Articles

The Rise and Decline of the British "Patriot": Civic Britain, c. 1545-1605

The Rise and Decline of the British “Patriot”: Civic Britain, c. 1545-1605

Williamson, Arthur (California State University, Sacramento)

International Review of Scottish Studies, Vol 36 (2011)

Abstract

In 1586, David Hume of Godscroft recorded a dialogue that he had with his patron Archibald Douglas, the 8th earl of Angus; this dialogue provides one of the earliest instances of the Anglophone neologism “patriot” used to describe either Scottish or English politics. The values associated with it – social solidarity, political activism, and, implicitly, relative equality – became imperative in Scotland, England, France, and the Netherlands as religious upheaval convulsed all of these societies. These values resurfaced powerfully and enduringly in the mid seventeenth century. The Scottish patriot not only loved his country and simultaneously saw himself as part of an international struggle, but also was centrally exercised to construct a British society. Then and later to be Scottish and British – and even in important ways European – did not divide an individual but proved mutually reinforcing.





In 1586 David Hume of Godscroft recorded (and no doubt embellished) a dialogue that he had with his patron Archibald Douglas, the 8th earl of Angus. Both men were about thirty, Hume the rising intellectual star of the Presbyterian movement, Angus its political powerhouse, by far the mightiest and the most committed of the radical lords. For several years Hume had served as Angus’ amanuensis, preceptor, companion. Together they had returned from exile in England shortly before, as part of a coup d’etat that overthrew the conservative regime of James Stewart, earl of Arran, and Patrick Adamson, archbishop of St. Andrews. The dialogue argued that it would not do simply to be restored to one’s estates and earlier status. For the “good patriot” bore a far greater responsibility: participating actively in political decisions, protecting liberty, promoting the “publick cause.” “Activenesse” was required. One needed to restrain particular interests, personal preoccupations, and private passions, and direct oneself to common purposes and society as a whole. That responsibility, the dialogue further insisted, could extend to revolution – as in fact had just happened. “Tyrants will call a good patriot, a seditious fellow.

Click here to read this article from the International Review of Scottish Studies

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons