Check all the Clans that have DNA Projects. If your Clan is not in the list there's a way for it to be listed. Electric Scotland's Classified Directory An amazing collection of unique holiday cottages, castles and apartments, all over Scotland in truly amazing locations.

Click here to get a Printer Friendly Page

Memories of his Time
Chapter V

In 1814 the Allies made their first conquest of Paris, and for a year Europe was without Napoleon. Hostilities were unexpectedly renewed in 1815, and then ceased, after the short and brilliant flash at Waterloo; but in 1814 a war which had lasted so long that war seemed our natural state was felt to be over.

This event separated the lives and the recollections of that generation into two great and marked parts. From this moment the appearance of everything was changed. Fear of invasion, contempt of economy, the glory of our arms, the propriety of suppressing every murmur at any home abuse, the utter absorption of every feeling in the duty of warlike union—these and other principles, which for twenty years had sunk the whole morality of patriotism in the single object of acknowledging no defect or grievance in our own system, in order that we might be more powerful abroad, became all inapplicable to existing things; and after a little time for settling into peace, the removal of the foreign pressure was followed by a rebound of internal improvement which will mark itself by its results on many ages of our history. Abuses and defects had, perhaps unavoidably, crowded into every corner of our affairs. Had the party with the absolute command of Parliament taken the gradual reformation of these evils into their own hands, they might have altered, and strengthened, the foundations of their power. But resistance of innovation clung to them after it had become plainly absurd, and was continued, fatally for themselves, as their test and their object. Meanwhile, a generation was coming into action so young that its mind had been awakened by the excitement of the French revolution, and not so old as to have been put under a chronic panic by its atrocities, and which was cheered on by that mistake of the adversary, which made the success of every right measure a popular triumph. The force of this new power was as yet unknown, even to those among whom it was lodged, particularly in Scotland. Nowhere in this part of the kingdom, except at Edinburgh, was there any distinct scheme, or rational hope, of emancipation. But the mind of the lower, and far more of the middle, classes had undergone, and was still undergoing, a great though as yet a silent change, which the few who had been long cherishing enlightened opinions lost few opportunities of promoting and directing.

The return of peace was distinguished by nothing peculiar to Edinburgh. We got new things to speak about; and the entire disappearance of drums, uniforms, and parades, changed our habits and appearance. We were charmed at the moment by a striking sermon by Alison, and a beautiful review by Jeffrey, on the cessation of the long struggle; the chief charm of each being in the expression of the cordial and universal burst of joy that hailed the supposed restoration of liberty to Europe, and the downfall of the great soldier who was believed to be its only tyrant. Old men, but especially those in whose memories the American war ran into the French one, had only a dim recollection of what peace was; and middle aged men knew it now for the first time. The change in all things, in all ideas, and conversation, and objects, was as complete as it is in a town that has at last been liberated from a strict and tedious siege.

In 1814 Scott published Waverley—the first of those admirable and original prose compositions which have nearly obliterated the recollection of his poetry. Except the first opening of the Edinburgh Review, no work that has appeared in my time made such an instant and universal impression. It is curious to remember it. The unexpected newness of the thing, the profusion of original characters, the Scotch, language, Scotch scenery, Scotch men and women, the simplicity of the writing, and the graphic force of the descriptions, all struck us with an electric shock of delight. I wish I could again feel the sensations produced by the first year of these two Edinburgh works. If the concealment of the authorship of the novels was intended to make mystery heighten their effect, it completely succeeded. The speculations and conjectures, and nods and winks, and predictions and assertions were endless, and occupied every company, and almost every two men who met and spoke in the street. It was proved by a thousand indications, each refuting the other, and all equally true in fact, that they were written by old Henry Mackenzie, and by George Cranstoun, and William Erskine, and Jeffrey, and above all by Thomas Scott, Walter’s brother, a regimental paymaster, then in Canada. But "the great unknown,” as the true author was then called, always took good care, with all his concealment, to supply evidence amply sufficient for the protection of his property and his fame; in so much that the suppression of the name was laughed at as a good joke not merely by his select friends in his presence, but by himself. The change of line, at his age, was a striking proof of intellectual power and richness. But the truth is, that these novels were rather the outpourings of old thoughts than new inventions.

A meeting against West Indian Slavery was held in Edinburgh in July 1814. Sir Harry Moncreiff took the lead in it, and a petition to Parliament was signed by ten or twelve thousand persons. Except for victories and charity, this was the first assembling of the people for a public object that had occurred here for about twenty years; and if the termination of slavery in our West Indian colonies had been a purely political matter, it could not have been held in Edinburgh even in 1814. It was only made safe and respectable by the attendance of the humane and the pious of all politics, and even with this mitigation it excited great alarm. The symptoms involved in the fact of such a meeting, and of such a petition, were not unseen by any party. My excellent friend Thomas Erskine* was united with me in the charge of a copy of the petition that lay for subscription in the Grassmarket; and we were both surprised to find a piece of Calvinistic Whiggery, which we thought had faded, still deeply seated. Many who signed the petition to the Commons, shrunk back from the one to the Lords. They could not get over the Lords Spiritual. No reasoning could reconcile them to the title. “I would rather not homologate” was-the general and conclusive answer.

The extension of the city gave rise in 1815 to the New Town Dispensary. Any such institution seems at least harmless; yet this one was assailed with a degree of bitterness which is curious now. It was a civic war. Two of its principles were, that medicines and medical advice, including obstetrical aid, were to be administered to patients at their own homes, and that the office-bearers were to be elected by the subscribers; which last, though not absolutely new, was then rare in Edinburgh. All the existing establishments had the usual interest to suppress a rival. But they disavowed this, which however was their true motive, and raised the cry against these two peculiarities. A mob selecting a doctor! The Lying-in Hospital was eloquent on the danger and the vice of delivering poor women at their own houses. The Old Town Dispensary, which did not then go to such patients as could not come to it, demonstrated the beauty of the sick poor being obliged to swallow their doses at a public office. Subscribers choose managers ! Impracticable, and dangerously popular! However, common sense prevailed over even this political bugbear, and the hated institution rose and flourished, and has had all its defects imitated by its opponents.

These are small matters. But they shew through what strange follies every effort leading, however indirectly and distantly, to independence had to struggle. After a certain time, the hackneyed objections to every thing may, in all communities, be stereotyped, and thrown aside as soon as they are attempted to be made use of.

The most conspicuous opponent of this charity was Dr. Andrew Duncan, senior, one of our professors and physicians, and the great patron of the Old Dispensary; one of the curious old Edinburgh characters. He was a kind-hearted and excellent man but one of a class which seems to live and be happy, and get liked, by its mere absurdities. He was the promoter and the president of more innocent and foolish clubs and societies than perhaps any man in the world, and the author of pamphlets, jokes, poems, and epitaphs, sufficient to stock the nation all amiable, all dull, and most of them very foolish. But they made the author happy; and he was so benevolent and so simple, that even those who were suffering under his interminable projects checked their impatience and submitted. Scientific ambition, charitable restlessness, and social cheerfulness made him thrust himself into everything throughout a long life. Yet, though his patronage was generally dangerous, and his talk always wearisome, nobody could ever cease to esteem him. He was even the president of a bathing club; and once at least every year did this grave medical professor conduct as many of the members as he could collect to Leith, where the rule was that their respect for their chief was to be shewn by always letting him plunge first from the machine into the water. He continued, till he was past eighty, a practice of mounting to the summit of Arthur’s Seat on the first of May, and celebrating the feat by what he called a poem. He was very fond of gardening, and rather a good botanist. This made him president of the Horticultural Society, which he oppressed annually by a dull discourse. But in the last, or nearly the last, of them he relieved the members by his best epitaph, being one upon himself. After mentioning his great age, he intimated that the time must soon arrive, when u In the words of our inimitable Shakespeare, you will all be saying, "Duncan’s in his grave.’’

