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Title: Leading Articles on Various Subjects

Author: Hugh Miller

Editor: John Davidson

Release date: July 18, 2009 [eBook #29440]

Language: English

Credits: Produced by David Clarke, Dan Horwood and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team at


W. H. McFarlane, Lithr Edinr
Fac-simile of a Calotype by D. O. Hill, R. I. A. 1845.
see page 184



Leading Articles













The present volume is issued in compliance with the strong solicitations of many, to whose desire deference was due. In selecting the articles, I have been guided mainly by two considerations,––namely, the necessity for reproducing the mature opinion of a great mind, upon great subjects; and for making the selection so varied, as to convey to the reader some idea of the wonderful versatility of the powers which could treat subjects so diverse in their nature with such uniform eloquence and discrimination. I trust that the chapters on Education will prove to be a valuable contribution to the speedy settlement of that question at the present crisis. Those on Sutherlandshire are inserted because they possess a permanent value, in connection with the social and economical history of our country. Some of the articles are of a personal character, and are introduced, not, certainly, for the purpose of recalling old animosities, but solely to illustrate the author’s method of using some of the more formidable figures of speech; while over against these may be set some on purely literary subjects, which show the genial tenderness of his disposition towards those who aspired to serve God and their generation by giving to the world the fruit of their imagination, their labour, and their leisure. vi

I have not determined the selection without securing the counsel and approval of men on whose judgment I could rely. It only remains for me to thank them, and in an especial way to thank Mr. D. O. Hill for the portrait which forms the frontispiece. An impersonal reference to a similar portrait taken at the same time will be found at page 184, in the article on ‘The Calotype.’

John Davidson.

London, March 8, 1870.





The following chapters on the Educational Question first appeared as a series of articles in the Witness newspaper. They present, in consequence, a certain amount of digression, and occasional re-statement and explanation, which, had they been published simultaneously, as parts of a whole, they would not have exhibited. The controversy was vital and active at every stage of their appearance. Statements made and principles laid down in the earlier articles had, from the circumstance that their truth had been questioned or their soundness challenged, to be re-asserted and maintained in those which followed; and hence some little derangement in the management of the question, for which, however, the interest which must always attach to a real conflict may be found to compensate. That portion of the controversy, however, which arose out of one of the articles of the series, and which some have deemed personal, has been struck out of the published edition of the pamphlet, and retained in but an inconsiderable number of copies, placed in the hands of a few friends. In omitting it where it has been omitted, the writer has acted on the advice of a gentleman for whose judgment he entertains the most 2 thorough respect, and from a desire that the general argument should not be prejudiced by a matter naturally, but not necessarily, connected with it. And in retaining it where it has been retained, he has done so in the full expectation of a time not very distant, when it will be decided that he has neither outraged the ordinary courtesies of controversy, nor taken up a false line of inference or statement; and when the importance of the subject discussed will be regarded as quite considerable enough to make any one earnest, without the necessity of supposing that he had been previously angry.

It is all-important, that on the general question of National Education, the Free Church should take up her position wisely. Majorities in her courts, however overwhelming, will little avail her, if their findings fail to recommend themselves to the good sense of her people, or are palpably unsuited to the emergencies of the time. A powerful writer of the present age employs, in one of his illustrations, the bold figure of a ship’s crew, that, with the difficulties of Cape Horn full before them, content themselves with instituting aboard their vessel a constitutional system of voting, and who find delight in contemplating the unanimity which prevails on matters in general, both above decks and below. ‘But your ship,’ says Carlyle, ‘cannot double Cape Horn by its excellent plans of voting: the ship, to get round Cape Horn, will find a set of conditions already voted for, and fixed with adamantine rigour, by the ancient Elemental Powers, who are entirely careless how you vote. If you can by voting, or without voting, ascertain these conditions, and valiantly conform to them, you will get round the Cape: if you cannot, the ruffian Winds will blow you ever back again; the inexorable Icebergs, dumb privy councillors from Chaos, will nudge you with most chaotic admonition; you will be flung half-frozen on the Patagonian cliffs, or jostled into shivers by your iceberg 3 councillors, and will never get round Cape Horn at all.’ Now there is much meaning couched in this quaint figure, and meaning which the Free Church would do well to ponder. There are many questions on which she could perhaps secure a majority, which yet that majority would utterly fail to carry. On the question of College Extension, for instance, she might be able to vote, if she but selected her elders with some little care, that there should be full staffs of theological professors at Glasgow and Aberdeen. But what would her votes succeed in achieving? Not, assuredly, the doubling of the Cape; but the certainty of shivering her all-important Educational Institute on three inexorable icebergs. In the first place, her magnificent metropolitan College, like that huge long boat, famous in story, which Robinson Crusoe was able to build, but wholly unable to launch, would change from being what it now is––a trophy of her liberality and wisdom––into a magnificent monument of her folly. In the second place, she would have to break faith with her existing professors, and to argue, mayhap, when they were becoming thin and seedy, and getting into debt, that she was not morally bound to them for their salaries. And, in the third and last place, she would infallibly secure that, some twenty years hence at furthest, every theological professor of the Free Church should be a pluralist, and able to give to his lectures merely those fag-ends of his time which he could snatch from the duties of the pulpit and the care of his flock. And such, in doubling the Cape Horn of the College question, is all that unanimity of voting could secure to the Church; unless, indeed, according to Carlyle, she voted in accordance with the ‘set of conditions already voted for and fixed by the adamantine powers.’

Nor does the question of Denominational Education, now that there is a national scheme in the field, furnish a more, but, on the contrary, a much less, hopeful subject for 4 mere voting in our church courts, than the question of College Extension. It is not to be carried by ecclesiastical majorities. Some of the most important facts in the ‘Ten Years’ Conflict’ have perhaps still to be recorded; and it is one of these, that long after the Non-Intrusion party possessed majorities in the General Assembly, the laity looked on with exceedingly little interest, much possessed by the suspicion that the clergy were battling, not on the popular behalf, but on their own. Even in 1839, after the Auchterarder case had been decided in the House of Lords, the apathy seemed little disturbed; and the writer of these chapters, when engaged in doing his little all to dissipate it, could address a friend in Edinburgh, to whom he forwarded the MS. of a pamphlet thrown into the form of a letter to Lord Brougham, in the following terms:––‘The question which at present agitates the Church is a vital one; and unless the people can be roused to take part in it (and they seem strangely uninformed and wofully indifferent as yet), the worst cause must inevitably prevail. They may perhaps listen to one of their own body, who combines the principles of the old with the opinions of the modern Whig, and who, though he feels strongly on the question, has no secular interest involved in it.’ It was about this time that Dr. George Cook said––and, we have no doubt, said truly––that he could scarce enter an inn or a stage-coach without finding respectable men inveighing against the utter folly of the Non-Intrusionists, and the worse than madness of the church courts. For the opponents of the party were all active and awake at the time, and its incipient friends still indifferent or mistrustful. The history of Church petitions in Edinburgh during the ten eventful years of the war brings out this fact very significantly in the statistical form. From 1833, the year of the Veto Act, to 1839, the year of the Auchterarder decision, petitions to Parliament from Edinburgh on behalf of the struggling Church were usually 5 signed by not more than from four to five thousand persons. In 1839 the number rose to six thousand. The people began gradually to awaken, and to trust. Speeches in church courts were found to have comparatively little influence in creating opinion, or ecclesiastical votes in securing confidence; and so there were other means of appealing to the public mind resorted to, mayhap not wholly without effect: for in 1840 the annual Church petition from Edinburgh bore attached to it thirteen thousand signatures; and to that of the following year (1841) the very extraordinary number of twenty-five thousand was appended. And, save for the result, general over Scotland, which we find thus indicated by the Church petitions of Edinburgh, the Disruption, and especially the origination of a Free Church, would have been impossible events. How, we ask, was that result produced? Not, certainly, by the votes of ecclesiastical courts,––for mere votes would never have doubled the Cape Horn of the Church question; but simply through the conviction at length effectually wrought in the public mind, that our ministers were struggling and suffering, not for clerical privileges, but for popular rights,––not for themselves, but for others. And that conviction once firmly entertained, the movement waxed formidable; for elsewhere, as in the metropolis, popular support increased at least fivefold; and the question, previously narrow of base, and very much restricted to one order of men, became broad as the Scottish nation, and deep as the feelings of the Scottish people. But as certainly as the component strands of a cable that have been twisted into strength and coherency by one series of workings, may be untwisted into loose and feeble threads by another, so certainly may the majorities of our church courts, by a reversal of the charm which won for them the element of popular strength, render themselves of small account in the nation. They became strong by advocating, in the 6 Patronage question, popular rights, in opposition to clerical interests: they may and will become weak, if in the Educational one they reverse the process, and advocate clerical interests in opposition to popular rights.

Their country is perishing for lack of a knowledge which they cannot supply. Every seven years––the brief term during which, if a generation fail to be educated, the opportunity of education for ever passes away––there are from a hundred and fifty to two hundred thousand of the youth of Scotland added to the adult community in an untaught, uninformed condition. Nor need we say in how frightful a ratio their numbers must increase. The ignorant children of the present will become the improvident and careless parents of the future; and how improvident and careless the corresponding class which already exists among us always approves itself to be, let our prisons and workhouses tell. Our country, with all its churches, must inevitably founder among the nations, like a water-logged vessel in a tempest, if this state of matters be permitted to continue. And why permit it to continue? Be it remembered that it is the national schools––those schools which are the people’s own, and are yet withheld from them––and not the schools of the Free Church, which it is the object of the Educational movement to open up and extend. Nor is it proposed to open them up on a new principle. It is an unchallenged fact, that there exists no statutory provision for the teaching of religion in them. All that is really wanted is, to transfer them on their present statutory basis from the few to the many,––from Moderate ministers and Episcopalian heritors, to a people essentially sound in the faith––Presbyterian in the proportion of at least six to one, and Evangelical in the proportion of at least two to one. And at no distant day this transference must and will take place, if the ministers of the Free Church do not virtually join their forces to their brethren of the Establishment in 7 behalf of an alleged ecclesiastical privilege nowhere sanctioned in the word of God.[1]

There is another important item in this question, over which, as already determined by inevitable laws, ecclesiastical votes, however unanimous, can exert no influence or control. They cannot ordain that inadequately paid schoolmasters can be other than inferior educators. If the remuneration be low, it is impossible by any mere force of majorities to render the teaching high. There is a law already ‘voted for’ in the case, which majorities can no more repeal than they can the law of gravitation. And here we must take the opportunity of stating––for there has been misrepresentation on the point––what our interest in the teachers of Scotland and of the Free Church really is. Certainly not indifferent to their comfort as men, 8 or to the welfare of their profession, as one of the most important and yet worst remunerated in the community, we frankly confess that we look to something greatly higher than either their comfort or the professional welfare in general. They and their profession are but means; and it is to the end that we mainly look,––that end being the right education of the Scottish people, and their consequent elevation in the scale, moral and intellectual. We would deal by the teachers of the country in this matter as we would by the stone-cutters of Edinburgh, were we entrusted with the erection of some such exquisite piece of masonry as the Scott Monument, or that fine building recently completed in St. Andrew Square. Instead of pitching our scale of remuneration at the rate of labourers’ wages, we would at once pitch it at the highest rate assigned to the 9 skilled mechanic; and this not in order, primarily at least, that the masons engaged should be comfortable, but in order that they should be masters of their profession, and that their work should be of the completest and most finished kind. For labourers’ wages would secure the services of only bungling workmen, and lead to the production of only inferior masonry. And such is the principle on which we would befriend our poor schoolmasters,––not so much for their own sakes, as for the sake of their work. Further, however, it is surely of importance that, when engaged in teaching religion, they themselves should be enabled, in conformity with one of its injunctions, to ‘provide things honest in the sight of all men.’ Nay, of nothing are we more certain, than that the Church has only to exert herself to the extent of the liabilities already incurred to her teachers, in order to be convinced of the absolute necessity which exists for a broad national scheme. Any doubts which she may at present entertain regarding the question of the necessity, are, in part at least, effects of her lax views respecting the question of the liability, and of her consequent belief that anything well divided is sufficient to discharge it. At the same time, however, it would be perhaps well that at least our better-paid schoolmasters should be made to reflect that the circumstances of their position are very peculiar; and that should they take a zealous part against what a preponderating majority of the laity of their Church must of necessity come to regard as the cause of their country, their opposition, though utterly uninfluential in the general struggle, may prove thoroughly effectual in injuring themselves. For virtually in the Free Church, as in the British Constitution, it is the ‘Commons’ who grant the supplies.

We subjoin the paper on the Educational Question, addressed by Dr. Chalmers to the Hon. Mr. Fox Maule, as it first appeared in the Witness. The reader will see 10 that there is direct reference made to it in the following pages, and will find it better suited to repay careful study and frequent perusal than perhaps any other document on the subject ever written:––

‘It were the best state of things, that we had a Parliament sufficiently theological to discriminate between the right and the wrong in religion, and to encourage or endow accordingly. But failing this, it seems to us the next best thing, that in any public measure for helping on the education of the people, Government were to abstain from introducing the element of religion at all into their part of the scheme; and this not because they held the matter to be insignificant,––the contrary might be strongly expressed in the preamble of their Act,––but on the ground that, in the present divided state of the Christian world, they would take no cognizance of, just because they would attempt no control over, the religion of applicants for aid,––leaving this matter entire to the parties who had to do with the erection and management of the schools which they had been called upon to assist. A grant by the State upon this footing might be regarded as being appropriately and exclusively the expression of their value for a good secular education.

‘The confinement for the time being of any Government measure for schools to this object we hold to be an imputation, not so much on the present state of our Legislature, as on the present state of the Christian world, now broken up into sects and parties innumerable, and seemingly incapable of any effort for so healing these wretched divisions as to present the rulers of our country with aught like such a clear and unequivocal majority in favour of what is good and true, as might at once determine them to fix upon and to espouse it.

‘It is this which has encompassed the Government with 11 difficulties, from which we can see no other method of extrication than the one which we have ventured to suggest. And as there seems no reason why, because of these unresolved differences, a public measure for the health of all––for the recreation of all––for the economic advancement of all––should be held in abeyance, there seems as little reason why, because of these differences, a public measure for raising the general intelligence of all should be held in abeyance. Let the men therefore of all Churches and all denominations alike hail such a measure, whether as carried into effect by a good education in letters or in any of the sciences; and, meanwhile, in these very seminaries let that education in religion which the Legislature abstains from providing for, be provided for as freely and as amply as they will by those who have undertaken the charge of them.

‘We should hope, as the result of such a scheme, for a most wholesome rivalship on the part of many in the great aim of rearing on the basis of their respective systems a moral and Christian population, well taught in the principles and doctrines of the gospel, along with being well taught in the lessons of ordinary scholarship. Although no attempt should be made to regulate or to enforce the lessons of religion in the inner hall of legislation, this will not prevent, but rather stimulate, to a greater earnestness in the contest between truth and falsehood––between light and darkness––in the outer field of society; nor will the result of such a contest in favour of what is right and good be at all the more unlikely, that the families of the land have been raised by the helping hand of the State to a higher platform than before, whether as respects their health, or their physical comfort, or their economic condition, or, last of all, their place in the scale of intelligence and learning.

‘Religion would, under such a system, be the immediate product, not of legislation, but of the Christian philanthropic zeal which obtained throughout society at large. 12 But it is well when what legislation does for the fulfilment of its object tends not to the impediment, but rather, we apprehend, to the furtherance, of those greater and higher objects which are in the contemplation of those whose desires are chiefly set on the immortal wellbeing of man.

‘On the basis of these general views, I have two remarks to offer regarding the Government scheme of education.

‘1. I should not require a certificate of satisfaction with the religious progress of the scholars from the managers of the schools, in order to their receiving the Government aid. Such a certificate from Unitarians or Catholics implies the direct sanction or countenance by Government to their respective creeds, and the responsibility, not of allowing, but, more than this, of requiring, that these shall be taught to the children who attend. A bare allowance is but a general toleration; but a requirement involves in it all the mischief, and, I would add, the guilt, of an indiscriminate endowment for truth and error.

‘2. I would suffer parents or natural guardians to select what parts of the education they wanted for their children. I would not force arithmetic upon them, if all they wanted was reading and writing; and as little would I force the Catechism, or any part of the religious instruction that was given in the school, if all they wanted was a secular education. That the managers of the Church of England schools shall have the power to impose their own Catechism upon the children of Dissenters, and, still more, to compel their attendance on church, I regard as among the worst parts of the scheme.

‘The above observations, it will be seen, meet any questions which might be put in regard to the applicability of the scheme to Scotland, or in regard to the use of the Douay version in Roman Catholic schools.

‘I cannot conclude without expressing my despair of any great or general good being effected in the way of 13 Christianizing our population, but through the medium of a Government themselves Christian, and endowing the true religion, which I hold to be their imperative duty, not because it is the religion of the many, but because it is true.

‘The scheme on which I have now ventured to offer these few observations I should like to be adopted, not because it is absolutely the best, but only the best in existing circumstances.

‘The endowment of the Catholic religion by the State I should deprecate, as being ruinous to the country in all its interests. Still I do not look for the general Christianity of the people, but through the medium of the Christianity of their rulers. This is a lesson taught historically in Scripture, by what we read there of the influence which the personal character of the Jewish monarchs had on the moral and religious state of their subjects; it is taught experimentally, by the impotence, now fully established, of the Voluntary principle; and last, and most decisive of all, it is taught prophetically in the book of Revelation, when told that then will the kingdoms of the earth (Basileiai, or governing powers) become the kingdoms of our Lord Jesus Christ, or the Governments of the earth become Christian Governments.

(Signed) ‘Thomas Chalmers.’




Disputes regarding the meaning embodied by Chalmers in his Educational Document––Narrative suited to throw some light on the subject––Consideration of the Document itself––Testimony respecting it of the Hon. Mr. Fox Maule.

One of the most important controversies which has arisen within the pale of the Romish Church––that between the Jansenists and Jesuits––was made to hinge for many years on a case of disputed meaning in the writings of a certain deceased author. There were five doctrines of a well-defined character which, the Jesuits said, were to be found in the works of Cornelius Jansenius, umquhile Bishop of Ypres, but which, the Jansenists asserted, were not to be found in anything Jansenius had ever written. And in the attempt to decide this simple question of fact, as Pascal calls it, the School of the Sorbonne and the Court of the Inquisition were completely baffled; and zealous Roman Catholics heard without conviction the verdict of councils, and failed to acquiesce in the judgment of even the Pope.

We have been reminded oftener than once of this singular controversy, by the late discussions which have arisen in our church courts regarding the meaning embodied by Chalmers in that posthumous document on the Educational question, which is destined, we hold, to settle the whole 15 controversy. At first we regarded it as matter of wonder that such discussions should have arisen; for we had held that there was really little room for difference respecting the meaning of Chalmers,––a man whose nature it was to deal with broad truths, not with little distinctions; and who had always the will, and certainly did not lack the ability, of making himself thoroughly understood. We have since thought, however, that as there is nothing which has once occurred that may not occur again, what happened to the writings of Jansenius might well happen to one of the writings of Chalmers; and further, that from certain conversations which we had held with the illustrious deceased a few months before his death, on the subject of his paper, and from certain facts in our possession regarding his views, we had spectacles through which to look at the document in question, and a key to his meaning, which most of the disputants wanted. The time has at length come when these helps to the right understanding of so great an authority should be no longer withheld from the public. We shall betray no confidence; and should we be compelled to speak somewhat more in the first person, and of ourselves, than may seem quite accordant with good taste, our readers will, we trust, suffer us to remind them that we do not commit the fault very often, or very offensively, and that the present employment of the personal pronoun, just a little modified by the editorial we, seems inevitably incident to the special line of statement on which we propose to enter.

During the greater part of the years 1845 and 1846, the Editor of the Witness was set aside from his professional labours by a protracted illness, in part at least an effect of the perhaps too assiduous prosecution of these labours at a previous period. He had to cease per force even from taking a very fixed view of what the Church was doing or purposing; and when, early in January 1847, he returned, 16 after a long and dreary period of rustication, in improved health to Edinburgh, he at least possessed the advantage––much prized by artists and authors in their respective walks––of being able to look over the length and breadth of his subject with a fresh eye. And, in doing so, there was one special circumstance in the survey suited to excite some alarm. We found that in all the various schemes of the Free Church, with but one exception, its extensively spread membership and its more active leaders were thoroughly at one; but that in that exceptional scheme they were not at all at one. They were at one in their views respecting the ecclesiastical character of ministers, elders, and church courts, and of the absolute necessity which exists that these, and these only, should possess the spiritual key. Further, they were wholly at one in recognising the command of our adorable Saviour to preach the gospel to all nations, as of perpetual obligation on the Churches. But regarding what we shall term, without taking an undue liberty with the language, the pedagogical teaching of religion, they differed in toto. Practically, and to all intents and purposes, the schoolmaster, in the eye of the membership of our Church, and of the other Scottish Churches, was simply a layman, the proper business of whose profession was the communication of secular learning. And as in choosing their tailors and shoemakers the people selected for themselves the craftsmen who made the best and handsomest shoes and clothes, so, in selecting a schoolmaster for their children, they were sure always to select the teacher who was found to turn out the best scholars.[2] All other things equal, they would have preferred a serious, devout schoolmaster to one who was 17 not serious nor devout, just as, cœteris paribus, they would have preferred a serious shoemaker or tailor to a non-religious maker of shoes or clothes; but religious character was not permitted to stand as a compensatory item for professional skill; nay, men who might be almost content to put up with a botched coat or a botched pair of shoes for the sake of the good man who spoiled them, were particularly careful not to botch, on any account whatever, the education of their children. In a country in which there was more importance attached than in perhaps any other in the world to the religious teaching of the minister, there was so little importance attached to the religious teaching of the schoolmaster, that, when weighed against even a slight modicum of secular qualification, it was found to have no sensible weight. And with this great practical fact some of our leading men seemed to be so little acquainted, that they were going on with the machinery of their educational scheme, on a scale at least co-extensive with the Free Church, as if, like that Church––all-potent in her spiritual character––it had a moving power in the affections of the people competent to speed it on. And it was the great discrepancy with regard to this scheme which existed between the feelings of the people and the anticipations of some of our leading men, clerical and lay, that excited our alarm. Unless that discrepancy be removed, we said––unless the anticipations of the men engaged in the laying down of this scheme be sobered to the level of the feelings of the lay membership of our Church, or, vice versa, the feelings of the lay membership of our Church be raised to the level of the anticipations of our leaders––bankruptcy will be the infallible 18 result. From the contributions of our laymen can the scheme alone derive its support; and if our leaders lay it down on a large scale, and our laymen contribute on a small one, alas for its solvency! Such were our views, and such our inferences, on this occasion; and to Thomas Chalmers, at once our wisest and our humblest man––patient to hear, and sagacious to see––we determined on communicating them.

He had kindly visited the writer, to congratulate him in his dwelling on his return to comparative health and strength; and after a long and serious conversation, in which he urged the importance of maintaining the Witness in honest independency, uninfluenced by cliques and parties, whether secular or ecclesiastical, the prospects of the Free Church educational scheme were briefly discussed. He was evidently struck by the view which we communicated, and received it in far other than that parliamentary style which can politely set aside, with some soothing half-compliment, the suggestions that run counter to a favourite course of policy already lined out and determined upon. In the discrepancy which we pointed out to him he recognised a fact of the practical kind, which rarely fail to influence the affairs upon which they bear; and in accordance with his character––for no man could be more thoroughly convinced that free discussion never hurts a good cause, and that second thoughts are always wiser than first ones––he expressed a wish to see the educational question brought at once to the columns of the Witness, and probed to its bottom. We could not, however, see at that time how the thing was to be introduced in a practical form, and preferred waiting on for an opportunity, which in the course of events soon occurred. The Government came forward with its proposal of educational grants, and the question was raised––certainly not by the writer of these chapters––whether or no the Free Church could conscientiously avail 19 herself of these. It was promptly decided by some few of our leading men, clerical and lay, that she could not; and we saw in the decision, unless carried by appeal to our country ministers and the people, and by them reversed, the introduction of a further element of certain dissolution in our educational scheme.

The status of the schoolmaster had been made so exceedingly ecclesiastical, and his profession so very spiritual, that the money of that Government of the country whose right and duty it is to educate its people, was regarded as too vile and base a thing to be applied to his support. There were even rumours afloat that our schoolmasters were on the eve of being ordained. We trust, however, that the report was a false one, or, at worst, that the men who employed the word had made a slip in their English, and for the time at least had forgot its meaning. Ordination means that special act which gives status and standing within the ecclesiastical province. It implies the enjoined use of that spiritual key which is entrusted by Christ to His Church, that it may be employed just as He directs, and in no other way. The Presbyterian Church has as much right to institute prelates as to ordain pedagogues. ‘Remember,’ said an ancient Scottish worthy, in ‘lifting up his protestation’ in troublous times, ‘that the Lord has fashioned His Kirk by the uncounterfeited work of His own new creation; or, as the prophet speaketh, “hath made us, and not we ourselves;” and that we must not presume to fashion a new portraiture of a Kirk, and a new form of divine service, which God in His word hath not before allowed; seeing that, were we to extend our authority further than the calling we have of God doth permit––as, namely, if we should (as God forbid!) authorize the authority of bishops––we should bring into the Kirk of God the ordinance of man.’ If men are to depart from the ‘law and the testimony,’ we hold that the especial mode of their departure may be very 20 much a matter of taste, and would, for our own part, prefer bishops and cardinals to poor dominies of the gospel, somewhat out at the elbows.[3] The fine linen and the purple, the cope and the stole, would at least have the effect of giving that sort of pleasant relief to the widespread sable of our Assemblies which they possessed of yore, ere they for ever lost the gay uniform of the Lord High Commissioner, the gold lace of his dragoon officers, and the glitter of his pages in silver and scarlet. ‘We are two of the humblest servants of Mother Church,’ said the Prior and his companion to Wamba, the jester of Rotherwood. ‘Two of the humblest servants of Mother Church!’ repeated Wamba; ‘I should rather like to see her seneschals, her chief butlers, and her other principal domestics.’

We again saw Chalmers, and, in a corner apart from a social party, of which his kind and genial heart formed the attractive centre, we found he thoroughly agreed with us in holding that the time for the discussion of the educational question had fully come. It was a question, he said, on which he had not yet fully made up his mind: there was, however, one point on which he seemed clear––though, at this distance of time, we cannot definitively say whether the remark regarding it came spontaneously from himself, or was suggested by any query of ours––and that was the right and duty of a Government to instruct, and consequently of the governed to receive the instruction thus communicated, if in itself good. We remarked in turn, that there were various points on which we also had to ‘grope our way’ (a phrase to which the reader will find him referring in his note, which we subjoin); but that regarding the 21 inherently secular character of the schoolmaster, and the right and duty of the Government to employ him in behalf of its people, we had no doubt whatever. And so, parting for the time, we commenced that series of articles which, as they were not wholly without influence in communicating juster views of the place and status of the schoolmaster than had formerly obtained in the Free Church, and as they had some little effect in leading the Church to take at least one step in averting the otherwise inevitable ruin which brooded over her educational scheme, the readers of the Witness may perhaps remember. We were met in controversy on the question by a man, the honesty of whose purpose in this, as in every other matter, and the warmth of whose zeal for the Church which he loved, and for which he laboured, no one has ever questioned, and no one ever will. And if, though possessed of solid, though perhaps not brilliant talent, he failed on this occasion ‘in finding his hands,’ we are to seek an explanation of his failure simply in the circumstance that truths of principle––such as those which establish the right and duty of every Government to educate its people, or which demonstrate the schoolmaster to possess a purely secular, not an ecclesiastical standing––or yet truths of fact, such as that for many years the national teaching of Scotland has not been religious, or that the better Scottish people will on no account or consideration sacrifice the secular education of their children to the dream of a spiritual pedagogy,––are truths which can neither be controverted nor set aside. He did on one occasion, during the course––what he no doubt afterwards regretted––raise against us the cry of infidelity,––a cry which, when employed respecting matters on which Christ or His apostles have not spoken, really means no more than that he who employs it, if truly a good man, is bilious, or has a bad stomach, or has lost the thread of his argument or the equanimity of his temper. Feeling somewhat annoyed, 22 however, we wished to see Chalmers once more; but the matter had not escaped his quick eye, and his kind heart suggested the remedy. In the course of the day in which our views and reasonings were posted as infidel, we received the following note from Morningside:––

Morningside, March 13, 1847.

My dear Sir,––You are getting nobly on on education; not only groping your way, but making way, and that by a very sensible step in advance this day.

On my own mind the truth evolves itself very gradually; and I am yet a far way from the landing-place. Kindest respects to Mrs. Miller; and with earnest prayer for the comfort and happiness of both, I ever am, my dear Sir, yours very truly,

Thomas Chalmers.

Hugh Miller, Esq.

In short, Thomas Chalmers, by his sympathy and his connivance, had become as great an infidel as ourselves; and we have submitted to our readers the evidence of the fact, fully certified under his own hand.[4] There is a sort of perfection in everything; and perfection once reached, deterioration usually begins. And when, in bandying the phrases infidel and infidelity––like the feathered missiles in the game of battledore and shuttlecock––they fell upon Chalmers, we think there was a droll felicity in the accident, which constitutes for it an irresistible claim of being the terminal one in the series. The climax reached its point of extremest elevation; for even should our infidel-dubbers do their best or worst now, it is not at all likely they will find out a second Chalmers to hit.

We concluded our course of educational articles; and though we afterwards saw the distinguished man to whom 23 our eye so frequently turned, as, under God, the wise pilot of the Free Church, and were honoured by a communication from him, dictated to his secretary, we did not again touch on the subject of education. We were, however, gratified to learn, from men much in his confidence and company––we hope we do not betray trust in referring to the Rev. Mr. Tasker of the West Port as one of these––that he regarded our entire course with a feeling of general approval akin to that to which he had given expression in his note. It further gratifies us to reflect that our course had the effect of setting his eminently practical mind a-working on the whole subject, and led to the production of the inestimably valuable document, long and carefully pondered, which will do more to settle the question of national education in Scotland than all the many volumes which have been written regarding it. As in a well-known instance in Scottish story, it is the ‘dead Douglas’ who is to ‘win the field.’

But we lag in our narrative. That melancholy event took place which cast a shade of sadness over Christendom; and in a few weeks after, the posthumous document, kindly communicated to us by the family of the deceased, appeared in the columns of the Witness. We perused it with intense interest; and what we saw in the first perusal was, that Chalmers had gone far beyond us; and in the second, that, in laying down his first principles, he had looked at the subject, as was his nature, in a broader and more general aspect, and had unlocked the difficulty which it presented in a more practical and statesmanlike manner. We had, indeed, considered in the abstract the right and duty of the civil magistrate to educate his people; but our main object being to ward off otherwise inevitable bankruptcy from a scheme of our Church, and having to deal with a sort of vicious Cameronianism, that would not accept of the magistrate’s money, even though he gave the Bible and the Shorter Catechism along with it, we had 24 merely contended that money given in connection with the Bible and Shorter Catechism is a very excellent thing, and especially so to men who cannot fulfil their obligations or pay their debts without it. But Chalmers had looked beyond the difficulties of a scheme, to the emergencies of a nation.

At the request of many of our readers, we have reprinted his document in full, as it originally appeared.[5] First, let it be remarked that, after briefly stating what he deemed the optimity of the question, he passes on to what he considered the only mode of settling it practically, in the present divided state of the Church and country. And in doing so he lays down, as a preliminary step, the absolute right and duty of the Government to educate, altogether independently of the theological differences or divisions which may obtain among the people or in the Churches. ‘As there seems no reason,’ he says, ‘why, because of these unresolved differences, a public measure for the health of all, for the recreation of all, for the economic advancement of all, should be held in abeyance, there seems as little reason why, because of these differences, a public measure for raising the general intelligence of all should be held in abeyance.’ Such is the principle which he enunciates regarding the party possessing the right to educate. Let the reader next mark in what terms he speaks of the party to be educated, or under whose immediate superintendence the education is to be conducted. Those who most widely misunderstand the Doctor’s meaning––from the circumstance, perhaps, that their views are most essentially at variance with those which he entertained––seem to hold that this absolute right on the part of Government is somehow conditional on the parties to be educated, or to superintend the education, coming forward to them in the character of Churches. They deem it necessary to the integrity of his meaning, that Presbyterians should come forward as Presbyterians, 25 Puseyites as Puseyites, Papists as Papists, and Socinians as Socinians; in which case, of course, all could be set right so far as the Free Church conscience was concerned in the matter, by taking the State’s grant with the one hand, and holding out an indignant protest against its extension to the erroneous sects in the other. But that Chalmers could have contemplated anything so monstrous as that Scotchmen should think of coming forward simply as Scotchmen, they cannot believe. He must have regarded the State’s unconditional right to educate as conditional after all, and dependent on the form assumed by the party on which or through which it was to be exercised. Let the reader examine for himself, and see whether there exists in the document a single expression suited to favour such a view. Nothing can be plainer than the words ‘Parliament,’ ‘Government,’ ‘State,’ ‘Legislature,’ employed to designate the educating party on the one hand; and surely nothing plainer than the words ‘people,’ ‘men of all Churches and denominations,’ ‘families of the land,’ and ‘society at large,’ made use of in designating the party to be educated, or entrusted with the educational means or machinery, on the other. There is a well-grounded confidence expressed in the Christian and philanthropic zeal which obtain throughout society; but the only bodies ecclesiastical which we find specially named––if, indeed, one of these can be regarded as at all ecclesiastical––are the ‘Unitarians and the Catholics.’ It was with the broad question of national education in its relation to two great parties placed in happy opposition, as the ‘inner hall of legislation’ and the ‘outer field of society,’ that we find Dr. Chalmers mainly dealing. And yet the document does contain palpable reference to the Government scheme. There is one clause in which it urges the propriety of ‘leaving [the matter of religion] to the parties who had to do with the erection and management of the schools which [the rulers of the country] had 26 been called on to assist.’ But the greater includes the less, and the much that is general in the paper is in no degree neutralized by the little in it that is particular. The Hon. Mr. Fox Maule could perhaps throw some additional light on this matter. It was at his special desire, and in consequence of a conversation on the subject which he held with Chalmers, that the document was drawn up. The nature of the request could not, of course, alter whatever is absolutely present in what it was the means of producing; but it would be something to know whether what the statesman asked was a decision on a special educational scheme, or––what any statesman might well desire to possess––the judgment of so wise and great a man on the all-important subject of national education.

It will be found that the following valuable letters from Dr. Guthrie and the Hon. Mr. Fox Maule determine the meaning of Dr. Chalmers on his own authority:––

2, Lauriston Lane, March 5, 1850.

My dear Mr. Miller,––When such conflicting statements were advanced as to the bearing of Dr. Chalmers’ celebrated paper on education, although I had no doubt in my own mind that the view you had taken of that valuable document was the correct one, and had that view confirmed by a conversation I had with his son-in-law, Mr. M’Kenzie, who heard Dr Chalmers discuss the matter in London, and acted, indeed, as his amanuensis in writing that paper; yet I thought it were well also to see whether Mr. Maule could throw any light on the subject. I wrote him with that object in view; and while we must regret that we are called to differ from some most eminent and excellent friends on this important question, it both comforts and confirms us to find another most important testimony in the letter which I now send to you, in favour of our opinion, that Dr. Chalmers, had God spared him to this day, would have 27 lifted up his mighty voice to advocate the views in which we are agreed.

Into the fermenting mind of the public it is the duty of every one to cast in whatever may, by God’s blessing, lead to a happy termination of this great question; and with this view I send you the letter which I have had the honour to receive from Mr. Maule.––Believe me, yours ever,

Thomas Guthrie.

Grosvenor Street, March 4, 1850.

My dear Dr. Guthrie,––When you wrote me some time since upon the subject of the communication made to me by the late Dr. Chalmers upon the all-important question of education, I could not take upon myself to say positively (though I had very little doubt in my mind) whether that document took its origin in a desire expressed by me to have Dr. Chalmers’ opinion on the general question of education, or merely upon the scheme laid down and pursued by the Committee of Privy Council. My impression has always been, that Dr. Chalmers addressed himself to the question as a whole; and on looking over my papers a few days since, I find that impression quite confirmed by the following sentence, in a note in Dr. Chalmers’ handwriting, bearing date 21st May 1847:––‘I hope that by to-morrow night I shall have prepared a few brief sentences on the subject of education.’

None of us thought how inestimable these brief sentences were to become, forming, as they do, the last written evidence of the tone of his great mind on this subject.

Should you address yourself to this question, you are, in my opinion, fully justified in dealing with the memorandum as referring to general and national arrangements, and not to those which are essentially of a temporary and varying character.––Believe me, with great esteem, yours sincerely,

F. Maule.



Right and Duty of the Civil Magistrate to educate the People––Founded on two distinct Principles, the one economic, the other judicial––Right and Duty of the Parent––Natural, not Ecclesiastical––Examination of the purely Ecclesiastical Claim––The real Rights in the case those of the State, the Parent, and the Ratepayer––The terms Parent and Ratepayer convertible into the one term Householder.

Wherever mind is employed, thought will be evolved; and in all questions of a practical character, truth, when honestly sought, is ultimately found. And so we deem it a happy circumstance, that there should be more minds honestly engaged at the present time on the educational problem than at perhaps any former period. To the upright light will arise. The question cannot be too profoundly pondered, nor too carefully discussed; and at the urgent request of not a few of our better readers, we purpose examining it anew in a course of occasional articles, convinced that its crisis has at length come, just as the crisis of the Church question had in reality come when the late Dr. M’Crie published his extraordinary pamphlet;[6] and that it must depend on the part now taken by the Free Church in this matter, whether some ten years hence she is to posses any share, even the slightest, in the education of the country. We ask our readers severely to test all our statements, whether of principle or of fact, and to suffer nothing in the least to influence them which is not rational, or which is not true.

In the first place, then, we hold with Chalmers, that it is unquestionably the right and duty of the civil magistrate to educate his people, altogether independently of the religion 29 which he himself holds, or of the religious differences which may unhappily obtain among them. Even should there be as many sects in a country as there are families or individuals, the right and duty still remain. Religion, in such circumstances, can palpably form no part of a Government scheme of tuition; but there is nothing in the element of religious difference to furnish even a pretext for excluding those important secular branches which bear reference to the principles of trade, the qualities of matter, the relations of numbers, the properties of figured space, the philosophy of grammar, or the form and body which in various countries and ages literature and the belles lettres have assumed. And this right and duty of a Government to instruct, rest, we hold, on two distinct principles,––the one economic, the other judicial. Education adds immensely to the economic value of the subjects of a State. The professional and mercantile men who in this country live by their own exertions, and pay the income tax, and all the other direct taxes, are educated men; whereas its uneducated men do not pay the direct taxes, and, save in the article of intoxicating drink, very little of the indirect ones; and a large proportion of their number, so far from contributing to the national wealth, are positive burdens on the community. And on the class of facts to which this important fact belongs rests the economic right and duty of the civil magistrate to educate.

His judicial right and duty are founded on the circumstance, that the laws which he promulgates are written laws, and that what he writes for the guidance of the people, the people ought to be enabled to read; seeing that to punish for the breach of a law, of the existence of which he who breaks it has been left in ignorance, is not man-law, but what Jeremy Bentham well designates dog-law, and altogether unjust. We are, of course, far from supposing that every British subject who can read is to peruse the vast 30 library which the British Acts of themselves compose; but we hold that education forms the only direct means through which written law, as a regulator of conduct, can be known, and that, in consequence, in its practical breadth and average aspect, it is only educated men who know it, and only uneducated men who are ignorant of it. And hence the derivation of the magistrate’s judicial right and duty. But on this part of our subject, with Free Churchmen for our readers, we need not surely insist. Our Church has homologated at least the general principle of the civil magistrate’s right and duty, by becoming the recipient of his educational grant. If he has no right to give, she can have no right to receive. If he, instead of performing a duty, has perpetrated a wrong, she, to all intents and purposes, being guilty of receipt, is a participator in the crime. Nay, further, let it be remarked that, as indicated by the speeches of some of our abler and more influential men, there seems to exist a decided wish on the part of the Free Church, that the State, in its educational grants, should assume a purely secular character, and dispense with the certificate of religious training which it at present demands,––a certificate which, though anomalously required of sects of the most opposite tenets, constitutes notwithstanding, in this business of grants, the sole recognition of religion on the part of the Government. Now this, if a fact at all, is essentially a noticeable and pregnant one, and shows how much opposite parties are in reality at one on a principle regarding which they at least seem to dispute.

The right and duty of the civil magistrate thus established, let us next consider another main element in the question,––the right and duty of the parent. It is, we assert, imperative on every parent in Scotland and elsewhere to educate his children; and on the principle that he is a joint contributor with the Government to the support of every national teacher––the Government giving salary, and the 31 parent fees––we assert further, that should the Government give its salary ‘exclusively as the expression of its value for a good secular education,’ he may, notwithstanding, demand that his fees should be received as the representative of his value for a good religious education. Whether his principles be those of the Voluntary or of the Establishment-man, the same schoolmaster who is a secular teacher in relation to the Government, may be a religious teacher in relation to him. For unless the State positively forbid its schoolmaster to communicate religious instruction, he exists to the parent, in virtue of the fees given and received, in exactly the circumstances of the teacher of any adventure school.

Let us further remark, that the rights of the parent in the matter of education are not ecclesiastical, but natural rights. The writer of this article is one of the parents of Scotland; and, simply as such, he claims for himself the right of choosing his children’s teacher on his own responsibility, and of determining what his children are to be taught. The Rev. Dr. Thomas Guthrie is his minister; and he also is one of the parents of Scotland, and enjoys, as such, a right identical in all respects with that of his parishioner and hearer. But it is only an identical and co-equal right. Should the writer send his boy to a Socialist or Popish school, to be taught either gross superstition or gross infidelity, the minister would have a right to interfere, and, if entreaty and remonstrance failed, to bring him to discipline for so palpable a breach of his baptismal engagement. If, on the other hand, it was the minister who had sent his boy to the Socialist or Popish school, the parishioner would have a right to interfere, and, were entreaty and remonstrance disregarded, to bring him to discipline. Minister and parishioner stand, we repeat, in this matter, on exactly the same level. Nor have ten, twenty, a hundred, a thousand, twenty thousand, or a hundred thousand lay parents, 32 or yet ten, twenty, a hundred, or a thousand clerical parents, whether existing as a congregation or hundreds of congregations on the one hand, or as a Presbytery, Synod, or General Assembly on the other, rights in this matter that in the least differ in their nature from the rights possessed by the single clergyman, Dr. Guthrie, or by the single layman, the Editor of the Witness. The sole right which exists in the case––that of the parent––is a natural right, not an ecclesiastical one; and the sole modification which it can receive from the superadded element of Church membership is simply that modification to which we refer as founded on the religious duty of both member and minister, in its relation to ecclesiastical law and the baptismal vow.

Nor, be it observed, does this our recognition, in our character as a Church member, of ecclesiastical rule and authority, give our minister any true grounds for urging that it is our bounden duty, in virtue of our parental engagements, and from the existence of such general texts as the often quoted one, ‘Train up a child,’ etc., to send our children to some school in which religion is expressly taught. Far less does it give him a right to demand any such thing. We are Free Church in our principles; and the grand distinctive principle for which, during the protracted Church controversy, we never ceased to contend, was simply the right of choosing our own religious teacher, on the strength of our own convictions, and on our own exclusive responsibility. We laughed to scorn the idea that the three items of Dr. George Cook’s ceaseless iterations––life, literature, and doctrine––formed the full tale of ministerial qualification: there was yet a fourth item, infinitely more important than all the others put together, viz. godliness, or religion proper, or, in yet other words, the regeneration of the whole man by the Spirit of God. And on this last item we held that it was the right and duty of the people who Chose for themselves, and for their children, a religious 33 teacher, and of none others, clerical or lay, solemnly to decide. And while we still hold by this sacred principle on the one hand, we see clearly, on the other, that the sole qualifications of our Free Church teachers, as prepared in our Normal Schools, correspond to but Dr. Cook’s three items; nay, that instead of exceeding, they fall greatly short of these. The certificate of character which the young candidates bring to the institution answers but lamely to the item ‘life;’ the amount of secular instruction imparted to them within its walls answers but inadequately to the item ‘literature;’ while the modicum of theological training received, most certainly not equal to a four years’ course of theology at a Divinity Hall, answers but indifferently to the crowning item of the three––‘doctrine.’ That paramount item, conversion on the part of the teacher to God, is still unaccounted for; and we contend that, respecting that item, the parent, and the parent only, has a right to decide, all difficult and doubtful as the decision may be: for be it remembered, that there exist no such data on which to arrive at a judgment in cases of this nature, as exist in the choosing of a minister. And though we would deem it eminently right and proper that our child should read his daily Scripture lesson to some respectable schoolmaster, a believer in the divine authority of revelation, and should repeat to him his weekly tale of questions from the National Catechism, yet to the extempore religious teaching of no merely respectable schoolmaster would we subject our child’s heart and conscience. For we hold that the religious lessons of the unregenerate lack regenerating life; and that whatever in this all-important department does not intenerate and soften, rarely fails to harden and to sear. Religious preachments from a secular heart are the droppings of a petrifying spring, which convert all that they fall upon into stone. Further, we hold that a mistake regarding the character of a schoolmaster authorized to teach 34 religion extempore might be greatly more serious, and might involve an immensely deeper responsibility, than a similar mistake regarding a minister. The minister preaches to grown men––a large proportion of them members of the Church––not a few of them office-bearers in its service, and competent, in consequence, to judge respecting both the doctrine which he exhibits and the mode of its exhibition; but it is children, immature of judgment, and extremely limited in their knowledge, whom the religion-teaching schoolmaster has to address. Nay, more: in choosing a minister, we may mistake the character of the man; but there can be no mistake made regarding the character of the office, seeing that it is an office appointed by God Himself; whereas in choosing a religion-teaching schoolmaster, we may mistake the character of both the man and the office too. We are responsible in the one case for only the man; we are responsible in the other for both the man and the office.

We have yet another objection to any authoritative interference on the part of ecclesiastical courts with the natural rights and enjoined duties of the parent in the matter of education. Even though we fully recognised some conscientious teacher as himself in possession of the divine life, we might regard him as very unfitted, from some natural harshness of temper, or some coldness of heart, or some infirmity of judgment, for being a missionary of religion to the children under his care. At one period early in life we spent many a leisure hour in drawing up a gossiping little history of our native town, and found, in tracing out the memorabilia of its parish school, that the Rev. John Russell, afterwards of Kilmarnock and Stirling, and somewhat famous in Scottish literature as one of the clerical antagonists of Burns, had taught in it for twelve years, and that several of his pupils (now long since departed) still lived. We sought them out one by one, and 35 succeeded in rescuing several curious passages in his history, and in finding that, though not one among them doubted the sincerity of his religion, nor yet his conscientiousness as a schoolmaster, they all equally regarded him as a harsh-tempered, irascible man, who succeeded in inspiring all his pupils with fear, but not one of them with love. Now, to no such type of schoolmaster, however strong our conviction of his personal piety, would we entrust the religious teaching of our child. If necessitated to place our boy under his pedagogical rule and superintendence, we would address him thus: Lacking time, and mayhap ability, ourselves to instruct our son, we entrust him to you, and this simply on the same division of labour principle on which we give the making of our shoes to a shoemaker, and the making of our clothes to a tailor. And in order that you may not lack the power necessary to the accomplishment of your task––for we hold that ‘folly is bound up in the heart of a child’––we make over to you our authority to admonish and correct. But though we can put into your hands the parental rod––with an advice, however, to use it discreetly and with temper––there are things which we cannot communicate to you. We cannot make over to you our child’s affection for us, nor yet our affection for our child: with these joys ‘a stranger intermeddleth not.’ And as religious teaching without love, and conducted under the exclusive influence of fear, may and must be barren––nay, worse than barren––we ask you to leave this part of our duty as a parent entirely to ourselves. Our duty it is, and to you we delegate no part of it; and this, not because we deem it unimportant, but because we deem it important in the highest degree, and are solicitous that no unkindly element should mar it in its effects. Now where, we ask, is the ecclesiastical office-bearer who, in his official character, or in any character or capacity whatever, has a right authoritatively to 36 challenge our rejection, on our own parental responsibility, of the religious teaching of even a converted schoolmaster, on purely reasonable grounds such as these? Or where is the ecclesiastical office-bearer who has an authoritative right to challenge our yet weightier Free Church objection to the religious teaching of a schoolmaster whom we cannot avoid regarding as an unregenerate man, or whom we at least do not know to be a regenerate one? Or yet further, where is the ecclesiastical office-bearer who has a right authoritatively to bear down or set aside our purely Protestant caveat against a teacher of religion who, in his professional capacity, has no place or standing in the word of God? The right and duty of the civil magistrate in all circumstances to educate his people, and of parents to choose their children’s teacher, and to determine what they are to be taught, we are compelled to recognise; and there seems to be a harmony between the two rights––the parental and the magisterial, with the salary of the one and the fees of the other––suited, we think, to unlock many a difficulty; but the authoritative standing, in this question, of the ecclesiastic as such, we have hitherto failed to see. The parent, as a Church member or minister, is amenable to discipline; but his natural rights in the matter are simply those of the parent, and his political rights simply those of the subject and the ratepayer.

