Papers of the Rev. Dr. Thomas Chalmers (1770-1847)

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 237 Coll-828
  • Dates of Creation
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      circa 40 letters. Access to records in a fragile condition may be restricted.
  • Location
      Dc.2.57; Dk.6.19/1; Dk.7.47/86; Gen. 1429/10/22; Gen. 1730 A-C; Gen. 2039/100-102

Scope and Content

The collection is composed of: letters to Dr. James Brown, 1798-1836, at Dc.2.57; letter to Rev. Mr. Hamilton, Strathblane, 1819, and to Robert Brown, 1820, and to Christopher Wilson, 1822, and letters (3) to P. Marsland, Professor J. Pillans, and N. W. Senior, 1824-1832, and letter to the Rev. George Lewis about an article in the Scottish Guardian, 1834, and letter to Sir Frances Palgrave regretting that a Mr. Knight does not seem qualified for the ministry of the Church of Scotland, 1842, and letter to Sir Andrew about the Free Church of Scotland, 1843, at Gen. 1730 A-C; letter to J. Campbell about the manuscript of an article and mentioning Dr. James Wood, 1824, and a letter about the Prophetic Society, 1827, at Dk.6.19/1; letter to the Earl of Aberdeen about his pamphlet Remarks on the present position of the Church of Scotland, 1839, at Dk.7.47/86; and, letter to Professor James D. Forbes about accommodation at Cambridge, 1833, at Gen. 1429/10/22. The material at Gen. 2039/100-102 is composed of: letter from Chalmers at Kilmany Manse, to the Rev. William Shingleton in Biggleswade, on scriptural matters and interpretation, 1814; a letter dated 1843; and a short note thanking for a silver gift, 1846.

Administrative / Biographical History

The theologian, preacher, and philanthropist Thomas Chalmers was born in Anstruther, Fife, on 17 March 1780. He was educated first at the parish school and then at St. Andrews University where he became a keen mathematician and scientist. He also wanted to be a preacher and when he became a Minister at Kilmeny in Fife, in 1803, he also gave lectures on Chemistry at St. Andrews. As a preacher he made his name at the Tron Church from 1815, and at St. John's Parish, Glasgow, from 1820. In 1828, Chalmers became Professor of Divinity at Edinburgh University, and Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in 1832. Within the Church, Chalmers was the leader of the Evangelical party, and as such he proposed the Veto Act (1834) which gave some power to the parishes to reject a minister proposed by the patron. This stand against patronage contributed to the Disruption in 1843 when he led around one third of Church ministers to form the Free Church of Scotland. He became the first Moderator of the General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland. The Rev. Dr. Thomas Chalmers died overnight on 30-31 May 1847.

Access Information

Generally open for consultation to bona fide researchers, but please contact repository for details in advance.

Acquisition Information

Material at Dk.7.47.86 among miscellaneous letters with Scottish interest, acquired 1962, Accession no. E62.56. Material at Gen. 1429/10/22, among miscellaneous letters with Scottish interest, purchased E. Hall, January 1970, Accession no. E70.2. Material at Gen. 1730 onwards, purchased from Rendell, December 1972, Accession nos. E.72.65, from C.A.K.Fletcher, 1973, Accession no. E73.4, acquired 1973, Accession no. E73.6, acquired from John Wilson, Accession no. E74.34, and purchased from Carnegie Book Shop, January 1977, Accession no. E77.1. Material at Gen. 2039 purchased among miscellaneous letters of Scottish interest, E. Hall, 1976, Accession no. E76.32.


The biographical/administrative history was compiled using the following material: (1) Stephen, Leslie. and Lee, Sidney (eds.). Dictionary of national biography. Vol.3. Brown-Chaloner. London: Smith, Elder and Co., 1908. (2) Keay, John. and Keay, Julia (eds.). Collins encyclopaedia of Scotland. London: Harper Collins Publishers, 1994.

Compiled by Graeme D Eddie, Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections Division.

Other Finding Aids

Important finding aids generally are: the alphabetical Index to Manuscripts held at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives, consisting of typed slips in sheaf binders and to which additions were made until 1987; and the Index to Accessions Since 1987.


Check the local Indexes for details of any additions.

Related Material

The local Indexes show various references to Chalmers related material (check the Indexes for more details): letter to Robert Brown, 1822, at La.II.156/i; letter to Walter Wood, 1826, at La.II.156/ii; letter to John Murray, 1827, at La.II.156iii; letter to possibly Sir George Ballingall in his Tracts on pauperism, 1834, at JA 3225; letter to the Rev. Daniel Wilkie, 1834, at La.II.156/iv; letter to Mrs. Marshall, 1841, at La.II.156v; letter from Sir R. Peel, 1830, at La.II.285/3; letter about a national monument to Chalmers from the Rev. Dean A. B. Ramsay to the Rev. W. Goold, 1869, at Gen. 1983/10; an autograph signature at Dc.3.87/21; letter of Sir J. Leslie about Chalmers and the Chair of Natural Philosophy, 1819, at Pho.1144/1, f.60; mentioned in a letter of Baillie John Veitch to Lord Rutherfurd as 'hurting the interest of the Church', 1840, at Gen. 1995/81; and, mention in a letter of Professor David Welsh to sir Alexander Gordon, 1823, at Gen. 1429/18/29.

Contact the New College Library (Edinburgh University Library) for details of material relating to the Rev. Dr. Thomas Chalmers housed there: New College, Mound, Edinburgh 0131 650 8957

In addition, the UK National Register of Archives (NRA), updated by the Historical Manuscripts Commission, notes several locations of Chalmers related material.