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The Autobiography of Dr. Alexander Carlyle of Inveresk
Chapter VI - 1748-1753 AGE, 26-31


IN winter 1748 I remained much at home in my own parish, performing my duties, and becoming acquainted with my flock. The Cheaps took a house in Edinburgh this winter to entertain Captain Cheap, who, being a man past fifty, and a good deal worn out, his very sensible niece thought he would never marry, and therefore brought her young female companions about to amuse him. Among the rest she had much with her the Widow Brown, Anny Clerk that was, whose husband, Major Brown [was killed at the battle of Falkirk (Left blank by Carlyle, and filled up in another hand. )]. She was a handsome, lively coquette as ever was, being of a gay temper and a slight understanding. My sagacious friend had taken her measures ill indeed, for, as she told me afterwards, she never dreamt that her grave respectable uncle would be catched with a woman of Mrs. Brown's description. But he was so captivated at the very first glance that he very soon proposed marriage; and having executed his design, and taken the House of Preston for next summer, they came and lived there for several months, where I saw them frequently, and was asked to marry a niece of hers with a gentleman at Dunbar, which I accordingly did. They went to Bath and London, where his niece joined him in 1749.

It was in the General Assembly of this year that some zealous west-country clergymen formed the plan of applying to Parliament for a general augmentation of stipends, by raising the minimum from 800 merks to 10 chalders of grain, or its value in money. The clergy having shown great loyalty and zeal during the Rebellion in 1745, which was acknowledged by Government, they presumed that they would obtain favour on this occasion; but they had not consulted the landed interest, nor even taken the leaders among the Whigs along with them, which was the cause of their miscarriage. The committee appointed by this Assembly to prepare the form of their application, brought it into next Assembly, and by a very great majority agreed to send commissioners to London the session thereafter to prosecute their claim, which, when it failed, raised some ill-humour, for they had been very sanguine. Dr. Patrick Cuming, [Minister of Edinburgh and Professor of Church History in Edinburgh University. He had the unusual honour of being three times elected Moderator of the General Assembly.] who was then the leader of the Moderate party, lent his whole aid to this scheme, and was one of the commissioners. This gave him still a greater lead among the clergy. The same thing happened to Lord Drummore, the judge, who espoused their cause warmly. On the other hand, Principal Wishart and his brother George followed Dundas of Arniston, the first President of that name, and lost their popularity. Of the two brothers William and George Wishart, sons of Principal Wishart, William the eldest, and Principal of the University of Edinburgh, was the most learned and ingenuous, but he had been for seventeen years a dissenting minister in London, and returned with dissenting principles. He had said some things rashly while the augmentation scheme was going on, which betrayed contempt of the clergy; and as he was rich, and had the expectation of still more—being the heir of his two uncles, Admiral and General Tisharts, of Queen Anne's reign—his sayings gave still greater offence. George, the younger brother, was milder and more temperate, and was a more acceptable preacher than his brother, [He was minister of the Tron Church, Principal Clerk of Assembly, and one of the Deans of the Chapel Royal. He died in 1795 at the age of eighty-three.] though inferior to him in genius; but his understanding was sound, and his benevolence unbounded, so that he had many friends. When his brother, who misled him about ecclesiastical affairs, died in 1754, he came back to the Moderate party, and was much respected among us.

About this period it was that John Home and I, being left alone with Dr. Patrick Cuming after a synod supper, he pressed us to stay with him a little longer, and during an hour or two's conversation, being desirous to please us, who, he thought, would be of some consequence in church courts, he threw out all his lures to gain us to be his implicit followers but he failed in his purpose, having gone too far in his animosity to George Wishart—for we gave up the Principal. We said to each other when we parted that we would support him when he acted right, but would never be intimate with him as a friend.

It was the custom at this time for the patrons of parishes, when they had litigations about settlements, which sometimes lasted for years, to open public-houses to entertain the members of Assembly, which was a very gross and offensive abuse. The Duke of Douglas had a cause of this kind, which lasted for three Assemblies, on which occasion it was that his commissioner, White of Stockbridge, opened a daily table for a score of people, which vied with the Lord Commissioner's for dinners, and surpassed it far in wine. White, who was a low man, was delighted with the respect which these dinners procured him. After the case was finished, Stockbridge kept up his table while he lived, for the honour of the family, where I have often dined, after his Grace's suit was at an end. There was another of the same kind that lasted longer, the case of St. Ninian's, of which Sir Hew Paterson was patron. [The settlement of Mr. Thomson at St. Ninian's occupied the General Assembly from 1767 to 1776.]

John Home, and Robertson, and Logan, and I, entered into a resolution to dine with none of them while their suits were in dependence. This resolution we kept inviolably when we were members, and we were followed by many of our friends. Dr. Patrick Cuming did not like this resolution of ours, as it showed us to be a little untractable ; but it added to our importance; and after that no man, not even Lord Drummore, to whom I was so much obliged, and who was a keen party man, ever solicited my vote in any judicial case.

The Lord President Dundas, who led the opposition to the scheme of augmentation, was accounted the first lawyer this country ever had bred. He was a man of a high and ardent mind, a most persuasive speaker, and to me, who met him but seldom in private, one of the ablest men I had ever seen. He declined soon after this, and was for two or three years laid aside from business before his death.

