By Eugene Heath, Vincenzo Merolle
Expanding numbers of students have well-known Ferguson's contribution to Enlightenment pondering, yet no collections of scholarly essays were dedicated to him. during this, the 1st of 2 comparable monographs, essays variety throughout all of Ferguson's works to enquire his engagement with modern occasions and his contributions to our realizing of background and human motion. distinctive one of the prime figures of the Scottish Enlightenment, Ferguson observed eighteenth-century revolutions, the yankee and the French. On those and on many different very important modern topics, the perspectives he expressed contributed to shaping public opinion. yet his paintings right here additionally extends again to Roman instances, approximately which he drew comparisons with the society of his day. As proven in those essays, he not just provided his options on and defined heritage, he investigated the character of heritage itself.
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Extra resources for Adam Ferguson: History, Progress and Human Nature (The Enlightenment World: Political and Intellectual History of the Long Eighteenth Century)
This, then, was the thoroughly international context to the Essay that best explains Ferguson’s resolute refusal to fall into the trap of making his analysis lean overtly – and potentially to its considerable detriment – upon the experiences of one country in particular. Indeed, by far the most effective way of signalling the intentionally general significance of his arguments, and the uni- 38 Adam Ferguson: History, Progress and Human Nature versal application of the theories that he wished to propound, was obviously to render them explicitly connected with the experiences of a wide range of past and present cultures, and to do so whilst ostentatiously avoiding reference to the specific society – necessarily particular, conceivably also unrepresentative – from which the author himself clearly hailed.
Specific historical controversies generated by this still-vigorous older tradition also continued to convulse Scottish scholarship in the age of the Enlightenment. Above all, 1754 had seen the publication of Goodall’s own riposte to Buchanan’s allegations of Mary Queen of Scots’ complicity in the murder of Henry Darnley (An Examination of the Letters of Mary Queen of Scots), while in 1759 appeared Robertson’s more measured rehabilitation of the unfortunate queen’s reputation in the History of Scotland, as well as William Tytler’s aggressively supportive Inquiry, Historical and Critical into the Evidence Against Mary, Queen of Scots.
The simultaneous transition from a past marked by conflict and perpetual striving to a present and future marked only by peace and languor would further compound this problem, altering the priorities of individuals, and thus the character of the society that they comprised, with potentially lethal implications for its cohesion and ultimate viability. Ferguson and Scottish History 33 As Ferguson argues, in one of the Essay’s more passionately moralistic passages, which it is almost tempting to read as a sermon aimed at his compatriots: We may, with good reason, congratulate our species on their having escaped from a state of barbarous disorder and violence, into a state of domestic peace and regular policy; when they have sheathed the dagger, and disarmed the animosities of civil contention; when the weapons with which they contend are the reasonings of the wise, and the tongue of the eloquent.