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The New Statistical Account of Scotland (1845)


THE Committee intimated to the General Assembly of 1832 their desire to procure a New Statistical Account of Scotland; which they proposed to obtain by requesting from the parochial Clergy a description of their respective parishes.

The General Assembly was pleased to approve of the undertaking, and to "recommend to the members of the Church to give all the aid in their power toward its completion."

The completion of the work, which is now at hand, furnishes another occasion to the Committee of respectfully bringing the subject under the notice of the Assembly. The first Number was published in March 1834; the last Number is now at press, and will appear in the course of a few weeks.

The work is comprised in 52 Numbers, which were issued regularly at stated times of publication. The whole, with the Accounts of the different parishes brought under their respective Counties, will be bound in 15 volumes. At the same time, the collected Accounts of each of the Counties will be published in separate volumes,—an arrangement for which the great extent of the undertaking had made it necessary to provide from the commencement.

It was intended, at first, to have concluded with a General Summary of the more important facts which, throughout the work, have been presented on the different branches of the inquiry. This part of the plan it has been judged expedient, in the circumstances, to resign; first, because it is, in a great measure, superseded by the summary (in some instances ample and explicit) which has been appended to each of the County collections: and next, because the purpose has been still further answered by a copious index, and by the degree in which it has been found practicable to arrange the matter of the several Accounts, uniformly, under a few distinct heads.

The work has exceeded the limits first proposed, this is to be ascribed to the circumstance, that many of the clergy addressed themselves to the task with more zeal and research, and with greater stores of information on the various subjects of inquiry, than could have been anticipated at the commencement The Committee might have noticed also, with some solicitude on this point, their own limited privilege of abridgment, (limited by the terms, on which the contributions were both asked and given;) were they not assured that the enlargement of the work beyond the extent first intended, has been fully compensated by the greater interest and value it has thus received.

The Society were led, as they formerly stated, to engage in this undertaking by the circumstance of their having possessed the property of the first Statistical Account, which was conveyed to them by its benevolent and public-spirited projector. This, and the relation in which they stood to the Church, seemed to afford them an opportunity of doing a farther service to the public, by means of a new Account adapted to the present circumstances of the country. The proposal to obtain such an Account was first made to them by their Secretary, Sir Henry Jardine.

It is not exactly their part to estimate the value of the work which thus originated, or to determine how far its object has been attained. But, as it is truly the production of the clergy, the Committee may be permitted to observe, that the Church of Scotland appears to them to have here furnished a compilation which must long be regarded as a monument of the intelligence of its clergy, and of that varied and intimate acquaintance with the affairs, history, condition, and resources of their parishes, which the ecclesiastical constitution they enjoy gives them such peculiar opportunities of obtaining.

The Committee are well aware that errors and defects are inseparable from a work of the nature and extent of the present; and they doubt not that this necessity (for, in effect, it is nothing less) will be duly considered in any estimate of its merits. They would only suggest, as among the causes of any imperfection that may be observed,—the want of a system of accurate registrations throughout the country, and the little opportunity which many of the contributors could enjoy to make the necessary investigations concerning the history of their parishes. They would notice, too, as the occasion of a certain disadvantage, the unusual number of individuals contributing, and the consequent inequality in the execution of the parts; were not this diversity, at the same time, the cause of a great part of the peculiar interest which, they hope, may be assumed as attaching to the work. Above all, it will be remembered that a Statistical Account of any country implies something more than the mere reporting of ascertained facts; and that it cannot be accomplished, in all points completely, without great and various labour in the ascertainment of the facts to be reported,— by the scientific survey of its physical qualities, by inquiries into its past history and situation, and by the close investigation of its actual state, industrial, social, and moral. It was with such multifarious preparation that the Ordnance Survey of Ireland proceeded in compiling their admirable Memoir of the Parish of Templemore. But the same method could not be followed, to the same extent, in the present undertaking; which was unaided by the public funds, and has been supported throughout by no other means than such as might be expected to be returned in the event of its success. It may be added, that the same condition of entire self dependence necessarily affected the plan of the work; which, it is readily admitted, would have been, in some respects, different under favour of other circumstances.

In announcing the completion of the undertaking, the Committee desire gratefully to acknowledge how much its progress was encouraged by the interest which the General Assembly, at the commencement, expressed in its success. They desire, also, to acknowledge the obligations under which they have been placed by the willing and able services of the Clergy.

To Sir Henry Jardine the work has been indebted not only as already noticed, but for the judicious counsel which he was at all times ready to afford in the various arrangements by which its progress was promoted. In the same manner, much valuable assistance was obtained from Andrew Tawse, Esq. W.S., Treasurer to the Society.

The Committee have further to acknowledge the important aid which, throughout the work, they derived from Professor Jameson, in the department of Natural History. Nor can they omit to record how deeply indebted in this matter, are the Society, the Church of Scotland, and the country at large, to the enterprising publishers, Messrs Blackwood; but for whose disinterested zeal for the public good, and generous reliance on the ultimate success of the undertaking, it may be truly said, it would not have been attempted.

The Manuscripts of all the Accounts, as originally transmitted to the Committee, will be deposited among the Records of the Church. Except in the few instances in which these have been specially referred to, all that they contain of general interest or value appears in the printed Accounts.

John Gordon,
Secy to Superintending Committee and Ed.
May 1845.

At Edinburgh the thirty-first day of May Eighteen hundred and forty-five years.

Which day the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland being met and constituted, Mr Walter Cook gave in the Report of the Committee of the Society for the Sons and Daughters of the Clergy superintending the New Statistical Account of Scotland. The General Assembly having received the Report of the Society for the Sons and Daughters of the Clergy superintending the New Statistical Account of Scotland, express their satisfaction in the completion of the important work which the Society and the Clergy have thus provided for the benefit of the country: and regarding both the 'intention of the work and the care and intelligence which the Clergy have employed in its preparation as in the highest degree creditable to them and to the Society, they trust that a recompense for their labours will be found in its acknowledged usefulness, by illustrating as it does the state and resources of the country; and they would hope that its success otherwise may be so great as to afford some benefit to the fund under the management of the Society.

Extracted from the Records of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.

Electric Scotland Note:  We have been working on this publication to ocr it onto the site as at the time it was not available elsewhere where it could be bookmarked. On 4th April 2009 we discovered that this publication had been scanned in by Google and so it seemed pointless to continue this large work.

We have thus downloaded the files from Google to make them available on the site. We have created a page for each volume and when you click on a link below this will take you to a page where you will be able to download the volume both as a pdf files, where each page has been scanned in as an image, and also as a text file.  Note that the text file is a slightly rough effort at ocr'ing so there can be errors in the text. We have also made a new page that simply lists an Alphabetic list of Parishes in this publication so if you are just interested in one area of Scotland use that file to find which volume you need to download.

General Report of Scotland
Statistical Tables or Results of the inquiries regarding the Geographical, Agricultural, and Political state of Scotland, second edition (1817) (pdf)

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