Peace, with its other blessings, wrought no change more striking or more necessary in Edinburgh than the improvement of our architectural taste. This quality, for the indulgence of which Scotland has such advantages in its materials and its positions, had never been cultivated, or at least had never been acted upon, in modern times. There was a period during which feudal war created striking castles, and Popery glorious temples; but when the operation of these ceased, and internal defences became useless, and religious pomp odious, we sank into mere convenience, which we were too poor to associate with architectural beauty or grandeur. How many edifices can architecture justly boast of having produced in Scotland during the first hundred years after the Union? In towns the great modern object has uniformly been to extinguish all the picturesque relics and models of antiquity, and to reduce everything to the dullest and baldest uniformity. In addition to the varied forms exhibited by our forefathers, almost every city on the Continent supplied us with specimens of striking and cheap town architecture perfectly adapted to the purposes of ordinary life. Yet we went on as if these examples were ridiculous, and as if the common sense of building consisted solely in making it mean, and all mean in the same way. In Edinburgh, moreover, we were perpetually mistaking the accidental effect produced by situation, for that which can only be secured by design and our escape from the old town gave us an unfortunate propensity to avoid whatever had distinguished the place we- had fled from. Hence we were led into the blunder of long straight lines of street, divided to an inch, and all to the same number of inches, by rectangular intersections, every house being an exact duplicate of its neighbour, with a dexterous avoidance, as if from horror, of every ornament or excrescence by which the slightest break might vary the surface. What a site did nature give us for our New Town! Yet what insignificance in its plan! What poverty in all its details! The creation of that abominable incumbrance, the u Earthen Mound,’7 by which the valley it abridges and deforms was sacrificed for a deposit of rubbish, was not merely permitted without a murmur to be slowly raised, but throughout all its progress was applauded as a noble accumulation. Our jealousy of variety, and our association of magnificence with sameness, was really curious. If a builder ever attempted (which however, to do them justice, they very seldom did) to deviate so far from the established paltriness as to carry up the front wall so as to hide the projecting slates, or to break the roof by a Flemish storm window, or to turn his gable to the street, there was an immediate outcry; and if the law allowed our burgh Edile, the Dean of Guild, to interfere, he was sure to do so. Abercromby Place, though not begun till about 1809, was the first instance in which the straight line was voluntarily departed from. People used to go and stare at the curved street. There were then probably not six houses in George Street, or twenty in the whole New Town, in which the unbroken surface of vulgar slate did not project over the front wall. Yet there lias very rarely been so large, so well placed, and so free a surface exposed at once to the taste of any architect who had ever seen the Continent. But every conception except of straight lines, cut rectangularly into equal spaces, and of every thirty front feet being covered with the plainest and the cheapest house, each exactly like its neighbour, seems to have been excluded. It will take many years, and the cost of building about' a half of the original New Town over again, to lessen the baseness of the first ideas. We have now some pillars, balconies, porticos, and ornamental roughening; and money, travelling, and discussion will get us on.

It was the return of peace that first excited our attention, and tended to open our eyes. Europe was immediately covered with travellers, not one of whom, whether from taste, or conceit, or mere chattering—but it all did good—failed to contrast the littleness of almost all that the people of Edinburgh had yet done, with the general picturesque grandeur and the unrivalled sites of their city. It was about this time that the foolish phrase, "The Modern Athens,” began to be applied to the capital of Scotland; a sarcasm, or a piece of affected flattery, when used in a moral sense; but just enough if meant only as a comparison of the physical features of the two places. The opportunities of observing, and the practice of talking of, foreign buildings in reference to our own, directed our attention to the works of internal taste, and roused our ambition.

It was fortunate that it was about this stage of our advancement that, independently of any object beyond mere access, all the old approaches to the city had to be abandoned, and new ones made. I wish that anybody had thought of preserving the lines of these old Appians in an intelligible map. They seemed to have been planned, or rather used —for there was no planning about them, not so much for the convenience of the people, as with a view to keep enemies out. Narrowness, crookedness, and steepness, was the principle of them all. They luckily could not be improved, and therefore new approaches had to be made. This brought free ground to sale; and the result was the creation of admirable accesses, all connected with much very respectable building ;. the owners being always tempted to allure the spreading population by laying out their land attractively. Hence Newington, Leith Walk, the grounds of Inverleith, the road to Corstorphine, and to Queensferry, and indeed all the modem approaches, which lead in every direction through most comfortable suburbs.

A few years before this William Stark, the best modern architect that Scotland had produced, appeared. After lie had established his reputation at Glasgow and other places, bad health compelled him to seek a retreat in Edinburgh, where however he only survived till October 1813. Thus he was too young to have done much; but he had excited attention and given good principles, particularly in reference to the composition of towns. The magistrates consulted him on the best way of laying out the ground on the east side of Leith Walk; and he explained his views in a very sensible, though too short, memorial. On the 20th of October 1813 Scott mentions his death to Miss Baillie in these terms, u This brings me to the loss of poor Stark, with whom more genius has died than is left behind among the collected universality of Scottish architects. His mantle however dropped on his pupil William Playfair; to whom Edinburgh has been more indebted since, than to the taste of all other modem architects it has produced or employed. The earliest evidence of his talent was in his attempt to retrieve the fatal errors that had nearly ruined our College; and the purity of his Grecian taste has since been attested wherever it has had an opportunity of displaying itself. It is now to be seen conspicuously in every quarter of the city. There are blots no doubt; but they have been made by his employers, not by him. For an architect is almost the only professional man who can never be rightly judged of by the works which he executes. His art is costly, and each part is fixed as soon as it is done. There is no rubbing out. This would be severe, even were he allowed to have his own way. But how often does it happen that he is thwarted by position, poverty, or obstinate ignorance ? He must perpetually sacrifice his taste to suit the humours and the purses of his employers. Yet nothing is so common as to hear an architect condemned on the mere sight of a work against every defect of which he protested. Painters don’t paint, nor do poets write, on these terms.

The influence of these circumstances can only be appreciated by those who knew Edinburgh during the war. It is they alone who can see the beauty of the bravery which the Queen of the North has since been putting on. There were more schemes, and pamphlets, and discussions, and anxiety about the improvement of our edifices and prospects within ten years after the war ceased, than throughout the whole of the preceding one hundred and fifty years.

One lamentable error we certainly have committed, are committing, and, so far as appears, will ever commit. We massacre every town tree that comes in a mason’s way; never sacrificing mortar to foliage. Stark raised his voice against this atrocity, but in vain. I do not know a single instance in which the square and the line have been compelled to accommodate themselves to stems and branches.

To a considerable extent this is a consequence of our climate, which needs sun and not shade. But there are many situations, especially in a town, where shade is grateful, and many where, without interfering with comfort, foliage besides its natural beauty combines well with buildings. And there was no Scotch city more strikingly graced by individual trees and by groups of them than Edinburgh, since I knew it, used to be. How well the ridge of the old town was set off by a bank of elms that ran along the front of James’ Court, and stretched eastward over the ground now partly occupied by the Bank of Scotland. Some very respectable trees might have been spared to grace the Episcopal Chapel of St. Paul in York Place. There was one large tree near its east end which was so well placed that some people conjectured it was on its account that the Chapel was set down there. I was at a consultation in John Clerk’s house, hard by, when that tree was cut. On hearing that it was actually down we ran out, and well did John curse the Huns. The old aristocratic gardens of the Canongate were crowded with trees, and with good ones. There were several on the Calton Hill: seven, not ill grown, on its very summit. And all Leith Walk and Lauriston, including the ground round Heriot’s Hospital, was fully set with wood. A group was felled about the year 1826 which stood to the west of St. John’s Chapel, on the opposite side of the Lothian Road, and formed a beautiful termination of all the streets which join near that point. One half of the trees, at the least, might have been spared, not only without injuring, but with the effect of greatly adorning, the buildings for which they have been sacrificed. Moray Place, in the same way, might have been richly decorated with old and respectable trees. But they were all murdered, on the usual pretence of adjusting levels and removing obstructions. It was with the greatest difficulty that Sir Patrick Walker, the superior of the ground, succeeded in rescuing the row in front of Coates Crescent from the unhallowed axes of the very vassals. It cost him years of what was called obstinacy. I tried to save a very picturesque group, some of which waved over the wall at the west end of the jail on the Calton Hill. I succeeded with two trees; but in about four years they also disappeared. It only required a very little consideration and arrangement to have left the whole of these trees and many others standing without abating a single building. But the sad truth is that the extinction of foliage, and the unbroken display of their bright free-stone, is of itself a first object with both our masons and their employers. The wooded gardens that we have recently acquired are not inconsistent with this statement. There was no competition between them and building. It is our horror of the direct combination of trees with masonry, and our incapacity to effect it, that I complain of. No apology is thought necessary for murdering a tree; many for preserving it.

In 1815 Jeffrey set up his rustic household gods at Craigcrook, where all his subsequent summers have been passed. This was scarcely a merely private arrangement. It has affected the happiness, and improved both the heads and the hearts of all the worthy of this place. No unofficial house in Scotland has had a greater influence on literary or political opinion. Beautiful though the spot, as he has kept it, is, its deepest interest arises from its being the residence of such a man. Nothing can efface the days they have passed there from the recollection of his friends. Their rural festivities are dignified by his virtues and talents, by all our Edinburgh eminence, and by almost every interesting stranger. The Craigcrook Saturdays during the summer session! Escape from the court and the town, scenery, evergreens, bowls, talk, mirth, friendship, and wine inspire better luxury than that of the Castle of Indolence, without any of its dulness.

The first modern Musical Festival was held in Scotland in 1815. It sprang more from charity than from love of harmony. But the music, as I am told—for though I heard some of it I did not comprehend it, was good; and the Outer House, where it was performed, was not ill calculated to give it effect. We have become an infinitely more harmonious nation since then. Indeed none of our advances is more decided than our musical one. But this is not for one with dead ears to speak of.

The beginning of the year 1816 was distinguished by one of the most important events in the progress of our law. u The Jury Court” was opened, and on the 22d of January tried its first cause. We had long been verging towards the introduction of civil juries. The experiment was keenly resisted, chiefly by the older judges, and by the established obstructors of change. It is easy now to discover that in some respects the plan might have been mended; but, on the whole, the introduction of so complicated and difficult a novelty was conducted with considerable wisdom. A separate court, a presiding judge trained to English practice, special issues, and no more extensive jurisdiction in matters of law than was indispensable for the trial of facts, were all necessary at first. For a while the idle public took great interest in the new tribunal; partly because the causes were intelligible, which the decisions of civil causes on printed evidence never can be to spectators, and partly because the counsel were expected to make play in every trial. Jeffrey and I were the chief delinquents in this line, because we had the largest share of the business, and every client thought his cause ill used, if it was not made a great cause of. However, though this expectation is abated in litigants, and extinguished in the public, I suspect that the modern harangues are fully as animated and as long as ours.

William Adam, David Monypenny (Lord Pit-milly), and Allan Maconochie (Lord Meadowbank) were the first three judges. Adam had the misfortune to come into this new scene under exaggerated expectations of what he was to do. He owed this to his Scotch nativity and education, the tastes and feelings of which forty years general residence in England had only strengthened; to the kindliness of his manners; to his spirit in Parliament on several Scotch questions; and to his having been an associate of important public men on many great public occasions. Extravagant anticipations were formed of the person who had first fought Fox, and then been his friend; who had spoken in debate with Pitt; managed the affairs of Eoyal Dukes ; been the standing counsel of such clients as the East India Company and the Bank of England, and in great practice in Parliamentary Committees. His appearance was good. It was that of a farming gentleman. He had a distinct rational voice, and an admirable, plain, well-bred manner. Though well read for a busy gentleman, he was not a person of either learning or general ability. His true merits resolved into industry, practical sense, agreeable deportment, and a conscientious ambition to secure the success of the Jury Court experiment. His conspicuous defect was obscurity of judicial speech. It is very difficult to account for this ; because on other matters he had a very clear head, and a very clear tongue. I cannot analyse the process by which one so versant in the practice, and in the explanation, of business, and so totally unincumbered by either diffidence or conceit, should have generally contrived to get mystical on the bench. It arose partly, I have no doubt, from his not being at home with the legal ideas and legal terms of the law of Scotland. Yet this will not account for it entirely. The acute and mathematical Lord Glenlee once described the thing very well. Adam was delivering an opinion, or explaining something, in the Court of Session, when Glenlee, after listening for a long time, without attaining any definite idea, to his well-sounding sentences marked by all the appearance of precision and all the reality of confusion, observed—"He speaks as if he were an Act of .Parliament.”

Yet no other man could have done his work. He had to guide a vessel over shoals and among rocks. This was his special duty, and he did it admirably. His experience of English practice enabled him to remove difficulties formidable to our awkwardness. He protected his court from prejudices which, if not subdued by his patience and dexterity, would have crushed it any week. He saw that the Scotch could scarcely be expected to fall into the old English idolatry of jury trial; but believing that, when properly applied, civil juries were nowhere more valuable than in Scotland, where the people were generally educated, and yet had no popular institutions, he had no pride and no pleasure so great as that of permanently securing them, in one shape or other, for his native country. Both on the bench and at chambers he gave us the best example of judicial urbanity that we had ever seen. Nothing could be more beautiful, and sometimes even affecting, than the anxiety of this old, and at last nearly blind, man to do his work, and the earnest patience and polite cheerfulness with which he gave himself to it. So far as we are to retain civil trial by jury in this country, we shall owe it to him personally. No one else could have either launched or piloted it. When in 1830 the Jury Court ceased to exist as a separate court his vocation was at an end; and he retired with the respect and the affection of the whole legal profession and of the public.

Nothing could exceed his delightfulness in society, and especially in domestic life. He was not a whit the worse of a hot temper. When it transpired, it only amused his friends. A day passed with the Chief Commissioner at Blair-Adam—his Eden, where his heart laughed in its boyhood, was a day of amiable virtue, always to be remembered with pleasure.

When I first saw Monypenny, I was a boy looking out of a window in the High Street of Edinburgh at the foot procession of the Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly; and Monypenny was walking before His Grace the Earl of Leven, dressed like a mackaw, as the Commissioner’s purse-bearer. Little did he, or anybody, then dream that the day was to come in which he was to have a seat on three supreme benches, and to become some one in his profession. Of good sense, but of moderate ability, with no legal learning beyond what an ordinary hand to mouth lawyer needs, and no power either of speaking or of writing beyond that of clear statement, his judicial powers were very considerable, far above his powers as a counsel. Slender, pure-eyed, clear-skinned, a beautifully composed manner, a distinct quiet voice, and an air of steady propriety in all he said or did, his outward style was excellent and striking, simple yet dignified, without feebleness, and patient, yet neither passive nor dull. This admirable and very peculiar manner left his judgment and industry to operate unobstructed; and they were concentrated on his profession, the exercise of which was his sole enjoyment. Amidst the vexatiousness of the most complicated case, aggravated by the strife of the bar, and the collisions of the bench, he sat so serenely, and got through his work with such composure, that it made one cool to look at him.

