William Leechman

(1706—1785) Church of Scotland minister and university principal

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Francis Hutcheson (1694—1746) moral philosopher

David Hume (1711—1776) philosopher and historian

George Benson (1699—1762) Presbyterian minister and theologian

moral sense


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William Leechman was born in Dolphinton, Lanarkshire, Scotland and died in Glasgow on 3 December 1785. Edinburgh trained (MA, 1724), he became minister in 1736 to what Hutcheson called ‘a pack of horse copers and smugglers of the rudest sort’ at Beith, Ayrshire. In effect, the post doubled with that of household chaplain to the family of Mure of Caldwell. Two special sermons from this period show the early maturing of Leechman's Christian Stoic philosophy. ‘The Temper, Character, and Duty of a Minister of the Gospel’ (1741; published 1742) defends the ideal of the virtuous wise man, in but not of the world. ‘The Nature, Reasonableness, and Advantages of Prayer’ (1743) sees the function of prayer not in securing material benefits but as an aid to cultivating a virtuous mind as the means to true felicity. (Hume in a contemporary letter to William Mure to some extent missed the thrust of this sermon, from being already too involved in the ideas that eventuated in his Natural History of Religion.) Although Leechman declined a move to one of the non-subscribing congregations of Belfast in 1743, his theological sympathies – detectable, for instance, in correspondence with George Benson – lay firmly with the rational dissenters. In 1744 he secured the divinity chair at Glasgow at the second attempt, but faced initial opposition from a conservative presbytery. He was created DD in 1754, elected Moderator of the General Assembly in 1757, and appointed Principal of Glasgow University in 1761.


From The Continuum Encyclopedia of British Philosophy in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Philosophy.

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