Author Archives: Karen Baston

Introduction: A Survey of Natural Law Teaching in Scotland

Part of Natural Law, 1625-1850: An International Research Network

These pages are designed to provide an introduction to the vast resources about the teaching of natural law in Scotland from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries. It offers brief biographical information about teachers and students of natural law and moral philosophy and, where possible, free links to manuscripts and texts related to them.

The Timeline attempts to put natural law teaching in Scotland into an international context by including key texts published outwith Scotland (including London) which were influential there. General Scottish works of law are also included.

This site is very much a work in progress and records vary in their completeness. More material will be added including enhanced biographical and bibliographical information and more links to online resources. This site is based preliminary report which will be made more complete over the next few months. The material here was originally collected for a meeting of ‘Natural Law, 1625-1850: A European Project’ held in Copenhagen in October 2012.

Links to subscription services have been avoided: the material linked to here should be accessible to all users wherever they are.

I will maintain an Updates page to highlight the addition of new information and I hope to provide new information and links once a month.

Dr Karen Baston
Edinburgh Law School
University of Edinburgh
September 2013

*This site is best viewed in Firefox.

And let the books put into their hands for teaching or improving them in languages, be such chiefly as have human affairs and duties for their subjects, such as Cicero’s books of laws and offices, & c. and  after them Justinian’s Institutes, and we shall soon find youth qualified to read with understanding, any of the best writers on natural law or on politics.

George Turnbull, Observations upon Liberal Education in all its Branches (London: A Millar, 1742), pp. 380-81

George Turnbull (1698-1748)

About Turnbull

  • Regent at Aberdeen, 1721-1727
  • Tutor to Andrew Wauchope of Niddry and Thomas Watson


  • ‘In his elaborate manual for the education of the virtuous republican citizen and dutiful office-holder in the divine corporation [Observations upon Liberal Education (London, 1742)], Turnbull includes the study of Roman law, followed by natural law, as essential. More particularly, he recommends Grotius, Pufendorf, and his own Heineccius….’ (Haakonssen, Natural law 98*)

Publications, Manuscripts, and other Resources

  • Johann Gottlieb Heineccius, A Methodical System of Universal Law: Or, the Laws of Nature and Nations, with Supplements and a Discourse by George Turnbull. Translated from the Latin by George Turnbull, edited with an Introduction by Thomas Ahnert and Peter Schröder (London 1741; repr Indianapolis: Liberty Fund 2008). Available from Online Library of Liberty.
  • G Turnbull, The Principles of Moral Philosophy (London, 1740) Available from Google Books and the Internet Archive

*For references, see the Site Bibliography.

Henry Scougal (1650-1678)

About Scougal

  • Regent at Aberdeen


  • Cited Cumberland, De legibus naturae (1672) in theses of 1673 (Haakonssen, ‘Natural’ 262*)

Publications, Manuscripts and other Resources

  • Philosophiae moralis tractatus (1678) University of Aberdeen, Special Libraries and Archives MS 1026


NPG D30917; Henry Scougal by Thomas Trotter

Henry Scougal
by Thomas Trotter
line engraving, published 1796
NPG D30917
© National Portrait Gallery, London
Creative Commons Licence

*For references, please see the Site Bibliography.

John Bruce (1744-1826)

About Bruce

    • Filled in as Chair of Moral Philosophy at Edinburgh to cover for Adam Ferguson in 1774 (ODNB*)
    • Professor of Logic from 1778 at Edinburgh
    • Tutor to Robert Dundas on his Grand Tour (ODNB*)
    • Founding member of the Speculative Society (ODNB*)

NPG D32244; John Bruce by Edward Mitchell, after  Sir Henry Raeburn

John Bruce
by Edward Mitchell, after Sir Henry Raeburn
line engraving, (circa 1794)
NPG D32244
© National Portrait Gallery, London
Creative Commons Licence

Publications, Manuscripts, and other Resources

  • Elements of the science of ethics, on the principles of natural philosophy. By John Bruce, A. M. Professor of Philosophy in the University, and Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (London: printed for A. Strahan; and T. Cadell, in the Strand; and W. Creech, at Edinburgh, [1786]) ESTC T089429
  • Papers of Professor John Bruce [volumes of lectures on moral philosophy (1770) and a copy of First principles of philosophy, for the use of students (1781) [University of Edinburgh, Centre for Research Collections MSS MS Dc.3.44; Dc.10.3-5]

*For references, see the Site Bibliography.



