiy, than they could reasonably expect
from the small quota Scotland contributes towards the public
burdens and taxes. This is not mentioned as if any here
repined at it, for they have undoubtedly among them many
persons of great learning, true courage, and singular merit,
but only to show there is no just ground of complaint.

The riches of Scotland have of late years increased much



396 WORKS OF DR. ARBUTHNOT.

more in propoi-tion than those of England ; which is, at least,
a strong presumptive proof that the union has been favourable
to it.

To conclude, it is undoubtedly the interest of North and
South Britain to maintain the union : let therefore the natives
of both parts of this flourishing island, now incorporated, unite
as brethren ; and, laying aside every invidious distinction and
reflection, let all of us, who are sincerely attached to the
Protestant religion, and for suppoi-ting this ancient constitution,
(founded on the basis of law and liberty,) have no other
contention with one another, but who shall be most zealous
to quell the present rebellion \ to chastise the disturbers of
tlie public peace, and to restore again that happy tranquillity,
for which we were lately so justly envied by the neighbouring
nations.



A SERMON

Preached at the Mercat Cross of Edinburgh.

Eccles. Chap. X, Ver. 27.

Better is he that lahoureth, and aboundcfh in all things, than
he that hoasteth himself, and tvanteth bread.

Dearly beloved countrymen and fellow-citizens, suff"er me
to stop you a little in the furious career of your passion,
to hear a few words of sober and unprejudiced reason ; I hope
they will not be the less grateful, if I accost you in that manner
of rhetoiic which your ears are most accustomed to. I have
chosen an Apocryphal text, because my subject is not sacred,
but secular ; but if it has not the stamp of divine inspiration,
it is taken from a book, which, of all that are not canonical,
contains the most sublime, the most useful, and the most
approved maxims of wisdom, whether private, economical
or political ; and, as all wisdom and truth cometh from God,
in that sense my text may be said to be of divine authority.

Dearly beloved countrymen, a generous, a powerful, a
victorious nation invites you to an intimate union with them-
selves, a nation whose laws are more just, whose government

' The rising of 1745.



A SERMON AT THE MERC AT CROSS. 397

is more mild, whose people are more free, easy and happy,
than any other in Europe ; a nation who by their wealth,
wisdom, and valour, have broke the most formidable power
that ever threatened Christendom ; to whose victorious arms
even you youi*selves owe your present security. This nation,
I say, in^'ites you to a copartnership of all the advantages
they now enjoy, or may reasonably hope for : a gracious
Queen, of the ancient line of our own Monarchs, desires
nothing more than that the people, from whom she derives
her blood, should enjoy the same liberiy and plenty with
others v.hom Providence has called her to govern. It might
justly have been expected, that such a generous proposal
would have been welcomed \Wth the universal acclamations
of all ranks and degrees of people ; instead of that you have
received it with riots, mobs, and tumults. If the offer had
not been profitable, it was at least civil, aijd deserved a fiiendly
reception, and a couiieous answer : a treaty that was entered
into at the desire of your own Parhament, as well as that of
your neighbours, and carried on by the authority of the
common Sovereign of both ; such a treaty, I say, was a matter
of that weight, as made it a very unfit subject for the judgment
(much more for the scorn and contempt) of boys, apprentices,
and tradesmen : but since the transcendent ^^'isdom of your
leadei-s have thought othei-%vise, let me beseech you in the
words of my author, Ecclcs. xi. 7, 'Blame not before thou
hast examined the truth ; understand first and then rebuke.'
To enable you in some measure to make such an enquiry, I
have chosen the words of my text, ' Better is he that laboureth,
and aboundeth in all things, than he that boasteth himself,
and wanteth bread.'

