John Law : Financial Reformer
Ely the Hon. RUARAIDH ERSKINE OF 'WARR The coming general election is the the cause of some movement in Scottish political circles at the time, though, in view of the event glanced at there is a deal less stir than was formerly the case cause of some movement in Scottish electorate, speaking generally, continues to grow ever MOM and more indifferent to the issues submitted to it by the English party-chiefs; and this there is rto just questioning, for successive by-elections have proved it to the hilt.
But whether the electorate grows indifferent merely from boredom with politics, or on account of some reason more regrettable than this, is not plain at present, though what is very much so is that the National party is in no easy situation at the moment, and further, can have but slender hopes as to its immediate future. I am one of those whe, when it was proposed to the party that it should seek to send men to Westminster, objected to the idea that it was tittle fitting that Scotsmen who were nationalists should subscribe English oaths, or, indeed, meddle in English politics generally. We were witting enough (and this we proposed) that at by-, as at general, elections to Westminster, nationalists qualified to speak on behalf of the party and its aims should be sent into the constituencies, in order publicly to instruct the people in the principles of Scottish nationalism; but not to contest elections. But then in the event this counsel was turned down, and a " fight on the floor of the House" resolved on.
The Scots Nationalist party began with some show of promise. I suppose that if all the votes cast by the electors in the national interest at all the by-elections which so far have been contested by the party were added together, the aggregate sum would be quite respectable. having regard to the newness ed the party. to its want of proper electoral machinery, and lack of funds. Still. though the party began with promise, yet the sun did not long shine on it, even faintly. Want of funds, want of machinery, and, above all, perhaps, want of unity, cohesion and discipline in the party ranks (and among its leaders) conspired to dissipate the hopes glanced at. to weaken the party and set the principal minds in it at variance with one another.
It was boasted. 1 remember, at one time that at the " next general election "—that is to say, on the approaching occasion— the party would contest every constituency in Scotland. He who boasts should take heed lest he trip by reason of his own rashness and the rise of conjunctures impossible to be foreseen. If the party shall be able to produce at the coming general election so much as a single candidate pledged to its policy it will be fortunate far above its immediate prospects, and certainty much above all its deserts.
But though ihe ship itself of the party continues to flotmder, yet the number of nationalists in the country is increasing always. Discontent with the Union (if not the Unions) on more ',rounds than it would be convenient to summarise, or possible to detail, in this place is ever waxing, and may well come to a new head. that is to say independently of the National party, once that the different spokesmen of these national disgruntle merits can agree to come together, so at to shape some formula which shall be acceptable to as many as agree that to ells. agree with the present situation of Scot' land is reasonable, in a sense inevitable, and, in yet another, imperative to be die. charged by means of ad hocaction.
Imaginative economics. in contradis. tinction to those _o( the professional economists and the bankers, are a good deal in vogue in Scotland to-day. For instanee, there is Major Douglas, whose scheme of financial reform and social re. construction continues to attract much attention.
The principal cause of this is, I think, the mind of Douglas, which is imaginative, whereas that of the professional economists and the bankers seems to lack breadth and elasticity, together with all power of enabling such as have this mind, and practise it, to lift themselves and others above the level of arid figures and cut-and-dried and probably stale) economic doctrine and practice.
The phenomenon of Douglas suggests at once a previous occurrence of a somewhat similar nature. I mean John Law, who was called out of Scotland into France by the Regent Orleans to the end that he might put order and decency into the French finances. This task Law performed, at least for a while; and though in the event his interposition, as his end at Venice, was melancholy, yet he owed what success he had, as France owed the success that came to her through him, principally to his imagination.
It is little probable that the generality of those who adhere to Douglas understand him; and probably, too, some at least of those oho write letters to newspapers seeking to explain him to the multitude are no less. or at all events little less. mystified. since the world of state finance is a world apart, and since the objects in it are apparently little distinguishable even by those who inhabit it.
Still, Douglas also has imagination; and if he can but avoid or overcome the perils that commonly beset its exercise he may yet live to help transform the present financial face of Scotland. if not that of England also.
A good few years ago was founded at Perth an institution entitled (in. English). the " Catholic Press of Scotland," whose first work was a republication of Fr. MacEachan's translation into Gaelic of Scupoli's Spiritual Combat. The translation was done from the original, and done, too, so admirably,that I doubt much if its like is to be had in any other European language, though it has been rendered into most. The same priest translated into the best Gaelic that can be the Imitation and the New Testament, which last writing forms the basis of the version which is now current. but which is commodity judged inferior to that prepared for the press by Fr. MacEachan.
It is now proposed to honour at once his literary labours and his memory in some suitable manner; but what particular form this remembrance shall take, and whether it shall adorn Arisaig (where he was born) or Braemar (where he was priest for a number or years) is not yet determined by those who have the project in hand.