Search just our sites by using our customised search engine

Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

The Scot in America
Men of Letters

In the gallery of Scottish-American men of letters no name stands higher, no personality was more impressive, no life was more useful, than that of James McCosh, the gifted President of Princeton College, N. J. He settled in America in the fullness of his powers, and from the (lay of his arrival gave himself up wholly to it. He not only strove to place Princeton among the world's great seats of learning, but lie gave to America a system of philosophy, based upon the old common-sense school of Scotland, which, if followed out and studied with the closeness it deserves, will give a new trend to American thought and scholarship, and to American metaphysical study an individuality of its own. His administration of Princeton was a model one. During his tenure of office he reorganized the whole routine at the college, extended its curriculum, rebuilt most of its halls, and when he laid down the Presidency it was second in point of equipment, number of students, standing of Faculty, and moral tone to no university establishment in America. Considered simply as a man of letters, Dr. McCosh by his writings did much to advance American scholarship, and his two volumes on "Realistic Philosophy" and the one on "First and Fundamental Truths" are probably the most important contributions yet made to higher American thought. "The time has come for America to declare her independence in philosophy" formed part of one of the opening sentences of the former work, and the foundation of such a system was the purpose of his later writings—the work of all his closing years. But, full of American fervor as he was, he never lost his devotion to his native land, and what Scot abroad ever sent back to the country of his birth a grander memorial of his love than did Dr. McCosh when he published his invaluable history of "Scottish Philosophy"? As he well said in its preface: "This work has been with me a labor of love. The gathering of materials for it and the writing of it, as carrying me into what I feel to be interesting scenes, have afforded me great pleasure, which is the only reward I am likely to get. I publish it as the last, and to inc the only remaining, means of testifying my regard for my country—loved all the more because I am now far from it—and my country's philosophy, which has been the means of stimulating thought in so many of Scotland's sons." To understand Dr. McCosh's life work, too, it must not be forgotten that he was a zealous and devoted minister of the Gospel. That fact he himself not only never forgot, but lie placed its duties above all others. In the preface to his "Gospel Sermons," published in 1888, he sufficiently enunciated this when he said: "Hitherto my published works have been chiefly philosophical. But, all along, while I was lecturing and writing on philosophy, I was also preaching. I am anxious that the public should 'know that, much as I value philosophy, I place the Gospel of Jesus Christ above it."

Dr. McCosh was born in 1811 at Garskcoch, Ayrshire, and was the son of a farmer. After studying for the ministry at Glasgow and Edinburgh, lie was licensed to preach in 1834, and soon after became minister of the Abbey Church, Arbroath. Three years later he became minister of Brechin, and there he labored until the Disruption, when he formed one of the noble band who "came out" with Chalmers, Cunningham, Candlish, and Guthrie. For a time he was an itinerant preacher, going hither and thither throughout Angus and Mearns, gathering the people into congregations and explaining the position of the new Free Church. Finally he settled down as minister of the East Free Church, Brechin, and gave himself up to study. It was there he commenced his lifelong inquiry into philosophical matters. One of the first fruits of that study was a volume on "The Method of Divine Government, Physical and Moral," and its publication led to his receiving the appointment of Professor of Logic and Metaphysics in Queen's College, Belfast. This appointment met with a good deal of opposition in Ireland.

The new professor speedily showed, however, that he was an acquisition to Ireland, although his earnest advocacy of a system of education in that country on national principles met with the most bitter opposition of the Roman Catholic clergy and laity. Indeed, his views and those of Mr. Gladstone on this question were diametrically opposed to each other, but he cordially indorsed, as might be expected, that statesman's movement for the disestablishment of the English Church in Ireland. His studies in metaphysics were diligently prosecuted in Ireland, and the outcome was several works which advanced his position in the world of letters and thought—notably his volume on "Intuitions of the Mind." In 1866 Dr. McCosh paid a visit to America, mainly for the purpose of studying the educational equipnient of the country. Two years later he was offered the position of President of Princeton, and accepted it after considerable hesitation. From that time until the weight of years, in 1888, impelled him to resign the Presidency, his whole life was devoted to Princeton, and the devotion had magnificent results. His students loved him, the friends of Princeton had confidence in him, and he constantly was adding new names to the long list of the benefactors of the institution. But, wrapped up as he was in Princeton, Dr. McCosh took a keen interest in passing events and in the literary movements of his time. He had a profound contempt for the theory of evolution, and discussed it in print with its great apostle, Tyndall, and whatever looked like an approach to materialism found in him an inveterate foe. He had no patience with anything that paltered with the great truths of life, and if he hated an infidel he had nothing but contempt for an agnostic, or even for what might be called a "trimmer." Religion must either be wholly true or wholly false. There was no middle way, no room for real argument except on the one side or the other. But he was no believer in the theory that religion can take care of itself. He regarded it as the duty of all men who professed religion to advance it and strengthen it at every point. Hence the interest he took in the movement for the union of the various branches of the Presbyterian Church—a union he advocated until his death, in 1894.

National predilection might tempt us to regard Dr. Mc-Cosh's greatest work as his volume on "Scottish Philosophy," but undoubtedly the book which has had and will continue to have the greatest influence upon the thought of this country is that in which he unfolded his scheme of realistic philosophy—the American school, as he liked to call it. There can be no doubt that that work has already exerted a very considerable influence in America, but we believe its influence is only in its primary stages, and that sooner or later the system laid down by the grand old man of Princeton will be fully adopted as America's own—modified, of course, by the inevitable new lights which time and circumstance will bring to bear upon it. But time and circumstance will not change the groundwork, and in Dr. McCosh's foundation we see a system founded on a rock—the rock of truth, for, after all, that is the keynote of the s stem lie proposed. By it he hoped to make American Philosophy healthy—different altogether from the vague, unsatisfactory speculation, the sickly sentimentalism, and the cowardly agnosticism of so many of the recognized European schools. His system was not altogether untried, for it is really, as we have already said, a development of the old Scotch common-sense school, and it squared in every point with natural and revealed religion. To America the life of Dr. McCosh was a grand one, and had Scotland contributed no more than that one life to the agencies which are building tip and developing the highest and holiest interests of the United States, it would have deserved the kindliest recognition from American scholarship.

