A North Briton Extraordinary

Author(s): Smollet, Tobias George


In a Letter from a Scots Gentleman
in Amſterdam to his Friend in London.

Printed, and are to be ſold by the
Book-ſellers of London, and Weſt--
minster. Pr. 1712. 2 d.
Degeneris animos timor arguit. VIRG.
Re-printed by ARCHIBALD MARTIN, for JOHN ORR, Book--
ſcllcr in GLASGOW. M DCC LXV.
[Price Two-pence.]
By the EDITOR.
THE following performance, printed at
Edinburgh, was tranſmitted to me here
by an Engliſhman, a friend of mine, in office
in that city, and I thought it a piece of
juſtice we owed to our national character,
to ſhew the Scotch, that tho' we have liſtened
perhaps too much to what has been
thrown out againſt them, we are equally
ready to hear what ever may be ſaid againſt
ourſelves. With this view I give it to the
public, without preſuming to anticipate
their judgment upon it, and flatter myſelf
it will not be unacceptable.
Edinburgh, February, 5, 1765.
O many it has appeared ſurpriſing that the Scots, never
famed for long ſuffering nor ſlow to anger, ſhould
of late have born tamely and unanſwered, the greateſt torrent
of impertinent abuſe that ever malice and ſtupidity poured
out againſt ſuperior merit; but to thoſe who conſider
how flattering it is to become the object of envy, the wonder
will ceaſe, and they will agree, that the ſilent contempt
with which we receive all this ſcurrility, is alſo its propereſt
anſwer — Let then our ſouthren brethren rail at us for the
lead we take in war and in commerce, in the arts and in
the ſciences; their jealouſy is the ſtrongeſt and moſt ſincere
acknowledgement of our ſuperority, and juſtifies, in ſome
degree, that conſcious pride which leads us to draw compariſons
between them and ourſelves, perhaps too much to
their diſadvantage. The Engliſh in general are unqueſtionably
leſs inſtructed than the Scots, and their principles
more debauched, yet there are many among them who, by
their learning and virtue, are worthy of our higheſt eſteem
and imitation; and even among their nobility, there are
ſome poſſeſſed of an elevation of ſoul, and delicacy of ſentiments,
that would do honour to our moſt illuſtrious Scots
families, who trace that origin beyond the name of they
nation itſelf. Let us then allow them in particular
what we deny them in general, and acknowledge the ſuperior
merit of an Engliſhman wherever it exiſts while they,
by cavilling at every private character from north of Twccd,
only ſerve to fix more indiſputably the reputation of the
whole. There is, however, one general ſuperiority, of
which they are fully ſenſible, and which no Scotſman
hardy enough to deny. In all humility I confeſs their
riches; but if I may be allowed like the fox in the fable,
to and fault with the grapes I cannot reach, I will
that the richeſt part of their nation is the moſt contemptible,
and that their ſuperiority to this, is the true cauſe of their
inferiority in every thing elſe. W,henever in a nation riches
are ſought after, as the ſummum bonum, when they ſupply
the place of birth and education, virtue and taſte the
morals of that people will ſoon be corrupted, their manners
will degenerate, and they wil1 juſtly acquire the diſtinguiſhing
appellation of "Les Sauvages d'Europe."
How far this is already the caſe in England, I leave every
man to judge from his own obſervation. This is, however,
certain, that riches even with us whcrc they are ſo rare,
do not beſtow the ſame importance as with them where
they are ſo common. Here an illiterate ſtockjobber, who
can juſt ſet this mark to his quarter's diſcharge, would I hardly
be as much revered as a maſter of a college, nor a cheeſemonger
who can buy a borough, as much reſpected as a
peer of the realm. But to leave declaiming againſt their
vices, let us endeavour to trace the proper effects of riches
in their taſte and manners. We a11 know with what ſplendour
the Italian ſtates ſhone while enriched by trade,
princes were their merchants, and their merchants princes.
Venice and Florence then became the admiration of the univerſe
for the wiſdom of their policy, and grandur of their
public works and the elegance of their private luxury. In
vain do we look out for the ſame refinements in London,
that has now for more than a century been eſteemed the
richeſt city in Europe In private life we find taſteleſs
riot and indelicate gluttony miſtaken for luxury, and
inſtead of wiſdom and order in their police, we find the
moſt abſurd and ineffectual regulations, filth, danger and
inconveniency in every ſtreet, thc peace of the city truſted
with an old feeble and undiſciplined watch, and the ſafety of
the public roads with thief-takers and villains. The public