Site Bibliography

References are marked * throughout the ‘Natural Law in Scotland, 1625-1850’ pages

Baston, Karen. ‘The Library of Charles Areskine (1680-1763): Scottish Lawyers and Book Collecting, 1700-1760’ (PhD Thesis, Edinburgh, 2012). Available online at Edinburgh Research Archive

Cairns, John W. ‘Ethics and the Science of Legislation: Legislators, Philosophers, and Courts in Eighteenth-Century Scotland’, in B. Sharon Byrd, Joachim Hruschka and Jan C. Joerdan (eds), Jahrbuch für Recht und Ethik: Annual Review of Law and Ethics, 8: Die Entstehung und Entwicklung der Moralwissenschaften im 17. und 18 Jahrhundunt: The Origin and Development of the Moral Sciences in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century (2000) 159-80

Cairns, John W.’The First Edinburgh Chair in Law: Grotius and the Scottish Enlightenment’ (2005) Fundamina 32-58

Cairns, John W. ‘”As Famous a School for Law as Edinburgh for Medicine”: The Glasgow Law School, 1761-1801’ in Andrew Hook and R. B. Sher (eds) The Glasgow Enlightenment (Tuckwell Press, 1995) 133-159

Cairns, John W. ‘Historical Introduction’ in Kenneth Reid and Reinhard Zimmermann (eds), A History of Private Law in Scotland, 1: Introduction and Property (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000) 14-184

Cairns, John W. ‘The Origins of the Glasgow Law School; The Professors of the Civil Law, 1714-61’, in Peter Birks (ed), The Life of the Law: Proceedings of the Tenth British Legal History Conference, Oxford, 1991 (London: Hambledon Press, 1993) 151-94

Coutts, James. A History of the University of Glasgow from its Foundation in 1452 to 1909 (Glasgow: James Maclehose and Sons, 1909)

Dalzel, Andrew. History of the University of Edinburgh from its Foundation, 2: History (Edinburgh: Edmonston and Douglas, 1862)

Emerson, Roger L. Academic Patronage in the Scottish Enlightenment: Glasgow, Edinburgh and St Andrews Universities (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2008)

Forsyth, Murray. ‘The Place of Richard Cumberland in the History of Natural Law Doctrine’ (1982) 20 Journal of the History of Philosophy 23-42; repr. in Knud Haakonssen (ed), Grotius, Pufendorf and Modern Natural Law (Aldershot: Dartmouth Publishing; Ashgate Publishing, 1999) 279-98

Grant, Alexander. The Story of the University of Edinburgh during its First Three Hundred Years (London: Longman, Green and Co., 1884)

Haakonssen, Knud. ‘Natural Jurisprudence and the Identity of the Scottish Enlightenment’ in Ruth Savage (ed), Philosophy and Religion in Enlightenment Britain: New Case Studies (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012)

Haakonssen, Knud. Natural Law and Moral Philosophy: From Grotius to the Scottish Enlightenment (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996)

Hochstrasser, T. J. Natural Law Theories in the Early Enlightenment (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000)

Horner, Francis. Memoirs of Francis Horner with Selections from his Correspondence, ed Leonard Horner (Edinburgh: William and Robert Chambers, 1849) Available from Google Books.

McLaren, Colin A. Aberdeen Students, 1600-1800 (Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press, 2005)

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB) (available at – subscription service, free for holders of UK public library cards and institutional subscribers, for information about other access see the ODNB homepage)

Ross, Ian Simpson, The Life of Adam Smith (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995)

Sher, Richard B. ‘Early Editions of Adam Smith’s Books in Britain and Ireland, 1759-1804’, in Keith Tribe and Hiroski Mizuta (eds), A Critical Bibliography of Adam Smith (London: Pickering and Chatto, 2002) 13-26

Wood, Paul B. The Aberdeen Enlightenment: The Arts Curriculum in the Eighteenth Century (Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press, 1993)

Digital Libraries & Projects

Natural Law, 1625-1850: An International Research Network

‘The project is focussed on natural law as an academic institution in the period from 1625 to 1850. The ambition is to combine traditional approaches to natural law as a set of ideas with a comprehensive history of academic reception, transmission, and uses that takes into account institutional, political, and legal contexts. This ambition can only be realised by supplementing the published record of natural law – its textbooks and treatises – with a much wider range of sources. Accordingly the heart of the project is a large digitization programme of natural-law texts, commentaries, and pedagogical programs, supplemented by a bibliography and a data base.’

Online Library of Liberty

(Maintains a Natural Law and Enlightenment Series)

‘The Library is where electronic versions of classic books about individual liberty are stored. These texts go back some 4,000 years and cover the disciplines of economics, history, law, literature, philosophy, political theory, religion, war and peace. They are in a variety of formats – facsimile PDFs so scholars can view the original text, HTML for ease of searching and attractive layout, and text-based PDF EBooks for personal use. The Library also contains bibliographic information about the books as well as other “metadata” about the authors and editors.’

Post-Reformation Digital Library

‘The Post-Reformation Digital Library (PRDL) is a select database of digital books relating to the development of theology and philosophy during the Reformation and Post-Reformation/Early Modern Era (late 15th-18th c.). Late medieval and patristic works printed and referenced in the early modern era are also included. The PRDL is a project of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research of Calvin Theological Seminary.’