From the words you may obsen'e a veiy intimate conjunction
betwixt three dismal companions, pride, poverty, and idleness ;
this is a worse union a great deal than that which we are to
discourse of at present. These three love extremely to keep
company, and I could never guess for what reason, unless it
be to tease and vex one another : poverty does what she can
to starve pride ; and pride eats out the heart, blood, and guts
of poverty ; and laziness Avill not stir an inch to reUeve either :
that these three fatal sisters may not only be separated,
but eternally banished tliis kingdom, it shall be the subject
of my following discourse to show that it is better to increase



398 WORKS OF DR. ARBUTHNOT.

our trade, manufacture, and riches by an union with England,
than to boast of our sovereignty and stai-ve : * For better
is he that laboureth, and aboundeth in all things, than he
that boasteth himself, and wanteth bread.'

And here indeed it must be proved that an union with
England will increase our trade and manufacture : in order
to which, I will ask the greatest zealot against the union
a few questions, and let hun answer me if he can. Is the
great difference betwixt the wealth of Scotland and England
entirely owing to the natural advantages of England, as of
fruitfulness of soil, situation, &c. ; or does it not in some
measure proceed from political causes? Scotland is equal,
at least, in extent to a third of England ; its people more
healthful, more prolific, and more temperate ; why has England
then seven times the number of people? Every acre in
Scotland is not barren, nor every acre in England fruitful ;
how comes it then that England has fifty times the riches
of Scotland? For example, why does Oxfordshire, not so
big as Fife, pay to a land-tax near as much as all Scotland?
Are there not many places on each side the Fii-th of Forth,
which exceed the town of Newcastle in soil, situation, products
natural and artificial : how comes it to pass then that the
town of Newcastle has more trade, more rich merchants,
and pays more customs than all the towns in Scotland put
together? It is plain these great differences do not proceed
merely from natural, but likewise from political causes ; nay,
it is easy to assign a portion of England equal in extent, and
much inferior in the gifts of nature to some part of Scotland,
and yet triple in value.

I know Wales is brought by some as an instance to prove
that an union will not increase the trade and riches of a
mountainous countiy ; it is said that theii' condition is not
bettered by an union with England. To this I answer, first,
that the matter of fact is false. If the objection has any
strength, it ought to prove that Wales would not be the
worse if deprived of the trade of England ; a paradox too
sublune for any Welshman, but most obvious to the elevated
understandings of some of our worthy patriots. Secondly,
I say, the comparison is not fairly stated betwixt the worst
part of England and the best of Scotland. Wales in many
places does not exceed the Highlands of Scotland m any thing



A SERMON AT THE MERC AT CROSS. 399

except the height of the mountains ; hut, setting aside all
these things, let us state the comparison. The twelve very
small counties of Wales contain 917 parishes, 58 market-towns,
316,000 people, and pay £43,752 sterKng to the land-tax, which
shews they are almost equal to half the number of people
in Scotland, and pay near as much taxes as the whole. And
it is known that Wales is moi-e under-rated in their taxes,
and easier in the excise than Scotland. Thus you see it
would be hard to find twelve of the richest counties in Scotland
to compare with an equal number, and less in extent, of the
worst in England, which is, as I said, a demonstration that
the riches of England are the effect of policy more than of
nature ; and is it not as plain, that the protection of the
same laws, the influence of the same government, the pax-tner-
ship of the same plantations, and of all other pri\dleges,
foreign and domestic, will much better the condition of
Scotland ?

There is hardly any subject of trade, of the gro\\i;h of
England, which we are totally deprived of; and we have
one peculiai', which kind Providence and nature have afforded
us, though we never had the grace nor industiy to make
use of it ; I mean our fish. Thus we starve with that com-
modity at our doors, from w^iich our neighbours the Dutch
draw the veiy foundations of then- wealth and maritime power.
Will you then still be fond of that ill government and ill
management which even deprives you of the provision which
indulgent nature has throw^n into your mouths? But some
will say, have not our convention of Burghs chosen men,
skilled in the deepest mysteries of trade, of eminent abihties
and great integrity ; have not they told us that the trade
of England is unsuppoi-table ; that it is intolerable, and not
to be endured ; which is as much as if they had said, we have
not grandeur of soul to support so great wealth and prosperity :
we must be contented to Hve like pedlars, whilst English
merchants live Hke princes? Where is now your pride?
Where is now your boasting ?

But say you again, the same convention of Burghs, not
less skilled in poHtics than in trade, has told us that the
trade of England is precarious. It is hard to answer all the
unreasonable fears and jealousies of people. Has Wales, since
their union, ever complained of the breach of one ai-ticle?



400 WORKS OF DR. ARBUTHNOT.

Is there any one privilege that an EngHshman enjoys, which
a Welshman is deprived of? Do all the other counties unite
to oppress Yorkshire? There are indeed some inequalities
of taxes among themselves, wherein they have thought fit
not to depart from a rule once established. But this is so
far from being a discouragement to Scotland, that 'tis her
greatest security ; it shews how unwilling and uncapalile a
Parliament is to recede from quotas already settled, although
unequal.

Besides, matters in a free government never go with that
unanimity, nor in a British Parliament will parties ever
be so unequally trimmed, that it will not be in the power
of a lesser number than the Scots members to cast the balance ;
and, if necessary, so to preserve themselves from oppression :
and it is highly probable that the party of the north and west,
who are under-taxed, will after an union be much strengthened.
I shall add no moi-e on this head, but that England has
oppressed Scotland ten times more since the union of the
two crowns than ever they will be able to do after the union
of the two Parliaments. But, says the same ingenious con-
vention, to shew their skill in politcal arithmetic, the taxes
of England are unsupportable : to this I answer, that it was
hardly ever known that a nation was afraid of high customs
upon their import and consumption ; when did that ever
ruin any people? That is just as if a man should complain
that he could not be rich, because he has not leave to spend
his money ; or that he will not accept of a lairdship, for fear
of paying two months' cess. With those intolerable customs
the English merchants live higher, and acquire much greater
riches than ours do.

As for the land-tax, it can hardly ever be higher, and will
be often nothing, or much lower than w^hat we now pay.
Indeed the increase of trade will be attended with an increase
of excise, and the benefit of the one will be much greater
than the damage of the other ; but then the effect will not
exceed the cause, with this advantage, that all that is raised
by the public beyond the present sum, by the articles of the
treaty, is to remain in the countiy.

If, after all, you should want money to pay your taxes, I
can propose no better expedient than that of the Gospel,
' Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets ' ; and you



A SERMON AT THE MERC AT CROSS. 401

may fetch your tribute-money out of your fishes ; for, after
an union, you will have stock to employ your people to catch
them, and vent for them when they are catched.

Another objection is, that the union with England will
draw our jjeople out of Scotland to the metropolis of the
government, and to the plantations. To which I answer,

First, that after an union there are many reasons and
inducements for our people to stay at home, that do not
subsist in the j^resent state, but not any one (" saving their
attendance in the British Parliament) to draw them abi'oad.
How many people at present leave their country for want
of employment, I may say for want of bread, is evident to
everybody that knows either Scotland, or other countries
where multitudes of Scots are to be met with : nay, I appeal
to every family in the Kingdom, if they have not relations
abroad, somewhere or another ; and this is the chief cause
why Scotland, notwithstanding the health, temperance, and
fruitfulness of the inhabitants, is under-peopled. Now is it not
extremely probable that the increase of trade would employ and
keep many at home, who are now forced to seek their bread
in foreign countries ? and not only so, but when the restraint
of the laws on trade is taken off, the cheapness of living and
manufacture will invite people from other parts into Scotland ;
particularly the Scots, who are now settled in the West Indies,
would choose to purchase and establish their families in their
own countiy, not being any more restrained by Acts of Navi-
gation from returning their effects thither.