Meadowbank ought neither to have taken nor to have got a seat in this court. His health scarcely allowed him even to enter it; and he died soon after his appointment. For above a year before his death he was worn away by some painful disorders, which he bore up against with great energy. Though obliged to forego the court, the conflicts and the toils of which were his luxury, he read, and wrote, and discussed to the very last.

One great outcry against this court, at first, was excited by our being required to adopt the English unanimity of juries. We had been accustomed to it for above a century in the Exchequer, which was an English court. But its sittings were solely in Edinburgh, and its verdicts were of a penal nature; so that the country at large knew little about its proceedings, and it had not to deal with the complexity of civil competitions. It therefore got on without much practical obstruction. But when it was proposed to carry the principle into all proofs, and all over the land, hosts of fiery objectors started up, who on grounds logical, political, metaphysical, and religious, denounced the scheme as justifying rebellion at the least. The religious objection, which resolved into the perjury (as it was called) of the minority, sacrificing its conscience to the conscience of the majority, was the one that made the deepest impression on the Scotch mind. Meadowbank wrote a good pamphlet explanatory of the true working of the principle of unanimity, which operates (as he said) by producing discussion and concession among jurors, and thus makes a verdict by even compulsory unanimity a truer extract of the average sense of the whole of them, than if all reasoning had been superseded by a vote. There is some ingenuity in this, which is all that can be said in defence of the venerable English habit. But if it was sound, it is odd that of all the tribes of mankind the habit has been tolerated in England alone. I believe it to be absurd; and that, whether a bare majority ought to be allowed to decide or not, always requiring unanimity is nonsense. Experience has not in the least diminished our Scotch aversion to it.

Another advance towards the habit of public meetings, and a far more important one than that of the preceding year in favor of slaves, took place in February 1816. A meeting was then held in the Merchants’ Hall to petition Parliament against the continuance of the property and income tax. This was the first respectable meeting held in Edinburgh, within the memory of man, for the avowed purpose of controlling Government on a political matter; and was justly considered by the prophetic as a striking indication of the tendency of the public mind * the more so that it was attended by a few Tories, who, though attached to ministers, were more attached to their money. Mr. Menteath of Closeburn presided; Jeffrey moved resolutions, which Moncreiff seconded.

In this year we lost George Wilson, a person whose very name was unknown to the public, but whose character tinged the character of some of those whose names were never out of the public ear. He was the person who is spoken of with such reverence and affection by Romilly and Horner, and who stood so high in the confidence and love of all the really eminent in London; a Scotchman by birth and education, and an English lawyer by profession. Better fitted by calmness and simplicity for the Bench than for the jangling work of the Bar, no elevation would have been above his merits or the reasonable hopes of his friends. But all their and his views were blighted by a severe attack of paralysis which compelled him to leave London. He withdrew to Edinburgh in 1810, and died there in June 1816. His life here was a rare and noble example of practical philosophy. Driven suddenly by ruined health from his accustomed scenes of ambition and enjoyment, he had to reconcile himself to a retired existence on a very low scale of vitality, in a place where, except to his old friends Dr. Gregory and Henry Mackenzie, and two or three more, he was unknown. And he did it beautifully. His mildness and intelligence attracted the worthy; and good society temperately enjoyed, literature and benevolence, a deep interest in the friends he had left and in all the public subjects that engaged them, and a growing affinity for those he had recently acquired, occupied him as fully as was safe; and he resigned himself with such a contented attachment to the new scene, that it almost seemed as if he was glad of a calamity that enabled him to indulge in so rational a retirement. He rarely missed the Friday Club,* where his serenity and excellent conversation, over his glass of cold water, made us feel as if we ought to despise ourselves for our champagne. In writing to Gregory about his attack, after it occurred, he said u we bachelors have a great advantage over you married men in dying. The club always brightened at his appearance. It was sure of admirable talk and opinions, great knowledge of good books and good men, perfect candour, a gentle manner, and a soft voice. It is a pleasure to recollect him, and to preserve a character which, except in the memories of his friends, he has done nothing to perpetuate.

It was in 1816 also that we heard the first whisperings of what was termed u the National Monument of Scotland/7 The idea of commemorating the triumphs of the late war, and of exciting the heroisms of future conflicts, was first thrown out publicly at a county meeting; and the scheme was often discussed throughout some succeeding years. The original plan did not go beyond a pillar, or some such thing. But there were some who thought that the prevailing effervescence of military patriotism created a good opportunity for improving the public taste by the erection of a great architectural model. The Temple of Minerva, placed on the Calton Hill, struck their imaginations, and though they had no expectation of being able to realize the magnificent conception they resolved, by beginning, to bring it within the vision of a distant practicability. What, if any, age would finish it, they could not tell; but having got a site, a statute, and about £20,000, they had the honor of commencing it.

Two edifices were begun tbis year, of respectable beauty. Our episcopalians used to be so few that their two principal congregations met, the one in a humble place at the west end of Rose Street, the other in a chapel which, though handsome and spacious when got at, was buried in an inaccessible close on the south side of the Canongate. Indeed it was only within a few years before that this sect had got some of the legal vexations which had clouded it removed. They now raised their heads and growing in numbers, and in aristocracy, erected their new chapels at the west end of Princes Street, and at the east end of York Place. The ambition of architecture has since begun to infect the presbyterian seceders.

Archibald Alison, the author of the Essays on Taste, was then the most distinguished of the episcopalian clergy of Edinburgh and, so far as I know, of Scotland. A most excellent and agreeable man; richly imbued with literature ; a great associate of Dugald Stewart, Playfair, Dr. Gregory, Jeffrey, Francis Horner, and all the eminent among us; delightful in society • and, in truth, without a single defect except the amiable one of too soft a manner. As a preacher he was a consummate artist, in his own peculiar line of feeling and impressive elegance. His voice was clear and sweet, his taste very refined, and his air and gesture very polite. It was the poetry of preaching. The prevailing defect was that it was all too exquisite. The composition, the sentiments, the articulation, and the look were in too uniform a strain of purity and feeling. To the hearer, cloyed by a system of studied perfection, artlessness, though leading to some carelessness or even coarseness, would have been a relief. Notwithstanding this deduction, however, from the effect of exertions which always derive their greatest charm from simplicity, it was impossible to hear Alison preach without being moved and delighted. Even at this distance of time, his discourses during the occasional fasts and thanksgivings throughout the war, the whole of which I heard, still thrill in my ear and my heart. He was almost the only preacher I have ever known who habitually made the appearances of external nature, and the kindred associations, subservient to the uses of the pulpit. This copious and skilful application of the finest, and most generally understood, elements of taste was one great cause of his peculiar success; and, managed with judgment, sensibility, and grace, it explained how those who sometimes entered his chapel determined to dislike his excess of art, rarely left it without being subdued by the beauty and impressiveness of his eloquence.

The year 1816 closed bitterly for the poor. There probably never were so many people destitute at one time in Edinburgh. The distress was less in severity than in 1797; but the population having-increased, it was greater in extent. Some permanent good was obtained from the labour of the relieved. Bruntsfield Links were cleared of whins, and of old quarries; walks were made, for the first time, on the Calton Hill; and a path was cleared along the base of the perpendicular cliff of Salisbury Crags. Until then these two noble terraces were enjoyable only by the young and the active.