A very similar case is that of Dr. Daniel Wilson of Toronto—Sir Daniel, as he was called in the twilight of his life. Like Dr. McCosh, he settled in America in the fullness of his powers, and after he had established his literary reputation, and he continued at work in his transatlantic. home until the inevitable summons called him to the majority. Born at Edinburgh in 1816, a nephew of "Christopher North," he early showed a predilection for literary work. His education was received mainly at the historic High School of his native town—the school of Drummond of Hawthornden, Robert Ferguson, Law of Lauriston, Boswell, the biographer; Henry Mackenzie, the "Man of Feeling"; Lord Brougham, and a hundred other notables—and at the university in that city. After graduating, he spent some years in London, mainly engaged in literary pursuits, and then returned to Scotland, where he began that thorough study into the archaeology and antiquities of the country which was destined ultimately to give him a high place among her historical writers. He became Secretary to the Royal Antiquarian Society of Scotland and contributed many valuable papers to its "Transactions." His chief study at that time was the romantic city in which lie was born and in which he resided, and the result of his studies—the "Memorials of Edinburgh in the Olden Time," published in 1847—established his reputation as a writer and archaeologist. His greatest contribution to historical literature, however, was his "Prehistoric Annals of Scotland," a work which not only directed inquiry on a rational basis into a subject which had previously been treated as a romance or a series of fables, but continues to be a standard authority, notwithstanding the researches which have since been made into the subject. In 1853, through the influence of the Earl of Elgin, Wilson accepted an invitation to become Professor of English Literature and History in the -University of Toronto, and thereafter made his home in Canada. From that "Queen City" he issued, in 1862, his magnificent volumes on "Prehistoric Man: Researches into the Origin of Civilization in the Old World and the New," thus grouping his American as well as his European studies of a theme that was to him of the most fascinating description. We have not space, however, to mention all of the literary work which this diligent student performed after his lines were cast in Canada. If gathered together his contributions to the Journal of the Canadian Institute and to periodicals of various descriptions would fill a goodly array of volumes. All his work was conscientiously done; every line he wrote bore the hall marks of the scholar. Dr. Wilson was a poet, too, and published a small volume of his verses under the title of "Spring Flowers" in 1875, but no one can read his prose works without feeling in them even a deeper poetical sentiment and insight than in the volume in which he uttered his thoughts in verse. His was a beautiful old age. Elevated to the Presidency of his college, honored by his sovereign with knighthood, and enjoying the respectful admiration of thousands of friends in both Hemispheres, lie continued in harness to the end, doing good by word, thought, and deed until the night came that ushered him into the sunlight.

The first literature that is issued in connection with a new country is generally topographical and descriptive, and in respect to the New World the ubiquitous Scot is represented among those who wrote of the American Colonies while even most of the seaboard was in a state of nature. This advance guard of a long line of litterateurs of all ranks had an early representative in John Lawson, a native of Aberdeen. He was born in that city about 1658, and in 1690 was appointed Surveyor General of North Carolina. He appears to have begun his work in America a year later, and to have applied himself to its duties with all the determination and energy so characteristic of his race. The best evidence of this extant is his volume, published at London in 1700, entitled "A New Voyage to Carolina, Containing the Exact Description and Natural History of that Country; Together with the Present State Thereof; and a Journal of a Thousand Miles Traveled Through Several Nations of Indians, Giving a Particular Account of Their Customs, Manners, &c." This work proved so popular, was recognized as so perfect an authority on its subject that it was reprinted in 1709, 1714, and in 1718, and it had the honor of being reproduced, at Raleigh, N. C., as recently as 1860. In 1712, in the course of one of his surveying trips, Lawson was made prisoner by Tuscarora Indians and was put to death in a manner that brought into operation all the fiendish cruelty for which that people were distinguished.

A better-remembered name is that of George Chalrners, one of the most prominent literary antiquarians of Scotland. This man, whose wonderful "Caledonia" remains a storehouse for writers on Scottish historical matters, was born at Fochabers in 1742, and bred to the legal profession. In 1763 lie sailed for America with a relative who was anxious to recover a large tract of land in Maryland, which had been in the possession of an earlier member of the family. Making his headquarters in Baltimore, Chalmers studied the legal practice of that city, and finally determined to settle there and carry on his profession. There he remained, until the troubles of the Revolution broke out, and when he saw that separation from the mother country was inevitable, or that military rule was to be necessary to keep the country loyal, lie determined to leave it. Settling tip his affairs as best he could, he crossed over to London and began his career as a man of letters. It is singular that Chalmers's American experiences proved unproductive of literary result. He published in 1782 the first volume of 'An Introduction to the History of the Revolt of the Colonies," but the volume was quickly suppressed at his instance, and no more appeared in print. A volume of "Opinions on Interesting Subjects of Public Laws and Commercial Policy, Arising from American Independence," issued in 1784, and a few tracts, complete his literary connection with the United States. Scotland, however, was possibly the gainer by his devotion to themes and studies peculiarly her own, and his editions of her ancient poets, his "Caledonia," his "Life of Mary, Queen of Scots," and many other works of like importance give him a high place among the literary students of the country.

In the case of James Thomas Callender we have the first instance of a Scot whose entire literary life, almost, was given up to the United States, and was developed by the influences at work in the country. He was also one of the pioneers, if not the pioneer, of that style of American journalism which uses declamation and denunciation instead of argument, which is distinguished by the bitterness it displays toward opponents, and seems never happier than when engaged in sneering at and belittling, if not vilifying, whatever does not square with the writer's notions or interests, in Church or State, in religion, manners, or morals. Callender was born at Stirling in 1758. Of his early life little is known until, in 1792, he published at Edinburgh a pamphlet entitled "The Political Progress of Britain." It was a time when the authorities, aroused by the success of the French Revolution and the feeling of dissatisfaction with political conditions which generally prevailed, were keenly bent on suppressing anything that looked like sedition, and Callender's work was judged to fall under that category, and was seized. A warrant was issued for his arrest, but he evaded it by escaping to this country.

