Nemo me impune lacesset."
Scottish National Motto.
know you lawyers can with ease,
Twist words and meanings as you please."
The subtle character of the Scottish mind has rendered the legal profession one of the most prosperous. Scotsmen go to law about the veriest trifles, and debate the most paltry differences with singular energy. Compromise is seldom acceded to, and as there is a succession of tribunals before which nearly every description of process may be tried, lawyers enjoy a perpetual feast. Litigants seldom rest satisfied till they have either exhausted their finances, or at least the round of the courts. To the English mind it is quite inconceivable how important a Scotsman feels when he has a case in the Court of Session. Sir Walter Scott has delineated the Scottish litigant in the person of Peter Peebles; and his description of that personage presents no exaggerated picture of that class of persons whose names frequently figure in the reports of the law courts. Formerly a litigation in the Court of Session continued, on an average, seven years; and if either of the combatants died during the pending of the process, the war was prosecuted with unabated vigour by their representatives. When the parties were prosperous the process usually divided itself into several branches. The litigant who lost on one point was nearly certain to gain upon another. So he was encouraged to persevere. In cases involving actions for libel or damage to property, juries are empanneled. When the party receiving an adverse verdict is wealthy, his legal advisers recommend that the Court should be moved for a new trial. The grounds alleged on this motion are generally that the verdict of the jury has been contrary to the evidence, or that the presiding judge has misstated or omitted to state some point of law in summing up the evidence. It is remarkable how readily both judges and jurors admit their own errors. Judges have granted more than one new trial in the same cause on the alleged failure of the learned brother who had presided. In a recent celebrated cause the jury subscribed a memorial to the court, setting forth that had they heard the presiding judge properly, and so understood his meaning, they would have decided differently.
A most interesting volume might be written, tracing the rise and progress and issues of civil processes in the Scottish courts. Cases which have racked the minds of the combatants for the most precious years of their lives, and permanently impoverished their finances, have sprung from the most trivial causes. In every instance the kind offices of a few neighbours might have settled all differences without more expense than might be incurred at a social meeting. A few instances of the course of Scottish litigation may be quoted.
About the commencement of this century, two Stirlingshire lairds, whose estates adjoined, had, in arranging their boundaries, each laid claim to an aged hawthorn. The parties were mutually determined to possess it, and so entered on a litigation in the Sheriff Court. From the decision of the sheriff-substitute or resident county judge, the case was appealed to the sheriff. It was then entered in the Court of Session, passing under the review of the Lord Ordinary. Brought into the Inner House, the case was there debated and adjudicated. Several questions now arose out of the main process, and appeals on these as well as on the entire case were carried to the House of Lords. The various appeals having been heard by their lordships, a decree was pronounced, submitting the case with its many complications to arbitration. After a further period of exciting debate, the arbiter decided that both claimants had failed to establish a title to the hawthorn. He ruled that it should be enclosed by a walled fence, at the joint expense of the litigants, and that each party should settle his own legal costs. What these costs were is not related, hut they were of an amount sufficient to call for the sale of both estates.
An opulent landowner in the neighbourhood of Dunblane was passionately fond of litigation. He was wont to say that he had a pain in his stomach when he had no case in the Dunblane court. A young whale happened to strand in a quarry on his estate which opened into the Teith. The quarryman secured the animal, the« value of which was inconsiderable. Hearing of the capture, the landowner proceeded with two attendants and claimed the whale as part of his estate. In accordance with the mode of taking possession of a newly-discovered island, he stuck his staff in the animal, and affixed his handkerchief to the staff as an apology for a flag. Proceedings were now entered in the Dunblane court, which ended in the Court of Session. The original discoverer was successful throughout; but the landlord gratified his peculiar tastes, and paid for them the value of many whales.
Another story about a whale may be related. About the year 1848, one of these ocean monsters was stranded in the bay of St. Andrews. The huge carcase was discovered close by the eastern shore. The tenant of the adjoining farm proceeded to claim the animal as his prize, his laird waiving his supposed prior title in his behalf. Meanwhile a lawyer discovered that the Earl of Crawford, as superior of the district lands, possessed certain rights in connection with the carcase. A third claimant came forward, the procurator fiscal of the county, as the representative of the Crown. This functionary took possession of the carcass, and in the Queen's name planted a guard upon it. The Earl of Crawford and the district laird and his tenant were content to avoid the certain loss of maintaining their respective claims by litigation. The Crown authorities called a public auction, and sold the blubber. About ten pounds were realized, and the loss to the Exchequer attendant on asserting the claim was inconsiderable.
Andrew Mcol, a native of Kinross, was thirty years a litigant in the courts about a midden heap, or small dunghill. Andrew was a sensible and judicious person save on the subject of his litigation, about which he was unreasonable and uncompromising. He was well known in the Parliament House, where he passed under the soubriquet of "Muck Andrew." He carried with him a plan of his dung-heap, and was ready to expatiate on the history of his case to any one who had the curiosity to address him, or listen to his details. Andrew closed his career in the debtors' prison at Cupar-Fife, in 1817.
Mr. Campbell, of Laguine, was an opulent and enterprising farmer in the north of Scotland. He introduced sheep-farming into the counties of Ross and Caithness. Possessed of many estimable qualities, generous, and even good-tempered, his single peculiarity was to spend a portion of his income in litigation. When he had sold his wool, he made a journey to Edinburgh, to consult with his lawyers, and he took care to pay for every meal double by the way, in the full expectation that his finances would be exhausted on the law before his return. Mr. Campbell consulted the most eminent counsel; he kept them long, but was most liberal in his fees. It is related of him that, in the absence of a distinguished lawyer on whom he called, he sought an interview with his wife, to whom in her drawing-room he explained the nature of his errand. The lady was patient, and listened for some hours to the statement of his pleas. Mr. Campbell was so gratified with her attention, that he left a sum of money as a fee, remarking that he had got quite as much satisfaction as if he had seen the lawyer himself. On one occasion, when his last case had been settled in court, he was asked by his solicitor what he would do now? meaning how he would feel for lack of his wonted excitement. "I suppose," said the litigant, "I must now dispute payment of your account."
A parish clergyman possessed a favourite dog. The animal was accused to its master by a neighbouring farmer of destroying two of his sheep. The clergyman was not satisfied that his cur was guilty, but consented to pay the cost of the sheep. The farmer wished that the dog should be killed. The clergyman refused to kill his dog, but was willing in the event of its being detected in the farmer's folds, to chain it up or send it into exile. The farmer led the clergyman into the provincial law courts. Subsequently the case was appealed to the Court of Session. Seven years did the parties pursue and defend in a series of law processes. The most eminent counsel were employed on both sides. The clergyman was victorious, but costs were not awarded him. He survived thirty years, and by living on the third of his stipend during that period was enabled to discharge his obligations.
