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The Scottish Nation

WEBSTER, a surname derived from the craft of a weaver or webber, being its feminine form, the several surnames terminating in ster being the regular Anglo-Saxon form of feminine nouns of action, as Spinster for Spinner, Tapster for Tapper, Baxter for Baker, Brewster for Brewer, &c. (see Lower on English Surnames, vol. i. p. 113.)

WEBSTER, ALEXANDER, D.D., an eminent divine, was born in Edinburgh in 1707, being the son of the Rev. James Webster, who had suffered in the persecuting times of the Stuarts, and was afterwards minister of the Tolbooth church, Edinburgh, and author of a small volume of communion sermons published in 1705. He studied at the university of his native city, and discovered an early predilection for mathematical learning. After attending the divinity hall, he was licensed to preach, and, in 1733, was ordained minister of the parish of Culross, in Perthshire, where he distinguished himself by his eloquence and piety, and by the faithful and laborious discharge of his pastoral duties. In June 1737 he was translated to the Tolbooth church, Edinburgh, and soon became one of the most popular men of his time in the metropolis. Eleven days after his settlement there, he married Mary Erskine, a young lady of fortune, daughter of Colonel John Erskine, and nearly related to the noble family of Dundonald.

With the assistance of Dr. Wallace, he prepared the scheme of a perpetual fund for the relief of the widows and children of the clergy of the Church of Scotland, which his singular powers of arithmetical calculation enabled him, by apportioning the rates, &c., to bring to a sure and practical bearing. The Calculations were published at Edinburgh in 1748, folio. After being submitted to the General Assembly, the scheme was finally established by act of parliament.

In 1745, when Edinburgh was taken possession of by the rebels, Dr. Webster remained in the city, and employed his great influence in retaining the minds of the people in their allegiance to the house of Hanover. In 1753 he published a Sermon preached at the opening of the General Assembly in that year, entitled ‘Zeal for the Civil and Religious Interests of Mankind recommended.’ In 1755 he drew up, for the information of government, an account of the number of people in Scotland. He died January 25, 1784, in his 76th year.

Dr. Webster was celebrated in his day for his wit and social qualities, and many amusing stories are told of his fondness for claret. He had some pretensions to the character of a poet; and Pinkerton, in the second volume of his Select Scottish Ballads, has printed an amatory piece of his, without his name, which, in elegance and warmth, has been said to rival even the effusions of Catullus. With a daughter he had six sons, one of whom, Colonel Webster, fell in the American war.

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