buildings ſpeak for themſelves. They have been long noted
for poorneſs of deſign and clumſineſs of execution, and if
any thing of taſte appears among them of late we may boldly
aſcribe it to a foreigner or a Scotſman. The works of a
Gibbs diſtinguiſh themſelves, and we all know to whom the
Londoners owe the elegant deſign of a work now carrying
on, which they, however, have diſgraced with an inſcription
of their own, that the meaneſt ſchoolmaſter, in the meaneſt
pariſh in Scotland would have been aſhamed of. While
Blackfriars-bridge ſhall laſt it will be a monument of Scots
architecture, and of Engliſh Latin. And here by the way it
is pleaſant enough to obſerve, that the ſame people who
charge poverty on the Scots as their geateſt crime, and rail
at the miniſtry for beſtowing a triffling ſum towards building
a bridge, that reſts only one abutement in Scotland, have
not been aſhamed to receive of the public thouſands and 10
thouſands, for repairing the crazy and ill contrived
bridge of London; and that at this moment, the pooreſt
peaſant in Scotland is actually taxed his proportion, for the
great and national objects of * paving the ſtreets of that opulent
metropolis, in imitation of Edinburgh, and of bringing
makrels and ſprats, a half penny a pound cheaper to the
tables of the wealthy Londoners.
If ſuch be the effects of wealth on the morals, taſte
* The parliament has granted for
paving the ſtreets — } £. 15,000
— And for the fiſh ſcheme 2,500
Further to illustrate this laſt article, and to ſet in the trueeſt
light, the taſte and judgment of the Engliſh. I ſhall here
give an extract from the accounts of a ſociety inſtituted at
London, proffeſſedly for the encouragement of arts, manufactures
and commerce. In the year 1702 their funds
were applied as follows.
For the polite arts, manufactures, mechanics,
chemiſtry, &c.} £. 1,594 17 7
For the encouragement of agriculture 15 17 4
For the improvement of the colonies
(comprehending fourteen provinces
and twelve iſlands) —} 20 0 0
For bringing fiſh by land land carriage to London 3000 0 0
manners of the we have no reaſon to envy them ſo
dangerous a ſuperiority; and yet even this ſuperiority they
owe to accident, and not to any extraordinary merit. which
they arrogate to themſelves; for whoever conſiders the fatal
concurrence of circumſtances that checked the progreſs
of induſtry in Scotland, will rather be ſurpriſed, that any
ſpark of that ſpirit ſhould have remained among us. While
the Engliſh were improving in peace, the arts of commerce
and agriculture, under a ſettled adminiſtration, we were har-raſſed
by the turbulence of five ſucceſſive minorities; and at
laſt our monarchs, leaving their antient and natural kingdom,
and governing it by Engliſh councils, our intereſts were totally
neglected, and we became the ſtarved ſtep-children,
while they were the pampered favourites.
At the union, the advantages for England were eaſily perceived,
our's were more remote: Its firſt and moſt immediate
effect was to load us with taxes we never knew before,
to pay the intereſt of debts we never contracted. It was then
we firſt knew the bleſſings of an Engliſh exciſe, and the firſt
South Britons we ſaw among us were collectors, tide-waiters,
gaugers, and informers, ſamples no ways calculated to
give us a high idea of the ſtock. We at this time alſo renounced,
in favour of our new brethren, the beneficial trade
we carried on with Holland and France, from whence in return
for our commodities, we were in uſe to ſupply
ſelves with the manufactures we wanted, much cheaper then
we could from them; and we agreed to drink Port in preferrence
to claret, becauſe the Engliſh carried on a lucrartive
trade with Portugal, in which, even to this day, we have
not come for the ſmalleſt ſhare. To what a height of conſumption
of Engliſh commodities has increaſed ſince that
time, way be eſtimated from the vaſt importation to Leith
alone; and in what light of importance they view this
branch of trade. is beſt ſhewn by the keeneſs with which
they ſolicit it, their riders ſwarming to the moſt remote corners
of Scotland in queſt of cuſtoms. On the other hand it
muſt be confeſſed, that the Engliſh take off many of our
commodities, and that in ſeveral branches we have extended
our commerce in conſequence of the union; bat it is evident
that all our acquiſitions in trade tend to the advantage
of England, even conſidered as a ſeperate ſtate, becauſe the
more conſiderable our gains are, the more are we enabled
to conſume of their manufactures; and in fact we find this
conſumption to increaſe daily, even beyond the increaſe in
our ability to pay: So that nearly the whole produce of our