Hew, Earl of Marchmont, appeared in this Assembly, who had been very ignorantly extolled by Pope, whose hemistichs stamped characters in those days.

[ —"Lo, th' ,Egerian grot,
Where nobly pensive St. John sat and thought,
Where British sighs from dying Wyndham stole,
And the bright flame was shot through Marchmont's soul."

The passage cited farther on (p. 152) is from the inverted characters in the epilogue to the "Satires":—

"Cobham's a coward, Polwarth is a slave,
And Littleton a dark designing knave."

About Lord Polwarth, afterwards Earl of Marchmont, and other members of his family, abundant information will be found in A Selection from the Papers of the Earls of Marchmont, 3 vols., 1831.—J. H. B.]

In winter 1749 it was that John Home went to London with his tragedy of Agis, to try to bring it on the stage, in which he failed; which was the cause of his turning his thoughts on the tragedy of Douglas after his return. He had a recommendation to Mr. Lyttleton, afterwards Lord Lyttleton, whom he could not so much as prevail with to read his tragedy; and his brother, afterwards a bishop, would not so much as look at it, as he said he had turned his thoughts to natural history. Home was enraged, but not discouraged. I had given him a letter to Smollett, with whom he contracted a sincere friendship, and he consoled himself for the neglect he met with by the warm approbation of the Doctor, and of John Blair and his friend Barrow, an English physician, who had escaped with him from the Castle of Doune, and who made him acquainted with Collins the poet, with whom he grew very intimate. He extended not his acquaintance much further at this time, except to a Governor Melville, a native of Dunbar, of whom he was fond; and passed a good deal of time with Captain Cheap's family, which was then in London.

I had several letters from him at that time which displayed the character he always maintained, which was a thorough contempt of his non-approvers, and a blind admiration of those who approved of his works, and gave him a good reception, whom he attached still more to him by the most caressing manners, and the sincere and fervent flattery of a lover. In all the periods of his long life his opinions of men and things were merely prejudices.

It was in the year 1750, I think, that he gave his manse (for he boarded himself in a house in the village) to Mr. Hepburn of Keith, and his family—a gentleman of pristine faith and romantic valour, who had been in both the Rebellions, in 1715 and '45; and had there been a third, as was projected at this time, would have joined it also. Add to this, that 11Tr. Hepburn was an accomplished gentleman, and of a simple and winning elocution, who said nothing in vain. His wife, and his daughters by a former lady, resembled him in his simplicity of mind, but propagated his doctrines with more openness and ardour, and a higher admiration of implicit loyalty and romantic heroism. It was the seductive conversation of this family that gradually softened and cooled Mr. Home's aversion to the Pretender and to Jacobites (for he had been a very warm Whig in the time of the Rebellion), and prepared him for the life he afterwards led.

Mr. Home, in his History of the Rebellion, has praised this gentleman for an act of gallant behaviour in becoming Gentleman-Usher to Prince Charles, by ushering him into the Abbey with his sword drawn. This has been on false information; for his son, Colonel Riccart Hepburn, denied to inc the possibility of it, his father being a person of invincible modesty, and void of all ostentation. The Colonel added, that it was his father's fortune to be praised for qualities he did not possess—for learning, for instance, of which he had no great tincture, but in mathematics—while his prime quality was omitted, which was the most equal and placid temper with which ever mortal was endowed; for in his whole life he was never once out of temper, nor did ever a muscle of his face alter on any occurrence. One instance he told of a serving-boy having raised much disturbance one day in the kitchen or hall. When his father rose to see what was the matter, he found the boy had wantonly run a spit through the cat, which lay sprawling. He said not a word, but took the boy by the shoulder, led him out of the house door, and locked it after him, and returned in silence to play out his game of chess with his daughter.

It was from his having heard Mrs. Janet Denoon, ["Miss Jenny was humpbacked and breasted but sang with much taste, was clever at composing music and counted a great nib." Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe in Wilson's Reminiscences of Old Edinburgh. She was the niece of Christian Bruce, wife of Colonel James Riccart Hepburn of Keith. Christian Bruce and her sister-in-law, Lady Bruce of Kinross, and Jenny Denoon were, according to C. K. Sharpe, the joint composers of the poetical skit entitled "The Ridotto at Holyrood House."] Mr. Hepburn's sister-in-law, sing the old ballad of "Gil Morrice," that he [Home] first took his idea of the tragedy of Douglas, which, five years afterwards, he carried to London, for he was but an idle composer, to offer it for the stage, but with the same bad success as formerly. The length of time he took, however, tended to bring it to perfection; for want of success, added to his natural openness, made him communicate his compositions to his friends, whereof there were some of the soundest judgment, and of the most exquisite taste. Of the first sort there were Drs. Blair and Robertson, and Mr. Hew Bannatine ; and of the second, Patrick Lord Elibank, the Hepburn family, and some young ladies with whom he and I had become intimate—viz., Miss Hepburn of Monkriggs, Lord Milton's niece ; Miss Eliza Fletcher, afterwards Mrs. Wedderburn, his youngest daughter; and bliss Campbell of Carrick, at that time their great friend. As Home himself wrote a hand that was hardly legible, and at that time could ill afford to hire an amanuensis, I copied Douglas several times over for him—which, by means of the corrections of all the friends I have mentioned, and the fine and decisive criticisms of the late Sir Gilbert Elliot, had attained to the perfection with which it was acted; for at this time Home was tractable, and listened to our remarks.