The pertinacity with which Scotsmen pursue their real or supposed rights is in strict keeping with the national character. In the person of Sir William Wallace it thrust back English domination at Stirling Bridge, and established under Robert Bruce the national liberties at Bannockburn. But the indomitable spirit of the patriot has often degenerated into the sheer obstinacy of the partisan. The determination not to yield has been the fruitful source of disaster, insolvency, and ruin.
Captain Alexander Aytoun died in 1766, and under his father's testamentary deed was succeeded in his valuable estates of Kinaldie and Kippo by his maternal cousin, James Monypenny. The near relatives of the testator disputed the validity of the will. A litigation ensued which continued twelve years. The testamentary deed was found valid, but the decision was pecuniarily fatal to all the competitors. Mr. Monypenny, who was found legally possessed of the estates, was under the necessity of disposing of his acquisition to defray the costs of his defence.
The gentler sex have not been-exempted from the national weakness of litigious pertinacity. A late female representative of the earldom of Crawford was constantly a plaintiff in one or other of the law courts. The case of succession to the estate of Roughwood, in Ayrshire, was, owing to the untiring energy of a gentlewoman, protracted in the law courts for upwards of half a century. Though suffering under the disheartening influences of successive defeats both in the courts of America and England, and though barristers had ceased to recommend a prolongation of hostilities, Miss Sheddon continued to prosecute her claims with determination and vigour. Her eloquence in addressing the courts on intricate points of law astonished learned senators, and excited on the part of many a feeling of regret that her powerful energies and remarkable powers of analysis had not been supported by more substantial claims.
Madame Lina Sassen, the reputed wife of Sir James Campbell, of Ardkinglass, became so enamoured of the law, consequent on prosecuting her alleged husband for a legal recognition of matrimonial rights, that for twenty years she was a constant attendant at the sittings of the Court of Session. That her suit against Sir James was unsuccessful did not diminish her legal ardour. She unceasingly renewed her claims, which she hoped would ultimately triumph. Her various pleas were only terminated by her death.
The following remarkable instance of pertinacity on the part of two married persons in humble life was related to the writer by the chief magistrate of a northern burgh, who vouched for the accuracy of the particulars. A married couple in the parish of Farnell had lived together happily for several years. One evening, when they were seated at their fireside, a mouse chanced to run across the floor. "There's a moosie," said the wife, "it cam frae below the bed." "Na," said the husband, "it cam oot below the kist." The parties began to debate the point, a keen argument ensued, and angry words passed on both sides. The controversy was resumed in the morning, and continued with increasing violence from day to day, till the wife left the house and returned to her friends. The couple lived apart for twelve years, when, on the intercession of friends, they became reconciled. They resumed house-keeping together, and during five years the voice of discord was unheard. At length the wife ventured to refer to the cause of their long estrangement. "Wasn't it very absurd, dear John," said she, "that we should have separated about sic a trifle as a moosie comin' frae below the bed?" "I tell ye that it cam oot below the kist, woman," said the husband sharply. "It didna do that, John," retorted the wife, "I mind see'n't, as if 'twere yesterday, comin' frae under the bed." The husband started to his feet, and vehemently maintained that his wife was speak. Chesting falsely. The spirit of discord was again evoked. The parties separated, and were never reunited.
A story respecting the taming of a shrewish countess was communicated to the writer by an aged gentlewoman. A landowner near Forfar had an only daughter, who, having been much indulged, had become wilful and headstrong. Her prospects being considerable, a noble earl became a suitor for her hand. His lordship procured the lady's consent, and they were married. Before the marriage her ladyship was entreated by her sire to subdue her unyielding spirit, and duly warned that in the event of any difference with her husband, she would receive no countenance in the paternal home. The counsel did not avail, for a few weeks after the wedding she contrived to quarrel with her noble consort. Thereupon she ordered a carriage to convey her to her father's house. Her father, who had been daily expecting the arrival, was prepared, and so when the carriage drew up and the footman knocked, he personally demanded the visitor's name. "The Countess of-," shouted the footman; while the lady, who was hastening to rush into the house, exclaimed how grievously wronged she had been by the earl. "Then," responded her sire, "since Lord - has ill-treated my daughter, I'll take vengeance on his wife." And so saying, he displayed a large carriage whip, which he brandished about the lady's shoulders. It was enough. The countess fled to her carriage. Driving back to her husband's residence, she began to reflect on the necessity of imposing upon herself some measure of restraint.
The lady of John, twelfth Lord Gray, adopted a novel method of checking the obstinacy of her husband. When the Duke of Cumberland arrived at Dundee in 1745 to assume command of the royal troops, Lord Gray, as Lord Lieutenant of the county, waited on his Highness. The duke possessed an overbearing manner, and received his lordship haughtily. Lord Gray was excessively indignant. He hastily returned to his residence at Gray, and informing his wife of the rude reception which he had experienced, expressed his determination to be revenged. "I will let that Hanoverian know," said his lordship, "that I have as ancient blood in my veins as he can boast of, and that Scottish noblemen are not to be treated as if they were a pack of German land-lowpers. To-morrow I will join Prince Charles." Lady Gray knew that her lord could not by ordinary persuasion be induced to abandon any enterprise on which he had resolved. So she listened in silence. When bedtime came, his lordship expressed a desire to bathe his feet. Lady Gray instructed the attendant to bring to the apartment a pitcher of boiling water, and undertook personally to attend the process of the bath. When all was prepared her ladyship took up the pitcher, and discharged the entire contents on his lordship's legs and feet. One frantic roar fully testified that her object was attained. Lord Gray's limbs were so scalded that locomotion was impossible. Her ladyship screamed in affected horror at what she had done, and the family physician was sent for. When his lordship sufficiently recovered to resume the use of his limbs, his ire against Cumberland had abated, and it was too late, though the intention had remained, to offer service to the cause of the young adventurer.
These anecdotes may serve to illustrate that peculiar mood of the Scottish people which has so amply conduced to the business of the courts of law. It would, however, be most unjust to an honourable profession to ascribe to its more eminent members the encouragement of litigation. The most distinguished Scottish lawyers have uniformly discountenanced it.
Lord Chancellor Erskine, when at the bar, was consulted by his friend, Dr. Parr, in regard to a case which he thought of litigating. "Accommodate the difference amicably," said Erskine; "I can scarcely fancy a situation in which a lawsuit is not to be avoided." "A lawyer," said Lord Brougham, "is a learned gentleman, who rescues your estate from your enemies, and keeps it himself." "If any man," said Lord Cockburn, "was to claim my coat, and I believed that he was serious in his demand, I would rather part both with it and my vest than defend my title to it at the law." "Litigation," said Lord Jeffrey to the father of the writer, "is to be recommended to those only who possess a surplus of funds, and wish to get quit of it sensationally." To a client who insisted on having the last rights of the law, Sir James Gibson Craig remarked, "Well, let me tell you, the man who will have the last right and the last word at law is very like the man who will have the last drop in the tankard; he has the chance of getting the lid down on his nose."
Some of the most distinguished lawyers who have adorned the Scottish bench were persons of eccentric manners and strange peculiarities. The Hon. James Erskine, of Grange, a Lord of Session by the title of Lord Grange, was a person of singular character. He was younger brother of the Earl of Mar, who was attainted for exciting the insurrection of 1715, and bore in respect of unsettled principles no inconsiderable resemblance to that unfortunate nobleman. He was husband of that "Lady Grange" whose unwarrantable detention in the Western Isles forms one of the most remarkable episodes in modern history. The Hon. Mrs. Erskine, otherwise called Lady Grange, was daughter of Chiesley, of Dairy, who, on account of a decision of the Court of Session compelling him to maintain his wife and children, mortally wounded Sir George Lockhart, the Lord President, on returning from his place of worship. The disposition of Mrs. Erskine was too similar to that of her sire; she was a woman of ungovernable temper, revengeful, and unscrupulous in the accomplishment of her ends. She had, by concealing herself under a sofa in her husband's business chamber, become acquainted with certain circumstances which would certainly, on being publicly divulged, have cost him his office; for during the rising of 1715, some adherents of the House of Stuart frequently assembled in Lord Grange's mansion to concoct measures in support of the insurrection. Menaces of exposure, which were repeated by Mrs. Erskine on every occasion she happened to differ with her husband, rendered the domestic condition of Lord Grange singularly wretched. At length she was induced, in 1730, to accept a separate maintenance. She took lodgings at Edinburgh, but she now proceeded to vex her husband with angry missives containing her wonted threats. The daughter of one who in cold blood could deprive a high legal functionary of life for conscientiously discharging the duties of his office was not likely to make much scruple in sacrificing her husband to her resentment. Lord Grange consulted the members of his family— two adult sons and a daughter, married to the Earl of Kintore, and they unitedly concluded that it was necessary to place their unhappy relative under permanent restraint. Mrs. Erskine was accordingly seized in her lodgings on the evening of Saturday, the 22nd April, 1732, and conducted from place to place by night journeys till she reached the Hebrides, Eor two years she was kept on the lonely isle of Hisker, under the care of a peasant farmer. She was then removed to the remote and lonely St. Kilda, where she remained seven years. Having succeeded after nine years' captivity in conveying information to the authorities of her detention, her husband and children, who had become aware of her proceeding, caused her to be conveyed to the Isle of Skye. There she died in May, 1745, after a captivity of thirteen years. Her remains were interred in the churchyard of Trumpin, Waternish, Isle of Skye.
The demigration and confinement of Lady Grange have been justified on account of the unhappy condition of her mind, and the want of ordinary asylums at the period. Posterity would have been more willing to forgive the procedure had the conduct of her husband been otherwise commendable. But Lord Grange was, it is much to be feared, one of the most insincere and unscrupulous of his contemporaries. When at his country seat and among the clergy, he professed piety and exhibited the signs of a superior sanctity. In Edinburgh he was known as a debauchee. He was intensely ambitious. After being a Lord of Session for nearly thirty years, he resigned his post and entered the House of Commons, as member for Clackmannanshire. He expected the appointment of Secretary of State for Scotland, which would have enabled him to command its patronage. But his short-sighted policy put a check on his prospects. With a view to please the Scottish clergy, he warmly opposed the repeal of the statutes against witchcraft, and declared his belief in the necromantic arts. This procedure ruined his parliamentary influence. He retired from public affairs, and betook himself to inglorious seclusion. His chief haunt was a coffee-house in the London Haymarket, the keeper of which was commonly believed to be his mistress.
Lord Monboddo, an eminent judge of the Supreme Court, laboured under the singular hallucination that the human race were originally possessed of tails. He had persuaded himself that these were removed by accoucheurs so soon as children were born. When a birth took place in his house, he kept watch at the door of the apartment, and demanded that the young stranger might immediately be presented to him. He was much disappointed that he could never discover any evidence of a caudal appendage having been wrenched off.
Lord Monboddo was impatient of contradiction, and insisted that the instructions which he conveyed to persons in his employment should be obeyed to the letter. He had entrusted a horse to a farrier, with directions that a certain medicine was to be given to the animal. The farrier administered the medicine in treacle. The horse having died next morning, his lordship narrowly inquired when and how the medicine had been given. Finding that treacle had been used, he prosecuted the farrier for the price of the horse. His lordship pleaded his own cause at the bar of the court, but failed to convince his colleagues that his claim was just.
Lord Monboddo regarded riding on horseback as the most gentlemanlike mode of. locomotion. His journeys to London were always performed on horseback. He to attempted to ride London in his eighty-fourth year, but was obliged to return when he had reached Dunbar. His lordship did not sit on the bench of the court, but at the clerk's table. Sundry odd reasons have been assigned for this practice, but it is believed the true cause was that he suffered from deafness, and was too conscientious to give judgment in any case without fully hearing the arguments of counsel on both sides.
Lord Monboddo was the patron of Professor John Hunter, of St. Andrews, the celebrated scholar. Mr. Hunter was born at Closeburn, Dumfriesshire; and having been educated at the famous academy of Wallace Hall, in his native parish, had been recommended to Monboddo for his scholarly attainments. The learned judge was surprised at the extent of Hunter's classical knowledge, and at once gave him employment as his amanuensis. When the Humanity Professorship in the University of St. Andrews became vacant, his lordship recommended Mr. Hunter to the patron, General Scott, who at once appointed him to the chair.
Lord Kames was a very eccentric judge. He had acquired the ridiculous habit of familiarly styling his friends by the term which designates a female dog. At an advanced age he retired from the bench. After taking farewell of his colleagues in a solemn address, and shaking hands with them all round, he was about to retire from the court-room, when the deep feelings of the moment re-awakened his peculiarity, and lie cried, with a broken utterance "Fareweel— fare ye a' weel,-ye bitches!" Dr. David Doig, Bector of the grammar school of Stirling, a person of remarkable learning, published anonymously two letters to Lord Kames respecting certain extravagant opinions advanced in his "Sketches of the History of Man." Having ascertained the authorship of the criticisms, his lordship called upon Dr. Doig, and finding him in his schoolroom, saluted him with, "Are you the bitch that wrote those letters?" "I am the Dog who did so, my lord," responded the rector.
Lord Kames was prodigiously fond of gossip. There was a lame porter, who bore the sobriquet of Linkum the Cadie, who was not more remarkable for his awkward gestures than for an extraordinary faculty for picking up news. Linkum hovered at his lordship's door every morning to convey to him his supplies of news in his progress to the Parliament House.