Callender reached America in 1793, and settled in Philadelphia. There he published the "Political Register" and the "American Register," but neither appear to have added much to his worldly fortune. Removing to Richmoncl, Va., he established the "Richmond Recorder," which became somewhat of a power in politics. Callender was bitterly outspoken in his opposition to the Administrations of Washington and Adams. His beau ideal of a statesman for a long time was Thomas Jefferson, but toward the end he opposed that patriot's policy as vehemently as lie did those of the early Presidents. A man engaged in newspaper work has little time for anything else than to fulfill its demands, but Callender managed to publish several volumes—"Sketches of American History" being the most noteworthy—all of which show him to have been a writer at once forcible and graceful and possessed of a thorough knowledge of and a keen insight into the passing affairs of his time. His character, however, was not a lovable one. His temper was soured—perhaps by his outlawry in early life—and his work in this country seems really to have been of little passing, and certainly of no permanent, value. He met his death, by drowning, in the James River, near Richmond, in 1813.

A much more amiable career, and one still popularly recalled on both sides of the Atlantic, is that of Alexander Wilson, "the Paisley poet and American ornithologist," as he has been described. He was born in Paisley in 1766, educated at the grammar school there, and in due time was apprenticed to a weaver—the trade of his father. He did not take kindly to the loons, and after his apprenticeship was over he sighed for some other employment, which would give him an opportunity to study nature in all her moods. He early began to dabble in literature, and, at all events, to have aspirations for literary work, and one of his many biographers, Dr. Grosart, seems to regard it as probable that in 1786 he made a pilgrimage to Kilmarnock to make the acquaintance of Robert Burns, and that he succeeded in his mission. After several years spent as a journeyman weaver in Paisley, Queensferry, and other places, during which time his muse was busy, he determined to see his country thoroughly and at the same time support himself by "carrying a pack"—that is, by becoming a peddler. In this way he not only traveled into sections of his native land which otherwise he might never have seen, but his poetical qualities wonderfully developed, and such compositions as "The Loss of the Pack" are still recited in Scotland. His delightful prose style also formed itself about this time, and the journals of his travels and his letters are to this day delightful reading. While journeying he secured subscribers for a volume of his poems, which ultimately appeared in 1790 and gave him a more than local standing as a poet. The volume is, however, very unequal in its contents, and shows that the author lacked the services of a critical adviser when preparing or selecting its contents for the press. The most popular of all his poems, "Watty and Meg," appeared in 1792 as a penny chapbook, without any author's name, and was at once attributed to Burns—the highest compliment which it was possible for the people of Scotland to pay it.

In 1793, like nearly every young man then in Paisley, Wilson fell under the ban of being suspected of nursing seditious sentiments, and, as he avowed the authorship of several poems thus libeled, he was sent to jail. After his release he made up his mind to try his fortunes in the young republic over the sea, although the very idea of parting with Scotland cost him a severe pang, for America was much further away from Scotland in those days than now.

When Wilson landed in the New World he was ready to accept a job at anything that presented itself, and in time he was a helper in a copperplate printing establishment, a weaver, a peddler, and a schoolmaster. In the last-named employment he Avon considerable success, and his appointment as teacher in an institution at Kingess, about four miles from Philadelphia, seemed to bring him the opportunity for putting into practice a determination he had formed during his wanderings over the country, that of making a descriptive and pictorial work about the birds of America.

Wilson's fame in America rests on his "Ornithology," the first volume of which was issued in 1808. In his letters and diaries he has given us wonderfully graphic pictures of his adventures in search of material for this work, of the hardships he had to endure, of his wanderings through unknown regions and of his many hairbreadth escapes on land and water. As he journeyed, he canvassed for subscribers for the work, and he has told us of his successes as well as his rebuffs in this connection with a species of humor that is thoroughly national in its alternate modest and grimness. It was a great work to be undertaken singlehanded by a man whose sole capital, besides his fitness, was his enthusiasm, but he kept steadily to his task, overriding all sorts of obstacles, and in fairly rapid succession saw seven of its goodly volumes on his table and in the hands of his subscribers. The eighth volume announced his death, and the sad event was directly brought about through his eagerness to perfect the work. The story is then told:

While he (Wilson) was sitting in the house of one of his acquaintances enjoying the pleasures of conversation, he chanced to see a bird of a rare species, for one of which he had long been in search. WTith his usual enthusiasm he ran out, followed it, swain across a river over which it had flown, fired at, killed, and obtained the object of his eager pursuit, but caught a cold, which ended in his death." The end came on Aug. 23, 1813, and the poet-ornithologist was buried in the little God's-acre surrounding the old Swedish Church, Philadelphia, where the birds still sing over his grave. The spot is marked by a flat stone appropriately inscribed, and is the foremost Scottish shrine in the "City of Brotherly Love." Wilson's memory is still cherished in the land of his birth and the land of his adoption. Not far from the ancient Abbey of Paisley a splendid bronze statue of him has been erected, showing him, not as a poet, but as a wanderer in an American forest in search of illustrations for his great work, and that work has given hint a place in American literature which is not only unique but has won for him the title preeminently of "The American Ornithologist."

In many respects the greatest name in Scottish-American literature is that of Washington Irving, who was born in New York City in 1783. His father was a native of Orkney, and traced descent back to the Irvines of Druin. He settled in New York in 1763, and became a successful merchant, but had to leave the city during the Revolutionary struggle, having adopted the Colonial cause. After a couple of years, however, he returned, and quickly made up his losses. He was a sturdy Presbyterian, a good citizen, and a stanch admirer of the first President of the country, and so named his youngest son in his honor.

