In 1996, more than 20 years after the appearance of his pioneering book Scotland and America 1750–1835, Andrew Hook published an essay under the title ‘The Scottish Invention of the USA’. He argued that the importance of America to the transformation of the Scottish economy in the eighteenth century was not as signifi cant as ‘the Scottish invention of the USA’. For Hook, ‘what Scotland imported from the American colonies was tobacco; what she exported to the American colonies was ideas.’442 From the perspective of early American history, Ned Landsman has also written in an important essay that it was Scottish influence that was crucial in creating ‘that particular optimistic vision of unlimited American potential, which was, in origin, British, liberal and provincial’. Ironically, Landsman argued, this ‘has often been reinterpreted as uniquely American, New English and exceptional.’443 Hook’s essay was a shrewd analysis of the reception of a study the American author Garry Wills published in 1978 on the American Declaration of Independence under the title Inventing America, which met with a reception that was initially quite positive, but later tempered by a reluctance by many reviewers to concede that a political journalist and professional writer could write a work of importance to our understanding of early American history.444 This meant that the emphasis that Wills gave to Jefferson’s debt to leading thinkers of the Scottish Enlightenment in the composition of the declaration became obscured by a shifting argument between other American scholars on the exceptional nature of Jefferson’s use of his intellectual sources in creating a text of extraordinary historical importance.445 Thus the exceptional originality of the document was highlighted by American commentators rather than the importance of the Scottish Enlightenment as a source for many of the ideas that gave it such historical importance.
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