The Leadership’s Ideas and Aspirations
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The intention here is to look at the role of the Scottish political leadership in promoting the interests of Scottish society, the economy in particular. With two qualifications, it is not the concern to place matters in the context of long-term historical processes, in particular the development of enlightenment thought and the build up to the industrial revolution. The first qualification is that there is a need to question the place given to civic virtue in the study of eighteenth-century politics. The dubious antecedents of appeals to virtue by political opposition during the century have already been suggested above. The deliberate and successful manipulation of self-interest as a force for economic improvement in mid century, as shown in the way the British Linen Company was formed by Lord Milton — Lord Ilay’s henchman in Scotland from the mid 1720s to 1761 — should cause further reflection. So should the political characteristics of the board of trustees for manufactures and the Royal Bank of Scotland, both founded under Ilay’s guiding hand. The other qualification is that a natural progression may be observed between, at either end of the century, the economic benefits of the union and the commercial vision of Henry Dundas.
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