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George Chalmers (1742 - 1825)

George Chalmers was an antiquary and political writer of 1770s to 1820s.

George Chalmers was born in 1742 in Fochabers, Moray, Scotland. His father, James Chalmers, was a grandson of George Chalmers of Pittensear, a small estate in the parish of Lhanbryde, now St Andrews-Lhanbryde, in Moray Scotland, owned by the family since the beginning of the 17th century.

After schooling at King's College, Aberdeen, the young Chalmers studied law at University of Edinburgh for several years. In August 1763 he arrived in America on the Chesapeake to assist his uncle who was involved in a lawsuit in Maryland. He then went on to practice law in America, but the severe discontent there, which led to the War of Independence, made the position of Chalmers and other loyalists untenable and in 1775 he returned to London. In 1786 he was appointed chief clerk to the committee of the privy council for the consideration of all matters relating to trade and foreign plantations. However, his official duties left him with time to pursue his literary and antiquarian interests. He became a member of the Royal Society on 5 May 1791.

His early works (1776-1786) written before his Privy Council appointment - Chalmers applied himself to investigating the history and establishment of the English colonies in North America. His mature works (1786-1824), besides biographical sketches, the British government paid Chalmers 500 pounds sterling to write a hostile biography of Thomas Paine, the author of the Rights of Man. His political works are numerous, among them may be mentioned Collection of Treaties between Great Britain and other Powers (1790); Vindication of the Privileges of the People in respect to the Constitutional Right of Free Discussion, etc. (1796), published anonymously; A Chronological Account of Commerce and Coinage in Great Britain from the Restoration till 1850 (1810); Opinions of Eminent Lawyers on various points of English Jurisprudence, chiefly concerning the Colonies, Fisheries, and Commerce of Great Britain (1814); Comparative Views of the State of Great Britain before and since the War (1817).

Chalmers 's best work is said to be his "Caledonia" an account of North Britain, published in London, 1807-24; which he did not live to complete. He was also the colonial agent for the Bahamas.

On his death on 31 May 1825, his valuable and extensive library he bequeathed to his nephew, at whose death in 1841 it was sold and dispersed. Chalmers was a member of the Royal and Antiquarian Societies of London, an honorary member of the Antiquarian Society of Scotland, and a member of other learned societies.

The University of Glasgow holds special collections of Chalmers - a volume (MS Gen 1521) containing 179 original letters from correspondents in Scotland to George Chalmers written during the 1790s. The letters served as the basis for Chalmers' Caledonia.
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