In the district of his estate of Blair-Drummond Lord Kames was noted as a zealous agriculturist. He was expatiating to a farmer in the Carse of Stirling on the alleged discovery of Baron von Haak, a German, who professed to fertilize an acre of land by a wonderfully small quantity of a kind of manure which he offered for sale. The farmer expressed a decided doubt as to the efficacy of the Baron's nostrum. "My friend," said Lord Kames, "there are such wonderful discoveries in science, that I should not be surprised if at some future time we might he able to carry the manure of an acre of land to the. field in our coat pocket." "In that case, my lord," rejoined the farmer, "you would be able to bring back the crop in your waistcoat pocket."
Lord Braco was excessively fond of money. Walking in the avenue which conducted through his demesne, he saw a farthing at his feet, which he took up, cleaned, and deposited in his pocket. A mendicant who happened to come up, begged that his lordship would bestow upon him the small coin which he had picked up. "Bin' a farthing for yoursel', my man," said his lordship, as he slowly pursued his walk.
Lord Hermand was noted for his irritability of temper. When presiding at the Circuit Court at Inverness, a wag, aware of his weakness of temper, set a musical snuff-box a-playing on one of the benches. A pause in the business of the court immediately ensued. "Macer, what in the world is that?" exclaimed the irate judge. The officer looked about to discover the delinquent. "It's Jack's alive, my lord!" exclaimed the unsuspected offender. "Dead or alive, put him out this moment," said the judge. "We canna grup him, my lord," was the reply. "I say!" exclaimed the judge, "let every one assist to arraign him before me at once." The music having stopped, the Macer stated to his lordship that the offender had escaped. The trial was resumed, when in half an hour another tune sprung up. "He's there again!" cried his lordship. "Fence the doors of the court; let not a man escape." Search proved useless. "This is deceptio auris" said his lordship, somewhat subdued.
A large party was dining with Lord Hermand at his country residence. During dinner one of the attendants let fall a wine decanter, which was broken to pieces. The excited judge started to his feet, rushed after the unhappy waiter, who fled precipitately down-stairs. His lordship resumed his seat, as if nothing had occurred.
Lord Auchinleck was possessed of considerable powers of sarcasm. His son, James Boswell, was not exempted from its frequent application. Referring to his son's accompanying Johnson in his Scottish tour, and otherwise courting his society, the old judge remarked that he had often heard of bears being led about by men, but that Jamie was the first man he had ever heard of who was led about by a bear.
James Boswell was one day expatiating to his father on the learning and other good qualities of Dr. Johnson, in the hope of removing his prejudices against the lexicographer. "He is," concluded James, "the grand luminary of our hemisphere—quite a constellation, sir." "Ursa Major, I suppose?" drily responded his lordship.
In extracts from a journal, entitled "Boswelliana," by James Boswell, privately printed by Lord Houghton, occur the following notices of Lord Auchinleck:—
"My father," writes James Boswell, "had all along so firm, so dry a mind, that religious principles, however carefully inculcated by his father and mother, and however constantly they remained on the surface, never incorporated with his thoughts, never penetrated into the seat of his affections. They were a dead range, not a quickset hedge; the fence had a good appearance enough, and was sufficiently strong, hut it never flourished in green luxuriance, never blossomed, never bore fruit. The ground within, however, produced plentiful crops of useful exertions as a judge, and improvements as a (laird) landed gentleman. And let it be considered that there may be a fine fence round barren, unprofitable land. 24th September, 1780."
"Lord Auchinleck," adds his son, "was one of the most firm and indefatigable judges that ever lived. Brown at Utrecht said, ' He was one of those great beams that are placed here and there to support the edifice of society.' "
"Brown at Utrecht," to whom James Boswell refers as thus eulogizing his father, was afterwards well known as the Principal of Marischal College, Aberdeen, and author of the prize essay " On the Existence of a Supreme Being." It may not detract from the character of Lord Auchinleck to assert that it is in the highest degree probable that Dr. Brown had passed his eulogy upon him more to gratify his vain and eccentric son than from any solid conviction of the truth of his assertion. Dr. Brown was known to the father of the writer, who used to speak of him as the most persevering satirist whom he ever met in society. His disposition was to assail rather than commend. Principal Hill, of St. Andrews, on being privately asked by Lord Melville his opinion of Dr. Brown before his appointment to Marischal College, stated that he was regarded as somewhat too impetuous in temper. By the mistake of a clerk, Dr. Hill's statement had been shown to Dr. Brown, who in consequence levied war on his brother Principal. He published a long poem, entitled " Philemon," in which, under the name of Vulpellus, he depicted Dr. Hill with fierce invective. The grandfather of Dr. Brown, as minister of Cortachy, distinguished himself by appearing armed in support of the reigning family in 1745. He was consequently promoted to the chair of Ecclesiastical History at St. Andrews. His lectures were composed in Latin. Six lectures of the course were entitled Res gestec ante mundum conditum.
Another extract from his son's journal will conclude our notices of Lord Auchinleck:—
"Lord Auchinleck said, 'The great point for a judge is to conduct a cause with safety and expedition, like a skilful pilot. The agents always endeavour to keep a cause afloat; but I have my eye upon the haven, and the moment I have got him fairly in order, I give one hearty push, and then he is landed.'"
Lord Hailes was celebrated for his minute accuracy in business affairs. He bad an only daughter, whose succession to his estates depended on his having destined them to her by testamentary deed. But after his lordship's death no document of the nature of a will could be found. His daughter, Miss Dalrymple, was preparing, in consequence, to vacate the paternal home to make room for the heir male, when one of the domestics, in closing the window-shutters, discovered a document resting behind one of the panels, which she handed to her mistress. It proved to be his lordship's will, which was found to secure her in possession of his estates.
Sir George Mackenzie, the celebrated Lord Advocate, was an acute but unscrupulous lawyer. He possessed a valuable estate, which was likely to be inherited by his only daughter. The Earl of Bute was a suitor for the hand of the heiress, but he dreaded the opposition of her father in the event of his making proposals of marriage. Having obtained the young lady's consent, he adopted an amusing ruse to overcome the hostility of her sire. He called upon him in the capacity of a client, and submitted a case representing all the circumstances, the lady's name only being concealed. He then asked Sir George how he should proceed, and whether, in the event of their being married without the father's consent, they might be disappointed in enjoying his estates on his decease. Sir George, unconscious that he was concerned in the matter, gave counsel which led to his daughter becoming, by a clandestine marriage, the wife of his client.
Lord President Dundas had six clerks. He characterized them thus:—"Two cannot read, two cannot write, and the other two can neither read nor write." One of those who could not read was the eccentric Sir James Colquhoun. His lordship's remarks were of course hypercritical; but it is related of Lord Gardenstoun, as an historical fact, that he was unable to spell the most common words. His lordship was author of several respectable publications. James Boswell persisted in misspelling certain words. The word friend he uniformly wrote freind.
Lord Braxfield possessed eminent forensic talents, but was excessively coarse in his judicial procedure. During the trial'of Muir, one of the political prisoners of 1793-4, he said to one of the jury, as he passed behind the bench to get into the jury-box, "Come awa', Maister Horner; come awa', and help us to hang ane o' thae daamned scoondrels."
The clerk of the Criminal Court, Mr. Joseph ISTorris, was an authority in forms and precedents. When any doubts were started regarding the validity of a criminal indictment, Braxfield used to say, "Hoot! just gie me Josie Norrie and a gude jury, an' I'll do for the fallow."
Lord Eskgrove is described by Lord Cockburn in his "Memorials of his Time" as a most eccentric personage. Cockburn heard him sentence a tailor for murdering a soldier in these words:—"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 lithall weapon through the belly-band of his regimental breeches, which were his Majesty's."
While summing up evidence in a case for the opinion of the jury, Eskgrove spoke thus:—"And so, gentlemen, having shown you that the pannel's argument is utterly imjpossibill, I shall now proceed for to show you that it is extremely improbabill."
A young lady oF great personal attractions having come into court as a witness in a case, modestly drew down her veil. Lord Eskgrove called to her, "Madam, lift up your veil; throw off all modesty, and look me in the face."
Lord Eskgrove could not tolerate those counsel who evinced ingenuity or acuteness. He conceived a great aversion to young Brougham, then practising at the Edinburgh bar. He designated Brougham the Harangue. "Well, gentlemen," he said to a jury, "what did the Harangue say next? Why, it is this [his lordship misstated it]; but here, gentlemen, the Harangue was most plainly wrangg, and not intelligibill."
Lord Cockburn was the last Scottish judge who habitually used the vernacular. His easy manners and intimate familiarity with provincial phrases rendered him expert in examining witnesses from the country. He was, as a counsel, associated with Francis Jeffrey in a cause in which their client sought to prove that the heir of a landed property was incapable of administering his affairs. A country farmer, who was understood to be favourable to the views of the pursuer, was examined by Mr. Jeffrey, who failed to procure satisfactory answers to his questions. Cockburn came to the assistance of his learned colleague. "Ye ken Davie, I suppose?" said he to the witness. "Ou aye," responded the farmer, "I've kent him since he wasna muckle bigger than ma loof." "Ay, an' what d'ye think o' the cratur?" "Think o' him?" said the farmer. "The cratur has naething in him ava." ""Wad ye trust him in the market to sell a coo?" proceeded the counsel. "Deed no," answered the witness; "I maist think he disna ken a coo frae a calf." "That will do, John," said Mr. Cockburn, who resumed his seat.
A prosecution in the Justiciary Court was likely to break down, consequent on the counsel for the Crown being unable to elicit from a witness the particular position of the prisoner at the time when the crime was committed. The witness had deponed that the prisoner was neither standing, nor sitting, nor lying, nor crouching. "Was she on her cutty hunkers?"* inquired Mr. Cockburn, coming to the rescue of the Crown counsel. "That's it," responded the witness.
During a jury trial at Jedburgh, Messrs. Jeffrey, Cockburn, and Moncreiff, all subsequently judges, were engaged as counsel. When Mr. Moncreiff was addressing the jury, Mr. Jeffrey playfully handed the following case to his learned brother, Mr. Cockburn, for his opinion:—"A legacy was lately left by an elderly gentlewoman in the north to the Peer of Aberdeen. As the will was written by the lady herself, and was generally deficient in spelling and accuracy of expression, a dispute has arisen as to the intent of the testator, and the following claimants have appeared for the legacy. First, the Earl of Aberdeen; second, the commissioners for erecting the pier at Aberdeen; and third, the manager of the Charity Workhouse, who grounds his right on the fact that the old lady was in the habit more majorum of pronouncing poor peer. To which of the parties does the money belong?" Mr. Cockburn appended his opinion in these words:— "The legacy belongs to none of the three claimants, but to the Horticultural Society of Scotland, for the purpose of promoting the culture of a kind of fruit, called, or to be called, the Pear of Aberdeen."
Lord Jeffrey, it is stated, refused to be appointed a Lord of Justiciary, lest, in passing the last sentence of the law, he might be compared with that friend of capital punishment, the infamous Judge Jeffreys of England. A similar sensitiveness led to his retaining his own name as a Lord of Session, instead of assuming the designation of his estate of Craigcrook. "A Lord Craigcrook," [Those unfamiliar with Scottish forms of expression may be informed that to crook a craig is to hang some one.] said his lordship, "would alarm everybody."
The youngest son of Henry David, fifth Earl of Buchan, became the celebrated Lord Chancellor Erskine. He was a famous humourist.
A barrister, named Lamb, was of an extremely nervous and sensitive nature, and he usually prefaced his pleadings by offering an apology for these constitutional defects. On one occasion when he was opposed to Erskine, he remarked in court that he found himself growing more and more timid as he grew older. " No wonder," rejoined Erskine; " every one knows the older a Lamb grows the more sheepish he becomes."
Polito, keeper of the menagerie in Exeter Change, brought an action against the proprietors of a stagecoach for negligence, his portmanteau having been stolen from the boot of the coach behind while he had been sitting on the box. Erskine was retained as counsel for the coach proprietors. He said to the jury, "Why should not the plaintiff take a lesson from his own sagacious elephant, and travel with his trunk before him ?" The joke gained the case for the defendants.
Lord Erskine, when at the bar, was consulted by the Duke of Queensberry as to whether a tradesman might be sued for a breach of contract about painting his house. Mr. Erskine returned the papers to his Grace with this opinion expressed on an enclosed slip, —"This action will not lie unless the witnesses do."
The future Chancellor was taken ill one evening at Lady Payne's. On her ladyship expressing a hope that his indisposition might not prove serious, he replied in the following impromptu:—
true I am ill, but I need not complain,
For he never knew pleasure who never knew Payne."
With the celebrated Dr. Parr Lord Erskine maintained terms of close friendship. "If I survive you," said the doctor to him one day, "I'll write your epitaph." "It is a temptation to commit suicide," responded the wit.
In his latter years the Chancellor became eccentric and credulous. He became a believer in apparitions and the second sight, and used to relate to his friends that John Burnet, his father's valet, who had been long dead, had reappeared to him.
Alexander Wedderburn, Earl of Rosslyn, Lord Chancellor from 1793 to 1801, was originally a member of the Scottish bar. His removal to London was consequent on a dispute with Mr. Lockhart, Dean of the Faculty of Advocates. The Dean possessed a fiery temper, and was extremely overbearing towards his juniors. He had on one occasion termed Wedderburn "a presumptuous boy,"—a rude speech, which the young counsel resolved, on the first suitable occasion, to resent. Being opposed to the Dean in a case before the court, Wedderburn took occasion to allege respecting his learned opponent that "he had been disgraced in his person and dishonoured in his bed" referring to his having been menaced with a horsewhipping, and to a rumour of his wife's infidelity. This monstrous outrage on the Dean called from the Lord President a severe rebuke on the offender, who immediately disrobed and left the court. He started for London the same day, and joining the English bar, attained, after thirty-six years' successful practice, the Lord Chancellorship and an earldom.
The Hon. Henry Erskine, an advocate at the Scottish bar, was, like his younger brother, Lord Chancellor Erskine, a noted wit. His name was vulgarly pronounced Askin. When he was Dean of Faculty, a foppish advocate, wishing to avoid a question put to him by the Dean, said testily, " I never meet you but I find you Askin" " And I," rejoined the Dean, "never meet you but I find an anser" (a goose).
Erskine was dining with Mr. Creech, the bookseller, who was rather penurious, and who on one occasion entertained his guests with a single bottle of Cape wine, though he spoke of some fine Madeira which he had in his cellar. Having failed in his efforts to induce the host to produce his vaunted Madeira, Erskine summed up, " Well, since we can't get to Madeira, we must just double the Cape."
On being introduced by James Boswell to Dr. Samuel Johnson, in the Edinburgh Parliament House, Erskine took out a shilling and, slipping it into Boswell's hand, whispered to him, " It's for a sight of your hear."
When informed that Knox, the doorkeeper of the Parliament House, had been killed by a small cannon fired in honour of the king's birthday, he remarked that it was strange a man should live by the civil, and die by the canon law.
A friend ventured to remonstrate with Mr. Erskine on his habit of punning, observing that it was, in his opinion, the lowest species of wit. "Precisely so," rejoined the humourist, "and hence it is the foundation of the whole."
John Clerk, afterwards Lord Eldin, was sent to London to plead before Lord Chancellor Eldon in an important property cause. He was inveterate in his use of the Scottish accent. In the course of his speech he pronounced the word enow for enough. The Chancellor drily remarked, "Mr. Clerk, in England we sound the ough as uff—enuff, not enow." "Vera weel, ma Lord," said Clerk, "of this we have said enuff; and I come, ma Lord, to the subdivision of the land in dispute. It was apportioned, ma Lord, into what in England would be called pluff land, a pluff land being as much land as a pluffman can pluff in one day." The Chancellor was convulsed by the happy repartee, and said, "Proceed, Mr. Clerk, "I know enow of Scotch to understand your argument."
When the learned citizens of Edinburgh indulged deeply in their potations, it is related that on a dark, misty night Clerk was wending his way homewards along Queen Street, towards Picardy Place, but became bewildered. Accosting a passenger, he blandly asked if he could direct him to John Clerk's house. The person thus accosted, looking the inquirer in the face, exclaimed, "Dear me, you are John Clerk yoursel." "I know that well," was the answer, "but it is not John Clerk I want, but John Clerk's house."
A son of Mr. Grahame, the author of " The Sabbath," was very tall and exceedingly lean. One day walking on the floor of the Parliament House, he attracted the notice of Mr. Clerk. "Who is that?" asked the wit. He was answered, "The son of the Sabbath." "Is he indeed?" said Clerk; "he looks much more like the son of the Fast-day."
When Clerk was on the bench, an advocate who had been pleading before him apologetically concluded a speech of six hours by remarking that he was afraid he had gone beyond his time. "Oh no," answered the witty judge, "these last three hours you have been speaking to eternity."
John Hagart of Bantaskine was a celebrated counsel. When he undertook a cause, he devoted his entire energies to the benefit of his client. In one instance he clearly, exceeded the duty of an advocate. He was defending, in the Justiciary Court, a person who had been indicted for murder. The crime was alleged to have been committed on a moonlight night, and two witnesses were, on the part of the Crown, prepared to depone that they had seen the prisoner red-hand in the act. Mr. Hagart perceived that it was in vain, by ordinary means, to invalidate the testimony of the witnesses. He had recourse to a stratagem. He caused a new leaf to be inserted in his copy of the "Edinburgh Almanac" at that portion of the calendar which included the date of the alleged crime. The substituted leaf indicated that there was no moonlight on the night when the witnesses testified that the murder had taken place. When the almanac was produced by Mr. Hagart in the course of his speech, the deputy advocate, conducting the prosecution, was quite taken aback, and at once consented to abandon his charge against the prisoner. Such a dangerous experiment could not be repeated.
Hugo Arnot, the historian of Edinburgh, held the status of an advocate, though he seldom practised before the courts. He was remarkable for his eccentric humour and singular impulsiveness. He was one day waited upon by a lady, who requested him to advise how she might best get rid of an admirer, whose importunities caused her annoyance. The lady was the reverse of fascinating, and Arnot, being indisposed to flatter her vanity, replied, "Oh, you had better marry the fellow." "Marry him!" replied the astounded lady, "I would see him hanged first." "Marry him then," persisted the humourist, "and I'll bet on it hell soon hang himself."
Arnot had got into the habit of ringing his bell violently. A maiden lady, who lived on the upper floor, complained to him that his bell made her start, and begged him to be more gentle in ringing it. Wearied with her messages, Arnot at length said he would cease to use the bell altogether. He did so, but in its place discharged a pistol when he desired the attendance of his servant. The lady was horror-struck, and sent a message entreating him to resume the use of his bell.
One of the most distinguished of the Edinburgh advocates happened to possess a somewhat forbidding aspect, of which, however, he was happily unconscious. An accidental circumstance served to inform him of the fact. Taking a ride into the country, he found, on reaching a toll-bar, that he had forgotten his purse. Mentioning the circumstance to the toll-keeper, he said he would pay him when he next passed. The official seemed rather doubtful. "Look in my face," said the advocate to him indignantly, "and say whether you think I am likely to cheat you." "I'll thank you for the twopence," responded the toll-keeper.
Mr. William Eoss, another lawyer of the capital, was more successful in an effort to attain his purpose. He occupied a country house at Stockbridge, then an isolated suburb of the city. Having been annoyed with thieves breaking into his garden and grounds, he issued a .handbill bearing this inscription,—
"'Thou shalt not Steal.'
"All persons whom it may concern are desired to take notice that steel traps, of the largest size, for catching breakers of the eighth commandment, are every night placed in the garden of St. Bernard's, between Stockbridge and the Water of Leith, on the north side of the water; that spring guns are set to rake the walls with shot upon the touch of a wire; and that a tent, having in it an armed watchman, is pitched in the middle, with orders to fire' without mercy. If, therefore, any evil-disposed person or persons shall attempt to break into the grounds of St. Bernard's, their blood will be upon their own heads!"
