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Memories of his Time
Chapter II


In December 1800 I entered the Faculty of Advocates ; and, with a feeling of nothingness, paced the Outer House.

Being now of an age, and in a position, to observe things intelligently, I can speak of Edinburgh, and through it of Scotland, then and since, with the knowledge of a witness, and indeed of an actor in most of its. occurrences. It is necessary, towards a right perception of the progress qf the place, that its general condition at this period should be understood.

Everything rung, and was connected, with the Revolution in France; which, for above 20 years, was, or was made, the all in all. Everything, not this or that thing, but literally everything, was soaked in this one event.

Yet we had wonderfully few proper Jacobins; that is, persons who seriously wished to introduce a republic into this country, on the French precedent. There were plenty of people who were called Jacobins ; because this soon became the common nickname which was given, not only to those who had admired the dawn of the French liberation, but to those who were known to have any taste for any internal reform of our own. There was a short period, chiefly in 1793 and 1794, during which this imputation was provoked by a ridiculous aping of French forms and phraseology, and an offensive vaunting of the superior excellence of everything in that country. But the folly, which only appeared in a few towns, was very soon over, cured by time, by the failure of the French experiment, and by the essential absurdity of the thing itself; and it had never been patronised by a single person of sense and public character or influence. Firm, but mild and judicious, treatment, and a little reliance on the tendency of time to abate epidemic follies, would have made the British Constitution popular, and the proceedings in France odious, everywhere. Scotch Jacobinism did not exist.

But Scotch Toryism did, and with a vengeance. This thing, however, must not be considered as exactly the same with pure Toryism in England. It seldom implies anything with us except a dislike of popular institutions; and even this chiefly on grounds of personal advantage. A pure historical and constitutional Tory is a very rare character in this country.

This party engrossed almost the whole wealth, and rank, and public office, of the country, and at least three-fourths of the population. They could have afforded, therefore, to be just and well tempered. But this, as it appeared to them, would have endangered their supremacy, which they were aware was upheld by their opponents being believed to entertain alarming principles and ends. Hence the great Tory object was, to abuse everybody but themselves, and in particular to ascribe a thirst for bloodshed and anarchy, not merely to their avowed public opponents, but to the whole body of the people. It is frightful even to recollect the ferocious bitterness and systematic zeal with which this principle was acted upon; and this under the direct sanction of government. No one ever heard of a check being given, even by a hint, from head quarters, with a view to arrest intolerance or to encourage charity. Jacobinism was a term denoting everything alarming and hateful, and every political objector was a Jacobin. No innovation, whether practical or speculative, consequently no political or economical reformer, and no religious dissenter, from the Irish Papist to our own native Protestant Seceder, could escape from this fatal word. This misrepresentation, and the natural tendency of the traduced to provoke and frighten by rather extenuating some of the French proceedings, might make the reader of an account of those days suppose that the revolutionary infection had spread far enough and deep enough to justify the proscription it met with. But, unquestionably, this was not the fact. The chief object at which our discontented aimed was parliamentary reform. But this and other homebred ends were hid by a cloud of foreign follies, which the Tories exhibited as demonstrations that the correction of domestic abuses was a pretence, and Jacobinism the truth. On this foundation they represented the whole lower orders as hostile to our institutions; from which the desired and comfortable inference was, that there was no salvation for the country except in the predominance of their own party.

The real Whigs were extremely few. Self interest had converted some, and terror more; and the residue, which stood out, consisted of only the stronger-minded men of the party. The adherence of these men to rational opinions was attended with very considerable personal risk in Scotland, where the result of a political prosecution did not admit of the very slightest doubt. They were treated as the causes and the shields of the popular delusions ; and belonging mostly to the bar, they were constantly and insolently reminded that the case of their brother Thomas Muir, transported for sedition, was intended for their special edification. But though the condition of Parliament made their carrying any practical measure impossible, their constancy to their principles kept their friends from despair; and this was the chief good that they did, or could have done. Though on the whole very united, yet, during the hottest fit of the revolutionary fever, the moderate were disturbed by the intemperance of the wild; two classes into which all parties are apt to arrange themselves, but which were particularly repulsive to each other at this crisis, when the slightest wildness was alarm-ingvto the moderate, and all moderation contemptible to themselves.

The principal leaders of the true Whig party were Henry Erskine, who had recently been Lord Advocate; Adam Gillies, John Clerk, and David Cathcart, all afterwards Judges; Archibald Fletcher, Malcolm Laing, James Grahame, and John Macfarlane, advocates; and James Gibson, Writer to the Signet.* Some brighter names, especially that of Jeffrey, had not yet come into action; and there were a few stout-hearted brethren, who, though too obscure to be now named, formed a rear rank on whom those in advance could always rely. The profession of these men armed them with better qualities than any other avocation could supply in a country without a Parliament—with talent, the practice of speaking, political knowledge, and public position; but their personal boldness and purity marked them out still more conspicuously for popular trust. It was among them accordingly that independence found its only asylum. It had a few silent though devoted worshippers elsewhere, but the Whig counsel were its only open champions. The Church can boast of Sir Harry Moncreiff alone as its contribution to the cause; but he was too faithful to his sacred functions to act as a political partisan. John Allen and John Thomson, of the medical profession, were active and fearless. And the College gave Dugald Stewart, John Playfair, and Andrew Dalzel. Of these three, mathematics, which was his chair, enabled Playfair to come better off than his two colleagues; for Dalzel had to speak of Grecian liberty, and Stewart to explain the uses of liberty in general; and anxiously were they both watched. Stewart, in particular, though too spotless and too retired to be openly denounced, was an object of great secret alarm. Not only virtuous, but eloquent in recommending virtue to the young, he united Nero’s objections both to Virginius the rhetorician, and Rufus Musonius the philosopher ,—“Virginium Flavum et Musonium Rufurn clari-tudo nominis expulit. Nam Virginius studia juve-num eloquentia, Musonius prmceptis sapientige, fove-bat.” (Tacitus—An. Lib. 15, cap. 71). A country gentleman with any public principle except devotion to Henry Dundas, was viewed as a wonder, or rather as a monster. This was the creed also of almost all our merchants, all our removable office holders, and all our public corporations. So that, literally, everything depended on a few lawyers; a class to which, in modern times, Scotland owes a debt of gratitude which does not admit of being exaggerated. Nor have any men, since our revolution, been obliged to exercise patriotism at greater personal risk or sacrifice. Could there have been the slightest doubt of their purity or courage, public spirit must have been extinguished in Scotland. The real strength of their party lay in their being right, and in the tendency of their objects to attract men of ability and principle.

With the people put down, and the Whigs powerless, Government was the master of nearly every individual in Scotland, but especially in Edinburgh, which was the chief seat of its influence. The infidelity of the French gave it almost all the pious ; their atrocities all the timid; rapidly increasing taxation and establishments all the venal; the higher and middle ranks were at its command, and the people at its feet. The pulpit, the bench, the bar, the colleges, the parliamentary electors, the press, the magistracies, the local institutions, were so completely at the service of the party in power, that the idea of independence, besides being monstrous and absurd, was suppressed by a feeling of conscious ingratitude. And in addition to all the ordinary sources of Government influence, Henry Dundas, an Edinburgh man, and well calculated by talent and manner to make despotism popular, was the absolute dictator of Scotland, and had the means of rewarding submission, and of suppressing opposition, beyond what were ever exercised in modern times by one person, in any portion of the empire.

The true state of things, and its effects, may be better seen in a few specific facts, than in any general description.

As to our Institutions—there was no popular representation; all town-councils elected themselves; the Established Church had no visible rival; persons were sent to the criminal courts as jurymen very nearly according to the discretion of the sheriff of their county; and after they got there, those who were to try the prosecution were picked for that duty by the presiding Judge, unchecked by any peremptory challenge. In other words, we had no free political institutions whatever.

The consequences of this were exactly what might have been expected, and all resolved into universal prostration. The town-councils who elected the burgh members of Parliament, and the 1500 or 2000 freeholders who elected the county members, formed so small a body that a majority, and indeed the whole, of them were quite easily held by the Government strings; especially as the burgh electors were generally dealt with on a principle which admitted of considerable economy. Except at Edinburgh, there was only one member for what was termed a district of four or five burghs. Each town-council elected a delegate; and these four or five delegates elected the member; and instead of bribing the town-councils, the established practice was to bribe only the delegates, or indeed only one of them, if this could secure the majority. Not that the councils were left unrefreshed, but that the hooks with the best baits were set for the most effective fishes. There was no free, and consequently no discussing, press. For a short time two newspapers, the Scots Chronicle and the Gazetteer, raved stupidly and vulgarly, and as if their real object had been to cast discredit on the cause they professed to espouse. The only other newspapers, so far as I recollect, were the still surviving Caledonian Mercury, the Courant, and the Advertiser; and the only other periodical publication was the doited Scots Magazine. This magazine and these three newspapers actually formed the whole regular produce of the Edinburgh periodical press. Nor was the absence of a free public press compensated by any freedom of public speech. Public political meetings could not arise, for the elements did not exist. I doubt if there was one during the twenty-five years that succeeded the year 1795. Nothing was viewed with such horror, as any political congregation not friendly to existing power. No one could have taken a part in the business without making up his mind to be a doomed man. No prudence could protect against the falsehood or inaccuracy of spies; and a first conviction of sedition by a judge-picked jury was followed by fourteen years’ transportation. As a body to be deferred to, no public existed. Opinion was only recognized when expressed through what were acknowledged to be its legitimate organs; which meant its formal or official outlets. Public bodies therefore might speak each for itself; but the general community, as such, had no admitted claim to be consulted or cared for. The result, in a nation devoid of popular political rights, was, that people were dumb, or if they spoke out, were deemed audacious. The wishes of the people were not merely despised, but it was thought and openly announced as a necessary precaution against revolution, that they should be thwarted. I knew a case, several years after 1800, where the seat-holders of a town church applied to Government, which was the patron, for the promotion of the second clergyman, who had been giving great satisfaction for many years, and now, on the death of the first minister, it was wished that he should get the vacant place. The answer, written by a member of the Cabinet, was, that the single fact of the people having interfered so far as to express a wish, was conclusive against what they desired and another appointment was instantly made.

This condition of the country was not owing to anything like tyranny on the part of its rulers. They did not create the circumstances in which they were obliged to act. Their error was that, instead of trying to mitigate these circumstances, they did what they could to aggravate them ; and this for party purposes. There was no need for tyranny where the people had no public rights. But it would have been better, if the efforts of popular leaders to get them public rights had not been sternly repressed. However, in the circumstances, this party use of wdiat existed is not much to be wondered at in party men. It was not owing to any positive despotism that there was no discussion by the press or by public meetings, but to the general abasement of the community, among which free habits could not at once arise. This community consisted of a people that was prostrate, a few brave but powerless individuals, and an overwhelming faction exercising the whole influence of the Government, on party principles, and without control.

This necessarily produced great personal bitterness. Even in private society, a Whig was viewed somewhat as a Papist was in the days of Titus Oates. There were a few exceptions, in the case of persons too attractive or too powerful to he ill-used; but in general Whigs had to associate solely with Whigs. Very dear friendships were in many instances broken, and although the parties may have survived till age and changed times made longer severance, absurd, the reconcilement was always awkward and never true. This incompatibility of public difference with private cordiality is the most painful recollection that I have of those days, and the most striking evidence of their hardness.

Fox’s birth-day was generally celebrated by a dinner every year. But only a very few of the best Whigs could be got to attend, or were wished for. It was not safe to have many; especially as great prudence was necessary in speaking and toasting. Yet even the select, though rarely exceeding a dozen or two, were seldom allowed to assemble without sheriff’s officers being sent to take down the names of those who entered. This turned away some, but others never hesitated to say what they thought of so base a hint. James Gibson and John Clerk used to tell them to hold up their lanterns, and to be quite sure that they knew them; and then would give the officers their cards, with orders to be sure to deliver them with their compliments, and an invitation to their masters to attend next year.

Even the Whig lawyers who had secured their footing at the bar, or were plainly irrepressible, had hard enough work to keep their places. The juniors who dared to begin in this line were put under a severe proscription, and knew it. Every official gate was shut against them, and in the practice of their profession the Judges were unkind, and agents therefore kept their fees for those of the safer faith. The prospects of no young man could be more apparently hopeless than of him who, with the known and fatal taint of a taste for popular politics, entered our bar. But they were generally well warned. If not overlooked from their insignificance, a written test was for some years presented to them, and a refusal to subscribe it set a black mark upon him who refused. I have heard George Cranstoun say that the test was put to him, and by a celebrated Professor of Law acting for the Tory party. It was rejected; and Cranstoun found it convenient to leave the bar, and spend some time, chiefly in Ireland, as an officer in a regiment of fencible cavalry, commanded by his friend. the Earl of Ancrum.

Henry Erskine, the brightest ornament of the profession, was Dean of the Faculty of Advocates. Considering the state of the times, the propriety of his presiding at a public meeting to petition against the war may be questioned. The official head of a public body should consider what is due to the principles and the feelings of those he may be supposed to represent; and to the great majority of the Faculty Erskine’s conduct must have been deeply offensive. Still, the resolution to dismiss him was utterly unjustifiable. It was nearly unprecedented, violent, and very ungrateful. He had covered the Faculty with the lustre of his character for several years ; and, if wrong, had been misled solely by a sense of duty. Nevertheless, on the 12th of January 1796 he was turned out of office. Had he and the Faculty alone been concerned in this intemperate proceeding, it would not have occurred. But it was meant, and was taken, as a warning to all others to avoid the dangers of public meetings on the wrong side. The efforts made to prevent young men from yielding to their conviction in Erskine’s favour is another striking mark of the times. Jeffrey, Cranstoun, and Thomas Thomson were ardent to vote for him, and never were easy in their minds for not having done so. But Thomson was obliged to yield to the wishes of George Fergusson, afterwards Lord Hermand; Jeffrey to those of his father and Lord Glenlee; and Cranstoun to those of the Duke of Buccleuch; and none of them voted at all. 

The conduct of Robert Ferguson, afterwards of Raith, and of George Joseph Bell, both eminent at last in the Whig party, has often been misunderstood. But the truth is, that the Whiggism of forbearance of these young men was in accordance with the gentleness and propriety of their whole future lives. But what a condition men's minds must have been in when good men, who had selected them for patronage because they loved them, were not ashamed to exact such sacrifices.0

Almost everything in the city was under the control of the town-council; not merely what was properly magisterial, but most things conducive to the public economy, which are always managed now by independent guardians. Our light, water, education, paving, trade, including the port of Leith, the poor, the police, were all in the hands of the great civic corporation. Hence in Edinburgh, as in all other royal burghs, the character of the municipal magistracy was symptomatic of the whole place.

It met in a low, dark, blackguard-looking room, entering from a covered passage which connected the north-west corner of the Parliament Square with the Bell, who voted against Erskine, had not then come upon him; and that Ferguson, who gave no vote, was abroad.

"Only one of Erskine’s personal and political associates deserted his principles and opposed him,—a man of great worth and learning, and who afterwards rose deservedly high, but whose respectable future life never effaced this sad stain from the memory of either friends or foes. When his name was called and he gave his vote, the clock happened to strike three; on which John Clerk said, with great intensity. When the cock crew thrice Peter denied his master.”

Lawnmarket. At its Lawnmarket end, this covered passage opened out on the south side of u the Heart of Midlothian.’7 If that passage existed now, it would cross the present opening somewhere between the south-west corner of St. Giles’ Cathedral and the north-east corner of the Writer’s Library. The shop of George Heriot was said to have stood within it; and I certainly remember seeing, after 1805, a horizontal stone lintel over a door there, with the words "George Heriot” carved upon it. But it was removed; and unless some antiquary saved it by a judicious theft, it was probably broken when the whole collection of interesting relics that encumbered the spot was cleared away. The Council Chamber entered directly from this passage, and, if it had remained, would have been in the east end of the Writer’s Library. The chamber was a low-roofed room, very dark, and very dirty, with some small dens off it for clerks.

Within this Pandemonium sat the town-council, omnipotent, corrupt, impenetrable. Nothing was beyond its grasp; no variety of opinion disturbed its unanimity, for the pleasure of Dundas was the sole rule for every one of them. Reporters, the fruit of free discussion, did not exist and though they had existed, would not have dared to disclose the proceedings. Silent, powerful, submissive, mysterious, and irresponsible, they might have been sitting in  Venice. Certain of the support of the Proconsul, whom they no more thought of thwarting than of thwarting Providence, timidity was not one of their vices. About the year 1799a solitary schism amazed the public, by disclosing the incredible fact that the town-council might contain a member who had an opinion of his own. A councillor, named Smith, electrified the city by a pamphlet shewing that the burgh was bankrupt. Time has put it beyond all doubt that he was right; and fortunate would it have been for the city and its creditors if this had been acknowledged at the time, instead of being aggravated by years of subsequent extravagance and concealment. But his rebellion drove Mr. Smith out of the place.

The council's two great organs were John Gray and James Laing. Gray was city clerk; a judicious man, with a belly, white hair, and decorous black clothes ; famous for drinking punch, holding his tongue, and doing jobs quietly; a respectable and useful officer, with an exclusive devotion to the town-council, but with such municipal wisdom, and such an intimate acquaintance with their affairs, that he was oftener the master than the slave. There was a person of this class in almost every royal burgh. If Gray was the head of the Council, Laing was its hand. He was one of the clerks, and managed such police as we then had; and, though not an officer in the old Town Guard, could, as representing the magistrates, employ it as he chose. It is incredible now how much power this man had, and how much lie was feared. His masters, to whom he was all apparent obeisance, felt that they could not do without his activity and experience. He knew this, and adventured accordingly; and the result was, that with sagacity enough to keep clear of offensive excess towards them, he did almost anything else that he chose. He had more sense than to meddle with the rich, but over the people he tyrannized to his heart’s content. For example—about the year 1795, six or eight baker lads of good character, and respectable though humble parentage, being a little jolly one night, were making a noise on the street. This displeased Mr. Laing, who had a notion that nobody could be drunk with safety to the public except himself. So he had the lads apprehended; and as they did not appear in the morning, their friends became alarmed, and applied to Mr. (afterwards Sir Henry) Jardine, a zealous partisan of Government, who took an interest in the family of one of them. Mr. Jardine told me that next morning he inquired about them, when Laing told him that 'he need give himself no trouble, because u they are all beyond Inchkeith by this time” And so they were. He had sent them on board a tender lying in Leith Roads, which he knew was to sail that morning.

This was done by his own authority, without a conviction, or a charge, or an offence. They had been troublesome, and this was the very way of dealing with such people. Such proceedings were far from uncommon, especially during the war, when the navy and the army were the convenient receptacles of all it was comfortable to get quit of summarily. Legal redress was very seldom resorted to. Laing had an incomprehensible reverence for Dugald Stewart. Stewart used to tell, how he was walking in the Meadows very early one morning, when he saw a number of people within the enclosure seemingly turning up the turf, and that upon going up to them he found his friend Jamie Laing, who explained that in these short light nights there was nothing going on with the blackguards, u and so, ye see, Mr. Professor, Eve just brought oot the constables to try oor hands at the moudieworts.

Though I had little personal knowledge of any other town council, there is no reason to believe that, in general, they were a whit better than that of Edinburgh. On the contrary, as Edinburgh was under the eye and the influence of higher men, the probability is that they were worse • and many of the small ones were in the lowest possible condition both of public and private morality. In general, they were sinks of political and municipal iniquity, steeped in the baseness which they propagated, and types and causes of the corruption that surrounded them.

But by far the most frightful, and the justest, idea of the spirit of those times is to be found in the proceedings of the Supreme Criminal Court in the Sedition Trials of 1793 and 1794. These cannot be seen in detail without a minute examination of the reports, and indeed they are very faintly given even in the State Trials.

They were political prosecutions, during a period of great political excitement; and therefore, however faction might have raged, everything done by the Court ought to have been done calmly, impartially, and decorously. The general prevalence of public intemperance was the very circumstance that ought to have impressed more deeply upon judges the duty of steady candour, and of that judicial humanity which instinctively makes every right-minded occupier of the judgment seat interpose between a prisoner and prejudice. The Court does not seem to have been unduly inflamed by the official accuser. The madness of the people, if it existed, would have been best allayed by giving them reason to rely on the administration of justice. But I fear that no impartial censor can avoid detecting, throughout the whole course of the trials, not mere casual indications of bias, but absolute straining for convictions. With all their prepossessions the judges were not cruel, nor even consciously unfair. But being terrified, and trying those who were causing their alarm, they could scarcely be expected to enter the temple of justice in a state of perfect composure. If ever there was an occasion when a judge might have shone, simply by being just, this was one. But the bench was the place upon which political passions, not aggravated by the prosecutor, and distressing to many of tire jurymen, settled and operated. Little depended upon erroneous decision. But what shall be held to be sedition always resolves, to a far greater extent than in other crimes, into mere opinion, and therefore everything depended upon candour of construction. Hence, all the sources of prejudice ought to have been at least attempted to be excluded. Fair play ought to have been given to claims of constitutional right, and particularly to supposed privileges of public discussion. No juryman ought to have been able to excuse any party spirit that he felt coming over him by the contagion of the bench. Yet the fact is, that in every case sentiments were avowed implying the adoption of the worst current intemperance. If, instead of a Supreme Court of Justice, sitting for the trial of guilt or of innocence, it had been an ancient commission appointed by the Crown to procure convictions, little of its judicial manner would have required to be changed.

When the verdicts were returned, the Court had to exercise a discretionary power in fixing upon the sentence; which discretion ranged, as these judges decided, from one hour’s imprisonment to transportation for life. Assuming transportation to be lawful, it was conceded not to be necessary, and it was not then, nor at any time, used in England as a punishment of sedition. At that period it implied a frightful voyage of many months, great wretchedness in the new colony, an almost complete extinction of all communication with home, and such difficulty in returning, that a man transported was considered as a man never to be seen again. Nevertheless, transportation for a first offence was the doom of every one of these prisoners.

All this was approved of no doubt, not only by the Tories, but by Parliament advised by the Lord Chancellor. But this never satisfied judicious men, and it can neither silence nor pervert history. It will remain true that, in order to find a match for the judicial spirit of this Court, at this period, we must go back to the days of Lauderdale and Dalzell.

It has been said, in defence of the Court, that the times were dangerous. So they were. But these are the very times in which the torch of justice should burn most purely. It has also been said that the prisoners were all guilty. Holding this to be true, had they not a right to be fairly tried? And lastly it has been said, that after these trials there was no more sedition. The same thing might be said though they had been tried by the boot, and punished by fire. Jeffreys and Kirke put down sedition, for the day, by their bloody assizes. But our exhibitions of judicial vigour, instead of eradicating the seditious propensity, prolonged its inward vitality. Future outbreaks were only avoided by the course of events, which turned men’s passions into other channels.

These trials, however, sunk deep not merely into the popular mind, but into the minds of all men who thought. It was by these proceedings, more than by any other wrong, that the spirit of discontent justified itself throughout the rest of that age. It was to them that peaceful reformers appealed for the practical answer to those, who pretended to uphold our whole Scotch system as needing no change. One useful lesson, to be sure, they taught, though in the wrong way—namely, that the existence of circumstances, such as the supposed clearness and greatness of their guilt, tending to prejudice prisoners on their trials, gives them a stronger claim than usual on that sacred judicial mildness, which, far more than any of the law’s terrors, procures respect for authority, and without which courts, let them punish as they may, only alienate and provoke.

Such was the public condition of Edinburgh in 1800, and for the preceding ten years. It was a condition of great pain and debasement, the natural consequence of bad times operating on defective political institutions. The frightful thing was the personal bitterness. The decent appearance of mutual toleration, which often produces the virtue itself, was despised, and extermination seemed a duty. This was bad enough in the capital; but far more dreadful in small places, which were more helplessly exposed to persecution. If Dugald Stewart was for several years not cordially received in the city he adorned, what must have been the position of an ordinary man who held liberal opinions in the country or in a small town, open to all the contumely and obstruction that local insolence could practise, and unsupported probably by any associate cherishing kindred thoughts. Such persons existed everywhere: but they were always below the salt. Their merit therefore was great. Under insult and cold unkindness, and constant personal loss, they adhered throughout many dark years to what they thought right; and such of them as lived to be old men had the reward of seeing the regeneration, which had depended so much on their spirit and firmness.

This was the first time that Scotland had ever been agitated by discussions upon general principles of liberty. Neither the Union, nor the two Rebellions, nor even the Revolution, had any of this matter in them. The course of this our first conflict of constitutional opinion has been very distinctly marked. With no improvement in their public education, habits, or institutions, with all power in the hands of those with whom change was in itself an ultimate evil, and with reason superseded by dread of revolution, the cause of the people was put down, and could not possibly have been then raised up. The only hope was in the decline of the circumstances that had sunk it. What had to be waited for was, the increase of numbers and of wealth, the waning of the revolutionary horror, the dying out of the hard old aristocracy, the advance of a new generation, and the rise of new guides. The gradual introduction and operation of these redeeming circumstances has been very interesting, and illustrates, by the example of a single place, the general principles which regulate the improvement of the world.