Washington Irving was carefully educated, although he never attended college, and in due time entered a law office. He was attentive to his law studies, but literature had a greater attraction for him, and the business of his life was sadly interrupted—fortunately for literature—by delicate health. This led to frequent country journeys, in the course of which he thoroughly explored the Hudson River, and in 1800 was the cause of his first trip across the Atlantic. After rambling over the Continent for two years, he returned to New York, was admitted to the bar in 1806, but did not seem to get much practice. In fact, with the exception of a short time when he managed the business which his father had bequeathed to the family during the illness of his brother Peter, his life was that of a man of letters. Even the office of Secretary of the American Legation in London, which he filled from 1829 to 1832, and the post of Minister to Spain, which he occupied from 1842 to 1846, were really sub-servient to his many literary studies. His career was an uneventful, and, on the whole, a happy one. He never married, and the story of the declining years of his life from 1846 until he was laid at rest in Sleepy Hollow, in the closing days of 1859, forms one of the pleasantest records of the sunset of a literary life of which we have knowledge. His fame has steadily increased year after year since then; and Sunnyside, his home, is now one of the Meccas of lovers of American literature.

Irving's first literary work—a series of articles contributed, in his nineteenth year, to the "Morning Chronicle," a newspaper published by his brother, Peter Irving—showed cleverness and versatility, and as much may be said for his "Salmagundi" papers. They were what might be called apprentice-work, the work which every beginner in literature must struggle with before essaying higher flights, or adding anything to the real literary wealth of his country or the world. Irving's first real contribution to literature was his "History of New York by Diedrich Knickerbocker," which was published in 1809. Taking the outlines of the early and vague history of the city as a foundation, he filled these outlines up with sketches of real men and women, and infused into every page such playful humor, and, here and there, such delightful satire; and, withal, such an appearance of a determination to present the exact truth in every line, that people at first did not know what to make of it. The descendants of the old Knickerbocker families voted it a caricature and denounced it as such; others accepted it as a veritable history, and a few sat down to enjoy its perusal purely as a literary treat. It at once became popular, and has since become a classic, and we have admitted Wilhelmus Kraft, Wouter Van Twiller and Peter Stuyvesant—Peter the Headstrong—to our gallery of heroes of romance. But such is the power of genius that Irving's "Knickerbocker," without any real pretensions to be a veritable history, has taken its place among; historical records to such an extent that no one would now dream of investigating the early history of New York or writing about it without studying more or less Irving's pages. We could not draw a pen picture of Gov. Stuyvesant, for instance, without his aid, for it is Irving's portrait of that one-legged hero that has been accepted as the true one, and, in the public esteem, whatever does not conform to it cannot be correct or worthy of consideration. In Scotland it is Sir Walter Scott's "Jeannie Deans's Duke" that people think of, not the historical character who figures in the annals of Great Britain as the second Duke of Argyll.

This work fully established Irving's fame on both sides of the Atlantic, and, what probably delighted him more, led to the writer's receiving a warm welcome at Abbotsford, when afterward on a visit to Scotland. "The Sketch Book," with its inimitable paper on "Rip Van Winkle," added to the popularity of Irving; but, although "Brace-bridge Hall" was received kindly, it did not add much to the prestige of its author. In the "Life of Columbus," published in 1828, Irving fairly entered the arena of European literature, and that work at once became recognized as the standard biography of the great discoverer. Its diligent research, its clear array of facts, its skillful handling of details, and the beauty of its literary style were at once recognized as the work of a master, and it has since remained without a rival in popular favor.

His last work, his "Life of George Washington," was undoubtedly his greatest and his best, and gives us a picture of the great American hero which, it is safe to say, will never he surpassed for truthfulness or power. He gives way to no theories why Washington did this or did not do that. He indulges in no philosophy, and follows his hero from the cradle to the grave with a fullness that leaves no doubt in the mind of the reader as to what kind of a man Washington really was; and this, it seems to us, is the very highest form of biographical writing. When the work was passing through the press Irving began to feel that the night that falls upon all men was quickly drawing its shadows around him, and it was only a few months before the clouds closed in that he had the happiness of seeing the completed work on his table, and of rejoicing in the knowledge that all united in say-ing it was well done. He died on November 28, 1859, and three days later was buried in Sleepy Hollow, in the midst of a country that received from his pen some at least of the halo which Scott threw over his own beloved Borderland.

Had Washington Irving not written '`Astoria" it is probable that the recognized authority, the literary genius of John Jacob Astor's expedition to Oregon would have been Alexander Ross, who from a pioneer hunter developed in his later years into a writer of books. His "Adventures of the First Settlers on the Oregon or Columbia River," "Fur Traders in the Far West," and "Red River Settlement" are good books of their kind, full of adventure and description, written in an easy, attractive—sometimes fascinating—style, and eminently truthful even in the slightest detail. Ross was a native of Nairnshire, and went to Canada in 1803, when in his twenty-second year. For a time he taught school in Glengarry and elsewhere, and found the employment fruitful of usefulness to the children and the community, but barren of results to himself. In 1810 he joined the Astor expedition to Oregon, and until 1825 was a hunter and fur trader in the Astor Company or that of Hudson Bay. In 1825 he removed to the Red River Settlement, and became its Sheriff and a member of the Council of Assiniboine. He survived till his seventy-third year, in spite of all the hardships and sufferings of his early life, and died at Winnipeg, beloved and honored, in 1856.

Pleasant memories yet linger in Charleston, S. C., of the Rev. Dr. George Buist, who settled in that city to take charge of an academy or college—the words at that time appear to have been used synonymously—and remained there till his death, in i 8o8. lie was born in Fifeshire in 1770, was educated at Edinburgh University, and there called to the ministry. He was one of the earliest Scotch students of philology, and that subject, ever changing and progressing, and constantly opening up new fields of thought, remained his favorite study throughout his long and useful life. He was one of the contributors to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, abridged Hume's History of England for schools and ordinary readers; and a volume of his sermons, published after he had passed away, was prefaced by a brief memoir in which the example of his beautiful life was fittingly placed before the reader. The volume is now very scarce.