The alarming nature of this menace at first created a suspicion that the whole was a fiction, and some inroads began to be attempted on the premises. Mr. Boss now had recourse to a new method of alarm. He procured the limb of a body from the dissecting-room, and dressing it with a stocking and shoe, sent it through the streets with the public crier, proclaiming that it had been found last night in St. Bernard's garden, and would be restored to the owner on application. The coup de main succeeded.
One of the most difficult duties of Scottish advocates is to conduct the examination of witnesses. An acute member of the faculty was overcome by the smartness of a celebrated physician. Professor Gregory was in the witness-box, in a case of alleged insanity. His testimony went to prove the insanity. In cross-examination it was elicited from him that the party in question was a skilful whist-player. "And do you seriously consider, Dr. Gregory," proceeded the learned counsel, "that a person having a capacity for a game so difficult, and which requires memory, judgment, and combination, can be at the same time deranged?" "I am no card-player," replied the Professor, "but I have read in history that cards were invented for the amusement of an insane king."
A country farmer was examined before the Presbytery of Brechin, in the case of the Rev. John Gillanders, minister of Fearn, who was charged with intemperate habits. The lawyer who conducted the prosecution asked the farmer whether he had heard Mr. Gillanders acknowledge that he had been in the habit of drinking to excess. "I never heard him say that," responded the farmer, adding with emphasis, "but I have often heard him say that he was not."
The writer was present at a meeting of the Presbytery of Meigle, when a case in which a parochial schoolmaster was charged with drunkenness was tried before the court. A provincial lawyer of considerable eminence conducted the prosecution. A lad was placed in the witness-box who had some years before attended the school of the accused. The examination proceeded thus:—
Lawyer. When you attended Mr. C.'s school, did you remark that he had a habit of frequently proceeding to a small closet which opened from the schoolroom?
Witness. I did.
L. Did he very frequently enter this closet ?
W. I should say very frequently.
L. Have you ever been in the closet ?
W. I have.
L. And did you remark what it contained ?
W. I believe I can remember what I saw in it.
L. Now will you tell the court what you saw in the closet?
W. There were a good many bottles in it arranged on shelves.
L. Very good. And when Mr. C. repeatedly entered the closet, had you the curiosity to remark what he did when he was there ?
W. I often joined the other boys in looking into the closet after the master.
L. You did. And tell us now what you saw Mr. C. doing on these occasions.
W. He was handling bottles.
L. Handling bottles; ay. And do you know what the bottles contained ?
"What then did they contain?" proceeded the prosecutor, as he resumed his seat with an air of relief and composure.
"They were ink-bottles," said the witness.
The sudden overturn of the prosecutor's hopes may be conceived.
A shrewd shopkeeper in a central burgh, who desired to stand well with his customers, was examined as a witness in an action for libel. He had privately assured the prosecution that he had heard the defendant use malicious language concerning the plaintiff. When placed in the witness-box he was asked, "Did you ever hear the defendant speak in a vituperative manner of the plaintiff?" "I have," was the reply, "He did so in his own jocular way!"
Though as a nation the Scottish people are to be remarked for their integrity, there are occasional exemplifications in the courts of justice of aberrations from the strict path of truthfulness. The writer happened to be present in a Scottish court when a witness was examined in an important case, in which he was directly implicated. He was probably stating the truth; but it was an awkward circumstance respecting the aspects of his testimony, that he was guided in his answers by signs which wrere communicated to him by his country solicitor, who sat before him in the court.
In 1817 the Edinburgh Jury Court was occupied with a case between the burgh of Kirkcaldy and the trustees of the Kinghorn ferry. A witness gave evidence on behalf of the trustees of a very decided character. The counsel for the plaintiffs, having been informed that an agent of the trustees had presented the witness with a coat, sought to elicit the fact in a cross-examination. The examination proceeded thus:—
Counsel. Pray, where did you get that coat?
The witness, looking obliquely down on the sleeve of his coat, and from thence to the counsel, exclaimed,—"Coat! coat, sir! Whar got I that coat?"
C. I wish to know where you got that coat.
Witness. Maybe ye ken whar I got it.
C. We wish to know from whom you got it?
W. Did ye gie me that coat?
C. Tell the jury where you got that coat.
W. What's your business wi' that?
C. It is material that you tell the court where you got the coat.
W. I'm no obliged to tell aboot ma coat.
C. Do you not recollect whether you bought that coat, or whether it was given to you?
W. I canna recollect everything aboot ma coats; whan I got them, or whar I got them.
C. You said you remembered perfectly well about the boats forty-two years ago, and the people that lived in Kirkcaldy then, and John Marr's boat; and can you not recollect where you got that coat you have on at present?
W. I'm no gaun to say onything aboot coats.
C. Did Mr. Douglas, clerk to the trustees, give, you that coat?
W. I didna get the coat to do onything wrang for't; I didna engage to say onything that wasna true.
As the witness was leaving the box, the Lord Chief Commissioner called him back and observed, " The court wish to know from you something further about this coat. It is not believed or suspected that you got it improperly or dishonestly, or that there is any reason for your concealing it. You may have been disinclined to speak about it, thinking there was something of insult or reproach in the question put from the bar. You must be sensible that the bench can have no such intention; and it is for your credit, and the sake of your testimony, to disclose fairly where you got it. There may be discredit in concealing, but none in telling where you got it. I ask then, where did you get the coat?"
W. I'm no obliged to tell aboot ma coat.
Chief Commissioner. True; you are not obliged to tell where you got it, but it is for your own credit to tell.
W. I didna come here to tell aboot coats; 'but to tell aboot boats and pinnaces.
C. C. If you do not tell I must throw aside your evidence altogether.
W. I'm no gaun to say onything aboot ma coat; I'm no obliged to say onything aboot it.
The witness retired, but was afterwards recalled by Lord Gillies, and his examination was resumed.
Lord Gillies. How long have you had that coat?
W. I dinna ken hoo lang I hae had ma coat. I hae plenty o' coats. I dinna mind aboot this coat or that coat.
L. G. Do you remember anything near the time ? have you had it a year, a month, a week? Have you had it a week ?
W. Hoot aye; I daresay I may.
L. G. Have you had it a month?
W. I dinna ken; I cam here to speak aboot boats and no aboot coats.
L. G. Did you buy the coat?
W. I dinna mind what coat I bought or what coat I got.
The witness puzzled the court, but his evidence was rejected.
"I've gained my cause," said a litigant exultingly, on retiring from the court-room. "Indeed," said his friend, "I did not expect that it would have been decided so soon." "Oh, it's not just decided," rejoined the litigant, "but it's put upon my oath." The jubilation was suspicious.
