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The Scottish Character

Looked at broadly, one would say they had been an eminently pious people. It is part of the complaint of modern philosophers about them, that religion, or superstition, or whatever they please to call it, had too much to do with their daily lives. So far as one can look into that commonplace round of things which historians never tell us about, there have rarely been seen in this world a set of people who have thought more about right and wrong, and the judgment about them of the upper powers.

Long-headed, thrifty industry, a sound hatred of waste, imprudence, idleness, extravagance, the feet planted firmly upon the earth, a conscientious sense that the worldly virtues are, nevertheless, very necessary virtues, that without these, honesty for one thing is not possible, and that without honesty no other excellence, religious or moral, is worth anything at all, this is the stuff of which Scottish life was made, and very good stuff it is.

Among other good qualities, the Scots have been distinguished for humour, not for venomous wit, but for kindly, genial humour, which half loves what it laughs at, and this alone shows clearly enough that those to whom it belongs have not looked too exclusively on the gloomy side of the world. I should rather say that the Scots had been an unusually happy people. Intelligent industry, the honest doing of daily work, with a sense that it must be done well, under penalties ; the necessaries of life moderately provided for ; and a sensible content with the situation of life in which men are born, this through the week, and at the end of it the " Cotter's Saturday Night " - the homely family, gathered reverently and peacefully together, and irradiated with a sacred presence.

Happiness ! such happiness as we human creatures are likely to know upon this world, will be found there, if anywhere.

James Anthony Froude
In his Rectorial Address at Edinburgh University.

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