This walk along the Crags was the first thing that let the people see what we were in imminent danger of losing by the barbarous and wasteful demolition of the rock, which had been proceeding unchecked for nearly thirty years. When I first scrambled to that cliff, which must have been about 1788, the path along its base was certainly not six feet wide, and in some places there was no regular path at all. By 1816 the cliff had been so quarried away that what used to be the footpath was, in many places, at least 100 feet wide; and if this work had been allowed to go on for a few years more, the whole face of the rock would have disappeared. This would have implied the obliteration of some of the strata which all Edinburgh ought to have revered as Hutton’s local evidence of the Theory of the Earth, and one of the most peculiar features of our scenery. The guilty would have been—first, the Hereditary Keeper of the Park, who made money of the devastation by selling the stones; secondly, the Town Council and tlie Road Trustees, who bought them; thirdly, the Crown and its local officers, who did not check the atrocity. Of these the Crown was the lea*st criminal. It did interfere at last; and it was reserved for Henry Brougham, who had often clambered among these glorious rocks as a boy, to pronounce as Chancellor the judgment which finally saved a remnant of them.

The change which was taking place in the character of our population was now evinced by an occurrence which was remarkable both as an effect, and as a cause. The first number of u The Scotsman” newspaper was published in January 1817. The incalculable importance of this event can only be understood by those who recollect that shortly before this the newspaper press of Edinburgh, though not as much fettered as in St. Petersburgh (as it has been said to have been), was at least in as fettered a condition as any press that is legally free could be. Most candid men who knew Scotland before the peace of 1814 will probably agree, that if the most respectable and unprosecuted London opposition newspaper had been published in Edinburgh, the editor would have been better acquainted with the Court of Justiciary than he would have found comfortable. The undisturbed continuance of the Edinburgh Review would be inconsistent with this statement, were it not that there is no analogy between a work of which the politics are dignified by general literature, and which only appears quarterly, at the price of five shillings, and the provocations of a cheap and purely political and generally accusative publication, tormenting every week or every day. When Major Cartwright, the itinerant reformer, lectured here about 1812, he was attended by considerable audiences; yet because he preached the doctrines of universal suffrage, and annual parliaments, no editor of any Edinburgh newspaper, though offered to be paid as for an advertisement, and one of them a hearer of the discourses, had courage to allow any account whatever of the lectures to appear in his paper. The editor who attended them told me that, though he differed from the lecturer, what he said was a good and perfectly lawful defence of the doctrines, and that he would have liked to have published their substance, but that he could not ruin his paper. He felt, and explained, that the bare exposition of such reforms would hurt the mere reporter.

The appearance therefore of a respectable opposition newspaper was hailed, and condemned, according to people’s tastes: but they all saw in it a sign. Though only published once a week, and taking only literary advertisements, it soon attained a large circulation. It is now flourishing in a vigorous manhood, immeasurably the best newspaper that exists, or lias ever existed, in Scotland. Its only defect has been heaviness; a defect, however, inseparable from provincial locality, particularly in Scotland, where the people are grave, and too far out of the world to acquire smartness and tact. The original projectors of this the first Scotch newspaper which combined independence with intelligence, and moderation with zeal, were Charles Maclaren, who has since distinguished himself in science, William Ritchie, solicitor, and John Robertson, bookseller. Its earliest conductors were Ritchie and Maclaren, and John Ramsay Macculloch, now chiefly celebrated as a political economist, the principles of which science he has examined and disseminated with a talent and success that will make his career an era in its history. They were all able men, and honest in the public cause, the greatest virtue the conductors of a newspaper can possess. Ritchie was bold and zealous, and a very respectable legal practitioner. He died, after a tedious illness, a short time after the news of the first accession of the Whigs to real power in 1830 reached Edinburgh, when his last political act consisted in raising himself in bed on his elbow, and giving a feeble cheer.

Nobody was enjoying the progress of sound opinions in Scotland more than Francis Horner. But alas! our forebodings were realized; and the gaiety of the Outer House was stilled by our learning, one day this spring, that on the 8th of February 1817 he had died in Italy. Every virtuous heart was covered with mourning. We did not think so much of his loss to the empire as to Scotland and ourselves. Acquainted with all our circumstances, and ambitious of nothing so much as the elevation of his native country, he would have brought to the discussion of all the vital questions that were about to arise talents which, already great, were steadily improving, and a character that made him almost the representative of virtue itself. In this his native city, the sorrow for his family, to whom it was an honor to bear his name, and for the premature extinction of his own prospects, was deep and nearly universal. The last time I saw him was about the end of September 1816. It was at Dryden near Roslin, where his father was then residing. Rutherfurd0 and I had gone to visit him. He was very ill, breathless, and weak. Removing for the winter into milder air had been resolved on ; but we both feared it was too late. He walked out a little with us. Never can I forget the fading avenue, and the autumnal day, in which we parted from him, as we foreboded never to meet again.

The valuable and peculiar light in which Homer stands out—the light in which his history is calculated to inspire every right-minded youth, is this. He died at the age of thirty-eight; possessed of greater public influence than any other private man* and admired, beloved, trusted, and deplored by all except the heartless or the base. No greater homage was ever paid in Parliament to any deceased member. Now let every young man ask—how was this attained? By rank? He was the son of an Edinburgh merchant. By wealth? Neither he, nor any of his relations, ever had a superfluous sixpence. By office? He held but one, and only for a few years, of no influence and with very little pay. By talents? His were not splendid, and he had no genius. Cautious and slow, his only ambition was to be right. By eloquence? He spoke in calm good taste, without any of the oratory that either terrifies or seduces. By any fascination of manner? His was only correct and agreeable. By what then was it? Merely by sense, industry, good principles, and a good heart—qualities, which no well-constituted mind need ever despair of attaining. It was the force of his character that raised him; and this character not impressed upon him by nature, but formed, out of no peculiarly fine elements, by himself. There were many in the House of Commons of far greater ability and eloquence. But no one surpassed him in the combination of an adequate portion of these with moral worth. Horner was born to shew what moderate powers unaided by anything whatever except culture and goodness may achieve, even when these powers are displayed amidst the competition and jealousy of public life.

Considering what Blackwood’s Magazine soon became, it seems strange that a just memoir of Horner, and by Dr. Gordon, should have been the first article of its first number. The rise of this publication forms another important mark in our local story.

Our only monthly periodical work was the dotard Scots Magazine, which now lived, or rather tried to live, upon its antiquity alone. Constable imprudently broke its last spell by changing its title and structure, which gave Mr. William Blackwood, an active bookseller, an opening for a new adventure; though probably he had no anticipations beyond those of an ordinary magazine of ordinary success. But it soon became, in its politics, a work of violent personality and it was to this, far more than even to its unquestionable talent and spirited writing, that its influence, at least for a long time, was owing.

There was a natural demand for libel at this period. The human mind had made a great advance, and the pressure of war being removed, new opinions were coming everywhere into collision with old ones; so that there was a general shock between those who wished to perpetuate old systems, and those who wished to destroy or reform them. Even in Greece, Italy, Spain, South America, and various other parts of the world, a movement of intellect, or of discontent, produced open war between bigotry and liberality. In Britain, where open violence was checked by the strength of the law, it engendered fiercer conflicts of parties than had been known, except near revolutions. Now a war of opinion is a condition of which libel is one of the natural products.

Edinburgh was peculiarly ripe for the use of this weapon, because there was no place where the contrast between the new and the old internal systems was so strong. The whole official power of Government was on one side, nearly the whole talent and popularity on the other ; and the principles espoused by each admitted of no. reconciliation. The Tories could boast of some adherents of talent, and of many of great worth, but their political influence now depended almost entirely on office. With the exception of Scott, I cannot recollect almost a single individual taking at this time a charge of public opinion, and of personal weight, who was not a Whig. In opposition to this official authority, which in itself is seldom deeply seated, and is always disliked, there was arrayed almost the whole body of our local talent and independence cordially united. The Whigs, condemned no longer to cherish their principles in silence, finding public spirit revive, assumed the lead, and their standard was followed by a host consisting of all those who felt themselves raised into something like a region of freedom. They came forth from despised dissenting congregations, from half liberated corporations, from shops, from the law, and, which was a better sign of the current, even from medicine, and, which was the best symptom of all, from the aristocracy of the lower orders. All these, aided by the emancipated in the shires, soon became accustomed, as if it was a part of the necessary order of things, to see official power against them, and moral influence in their favor.

