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Significant Scots
Alexander Dalrymple


DALRYMPLE, ALEXANDER, F.R.S., F.S.A., an eminent hydrographer, the son of Sir James Dalrymple, of Hailes, baronet, was born at New Hailes, (near Edinburgh,) the family seat, on the 24th July, 1737. His mother was lady Christian Hamilton, daughter of the earl of Haddington, and he was the seventh son of a family of sixteen children, all of whom he survived. He received the primary branches of his education at the school of Mr David Young, in Haddington; but having been taken from under the charge of his preceptor on the death of his father, before he had reached the age of fourteen, his progress could not have been very great. His eldest brother, however, continued to give him instruction in classical learning during the two succeeding years that he remained at home. In 1752, through the interest of the Hon. General St Clair, who was married to his father’s sister, he obtained an appointment as writer in the East India Company’s service; and his brother, Sir David, afterwards the well known explorer of the early annals of his country, and the subject of an ensuing article, proceeded with him to London, and placed him under the charge of Mr Kinross, at whose academy, at Fort Hills, he received instruction in arithmetic and bookkeeping, the only preparatory attainments at that time deemed necessary, to qualify young men destined for the civil service of the company. Having, with some difficulty, passed his examinations on these branches of education, and having obviated the difficulty arising from his being some months under the age entitling him to accept the appointment, he embarked for India about the middle of December, 1752; and reached Madras on the 11th of May following. Owing to the deficiency of his education, he was placed, on his arrival in India, under the storekeeper, but afterwards, through the fatherly kindness of the governor, lord Pigot, and of Mr Orme, the historian, then one of the members of council, he was removed to the secretary’s office. In order to render him fit for this situation, lord Pigot himself condescended to give him lessons in writing, while Mr Orme gave him some instructions in accounts. In the records of the secretary’s office, Mr Dalrymple, unluckily for himself, discovered certain papers on the subject of the commerce of the Eastern Archipelago; and immediately became so much interested in the subject, that he forsook the beaten path of his official duty, which must have ended in his promotion to the secretaryship, and involved himself in speculations on the advantages which might accrue to the company from the opening up, and extension of our trade, into the eastern islands. On this favourite subject he displayed much talent and indefatigable perseverance; but the company had always discountenanced such schemes; and the consequence, to Mr Dalrymple, was, that by relinquishing his appointment, (which he did in the face of lord Pigot’s earnest remonstrances,) in order that he might give his undivided exertions to the promotion of his project, he lost the certainty of acquiring a large fortune, and at the same time involved himself in disputes and misunderstandings with the company, which embittered his after life. So deeply impressed, however, was Mr Dalrymple with the importance of his scheme, that he made a voyage of observation among the eastern islands. At Sooloo, in the course of this expedition, he made a commercial treaty with the Sultan, which might have led to beneficial results, but the instability of all the petty governments of eastern Asia rendered it utterly abortive; for, upon his return, in 1762, with a vessel freighted with goods, to take advantage of the arrangement and to prepare a cargo for an east Indiaman, which was to follow, he found the political affairs of Sooloo completely altered, in consequence of the disastrous effects of the small-pox, which had swept off many of the principal inhabitants, and, among others, those official friends on whom the fulfilment of the treaty chiefly depended. He was therefore obliged entirely to renew the arrangement, and although he was in that way enabled to provide a cargo for the Indiaman, yet the vessel not having made its appearance, he was constrained to return to Madras, completely disappointed in his sanguine hopes of extending our commerce among those islands. He obtained a grant, however, of the island of Balambagan, which, under proper management, might have been rendered a valuable possession; but this, too, was ultimately lost to the country. In 1765 he returned to England, in the hope of impressing upon the authorities there, the importance of extending our trade in the eastern seas; but his representations proved unavailing. In order to show the public the benefit which would arise from adopting his views, he published a pamphlet on the subject. At one time he was considered as a proper person to be employed in a South Sea expedition of discovery, which the Admiralty was about to send out; but owing to some official etiquette the appointment did not take place. In 1769, he received a grant of 5,000, as an equivalent for his having relinquished the situation of secretary, when he proceeded on his voyage of observation, in 1759; but was disappointed of being sent out as governor or chief of the island of Balambagan, another being appointed in his stead, through whose mismanagement the settlement was lost to the company.

From the time of Mr Dalrymple’s return home, he had devoted himself to the task of collecting and arranging materials for a full exposition of the importance of the eastern islands, and to show how valuable their commerce might be rendered to this country; and the court of directors were so convinced of the value of the information which he possessed, that he published several charts of the eastern seas under their authority. Mr Dalrymple had taken every occasion to keep up his claim on the Madras establishment; and on the appointment of his friend, lord Pigot, to be governor of Fort St George, in 1775, he made application to be reinstated in the service, which was granted; and he went out to Madras as a member of council, and as one of the committee of Curcuit. Although there seems to have been no ground of complaint against him, he again returned home in 1777, in obedience to an order of the general court, to have his conduct inquired into. In the year 1779, he was appointed to the office of hydrographer to the East India Company; it was not, however, until the year following, that the court of directors resolved, that as there appeared to be no charges against him, he should be again employed in their service; but he never received any appointment, although he obtained a pension from the company.

In the year 1795, when the Admiralty resolved on establishing the office of hydrographer, they conferred it on Mr Dalrymple. In the year 1808, however, they insisted on his resigning his appointment on a retired allowance, and on his obstinately resisting their wishes, they superannuated him; which proceeding affected him so deeply, that it is believed to have caused his death. He died at his house in Mary-le-bone on the 9th June, 1808, in the 71st year of his age, and was buried in the small cemetery adjoining the church. He left a most valuable library, particularly rich in works on navigation and geography, all of which were purchased by the Admiralty. His collection of poetry was also very valuable, and that he directed to be deposited in the library at New Hailes as an heir-loom of the family. His other books were sold, and produced a considerable sum. His own works, as will be observed by the subjoined list,* were very numerous.

