Retirement planning

A view of Charles-Town, the capital of South Carolina (1776). Library of Congress LC-DIG-pga-02794.
A view of Charles-Town, the capital of South Carolina (1776). Library of Congress LC-DIG-pga-02794.

Working through Macintosh’s correspondence reveals a number of concerns and preoccupations that offer an insight into his personality and worldview. One refrain to which Macintosh returned with increasing frequency during his time in the Caribbean was the climate, which he considered—in line with contemporary European thinking on the subject—deleterious to his physical and mental health. Over the years, Macintosh’s eye and heart were increasingly drawn not by a return to the temperate climes of Britain, but rather by North America, which he came to view with ever more certainty as the perfect environment—climatically and politically—where he might see out his days in retirement.

Something of this desire is captured in a letter Macintosh wrote to the Charleston-based merchant Andrew Irwin, whose earlier communication from that city had reignited Macintosh’s passion for the North American continent:

Your description of North America is too flattering, & bears so near a Conformity to my own partiality & favourable Ideas, as well of the Country & Climate, as of the Inhabitants, that my desires are raised to a pitch of enthusiasm & extravagance to see it for the Choice of a Spot whereon to pitch my tent; My own political tenets & the noble Strugles [sic] of the Americans conducted with propriety, Judgement & Moderation…[are such] that my motivation to finish my days in Britain, even in my favourite Devon Shire, has long ago Subsided; & I envy your happy Enjoyment now, so much, that I beg you will return, not more to attend to your Own Affairs, but partly to attend mine, while I may be regaining my Sensitive faculties as you have done, on a Soil boundless in extent, gratefull [sic] & fertile to the Husbandman, pleasing to the eye, entertaining to the Sportsman, and Joyous to the Companion; Whos [sic] Inhabitants are Just, generous & hospitable to the Stranger; and friendly to each other with all the Et Ceteras which Compose the Cardinal, and an innumerable Catalogue of inferior Virtues

Bibliothèque municipale d’Avignon, MS.1297, Macintosh to Andrew Irwin, 1 February 1773, fo. [376].

While the American Revolutionary War, among other factors, ultimately put paid to Macintosh’s plan, he retained an interest in American politics, which eventually led to him corresponding with George Washington over the new nation’s political structure. The fact that Macintosh never quite found somewhere safe and permanent to pitch his tent was a source of frustration for him, but it rendered his life, in retrospect, all the more interesting to consider.

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