It was at this period that George Logan, the son of a minister in Edinburgh of note, was presented to the church of Ormiston, vacant by the translation of Mr. Hew Bannatine to Dirleton. Logan was a man of parts and genius, and of a particular turn to mathematical and metaphysical studies, but he was of an indolent and dilatory disposition. When he passed trials before the Presbytery of Dalkeith, he met with unexpected opposition. When he came to the last of his discourses, which was the popular sermon, from Heb. ii. ro was appointed to him. He came home with me, and inquiring if my popular sermon, when I was licensed by the Presbytery of Haddington, was not on the same text, which was the case, he pressed me to lend it to him, as it would save him much trouble, to which I with reluctance consented. He copied it almost verbatim, and delivered it at our next meeting. [Popular Sermon. The sermon preached to the people of the parish by a presentee, as distinguished from the other trials of his fitness, which take place in the presence of the Presbytery. The Logan here mentioned is not the poet; and it is perhaps still more necessary to distinguish him from a contemporary, George Logan, also a clergyman of the Church of Scotland, and eminent in his day for a long and bitter political controversy with Ruddiman the grammarian. The affair of the censured sermon is mentioned in Mackenzie's Account of Home, p. 12.—J. H. B.] Being averse to Logan, many of them thought there was heresy in it, and insisted on an inquiry, and that a copy should be deposited with the Clerk. This inquiry went on for several meetings, till at last Logan, being impatient, as he had a young lady engaged to marry him, took the first opportunity of appealing to the Synod. After several consultations with our ablest divines, who were Drs. Wishart and Wallace, with Professor Goldie, and Messrs. Dalgleish of Linlithgow, Nassmith of Dalmeny, and Stedman of Haddington, it was agreed that Logan's sermon was perfectly orthodox, and that the Presbytery in their zeal had run into heretical opinions, insomuch that those friends were clear in their judgment that the panel should be assoilzied and the Presbytery taken to task. But the motive I have already mentioned induced young Logan to be desirous of making matters up without irritating the Presbytery, and therefore it was agreed that he should make a slight apology to the Presbytery, and that they should be ordained to proceed in the settlement. Yet, in spite of this sacrifice to peace, the zealots of the Presbytery still endeavoured to delay the settlement by embarrassing him on what is called the extempore trials; but as he was an able and a learned young man, he baffled them all in an examination of three hours, four or five times longer than usual, when he answered all their questions, and refuted all their cavils in such a masterly manner, as turned the chase in the opinion of the bystanders, and made the Presbytery appear to be heretical, instead of the person accused.

Among the accusers of Logan, the most violent were Plenderleath of Dalkeith, Primrose at Crichton, Smith at Cranston, Watson at Newbottle, and Walker at Temple. The first had been a minion of Dr. George Wishart's, and set out as one of the most moral preachers at the very top of the Moderate interest, giving offence by his quotations from Shaftesbury; but being very weak, both in body and mind, he thought to compensate for his disability by affecting a change of sentiment, and coming over to the popular side, both in his sermons and his votes in the courts. He was truly but a poor soul, and might have been pardoned, but for his hypocrisy. Primrose was a shallow pedant, who was puffed up by the flattery of his brethren to think himself an eminent scholar because he was pretty well acquainted with the system, and a person of a high independent mind because he was rich and could speak impertinently to his heritors, and build a manse of an uncommon size and pay for the overplus. He had a fluent elocution in the dialect of Morayshire, embellished with English of his own invention; but with all this he had no common sense. Smith was a sly northern, seemingly very temperate, but a great counsellor of his neighbour and countryman Primrose. Watson was a dark inquisitor, of some parts. Walker was a rank enthusiast, with nothing but heat without light. John Bonar at Cockpen, though of the High party, was a man of sense—an excellent preacher ; he was temperate in his opposition. Robin Paton, though gentlemanly, was feeble in church courts. His father was just dead, so that I had no zealous supporter but Rab Simson and David Gilchrist at Newton. On those inferior characters I need not dwell.

Logan was settled at Ormiston and married, not three years after which he died of a high brain fever. John Home and I felt our loss. A strong proof of our opinion of his ability was, that a very short time before his death we had prevailed with him to make David Hume's philosophical works his particular study, and to refute the dangerous parts of them—a task for which we thought him fully equal. This was sixteen or eighteen years before Beattie thought of it. Dr. Wight and I saw him [Beattie] frequently at Aberdeen in 1765 or 1766, when he opened his design to us, from which we endeavoured to dissuade him, having then a settled opinion that such metaphysical essays and treatises—as they were seldom read, certainly never understood, but by the few whose minds were nearly on a level with the author—had best be left without the celebrity of an answer. It was on occasion of this trial of Logan that we first took umbrage at Robert Dundas, junior, of Arniston, then Solicitor-General, who could easily have drawn off the Presbytery of Dalkeith from their illiberal pursuit, and was applied to for that purpose by some friends, who were refused. His father, the President, was by this time laid aside.

