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Significant Scots
David Crawford


CRAWFORD, DAVID, of Drumsoy, near Glasgow, historiographer to queen Anne, was born in 1665, and educated to the bar. Having abandoned professional pursuits in a great measure, for the sake of studying Scottish antiquities and history, he was appointed historiographer royal for Scotland by queen Anne, to whom he was probably recommended by his being a zealous tory and Jacobite. His political prepossessions, which, as usual, extended to a keen zeal in behalf of queen Mary, induced him in 1706 to publish, at London, his well-known work, entitled "Memoirs of the affairs of Scotland, containing a full and impartial account of the revolution in that kingdom, begun in 1567, faithfully compiled from an authentic MS." The avowed purpose of this publication was to furnish an antidote to the pernicious tendency of Buchanan’s history. The substance of the work, he says he derived from an ancient MS. presented to him by Sir James Baird of Saughtonhall, and which seemed to have been composed by a contemporary of the events described. In executing the task which he had imposed upon himself, the learned editor appears to have acted after the manner of a good partizan. In order that his work might the more perfectly meet the calumnies of Buchanan, he expunged from it every passage which told in behalf of the views taken by that writer, and introduced others instead from the contemporary tory writers. The work was reprinted by Goodall in 1767, and still continues to be a popular narrative of the events of the four Regencies. In 1804, Mr Malcolm Laing, author of the History of Scotland during the seventeenth century, having obtained possession of the original MS. used by Crawford, published it, with a preface, denouncing the historiographer-royal as a rank impostor, inasmuch as he had set off that as a work of authority which had been vitiated for party purposes by his own hand. The same view has been taken of Mr Crawford’s character by Mr Thomas Thomson, in the preface to a new print of the MS. for the use of the Bannatyne Club, which appeared in 1825, under the title of "The History and life of king James the sext." With deference to these writers, it may be suggested, in Crawford’s defence, that his work was never pretended to be a faithful transcript of the original MS except on the title page, where it is so stated by the bookseller ad captandum, in obvious contradiction of the statement made by the editor within. The work comes forth with the character of a special pleading avowed upon the face of it; and those who depended upon such a refacciamento as upon a faithful contemporary chronicle, after the account given of it in the editor’s preface, had only to blame their own simplicity. The truth is, Crawford’s Memoirs, when fully considered with a regard to the ideas prevalent respecting the purity of historical narrative at the beginning of the last century, will only appear an imposture to an opposite partizan. Crawford died in 1726.


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