Did the interaction of Gaelic and Scots cultures in early modern Scotland create a culture with acute sensitivity to the issues implicit in the European debate over conditions of barbarism and civility in human society? Or were the Scots, as subalterns of empire, consigned to deal with native peoples while its profits and the power went elsewhere? Particularly in the eighteenth century, Scots were at the centre of the debate over the future of native peoples in America. This was partly because there had already been a debate in Scotland during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries relating to this issue but focused on the people of Scotland rather than America. The great Scottish classicist, George Buchanan, was a critic of the impact of early European colonization in America, particularly in his poem, In colonias brasilienses. Buchanan denounced European barbarity in America, particularly that of the Portuguese colonists in Brazil. For Buchanan, ‘the empire was an inherently unstable and vulnerable commercial world’ which excluded the possibility of a virtuous life.315 Although familiar with Gaelic, Buchanan believed that the classical languages were the languages of civilization. He was, after all, to become the greatest Latinist in Europe in his lifetime. In his History of Scotland, he wrote that ‘the gradual extinction of the ancient Scottish language’ was something that he could ‘perceive without regret’. ‘Let us pass from rusticity and barbarism,’ he wrote, ‘to culture and civilization, let our choice and judgement repair the infelicity of our birth.’316 Buchanan had been subject to trial by the Inquisition while teaching in Portugal, an experience which appears to have affected his views on rusticity and culture. For Buchanan, no reports of American savagery, even cannibalism, could equal the depravity of what the Portuguese colonists did to the native peoples of Brazil.
Swipe to navigate through the chapters of this book
Please log in to get access to this content
To get access to this content you need the following product:
- Scotland and Native Peoples in the Americas
- Macmillan Education UK
- Sequence number
- Chapter number