Monthly Archives: March 2014

Educating Master Macintosh

Bill for the schooling of Master Macintosh.

Bill for the schooling of Master Macintosh (1772). Archives départementales de Vaucluse, 2 E Titres de famille 83, “John Townson / 1768″.

Macintosh was, for much of their early lives, geographically remote from his children: a daughter and at least one son. Although Macintosh’s daughter survived to adulthood and was married, I know very little about his son (indeed, whether there was more than one). Master Macintosh (assuming there was only one) was not referred to in his father’s will, which indicates, sadly, that he was no longer alive at the point at which the will was drafted.

It is clear, however, that Macintosh cared very greatly about the education of his son and paid rather handsomely for it. Macintosh had placed his son under the “tender & conscientious care & guardianship of men of virtue, friendship, & liberality of sentiment” in Britain, in the hope that Master Macintosh might have a stable upbringing and an effective education. Macintosh set out (in a letter to his son from Madras in 1779) his views as to a correct education for a child of his station. They are worth quoting at length:

A knowledge of the Latin is indispensably necessary to give you a true idea of your nature tongue, besides that it is a language universally understood in Europe, although not practiced in conversation. If you were younger (than 11 years) I would wish you to know the rudiments of Greek, because many scientific terms & words of our own language are derived from it; but I despair at this. Every gentleman ought to understand orthography, unexceptionally. To {indecipherable} & distinctly. All the common rules of arithmetic. Book-keeping as practiced by merchants, with double entry. The principles of mathematics. Geography. A just idea of astronomy. The principles of laws. And ancient and modern histories. Indeed, a man of business, cannot be competent without them; otherwise, buy acting without, any fixed principle, he will be continually exposed to errors & impositions, & success can only be the effect of chance. And without them a man in public station, while each successive measure betrays ignorance which will justly expose him to ridicule & contempt, may be misled in that degree that, the security, or at least the prosperity, of the stake may be sapped & endangered. Dancing & fencing are not only graceful, but useful accomplishments; the one enables a man to be at his ease in company, & the other may secure him from insults. Riding, according to rule, has its utility & gracefulness also. It is not possible to convey all the advantages resulting from these qualifications, through the several stages of life, in the circumscribed compass of a letter. I deliver you the texts, & leave the expositions to friends, & to your own heart. Let the latter be your universal monitor.

Macintosh’s habit of keeping detailed financial accounts, as well as invoices and receipts, means that we have some sense about what it cost to educate Master Macintosh. A bill dated July 1772 (above) sets out the principal costs associated with Master Macintosh’s schooling. These included:

  • “6 Months board and Instruction” at £10;
  • “Board in the Christmas Vacation” at £1 12s.;
  • “a Hatt [sic]” at 2s. 9d.;
  • “Cutting of Hair & Cleaning of Shoes” at 2s.;
  • and “a Spelling Book” at 10d.

Instruction, and the necessities of life, amounted to £15 14s. 6d. for six months.

Macintosh’s concern for his son, and for his education, is evident and touching. His letter from Madras (which runs to more than twenty pages and offers his son a series of life lessons) is both fascinating and deeply moving. My principal task for the summer will be to recommence the systematic transcription of the archival material I was able to photograph in Avignon in 2012, paying particular attention, in the first instance, to the materials relating to Macintosh’s time in the Caribbean.

Macintosh and the Grenadian pamphlet war

Audi alteram partem (1770)

Audi alteram partem (1770). From the pen of Macintosh?

I have been reading, with great interest, a recently-published article in The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History by a graduate student (Aaron Willis) at the University of Notre Dame: “The standing of new subjects: Grenada and the Protestant constitution after the Treaty of Paris (1763)“.

Willis’s paper concerns the political difficulties which surrounded the incorporation of French Catholics into the British Empire following the ceding of Grenada at the end of the Seven Years’ War. In broad terms, opinion was divided among islanders as to the extent to which political rights which applied to British Protestants should be extended to French Catholics. These divisions resulted in political stalemate which lasted through much of the late 1760s and early 1770s. Willis offers a neat summary of the principal pamphlets which were issued during this period and argued, at turns, for and against the rights of French Catholics.

There is some evidence to suggest that one of these pamphlets—Audi alteram partem (1770)—which Willis describes as being “[t]he most sustained defence of Catholic rights” was co-authored by Macintosh. That, at least, was the opinion of an anonymous reviewer writing in The Political Register (May, 1770) who noted “It is almost needless to add, that Mr. Mackintosh [sic], Col. [James] Johnstone, and Mr. Scott are the Authors of Audi Alteram Partem…and are the agents and abettors of the Romish party there”. Clearly it will require some digging to determine whether or not there is any validity in this claim, or that Macintosh was “known to be zealous in the cause of the Roman Catholic French subjects at Grenada”. I would think, however, the latter is a safe bet.

Taking account

Mastering the Niger

Lambert, David. Mastering the Niger: James MacQueen’s African geography and the struggle over Atlantic slavery. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013.

I have very much been enjoying David Lambert‘s new monograph, Mastering the Niger, which was published late last year by the University of Chicago Press. David’s book concerns a number of themes, including the production of geographical knowledge, the role of observation and testimony in the making of geographical fact, and the production and evaluation of credibility. His biographical focus is on the Scots Caribbean planter turned Glasgow merchant and businessman, James MacQueen (1778–1870).

Although Macintosh was born a generation earlier than MacQueen, there are a number of interesting parallels between their lives. Both were part of the wave of Scots who took the opportunities afforded by the Act of Union in 1707 to forge their careers in the British Empire; both were planters in Grenada; both had important dealings with Sir William Pulteney (1729–1805); both were skilled and enthusiastic proponents of double-entry bookkeeping. In Macintosh’s case, he had had, from the age of 18, “the highest charge of money, papers, & books of accounts”.

In Mastering the Niger, David offers a fascinating discussion about the parallels between double-entry bookkeeping and processes of geographical inscription and abstraction (see Chapter 3) and between the notion of “balance” and MacQueen’s own ideas about the nature and direction of the British imperial project. The analogy is an exciting and interesting one, not least because it so well captures William Macintosh’s own practices and perspectives in relation to these matters.

As I have mentioned previously, Macintosh was a thorough and committed record keeper (particularly so in relation to financial matters). This concern was not limited to his personal finances, but to those of Grenada, India, and the British Empire more widely. The day-to-day practices of taking account were so significant to Macintosh that he prescribed them in a letter to his son, in which he laid out what he considered the indispensable skills for his son’s life: “I would wish you to know…[a]ll the common rules of arithmetic. Book-keeping as practiced by merchants, with double entry. The principles of mathematics. Geography. A just idea of astronomy. The principles of laws. And ancient and modern histories. Indeed, a man of business, cannot be competent without them”.

Macintosh’s commitment to accounting means that we have a reasonably good insight into his own financial standing at various points in his life. For instance, in 1775 he applied to the Dutch bank Hope and Company (founded by Scots) for a loan of £20,000, and, in so doing, set out his financial position at that point. His collateral, detailed below, was calculated at more than £45,500, comprising plantations (or shares of them), various mortgages and bonds, a number of slaves, his house, and his annual salary of £300 for his role as Comptroller of His Majesty’s Customs for the Port of Grenville in Grenada.

Macintosh's collateral in 1775

Statement of Macintosh’s collateral in 1775. Archives départementales de Vaucluse, 2 E Titres de famille 84, “Charles Wilson / et autres de Grenade / 1767–1776”. Macintosh to Hope and Co. 15 December 1775.