In 1800 the people of Edinburgh were much occupied about the removal of an evil in the system of their Infirmary; which evil, though strenuously defended by able men, it is difficult now to believe could ever have existed. The medical officers consisted at that time of the whole members of the Colleges of Physicians and of Surgeons, who attended the hospital by a monthly rotation; so that the patients had the chance of an opposite treatment, according to the whim of the doctor, every thirty days. Dr. James Gregory, whose learning extended beyond that of his profession, attacked this absurdity in one of his powerful, but wild and personal, quarto pamphlets. The public was entirely on his side; and so at last were the managers, who resolved that the medical officers should be appointed permanently, as they have ever since been. Most of the medical profession, including the whole private lecturers, and even the two colleges, who all held that the power of annoying the patients in their turn was their right, were vehement against this innovation; and some of them went to law in opposition to it.

Gregory, descended from an illustrious line, was a curious and excellent man, a great physician, a great lecturer, a great Latin scholar, and a great talker; vigorous and generous; large of stature, and with a strikingly powerful countenance. The popularity due to these qualities was increased by his professional controversies, and the diverting publications by which he used to maintain and enliven them. The controversies were rather too numerous; but they never were for any selfish end, and he was never entirely wrong. Still, a disposition towards personal attack was his besetting sin. Mr. John Bell, the best surgeon that Scotland had then produced, a little vigorous creature, who wrote well and with intense professional passion, was generally put forward by his brethren to carry on the Gregorian battles. Perhaps he had the best both of the argument and of the clever writing; but the public sided with the best laugher; and so Gregory was generally held to have the victory.

When I first knew it, the Parliament House, both outside and in, was a curious and interesting place. No one who remembers the old exterior can see the new one without sorrow and indignation. The picture which recals the old edifice most distinctly to my mind, is the one in Arnot’s History of Edinburgh. The Parliament Square (as foppery now calls it, but which used, and ought, to be called the Parliament Close) was then, as now, enclosed on the north by St. Giles’ Cathedral, on the west by the Outer House, and on the south, partly by courts, and partly by shops, above which were very tall houses, and on the east by a line of shops and houses of the same grand height. So that the courts formed the south-west angle of the Close. The old building exhibited some respectable turrets, some ornamented windows and doors, and a handsome balustrade. But the charm that ought to have saved it, was its colour and its age, which, however, were the very things that caused its destruction. About 170 years had breathed over it a grave grey hue. The whole aspect was venerable and appropriate; becoming the air and character of a sanctuary of Justice. But a mason pronounced it to be all “ Dead Wall ” The officials to whom, at a period when there was no public taste in Edinburgh, this was addressed, believed him; and the two fronts were removed in order to make way for the bright freestone and contemptible decorations that now disgrace us. The model having been laid down, has been copied on all subsequent occasions; till at last the old Parliament Close would not be known by the lawyers or senators who walked through it in the days of the Stuarts, or of the first two of the Guelphs. I cannot doubt that King Charles tried to spur his horse against the Vandals when he saw the profanation begin. But there was such an utter absence of public spirit in Edinburgh, then, that the building might have been painted scarlet without anybody objecting.

The auctioneers and pawnbrokers had their quarters in the Horse Wynd, where I remember genteel families living in most excellent houses. The potters and candlemakers congregated in the Rows which still bear their names. I don’t know the former seat of the shoemakers, but about the beginning of the century they took possession of the new made Leith Terrace, which was then thought a very fine thing, as well it might, being the only place in Edinburgh, or perhaps in Scotland, with a street above the roofs of houses. The sons of Crispin occupied both the shops below this street and those in it—two rows of shops. As soon as the South Bridge was built it was taken possession of by the haberdashers. The Parliament Close was the haunt of the jewellers, some watchmakers, and a few booksellers, which last, however, flowed more over into the High Street. A wooden partition, about fifteen feet high, was drawn across the Outer House, cutting off apparently about twenty-five or thirty feet of its northern end, but with a small central opening into the public hall. Arnot says that this space was occupied by booksellers’ stalls when he published his book in 1788. These stalls must have disappeared, or been greatly diminished, very soon after this; for I was there for the first time about 1792 or 1793, and observed none of them. The whole space seemed to be occupied as a jeweller’s and cutler’s shop. My first pair of skates was bought there; and I remember my surprise at the figures with black gowns and white wigs walking about among the cutlery.

But the delightful place was The Krames. It was a low narrow arcade of booths, crammed in between the north side of St. Giles’ Cathedral and a thin range of buildings that stood parallel to the Cathedral, the eastmost of which buildings, looking clown the High Street, was the famous shop of William Creech the bookseller. Shopless traffickers first began to nestle there about the year 1550 or 15GO, and their successors stuck to the spot till 1817, when they were all swept away. In my boyhood their little stands, each enclosed in a tiny room of its own, and during the day all open to the little footpath that ran between the two rows of them, and all glittering with attractions, contained everything fascinating to childhood, but chiefly toys. It was like one of the Arabian Nights7 bazaars in Bagdad. Throughout the whole year it was an enchantment. Let any one fancy what it was about the New Year, when every child had got its handsel, and every farthing of every handsel was spent there. The Krames was the paradise of childhood.

Scarcely a year has passed since the time I am referring to without some change in the internal arrangement of the Outer House. Doors, chimneys, screens, windows, benches, and Lords Ordinary's bars, have wandered round and round the whole hall, exactly as has suited the taste of the official improver of the day. After much temporary deformity, and many alarming escapes, the result on the whole has been good, because the recent taste has been to remove obstructions, and to introduce art.

The modern accommodation for the courts is so ample that it is curious to recollect its amount, and how it looked before 1808, when the judges began to-sit in two separate chambers. The den called The Inner House then held the whole fifteen judges. It was a low square-like room, not, I think, above from thirty to forty feet wide. It stood just off the southeast corner of the Outer House; with the Exchequer, entering from the Parliament Close, right above. The Barons being next the sky, had access to the flat leaden roof, where I have seen my father, who was one of them, walking in his robes. The Inner House was so cased in venerable dirt that it was impossible to say whether it had ever been painted; but it was all of a dark brownish hue. There was a gallery over the bar, and so low that a barrister in a frenzy was in danger of hitting it. A huge fireplace stood behind the Lord President's chair, with one of the stone jambs cracked, and several of the bars of the large grate broken. That grate was always at least half full of dust. It probably had never been completely cleared since the institution of the Court in the sixteenth century. The hearthstone, the fender, and the chimney-piece were all massive, and all undisturbed by any purification. On the one side of that fire-place there was fixed in a wooden frame the Lord’s Prayer, and on the other side the Ten Commandments each worked in faded gold thread letters into a black velvet ground. George Cranstoun used to propose adding a Scriptural verse to be set over the head of each judge, and had culled the texts.

Dismal though this hole was, the old fellows who had been bred there never looked so well anywhere else; and deeply did they growl at the spirit of innovation which drove them from their accustomed haunt. The cave indeed had an antique air. It was Durie’s Reports. Very little fancy was necessary to make one see the ancient legal sages through its dim litigious light.

Of the fifteen judges of those days, some of course were u heads without name.” Of the others Monboddo, Swinton, and Braxfield had left the scene shortly before I entered the Faculty.

Classical learning, good conversation, excellent suppers, and ingenious though unsound metaphysics were the peculiarities of Monboddo. He was reputed a considerable lawyer in his own time; and his reports shew that the reputation was well founded. Some offence had made him resolve never to sit on the same bench with President Dundas ; and he kept this vow so steadily that he always sat at the clerk’s table even after Dundas was gone. I never saw him sitting anywhere else. This position enabled him to get easily out and in; and whenever there was a pause he was sure to slip off, gown and all, to have a talk in the Outer House, where I have often seen the shrivelled old man walking about very cheerfully. He went very often to London, almost always on horseback, and was better qualified than most of his countrymen to shine in its literary society. But he was insufficiently appreciated; and he partly justified and indeed provoked this, by taking his love of paradox and metaphysics with him, and dealing them out in a style of academical formality; and this even after he ought to have seen, that all that people cared about his dogmas was to laugh at their author. It is more common to hear anecdotes about his maintaining that men once had tails, and similar follies, than about his agreeable conversation and undoubted learning. All who knew him in Edinburgh concur in describing his house as one of the most pleasant in the place.

I knew Lord Swinton as much as a youth can know an old man, and I have always been intimate with his family. He was a very excellent person ; dull, mild, solid, and plodding; and in his person large and heavy. It is only a subsequent age that has discovered his having possessed a degree of sagacity, for which he did not get credit while he lived. So far back as 1765 he published an attack on our system of entails; in 1779 he explained a scheme for a uniform standard of weights and measures ; and in 1789 he put forth considerations in favor of dividing the Court of Session into more courts than one, and of introducing juries for the trial of civil causes. All these improvements have since taken place, but they were mere visions in his time; and his anticipation of them, in which, so far as I ever heard, he had no associate, is very honourable to his thoughtfulness and judgment. Notwithstanding the utter dissimilarity of the two men, there was a great friendship between him and Henry Erskine, which it is to the honor of Swinton’s ponderous placidity that Erskine’s endless jokes upon him never disturbed. But the giant of the bench was Braxfield. His very name makes people start yet.

Strong built and dark, with rough eyebrows, powerful eyes, threatening lips, and a low growling voice, he was like a formidable blacksmith. His accent and his dialect were exaggerated Scotch; his language, like his thoughts, short, strong, and conclusive.

Our commercial jurisprudence was only rising when he was sinking, and, being no reader, he was too old both in life and in habit to master it familiarly ; though even here he was inferior to no Scotch lawyer of his time except Ilay Campbell the Ford President. But within the range of the Feudal and the Civil branches, and in every matter depending on natural ability and practical sense, he was very great;

and his power arose more from the force of his reasoning and his vigorous application of principle, than from either the extent or the accuracy of his learning. I have heard good observers describe with admiration how, having worked out a principle, he followed it in its application, fearlessly and triumphantly, dashing all unworthy obstructions aside, and pushed on to his result with the vigour and disdain of a consummate athlete. And he had a colloquial way of arguing, in the form of question and answer, which, done in his clear abrupt style, imparted a dramatic directness and vivacity to the scene.

With this intellectual force, as applied to law, his merits, I fear, cease. Illiterate and without any taste for refined enjoyment, strength of understanding, which gave him power without cultivation, only encouraged him to a more contemptuous disdain of all natures less coarse than his own. Despising the growing improvement of manners, he shocked the feelings even of an age which, with more of the formality, had far less of the substance of decorum than our own. Thousands of his sayings have been preserved, and the staple of them is indecency; which he succeeded in making many people enjoy, or at least endure, by hearty laughter, energy of manner, and rough humour. Almost the only story of him I ever heard that had some fun in it without immodesty, was when a butler gave up his place because his lordship's wife was always scolding him. “Lord!" he exclaimed, "ye've little to complain o': ye may be thankfu' ye're no married to her."

It is impossible to condemn his conduct as a criminal judge too gravely, or too severely. It was a disgrace to the age. A dexterous and practical trier of ordinary cases, he was harsh to prisoners even in his jocularity, and to every counsel whom he chose to dislike. I have heard this attempted to be accounted for and extenuated by the tendency which the old practice of taking all the evidence down in writing, by judicial dictation, had to provoke a wrangle between the court and the bar every moment, and thus to excite mutual impatience and hostility. No doubt there was something in this ; but not much. And Braxfield, as might have been expected from his love of domineering, continued the vice after its external cause, whatever it may have been, had ceased. It may be doubted if he was ever so much in his element as when tauntingly repelling the last despairing claim of a wretched culprit, and sending him to Botany Bay or the gallows with an insulting jest; over which he would chuckle the more from observing that correct people were shocked. Yet this was not from cruelty, for which he was too strong and too jovial, but from cherished coarseness.

This union of talent with a passion for rude predomination, exercised in a very discretionary court, tended to form a formidable and dangerous judicial character. This appeared too often in ordinary cases: but all stains on his administration of the common business of his court disappear in the indelible iniquity of the political trials of 1793 and 1794. In these he was the Jeffreys of Scotland. He as the head of the Court, and the only very powerful man it contained, was the real director of its proceedings. The reports make his abuse of the judgment seat bad enough but his misconduct was not so fully disclosed in formal decisions and charges, as it transpired in casual remarks and general manner. "Let them bring me prisoners, and I’ll find them law” used to be openly stated as his suggestion, when an intended political prosecution was marred by anticipated difficulties. If innocent of this atrocious sentiment, he was scandalously ill-used by his friends, by whom I repeatedly heard it ascribed to him at the time, and who, instead of denying it, spoke of it as a thing understood, and rather admired it as worthy of the man and of the times. Mr. Horner (the father of Francis), who was one of the jurors in Muir’s case, told me that when he was passing, as was often done then, behind the bench to get into the box, Braxfield, who knew him, whispered— "Come awa, Maister Horner, come awa, and help us to hang1 ane o’ thae daamned scoondrels.” The reporter of Gerald’s case could not venture to make the prisoner say more than that "Christianity was an innovation.” But the full truth is, that in stating this view he added that all great men had been reformers, "even our Saviour himself.” "Muckle he made o’ that,” chuckled Braxfield in an under voice, "he was hanget.” Before Hume’s Commentaries had made our criminal record intelligible, the forms and precedents were a mystery understood by the initiated alone, and by nobody so much as by Mr. Joseph Norris the ancient clerk. Braxfield used to quash anticipated doubts by saying—u Hoot! just gie me Josie Norrie and a gude jury, an’ I’ll doo for the fallow.” He died in 1799, in his seventy-eighth year.

Of the older judges still on the bench in 1800, but who soon left it, there were two who ought not to be allowed to perish. These were the Lord Justice-Clerk Lae, and the Lord President Campbell.

David Rae, Lord Eskgrove, succeeded Braxfield as head of the Criminal Court, and it is his highest honor that he is sometimes mentioned as Braxfield’s judicial rival. In so far as law and political partiality went, they were pretty well matched; but in all other respects they were quite different men.

Eskgrove was a very considerable lawyer; in mere knowledge probably Braxfield’s superior. But he had nothing of Braxfield’s grasp or reasoning, and in everything requiring force or soundness of head, he was a mere child compared with that practical Hercules. Still he was cunning in old Scotch law.

But a more ludicrous personage could not exist. When I first knew him he was in the zenith of his absurdity. People seemed to have nothing to do but to tell stories of this one man. To be able to he did so, he would certainly tell it accurately, because he knew the facts quite well. But in reporting what Sir Walter had said at the royal table, the Lord Chief Commissioner Adam confused the matter, and called the judge Braxfield, the crime forgery, and the circuit town Dumfries ; and this inaccurate account was given by Mr. Lockhart in his first edition of Scott's life (chap. 34). Braxfield was one of the judges at Hay's trial, but he had nothing to do with the checkmate.

give an anecdote of Eskgrove, with a proper imitation of liis voice and manner, was a sort of fortune in society. Scott in those days was famous for this particularly. Whenever a knot of persons were seen listening in the Outer House to one who was talking slowly, with a low muttering voice and a projected chin, and then the listeners burst asunder in roars of laughter, nobody thought of asking what the joke was. They were sure that it was a successful imitation of Esky; and this was enough. Yet never once did he do or say anything which had the slightest claim to be remembered for any intrinsic merit. The value of all his words and actions consisted in their absurdity.

He seemed, in his old age, to be about the average height; but as he then stooped a good deal, he might have been taller in reality. His face varied, according to circumstances, from a scurfy red to a scurfy blue; the nose was prodigious; the under lip enormous, and supported on a huge clumsy chin, which moved like the jaw of an exaggerated Dutch toy. He walked with a slow stealthy step— something between a walk and a hirple, and helped himself on by short movements of his elbows, backwards and forwards, like fins. The voice was low and mumbling, and on the bench was generally inaudible for sometime after the movement of the lips shewed that he had begun speaking; after which the first word "that was let fairly out was generally the loudest of the whole discourse. It is unfortunate that, without an idea of his voice and manner, mere narrative cannot describe his sayings and doings graphically.

One of his remarks on the trial of Mr. Fysche Palmer for sedition—not as given in the report of the trial, but as he made it—is one of the very few things he ever said that had some little merit of its own. Mr. John Haggart, one of the prisoner’s counsel, in defending his client from the charge of disrespect of the king, quoted Burke’s statement that kings are naturally lovers of low company. "Then, sir, that says very little for you or your client! for if kinggs be lovers of low company, low company ought to be lovers of kinggs!"

Nothing disturbed him so much as the expense was converted by him into, u I met one young friend as I was walk-ing in the Canon-gate.” of the public dinner for which the judge on the circuit lias a fixed allowance, and out of which the less he spends the more he gains. His devices for economy were often very diverting. His servant had strict orders to check the bottles of wine by laying aside the corks. His lordship once went behind a screen at Stirling, while the company was still at table, and seeing an alarming row of corks, got into a warm altercation, which everybody overheard, with John ; maintaining it to be “impossibill” that they could have drunk so much. On being assured that they had, and were still going on—u Well, then, John, I must just protect myself! ” On which he put a handful of the corks into his pocket, and resumed his seat.