In this situation, when the popular cause had got "the Scotsman" it was natural for the opposite cause to set up its magazine; and, in the circumstances, a certain degree of personality was only to be expected. The fault of the new organ lay in its excess; which was the more offensive from our being then so little accustomed to it, and the smallness of the society into which the firebrands were cast. This is alluded to in the u Nodes Ambrosiana?” in speaking of the Beacon newspaper. u A Beacon! Gude pity us! etc. Though your Antijacobins, and John Bulls, and Twopenny Post-Bags, and sae on, do very weel in the great Babel of Lunnun, the like o’ thae things are quite heterogeneous in this small atmosphere of the Edinbro’ meridian. The folk here canna thole’t.”0 Posterity can never be made to feel the surprise and just offence with which, till we were hardened to it, this work was received. The minute circumstances which impart freshness to slander soon evaporate; and the arrows that fester in living reputations and in beating hearts are pointless, or invisible, to the eyes of those who search for them afterwards as curiosities. The favourite calumny was founded on charges of irreligion. Such charges, however false, are always favourably received by a large portion of the public, even though proceeding from persons of whom laughter at religion, and clever parodies of Scripture, are notoriously the favourite pastimes.')' No wonder then that divisions j* The bookseller and Pringle soon quarrelled; and, the Magazine assuming, on the retirement of the latter, a high Tory character, Laidlaw’s Whig feelings induced him to renounce its alliance ; while Scott, having no kindness for Blackwood personally, and disapproving (though he chuckled over it) the reckless extravagance of juvenile satire, which, by and by, distinguished this journal, appears in our narrow society which all reasonable men had practically agreed to close were re-opened, and much of the ferocity of 1793 revived.

This vice of offensive personality, which was flagrant at first, is the more to be lamented, that in talent and originality this magazine has been, and is, the best that has been published in its day in Britain. It has been supported by a continued succession of able men, who have covered it with contributions of great and inventive power; and, avoiding the lethargy which seems the constitutional malady of prolonged magazines, its thinking and writing have always been spirited. Its literary compositions and criticisms have generally been excellent. But it was set up chiefly as a political work; and in this department it has adhered with respectable constancy to all the follies it was meant to defend. It is a great depository of exploded principles; and indeed it will soon be valuable as a museum of old errors.

to have easily acquiesced iu the propriety of Laidlaw’s determination (Lockhart’s Life of Scott, vol. IV. p. 65). A chuckle from Scott, in the blaze of his reputation, was all that young men needed to instigate them. In another passage Mr. Lockhart describes these monthly attacks as “those grotesque jeux d'esprit by which, at this period, Blackwood’s young Tory wags delighted to assail their elders and betters of the Whig persuasion” (vol. IV. p. 109). Deducting gloss, this means that respectable characters were wilfully and systematically slandered, but that it was funnily done; which was not always the case, for it was often with bitter gravity.

It was long enlivened by the "Nodes Ambrosiance,” a series of scenes supposed to have occurred in a tavern in Register Street kept by one Ambrose. And no periodical publication that I know of can boast of so extraordinary a series of jovial dramatic fiction. Wilson, I believe, now professes to regret and condemn many things in these papers, and to deny his authorship of them but substantially they are all his. I have not the slightest doubt that he wrote at least ninety per cent of them. I wish no man had anything worse to be timid about. There is not so curious and original a work in the English or Scotch languages. It is a most singular and delightful outpouring of criticism, politics, and descriptions of feeling, character, and scenery, of verse and prose, and maudlin eloquence, and especially of wild fun. It breathes the very essence of the Bacchanalian revel of clever men. And its Scotch is the best Scotch that has been written in modem times. I am really sorry for the poor one-tongued Englishman, by whom, because the Ettrick Shepherd uses the sweetest and most expressive of living languages, the homely humour, the sensibility, the descriptive power, the eloquence, and the strong joyous hilarity of that animated rustic can never be felt. The characters are all well drawn, and well sustained, except that of the Opium Eater, who is heavy and prosy: but this is perhaps natural to opium. Few efforts could be more difficult than to keep up the bounding spirit of fresh boyish gaiety which is constantly made to break out amidst the serious discussions of these tavern philosophers and patriots. After all just deductions, these Nodes are bright with genius.

It was a matter of course, that as soon as the country began to awaken, the great question of Burgh Reform should be revived. Those who were bent on this object had the advantage of having to deal with a single and clear evil, capable of being removed only in one way. By the constitution of all the Royal Burghs in Scotland (above GO in number) each town-council elected its successor; which in practice meant that they all elected themselves. The system of self-election was universal, and very jealously adhered to. The effect of this system in depressing the civic communities, and encouraging municipal abuse, could not be exaggerated. Hence it was one of the earliest of the constitutional vices which public-spirited men saw the necessity of attacking, when the era for political reform began to dawn. The subject had been keenly agitated, but with little hope of success and no general support, so far back as 1785. But as the town-councils were the only electors of our city representation in Parliament, and these bodies were easily kept in ministerial order by simple, direct, and scarcely concealed bribery, their unchanged continuance was defended as obstinately as the drawbridge of the castle. Yet I consider it as a fact that, with the burgh reformers, the improvement of our parliamentary representation, if an object at all, was infinitely less so than the improvement of the system by which our municipal affairs were managed. When the struggle began, and for many years afterwards, the reformers would have been content with such a relaxation of the existing system, as would have kept the political power of the Tory party nearly as safe as it was under self-election. But concession was withheld till a triumph on the opposite side made it useless. Meanwhile the collateral effect of the contest, in provoking the citizens into a spirit of independence, was far more useful than the attainment of their merely burgh objects eould have been. Government thought that the subject had been forgotten. But the hopelessness of prosecuting any civil struggle while the war lasted had only kept it in abeyance. The fire was not out. Its ashes lay smouldering; and protracted abuses only blew them up the more fiercely when they came to be stirred. The battle lasted several years after this, and its movements became complicated; but, generally, its progress was this.—

The election of the magistracy of Montrose became void from a failure to comply with the Set, or constitution, of the burgh. On this the Crown revived the magistracy by a Poll warrant—that is, a warrant to elect addressed to the burgesses at large: The effect was the creation of a town council with a taste for some independence. Other burghs instantly saw that this was a precedent which might, be followed, wherever legal ingenuity could detect a flaw in the rather nice and technical mysteries of a town council election; and that an independent magistracy being once formed, self-election might enable it to be perpetuated. Government, however, soon repudiated the example which it had been misled to rear up, and would grant no more poll warrants; but fell on the scheme of repairing lapsed councils by warrants addressed to the members of the council who had been last duly elected. It got well abused by the Whigs for its retreat, but far better by the Tories for its advance.

In order to try whether the Crown would persist in always restoring the old magistracies, several complaints of undue election were brought into the Court of Session. One of these, directed against the town council of Edinburgh, made a great noise. Only two of them, from Aberdeen and Inverness, succeeded; and in both cases the Crown adhered to its principle. This raised a crop of new legal proceedings; first, by burgesses, who challenged the Crown’s right to grant any other than poll warrants, and then by the Officers of State who challenged its right to grant these. It is needless to trace the progress of this mass of litigation. It produced a good deal of legal learning and investigation, great public excitement, and veiy little legal result. The Court of Session was not supposed to have gained credit under the discussions. Instead of applying a severer candour, and a more strictly judicial calmness, to questions plainly involving party passions and objects, it was allowed to transpire too obviously, through the tone and manner of most of the judges, that they were neither ignorant of the objects of the litigants, nor indifferent about the results. Judges cannot be made of ice or wood, and it is not their duty to extinguish, even if they could, all their public principles. Some allowance, therefore, ought to be made for disclosures of feeling which it is so difficult to resist, and the sensitive jealousy of suitors, and their professional champions, is always to be distrusted. Still, inflexible fairness being the most necessary of all the judicial duties, every incident that attests its absence is most properly watched and denounced. Public officers, who are trained and honoured for the practice of impartiality, have infinitely less excuse than other men for tolerating objects or passions within their breasts, which either are, or must be supposed to be, inconsistent with the power of holding the scales of justice steadily.