Project Gutenberg

‘Project Gutenberg offers over 42,000 free ebooks: choose among free epub books, free kindle books, download them or read them online.’

John Pringle (1707-1782)

About Pringle

  • Professor of Moral Philosophy at Edinburgh, 1734-1745
  • Advertised a private class on Pufendorf (Haakonssen, ‘Natural’ 262*)
  • Career as a military physician (ODNB*)

NPG D7822; Sir John Pringle, Bt by William Henry Mote, after  Sir Joshua Reynolds




Sir John Pringle, Bt
by William Henry Mote, after Sir Joshua Reynolds
stipple engraving, mid 19th century
NPG D7822
© National Portrait Gallery, London
Creative Commons Licence


*For references, please see the Site Bibliography.

George Abercromby of Tullibody (1705-1800)

About Abercromby

  • Regius Professor of the Law of Nature and Nations  at Edinburgh, 1735-1759


  • Lectured on Grotius, De Jure Belli et Pacis [Grant, Story 315;* Cairns, ‘First’ 19-20*]
  • Private lectures on Grotius from the late 1730s to the early 1750s [Emerson, Academic 261*]

*For references, please see the Site Bibliography.

Allan Maconochie (bap. 1748, d. 1816)

About Maconochie

  • Student at Edinburgh in the 1760s where he took classes of Adam Ferguson (ODNB*)
  • Founding member, along with John Bruce, of the Speculative Society (ODNB*)
  • Admitted advocate 1770 (ODNB*)
  • Bought the Regius Chair from James Balfour for £1522:18:2  (Grant, Story 316*)
  • Regius Professor of the Law of Nature and Nations at Edinburgh, 1779-1796; advertised classes each year (ODNB*)
  • Resigned his professorship when he was called to the Bench as Lord Meadowbank in 1796 (ODNB*)


  • General class concluded with ‘the general principles of municipal law, political oeconomy, and the law of nations’ (Arnot quoted in Cairns, ‘First’ 32*)
  • ‘It is evident that by now the nature of what was taught from the chair had changed from the rational type of natural law associated with the Dutch author and his immediate successors. Instead, Maconochie started with examination of human nature, a natural history of man’. (Cairns, ‘First’ 33-34*)
  • For his teaching see Cairns, ‘First’ 30-38*

Publications, Manuscripts and other Resources

  • Advertisement: Mr Maconochie advocate, professor of public law, proposes to open his class next winter. The intended course will treat the history and principles of universal and political law, according to the following arrangement. (Edinburgh, 1780) ESTC N61378

NPG D31949; Allan Maconochie, Lord Meadowbank by John Kay

Allan Maconochie, Lord Meadowbank
by John Kay
etching, 1799
NPG D31949
© National Portrait Gallery, London
Creative Commons Licence

*For references, see the Site Bibliography.

Adam Smith (1723-1790)

NB: This page is under construction (Sept 2013)

About Smith

  • Taught by Francis Hutcheson
  • Used Hutchson’s Philosophiae moralis institutio compendiara, ethicis & jurisprudentiae naturalis elementa continuen as his textbook when covering for the ill Thomas Craigie in 1751 (Ross, Life of Adam Smith 112*)
  • Professor of moral philosophy at Glasgow, 1752-1764


  • Letter from A Smith, Edinburgh, 5 Sept 1751, to Dr William Cullen: ‘You mention natural jurisprudence & politics as parts of his lecture which it would be most agreeable for me to take upon…’ University of Glagsow, Special Collections MS Cullen 1157
  • Followed Hutcheson‘s curriculum (Cairns, ‘Ethics’ 166*)
  • Ethics course published as The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759) (Cairns, ‘Ethics’ 166*)
  • Course on political regulation published as The Wealth of Nations (1776) (Cairns, ‘Ethics’ 166*)

Publications, Manuscripts and other Resources

  • ‘Juris Prudence or Notes from the Lectures on Justice, Police, Revenue, and Arms delivered in the University of Glasgow by Adam Smith, Professor of Moral Philosophy. MDCCLXVI [1766]'(Manuscript fair copy of notes taken by an unidentified student in 1763) University of Glasgow, Special Collections MS Gen 109
  • A Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments (London and Edinburgh, 1759).
  • A Smith, Lectures On Jurisprudence, ed RL Meek, DD Raphael and PG Stein, vol. V of the Glasgow Edition of the Works and Correspondence of Adam Smith (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1982). [contains two reports dated 1762-63 and 1766 of Smith’s lectures on jurisprudence at Glasgow University].


Brief Adam Smith biography at Northern Lights: The Scottish Enlightenment.

NPG D16843; Adam Smith by John Kay

Adam Smith
by John Kay
etching, 1790
NPG D16843
© National Portrait Gallery, London
Creative Commons Licence

*For references, see the Site Bibliography.