*Account of discoveries in the South PacificOcean before 1764; 1767, 8vo. Memorial to the proprietors of East India stock, 1768, 8vo. An account of what has passed between the East India directors and Alexander Dalrymple, 1768, 8vo. An account of what has passed, &c. 8vo. Plan for extending the commerce of this kingdom, and of the East India Company, by an establishment at Balambagan, 1771. Letter concerning the proposed supervisors, 20th June, 1769, 8vo. Letter concerning the proposed supervisors, 30th June, 1769, 4to. Second letter, 10 July, 1769, 4to. Vox Populi vox Dei, lord Weymouth’s appeal to the general court of Indian proprietors, considered, 14th August, 1769, 4to. Historical collection of South Sea voyages, 1770, 2 vols. 4to; 1771, 4to. Proposition of a benevolent voyage to introduce Corn, &C: into New Zealand, &c., 1771, 4to. Considerations on a pamphlet (by general Johnston), intitled, Thoughts on our acquisitions in the East Indies, particularly respecting Bengal, 1772, 8vo. General view of the East India Company’s affairs (written in January, 1679), to which are added, some observations on the present state of the Company’s affairs, 1772, 8vo. A paper concerning the general government of India, 8vo. Rights of the East India Company; N.B. printed at the East India Company’s expense, 1773, 8vo. Letter to Dr Hawkesworth, 1773, 4to. Observations on Dr Hawkesworth’s Preface to2d edition, 1773 4to. Memorial of Dr Juan Lewis Arias (in Spanish), 1773, 4to. Proposition for printing by subscription the MS. Voyages and Travels in the British Museum, 1773, 4to. A full and clear proof that the Spaniards have no right to Balambagan, 1674, 8vo. An historical relation of the several expeditions from Fort Marlbro to the islands on the west coast of Sumatra, 1775, 4to.Collection of voyages, chiefly in the South Atlantic ocean, from the original MS. by Dr Halley, M. Rouvit, &c. with a preface concerning a voyage of discovery proposed to be undertaken by Alexander Dalrymple at his own expense; letters to Lord North on the subject and the plan of a replublican colony, 1775, 4to. Copies of papers relative to the restoration of the king of Tanjore, the imprisonment of lord Pigot, &c. printed by the East India Company for the use of the proprietors, 1777, 4 to. Several pieces on the same subject, 1777, 4 to. Notes on lord Pigot’s Narrative. Letter to the proprietors of the East India stock, 8th May, 1777. Account of the transactions concerning the revolt at Madras, 30th May, 1777, Appendix. Letter to the court of directors, 19th June, 1777, Memorial 19th June, 1777. Account of the subversion of the legal government of Fort St George, in answer to Mr Andrew Stuart’s letter to the court of directors, 1778, 4to. Journal of the Grenville. Philosophical Transaction, 1778. Considerations on the present state of affairs between England and America, 1778, 8vo. Considerations on the East India Bill, 1769, 8vo, 1778. State of the East India Company and sketch of an equitable agreement, 1780, 8vo. Account of the loss of the Grosvenor,1783, 8vo. Reflections on the present state of the East India Company, 1783, 8vo. A short account of the Gentoo mode of collecting the revenue on the Coast of Coromandel, 1783, 8vo. A retrospective view of the ancient system of the east India Company, with a plan of regulation, 1784, 8vo. Postscript to Mr D’s account of the Gentoo, &c. being observations made on a perusal of it by Moodoo Krotna, 1785, 8vo. Extracts from Juvenilia, or poems by George Wither, 1785, 24mo. Fair state of the case between the East India Company and the owners of the ships now in their service; to which are added, considerations on Mr Brough’s pamphlet concerning the East India shipping, 1786, 8vo. A serious admonition to the public on the intended thief colony at Botany Bay. Review of the contest concerning the four new regiments graciously offered by his majesty to be sent to India, &c., 1788, 8vo. A plan for promoting the fur-trade, and securing it to this country, by uniting the operations of the East India and Hudson Bay Companies, 1780, 4to. Memoir of a map of the lands around the North Pole, 1789, 4to. An historical journal of the expedition of sea and land to the north of California, in 1768, 69, 70, when the Spanish establishments were first made at San Diego Monteray, and translated from the Spanish MS. by William Revely, Esq., to which is added, translations of Cabrera Bueno’s description of the coast of California, and an extract from the MS. journal of M. Sauvagne le Muet, 1714; 1790, 4to. Aletter to a friend on the test act, 1790 8vo. The Spanish pretensions fairly discussed, 1790, 8vo. The Spanish memorial of 4th June considered, 1790, 8vo. Plan for the publication of a Repertory of Oriental information, 1790, 4to. Memorial of Alexander Dalrymple, 1791, 8vo. Parliamentary reform, as it is called, improper in the present state of this country, 1793, 8vo. Mr Fox’s letter to his worthy and independent electors of Westminster, fully considered, 1793, 8vo. Observations on the copper coinage wanted for the Circars; printed for the use of the East India Company, 1794, 8vo. The poor man’s friend, 1795, 8vo. A collection of English songs, with an appendix of original pieces, 1796, 8vo. A fragment on the India trade, written in 1791: 1797, 8vo. Thoughts of an old man of independent mind, though dependent fortune, 1800, 8vo. Oriental Repertory, vol. 1st, 4to, April, 1791, to January, 1793. Oriental Repertory, vol. 2d not complete.


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