Introduction: Millar and his Circle

Plassart, Anna (2019). Introduction: Millar and his Circle. History of European Ideas, 45(2) pp. 128–147.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/01916599.2019.1592977

Abstract

This essay examines two anonymous pamphlets that have sometimes been attributed to John Millar: the ‘Letters of Sidney’, and the ‘Letters of Crito’, both published in 1796 by the Scots Chronicle. It outlines the political context for the pamphlets’ publication and the evidence for and against Millar's authorship, and reassesses their contents' significance for our interpretation of Millar's other writings. While the ‘Letters of Crito’ present a classically Foxite critique of Pitt's ministry and Britain's war against revolutionary France, the ‘Letters of Sidney’ put forth a more theoretical defence of property reform based upon a Smithian theory of justice. Yet taken together, the essay demonstrates the pamphlets offer new insights into the political discussions that were taking place in Scottish Foxite Whig circles in the 1790s. They also provide a snapshot of the various ways in which the theories of the Scottish Enlightenment could be used by Millar and his circle of friends and students to interpret the political context of the mid-1790s, as the French Revolution was transforming the political language of its English and Scottish contemporaries.

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