It was in the year 1751 or 1752, I think, that a few of us of the Moderate party were for two or three days united in a case that came before the Synod of Lothian in May, with Dr. Alexander Webster, the leader of the high-flying party. Webster, with a few more of his brethren, whereof Drs. Jardine and Wallace were two, had objected to Mr. John Johnstone, a new chaplain of the castle, being admitted to a seat in the Presbytery of Edinburgh. They were defeated in the Presbytery by a great majority, on which they appealed to the Synod, when a few of us, taking part with the minority, had an opportunity of seeing Webster very closely.

Our conclusions on this acquaintance were (and we never altered them), that though he was a clever fellow, an excellent and ready speaker, fertile in expedients, and prompt in execution, yet he had by no means a leading or decisive mind, and consequently was unfit to be the head of a party. He had no scruples ; for, with a little temporary heating, he seemed to be entirely without principle. There was at this time a Mr. John Hepburn, minister in the Old Greyfriars, who, though he never appeared to take any share in ecclesiastical affairs but by his vote, was in secret Webster's counsellor and director, so that while he lived, Webster did well as the ostensible head of his party. Mr. Hepburn was grandfather of the present Earl of Hyndford, and the son of a celebrated mountaineer in Galloway, the Rev. Mr. John Hepburn, in Queen Anne's time. [The term "mountaineer" is a metonymy for hillman or Covenanter. Daniel Carmichael of Maukisley, whose son Andrew became sixth Earl of Hyndford, married in 1742 Emilia, daughter of the Rev. John Hepburn.—Wood's Peerage, i 759.—J. H. B.] But when he [Hepburn] died not long after, he [Webster] fell into the hands of Dr. Jardine, who managed him with great dexterity, for he allowed him to adhere to his party, but restrained him from going too far. As Jardine was son-in-law to Provost Drummond, with whom Webster wished to be well, Jardine, who had much sagacity, with great versatility of genius, and a talent for the management of men, had not such a difficult task as one would have imagined. Webster had published a satirical sermon against Sir Robert Walpole, for which he had been taken to task in the General Assembly by the Earl of Islay, by this time Duke of Argyle, and of great political power in Scotland. Webster, in case of accidents, wished to have a friendly mediator between him and the Duke. This is the true key to all his political disingenuity.

Webster had justly obtained much respect amongst the clergy, and all ranks, indeed, for having established the Widows' Fund; for though Dr. Wallace, who was an able mathematician, had made the calculations, Webster had the merit of carrying the scheme into execution. Having married a lady of fashion, [Miss Mary Erskine. It is told of Dr. Webster that while minister of Culross, where Miss Erskine resided, he was employed to plead the cause of a gentleman who had himself hitherto done so in vain to the lady. The outcome of young Webster's eloquence was a hint that if he had been pleading for himself he would have had more success. On his appointment to the Tolbooth Church, Edinburgh, he married Miss Erskine.] who had a fortune of £4000 (an estate in those days), he kept better company than most of the clergy. His appearance of great strictness in religion, to which he was bred under his father, who was a very popular minister of the Tolbooth Church, not acting in restraint of his convivial humour, he was held to be excellent company, even by those of dissolute manners; while, being a five-bottle man, he could lay them all under the table. [An acquaintance overtaking the Doctor on his way home in early morning and showing signs of conviviality, saluted him with "Eh, doctor, what would the auld wives o' the Tolbooth say if they saw ye noo?" "Tut man," was the retort, "they wouldna believe their een." In this connection a good story is told of Dr. Carlyle himself. The late Dr. Lindsay Alexander, of St. Augustine's Church, Edinburgh, recalled hearing, when a child, one of the servants at Pinkieburn tell of Carlyle dining there, and following him with admiring gaze as he left the house on his way home. "There he gaed, dacent man, as steady as a wall, after his ain share o' five bottles o' port."] This had [brought] on him the nickname of Dr. Bonum Magnum in the time of faction; but never being indecently the worse of liquor, and a love of claret to any degree not being reckoned in those days a sin in Scotland, all his excesses were pardoned. [Dr. Alexander Webster and Dr. Robert Wallace were both men of much celebrity in their day as clergymen of the Church of Scotland. Of Webster's very peculiar characteristics there is perhaps a fuller account in this work than anywhere else. Wallace, who was a man of less notable peculiarities, wrote several books, the most remarkable of which is A Dissertation on the Numbers of Mankind in Ancient and Modern Times, which, along with Hume's Essay on the populousness of ancient nations, contributed some ideas subsequently brought to hear on the great discussion on population inaugurated by Malthus.—J. H. B.]

