Scott, Thomas (1808-1878) (DNB00)

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SCOTT, THOMAS (1808–1878), freethinker, was born on 28 April 1808. He was brought up in France as a Roman catholic, and became a page at the court of Charles X. Having an independent fortune, he travelled widely, and spent some time among North American Indians. About 1856 he grew dissatisfied with Christianity, and in 1862 he started issuing tracts advocating ‘free enquiry and the free expression of opinion.’ These were printed at his own expense, and given away mostly to the clergy and cultured classes. Between 1862 and 1877 he issued, first from Ramsgate, afterwards from Norwood, upwards of two hundred separate pamphlets and books, which were ultimately collected in sixteen volumes. Among the writers who contributed to the series were F. W. Newman, William Rathbone Greg [q. v.], Dr. Willis, Bishop Hinds, Rev. Charles Voysey, M. D. Conway, Sir Richard Davies Hanson [q. v.], Marcus Kalisch [q. v.], John Muir [q. v.], John Addington Symonds [q. v.], Thomas Lumisden Strange [q. v.], Edward Maitland, Edward Vansittart Neale [q. v.], Charles Bray, Dr. George Gustavus Zerffi [q. v.], and R. Suffield. Scott also reprinted such works as Bentham's ‘Church of England Catechism Examined’ and Hume's ‘Dialogues on Natural Religion.’ His own contributions to the series were slight, but he suggested subjects, revised them, discussed all points raised, and made his house a salon for freethinkers. He was a competent Hebrew scholar, and saw through the press Bishop Colenso's work on the Pentateuch and Book of Joshua in the absence of the bishop from England. He also revised the work on ‘Ancient Faiths embodied in Ancient Names,’ by Thomas Inman [q. v.] Scott put his name on ‘The English Life of Jesus,’ 1872, a work designed to do for English readers what Strauss and Renan had done for Frenchmen and Germans; but the work is said to have been written in part by the Rev. Sir George W. Cox. Scott also wrote ‘An Address to the Friends of Free Enquiry and Expression,’ 1865; ‘Questions, to which Answers are respectfully asked from the Orthodox,’ 1866; ‘A Letter to H. Alford, Dean of Canterbury,’ 1869; ‘A Challenge to the Members of the Christian Evidence Society,’ 1871; ‘The Tactics and Defeat of the Christian Evidence Society,’ 1871; ‘The Dean of Ripon on the Physical Resurrection,’ 1872; and ‘A Farewell Address,’ 1877, in which he stated his persuasion that ‘the only true orthodoxy is loyalty to reason, and the only infidelity which merits censure is disloyalty to reason.’ He died at Norwood on 30 Dec. 1878. He was married, and his widow survived him. A portrait is given in ‘Annie Besant, an Autobiography’ (p. 112).

[National Reformer, 5 Jan. 1879; Times, 15 Jan. 1879; Liberal, March 1879; Freethinker, 24 March 1895; Wheeler's Dict. of Freethinkers; Brit. Museum Cat.]

J. M. W.