While these matters were agitating the courts, Lord Archibald Hamilton, one of the very few active and independent Scotch members, succeeded (by a miracle) in obtaining a committee on our burgh system. Loud were the rejoicings on the one side, and sad the dismay on the other, when the tidings of this scarcely credible vote reached Scotland. Edinburgh seemed to have wakened into a new existence, when its civic functionaries were obliged to repair to London, and to open the windows of the council chamber, and let in the light. The affairs of four burghs were investigated; and it was held to be clearly proved that these four were bankrupt, and that this had been the result of municipal mismanagement. In the case of Aberdeen this was publicly admitted by the magistrates in a formal act of abdication. These disclosures, instead of convincing Government of the absolute necessity of proceeding, in one way or other, through the whole burghs, unfortunately convinced it of the very reverse. The results were that the inquiry was suddenly quashed, that the legal proceedings died away, and that the people were thus compelled to return to their old bondage. But the evil day of reform was only put off, with a deeper accumulation of abuses, till the arrival of a more favourable hour.

No single folly ever opened so many Scotch eyes. The minister who had had the sense to do anything merely to check municipal expenditure, or to concede to corporations the valuable, but for remoter objects the perfectly insignificant, privilege of electing their own deacons in reality, and not in form only, might have retarded the regeneration of Scotland. But the course adopted first excited the hopes, and then the indignation of the people. It began by disclosing the trustlessness of town councils, and ended by hardening them in their protected abuse of power. However, it worked to good. It reared a generation of intelligent and active citizens, who were trained by the struggle to political concert.

It is impossible to think of burgh1 reform without remembering Archibald Fletcher, advocate, its stoutest and most indefatigable champion. He gave his whole energies to it in the dawn of its agitation; and its revival after a thirty years’ slumber, though it found his body old and infirm found no abatement of his spirit. Even in the extremity of old age he compiled a volume of tracts in furtherance of his favourite cause, the renewal of which, in spite of what appeared to others to be its unavoidable dulness of detail, he declared u had revived his youth, who had openly practised their calling since 1793-4, ventured to begin business again; not in Scotland, where transportation was still the law, but in England, which they greatly disturbed. It is usual to ascribe all that followed to the harangues of these crazy orators. But demagogues are almost always effects ; very rarely causes. They are the froth that rises and bubbles on the surface, when the mass of the people ferments. The sedition of opinion moreover was promoted by the sedition of the stomach. The country was in deep distress; and natural dearth was aggravated by the artificial arrangements of trade and manufactures, which operated like what miners call troubles, in the transition from war to peace.

It was in these circumstances that certain judicial proceedings were taken in Scotland against several persons accused of sedition,0 and of having taken and administered unlawful oaths. These proceedings created an intense interest both in Parliament and in the country, and are well worthy of being studied in all their details. The general story of the unlawful oaths case is this.—

There was a weaver in Glasgow called Alexander Richmond. Jeffrey and I had got acquainted with him in 1812, from having been his counsel when he was accused of accession to the most extensive and peaceful combination of workmen that had ever appeared in this part of the kingdom; the organization and management of which was better evidence of his talent and influence than many men of high political station could have produced. Knowing the temper of the Court in these matters, we advised him to submit to outlawry; whereby he escaped the outrageous sentence which doomed some of his companions to eighteen months’ imprisonment. When the irritation was over he reappeared and pleaded guilty; and after proving that he was in very bad health, and getting a great character, even from his former masters, he was only imprisoned about a of at once taking up the clean one, he stopped, and grumphed, and looked at the one, and then at the other, always turning with aversion from the dirty one ; and then he approached the other resolutely, as if his mind was made up; but at last he turned away from it, saying fiercely, “No! Fll be d d if I put on a clean sark for them.” Accordingly he insulted their Lordships by going to Court with the foul one. Not like Falkland.

His gentleness and air of melancholy thoughtfulness made us believe him to be a heartbroken contemplative man, who had formed the association, and then let himself be its victim, solely from devotion to what he held to be the rights of his comrades. We felt so interested in him, that we gave, and got for, him a little money to set up in business, and then we: lost sight of him for some years; when to our amazement we heard him charged with having been recently acting as a Government spy.

In 1824 he published a curious u Narrative” of his connection with the authorities, and with the troubles, in Glasgow; chiefly with a view to vindicate his character. This was rather a delicate effort, partly because it implied his disclosing communications which he must have known were confidential; and partly because he had to meet the inconvenient fact of his having received considerable sums, and more considerable promises, from Government—not for his spyship, which both he and his employers denied, but as a compensation for his being thrown out of work, by being obliged to leave Glasgow. His "Narrative” may not be vitiated by purposed falsehood; but though there is a general foundation of truth in it, the details of no such statement can ever be relied upon when they depend entirely on the authority of the narrator. His being implicated and paid for wliat looked too like spy’s work, greatly shook our faith in him ; but still the peculiar circumstances in which he had let himself be placed in that position, and our conviction of his benevolence, prevented us casting him off.

The way he was drawn in, according to his own account, was this. Government, or its Glasgow representatives, suspecting that illegal oaths were administered there, resorted to Richmond as a person who could best ascertain whether this was the fact. His statement has uniformly been that his love of his old associates made him anxious, on their account, and to save them from deeper guilt, to find out what they were really doing; but that as he was aware that his appearance among them might make them think such oaths safe, his employers came under a positive engagement with him, that no one should be prosecuted who might administer or take an oath in his presence on the only occasion on which he meant to go among them. This engagement was denied; and though there are facts which make its having been entered into not improbable, the presumption is certainly against him, chiefly from the apparent absurdity and illegality of the bargain. However, he soon ascertained that the crime had been committed, and reported accordingly; but whether the exact words of the unlawful oath were brought away I do not know.

A copy of what was supposed to be the oath having been obtained, it seems to have been impossible to resist the temptation of producing an impression by reading it in the House of Commons. And doubts being expressed of the accuracy of the information, the Lord Advocate was cheered by his party into the rashness of pledging himself to prove its accuracy by speedy convictions. Accordingly, several persons were apprehended on warrants charging them with high treason; which, as the law was then generally understood, had the effect of depriving them of the benefit of the Act 1701. The prisoners, instead of being committed to an ordinary jail, were taken to the Castle of Edinburgh, where access to them was made nearly impossible. All the while, however, there was no serious intention of trying them for high treason; and hence though this charge was always kept up in the warrants, it never entered any of the many indictments.

As it was certain that there would be a series of trials if one should succeed, and the whole affair, whatever the guilt might be, was thought to be conducted with far too high a hand, the counsel employed for the different prisoners acted in concert at all the material moves. This made an array of counsel not usual in Scotland, consisting of Clerk, Cranstoun, Thomas Thomson, Jeffrey, John Peter Grant, Moncreiff, Murray, and myself. Many were tlie sneers by the prosecutors, and even by some of the judges, at this confederacy. Hermand often snorted with open contempt at what he called u the combination of learned gentlemen.” To all which the combiners used to say that they trusted that the Bar of Scotland would always supply any force that the defence of political prisoners, with the Crown against them, might require.