When it was discovered that Jardine led him, his party became jealous ; and it was no wonder, for he used to undermine them by his speeches, and vote with them to save appearances. But the truly upright and honourable men among them, such as Drs. Erskine and Hunter, etc., could not think of parting with his abilities, which, both in the pulpit and the Assembly, gave some lustre to their party. He could pass at once from the most unbounded jollity to the most fervent devotion; yet I believe that his hypocrisy was no more than habit grounded merely on temper, and that his aptness to pray was as easy and natural to him as to drink a convivial glass. His familiar saying, however, that it was his lot to drink with gentlemen and to vote with fools, made too full a discovery of the laxity of his mind. Indeed, he lived too long to preserve any respect ; for in his latter years his sole object seemed to be where to find means of inebriety, which he at last too often effected, for his constitution having lost its vigour, he was sent home almost every evening like other drunkards who could not boast of strength. Besides the £4000 he got with his lady, he spent £6000 more, which was left him by Miss Hunter, one of his pious disciples, which legacy did not raise his character. In aid of his fortune, when it was nearly drained, he was appointed Collector of the Widows' Fund when a Mr. Stewart died, who was the first, and likewise obtained one of the deaneries from the Crown. When the New Town of Edinburgh came to be planned out, lie was employed by the magistrates, which gratified his two strongest desires—his love of business and of conviviality, in both of which he excelled. The business was all done in the tavern, where there was a daily dinner, which cost the town in the course of the year £500, the whole of an additional revenue which had been discovered a little while before by Buchan, the Town's Chamberlain. ["I have heard Dr. Webster himself say, that by his advice the 'Town Council had adopted the measure of appointing a Chamberlain to be constantly and entirely trusted with the business of the revenue instead of a Treasurer annually elected."—Somerville's Memoirs of my Life and Times.] He had done many private and public injuries to me in spite of the support I and my friends had given him in his cause before the Synod in May 1752, for which I did not spare him when I had an opportunity, by treating him with that rough raillery which the fashion of the times authorised, which he bore with inimitable patience; and when I rose into some consideration, he rather courted than shunned my company, with the perfect knowledge of what I thought of him.

As John Home and I had made speeches in his support at the Synod, he thought he could do no less than invite us to dinner on the day after: we went accordingly, and were well enough received by him, while his lady treated us not only with neglect, but even with rudeness; while she caressed with the utmost kindness Adams of Falkirk, the very person who, by disobeying the Assembly and escaping unhurt in 1751, drew the thunder of the Church on Gillespie the following year.

Another instance of Webster's hostility to me happened some time afterwards. His colleague, Mr. William Gusthart, who was a very old man, and lived for many summers in my parish, and at last the whole year round, engaged me to preach for him in the Tolbooth Church one Sunday afternoon. I was averse to this service, as I knew I would not be acceptable in that congregation. But being urged by the old man and his family; I agreed, and went to town, and preached to a very thin audience. I was afterwards certainly informed that Webster had sent round to many of his principal families, warning them that I was to do duty for his colleague, and hoping that they would not give countenance to a person who had attended the theatre. This, I think, was in 1759, two years after I had foiled the High party in the General Assembly. This I considered as most malicious; and with this I frequently taxed him in very plain terms indeed. There were a few of us who, besides the levity of youth and the natural freedom of our manners, had an express design to throw contempt on that vile species of hypocrisy which magnified an indecorum into a crime, and gave an air of false sanctimony and Jesuitism to the greatest part of the clergy, and was thereby pernicious to rational religion. In this plan we succeeded, for in the midst of our freedom having preserved respect and obtained a leading in the Church, we freed the clergy from many unreasonable and hypocritical restraints.

I have dwelt longer on Dr. Webster than on any other person, because such characters are extremely pernicious, as they hold up an example to unprincipled youth how far they may play fast and loose with professed principles without being entirely undone; and how far they may proceed in dissipation of manner without entirely forfeiting the public good opinion. But let the young clergy observe, that very few indeed are capable of exhibiting for their protection such useful talents, or of displaying such agreeable manners as Dr. Webster did in compensation for his faults.

In 1751 the schoolmaster of Musselburgh died, a Mr. Munro, who had only seven scholars and one boarder, he and his wife had become so unpopular. As the magistrates of Musselburgh came in place of the heritors as patrons of the school, by a transaction with them about the mortcloths, the emoluments of which the heritors gave up on the town's agreeing to pay the salary, I took the opportunity that this gave me as joint patron to persuade them, as their school had fallen so low, to fill it up by a comparative trial before a committee of Presbytery, with Sir David Dalrymple [Third baronet of Hailes, who was raised to the Bench in 1766 and took the title of Lord Hailes. He was the author of Annals of Scotland, and many other works.] and Dr. Blair as assessors, when a Mr. Jeffry, from the Merse, showed so much superiority that he was unanimously elected. He soon raised the school to some eminence, and got about twenty-five or thirty boarders the second year. When he died, eight or ten years afterwards, his daughters, by my advice, took up the first female boarding-school that ever was there, which has been kept up with success ever since; and such has been the encouragement that two others have been well supported also. On Jeffry's death, John Murray succeeded him, who did well also. When he grew old, I got him to resign on a pension, and had John Taylor to succeed him, who has surpassed them all, having got as far as seventy boarders, his wife being the best qualified of any person I ever knew in her station.