Brougham tormented him, and sat on his skirts wherever he went, for above a year. The Justice liked passive counsel who let him dawdle on with culprits and juries in his own way ; and consequently he hated the talent, the eloquence, the energy, and all the discomposing qualities of Brougham. At last it seemed as if a court day was to be blessed by his absence, and the poor Justice was delighting himself with the prospect of being allowed to deal with things as he chose; when, lo ! his enemy appeared —tall, cool, and resolute. "I declare,” said the Justice, "that man Broom, or Brougham is the torment of my life!” His revenge, as usual, consisted in sneering at Brougham’s eloquence by calling it or him the Harangue. "Well, gentle-men, what did the Harangue say next? Why it said this” (misstating it); u but here, gentle-men, the Harangue was most plainly wrong, and not intelligibill.”

As usual, then, with stronger heads than his, everything was connected by his terror with republican horrors. I heard him, in condemning a tailor to death for murdering a soldier by stabbing him, aggravate the offence thus, u and not only did you murder him, whereby he was berea-ved of his life, but you did thrust, or push, or pierce, or project, or propell, the le-thall weapon through the belly-band of his regimental breeches, which were his Ma-jes-ty’s!”

In the trial of Glengarry for murder in a duel, a lady of great beauty was called as a witness. She came into Court veiled. But before administering the oath Eskgrove gave her this exposition of her duty—"Young woman! you will now consider yourself as in the presence of Almighty God, and of this High Court. Lift up your veil; throw off all modesty, and look me in the face.”

Sir John Henderson of Fordell, a zealous Whig, had long nauseated the civil court by his burgh politics. Their Lordships had once to fix the amount of some discretionary penalty that he had incurred. Eskgrove began to give his opinion in a very low voice, but loud enough to be heard by those next him, to the effect that the fine ought to be fifty pounds; when Sir John, with his usual imprudence, interrupted him, and begged him to raise his voice, adding that if judges did not speak so as to be heard, they might as well not speak at all. Eskgrove, who could never endure any imputation of bodily infirmity, asked his neighbour, "What does the fellow say?” "He says that, if you don’t speak out, you may as well hold your tongue.” "Oh, is that what he says? My Lords, what I was saying was very simpell. I was only sayingg that in my humbell opinyon, this fine could not be less than two hundred and fifty pounds sterlingg”—this sum being roared out as loudly as his old angry voice could launch it.

His tediousness, both of manner and matter, in charging juries was most dreadful. It was the custom to make juries stand while the judge was addressing them; but no other judge was punctilious about it. Eskgrove however insisted upon it; and if any one of them slipped cunningly down to his seat, or dropped into it from inability to stand any longer, the unfortunate wight was sure to be reminded by his Lordship that "these were not the times in which there should be any disrespect of this high court, or even of the law.” Often have I gone back to the court at midnight, .and found him, whom I had left mumbling hours before, still going on, with the smoky unsnuffed tallow candles in greasy tin candlesticks, and the poor despairing jurymen, most of the audience having retired or being asleep; the wagging of his Lordship's nose and chin being the chief signs that he was still charging.

A very common arrangement of his logic to juries was this—“And so, gentlemen, having shewn you that the pannell’s argument is utterly impossibill, I shall, now proceed for to shew you that it is extremely improbabill.”

He rarely failed to signalize himself in pronouncing sentences of death. It was almost a matter of style with him to console the prisoner by assuring him that, “whatever your religious persuashon may be, or even if, as I suppose, you be of no persuashon at all, there are plenty of rever-end gentlemen who will be most happy for to shew you the way to yeternal life."

He had to condemn two or three persons to die who had broken into a house at Luss, and assaulted Sir James Colquhoun and others, and robbed them of a large sum of money. He first*, as was his almost constant practice, explained the nature of the various crimes, assault, robbery, and hame-sucken—of which last he gave them the etymology ; and he then reminded them that they attacked the house and the persons within it, and robbed them, and then came to this climax—u All this you did; and God preserve us! joost when they were sitten doon to their denner!”

But a whole volume could easily be filled with specimens of his absurdities. Scott, not by invention but by accurate narration, could have done it himself. So could Jeffrey; and William Clerk; and William Erskine; and indeed everybody who had eyes and ears. He was the staple of the public conversation; and so long as his old age lasted (for of his youth I know nothing) he nearly drove Napoleon out of the Edinburgh world. He died in 1804, in his eightieth year; and had therefore been put at the head of the Court when he had reached the age of seventy-six: an incredible appointment; for his peculiarities had been in full flourish long before that. It would have been a pity if the public had lost them ; but it was unfortunate that a judicial chair was necessary for their complete exhibition. A story of skgrove is still preferred to all other stories. Only, the things that he did and said every day are beginning to be incredible to this correct and flat age.

Besides great experience and great reputation in every legal sphere, Ilay Campbell, the Lord President, had had his mind enlarged by the office of Lord Advocate, which had introduced him to Parliament and to public administration. These opportunities were not lost upon his working and intelligent intellect. As a lawyer, and in every department of the science, he was inferior to none of his brethren in depth or learning, and was greatly superior to them all in a genuine and liberal taste for the law’s improvement. Of all the old judges he was the only one whose mind was thoroughly opened to the comprehension of modern mercantile jurisprudence. Though grave and sound, ingenuity was perhaps his prevailing power. Fineness in a piece of reasoning had far greater attractions for him than plainness: the reality of a distinction was rather improved by its not being obvious. I forget whether it was Thurlow or Loughborough who described this logical delicacy by saying, that if the question was, whether a wine was Sherry or Madeira, he would refer it to Wight; but that if it was whether the wine was one kind of either, or another kind, he would rely upon Campbell. This habit of active refinement is often unfavourable to correctness of judgment. But this tendency was avoided in him by the practical nature of the ends and of the means to which his life was devoted. His sagacity upon these matters was too strong to be misled by the subtlety which he reserved for the logic of professional argument.

His forensic writing, which was the form in which the argumentation of the bar was then mostly conducted, was admirable. And well was he practised in it; because during a considerable period of his career, he was believed to have furnished at least one Session Paper every day. They were models, as everything he wrote was, of clearness and brevity. His speaking, always admirable in matter, was the reverse of attractive. He could only be severely argumentative, and the painfulness of this was increased by the minuteness of his elaboration, and the dryness of his manner. His voice was low and dull, his face sedate and hard. Even when heaving internally with strong passion, externally he was like a knot of wood.

There was one part of his Presidential duty which he performed better than any one in that chair has ever done. He was accessible to every individual, and to every scheme, having the improvement of the law for their object; and not content with a formal and gracious tolerance of legal authors or reformers, he listened with the sincere patience of one who liked the subject, read every line of their manuscripts, discussed every point, and gave them the full aid of his station and experience. Bell’s recorded acknowledgments of the assistance he derived from him, in the construction of his great work, are not merely complimentary, but express the simple fact. He did not go, and could not have gone, so far in legal reform as Parliament and the public have since done; and no wise man, whatever his opinions might have been, would have attempted to do so in his day. But he went far enough to evince great enlargement of mind, and a complete superiority to that adherence to established abuses which is most unjustly ascribed to all professional lawyers. I can sympathize with his lingering attachment to that judicial discretion, termed the nobile officium, of the Court, which though dangerous, and seldom mentioned now except with a sneer, was necessary long ago, and was frequently appealed to and exercised for several years after I came to the bar. His collection of the rarer Acts of Sederunt was made and published chiefly in order to defend this authority, by shewing how beneficially it had been administered. It is a power that can never be safe; but it was natural, and indeed indispensable, in old Scotland: where Praetorian equity was at least better than anything that was to be expected from subservient Parliaments or profligate Privy Councils.

The only shade ever attempted to be cast over Sir Hay’s memory was by an insinuation that as Lord President he was tricky. That he was ambitious of having a prevailing influence over his brethren was true of him, as of every other Chief Justice. None of them ever like to be in a minority in their own court. But there was no ground for believing that he attempted to secure this honourable predominance by improper management. We must consider the circumstances of his situation. When a Court consists, as the Court of Session then did, of a mob of fifteen judges, meeting without previous consultation, and each impatient for independent eminence, and many of them liable to be called away and to return irregularly in the course of the same day, the decorum of the tribunal often compels the head to exercise an indirect control, which is liable to be mistaken for manoeuvring dexterity. The necessity for anything of the kind has been extinguished by reducing the Court to a small number of fixed judges. But so long as it might consist of fifteen, and might at every moment vary between fifteen and nine, President Campbell managed it exactly as all other Presidents had been obliged to do. Had there been more in his manner and general reputation to render this charge improbable, it would never have been made. Blair would have put it down by a look. But Campbell was known to have a turn for managing, and to hide beneath his calm steady appearance a deep and artful spirit. That he allowed it, however, to obstruct his Presidential correctness I do not believe.

