If you came to this page thinking that you’d find an article about Ayn Rand’s character John Galt, you won’t find that John Galt here. Instead, I’m more interested in exploring the richer story about the actual historical human known as John Galt.
Galt was born in Ayrshire, Scotland on May 2, 1779, the son of a British naval captain. He began his professional training and apprentice work in 1789 as a junior clerk. He wrote essays and stories for local publications. Galt moved to London in 1804 and then began his law studies in 1809.
French leader Napoleon Bonaparte had placed an embargo on British trade in the early 1800s. So, in 1813, Galt began his Gibraltarian trading company to circumvent Napoleon’s action. The company was disbanded after its short life because the Duke of Wellington’s military victory in Spain enabled the same benefit.
After 1815, Galt focused his attention on writing. His works, at that time, included several school textbooks written under his pseudonnym Reverend T. Clark.
John Galt was appointed Secretary to the Canada Comapany in 1824. The charter company helped to colonize the Huron Tract of what was then called Upper Canada, today it is the province of Ontario. His employment with the Canada Company was short-lived because the colonial authorities accused Galt of lacking basic accounting skills. The authorities also claimed that Galt failed to obey the established colonial policies. He was summarily dismissed and sent back to Great Britain in 1829. Shortly following his return home, Galt was sentenced to debtors’ prison for failure to pay his debts.
Galt apparently learned his lesson, but suffered through failing health. At any rate, he became involved in the British-American Land Company. This venture’s aim was to develop land holdings in the Eastern portion of what was then known as Lower Canada, now called Quebec. He again was named Secretary but had to resign in late 1832 due to further declines in health.
John Galt is probably better known for his literary skills and works instead of his business career. He authored several volumes of poetry, biographies and observations. He is most famous as the first novelist of the Industrial Revolution. He has also been credited as the first political novelist writing in the English language.
“The English are a justice-loving people‚ according to charter and statute; the Scotch are a wrong-resenting race‚ according to right and feeling: and the character of liberty among them takes its aspect from that peculiarity.”–John Galt
Some of his better known works include: The Life, Studies and Works of Benjamin West; The Ayrshire Legatees; The Provost; and The Life of Lord Byron. Readers enjoy his depictions of rural life. The Ayrshire Legatees fashions life in the 19th century with fictional letters to Scottish friends the life and adventures of the Reverend Pringle and family in London.
Galt’s best developed character is found in The Annals of the Parish. The Reverend Micah Balwhidder personifies the life of an old-fashioned Scottish minister and life in his country parish. The story is truthful and lighthearted at the same time.
John Galt retired in Greenrock, Scotland to finish his Autobiography. He passed away on April 11, 1839.
The Blue Jay of Happiness enjoyed John Galt’s The Provost, available here: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/1296