Robert Burns and the Scottish School of Common Sense

When, in 1707, Scotland bowed down to Wesminster patronage, it was a Country of intellectual superiority for it had 5 universities to England’s 2. Moreover, Scotland’s school education system was also superior to England’s making the Scots the most literate society in the world.

There’s one other school that made Scotland ahead of it’s time, the Scottish School of Common Sense. A Scottish invention, as it says in the name, invented by the great Thomas Reid.

Thomas Reid
Thomas Reid

For the first time ever, people became aware of the power of the word “why” and a powerful word it was. It was the word that brought about the United States of America. Without this word, there would have been no War of Independence. Scotland exported this “common sense” over the Atlantic with the ideas of Hutcheson and the pen of Witherspoon.

John Witherspoon
John Witherspoon

All good and fully functional colonies rely on the absence of this very dangerous and thoroughly disagreeable word. Thomas Jefferson was a big fan of the Scottish School of Common Sense. Of course the word “why” as dangerous as it is, becomes even more dangerous when the word “not” is added to it. The American colonists were asked to bankroll the Crown and not ask questions. They had the insolence to ask “why” and after they thought about it for a while and realised they could do much better on their own, they said “why not” and the rest was history.

Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson

A child of the Scottish Enlightenment,

Robert Burns, as a child of the Scottish Enlightenment, was also a graduate of the Scottish School of Common Sense, except when it came to women but that’s another story. People stood before him naked because he wasn’t impressed by airs and graces and ego. Burns had an ability to see right through the act and view the absurdities and inequalities of human nature.

A Man’s a Man is an anthem for people as they are and not as they be judged by fancy titles or clothes. There’s always been a cult of personality and it is very much alive today. Tinsel makes a Christmas tree but the tinsel is nothing without the tree. It’s common sense, a man’s a man for a’ that.

A man’s a man

The heartbroken and homesick soul

This sentiment would have been with him when he wrote about the heartbroken and homesick soul who had been brutally kidnapped from his/her home in Senegal into slavery.

The Slave’s lament

Wanton destruction

His level playing field views went beyond people. He mourned the wanton destruction of a tiny field mouse’s home.

To a mouse

The demise of a wild flower

Burns was saddened and deeply affected by the demise of a wild flower.

primrose image 2
The primrose [first version]
The primrose [second version]

Burns was a romantic

Burns was a romantic because he lived in a romantic age, he was a socialist because he believed in people’s rights to fairness and honesty and he was a patriot. He didn’t yearn for a powerful nationalistic Scottish state. He thought to himself “self determination…….?, why not…?”

gold coins

Such a parcel of rogues in a nation