It was in this year, 1751, the foundation was laid for the restoration of the discipline of the Church the next year, in which Dr. Robertson, John Home and I had such an active hand. Mr. Adams, at Falkirk, had disobeyed a sentence of the General Assembly, appointing the Presbytery of Linlithgow to settle Mr. Watson, minister of the parish of Torphichen, to which he had been presented, and for which, after trial, he was found fully qualified. Mr. Adams had been appointed nominating by the Act of Assembly to preside at this ordination. This was the second year this presbytery had disobeyed, because there was an opposition in the parish. This had happened before, and the plea of conscience had always brought off the disobedient. The Assembly had fallen on a wretched expedient to settle presentees who were in this state. They appointed a committee of their number, who had no scruple to obey the sentence of the Supreme Court, to go to the parish on a certain day and ordain the presentee. This had been done in several instances with the very worst effect ; for the presbyteries having preserved their own popularity by their resistance, they had no interest in reconciling the minds of the people to their new pastor; and accordingly, for most part, cherished their prejudices, and left the unfortunate young man to fight his way without help in the best manner he could. This was a great abuse, and was likely to destroy the subordination of church courts, which of old had been the great boast of our Presbyterian form of government, and had been very complete and perfect in early times. The departure from that strictness of discipline, and the adoption of expedients in judicial cases, was of very recent growth, and was chiefly owing to the struggle against patronages after their restoration in the 10th of Queen Anne; so that the Assembly had only to recur to her first principles and practice to restore her lost authority. So far was it from being true that Dr. Robertson was the inventor of this system, as was afterwards believed, and as the strain of Dugald Stewart's Life 0f Robertson has a tendency to support.

The rise of the attempt to revive the ancient discipline in this Assembly was as follows:—Some friends and companions having been well informed that a great majority of the General Assembly 1751 were certainly to let Mr. Adams of Falkirk, the disobedient brother, escape with a very slight censure, a select company of fifteen were called together in a tavern, a night or two before the case was to be debated in the Assembly, to consult what was to be done. There met accordingly in the tavern the Right Honourable the Lord Provost Drummond; the Honourable William Master of Ross ; Mr. Gilbert Elliot, junior of MIinto ; Mr. Andrew Pringle, advocate; Messrs. Jardine, Blair, Robertson, John Home, Adam Dickson of Dunse, George Logan of Ormiston, Alexander Carlyle of Inveresk, and as many more as made fifteen, two of whom—viz. Logan and Carlyle —were not members of Assembly. The business was talked over, and having the advice of those two able lawyers, Messrs. Elliot and Pringle, we were confirmed in our opinion that it was necessary to use every means in our power to restore the authority of the Church, otherwise her government would be degraded, and everything depending on her authority would fall into confusion ; and though success was not expected at this Assembly, as we knew that the judges, and many other respectable elders, besides the opposite party of the clergy, were resolved to let Mr. Adams and the disobedient Presbytery of Linlithgow escape with a very slight censure (an admonition only), yet we believed that, by keeping the object in view, good sense would prevail at last, and order be restored. We did not propose deposition, but only suspension for six months, which, we thought, was meeting the opposite party half-way. John Home agreed to make the motion, and Robertson to second him. Neither of them had ever spoken in the Assembly till then, and it was till that period unusual for young men to begin a debate. They plucked up spirit, however, and performed their promise, and were ably supported by Messrs. Pringle and Elliot, and one or two more of those who had engaged with them. When they came to vote, however, two of the eighteen lost heart, and could not vote in opposition to all the great men in the Assembly. Those two were Messrs. John Jardine and Hew Blair, who soon repented of their cowardice, and joined heartily in the dissent from a sentence of the Commission in March 1752, which brought on the deposition of Gillespie, and re-established the authority of the Church. Adam Dickson of Dunse, who had been ill treated by John Home's friends in that Presbytery when he was presentee to that parish, was the first who voted on our side. Home made a spirited oration, though not a business speech, which talent he never attained. Robertson followed him, and not only gained the attention of the Assembly, but drew the praise of the best judges, particularly of the Lord President Dundas, [First Lord President Dundas.] who I overheard say that Robertson was an admirable speaker, and would soon become a leader in the church courts.

Although the associated members lost the question by a very great majority, yet the speeches made on that occasion had thoroughly convinced many of the senior members, who, though they persisted in their purpose of screening Adams, yet laid to heart what they heard, and were prepared to follow a very different course with the next offender. Adams' own speech, and those of his apologists, had an equal effect with those on the other side in bringing about this revolution on the minds of sensible men, for the plea of conscience was their only ground, which the more it was urged appeared the more absurd when applied to the conduct of subordinate judicatories in an Established Church.

This occasional union of some of the young clergymen with the young lawyers and other elders of rank had another happy effect, for it made them well acquainted with each other. Besides casual meetings, they had two nights set apart during every Assembly, when Messrs. Ross, Elliot, and Pringle, with additional young elders as they came up, supped together, and conferred about the business with their friends of the Assembly 1752, and whoever they thought were fit associates. Thus was anticipated what took place on a larger scale, a few years afterwards, by the institution of the Select Society. Till this period the clergy of Scotland, from the Revolution downwards, had in general been little thought of, and seldom admitted into liberal society, one cause of which was, that in those days a clergyman was thought profane who affected the manners of gentlemen, or was much seen in their company. The sudden call for young men to fill up vacancies at the Revolution, obliged the Church to take their entrants from the lower ranks, who had but a mean education. It must be observed, too, that when Presbytery was re-established in Scotland at the Revolution, after the reign of Episcopacy for twenty-nine years, more than two-thirds of the people of the country, and most part of the gentry, were Episcopals; the restoration of Presbytery by King William being chiefly owing to the Duke of Argyle, Marchmont, Stair, and other leading nobles who had suffered under Charles and James, and who had promoted the Revolution with all their interest and power.

As it was about this period that the General Assembly became a theatre for young lawyers to display their eloquence and exercise their talents, I shall mention the impression which some of them made on me in my early days. The Lord President Arniston—the father of a second President of the same name, Robert Dundas, and of Lord Viscount Melville, by different wives—had been King's Advocate in the year 1720, which he had lost in 1725, by his opposition to Sir Robert Walpole and Lord Islay. He was one of the ablest lawyers this country ever produced, and a man of a high independent spirit. His appearance was against him, for he was ill-looking, with a large nose and small ferret eyes, round shoulders, a harsh croaking voice, and altogether unprepossessing ; yet by the time he had uttered three sentences, he raised attention, and went on with a torrent of good sense and clear reasoning that made one totally forget the first impression. At this Assembly he did not speak, and soon after fell into a debility of mind and body, which continued to 1753, when he died. I never happened to be in company with this Lord President but once, which was at a meeting of Presbytery for dividing the church of Newbottle. The Presbytery and the heritors who attended were quite puzzled how to proceed in the business, and Arniston, who was an heritor, was late in coming. But he had no sooner appeared than he undid all that we had been trying to do, and having put the meeting on a right plan, extricated and settled the business in a short time. To the superiority of his mind he added experience in that sort of business. There was a dinner provided for us in the Marquis [of Lothian's] house, where Sandy M'Millan, W.S., [Alexander M'Millan of Dunmore, was Deputy-Keeper of the Signet 1726-1742 and 1746-1770.] presided in the absence of the Marquis, when I was quite delighted with the President's brilliant parts and fine convivial spirit. I was earnestly invited to go to him at Arniston, where I should probably have been very often, had not this happened a very short while, not above a month or two, before he fell into debility of mind, and was shut up. Hew Dalrymple, Lord Drummore, who was much inferior to him in talents, was a very popular speaker, though neither an orator nor an acute reasoner. He was the lay leader of the Moderate party; and Arniston was inclined to favour the other side, though he could not follow them in their settled opposition to the law of patronage. Drummore devoted himself during the Assembly to the company of the clergy, and had always two or three elders who followed him to the tavern, such as Sir James Colquhoun, Colin Campbell Commissioner of Customs, etc. Drummore's speaking was not distinguished for anything but ease and popularity, and he was so deservedly a favourite with the clergy, that, taking up the common sense of the business, or judging from what he heard in conversation the day before, when dining with the clergy of his own side, he usually made a speech in every cause, which generally seemed to sway the Assembly, though there was not much argument. He used to nod to Arniston with an air of triumph (for they were relations, and very good friends), as much as to say, "Take you that, Robin."

I heard Lord Islay once speak in the Assembly, which was to correct the petulance of Alexander Webster, which he did with dignity and force, but was in the wrong to commit himself with a light horseman who had nothing to lose. I heard Lord Marchmont likewise speak on the motion for an augmentation, which he did with much elegance and a flowery elocution, but entirely without sense or propriety, insomuch that he by his speech forfeited the good opinion of the clergy, who had been prepossessed in his favour by Pope's panegyrical line "Polwarth is a slave." Pope, according to his manner, intended this as a panegyric on his patriotism and independence; but this was the voice of party, for Marchmont was in reality as much a slave of the Court as any man of his time.

Mr. Gilbert Elliot showed himself in the Assembly equal to the station to which he afterwards attained as a statesman, when Sir Gilbert, by his superior manner of speaking. But Andrew Pringle, Solicitor-General, and afterwards Lord Aylmer [Alemoor], excelled all the laymen of that period for genuine argument and eloquence; ["He was one of the few eloquent judges who appeared not to contend for victory but for justice."—Ramsay's Scotland and Scotsmen.] and when on the bench, he delivered his opinion with more dignity, clearness, and precision than any judge I ever heard either in Scotland or England. It was a great loss to this country that he did not live to fill the President's chair, and indeed had not health to go through the labour of it, otherwise it was believed that he would have set an example of elegance and dignity in our law proceedings that could not easily have been forgotten. In those respects the bench has been very unlucky, for however great lawyers or impartial judges the succeeding Presidents may have been, in the qualities I have mentioned they have all been inferior even to the first President Arniston, who could not be called an elegant speaker, with all his other great qualities. In those days there were very few good speakers among the clergy, as no young men almost ever ventured to speak but when at the bar till after 1752. The custom invariably was for the Moderator to call for the opinion of two or three of the old men at the green table who were nearest him, and after them one or two of the judges, or the King's Advocate and Solicitor, who were generally all of a side, and were very seldom opposed or answered but by James Lindsay and one or two of his followers. With respect to Lindsay, I have to add that he was a fine brisk gentlemanlike man, who had a good manner of speaking, but, being very unlearned, could only pursue a single track. He set out on the popular side in opposition to patronage, but many of his private friends being on the other side, and Church preferment running chiefly in that direction, he came for two or three years over to them ; but on Drys-dale's getting the deanery during the Marquis of Rockingham's administration, he took pet and returned to his old party. The ground of his patriotism was thus unveiled, and he was no longer of any consequence, though he thought he could sway the burgh of Lochmaben, where he was minister at that time. He was a very pleasant companion, but jealous and difficult, and too severe a rallier.

