Recog­ni­tion urged for Wil­liamstown his­to­rian

The Glengarry News - - The Opinion Page - News


Staff One of Glen­garry’s most im­por­tant, yet most over­looked, his­tor­i­cal fig­ures may fi­nally be re­ceiv­ing some long-de­served recog­ni­tion.

At the most re­cent meet­ing of the Glen­garry His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety board on Au­gust 9, David An­der­son spoke of John Rae, re­fer­ring to the early 19th cen­tury po­lit­i­cal economist and long-time Wil­liamstown res­i­dent as “world-renowned in an ob­scure way.”

Mr. An­der­son also ex­plained how Mr. Rae – for whom he is sub­mit­ting an ap­pli­ca­tion to the His­toric Sites and Mon­u­ments Board of Canada in the hopes of procur­ing a plaque rec­og­niz­ing him as a Per­son of Na­tional His­toric Sig­nif­i­cance – and his achieve­ments de­serve to be cel­e­brated.

“Eco­nomic pro­fes­sion­als rec­og­nize him as a true fore­run­ner of mod­ern eco­nom­ics, and yet, in his time and re­ally up to the present, he’s not pub­licly-known,” said Mr. An­der­son, who pointed out that per­haps the Aberdeen native’s great­est con­tri­bu­tion was his es­pousal of the en­doge­nous growth the­ory which holds that in­vest­ment in hu­man cap­i­tal, in­no­va­tion, and knowl­edge are sig­nif­i­cant con­trib­u­tors to eco­nomic growth.

The the­ory also pos­tu­lates that the pos­i­tive side and spillover ef­fects of a knowl­edge-based econ­omy will help lead to eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment.

“It’s es­sen­tially the eco­nom­ics of mod­ern, de­cen­tral­ized com­mu­ni­ca­tion, specif­i­cally, the In­ter­net,” added Mr. An­der­son.

“Not to make too big of a deal of it, but that’s what it amounts to.”

Mr. An­der­son is cur­rently com­plet­ing the ap­pli­ca­tion to the His­toric Sites and Mon­u­ments Board.

“Then there’s a process of elic­it­ing aca­demic sup­port from pro­fes­sion­als...In this case, the Cana­dian Eco­nomic As­so­ci­a­tion and Aberdeen Uni­ver­sity,” he said.

“There will be oth­ers, but they’re the main ones...the weighty sup­port­ers.”

Call­ing the en­tire process – which also in­cludes “vet­ting of the ev­i­dence” and the com­po­si­tion of a study “which is about the equiv­a­lent of a mas­ter’s the­sis” – a “very scrupu­lous and de­mand­ing” one, Mr. An­der­son ex­plained that it will be some time be­fore the plaque is erected, if it is ul­ti­mately ap­proved.

“There’s also the ques­tion of the text and the mak­ing of the plaque, and so on, so by the time ev­ery­thing’s fin­ished, you’re talk­ing three to four years,” he said. There’s also the mat­ter of de­cid­ing a spot for its lo­ca­tion. “It will be some­where in Wil­liamstown,” said Mr. An­der­son, adding that the ac­tual site of the home in which Mr. Rae and his wife, El­iza, lived – circa 1822 to 1831, dur­ing which time he also op­er­ated a boys school in the vil­lage, served as a coro­ner for the Eastern Dis­trict, and pos­si­bly prac­tised as a physi­cian – re­mains un­known.

Mr. Rae died in Staten Is­land, N.Y. in July 1872 at the age of 76.

He was a res­i­dent of the pala­tial es­tate of his long­time friend, and one of Glen­garry’s most suc­cess­ful ex­pats, Rod­er­ick William Cameron, at the time of his death.

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