Secondly, if any Scotsman at present has a mind to settle
in England, the minute he sets his foot on English ground
he has the privileges of an Englishman. What then can
entice him to leave his own country after an union, more than
before? I should imagine he would be less tempted to do
so, because he can then have the same privileges of trade, and
all other immunities in staying at home, which now he cannot
have without going into England. If you say that, after an
union, his access to preferment in the public "Stations of the
government, and consequently his temptations to go to
London, will be greater ; that is an advantage, for then he
goes to get an estate, and not to spend one ; and he will
readily purchase in his own country. If our gentry and
nobility have a mind to spend their estates at London, I know

Dd



402 WORKS OF DR. ARBUTHNOT.

no law at present that restrains them ; only necessity, which
has no law : that indeed, after an union, may be less. Many
of our nobility and gentry are now continually at London,
a few to govern, some to oppress, many to complain, and all
for strife and contention ; and suppose by their attendance on
a British Parliament, the number of those should be doubled,
Scotland gets little by an union, if it is not able to discharge
the expense of thirty noblemen and gentlemen, at the rate
of .£2000 sterling a man, and perhaps the times may not be
so hard, but some of them will cany more down than they
brought up.

Thus, I think, I have fully answered this objection, which
is so far from being of any weight, that I must intreat you,
by the kindness and natural affection you bear to your dear
children and relations ; by the comfort of their society, and
having them established among yourselves, in a flourishing
condition ; by the casualties and dangers, and by the un-
fortunate and fatal end, which their strolling into foreign
countries often exposes them to : by all these moving argu-
ments, I beseech you to embrace so fair an opportunity of
making them and yourselves happy for ages to come ; for, as
the wise man says, Eccles. 29 and 24: 'It is a miserable life
to go from house to house ; for where thou art a stranger,
thou darest not open thy mouth ; thou shalt entertain and
feast, and have no thanks : moreover thou shalt hear bitter
words : these things are grievous to a man of understanding.'
Thus I have gone through my first head, and proved that the
sun shines at noon-day ; and I call the same sun to "SAdtness
against your matchless ignorance and stupidity, if you reject so
favourable an offer of libei-ty, peace, and plenty.

I proceed now to the second part of my text, which is, your
boasting of your sovereignty ; must we lose that ? must we be
no more a kingdom? In the first place, I would ask any
reasonable man, do we lose our sovereignty in any other sense
than England does ? Is there not a new title, new seal, new
arms, and the same changes for them as for us ? for I take an
incorporating union to be, as if two pieces of metal were
melted down into one mass ; neither can be said to retain
its former form or substance, as it did before the mixture. We
can never be so unreasonaljle as to pretend to an equal number
of representatives in a British Parliament : when two nations



A SERMON AT THE MERC AT CROSS. 403

join in a common assembly, the most powerful and most
numerous will still be the most powerful and most numei'ous ;
whatever metal exceeded before the mixture, the same will
exceed in the mass. It is impossible to change the nature of
things. According to this way of reasoning, it is not only im-
possible for Scotland ever to unite with England, but for any
lesser nation ever to unite with a greater : why is it more
dishonourable for Scotland to unite with England, than it is
for England to unite with Scotland ? What is it that Scotland
loses ? The country, the people, are not annihilated ; nor does
an union cause all the worthy deeds, that have been done at
any time by the Scotch nation, to be forgotten. A Welshman
would take it veiy unkindly, if we should tell him that by his
union Math England he has sullied the glory and antiquity of
the ancient British race. None can have a greater value for the
noble achievements and honour of our ancestors than I have.
But as for our independency, so much boasted of, though it be
most certainly true in itself, and undeniable in law, as well as
justifiable from history, yet, at present, it is in effect precarious,
imaginaiy, and fantastical ; and is no more than the privilege
to be governed by a ministry under foreign influence ; which
I say not to insinuate the least reflection on our present
ministry, who have had the honour to act a great part, in
putting an end to a grievance so much complained of; a
blessing perhaps in vain to be expected or looked for at
another time. Can any man be so destitute of common sense,
as to think his liberty and property more safely and more
honourably lodged in such hands, than in those of a British
Parliament? Now in lieu of this titular sovereignty and
imaginaiy independency, you acquire by a union true and solid
power and dominion, viz. to have sixty members in a British
Parliament ; the twelfth share of disposing of £6,000,000 of
money, which is the same with the sole power of disposing of
£500,000 ; to have your fleets and armies conquering abroad ;
the arbitration of the affairs of Europe ; yourselves represented
in foreign courts and assemblies. When had sixty Scotchmen
affairs of that importance laid before them ? To have your
nobility peers of Great Britain, with their persons and reputa-
tion sacred over the island, and their lives only subject to the
inquest of a British House of Lords : to have your quota of
the most eminent posts of the government of Great Britain.