One of the most curious characters in all American literary history—and no literary history is so full of curiosities—was John Wood, author of a "History- of the Administration of John Adams," which James Parton, the American biographical writer, has characterized as a lot of lies. This characterization seems, unfortunately for Wood's memory, to have been perfectly correct. To sum up his literary work in the most general and gentle manner, we might say with truth that he was one of the most unreliable and fact-regardless writers who ever lived in America. Wood was born in Scotland in 1775, and emigrated to America in 1800. He engaged in such literary hack work as he could find, and never really rose above the stage of such composition. This was due more to the lack of literary opportunity, the country not then being far enough advanced to foster any of the Higher arts to any great extent, than to any lack of ability on the part of Wood, for he seems to have really been a man of superior intellect. For several years he edited a sheet called "The Western World," in Kentucky. In 1817 he took up his abode in Washington, and had the editorial charge of the "Atlantic World." He cultivated the friendship of the most noted politicians of his time while sojourning in the national capital, but their friendship did not advance his interests in any material way, and he died at Richmond, Va., a poor man, in 1822.

We gladly turn from the memory of such a personage as Wood to the honored name of John Galt, one of the most distinguished annalists of the Scotch peasantry and one of the most voluminous and instructive writers of his time. A few years ago he was named as second only to Scott as a delineator and illustrator of Scotch humble life, and, although time and the varying moods of public taste have removed him from that high pedestal, he yet holds a foremost place among the Scottish novelists who have written of their own people. Such works as "The Annals of the Parish" and "The Ayrshire Legatees" still retain their popularity, and are alone sufficient to keep their writer's memory green in the hearts of his countrymen. Galt was born at Irvine, Ayrshire, in 1779, and had made his mark in literature before crossing the Atlantic in 1824. "He came to Canada," writes Mr. H. J. Morgan, to whose writings we have been greatly indebted for information on many points, was Commissioner of the Canada Land Company, an association in which he took great interest and used his best efforts to advance; and it may be said that to his indefatigable energy and ability may be in part ascribed the present [1862] high position the company enjoys. Indeed, we know of hardly any one who did so much for it as Mr. Galt. During his stay in Canada he took a great interest in the upper province [Ontario] and in colonizing and settling it; and the country is indebted to him for sonic of the best improvements, both on land and water, it possesses. He founded the town of Guelph, in the County of Wellington, and the town of Galt is named after him. But differences leaving arisen between him and the company, he resigned in 1829 and returned to Britain that same year, where shortly afterward he was obliged to take advantage of the Insolvent Debtors' act. He returned to his literary labors with renewed zest and energy, and during the remainder of his life he produced a number of works, principally novels and miscellanies, some of which range high in the estimation of literary men and belong to what is called the 'standard' series of English literature." Galt died at Greenock, in 1839.

Two of Galt's sons went to Canada before his decease, in search of fortune, and of one of these, the late Sir A. T. Galt, the story of his public career is really a part of the history of the Dominion. The other son, Thomas, was long one of the Judges in Canada's Court of Common Pleas.

A pathetic story of promise, failure, and disappointment, of a blasted life slowly dragging on to its end and finally going out, alone, in the very depths of poverty and despair, is furnished by a study of the life of Alexander Somerville, the once-famous "Whistler at the Plough." He was born at Springfield, in Oldhamstocks Parish, Haddingtonshire, in 1811. His parents were poor, and when Alexander went to work as a cowherd at sixpence a day his father's earnings were only six shillings a week. The boy got considerable schooling, however, in parish schools, for no matter how poverty-stricken they may be, Scotch parents invariably strive to give their children some education, even at the cost of privation. As he grew to manhood, while earning a scanty income as a common laborer, Somerville took a deep interest in the political movements which then 11831-21 agitated Britain, and naturally his entire sympathies were with his own class. In 1832 he lost his employment on account of the dullness of trade, and, as nothing' seemed likely to turn up to give him a livelihood, lie enlisted in the Scots Greys. That regiment was then arrayed, not against the enemies of Britain, but against the people of Britain. The men did not like the work. Many of them sent letters to the War Office stating that they would not use their weapons to interfere with a public meeting or to hamper the people in the peaceful prosecution of their rights, and one of these letters was traced to Somerville. It was determined to make an example of some one, and he was tried by court-martial for a manufactured offense, found guilty, and ordered to receive one hundred lashes. The horrors of this punishment were graphically described long afterward by his own pen. The flogging, however, had far-reaching results. When Somerville left the hospital after his stripes had healed he found that the matter had been a theme of newspaper discussion, and he became a hero in the eyes of his comrades. lie gave in a letter to a newspaper an account of the real cause of his flogging, the simple fact that he had dared to give expression to his thoughts, and this letter, although it disgusted the authorities, was suffered to pass without notice simply because in the condition of public opinion they were afraid to repeat the dose they had formerly administered. Meanwhile a subscription was set on foot, Somerville's discharge was purchased, and with 1300 in his pocket he returned to Scotland, helped his parents, started in business—and failed in six months. He next took service with the Spanish Legion in the Peninsula, serving two years. Returning to Britain, he helped to warn the people against foolish revolutionary measures, and in that way did more service to the working classes than though he had, as many desired, become one of their aggressive leaders. He commenced his literary career as a correspondent of the "Manchester Examiner," and published, among other things, an account of his adventures in Spain. In 1852 his famous letters, signed by "One Who Has Whistled at the Plough," appeared, and afforded him an opportunity for utilizing the information he possessed of political movements, and his views on the betterment of the working classes, as well as reminiscences of his travels, and comments on all topics then interesting Britain. These letters created a wide interest, and the author was more talked about than any other journalistic contributor for a year or two. His autobiography (issued in 1848) also enjoyed a wide sale.