And in this educational question certain political rights are involved. In the present state of things, the parish schoolmasters of the kingdom are chosen by the parish ministers and parish heritors: the two elements involved are the ecclesiastical and the political. But while we see the parish minister as but the mere idle image of a state of things passed away for ever, and possessed in his ministerial capacity of merely a statutory right, which, though it exists to-day, may be justly swept away to-morrow, we recognise the heritor as possessed of a real right; and what 37 we challenge is merely its engrossing extent, not its nature. We regard it as just in kind, but exorbitant in degree; and on the simple principle that the money of the State is the money of the people, and that the people have a right to determine that it be not misapplied or misdirected, we would, with certain limitations, extend to the ratepayers as a body the privileges, in this educational department, now exclusively exercised by the heritors. In that educational franchise which we would fain see extended to the Scottish people, we recognise two great elements, and but two only,––the natural, or that of the parent; and the political, or that of the ratepayer. These form the two opposite sides of the pyramid; and, though diverse in their nature, let the reader mark how nicely for all practical purposes they converge into the point, householder. The householders of Scotland include all the ratepayers of Scotland. The householders of Scotland include also all the parents of Scotland. We would therefore fix on the householders of a parish as the class in whom the right of nominating the parish schoolmaster should be vested. But on the same principle of high expediency on which we exclude householders of a certain standing from exercising the political franchise in the election of a member of Parliament, would we exclude certain other householders, of, however, a much lower standing, from voting in the election of a parish schoolmaster. We are not prepared to be Chartists in either department,––the educational or the political; and this simply on the ground that Chartism in either would be prejudicial to the general good. On this part of the subject, however, we shall enter at full length in our next.

Meanwhile we again urge our readers carefully to examine for themselves all our statements and propositions,––to take nothing on trust,––to set no store by any man’s ipse dixit, be he editor or elder, minister or layman. In this question, as in a thousand others, ‘truth lies at the bottom of the 38 well;’ and if she be not now found and consulted, to the exclusion of every prejudice, and the disregard of every petty little interest and sinister motive, it will be ill ten years hence with the Free Church of Scotland in her character as an educator. Her safety rests, in the present crisis, in the just and the true, and in the just and the true only.



Parties to whom the Educational Franchise might be safely extended––House Proprietors, House Tenants of a certain standing, Farmers, Crofters––Scheme of an Educational Faculty––Effects of the desired Extension––It would restore the National Schools to the People of the Nation.

It is the right and duty of every Government to educate its people, whatever the kinds or varieties of religion which may obtain among them;––it is the right and duty of every parent to select, on his own responsibility, his children’s teacher, and to determine what his children are to be taught;––it is the right and duty of every member of the commonwealth to see that the commonwealth’s money, devoted to educational purposes, be not squandered on incompetent men, and, in virtue of his contributions as a ratepayer, to possess a voice with the parents of a country in the selection of its salaried schoolmasters. There exist, on the one hand, the right and duty of the State; there exist, on the other, the rights and duties of the parents and ratepayers; and we find both parents and ratepayers presenting themselves in the aggregate, and for all practical purposes in this matter, as a single class, viz. the householders of the kingdom. But as, in dealing with these in purely political questions, we exclude a certain portion of them from the exercise of the political franchise, and that simply because, as classes, they are uninformed or dangerous, and might employ power, if they possessed it, to the public prejudice, so would we exclude a certain proportion of them, on similar grounds, from the educational franchise. In selecting, however, the safe classes of householders, we would employ tests somewhat dissimilar in their character from those to which the Reform Act extends its exclusive 40 sanction, and establish a somewhat different order of qualifications from those which it erects.

In the first place, we would fain extend the educational franchise to all those householders of Scotland who inhabit houses of their own, however humble in kind, or however low the valuation of their rental. We know not a safer or more solid, or, in the main, more intelligent class, than those working men of the country who, with the savings of half a lifetime, build or purchase a dwelling for themselves, and then sit down rent-free for the rest of their lives, each ‘the monarch of a shed.’ With these men we are intimately acquainted, for we have lived and laboured among them; and very rarely have we failed to find the thatched domicile, of mayhap two little rooms and a closet, with a patch of garden-ground behind, of which some hard-handed country mechanic or labourer had, through his own exertions, become the proud possessor, forming a higher certificate of character than masters the most conscientious and discerning could bestow upon their employés, or even Churches themselves upon their members. Nor is this house-owning qualification much less valuable when it has been derived by inheritance––not wrought for; seeing that the man who retains his little patrimony unsquandered must be at least a steady, industrious man, the slave of no expensive or disreputable vice. Let us remark, however, that we would not attach the educational franchise to property as such: the proprietor of the house, whether a small house or a large one, would require to be the bona fide inhabitant of the dwelling which he occupied, for at least a considerable portion of every year. The second class to which we would fain see the educational franchise extended are all those householders of the kingdom who tenant houses of five pounds annual rent and upwards, who settle with their landlords not oftener than twice every twelvemonth, and who are at least a year entered on possession. By fixing 41 the qualification thus high, and rejecting the monthly or weekly rent-payer, the country would get rid of at least nineteen-twentieths of the dangerous classes,––the agricultural labourers, who wander about from parish to parish, some six or eight months in one locality, and some ten or twelve in another; the ignorant immigrant Irish, who tenant the poorer hovels of so many of our western coast parishes; and last, not least, all the migratory population of our larger towns, who rarely reside half a year in the same dwelling, and who, though they may in some instances pay at more than the rate of the yearly five pounds, pay it weekly, or by the fortnight or month. We regret, however, that there is a really worthy class which such a qualification would exclude,––ploughmen, labourers, and country mechanics, who reside permanently in humble cottages, the property of the owner of the soil, and who, though their course through life lies on the bleak edge of poverty, are God-fearing, worthy men, at least morally qualified to give, in the election of a teacher, an honest and not unintelligent voice. And yet, hitherto at least, we have failed to see any principle which a British statesman would recognise as legitimate, on which this class could be included in the educational franchise, and their dangerous neighbours of the same political status kept out. There is yet a third very important class whom we would fain see in possession of the educational franchise,––those householders of Scotland who till the soil as tenants, whether with or without leases, or whether the annual rent which they pay amounts to three or to three thousand pounds. The tillers of the soil are a fixed class, greatly more permanent, even where there exists no lease, than the mere tenant householders; and they include, especially in the Highlands of Scotland, and the poorer districts of the low country, a large proportion of the country’s parentage. They are in the main, too, an eminently safe class, and not less so where the farms are 42 small and the dwellings upon them mere cottages––to which, save for the surrounding croft or farm, no franchise could attach––than where they live in elegant houses, and are the lessees of hundreds of acres. And such are the three great classes to which, as composing the solid body of the Scottish nation––to the exclusion of little more than the mere rags that hang loosely on its vestments––would we extend, did we possess the power, the educational franchise.

In order, however, to render a franchise thus liberally restricted more safe and salutary still, we would demand not only certain qualifications on the part of the parents and ratepayers of the country, without which they could not be permitted to vote, but also certain other qualifications on the part of the country’s schoolmasters, without which they could not be voted for. We would thus impart to the scheme such a twofold aspect of security as that for which in a purely ecclesiastical matter we contended, when we urged that none but Church members should be permitted to choose their own ministers; and that none but ministers pronounced duly qualified in life, literature, and doctrine, by a competent ecclesiastical court, should they be permitted to choose. There ought to exist a teaching Faculty as certainly as there exists a medical or legal Faculty, or as there exists in the Church what is essentially a preacher-licensing Faculty. The membership of a Church are unfitted in their aggregate character to judge respecting at least the literature of the young licentiate whom, in their own and their children’s behalf, they call to the pastoral charge;––the people of a district, however shrewd and solid, are equally unqualified to determine whether the young practitioner of medicine or of law who settles among them is competently acquainted with his profession, and so a fit person to be entrusted with the care of their health or the protection of their property. And hence the 43 necessity which exists in all these cases for testing, licensing, diploma-giving courts or boards, composed of men qualified to decide regarding those special points of ability or acquirement which the people, as such, cannot try for themselves. In no case, however, are courts of this nature more imperatively required than in the case of the schoolmaster. Neither the amount of literature which he possesses, nor yet his mastery over the most approved modes of communicating it, can be tested by the people, who, as parents and ratepayers, possess the exclusive right to make choice of him for their parish or district school; and hence the necessity that what they cannot do for themselves should be previously done for them by some competent court or board, and that no teacher who did not possess a licence or diploma should be eligible to at least an endowed seminary supported by the public money. With, of course, the qualifications of the mere adventure-teacher, whether supported by Churches or individuals, we would permit no board to interfere. As to the composition of the board itself, that, we hold, might be determined on very simple principles. Let the College-bred teachers of Scotland, associated with its University professors, select for themselves, out of their own number, a dean or chairman, and a court or committee, legally qualified by Act of Parliament stringently to try all teachers who may present themselves before them, in order to be rendered eligible for a national school, and to grant them licences or diplomas, legally representative of professional qualification. Whether a teacher, on his election by the people, might not be a second time tried, especially on behalf of the State and the ratepayers, by a Government inspectorship, and thus a check on the board be instituted, we are not at present called on to determine; but on this we are clear, that the certificate of no Normal School, in behalf of its own pupils, ought to be received otherwise than as a mere makeweight 44 in the general item of professional character; seeing that any such document would be as much a certificate of the Normal School’s own ability in rearing efficient teachers, as of the pedagogical skill of the teachers which it reared. The vitiating element of self-interest would scarce fail to induce, ultimately at least, a suspicious habit of self-recommendation.

Such, then, in this matter, is our full tale of qualification, pedagogical and popular, of the educators of the country on the one hand, and of the educational franchise-holders of the country on the other. And now we request the reader to mark one mighty result of the arrangement, which no other yet set in opposition to it could possibly produce. There are in Scotland about one thousand one hundred national schools, supported by national resources; and, of consequence, though fallen into the hands of a mere sect, which in some localities does not include a tithe of the population, they of right belong to the Scottish people. And these schools of the people that extension of the educational franchise which we desiderate would not fail to restore to the people. It would put them once more in possession of what was their own property de facto at the Revolution (for at that period, when, with a few inconsiderable exceptions, they were all of one creed, the ministry of the Established Church virtually represented them), and of what has been de jure their property ever since. But by the ministry of no one Church can the people be represented now. The long rule of Moderatism,––the consequent formation of the Secession and Relief Churches,––the growth of Independency and Episcopacy,––and last, but not least in the series, the Disruption, and the instantaneous creation of the Free Church, have put an end to that state of things for ever. The time has in the course of Providence fairly come, when the people must be permitted in this matter to represent themselves; and there is 45 one thing sure,––the struggle may be protracted, but the issue is certain. Important, however, as are our parish schools, and rich in associations so intimately linked to the intellectual glory of the nation, that, were they but mere relics of the past, the custodiership of them might well be most desirable to the Scottish people, they represent but a small part of the stake involved in the present all-engrossing movement. It seeks also to provide from the coffers of the State––on a broad basis of popular representation, and with the reservation of a right on the part of the people to supplement whatever instruction the State may not or cannot supply––that fearful educational destitution of the nation which is sinking its tens and hundreds of thousands into abject pauperism and barbarous ignorance, and which neither Churches nor Societies can of themselves supply. It is the first hopeful movement of the age; for our own Free Church educational movement, though perhaps second in point of importance, only serves irrefragably to demonstrate its necessity.

It is, we repeat, to the people of Scotland, and not to any one of the Churches of Scotland, that our scheme of a widely-based and truly popular franchise would restore the Scottish schools. Mr. George Combe is, however, quite in the right in holding that religion is too intimately associated with the educational question, and too decidedly a force in the country, to be excluded from the national seminaries, ‘unless, indeed, Government do something more than merely omit the religious element.’[7] All is lost, Mr. Combe justly infers, on the non-religious side of the 46 question, if the introduction of the Bible and Shorter Catechism be not prohibited by Act of Parliament; for, if not stringently prohibited, what Parliament merely omits doing, a Bible and Catechism loving people will to a certainty do; and the conscience of the phrenologist and his followers will not fail to be outraged by the spectacle of Bible classes in the national schools, and of State schoolmasters instilling into the youthful mind, by means of the Shorter Catechism, the doctrine of original sin and the work of the Spirit. Nay, more; as it is not in the power of mere Acts of the Legislature to eradicate from the hearts of a people those feelings of partiality, based on deep religious conviction and the associations of ages, with which it is natural to regard a co-religionist, more especially in the case of the teacher to whom one’s children are to read their daily chapter and repeat their weekly tale of questions, denomination must and will continue to exert its powerful influence in the election of national schoolmasters popularly chosen. And as there are certain extensive districts in Scotland in which some one Church is the stronger, and other certain districts in which some other Church is the stronger, there are whole shires and provinces in which, if selected on the popular scheme, the national teachers would be found well-nigh all of one religious denomination. From John O’Groat’s to Beauly, for instance, they would be all, or almost all, Free Churchmen; for in that extensive district almost all the people are Free Church. In the Scottish Highlands generally, nearly the same result would be produced, from, of course, the existence of a similar 47 constituency. In Inverness, and onwards along the sea-coast to Aberdeen, Montrose, St. Andrews, and the Frith of Forth, the element of old dissent would be influentially felt: the great parties among the people would be three––Establishment, Free Church, and Voluntary; and whichever two of them united, would succeed in defeating the third. And such unions, no doubt, frequently would take place. The Voluntaries and Free Churchmen would often unite for the carrying of a man; and occasionally, no doubt, the Free Church and the Establishment, for the carrying of a principle,––that principle of religious teaching on which, in the coming struggle, the State Church will be necessitated to take her stand. To the south of the Frith of Forth on to Berwick, and along the western coast from Dumbarton to the Solway, there would be localities parcelled out into large farms, in which the Establishment would prevail; and of course, wherever it can reckon up a majority of the more solid people, it is but right and proper that the Establishment should prevail; but who can doubt that even in these districts the national teaching would be immensely heightened by a scheme which gave to parents and ratepayers the selection of their teachers, and restricted their choice to intelligent and qualified men? Wherever there is liberty, there will be discussion and difference; and the election of a schoolmaster would not be managed quite as quietly under the anticipated state of things, with the whole people of a parish for his constituency, as in the present, by a minister and factor over a social glass. But the objection taken by anticipation to popular heats and contendings in such cases is as old as the first stirrings of a free spirit among the people, and the first struggles of despotism to bind them down. We ourselves have heard it twice urged on the unpopular side,––once when the rotten burghs were nodding to their fall, and once when an unrestricted patronage was imperilled by 48 the encroachments of the Veto. There will, and must be, difference; and difference too, Scotland being what it is, in which the religious element will not fail to mingle; but not the less completely on that account will the scheme restore the Scottish schools to the Scottish people, as represented by the majority, and to the membership of the Free Church, in the de facto statistical sense and proportion in which the Free Church is national. It will not restore them to us in the theoretic sense; but then there are at least three other true original Churches of Scotland, which in that respect will be greatly worse off than ourselves,––the true national Cameronian Church, the true national Episcopalian Church, and a true compact little Church of the whole nation, that, in the form of one very excellent minister, labours in the east.

Meanwhile, we would fain say to our country folk and readers of the north of Scotland: You, of all the Free Churchmen of the kingdom, have an especial stake in this matter. Examine for yourselves,––trust to your own good sense,––exercise as Protestants your right of private judgment,––and see whether, as Christian men and good Scotchmen, you may not fairly employ the political influence given you by God and your country, in possessing yourselves of the parish schools. There will be deep points mooted in this controversy, which neither you nor we will ever be in the least able to understand. You will no doubt be told of a theocratic theory of the British Government, perfectly compatible, somehow, with the receipt of educational grants from which all recognition of the religious element on the part of the State is, at the express request of the Church, to be thoroughly discharged, but not at all compatible with the receipt of an educational endowment of exactly the same character, from which the same State recognition of the same religious element is to be discharged in the same degree. You will, we say, not be able 49 to understand this. The late Dr. Thomas Chalmers and the late Rev. Mr. Stewart of Cromarty could not understand it; we question much whether Dr. William Cunningham understands it; and we are quite sure that Dr. Guthrie and Dr. Begg do not. And you, who are poor simple laymen, will never be able to understand it at all. But you are all able to understand that the parish schools of your respective districts, now lying empty and useless, belong of right to you; and that it would be a very excellent thing to have that right restored to you, both on your own behalf and on that of your children.



Objections urged by the Free Church Presbytery of Glasgow against the Educational Movement––Equally suited to bear against the Scheme of Educational Grants––Great superiority of Territorial over Denominational Endowment––The Scottish People sound as a whole, but some of the Scottish Sects very unsound––State of the Free Church Educational Scheme.

‘Whereas attempts are now being made to reform the parish schools of Scotland, on the principle of altogether excluding religion from national recognition as an element in the national system of education, and leaving it solely to private parties to determine in each locality whether any or what religious instruction will be introduced into the parochial schools,––it is humbly overtured to the Venerable the General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland, to declare that this Church can be no party to any plan of education based on the negation of religion in the general, or of the national faith in particular,’ etc.

Such is the gist of that ‘Overture on Education’ which was carried some three weeks ago by a majority of the Free Church Presbytery of Glasgow. It has the merit of being a clear enunciation of meaning; of being also at least as well fitted to express the views of the Established as of the Free Church courts in Glasgow and elsewhere, and a great deal better suited to serve as a cloak to their policy; and, further, by a very slight adaptation, it could be made to bear as directly against State grants given for educational purposes, if dissociated from the religious certificate, as against State endowments given for the same purpose, when dissociated from statutory religious requirement. It is the religious certificate––most anomalously demanded of denominations diametrically opposed to each other in their 51 beliefs, and subversive of each other in their teachings––that constitutes in the affair of educational grants the recognition of religion on the part of the State. Educational grants dissociated from the religious certificate are educational grants dissociated from the State recognition of religion. The fact that the certificates demanded should be of so anomalous a character, is simply a reflection of the all-important fact that the British people are broken up into antagonistic Churches and hostile denominations, and that the British Government is representative. And that men such as those members and office-bearers of our Church who hold the middle position between that occupied by Mr. Gibson of Glasgow on the one hand, and Dr. Begg of Edinburgh on the other, should see no other way of availing themselves of the educational grants, with a good conscience, than by getting rid of the religious recognition, only serves to show that they are quite as sensible as their opponents in the liberal section of the enormous difficulty of the case, and can bethink themselves of no better mode of unlocking it. For it will not be contended, that if in the matter of grants there is to be no recognition of religion on the part of the State, the want of it could be more adequately supplied by sects, as such, denominationally divided, than by the people of Scotland, as such, territorially divided; seeing that sects, as such, include Papists, Puseyites, Socinians, and Seceders,––Muggletonians, Juggletonians, New Jerusalemites, and United Presbyterians,––Free-thinking Christians, Free-Willers, and Free Churchmen. Nor can we see either the wisdom or the advantage of any scheme of Government inquiry into the educational destitution of a locality, that, instead of supplying the want which it found, would merely placard the place by a sort of feuing ticket––destined, we are afraid, in many instances to be sadly weather-bleached––which would intimate to the sects in general, that were any one of them to come forward 52 and enact the part of school-builder and pedagogue, the State would undertake for a portion of the expenses. We suppose the advertisement on the ticket would run somewhat as follows:––‘Wanted by the Government, A Church to erect a School. Terms Liberal, and no Certificate of Religious Teaching demanded. N.B.––Papists, Puseyites, and Socinians perfectly eligible.’[8]

Leaving, however, to profounder intellects than our own the adjustment of the nice principles involved in this matter, let us advert to what we deem the practical advantages of a territorial scheme of educational endowments over a denominational 53 scheme of educational grants. At present, all or any of the sects may come forward as such, whatever their character or teaching, and, on fulfilling certain conditions, receive assistance from the Government in the form of an educational grant; whereas, by the scheme which we would fain see set in its place, it would be only the more solid people of districts––let us suppose parishes––that would be qualified to come forward to choose for themselves their parochial State-endowed teachers. And at least one of the advantages of this scheme over the other must be surely obvious and plain. Denominationally, there is much unsoundness in Scotland; territorially, there is very little. There exist, unhappily, differences among our Scottish Presbyterians; but not the less on that account has Presbyterianism, in its three great divisions––Voluntary, Establishment, and Free Church––possessed itself of the land in all its length and breadth. The only other form of religion that has a territorial existence in Scotland at all is Popery, and Popery holds merely a few darkened districts of the outer Hebrides and of the Highlands. It would fail, out of the one thousand one hundred parish schools of the country, to carry half-a-dozen; and no other form of religious error would succeed in carrying so much as one parish school. There is no Socinian district in Scotland; old Scotch Episcopacy has not its single parish; and high Puseyism has not its half, or quarter, or even tithe of a parish. That Church of Scotland which Knox founded, with its offshoots the Secession and Relief bodies, has not laboured in vain; and through the blessing of God on these labours, Scotland, as represented by its territorial majorities, is by far the soundest and most orthodox country in the world. A wise and patriotic man––at once a good Scot and a judicious Churchman––would, we think, hesitate long ere he flung away so solid an advantage, won to us by the labours, the contendings, the sufferings of reformers, confessors, 54 martyrs, and ministers of the truth, from the days of Melville and of Henderson, down to those of the Erskines and of Chalmers. He would at least not fail to ask himself whether that to which what was so unequivocally substance was to be sacrificed, was in itself substance or shadow.

Let us next remark, that the Scottish national schools, while they thus could not fail to be essentially sound on the territorial scheme––just because Scotland is itself essentially sound as a nation––might, and would in very many instances, be essentially unsound on a denominational one. There is no form of religious error which may not, in the present state of things, have, as we have said, its schools supported in part by a Government grant, and which may not have its pupil-teachers trained up to disseminate deadly error at the public expense among the youthhead of the future. Edinburgh, for instance, has its one Popish street––the Cowgate; but it has no Popish parish: it has got very little Popery in George Square and its neighbourhood,––very little at the Bristo Port,––very little in Broughton Street; and yet in all these localities, territorially Protestant, Papists have got their religion-teaching schools, in which pupil-teachers, paid by the State, are in the course of being duly qualified for carrying on the work of perversion and proselytism. St. Patrick’s school, in which, as our readers were so lately shown, boys may spend four years without acquiring even the simple accomplishment of reading, has no fewer than five of these embryo perverters supported by the Government. Puseyism has, in the same way, no territorial standing on the northern shores of the Frith of Forth; and yet at least one Free Church minister, located in one of the towns which stud that coast, could tell of a well-equipped Puseyite school in his immediate neighbourhood, supported in part by the Government grant, that, by the superiority of the secular education which it 55 supplies, is drawing away Presbyterian, nay, even Free Church children, from the other schools of the locality. On the territorial principle, we repeat, schools such as these, which rest on the denominational basis alone, could not possibly receive the support and countenance of the Legislature. And let the reader remark, that should the Free Church succeed in getting rid of the anomalous religious certificate, and yet continue to hold by the denominational basis, something worse than mere denomination would scarce fail to step in. The Combeite might then freely come forward to teach at the public expense, that no other soul of man has yet been ascertained to exist than the human brain, and no other superintending Providence than the blind laws of insensate matter. Nay, even Socialism, just a little disguised, might begin to build and teach for the benefit of the young, secure of being backed and assisted in its work by the civil magistrate. Further, should the grant scheme be rendered more flexible, i.e. extended to a lower grade of qualification, and thus the public purse be applied to the maintenance and perpetuation of a hedge-school system of education,––or should it be rendered more liberal, i.e. should the Government be induced to do proportionally more, and the school-builders be required to do proportionally less,––superstition and infidelity would, in the carrying out of their schemes of perversion, have, in consequence, just all the less to sacrifice and to acquire. According to the present arrangement, a schoolmaster must realize, from salary and fees united, the sum of forty-five annual pounds, and be, besides, furnished with a free house, ere he can receive from the Government a grant on its lowest scale, viz. fifteen pounds;[9] and whatever judgment 56 may be formed of the proportion in which the State contributes, there can be no question that the general arrangement is a wise one. Sermonizing dominies could be had, no doubt, at any price; and there can be as little doubt that, at any price, would the great bulk of them turn out to be ‘doons hard bargains;’ but it is wholly impossible that a country should have respectable and efficient teachers under from sixty to eighty pounds a year. The thing, we repeat, is wholly impossible; and the State, in acting, as in this arrangement, on the conviction, does but its duty to its people. The some sixty or seventy pounds, however, would be as certainly realized as under the present arrangement, were it Government that contributed the forty-five pounds, and the denomination or society the fifteen and the free house; and this, of course, would be eminently liberal. But what would be the effects of so happy a change? It might in some degree relieve the Free Church Scheme from financial difficulty; but would it do nothing more? There are Puseyite ladies in Scotland, high in rank and influence, and possessed of much wealth and great zeal, who are already building their schools, in the hope of unprotestantizing their poor lapsed country, spiritually ruined by the Reformation. The liberality that might in part enable the Free Church Education Committee to discharge its obligations at the rate of twenty shillings per pound, would be a wonderful godsend to them; seeing that they would have little else to do, under a scheme so liberal, than simply to erect schoolhouses on the widespread domains of their husbands or fathers, and immediately commence perverting the children of the nation at the national cost. It would be no less advantageous to the Society of the Propaganda, and would enable it to spare its own purse, 57 by opening to it that of the people. The Socinian, the Combeite, the semi-Socialist––none of them very much disposed to liberality themselves––would all share in that of the Government; and their zeal, no longer tied down to inactivity by the dread of pecuniary sacrifice or obligation, would find wings and come abroad. Surely, with such consequences in prospect, our Free Church readers would do well to ponder the nature and demands of the crisis at which they have now arrived. Our country and our Church have in reality but one set of interests; and a man cannot be a bad Scot without being a bad Free Churchman too. Let them decide in this matter, not under the guidance of an oblique eye, squinted on little temporary difficulties or hypothetical denominational advantages, but influenced by considerations of the permanent welfare of their country, and of their abiding obligations to their God.

But why, it may be asked of the writer, if you be thus sensible of the immense superiority of a territorial scheme of educational endowments over a denominational scheme of educational grants,––why did you yourself urge, some three years ago, that the Free Church should avail herself of these very grants? Our reply is sufficiently simple. The denominational scheme of grants was the only scheme before us at the time; these grants were, we saw, in danger of being rejected by the Free Church on what we deemed an unsound and perilous principle, which was in itself in no degree Free Church; and last, not least, we saw further, that if the Church did not avail herself of these grants, there awaited on her Educational Scheme––ominously devoid of that direct divine mandate which all her other schemes possessed––inevitable and disastrous bankruptcy. But circumstances have greatly changed. The Free Church is no longer in any danger from the principle which would have rejected Government assistance. There is now a territorial scheme brought full before the view of the 58 country; and, further, the Government grants have wholly failed to preserve our Educational Scheme from the state of extreme pecuniary embarrassment which we too surely anticipated. Salaries of £15 and £20 per annum are greatly less than adequate for the support and remuneration of even the lower order of teachers, especially in thinly-peopled districts of country, where pupils are few and the fees inconsiderable. But at these low rates it was determined, in the programme of the Free Church Educational Scheme, that about three-fourths of the Church’s teachers should be paid; and there are scores and hundreds among them who regulated their expenditure on the arrangement. For at least the last two years, however, the Education Committee has been paying its £15 salaries at the reduced rate of £10, and its £20 salaries at the rate of £13, 13s. 4d.; and those embarrassments, of which the reduction was a consequence, have borne with distressful effect on the Committee’s employés. However orthodox their creed, their circumstances have in many instances become Antinomian; nor, while teaching religion to others, have they been able in every instance to conform to one of its simplest demands––‘Owe no man anything.’

There were several important items, let us remark, in which we over-estimated the amount of assistance which the Scheme was to receive from the Government; and this mainly from our looking at the matter in the gross, as a question of proportion––so much granted for so much raised––without taking into account certain conditions demanded by the Minutes of Council on the one hand, and a certain course of management adopted on the part of our Education Committee on the other. The grant is given in proportion to salary of one to two (we at present set aside the element of fees): a salary of thirty pounds is supplemented by a grant of fifteen pounds,––a salary of forty pounds by a grant of twenty,––a salary of fifty by a grant 59 of twenty-five,––and so on; and we were sanguine enough to calculate, that an aggregate sum of some ten or twelve thousand pounds raised by the Church for salaries, would be supplemented by an aggregation of grants from the Government to the amount of some five or six thousand pounds more. The minimum sum regarded as essentially necessary for carrying on the Free Church Educational Scheme had been estimated at twenty thousand pounds. If the Free Church raise but twelve thousand of these, we said, Government will give her six thousand additional in the form of grants, and some two thousand additional, or so, for the training of her pupil-teachers; and the Church will thus be enabled to realize her minimum estimate. We did not take the fact into account, that of our Free Church teachers a preponderating majority should fail successfully to compete for the Government money; nor yet that the educational funds should be so broken up into driblet salaries, attached to schools in which the fees were poor and the pupils few, that the schoolmaster, even though possessed of the necessary literary qualification, would in many cases be some twenty, or even thirty, pounds short of the necessary money qualification, i.e. the essential forty-five annual pounds. We did not, we say, take these circumstances into account,––indeed, it was scarce possible that we could have done so; and so we immensely over-estimated the efficacy of the State grant in maintaining the solvency of our Educational Scheme. We learn from Dr. Reid’s recent Report to our metropolitan church court, that of the forty-two Free Church teachers connected with the Presbytery of Edinburgh, and in receipt of salaries from the Education Committee, only thirteen have been successful in obtaining Government certificates of merit. And even this is a rather high average, compared with that of the other districts; for we have ascertained, that of the six hundred and eighty-nine teachers of the Free Church scattered 60 over the kingdom, not more than a hundred and twenty-nine have received the Government grant. There are, however, among the others, teachers who have failed to attain to it, not from any want of the literary qualification––for some of them actually possess the parchment certificate bearing the signature of Lansdowne––but simply because they are unfortunate enough to lack the pecuniary one.

That which we so much dreaded has come, we repeat, upon our Educational Scheme. The subject is a painfully delicate one, and we have long kept aloof from it; but truth, and truth only, can now enable the Free Church and her people to act, in this emergency, as becomes the character which they bear, and the circumstances in which they are placed. Let us not fall into the delusion of deeming the mere array of our Free Church schools and teachers––their numbers and formidable length of line––any matter of congratulation; nor forget, in our future calculations, that if the Free Church now realizes from £10,000 to £12,000 yearly for educational purposes, she would require to realize some £5000 or £6000 more in order to qualify her to meet her existing liabilities, estimated at the very moderate rates laid down in the programme. The £5000 or £6000 additional, instead of enabling her to erect a single additional school, would only enable her to pay in full her teachers’ salaries. And so it is obviously a delusion to hold that our Free Church Educational Scheme supplies in reality two-thirds of our congregations with teachers, seeing that these teachers are only two-thirds paid. We are still some £5000 or £6000 short of supplying the two-thirds, and some £6000 or £7000 more of supplying the whole. And even were the whole of our own membership to be supplied, the grand query, How is our country to be educated,––our parish schools to be restored to usefulness and the Scotch people,––and Scotland herself to resume 61 and maintain her old place among the nations?––would come back upon us as emphatically as now. Judging from what has been already done, and this after every nerve has been strained in the Sisyphisian work of rolling up-hill an ever-returning stone, it seems wholly impossible that we should ever succeed in educating the young of even our own congregations; and how, then, save on some great national scheme, is a sinking nation to be educated?



Unskilled Labourers remunerated at a higher rate than many of our Free Church Teachers––The Teaching must be inferior if the Remuneration be low––Effect of inferior Teaching on the parties taught––Statutory Security; where are the parties to contend for it?––Necessity of a Government Inquiry––‘O for an hour of Knox!’

That higher order of farm-servants which are known technically in Mid-Lothian as ‘sowers and stackers,’ receive, as their yearly wages, in the immediate neighbourhood of the house of the writer, eighteen pounds in money, four bolls oatmeal, two cart-loads of potatoes, and about from twenty to thirty shillings worth of milk. The money value of the whole amounts, at the present time, to something between twenty-three and twenty-four pounds sterling. We are informed by a Fifeshire proprietor, that in his part of the country, a superior farm-servant, neither grieve nor foreman, receives eight pounds in money, six and a half bolls meal, three cart-loads of potatoes, and the use of a cow, generally estimated as worth from ten to twelve pounds annually. His aggregate wages, therefore, average from about twenty-four to twenty-six pounds ten shillings a year. And we are told by another proprietor of the south of Scotland, that each of the better hinds in his employment costs him every year about thirty pounds. In fine, to the south of the Grampians, the emoluments of our more efficient class of farm-servants range from twenty-three to thirty pounds yearly. We need not refer to the wages of railway navvies, nor yet to those of the superior classes of mechanics, such as printers, masons, jewellers, typefounders, etc. There is not a printer in the Witness office who would be permitted by the rules of his profession, to make an arrangement 63 with his employers, were he to exchange piece-work for wages, that did not secure to him twenty-five shillings per week. To expect that a country or Church can possibly have efficient schoolmasters at a lower rate of emolument than not only skilled mechanics, but than even unskilled railway labourers, or the ‘stackers and sowers’ of our large farms, is so palpably a delusion, that simply to name it is to expose it. And yet of our Free Church schoolmasters, especially in thinly-peopled rural districts and the Highlands, there are scores remunerated at a lower rate than labourers and farm-servants, and hundreds at a rate at least as low; and if we except the fortunate hundred and twenty-nine who receive the Government grant, few indeed of the others rise to the level of the skilled mechanic. Greatly more than two-thirds of our teachers were placed originally on the £15 and £20 scale of salaries: these are now paid with £10 and £13, 13s. 4d. respectively. There are many localities in which these pittances are not more than doubled by the fees, and some localities in which they are even less than doubled; and so a preponderating majority of the schoolmasters of the Free Church are miserably poor men: for what might be a competency to a labourer or hind, must be utter poverty to them. And not a few of their number are distressfully embarrassed and in debt.

Now this will never do. The Church may make herself very sure, that for her £10 or £13 she will receive ultimately only the worth of £10 or £13. She may get windfalls of single teachers for a few months or years: superior young men may occasionally make a brief stay in her schools, in the course of their progress to something better,––as Pilgrim rested for a while in the half-way recess hollowed in the side of the Hill Difficulty; but only very mediocre men, devoid of energy enough of body or mind to make good masons or carpenters, will stick fast in them. We have learned that, in one northern locality, no fewer 64 than eight Free Church teachers have since Martinmas last either tendered their resignations, or are on the eve of doing so. These, it will be found, are superior men, who rationally aspire to something better than mere ploughman’s wages; but there will of course be no resignations tendered by the class who, in even the lowest depths of the Scheme, have found but their proper level. These, as the more active spirits fly off, will flow in and fill up their places, till, wherever the £10 and £13 salaries prevail,––and in what rural district do they not prevail?––the general pedagogical acquirements of our teachers will present a surface as flat, dull, and unprofitable as ditch-water. For what, we again ask, can be expected for £10 or £13? And let the reader but mark the effect of such teaching. We have seen placed side by side, in the same burgh town, an English school, in which what are deemed the branches suitable for mechanics and their children, such as reading, writing, and arithmetic, were energetically taught, and a grammar school in which a university-bred schoolmaster laboured, with really not much energy, especially in those lower departments in which his rival excelled, but who was fitted to prepare his pupils for college, and not devoid of the classical enthusiasm. And it struck us as a significant and instructive fact, that while the good English school, though it turned out smart readers and clever arithmeticians, failed to elevate a single man from the lower to the middle or higher walks of life, the grammar school was successful in elevating a great many. The principle on which such a difference of result should have been obtained is so obvious, that it can scarce be necessary to point it out. The teaching of the one school was a narrow lane, trim, ’tis true, and well kept, but which led to only workshops, brick-kilns, and quarries; whereas that of the other was a broad, partially-neglected avenue, which opened into the great professional highways, that lead everywhere. And if the difference was one which 65 could not be obviated by all the energy of a superior and well-paid English teacher, how, we ask, is it to be obviated by our Free Church £10 and £13 teachers? Surely our Church would do well to ponder whether it can be either her interest or her duty to urge on any scheme, in opposition to a national one, which would have all too palpably the effect of degrading her poorer membership, so far as they availed themselves of it, into the Gibeonites of the community––its hewers of wood and drawers of water. Never will Scotland possess an educational scheme truly national, and either worthy of her ancient fame or adequate to the demands and emergencies of an age like the present, until at least every parish shall possess among its other teachers its one university-bred schoolmaster, popularly chosen, and well paid, and suited to assist in transplanting to the higher places of society those select and vigorous scions that from time to time spring up from the stock of the commonalty. The waking dream of running down the ignorance and misery of a sinking country by an array of starveling teachers in the train of any one denomination––itself, mayhap, sufficiently attenuated by the demands of purely ecclesiastical objects––must be likened to that other waking dream of the belated German peasant, who sees from some deep glade of his native forests a spectral hunt sweep through the clouds,––skeleton stags pursued by skeleton huntsmen, mounted on skeleton horses, and surrounded by skeleton beagles; and who hears, as the wild pageant recedes into the darkness, the hollow tantivy and the spectral horns echoing loud and wildly through the angry heavens.

It is of paramount importance that the Free Church should in the present crisis take up her position wisely. We have heard of invaders of desperate courage, who, on landing upon some shore on which they had determined either to conquer or to perish, set fire to their ships, and 66 thus shut out the possibility of retreat. Now the Free Church––whether she land herself into an agitation for a scheme of Government grants rendered more liberal and flexible than now, and dissociated from the religious certificate, or whether she plant her foot on a scheme of national education based on a statutory recognition of the pedagogical teaching of religion––is certainly in no condition to burn her ships. Let her not rashly commit herself against a third scheme, essentially one in principle with that which the sagacious Chalmers could regard, after long and profound reflection, as the only one truly eligible in the circumstances of the country, and which she herself, some two or three years hence, may be compelled to regard in a similar light. The educational agitation is not to be settled in the course of a few brief months; nor yet by the votes of Presbyteries, Synods, or General Assemblies, whether they belong to the Free or to the Established Churches. It rises direct out of the great social question of the time. Scotland as such forms one of its battle-fields, and Scotchmen as such are the parties who are to be engaged in the fight; and the issue, though ultimately secure, will long seem doubtful. And so the Free Church may have quite time enough to fight her own battle, or rather her own two battles in succession, and, when both are over, find that the great general contest still remains undecided.

For what we must deem by much the better and more important battle of the two––that for a statutory demand on the part of the State that the Bible and Shorter Catechism should be taught in the national schools––we are afraid the time is past; but most happy would we be to find ourselves mistaken. The Church of Scotland, as represented by that majority which is now the Free Church, might have succeeded in carrying some such measure ten years ago, when the parish schools were yet in her custody; just as she might have succeeded seven years earlier in 67 obviating the dire necessity which led to the Disruption, by acting upon the advice of the wise and far-seeing M’Crie.[10] But she was not less prepared at the one date to agitate for the total abolition of patronage, than at the other to throw open the parish schools on the basis of a statutory security for the teaching of religion. In both cases, the golden opportunity was suffered to pass by; and Old Time presents to her now but the bald retreating occiput, which her eager hand may in vain attempt to grasp. Where, we ask, are we to look for the forces that are to assist us in fighting this battle of statutory security? Has the Establishment become more liberal, or more disposed to open the parish schools, than we ourselves were when we composed the majority of that very Establishment? Alas! in order to satisfy ourselves on that head, we have but to look at the decisions of her various ecclesiastical courts. Or is it the old Scottish Dissenters that are to change their entire front, and to make common cause with us, in disregard, and even in defiance, of their own principles, as they themselves understand them? Or are we to look to that evangelical portion of the Episcopacy of England, with whom Establishment means Church, and the ‘good of the Establishment’ a synonyme for the ‘good of the Church,’ and who, to a certainty, will move no hand against the sister Establishment in Scotland? Or are we to be aided by that portion of English Independency that has so very strangely taken its stand equally against educational grants and educational endowments, on the ground that there is a sort of religion homœopathically diffused in all education––especially, we suppose, in Lindley Murray’s readings from the Spectator and Dr. Blair––and that, as the State must not provide religious teaching for its people, it cannot, and 68 must not, provide for them teaching of any kind? Scientific Jews are they, of the straitest sect, who, wiser than their fathers, have ascertained by the microscope, that all meat, however nicely washed, continues to retain its molecules of blood, and that flesh therefore must on no account be eaten. We cannot, we say, discern, within the wide horizon of existing realities, the troops with which this battle is to be fought. They seem to be mere shadows of the past. But if the Free Church see otherwise, let her by all means summon them up, and fight it. Regarded simply as a matter of policy, we are afraid the contest would be at least imprudent. ‘It were well,’ said a Scotch officer to Wolfe, when Chatham first called out the Highlanders of Scotland to fight in the wars of Britain,––‘It were well, General, that you should know the character of these Highland troops. Do not attempt manœuvring with them; Scotch Highlanders don’t understand manœuvre. If you make a feint of charging, they will throw themselves sword in hand into the thick of the enemy, and you will in vain attempt calling them back; or if you make a show of retreating, they will run away in right earnest, and you will never see them more. So do not employ them in feints and stratagems, but keep them for the hard, serious business of the fight, and you will find them the best troops in the world.’ Now, nearly the same character applies to the Free Church. To set her a-fighting as a matter of policy, would be very bad policy indeed. She would find out reasons, semi-theological at least, for all her positions, however hopeless, and would continue fixed in these long after the battle had been fought and lost, and when she ought to be engaged in retrieving her disasters on other ground, and in a fresh and more promising quarrel. But if the Free Church does enter into this battle, let her in the meantime not forget, that after it has been fought, and at least possibly lost, another battle may have still to 69 be begun; nor let her attempt damaging, by doubtful theology, the position which a preponderating majority of her own office-bearers and members may have yet to take up. For, ultimately at least, the damage would be all her own. Let her remark further, that should her people set their hearts pretty strongly on those national seminaries, which in many parts of the country would become, if opened up, wholly their own de facto, and which are already their own de jure, they might not be quite able to feel the cogency of the argument that, while it left Socinians and Papists in the enjoyment of at once very liberal and very flexible Government grants, challenged their right to choose, on their own responsibility, State-paid teachers for their children; and which virtually assured them, that if they did not contribute largely to the educational scheme of their own Church, she would be wholly unable to maintain it as a sort of mid-impediment between them and their just rights, the parish schools. They would be exceedingly apt, too, to translate any very determined and general preference manifested by our church courts for the scheme of educational grants, into some such enunciation as the following:––‘Give us to ourselves but a moiety of one-third of the Scottish young, and we will frankly give up the other two-thirds,––the one-half of them to be destroyed by gross ignorance, and the other half by deadly error.’[11]

There is at least one point on which we think all Free 70 Churchmen ought to agree. It is necessary that the truth should be known respecting the educational condition and resources of Scotland. It will, we understand, be moved to-day [February 27th], in the Free Church Presbytery of Edinburgh, as a thing good and desirable, that Government should ‘institute an inquiry into the educational destitution confessedly existing in large towns, populous neighbourhoods, and remote districts, with a view to the marking out of places where elementary schools are particularly needed,’ etc. Would it not be more satisfactory to move instead, the desirableness of a Government Commission of Inquiry, 1st, into the educational condition of all the youth of Scotland between the years of six and fifteen, on the scheme of that inquiry recently conducted by a Free Church Educational Association in the Tron parish of Glasgow; 2d, into the condition, character, and teaching of all the 71 various schools of the country, whether parochial, Free Church, or adventure schools, with the actual amount of pupils in attendance at each; and 3d, into the general standing, acquirements, and emoluments of all the teachers? Not only would the report of such a Commission be of much solid value in itself, from the amount of fact which it would furnish for the direction of educational exertion on the part of both the people and the State; but it might also have the effect of preventing good men from taking up, in the coming contest, untenable and suspicious ground. It would lay open the true state of our parish schools, and not only show how utterly useless these institutions have become, from at least the shores of the Beauly to those of the Pentland Frith, and throughout the Highlands generally, but also expose the gross exaggeration of the estimate furnished by Mr. Macrae, and adopted by Dr. 72 Muir.[12] Further, it would have the effect of preventing any member of either the Free Church or the Establishment from resorting to the detestable policy of those Dissenters of England, who, in order to secure certain petty advantages to their own miserable sects, set themselves to represent their poor country––perishing at the time for lack of knowledge––as comparatively little in need of educational assistance. But we trust this at least is an enormity, at once criminal and mean, of which no Scotchman, whatever his Church, could possibly be guilty; and so we shall not do our country the injustice of holding that, though it produced its ‘fause Sir Johns’ in the past, it contains in the present one such traitor, until we at least see the man. Further, a State Report of the kind would lay open to us, in the severe statistical form, the actual emoluments of our own Free Church teachers. We trust, then, that this scheme of a searching Government inquiry may be regarded as a first great step towards the important work of educating the Scottish people, in which all ought to agree, however thoroughly at variance in matters of principle or on points of detail.

It is of mighty importance that men should look at things as they really are. Let us remember that it is not for the emergencies of yesterday that we are now called on to provide, but for the necessities of to-day,––not for Scotland in the year 1592, nor yet in the year 1700, but for Scotland in the year 1850. What might be the best possible course in these bygone ages, may be, and is, wholly an impracticable course now. Church at both these earlier dates meant not only an orthodox communion, but also that preponderating majority of the nation which reckoned up as its own the great bulk of both the rulers and the ruled, and at once owned the best and longest swords, and wore the strongest 73 armour; whereas it now means, legally at least, merely two Erastianized Establishments, and politically, all the Christian denominations that possess votes and return members to Parliament. The prism seizes on a single white ray, and decomposes it into a definitely proportioned spectrum, gorgeous with the primary colours. The representative principle of a Government such as ours takes up, as if by a reverse process, those diverse hues of the denominational spectrum that vary the face of society, and compounds them in the Legislature into a blank. Save for the existence of the two Establishments––strong on other than religious grounds––and the peculiar tinge which they cast on the institutions of the country, the blank would be still more perfect than it is; and this fact––a direct result of the strongly marked hues of the denominational spectrum, operated upon by the representative principle––we can no more change than we can the optical law. Let there be but the colour of one religion in the national spectrum, and the Legislature will wear but one religious colour: let it consist of half-a-dozen colours, and the Legislature will be of none. ‘O for an hour of Knox!’ it has been said by a good and able man, from whom, however, in this question we greatly differ,––‘O for an hour of Knox to defend the national religious education which he was raised up to institute!’ Knox, be it remembered, was wise, prudent, sagacious, in accordance with the demands of his time. A Knox of the exact fashion of the sixteenth century, raised up in the middle of the nineteenth, would be but a slim, long-bearded effigy of a Knox, grotesquely attired in a Geneva cloak and cap, and with the straw and hay that stuffed him sticking out in tufts from his waistband. ‘O for an hour of Knox!’ The Scottish Church of the present age has already had its Knox. ‘Elias hath already come.’ The large-minded, wise-hearted Knox of the nineteenth century died at Morningside three years ago; and he has 74 bequeathed, as a precious legacy to the Church, his judgment on this very question. ‘It were the best state of things,’ he said, ‘that we had a Parliament sufficiently theological to discriminate between the right and the wrong in religion, and to endow accordingly. But failing this, it seems to us the next best thing, that in any public measure for helping on the education of the people, Government were to abstain from introducing the element of religion at all into their part of the scheme; and this not because they held the matter to be insignificant,––the contrary might be strongly expressed in the preamble of their Act,[13]––but on the ground that, in the present divided state of the Christian world, they would take no cognizance of, just because they would attempt no control over, the religion of applicants for aid,––leaving this matter entire to the parties who had to do with the erection and management of the schools which they had been called upon to assist. A grant by the State on this footing might be regarded as being appropriately and exclusively the expression of their value for a good secular education.’



Our previous Statement regarding the actual Condition of the Free Church Educational Scheme absolutely necessary––Voluntary Objections to a National Scheme, as stated by the Opponents of the Voluntaries; not particularly solid––Examination of the matter.

Our episode regarding the Free Church Educational Scheme now fairly completed, let us return to the general question. The reader may, however, do well to note the inevitable necessity which existed on our part, that our wholesome, though mayhap unpalatable, statements respecting it should have been submitted to the Church and the country. The grand question which in the course of Providence had at length arisen was, ‘How is our sinking country to be educated?’ We had taken our stand, as a Scotchman, in behalf of the Scottish people; and as the belief seemed widely to exist that our own Free Church scheme was adequate, or at least nearly so, to the education of the children of our own membership, and that our duty as Scotchmen could be fulfilled, somehow, by concentrating all our exertions upon it, it had become essentially necessary that the delusion should be dispelled. And so we have showed, that while our scheme, in order fully to supply the educational wants of even our own people, would require to exist in the proportion of nine, it exists nominally in but the proportion of six, and in reality in but the proportion of four,––seeing that the six, i.e. our existing staff of teachers, amounting to but two-thirds of the number required, are but two-thirds paid;––in short, that our educational speculation is exactly in the circumstances of a railway company who, having engaged to cut a line ninety miles in length, have succeeded in cutting forty miles of it at their own proper 76 expense, and then having cut twenty miles more on preference shares, find their further progress arrested by a lack of funds. And so it became necessary to show that the existence and circumstances of our Free Church schools, instead of furnishing, as had been urged in several of our presbyteries, any argument against the agitation of the general question, furnished, on the contrary, the best possible of all arguments for its agitation; and to show further, that the policy which brought a denominational scheme, that did not look beyond ourselves, into a great national engagement, in the character of a privateer virtually on the side of the enemy, was a most perilous policy, that exposed it to damaging broadsides, and telling shot right between wind and water.

Let us now pass on to the consideration of a matter on which we but touched before,––the perfect compatibility of a consistent Voluntaryism with religious teaching in a school endowed by the State, on the principle of Dr. Chalmers. The Witness is as little Voluntary now as it ever was. It seems but fair, however, that a principle should be saddled with only the consequences that legitimately arise from it; and that Voluntaryism should not be exposed, in this contest, to a species of witchcraft, that first caricatures it in an ill-modelled image, and then sticks the ugly thing over with pins.