His private life was useful and respectable. Beloved by his family, and looked up to by a large circle of friends, he passed his time in town mostly in his library, and in the country on his farm; and wherever he was, he was always a hospitable gentleman. Few houses saw more or better company than his. He had an excellent Presidential custom of giving substantial and agreeable evening parties to the young men at the Bar. Many have I seen. Not stiff and vapid formalities, nor impracticable mobs, but manageable meetings of from ten to twenty, where he presided, in his single-breasted coat and a wig, over solid food, and free talk, and copious claret. But these were in the supper days.

Of the younger judges, who belonged to the generation with which I was now connected, the most remarkable were Lord Glenlee, Lord Hermand, Lord Meadowbank, and Lord Cullen; all of whom I knew personally.

I was so intimately connected, as a relation and friend, with Lord Kilkerran’s son George Fergusson, Lord Hermand, that it may perhaps be supposed that I cannot speak candidly about him. But he has often been described in a way neither agreeable to truth, nor respectable for himself. His celebrity arose entirely from his personal character. For although he attained considerable practice at the bar, and was a quick and vigorous judge, and took a keen part in all the public measures of his time, he was not so important in these spheres as to have been a man of mark in them, independently of his individual peculiarities. But these made him one of the most singular, and indeed incredible, of our old originals. They often threw even Eskgrove into the shade during that person’s life; and after he died, no Edinburgh man, by worth and singularity alone, belonged so much as Hermand did to the public.

His external appearance was as striking as every thing else about him. Tall and thin, with grey lively eyes, and a long face strongly expressive of whatever emotion he was under, his air and manner were distinctly those of a well-born and well-bred gentleman, His dress for society, the style of which he stuck to almost as firmly as he did to his principles, reminded us of the olden time, when trowsers would have insulted any company, and braces were deemed an impeachment of nature. Neither the disclosure of the long neck by the narrow bit of muslin stock, nor the outbreak of the linen between the upper and nether garments, nor the short coat sleeves, with the consequent length of bare wrist, could hide his being one of the aristocracy. And if they had, the thin and powdered grey hair, flowing down into a long-thin gentleman-like pigtail, would have attested it. His morning raiment in the country was delightful. The articles, rough and strange, would of themselves have attracted notice in a museum. But set upon George Fergusson, at his paradise of Hermand, during vacation, on going forth for a long day’s work—often manual—at his farm, with his grey felt hat and tall weeding hoe—what could be more agrestic or picturesque!

Till about the age of thirty, when he began to get into practice, he was a pretty regular student; and he was always fond of reading, and being read to, but not methodically, nor in any particular line. He had thus gathered a respectable chaos of accidental knowledge. Of his various and very respectable mental powers, acuteness was perhaps the most striking. His affections were warm and steady; his honor of the highest and purest order.

But all this will not produce a curious man. What was it that made Hermand such an established wonder and delight ? It seems to me to have been the supremacy in his composition of a single quality —intensity of temperament, which was so conspicuous that it prevented many people from perceiving anything else in him. He could not be indifferent. Repose, except in bed, where however he slept zealously, was unnatural and contemptible to him. It used to be said that if Hermand had made the heavens, he would have permitted no fixed stars. His constitutional animation never failed to carry him a flight beyond ordinary mortals. Was he in an argument, or at whist, or over his wine; in Court, or at an election, or a road meeting; consulting with a ploughman, or talking with a child; he was sure to blaze out in a style that nobody could have fancied, or could resist enjoying. Those who only saw the operation of this ardour in public conflict, were apt to set him down as a phrenzied man, with rather a savage temper, an impression that was increased by what the Scotch call the Birr, which means the emphatic energy, of his pronunciation. Beholding him in contention, they thought him a tiger.

But to those who knew him personally, the lamb was a truer type. When removed from contests which provoke impatience, and placed in the private scene, where innocent excesses are only amusing, what a heart! what conversational wildness! made more delightful by the undoubting sincerity of the passing extravagance. There never was a more pleasing example of the superiority of right affections over intellectual endowments in the creation of happiness. Had he depended on his understanding alone, or chiefly, he would have been wrecked every week. But honesty, humanity, social habits, and diverting public explosions, always kept him popular ; and he lived about eighty-four years, with keen and undisguised feelings and opinions, without ever being alienated from a friend, or imagining a shabby action, devoted to rural occupations, keeping up his reading, and maintaining his interest in the world by cultivating tlie young. Instead of sighing over the departure of former days, and grumbling at change, he zealously patronized every new project, not political; and at last mellowed away, amidst a revering household, without having ever known what a headache is, with no decay of his mental powers, and only a short and gentle physical feebleness.

With very simple tastes, and rather a contempt of epicurism, but very gregarious, he was fond of the pleasures, and not least of the liquid ones, of the table; and he had acted in more of the severest scenes of old Scotch drinking than any man at last living. Common-place topers think drinking a pleasure; but with Hermand it was a virtue. It inspired the excitement by which he was elevated, and the discursive jollity which he loved to promote. But beyond these ordinary attractions, he had a sincere respect for drinking, indeed a high moral approbation, and a serious compassion for the poor wretches who could not indulge in it; with due contempt of those who could, but did not. He groaned over the gradual disappearance of the Fereat days of periodical festivity, and prolonged the observance, like a hero fighting amidst his fallen friends, as long as he could. The worship of Bacchus, which softened his own heart, and seemed to him to soften the hearts of his companions, was a secondary duty.

But in its performance there was no violence, no coarseness, no impropriety, and no more noise than what belongs to well-bred jollity unrestrained. It was merely a sublimation of his peculiarities and excellences; the realization of what poetry ascribes to the grape. No carouse ever injured his health, for he was never ill, or impaired his taste for home and quiet, or muddled his head : he slept the sounder for it, and rose the earlier and the cooler. The cordiality inspired by claret and punch was felt by him as so congenial to all right thinking, that he was confident that he could convert the Pope if he could only get him to sup with him. And certainly his Holiness would have been hard to persuade, if he could have withstood Hermand about the middle of his second tumbler.

The public opinions of this remarkable person were very decided and not illiberal; for he combined strong Tory principles with stronger Whig friendships, and a taste for Calvinism, under the creed of which he deemed himself extremely pious, with the indulgence of every social propensity.

Like many other counsel, not of the highest class, he owed his professional practice chiefly to the fervour of his zeal. His other qualities would have carried him a considerable way, but they would never have raised him to the height he reached and retained, without his honest conviction that his client was always right, and always ill-used. When it was known that he was to speak, the charm of the intensity which this belief produced never failed to fill the Court. His eagerness made him froth and sputter so much in his argumentation that there is a story to the effect, that when he was once pleading in the House of Lords, the Duke of Gloucester, who was about fifty feet from the bar, and always attended when “Mr. George Fergusson, the Scotch counsel” was to speak, rose and said with pretended gravity, u I shall be much obliged to the learned gentleman if he will be so good as to refrain from spitting in my face.” The same animation followed him to the bench, where he moderated no view from prudence, and flinched from no result, and never saw any difficulty. President Campbell once delivered one of his deep and nice opinions, full of qualifications and doubts. The instant he was done, Hermand sprang upon him by a judgment beginning—u My Lords,0 thank God, I never doubted! ”

He was very intimate at one time with Sir John Scott, afterwards Lord Eldon. They were counsel together in Eldon’s first important Scotch entail case in the House of Lords. Eldon was so much alarmed that he wrote his intended speech, and begged Hermand to dine with him at a tavern, where he read the paper, and asked him if he thought it would do. "Do, Sir? It is delightful—absolutely delightful ! I could listen to it for ever! It is so beautifully written! And so beautifully read ! But Sir, it’s the greatest nonsense ! It may do very well for an English chancellor; but it would disgrace a clerk with us.” He told me the blunder, and though gross for a Scotch lawyer, it was one that an English counsel would readily commit. Many a bottle of port did he and Eldon discuss together.

Bacon advises judges to draw their law "out of your books, not out of your brain.” Hermand generally did neither. He was very apt to say "My Laards, I feel my law—here, my Laards,” striking his heart. Hence he sometimes made little ceremony in disdaining the authority of an Act of Parliament, when he and it happened to differ. He once got rid of one which Lord Meadowbank (the first), whom he did not particularly like, was for enforcing because the Legislature had made it law, by saying, in his snorting, contemptuous way, and with an emphasis on every syllable—"But then we’re told that there’s a statute against all this. A statute! What’s a statute? Words. Mere words! And am I to be tied down by words? No, my Laards; I go by the law of right reason.” Lord Holland noticed this in the House of Peers as a strange speech for a judge. Lord Gillies could not resist the pleasure of reading Holland's remark to Hermand, who was generally too impetuous to remember liis own words. He entirely agreed with Lord Holland, and was indignant at the Court suffering “from the rashness of fools.” “Well, my Lord, but who could Lord Holland be alluding to?” “Alluding to? who can it be but that creature Meadowbank?”