In 1858 he went to Canada, and for a time was editor of the "Canadian Illustrated News." His clear, vigorous English, the lucidity of his arguments for any measure he advocated, and his knowledge of the world were visible in everything he wrote. But he never seemed to "catch hold" in Canada. He wrote in praise of it to many of the home papers, told of its resources and possibilities in glowing language, and did, honestly, every-thing that lay in his power to help to build it up. Yet his career there was a slow but steady descent into poverty--poverty of the most abject description. He published several books in Canada, but they yielded no return, and his latter years were spent in neglect; often, indeed, in actual want. The man outlived his friends, and, lingering on the stage, had been relegated to the rear, and was unnoticed and forgotten. The last time the writer saw him, in the streets of Toronto, his apparel was that of a beggar, a collection of remnants of clothing that had seen better days, and his conversation was of the most despondent description. It is difficult to account for this man's fall. Faults he had, as have all men, but his abilities ought to have made his life comfortable, should have kept his lines in pleasant places. His career, even outside of his literary labors, was a useful one, and he ought to be remembered, if for nothing else, as the one whose sufferings led to the final abolition of flogging in the British Army. He died at Toronto, under painful circumstances, in 1885.

Returning to the United States after this sad record of a Canadian litterateur's career, we take up a beautiful, lovable Christian life, the life of one who was a man of letters and at the same time a hard-working and devoted minister of the Gospel. This was Robert Turnbull, who for twenty--four years was minister of the First Baptist Church at Hartford, Conn. He was born, in 1809, at Whitburn, Linlithgowshire, and graduated at Edinburgh University. He studied theology under Dr. Chalmers, and, becoming convinced of the truth of the doctrine of immersion, he became a Baptist, and, after being admitted to preach, he traveled a good deal through Scotland and England, occupying such pulpits as chance directed. In 1833 he emigrated to America, and, after brief pastorates in Danbury, Detroit, Hartford, and Boston, he returned to Hartford and spent there the active years of his life. For a long period Mr. Turnbull was joint editor of "The Christian Review." He edited an edition of Sir William Hamilton's "Discussions in Philosophy," and wrote several works worthy of a better fate than the neglect which has apparently- overtaken them. In 1851 he resigned his pastorate and served as Secretary of the Connecticut Baptist State Convention, filling in his time with literary work, and preaching in various places as occasion offered. His closing years were full of peace and hope, a beautiful sunset, and his death at Hartford, in 1877, was really for him a victory.

This is hardly the place to estimate the value of Dr. Turnbull's religious writings from a purely theological point of view, but the statements in all his books that come under that class are so clearly laid down, their language is so precise, that even a layman is never at a loss in following his arguments, while their thoughts are ever impressive and elevated. Of his secular books, we regard his "Genius of Scotland" as the best, possibly because national prejudice may affect our judgment, possibly because we really feel that he threw his whole heart into that particular work. We know no book which somehow answers the home-cravings of the Scot abroad so well as this, none that is more enthusiastic in its praise of the old land, without running at the same time into platitudes of extravagance. There is not a line in it that is not the result of observation or personal reminiscence, its sentiments are always pure and exalted, and it not only recalls the story of the land and describes its scenery and its personages—historical or noteworthy—but every page seems bathed in that spirit of poetry which has given to Scotland the title of "Land of Song."

The State of Massachusetts has, as the historian of its share in the civil war, William Scoular, a native of Kilbarchan. Born in that once quaint village in 1814, Scoular settled in America in 1830, and for a time worked at his trade of a calico printer. From that he drifted into journalism, and from 1841 to 1847 was editor and pro-proprietor of the Lowell "Courier." Then, for some five years, he resided in Boston as editor and part proprietor of the "Daily Atlas." The years from 1853 to 1858 he spent in Ohio, mainly as one of the editorial staff of the "Cincinnati Gazette." In 1857 he was chosen Adjutant General of Ohio, and he was placed in the same office in Massachusetts after his return to the Old Bay State, when he settled in Boston as editor of the "Atlas and Bee." Four times he was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives, and once was returned to the State Senate, and these honors may fairly be regarded as indicative of his personal popularity and of the trust reposed in him by his fellow-citizens. On leaving the Adjutant General's office in 1866 he occupied himself mainly with the compilation of his volumes on the "History of Massachusetts in the Civil War," which were published at Boston in 1868 and 1871. Soon after the completion of this important work, Mr. Scoular passed away—in 1872—at Nest Roxbury, Mass.

An enthusiastic, kindly Scot, whose name, we fear, will soon be barely remembered, was Robert Macfarlane, who for seventeen years was editor of the "New York Scientific American," and was the author of a treatise on "Propellers and Steam Navigation," which was published in 1851 and was reprinted in 1854, and who edited Love's "Treatise on the Art of Dyeing" for a Philadelphia concern in 1868. Such works rarely bring a man much posthumous fame, and Mr. Mcfarlane's best work really was done in the columns of the "Scottish-American Journal," to which he was for a long time a steady contributor. To its pages he contributed a series of paper on the "Scot in America," and one on "Scotland Revisited,'' which were read with delight wherever that newspaper circulated. On Scottish history, manners, customs, and family tradition he had a wonderful store of information, and he freely communicated it as a cornmentary on anything that occurred to him in the form of letters and articles, week after week, for many years. For a long time Mr. Macfarlane carried on business as a dyer in Albany, and while in that city was a "Scot of the Scots," and took a very active interest in carrying on the work of its St. Andrew's Society. But the climate of that good old Dutch town with a good old Scotch name did not agree with his health, and his closing years were spent in pleasant retirement in Brooklyn, where he died in 1883. He was born at Rutherglen in 1812, and always used the name of his birthplace as a nom de plume in his communications to the press. It seems a pity that a selection, at least, of his writings has not been published. Such a volume would have proved acceptable to many readers, and been the best monument that could be raised to his memory. Peace be to his ashes. He sleeps in the beautiful Rural Cemetery of Albany, with many a once well-kenned, leaf-hearted Scot lying at rest around him.

A conspicuous illustration of how the Scot can press upward from the humblest walks of life is afforded us by a -lance at the career of the Rev. Prof. James C. Moffat of Princeton, who died in that academic town on June 7, 1890. His father was a shepherd at Glencree, and there the future teacher and author was born in 1811. His first employment was as a shepherd's boy, and his education was scanty. At sixteen years of age he apprenticed himself to a printer, as much for the sake of being in a way to get access to books as for the remuneration, although that, of course, was an important consideration. He so well improved his time that in a few years he had attained considerable mastery over Latin, Greek, Hebrew, French, German, and other tongues. He had a special fondness for Oriental languages, and made a particular study of that written and spoken in Persia. In 1833 he emigrated to America and managed to enter Princeton College, where lie graduated in 1835. After a year or two's experience as a tutor, Mr. Moffat, in 1839, was appointed Professor of Classics in Lafayette College. in 1841 he transferred his services to Miami University, Ohio. While in that Commonwealth he was licensed to preach. In 1853 he returned to Princeton as Professor. of Latin and History, and he held various professorships in the college and Theological Seminary there until he retired, in 1877.

Dr. Moffat was a poet, and had all the delicate fancy, grace of language, and brilliancy and originality of thought which mark the possessor of the essential qualities of a son of song. His most ambitious essay, "Alwyn, a Romance of Study," is handicapped by its title and the fact that the current taste does not favor a serious work—a work extending through seven long cantos. Still, it is a really meritorious poem, a work deserving of study, and one that is certain to hold the attention of any reader with the slightest taste for poetry who fairly enters into its spirit. An earlier poem, "A Rhyme of the North Countrie," is more of a story, and some of its passages—notably those descriptive of arctic scenes—are equal to anything which is to be found in American poetic literature. Some of Dr. Moffat's shorter pieces, especially those of a religious cast, have been very popular and been reprinted over and over again in various forms.

But it is as a prose writer that Dr. Moffat claims attention in this place. In 1853 he published at Cincinnati a memoir of Dr. Chalmers, a good piece of literary workmanship, inasmuch as it tells its story completely and evinces a thorough knowledge and appreciation of the subject's character and of the principles which governed and directed his career. His lest-known work is his "Comparative History of Religions," in two volumes. In this he brings to bear his profound scholarship, his keen logical analytical spirit, and exemplifies in every page his desire to be just—to maintain his self-appointed position as a judge—without at the same time sacrificing one iota of his own convictions. Indeed, the work tends to show the correctness of these convictions and demonstrate the truth and inspiration of the faith consecrated at Calvary. As a mere compendium of the leading points in the various beliefs treated, the work holds a valuable place in religious literature. Its statements are everywhere to be relied upon, and the concise and clear form in which they are presented make the volumes of value not only to the student, but to the general reader. In 1874 Dr. Moffat published an account of a ramble through Scotland, a work which was read with much interest by his countrymen in America. It was another delightful tribute to the motherland from a Scot abroad, and is to a great extent written in the manner of Dr. Turnbull's "Genius of Scotland." The spirit which prompted both books and is felt throughout their pages is certainly the same.

An industrious worker in Scottish literature, and especially in the field of Burns literature, is John D. Ross, LL. D., of Brooklyn. Dr. Ross was born at Edinburgh in 1853, and settled in New York in his twentieth year. his first volume was a collection of "Celebrated Songs of Scotland," an extensive work, copiously annotated, and soon after appeared an interesting volume on "The Scottish Poets in America," to which the present writer has been under considerable obligation in connection with these pages. A volume containing a selection of poems by various authors, entitled "Round Burns's Grave," next attracted attention on both sides of the Atlantic, and speedily ran through two editions. Since 1892 Dr. Ross has published an annual volume of "Burnsiana," an invaluable work to lovers of Scotia's great bard, and he has also issued a number of other books having the "high priest of Scottish song" as their theme. Besides his book work, Dr. Ross is a regular contributor to many American newspapers. Another volume on Scottish poets in America will also appear soon from his pen, and he seems inclined to make a complete study of the writers who can come under that head.

Among men of letters, newspaper writers are surely entitled to a place, even although their work, being mainly anonymous, passes away with the fleeting hour and be-conies at hest only a memory, like the impersonation of life and character on the stage. The American newspaper press owes a great deal to the labors of Scotsmen, and they are to be found in all ranks, from the case to the sanctum. They have had a full share of the prizes in the profession, too, and in the United States and Canada have been numerous enough and prominent enough to encourage the hope that in the near future some one will make a special study of their lives and writings and influence.

In this work we cannot even pretend to do justice to the claims of this vast army, and must rest contented with adducing a few instances to indicate its extent and place in the history of the literature of the continent.

The trouble is to know where to draw the line that Separates the plan. of letters from the newspaper man pure and simple. In fact, it cannot really be drawn, for the true newspaper mall is a ubiquitous sort of fellow, and has the knack of bobbing up and sailing to the front in all sorts of directions.

The late James Lawson of Yonkers is a case in point. He might, with justice, have been given a place among the poets or among the business men as in connection with the newspaper workers, yet his long connection with the press of Yew York would seem to warrant newspaperdom as being the sphere which really prompted all his other work and dictated the leading events in his long and honorable career. Mr. Lawson was born at Glasgow in 1799, and settled in New York in 1815. In 1827, after a thorough apprenticeship in commercial pursuits, he turned his thoughts toward literary work, and became one of the founders of the now long-defunct "Morning Courier " of New York. Two years later he retired from this publication and joined the forces of the "Mercantile Advertiser," in which he (lid some of his best work. After several years, Mr. Lawson re-enlisted in business, and as an agent for marine insurance became widely known and implicitly trusted by the merchants of the city. But newspaper work continued his amusement, and almost till the end of his career, in 1880, he was a constant contributor of news, criticisms, essays, and poems to the press of New York. his fugitive poems were gathered together in 1857 in a volume intended mainly for private circulation, and in 1859 he printed his most ambitious and important work, a tragedy under the title of "Lidderdale; or, The Border Chief." So far as we know, it was never acted, and it seems to us rather a composition to be read than to be placed on the stage. This is singular, considering that Mr. Lawson made the theatre a special sturdy for )rears. A play written in early life—"Giordano"—was placed on the boards of the old Park Theatre in 1832, or thereabout, but proved a failure, mainly because the poet predominated over the platy-wright in the composition of the work.

The most conspicuous example of the newspaper man pure and simple in the history of American journalism was undoubtedly James Gordon Bennett, who was born at New Mill, near Keith, in 1795. Possibly the life of un American newspaper man has been so often and so completely told or is more generally known among people who take an interest in biographical writings. He received his education at a Roman Catholic institution is Scotland, his parents being of that faith. In 1819 he began life in the New World at Halifax, N. S., as a teacher. A few months' trial of this work proved disappointing, and, proceeding to Poston, Mr. Bennett secured employment as a proofreader, and also tried to establish a reputation as a poet. After a brief experience in Charleston as a journalistic writer he settled in New York, and newspaper work became the business of his life. He became a typical Bohemian, owning, a short-lived sheet at one time, and at others picking tip a living as a reporter and space writer, excepting for a brief experience as an editorial writer. The man, by these changes and ups and downs, was really serving his apprenticeship, and it was only completed when, on May 6, 1835, he issued from a cellar in Wall Street the first number of the "New York Herald." Most of the earlier issues were written mainly by himself, and he infused his vitality into every line. The history of that newspaper belongs to the history of American progress—of American civilization, it may he said. It was from the first a medium of news, and the enterprise shown in obtaining intelligence of every description earlier than did any other sheet, the striking arrangement of the news matter. and the sacrifice of merely literary style to get a story before the reader without loss of time and in the most interesting manner possible soon made it the most-talked about newspaper on the continent. As his means progressed and opportunities arose, Mr. Bennett seemed to develop in enterprise and liberality and in the keenness of his foresight for news. He dropped, apparently, all desire to be recognized as a man of letters, and his ambition was to be known as the editor of the greatest and most talked of American newspaper, and that ambition lie fully realized long before his death, in 1872.

Foremost in the ranks of Canadian journalism was George Brown of Toronto, editor of the "Globe," and a statesman who occupied a prominent place in the councils of his party, and for years was a power in the politics of the Dominion. He inherited most of his journalistic ability from his father, Peter Brown, of Edinburgh, who was once engaged in business in that city as a bookseller. Financial reverses induced the latter to leave Scotland in 1838, and, settling in New York with his family, he became editor of the "Albion," then and for a long time after the recognized organ of British thought and interests in America. After four years of this work, the "Albion" then being the property of Dr. Bartlett, British Consul at New York, Mr. Brown started an opposition sheet, "The British Chronicle." The "Albion," however, was too powerful and popular to be then easily crushed—indeed, it long after died a lingering death of pure inanition—Mr. Brown had not sufficient capital to sink into his enterprise to insure its success, and after some eighteen months of existence it quietly passed away. In 1843 the family moved to Toronto, and Mr. Brown became editor of a weekly paper called "The Banner," then started under the auspices of the Free Church Party in Canada. He died in that city, in 1863.

George Brown was born at Edinburgh in 1821, went with his father and the rest of the family to Toronto and became the publisher, and was regarded as proprietor of the "Banner," of which Mr. Peter Brown was editor. That office did not afford him much scope for his energies, and his opportunity came in April, 1844, when the first number of the "Globe" was issued as the organ of the Reform Party in Canadian politics. Under his direction it became one of the leaders of public sentiment throughout the country. Mr. Brown aimed to make the "Globe" a perfect mirror of the world's news, and he accomplished his aim. As a mere newspaper it soon held a high rank in contemporary journalism, and its wide circulation showed that its merits as such were fully appreciated by the public to whose wants it catered. But it is questionable if it could have attained the influence it long afterward enjoyed—and still enjoys—had not George Brown personally obtained a prominent voice in the councils of his party. In that respect his career really belongs to the history of Canada, and need not be dwelt upon here, except to state that he was a member of Parliament from 1851 till 1861, and was so much recognized as the leader of his party that he was asked, in 1858, to form a Ministry, with himself as Premier, and did so, although his Ministry was a short-lived one—lasting only two days. Mr. Brown continued to direct the destinies of the "Globe"—"The Scotsman's Bible," it was often called—until his death in Toronto, in 1880. In that city a statue has since been erected to his memory.

Another conspicuous example of the intimate union of journalism and politics in Canada was John Neilson, who was born at Balmaghie, Kirkcudbrightshire, in 1770, and became editor, in 1797, of the "Quebec Gazette." In 1818 he was elected a member of the Quebec Assembly, and was at one time Speaker of that body. In 1840 he sat in the Canadian Parliament, and exerted an active influence in public affairs until his death, at Quebec, in 1848. A mach less satisfactory, and far more stormy and disappointing career, was that of John Lesslie, a Dundee man, who died at Eglinton, Ontario, in 1885. He settled in Canada in 1820, when only eleven years of age, and for over ten years prior to 1854 was editor and proprietor of the "Toronto Examiner," which ultimately was purchased by Mr. George Brown and incorporated with the "Globe." The quieter, but none the less useful, aspects of Canadian journalistic lives are well represented by such careers as those of Mr. George Pirie, editor of the "Guelph Herald," who was born at Aberdeen, in 1799, and died at Guelph, in 1870, and of Thomas McQueen, editor of the "Huron Signal," a native of Ayrshire, who died at Goderich, in 1861, in his fifty-eighth year. Both these men had poetic tastes, both gave at least one volume of Poetry--poetry of more than average quality—to add to the wealth of Canadian literature, and both were distinguished throughout their lives for their enthusiasm on every matter pertaining to the land of their birth.

But this theme of Scottish-American journalism, as we contemplate it, seems really inexhaustible, and, gratifying as it is to our natural pride, we must content ourselves with closing the record with the few, but representative, names so far adduced.

We would like to enlarge upon the careers of the two Swintons—William and John—of New York, of John Dougall of Montreal, of Whitelaw Reid of New York, of George Dawson of Albany, of Andrew McLean of Brooklyn, of Donald Morrison, once of Toronto and afterward of New York; of Dr. A. M. Stewart, editor and owner of the New York "Scottish American," and a galaxy of other names which are more or less prominent in the history of American newspapers, past and present, but the subject is too interesting to form the close of a chapter, and with this brief mention or acknowledgment we must leave it. Surely, in view of what has been written, it will be acknowledged that Scotsmen have at least done their full share in shaping and building up the literature and thought of the New Hemisphere!

Return to 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