The clergyman of this period who far outshone the rest in eloquence was Principal Tullidelph of St. Andrews. He had fallen into bad health or low spirits before my time, and seldom appeared in the Assembly ; but when he did, he far excelled every other speaker. I am not certain if even Lord Chatham in his glory had more dignity of manner or more command of his audience than he had. I am certain he had not so much argument, nor such a convincing force of reasoning. Tullidelph was tall and thin like Pitt, with a manly and interesting aspect; and rising slowly, and beginning in a very low tone, he soon swelled into an irresistible torrent of eloquence and, in my opinion, was the most powerful speaker ever I heard. And yet this great man was overcome and humbled by the buffoonery of a man much his inferior in everything but learning. This was John Chalmers, minister of Elie. [The grand-uncle of Dr. Thomas Chalmers. See Hanna's Memoirs, i. 2.] Tullidelph soon gained the leading of his university, the Presbytery of St. Andrews, and the Synod of Fife; but being of a haughty and overbearing disposition (like Chatham), he soon disgusted his colleagues both in the University and Presbytery, of which the younger brethren made a cabal against him, in which Chalmers was the principal agent. Though he was far behind Tullidelph in eloquence, he was superior to him in some things, especially in ancient learning. But his chief mode of attack was by a species of buffoonery, which totally unhinged the Principal, who was very proud, and indignant of opposition. Chalmers watched his arguments, and by turning them all into ridicule, and showing that they proved the very reverse of what he intended, he put Tullidelph in such a rage as totally disabled him, ["The impetuosity of his temper, which could ill brook contradiction or reproof, betrayed him sometimes into fits of passion, which were neither seemly nor wise in one who sought to be at the head of a great party."—Ramsay's Scotland and Scotsmen.] and made him in a short time absent himself both from Presbytery and Synod. He at last became hypochondriac, sat up all night writing a dull commentary on the Gospels, and lay in bed all day.

After this period, however, when the young clergy distinguished themselves—and particularly after the Assembly 1753, when, Alexander Webster being Moderator, he on the very first question dropped the old mode of calling upon the senior members—the young clergy began to feel their own importance in debate, and have ever since continued to distinguish themselves, and have swayed the decision of the Assembly so that the supreme ecclesiastical court has long been a school of eloquence for the clergy, as well as a theatre for the lawyers to display their talents.

It was in the Assembly 1752 that the authority of the. Church was restored by the deposition of Gillespie. Robertson and John Home, having been dissenters, with some others, from a sentence of the Commission in March that year in the affair of the settlement of Inverkeithing, similar to that of Torphichen in 1751, had entered a complaint against the Commission, which gave them an opportunity of appearing and pleading at the bar of the Assembly, which they did with spirit and eloquence. The minds of the leaders of the Assembly having been now totally changed, a vigorous measure was adopted by a great majority. The Presbytery of Dunfermline were brought before the Assembly, and peremptorily ordered to admit the candidate three days after, and report to the Assembly on the following Friday. They disobeyed, and Mr. Gillespie was deposed. [Rev. Thomas Gillespie, minister of Carnock. He formed the body known as the Relief Presbytery, which was founded at Colinsburgh, Fife, in 1761.] I was for the first time a member, with my friend and co-presbyter George Logan. It was thought proper that, on the first day's debate, the speaking should be left to the senior clergy and the lay members. But when, at a general meeting of the party after Gillespie was deposed, it was moved that it would be proper to propose next day that the Assembly should proceed to depose one or two more of the offending brethren, Mr. Alexander Gordon of Kintore, and George Logan and I, were pointed out as proper persons to make and second the motion. I accordingly began, and was seconded by Gordon in very vigorous speeches, which occasioned a great alarm on the other side, as if we were determined to get rid of the whole Presbytery; but this was only in terrorem, for by concert one of our senior brethren, with much commendation of the two young men, calmly proposed that the Assembly for this time should rest contented with what they had done, and wait the effects of the example that had been set. After some debate this was carried. Logan not having done his part, I asked him why he had been silent ; he answered that Gordon and I had spoken in such a superior manner that he thought he would appear inferior, and had not the courage to rise. As it was the first time I had ever opened my mouth in the Assembly—for I was not a member till that year —I was encouraged to go on by that reply from my friend. At the same time, I must observe that many a time, as in this case, the better man is dazzled and silenced for life, perhaps, by the more forward temper and brilliant appearances of his companions. My admiration of Robertson and Home, with whom I was daily versant at that time, and who communicated their writings to me, made me imagine that I was incapable of writing anything but sermons, insomuch that till the year 1751 I wrote nothing else except some juvenile poems. Dr. Patrick Cuming [Dr. Patrick Cumming, minister of St. Giles, and Professor of Church History in the University of Edinburgh, appears to have been to the Government of Walpole that guide in ecclesiastical politics and distribution of patronage which Carstairs was under William III.—Burton's Life of Lovat.] was at this time at the head of the Moderate interest; and had his temper been equal to his talents, might have kept it long ; for he had both learning and sagacity, and very agreeable conversation, with a constitution able to bear the conviviality of the times. [For further information on the ecclesiastical affairs of the time discussed in this chapter, the reader is referred to Annals of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland from 1739 to 1766, known as "Morren's Annals," and to The Church History of Scotland, by the Rev. John Cunningham, minister of Crieff, 1859. —J.H.B.


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