The revenues of the State-endowed schools of this country––and, we suppose, of every other––are derived from two distinct sources: from Government, who furnishes the schoolmaster’s salary, and erects the building in which he teaches; and from the parents or guardians, who remunerate him according to certain graduated rates for the kind of instruction which he communicates to their children or wards. And the rationale of this State assistance seems very obvious. It is of importance to the State, both on economic and judicial grounds, that all its people 77 should be taught; but, on the adventure-school principle, it is impossible that they should all be taught, seeing that adventure schools can thrive in only densely peopled localities, or where supported by wealthy families, that pay largely for their children’s education. And so, in order that education may be brought down to the humblest of the people, the State supplements, in its own and its people’s behalf, the schoolmaster’s income, and builds him a school. Such seems to be the principle of educational endowments. Now, if the State, in endowing national schoolmasters, were to signify that it endowed them in order that, among other things, they should teach religion, we can well see how a Voluntary who conscientiously holds, as such, that religion ought not to be State-endowed, might be unable to avail himself, on his children’s behalf, of the State-enjoined religious teaching of any such functionaries; just as we can also see, that if the State forbade its schoolmasters on any account to teach religion, a conscientious holder of the Establishment principle might be perhaps equally unable to avail himself of services so restricted. We can at least see how each, in turn, might lodge an alternate protest,––the one against the positive exclusion of religion by the State, the other against its positive introduction. But if, according to Chalmers, the State, aware of the difficulty, tenders its endowment and builds its schools ‘simply as an expression of its value for a good secular education,’ and avowedly leaves the religious part of the school training to be determined by the parties who furnish that moiety of the schoolmaster’s support derived from fees––i.e. the parents or guardians––we find in the arrangement ground on which the Voluntary and the Establishment man can meet and agree. For the State virtually wills by such a settlement––and both by what it demands, and by what it does not demand, but permits––that its salaried functionary should stand to his employers, the people, simply in the relation of 78 an adventure schoolmaster. The State says virtually to its teacher in such circumstances: ‘I, as the general guardian of your pupils, do not pay you for their religious education; but their particular and special guardians, the parents, are quite at liberty to make with you on that head whatever bargain they please. Fully aware of the vast importance of religious teaching, and yet wholly unable, from the denominational differences of the time, at once to provide for it in the national seminaries, and to render these equal to the wants of the country, I throw the whole responsibility in this matter on the divided people, whom I cannot unite in their religion, but whose general education I am not on that account at liberty to neglect.’ On grounds such as these, we repeat, Voluntaryism and the Establishment principle may meet and agree.

There can be little doubt, however, that there are men on both sides sparingly gifted with common sense: for never yet was there a great question widely and popularly agitated, that did not divide not only the wise men, but also the fools of the community; and we have heard it urged by some of the representatives of the weaker class, that a Voluntary could not permit his children to be taught religion under a roof provided by the State. Really, with all respect for the cap and bells, this is driving the matter a little too far. We have been told by a relative, now deceased, who served on shipboard during the first revolutionary war, and saw some hard fighting, that at the close of a hot engagement, in which victory remained with the British, the captain of the vessel in which he sailed––a devout and brave man––called his crew together upon the quarter-deck, and offered up thanks to God in an impressive prayer. The noble ship in which he sailed was the property of the State, and he himself a State-paid official; but was there anything in either circumstance to justify a protest from even the most rabid Voluntary against the part 79 which he acted on this interesting occasion, simply as a Christian hero? Nay, had he sought to employ and pay out of his private purse in behalf of his crew an evangelical missionary, as decidedly Voluntary in his views as John Foster or Robert Hall, would the man have once thought of objecting to the work because it was to be prosecuted under the shelter of beams and planks, every one of which belonged to the Government? Would a pious Voluntary soldier keep aloof from a prayer-meeting on no other ground than that it was held in a barrack?––or did the first Voluntaries of Great Britain, the high-toned Independents that fought under Cromwell, abstain from their preachings and their prayers when cooped up by the enemy in a garrison? Where is the religious Voluntary who would not exhort in a prison, or offer up an unbought prayer on a public, State-provided scaffold, for some wretched criminal shivering on the verge of the grave?

Now the schoolmaster, in the circumstances laid down by Chalmers, we hold to be in at least as favourable a position with respect to the State and the State-erected edifice in which he teaches, as the ship-captain or the non-commissioned missionary––the devout Voluntary soldier, or the pious Independents of Cromwell’s Ironsides. He is, in his secular character, a State-paid official, sheltered by an erection the property of the State; but the State permits him to bear in that erection another character, in relation to another certain employer, whom it recognises as quite as legitimately in the field as itself, and permits him also––though it does not enjoin––to perform his duties there as a Christian man. Though, however, the objection to religious teaching under the State-erected roof may be suffered to drop, there may be an objection raised––and there has been an objection raised––against the teaching of religion in certain periods of time during the day, for which it is somehow taken for granted the State pays. Hence the 80 argument for teaching religion in certain other periods of time not paid for by the State––or in other words, during separate hours. Now the entire difference here seems to originate in a vicious begging of the question. It is not the State that specifies the hours during each day in which State-endowed and State-erected schools are taught; on the contrary, varying as these hours do, and must, in various parts of the town and country––for a thinly-peopled district demands one set of hours, and a densely-peopled locality another––they are fixed, as mere matters of mutual arrangement, to suit the convenience of the teachers and the taught. It is enough that the State satisfy itself, through its inspectors, that the secular instruction for which it pays is effectually imparted to its people: it neither does nor will lay claim to any one hour of the day as its own, whether before noon or after it. It will leave to the English Establishment its canonical hours, sacred to organ music and the Liturgy; but it will set apart by enactment no pedagogical hours, sacred to arithmetic or algebra, the construing of verbs, or the drawing of figures. If separate hours merely mean that the master is not to have all his classes up at once––here gabbling Latin or Greek, there discussing the primer or reciting from Scott’s Collection, yonder repeating the multiplication table or running over the rules of Lindley Murray––we at once say religion must have its separate hour, just as English, the dead tongues, figuring, writing, and the mathematics, have their separate hours; but if it be meant that the religious teaching of the school must be restricted to some hour not paid for by the State, then we reply with equal readiness that we know of no hour specially paid for by the State, and so utterly fail to recognise any principle in the proposed arrangement, or rather in the objection that would suggest it.

As to the question of a separate fee for religious tuition, let us consider how it is usually solved in the adventure 81 schools of the country. The day is, in most cases, opened by the master with prayer, and then there is a portion of Scripture read by the pupils. And neither the Scripture read nor the prayer offered up fall, we are disposed to think, under the head of religious tuition, but under a greatly better head––that of religion itself. It is a proper devotional beginning of the business of the day. The committal of the Shorter Catechism––which with most children is altogether an exercise of memory, but which, accomplished in youth, while the intellect yet sleeps, produces effects in after years almost always beneficial to the understanding, and not unfrequently ameliorative of the heart––we place in a different category. It is not religion, but the teaching of religion; not food for the present, but store laid up for the future. With the committal to memory of the Catechism we class that species of Scripture dissection now so common in schools, which so often mangles what it carves.[14] And religion taught in this way is and ought to be represented in the fee paid to the teacher, and is and ought to be taught in a class as separate from all the others as the geography or the grammar class. Such is, we understand, 82 a common arrangement in Scottish adventure schools; nor does there exist a single good reason for preventing it from also obtaining in the Scottish national schools. If the parentage of Scotland, whether Voluntary or Establishment, were to be vested with the power of determining that it should be so, and of selecting their schoolmasters, the schools would open with prayer and the reading of the Word––not because they were State-endowed, but because, the State leaving the point entirely open, they were the schools 83 of a Christian land, to which Christian parents had sent their children, and for which, on their own proper responsibility, they had chosen, so far as they could determine the point, Christian teachers. And for this religious part of the services of the day we would deem it derogatory to the character of a schoolmaster to suppose that he could receive any remuneration from the parents of his pupils, or from any one else. For the proper devotional services of the school we would place on exactly the same high disinterested level as the 84 devotional exercises of the family, or as those of the gallant officer and his crew, who, paid for but the defence of their country, gave God thanks on the blood-stained quarter-deck, in their character as Christians, that He had sheltered their heads in one of their country’s battles, and then cast themselves in faith upon His further care. We would, we say, deem it an insult to the profession to speak of a monetary remuneration for the read word or the prayer offered up. Nay, if either was rated at but a single penny as its price, 85 or if there was a single penny expected for either, where is there the man, Voluntary or Free Church, that would deem it worth the money? The story of the footman, who, upon being told, on entering on his new place, that he would have to attend family prayers, expressed a hope that the duty would be considered in his wages, has become one of the standard jokes of our jest-books. We would, however, place the religious teaching of the school on an entirely different footing from its religious services. We would assign to it its separate class and its separate time, just as we would assign a separate class and time to the teaching of English grammar, or history, or the dead languages. And whether the remuneration was specified or merely understood, we would deem it but reasonable that this branch of teaching, like all the other branches which occupied the time and tasked the exertions of the teacher, should be remunerated by a fee: in this department of tuition, as in the others, we would deem the labourer worthy of his hire. We need scarce add, however, that we would recognise no power in the majority of any locality, or in the schoolmaster whom they had chosen, to render attendance at even the devotional services of the seminary compulsory on the children of parents who, on religious or other grounds, willed that they should not join in the general worship. And, of course, attendance on the religion-teaching class would be altogether as much a matter of arrangement between the parent and the schoolmaster, as attendance on the Latin or English classes, or on arithmetic, algebra, or the mathematics.

While, however, we can see no proper grounds for difference between Voluntaries and Free Churchmen, on even these details of school management, and see, further, that they never differ regarding the way in which the adventure schools of the country are conducted, we must remind the reader that all on which they have really to agree on this question, as Scotchmen and franchise-holders, is simply 86 whether their country ought not, in the first place, to possess an efficient system of national schools, open to all the Christian denominations; whether, in the second, the parents ought not to be permitted to exercise, on their own responsibility, the natural right of determining what their children should be taught; and whether, in the third, the householders of a district ought not to be vested in the power, now possessed by the heritors and parish minister, of choosing the teacher. Agreement on these heads is really all that is necessary towards either the preliminary agitation of the question, or in order to secure its ultimate success. The minor points would all come to be settled, not on the legislative platform, but in the parishes, by the householders. Voluntaryism, wise and foolish, does not reckon up more than a third of the population of Scotland; and foolish, i.e. extreme Voluntaries––for the sensible ones would be all with us––would find themselves, when they came to record their votes, a very small minority indeed. And so, though their extreme views may now be represented as lions in the path, it would be found ultimately that, like the lions which affrighted Pilgrim in the avenue, and made the poor man run back, they are lions well chained up––lions, in short, in a minority, like the agricultural lion in Punch. Let us remark, further, that if some of our friends deem the scheme proposed for Scotland too little religious, it is as certain that the assertors of the scheme now proposed for England, and advocated in Parliament by Mr. Fox, very decidedly object to it on the opposite score. Like the grace said by the Rev. Reuben Butler, which was censured by the Captain of Knockdunder as too long, and by douce Davie Deans as too short, it is condemned for faults so decidedly antagonistic in their character, that they cannot co-exist together. One class of persons look exclusively at that lack of a statutory recognition of religion which the scheme involves, 87 and denounce it as infidel; another, at the religious character of the people of Scotland, and at the consequent certainty, also involved in the scheme, that they will render their schools transcripts of themselves, and so they condemn it as orthodox. And hence the opposite views entertained by Mr. Combe of Edinburgh on the one hand, and Mr. Gibson of Glasgow on the other.[15]



General Outline of an Educational Scheme adequate to the demands of the Age––Remuneration of Teachers––Mode of their Election––Responsibility––Influence of the Church in such a Scheme––Apparent Errors of the Church––The Circumstances of Scotland very different now from what they were in the days of Knox.

Scotland will never have an efficient educational system at once worthy of her ancient fame, and adequate to the demands of the age, until in every parish there be at least one central school, known emphatically as the Parish or Grammar School, and taught by a superior university-bred teacher, qualified to instruct his pupils in the higher departments of learning, and fit them for college. And with this central institute every parish must also possess its supplementary English schools, efficient of their kind, though of 89 a lower standing, and sufficiently numerous to receive all the youthful population of the district which fails to be accommodated in the other. In these, the child of the labourer or mechanic––if, possessed of but ordinary powers, he looked no higher than the profession of his father––could be taught to read, write, and figure. If, however, there awakened within him during the process, the stirrings of those impulses which characterize the superior mind, he could remove to his proper place––the central school––mayhap, in country districts, some two or three miles away; but when the intellectual impulses are genuine, two or three miles in such cases are easily got over.

We would fix for the teachers, in the first instance, on no very extravagant rate of remuneration; for it might prove bad policy in this, as in other departments, to set a man above his work. The salaries attached at present to our parish schools vary from a minimum of £25 to a maximum of about £34. Let us suppose that they varied, 90 instead, from a minimum of £60 to a maximum of £80––not large sums, certainly, but which, with the fees and a free house, would render every parochial schoolmaster in Scotland worth about from £80 to £100 per annum, and in some cases––dependent, of course, on professional efficiency and the population of the locality––worth considerably more. The supplementary English schools we would place on the average level maintained at present by our parish schools, by providing the teachers with free houses, and yearly salaries of a minimum of £30 and a maximum of £40. And as it is of great importance that men should not fall asleep at their posts, and as tutors never teach more efficiently than when straining to keep ahead of their pupils, we would fain have provision made that, by a permitted use of occasional substitutes, this lower order of schoolmasters should be enabled to prepare themselves, by attendance at college, for competing, as vacancies occurred, for the higher schools. It would be an arrangement worth £20 additional salary to every school in Scotland, that the channels of preferment should be ever kept open to useful talent and honest diligence, so that the humblest English teacher in the land might rise, in the course of years, to be at the head of its highest school; nay, that, like that James Beattie who taught at one time the parish school of Fordoun, he might, if native faculty had been given and wisely improved, become one of the country’s most distinguished professors. In fixing our permanent castes of schools, Grammar and English, we would strongly urge that there should be no permanent castes of teachers fixed––no men condemned to the humbler walks of the profession if qualified for the higher. The life-giving sap would thus have free course, from the earth’s level to the topmost boughs of our national scheme; and low as an Englishman might deem our proposed rates of remuneration for university-taught men, we have no fear that they would prove insufficient, 91 coupled with such a provision, for the right education of the country.

We are not sure that we quite comprehend the sort of machinery meant to be included under the term Local or Parochial Boards. It seems necessary that there should exist Local Committees of the educational franchise-holders, chosen by themselves, from among their own number, for terms either definite or indefinite, and recognised by statute as vested in certain powers of examination and inquiry. But though a mere name be but a small matter, we are inclined to regard the term Board as somewhat too formidable and stiff. Let us, at least for the present, substitute the term Committee; and as large committees are apt to degenerate into little mobs, and, as such, to conduct their business noisily and ill, let us suppose educational committees to consist, in at least country districts or the smaller towns, of some eight or ten individuals, selected by the householders for their intelligence, integrity, and business habits, and with a chairman at their head, chosen from among their number by themselves. A vacancy occurs, let us suppose, in either the Grammar or one of the English schools of the place: the committee, through their chairman, put themselves in communication with some of the Normal schoolmasters of the south, and receive from them a few names of deserving and qualified teachers, possessed of diplomas indicating their professional standing, and furnished, besides, with trustworthy certificates of character. Or, if the emoluments of the vacant school be considerable, and some of the neighbouring teachers, placed on a lower rate of income, have distinguished themselves by their professional merits, and so rendered themselves known in the district, let us suppose that they select their names, and to the number of some two, three, four, or more, submit them, with the necessary credentials, to their constituents the householders. And these assemble on some fixed day, 92 and, from the number placed on the list, select their men. Such, in the business of electing a schoolmaster, would, we hold, be the proper work of a committee. In all other seasons, the committee might be recognised as vested in some of the functions now exercised by the Established presbyteries, such as that of presiding, in behalf of the parentage of the locality, at yearly or half-yearly examinations of the schools, and of watching over the general morals and official conduct of the teacher. But the power of trial and dismission, which, of course, would need to exist somewhere, we would vest in other hands. Let us remark, in the passing, that much might come to depend ultimately on the portioning out of the localities into electoral districts of a proper size, and that it would be perhaps well, as a general rule, that there should be no subdivisions made of the old parishes. There are few parishes in Scotland in which the materials of a good committee might not be found; but there are perhaps many half, and third, and quarter parishes in which no such materials exist. Further, the householders of some country hamlet or degraded town-suburb, populous enough to require its school, might be yet very unfit of themselves to choose for it a schoolmaster. And hence the necessity for maintaining a local breadth of representation sufficient to do justice to the principle of the scheme, and to prevent it, if we may so speak, from sinking in the less solid parts of the kingdom. A parochial breadth of base would serve as if to plank over the unsounder portions of the general surface, and give footing to a system of schools and teachers worthy, as a whole, of the character and the necessities of a country wise and enlightened in the main, but that totters on the brink of a bottomless abyss.

The power of trying, and, if necessary, of dismissing from his charge, an offending teacher, would, however, as we have said, require to exist somewhere. Every official, 93 whether of the State or Church, or whether dependent on a single employer or on a corporation or company, bears always a twofold character. He is a subject of the realm, and, as such, amenable to its laws; he has also an official responsibility, and may be reprimanded or dismissed for offences against the requirements and duties of his office. A tradesman or mechanic may go on tippling for years, wasting his means and neglecting his business, untouched by any law save that great economic law of Providence which dooms the waster to ultimate want; but for the excise officer, or bank accountant, or railway clerk, who pursues a similar course, there exists a court of official responsibility, which anticipates the slow operation of the natural law, by at once divesting the offender of his office. And the State-paid schoolmaster must have also his official responsibility. But it would serve neither the ends of justice nor the interests of a sound policy to erect his immediate employers into a court competent to try and condemn: their proper place would be rather that of parties than of judges; and as parties, we would permit them simply to conduct against him any case for which they might hold there existed proper grounds. A schoolmaster chosen by a not large majority, might find in a few years that his supporters had dwindled into a positive minority: parents whose boys were careless, or naturally thick-headed, would of course arrive at the opinion that it was the teacher who was in fault; nay, a parent who had fallen into arrears with his fees might come to entertain the design of discharging the account simply by discharging the schoolmaster; and thus great injustice might be done to worthy and efficient men, and one of the most important classes of the community placed in circumstances of a shackled dependency, which no right-minded teacher could submit to occupy. What we would propose, then, is, that the power of trial, and of dismission if necessary, should be vested in a central national board, furnished 94 with one or more salaried functionaries to record its sentences and do its drudgery, but consisting mainly of unpaid members of high character and standing,––some of them, mayhap, members ex officio; the Lord Provost of Edinburgh, let us suppose––the Principal and some of the Professors of the Edinburgh University––the Rector, shall we say, of the High School––the Lord Advocate, and mayhap the Dean of Faculty. And as it would be of importance that there should be as little new machinery created as possible, the evidence, criminatory or exculpatory, on which such a board would have to decide could be taken before the Sheriff Courts of the provinces, and then, after being carefully sifted by the Sheriffs or their Substitutes, forwarded in a documentary form to Edinburgh. It would scarce be wise to attempt extemporizing an official code in a newspaper article; but the laws of such a code might, we think, be ranged under three heads,––immorality, incompetency, and breach of trust to the parents. We would urge the dismissal, as wholly unqualified to stand in the relation of teacher to the youthhead, of the tippling, licentious, or dishonest schoolmaster; further, we would urge the dismissal (and in cases of this kind the corroborative evidence of the Government inspector might be regarded as indispensable) of an incompetent teacher who did not serve the purpose of his appointment; and, in the third and last place, we would urge that a teacher who made an improper use of his professional influence over his pupils, and of the opportunities necessarily afforded him, and who taught them to entertain beliefs, ecclesiastical or semi-ecclesiastical, which their parents regarded as erroneous, should be severely reprimanded for such an offence in the first instance, and dismissed if he persevered in it. We would confer upon the board, in cases of this last kind, no power of deciding regarding the absolute right or wrong of the dogmas taught. The teacher might be a zealous Voluntary, who assured the 95 children of men such as the writer of these articles that their fathers, in asserting the Establishment principle, approved themselves limbs of that mystic Babylon which was first founded by Constantine; or he might be a conscientious Establishment-man, who dutifully pressed upon the Voluntary pupils under his care, that their parents, though they perhaps did not know it, were atheistical in their views. And we would permit no board to determine in such cases, whether Voluntaryism was in any respect or degree tantamount to atheism, or the Establishment principle to Popery. But we would ask them to declare, as wise and honest men, that no schoolmaster, under the pretext of a zeal for truth, should with impunity break faith with the parents of his pupils, or prejudice the unformed and ductile minds entrusted to his care against their hereditary beliefs. Should we, however, do no violence by such a provision, we have heard it asked, to the conscientious convictions of the schoolmaster? No, not in the least. If he was in reality the conscientious man that he professed to be, he would quit his equivocal position as a teacher, in which, without being dishonest, he could not fulfil what he deemed his religious duty, and become a minister; a character in which he would find Churches within which he could affirm with impunity that Dr. Chalmers was, in virtue of his Establishment views, little better than a Papist, or that Robert Hall, seeing he was a Voluntary, must have been an unconscious atheist at bottom.

Let us next consider what the influence of the ministers of our Church would be under a national scheme such as that which we desiderate, and what the probability that the national teaching would be religious. The minister, as such, would possess, nominally at least, but a single vote; and if he were what an ordained minister may in some cases be––merely a suit of black clothes surmounted by a white neckcloth––the vote, nominally one, would be also really but one; nor ought it, we at once say, to weigh in 96 such cases an iota more than it counted. Mere black coats and white neckcloths, though called by congregations, and licensed and ordained by presbyteries, never yet carried on the proper business of either Church or school. But if the minister was no mere suit of clothes, but a Christian man, ordained and called not merely by congregations and presbyteries, but by God Himself, his one vote in the case would outweigh hundreds, simply because it would represent the votes of hundreds. Let us suppose that, with the national schools thrown open, a vacancy had occurred in the parish school of Cromarty during the incumbency of the lamented Mr. Stewart. The people of the town and parish, possessing the educational franchise, would meet; their committee would deliberate; there would be a teacher chosen,––in all probability, the present excellent Free Church teacher of the town; and every man would feel that he had exercised in the election his own judgment on his own proper responsibility. And yet it would assuredly be the teacher whom the minister had deemed on the whole most eligible for the office, that would find himself settled, in virtue of the transaction, in the parish school. How? Not, certainly, through any exercise of clerical domination, nor through any employment of what is still more hateful––clerical manœuvre––but in virtue of a widespread confidence reposed by the people in the wisdom and the integrity of the minister sent them by God Himself to preach to them the everlasting gospel. In almost all the surrounding parishes––in Resolis, Rosskeen, Urquhart under the late Dr. M’Donald, Alness, Kiltearn, Kincardine, Kilmuir, etc. etc. etc.––in similar cases similar results would follow; and if there are preachers in that vast northern or north-western tract––which, with the three northern counties, includes also almost the entire Highlands––in which such results would not follow, it would be found that in most cases the fault lay rather with the ordained suits of black, 97 topped by the white neckcloths, than with the people whom they failed to influence.

As for the religion or the religious teaching of the schools, we hold it to be one of the advantages of the proposed scheme, that it would really stir up both ministers and people to think seriously of the matter, and to secure for the country truly religious teaching, so far as it was found to be at once practicable and good. Previous to the year 1843, when the parish schools lay fully within our power, there was really nothing done to introduce religious teaching into them; we had it all secure on written sheepskin, that their teaching should and might be religious, for we had them all fast bound to the Establishment; and, as if that were enough of itself, ministers, backed by heritors and their factors, went on filling these parish schools with men who stood the test of the Disruption worse, in the proportion of at least five to one, than any other class in the country, and who, if their religious teaching had but taken effect on the people by bringing them to their own level, would have rendered that Disruption wholly an impossibility.[16] And then, when that great event occurred, we flung ourselves into an opposite extreme,––eulogized our Educational Scheme as the best and most important of all the Schemes of our Church, on, we suppose, the principle so well understood by the old divines, that whereas the other schemes were of God, and God-enjoined, this scheme was of ourselves,––introduced, further, the design of ‘inducting’ our teachers, as if an idle ceremony could be any substitute for the indispensable commission signed by the Sovereign, and could make the non-commissioned by Him at least half ecclesiastics.[17] And then, after teaching our 98 schoolmasters to teach religion, we sent them abroad in shoals––some of them, no doubt, converted men, hundreds of them unconverted, and religious but by certificate––to make the children of the Free Church as good Christians as themselves. And by attempting to make them half ecclesiastics, we have but succeeded in making them half mendicants, and somewhat more,––a character which assuredly no efficient schoolmaster ought to bear; for while his profession holds in Scripture no higher place than the two secular branches of the learned professions, physic and the law, he is as certainly worthy of his reward, and of maintaining an independent position in society, as either the lawyer or the physician. In schools truly national––with no sheepskin authority to sleep over on the one hand, and no idle dream of semi-ecclesiastical ‘induction’ to beguile on the other––the item of religious teaching, brought into prominence by both the Free and the Established Churches in the preliminary struggle, would assert 99 and receive its due place. Scotland would possess what it never yet possessed,––not even some twenty years or so after the death of Knox,––a system of schools worthy, in the main, of a Christian country. We are told by old Robert Blair, in his Autobiography, that when first brought under religious impressions (in the year 1600), ‘he durst never play on the Lord’s day, though the schoolmaster, after taking an account of the Catechism, dismissed the children with that express direction, “Go not to the town, but to the fields, and play.” I obeyed him,’ adds the worthy man, ‘in going to the fields, but refused to play with my companions, as against the commandment of God.’ Now it is not at all strange that there should have been such a schoolmaster, in any age of the Presbyterian Church, in one of the parish schools of our country; but somewhat strange, mayhap, considering the impression so generally received regarding the Scottish schools of that period, that Blair should have given us no reason whatever to regard the case as an extreme or exceptional one. Certainly, with such a central board in existence as that which we desiderate, no such type of schoolmaster would continue to hold office in a national seminary.

Further, it really seems difficult to determine whether the difference between the old educational scheme of Knox and that proposed at the present time by the Free Church, or the difference between the circumstances of Scotland in his days and of Scotland in the present day, be in truth the wider difference of the two. Knox judged it of ‘necessitie that every several kirk should have one schoolmaster appointed,’––‘such a one at least as was able to teach grammar and the Latine tongue;’ ‘that there should be erected in every notable town,’ a ‘colledge, in which the arts, logic, and rhethorick, together with the tongues, should be read by masters, for whom honest stipends should be appointed;’ and further, ‘that fair provision should be 100 made for the [support of the] poor [pupils], in especial those who came from landward,’ and were ‘not able, by their friends nor by themselves, to be sustained at letters.’ We know that the notable towns referred to here as of importance enough to possess colleges were, many of them, what we would now deem far from notable. Kirkwall, the Chanonry of Ross, Brechin, St. Andrews, Inverary, Jedburgh, and Dumfries, are specially named in the list; and we know further, that what Knox deemed an ‘honest stipend’ for a schoolmaster, amounted on the average to about two-thirds the stipend of a minister. Such, in the sixteenth century, was the wise scheme of the liberal and scholarly Knox, the friend of Calvin, Beza, and Buchanan. Are we to recognise its counterpart in the middle of the nineteenth century, in a scheme at least three-fourths of whose teachers are paid with yearly salaries of from £10 to £13, 13s. 4d.––about half ploughman’s wages––and of whom not a fourth have passed the ordeal of a Government examination, pitched at the scale of the lowest rate of attainment? The scheme of the noble Knox! Say rather a many-ringed film-spinning grub, that has come creeping out of the old crackling parchment, in which the sagacious Reformer approved himself as much in advance of his own age, as many of those who profess to walk most closely in his steps demonstrate themselves to be in the rear of theirs.

Let us next mark how entirely the circumstances of the country have changed since the days of the First Book of Discipline. With the exception of the clergy, a few lay proprietors, and a sprinkling of the inhabitants of the larger towns, Scotland was altogether, in the earlier period, an uneducated nation. Even for more than a century after, there were landed gentlemen of the northern counties unable, as shown by old deeds, to sign their names. If the Church had not taken upon herself the education of the 101 people in those ages, who else was there to teach them? Not one. Save for her exertions, the divine command, ‘Search the Scriptures,’ would have remained to at least nine-tenths of the nation a dead letter. But how entirely different the circumstances of Scotland in the present time! The country has its lapsed masses,––men in very much the circumstances, educationally, of the great bulk of the population in the age of Knox; and we at once grant that, unless the Churches of the country deal with these as Knox dealt with the whole, there is but little chance of their ever being restored to society or the humanizing influences of religion, let Government make for them what provision it may.[18] But such is not the condition of the membership of at least the evangelical Churches. Such is palpably not the condition of the membership of the Free Church, consisting as it does of parents taken solemnly bound, in their baptismal engagements, to bring up their children in the ‘nurture and admonition of the Lord,’ and of the children for whom they have been thus taken bound. Save in a few exceptional cases, their education is secure, let the Church exert herself as little as she may. She is but exhausting herself in vain efforts to do what would be done better without her. She has all along contemplated, we are told, merely the education of her own members; and these form exactly that portion of the people which––unless, indeed, the solemn engagements 102 which she has deliberately laid upon them mean as little as excise affidavits or Bow Street oaths––may be safely left to a broad national scheme, wisely based on a principle of parental responsibility.

‘If thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time,’ said Mordecai to Esther, ‘then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place, but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed.’ Scotland will have ultimately her Educational Scheme adequate to the demands of the age; but if the Free Church stand aloof, and suffer the battle to be fought by others, her part or lot in it may be a very small matter indeed. What, we ask, would be her share, especially in the Highlands, in a scheme that rendered the basis of the educational franchise merely co-extensive with the basis of the political one? Nay, what, save perhaps in the northern burghs, would be her share in such a scheme over Scotland generally? A mere makeweight at best. But at least the lay membership of the Free Church will, we are assured, not long stand aloof; and this great question of national education being in no degree an ecclesiastical one, nor lying within the jurisdiction of presbyteries or assemblies, true lovers of their country and of their species, whether of the Established or of the Free Churches, will come forward and do their duty as Scotchmen on the political platform. In neither body does the attitude assumed by the ecclesiastical element in this question, so far as has yet been indicated, appear of a kind which plain, simple-minded laymen will delight to contemplate. The Established Church courts are taking up the ground that the teaching in their parish schools has been all along religious, and at least one great source from which has sprung the vitalities of the country’s faith. And who does not know that to be a poor, unsolid fiction,––a weak and hollow sham? And, on the other hand, some of our Free Churchmen are asserting that they are not morally 103 bound to their forlorn teachers for the meagre and altogether inadequate salaries held out to them in prospect, when they were set down in their humble schools, divorced from all other means of support, to regulate their very limited expenditure by the specified incomes. Further, they virtually tell us that we cannot possibly take our stand as Scotchmen on this matter, in the only practical position, without being untrue to our common Christianity, and enemies to our Church. It has been urged against our educational articles, that we have failed to take into account the fall of man: he would surely be an incorrigible sceptic, we reply, who could look upon statements such as these, and yet doggedly persist in doubting that man has fallen. But, alas! it is not a matter on which to congratulate ourselves, that when the Established Church is coming forward to arrest the progress of national education with her strange equivocal caveat, the Free Church––the Church of the Disruption––should be also coming forward with a caveat which at least seems scarce less equivocal; and that, like the twin giants of Guildhall––huge, monstrous, unreal––both alike should be turning deaf and wooden ears to the great clock of destiny, as it strikes the hours of doom to their distracted and sinking country. O for an hour of the great, the noble-minded Chalmers! Ultimately, however, the good cause is secure. It is a cause worth struggling and suffering for. We know a little boy, not yet much of a reader, who has learned to bring a copy of Scott’s Tales of a Grandfather, which now opens of itself at the battle of Bannockburn, to a little girl, his sister, somewhat more in advance, that she may read to him, for the hundredth time, of Wallace and the Black Douglas, and how the good King Robert struck down Sir Henry Bohun with a single blow, full in the sight of both armies. And after drinking in the narrative, he tells that, when grown to be a big man, he too is to be a soldier like 104 Robert the Bruce, and to ‘fight in the battle of Scotland.’ And then he asks his father when the battle of Scotland is to begin! Laymen of the Free Church, the battle of Scotland has already begun; and ’tis a battle better worth fighting than any other which has arisen within the political arena since the times of the Reform Bill. Your country has still claims upon you: the Disruption may have dissolved the tie which bound you to party; but that which binds you to Scotland still remains entire. The parental right is not dissolved by any traditionary requirements of the altar; nor can we urge with impunity to our country,––‘It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me.’



The history of Lord Brougham has no exact parallel in that of British statesmen. Villiers Duke of Buckingham (the Duke of the times of Charles II.) sunk quite as low, but not from such an elevation. Of him too it was said, as of his Lordship, that ‘he left not faction, but of that was left,’––that every party learned to distrust and stand aloof from him, and that his great parts had only the effect of rendering his ultimate degradation the more marked and the more instructive. Hume tells us that by his ‘wild conduct, unrestrained either by prudence or principle, he found means to render himself in the end odious, and even insignificant.’ But the Duke of Buckingham had been a mere courtier from the beginning, and no man had ever trusted or thought well of him.

Bolingbroke bears a nearly similar character. There was a mighty difference between the influential and able minister of Queen Anne, recognised by all as decidedly one of the most accomplished statesmen of his age or country, and the same individual,––forlorn and an exile, disliked and suspected by parties the most opposite, and who agreed in nothing else,––a fugitive from his own country to avoid the threatened impeachment of the Whigs for his Jacobitism, and a fugitive from France to avoid being impeached by the Pretender for his treachery. But Bolingbroke had never very seriously professed to be the friend of his country, nor would his country have believed him if he had. According to the shrewd remark of Fielding, 106 the temporal happiness, the civil liberties and properties of Europe, had been the game of his earliest youth, and the eternal and final happiness of all mankind the sport and entertainment of his advanced age. He would have fain destroyed the freedom of his countrymen when in power, and their hope of immortality when in disgrace. Neither can we find a parallel in the history of that other Lord Chancellor of England, who has been described by the poet as ‘the greatest, wisest, meanest of mankind.’ Two of the epithets would not suit Lord Brougham; and though he unquestionably bore himself more honourably in the season of his elevation than his illustrious predecessor, he has as certainly employed himself to worse purpose in the time of his disgrace.

Unlike Lords Bolingbroke, Buckingham, or Bacon, Lord Brougham entered public life a reformer and a patriot. The subject of his first successful speech in Parliament was the slave-trade. He denounced not only the abominable traffic itself,––the men who stole, bought, and kept the slave; but also the traders and merchants,––‘the cowardly suborners of piracy and mercenary murder,’ as he termed them, under whose remote influence the trade had been carried on; and the sympathies of the people went along with him. He was on every occasion, too, the powerful advocate of popular education. Brougham is no discoverer of great truths; but he has evinced a ‘curious felicity’ in expressing truths already discovered: he exerted himself in sending ‘the schoolmaster abroad,’ and announced the fact in words which became more truly his motto than the motto found for him in the Herald’s Office. He took part in well-nigh every question of reform; stood up for economy, the reduction of taxes, and Queen Caroline; found very vigorous English in which to express all he ought to have felt regarding the Holy Alliance and the massacre at Manchester; and dealt with Cobbett as Cobbett deserved, for doing what 107 he is now doing himself. There was always a lack of heart about Brougham, so that men admired without loving him.

There were no spontaneous exhibitions of those noblenesses of nature which mark the true reformer, and which compel the respect of even enemies. Luther, Knox, and Andrew Thomson were all men of rugged strength,––men of war, and born to contend; but they were also men of deep and broad sympathies, and of kindly affections: they could all feel as well as see the right; what is even more important still, they could all thoroughly forget themselves, and what the world thought and said of them, in the pursuit of some great and engrossing object: they could all love, too, at least as sincerely as they could hate. Brougham, on the contrary, could only see without feeling the right; but then he saw clearly. Brougham could not forget himself; but then he succeeded in identifying himself with much that was truly excellent. Brougham could not love as thoroughly as he could hate; but then his indignation generally fell where it ought. His large intellect seemed based on an inferior nature––it was a brilliant set in lead; nor were there indications wanting all along, it has been said, that he was one of those patriots who have their price. But the brilliant was a true, not a factitious brilliant, whatever the value of the setting; and the price, if ever proffered, had not been sufficiently large. Brougham became Lord Chancellor, the Reform Bill passed into a law, and slavery was abolished in the colonies.

The country has not yet forgotten that the Lord Chancellor of 1832 and the two following years was no wild Radical. There was no leaven of Chartism in Lord Brougham, though a very considerable dash of eccentricity; and really, for a man who had been contending so many years in the Opposition, and who had attained to so thorough a command of sarcasm, he learned to enact the courtier wonderfully well. Neither ‘Tompkins’ nor 108 ‘Jenkins’ had as yet manifested their contempt for the aristocracy; nor had the ‘man well stricken in years’ written anonymous letters to insult his sovereign. The universal suffrage scheme found no advocate in the Lord Chancellor. He could call on Cobbett in his chariot, to attempt persuading the stubborn old Saxon to write down incendiarism and machine-breaking. He breathed no anticipation of the ‘first cheer of the people on the first refusal of the soldiery to fire on them.’ As for Reform, he was very explicit on that head: really so much had been accomplished already, that a great deal more could not be expected. Little could be done in the coming years, he said, just because there had been so much done in the years that had gone by. The Lord Chancellor was comparatively a cautious and prudent man in those days––on the whole, a safe card for monarchy to play with. Radicalism had learned that Whigs in office are not very unlike Tories in office; and to Brougham it applied the remark: nor was he at all indignant that it did so. All his superabundant energies were expended in Chancery. We unluckily missed hearing him deliver his famous speech at Inverness, and that merely by an untoward chance, for we were in that part of the country at the time; but we have seen and conversed with scores who did hear him: we are intimate, too, with the gentleman who gave his speech on that occasion to the world, and know that a more faithful or more accomplished reporter than the editor of the Inverness Courier is not to be found anywhere, nor yet a man of nicer discrimination, nor of a finer literary taste. There was no mistake made regarding his Lordship’s sentiments when he spoke of the Reform Bill as well-nigh a final measure; nor did his delight in the simple-minded natives arise when he pledged himself to recommend them, by the evening mail, to the graces of good King William, from their wishing the bill to be 109 anything else than final. Even with its limited franchise, he deemed it a very excellent bill; and the woolsack, to which it had elevated him, a very desirable seat. People did occasionally see that Hazlitt was in the right––that he was rather a man of speech than of action; that he was somewhat too imprudent for a leader, somewhat too petulant for a partisan; and that he wanted in a considerable degree the principle of co-operation.

But Chatham wanted it quite as much as he; and it was deemed invidious to measure so accomplished a man, and so sworn a friend of peace and good order, by the minuter rules. But Napoleon should have died at Waterloo, Brougham at Dunrobin.

What is ex-Chancellor Brougham now? What party trusts to him? What section of the community does he represent? Frost had his confiding friends and followers, and Feargus O’Connor led a numerous and formidable body. Even Sir William Courtenay had his disciples. Where are Brougham’s disciples? What moral influence does the advocate of popular education, and the indignant denouncer of the iniquities of the slave-trade, exert? In what age or what country was there ever a man so ‘left by faction?’ The Socialism of England and the Voluntaryism of Edinburgh entrust him with their petitions, and Chartism stands on tiptoe when he rises in his place to advocate universal suffrage; but no one confides in him. Owen does not, nor the Rev. Mr. Marshall of Kirkintilloch, nor yet the conspirators of Sheffield or Newport. Toryism scarcely thanks him for fighting its battles; Whiggism abhors him. There is no one credulous enough to believe that his aims rise any higher than himself, or blind enough not to see that even his selfishness is so ill-regulated as to defeat its own little object. His lack of the higher sentiments, the more generous feelings, the nobler aims, neutralizes even his intellect. He publishes 110 his speeches, carefully solicitous of his fame, and provokes comparison in laboured dissertations with the oratory of Demosthenes and Cicero; he eulogizes the Duke of Wellington, and demands by inference whether he cannot praise as classically as even the ancients themselves; but his heartless though well-modulated eloquence lingers in first editions, like the effusions of inferior minds; nor is it of a kind which the ‘world will find after many days.’ Brougham will be less known sixty years hence than the player Garrick is at present.

Bolingbroke, when thrown out of all public employment-gagged, disarmed, shut out from the possibility of a return to office, suspected alike by the Government and the Opposition, and thoroughly disliked by the people to boot––could yet solace himself in his uneasy and unhonoured retirement by exerting himself to write down the Ministry.

And his Craftsmen sold even more rapidly than the Spectator itself.

But the writings of Brougham do not sell; he lacks even the solace of Bolingbroke. We have said that his history is without parallel in that of Britain. Napoleon on his rock was a less melancholy object: the imprisoned warrior had lost none of his original power––he was no moral suicide; the millions of France were still devotedly attached to him, and her armies would still have followed him to battle. It was no total forfeiture of character on his own part that had rendered him so utterly powerless either for good or ill.

July 8, 1840.



The foundation-stone of the metropolitan monument in memory of Sir Walter Scott was laid with masonic honours on Saturday last. The day was pleasant, and the pageant imposing. All business seemed suspended for the time; the shops were shut. The one half of Edinburgh had poured into the streets, and formed by no means the least interesting part of the spectacle. Every window and balcony that overlooked the procession, every house-top almost, had its crowd of spectators. According to the poet,

‘Rank behind rank, close wedged, hung bellying o’er;’

while the area below, for many hundred yards on either side the intended site of the monument, presented a continuous sea of heads. We marked, among the flags exhibited, the Royal Standard of Scotland, apparently a piece of venerable antiquity, for the field of gold had degenerated into a field of drab, and the figure in the centre showed less of leonine nobleness than of art in that imperfect state in which men are fain to content themselves with semblances doubtful and inexpressive, and less than half the result of chance. The entire pageant was such a one as Sir Walter himself could perhaps have improved. He would not have fired so many guns in the hollow, and the grey old castle so near: he would have found means, too, to prevent the crowd from so nearly swallowing up the procession. Perhaps no man had ever a finer eye for pictorial effect than Sir Walter, 112 whether art or nature supplied the scene. It has been well said that he rendered Abbotsford a romance in stone and lime, and imparted to the king’s visit to Scotland the interest and dignity of an epic poem. Still, however, the pageant was an imposing one, and illustrated happily the influence of a great and original mind, whose energies had been employed in enriching the national literature, over an educated and intellectual people.

It is a bad matter when a country is employed in building monuments to the memory of men chiefly remarkable for knocking other men on the head; it is a bad matter, too, when it builds monuments to the memory of mere courtiers, of whom not much more can be said than that when they lived they had places and pensions to bestow, and that they bestowed them on their friends. We cannot think so ill, however, of the homage paid to genius.

The Masonic Brethren of the several lodges mustered in great numbers. It has been stated that more than a thousand took part in the procession. Coleridge, in his curious and highly original work, The Friend––a work which, from its nature, never can become popular, but which, though it may be forgotten for a time, will infallibly be dug up and brought into public view in the future as an unique fossil impression of an extinct order of mind––refers to a bygone class of mechanics, ‘to whom every trade was an allegory, and had its guardian saint.’ ‘But the time has gone by,’ he states, ‘in which the details of every art were ennobled in the eyes of its professors by being spiritually improved into symbols and mementoes of all doctrines and all duties.’ We could hardly think so as we stood watching the procession, with its curiously fantastic accumulation of ornament and symbol; it seemed, however, rather the relic of a former age than the natural growth of the present––a spectre of the past strangely resuscitated.

The laugh, half in ridicule, half in good nature, with 113 which the crowd greeted every very gaudily dressed member, richer in symbol and obsolete finery than his neighbour, showed that the day had passed in which such things could produce their originally intended effect. Will the time ever arrive in which stars and garters will claim as little respect as broad-skirted doublets of green velvet, surmounted with three-cornered hats tagged with silver lace? Much, we suppose, must depend upon the characters of those who wear them, and the kind of services on which they will come to be bestowed. An Upper House of mere diplomatists––skilful only to overreach––imprudent enough to substitute cunning for wisdom––ignorant enough to deem the people not merely their inferiors in rank, but in discernment also––weak enough to believe that laws may be enacted with no regard to the general good––wrapped up in themselves, and acquainted with the masses only through their eavesdroppers and dependants––would bring titles and orders to a lower level in half an age, than the onward progress of intellect has brought the quaintnesses of mechanic symbol and mystery in two full centuries. We but smile at the one, we would learn to execrate the other. Has the reader ever seen Quarles’ Emblems, or Flavel’s Husbandry and Navigation Spiritualized? Both belong to an extinct species of literature, of which the mechanic mysteries described by Coleridge, and exhibited in the procession of Saturday last, strongly remind us. Both alike proceeded on a process of mind the reverse of the common. Comparison generally leads from the moral to the physical, from the abstract to the visible and the tangible; here, on the contrary, the tangible and the visible––the emblem and the symbol––were made to lead to the moral and the abstract. There are beautiful instances, too, of the same school in the allegories of Bunyan,––the wonders in the house of the Interpreter, for instance, and the scenes exhibited in the cave of the ‘man named Contemplation.’ 114

Sir Walter’s monument will have one great merit, regarded as a piece of art. It will be entirely an original,––such a piece of architecture as he himself would have delighted to describe, and the description of which he, and he only, could have sublimed into poetry. There is a chaste and noble beauty in the forms of Greek and Roman architecture which consorts well with the classic literature of those countries. The compositions of Sir Walter, on the contrary, resemble what he so much loved to describe––the rich and fantastic Gothic, at times ludicrously uncouth, at times exquisitely beautiful. There are not finer passages in all his writings than some of his architectural descriptions. How exquisite is his Melrose Abbey,––the external view in the cold, pale moonshine,

When buttress and buttress alternately
Seemed formed of ebon and ivory;’

internally, when the strange light broke from the wizard’s tomb! Who, like Sir Walter, could draw a mullioned window, with its ‘foliaged tracery,’ its ‘freakish knots,’ its pointed and moulded arch, and its dyed and pictured panes? We passed, of late, an hour amid the ruins of Crichton, and scarce knew whether most to admire the fine old castle itself, so worthy of its poet, or the exquisite picture of it we found in Marmion.

Sir Walter’s monument would be a monument without character, if it were other than Gothic. Still, however, we have our fears for the effect. In portrait-painting there is the full life-size, and a size much smaller, and both suit nearly equally well, and appear equally natural; but the intermediate sizes do not suit. Make the portrait just a very little less than the natural size, and it seems not the reduced portrait of a man, but the full-sized portrait of a dwarf. Now a similar principle seems to obtain in Gothic architecture. 115

The same design which strikes as beautiful in a model––the piece which, if executed in spar, and with a glass cover over it, would be regarded as exquisitely tasteful––would impress, when executed on a large scale, as grand and magnificent in the first degree. And yet this identical design, in an intermediate size, would possibly enough be pronounced a failure. Mediocrity in size is fatal to the Gothic, if it be a richly ornamented Gothic; nor are we sure that the noble design of Mr. Kemp is to be executed on a scale sufficiently extended. We are rather afraid not, but the result will show. Such a monument a hundred yards in height would be one of the finest things perhaps in Europe.

What has Sir Walter done for Scotland, to deserve so gorgeous a monument? Assuredly not all he might have done; and yet he has done much––more, in some respects, than any other merely literary man the country ever produced. He has interested Europe in the national character, and in some corresponding degree in the national welfare; and this of itself is a very important matter indeed. Shakespeare––perhaps the only writer who, in the delineation of character, takes precedence of the author of Waverley––seems to have been less intensely imbued with the love of country. It is quite possible for a foreigner to luxuriate over his dramas, as the Germans are said to do, without loving Englishmen any the better in consequence, or respecting them any the more. But the European celebrity of the fictions of Sir Walter must have had the inevitable effect of raising the character of his country,––its character as a country of men of large growth, morally and intellectually. Besides, it is natural to think of foreigners as mere abstractions; and hence one cause at least of the indifference with which we regard them,––an indifference which the first slight misunderstanding converts into hostility. It is something towards a more general diffusion of goodwill to be enabled 116 to conceive of them as men with all those sympathies of human nature, on which the corresponding sympathies lay hold, warm and vigorous about them. Now, in this aspect has Sir Walter presented his countrymen to the world. Wherever his writings are known, a Scotsman can be no mere abstraction; and in both these respects has the poet and novelist deserved well of his country.

Within the country itself, too, his great nationality, like that of Burns, has had a decidedly favourable effect. The cosmopolism so fashionable among a certain class about the middle of the last century, was but a mock virtue, and a very dangerous one. The ‘citizen of the world,’ if he be not a mere pretender, is a man to be defined by negatives. It is improper to say he loves all men alike: he is merely equally indifferent to all. Nothing can be more absurd than to oppose the love of country to the love of race. The latter exists but as a wider diffusion of the former. Do we not know that human nature, in its absolute perfection, and blent with the absolute and infinite perfection of Deity, indulged in the love of country? The Saviour, when He took to Himself a human heart, wept over the city of His fathers. Now, it is well that this spirit should be fostered, not in its harsh and exclusive, but in its human and more charitable form.

Liberty cannot long exist apart from it. The spirit of war and aggression is yet abroad: there are laws to be established, rights to be defended, invaders to be repulsed, tyrants to be deposed. And who but the patriot is equal to these things? How was the cry of ‘Scotland for ever’ responded to at Waterloo, when the Scots Greys broke through a column of the enemy to the rescue of their countrymen, and the Highlanders levelled their bayonets for the charge! A people cannot survive without the national spirit, except as slaves. The man who adds to the vigour of the feeling at the same time that he lessens its exclusiveness, 117 deserves well of his country; and who can doubt that Sir Walter has done so?

The sympathies of Sir Walter, despite his high Tory predilections, were more favourable to the people as such than those of Shakespeare. If the station be low among the characters of the dramatist, it is an invariable rule that the style of thinking and of sentiment is low also.

The humble wool-comber of Stratford-on-Avon, possessed of a mind more capacious beyond comparison than the minds of all the nobles and monarchs of the age, introduced no such man as himself into his dramas––no such men as Bunyan or Burns,––men low in place, but kingly in intellect. Not so, however, the aristocratic Sir Walter. There is scarcely a finer character in all his writings than the youthful peasant of Glendearg, Halbert Glendinning, afterwards the noble knight of Avenel, brave and wise, and alike fitted to lead in the councils of a great monarch, or to carry his banner in war. His brother Edward is scarcely a lower character. And when was unsullied integrity in a humble condition placed in an attitude more suited to command respect and regard, than in the person of Jeanie Deans?

A man of a lower nature, wrapt round by the vulgar prejudices of rank, could not have conceived such a character: he would have transferred to it a portion of his own vulgarity, dressed up in a few borrowed peculiarities of habit and phraseology. Even the character of Jeanie’s father lies quite as much beyond the ordinary reach. Men such as Sheridan, Fielding, and Foote, would have represented him as a hypocrite––a feeble and unnatural mixture of baseness and cunning. Sir Walter, with all his prejudices and all his antipathies, not only better knew the national type, but he had a more comprehensive mind; and he drew David Deans, therefore, as a man of stern and inflexible integrity, and as thoroughly sincere in his 118 religion. Not but that in this department he committed great and grievous mistakes. The main doctrine of revelation, with its influence on character––that doctrine of regeneration which our Saviour promulgated to Nicodemus, and enforced with the sanctity of an oath––was a doctrine of which he knew almost nothing. What has the first place in all the allegories of Bunyan, has no place in the fictions of Sir Walter. None of his characters exhibit the change displayed in the life of the ingenious allegorist of Elston, or of James Gardener, or of John Newton.

He found human nature a terra incognita when it came under the influence of grace; and in this terra incognita, the field in which he could only grope, not see, his way, well-nigh all his mistakes were committed. But had his native honesty been less, his mistakes would have been greater.

He finds good even among Christians. What can be finer than the character of his Covenanter’s widow, standing out as it does in the most exceptionable of all his works,––the blind and desolate woman, meek and forgiving in her utmost distress, who had seen her sons shot before her eyes, and had then ceased to see more?

Our subject, however, is one which we must be content not to exhaust.



The funeral of this hapless man of genius took place yesterday, and excited a deep and very general interest, in which there mingled the natural sorrow for high talent prematurely extinguished, with the feeling of painful regret, awakened by a peculiarly melancholy end. It was numerously attended, and by many distinguished men. The several streets through which it passed were crowded by saddened spectators––in some few localities very densely; and the windows overhead were much thronged. At no place was the crowd greater, except perhaps immediately surrounding the burying-ground, than at the fatal opening beside the Canal Basin, into which the unfortunate man had turned from the direct road in the darkness of night, and had found death at its termination. The scene of the accident is a gloomy and singularly unpleasant spot. A high wall, perforated by a low, clumsy archway, closes abruptly what the stranger might deem a thoroughfare. There is a piece of sluggish, stagnant water on the one hand, thick and turbid, and somewhat resembling in form and colour a broad muddy highway, lined by low walls; not a tuft of vegetation is to be seen on its tame rectilinear sides: all is slimy and brown, with here and there dank, muddy recesses, as if for the frog and the rat; while on the damp flat above, there lie, somewhat in the style of the grouping in a Dutch painting, the rotting fragments of canal passage-boats and coal-barges, with here and there some broken-backed hulk, muddy and green, the 120 timbers peering out through the planking, and all around heaps of the nameless lumber of a deserted boat-yard. The low, clumsy archway is wholly occupied by a narrow branch of the canal,––brown and clay-like as the main trunk, from which it strikes off at nearly right angles. It struck us forcibly, in examining the place, that in the uncertain light of midnight, the flat, dead water must have resembled an ordinary cart-road, leading through the arched opening in the direction of the unfortunate architect’s dwelling; and certainly at this spot, just where he might be supposed to have stepped upon the seeming road under the fatal impression, was the body found.

It had been intended, as the funeral letters bore, to inter the body of Mr. Kemp in the vault under the Scott Monument,––a structure which, erected to do honour to the genius of one illustrious Scotsman, will be long recognised as a proud trophy of the fine taste and vigorous talent of another. The arrangement was not without precedent; and had it been possible for Sir Walter to have anticipated it, we do not think it would have greatly displeased him. The Egyptian architect inscribed the name of his kingly master on but the plaster of the pyramid, while he engraved his own on the enduring granite underneath; and so the name of the king has been lost, and only that of the architect has survived. And there are, no doubt, monuments in our own country which have been transferred in some sort, and on a somewhat similar principle, from their original object. There are fine statues which reflect honour on but the sculptor that chiselled them, and tombs and cenotaphs inscribed with names so very obscure, that they give place in effect, if not literally, like that of the Egyptian king, to the name of the architect who reared them. Had the Scott Monument been erected, like the monument of a neighbouring square, to express a perhaps not very seemly gratitude for the services of 121 some tenth-rate statesman, who procured places for his friends, and who did not much else, it would have been perilous to convert it into the tomb of a man of genius like poor Kemp. It would have been perilous had it been the monument of some mere litterateur. The litterateur’s works would have disappeared from the public eye, while that of the hapless architect would be for ever before it. And it would be thus the architect, not the litterateur, that would be permanently remembered. But the monument of Sir Walter was in no danger; and Sir Walter himself would have been quite aware of the fact. It would not have displeased him, that in the remote future, when all its buttresses had become lichened and grey, and generation after generation had disappeared from around its base, the story would be told––like that connected in so many of our older cathedrals with ‘prentice pillars’ and ‘prentice aisles’––that the poor architect who had designed its exquisite arches and rich pinnacles in honour of the Shakespeare of Scotland, had met an untimely death when engaged on it, and had found under its floor an appropriate grave.

The intention, however, was not carried into effect. It had been intimated in the funeral letters that the burial procession should quit the humble dwelling of the architect––for a humble dwelling it is––at half-past one. It had been arranged, too, that the workmen employed at the monument, one of the most respectable-looking bodies of mechanics we ever saw, should carry the corpse to the grave. They had gathered round the dwelling, a cottage at Morningside, with a wreath of ivy nodding from the wall; and the appearance of both it and them naturally suggested that the poor deceased, originally one of themselves, though he had risen, after a long struggle, into celebrity, had not risen into affluence. Death had come too soon. He had just attained his proper position––just 122 reached the upper edge of the table-land which his genius had given him a right to occupy, and on which a competency might be soon and honourably secured––when a cruel accident struck him down. The time specified for the burial passed––first one half-hour, and then another. The assembled group wondered at the delay. And then a gentleman from the dwelling-house came to inform them that some interdict or protest, we know not what––some, we suppose, perfectly legal document––had inhibited, at this late hour, the interment of the body in the monument, and that there was a grave in the course of being prepared for it in one of the city churchyards.



It was the religion of Scotland that first developed the intellect of the country. Nor would it be at all difficult to show how. It is sufficiently easy to conceive the process through which earnest feeling concentrated on the great concerns of human destiny leads to earnest thinking, and how thinking propagates itself in its abstract character as such, even after the moving power which had first set its wheels in motion has ceased to operate. The Reformation was mainly a religious movement, but it was pregnant with philosophy and the arts. The grand doctrine of justification by faith, for which Luther and the other reformers contended, was wonderfully linked, by the God from whom it emanated, with all the great discoveries of modern science, and not a few of the proudest triumphs of literature. It drew along with it in the train of events, as if by a golden chain, the philosophy of Bacon and Newton, and the poesy of Milton and Shakespeare. But though the general truth of the remark has been acknowledged, the connection which it intimates––a connection clearly referable to the will of that adorable Being who has made ‘godliness profitable for all things’––has been too much lost sight of. Religious belief, transmuted in its reflex influences into mere intellectual activity, has too often assumed another nature and name, and forgotten or disowned its origin; and whatever is suited to remind us of the certainty of the 124 connection, or to illustrate the mode of its operations, cannot be deemed other than important. From a consideration of this character, we have been much pleased with a little work just published, which, taking up a single family in the humblest rank, shows, without any apparent intention of the kind on the part of the writer, how the Christianity of the country has operated on the popular intellect; and we think we can scarce do better than introduce it to the acquaintance of our readers. Most of them have perhaps seen a memoir of one Annie M’Donald, published in Edinburgh some eight or ten years ago. It is a humble production, given chiefly, as the title-page intimates, in Annie’s own words; and Annie ranked among the humblest of our people. She had never seen a single day in school. When best and most favourably circumstanced, she was the wife of a farm-servant,––no very exalted station surely; but still a lowlier station awaited her, and she passed more than half a century in widowhood. One of her daughters became the wife of a poor labourer, her two grandchildren were labourers also. It is not easy to imagine a humbler lot, without crossing the line beyond which independence cannot be achieved; and yet Annie was a noble-hearted matron, one of the true aristocracy of the country. Her long life was a protracted warfare––a scene of privation, sorrow, and sore trial; but she struggled bravely through, ever trusting in God, dependent on Him, and Him only; and if the dignity of human nature consist in integrity the most inflexible, energy the most untiring, strong sound thinking, deep devotional feeling, and a high-toned yet chastened spirit of independence, then was there more true dignity to be found in the humble cottage of Annie M’Donald, than in half the proud mansions of the country. Many of our readers must be acquainted, as we have said, with her character, and some of the outlines of her story. Most of them are acquainted, too, with the character of another very 125 remarkable person, John Bethune, the Fifeshire Forester,––a man whose name, in all probability, they have never associated with Annie M’Donald. He belongs to quite a different class of persons. The venerable matron takes her place among those cultivators of the moral nature who live in close converse with their God, and on whom are re-stamped, if we may so speak, the lineaments of the divine image obliterated at the fall. The poet, too early lost, ranks, on the other hand, among those hardy cultivators of the intellectual nature who, among all the difficulties incident to imperfect education, and a life of hardship and labour, struggle into notice through the force of an innate vigour, and impress the stamp of their mind on the literature of their country. Much of the interest of the newly published memoir before us arises from the connection which it establishes between the matron and the poet. It purports to be ‘A Sketch of the Life of Annie M’Donald, by her Grandson, the late John Bethune.’ And scarce any one can peruse it without marking the powerful influence which the high religious character of the grandmother exerted on the intellectual character of her descendant. The nobility of the humble family from which he sprung was derived evidently from this source. That character, to borrow a homely but forcible metaphor from Burns, was the sustaining ‘stalk of carle hemp’ which bore it up and kept it from grovelling on the depressed level of its condition. How very interesting a subject of thought and inquiry! A little Highland girl, when tending cattle in the fields nearly a century ago, was led, through divine grace, to ‘apprehend the mercy of God in Christ,’ and to close with His free offers of salvation; and in the third generation we can see the effects of the transaction, not only in the blameless life and the pure sentiments of a true though humble poet, but in, also, the manly vigour of his thinking, and the high degree of culture which he was enabled to bestow on his intellectual faculties. 126

The story of Annie M’Donald is such an one as a poet of Wordsworth’s cast would delight to tell. She was born in a remote and thinly inhabited district of the Highlands, and lost her father, a Highland crofter, while yet an infant. She was his youngest child, but the other members of the family were all very young and helpless; and her poor mother, a woman still in the prime of life, had to wander with them into the low country, friendless and penniless, in quest of employment. And employment after a weary pilgrimage she at length succeeded in procuring from a hospitable farmer in the parish of Kilmany, in Fifeshire. An unoccupied hovel furnished her with a home; and here, with hard labour, she reared her children, till they were fitted to leave her one by one, and do something for themselves, chiefly in the way of herding cattle. Annie grew up to be employed like the rest; and when a little herd-girl in the fields, ‘she frequently fell into strains of serious meditation,’ says her biographer, ‘on the works of God, and on her own standing before Him.’ Let scepticism assert what it may, such is the nature of man. God has written on every human heart the great truth of man’s responsibility; and the simple, ignorant herd-girl could read it there, amid the solitude of the fields. But the inscription seemed fraught with terror: she was perplexed by alternate doubts and fears, and troubled by wildly vivid imaginings during the day, and by frightful dreams by night. Her mother had been unable to send her to school, but she got occasional lessons in the evenings from a fellow-servant; and through the desultory assistance obtained in this way, backed by her solitary efforts at self-instruction, she learned to read. She must have deemed that an important day on which she found she could at length converse with books; and the books with which she most loved to discourse were such as related to the spiritual state. She pored over the Shorter Catechism, and acquainted herself with her Bible. 127 But for years together, at this period, she suffered much distress of mind. Her imagination possessed a wild activity, and the scenes and shapes which it was continually calling up before her were all of horror and dismay––the place of the lost, the appalling forms with which fancy invests the fallen spirits, the terrors of the last day, and the dread throne of judgment. But a time of peace and comfort came; and she was enabled to lay hold on God in faith and hope as her God, through the all-sufficient blood of the atonement. And this hold she never after relinquished.

There was no pause in her humble toils. From her early occupations in the fields, she passed in riper youth to the labours of the farm-house; and at the age of twenty-five experienced yet another change, in becoming the wife of a farm-servant, a quiet man of solid character, and whose religious views and feelings coincided with her own. Her humble home was a solitary hut on the uplands, far from even her nearest neighbours; but it was her home, and she was happy. With the consent of her husband, she took her aged mother under her care, and succeeded in repaying more than the obligations incurred in infancy; for her instructions, through the blessing of God, were rendered apparently the means of the old woman’s conversion. There were sorrows that came to her even at the happiest, but they were mingled with comfort. She lost one of her children by small-pox at a very early age; and yet, very early as the age was, evidence was not wanting in its death that the Psalmist spoke with full meaning when he said that God can perfect praise out of the mouths of babes and sucklings. But there was a deeper grief awaiting her. After a happy union of twelve years, her husband was seized in the night in their lonely shieling by a mortal distemper, at a time when only herself and her young children were present, 128 and ere assistance could be procured he expired. There is something extremely touching in the details of this event, as given by the poet, her grandson. They strongly show how real an evil poverty is, in even the most favourable circumstances, when the hour of distress comes. Cowper ceased to envy the “‘peasant’s nest” when he thought how its solitude made scant the means of life.’ We would almost covet the hut of Annie M’Donald as described by her grandson. ‘It appeared,’ he says, ‘as if separated and raised above the world by the cultureless and elevated solitude on which it stood. Around it on every side were grey rocks, peering out from among tufted grass, heath furze, and many-coloured mosses; forming what had been, till more recently––when the whole was converted into a plantation––a rather extensive sheep-walk. For an extent equal to more than half the horizon, the eye might stretch away to the distant mountains, or repose on the intervening valleys; and from the highest part of the hill, a little to the eastward, the dark blue of the German Ocean was clearly visible. It must have been a cheerful spot in the clear sunny days of summer, when even heaths and moors look gay––when the deep blue of the hills seems as if softening its tints to harmonize with the deep blue of the sky––when the hum of the bee is heard amid the heath, and the lark high overhead. But it must have been a gloomy and miserable solitude on that night when the husband of Annie lay tossing in mortal agony, and no neighbour near to counsel or assist, her weeping children around her, and with neither lamp nor candle in the cottage. It was only by the ‘light of a burning coal taken from the fire, and exchanged for another as the flame waxed faint, that she was enabled to watch the progress of the fatal malady, and to tell at what time death set his unalterable seal on the pallid features of her husband.’

Long years of incessant labour followed; her children 129 were young and helpless, and her aged mother still with her. She removed to another cottage, where she rented an acre or two of land, that enabled her to keep a cow, and gave her opportunity, as the place was situated beside a considerable stream, of earning a small income as a bleacher of home-made linen. The day, and not unfrequently the night, was spent in toil; but she was strengthened to endure, and so her children were bred up in hardy independence. ‘During the weeks of harvest,’ says her biographer, ‘she was engaged as a reaper by the farmer from whom she rented her little tenement; and when her day’s work was done, while her fellow-labourers retired to rest, she employed herself in reaping her own crops, or providing grass for the cow, and often continued her toil by the light of the harvest moon till it was almost midnight. After a number of years thus spent, the expiration of the farmer’s lease occasioned her removal. Her family were now grown up; she could afford, in consequence, to have recourse to means of subsistence which, if more scanty, were less laborious than those which she had plied so long; and so, removing to a neighbouring village, she earned a livelihood for herself and her infirm mother by spinning carpet worsted at twopence a-day, the common wages for a woman at that period.’ ‘The cottage which she now occupied,’ we again quote, ‘happened to be one of a number which the Countess of Leven charitably kept for the accommodation of poor people who were unable to pay a rent. She, however, considered that she had no right to reckon herself among this class, so long as it should please God to afford her strength to provide for her own necessities; and therefore she deemed it unjustifiable to deprive the truly indigent of what had been intended exclusively for them. Influenced by these motives, she removed at the next term to an adjacent hamlet, and here her aged mother died.’ We need not minutely follow her after-course: it bore but one 130 complexion to the end. She taught a school for many years, and was of signal use to not a few of her pupils. At an earlier period she experienced a desire to be able to write. There was a friend at a distance whom she wished to comfort, by suggesting to her those topics of consolation which she herself had found of such solid use; and the wish had suggested the idea. And so she did learn to write. She took up a pen, and tried to imitate the letters in her Bible; an acquaintance subsequently furnished her with a copy of the alphabet commonly used in writing; and such was all the instruction she ever received in an art to which in after life she devoted a considerable portion of her time, and in the exercise of which she derived no small enjoyment. In extreme old age she was rendered unable by deafness properly to attend to her school, and so, with her characteristic conscientiousness, she threw it up; but bodily strength was spared to her in a remarkable degree, and her last years were not wasted in idleness. ‘Her spinning-wheel was again eagerly resorted to; even outdoor labour, when it could be obtained, was sometimes adopted.’ And the editor of the memoir before us––Alexander Bethune, the brother and biographer of John––relates that he recollects seeing her engaged in reaping, on one occasion, when in her eighty-second year; and that on the same field her favourite nephew the poet, at that time a boy of ten, was also essaying the labours of the harvest. In one of the simple but touching epistles which we owe to her singularly acquired accomplishment of writing––a letter to one of her daughters––we find her thus expressing herself:––

‘We finished our harvest last Monday, and here again I have cause for thankfulness. I would desire to be doubly thankful to God for enabling my old and withered arms to use the sickle almost as well as they were wont to do when I was young, and for the favourable weather and abundant crop which in His mercy He has bestowed on us. But, 131 my dear child, there is in very deed a more important harvest before us. Oh! may God, for Christ’s sake, ripen us by the sunshine of His Spirit for the sickle of death, and stand by us in that trying hour, that we may be cut down as a shock of corn which is fully ripe.’

Annie survived twelve years longer; for her life was prolonged through three full generations. ‘In the intervals of domestic duty, her book and her pen were her constant companions.’ ‘The process of committing her thoughts to paper was rendered tedious, latterly, by the weakness and tremor of her hand; and her mind not unfrequently outran her pen, leaving blanks in her composition, which she did not always detect so as to enable her to fill them up. And this circumstance sometimes rendered her meaning a little obscure. But with all these deficiencies, her letters were generally appreciated by those to whom they were addressed. Her conversation, too, was much sought after by serious individuals in all ranks in society; and occasionally it was pleasing to see the promiscuous visitors who met in her lowly cottage laying aside for a time the fastidious distinctions of birth and station, and humbly uniting in the exercise of Christian love.’ At length she could no longer leave her bed: ‘her hearing was so much impaired, that it was with the greatest difficulty she could be made to understand what was said to her; and those friends who came to visit her were frequently requested to sit down by her bedside, where she might see their faces, though she could no longer enjoy their conversation. After raising herself to a convenient position, she generally addressed them upon the importance of preparing for another world while health and strength remained; and tried to direct their attention to the merits and sufferings of the Saviour as the only sure ground of hope upon which sinners could rest their salvation in the hour of trial.’ As for her own departure, she ‘had a thousand reasons,’ she said, ‘for 132 wishing to be gone; but there was one reason which overbalanced them all––God’s time had not yet arrived.’ But at length it did arrive. ‘Lay me down,’ she said, for the irritability of her nervous system had rendered frequent change of posture necessary, and her friends had just been indulging her,––‘Lay me down; let me sleep my last sleep in Jesus.’ And these were her last words. Her grandson John seems to have cherished, when a mere boy, years before she died, the design of writing her story; and the whole tone of his memoir (apparently one of his earlier prose compositions) shows how thorough was the respect which he entertained for her memory. She forms the subject, too, of a copy of verses evidently of later production, and at least equal to any he ever wrote, in which he affectingly tells us how, when sadness and disease pressed upon the springs of life, and he lingered in suspense and disappointment, the hopes which she had so long cherished––

The glorious hopes which flattered not––
Dawned on him by degrees.’

He found the Saviour whom she had worshipped; and one of the last subsidiary hopes in which he indulged ere he bade the world farewell, was that in the place to which he was going he should meet with his beloved grandmother. We have occupied so much space with our narrative, brief as it is, that we cannot follow up our original intention of showing how, in principle, the intellectual history of Bethune is an epitome of that of his country; but we must add that it would be well if, in at least one important respect, the history of his country resembled his history more. The thoughtful piety of the grandmother prepared an atmosphere of high-toned thought, in which the genius of the grandson was fostered. It constituted, to vary the figure, the table-land from which he arose; but how many of a resembling class, and indebted in a similar way, have 133 directed the influence of their writings to dissipate that atmosphere––to lower that table-land! We refer the reader to the interesting little work from which we have drawn our materials. It is edited by the surviving Bethune, the brother and biographer of the poet, and both a vigorous writer and a worthy man. There are several of the passages which it comprises of his composition; among the rest, the very striking passage with which the memoir concludes, and in which he adds a few additional facts illustrative of his grandmother’s character, and describes her personal appearance. The description will remind our readers of one of the more graphic pictures of Wordsworth, that of the stately dame on whose appearance the poet remarks quaintly, but significantly,

‘Old times are living there.’

‘From the date of her birth,’ says Alexander Bethune, ‘it will be seen that she (Annie M’Donald) was in her ninety-fourth year at the time of her death. In person she was spare; and ere toil and approaching age had bent her frame, she must have been considerably above the middle size. Even after she was far advanced in life, there was in her appearance a rigidity of outline and a sinewy firmness which told of no ordinary powers of endurance. There was much of true benevolence in the cast of her countenance; while the depth of her own Christian feelings gave an expression of calm yet earnest sympathy to her eye, which was particularly impressive. Limited as were her resources, she had been a regular contributor to the Bible and Missionary Societies for a number of years previous to her death. Nor was she slow to minister to the necessities of others according to her ability. Notwithstanding the various items thus disposed of during the latter part of her life, she had saved a small sum of money, which at her death was left to her unmarried daughters.’ 134

The touching description of the poet we must also subjoin. No one can read it without feeling its truth, or without being convinced that, to be thoroughly true in the circumstances, was to be intensely poetical. The recollection of such a relative affectionately retained was of itself poetry.


Long years of toil and care,
And pain and poverty, have passed
Since last I listened to her prayer,
And looked upon her last;
Yet how she spoke, and how she smiled
Upon me, when a playful child––
The lustre of her eye––
The kind caress––the fond embrace––
The reverence of her placid face,––
All in my memory lie
As fresh as they had only been
Bestowed and felt, and heard and seen,
Since yesterday went by.
Her dress was simply neat––
Her household tasks so featly done:
Even the old willow-wicker seat
On which she sat and spun––
The table where her Bible lay,
Open from morn till close of day––
The standish, and the pen
With which she noted, as they rose,
Her thoughts upon the joys, the woes,
The final fate of men,
And sufferings of her Saviour God,––
Each object in her poor abode
Is visible as then.
Nor are they all forgot,
The faithful admonitions given,
And glorious hopes which flattered not,
But led the soul to heaven!
These had been hers, and have been mine
When all beside had ceased to shine––
135 When sadness and disease,
And disappointment and suspense,
Had driven youth’s fairest fancies hence,
Short’ning its fleeting lease:
’Twas then these hopes, amid the dark
Just glimmering, like an unquench’d spark,
Dawned on me by degrees.
To her they gave a light
Brighter than sun or star supplied;
And never did they shine more bright
Than just before she died.
Death’s shadow dimm’d her aged eyes,
Grey clouds had clothed the evening skies,
And darkness was abroad;
But still she turned her gaze above,
As if the eternal light of love
On her glazed organs glowed,
Like beacon-fire at closing even,
Hung out between the earth and heaven,
To guide her soul to God.
And then they brighter grew,
Beaming with everlasting bliss,
As if the eternal world in view
Had weaned her eyes from this:
And every feature was composed,
As with a placid smile they closed
On those who stood around,
who felt it was a sin to weep
O’er such a smile and such a sleep––
So peaceful, so profound;
And though they wept, their tears expressed
Joy for her time-worn frame at rest––
Her soul with mercy crowned.

August 10, 1812.



How quickly the years fly! One twelvemonth more, and it will be a full quarter of a century since we last saw the wild Highland valley so well described by Mr. Robertson in his opening paragraphs.[1] And yet the recollection is as fresh in our memory now as it was twenty years ago. The chill winter night had fallen on the brown round hills and alder-skirted river, as we turned from off the road that winds along the Kyle of the Dornoch Frith into the bleak gorge of Strathcarron. The shepherd’s cottage, in which we purposed passing the night, lay high up in the valley, where the lofty sides––partially covered at that period by the remnants of an ancient forest––approach so near each other, and rise so abruptly, that for the whole winter quarter the sun never falls on the stream below. There were still some ten or twelve miles of broken road before us. The moon in its first quarter hung low over the hills, dimly revealing their rough outline, and throwing its tinge of faint bronze on the broken clumps of wood in the hollows. A keen frost had set in; and a thick trail of fog-rime, raised by its influence in the calm, and which at the height of some eighty or a hundred feet hung over the river––scarce less defined in its margin than the river itself, for it winded wherever the stream winded, and ran straight as an arrow wherever the stream ran straight––occupied the whole length of the valley, like an enormous snake lying uncoiled in its den. 137 The numerous turf cottages on either side were invisible in the darkness, save that ever and anon the brief twinkle of a light indicated their existence and their places. In a recess of the stream the torch of some adventurous fisher now gleamed red on rock and water, now suddenly disappeared, eclipsed by the overhanging brushwood, or by some jutting angle of the bank. The distant roar of the stream mingled sullenly in the calm, with its nearer and hoarser dash, as it chafed on the ledges below, filling the air with a wild music, that seemed the appropriate voice of the impressive scenery from amid which it arose. It was late ere we reached the shepherd’s cottage––a dark, raftered, dimly-lighted building of turf and stone. The weather for several weeks before had been rainy and close, and the flocks of the inmate had been thinned by the common scourge of the sheep-farmer at such seasons on marshy and unwholesome farms. The rafters were laden with skins besmeared with blood, that dangled overhead to catch the conservative influences of the smoke; and on a rude plank table below there rose two tall pyramids of dark-coloured joints of braxy mutton, heaped up each on a corn riddle. The shepherd––a Highlander of colossal proportions, but hard and thin, and worn by the cares and toils of at least sixty winters––sat moodily beside the fire. The state of his flocks was not particularly cheering; and he had, besides, seen a vision of late, he said, that filled his mind with strange forebodings. He had gone out after nightfall on the previous evening to a dank hollow on the hill-side, in which many of his flock had died; the rain had ceased a few hours before, and a smart frost had set in, that, as on this second evening, filled the whole valley with a wreath of silvery vapour, dimly lighted by the thin fragment of a moon that appeared as if resting at the time on the hill-top. The wreath stretched out its grey folds beneath him, for he had climbed half-way up the acclivity, when suddenly what 138 seemed the figure of a man in heated metal––the figure of a brazen man brought to a red heat in a furnace––sprang up out of the darkness; and after stalking over the surface of the fog for a few seconds––in which, however, it traversed the greater part of the valley––as suddenly disappeared, leaving an evanescent trail of flame behind it. There could be little doubt that the old shepherd had merely seen one of those shooting lights that in mountain districts, during unsettled weather, so frequently startle the night traveller, and that some peculiarity of form in the meteor had been exaggerated by the obscuring influence of the frost-rime and the briefness of the survey; but the apparition had filled his whole mind, as one of strange and frightful portent from the spiritual world. And often since that night has it returned to us in recollection, as a vision in singular keeping with the wild valley which it traversed, and the credulous melancholy of the solitary shepherd, its only witness,––

A meteor of the night of distant years,
That flashed unnoticed, save by wrinkled eld
Musing at midnight upon prophecies.’

By much the greater part of Strathcarron, in those days, was in the possession of its ancient inhabitants; and we learn from the description of Mr. Robertson, that it has since undergone scarce any change. ‘Strathcarron,’ he says, ‘is still in the old state.’ Throughout its whole extent the turf cottages of the aborigines rise dark and thick as heretofore, from amid their irregular patches of potatoes and corn. But in an adjacent glen, through which the Calvie works its headlong way to the Carron, that terror of the Highlanders, a summons of removal, has been served within the last few months on a whole community; and the graphic sketch of Mr. Robertson relates both the peculiar circumstances in which it has been issued, and the feelings which it has excited. We find from his 139 testimony, that the old state of things which is so immediately on the eve of being broken up in this locality, lacked not a few of those sources of terror to the proprietary of the country, that are becoming so very formidable to them in the newer states. A spectral poor-law sits by our waysides, wrapped up in death-flannels of the English cut, and shakes its skinny hand at the mansion-houses of our landlords,––vision beyond comparison more direfully portentous than the apparition seen by the lone shepherd of Strathcarron. But in the Highlands, at least, it is merely the landlord of the new and improved state of things––the landlord of widespread clearings and stringent removal-summonses––that it threatens. The existing poor-law in Glencalvie is a self-enforcing law, that rises direct out of the unsophisticated sympathies of the Highland heart, and costs the proprietary nothing. ‘The constitution of society in the glen,’ says Mr. Robertson, ‘is remarkably simple. Four heads of families are bound for the whole rental of £55, 13s. a year; the number of souls is about ninety. Sixteen cottages pay rent; three cottages are occupied by old lone women, who pay no rent, and who have a grace from the others for the grazing of a few goats or sheep, by which they live. This self-working poor-law system,’ adds Mr. Robertson, ‘is supported by the people themselves; the laird, I am informed, never gives anything to it.’ Now there must be at least some modicum of good in such a state of things, however old-fashioned; and we are pretty sure such of our English neighbours as leave their acres untilled year after year, to avoid the crushing pressure of the statute-enforced poor-law that renders them not worth the tilling, would be somewhat unwilling, were the state made theirs, to improve it away. Nor does it seem a state––with all its simplicity, and all its perhaps blameable indifferency to modern improvement––particularly hostile to the development of mind or the growth of morals. ‘The people of 140 Amat and Glencalvie themselves supported a teacher for the education of their children,’ says Mr. Robertson. ‘The laird,’ he adds, ‘has never lost a farthing of rent. In bad years, such as 1836 or 1837, the people may have required the favour of a few weeks’ delay, but they are now not a single farthing in arrears.’

Mr. Robertson gives us the tragedy of a clearing in its first act. We had lately the opportunity of witnessing the closing scene in the after-piece, by which a clearing more than equally extensive has been followed up, and which bids fair to find at no distant day many counterparts in the Highlands of Scotland. Rather more than twenty years ago, the wild, mountainous island of Rum, the home of considerably more than five hundred souls, was divested of all its inhabitants, to make way for one sheep-farmer and eight thousand sheep. It was soon found, however, that there are limits beyond which it is inconvenient to depopulate a country on even the sheep-farm system: the island had been rendered too thoroughly a desert for the comfort of the tenant; and on the occasion of a clearing which took place in a district of Skye, and deprived of their homes many of the old inhabitants, some ten or twelve families of the number were invited to Rum, and may now be found squatting on the shores of the only bay of the island, on a strip of unprofitable morass. But the whole of the once peopled interior remains a desert, all the more lonely in its aspect from the circumstance that the solitary glens, with their green, plough-furrowed patches, and their ruined heaps of stone, open upon shores every whit as solitary as themselves, and that the wide untrodden sea stretches drearily around. We spent a long summer’s day amidst its desert recesses, and saw the sun set behind its wilderness of pyramidal hills. The evening was calm and clear; the armies of the insect world were sporting by millions in the light; a brown stream that ran through the 141 valley at our feet yielded an incessant poppling sound from the myriads of fish that were incessantly leaping in the pools, beguiled by the quick glancing wings of green and gold that incessantly fluttered over them; the half-effaced furrows borrowed a richer hue from the yellow light of sunset; the broken cottage-walls stood up more boldly prominent on the hill-side, relieved by the lengthening shadows; along a distant hill-side there ran what seemed the ruins of a grey stone fence, erected, says tradition, in a very remote age to facilitate the hunting of deer: all seemed to bespeak the place a fitting habitation for man, and in which not only the necessaries, but not a few also of the luxuries of life, might be procured; but in the entire prospect not a man nor a man’s dwelling could the eye command. The landscape was one without figures. And where, it may be asked, was the one tenant of the island for whose sake so many others had been removed? We found his house occupied by a humble shepherd, who had in charge the wreck of his property,––property no longer his, but held for the benefit of his creditors. The great sheep-farmer had gone down under circumstances of very general bearing, and on whose after development, when in their latent state, improving landlords had failed to calculate; the island itself was in the market, and a report went current at the time that it was on the eve of being purchased by some wealthy Englishman, who purposed converting it into a deer-forest. The cycle––which bids fair to be that of the Highlands generally––had already revolved in the depopulated island of Rum.

We have said that the sheep-farmer had gone down, in this instance, under adverse circumstances of very extensive bearing. In a beautiful transatlantic poem, a North American Indian is represented as visiting by night the tombs of his fathers, now surrounded, though reared in the depths of a forest, by the cultivated farms and luxurious dwellings of the stranger, and there predicting that the race 142 by which his had been supplaced should be in turn cast out of their possessions. His fancy on the subject is a wild one, though not unfitted for the poet. The streams, he said, were yielding a lower murmur than of old, and rolling downwards a decreasing volume; the springs were less copious in their supplies; the land, shorn of its forests, was drying up under the no longer softened influence of summer suns. Yet a few ages more, and it would spread out all around an arid and barren wilderness, unfitted, like the deserts of the East, to be a home of man. The fancy, we repeat, though a poetic, is a wild one; but the grounds from which we infer that the clearers of the Highlands––the supplanters of the Highlanders––are themselves to be cleared and supplanted in turn, is neither wild nor poetic. The voice which predicts in the case is a voice, not of shrinking rivulets nor failing springs, but of the ‘Cloth Hall’ in Leeds, and of the worsted factories of Bradford and Halifax. Most of our readers must be aware that the great woollen trade of Britain divides into two main branches––its woollen cloth manufacture, and its worsted and stuff manufactures: and in both these the estimation in which British wool is held has mightily sunk of late years, never apparently to rise again; for it has sunk, not through any caprice of fashion, but in the natural progress of improvement. Mr. Dodd, in his interesting little work on the Textile Manufactures of Great Britain, refers incidentally to the fact, in drawing a scene in the Cloth Hall of Leeds, introduced simply for the purpose of showing at how slight an expense of time and words business is transacted in this great mart of trade. ‘All the sellers,’ says Mr. Dodd, ‘know all the buyers; and each buyer is invited, as he passes along, to look at some “olives,” or “browns,” or “pilots,” or “six quarters,” or “eight quarters;” and the buyer decides in a wonderfully short space of time whether it will answer his purpose to purchase or not. “Mr. A., just 143 look at these olives.” “How much?” “Six and eight.” “Too high.” Mr. A. walks on, and perhaps a neighbouring clothier draws his attention to a piece, or “end,” of cloth. “What’s this?” “Five and three.” “Too low.” The “too high” relates, as may be supposed, to the price per yard; whereas the “too low” means that the quality of the cloth is lower than the purchaser requires. Another seller accosts him with “Will this suit you, Mr. A.?” “Any English wool?” “Not much; it is nearly all foreign;” a question and answer which exemplify the disfavour into which English wool has fallen in the cloth trade. But it is not the cloth trade alone in which it has fallen into disfavour. The rapid extension of the worsted manufacture in this country,’ says the same writer in another portion of his work, ‘is very remarkable. So long as efforts were made by English wool-growers to compel the use of the English wool in cloth-making––efforts which the Legislature for many years sanctioned by legal enactments––the worsted fabrics made were chiefly of a coarse and heavy kind, such as “camlets;” but when the wool trade was allowed to flow into its natural channels by the removal of restrictions, the value of all the different kinds of wool became appreciated, and each one was appropriated to purposes for which it seemed best fitted. The wool of one kind of English sheep continued in demand for hosiery and coarse worsted goods; and the wool of the Cashmere and Angora goats came to be imported for worsted goods of finer quality.’ The colonist and the foreign merchant have been brought into the field, and the home producer labours in vain to compete with them on what he finds unequal terms.

Hence the difficulties which, in a season of invigorated commerce and revived trade, continue to bear on the British wool-grower, and which bid fair to clear him from the soil which he divested of the original inhabitants. Every new sheep-rearing farm that springs up in the colonies––whether 144 in Australia, or New Zealand, or Van Diemen’s Land, or Southern Africa––sends him its summons of removal in the form of huge bales of wool, lower in price and better in quality than he himself can produce. The sheep-breeders of New Holland and the Cape threaten to avenge the Rosses of Glencalvie. But to avenge is one thing, and to right another. The comforts of our poor Highlander have been deteriorating, and his position lowering, for the last three ages, and we see no prospect of improvement.

‘For a century,’ says Mr. Robertson, ‘their privileges have been lessening: they dare not now hunt the deer, or shoot the grouse or the blackcock; they have no longer the range of the hills for their cattle and their sheep; they must not catch a salmon in a stream: in earth, air, and water, the rights of the laird are greater, and the rights of the people are smaller, than they were in the days of their forefathers. Yet, forsooth, there is much talk of philosophers of the progress of democracy as a progress to equality of conditions in our day! One of the ministers who accompanied me had to become bound for law expenses to the amount of £20, inflicted on the people for taking a log from the forest for their bridge,––a thing they and their fathers had always done unchallenged.’

One eloquent passage more, and we have done. It is thus we find Mr. Robertson, to whose intensely interesting sketch we again direct the attention of the reader, summing up the case of the Rosses of Glencalvie:––

‘The father of the laird of Kindeace bought Glencalvie. It was sold by a Ross two short centuries ago. The swords of the Rosses of Glencalvie did their part in protecting this little glen, as well as the broad lands of Pitcalnie, from the ravages and the clutches of hostile septs. These clansmen bled and died in the belief that every principle of honour and morals secured their descendants a right to subsisting on the soil. The chiefs and their children had the same 145 charter of the sword. Some Legislatures have made the right of the people superior to the right of the chief; British law-makers have made the rights of the chief everything, and those of their followers nothing. The ideas of the morality of property are in most men the creatures of their interests and sympathies. Of this there cannot be a doubt, however: the chiefs would not have had the land at all, could the clansmen have foreseen the present state of the Highlands––their children in mournful groups going into exile––the faggot of legal myrmidons in the thatch of the feal cabin––the hearths of their loves and their lives the green sheep-walks of the stranger.

‘Sad it is, that it is seemingly the will of our constituencies that our laws shall prefer the few to the many. Most mournful will it be, should the clansmen of the Highlands have been cleared away, ejected, exiled, in deference to a political, a moral, a social, and an economical mistake,––a suggestion not of philosophy, but of mammon,––a system in which the demon of sordidness assumed the shape of the angel of civilisation and of light.’

September 4, 1844.



The reader will find in our columns a report, as ample as our limits have allowed, of the public breakfast given in Edinburgh on Wednesday last[1] to our distinguished countryman James Montgomery, and his friend the missionary Latrobe. We have rarely shared in a more agreeable entertainment, and have never listened to a more pleasing or better-toned address than that in which the poet ran over some of the more striking incidents of his early life. It was in itself a poem, and a very fine one. An old and venerable man returning to his native country after an absence of sixty years––after two whole generations had passed away, and the grave had closed over almost all his contemporaries––would be of itself a matter of poetical interest, even were the aged visitor a person of but the ordinary cast of thought and depth of feeling. How striking the contrast between the sunny, dream-like recollections of childhood to such an individual, and the surrounding realities––between the scenes and figures on this side the wide gulf of sixty years, and the scenes and figures on that: yonder, the fair locks of infancy, its bright, joyous eyes, and its speaking smiles; here, the grey hairs and careworn wrinkles of rigid old age, tottering painfully on the extreme verge of life! But if there attaches thus a poetic interest to the mere circumstances of such a visit, how much more, in the present instance, from the character of the visitor,––a man whose thoughts and feelings, 147 tinted by the warm hues of imagination, retain in his old age all the strength and freshness of early youth!

Hogg, when first introduced to Wilkie, expressed his gratification at finding him so young a man. We experienced a similar feeling on first seeing the poet Montgomery. He can be no young man, who, looking backwards across two whole generations, can recount from recollection, like Nestor of old, some of the occurrences of the third. But there is a green old age, in which the spirits retain their buoyancy, and the intellect its original vigour; and the whole appearance of the poet gives evidence that his evening of life is of this happy and desirable character. His appearance speaks of antiquity, but not of decay. His locks have assumed a snowy whiteness, and the lofty and full-arched coronal region exhibits what a brother poet has well termed the ‘clear bald polish of the honoured head;’ but the expression of the countenance is that of middle life. It is a clear, thin, speaking countenance: the features are high; the complexion fresh, though not ruddy; and age has failed to pucker either cheek or forehead with a single wrinkle. The spectator sees at a glance that all the poet still survives––that James Montgomery in his sixty-fifth year is all that he ever was. The forehead, rather compact than large, swells out on either side towards the region of ideality, and rises high, in a fine arch, into what, if phrenology speak true, must be regarded as an amply developed organ of veneration. The figure is quite as little touched by age as the face. It is well but not strongly made, and of the middle size; and yet there is a touch of antiquity about it too, derived, however, rather from the dress than from any peculiarity in the person itself. To a plain suit of black Mr. Montgomery adds the voluminous breast ruffles of the last age––exactly such things as, in Scotland at least, the fathers of the present generation wore on their wedding-days. These are perhaps but small details; but we notice 148 them just because we have never yet met with any one who took an interest in a celebrated name, without trying to picture to himself the appearance of the individual who bore it.

There are some very pleasing incidents beautifully related in the address of Mr. Montgomery. It would have been false taste and delicacy in such a man to have forborne speaking of himself. His return, after an absence equal to the term of two full generations, to his native cottage, is an incident exquisitely poetic. He finds his father’s humble chapel converted into a workshop, and strangers sit beside the hearth that had once been his mother’s. And where were that father and mother? Their bones moulder in a distant land, where the tombstones cast no shadow when the fierce sun looks down at noon upon their graves. ‘Taking their lives in their hands,’ they had gone abroad to preach Christ to the poor enslaved negro, for whose soul at that period scarce any one cared save the United Brethren; and in the midst of their labours of piety and love, they had fallen victims to the climate. He passed through the cottage and the workshop, calling up the dream-like recollections of his earliest scene of existence, and recognising one by one the once familiar objects within. One object he failed to recognise. It was a small tablet fixed in the wall. He went up to it, and found it intimated that James Montgomery the poet had been born there. Was it not almost as if one of the poets or philosophers of a former time had lighted, on revisiting the earth as a disembodied spirit, on his own monument? Of scarce less interest is his anecdote of Monboddo. The parents of the poet had gone abroad, as we have said, and their little boy was left with the Brethren at Fulneck, a Moravian settlement in the sister kingdom. He was one of their younger scholars at a time when Lord Monboddo, still so well known for his great talents and acquirements, and his scarce less marked eccentricities, 149 visited the settlement, and was shown, among other things, their little school. His Lordship stood among the boys, coiling and uncoiling his whip on the floor, and engaged as if in counting the nail-heads in the boarding. The little fellows were all exceedingly curious; none of them had ever seen a real live lord before, and Monboddo was a very strange-looking lord indeed. He wore a large, stiff, bushy periwig, surmounted by a huge, odd-looking hat; his very plain coat was studded with brass buttons of broadest disk, and his voluminous inexpressibles were of leather. And there he stood, with his grave, absent face bent downwards, drawing and redrawing his whip along the floor, as the Moravian, his guide, pointed out to his notice boy after boy. ‘And this,’ said the Moravian, coming at length to young Montgomery, ‘is a countryman of your Lordship’s.’ His Lordship raised himself up, looked hard at the little fellow, and then shaking his huge whip over his head, ‘Ah,’ he exclaimed, ‘I hope his country will have no reason to be ashamed of him.’ ‘The circumstance,’ said the poet, ‘made a deep impression on my mind; and I determined––I trust the resolution was not made in vain––I determined in that moment that my country should not have reason to be ashamed of me.’

Scotland has no reason to be ashamed of James Montgomery. Of all her poets, there is not one of equal power, whose strain has been so uninterruptedly pure, or whose objects have been so invariably excellent. The child of the Christian missionary has been the poet of Christian missions. The parents laid down their lives in behalf of the enslaved and perishing negro; the son, in strains the most vigorous and impassioned, has raised his generous appeal to public justice in his behalf. Nor has the appeal been in vain. All his writings bear the stamp of the Christian; many of them––embodying feelings which all the truly devout experience, but which only a poet could express––have 150 been made vehicles for addressing to the Creator the emotions of many a grateful heart; and, employed chiefly on themes of immortality, they promise to outlive not only songs of intellectually a lower order, but of even equal powers of genius, into whose otherwise noble texture sin has introduced the elements of death.

28th October 1841.



The reader must have often remarked, in catalogues of the writings of great authors––such as Dr. Johnson, and the Rev. John Cumming, of the Scotch Church, London––that while some of the pieces are described as acknowledged, the genuineness of others is determined merely by internal evidence. We know, for instance, that the Doctor wrote the English Dictionary, not only because no other man in the world at the time could have written it, but also because he affixed his name to the title-page. We know, too, that he wrote some of the best of Lord Chatham’s earlier speeches, just because he said so, and pointed out the very garret in Fleet Street in which they had been written. But it is from other data we conclude that, during his period of obscurity and distress, he wrote prefaces for the Gentleman’s Magazine, for some six or seven years together,––data derived exclusively from a discriminating criticism; and his claim to the authorship of Taylor’s Sermons rests solely on the vigorous character of the thinking displayed in these compositions, and the marked peculiarities of their style. Now, in exactly the same way in which we know that Johnson wrote the speeches and the Dictionary, do we know that the Rev. John Cumming drew up an introductory essay to the liturgy of a Church that never knew of a liturgy, and that he occasionally contributes tales to morocco annuals, wonderful enough to excite the astonishment of ordinary readers. To these compositions he affixes his name,––a thing very few men would have the courage to do; and thus are we assured 152 of their authorship. But there are other compositions to which he does not affix his name, and it is from internal evidence alone that these can be adjudged to him: it is from internal evidence alone, for instance, that we can conclude him to be the author of the article on the Scottish Church question which has appeared in Fraser’s Magazine for the present month.

May we crave leave to direct the attention of the reader for a very few minutes to the grounds on which we decide? It is of importance, as Johnson says of Pope, that no part of so great a writer should be suffered to be lost, and a little harmless criticism may have the effect of sharpening the faculties.

There is a class of Scottish ministers in the present day, who, though they detest show and coxcombry, have yet a very decided leaning to the picturesque ceremonies of the Episcopal Church. They never weary of apologizing to our southern neighbours for what they term the baldness of our Presbyterian ritual, or in complaining of it to ourselves. It was no later than last Sunday that Dr. Muir sorrowed in his lecture over the ‘stinted arrangement in the Presbyterian service, that admits of no audible response from the people;’ and all his genteeler hearers, sympathizing with the worthy man, felt how pleasant a thing it would be were the congregation permitted to do for him in the church what the Rev. Mr. Macfarlane, erst of Stockbridge, does for him in the presbytery. Corporal Trim began one of his stories on one occasion, by declaring ‘that there was once an unfortunate king of Bohemia;’ and when Uncle Toby, interrupting him with a sigh, exclaimed, ‘Ah, Corporal Trim, and was he unfortunate?’ ‘Yes, your honour,’ readily replied Trim; ‘he had a great love of ships and seaports, and yet, as your honour knows, there was ne’er a ship nor a seaport in all his dominions.’ Now this semi-Episcopalian class are unfortunate after the manner of the 153 king of Bohemia. The objects of their desire lie far beyond the Presbyterian territories. They are restricted to one pulpit, they are limited to one dress; they have actually to read and preach from the same footboard; they are prohibited the glories of white muslin; liturgy have they none. No audible responses arise from the congregation; the precentor is silent, save when he sings; their churches are organless; and though they set themselves painfully to establish their claim to the succession apostolical, the Hon. Mr. Percevals of the Church which they love and admire see no proof in their evidence, and look down upon them as the mere preaching laymen of a sectarian corporation.

Thrice unfortunate men! What were the unhappinesses of the king of Bohemia, compared with the sorrows of these humble but rejected followers of Episcopacy!

Now, among this highly respectable but unhappy class, the Rev. John Cumming, of the Scotch Church, London, stands pre-eminent. So grieved was Queen Mary of England by the loss of Calais, that she alleged the very name of the place would be found written on her heart after her death. The words that have the best chance of being found inscribed on the heart of the Rev. Mr. Cumming are, bishop, liturgy, apostolical succession, burial service, organ, and surplice. The ideas attached to these vocables pervade his whole style, and form from their continual recurrence a characteristic portion of it. They tumble up and down in his mind like the pieces of painted glass in a kaleidoscope, and present themselves in new combinations at every turn. His last acknowledged composition was a wonderful tale which appeared in the Protestant Annual for the present year, and––strange subject for such a writer––it purported to be a Tale of the Covenant. Honest Peter Walker had told the same story, that of John Brown of Priesthill, about a century and a half ago; but there had been much left for Mr. Cumming to discover in it of which 154 the poor pedlar does not seem to have had the most distant conception.