When the first prisoner, William Edgar, was placed at the bar, the prosecutor seemed to expect an easy conviction that very day. But the advisers of the prisoners, believing Time to be the surest composer of violence, resolved to procrastinate as much as they could; and their opponents supplied them with ample materials for preliminary discussion and delay. This produced a long and memorable struggle, in which the prosecutor was so often baffled, that Mr. Finlay the member for Glasgow, a ministerialist, and who was in the heart of the whole affair, made a direct charge of incapacity against the Crown counsel in the House of Commons. At last, after above three months had been wasted in changing and mending indictments, and in verbal and printed argumentation, one prisoner, Andrew McKinley, was actually brought to trial on the facts.

But the trial had scarcely begun when something more extraordinary transpired. The first witness, John Campbell, on being asked the absurd initial question then put to every witness in criminal trials —whether he had received or been promised anything for giving evidence, said that he had. On being asked by whom? He answered, "By that gentleman”—pointing to the Advocate-depute. The audience seemed to start at this statement, and were then anxiously silent. The judges frowned on the man as if they would have eaten him on the spot. His statement was taken down in writing, and is to be found in the Reports of the Trial.

If the witness is to he believed, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that there had been an attempt to corrupt. For the substance of his statement is, that besides merely protecting a witness on the unpopular side from personal harm, a reward was promised, or held out, provided he would give evidence of a particular tendency; and the real meaning of what was proposed was such, that the sheriff, who was there as a magistrate bound to see justice done, would not allow it to be set down in writing. No witness ever gave his testimony in a manner more entitled to credit. Calm, clear, and unexaggerating, he went into all the details with precision and apparent probability, and often suggested minute but material corrections to the presiding judge, as he was dictating to the clerk of Court  and I am not aware that there ever was a surmise against his general character.

When the deposition was adjusted, every body looked as if thinking—“What’s to come next?” Hermand at once cut the knot by suggesting that, if what had been sworn was true, the witness was inadmissible, an attempt having been made to corrupt him; and if it was false, then he was inadmissible from being perjured; so he was inadmissible either way. This conclusion was evidently not warranted by law; because not having been convicted of perjury, his mis-statements only went to impeach his credit; and if he was trying to disqualify himself, the prosecutor was entitled to disprove what he had said. But the court at once adopted a view which closed a very painful scene. So the witness was allowed to walk away.

If the accusation had depended solely on Campbell, it might have been fairly said that his single testimony was insufficient to criminate high public officers. But it did not depend on him alone. The gentlemen accused did, or allowed to be done for them, three things which it was difficult to reconcile with the idea of their being conscious of innocence. One was, their not strenuously resisting the Court in excluding further inquiry. The prisoner put on record an offer to corroborate the witness. The prosecutor put on record an answer professing his anxiety that this matter should be gone into. But though this looks very well in the report, it was seen, and felt, and understood at the time that the saving process of the Court, instead of being heartily opposed, was virtually acceded to. Another, and a far more material, blunder was, that when a motion was made in Parliament (10th February 1818) for a committee to inquire into the truth of Campbell’s statement, it was resisted, and by the aid of Government thrown out. The only ground on which this insane course (innocence being assumed) was explained, rested on the assertion that Campbell, who must have been the chief witness, was perjured already. Yet they completed their folly by a third apparent inconsistency with conscious rectitude. Campbell’s perjury was their main point; yet he was never indicted for this offence, although they were goaded to bring him to trial. If he had been put to the bar, his evidence would have been excluded, while that of the Solicitor-General, the Advocate-depute, the Sheriff of Edinburgh, and the Procurator-fiscal, who were the persons mentioned by Campbell, might have been received.* But no indictment was ever adventured upon. They may have been innocent. But if they were, they were surely not wise. And if they only meant to protect the witness, which is sometimes necessary, this, as usual, ought to have been done openly, and both the prisoner and the Court ought to have been told of it.

Richmond in his "Narrative” assumes that the prisoner’s counsel knew what Campbell was going to say, and compliments them for acting surprise well. There was no acting in the matter. Campbell had been locked up, inaccessibly, in the Castle; and seeing an acquaintance passing threw a bit of tobacco to him from his window. His friend picked this up; and finding that it contained a piece of dirty paper with something written on it, took the paper to Mr. David Eamsay, a most respectable writer to the Signet, who had all along been agent for most of these prisoners. The bit of paper merely stated the general fact that Campbell had been tampered with by the authorities, without mentioning how, or by whom. Mr. Ramsay of course informed his counsel of this; but they, having no means of questioning the witness, who was sealed up, and distrusting the statement, resolved to do nothing, but to let things take their own course.

Campbell being disposed of, the trial proceeded; and it was very soon established that illegal oaths had been administered, and, in all human probability, by the prisoner, But the truth of the particular charge was by no means so clear. This depended on the exact words used. A very slight change of expression could easily soften the character of the oath into mere rashness, or doubt, or even innocence, or aggravate it into worse guilt than that charged. Jeffrey and Thomas Brown, our Moral Professor—two of the acutest of men, used to amuse themselves by trying how many different constructions they could put on the words, and by how few and how slender variations of expression they could make it all harmless. Now, when the prosecutor examined the witnesses he chiefly relied on for the precise terms, it came out that they had seen an oath in the newspapers which was said to have been quoted in the House of Commons, that this was like the one they had been privy to, but that they could not separate their recollection of what they had seen, from their recollection of what they had heard; so that they could not tell whether in giving evidence, they were doing more than reciting from the newspaper. On this the prosecutor struck.

The prison and castle gates were instantly opened, and all the kindred prisoners walked forth. And so ended this long, tough, and important conflict. The trial was over about nine in the evening of a bright summer Saturday. I instantly walked out to Bonaly, with a light step, and in an agitation of triumph. This was partly the produce of professional vanity, a passion stronger in the law than in the army or navy, or even in medicine or the church, and inferior only to that of verse, art, and the theatre. But there was also some feeling of justice in it. We were not satisfied of the prisoner’s guilt in the precise matter charged, and were certain that his guilt had not been established; and there had been strange circumstances in the conduct of the prosecution, which was connected with the general system of a justly unpopular Government.

Shortly after this we were thrown into an uproar by a point of Calvinistic orthodoxy. Moved by the sad and unexpected death of the Princess Charlotte, which had melted all hearts, every clergyman in Edinburgh, except one, following the universal example, had religious service in his church on the 19th of November 1817, the day of her funeral, which was what we call a iveek-day—that is, not a Sunday. This, in Scotland, was not in obedience to the Royal proclamation, which we sons of Calvin always despise, but solely from natural decency and piety. Addressing their flocks on such an occasion, of course they all introduced the poor Princess, her virtues and her fate; and this in most cases probably amounted to a funeral sermon. But the Reverend Andrew Thomson maintained that all such sermons are repugnant to the presbyterian system, and dangerous in themselves from their tendency to degenerate into sycophantish eulogy: and perhaps he was right in this. But most clearly he was wrong in bringing discredit on his party, by being the only minister who shocked the universal feeling by acting on this principle on this occasion. Several of his brethren entreated him to yield. Sir Harry in particular remonstrated and implored. But a useless personal battle, in which his will was on one side and all the world on the other, had always irresistible charms to Thomson. So he stood out; and while crowds rolled into every other church, the gates of his were closed, and he himself was made happy by being universally abused. On the following Sunday he preached on death, and alluded to the recent calamity, in a manner that disarmed those that heard him ; and for the edification of those who did not, he published a pamphlet, demonstrating that everybody was wrong except himself. Possibly they were : but it seems odd how notices of striking deaths, which is so common on Sundays, and was so even in Thomson s own practice, should be so bad on every other day.

Return to the Book Index Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus