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The Anecdotage of Glasgow
Trial of the Rev. Neil Douglas


THAT eccentric divine, the Rev. Neil Douglas, rented with the money of his wife the old Andersonian Institution, No. 2 Upper John Street; and therein, about A.D. 1817, commenced a series of discourses on the Prophecies of Daniel, in the course of which he had the temerity to liken King George the Third, then an invalid in Windsor Castle, to Nebuchadnezzar, nay, as even worse in his mental and corporal capacity. And as for his son George, Prince Regent, he was termed the prodigal son, and characterised as a drunken debauchee, etc.

The authorities, hearing a sough of these discourses, which created a great sensation in the city, deputed three spies to go next Sunday to the Andersonian Institution, and to take notes with a view to future action.

But, unfortunately for the success of their mission, their wives began to blab about it to some of their neighbours, and in this way it came to the ears of some of the reverend gentlemanís admirers, who, thereupon, gave him a hint to be careful as to what he might say in his next lecture, telling him their reason for so doing.

Accordingly, on the following Sunday, the preacher was on the lookout for his professional auditors, whom he espied on their entrance, and who, either in their zeal to be near enough to hear him distinctly, or because the place of meeting was crowded, came forward and squatted themselves down on the pulpit stair.

The preacher began the services with calm and cold serenity, but ere long he cleared his throat, and eyeing the three spies fiercely, from his vantage ground in the pulpit, began to pitch in and give it to them hot and heavy.

He denounced them asó "A parcel of infernal scamps, or spies, sent, not by Nebuchadnezzar, but by Beelzehuh, from the Council Chambers to entrap him."

The officers, at the beginning of the tirade, began to scribble down their notes, but the vehement wrath of the preacher and the dagger-like looks of many in the congregation so alarmed and nonplussed them that they were glad to desist, and to trust to their unaided memories for the rest of the lecture, which turned out to be the spiciest and most fiery part of it.

They subsequently drew up a written report, or declaration, giving the awful words of the Rev. Neil Douglas, time and place above mentioned. This precognition was duly forwarded to Lord Advocate MíConochie, in Edinburgh; and within a few days orders were sent to Glasgow from the Crown counsel to seizeó "The person of the said Rev. Neil Douglas, as guilty of the crime of high treason, or sedition, and to imprison him in the jail of Glasgow till liberated in due course of law."

Be was next indicted to appear before the High Court of Justiciary, at Edinburgh, on the 26th of May, 1817, on the modified charge of "sedition," or of "wicked sedition," in his pulpit as aforesaid.

The three town officers who had been sent by the official scribes, were, of course, to appear as the chief witnesses against the accused on his trial, which the law officers of the Crown felt confident, and the friends of the accused in Glasgow feared, would end in the conviction and transportation of the reverend old man, who was then in the 70th year of his age.

But, luckily for the accused, when the day of trial came, the trio were found to vary seriously as to what the preacher really did say. All that they could remember distinctly and agree about were the emphatic use by him of the words,ó" Nebuchadnezzar and Beelzebub," but as to the application of the lecture they were all three hopelessly at sea.

An attempt was made to have their memories refreshed by a perusal of their precognition to the fiscal in Glasgow, but at this stage, Francis Jeffrey, the eloquent counsel for the accused, interposed, and said: "No, no, these precognitions must not be shown; they cannot bear any faith in judgment."

The learned counsel argued powerfully against the competency of the precognition, and contended that it was to the facts then spoken to, under their oaths that the Court or thejury could attend on that trial.

In this view the Court concurred, so that the case against the reverend old prisoner broke down completely, and he was again a free man amid the cordial congratulations of his eminent counsel, and to the great joy of his many friends.

In conclusion, it may be stated that ere he left the court, the venerated divine made a voluntary promise, couched in the most respectful language, to the Lord Justice-Clerk, that he would never more lecture about Nebuchadnezzar, nor speak in a derogatory way of His Majesty the King; and it is believed that he kept his word.


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