Enlightenment Tory in Victorian Scotland

Enlightenment Tory in Victorian Scotland: The Career of Sir Archibald Alison

Michael Michie
Copyright Date: 1997
Pages: 240
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Enlightenment Tory in Victorian Scotland
    Book Description:

    An Enlightenment Tory in Victorian Scotland is a political and intellectual biography of Sir Archibald Alison (1792-1867), historian, social critic, criminal lawyer, and sheriff of Lanarkshire. The first author to examine the full range of Alison's writings and activities, Michael Michie reveals a significant link between the Scottish Enlightenment and Victorian conservatism.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6418-3
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-12)

    In 1840 a two-volume critique of the population theories of Thomas Malthus was published in Edinburgh. It attacked political economists, landlords, and industrialists, advocated state-provided poor relief and landownership by the poor, and supported public executions and transportation as well as colonial possessions and protectionism — and it was received with some enthusiasm by theChurch of England Quarterlyand by Frederick Engels. It was written by a High Tory sheriff of Lanarkshire, a forty-eight-year-old Episcopalian whose intellectual and cultural background was the Scottish Enlightenment and whose main intellectual influence was Adam Smith.

    The author was Archibald Alison, the subject of...

  5. 1 “Persevering Virtue”
    (pp. 13-34)

    Archibald Alison’s values were formed in the Edinburgh of the late Scottish Enlightenment His parents were connected, through family, friendship, and intellectual pursuits, to the leading scientific and literary lights of eighteenth-century Scotland. In his autobiography, Sir Archibald made a point of establishing his pedigree as descendant of a family which in the eighteenth century was intimately connected to polite learned society, not to mention respectable wealth: “I was not born of a noble or wealthy family, yet my ancestors, by both the father’s and the mother’s side, were such as might reasonably impose obligation and excite emulation.” Four generations...

  6. 2 “Laborious Lawyer”
    (pp. 35-63)

    In his study of church and university in the Scottish Enlightenment, Richard Sher notes the rise of “a new breed of literary lawyers” in the early years of the nineteenth century. Sir Archibald Alison is one in a long list of such men.¹

    Alison thought of himself as a professional man “possessed of no fortune but what he could make at the Bar” and the product of an educational system intended to enable the middle class to make its “fortune.”² Having to make one’s own living in a range of occupations which could eventually provide the lifestyle of a gendeman...

  7. 3 “Riding at Them with a Squadron of Dragoons”
    (pp. 64-91)

    Archibald Alison’s crusade against “democratic innovation” frequently took him into the streets against striking workers and Chartists. By 1834, when Alison arrived to take up his new post in Glasgow, the city and the county had been the heart of industrial growth in Scotland for at least twenty-five years. Glasgow’s growth and prosperity was based on textiles. With the introduction of the spinning mule in 1799, “for the next threequarters of a century the economic livelihood of Glasgow depended upon cotton textiles and related industries such as chemicals, machinery and steam engines.”¹ The development of the coal and iron industries...

  8. 4 “A Little Aristocracy of Freeholders”
    (pp. 92-129)

    Archibald Alison’s two-volumePrinciples of Population and Their Connection with Human Happinesswas published in 1840. It was a contribution to the Malthus debate and the Scottish Poor Law debate as well as to the debates over land reform and crime and punishment. It was also an attempt to argue for the continuation and viability of an eighteenthcentury agrarian commercial model of society.

    The work was begun between 1810 and 1812, substantially added to around 1829, but withheld from publication for another eleven years. Alison claimed that he avoided publishing at the end of the 1820s because of the predominance...

  9. 5 “Mr. Wordy’s History”
    (pp. 130-158)

    Archibald Alison believed that his most important intellectual task was to warn his age of “the consequences of democratic ascendancy upon the civil condition.”¹ Alison’s analysis of the French Revolution, and his comparison of it with the development of liberty in Britain, provided him with the political framework within which all his subsequent accounts of contemporary politics were set. The ten volumes of theHistory of Europe from the Commencement of the French Revolution in 1789 to the Restoration of the Bourbons in 1815appeared between 1833 and 1842, and this chapter examines the work’s genesis, method and influences, and...

  10. 6 “The Oldest of the Tories”
    (pp. 159-197)

    Alison’s work and career, if considered as a whole, covered a wide spectrum of conservative attitudes. As no one has yet written on him at length, he has usually been given a convenient label, depending on the writer’s particular preoccupation. Thus, he has been variously designated a “Scottish journalist,” a traditional Country Party Tory, a “Tory and a historian with working-class sympathies,” or simply a paternalist.¹ Although Alison's response to social issues sometimes appeared to be quite radical, this was consistent with a High Tory line on the political questions which dominated legislation and parliamentary debate. His opinions on these...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 198-202)

    Sir Archibald Alison died on 23 May 1867, the year of the second Reform Act. According to his obituary inBlackwood’s Magazine,an estimated 100,000 to 150,000 people lined the three-mile route his coffin took from Possil House to the railway station. The obituary also claimed that a good three-quarters of the crowd were workers – particularly mill girls and iron workers – who had given up half a day’s work to attend.¹ Even allowing for some exaggeration, this account does suggest that Alison had achieved the kind of power and respectability he had always craved. Whether most of those present saw...

  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 203-223)
  13. Index
    (pp. 224-228)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 229-230)