D d a



404 WORKS OF DR. ARBUTHNOT.

Are not these things substantial power and dominion, and
preferable to the trifles you now enjoy ; besides that the value
even of those will be increased ; and is it not more eligible
to have such a share both of the government of yourselves and
of England, than to be managed by favourites, often contrary
to your most apparent interests?

But all these advantages may be obtained by a federal union,
some say. It is an amazing thing, to consider how people are
bantered out of their common sense wdth mere names and
chimeras. To avoid multiplicity of words, I suppose by a
federal union is meant, that the English should barter their
trade for our settling of their successor. I would desire any
man who thinks such a bargain feasible, to make the following
reflections. In any vote that ever jjassed yet in Scotland
against settling the succession, whether he thinks that
England could not purchase the majority of that difference,
at a cheaper rate than the liberty of their trade and planta-
tions ? Let them ask the consciences of those who voted
against the settlement of the succession, if the hopes of a
federal union was the motive that induced them to do so ?
Let them ask those that voted for it, if they will vote so no
more till they have obtained it ? To show how unsincerely
they deal wdio make this their pretence, many of these gentle-
men will be contented to settle the succession on any terms.
But secondly, where is there such a federal union betwixt
two nations, without a common Assembly ? The Confederate
Provinces, and the Confederate Cantons have one, where the
representatives of all the particular bodies meet. Thirdly, can
any man believe that the English will maintain plantations,
garrison them, and defend them with their fleets and armies,
to let the Scots, who are at none of these charges, reap the
profit of the trade ? Will they establish customs and duties, as
the rule of their export abroad, and consumption at home, and
suffer the Scots to trade without any rule of customs, or with
no customs, or with customs high or low, as they please ? If they
would do this, it were no hard matter to have the monopoly of
their trade. This were a most precious jewel indeed, and veiy
well worth contending for. But if such a concession should
be thought unreasonable, I would desire in the next place to
know, how a common expense in maintaining and providing
for forts, plantations, and factories, can be carried on without



A SERMON AT THE MERC AT CROSS. 405

a common treasury and government. And, lastly, if the
English should allow us such a privilege, can we be secure
of it, without we have our representatives in their Parliament
to take care of our interest? And can any man of sense
think that we should be more unsecure of our privileges,
when we have members in their assembly, than when we have
none ? When we are domestics, than when we are strangers ?
In the former case, nothing destroys our privileges but what
dissolves the union ; for it is hardly possible to conceive that
all the other counties should unite to hinder a Yorkshireman
to trade to the plantations, when the riches he acquires by his
trade go to the support of the government, of which they
themselves are members. In the case of one nation, and one
people, it is indifferent to the supreme power in what part of
Great Britain their riches lie.

I shall conclude this article with the words of the wise man
{Eccles. xxxiv. i), 'The hopes of a man void of understanding
are vain and false ; and dreams lift up fools.' I have set before
you to-day, on one hand, industry and riches ; on the other,
pride and poverty. I have not required a blind assent to
what I affirm ; I have not imposed my opinion because it is
fashionable, or because such a Lord, who is my friend and
patron, thinks so ; or because Mr. John, or Mr. James said so ;
or because my drunken companions swear, damn them it is
so. I deal with you as reasonable men, and have purposely
insisted on such arguments as are obvious to the meanest
understanding.

I shall conclude with a general exhortation to all ranks and
degrees of people, to promote this good work. It is manifestly
the interest of your landed men, for the increase of trade and
manufacture will increase the value of your estates, by raising
the price of the product, and the number of the purchasers :



Online LibraryGeorge Atherton AitkenThe life and works of John Arbuthnot, M.D., fellow of the Royal College of Physicians → online text (page 36 of 47)