In giving his opinion on the validity of a qualification to vote for a member of Parliament, after it had been sustained both here and in the House of Lords, he declared that, nevertheless, it was not only bad, but so bad that “I defy Omnipotence to make it good.” “Then,” said the quiet philosophic Playfair, “it must be very bad indeed; for his Lordship assured me, in a conversation about Professor Leslie’s case, that he had no difficulty at all in conceiving God to make a world where twice three was not six.”

There was a case about a lease, where our Court thought itself entitled in equity to make a new contract for parties, different from the one which the parties had made for themselves. The Lord Chancellor (Eldon) was of opinion that a clear clause in a contract ought always to be enforced, and remitted the matter to the Court below for reconsideration. The result of Iiermand’s reconsideration was this— “Why, my Lords, I beg to put a very simple question to the House of Lords. Suppose that the tenant had engaged to hang himself at the end of the lease, would their Lordships enforce that?” Upon a second appeal, after reading the question aloud, Eldon, with ludicrous gravity, said u that he would endeavour to make up his mind upon the very important question put, when the case should come before their Lordships in regular form;” and added, that he had great pleasure in remembering when his friend George Fergusson and he used to do battle at this bar in Scotch causes, but that, if he recollected right, his learned friend had not then the admiration of the Court of Session that he seemed to have acquired since. Hermand was pleased with the recognition, and exclaimed, "And if he knew the truth, 'Sir,—though this is a secret—he would find that I had not got it yet.”

Two young gentlemen, great friends, went together to the theatre in Glasgow, supped at the lodgings of one of them, and passed a whole summer night over their punch. In the morning a kindly wrangle broke out about their separating or not separating, when by some rashness, if not accident, one of them was stabbed, not violently, but in so vital a part that he died on the spot. The survivor was tried at Edinburgh, and was convicted of culpable homicide. It was one of the sad cases where the legal guilt was greater than the moral; and, very properly, he was sentenced to only a short imprisonment. Hermand, who felt that discredit had been brought on the cause of drinking, had no sympathy with the tenderness of his temperate brethren, and was vehement for transportation. “We are told that there was no malice, and that the prisoner must have been in liquor. In liquor! Why, he was drunk! And yet he murdered the very man who had been drinking with him! They had been carousing the whole night; and yet he stabbed him! after drinking a whole bottle of rum with him! Good God, my Laards, if he will do this when he’s drunk, what will he not do when lie’s sober?”

His love of children was warm-hearted and unaffected. He always treated them seriously, exactly as if they were grown up. Few old men’s speeches are more amiable than his about his grand-nephew who happened to be his partner in a match at bowls, "No wonder that that little fellow and are such friends—there are just seventy years between us.” He was eighty, the boy ten.

But when a boy happened to be a sailor, he was irresistible. A little English midshipman being violently attacked by a much bigger lad in Greenock, defended himself with his dirk, and by an unfortunate, if not accidental, thrust, killed the assailant. He was tried for this at Glasgow, and had the good luck to have Hermand for his judge; for no judge ever fouglit a more gallant battle for a prisoner. The boy appeared at the bar in his uniform. Hermand first refused "to try a child.?" After this was driven out of him, the indictment, which described the occurrence and said that the prisoner had slain the deceased “ wickedly and feloniously,” was read; and Hermand then said, u Well, my young friend, this is not true, is it? Are you guilty or not guilty?” “Not guilty, my Lord.” “I’ll be sworn you’re not!” In spite of all his exertions, his young friend was convicted of culpable homicide; for which he was sentenced to a few days’ imprisonment.

Allan Maconochie, Lord Meadowbank, was a curious and able man. His true merits were obscured, while he lived, by certain accidental oddities which obstructed the perception of them. He took great pleasure in exercising his own mind, and in making people wonder at the singularity of his views; into wdiich, as into his language, he never failed to infuse as much metaphysical phraseology and argument as he could. Though not really conceited, he was apt to put on an air of pretension, which, though it was chiefly in the manner, was often misunderstood. There could scarcely be better evidence of the vigour of his intellect, than that he was able, by it alone, to triumph over his defects.

For he was a person of great mental activity and acuteness; an independent and original thinker, and of very considerable learning. His knowledge reached every subject—legal, scientific, historical and literary, and consequently was perhaps more varied than accurate; and under his ceaseless industry his information increased hourly. I used to go circuits with him, and he seemed to me to be equally at home in divinity, or agriculture, or geology, in examining mountains, or demonstrating his errors to a farmer, or refuting the dogmas of the clergyman; though of all his occupations, the last perhaps gave him the greatest pleasure. For his peculiar delight, and his peculiar power, was in speculation; chiefly as applied to the theoretical history of man and of nations. He acquired great skill in the use of his metaphysical power, both as a sword and as a shield, in the intellectual contests in which it was his delight to be always engaged. He questioned every thing; he demonstrated every thing; his whole life was a discussion. This, though sometimes oppressive, was generally very diverting, and gave him a great facility in detecting and inventing principles, and in tracing them to their sources, and to their consequences. Jeffrey described this well when he said, that while the other judges gave the tree a tug, one on this side and one on that, Meadowbank not only tore it up by the roots, but gave it a shake which dispersed the earth and exposed the whole fibres.

In the higher quality of ealm soundness he was not equally eminent. Indeed before he spoke it would often have been a fair wager, whether what he said would be reasonable or extravagant. All that was certain was, that even his extravagance would be vigorous and original. Soundness indeed had no great attraction for a spirit eager for victory, but still more eager for conflict. He had more pleasure in inventing ingenious reasons for being wrong, than in being quietly right. Thus, with powers which made all anxious to listen, he had few followers as a safe leader.

Sir Harry Moncreiff, who was present at his marriage, and I believe performed the ceremony, told me that the knot was tied about seven in the evening, and that at a later hour the bridegroom disappeared; and, on being sought for, was found absorbed in the composition of a metaphysical essay "on pains and penalties.”

Mr. Thomas Walker Baird was, in a dull technical way, stating a dry ease to his Lordship, who was sitting single. This did not please the judge, who thought that his dignity required a grander tone. So he dismayed poor Baird, than whom no man could have less turn for burning in the Forum, by throwing himself back in his chair, and saying u Declaim, Sir! why don’t you declaim? speak to me as if I were a popular assembly!”

Robert Cullen, a son of the great physician, was a gentleman-like person in his manner, and learned in his profession, in which however he was too indolent and irregular to attain steady practice. His best professional achievement was his written argument for Lord Daer, in support of the right of the eldest sons of Scotch peers to sit in the House of Commons and his best political one was, the bill for the reform of the Scotch representation in 1785, which he drew, and his share in the measures connected with that project.

But the truth is, that he had the misfortune to possess one power which seems to exclude the exercise of all others. He was a mimic ; and one of the very highest order. Dugald Stewart somewhere calls him “the most perfect of all mimics.” His skill was not confined to imitations of voices, looks, manners, and external individualties; but he copied the very words, nay the very thoughts of his subjects. He was particularly successful with his friend Principal Robertson, whose character he, once endangered in a tavern by indecorous toasts, songs, and speeches, given with such a resemblance of the original, that a party on the other side of the partition, suspecting no trick, went home believing that they had caught the reverend historian unawares. On another occasion, the Principal announced his determination to administer a severe lecture to a young Englishman, who was boarding with him, the next time that he staid out too late at night. He soon transgressed again, probably in Cullen’s company. Cullen, knowing what was likely to happen, went to the Principal’s early next morning, and walked up to the youth’s room, with an exact resemblance of the doctor’s step on the stair, and then, seating himself behind the curtain, gave a long and formal admonition to the headachy penitent; after which he retired with the same foot-tread. In fulfilment of his threat, the Principal approached sometime afterwards, sat down, and began. After he had gone on a certain time, the culprit, who could not understand why he should get it twice, confessed his sin, and reminded the doctor, that when he had been with him before, he had assured him that he would not err in the same way again. u Oh ho!” said the Principal, "so that dog Cullen has been before me!” He could not tell a story without disclosing his power—a fee-less faculty.

Though these few were those most spoken of, the Bench contained several other learned and worthy judges, but not one whose public ideas went beyond the passing hour, or who saw any duty or object for that hour except an adoption and promotion of its intolerance. Cullen, and Bannatyne Macleod, an honest merry old gentleman, were so far disenthralled that they disclaimed exclusive fealty to Henry Dundas, to whom by some accident they did not directly owe their appointments. With these two shades of immaterial exception, there probably were not fifteen other men in the island to whom political independence was more offensive than to these fifteen judges.


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