The papers held in the library comprise some 100 letters from Chalmers, and over 400 written to him by various correspondents, 1810-1848, and include some pertaining to personal affairs during his early career in the ministry. There is also a volume of notes taken down from lectures on moral philosophy of Thomas Chalmers by Francis Arthur Skene Knox, 1826, 142pp. (ms37483).
Papers of Thomas Chalmers
Scope and Content
Administrative / Biographical History
Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847) was Professor of Moral Philosophy at St Andrews University, 1823-1828.
He was born in Anstruther in 1780, the sixth of the fourteen children. After his education in Anstruther and at St Andrews (1792-98) and Edinburgh Universities, he served as Minister of Kilmany (Fife), (1803-1815) during which time he also acted as assistant to the Professor of Mathematics at the University of St Andrews. He was appointed as Minister of Tron Church in Glasgow, (1815-1820) and then to St John's Church in Glasgow, (1820-1823). While in Glasgow he worked to relieve poverty and to educate his parishioners and reorganised the poor relief system. He revived the office of deacon and used elders to share his burden. He received a DD from Glasgow in 1816.
In 1823 he was offered and accepted the chair of Moral Philosophy at the University of St. Andrews. He believed that in taking up this new work he was engaging in a higher calling than that of parish minister. He saw his new position as one which would offer great opportunities of influencing the rising generation of ministers, and he hoped that he would be able to devote more time to writing. By this time he had a number of publications to his credit, mainly volumes of sermons and addresses. He worked with local children as well as students. The practical issues of Christianity led to the formation of a student society promote interest in the missionary movement.
He moved from St Andrews to become Professor of Divinity at the University of Edinburgh. The years at Edinburgh University (1828-1843) were very fruitful ones for Chalmers. More and more of the students who left him to become ministers of the Church of Scotland were in complete sympathy with his teaching and went out to preach the true Gospel with something of Chalmers' own urgency and authority. Chalmers influence, however, was not restricted to students. His writings were gaining increasing attention and he was publicly honoured in 1834 by being admitted as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and a Corresponding Member of the Royal Institute of France. The following year he was awarded the degree of Doctor of Laws by the University of Oxford. He was elected as Moderator of the Church of Scotland in 1834.
At the disruption of the Scottish Church in 1843 Chalmers was the leader of the 'seceding' ministers who struggled for the freedom of the Church to manage her own affairs without interference from the Civil Authority. He was elected the Moderator of the first General Assembly of the Free Church and within a year he had organised the building of 500 new churches and the ordination of 100 new ministers. He also acted as Principal of the Free Church College, Edinburgh, 1843-1847 so that in addition to preaching and organising the Church's finances, Chalmers gave lectures in systematic theology to students studying for the Free Church ministry. About this time he started work on two books: Institutes of Theology and Daily Scripture Readings. He has a reputation as one of the finest orators Scotland has ever produced.
Correspondence is indexed alphabetically by correspondent.
The papers comprise:
- ms30385: Correspondence to Chalmers, 1818-1825 (439 items).
- msdep93: Private correspondence of Chalmers, 1810-1848 (2 folders).
- ms38306: Letters (5) to Eliza Dalgliesh, 1827-41.
- ms5510, 5513: Letters by Chalmers, 1829, 1841.
- ms37483: Lecture notes, 1826
Conditions Governing Access
By appointment with the Archivist. Access to unpublished records less than 30 years old and other records containing confidential information may be restricted.
Description compiled by Rachel Hart, Archives Hub Project Archivist.
Other Finding Aids
No list, but index references are held in the hard copy 'General Index'. Some of the letters are also described in the Manuscripts database under the heading 'Individual Manuscripts and Small Collections'.
Conditions Governing Use
Applications for permission to quote should be sent to the University Archivist. Reproduction subject to usual conditions: educational use and condition of documents.
This material has been appraised in line with standard GB 227 procedures.
msBX9225.C4 contains 48 items acquired by the library before 1961. msdep93mss5510 and 5513 purchased in 1962. ms30385 was purchased in 1967. ms37483 was transferred from the university muniment collection. ms37766 was accessioned in 1984.
The Works of Thomas Chalmers (Glasgow, 1836-1842), 25 vols. The Works of Thomas Chalmers (Glasgow, 1836-1842), 25 vols.W. Hanna, ed. Posthumous Works of the Rev. Thomas Chalmers, (Edinburgh, 1847-1849), 9 vols.W. Hanna, ed. Posthumous Works of the Rev. Thomas Chalmers, (Edinburgh, 1847-1849), 9 vols.S.J. Brown, Thomas Chalmers and the Godly Commonwealth, (Oxford, 1982).S.J. Brown, Thomas Chalmers and the Godly Commonwealth, (Oxford, 1982).A.C. Cheyne, ed. The Practical and the Pious. Essays on Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847), (Edinburgh, 1985).A.C. Cheyne, ed. The Practical and the Pious. Essays on Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847), (Edinburgh, 1985).Boyd Hilton, The Age of Atonement. The Influence of Evangelicalism on Social and Economic Thought 1785-1865, (Oxford, 1988).Boyd Hilton, The Age of Atonement. The Influence of Evangelicalism on Social and Economic Thought 1785-1865, (Oxford, 1988).John Roxborogh, Thomas Chalmers: Enthusiast for Mission. The Christian Good of Scotland and the Rise of the Missionary Movement, (Carlisle, 1999).John Roxborogh, Thomas Chalmers: Enthusiast for Mission. The Christian Good of Scotland and the Rise of the Missionary Movement, (Carlisle, 1999).D.F. Wright and G.D. Badcock, eds. Disruption to Diversity. Edinburgh Divinity 1846 - 1966, (Edinburgh, 1996).
This material is original.