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The Scottish Nation

BAXTER, ANDREW, an ingenious metaphysical writer, the son of a merchant in Old Aberdeen, was born there in 1686 or 1687. He was educated in King’s College in his native city, and afterwards became a private tutor. Among his pupils were the Lords Gray and Blantyre, and Mr. Hay of Drummelzier. About 1730 he published ‘An Enquiry into the Nature of the Human Soul,’ wherein its immateriality is evinced from the principles of reason and philosophy. This work, which originally appeared without a date, was praised in high terms by Dr. Warburton. In 1741 he went abroad with Mr. Hay, having also the charge of Lord Blantyre, and remained for some years at Utrecht, his wife and family in the mean time residing at Berwick-upon-Tweed. On the continent he contracted a very extensive acquaintance, and could speak the French, Dutch, and German languages fluently. He also wrote and read the Italian and Spanish. It is related of him, that, during the whole of his residence at Utrecht, he presided at the ordinary, which was frequented by all the young English gentlemen there, with much gaiety and politeness, and in such a manner as gave general satisfaction. In 1747 he returned to Scotland, and resided at Whittingham in East Lothian, till his death, which took place April 23, 1750, aged 63. He left a widow, the daughter of a clergyman in Berwickshire, three daughters, and one son. He wrote, for the use of his pupils, a Latin treatise, entitled ‘Matho, sive Cosmotheoria puerilis Dialogus,’ which he afterwards translated into English, and published in two vols. 8vo. In 1750 appeared an Appendix to his ‘Enquiry into the Nature of the Human Soul,’ in which he endeavours to answer the objections that had been advanced against his notions of the vis inertiae of the matter, by Mr. Colin Maclaurin, in his ‘Account of Sir Isaac Newton’s Philosophical Discourses,’ Hume also controverted his arguments. Mr. Baxter dedicated the Appendix to his Enquiry to the celebrated John Wilkes, whose acquaintance he had made on the continent, and with whom he kept up a correspondence till within a short time before his death. – He left many manuscripts behind him, and would gladly have finished his work upon the human soul. “I own,” says he, in a letter to Mr. Wilkes, “if it had been the will of Heaven, I would gladly have lived till I had put in order the second part of the Enquiry, showing the immortality of the human soul, but infinite wisdom cannot be mistaken in calling me sooner. Our blindness makes us form wishes.” This, indeed, he considered his capital work.

      The following is a list of Andrew Baxter’s works:

      An Enquiry into the Nature of the Human Soul, wherein its Immateriality is evinced from the Principles of Reason and Philosophy. Lond. 4to. 2d edit. 1737, 2 vols. 8vo. 3d edit. 1745, 2 vols. 8vo. An Appendix to the First Part of the Inquiry into the Nature of the Human Soul; wherein the Principles laid down are cleared from some Objections started against the Notions of the Vis Inertiae of Matter, by Maclaurin, &c. Lond. 1750, 8vo. Edited by J. Duncan.

      Matho: sive Cosmotheoria Puerilis Dialogus. In quo Prima Elementa de Mundi ordine et ornatu proponuntur, &c. Lond. 1740, 2 vols. 8vo. This work was afterwards greatly enlarged, and published in English, with the following title, Matho, or the Cosmotheoria Puerilis, in ten dialogues; wherein, from the Phenomena of the Material World, briefly explained, the principles of Natural Religion are deduced and demonstrated. Lond. 1745, 2 vols. 8vo. A third edition, 1765, 2 vols. 12mo.

      The Rev. Dr. Duncaln of South Warmborough, published The Evidence of Reason, in proof of the Immorality of the Soul, independent on the more abstruse Inquiry into the Nature of Matter and Spirit. Collected from the MSS. of Mr. Baxter. Lond. 1779, 8vo.

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