The Enlightenment transformed Lowland Scotland into a major epicenter for education in the British Atlantic world. The universities in Edinburgh and Glasgow were renowned for training new generations of doctors, lawyers, theologists, economists, and scientists. Adam Smith studied social philosophy under Frances Hutcheson at the University of Glasgow in the 1740s while the Philadelphia physician Benjamin Rush earned his medical degree from the University of Edinburgh two decades later. The education that men such as Rush and future U.S. Associate Supreme Court Justice James Wilson (an alumnus of St. Andrews, Edinburgh, and Glasgow) received in Scotland shaped their perspective on a changing world in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Beyond the learned halls of major universities, formal primary education took place in schools ranging from Edinburgh's Royal High School to schoolhouses in local parishes. The cases presented here shine a light on education at both the university and local levels. They provide insight into the communities that sustained an educational institution and the men appointed to teach in them.
|Graham et al v. Macfarlane||1767||Education, Presbytery||This case involved the efforts of heritors in the parish of Port of Mentieth (Port) to deprive the parish schoolmaster, James Macfarlane, of his office. The heritors claimed that Mcfarlane neglected his schoolmaster duties while operating a side business as a merchandiser, beat the school children under this tutelage, along with other accusations. The Pursuers first complained of Macfarlane to the Sheriff of Perth in 1752, but Macfarlane was allowed to continue. Starting in 1763 and again in 1764, forty heritors and heads of families in Port exhibited a complaint against Macfarlane to the presbytery stating that Macfarlane was unfit to be a school teacher due to neglect of duty while he operated his merchandising business and abusive treatment of students. The Presbytery found Macfarlane unfit to serve as schoolmaster in Port. Macfarlane appealed to the synod of Perth and then to the Court of Session. Macfarlane argued that since the salaries of schoolmasters in parish schools were so low, it was common occurrence for schoolmasters to serve as merchandisers for the goods in demand in their parishes. He acknowledged that he had attended fairs in Stirling and Gartmore to sell lint-seed and trade other goods, but he argued that he was only gone for two days and that it was the custom of the parish to close school on these days because many children were absent to to assist with the bear seed. He outlined his measures of discipline as schoolmaster and claimed that they were not severe as the Pursuers had claimed. Case documents provide details of the day-to-day happenings in the Port school house and Macfarlane's interactions with students.|
|Margaret Scruton v. John Gray||1 Dec 1772||Marriage, Jurisdiction, Alimony||Gray, defender, was a native of Cork, Ireland who attended university in Scotland. Scruton, pursuer, claimed that she and Gray married in Glasgow while he was attending college there. Scruton sought a "decree of declarator" from the Commissary Court of Edinburgh to find them to be husband and wife. (Commissary Courts were established in Scotland in the 1560s and had exclusive jurisdiction in marriage and divorce cases.) Scruton also sought alimony from Gray. Gray denied that any marriage took place. There was no public solemnization of the marriage, nor any cohabitation as husband and wife. According to Gray, there was only a "private interview" between the two. Gray also denied that the Commissary Court of Edinburgh has jurisdiction over him since he was a foreigner.|
|Dr William Liechman, Principal of the College of Glasgow, and Others v. Dr Robert Trail, and Others||22 Nov 1770||Powers of the Principal and Masters of the University||The pursuers called into question an attempt by Doctor Leechman and others to impose a rigid interpretation of the constitution of the University of Glasgow, which would bar the rector and faculty from participating in the university's fiscal administration. The parties called attention to the set of rules prescribed by King James VI in 1577 concerning the government of the College and its funds. The Lord Ordinary found that based on the charter granted by the king, the whole revenue and property of the university (excepting such mortifications for bursars and other uses which are otherwise conveyed) was vested in the Principal and Masters. The Defenders asked the Lord Ordinary to alter his interlocutor.|
|William Toshack v. Alexander Smart||18 Jul 1771||Voting rights||The office of the schoolmaster in the parish of St. Cuthbert's became vacant. In the election of an assistant schoolmaster for the parish, two questions occurred as to the right of voting. The pursuer, Mr. Toshach who participated in the election, maintained that all the heritors whatsoever, who were liable in payment of cess and parish burdens, had a right. The defender, on the other hand, maintained that the right was reserved only to such heritors as were separately valued on the cess-roll. To decide this issue the Lords looked at the terms and meaning of the Act of 1696, c. 26. for the settling of schools. The pursuer also argued that the liferenter, whilst the defender affirmed that the fiar, had the preferable right of voting. The Lord Ordinary found the liferenter "has a right to vote, and not the fiar.”
|Jesson v. Gray, Rector of the School of Coupar||13 Jan 1779||Rector||In 1775, George Gray was elected rector of the Cupar grammar school, vested with the power to appoint and dismiss his assistants at will. In November 1777, Gray dismissed John Jesson, second doctor of the school. According to Jesson the town council was widely displeased with Gray's conduct and indeed, around this time a "lawless mob" descended upon Gray's residence and broke his windows. Nevertheless, Gray petitioned the Sheriff of Fife to compel Jesson to leave his post. The Sheriff cited Jesson to appear, and Jesson then submitted his case to the Court. Lord Gardenstone passed the bill, and after Gray produced letters from members of the town council assenting to the dismissal, Lord Monboddo found that Jesson was properly dismissed. Jesson petitioned the Court for review. His advocate, William Craig, wrote that if any master knew before taking up a position that he would be “subjected to the arbitrary and capricious will of the head-master, no person of spirit would undertake the office. Such as did undertake it, would be put into a slavish and dependent situation, incompatible with that liberality of mind so essential in the teachers of youth.” The Court refused Jesson's petition.|
|John Scott and Others v. The College of Glasgow||27 Feb 1793||Documents available. Full description in progress.|
|Sibbald v. Maben||1784||Apprentice||Thomas Sibbald, a student at Heriot’s Hospital, entered into an apprenticeship with William Maben. In accordance with the school’s regulations, the indenture provided that the master would feed, clothe, and board the apprentice. However, in a separate agreement, Sibbald’s father agreed to relieve Maben of these obligations. Sibbald initially lived with his father and commuted to Maben’s shop near Edinburgh, but Maben later closed his shop and moved to Dunse, in another county. In consultation with an official at Heriot’s Hospital, Sibbald’s father notified Maben that he considered the apprenticeship to be at an end. Maben sued for damages, on the ground that Sibbald had deserted his apprenticeship.|
|Anderson v. Richardson||1787||Documents available. Full description in progress.|
|Robert Forsyth v. Hon. Henry Erskine and the Members of the Faculty of Advocates||1790|