The Scottish Enlightenment and the British-Irish Union of 1801
This chapter shows how arguments for the British-Irish Union of 1801 were shaped by the political thought of the Scottish Enlightenment. The framers and defenders of Union used the political economy and moral theory of Adam Smith, David Hume, Edmund Burke and John Millar to construct an ‘art of government’ that could reassert British authority in Ireland after the 1798 rebellion. These arguments for Union formed part of a broader discourse that legitimated the British Empire’s claim to uphold a universal commercial civilisation in its ongoing conflict with revolutionary France. This crucial moment in four nations history can only be understood in its European context.