mines, fiſheries, manufactures, and foreign commerce is obliged
to be remitted to London, to anſwer the ballance againſt
us. And to add to the advantages of our neighbours
our nobility and landed gentry ſpend at leaſt one third
of the rents of all Scotland among them. Thus while we
ſcorned to become a province to England, we are in fact became
its moſt valuable colony, and the Engliſh owe a conſiderable
part of their riches, to the very people whoſe poverty
they affect to deſpiſe.
That they owe their liberty alſo in a great meaſure, to a
people whoſe principles they have falſely and ignorantly repreſented,
as inclined to depotiſm and ſlavery, will appear
by the hiſtory of their own kingdom: And if any Engiſhman
will give himſelf the trouble to read, what none of his
country was ever yet found capable to write, he will there
ſee that the Scots knew to defend their liberties, as well
from the uſurpations of their own princes, as from the attacks
of foreign powers. How well we did the laſt, the
Engliſh annals bear witneſs, when for a courſe of almoſt
centuries, we withſtood the efforts of a too powerful neighbour.
Even when the ambitous and ungenerous Longſhanks,
taking advantage of our civil diſſentions, had reduced tothe
laſt extremity, all at once the ſpirit of the nation rouſed itſelf,
parties united, the tyrant was driven out of the kingdom,
and his ſon ſent home in a fiſhing-boat, which ought
to be preſerved in Weſtminſter-abbey, along with the rigal
chir which the father ſtole from Scoone as a monument
of the end, as well as the beginning, of all his ambitious
projects. The Engliſh ought alſo to remember, that at a
time when their military fame was at the higheſt, under
their gallant Edwards and Henrys, it was the Scots who
gave the firſt check to their victorious arms abroad. It was
a Buchan and a Douglas that firſt taught the trembling
French to face the terrible Engliſh bowmen and Scots valour
then reſcued the liberty of France, as it had formerly
maintained that of Scotland, againſt the unbounded ambition
of the Plantagenets. — With what indignation would not
theſe Plantagenets, whoſe arms ſhook both France and Scotland,
look down upon their degenerate poſterity, who lately
when a militia was eſtabliſhed in England, to revive the national
ſpirit of defence that was almoſt extinct, denied to us
what they thought neceſſary for themſelves. 30,000 Engliſhmen,
with arms in their hands, were then not aſhamed
to expeſs a groundleſs and puſillanimous apprehenſion of
danger, from 6000 Scots, being put on the ſame footing. —
Sentiments worty only of a people, who in 1745 had trembled
with black fear, at the approach of 3000 half-armed
Scots ragamuffins, to a city of a million of inhabitants; or
who. in 175 6, had ſtretched out their weak and defenceleſs
hands, imploring the Dutch, the Hanoverian, and the puiſſant
prince of Heſſe, to ſave them from a flat-bottomed
French invaſion.
That we knew how to defend our rights at home, will alſo
appear by the whole tenor of our hiſtory, and in particular,
the famous letter of the Scots barons to the pope in
1320 is an authentic teſtimony of the principles of our anceſors.
They there boldly aſſert their independency on
Rome, and their right of chuſing a king for themsſelves; and
this too at a time when their neighbous in Enland were groaning
under both civil and eccleſiaſtical tyranny in latter
times, the reformation furniſhes us wi'h a very remarkable
contraſt on the ſpirit of the two nations. What was brought
about in Scotland, and forced on the crown by a free and
enquiring people, was in England impoſed on the abject
people, by the arbitrary will of a luſtful and capricious tyrant.
If, to enjoy Anna Bullen, Henry muſt have turned
Turk, the Engliſh nation would undoubtedly have been
muſſulmen at this day. Soon after this period when our
pedantic James, bred up with the controul of a bold and
free nobility at home, ſucceeded to the throne of the Tudors
and came to govern a people accuſtomed to the yoke,
he was deceived by their fawning ſpeeches, and began to
excerciſe a power, nothing new to them, but what he had
not abilities to ſupport. It was on that occaſioo the honeſt
Scot, who beheld with indignation their falſe and ſlaviſh
proffeſſions, broke out and ſwore by his ſaut, "Theſe cringing
ſuils would ſpoil a gude king." In the reign of his ſon,
the virtuous but deluded Charles, when he, miſled by Englih
and arbitrary councils, wanted to extend his perogative,
the Scots were the firſt to oppoſe him. They did not
then waſte their time in idle parliamentary debate, but ruſhed
into the field, and our firſt nobility were the foremoſt in
