FERGUSON, Adam or HUME, David]

The History of the Proceedings in the Case of Margaret, commonly called Peg, only lawful Sister to John Bull, Esq; The Second Edition.

Published: [London]: Printed for W. Owen:

Date: 1761

small 8vo. [4], 188pp., contemporary tree calf, spine very richly decorated in gilt in panels, red morocco lanel gilt, beautiful fine fresh copy

ESTC t122565 The ledgers of William Strahan in the British Library reveal that he was the printer of the work, and that the Edinburgh publisher Patrick Neill participated silently in the publication (Add Mss. 48803A, f.43r). Strahan printed 1000 copies of the first edition, which was published on 3 January 1761; he printed 750 copies of the second edition, published on 11 February 1761. Ferguson (1723–1816), Scottish philosopher and historian, because of "his knowledge of Gaelic, family connections with the dowager duchess of Atholl, and an urgent need in the army for loyal whigs with a highlander background, [been appointed] deputy chaplain of the newly formed 43rd regiment of highlanders ... famous as the Black Watch. ... In 1746 Ferguson was raised to the rank of principal chaplain to the Black Watch. ... [He] was proud of his military experience for the rest of his life. Not only did it help him to write a history of ancient Rome, it also touched a deep chord in his self-image as a man and a Scot. More than any other thinker of the Scottish Enlightenment, Ferguson was to insist on military valour as a corner-stone of civic virtue" [O.D.N.B.]. In 1754 he left the active service of both army and church in 1754 became involved in Edinburgh intellectual and academic circles. "For many Scots the creation of a citizen militia was a symbol of national pride, which by forbidding highlanders to carry arms, parliament made impossible after the Jacobite rising of 1745. Ferguson was a central figure in the spirited, yet unsuccessful, militia agitation. His pamphlet Reflections Previous to the Establishment of a Militia (1756) focused on the problems which occupied his Scottish contemporaries and challenged his own later works: is economic strength compatible with traditional public virtue? Can a nation, in his words, ‘mix military spirit; and commercial policy’ (ibid., 3)? A second pamphlet on the militia issue, targeting the haughty mistrust that typified English views of Scotland, appeared in 1761 under the title The History of the Proceedings in the Case of Margaret, commonly called Peg, only Lawful Sister to John Bull esq. The title was a satirical allusion to John Arbuthnot's History of John Bull (1712), with Scotland poised as Bull's hapless sister. Despite several attempts to attribute the anonymous pamphlet to David Hume (including an edition by David Raynor in 1982), it has been substantiated, and widely agreed, that Ferguson was its author. Here in his discussion of military prowess as an aspect of civic vivacity, Ferguson turned the militia campaign from a failed political cause to a fruitful opportunity for cultural reflection. He co-founded the Poker Club, established in 1762 to stir up the militia issue. Outlasting its initial aim, the club remained a social and intellectual caucus of Edinburgh luminaries for over twenty years" [O.D.N.B.]. "It was not before the mid-twentieth century that an awakened interest in the political thought of the Scottish Enlightenment attracted attention to Ferguson's Scottish context, and—by extension—to his political thought (Kettler; Forbes). More recent scholarship shed light on Ferguson's place in the classical republican tradition, his fundamental debate with Hume and Smith, and the ways in which his works reflected the tensions between the competing political languages of civic humanism, natural jurisprudence, commerce, and politeness" [O.D.N.B.]. Though traditionally attributed to Adam Ferguson, David Raynor (as noted above) in his Cambridge University Press edition (1982), has cogently argued that this work is in fact by David Hume and "important document for the interpretation of Hume's political theory" [Raynor]. Hume had written to the Rev. Alexander Carlyle of Inveresk on 3 February 1761, claiming that he had written the work, but Carlyle thought that this was a device to direct attention away from Ferguson as the likely author. However Raynor later accepted that "Opinion remains divided as to whether it was the work of Ferguson or Hume or both. But while the jury is out it is safe to say that if it was written by Ferguson then it is not only the most elaborate but also the most successful and most interesting of all his political pamphlets" [Dictionary of Eighteenth-Century British Philosophers, 1999, v.1, p325].


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