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Robert Burns Lives!
The Questions Patrick Scott Hogg Should Answer By Mark J. Wilson


Edited by Frank R. Shaw, FSA Scot, Dawsonville, GA, USA
Email: [email protected]

Last week in this space I ran a reply from Patrick Scott Hogg to an article written earlier by Mark Wilson that called into question the research or scholarship (my words) of Mr. Hogg. I asked our readers to reply to either the Hogg or Wilson article. Below is a reply from Mr. Wilson and, in addition, I have received another response that I will post next week on Robert Burns Lives! as well as any other comments I receive. Was Robert Burns a member of the Friends of the People in Dumfries? Burns had strong feelings about the independence of America and flirted with some of the views of the French Revolution. A lot was happening during his lifetime and here was radical group being closely watched by the government. But was he a member? Or did he just share some similar beliefs?

The following is the reply from Mr. Wilson to Mr. Hogg’s article last week.

(FRS: 4.1.10)

The Questions Patrick Scott Hogg Should Answer
By Mark J. Wilson

Patrick Scott Hogg pretends to respond to my article, ‘Was Robert Burns a member of the Friends of the People in Dumfries’. In fact, what Hogg peddles is irrelevant to the main point of why previously I took him to task; this irrelevance is no surprise since he has no answer to my charge that he has deliberately misinformed his readership in The Patriot Bard (2008) by wilfully distorting history. Below I list the questions that Hogg cannot answer but should, and if he cannot answer these questions then his arguments stand exposed as bad history, and even worse as nefarious (where he is attempting to cheat his publisher, his readership and the Burns world at large). Related to this task, I next point out Hogg’s paper-thin and fallacious logic which, when set out, reveals his utter bad faith.

Here are the questions that Hogg cannot answer and needs to answer if he is to vindicate his work:

1. Why does Hogg claim to have seen a document, or a 'spy report by "JB" [which] lists a Mr Drummond as the Dumfries delegate [of the Friends of the People] to the National Convention in Edinburgh in late 1793’ (The Patriot Bard, p.251)? Hogg has seen no such thing; as my previous article showed there was a 'visitor' from Dumfries to this Convention but no 'delegate' (for this crucial distinction, see my full article). From this flows a related question:

2. Why does Hogg claim that there is a branch of the Friends of the People in Dumfries at this Convention? 'What is now known ... is that a branch of the Friends of the People was in existence during late 1793 when a Dumfries delegate was sent to the National Convention of the Friends of the People in Edinburgh' (TPB, p.250). There is no evidence whatsoever that there ever was any such branch at Dumfries at all and none either that it was represented at the Convention in Edinburgh.

3. Why does Hogg claim that a ‘visitor’ is a ‘delegate’, the two categories are crucially different. Either Hogg is mistaken or he is an outright fantasist.

4. Visitor Drummond is not a delegate so why does Hogg claim that he is and that he is 'in all probability' (TPB, p.251) the John Drummond whom Burns knew in Dumfries? Hogg has no evidence whatsoever to connect Visitor Drummond with the John Drummond whom Burns knew in Dumfries.

Here is Hogg’s essential ‘logic’, then, revealed in its dishonest tampering with the truth

1. Hogg changes ‘visitor’ to ‘delegate’ in his account; without this change he cannot ‘argue’ that there is a Dumfries branch of the Friends of the People.

2. On the basis of no evidence whatsoever, Hogg claims that ‘Visitor Drummond’ is a John Drummond who features slightly in Burns's life. Hogg is simply making this up.

3. So there is no Dumfries branch of the Friends of the People and no connection between Visitor Drummond and Robert Burns, but on the basis of Hogg’s invention of a Dumfries branch of the Friends of the People, and on basis of Hogg’s invention of Visitor Drummond as the John Drummond known to Burns and also in his invention of 'Delegate John Drummond' he fabricates Burns’s membership of this non-existent organisation.

4. To sum up there is no branch of the Friends of the People at Dumfries represented at the Edinburgh Convention, and there is nothing for Burns to be connected with!

Hogg’s waffle about a ‘covert’ branch of the Friends of the People is also historically spurious. The Friends of the People was not a ‘covert’ organisation as its public meetings, its Conventions show. Further, the well-known fact that Burns and friends probably of a similar dissenting political mentality at Dumfries subscribed to the reforming periodical, the Edinburgh Gazetteer might well be suggestive that Burns’s political sympathies are at least as ‘far left’ as the Friends of the People, but has nothing to do with actual membership of the Friends of the People. Hogg wants to pretend that this argument is about Burns’s political mentality, it is not. I have no problem with Burns the man of radical political inclination. What I do have a problem with is Patrick Scott Hogg in The Patriot Bard deliberately falsifying history to fit his own desperate desire to attach Robert Burns to specific organisations. If the history showed that Burns was a member of the Friends of the People then that would be fine; but the evidence shows no such thing. Not only has Hogg fabricated his ‘evidence’, he has also flown in the face of the circumstantial logic. Whatever Burns’s political feelings (and I’ll emphasise again that I believe these were at least favourable to the position espoused by the Friends of the People), he would have been foolish to have become involved with such political dissent. Why, because he had taken an oath of loyalty to the Crown on entering the Excise Service. It is bad enough that Patrick Scott Hogg wishes us to believe that Burns was a fool, even worse that he stitches Burns up with his own ‘planted’ ‘evidence’. Hogg is not a credible historical researcher and his treatment of Robert Burns and the Friends of the People amply demonstrates this. His book is a case of taking money under false pretences.


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