the glorious cauſe. Even the gallant Montroſe, that martyr
to loyalty, when put in compoſition, preferred the duty he
owed his country, to the love he bore to his king. It is well
known, the efforts made by Scotland at that time, not only
ſaved itſelf, but even England from the tyranny of a Scots
family, under which the united kingdoms might ſtill have
groaned at this day.
It is needleſs to take notice of any more of their inſignificant
charges againſt us, prompted by malice, and ſupported
by ignorance. I hope they do not proceed from the beſt
part of the Engliſh nation, whom I love, honour and eſteem;
and as for the deſpicable herd, who catch the cry from the
Grub-ſtreet-hounds of ſedition, ſet on by the rage of a diſappointed
faction, or perhaps by the ſecret intrigues of a
foreign enemy, they render themſelves compleat objects of
our contempt, by an impolitick hatred of brethren, with
whom it is their intereſt cordially to unite, and by a mean
jealouſy of a people, to whom they are every way ſuperior,
except in courage and capacity. It is plain the alarm was
firſt rung upon the approach of a Scotſman to the helm of
affairs, and it would ſeem, his country is the only crime
they can lay to his charge But let us not adopt the narrow
ſpirit of the Engliſh: Let my Lord Bute be judged by his actions,
and not by the place of his nativity. We had borne for
fifty years before his promotion, our ſhare of all the diſgrace
abroad, and oppreſſion at home, that were thought on
the Britiſh nation, by roguiſh or blundering Fngliſh miniſters,
without ever making their country anſwerable for their
crimes. Even when the ſpiritted Mr. Pitt reſtored the reputation
of our arms and councils, no Scotſman ever witb-held
his ſhare of applauſe, becauſe that miniſter was born ſouth
of Tweed; nor afterwards was England charged with his
faults, when he engaged us too deeply in continental affairs,
contrary to the tenor of all his former proffeſſions. Let
then my Lord Bute be regarded as a Briton, and as ſuch be
intitled to no particular ſhare of our love or hatred.
It is ſtrange that this odious, and impolitick deſtinction of
country, ſhould take place with the ungenerous Engliſh, at
the very time when it was almoſt left with us; when we
were become fond of them, imitating thew even to their
faults, united with them in the ſame proſperous cauſe ſhedding
our blood and acquiring glory out of all proportion to
the taxes we pay; that this ſhould be the very time they
ſhould chuſe to quarrel with us to bely us, groſsly revile
us, and to deny us any ſhare in the adminiſtration of affairs.
That they quarrel with us and revile us, is of no
conſequence, but our pretenſions to employments we
never give up, and we truſt to our capacity for ſucceſs;
and whenever they begin to think themſelves unequally yoked,
let them propoſe a ſeparation — In the mean time, by
imitating their induſtry, let us endeavour by degrees, to
leſſen the only ſuperiority over us they could ever pretend
to, while we ſtill preſerve all we ever poſſeſſed over them.
While they by narrow-minded and impolitick combinations
againſt Scots pedlars and mechanics are doing a real injury
to themſelves, let us profit by their ſolly, and receive our
country-men back with open arms, and ſtill more, let us incourage
their induſtries workmen to come and ſettle: among
us — That truly Engliſh maxim of employing men in public
affairs, not according to their abilities, but in proportion
to the taxes they pay, or in other words, is proportion to
their money, deſerves no ſerions anſwer. They I own,
would have the ſame advantage over us by this rule, that we
ſould have over them by the other. But I wonder the following
objections never occurred, that my Lord Bute, even
at that rate, might pretend to a great ſhare of the adminiſtration
of affairs, while the ſtate would be certainly deprived
of the patriotick virtues of Mr Wilkes, who is as poor as
if he were a North Briton indeed, and on whom his friend
Churchill's Prophecy of Famine is likely to be fulfilled.


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A North Briton Extraordinary

Document Information

Document ID 120
Title A North Briton Extraordinary
Year group 1750-1800
Genre Imaginative prose
Year of publication 1765
Wordcount 3178

Author information: Smollet, Tobias George

Author ID 248
Forenames Tobias George
Surname Smollet
Gender Male
Year of birth 1721
Place of birth Dalquhurn, Renton, Dunbartonshire, Scotland
Mother's place of birth Gilbertfield, Lanarkshire, Scotland
Father's place of birth Lennox, Dunbartonshire, Scotland
Occupation Author
Father's occupation Farmer
Locations where resident London