Tuesday, January 03, 2006

David Hume an 'English philosopher'? Surely not!

In a debate, now pressing into the political agenda in the USA, the issue is whether the children of illegal residents (by which is meant mainly Mexicans) who are born in the USA are automatically entitled to the citizenship denied to their parents. This is an internal matter for the US electorate and not the subject of this comment.

What caught my attention was the following:

Even the English philosopher, David Hume, a man for whom most of the founders had great respect and whose ideas were closely considered, voiced a similar sentiment.”

David Hume an “English” philosopher? Oh, dear? Hume was born and raised in Scotland; he spoke Scots and maintained his broad Scotch accent all his life (despite diplomatic service in France and mixing with English men of letters in London.). He would never have described himself as ‘English’. If anything besides Scottish, he was ‘British’.

He agreed with many others in the Enlightenment that ambitious Scots should sanatise their speech of ‘Scotticisms’ – he even published an essay on the subject.

His friend, Adam Smith, who acquired an Oxford English accent (replaceable in his social hours when he spoke Scots) from his six years (1740-46) residence in England, was also advised by his patron, Lord Kames, to take advantage of his acquired gift and use it to his advantage when teaching, which he did during 1748-51 in his Edinburgh lectures.

Hume, Smith and the others were, of course, subjects of the British King (and Britain was the better for it) and they suffered no debates on whether they were nationals or ‘foreigners’, sometimes describing themselves as 'citizens of the world'. While there was prejudice against the Scots for many years in England, it was not on a scale as that against Mexicans in some quarters of the US (or against ‘Americans’ in some quarters of Mexico).

That much of the world, including in the USA, thinks ‘England’ is a sufficient description for the ‘United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’ is evidenced by the common use of ‘England’ when they mean ‘Britain’. We get a similar linguistic atrocity in the UK when people (including many Scots) refer to The Netherlands as ‘Holland’, one of its regions.

However, this detracts from the serious debate in the US about the 14th amendment to the US Constitution. For the views of the author of the above paragraph, Warren Todd Huston, an editor of Publius’ Form (
www.publisforum.blogspot.com) visit: (http://www.chronwatch.com/content/contentDisplay.asp?aid=18746&catcode=13)


Blogger Unknown said...

It is esspecially egregious given that Edinburgh may rightly have been the Mecca of philosophy in the 18th and 19th centuries.

10:10 pm  

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