A country farmer applied to a country solicitor for advice. Having related the circumstances of the case, the practitioner remarked that he hoped he had been careful in his statement of the facts, as they actually occurred. "Ou aye," said the farmer, "I thocht it better to tell you the plain truth; you can put the lees till't yoursel."
The delay which occurs in Scottish law courts in the conduct of civil causes is most inimical to the ends of justice where oral testimony is concerned.
The principal parties in a cause may preserve a distinct recollection of particulars in which they are individually interested; but persons who are incidental spectators or auditors cannot be expected to retain a minute and lively recollection of events in which they may only possess a remote or passing interest. In an action in the supreme court, connected with events which had taken place about two years previously, the writer was distressed to remark that of two clergymen examined as witnesses, one emphatically contradicted the other in respect of certain occurrences enacted when both were present and both were actors.
An ingenious Scotsman, author of some standard novels, was, many years after their publication, and at a somewhat advanced age, a witness in one of the law courts. A learned counsel in the cause remarked to the witness that he believed he had composed some works of fiction. The witness responded in the negative, adding that he had only written sketches of real life, in which all the characters were introduced by their names. In one of his prefaces the accomplished author had disclaimed the idea that he had in real life found any one resembling certain of his characters, and asserted that one of them in particular was purely imaginary.
Criminals are generally frank in confessing the truth to those who have undertaken their defence. The writer was present at a criminal trial, when the impressive eloquence of his counsel drew from the prisoner an unwitting acknowledgment of his crime. The prisoner, a lad of eighteen, was accused of plundering the contents of a gentleman's pocket. By the evidence of the witnesses for the prosecution the prisoner was entirely unmoved. He was equally unconcerned by the address of the prosecutor, which demonstrated his guilt. When his own counsel, however stood up, he leaned forward in the dock, and listened most eagerly. "If this young man had taken the money," proceeded the learned counsel, "where, I ask, would he have placed it? Not in his pockets, for they were likely first to he examined. Not in his shoes, for these, too, were sure to be inspected. I say, gentlemen of the jury, where was this lad likely to place the money?" The counsel made a short pause, when the prisoner, fearing that his defender was actually at a loss, exclaimed, "I put it in here, sir," pointing to his bosom.
In the times of feudal jurisdiction, the principal landowners were "Lords of Regality," and so exercised the power of inflicting capital sentences on those who resided on their estates. Any one who was sentenced by the laird to suffer death was, however precious his life might be to his family, readily resigned to the executioner. A young Highlander, condemned by the Laird of Grant for sheep-stealing, was reluctant to mount the fatal drop. The executioner having failed to induce him to ascend, that functionary called on the wife of the condemned to render her assistance. The woman went up to her husband, tapped him gently on the shoulder, and said coaxingly, "Noo, Donald, gang awa up, and be hangit like a shentleman, [Gentleman.] and no anger the laird."
Mr. William Roger, great-grandfather of the writer, was a county magistrate of Perthshire. He had on some occasion displayed leniency towards John Gunn, the noted freebooter. Not long after, at a market held at Coupar-Angus, a female cottar of Mr. Roger sold her cow, the price of which, about four pounds, she rolled in her handkerchief, which she deposited in her pocket. Gunn's men were on the alert, and very soon after the handkerchief was gone. In great distress, the poor woman informed Mr. 1 oger of her mishap, who immediately ascertained that Gunn was present in the market. Accompanied by the woman, he sought out the freebooter, to whom he related the story of her loss. The leader of banditti blew a small whistle, which immediately secured the presence of his gang. He parleyed with one or two of the number, and then produced the handkerchief with the money. " Any other little favour I can do you, Mr. Roger, shall be done," said the bandit. Gunn was afterwards hanged.
The municipal system permits many persons to attain magisterial rank who are scarcely qualified to sustain the dignity. Provost Anderson of Stirling was so elated with his honours as chief magistrate of his native town, that he became the hero of the most whimsical extravagances. He was most ambitious of dying in office, that he might obtain a public funeral—and actually got up a programme of the ceremonial to be observed on the occasion. " It is," said the provost, " most excellently planned, and so gratifying to think that I will be the principal person on the occasion."
Municipal dignitaries have occasionally got hard hits. An elderly woman in Dundee, who made her living by selling fruit, received a visit from the provost, who stated that he had received complaints as to orange peel being thrown on the pavement near her shop. The woman expressed her regret that her customers should be so careless of the public safety; but quaintly added, "Deed, provost, I've often remarked that the streets were never sae weel keepit, as when your grandfaither sweepit them." The grandsire of the chief magistrate was a scavenger.
Civic functionaries are disposed to resist any interference with their dignity. A public entertainment was given by the citizens of Aberdeen to the celebrated Lord Melville shortly after the honourable termination of his state trial. Deacon Webster, who was present, desirous of testifying his personal respect for his lordship, said aloud to him across the table, "I was unco gled to hear ye war acquitted." The intended compliment having failed to elicit any observation from the noble guest, the deacon was repeating the remark in a louder tone. Mr. Crombie, of Phaesdo, advocate, who sat near the loquacious deacon, mildly remonstrated with him on the inju-diciousness of his speech. "An' do you, sir," said the deacon, "presume to teach me what is proper? Many a time your father has shaved me for a farthing." The elder Crombie was a hairdresser and barber. When a number of persons came into his shop to be shaved, it was his practice to arrange them in a row, placing a towel round each and soaping them, so that they were obliged to remain till the shaving process was completed.
A bailie having imposed a fine of ten shillings on a familiar friend for a drunken brawl, the offender remonstrated, saying, "You are surely not in earnest, bailie." On this pleading the bailie so far relented as to reduce the fine to five shillings. Still the persistent culprit pled for leniency. It was reduced to half a crown. Another effort was made, and at last the fine was made one shilling, with the remark, which shut up the pleading, "As sure as death, John, though you were my very born brither, I could not make it less."
There is extant a bond by the magistrates of Perth to the Earl of Perth, agreeing, on getting the loan of his lordship's hangman from Crieff, that he would under a heavy penalty be safely sent back, so "as to serve his lordship's friends."
A magistrate of a western burgh who was fond of using learned words, was at a dinner in the mansion of a nobleman. By the peer he was asked his opinion of the wines which were served. The answer startled the company when the bailie replied, "My lord, I'm no accoucheur." He probably meant connoisseur.
Rutherglen, under the old system of burgh election, was united with Glasgow, Dumbarton, and Eenfrew, to return one member of parliament. In case of equality the burghs in rotation had a casting vote as returning burgh. On the occasion of a contested election Rutherglen was the returning burgh, and therefore the votes of the deacons, who as such were town councillors, were of great value. The friends of the two candidates from Glasgow kept up for weeks a system of continual feasting. The election being over, the deacon of the weavers returned to his humble diet of porridge and milk. Recollecting the slang of his late retainers he irefully ordered his wife to remove the milk, declaring the same to be corked.