Little did Peter know that John Brown’s favourite minister ‘held the sacred and apostolical succession of the Scottish priesthood.’ Little would he have thought of apologizing to the English reader for ‘the antique and ballad verses’ of our metrical version of the Psalms. Indeed, so devoid was he of learning, that he could scarce have valued at a sufficiently high rate the doctrines of Oxford; and so little gifted with taste, that he would have probably failed to appreciate the sublimities of Brady and Tate. Nor could Peter have known that the ‘liturgy of the heart’ was in the Covenanter’s cottage, and that the ‘litany’ of the spirit breathed from his evening devotions. But it is all known to the Rev. Mr. Cumming. He knows, too, that there were sufferings and privations endured by the persecuted Presbyterians of those days, of which writers of less ingenuity have no adequate conception; that they were forced to the wild hill-sides, where they could have no ‘organs,’ and compelled to bury their dead without the solemnities of the funeral service. Unhappy Covenanters! It is only now that your descendants are beginning to learn the extent of your miseries. Would that it had been your lot to live in the days of the Rev. John Cumming of the Scottish Church, London!

He would assuredly have procured for you the music-box of some wandering Italian, and gone away with you to the wilds to mingle exquisite melody with your devotions, qualifying with the sweetness of his tones the ‘antique and ballad’ rudeness of your psalms; nor would he have failed to furnish you with a liturgy, by means of which you could have interred your dead in decency. Had such been the arrangement, no after writer could have remarked, as the Rev. Mr. Cumming does now, that no ‘pealing organ’ mingled ‘its harmony of bass, tenor, treble, and soprano’ 155 when you sung, or have recorded the atrocious fact, that not only was John Brown of Priesthill shot by Claverhouse, but actually buried by his friends without the funeral service. And how striking and affecting an incident would it not form in the history of the persecution, could it now be told, that when surprised by the dragoons, the good Mr. Cumming fled over hill and hollow with the box on his back, turning the handle as he went, and urging his limbs to their utmost speed, lest the Episcopalian soldiery should bring him back and make him a bishop!

It is partly from the more than semi-Episcopalian character of this gentleman’s opinions, partly from the inimitable felicities of his style, and partly from one or two peculiar incidents in his history which lead to a particular tone of remark, that we infer him to be the writer of the article in Fraser.

We may be of course mistaken, but the internal evidence seems wonderfully strong. The Rev. Mr. Cumming, though emphatically powerful in declamation, has never practised argument,––a mean and undignified art, which he leaves to men such as Mr. Cunningham, just as the genteel leave the art of boxing to the commonalty; and in grappling lately with a strong-boned Irish Presbyterian, skilful of fence, he caught, as gentlemen sometimes do, a severe fall, and began straightway to characterize Irish Presbyterians as a set of men very inferior indeed. Now the writer in Fraser has a fling à la Cumming at the Irish Presbyterians. Popular election has, it seems, done marvellously little for them; with very few exceptions, their ‘ministry’ is neither ‘erudite, influential, nor accomplished,’ and their Church ‘exhibits the symptoms of heart disease.’ Depend on it, some stout Irish Presbyterian has entailed the shame of defeat on the writer in Fraser. Mr. Cumming, in his tale, adverts to the majority of the Scottish Church as ‘radical subverters of Church and State, who claim the Covenanters as precedents 156 for a course of conduct from which the dignified Henderson, the renowned Gillespie, the learned Binning, the laborious Denham, the heavenly-minded Rutherford, the religious Wellwood, the zealous Cameron, and the prayerful Peden, would have revolted in horror.’ The writer of the article brings out exactly the same sentiment, though not quite so decidedly, in what Meg Dodds would have termed a grand style of language. At no time, he asserts, did non-intrusion exist in the sense now contended for in Scotland; at no time might not qualified ministers be thrust upon reclaiming parishes by the presbytery: and as for the vetoists, they are but wild radicals, who are to be ‘classified by the good sense of England with those luminaries of the age, Dan O’Connell, John Frost, and others of that ilk.’ In the article there is a complaint that our majority are miserably unacquainted with Scottish ecclesiastical history; and there is special mention made of Mr. Cunningham as an individual not only ignorant of facts, but as even incapable of being made to feel their force. In the Annual, as if Mr. Cumming wished to exemplify, there is a passage in Scottish ecclesiastical history, of which we are certain Mr. Cunningham not only knows nothing, but which we are sure he will prove too obstinate to credit or comprehend. ‘The celebrated Mr. Cameron,’ says the minister of the Scottish Church, London, ‘was left on Drumclog a mangled corpse.’ Fine thing to be minutely acquainted with ecclesiastical history! We illiterate non-intrusionists hold, and we are afraid Mr. Cunningham among the rest, that the celebrated Cameron was killed, not at the skirmish of Drumclog, but at the skirmish of Airdmoss, which did not take place until about a twelvemonth after; but this must result surely from our ignorance. Has the Rev. Mr. Cumming no intention of settling our disputes, by giving us a new history of the Church?

That portion of the internal evidence in the article before us which depends on style and manner, seems very conclusive 157 indeed. Take some of the avowed sublimities of the Rev. Mr. Cumming. No man stands more beautifully on tiptoe when he sets himself to catch a fine thought. In describing an attached congregation, ‘The hearer’s prayers rose to heaven,’ he says, ‘and returned in the shape of broad impenetrable bucklers around the venerable man. A thousand broadswords leapt in a thousand scabbards, as if the electric eloquence of the minister found in them conductors and depositories.’

Poetry such as this is still somewhat rare; but mark the kindred beauties of the writer in Fraser. Around such men as Mr. Tait, Dr. M’Leod, and Dr. Muir, ‘must crystallize the piety and the hopes of the Scottish Church.’ What a superb figure! Only think of the Rev. Dr. Muir as of a thread in a piece of sugar candy, and the piety of the Dean of Faculty and Mr. Penney, joined to that of some four or five hundred respectable ladies of both sexes besides, all sticking out around him in cubes, hexagons, and prisms, like cleft almonds in a bishop-cake. Hardly inferior in the figurative is the passage which follows: ‘The Doctor (Dr. Chalmers) rides on at a rickety trot,––Messrs. Cunningham, Begg, and Candlish by turns whipping up the wornout Rosenante, and making the rider believe that windmills are Church principles, and the echoes of their thunder solid argument. A ditch will come; and when the first effects of the fall are over, the dumbfounded Professor will awake to the deception, and smite the minnows of vetoism hip and thigh.’ The writer of this passage is unquestionably an ingenious man, but he could surely have made a little more of the last figure. A dissertation on the hips and thighs of minnows might be made to reflect new honour on even the genius of the Rev. Mr. Cumming.

It is mainly, however, from the Episcopalian tone of the article that we derive our evidence. The writer seems to hold, with Charles II., that Presbyterianism is no fit religion 158 for a gentleman. True, the Moderates were genteel men, of polish and propriety, such as Mr. Jaffray of Dunbar, who never at synod or presbytery did or said anything that was not strictly polite; but then the Moderates had but little of Presbyterianism in their religion, and perhaps, notwithstanding their ‘quiet, amiable, and courteous demeanour,’ little of religion itself. It is to quite a different class that the hope of the writer turns. He states that ‘melancholy facts and strong arguments against the practical working of Presbytery is at this moment impressing itself in Scotland on every unprejudiced spectator;’ that there is a party, however, ‘with whom the ministerial office is a sacred investiture, transmitted by succession through pastor to pastor, and from age to age,––men inducted to their respective parishes, not because their flocks like or dislike them, but because the superintending authorities, after the exercise of solemn, minute, and patient investigation, have determined that this or that pastor is the fittest and best for this or that parish;’ that there exist in this noble party ‘the germs of a possible unity with the southern Church;’ and that there is doubtless a time coming when the body of our Establishment, ‘sick of slavery under the name of freedom, and of sheer Popery under Presbyterian colours, shall send up three of their best men to London for consecration, and Episcopacy shall again become the adoption of Scotland.’ Rarely has the imagination of the poet conjured up a vision of greater splendour. The minister of the Scotch Church, London, may die Archbishop of St. Andrews. And such an archbishop! We are told in the article that ‘the channel along which ministerial orders are to be transmitted is the pastors of the Church, whether they meet together in the presbytery, or are compressed and consolidated in the bishop.’ But is not this understating the case on the Episcopal side? What would not Scotland gain if she could compress and consolidate a simple presbytery, such as that 159 of Edinburgh––its Chalmers and its Gordon, its Candlish and its Cunningham, its Guthrie, its Brown, its Bennie, its Begg––in short, all its numerous members––into one great Bishop John Cumming, late of the Scotch Church, London! The man who converts twenty-one shillings into a gold guinea gains nothing by the process; but the case would be essentially different here, for not only would there be a great good accomplished, but also a great evil removed. As for Dr. Chalmers, it is ‘painfully evident,’ says the writer of the article, ‘that he regards only three things additional to a “supernal influence” as requisite to constitute any one a minister––a knowledge of Christianity, and endowment, and a parish;’ and as for the rest of the gentlemen named, they are just preparing to do, in an ‘ecclesiastical way in Edinburgh, what Robespierre, Marat, and others did in a corporal way in the Convention of 1793.’

Hogarth quarrelled with Churchill, and drew him as a bear in canonicals. Had he lived to quarrel with the Rev. John Cumming, he would in all probability have drawn him as a puppy in gown and band; and no one who knows aught of the painter can doubt that he would have strikingly preserved the likeness. As for ourselves, we merely indulge in a piece of conjectural criticism. The other parts of the article are cast very much into the ordinary type of that side of the controversy to which it belongs: there is rather more than the usual amount of misrepresentation, inconsistency, and abuse, with here and there a peculiarity of statement. Patrons are described as the ‘trustees of the supreme magistrate, beautifully and devoutly appointed to submit the presentee to the presbytery.’ Lord Aberdeen’s bill is eulogized as suited to ‘confer a greater boon on the laity of Scotland than was ever conferred on them by the General Assembly.’ The seven clergymen of Strathbogie are praised for ‘having rendered unto God the things that are God’s,’ ‘their enemies being judges.’ 160

The minority of the Church contains, it is stated, its best men, and its most diligent ministers. As for the majority, they have been possessed by a spirit of ‘deep delusion;’ their only idea of a ‘clergyman is a preaching machine, that makes a prodigious vociferation, and pleases the herd.’ They are destined to become’ contemptible and base;’ their attitude is an ‘unrighteous attitude;’ they are aiming, ‘like Popish priests,’ at ‘supremacy’ and a deadly despotism, through the sides of the people; they are ‘suicidally divesting themselves of their power as clergymen, by surrendering to the people essentially Episcopal functions;’ they are ‘wild men,’ and offenders against the ‘divine headship;’ and the writer holds, therefore, that if the Establishment is to be maintained in Scotland, they must be crushed, and that soon, by the strong arm of the law. We need make no further remarks on the subject. To employ one of the writer’s own illustrations, the history of Robespierre powerfully demonstrates that great vanity, great weakness, and great cruelty, may all find room together in one little mind.

March 10, 1841.




Sir,––Upon hearing read aloud your remarks[1] in the Witness of Saturday the 28th ultimo, upon the danger of investing the mere building in which we meet for public worship with a character of sanctity, an English gentleman asked, ‘How does the writer of that article reconcile with his views our Saviour’s conduct, described by St. John, ii. 14-17, and by each of the other evangelists?’

Though quite disposed to agree with the purport of your remarks, and fully aware that the tendency of the opinions openly promulgated by a large section of the clergy of the Church of England is to give ‘the Church’ the place which should be occupied by a living and active faith in our Saviour, I found it difficult to meet this gentleman’s objections, and only reminded him that you made a special exception in the case of the Jewish temple. Brought up from childhood, as Englishmen are, with almost superstitious reverence for the buildings ‘consecrated’ and set apart for religious uses, it is difficult to meet objections founded on such strong prejudices as were evident in this case.

If any arguments suggest themselves to you, to show that the passage above referred to cannot be fairly employed in the defence of the Church of England tenets, in favour of consecrating churches, and of reverence amounting almost to the worship of external objects devoted to religious purposes, 162 you will oblige me by stating them.––I remain, Sir, Your obedient servant,

An Absentee.

The passage of Scripture referred to by the ‘English Gentleman’ here as scarcely reconcilable with the views promulgated in the Witness of the 28th ult. runs as follows:––‘And Jesus went up to Jerusalem, and found in the temple those that sold oxen, and sheep, and doves, and the changers of money, sitting; and when He had made a scourge of small cords, He drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables; and said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house a house of merchandise.’

It will perhaps be remembered by our readers, that in referring to the Scotch estimate of the sacredness of ecclesiastical edifices, we employed words to the following effect:––‘We (the Scotch people) have been taught that the world, since it began, saw but two truly holy edifices; and that these, the Tabernacle and the Temple, were as direct revelations from God as the Scriptures themselves, and were as certain embodiments of His will, though they spoke in the obscure language of type and symbol.’ Now the passage of Scripture here cited is in harmonious accordance with this view. It was from one of these truly holy edifices that our Saviour drove the sheep and oxen, and indignantly expelled the money-changers. Without, however, begging the whole question at issue––without taking for granted the very point to be proven, i.e. the intrinsic holiness of Christian places of worship––the text has no bearing whatever on the view taken by the ‘English Gentleman.’ If buildings such as York Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, and St. Paul’s, be holy in the sense in which the temple was holy, then the passage as certainly applies to them as it applied, in the times of our Saviour, to the sacred edifice which was so remarkable 163 a revelation of Himself. But where is the evidence of an intrinsic holiness in these buildings? Where is the proof that the rite of consecration is a rite according to the mind of God? Where is the probability even that it is other than a piece of mere will-worship, originated in the dark ages; or that it confers one whit more sanctity on the edifice which it professes to render sacred, than the breaking a bottle of wine on the ship’s stem, when she is starting off the slips, confers sanctity on the ship? Stands it on any surer ground than the baptism of bells, the sacrifice of the mass, or the five spurious sacraments? If it be a New Testament institution, it must possess New Testament authority. Where is that authority?

Can it be possible, however, that the shrewd English really differ from us in our estimate? We think we have good grounds for holding they do not. On a late occasion we enjoyed the pleasure of visiting not only York Cathedral, but Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s, and saw quite enough to make even the least mistrustful suspect that the professed Episcopalian belief in the sacredness of ecclesiastical edifices is but sheer make-belief after all. The ‘English Gentleman’ refers to the example of our Saviour in thrusting forth the money-changers from the temple, as a sort of proof that ecclesiastical edifices are holy; and we show that it merely proves the temple to have been holy. The passage has, however, a direct bearing on a somewhat different point: it constitutes a test by which to try the reality of this ostensible belief of English Episcopalians in the sacredness of their churches and cathedrals. If the English, especially English Churchmen, act with regard to their ecclesiastical buildings in the way our Saviour acted with regard to the temple, then it is but fair to hold that their belief in their sacredness is real. But if, on the contrary, we find them acting, not as our Saviour acted, but as the money-changers or the cattle-sellers acted, then is it equally fair to conclude 164 that their belief in their sacredness is not a real belief, but a piece of mere pretence. In the north transept of York Minster there may be seen a table like a tomb of black Purbec marble, supported by an iron trellis, and bearing atop the effigy of a wasted corpse wrapped in a winding-sheet. ‘This monument,’ says a little work descriptive of the edifice, ‘was erected to the memory of John Haxby, formerly treasurer to the church, who died in 1424; and in compliance with stipulations in some of the ancient church deeds and settlements, occasional payments of money are made on this tomb to the present day.’ Here, at least, is one money-changing table introduced into the consecrated area, and this not irregularly or surreptitiously, like the money-changing tables which of old profaned the temple, but through the deliberately formed stipulations of ecclesiastical deeds and settlements. The state of things in St. Paul’s and Westminster, however, throws the money-table of York Minster far into the shade. The holinesses of St. Paul’s we found converted into a twopenny, and those of Westminster into a sixpenny show. For the small sum of twopence one may be admitted, at an English provincial fair, to see the old puppet exhibition of Punch and Judy, and of Solomon in all his glory; and for the small sum of twopence were we admitted, in like manner, to see St. Paul’s, to see choir, communion-table, and grand altar, and everything else of peculiar sacredness within the edifice. The holinesses of Westminster cost thrice as much, but were a good bargain notwithstanding. Would English Churchmen permit, far less originate and insist in doggedly maintaining, so palpable a profanation, did they really believe their cathedrals to be holy? The debased Jewish priesthood of the times of our Saviour suffered the money-changers to traffic unchallenged within the temple; but they did not convert the temple itself into a twopenny show: they did not make halfpence by exhibiting the table of shew-bread, 165 the altar of incense, and the golden candlestick, nor lift up corners of the veil at the rate of a penny a peep. It is worse than nonsense to hold that a belief in the sacredness of ecclesiastical buildings can co-exist with clerical practices of the kind we describe: the thing is a too palpable improbability; the text quoted by the Englishman is conclusive on the point. Would any man in his senses now hold that the old Jewish priests really believed their temple to be holy, had they done, what they had decency enough not to do––converted it into a raree-show? And are we not justified in applying to English Churchmen the rule which would be at once applied to Jewish priests? The Presbyterians of Scotland do not deem their ecclesiastical edifices holy, but there are certain natural associations that throw a degree of solemnity over places in which men assemble to worship God; and in order that these may not be outraged, they never convert their churches into twopenny show-boxes. Practically, at least, the Scotch respect for decency goes a vast deal further than the English regard for what they profess, very insincerely it would seem, to hold sacred.

We have said there is quite as little New Testament authority for consecrating a place of worship as for baptizing a bell; and if in the wrong, can of course be easily set right. If the authority exists, it can be no difficult matter to produce it. We would fain ask the reader to remark the striking difference which obtains between the Mosaic and the New Testament dispensations in all that regards the materialisms of their respective places of worship. We find in the Pentateuch chapter after chapter occupied with the mechanism of the tabernacle. The pattern given in the mount is as minutely described as any portion of the ceremonial law, and for exactly the same reason: the one as certainly as the other was ‘a figure of things to come.’ How exceedingly minute, too, the description of the temple! How very particular the narrative of its dedication! The 166 prayer of Solomon, Heaven-inspired for the occasion, forms an impressive chapter in the sacred record, that addresses itself to all time. But when the old state of things had passed away,––when the material was relinquished for the spiritual, the shadow for the substance, the type for the antitype,––we hear no more of places of worship to which an intrinsic holiness attached, or of imposing rites of dedication. Not in edifices deemed sacred was the gospel promulgated, so long as the gospel remained pure, but in ‘hired houses’ and ‘upper rooms,’ or ‘river-sides, where prayer was wont to be made,’ in chambers on the ‘third loft,’ often in the streets, often in the market-place, in the fields and by solitary waysides, on shipboard and by the sea-shore, ‘in the midst of Mars Hill’ at Athens, and, when persecution began to darken, amid the deep gloom of the sepulchral caverns of Rome. The time had evidently come, referred to by the Saviour, when neither in the temple at Jerusalem, nor on the mountain deemed sacred by the Samaritans, was the Father to be worshipped; but all over the world, ‘in spirit and in truth.’ Until Christianity had become corrupt, we do not hear even of ornate churches, far less of Christian altars, of an order of Christian priests, of the will-worship of consecration, or of the presumed holiness of insensate matter,––all unauthorized additions of man’s making to a religion fast sinking at the time under a load of human inventions,––additions which were in no degree the more sacred, because filched, amid the darkness of superstition and error, from the abrogated Mosaic dispensation. The following is, we believe, the first notice of fine Christian churches which occurs in history;––we quote from the ecclesiastical work of Dr. Welsh, and deem the passage a significant one:––‘From the beginning of the reign of Gallienus till the nineteenth year of Diocletian,’ says the historian, ‘the external tranquillity of the Church suffered no general interruption. The Christians, with partial exceptions, were 167 allowed the free exercise of their religion. Under Diocletian open profession of the new faith was made even in the imperial household; nor did it prove a barrier to the highest honours and employments. In this state of affairs the condition of the Church seemed in the highest degree prosperous. Converts were multiplied throughout all the provinces of the empire; and the ancient churches proving insufficient for the accommodation of the increasing multitudes of worshippers, splendid edifices were erected in every city, which were filled with crowded congregations. But with this outward appearance of success, the purity of faith and worship became gradually corrupted; and, still more, the vital spirit of religion suffered a melancholy decline. Pride and ambition, emulation and strifes, hypocrisy and formality among the clergy, and superstitions and factions among the people, brought reproach on the Christian cause. In these circumstances the judgments of the Lord were manifested, and the Church was visited with the severest persecution to which it ever yet had been subjected.’

There are few more valuable chapters in Locke than the one in which he traces some of the gravest errors that infest human life to a false association of ideas. But of all his illustrations, employed to exhibit in the true light this copious source of error, there is not one half so striking as that furnished by the false association which connects the holiness that can alone attach to the living and the immortal, with earth, mortar, and stone, pieces of mouldering serge, and bits of rotten wood. Nearly one half of the errors with which Popery has darkened and overlaid the religion of the Cross, have originated in this particular species of false association. The superstition of pilgrimages, with all its long catalogue of crime and suffering, inclusive of bloody wars, protracted for ages,––-

‘When men strayed far to seek
In Golgotha Him dead who lives in heaven,’––


the idolatry of relics, so strangely revived on the Continent in our own times,––the allegorical will-worship embodied in stone and lime, which Puseyism is at present so busy in introducing into the Church of England, and which renders every ecclesiastical building a sort of apocryphal temple, full, like the apocryphal books, of all manner of error and nonsense,––a thousand other absurdities and heterodoxies besides,––have all originated in this cause. True, such association is most natural to man, and, when of a purely secular character, harmless; nay, there are cases in which it may be even laudably indulged. ‘When I find Tully confessing of himself,’ says Johnson, ‘that he could not forbear at Athens to visit the walks and houses which the old philosophers had frequented or inhabited, and recollect the reverence which every nation, civil and barbarous, has paid to the ground where merit has been buried, I am afraid to declare against the general voice of mankind, and am inclined to believe that this regard which we involuntarily pay to the meanest relique of a man great and illustrious, is intended as an incitement to labour, and an encouragement to expect the same renown if it be sought by the same virtues.’ We find nearly the same sentiment eloquently expounded in the Doctor’s famous passage on Iona. But there exists a grand distinction between natural feelings proper in their own place, and natural feelings permitted to enter the religious field, and vitiate the integrity of revelation. It is from the natural alone in such cases that danger is to be apprehended; seeing that what is not according to the mental constitution of man, is of necessity at once unproductive and shortlived. Let due weight be given to the associative feeling, in its proper sphere,––let it dispose us to invest with a quiet decency our places of worship,––let us, at all events, not convert them into secular counting-rooms or twopenny show-boxes; but let us also remember that natural association is not 169 divine truth––that there attaches no holiness to slated roofs or stone walls––that under the New Testament dispensation men do not worship in temples, which, like the altar of old, sanctified the gift, but in mere places of shelter, that confer no sacredness on their services; and that the ‘hour has come, and now is, when they that worship the Father must worship Him in spirit and in truth.’

April 15, 1846.



Our last conveyed to our readers the mournful intelligence of the illness and death of the Rev. Alexander Stewart of Cromarty,––a man less known, perhaps, than any other of nearly equal calibre, or of a resembling exquisitiveness of mental faculty, which his country has ever produced, but whose sudden removal has, we find, created an impression far beyond the circle of even his occasional hearers, that the spirit which has passed away was one of the high cast which nature rarely produces, and that the consequent blank created in the existing phalanx of intellect is one which cannot be filled up. Comparatively little as the deceased was known beyond his own immediate walk of duty or circle of acquaintanceship, it is yet felt by thousands, of whom the greater part knew of him merely at second-hand by the abiding impression which he had left on the minds of the others, that, according to the poet,

A mighty spirit is eclipsed; a power
Hath passed from day to darkness, to whose hour
Of light no likeness is bequeathed––no name.’

The subject is one with which we can scarce trust ourselves. There are no writings to which we can appeal, for Mr. Stewart has left none, or at least none suited to convey an adequate impression of his powers; and yet of nothing are we more thoroughly convinced, than that the originality and vigour of his thinking, and the singular 171 vividness and force of his illustrations, added to a command of the principles of analogical reasoning, which even a Butler might have envied, entitled him to rank with the ablest and most extraordinary men of the age. Coleridge was not more thoroughly original, nor could he impart to his pictures more vividness of colouring, or more decided strength of outline. In glancing over our limited stock of idea, to note how we have come by it, we find that to two Scotchmen of the present century we stand more largely indebted than to any of their contemporaries, either at home or abroad. More of their thinking has got into our mind than that of any of the others; and their images and illustrations recur to us more frequently. And one of these is Thomas Chalmers; the other, Alexander Stewart.

There is an order of intellect decidedly original in its cast, and of considerable power, to whom notwithstanding originality is dangerous. Goldsmith, when he first entered on his literary career, found that all the good things on the side of truth had already been said; and that his good things, if he really desired to produce any, would require all to be said on the side of paradox and error. ‘When I was a young man,’ he states, in a passage which Johnson censured him for afterwards expunging, ‘being anxious to distinguish myself, I was perpetually starting new propositions. But I soon gave this over, for I found that generally what was new was false.’ Poor Edward Irving formed a melancholy illustration of this species of originality. His stock of striking things on the side of truth was soon expended; notoriety had meanwhile become as essential to his comfort as ardent spirits to that of the dram-drinker, or his pernicious drug to that of the inveterate opium-eater; and so, to procure the supply of the unwholesome pabulum, without which he could not continue to exist, he launched into a perilous ocean of heterodoxy and extravagance, and made shipwreck of his faith. His originality formed but 172 the crooked wanderings of a journeyer who had forsaken the right way, and lost himself in the mazes of a doleful wilderness. Not such the originality of the higher order of minds; not such, for instance, the originality of a Newton, of whom it has been well said by a distinguished French critic, that ‘what province of thought soever he undertook, he was sure to change the ideas and opinions received by the rest of men.’ One of the most striking characteristics of Mr. Stewart’s originality was the solidity of the truths which it always evolved. His was not the ability of opening up new vistas in which all was unfamiliar, simply because the direction in which they led was one in which men’s thought had no occasion to travel, and no business to perform. It was, on the contrary, the greatly higher ability of enlarging, widening, and lengthening the avenues long before opened upon important truths, and, in consequence, enabling men to see new and unwonted objects in old, familiar directions. That in which he excelled all men we ever knew, was the analogical faculty––the power of detecting and demonstrating occult resemblances. He could read off as if by intuition––not by snatches and fragments, but as a consecutive whole––that older revelation of type and symbol which God first gave to man; and when privileged to listen to him, we have recognised, in the evident integrity of the reading, and the profound and consistent wisdom of what the record conveyed, a demonstration of the divinity of its origin, not less powerful and convincing than that to be found in any department of the Christian evidences yet opened up. Compared with even the higher names in this department, we have felt under his ministry as if, when admitted to the company of some party of modern savans employed in deciphering a hieroglyphic-covered obelisk of the desert, and here successful in discovering the meaning of an insulated sign, and there of a detached symbol, we had been suddenly joined by some sage of the olden time, 173 to whom the mysterious inscription was but a piece of common language written in a familiar alphabet, and who could read off fluently and as a whole what the others could but darkly and painfully guess at in detached and broken parts.

To this singular power of tracing analogies there was added in Mr. Stewart an ability of originating the most vivid illustrations. In some instances a single stroke produced a figure that swept across the subject-matter of his discourse like the image of a lantern on a wall; in others, he dwelt upon the picture produced, finishing it with stroke after stroke, until it filled the whole imagination, and sank deep into the memory. We remember hearing him preach on one occasion on the return of the Jews, as a people, to Him whom they had rejected, and the effect which their sudden conversion could not fail to have on the unbelieving and Gentile world. Suddenly his language, from its high level of eloquent simplicity, became at once that of metaphor: ‘When Joseph,’ he said, ‘shall reveal himself to his brethren, the whole house of Pharaoh shall hear the weeping.’ Could there be an allusion of more classical beauty, or more finely charged with typical truth? And yet such was one of the common and briefer exercises of the illustrative faculty in this gifted man. On another occasion we heard him dwell on that vast profundity characteristic of the scriptural representations of God, which ever deepens and broadens the longer and the more thoroughly it is explored, until at length the student––struck at first by its expansiveness, but conceiving of it as if it were a mere measured expansiveness––finds that it partakes of the unlimited infinity of the divine nature itself. Naturally and simply, as if growing out of the subject, like a green berry-covered misletoe on the mossy trunk of a reverend oak, there sprang up one of his more lengthened illustrations. A child bred up in the interior of the country has been 174 brought for the first time to the sea-shore, and carried out to the middle of one of the noble friths that indent so deeply our line of coast; and on his return he informs his father, with all a child’s eagerness, of the wonderful expansiveness of the ocean which he has seen. He went out, he tells, far amid the great waves and the rushing tides, till at length the huge hills seemed diminished into mere hummocks, and the wide land itself appeared along the waters but as a slim strip of blue. And then when in mid-sea the sailors heaved the lead; and it went down, and down, and down, and the long line slipped swiftly away over the boat-edge coil after coil, till, ere the plummet rested on the ouse below, all was well-nigh expended. And was it not the great sea, asks the boy, that was so vastly broad, and so profoundly deep? Ah! my child, exclaims the father, you have not yet seen aught of its greatness,––you have sailed over merely one of its little arms. Had it been out into the wide ocean that the seamen had carried you, you would have seen no shore, and you would have found no bottom. In one rare quality of the orator, Mr. Stewart stood alone among his contemporaries. Pope refers, in one of his satires, to a strange power of creating love and admiration by just ‘touching the brink of all we hate;’ and Burke, in some of his nobler passages, happily exemplifies the thing. He intensified the effect of his burning eloquence by the employment of figures so homely, nay, almost so repulsive in themselves, that a man of lower powers who ventured their use would find them efficient merely in lowering his subject and ruining his cause. We may refer, in illustration, to Burke’s celebrated figure of the disembowelled bird, which occurs in his indignant denial that the character of the revolutionary French in aught resembled that of the English. ‘We have not,’ he says, ‘been drawn and trussed, in order that we may be filled, like stuffed birds in a museum, with chaff and rags, and paltry blurred shreds of paper about the rights of man.’ 175 Into this perilous but singularly effective department, closed against even superior men, Mr. Stewart could enter safely and at will. We heard him, scarce a twelvemonth since, deliver a discourse of singular power, on the sin-offering of the Jewish economy, as minutely particularized by the divine penman in Leviticus. He described the slaughtered animal––foul with dust and blood––its throat gashed across––its entrails laid open––and steaming in its impurity to the sun, as it awaited the consuming fire, amid the uncleanness of ashes outside the camp,––a vile and horrid thing, which no one could see without experiencing emotions of disgust, nor touch without contracting defilement. The picture appeared too painfully vivid, its introduction too little in accordance with the rules of a just taste. It seemed a thing to be covered up, not exhibited. But the master in this difficult walk well knew what he was doing. ‘And that,’ he said, as if pointing to the strongly-coloured picture he had just completed, ‘and that is SIN.’ By one stroke the intended effect was produced, and the rising disgust and horror transferred from the revolting material image to the great moral evil.

We had fondly hoped that for a man so singularly gifted, and who had but reached the ripe maturity of middle life, there remained important work yet to do. He seemed peculiarly fitted, if but placed in a commanding sphere, for ministering to some of the intellectual wants, and for withstanding with singular efficiency some of the more perilous tendencies, of the religious world in the present day. That Athenian thirst for the new so generally abroad, and which many have so unhappily satisfied with the unwholesome and the pernicious, he could satisfy with provision at once sound and novel. And no man of the age had more thoroughly studied the prevailing theological errors of the time in their first insidious approaches, or could more skilfully indicate the exact point at which they diverge from 176 the truth. But his work on earth is for ever over; and the sense of bereavement is deepened by the reflection that, save in the memory of a few, he has left behind him no adequate impress of the powers of his understanding or of the fineness of his genius. It is strange how much the lack of a single ingredient in a man’s moral constitution––and that, too, an ingredient in itself of a low and vulgar cast––may affect one’s whole destiny. It was the grand defect of this gifted man, that that sentiment of self-esteem, which seems in many instances so absurd and ridiculous a thing, and which some, in their little wisdom, would so fain strike out from among the components of human character, was almost wholly awanting. As the minister of an attached provincial congregation, a sense of duty led him to study much and deeply; and he poured forth viva voce his full-volumed and many-sparkling tide of eloquent idea as freely and richly as the nightingale, unconscious of a listener, pours forth her melody in the shade. But he could not be made to understand or believe, that what so impressed and delighted the privileged few who surrounded him was equally suited to impress and delight the many outside, or that he was fitted to speak through the press in tones which would compel the attention not merely of the religious, but also of the literary world. And so his exquisitely-toned thinking perished like the music of the bygone years, has died with himself, or, we should perhaps rather say, has gone with him to that better land, where all those fruits of intellect that the human spirits of greatest calibre have in this world produced, must form but the comparatively meagre beginnings of infinite, never-ending acquirement.

Mr. Stewart was one of the eminently excellent and loveable, and his entire character of the most transparent, childlike simplicity. The great realities of eternity were never far distant from his thoughts. Endowed with powers of humour at least equal to his other faculties, and a sense of 177 the ludicrous singularly nice, he has often reminded us in his genial moments, when indulging most freely, of a happy child at play in the presence of its father. Never was there an equal amount of wit more harmlessly indulged, or from which one could pass more directly or with less distraction to the contemplation of the matters which pertain to eternity. And no one could be long in his company without having his thoughts turned towards that unseen world to which he has now passed, or without receiving emphatic testimony regarding that Divine Person who is the wisdom and the power of God.

We have seen it stated that Mr. Stewart ‘was slow to join the non-intrusion party, and to acquiesce in the necessity of the secession.’ On this point we are qualified to speak. No one enjoyed more of his society during the first beginnings of the controversy, or was more largely honoured with his confidence, than the writer of these remarks; and the one point of difference between Mr. Stewart and him in their discussions in those days was, that while the writer was sanguine enough to anticipate a successful termination to the Church’s struggle, his soberer anticipations were of a character which the Disruption in 1843 entirely verified. But with the actual result full in view, he was yet the first man in his parish––we believe, in his presbytery also––to take his stand, modestly and unassumingly as became his character, but with a firmness which never once swerved or wavered. Nay, long ere the struggle began, founding on data with which we pretend not to be acquainted, he declared his conviction to not a few of his parishioners, that of the Establishment, as then constituted, he was to be the last minister in that parish. We know nothing, we repeat, of the data on which he founded; but he himself held that the conclusion was fairly deducible from those sacred oracles which no man more profoundly studied or more thoroughly knew. Alas! 178 what can it betoken our Church, that we should thus see such men, at once its strength and its ornament, so fast falling around us, like commanding officers picked down at the beginning of a battle, and that so few of resembling character, and none of at least equal power, should be rising to occupy the places made desolate by their fall!

November 13, 1847.



There are some two or three slight advantages which real merit has, that fictitious merit has not; among the rest, an especial advantage, which, we think, should recommend it to at least the quieter members of society––the advantage of being unobtrusive and modest. It presses itself much less on public notice than its vagabond antagonist, and makes much less noise; it walks, for a time at least, as if slippered in felt, and leaves the lieges quite at freedom to take notice of it or no, as they may feel inclined. It is content, in its infancy, to thrive in silence. It does not squall in the nursery, to the disturbance of the whole house, like ‘the major roaring for his porridge.’ What, for instance, could be quieter or more modest, in its first stages, than the invention of James Watt? what more obtrusive or noisy, on the contrary, than the invention of Mr. Henson? And we have illustrations of the same truth in our Scottish metropolis at the present moment, that seem in no degree less striking. Phreno-mesmerism and the calotype have been introduced to the Edinburgh public about much the same time; but how very differently have they fared hitherto! A real invention, which bids fair to produce some of the greatest revolutions in the fine arts of which they have ever been the subject, has as yet attracted comparatively little notice; an invention which serves but to demonstrate that the present age, with all its boasted enlightenment, may yet not be very unfitted for the reception of superstitions the most irrational and gross, is 180 largely occupying the attention of the community, and filling column after column in our public prints. We shall venture to take up the quieter invention of the two as the genuine one,––as the invention which will occupy most space a century hence,––and direct the attention of our readers to some of the more striking phenomena which it illustrates, and some of the purposes which it may be yet made to subserve. There are few lovers of art who have looked on the figures or landscapes of a camera obscura without forming the wish that, among the hidden secrets of matter, some means might be discovered for fixing and rendering them permanent. If nature could be made her own limner, if by some magic art the reflection could be fixed upon the mirror, could the picture be other than true? But the wish must have seemed an idle one,––a wish of nearly the same cast as those which all remember to have formed at one happy period of life, in connection with the famous cap and purse of the fairy tale. Could aught seem less probable than that the forms of the external world should be made to convert the pencils of light which they emit into real bona fide pencils, and commence taking their own likenesses? Improbable as the thing may have seemed, however, there were powers in nature of potency enough to effect it, and the newly discovered art of the photographer is simply the art of employing these. The figures and landscapes of the camera obscura can now be fixed and rendered permanent,––not yet in all their various shades of colour, but in a style scarce less striking, and to which the limner, as if by anticipation, has already had recourse. The connoisseur unacquainted with the results of the recent discovery, would decide, if shown a set of photographic impressions, that he had before him the carefully finished drawings in sepia of some great master. The stronger lights, as in sketches done in this colour, present merely the white ground of the paper; a tinge of 181 soft warm brown indicates the lights of lower tone; a deeper and still deeper tinge succeeds, shading by scarce perceptible degrees through all the various gradations, until the darker shades concentrate into an opaque and dingy umber, that almost rivals black in its intensity. We have at the present moment before us––and very wonderful things they certainly are––drawings on which a human pencil was never employed. They are strangely suggestive of the capabilities of the art. Here, for instance, is a scene in George Street,––part of the pavement; and a line of buildings, from the stately erection at the corner of Hanover Street, with its proud Corinthian columns and rich cornice, to Melville’s Monument and the houses which form the eastern side of St. Andrew Square. St. Andrew’s Church rises in the middle distance. The drawing is truth itself; but there are cases in which mere truth might be no great merit: were the truth restricted here to the proportions of the architecture, there could be nothing gained by surveying the transcript, that could not be gained by surveying the originals. In this little brown drawing, however, the truth is truth according to the rules of lineal perspective, unerringly deduced; and from a set of similar drawings, this art of perspective, so important to the artist––which has been so variously taught, and in which so many masters have failed––could be more surely acquired than by any other means. Of all the many treatises yet written on the subject, one of the best was produced by the celebrated Ferguson the astronomer, the sole fruit derived to the fine arts by his twenty years’ application to painting. There are, however, some of his rules arbitrary in their application, and the propriety of which he has not even attempted to demonstrate. Here, for the first time, on this square of paper, have we the data on which perspective may be rendered a certain science. We have but to apply our compasses and rules in order to discover 182 the proportions in which, according to their distances, objects diminish. Mark these columns, for instance. One line prolonged in the line of their architrave, and another line prolonged in the line of their bases, bisect one another in the point of sight fixed in the distant horizon; and in this one important point we find all the other parallel lines of the building converging. The fact, though unknown to the ancients, has been long familiar to the artists of comparatively modern times,––so familiar, indeed, that it forms one of the first lessons of the drawing-master. The rule is a fixed one; but there is another rule equally important, not yet fixed,––that rule of proportion by which to determine the breadth which a certain extent of frontage between these converging lines should occupy. The principle on which the horizontal lines converge is already known, but the principle on which the vertical lines cut these at certain determinate distances is not yet known. It is easy taking the latitudes of the art, if we may so speak, but its longitudes are still to discover. At length, however, have we the lines of discovery indicated: in the architectural drawings of the calotype the perspective is that of nature itself; and to arrive at just conclusions, we have but to measure and compare, and ascertain proportions. One result of the discovery of the calotype will be, we doubt not, the production of completer treatises on perspective than have yet been given to the world. Another very curious result will be, in all probability, a new mode of design for the purposes of the engraver, especially for all the illustrations of books. For a large class of works the labours of the artist bid fair to be restricted to the composition of tableaux vivants, which it will be the part of the photographer to fix, and then transfer to the engraver. To persons of artistical skill at a distance, the suggestion may appear somewhat wild. Such of our readers, however, as have seen the joint productions of Mr. Hill and Mr. Adamson in this department, will, we are convinced, not deem it 183 wild in the least. Compared with the mediocre prints of nine-tenths of the illustrated works now issuing from the press, these productions serve admirably to show how immense the distance between nature and her less skilful imitators. There is a truth, breadth, and power about them which we find in only the highest walks of art, and not often even in these. We have placed a head of Dr. Chalmers taken in this way beside one of the most powerful prints of him yet given to the public, and find from the contrast that the latter, with all its power, is but a mere approximation. There is a skinniness about the lips which is not true to nature; the chin is not brought strongly enough out; the shade beneath the under lip is too broad and too flat; the nose droops, and lacks the firm-set appearance so characteristic of the original; and while the breadth of the forehead is exaggerated, there is scarce justice done to its height. We decide at once in favour of the calotype––it is truth itself; and yet, while the design of the print––a mere approximation as it is––must have cost a man of genius much pains and study, the drawing in brown beside it was but the work of a few seconds: the eye of an accomplished artist determined the attitude of the original, and the light reflected from the form and features accomplished the rest. Were that sketch in brown to be sent to a skilful engraver, he would render it the groundwork of by far the most faithful print which the public has yet seen. And how interesting to have bound up with the writings of this distinguished divine, not a mere print in which there might be deviations from the truth, but the calotype drawing itself! In some future book sale, copies of the Astronomical Discourses with calotype heads of the author prefixed, may be found to bear very high prices indeed. An autograph of Shakespeare has been sold of late for considerably more than an hundred guineas. What price would some early edition of his works bear, 184 with his likeness in calotype fronting the title? Corporations and colleges, nay, courts and governments, would outbid one another in the purchase. Or what would we not give to be permitted to look even on a copy of the Paradise Lost with a calotype portrait of the poet in front––serenely placid in blindness and adversity, solacing himself, with upturned though sightless eyes, amid the sublime visions of the ideal world? How deep the interest which would attach to a copy of Clarendon’s History of the Civil War, with calotypes of all the more remarkable personages who figured in that very remarkable time––Charles, Cromwell, Laud, Henderson, Hampden, Strafford, Falkland, and Selden,––and with these the Wallers and Miltons and Cowleys, their contemporaries and coadjutors! The history of the Reform Bill could still be illustrated after this manner; so also could the history of Roman Catholic Emancipation in Ireland, and the history of our Church Question in Scotland. Even in this department––the department of historic illustrations––we anticipate much and interesting employment for the photographer.

We have two well-marked drawings before us, in which we recognise the capabilities of the art for producing pictures of composition. They are tableaux vivants transferred by the calotype. In the one[Footnote: See Frontispiece] a bonneted mechanic rests over his mallet on a tombstone––his one arm bared above his elbow; the other wrapped up in the well-indicated shirt folds, and resting on a piece of grotesque sculpture. There is a powerful sun; the somewhat rigid folds in the dress of coarse stuff are well marked; one half the face is in deep shade, the other in strong light; the churchyard wall throws a broad shadow behind, while in the foreground there is a gracefully chequered breadth of intermingled dark and light in the form of a mass of rank grass and foliage. Had an old thin man of striking figure and features been selected, 185 and some study-worn scholar introduced in front of him, the result would have been a design ready for the engraver when employed in illustrating the Old Mortality of Sir Walter. The other drawing presents a tableau vivant on a larger scale, and of a much deeper interest. It forms one of the groups taken under the eye of Mr. Hill, as materials for the composition of his historic picture. In the centre Dr. Chalmers sits on the Moderator’s chair, and there are grouped round him, as on the platform, some eighteen or twenty of the better known members of the Church, clerical and lay. Nothing can be more admirable than the truthfulness and ease of the figures. Wilkie, in his representations of a crowd, excelled in introducing heads, and hands, and faces, and parts of faces into the interstices behind,––one of the greatest difficulties with which the artist can grapple. Here, however, is the difficulty surmounted––surmounted, too, as if to bear testimony to the genius of the departed––in the style of Wilkie. We may add further, that the great massiveness of the head of Chalmers, compared with the many fine heads around him, is admirably brought out in this drawing.

In glancing over these photographic sketches, one cannot avoid being struck by the silent but impressive eulogium which nature pronounces, through their agency, on the works of the more eminent masters. There is much in seeing nature truthfully, and in registering what are in reality her prominent markings. Artists of a lower order are continually falling into mere mannerisms––peculiarities of style that belong not to nature, but to themselves, just because, contented with acquirement, they cease seeing nature. In order to avoid these mannerisms, there is an eye of fresh observation required––that ability of continuous attention to surrounding phenomena which only superior men possess; and doubtless to this eye of fresh observation, this ability of continuous attention, the masters 186 owed much of their truth and their power. How very truthfully and perseveringly some of them saw, is well illustrated by these photographic drawings. Here, for instance, is a portrait exactly after the manner of Raeburn. There is the same broad freedom of touch; no nice miniature stipplings, as if laid in by the point of a needle––no sharp-edged strokes: all is solid, massy, broad; more distinct at a distance than when viewed near at hand. The arrangement of the lights and shadows seems rather the result of a happy haste, in which half the effect was produced by design, half by accident, than of great labour and care; and yet how exquisitely true the general aspect! Every stroke tells, and serves, as in the portraits of Raeburn, to do more than relieve the features: it serves also to indicate the prevailing mood and predominant power to the mind. And here is another portrait, quiet, deeply-toned, gentlemanly,––a transcript apparently of one of the more characteristic portraits of Sir Thomas Lawrence. Perhaps, however, of all our British artists, the artist whose published works most nearly resemble a set of these drawings is Sir Joshua Reynolds. We have a folio volume of engravings from his pictures before us; and when, placing side by side with the prints the sketches in brown, we remark the striking similarity of style that prevails between them, we feel more strongly than at perhaps any former period, that the friend of Johnson and of Burke must have been a consummate master of his art. The engraver, however, cannot have done full justice to the originals. There is a want of depth and prominence which the near neighbourhood of the photographic drawings renders very apparent: the shades in the subordinate parts of the picture are more careless and much less true; nor have the lights the same vivid and sunshiny effect. There is one particular kind of resemblance between the two which strikes as remarkable, because of a kind which could 187 scarce be anticipated. In the volume of prints there are three several likenesses of the artist himself, all very admirable as pieces of art, and all, no doubt, sufficiently like, but yet all dissimilar in some points from each other. And this dissimilarity in the degree which it obtains, one might naturally deem a defect––the result of some slight inaccuracy in the drawing. Should not portraits of the same individual, if all perfect likenesses of him, be all perfectly like one another? No; not at all. A man at one moment of time, and seen from one particular point of view, may be very unlike himself when seen at another moment of time, and from another point of view. We have at present before us the photographic likenesses of four several individuals––three likenesses of each––and no two in any of the four sets are quite alike. They differ in expression, according to the mood which prevailed in the mind of the original at the moment in which they were imprinted upon the paper. In some respects the physiognomy seems different; and the features appear more or less massy in the degree in which the lights and shadows were more or less strong, or in which the particular angle they were taken in brought them out in higher or lower relief.

We shall venture just one remark more on these very interesting drawings. The subject is so suggestive of thought at the present stage, that it would be no easy matter to exhaust it; and it will, we have no doubt, be still more suggestive of thought by and by; but we are encroaching on our limits, and must restrain ourselves, therefore, to the indication of just one of the trains of thought which it has served to originate. Many of our readers must be acquainted with Dr. Thomas Brown’s theory of attention,––‘a state of mind,’ says the philosopher, ‘which has been understood to imply the exercise of a peculiar intellectual power, but which, in the case of attention to objects of sense, appears to be nothing more than 188 the co-existence of desire with the perception of the object to which we are said to attend.’ He proceeds to instance how, in a landscape in which the incurious gaze may see many objects without looking at or knowing them, a mere desire to know brings out into distinctness every object in succession on which the desire fixes. ‘Instantly, or almost instantly,’ continues the metaphysician, ‘without our consciousness of any new or peculiar state of mind intervening in the process, the landscape becomes to our vision altogether different. Certain parts only––those parts which we wished to know particularly––are seen by us; the remaining parts seem almost to have vanished. It is as if everything before had been but the doubtful colouring of enchantment, which had disappeared, and left us the few prominent realities on which we gaze; or rather as if some instant enchantment, obedient to our wishes, had dissolved every reality beside, and brought closer to our sight the few objects which we desired to see.’ Now, in the transcript of the larger tableau vivant before us––that which represents Dr. Chalmers seated among his friends on the Moderator’s chair––we find an exemplification sufficiently striking of the laws on which this seemingly mysterious power depends. They are purely structural laws, and relate not to the mind, but to the eye,––not to the province of the metaphysician, but to that of the professor of optics. The lens of the camera obscura transmits the figures to the prepared paper, on quite the same principle on which in vision the crystalline lens conveys them to the retina. In the centre of the field in both cases there is much distinctness, while all around its circumference the images are indistinct and dim. We have but to fix the eye on some object directly in front of us, and then attempt, without removing it, to ascertain the forms of objects at some distance on both sides, in order to convince ourselves that the field of distinct vision is a very limited field indeed. And 189 in this transcript of the larger tableau vivant we find exactly the same phenomena. The central figures come all within the distinct field. Not so, however, the figures on both sides. They are dim and indistinct; the shades dilute into the lights, and the outlines are obscure. How striking a comment on the theory of Brown! We see his mysterious power resolved in that drawing into a simple matter of light and shade, arranged in accordance with certain optical laws. The clear central space in which the figures are so distinct, corresponds to the central space in the retina; it is the attention-point of the picture, if we may so speak. In the eye this attention-point is brought to bear, through a simple effort of the will, on the object to be examined; and the rest of the process, so pleasingly, but at the same time so darkly, described by the philosopher, is the work of the eye itself.



It has been remarked by Sir James Mackintosh, that there are four great works, in four distinct departments of knowledge, which have more visibly and extensively influenced opinion than any other productions of the human intellect. The first of these is the Treatise on the Law of War and Peace, by Grotius. It appeared about two centuries ago; and from that period downwards, international law became a solid fact, which all civilised countries have recognised, and which even the French Convention, during the Reign of Terror, dared, in its madness, to outrage but for a moment. The second is the Essay on the Human Understanding, by Locke. It struck down, as with the blow of a hatchet, the wretched mental philosophy of the dark ages,––that philosophy which Puseyism, in its work of diffusing over the present the barbarism and ignorance of the past, would so fain revive and restore, and which has been ever engaged, as its proper employment, in imparting plausibility to error and absurdity, and in furnishing apology for crime. The third was the Spirit of Laws, by Montesquieu. It placed legislation on the basis of philosophy; and straightway law began to spring up among the nations out of a new soil. The fourth and last great work––An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, by Adam Smith––was by far the most influential of them all. ‘It is,’ says Sir James, ‘perhaps the only book which produced an immediate, general, and irrevocable change in some of the most 191 important parts of the legislation of all civilised states. Touching those matters which may be numbered, and measured, and weighed, it bore visible and palpable fruit. In a few years it began to alter laws and treaties, and has made its way throughout the convulsions of revolution and conquest to a due ascendant over the minds of men, with far less than the average obstructions of prejudice and clamour, which check the channels through which truth flows into practice.’

And yet, though many of the seeds which this great work served to scatter sprung up thus rapidly, and produced luxuriant crops, there were others, not less instinct with the vital principles, of which the germination has been slow. The nurseryman expects, in sowing beds of the stone-fruit-bearing trees, such as the plum or the hawthorn, to see the plants spring up very irregularly. One seed bursts the enveloping case, and gets up in three weeks; another barely achieves the same work in three years. And it has been thus with the harder-coated germens of the Wealth of Nations. It is now exactly eighty years since the philosopher set himself to elaborate the thinking of his great work in his mother’s house in Kirkcaldy, and exactly seventy years since he gave it to the world. It appeared in 1776; and now, for the first time, in 1846, the Queen’s Speech, carefully concocted by a Conservative Ministry, embodies as great practical truths its free-trade principles. The shoot––a true dicotyledon––has fairly got its two vigorous lobes above the surface: freedom of trade in all that the farmer rears, and freedom of trade in all that the manufacturer produces; and there cannot be a shadow of doubt that it will be by and by a very vigorous tree. No Protectionist need calculate, from its rate of progress in the past, on its rate of progress in the future. Nearly three generations have come and gone since, to vary the figure, the preparations for laying the train began; but now that 192 the train is fairly ready and fired, the explosion will not be a matter of generations at all. Explosions come under an entirely different law from the law of laying trains. It will happen with the rising of the free-trade agitation as with the rising of water against a dam-head stretched across a river. Days and weeks may pass, especially if droughts have been protracted and the stream low, during which the rising of the water proves to be a slow, silent, inefficient sort of process, of half-inches and eighth-parts; but when the river gets into flood,––when the vast accumulation begins to topple over the dam-dyke,––when the dyke itself begins to swell, and bulge, and crack, and to disgorge, at its ever-increasing flaws and openings, streams of turbid water,––let no one presume to affirm that the after-process is to be slow. In mayhap one minute more, in a few minutes at most, stones, sticks, turf, the whole dam-dyke, in short, but a dam-dyke no longer, will be roaring adown the stream, wrapped up in the womb of an irresistible wave. Now there have been palpable openings, during the last few months, in the Protectionist dam-head. We pointed years since to the rising of the water, and predicted that it would prevail at last. But the droughts were protracted, and the river low. Good harvests and brisk trade went hand in hand together; and the Protectionist dam-head––though feeble currents and minute waves beat against it, and the accumulation within rose by half-inches and eighth-parts––stood sure. But the river is now high in flood––the waters are toppling over––the yielding masonry has begun to bulge and crack. The Queen’s Speech, when we consider it as emanating from a Conservative Ministry, indicates a tremendous flaw; the speech of Sir Robert Peel betrays an irreparable bulge; the sudden conversions to free-trade principles of officials and place-holders show a general outpouring at opening rents and crannies: depend on it, Protectionists, your dam-dyke, patch or prop it as 193 you please, is on the eve of destruction; yet a very little longer, and it will be hurtling down the stream.

For what purpose, do we say? Simply in the hope of awakening to a sense of their true interest, ere it be too late, a class of the Scottish people in which we feel deeply interested,––we mean the tenant agriculturists of the kingdom. They have in this all-important crisis a battle to fight; and if they do not fight and win it, they will be irrevocably ruined by hundreds and thousands. The great Protectionist battle––the battle in which they may make common cause with their landlords if they will, against the League, and the Free-Trade Whigs, and Sir Robert Peel, and Adam Smith, and the Queen––is a battle in which to a certainty they will be beat. They may protract the contest long enough to get so thoroughly wearied as to be no longer fit for the other great battle which awaits them; but they may depend on it as one of the surest things in all the future, that they will have to record a disastrous issue. They must be defeated. We would fain ask them––for it is sad to see men spending their strength to no end––to look fairly at the aspect things are beginning to wear, and the ever-extending front which is arraying against them. We would ask them first to peruse those chapters in Adam Smith which in reality form the standing-ground of their opponents,––chapters whose solid basis of economic philosophy has made anti-corn-law agitation and anti-corn-law tracts and speeches such formidable things. We would ask them next to look at the progress of the League, at its half-million fund, its indomitable energy and ever-growing influence. We would then ask them to look at the recent conversions of Whig and Tory to free-trade principles, at the resignation of Sir Robert Peel, and the proof the country received in consequence, that in the present extremity there is no other pilot prepared to take the helm; at the strangely marked Adam Smith cast of the Queen’s 194 Speech; and at the telling facts of Sir Robert’s explanatory statement. We request them to take a cool survey of all these things, and to cogitate for themselves the issue which they so clearly foretell. It seems as certain that free-trade principles are at last to be established in Britain, as that there is a sun in the sky. Nor does there seem much wisdom in fighting a battle that is inevitably to be lost. The battle which it is their true interest to be preparing to fight, is one in which they must occupy the ground, not of agriculturists, but simply of tenants: it is a battle with the landlords, not with the free-traders.

We believe Dr. Chalmers is right in holding that, ultimately at least, the repeal of the corn-laws will not greatly affect the condition of our agriculturists. There is, however, a transition period from which they have a good deal to dread. The removal of the protective duties on meat and wool has not had the effect of lowering the prices of either; but the fear of such an effect did for a time what the repeal of the duties themselves failed to do, and bore with disastrous consequences on the sheep and cattle market. And such a time may, we are afraid, be anticipated on the abolition of the corn-laws. Nay, it is probable that, even when the transition state shall be over, there will be a general lowering of price to the average of that of the Continent and America,––an average heightened by little more than the amount of the true protective duties of the trade,––the expense of carriage from the foreign farm to the British market. And woe to the poor tenant, tied down by a long lease to a money-rent rated according to the average value of grain under the protective duties, if the defalcation is to fall on him! If he has to pay the landlord according to a high average, and to be paid by the corn-factor according to a low one, he is undone. And his real danger in the coming crisis indicates his proper battle. It is not with his old protector Sir Robert that he should be preparing 195 to fight; it is, we repeat, with his old ally the landholder. Nay, he will find, ultimately at least, that he has no choice in the matter. With Sir Robert he may fight if it please him, and fight, as we have shown, to be beaten; but with the landlord he must fight, whether he first enter the lists with Sir Robert or no. When his preliminary struggle shall have terminated unsuccessfully, he shall then without heart, without organization, without ally, have to enter on the inevitable struggle,––a struggle for very existence. We of course refer to landlords as a class: there are among them not a few individuals with whom the tenant will have no struggle to maintain,––conscientious men, at once able and willing to adjust their demands to the circumstances of the new state of things. But their character as a class does not stand so high. Many of their number are in straitened circumstances,––so sorely burdened with annuities and mortgages, as to be somewhat in danger of being altogether left, through the coming change, without an income; and it is not according to the nature of things that the case of the tenant should be very considerately dealt with by them. When a hapless crew are famishing on the open sea, and the fierce cannibal comes to be developed in the man, it is the weaker who are first devoured. Now we would ill like to see any portion of our Scotch tenantry at the mercy of wild, unreasoning destitution in the proprietor. We would ill like to see him vested with the power to decide absolutely in his own case, whether it was his tenant that was to be ruined, or he himself that was to want an income, knowing well beforehand to which side the balance would incline. Nor would we much like to see our tenantry at the mercy of even an average class of proprietors, by no means in the extreme circumstances of their poorer brethren, but who, with an unimpeachable bond in their hands, that enabled them to say whether it was they themselves or their tenant neighbours 196 who were to be the poorer in consequence of the induced change, would be but too apt, in accordance with the selfish bent of man’s common nature, to make a somewhat Shylock-like use of it. Stout men who have fallen into reduced circumstances, and stout paw-sucking bears in their winter lodgings, become gradually thin by living on their own fat; and quite right it is that gross men and corpulent bears should live on their own fat, just because the fat is their own. But we would not deem it right that our proprietors should live on their farmers’ fats: on the contrary, we would hold it quite wrong, and a calamity to the country; and such, at the present time, is the great danger to which the tenantry of Scotland are exposed. Justice imperatively demands, that if some such change is now to take place in the value of farms, as that which took place on the regulation of the currency in the value of money, the ruinous blunder of 1819 should not be repeated. It demands that their actual rent be not greatly increased through the retention of the merely nominal one; that the tenant, in short, be not sacrificed to a term wholly unchanged in sound, but altogether altered in value. And such, in reality, is the object for which the farm-holding agriculturists of Scotland have now to contend. It is the only quarrel which they can prosecute with a hope of success.

We referred, in a recent number, when remarking on the too palpable unpopularity of the Whigs, to questions which, if animated by a really honest regard for the liberties of the subject, they might agitate, and grow strong in agitating, secure of finding a potent ally in the moral sense of the country. One of these would involve the emancipation of the tenantry of England, now sunk, through one of the provisions of the Reform Bill, into a state of vassalage and political subserviency without precedent since at least the days of Henry VIII. It has been well remarked by Paley, 197 that the direct consequences of political innovations are often the least important; and that it is from the silent and unobserved operation of causes set at work for different purposes, that the greatest revolutions take their rise. ‘Thus,’ he says, ‘when Elizabeth and her immediate successor applied themselves to the encouragement and regulation of trade by many wise laws, they knew not that, together with wealth and industry, they were diffusing a consciousness of strength and independency which could not long endure, under the forms of a mixed government, the dominion of arbitrary princes.’ And again: ‘When it was debated whether the Mutiny Act––the law by which the army is governed and maintained––should be temporal or perpetual, little else probably occurred to the advocates of an annual bill, than the expediency of retaining a control over the most dangerous prerogative of the Crown––the direction and command of a standing army; whereas, in its effect, this single reservation has altered the whole frame and quality of the British constitution. For since, in consequence of the military system which prevails in neighbouring and rival nations, as well as on account of the internal exigencies of Government, a standing army has become essential to the safety and administration of the empire, it enables Parliament, by discontinuing this necessary provision, so to enforce its resolutions upon any other subject, as to render the king’s dissent to a law which has received the approbation of both Houses, too dangerous an experiment any longer to be advised.’ And thus the illustration of the principle runs on. We question, however, whether there be any illustration among them more striking than that indirect consequence of the Reform Bill on the tenantry of England to which we refer. The provision which conferred a vote on the tenant-at-will, abrogated leases, and made the tiller of the soil a vassal. The farmer who precariously holds his farm from year to year cannot, 198 of course, be expected to sink so much capital in the soil, in the hope of a distant and uncertain return, as the lessee certain of a possession for a specified number of years; but some capital he must sink in it. It is impossible, according to the modern system, or indeed any system of husbandry, that all the capital committed to the earth in winter and spring should be resumed in the following summer and autumn. A considerable overplus must inevitably remain to be gathered up in future seasons; and this overplus remainder, in the case of the tenant-at-will, is virtually converted into a deposit, lodged in the hands of the landlord, to secure the depositor’s political subserviency and vassalage. Let him but once manifest a will and a mind of his own, and vote, in accordance with his convictions, contrary to the will of the landlord, and straightway the deposit, converted into a penalty, is forfeited for the offence. It is surely not very great Radicalism to affirm that a state of things so anomalous ought not to exist––that the English tenant should be a freeman, not a serf––and that he ought not to be bound down by a weighty penalty to have no political voice or conscience of his own. The simple principle of ‘No lease, no vote,’ would set all right; and it is a principle which so recommends itself to the moral sense as just, that an honest Whiggism would gain, in agitating its recognition and establishment, at once strength and popularity. But there are few Scotch tenants in the circumstances of vassalage so general in England. They are in circumstances in which they at least may act independently; and the time is fast coming in which they must either make a wise, unbiassed use of their freedom, or be hopelessly crushed for ever.

January 28, 1846.



We trust we may now look back on by far the most disastrous passage which occurs in the military history of Great Britain, as so definitively concluded, that in the future we shall be unable to trace it as still disadvantageously operative in its effects. A series of decisive victories has neutralized, to a considerable extent, the influence of the most fatal campaign in which a British army was ever engaged. But this is all. One of our poets, in placing in a strong light the extreme folly of war, describes ‘most Christian kings’ with ‘honourable ruffians in their hire,’ wasting the nations with fire and sword, and then, when fatigued with murder and sated with blood, ‘setting them down just where they were before.’ It is quite melancholy enough that our most sanguine expectations with regard to the Affghan war should be unable to rise higher by a hair’s-breadth than the satiric conception of the poet. We can barely hope, after squandering much treasure, after committing a great deal of crime, after occasioning and enduring a vast amount of wretchedness, after a whole country has been whitened with the bones of its inhabitants, after a British army has perished miserably,––we can barely hope that our later successes may have had so far the effect of effacing the memory of our earliest disasters, that we shall be enabled to sit down under their cover on the eastern bank of the Indus, ‘just where we were before.’ And even this is much in the circumstances. 200

We have seen the British in India repeat the same kind of fatal experiment which cost Napoleon his crown, and from which Charles XII. dated his downfall; and repeat it, in the first instance at least, with a result more disastrous than either the flight from Pultowa or the retreat from Moscow. And though necessarily an expedition on a similar scale, it seemed by no means improbable that its ultimate consequences might bear even more disastrously on British power in the East, than the results of the several expeditions into Russia, under Charles and Napoleon, bore on the respective destinies of Sweden and of France. That substratum of opinion in the minds of an hundred millions of Asiatics, on which British authority in India finds its main foundation, bade fair to be shivered into pieces by the shock.

There are passages in all our better histories that stand out in high relief, if we may so speak, from the groundwork on which they are based. They appeal to the imagination, they fix themselves in the memory; and after they have got far enough removed into the past to enable men to survey them in all their breadth, we find them caught up and reflected in the fictions of the poet and the novelist.

But it is wonderful how comparatively slight is the effect which most of them produce at the time of their occurrence. It would seem as if the great mass of mankind had no ability of seeing them in their real character, except through the medium of some superior mind, skilful enough to portray them in their true colours and proportions. Who, acquainted with the history of the plague in London, for instance, can fail being struck with the horrors of that awful visitation, as described in the graphic pages of Defoe? Who, that experienced the visitation of similar horrors which swept away in our own times one-tenth part of the human species, could avoid remarking that the reality was less suited 201 to impress by its actual presence, than the record by its touching pictures and its affecting appeals? The reality appealed to but the fears of men through the instinct of self-preservation, and even this languidly in some cases, leaving the imagination unimpressed; whereas the wild scenes of Defoe filled the whole mind, and impressed vividly through the influence of that sense of the poetical which, in some degree at least, all minds are capable of entertaining.

On a nearly similar principle, the country has not yet been able rightly to appreciate the disasters of Affghanistan. It has been unable to bestow upon them what we shall venture to term the historic prominence. When one after one the messengers reach Job, bearing tidings of fatal disasters, in which all his children and all his domestics have perished, the ever-recurring ‘and I only am escaped alone to tell thee,’ strikes upon the ear as one of the signs of a dispensation supernatural in its character. The narrative has already prepared us for events removed beyond the reach of those common laws which regulate ordinary occurrences. Did we find such a piece of history in any of our older chronicles, we would at once set it down, on Macaulay’s principle, as a ballad thrown out of its original verse into prose, and appropriated by the chronicler, in the lack of less questionable materials. But finding it in the Record of eternal truth, we view it differently; for there the supernatural is not dissociated from the true. How very striking, to find in the authentic annals of our own country a somewhat similar incident; to find the ‘I only am escaped alone to tell thee’ in the history of a well-equipped British army of the present day! There occurs no similar incident in all our past history. British armies have capitulated not without disgrace. In the hapless American war, Cornwallis surrendered a whole army to Washington, and Burgoyne another whole army to Gates and Arnold.

The British have had also their disastrous retreats. 202

The retreat from Fontenoy was at least precipitate; and there was much suffered in Sir John Moore’s retreat on Corunna. But such retreats have not been wholly without their share of glory, nor have such surrenders been synonymous with extermination. In the annals of British armies, the ‘I only have escaped alone to tell thee’ belongs to but the retreat from Cabul. It is a terrible passage in the history of our country––terrible in all its circumstances. Some of its earlier scenes are too revolting for the imagination to call up.

It is all too humiliating to conceive of it in the character of an unprincipled conspiracy of the civilised, horribly avenged by infuriated savages. It is a quite melancholy enough object of contemplation, in even its latter stages. A wild scene of rocks and mountains darkened overhead with tempest, beneath covered deep with snow; a broken and dispirited force, struggling hopelessly through the scarce passable defiles,––here thinned by the headlong assaults of howling fanatics, insensible to fear, incapable of remorse, and thirsting for blood,––there decoyed to destruction through the promises of cruel and treacherous chiefs, devoid alike of the sense of honour and the feeling of pity; with no capacity or conduct among its leaders; full of the frightful recollections of past massacres, hopeless of ultimate escape; struggling, however, instinctively on amid the unceasing ring of musketry from thicket and crag, exhibiting mile after mile a body less dense and extended, leaving behind it a long unbroken trail of its dead; at length wholly wasting away, like the upward heave of a wave on a sandy beach, and but one solitary horseman, wounded and faint with loss of blood, holding on his perilous course, to tell the fate of all the others. And then, the long after-season of grief and suspense among anxious and at length despairing relations at home, around many a cheerless hearth, and in many a darkened chamber, and the sadly frequent notice in 203 the obituaries of all our public journals, so significant of the disaster, and which must have rung so heavy a knell to so many affectionate hearts, ‘Killed in the Khyber Pass.’ To find passages of parallel calamity in the history of at least civilised countries, we have to ascend to the times of the Roman empire during its period of decline and disaster, when one warlike emperor, in battle with the Goth,

‘in that Serbonian bog,
Betwixt Damieta and Mount Cassus old,
With his whole army sank;’

or when another not less warlike monarch was hopelessly overthrown by the Persian, and died a miserable slave, exposed to every indignity which the invention of his ungenerous and barbarous conqueror could suggest.

Britain in this event has received a terrible lesson, which we trust her scarce merited and surely most revolting successes in China will not have the effect of wholly neutralizing. The Affghan war, regarded as a war of principle, was eminently unjust; regarded as a war of expediency, it was eminently imprudent. It seems to have originated with men of narrow and defective genius, not over largely gifted with the moral sense. We have had to refer on a former occasion to the policy adopted by Lord Auckland respecting the educational grants to Hindustan. An enlightened predecessor of his Lordship had decided that the assistance and patronage of the British Government should be extended to the exclusive promotion of European literature and science among the natives of India. His Lordship, in the exercise of a miserable liberalism, reversed the resolution, and diverted no inconsiderable portion of the Government patronage to the support of the old Hindustanee education,––a system puerile in its literature, contemptible in its science, and false in its religion. Our readers cannot have forgotten the indignant style of Dr. 204 Duff’s remonstrance. The enlightened and zealous missionary boldly and indignantly characterized the minute of his Lordship, through which this revolution was effected, as ‘remarkable chiefly for its omissions and commissions, for its concessions and compromises, for its education without religion, its plans without a Providence, and its ethics without a God.’ Such was the liberalism of Lord Auckland; and of at least one of the leading men whose counsel led to the Affghan expedition, and who perished in it, the liberalism, it is said, was of a still more marked and offensive character. What do we infer from the fact?

Not that Providence interfered to avenge upon them the sin of their policy: there would be presumption in the inference. But it may not be unsafe to infer, from the palpable folly of the Affghan expedition, that the liberalism in which Lord Auckland and some one or two of his friends indulged is a liberalism which weak and incompetent men are best fitted to entertain. His scheme of education and his Affghanistan expedition are specimens of mental production, if we may so speak, that give evidence of exactly the same cast and tendency regarding the order and scope of the genius which originated them. We have been a good deal struck by the shrewdness of one of Prince Eugene of Savoy’s remarks, that seems to bear very decidedly on this case. Two generals of his acquaintance had failed miserably in the conduct of some expedition that demanded capacity and skill, and yet both of them were unquestionably smart, clever men. ‘I always thought it would turn out so,’ said the Prince. ‘Both these men made open profession of infidelity; and I formed so low an opinion of their taste and judgment in consequence, that I made myself sure they would sooner or later run their heads into some egregious folly.’

It is satisfactory in every point of view that Britain should be at peace with China and the Affghans. War is an evil 205 in all circumstances. It is a great evil even when just; it is a great evil even when carried on against a people who know and respect the laws of nations. But it is peculiarly an evil when palpably not a just war, and when carried on against a barbarous people. It has been stated in private letters, though not officially, that a soldier of the 44th was burned alive by the Ghilzies in sight of the English troops, and that on the approach of the latter the throat of the tortured victim was cut to ensure his destruction. And it is the inference of an Indian newspaper from the fact, that such wretches are not the devoted patriots that they have been described by some, and that the war with them cannot, after all, be very unjust. We are inclined to argue somewhat differently. We believe the Scotch under Wallace were not at all devoid of patriotism, though they were barbarous enough to flay Cressingham, and to burn the English alive at Ayr. We believe further, that an unjust war is rendered none the less unjust from the circumstance of its being waged with a savage and cruel people. The barbarism of the enemy has but the effect of heightening its horrors, not of modifying its injustice. It is possible for one civilised man to fight with another, and yet retain his proper character as a man notwithstanding. But the civilised man who fights with a wild beast must assume, during the combat, the character of the wild beast. He cannot afford being generous and merciful; his antagonist understands neither generosity nor mercy. The war is of necessity a war of extermination. And such is always the character of a war between wild and civilised men. It takes its tone, not from the civilisation of the one, but from the cruel savageism of the other.

December 3, 1842.



The poet Gray held that in a neglected country churchyard, appropriated to only the nameless dead, there might lie, notwithstanding, the remains of undeveloped Miltons, Hampdens, and Cromwells,––men who, in more favourable circumstances, would have become famous as poets, or great as patriots or statesmen; and the stanzas in which he has embodied the reflection are perhaps the most popular in the language. One-half the thought is, we doubt not, just. Save for the madness of Charles, Cromwell would have died a devout farmer, and Hampden a most respectable country gentleman, who would have been gratefully remembered for half an age over half a county, and then consigned to forgetfulness. But the poets rarely die, however disadvantageously placed, without giving some sign. Rob Don, the Sutherlandshire bard, owed much less to nature than Milton did, and so little to learning that he could neither read nor write; and yet his better songs promise to live as long as the Gaelic language. And though both Burns and Shakespeare had very considerable disadvantages to struggle against, we know that neither of them remained ‘mute’ or ‘inglorious,’ or even less extensively known than Milton himself. It is, we believe, no easy matter to smother a true poet. The versifiers, placed in obscure and humble circumstances, who for a time complain of neglected merit and untoward fate, and then give up verse-making in despair, are always men who, with all their querulousness, have at least one cause of complaint more 207 than they ever seem to be aware of,––a cause of complaint against the nature that failed to impart to them ‘the divine vision and faculty.’ There are powers, however, admirably fitted to tell with effect in the literature of the country, for they have served to produce the most influential works which the world ever saw––works such as the Essay of Locke, the Peace and War of Grotius, and the Spirit of Laws of Montesquieu––which, with all their apparent robustness, are greatly less hardy than the poetic faculty, and which, unless the circumstances favourable to their development and exercise be present, fail to leave behind them any adequate record of their existence. It is difficult to imagine a situation in life in which Burns would not have written his songs, but very easy to imagine situations in which Robertson would not have produced his Scotland or his Charles V., nor Adam Smith his Wealth of Nations. We have no faith whatever in ‘mute, inglorious Miltons;’ but we do hold that there may be obscure country churchyards in which untaught Humes, guiltless of the Essay on Miracles, may repose, and undeveloped Bentleys and Warburtons, whose great aptitude for acquiring or capacity for retaining knowledge remained throughout life a mere ungratified thirst.

It has remained for the present age to throw one bar more in the way of able men of this special class than our fathers ever dreamed of; and this, curiously enough, just by giving them an opportunity of writing much, and of thinking incessantly. It is not, it would seem, by being born among ploughmen and mechanics, and destined to live by tilling the soil, or by making shoes or hobnails, that the ‘genial current of the soil is frozen,’ and superior talents prevented from accomplishing their proper work: it is by being connected with some cheap weekly periodical, or twice or thrice a week newspaper, and compelled to scribble on almost without pause or intermission for daily bread. 208 We have been led to think of this matter by an interesting little volume of poems, chiefly lyrical, which has just issued from the Edinburgh press,––the production of Mr. Thomas Smibert, a man who has lived for many years by his pen, and who introduces the volume by a prefatory essay, interesting from the glimpse which it gives of the literary disadvantages with which the professionally literary man who writes for the periodicals has to contend. Periodical literature is, he remarks, ‘to all intents and purposes a creation of the nineteenth century, in its principal existing phases, from Quarterly Reviews to Weekly Penny Magazines. Newspapers,’ he adds, ‘may justly be accounted the growth of the same recent era, the few previously published having been scarcely more than mere Gazettes, recording less opinions than bare public and business facts.’ The number of both classes of periodicals is now immensely great; and ‘equally vast, of necessity, is the amount of literary talent statedly and unremittingly engaged on these journals, while a large additional amount of similar talent finds in them occasional and ready outlets for its working.’ ‘When one or two leading Reviews, Quarterlies, and Monthlies alone existed, they called for no insignificant individual efforts of mind on the part of their chief conductors and supporters, and those parties almost took rank with the authors of single works of importance. But within the last twenty years periodical literature has become extensively hebdomadal, and even diurnal; and, as a necessary consequence, the essays of those sustaining it in this shape have decreased in proportionate value, at once from the larger amount of work demanded, and from the shorter time allowed for its execution. Such essays may serve the hour fairly, but can seldom be of high worth ultroneously.’ ‘The extent and variety of the labours called for at the hands of those actively engaged on modern cheap periodicals can scarcely be conceived by the uninitiated public. If their eyes were 209 opened on the subject, they would certainly wonder less why it is that the literary talent of the current generation does not tend to display itself by striking isolated efforts: they would also more readily understand wherefore parties in the situation of the present writer may well experience some unsatisfactory feelings in looking back on the labours of the past. Though years spent in respectable periodical writing can by no means be termed misspent, yet such a career presents in the retrospect but a multitude of disconnected essays on all conceivable themes, and such as too often prove their hurried composition by crudeness and imperfections.’ The consideration of such a state of things ‘may furnish a salutary lesson to the many among the young at this day, who, possessing some literary taste, imagine that the engagements of common life alone stand in the way of its successful development, and that to be enabled to pursue a life of professional writing in any shape would secure to them both fame and fortune to the height of their desires. They here err sadly. No doubt supereminent talents will sooner or later make themselves felt under almost any circumstances; but the position described assuredly offers no peculiar advantages for the furtherance of that end. Ebenezer Elliot, leaving his forge at eve with a wearied body, could yet bring to his favourite leisure tasks a mind less jaded than that of the littérateur by profession.’ ‘The regular periodicalist, too, of the modern class has usually no more stable interest in his compositions than has the counting-house clerk in the cash-books which he keeps. To publishers and conductors fall the lasting fruits. Let those among the young who feel the ambition to seek fame and fortune in the walks of literature think well of these things, and, above all, ponder seriously ere they quit, with such views, any fixed occupation of another kind.’

There is certainly food for thought here; and that, too, thought of a kind in which the public has a direct interest. 210 If such be the dissipating effect of writing for newspapers and the lighter periodicals, it is surely natural to infer that the exclusive reading of such works must have a dissipating effect also. It is too obvious that the feverish mediocrity of overwrought brains becomes infectious among the class who place themselves in too constant and unbroken connection with it, and that from the closets of over-toiled littérateurs an excited superficiality creeps out upon the age. And hence the necessity to which we have oftener than once referred, that men should keep themselves in wholesome connection with the master minds of the past. Mr. Smibert’s remarks preface, as we have said, a volume of sweet and tasteful verse; and we find him saying that, ‘most of all, the operation of Periodicalism has been unfavourably felt in the domain of poetry.’

‘The position of literature,’ he adds, ‘in the times of the Wordsworths, Crabbes, and Campbells of the age just gone by, was more favourable than at present to the devotion of talent to great undertakings. These men were assuredly not beset by the same seductive facilities as the littérateurs of the current generation for expending their powers on petty objects,––facilities all the more fascinating, as comprising the pleasures of immediate publicity, and perhaps even of repute for a day, if not also of some direct remuneration. These influences of full-grown Periodicalism extend now to all who can read and write. But it entices most especially within its vortex those who exhibit an unusually large share of early literary promise, involves them in multitudinous and multifarious occupation, and, in short, divides and subdivides the operations of talent, until all prominent identity is destroyed, both in works and workers. To the growth of this modern system, beyond question, is largely to be referred the comparative disappearance from among us of great literary individualities; or, to use other and more accurate words, by that system have 211 men of capacity been chiefly diverted from the composition of great individual works, and more particularly great poems.’

We are less sure of the justice of this remark of Mr. Smibert’s, than of that of many of the others. It is not easy, we have said, to smother a true poet; and we know that in the present age very genuine poetry has been produced in the offices of very busy newspaper editors. Poor Robert Nicoll never wrote truer poetry than when he produced his ‘Puir Folk’ and his ‘Saxon Chapel,’ at a time when he was toiling, as even modern journalist has rarely toiled, for the columns of the Leeds Times; and James Montgomery produced his ‘World before the Flood,’ ‘Greenland,’ and ‘The Pelican Island,’ with many a sweet lyric of still higher merit, when laboriously editing the Sheffield Iris. The ‘Salamandrine’ of Mr. Charles Mackay was written when he was conducting the sub-editorial department of a daily London paper; nor did he ever write anything superior to it. And we question whether Mr. Smibert himself, though he might have produced longer poems, would have written better ones than some of those contained in the present volume, even had his life been one of unbroken leisure. It seems natural to literary men, who fail in realizing their own conceptions of what they had wished and hoped to perform, to cast the blame upon their circumstances. Johnson could speak as feelingly, not much later than the middle of the last century, of the ‘dreams of a poet doomed at last to wake a lexicographer,’ as any literary man of the present time, who, while solicitously desirous to give himself wholly to the muses, is compelled to labour as a periodicalist for the wants of the day that is passing over him. But perhaps the best solace for the dissatisfaction which would thus wreak itself on mere circumstances, is that which Johnson himself supplies. ‘To reach below his own aim,’ says the moralist, ‘is incident to every one whose fancy is active, and whose views are comprehensive; nor is any man satisfied 212 with himself because he has done much, but because he can conceive little.’ But to labour and be forgotten is the common lot; and why should a literary man be more disposed to repine because his productions perish after serving a temporary purpose, than the gardener or farmer, whose vocation it is to supply the people with their daily food? If the provisions furnished, whether for mind or body, be wholesome, and if they serve their purpose, the producers must learn to be content, even should they serve the purpose only once, and but for a day. The danger of over-cropping, and of consequent exhaustion, is, of course, another and more serious matter; and of this the mind of the periodicalist is at least as much in danger as either field or garden when unskilfully wrought. But mere rest, which in course of time restores the exhausted earth, is often not equally efficient in restoring the exhausted mind; nor does mere rest, even were it a specific in the case, lie within the reach of the periodic writer. It is often the luxury for which he pants, but which he cannot command. One of the surest specifics in the case is, the specific of working just a little more,––of working for the work’s sake, whether at poem or history, or in the prosecution of some science, or in some antiquarian pursuit. There is an exquisite passage in one of the essays of Washington Irving, in which he compares the great authors––Shakespeare, for instance––who seem proof against the mutability of language, to ‘gigantic trees, that we see sometimes on the banks of a stream, which, by their vast and deep roots, penetrating through the mere surface, and laying hold on the very foundations of the earth, preserve the soil around them from being swept away by the ever-flowing current, and hold up many a neighbouring plant to perpetuity.’ And such is the service rendered by some pervading pursuit of an intellectual character, prosecuted for its own sake, to the intellect of the journalist. It is 213 the necessity imposed upon him of taking up subject after subject in the desultory, disconnected form in which they chance to arise, and then, after throwing together a few hastily collected thoughts upon each, of dismissing them from his mind, that induces first a habit of superficiality, and finally leaves him exhausted; and the counteractive course open to him is just to take up some subject on which the thinking of to-day may assist him in the thinking of to-morrow, and on which he may be as well informed and profound as his native capacity permits. All our really superior newspaper editors have pursued this course––more, however, we are disposed to think, from the bent of their nature than from the necessities of their profession; and the poetical volume of Mr. Smibert shows that he too has his engrossing pursuit. We recommend his little work to our readers, as one in which they will find much to interest and amuse. We have left ourselves little room for quotation; but the following stanzas, striking, both from their beauty and from the curious fact which they embody, may be regarded as no unfair specimen of the whole:––


‘The language of passion, and more peculiarly that of grief, is ever nearly the same.’

An Indian chief went forth to fight,
And bravely met the foe:
His eye was keen––his step was light––
His arm was unsurpassed in might;
But on him fell the gloom of night––
An arrow laid him low.
His widow sang with simple tongue,
When none could hear or see,
Ay, cheray me!
A Moorish maiden knelt beside
Her dying lover’s bed:
She bade him stay to bless his bride;
She called him oft her lord, her pride;
214 But mortals must their doom abide––
The warrior’s spirit fled.
With simple tongue the sad one sung,
When none could hear or see,
Ay, di me!
An English matron mourned her son,
The only son she bore:
Afar from her his course was run––
He perished as the fight was done––
He perished when the fight was won––
Upon a foreign shore.
With simple tongue the mother sung,
When none could hear or see,
Ah, dear me!
A Highland maiden saw
A brother’s body borne
From where, from country, king, and law,
He went his gallant sword to draw;
But swept within destruction’s maw,
From her had he been torn.
She sat and sung with simple tongue,
When none could hear or see,
Oh, hon-a-ree!
An infant in untimely hour
Died in a Lowland cot:
The parents own’d the hand of power
That bids the storm be still or lour;
They grieved because the cup was sour,
And yet they murmured not.
They only sung with simple tongue,
When none could hear or see,
Ah, wae’s me!

July 26, 1851.



We have now reached the close of the most wonderful year the world ever saw. None of our readers can be unacquainted with the poem in which Dryden celebrated the marvels of the year 1666,––certainly an extraordinary twelvemonth, though the English poet, only partially acquainted with the events which rendered it so remarkable, restricts himself, in his long series of vigorous quatrains, to the description of the two naval battles with the Dutch which its summer witnessed, and of the great fire of London which rendered its autumn so remarkable.

He might also have told that it was a year of great fear and expectation among both Christians and Jews. The Jews held that their Messiah was to come that year; and, in answer of the expectation, the impostor Sabbatei Levi appeared to delude and disappoint the hopes of that unhappy nation. There was an opinion nearly equally general in the Roman Catholic world, that it would usher in the Antichrist of New Testament prophecy; while among English Protestants it was very extensively believed that it was to witness the end of the world and the final judgment. It was remarkable, too, as the year in which oppression first compelled the Scotch Presbyterians of the reign of Charles II. to assume the attitude of armed resistance, and as forming, in the estimate of Burnet and other intelligent Protestants, the fifth great crisis of the Reformed religion in Europe. And such were the wonders of the Annus 216 Mirabilis of Dryden: two bloody naval engagements; a great fire; the appearance of a false Messiah; a widely-spread fear that the end of the world and the coming of Antichrist were at hand; the revolt from their allegiance to the reigning monarch of a sorely oppressed body of Christians, maddened by persecution; and a perilous crisis in the general history of Protestantism.

The year now at its close has been beyond comparison more remarkable. In the earlier twelvemonth, no real change took place in the existing state of things. Its striking events resembled merely the phenomena of a mid-winter storm in Greenland, where, over a frozen ocean, moveless in the hurricane as a floor of rock or of iron, the hail beats, and the thick whirling snows descend, and, high above head, the flashings of aurora borealis lend their many-coloured hues of mystery to the horrors of the tempest. Its transactions, picturesque rather than important, wholly failed to affect the framework of society. That floor of ice which sealed down the wide ocean of opinion retained all its mid-winter solidity, and furnished foundations as firm as before for the old despotic monarchies and the blood-stained persecuting churches. But how immensely different the events of the year now at an end! Its tempests have been, not those of a Greenland winter, but of a Greenland spring: the depths of society have been stirred to the dark bottom, where all slimy and monstrous things lie hid, and, under the irresistible upheavings of the ground-swell, the ice has broken up; and amid the wide weltering of a stormy sea, cumbered with the broken ruins of ancient tyrannies, civil and ecclesiastical, the eye can scarce rest upon a single spot on which to base a better order of things. The ‘foundations are removed.’ A time of great trouble has come suddenly upon the kingdoms of Europe––a time of ‘famines, and pestilences, and fearful sights, and great signs from heaven;’ ‘signs in the sun, and in the 217 moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring.’

The extreme stillness of the calm by which this wide-roaring tempest has been preceded, forms one of not the least extraordinary circumstances which impart to it character and effect. In the Vision of Don Roderick, the fated monarch is described as pausing for a time amid the deep silence of a vast hall, pannelled and floored with black marble, and sentinelled by two gigantic figures of rigid bronze that stand moveless against the farther wall. The one, bearing a scythe and sand-glass, is the old giant Time; the other, armed with an iron mace, is the grim angel of Destiny. Not a sound or motion escapes them. In that dim apartment nothing stirs save the sands in the glass, and the inflexible look of the stern mace-bearing sentinel marks how they ebb. The last grains are at length moving downwards––they sink, they disappear; and now, raising his ponderous mace, he dashes into fragments the marble wall: a scene of savage warfare gleams livid through the opening, and the wide vault re-echoes to the hollow tread of armies, the shrill notes of warlike trumpets, the rude clash of arms, and the wild shouts of battle. And such, during the last few years, has been the stillness of the preliminary pause, and such was the abrupt opening, when the predestined hour at length arrived, of those clamorous scenes of revolution and war which impart so remarkable a character to the year gone by. A twelvemonth has not yet passed since history seemed to want incident. Time and Destiny watched as statue-like sentinels in a quiet hall, walled round by the old rigid conventionalities, and human sagacity failed to see aught beyond them; the present so resembled the past, that it seemed over-boldness to anticipate a different complexion for the future. But, amid the unbreathing stillness, the appointed hour arrived. The rigid marble curtain of the old conventionalities was struck 218 asunder by the iron mace of Destiny; and the silence was straightway broken by a roar as if of many waters, by the wrathful shouts of armed millions––the thunderings of cannon, blent with the rattle of musketry––the wild shrieks of dismay and suffering––the wailings of sorrow and terror––the shouts of triumph and exultation––the despairing cry of sinking dynasties, and the crash of falling thrones. And with what strange rapidity the visions have since flitted along the opened chasm!

A royal proclamation forbids in Paris a political banquet; four short days elapse, and France is proclaimed a Republic, and Louis Philippe and his Ministers have fled. Britain at once recognises the Provisional Government; but what are the great despotisms of the Continent to do? Six days more pass, and the Canton of Neufchatel declares itself independent of Prussia. In a few days after, the Duke of Saxe-Cobourg-Gotha grants to his subjects a representative constitution, freedom of the press, and trial by jury; the King of Hanover has also to yield, and the King of Bavaria abdicates. These, however, are comparatively small matters. But still the flame spreads. There is a successful insurrection at Vienna, the very stronghold of despotism in central Europe; and the Prime Minister, Metternich, the grim personification of the old policy, is compelled to resign. Then follows an equally successful insurrection at Berlin; Milan, Vicenza, and Padua are also in open insurrection. Venice is proclaimed a Republic. Holstein declares itself independent of Denmark, Hungary of Austria, Sicily of Naples. Prague and Cracow have also their formidable outbreaks. Austria and Prussia proclaim new constitutions. Secondary revolutionary movements in both Paris and Vienna are put down by the military. There are bloody battles fought between the Austrians and the Piedmontese on the one hand, and the Germans and the Danes on the other; and, in a state of profound peace, the people 219 of a British port hear from their shores the boom of the hostile cannon. The Emperor of Austria abdicates his throne, the Pope flees his dominions, and a nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte is elected President of France. Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom, the ebullitions of the revolutionary element serve but to demonstrate its own weakness. In both England and Scotland, the moral and physical force of the country––in reality but one––arrays itself on the side of good order and the established institutions. A few policemen put down, without the assistance of the military, the long-threatened rebellion in Ireland; and the Sovereign Lady of the empire, after journeying among her subjects, attended by a retinue which only a few ages ago would have been deemed slender for a Scotch chieftain or one of the lesser nobility, and without a single soldier to protect her, and needing no such protection, spends her few weeks of autumn leisure in a solitary Highland valley,––a thousand times more secure in the affections of a devoted and loyal people than any other European monarch could have been in the midst of an army of an hundred thousand men. Such are some of the wonderful events which have set their stamp on the year now at its close.

We regard the old state of things as gone for ever. The foundations have broken up on which the ancient despotisms were founded. It would seem as if ‘the stone cut out without hands’ had fallen during the past year on the feet of the great image, and ground down into worthless rubbish the ‘iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold.’ And ‘the wind,’ though not yet risen to its height, seems fast rising, which will sweep them all away, ‘like the chaff of the summer thrashing-floor;’ so that ‘there shall be no place found for them.’ But while we can entertain no hope for the old decrepit despotisms, we cannot see in the infidel liberalism––alike unwise and immoral––by which they are 220 in the course of being supplanted, other than a disorganizing element, out of which no settled order of things can possibly arise. It takes the character, not of a reforming principle destined to bless, but of an instrument of punishment, with which vengeance is to be taken for the crimes and errors of the past; and, so far at least, a time when we need expect to witness but the struggles of the two principles––the old and the new––as they act and react against each other, stronger and weaker by turns, as they disgust and alienate by their atrocities in their hour of power such of the more moderate classes as had taken part with them in their hour of weakness. It is the grand error of our leading statesmen, that they fail to appreciate the real character of the crisis, and would fain deal with the consequent existing difficulties in that petty style of diplomatic manœuvre with which it was their wont to meet the comparatively light demands of the past. It would seem as if we had arrived at a stage in the world’s history in which statesmanship after this style is to be tolerated no longer. How instructive, for instance, the mode in which, for the present at least, an all-governing Providence has terminated the negotiations of this country with the Pope! Contrary to the wishes and principles of the sound-hearted portion of the British people, our leading statesmen open up by statute their diplomatic relations with the Pope, palpably with the desire of governing Ireland through the influence of that utterly corrupt religion which has made that unhappy island the miserable lazar-house that it is; and, lo! Providence strikes down the ghostly potentate, and virtually, for the present, divests him of that ‘property qualification’ in virtue of which the relation can alone be maintained. But not less infatuated than our statesmen, and even less excusably so, are those men––professedly religious and Protestant, but of narrow views and weak understandings––who can identify the cause of Christ with the old tottering despotisms 221 and the soul-destroying policy of princes such as the late Emperor of Austria, and of ministers such as Metternich. It would not greatly surprise us to see Protestants of this high Tory stamp, who have been zealous against Popery all their lives long, taking part in the ‘lament of the merchants and mariners’ over the perished Babylon, when they find that the representatives of the Roman Emperors must fall with the Roman See. There are two wild beasts, like those which Daniel saw in vision, contending together in fierce warfare,––the old Babylonish beast, horrid with the blood of saints, and its cruel executioner––the monster of Atheistic Liberalism; but Christ has identified His cause with neither. No reprieve from the prince awaits the condemned culprit; and with the disreputable and savage executioner he will hold no intercourse. Destruction, from which there is no escape, awaits equally on both.

We began with a reference to Dryden’s Year of Wonders: we conclude with an anecdote regarding that year, connected with the history of one of the most eminent judges and best men England ever produced. It needs no application, showing as it does, with equal simplicity and force, how and on what principle the terrors of years such as the ‘Annus Mirabilis’ of the seventeenth century, or the ‘Annus Mirabilis’ of our own, may be encountered with the greatest safety and the truest dignity. We quote from Bishop Burnet’s Life of Sir Matthew Hale:––

‘He’ (Sir Matthew), says the Bishop, ‘had a generous and noble idea of God in his mind; and this he found, above all other considerations, preserve his quiet. And, indeed, that was so well established in him, that no accidents, how sudden soever, were observed to discompose him, of which an eminent man of that profession gave me this instance:––In the year 1666 an opinion did run through the nation that the end of the world would come that year. This, whether set on by astrologers, or advanced by those who thought it 222 might have some relation to the number of the beast in the Revelation, or promoted by men of ill designs to disturb the public peace, had spread mightily among the people; and Judge Hale going that year the Western Circuit, it happened that, as he was on the bench at the assizes, a most terrible storm fell out very unexpectedly, accompanied with such flashes of lightning and claps of thunder, that the like will hardly fall out in an age; upon which a whisper ran through the crowd, “that now was the world to end, and the day of judgment to begin.” And at this there followed a general consternation in the whole assembly, and all men forgot the business they were met about, and betook themselves to their prayers. This, added to the horror raised by the storm, looked very dismal, insomuch that my author––a man of no ordinary resolution and firmness of mind––confessed it made a great impression on himself. But he told me “that he did observe the judge was not a whit affected, and was going on with the business of the court in his ordinary manner;” from which he made this conclusion: “that his thoughts were so well fixed, that he believed, if the world had been really to end, it would have given him no considerable disturbance!’”

December 30, 1848.



It is well that there should exist amongst the evangelistic churches at least a desire for union. We do not think they will ever be welded into one without much heat and many blows. Popery, with mayhap Infidelity for its assistant, will have first to blow up the coals and ply the hammer; but it is at least something that the various pieces of the broken and shivered Church catholic should be coming into contact, drawn together as if by some strong attractive influence, and that there should be so many attempts made to fit into each other, though with but indifferent success, the rough-edged inflexible fragments. It is much that the attractive influence should exist. Among the many inventions of modern times, a singularly ingenious one has been brought to bear on the smelting of iron. A powerful magnetic current is made to pass in one direction through the furnace, which imparts to each metallic particle a loadstone-like affinity for all the others; and no sooner has the heat set them free, than, instead of sinking, as in the old process, through the molten stony mass to the bottom, solely in effect of their superior gravity––a tedious, and in some degree uncertain process––they at once get into motion in the line of the current, and unite, in less than half the ordinary time under any other circumstances, into a homogeneous, coherent mass. May we not indulge the expectation of similar results from the magnetic current 224 of attraction, if we may so speak, which has so decidedly begun to flow through the evangelistic churches? True, so long as the little bits remain unmolten, however excellent their quality, they but clash and jangle together, if moved by the influence at all; but should the furnace come to be seven times heated, it will scarce fail to give unity of motion and a prompt coherency to all the genuine metal, however minute, in its present state, the particles into which it is separated, or however stubborn the stony matrices which dissociate these from the other particles, one in their origin and nature, that lie locked up in the sullen fragments around.

Never perhaps was there a time when the great disadvantages of disunion were so pressed in a practical form on the notice of the churches as at the present. It formed the complaint of one of our better English writers considerably more than a century ago, that we had religion enough to make us hate, but not enough to make us love, one another. At that time, however, sects, to employ one of Bacon’s striking phrases, ‘had not so grown to equality’ as now; and storms in the moral world, as in the natural ‘at the equinoxia,’ when night and day are equal, are commonly greatest, adds the philosopher, ‘when things do grow to equality.’ The unestablished Protestant denominations formed in the times of Queen Anne a mere feeble moiety, that could raise no efficient voice against the established religion; and Popery, newly thrust under feet, after a formidable struggle, that threatened to overturn the constitution of the country, had no voice at all. Matters are very different now: things have grown to an equality; night and day, as ‘at the equinoxia,’ have become nearly equal; and society can scarce take one step for the general benefit, without experiencing, as a thwarting and arresting influence, the effects of religious difference. Do we regret that the Government of a country such as ours should be 225 practically irreligious in its character? Alas! were every Government functionary in the empire a thoroughly religious man, Government could not act otherwise than it does in not a few instances, just in consequence of our religious differences. Are there millions of the people sinking into brutality and ignorance, and do our rulers originate a scheme of education in their behalf?––our religious differences straightway step in to arrest and cripple the design. Are there whole districts of country subjected to famine, and are we roused, both as Britons and as Christians, to contribute of our substance for their relief?––our religious differences immediately interfere; and a Church greatly more identified by membership with the sufferers than any other, has to fight a hard battle ere she can be permitted to co-operate in the general cause. Is there a ragged-school scheme originated in the capital, to rescue the neglected perishing young among us from out the very jaws of destruction?––forthwith rival institutions start up, on the ground of religious differences, to dwarf one another into inefficiency, like starveling shrubs in a nursery run wild; and projected exertions in the cause of degraded and suffering humanity degenerate into an attack on a benevolent Presbyterian minister, who refuses to accept, from conscientious motives, of a directorship in a Popish institution. This is surely a sad state of things,––a state grown very general, and which threatens to become more so; and in a due sense of the weakness for all good which it creates, and of the palpable state of disorganization and decomposition favourable to the growth of every species of evil, physical and moral, which it induces, we recognise at least one of the causes of the general desire for union. To no one circumstance has Rome owed more of its success than to the divisions of the Protestant Church; and great as that success has been in our own country, where, as ‘at the equinoxia,’ day and night are fast ‘growing to 226 equality,’ it is but slight compared with what she has experienced in America and the colonies. It is a serious consideration in an age like the present, in which the country looks to emigration for relief from the pressure of a superabundant population, that religion has suffered more in the colonies from its sectarian divisions, than from every other cause put together.

The way in which the mischief comes to be done is easily conceivable. The Protestant emigrants of the country quit it always, with regard to their churchmanship, as a mere undisciplined rabble. The Episcopalian sets sail in the same vessel, and for the same scene of labour, as the Independent––the Free Churchman with the Baptist––the Methodist with the Original Seceder––the Voluntary with the Establishment-man; and they squat down together on contiguous lots, amid the solitude of the forest. Were they all of one communion, there might be scarce any break created in their old habits of church-going and religious instruction. The community, considerable as a whole, though very inconsiderable in its parts when broken up into denominational septs, would have its minister of religion from its first settlement, or almost so; and, from the rapid increase which takes place in all new colonies in congenial countries and climates, the charge of such a minister would be soon a very important one, and adequate to the full development of the energies of a superior man.

But alas for the numerous denominational septs! Years must elapse, in some instances many years, ere––few and scattered, and necessarily deprived of every advantage of the territorial system––they can procure for themselves religious teachers: they fall gradually, in the interim, out of religious habits, or there rises among them a generation in which these were never formed; and when at length a sept does procure a teacher, generally, from the comparative fewness of their numbers, the extent of district over 227 which they are spread, and the lukewarmness induced among them by their years of deprivation––circumstances which make the charge of such a people no very desirable one to a man who can procure aught better, and which have some effect also in rendering their choice in such matters not very discriminating––he is frequently of a character little suited to profit them. They succeed too often in procuring not missionaries, nor men such as the ministers of higher standing, that divide the word to the congregations of the mother country, but the country’s mere remainder preachers, who, having failed in making their way into a living at home, seek unwillingly a bit of bread in the unbroken ground of the colonies. The circumstances of Popery as a colonizing religion are in all respects immensely more favourable. For every practical purpose, it is one and united: it is furnished with an army of clergy admirably organized, and set peculiarly loose for movement at the will of the general ecclesiastical body by their law of celibacy. It possesses in prolific Ireland a vast propelling heart, if we may so speak, ever working in sending out the blood of a singularly bigoted Romanism to every quarter of the world. It has already begun to influence the elections of the United States; and should the Papal superstition be destined to live so long, and should its membership continue to increase at the present ratio, there will be as many Papists a century hence in the great valley of the Mississippi, and the tracts adjacent, as are at present in all Europe. In no field in the present day has Rome more decidedly the advantage than in that of colonization; and it is surely a serious consideration that it should owe its successes in such large measure to the divisions of Protestantism.

But these divisions exist, and no amount of regret for the mischief which they occasion will serve to lessen them. We are not disposed to give up a single tenet which we 228 hold as Free Churchmen; and our brother Protestants of the other denominations are, we find, quite as tenacious of their distinctive holdings as ourselves. And so the evils consequent on disunion in infant colonies and settlements-evils which, when once originated, continue to propagate themselves for ages––must continue, in cases of promiscuous emigration, to be educed, and Rome to profit by them. We find a vigorous attempt to grapple with the difficulty, by rendering emigration not promiscuous, but select, originated by a branch of the New Zealand Company, which we deem worthy of notice. It is calculated, from the proportion which they bear to the entire population of the country, that from a thousand to fifteen hundred Free Church people emigrate from Scotland every year. A number equal to a large congregation quit it yearly for the colonies; but absorbed among all sorts of people––in Canada, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, the United States, Australia, and Southern Africa, etc. etc.––these never reappear as congregations, but are subjected, in their scattered, atomic state, to the deteriorating process, religious and educational, to which we have referred as inevitable under that economy of promiscuous emigration unhappily so common in these latter times. In an earlier age the case was different. The Pilgrim Fathers who first planted New England were so much at one in their tenets, that they had no difficulty in making the laws of the colony a foundation on which to erect the platform both of a general church and of an educational institute; and till this day, the character, moral and intellectual, of that part of the States tells of the wisdom of the arrangement. Now why, argue the Company, might not a similar result be produced in the present age, by directing the Free Church portion of the outward stream of emigration, or at least a sufficient part of it, into one locality? If the disastrous effects of division cannot be prevented by reconciling the 229 disagreements of those who already differ, they may be obviated surely, to a large extent, by bringing into juxtaposition those who already agree. And on this simple principle the Company has founded its Free Church colony of Otago. Of course, regarding the secular advantages of the colony, we cannot speak. New Zealand has been long regarded as the Great Britain of the southern hemisphere. It possesses for a European constitution peculiar advantages of climate; the neighbourhood of the settlement, for several hundred miles together, is deserted by the natives; Government is pledged to the appointment of a Royal Commissioner to watch over the interests of Her Majesty’s subjects in connection with the Company, and to afford them protection; the committee for promoting the settlement of the colony includes some of the most respected names in the Free Church; and thus, judged by all the ordinary tests, it seems to promise at least as well as any other resembling field of enterprise open at the present time. But respecting the principles involved in this scheme of colonization, we can speak more directly from the circumstance that we find them recognised as just and good by the General Assembly of our Church. The records of the Assembly of 1845 bear the following deliverance on the subject:––‘The General Assembly learn with great pleasure the prospect of the speedy establishment of the Scotch colony of New Edinburgh [now Otago] in New Zealand, consisting of members of the Free Church, and with every security for the colonists being provided with the ordinances of religion and the means of education in connection with this Church. Without expressing any opinion regarding the secular advantages or prospects of the proposed undertaking, the General Assembly highly approve of the principles on which the settlement is proposed to be conducted, in so far as the religious and educational interests of the colonists are concerned; and 230 the Assembly desire to countenance and encourage the association in these respects.’

We have seen the waste of mind which takes place in the colonies of a very highly civilised country adverted to in a rather fanciful and rationalistic connection with the desponding reply of the captive Jews to their spoilers: ‘How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?’ Ages, sometimes whole centuries, elapse, remarks the commentator, ere the colonies of even eminently literary nations come to possess poets and fine writers of their own. There is first a struggle for bare existence among the colonists, during which the higher branches of learning are necessarily neglected; and when a better time at length comes, the general mind is found to have acquired, during the struggle, a homely and utilitarian cast, which militates against the right appreciation, and of course the production, of what is excellent. And thus the true divinities of song fail to be sung in a foreign land. There is, we doubt not, truth in the remark, though somewhat quaintly expressed, and somewhat doubtfully derived. The necessities of a colony in its youth, and the peculiar cast of mind which they serve to induce, are certainly not favourable to the development of poetic genius. But there is, alas! another and more scriptural sense in which the ‘Lord’s song’ too often ceases to be sung in a strange land. We have already adverted to the process of deterioration, moral and religious, through which it comes to be silenced; and it is one of the advantages of the Otago scheme, that it makes provision in, we believe, the most effectual way possible, in the present divided state of Protestantism, for preventing a result so deplorable. Youth is an important season, as certainly in colonies as in individuals; and we question whether the characteristic recklessness of Yankeeism in the far west and south may not be legitimately traced to the neglected youthhead of the States in which it is most broadly apparent. 231 The deterioration of a single generation left to run wild may influence for the worse, during whole centuries, the character of a people; and who can predicate what these colonies of the southern hemisphere are yet to become? They may be great nations, influencing for good or evil the destinies of the species in ages of the world when Britain shall have sunk into a subordinate power, or shall have no name save in history. Those records of the past, from which we learn that states and peoples, as certainly as families and individuals, are born and die, and have their times of birth and of burial, may serve to convince us that the melancholy reflection of one of our later poets on this subject is by no means a fanciful one:

My heart has sighed in secret, when I thought
That the dark tide of time might one day close,
England, o’er thee, as long since it has closed
On Egypt and on Tyre,––that ages hence,
From the Pacific’s billowy loneliness,
Whose tract thy daring search revealed, some isle
Might rise, in green-haired beauty eminent,
And like a goddess glittering from the deep,
Hereafter sway the sceptre of domain
From pole to pole; and such as now thou art,
Perhaps New Zealand be. For who can say
What the Omnipotent Eternal One,
That made the world, hath purposed?’

June 16, 1847.



Of all the dangers to which the Free Church is at present exposed, we deem the danger of fine-bodyism at once the least dreaded and the most imminent. And the evil is in itself no light one: it marks, better than any of the other isms––even the heresies themselves––the sinking of a Church that is never to rise again. Churches have been affected by dangerous heresies both of the hot and the cold kinds, and have yet shaken them off and recovered. The Presbyterians of Ireland, now so sound in their creed, were extensively affected, little more than half a century ago, by Arian error and the semi-infidelity of Socinus; and the Church that in 1843 had become vigorous enough to dare the Disruption, recorded in the year 1796 its vote against missions, and framed in the year 1798 its law against church extension. But we know of no Church that ever recovered from fine-bodyism when the disease had once fairly settled into its confirmed and chronic state. In at least this age and country it exists as the atrophy of a cureless decline. It were well, however, that we should say what it is we mean by fine-bodyism; and we find we cannot do better than quote our definition from the first speech ever delivered by Chalmers in the General Assembly. ‘It is quite ridiculous to say,’ remarked this most sagacious of men, ‘that the worth of the clergy will suffice to keep them up in the estimation of society. This worth must be combined with importance. Give both worth and importance to the same individual, and what are the terms employed 233 in describing him? “A distinguished member of society, the ornament of a most respectable profession, the virtuous companion of the great, and a generous consolation to all the sickness and poverty around him.” These, Moderator, appear to me to be the terms peculiarly descriptive of the appropriate character of a clergyman, and they serve to mark the place which he ought to occupy; but take away the importance and leave only the worth, and what do you make of him? What is the descriptive term applied to him now? Precisely the term which I often find applied to many of my brethren, and which galls me to the very bone every moment I hear it––“a fine body”––a being whom you may like, but whom I defy you to esteem––a mere object of endearment––a being whom the great may at times honour with the condescension of a dinner, but whom they will never admit as a respectable addition to their society. Now, all that I demand from the Court of Teinds is to be raised, and that as speedily as possible, above the imputation of being “a fine body;” that they would add importance to my worth, and give splendour and efficacy to those exertions which have for their object the most exalted interests of the species.’

The Free Church has for ever closed her connection with the Court of Teinds; but her danger from fine-bodyism is in consequence all the greater, not the less. The Sustentation Fund is her Court of Teinds now; and it is to it that she has in the first instance to look for protection from the all-potent but insidious and vastly under-estimated evil under which no Church ever throve. The outed ministers are comparatively safe. Unless prudence be altogether wanting, and the wolf comes to the door, not, as in the child’s story-book, in the disguise of a soft-voiced girl, but in that of a gruff sheriff’s officer, they will continue to bear through life the old status of the Establishment, heightened by the éclat of the Disruption. But our younger men of 234 subsequent appointment stand on no such platform, nor will any of their contemporaries or successors step upon it as a matter of course when the heroes of the conflict have dropped away, and they come to occupy their vacant places. Their status will be found to depend on two circumstances, neither of them derived from the men of a former time––on their ability to maintain a respectable place among the middle classes, and on their scholastic acquirements and general manners. A half-paid, half-taught, half-bred minister of religion may be a very excellent man; we have seen such, both in England and our own country, among the non-Presbyterian Dissenters who laboured to do well, and were exceedingly in earnest; but no such type of minister will ever be found influential in Scotland, either in extending the limits of a Church, or in benefiting the more intelligent classes of the people. And the two circumstances of acquirement and remuneration will be found indissolubly connected. A Church of under-paid ministers, however fairly it may start, will, in the lapse of a generation, become a Church of under-taught and under-bred ministers also. Nor is there any chance that the evil, once begun, will ever cure itself, for the under-bred and the under-taught will be sure to continue the under-paid. That animating spirit of a Church, without which wealth and learning avail but little, money now, as of old, cannot buy; but the secular will be ever found to depend on the secular,––the general rate of secular acquirement on the general rate of secular remuneration; and unless both be pitched at a level very considerably above that of the labouring laity, which constitutes the great bulk of congregations, even the better ministers of a Church need not expect to escape fine-bodyism. And once infected with this fatal indisposition, they must be content to suffer, among other evils, the evil of being permitted to lay whatever claim to status they may choose, without challenge or contradiction. ‘Oh yes,’ it will be said, 235 should they assert that their Church is the Church of the nation, and that it is they themselves, and not the ministers of the Establishment, who are on the true constitutional ground,––‘Oh yes, Church of the nation, or, if ye will, Church of the whole world, or, in short, anything you please; for you are fine bodies.’ Chalmers exercised all his sagacity when he demanded of the Court of Teinds ‘to be raised, and that as speedily as possible, above the imputation of being a fine body.’ And what Chalmers demanded of the Court of Teinds, every minister of the Free Church ought to ask of the Sustentation Fund.

But how is the demand to be effectually made? It is well known to statesmen, who, when they once get a tax imposed by Parliament, can employ all the machinery of the police and the standing army––of fines, confiscations, and prisons––in exacting it, that yet, notwithstanding, in the arithmetic of finance two and two do not always make four. There are certain pre-existing laws to be studied––laws not of man’s passing, but which arise out of man’s nature and the true bearings and relations of things; and unless these be studied and conformed to, the Parliament-imposed tax, though backed by the constable and the jail, will realize but little. And if the statesman must study these laws, well may the Church do so, who has no constables in her pay, and to whom no jail-keys have been entrusted. It ought, we think, to be regarded as one fundamental law, that whatever has been gained by the seven years’ establishment of the Fund, should not be lightly perilled by bold and untried innovations. True, there may, on the one hand, be danger, if let too much alone, that its growth should be arrested, and of its passing into a stunted and hide-bound condition, little capable of increase; but the danger is at least as great, on the other, that if subjected to fundamental changes, it might lose that advantage of permanency which whatever is established 236 possesses in virtue of its being such; and which has its foundation in habit, and in that vague sense of responsibility which leads men to give, year after year, what they had been accustomed to give in the previous years, just because they had given it. Let it not be forgotten, that though much still remains to be done in connection with this Fund, much has been done already––that a voluntary tax of about eighty thousand pounds per annum, raised from about one-third, and that by no means the wealthiest third, of the Scottish people, is really not a small, but a great one––and that as great, and as worthy of being desired and equalled, do the other non-endowed Churches of the country regard it. No tampering, therefore, with its principle should be attempted: he was an eminently wise man who first devised and instituted it,––not once in an age do churches, or even countries, get such men to guide their affairs,––and it ought by all means to be permitted to set and consolidate in the mould which he formed for it. We would apply in this case the language of a philosophic writer of the last age, when speaking of government in general:––‘An established order of things,’ he said, ‘has an infinite advantage, by the very circumstance of its being established. To tamper, therefore, to try experiments upon it, upon the credit of supposed fitness and improvement, can never be the part of a wise man, who will bear a reverence for what carries the marks of the stability of age; and though he may attempt some improvements for the public good, yet will he adjust his innovations as much as possible to the ancient fabric, and preserve entire the chief pillars and supports of the institution.’

It ought, we hold, to be regarded as another law of the Fund, that the means taken to increase it should be means exclusively fitted to lead the givers to think of their duties, not of their rights. The Sustentation Fund is not the result of a tax properly so called, but an accumulation of freewill 237 offerings rendered to the Church by men who in this matter are responsible to God only. What the Church receives on these terms she can divide; but what the givers do not place at her disposal––what, on the contrary, they reserve for quite another purpose––she cannot lay hold of and distribute. It is not hers, but theirs; and the attempt to appropriate it might be very fatal. Hence the danger of the question regarding the appropriation for general purposes of supplements, which was mooted two years ago, but which was so promptly put down by the good sense of the Church. It would have led men to contend for their rights, and, in the struggle, to forget their duties; and the battle would have been a losing one for the Fund. We regard it as another law, that the distribution of the sustentation money entrusted to the Church should be a distribution, not discretionary, but fixed by definite enactment. A discretionary licence of distribution, extended to some central board or committee, even though under the general review of the Church, could not be other than imminently dangerous, because opposed in spirit to the very principle of Presbytery. And if Presbytery and the Sustentation Fund come into collision in the Free Church of Scotland, it is not difficult to say which of the two would go down. It has been shrewdly remarked by Hume, that in monarchies there is room for discretionary power––the laws under a great and wise prince may in some cases be softened, or partially suspended, and carried into full effect in others; but republics admit of no such discretionary authority––the laws in them must in every instance be thoroughly executed, or set aside altogether. Every act of discretionary authority is treason against the constitution. And so is it with Presbytery. Give to a central board or committee the power of sitting in judgment on the circumstances of ministers of their body, and of apportioning to one some thirty or forty 238 pounds additional, and of cutting down another to the average dividend, and, for a time at least, the Presbyterian independence is gone. But the reaction point once reached––and in the Free Church the process would not be a very tedious one––the discretionary authority would be swept away in the first instance, and the Sustentation Fund not a little damaged in the second. It is of paramount importance, therefore––a law on no account to be neglected or traversed––that the distribution of the Fund be regulated by rules so rigid and unbending, and of such general application, that the manifestation of favour or the exercise of patronage on the part of the board or committee authorized to watch over it may be wholly an impossibility.

It is, in the next place, of importance carefully to scan the sources whence the expected increase of the Fund is to come. The givers in the Free Church at the present time seem to lie very much in extremes. A considerable number, animated by the Disruption spirit, contribute greatly more to ministerial support, in proportion to their incomes, than the old Dissenters of the kingdom; but a still larger number, reposing indolently on the exertions of these, and in whom the habit has not been cultivated or formed, give considerably less. It was stated by Mr. Melvin, in the meeting of the United Presbyterian Synod held on Wednesday last, that, ‘on an average, the members of weak congregations in connection with their body contributed to the support of their minister about 14s. 6d. per annum, besides about 2s. 6d. for missionary purposes, while some of them contributed even as high as 25s. to 26s.’ Now, an average rate of contribution liberal as this, among the members of country congregations in the Free Church, would at once place the Fund in flourishing circumstances, and render it, unless its management was very unwise indeed, sufficient to maintain a ministry high above the dreaded level of fine-bodyism. Nor do we see why, if 239 we except the crushed and poverty-stricken people of some of the poorer Highland districts, Free Church congregations in the country should not contribute as largely to church purposes as United Presbyterian congregations in the same localities. The membership of both belong generally to the same level of society, and, if equally willing, are about equally able to contribute. Here, then, is a field which still remains to be wrought. Something, too, may be done at the present time, from the circumstance that the last instalment of the Manse Building Fund is just in the act of being paid, and those who have been subscribing for five years to this object, and formed a habit of periodic giving in relation to it, may be induced to transfer a portion of what they gave to the permanent fund, and so continue contributing. Ere, however, they can be expected to do so, they must be fairly assured that what they give is to be employed in strengthening and consolidating the Church, and in raising her ministers above the level of fine-bodyism, not in adding to her weakness by adding to her extent. Until a distinct pledge be given that there shall not be so much as a single new charge sanctioned until the yearly dividend amounts to at least a hundred and fifty pounds, we must despair of the Sustentation Fund. One may hopefully attempt the filling up of a tun, however vast its contents; but there can be no hope whatever in attempting the filling of a sieve. And if what is poured into the Sustentation Fund is to be permitted, instead of rising in the dividend, to dribble out incontinently in a feeble extension, it will be all too soon discovered that what we have to deal with is not the tun, but the sieve; and the laity, losing all heart, will cease their exertions, and permit their ministers to sink into poverty and fine-bodyism.

May 15, 1850.



Some six or eight months after the Disruption there occurred an amusing dispute between two Edinburgh newspapers, each of which aspired to represent the Establishment solely and exclusively, without coadjutor or rival. The one paper asserted that it was the vehicle of the Established Church, the other that it was the Church’s organ; and each, in asserting its own claim, challenged that of its neighbour. The organ was sure that the vehicle lacked the true vehicular character; and the vehicle threw grave doubts on the organship of the organ. In somewhat less than half a year, however, the dispute came suddenly to a close: the vehicle––like a luckless opposition coach, weak in its proprietorship––was run off the road, and broke down; and the triumphant organ, seizing eager hold of the name of its defunct rival as legitimate spoil, hung it up immediately under its own, as a red warrior of the West seizes hold of the scalp of a fallen enemy, and suspends it at his middle by his belt of wampum. The controversy, however, lasted quite long enough to lead curious minds to inquire how or on what principle a body so divided as the Established Church could possibly have either vehicle or organ.

If the organ, it was said, adequately represent Dr. Muir, it cannot fail very grievously to misrepresent Dr. Bryce; and if the vehicle be adapted to give public airings to the thoughts and opinions of the bluff old Moderates, those of Dr. Leishman and the Forty must travel out into the wind and the sunlight by an opposition conveyance. One organ 241 or one vehicle will be no more competent to serve a deliberative ecclesiastical body, diverse in its components, than one organ or vehicle will be able to serve a deliberative political body broken into factions. Single parties, as such––whether secular or ecclesiastical––may have their single organ apiece; but it seems as little possible that a Presbyterian General Assembly should have only one organ representative of the whole, as that a House of Lords or a House of Commons should have one organ representative of the whole. An organ of the Establishment in its present state of disunion, if at all adequately representative, could not fail to resemble Montgomery’s strange personification of war: ‘A deformed genius, with two heads, which, unlike those of Janus, were placed front to front; innumerable arms, branching out all around his shoulders, sides, and chest; and with thighs and legs as multitudinous as his arms. His twin faces,’ continues the poet, ‘were frightfully distorted: they glared, they grinned, they spat, they railed, and hissed, and roared; they gnashed their teeth, and bit, and butted with their foreheads at each other; his arms, wielding swords and spears, were fighting pell-mell together; his legs, in like manner, were indefatigably at variance, striding contrary ways, and trampling on each other’s toes, or kicking each other’s shins, as if by mutual consent.’ Such would be the true representative of an organ that adequately represented the Establishment.

We are led into this vein on the present occasion by a recent discussion in high quarters on the organship of the Free Church,––a Presbyterian body, be it remarked, as purely deliberative in its courts as the Parliament of the country, and at least sufficiently affected by the spirit of the age to include within its pale a considerable diversity of opinion. It is as impossible, from this cause alone, that the Free Church should be represented by a single organ, as that the House of Commons should be represented by a 242 single organ. The organ, for instance, that represented on the education question the Rev. Mr. Moody Stuart, would most miserably misrepresent the party who advocate the views of the great father of the Free Church––the late Dr. Chalmers.

The organ that represented the peculiar beliefs held, regarding the personal advent, by the party to which Mr. Bonar of Kelso belongs, would greatly misrepresent those of the party to which Mr. David Brown of Glasgow and Mr. Fairbairn of Saltoun belong. The organ that advocated Dr. Cunningham’s and Dr. James Buchanan’s views of the College question, would be diametrically opposed to the view of Dr. Brown of Aberdeen and Mr. Gray of Perth. The organ that contended for an ecclesiastical right to legislate on the temporalities according to the principle of Mr. Hay of Whiterig, would provoke the determined opposition of Mr. Makgill Crichton of Rankeillour. The organ that took part with the Evangelical and Sabbath Alliances in the spirit of Dr. Candlish of St. George’s, would have to defend its position against Mr. King of St. Stephen’s of the Barony; and the organ that espoused the sentiments held on tests by Mr. Wood of Elie, would find itself in hostile antagonism with those entertained on the same subject by Mr. Gibson of Kingston. And such are only a few of the questions, and these of an ecclesiastical or semi-ecclesiastical character, regarding which a diversity of views, sentiments, and opinions in the Free Church renders it impossible that it can be adequately represented by any one organ, even should that organ be of a purely ecclesiastical character. But a newspaper is not of a purely ecclesiastical character; and there are subjects on which it may represent a vast majority of the people of a Church, without in the least degree representing the Church itself, simply because they are subjects on which a Church, as such, can hold no opinions whatever. 243

It is, for instance, not for a Church to say in what degree she trusts the Whigs or suspects the Tories––or whether her suspicion be great and her trust small––or whether she deem it more desirable that Edinburgh should be represented by Mr. Cowan, than mis-represented by Mr. Macaulay. These, and all cognate matters, are matters on which the Church, as such, has no voice, and regarding which she can therefore have no organ; and yet these are matters with which a newspaper is necessitated to deal. It would be other than a newspaper if it did not. On these questions, however, which lie so palpably beyond the ecclesiastical pale, though the Church can have no organ, zealous Churchmen may; and there can be no doubt whatever that they are questions on which zealous Free Churchmen are very thoroughly divided––so thoroughly, that any single newspaper could represent, in reference to them, only one class. The late Mr. John Hamilton, for instance––a good and honest man, who, in his character as a Free Churchman, determinedly opposed the return of Mr. Macaulay––was wholly at issue regarding some of these points with the Honourable Mr. Fox Maule, who in 1846 mounted the hustings to say that the ‘gratitude and honour of the Free Church’ was involved in Mr. Macaulay’s return. And so the organ that represented the one, could not fail to misrepresent the other. Now, we are aware that on this, and on a few other occasions, the Witness must have given very considerable dissatisfaction in the political department to certain members of the Free Church. It was not at all their organ on these occasions; nay, at the very outset of its career, it had solemnly pledged itself not to be their organ.

The following passage was written by its present Editor, ere the first appearance of his paper, and formed a part of its prospectus:––‘The Witness,’ he said, ‘will not espouse the cause of any of the political parties which now agitate and 244 divide the country.’ ‘Public measures, however, will be weighed as they present themselves in an impartial spirit, with care proportioned to their importance, and with reference not to the party with which they may chance to originate, but to the principles which they shall be found to involve.’ Such was the pledge given by the Editor of the Witness; and he now challenges his readers to say whether he has not honestly redeemed it. Man is naturally a tool-making animal; and when he becomes a politician by profession, his ingenuity in this special walk of constructiveness is, we find, always greatly sharpened by the exigencies of his vocation.

He makes tools of bishops, tools of sacraments, tools of Confessions of Faith, and tools of Churches and church livings.

We had just seen, previous to the début of the Witness, the Church of Scotland converted by Conservatism into a sort of mining tool, half lever, half pickaxe, which it plied hard, with an eye to the prostration and ejection of its political opponents the Whigs, then in office; and not much pleased to see the Church which we loved and respected so transmuted and so wielded, we solemnly determined that, so far at least as our modicum of influence extended, no tool-making politician, whatever his position, should again convert it unchallenged into an ignoble party utensil. With God’s help, we have remained true to our determination; and so assured are we of being supported in this matter by the sound-hearted Presbyterian people of the Free Church, that we have no fear whatever, should either the assertors among us of the unimpeachable consistency of the Conservatives, or of the immaculate honesty of the Whigs, start against us an opposition vehicle to-morrow, that in less than a twelvemonth we would run it fairly off the road, and have some little amusement with it to boot, so long as the contest continued. The Witness 245 is not, and, as we have shown, cannot be, the organ of the Free Church; but it is something greatly better: it is the trusted representative––against Whig, Tory, Radical, and Chartist––against Erastian encroachment and clerical domination––of the Free Church people. There lies its strength,––a strength which its political Free Church opponents are welcome to test when they please.

We must again express our regret that the article on the Duke of Buccleuch, which has proved the occasion of so much remark, spoken and written, should have ever appeared in our columns; and this, not, as the agent of the Duke asserts, because it has been exposed, but because of the unhappy unsolidity of its facts, and because of that diversion of the public attention which it has effected from cases such as those of Canobie and Wanlockhead, and from such a death-bed as that of the Rev. Mr. Innes. Our readers are already in possession of our explanation, and have seen it fully borne out by the incidental statement of Mr. Parker. We would crave leave to remind them that the Witness is now in the ninth year of its existence; and that during that time the Editor stated many facts, from his own observation, connected with the refusal of sites, and other matters of a similar character. He saw congregations worshipping on bare hill-sides in the Highlands of Sutherland, and on an oozy sea-beach on the coast of Lochiel; he sailed in the Free Church yacht the Betsey, and worshipped among the islanders of Eigg and of Skye. Nor did he shrink from very minutely describing what he had witnessed on these occasions, nor yet from denouncing the persecution that had thrust out some of the best men and best subjects of the country, to worship unsheltered amid bleak and desert wastes, or on the bare sea-shore.

And yet, of all the many facts which he thus communicated on his own authority, because resting on his own observation, not one of them has ever yet been disproved; nay, 246 scarce one of them has ever yet been so much as challenged.

Of course, in reference to the statements which he has had to make on the testimony of others, his position was necessarily different; and a very delicate matter he has sometimes found it to be, to deal with these statements. A desire, on the one hand, to expose to the wholesome breathings of public opinion whatever was really oppressive and unjust; a fear, on the other, lest he should compromise the general cause, or injure the character of his paper, by giving publicity to what either might not be true, or could not be proven to be true,––have often led him to retain communications beside him for weeks and months, until some circumstance occurred that enabled him to determine regarding their real character and value. And such––with more, however, than the ordinary misgivings, and with an unfavourable opinion frankly and decidedly expressed––was the course which he took with the communicated article on the Duke of Buccleuch.

That the testing circumstance which did occur in the course of the long period during which it was thus held in retentis was not communicated to him, or to any other official connected with the Witness, he much regrets, but could not possibly help.

In the discussion on the Sites Bill of Wednesday last, the Honourable Fox Maule is made to say, that ‘the Witness contained many articles which had been condemned by the Church.’

Now this must be surely a misreport, as nothing could be more grossly incorrect than such a statement. The voice of the Free Church––that by which she condemns or approves––can be emitted through but her deliberative courts, and recorded in but the decisions of her solemn Assemblies. On the merits or demerits of the Witness, through these her only legitimate organs, she has not 247 yet spoken; and Mr. Maule is, we are sure, by far too intelligent a Churchman to mistake the voice of a mere political coterie, irritated mayhap by the loss of an election, for the solemn deliverance of a Church of Christ. With respect to his reported statement, to the effect that the Witness ‘contained many articles which had done great harm to the Free Church,’ the report may, we think, be quite correct. The Witness contained a good many articles on the special occasion when the Free Churchmen of Edinburgh conspired––‘ungratefully and dishonourably,’ as Mr. Maule must have deemed it––to eject a Whig Minister, and to place in his seat, as their representative, a shrewd citizen and honest man.

And these lucubrations accomplished, we daresay, their modicum of harm. With regard, however, to the articles of the Witness in general, we think we can confidently appeal in their behalf to such of our readers as perused them, not as they were garbled, misquoted, interpolated, and mis-represented by unscrupulous enemies, but as they were first given to the public from the pen of the Editor. Among these readers we reckon men of all classes, from the peer to the peasant––Conservative landowners, magistrates, merchants, ministers of the gospel. Dr. Chalmers was a reader of the Witness from its first commencement to his death; and he, perusing its editorial articles as they were originally written––not as they were garbled or interpolated in other prints––saw in them very little to blame.

Not but that some of our sentences look sufficiently formidable in extracts when twisted from their original meaning; and this, just as the Decalogue itself might be instanced as a code of licentiousness, violence, and immorality, were it to be exhibited in garbled quotations, divested of all the nots. In the Edinburgh Advertiser of yesterday, for instance, we find the following passage:––‘It [The Witness] has menaced our nobles with the horrors of 248 the French Revolution, when the guillotine plied its nightly task, and when the “bloody hearts of aristocrats dangled on button-holes in the streets of Paris.” It has reminded them of the time when a “grey discrowned head sounded hollow on the scaffold at Whitehall;” insinuating that, if they persisted in opposing the claims of the Free Church, a like fate might overtake the reigning dynasty of our time.’

When, asks the reader, did these most atrocious threats appear in the Witness?

They never, we reply, appeared in the Witness as threats at all. The one passage, almost in the language of Chateaubriand, was employed in an article in which we justified the sentence pronounced on the atheist Patterson. The other formed part of a purely historic reference––in an article on Puseyism, written ere the Free Church had any existence––to the Canterburianism of the times of Charles I., and the fate of that unhappy monarch. We thought not of threatening the aristocracy when quoting the one passage, nor yet of foreboding evil to the existing dynasty when writing the other. On exactly the same principle on which these passages have been instanced to our disadvantage, the description of the Holoptychius Nobilissimus, which appeared a few years ago in the Witness, might be paraded as a personal attack on Sir James Graham; and the remarks on the construction of the Pterichthys, as a gross libel on the Duke of Buccleuch. It is, we hold, not a little to the credit of the Witness, that, in order to blacken its character, means should be resorted to of a character so disreputable and dishonest. From truth and fair statement it has all to hope, and nothing to fear.

June 14, 1848.



This is at once the handsomest and one of the best editions of the curious and very interesting class of works to which it belongs, that has yet been given to the public. It is scarce possible to appreciate too highly the tact, judgment, and research displayed by the editor; and rarely indeed, so far as externals are concerned, has the typography of Scotland appeared to better advantage. It is a book decked out for the drawing-room in a suit of the newest pattern,––a tall, modish, well-built book, that has to be fairly set a-talking ere we discover from its tongue and style that it is a production not of our own times, but of the times of Charles and the Commonwealth. The good, simple minister of Kilwinning would fail to recognise himself in its fair open pages, that more than rival those of his old Elzevirs. For his old-fashioned suit of home-spun grey, we find him sporting here a modern dress-coat of Saxony broadcloth, and a pair of unexceptionable cashmere trousers; and it is not until we step forward and address the worthy man, and he turns upon us his broad, honest face, that we see the grizzled moustache and peaked beard, and discover that his fears are still actively engaged regarding the prelatic leanings of Charles II., ‘now at Breda;’ though perchance not quite without hope that the counsel of the ‘wise and godly youth’ James Sharpe may have the effect of setting all right again in the royal mind. We 250 address what we take, from the garb, to be a contemporary, and find that we have stumbled on one of the seven sleepers.

We deem it no slight advantage to the reading public of the present day, that it should have works of this character made so easy of access. It is only a very few years since the student of Scottish ecclesiastical history could not have acquainted himself with the materials on which the historian can alone build, without passing through a course of study at least as prolonged as an ordinary college course, and much more laborious. Let us suppose that he lived in some of the provinces. He would have, in the first place, to come and reside in Edinburgh, and get introduced, at no slight expense of trouble, mayhap, to the brown, half-defaced manuscripts of our public libraries. He would require next to study the old hand, with all its baffling contractions. If he succeeded in mastering the difficulties of Melville’s Diary after a quarter of a year’s hard conning, he might well consider himself a lucky man. Row’s History would occupy him during at least another quarter; Baillie’s Letters and Journals would prove work enough for two quarters more. If he succeeded in getting access to the papers of Woodrow, he would find little less than a twelvemonth’s hard labour before him; Calderwood’s large History would furnish employment for at least half that time; and if curious to peruse it in its best and fullest form, he would find it necessary to quit Edinburgh for London, to pore there over the large manuscript copy stored up in the British Museum. As he proceeded in his course, he would be continually puzzled by references, allusions, initials; he would have to consult register offices, records of baptisms and deaths, session books, old and scarce works, hardly less difficult to be procured than even the manuscripts themselves; and if he at length escaped the fate of the luckless antiquary, who produced the famous 251 history of the village of Wheatfield, he might deem himself more than ordinarily fortunate. ‘When I first engaged in this work,’ said the poor man, ‘I had eyes of my own; but now I cannot see even with the assistance of art: I have gone from spectacles of the first sight to spectacles of the third; the Chevalier Taylor gives my eyes over, and my optician writes me word he can grind no higher for me.’ It will soon be no such Herculean task to penetrate to the foundations of our national ecclesiastical history. From publications such as those of the Woodrow Club, and of the Letters and Journals, the student will be able to acquire in a few weeks what would have otherwise cost him the painful labour of years. Nor can we point out a more instructive course of reading. In running over our modern histories, however able, we almost always find our point of view fixed down by the historian to the point occupied by himself. We cannot take up another on our own behalf, unless we differ from him altogether, nor select for ourselves the various subjects which we are to survey. We are in leading-strings for the time: the vigour of our author’s thinking militates against the exercise of our own; his philosophy enters our minds in a too perfect form, and lies inert there, just as the condensed extract of some nourishing food often fails to nourish at all, because it gives no employment to the digestive faculty. A survey of the historian’s materials has often, on the contrary, the effect of setting the mind free. We see the events of the times which he describes in their own light, and simply as events,––we select and arrange for ourselves,––they call up novel traits of character,––they lead us to draw on our experience of men,––they confirm principles,––they suggest reflections.

Some of our readers will perhaps remember that we noticed at considerable length the two first volumes of this beautiful edition of Baillie rather more than a twelvemonth 252 ago. The third and concluding volume has but lately appeared. It embraces a singularly important period,––extending from shortly before the rise of the unhappy and ultimately fatal quarrel between the Resolutioners and Protesters, till the re-establishment of Episcopacy at the Restoration, when the curtain closes suddenly over the poor chronicler, evidently sinking into the grave at the time, the victim of a broken heart. He sees a stormy night settling dark over the Church,––Presbytery pulled down, the bishops set up, persecution already commenced; and, longing to be released from his troubles, he affectingly assures his correspondent, in the last of his many letters, that ‘it was the matter of his daily grief that had brought his bodily trouble upon him,’ and that it would be ‘a favour to him to be gone.’ From a very learned, concise, and well-written Life, the production of the accomplished editor, which serves as a clue to guide the reader through the mazes of the correspondence, we learn that he died three months after.

Where there is so much that is interesting, one finds it difficult to select. The light in which the infamous Sharpe is presented in this volume is at least curious. Prelacy, careful of the reputation of her archbishops, makes a great deal indeed of the bloody death of the man, but says as little as possible regarding his life and character. The sentimental Jacobitism of the present day––an imaginative principle that feeds on novels, and admires the persecutors because Claverhouse was brave and had an elegant upper lip––goes a little further, and speaks of him as the venerable Archbishop. When the famous picture of his assassination was exhibiting in Edinburgh, some ten or twelve years ago, he rose with the class almost to the dignity of a martyr: there were young ladies that could scarce look at the piece without using their handkerchiefs; the victim was old, greyhaired, reverend, an archbishop, and eminently 253 saintly, as a matter of course, whatever the barbarous fanatics might say; and all that his figure seemed to want in order to make it complete, was just a halo of yellow ochre round the head. In Baillie’s Letters we see him exhibited, though all unwittingly on the part of the writer, in his true character, and find that the yellow ochre would be considerably out of place. Rarely, indeed, does nature, all lost and fallen as it is, produce so consummate a scoundrel. Treachery seems to have existed as so uncontrollable an instinct in the man, that, like the appropriating faculty of the thief, who amused himself by picking the pocket of the clergyman who conducted him to the scaffold, it seems to have been incapable of lying still. He appears never to have had a friend who did not learn to detest and denounce him: his Presbyterian friends, whom he deceived and betrayed, did so in the first instance; his Episcopalian friends, whom he at least strove to deceive and betray, did so in the second. We are assured by Burnet, that even Charles, a monarch certainly not over-nice in the moral sense, declared James Sharpe to be one of the worst of men. His life was a continuous lie; and he has left more proofs of the fact in the form of letters under his own hand, than perhaps any other bad man that ever lived.

In Baillie he makes his first appearance as the Presbyterian minister of Crail, and as one of the honest chronicler’s greatest favourites. The unhappy disputes between the Resolutioners and Protesters were running high at the time. Baillie was a Resolutioner, Sharpe a zealous Resolutioner too; and Baillie, naturally unsuspicious, and biassed in his behalf by that spirit of party which can darken the judgment of even the most discerning, seems to have regarded him as peculiarly the hope of the Church. He was indisputably one of its most dexterous negotiators; and no man of the age made a higher profession of religion. Burnet, who knew him well in his after character as Archbishop of 254 St. Andrews, tells us that never, save on one solitary occasion, did he hear him make the slightest allusion to religion. But in his letters to Baillie, almost every paragraph closes with the aspirations of a well-simulated devotion. They seem as if strewed over with the fragments of broken doxologies. The old man was, as we have said, thoroughly deceived. He assures his continental correspondent, Spang, that ‘the great instrument of God to cross the evil designs of the Protesters, was that very worthy, pious, wise, and diligent young man, Mr. James Sharpe.’ In some of his after epistles we learn that he remembered him in his prayers, no doubt very sincerely, as, under God, one of the mainstays of the Church. What first strikes the reader in the character of Sharpe, as here exhibited, is his exclusively diplomatic cast of talent. Baillie himself was a controversialist: he wrote books to influence opinion, and delivered argumentative speeches. He was a man of business too: he drew up remonstrances, petitions, protests, and carried on the war of his party above-board. All his better friends and correspondents, such as Douglas and Dickson, were persons of a resembling cast. But Sharpe’s vocation lay in dealing with men in closets and window recesses: he could do nothing until he had procured the private ear of the individual on whom he wished to act. Is he desirous to influence the decisions of the Supreme Civil Court in behalf of his party? He straightway ingratiates himself with President Broghill, and the court becomes more favourable in consequence. Is he wishful to propitiate the English Government? He goes up to London, gets closeted with its more influential members. It was this peculiar talent that pointed him out to the Church as so fit a person to treat with Charles at Breda.

And it is when employed in this mission that we begin truly to see the man, and to discover the sort of ability on which the success of his closetings depended. We find 255 Baillie holding, in his simplicity, that in order to draw the heart of the King from Episcopacy, nothing more could be necessary than just fairly to submit to him some sound controversial work, arranged on the plan of the good man’s own Ladensium; and urging on Sharpe, that a few able divines should be employed in getting up a compilation for the express purpose. Sharpe writes in return, in a style sufficiently quiet, that His Majesty, in his very first address, ‘has been pleased to ask very graciously about Robert Baillie,’ a person for whom he has a particular kindness, and whom, if favours were dealing, he would be sure not to forget. He adds, further, that however matters might turn out in England, the Presbyterian Establishment of Scotland was in no danger of violation; and lest his Scotch friends should fall into the error of thinking too much about other men’s business, he gives fervent expression to the hope ‘that the Lord would give them to prize their own mercies, and know their own duties.’ Even a twelvemonth after, when on the eve of setting out for London to be created a bishop, he writes his old friend, that whatever ‘occasion of jealousies and false surmises his journey might give,’ of one thing he might be assured, ‘it was not in order to a change in the Church,’ as he ‘would convince his dear friend Mr. Baillie, through the Lord’s help, when the Lord would return him.’ He has an under-plot of treachery carrying on at the same time, that affects his ‘dear friend’ personally. In one of his letters to the unsuspecting chronicler, he assures him that he was ‘doing his best, by the Lord’s help,’ to get him appointed Principal of the University of Glasgow. In one of his letters to Lauderdale, after stating that the office, ‘in the opinion of many,’ would require a man ‘of more acrimony and weight’ than ‘honest Baillie,’ he urges that the presentation should be sent him, with a blank space, in which the name of the presentee might be afterwards inserted. 256

Baillie, naturally slow to suspect, does not come fully to understand the character of the man until a very few months before his death. He then complains bitterly to his continental correspondent, amid the ruin of the Church, and from the gloom of his sick-chamber, that Sharpe was the traitor who, ‘piece by piece, had so cunningly trepanned them, that the cause had been suffered to sink without even a struggle.’ The apostate had gained his object, however, and become ‘His Grace the Lord Primate.’ There were great rejoicings. ‘The new bishops were magnificklie received;’ they were feasted by the Lord Commissioner’s lady on one night, by the Chancellor on another; and in especial, ‘the Archbishop had bought a new coach at London, at the sides whereof two lakqueys in purple did run.’

The vanity of Sharpe is well brought out on another occasion by Burnet. The main object of one of his journeys to London, undertaken a little more than a twelvemonth after the death of Baillie, was to urge on the King that, as Primate of Scotland, he should of right take precedence of the Scottish Lord Chancellor, and to crave His Majesty’s letter to that effect. In this trait, as in several others, he seems to have resembled Robespierre. His cruelty to his old friends the Presbyterians is well illustrated by the fact that he could make the comparative leniency of Lauderdale, apostate and persecutor as Lauderdale was, the subject of an accusation against him to Charles. But there is no lack of still directer instances in the biographies of the worthies whom his malice pursued. His meanness, too, seems to have been equal to his malice and pride. When Lauderdale on one occasion turned fiercely upon him, and threatened to impeach him for leasing-making, he ‘straightway fell a-trembling and weeping,’ and, to avoid the danger, submitted to appear in the royal presence; and there, in the coarsest terms, to confess 257 himself a liar. It is a bishop who tells the story, and it is only one of a series. Truly the Primate of all Scotland was fortunate in the death he died. ‘The dismal end of this unhappy man,’ says Burnet, ‘struck all people with horror, and softened his enemies into some tenderness; so that his memory was treated with decency by those who had very little respect for him during his life.’

In almost every page in this instructive volume the reader picks up pieces of curious information, or finds matters suggestive of interesting thought. There start up ever and anon valuable hints that germinate and bear fruit in the mind. We would instance, by way of illustration, a hint which occurs in a letter to Lauderdale, written shortly after the Restoration, and which, though apparently slight, leads legitimately into a not unimportant train of thinking. Scotchmen are much in the habit of referring to the political maxim that the king can do no wrong, as a fundamental principle of the constitution, which concerns them as directly as it does their neighbours the English. Dr. Chalmers alluded to it no later than last week, in his admirable speech in the Commission. The old maxim, that the king could do no wrong, he said, had now, it would seem, descended from the throne to the level of courts co-ordinate with the Church. Would it not be a somewhat curious matter to find that this doctrine is one which has in reality not entered Scotland at all? It stands in England, a guardian in front of the throne, transferring every blow which would otherwise fall on the sovereign himself, to the sovereign’s ministers: it is ministers, not sovereigns, who are responsible to the people of England. But it would at least seem, that with regard to the people of Scotland the responsibility extends further. At least the English doctrine was regarded as exclusively an English one in the days of Baillie, nearly half a century prior to the Union, and more than a whole century ahead of those times in which 258 the influence of that event began to have the effect of mixing up in men’s minds matters peculiar to England with matters common to Britain. We find Baillie, in his letter written immediately after the passing of the Act Recissory, pronouncing the doctrine that the ‘king can do no fault,’ as in his judgment ‘good and wise,’ but referring to it at the same time as a doctrine, not of the Scottish Constitution, but of the ‘State of England.’

The circumstance is of importance chiefly from the light which it serves to cast on an interesting passage in Scottish history. The famous declaration of our Scotch Convention at the Revolution, that James VII. had forfeited the throne, as contrasted with the singularly inadequate though virtually corresponding declaration of the English Convention, that James II. ‘had abdicated the government, and that the throne was thereby vacant,’ has been often remarked by the historians. Hume indirectly accounts for the employment of the stronger word, by prominently stating that the more zealous among the Scotch Royalists, regarding the assembly as illegal, had forborne to appear at elections, and that the antagonist party commanded a preponderating majority in consequence; whereas in England the Tories mustered strong, and had to be conciliated by the employment of softer language. Malcolm Laing, in noticing the fact, contents himself by simply contrasting the indignation on the part of the Scotch, which had been aroused by their recent sufferings, with the quieter temper of the English, who had been less tried by the pressure of actual persecution, and who were anxious to impart to Revolution at least the colour of legitimate succession. And Sir James Mackintosh, in his Vindiciæ Gallicæ, contents himself with simply remarking that the ‘absurd debates in the English Convention were better cut short by the Parliament of Scotland, when they used the correct and manly expression that James VII. had forfeited the throne.’ We are of opinion 259 that the very different styles of the two Conventions may be accounted for on the ground that, in the one kingdom, the monarch, according to the genius of the constitution, was regarded as incapable of committing wrong; whereas, in the other, he was no less constitutionally regarded as equally peccable with any of his subjects. A peccable monarch may forfeit his throne; an impeccable one can only abdicate it. The argument must of course depend on the soundness of Baillie’s statement. Was the doctrine that the king can do no wrong a Scottish doctrine at the time of the Revolution, or was it not?

It was at least not a Scottish one in the days of Buchanan,––nor for a century after, as we may learn very conclusively, not from Buchanan himself, nor his followers––for the political doctrines of a school of writers may be much at variance with those of their country––but from the many Scottish controversialists on the antagonist side, who entered the lists against both the master and his disciples. Buchanan maintained, in his philosophical treatise, De Jure Regni apud Scotos, that there are conditions by which the King of Scotland is bound to his people, on the fulfilment of which the allegiance of the people depends, and that ‘it is lawful to depose, and even to punish tyrants.’ Knox, with the other worthies of the first Reformation, held exactly the same doctrine. The Lex Rex of Rutherford testifies significantly to the fact that among the worthies of the second Reformation it was not suffered to become obsolete. It takes a prominent place in writings of the later Covenanters, such as the Hind let Loose; and at the Revolution it received the practical concurrence of the National Convention, and of the country generally. Now the doctrine, be it remembered, was an often disputed one. Buchanan’s little work was the very butt of controversy for considerably more than an hundred years. It was prohibited by Parliament, denounced 260 by monarchs, condemned to the flames by universities; great lawyers wrote treatises against it at home, and some of the most celebrated scholars of continental Europe took the field against it abroad. We learn from Dr. Irving, in his Classical Biography, that it was assailed among our own countrymen by Blackwood, Winzet, Barclay, Sir Thomas Craig, Sir John Wemyss, Sir Lewis Stewart, Sir James Turner, and last, not least, among the writers who preceded the Revolution, by the meanly obsequious and bloody Sir George Mackenzie. And how did these Scotchmen meet with the grand doctrine which it embodied? The ‘old maxime of the state of England,’ had it extended to the sister kingdom, would have at once furnished the materials of reply. If constitutionally the King of Scotland could do no wrong, then constitutionally the King of Scotland could not be deposed. But of an entirely different complexion was the argument of which the Scottish assailants of Buchanan availed themselves. It was an argument subversive to the English maxim. Admitting fully that the king could do wrong, they maintained merely that, for whatever wrong he did, he was responsible, not to his subjects, but to God only. Whatever the amount of wrong he committed, it was the duty of his subjects, they said, passively to submit to it. On came the Revolution. In England, in perfect agreement with the doctrine of the king’s impeccability––in perfect agreement, at least, so far as words were concerned––it was declared that James had abdicated the government, and that the throne was thereby vacant; and certainly it cannot be alleged by even the severest moralist, that in either abdicating a government or vacating a throne, there is the slightest shadow of moral evil involved. In Scotland the decision was different. The battle fought in the Convention was exactly that which had been previously fought between Buchanan and his antagonists. ‘Paterson, Archbishop of Glasgow, and Sir 261 George Mackenzie, asserted,’ says Malcolm Laing, ‘the doctrine of divine right, or maintained, with more plausibility, that every illegal measure of James’s government was vindicated by the declaration of the late Parliament, that he was an absolute monarch, entitled to unreserved obedience, AND ACCOUNTABLE TO NONE; while Sir James Montgomery and Sir John Dalrymple, who conducted the debate on the other side, averred that the Parliament was neither competent to grant, nor the king to acquire, an absolute power, irreconcilable with the RECIPROCAL OBLIGATIONS DUE TO THE PEOPLE.’ The doctrines of Buchanan prevailed; and the estates declared that James VII. having, through ‘the advice of evil and wicked councillors, invaded the fundamental constitution of the kingdom, and altered it from a legal limited monarchy to an arbitrary despotic power,’ he had thereby forfaulted his right to the crown.’ The terms of the declaration demonstrate that Baillie was quite in the right regarding the ‘old maxime, that the king can do no fault,’ as exclusively a ‘maxime of the State of England.’ By acting on the advice of ‘evil and wicked councillors,’ it was declared that a peccable king had forfeited the throne. The fact that there were councillors in the case did not so much even as extenuate the offence: it was the advisers of the King who then, as now, were accountable to the King’s English subjects for the advice they gave; it was the King in person who was accountable to his Scottish subjects for the advice he took. This principle, hitherto little adverted to, throws, as we have said, much light on the history of the Revolution in Scotland.



There is a passage in the Life of Sir Matthew Hale which has struck us as not only interesting in itself, from the breadth and rectitude of judgment which it discloses, but also from the very direct bearing of the principle involved in it on some of the recent interdicts of the Supreme Civil Court. It serves to throw a kind of historic light, if we may so speak, on the judicial talent of our country in the present age as exhibited by the majority of our judges of the Court of Session––such a light as the ecclesiastical historian of a century hence will be disposed to survey it in, when coolly exercising his judgment on the present eventful struggle. One of not the least prominent nor least remarkable features of the Rebellion of 1745, says a shrewd chronicler of this curious portion of our history, was an utter destitution of military talent among the general officers of the British army. And the time is in all probability not very distant, in which the extreme lack of judicial genius betrayed by our courts of law in their present collision with the courts ecclesiastical, shall be regarded, in like manner, as one of the more striking characteristics of the Rebellion of the present day.

Sir Matthew Hale, as most of our readers must be aware, was a devoted Royalist. He was rising in eminence as a barrister at the time the Civil Wars broke out, and during that troublesome period he was employed as counsel for almost all the more eminent men of the King’s party who were impeached by the Parliament. He was counsel for 263 the Earl of Strafford, for Archbishop Laud, for the Duke of Hamilton, for the Earl of Holland, and for Lords Capel and Craven; and in every instance he exhibited courage the most unshrinking and devoted, and abilities of the highest order. When threatened in open court on one occasion by the Attorney-General, he replied that the threat might be spared: he was pleading in defence of those laws which the Government had declared it would maintain and preserve, and no fear of personal consequences should deter him in such circumstances from doing his duty to his client. When Charles himself was brought to his trial, Sir Matthew came voluntarily forward, and offered to plead for him also; but as the King declined recognising the competency of his judges, the offer was of course rejected. We all know how Malesherbes fared for acting a similar part in France. The counsel of Louis XVI. closed his honourable career on the scaffold not long after his unfortunate master: his generous advocacy of the devoted monarch cost him his life. But Cromwell, that ‘least flagitious of all usurpers,’ according to even Clarendon’s estimate, was no Robespierre; and were we called on to illustrate by a single instance from the history of each the very opposite characters of the Puritan Republicans of England and the Atheistical Republican of France, we would just set off against one another the fate of Malesherbes and the treatment of Sir Matthew. Cromwell, unequalled in his ability of weighing the capabilities of men, had been carefully scanning the course of the courageous and honest barrister; and, convinced that so able a lawyer and so good and brave a man could scarce fail of making an excellent judge, he determined on raising him to the bench. At this stage, however, a difficulty interposed, not in the liberal and enlightened policy of the Protector, who had no objections whatever to a conscientious Royalist magistrate, but in the scruples of Sir 264 Matthew, who at first doubted the propriety of taking office under what he deemed a usurped power.

The process of argument by which he overcame the difficulty, simple as it may seem, is worthy of all heed. Its very simplicity may be regarded as demonstrating the soundness of the understanding that originated and then acted upon it as a firm first principle, especially when we take into account the exquisitely nice character of the conscience which it had to satisfy. It is absolutely necessary for the wellbeing of society, argued Sir Matthew, that justice be administered between man and man; and the necessity exists altogether independently of the great political events which affect the sources of power, by changing dynasties or revolutionizing governments. The claim of the supreme ruler de facto may be a bad one; he may owe his power to some act of great political injustice––to an iniquitous war––to an indefensible revolution––to a foul conspiracy; but the flaw in his title cannot be regarded as weakening in the least the claim of the people under him to the administration of justice among them as the ordinance of God. The right of the honest man to be protected by the magistrate from the thief––the right of the peaceable man to be protected by the magistrate from the assassin––is not a conditional right, dependent on the title of the ruler: it is as clear and certain during those periods so common in history, when the supreme power is illegitimately vested, as during the happier periods of undisputed legitimacy. And to be a minister of God for the administration of justice, if the office be attainable without sin, is as certainly right at all times as the just exercise of the magistrate’s functions is right at all times. If it be right that society be protected by the magistrate, it is as unequivocally right in the magistrate to protect. But it is wrong to recognise as legitimate the supreme ruler of a country if his power be palpably usurped. English society, 265 under Cromwell, retains its right to have justice administered, wholly unaffected by the flaw in Cromwell’s title; but it would be wrong to recognise his title, contrary to one’s conviction, as void of any flaw. In short, to use the simple language of Burnet, Sir Matthew, ‘after mature deliberation, came to be of opinion, that as it was absolutely necessary to have justice and property kept up at all times, it was no sin to take a commission from usurpers, if there was declaration made of acknowledging their authority.’ Cromwell had breadth enough to demand no such declaration from Sir Matthew, and so the latter took his place on the bench. Nor is it necessary to say how he adorned it. In agreement with his political views, he declined taking any part in trials for offences against the State; but in cases of ordinary felonies, no one could act with more vigour and decision. During the trial of a Republican soldier, who had waylaid and murdered a Royalist, the colonel of the soldier came into court to arrest judgment, on the plea that his man had done only his duty, for that the person whom he had killed had been disobeying the Protector’s orders at the time; and to threaten the judge with the vengeance of the supreme authority, if he urged matters to an extremity against him. Sir Matthew listened coolly to his threats and his reasonings, and then, pronouncing sentence of death against the felon, agreeably to the finding of the jury, he ordered him out to instant execution, lest the course of justice should be interrupted by any interference on the part of Government. On another occasion, in which he had to preside in a trial in which the Protector was deeply concerned, he found that the jury had been returned, not by the sheriff or his lawful officer, but by order of the Protector himself. He immediately dismissed them, and, refusing to go on with the trial, broke up the court. Cromwell, says Burnet, was highly displeased with him on this occasion, and on his return from the circuit 266 in which it had occurred, told him in great anger that ‘he was not fit to be a judge.’ ‘Very true,’ replied Sir Matthew, whose ideas of the requirements of the office were of the most exalted character,––‘Very true;’ and so the matter dropped.

‘It is absolutely necessary,’ argued Sir Matthew, ‘to have justice kept up at all times,’ whatever flaws may exist in the title of the men in whom the supreme authority may chance to be vested. Never yet was there a simpler proposition; but there is sublimity in its breadth. It involves the true doctrine of subjection to the magistrate, as enforced by St. Paul. The New Testament furnishes us with no disquisitions on political justice: it does not say whether the title of Domitian to the supreme authority was a good title or no, or whether he should have been succeeded by Caligula, and Caligula by Claudius, or no; or whether or no the fact that Claudius was poisoned by the mother of Nero, derived to Nero any right to Claudius’s throne. We hear nothing of these matters. The magistracy described by St. Paul is the magistracy conceived of by Sir Matthew Hale ‘as necessary to be kept up at all times.’ An application of this simple principle to some of the more marked proceedings of our civil courts during the last two years will be found an admirable means of testing their degree of judicial wisdom. ‘It is absolutely necessary to have justice kept up at all times,’ and this not less necessary surely within than beyond the pale of the Church. It is necessary that a minister of the gospel ‘be blameless’––no drunkard, no swindler, no thief, no grossly obscene person; nor can any supposed flaw in the constitution of an ecclesiastical court disannul the necessity. A man may sit in that court in a judicial capacity whose competency to take his seat there may not have been determined by some civil court that challenges for itself an equivocal and disputed right to decide in the matter. 267 There may exist some supposed, or even some real, flaw in that supreme ecclesiastical authority of the country, through the exertion of which the Church is to be protected from the infection of vice and irreligion; but this flaw, real or supposed, furnishes no adequate cause why justice in the Church ‘should not be kept up.’ ‘Justice,’ said Sir Matthew, ‘must be kept up at all times,’ whatever the irregularities of title which may occur in the supreme authority. The great society of the Church has a right to justice, whether it be decided that the ministers of quoad sacra parishes have what has been termed a legal right to sit in ecclesiastical courts or no. The devout and honest church member has a right to be protected from the blasphemous profanities of the wretched minister who is a thief or wretched swindler; the chaste and sober have a right to be protected from the ministrations of the drunken and the obscene wretch, whose preaching is but mockery, and his dispensations of the sacrament sacrilege. The Church has a right to purge itself of such ministers; and these sacred rights no supposed, even no real, flaw in the constitution of its courts ought to be permitted to affect. ‘Justice may be kept up at all times.’ We have said that the principle of Sir Matthew Hale serves to throw a kind of historic light on the judicial talent of our country in the present age, as represented by the majority of our Lords of Session. It enables us, in some sort, to anticipate regarding it the decision of posterity. The list of cases of protection afforded by the civil court will of itself form a curious climax in the page of some future historian. Swindling will come after drunkenness in the series, theft will follow after swindling, and the miserable catalogue will be summed up by an offence which we must not name. And it will be remarked that all these gross crimes were fenced round and protected in professed ministers of the gospel by the interference of the civil courts, just because a majority of the 268 judges were men so defective in judicial genius that they lost sight of the very first principles of their profession, and held that ‘justice is not to be kept up at all times.’ But we leave our readers to follow up the subject. Some of the principles to which we have referred may serve to throw additional light on the remark of Lord Ivory, when recalling the interdict in the Southend case. ‘Even were the objection against the competency of quoad sacra ministers to be ultimately sustained,’ said his Lordship, ‘I am disposed to hold that the judicial acts and sentences of the General Assembly and its Commission, bona fide pronounced in the interim, should be given effect to notwithstanding.’



We enjoyed the honour on Wednesday last of being present as a guest at the annual soiree of the Scottish Young Men’s Society, and derived much pleasure from the general appearance of the meeting, and the addresses of the members and their friends. The body of the great Waterloo Room was crowded on the occasion with a respectable, intellectual-looking audience, including from about a hundred and fifty to two hundred members of the Society, all of them young men banded together for mutual improvement, and most of them in that important decade of life––by far the most important of the appointed seven––which intervenes between the fifteenth and the five-and-twentieth year. The platform was equally well filled, and the Sheriff of Edinburgh occupied the chair. We felt a particular interest in the objects of the Society, and a deep sympathy with its members; for, as we listened to the various speakers, and our eyes glanced over the intelligent countenances that thronged the area of the apartment, we thought of past difficulties encountered in a cause similar to that which formed the uniting bond of the Society, and of not a few wrecks which we had witnessed of men who had set out in life from the humbler levels, with the determination of pressing their way upwards. And feeling somewhat after the manner that an old sailor would feel who saw a crew of young ones setting out to thread their way through some dangerous strait, the perils of which he had already encountered, or to sail round some formidable cape, which, after many an unsuccessful attempt, he had 270 doubled, we fancied ourselves in the position of one qualified to give them some little advice regarding the navigation of the seas on which they were just entering. But, be the fact of qualification as it may, we found ourselves, after leaving the room, addressing them, in imagination, in a few plain words, regarding some of the rocks, and shoals, and insidious currents, which we knew lay in their course. Men whose words come slowly and painfully when among their fellows, can be quite fluent enough when they speak inwards without breaking silence, and have merely an imaginary assemblage for their audience; and so our short address went off glibly, without break or interruption, in the style of ordinary conversational gossip. There are curious precedents on record for the printing of unspoken speeches. Rejecting, however, all the higher ones, we shall be quite content to take our precedent from the famous speech which the ‘indigent philosopher’ addresses, in one of Goldsmith’s Essays, to Mr. Bellowsmender and the Cateaton Club. The philosopher begins, it will be remembered, by telling his imaginary audience, that though Nathan Ben Funk, the rich Jew, might feel a natural interest in the state of the stocks, it was nothing to them, who had no money; and concludes by quoting the ‘famous author called Lilly’s Grammar.’

‘Members of the Scottish Young Men’s Society,’ we said, ‘it is rather late in life for the individual who now addresses you to attempt acquiring the art of the public speaker. Those who have been most in the habit of noticing the effect of the several mechanical professions on character and intellect, divide them into two classes––the sedentary and the laborious; and they remark, that while in the sedentary, such as the printing, weaving, tailoring, and shoemaking trades, there are usually a considerable proportion of fluent speakers, in the laborious trades, on the other hand, such as those of the mason, ship-carpenter, 271 ploughman, and blacksmith, one generally meets with but taciturn, slow-speaking men. We need scarce say in which of these schools we have been trained. You will at once see––to borrow from one of the best and most ancient of writers––that we are “not eloquent,” but “a man of slow speech, and of a slow tongue.” And yet we think we may venture addressing ourselves, in a few plain words, to an association of young men united for the purpose of mutual improvement. We ought and we do sympathize with you in your object; and we congratulate you on the facilities which your numbers, and your library, and your residence in one of the most intellectual cities in the world, cannot fail to afford you in its pursuit. We ourselves have known what it is to prosecute in solitude, with but few books, and encompassed by many difficulties, the search after knowledge; and we have seen year after year pass by, and the obstacles in our way remaining apparently as great as at first. And were we to sum up the condensed result of our experience in two brief words of advice, it would amount simply to this, “Never despair.” We are told of Commodore Anson––a man whose sense and courage ultimately triumphed over a series of perhaps the most appalling disasters man ever encountered, and who won for himself, by his magnanimity, sagacity, and cool resolution, the applauses of even his enemies, so that Rousseau and Voltaire eulogized him, the one in history, the other in romance,––we are told, we say, of this Anson, that when raised to the British peerage, he was permitted to select his own motto, and that he chose an eminently characteristic one––“Nil Desperandum.” By all means let it be your motto also––not as a thing to be paraded on some heraldic label, but to be engraved upon your hearts. We wish that, amid the elegancies of this hall, we could bring up before you some of the scenes of our past life. They would form a curious panorama, and might serve to teach that 272 in no circumstances, however apparently desperate, should men lose hope. Never forget that it is not necessary, in order to overcome gigantic difficulties, that one’s strength should be gigantic. Persevering exertion is much more than strength. We owe to shovels and wheelbarrows, and human muscles of the average size and vigour, the great railway which connects the capitals of the two kingdoms. And the difficulties which encompass the young man of humble circumstances and imperfect education, must be regarded as coming under the same category as difficulties of the purely physical kind. Interrupted or insulated efforts, however vigorous, will be found to be but of little avail. It is to the element of continuity that you must trust. There is a world of sense in Sir Walter Scott’s favourite proverb, “Time and I, gentlemen, against any two.” But though it be unnecessary, in order to secure success, that one’s efforts in the contest with gigantic difficulties should be themselves gigantic, it is essentially necessary that they should employ one’s whole strength. Half efforts never accomplish anything. “No man ever did anything well,” says Johnson, “to which he did not apply the whole bent of his mind.” And unless a man keep his head cool, and his faculties undissipated, he need not expect that his efforts can ever be other than half efforts, or other than of a desultory, fitful, non-productive kind. We do not stand here in the character of a modern Rechabite. But this we must say: Let no young man ever beguile himself with the hope that he is to make a figure in society, or rise in the world, unless, as the apostle expresses it, he be “temperate in all things.” Scotland has produced not a few distinguished men who were unfortunately not temperate; but it is well known that of one of the greatest of them all––perhaps one of the most vigorous-minded men our country ever produced––the intemperate habits were not formed early. Robert Burns, up till his twenty-sixth year, when 273 he had mastered all his powers, and produced some of his finest poems, was an eminently sober man. Climbing requires not only a steady foot, but a strong head; and we question whether any one ever climbed the perilous steep, where, according to Beattie, “Fame’s proud temple shines afar,” who did not keep his head cool during the process. So far as our own experience goes, we can truly state, that though we have known not a few working men, possessed some of them of strong intellects, and some of them of fine taste, and even of genius, not one have we ever known who rose either to eminence or a competency under early formed habits of intemperance. These indeed are the difficulties that cannot be surmounted, and the only ones. Rather more than thirty years ago, the drinking usages of the country were more numerous than they are now. In the mechanical profession in which we laboured they were many: when a foundation was laid, the workmen were treated to drink; they were treated to drink when the walls were levelled; they were treated to drink when the building was finished; they were treated to drink when an apprentice joined the squad; treated to drink when his apron was washed; treated to drink when his “time was out;” and occasionally they learned to treat one another to drink. At the first house upon which we were engaged as a slim apprentice boy, the workmen had a royal founding-pint, and two whole glasses of whisky came to our share. A full-grown man might not deem a gill of usquebhae an over-dose, but it was too much for a boy unaccustomed to strong drink; and when the party broke up, and we got home to our few books––few, but good, and which we had learned at even an earlier period to pore over with delight––we found, as we opened the page of a favourite author, the letters dancing before our eyes, and that we could no longer master his sense. The state was perhaps a not very favourable one for forming a 274 resolution in, but we believe the effort served to sober us. We determined in that hour that never more would we sacrifice our capacity of intellectual enjoyment to a drinking usage; and during the fifteen years which we spent as an operative mason, we held, through God’s help, by the determination. We are not sure whether, save for that determination, we would have had the honour of a place on this platform to-night. But there are other kinds of intoxication than that which it is the nature of strong drink or of drugs to produce. Bacon speaks of a “natural drunkenness.” And the hallucinations of this natural drunkenness must be avoided if you would prosper. Let us specify one of these. Never let yourselves be beguiled by the idea that fate has misplaced you in life, and that were you in some other sphere you would rise. It is true that some men are greatly misplaced; but to brood over the idea is not the best way of getting the necessary exchange effected. It is not the way at all. Often the best policy in the case is just to forget the misplacement. We remember once deeming ourselves misplaced, when, in a season of bad health and consequent despondency, we had to work among labourers in a quarry. But the feeling soon passed, and we set ourselves carefully to examine the quarry. Cowper describes a prisoner of the Bastile beguiling his weary hours by counting the nail-studs on the door of his cell, upwards, downwards, and across,––

Wearing out time in numbering to and fro,
The studs that thick emboss his iron door;
Then downward and then upwards, then aslant
And then alternate; with a sickly hope
By dint of change to give his tasteless task
Some relish; till, the sum exactly found
In all directions, he begins again.”

It was idle work; for to reckon up the door-studs never so often was not the way of opening up the door. But in carefully 275 examining and recording for our own use the appearances of the stony bars of our prison, we were greatly more profitably employed. Nay, we had stumbled on one of the best possible modes of escaping from our prison. We were in reality getting hold of its bolts and its stancheons, and converting them into tools in the work of breaking out. We remember once passing a whole season in one of the dreariest districts of the north-western Highlands,––a district included in that unhappy tract of country, doomed, we fear, to poverty and suffering, which we find marked in the rain-map of Europe with a double shade of blackness. We had hard work, and often soaking rain, during the day; and at night our damp fuel filled the turf hut in which we sheltered with suffocating smoke, and afforded no light by which to read. Nor––even ere the year got into its wane, and when in the long evenings we had light––had we any books to read by it, or a single literary or scientific friend with whom to exchange an idea. We remember at another time living in an agricultural district in the low country, in a hovel that was open along the ridge of the roof from gable to gable, so that as we lay a-bed we could tell the hours of the night by the stars that were passing overhead across the chasm. There were about half-a-dozen farm-servants, victims to the bothie system, that ate and slept in the same place; and often, long after midnight, a disreputable poacher used to come stealthily in, and fling himself down on a lair of straw that he had prepared for himself in a corner. Now, both the Highland hut and the Lowland hovel, with their accompaniments of protracted and uncongenial labour, might be regarded as dreary prisons; and yet we found them to be in reality useful schools, very necessary to our education. And now, when we hear about the state of the Highlands, and the character of our poor Highlanders, and of the influence of the bothie system and of the game-laws, we 276 feel that we know considerably more about such matters than if our experience had been of a more limited or more pleasant kind. There are few such prisons in which a young man of energy and a brave heart can be placed, in which he will not gain more by taking kindly to his work, and looking well about him, than by wasting himself in convulsive endeavours to escape. If he but learn to think of his prison as a school, there is good hope of his ultimately getting out of it. Were a butcher’s boy to ask us––you will not deem the illustration too low, for you will remember that Henry Kirke White was once a butcher’s boy––were he to ask us how we thought he could best escape from his miserable employment, we would at once say, You have rare opportunities of observation; you may be a butcher’s boy in body, but in mind you may become an adept in one of the profoundest of the sciences, that of comparative anatomy;––think of yourself as not in a prison, but in a school, and there is no fear but you will rise. There is another delusion of that “natural drunkenness” referred to, against which you must also be warned. Never sacrifice your independence to a phantom. We have seen young men utterly ruin themselves through the vain belief that they were too good for their work. They were mostly lads of a literary turn, who had got a knack of versifying, and who, in the fond belief that they were poets and men of genius, and that poets and men of genius should be above the soil and drudgery of mechanical labour, gave up the profession by which they had lived, poorly mayhap, but independently, and got none other to set in its place. A mistake of this character is always a fatal one; and we trust all of you will ever remember, that though a man may think himself above his work, no man is, or no man ought to think himself, above the high dignity of being independent. In truth, he is but a sorry, weak fellow who measures himself by the conventional status of 277 the labour by which he lives. Our great poet formed a correcter estimate:

What though on hamely fare we dine,
Wear hodden grey, and a’ that?
Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine,
A man’s a man for a’ that.”

There is another advice which we would fain give you, though it may be regarded as of a somewhat equivocal kind: Rely upon yourselves. The man who sets his hopes upon patronage, or the exertions of others in his behalf, is never so respectable a man, and, save in very occasional instances, rarely so lucky a man, as he who bends his exertions to compel fortune in his behalf, by making himself worthy of her favours. Some of the greatest wrecks we have seen in life have been those of waiters on patronage; and the greatest discontents which we have seen in corporations, churches, and states, have arisen from the exercise of patronage. Shakespeare tells us, in his exquisite vein, of a virtue that is twice blessed,––blessed in those who give, and blessed in those who receive. Patronage is twice cursed,––cursed in the incompetency which it places where merit ought to be, and in the incompetency which it creates among the class who make it their trust. But the curse which you have mainly to avoid is that which so often falls on those who waste their time and suffer their energies to evaporate in weakly and obsequiously waiting upon it. We therefore say, Rely upon yourselves. But there is One other on whom you must rely; and implicit reliance on Him, instead of inducing weakness, infinitely increases strength. Bacon has well said, that a dog is brave and generous when he believes himself backed by his master, but timid and crouching, especially in a strange place, when he is alone and his master away. And a human master, says the philosopher, is as a god to the dog. It certainly does inspire a man with strength to believe that his great Master 278 is behind him, invigorating him in his struggles, and protecting him against every danger. We knew in early life a few smart infidels––smart but shallow; but not one of them ever found their way into notice; and though we have not yet lived out our half century, they have in that space all disappeared. There are various causes which conspire to write it down as fate, that the humble infidel should be unsuccessful in life. In the first place, infidelity is not a mark of good sense, but very much the reverse. We have been much struck by a passage which occurs in the autobiography of a great general of the early part of the last century. In relating the disasters and defeats experienced in a certain campaign by two subordinate general officers, chiefly through misconduct, and a lack of the necessary shrewdness, he adds, “I ever suspected the judgment of these men since I found that they professed themselves infidels.” The sagacious general had inferred that their profession of infidelity augured a lack of sense; and that, when they got into command, the same lack of sense which led them to glory in their shame would be productive, as its necessary results, of misfortune and disaster. There is a shrewd lesson here to the class who doubt and cavil simply to show their parts. In the second place, infidelity, on the principle of Bacon, is a weak, tottering thing, unbuttressed by that support which gives to poor human nature half its strength and all its dignity. But, above all, in the third and last place, the humble infidel, unballasted by right principle, sets out on the perilous voyage of life without chart or compass, and, drifting from off the safe course, gets among rocks and breakers, and there perishes. But we must not trespass on your time. With regard to the conduct of your studies, we simply say, Strive to be catholic in your tastes. Some of you will have a leaning to science; some to literature. To the one class we would say, Your literature will be all 279 the more solid if you can get a vein of true science to run through it; and to the other, Your science will be all the more fascinating if you temper and garnish it with literature. In truth, almost all the greater subjects of man’s contemplation belong to both fields. Of subjects such as astronomy and geology, for instance, the poetry is as sublime as the science is profound. As a pretty general rule, you will perhaps find literature most engaging in youth, and science as you grow in years. But faculties for both have been given you by the great Taskmaster, and it is your bounden duty that these be exercised aright. And so let us urge you, in conclusion, in the words of Coleridge:

Therefore to go and join head, heart, and hand,
Active and firm to fight the bloodless fight
Of science, freedom, and the truth in Christ.”



One of the many dangers to which the members of a disestablished Church just escaped from State control and the turmoil of an exciting struggle are liable, is the danger of getting just a little wild on minute semi-metaphysical points, and of either quarrelling regarding them with their neighbours, or of falling out among themselves. Great controversies, involving broad principles, have in the history of the Church not unfrequently broken into small controversies, involving narrow principles; just as in the history of the world mighty empires like that of Alexander the Great have broken up into petty provinces, headed by mere satraps and captains, when the master-mind that formed their uniting bond has been removed. Independently of that stability which the legalized framework of a rightly-constituted Establishment is almost sure to impart to its distinctive doctrines, the influence of its temporalities has in one special direction a sobering and wholesome effect. Men carefully weigh principles for the assertion of which they may be called on to sacrifice or to suffer, and are usually little in danger, in such circumstances, of becoming martyrs to a mere crotchet. The first beginnings of notions that, if suffered to grow in the mind, may at length tyrannize over it, and lead even the moral sense captive, are often exceedingly minute.

They start up in the form of, mayhap, solitary ideas, chance-derived from some unexpected association, or picked up in conversation or reading; the attention gradually 281 concentrates upon them; auxiliary ideas, in consequence, spring up around them; they assume a logical form––connect themselves, on the one hand, with certain revealed injunctions of wide meaning––lay hold, on the other, on a previously developed devotional spirit or well-trained conscientiousness; and, in the end, if the minds in which they have arisen be influential ones, they alter the aspects and names of religious bodies, and place in a state of insulation and schism churches and congregations.

Their rise somewhat resembles that of the waves, as described by Franklin in his paper on the effects of oil in inducing a calm, or in preserving one. ‘The first-raised waves,’ he says, ‘are mere wrinkles; but being continually acted upon by the wind, they are, though the gale does not increase in strength, continually increased in magnitude, rising higher, and extending their bases so as to include in each wave vast masses, and to act with great momentum. The wind, however,’ continues the philosopher, ‘blowing over water covered with oil, cannot catch upon it so as to raise the first or elementary wrinkles, but slides over it, and leaves it smooth as it finds it; and being thus prevented from producing these first elements of waves, it of course cannot produce the waves themselves.’ In applying the illustration just a little further, we would remark, that within a wholesomely-constituted religious Establishment, the influence of the temporalities acts in preventing the rise of new notions, like the smoothing oil. If it does not wholly prevent the formation of the first wrinkles of novel opinion, it at least prevents their heightening into wavelets or seas. If the billows rise within so as to disrupt the framework of the Establishment, and make wreck of its temporalities, it may be fairly premised that they have risen not from any impulsion of the light winds of uncertain doctrine, but, as in the Canton de Vaud and the Church of Scotland, in obedience to the strong ground-swell of sterling principle. 282

Now we deem it a mighty advantage, and one which should not be wilfully neutralized by any after act of the body, that the distinctive principles of the Free Church bear the stamp and pressure of sacrifice. The temporalities resigned for their sake do not adequately measure their value; but they at least demonstrate that, in the estimate of those who resigned them, the principles did of a certainty possess value up to the amount resigned. The Disruption forms a guarantee for the stamina of our Church’s peculiar tenets, and impresses upon them, in relation to the conscience of the Church, the stamp of reality and genuineness. And that influence of the temporalities to which we refer, and under which the controversy grew, had yet another wholesome influence. It prevented the wrinklings of new, untried notions from gathering momentum, and rising into waves. The great billows, influential in producing so much, were the result of ancient, well-tested realities: they had rolled downwards, fully formed, as a portion of the great ground-swell of the Reformation. The Headship of the adorable Redeemer––the spiritual independence of the Church––the rights of the Christian people: these were not crotchets based on foundations of bad metaphysics; they were vital, all-important principles, worthy of being maintained and asserted at any cost. It is indeed wonderful how entirely, immediately previous to the Disruption, the Church of Scotland assumed all the lineaments of her former self, as she existed in the days of Knox and his brethren. Once more, after the lapse of many years, she stood on broad anti-patronage ground. Once more, after having been swaddled up for an age in the narrow exclusiveness of the Act of 1799, that had placed her in a state of non-communion with the whole Christian world, she occupied, through its repeal, the truly liberal position with regard to the other evangelistic churches of her early fathers. Once more her discipline, awakened from its long slumber, 283 had become efficient, as in her best days, for every purpose of purity. She had become, on the eve of her disestablishment, after many an intervening metamorphosis, exactly, in character and lineament, the Church which had been established by the State nearly three centuries before. She went out as she had come in. There was a peculiar sobriety, too, in all her actings. Her sufferings and sacrifices were direct consequents of the invasion of her province by the civil magistrate.

But she did not on that account cease to recognise the magistrate in his own proper walk as the minister of God.

Her aggrieved members never once forgot that they were Scotchmen and Britons as certainly as Presbyterians, and that they had a country as certainly as a Church to which they owed service, and which it was unequivocally their duty to defend.

They retreated from the Establishment, and gave up all its advantages when the post had become so untenable that these could be no longer retained with honour––or we should perhaps rather say, retained compatibly with right principle; but they did not in wholesale desperation give up other posts which could still be conscientiously maintained.

The educational establishment of the country, for instance, was not abandoned, though the ecclesiastical one was.

The Principal of the United College of Saint Salvador and Saint Leonard’s signed the Deed of Demission in his capacity as an elder of the Church, but in his capacity of Principal he returned to his College, and in that post fought what was virtually the battle of his country, and fought it so bravely and well that he is Principal of the College still. And the parish schoolmasters who adhered to the Free Church fought an exactly similar battle, though unfortunately with a less happy issue; but that issue gives at least prominence to the fact that they did not resign 284 their charges, but were thrust from them. The other functionaries of the Assembly, uninfluenced by any wild Cameronian notion, held by their various secular offices, civil and military. Soldiers retained their commissions––magistrates their seats on the bench––members of Parliament their representative status. Nor did a single member of the Protesting Church possessed of the franchise resign, in consequence of the Disruption, a single political right or privilege. The entire transaction bore, we repeat, the stamp of perfect sobriety. It was in all its details the act of men in their right minds.

Now the principles held by the Church at the Disruption, and none other, whether Voluntary or Cameronian, are the principles of the Free Church. A powerful majority in a Presbyterian body, or in a country possessed of a representative government, are vested in at least the power of making whatever laws they will to make, for not only themselves, but for the minority also. But power is not right; and we would at once question the right of even a preponderating majority in a Church such as ours to introduce new principles into her framework, and to impose them on the minority. We question, on this principle, the right of that act of discipline which was exercised in the present century by a preponderating majority of the Antiburgher body in Scotland, when they deposed and excommunicated the late Dr. M’Crie for the ecclesiastical offence of holding in every particular by the original tenets of the fathers of the Secession.

The overt act in the case manifested their power, but the various attempts made to manifest their right we regard as mere abortions. They had no right to do what they did. The questions on which the majority differed from their fathers ought in justice, instead of being made a subject of legislation, to be left an open question. And we hold, on a similar principle, that whatever questions of conduct or 285 polity may arise in the Free Church, which, though new to it, yet come to be adopted by a majority, should be left open questions also. Of course, of novelties in doctrine we do not speak,––we trust that within the Free Church none such will ever arise; we refer rather to those semi-metaphysical points of casuistry, and nice questions of conduct, in which the differences that perplex non-established Churches are most liable to originate,––matters in which one man sees after one way, and another man after another,––and which, until heaped up into importance, wave-like, as if by the wind, pertain not to the province of solid demonstrable truth, but to the province of loose fluctuating opinion. And be it remarked, that non-established Churches are very apt to be disturbed by such questions.

They are in circumstances in which the ripple passes into the wavelet, and the wavelet into the billow. On this head, as on all others, there is great value in the teachings of history; and the Free Church might be worse employed than in occasionally conning the lesson. Each fifty years of the last century and half has been marked by its own special questions of the kind among the non-established Churches of Scotland.

The question of the last fifty years has been that Voluntary one which virtually led to the striking off the roll of the Antiburgher Secession Church, those protesting ministers who formed the nucleus of the Original Secession, and to the excommunication and deposition of Dr. M’Crie. The question of the preceding fifty years was that connected with the burghal oath, which had the effect of splitting into two antagonist sections the religious body of which the Burgher Secession formed but one of the fragments,––a body fast rising at the time into a position of importance, which the split prevented it from ever fully realizing. The question of the fifty years with which the period began was 286 that which fixed the Cameronian body, not merely in a condition of unsocial seclusion in its relation with all other churches, but even detached it from its allegiance to the State, and placed it in circumstances of positive rebellion. Perhaps the history of this latter body, as embodied in its older testimony, and the controversial writings of its Fairlys and Thorburns, is that from the study of which the Free Church might derive most profit at the present time. We live in so late an age of the world, that we have little chance of finding much which is positively new in the writings or speeches of our casuists. When we detect, in consequence, some of our ministers or office-bearers sporting principles that do not distinctively belong to the Church of the Disruption, we may be pretty sure, if we but search well, of discovering these principles existing as the distinctive tenets of some other Church; and the present tendency of a most small but most respectable minority in our body is decidedly Cameronian.

The passages of Scripture on which the Cameronians chiefly dwelt in their testimony and controversial writings, were those discussed by the Free Presbytery of Edinburgh on Wednesday last. As condemnatory of what is designated the great national sin of the Union, for instance, the testimony adduces, among other texts, Isa. viii. 12, ‘Say ye not, A confederacy, to all them to whom this people shall say, A confederacy;’ Hos. vii. 8, 9, ‘Ephraim hath mixed himself among the people; Ephraim is a cake not turned. Strangers have devoured his strength, and he knoweth it not; yea, grey hairs are here and there upon him, and he knoweth it not;’ and above all, 2 Cor. vi. 14, 15, ‘Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers; for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness, and what communion hath light with darkness, and what concord hath Christ with Belial, or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?’ And let the reader mark how logically these 287 Scriptures are applied. ‘All associations and confederacies with the enemies of true religion and godliness,’ says the Testimony, ‘are thus expressly condemned in Scripture, and represented as dangerous to the true Israel of God. And if simple confederacies with malignants and enemies to the cause of Christ are condemned, much more is an incorporation with them, which is an embodying of two into one, and therefore a straiter conjunction. And, taking the definition of malignants given by the declarations of both kingdoms, joined in arms anno 1643, to be just, which says, “Such as would not take the Covenant were to be declared to be public enemies to religion and their country, and that they are to be censured and punished as professed adversaries and malignants,” it cannot be refused but that the prelatic party in England now joined with are such. Further, by this incorporating union this nation is obliged to support the idolatrous Church of England.’ And thus the argument runs on irrefragable in its logic, if we but grant the premises. But to what, we ask, did it lead, assisted, of course, by other arguments of a similar character, in the body with whom it originated? To their withdrawal, from the times of the Revolution till now, from every national movement in the cause of Christ and His gospel; nay, most consistently, we must add––for we have ever failed to see the sense or logic of acting a public and political part in our own or our neighbour’s behalf, and declining on principle to act it in behalf of Christianity or its institutions––not only have they withdrawn themselves from all political exertion in behalf of religion, but in behalf of their country also. A Cameronian holding firm by his principles of non-incorporation with idolaters, cannot be a magistrate nor a member of Parliament; he cannot vote in an election, nor serve in the army.

It is one of the grand evils of questions of casuistry of this kind, that men, instead of looking at things and estimating 288 them as they really exist, are contented to play games at logic––chopping with but the imperfect signs of things––mere verbal counters, twisted from their original meanings by the influence of delusive metaphors and false associations.

Let us just see, in reference not to mere words, but to things, what can be truly meant by the terms ‘apostate or apostatizing Government,’ as applied to the Government of Great Britain. The words can have of course no just application, in a personal bearing, to present members of Government, as distinguished from the members of previous Governments, seeing that the functionaries now in office are just as much, or rather as little religious, as any other functionaries in office since the times of the Revolution or before. In a personal sense, England’s last religious government was that of Cromwell. The term apostate, or apostatizing, can have only an official meaning. What, then, in its official meaning, does it in reality express? The government of the United Kingdom is representative; and it is one of the great blessings which we enjoy as citizens that it is so,––one of those blessings for which we may now, as when we were younger, express ourselves thankful in the words of honest Isaac Watts, ‘that we were born on British ground.’ At any rate, this fact of representation is a fact––a thing, not a mere word. There is another fact in the case equally solid and certain. This representation of the empire is based on a population of about twenty-six millions of people; twelve millions of whom are Episcopalian, eight millions Roman Catholic, three millions Presbyterian, and three millions more divided among the various other Protestant sects of the country. And this also is a fact––a thing, not a mere word.

In the good providence of God we were born the citizens of an empire thus representative in its government, and thus ecclesiastically constituted in its population.

And it would be a further fact consequent on the other 289 two, that the aggregate character of the Government would represent the aggregate moral and ecclesiastical character of the people, were every distinct portion into which the people are parcelled to exert itself in proportion to its share of political influence. But from the yet further fact, that the portions have not always exerted themselves in equal ratios, and from other causes, political and providential, the character of the Government has considerably fluctuated––now representing one portion more in proportion to its amount than its mere bulk warranted, anon another. Thus, in the days of the Commonwealth, what are now the six million Presbyterians and Independents, etc., had a British Government wholly representative of themselves; while what are now the twelve million Episcopalians and the eight million Papists had none.

England at the time produced one of those men, of a type surpassingly great, that the world fails to see once in centuries; and, like Brennus of old, he flung his sword into the lighter scale, and it straightway outweighed the other. There then ensued a period of twenty-eight years, in which Government represented only the Episcopalians and Papists: and then a period of a hundred and forty years more, in which it represented only the Episcopalians and Presbyterians. And now––for Popery, growing strong in the interval, had been using all appliances in its own behalf, and had not been met in the proper spiritual field––it represents Episcopacy, Roman Catholicism, and a minute, uninfluential portion of the Presbyterian and other evangelistic bodies. But how, it may be asked, has this result taken place?

How is it only a moiety of these bodies that is represented? Mainly, we unhesitatingly reply, through the influence exerted by certain crotchets entertained by the bodies themselves on their political standing. When Government at the Revolution, instead of being as formerly representative 290 of Episcopacy and Popery, became representative of Episcopacy and Presbytery, Cameronianism broke off, on the plea that the governing power ought to be representative of Presbytery only, and that it was apostate because it was not; and the political influence of the body has been ever since lost to the Protestant cause. Voluntaryism, on the other hand, neutralized its influence, by holding that, though quite at freedom to exert itself in the political walk in attaining secular objects, religious objects are in that walk unattainable, or at least not to be attained; and so it also has been virtually lost to the Protestant cause. And now a cloud like a man’s hand arises in our own Church, to threaten a further secession from the ranks of the remaining class, who strive to stamp upon the Government, through the operation of the representative principle, at least a modicum of the evangelistic character. And all this is taking place in an age in which the battle for the integrity of the Sabbath as a national institute, and other similar battles, shall soon have to be decided on political ground. If ‘apostate’ or ‘apostatizing’ be at all proper words in reference to the things which we have here described, what, we ask, save the want either of weight or of exertion on the part of the represented bodies who complain of it, can be properly regarded as the cause of that apostasy? A representative Government, if the represented be Episcopalian, will itself be officially Episcopalian; if the represented be Papist, it will itself be officially Papist; if the represented be Presbyterian, it will itself be officially Presbyterian; if composed of all three together, the Government will bear an aggregate average character; but if, on some crotchet, the Presbyterians withdraw from the political field, while the others exert themselves in that field to the utmost, it will be Popish and Episcopalian exclusively. But for a result so undesirable––a result which, if Presbytery had been formerly in the ascendant, might of course be called official 291 apostasy––it would be the Presbyterian constituency that would be to blame, not the Government.

It will be seen that this view of the real state of things was that of Knox and Chalmers, and that they acted in due accordance with it. We are told by the younger M’Crie, in his admirable Sketches of Scottish Church History, ‘that Knox and his brethren, perceiving that the whole ecclesiastical property of the kingdom bade fair to be soon swallowed up by the rapacity of the nobles, insisted that a considerable portion of it should be reserved for the support of the poor, the founding of universities and schools, and the maintenance of an efficient ministry throughout the country. At last,’ continues the historian, ‘after great difficulty, the Privy Council came to the determination that the ecclesiastical revenues should be divided into three parts,––that two of them should be given to the ejected prelates during their lives, which afterwards reverted to the nobility, and that the third part should be divided between the Court and the Protestant ministry.’

‘Well,’ exclaimed Knox on hearing of this arrangement, ‘if the end of this order be happy, my judgment fails me. I see two parts freely given to the devil, and the third must be divided between God and the devil.’ Strong words these. Here is a Government, according to Knox’s own statement of the case, giving five-sixths to the devil, and but a remaining sixth to God. But does Knox on that account refuse God’s moiety? Does he set himself to reason metaphysically regarding his degree of responsibility for either what the devil got, or what the Government gave the devil. Not he. He received God’s part, and in applying it wisely and honestly to God’s service, wished it more; but as for the rest, like a man of broad strong sense as he assuredly was, he left the devil and the Privy Council to divide the responsibility between them. And the large-minded Chalmers entertained exactly the same views,––views 292 which, if not in thorough harmony with the idle fictions which dialecticians employ when they treat of Governments, at least entirely accord with the real condition of things. The official character of a representative Legislature must, as we have shown, resemble that of the constituency which it represents. In order to alter it permanently for the better, it is essentially necessary, as a first step in the process, that the worse parts of the constituencies on which it rests be so altered.

Now, for altering constituencies for the better, schools and churches were the machinery of Knox and of Chalmers; and if the funds for the support of either came honestly to them, unclogged with conditions unworthy of the object, they at once received them as given on God’s behalf, however idolatrously the givers––whether individuals or Governments––might be employing money drawn from the same purse in other directions. ‘Ought I,’ said Chalmers in reference to the Educational question, ‘ought I not to use, on teetotal principles, the water of the public pump, because another man mixes it with his toddy?’ It was not because Popery was established in the colonies, or seemed in danger of being established in Ireland, that the Free Church resigned its hold of the temporalities of the Scottish Establishment. Such endowment, instead of forming an argument for resignation, would form, on the contrary, an argument for keeping faster hold, in behalf of Protestantism, of the fortalice of the Establishment; just as if an invading army had possessed itself of the Castle of Dumbarton, with the strongholds of Fort-Augustus and Fort-William, the argument would be all the stronger for the national forces defending with renewed determination the Castles of Stirling and of Edinburgh, and the magnificent defences of Fort-George.

February 9, 1848.



The war now happily concluded was characterized by some very remarkable features. It was on the part of Britain the war of a highly civilised country, in a pre-eminently mechanical, and, with all its faults, singularly humane age,––in an age, too, remarkable for the diffusion of its literature; and hence certain conspicuous traits which belonged to none of the other wars in which our country had been previously engaged. Never before did such completely equipped fleets and armies quit our shores. The navies with which we covered the Black Sea and the Baltic were not at all what they would have been had the war lasted for one other campaign, but they mightily exceeded anything of the kind that Britain or the world had ever seen before. The fleets of Copenhagen, Trafalgar, and the Nile would have cut but a sorry figure beside them, and there was more of the materiel of war concentrated on that one siege of Sebastopol than on any half-dozen other sieges recorded in British history. In all that mechanical art could accomplish, the late war with Russia was by far the most considerable in which our country was ever engaged. It was, in respect of materiel, a war of the world’s pre-eminently mechanical people in the world’s pre-eminently mechanical age. With this strong leading feature, however, there mingled another, equally marked, in which the element was weakness, not strength. The men who beat all the world in heading pins are unable often to do anything else; for usually, in proportion as 294 mechanical skill becomes intense, does it also become narrow; and the history of the two campaigns before Sebastopol brought out very strikingly a certain helplessness on the part of the British army, part of which at least must be attributed to this cause. It is surely a remarkable fact, that in an army never more than seven miles removed from the base line of its operations, the distress suffered was so great, that nearly five times the number of men sank under it that perished in battle. There was no want among them of pinheading and pinheaded martinets. The errors of officers such as Lucan and Cardigan are understood to be all on the side of severity; but in heading their pin, they wholly exhaust their art; and under their surveillance and direction a great army became a small one, with the sea covered by a British fleet only a few miles away. So far as the statistics of the British portion of this greatest of sieges have yet been ascertained, rather more than three thousand men perished in battle by the shot or steel of the enemy, or afterwards of their wounds, and rather more than fifteen thousand men of privation and disease. As for the poor soldiers themselves, they could do but little in even more favourable circumstances under the pinheading martinets; and yet at least such of them as were drawn from the more thoroughly artificial districts of the country must, we suspect, have fared all the worse in consequence of that subdivision of labour which has so mightily improved the mechanical standing of Britain in the aggregate, and so restricted and lowered the general ability in individuals. We cannot help thinking that an army of backwoodsmen of the present day, or of Scotch Highlanders marked by the prevailing traits of the last century, would have fared better and suffered less.

Another remarkable feature of the war arose out of the singularly ready and wonderfully diffused literature of the day. Like those self-registering machines that keep a strict 295 account of their own workings, it seemed to be engaged, as it went on, in writing, stage after stage, its own history. The acting never got a single day ahead of the writing, and never a single week ahead of the publishing; and, in consequence, the whole civilised world became the interested witnesses of what was going on. The war became a great game at chess, with a critical public looking over the shoulders of the players. It was a peculiar feature, too, that the public should have been so critical. As the literature of a people becomes old, it weakens in the power of originating, and strengthens in the power of criticising. Reviews and critiques become the master efforts of a learned and ingenious people, whose literature has passed its full blow; and the criticism extends always, in countries in which the press is free from the productions of men who write in their closets, to the actings of men who conduct the political business of the country, or who direct its fleets and armies. And with regard to them also it may be safely affirmed, that the critical ability overshoots and excels the originating ability. There seems to have been no remarkably good generalship manifested by Britain in the Crimea: all the leading generalship appears, on the contrary, to have been very mediocre generalship indeed. The common men and subordinate officers did their duty nobly; and there have been such splendid examples of skilful generalship in fourth and fifth-rate commands––commands such as that of Sir Colin Campbell and Sir George Brown––that it has been not unfrequently asked, whether we had in reality the ‘right men in the right places,’ and whether there might not, after all, have been generalship enough in the Crimea had it been but rightly arranged. But the leading generalship was certainly not brilliant. The criticism upon it, on the other hand, has been singularly so. The ages of Marlborough and Wellington did not produce a tithe of the brilliant military criticism which has appeared in England in newspapers, 296 magazines, and reviews during the last two years. And yet it is possible that, had the very cleverest of these critics been appointed to the chief command, he would have got on as ill as any of his predecessors. In truth, the power of originating and the power of criticising are essentially different powers in the worlds both of thought and of action. Talent accumulates the materials of criticism from the experience of the past; and thus, as the world gets older, the critical ability grows, and becomes at length formidably complete;––whereas the power of originating, or, what is the same thing, of acting wisely, and on the spur of the moment, in new and untried circumstances, is an incommunicable faculty, which genius, and genius only, can possess. And genius is as rare now as it ever was. Any man of talent can be converted, by dint of study and painstaking, into a good military critic; but a Wellington or a Napoleon had as certainly to be born what they were, as a Dante or a Milton.

But by far the most pleasing feature of the war––of at least the part taken in it by Britain––is to be found in that humanity, the best evidence of a civilisation truly Christian, which has characterized it in all its stages. Generous regard for the safety and respect for the feelings of a brave enemy, when conquered, have marked our countrymen for centuries. But we owe it to the peculiar philanthropy of the time, that, in the midst of much official neglect, our own sick and wounded soldiers have been cared for after a fashion in which British soldiers were never cared for before. The ‘lady nurses,’ with Miss Nightingale at their head, imparted its most distinctive character to the war. We have now before us a deeply interesting volume,[1] the production of one of these devoted females, a native of the north country, or, as she was introduced by an old French officer to some Zouaves, 297 her fellow-passengers to the East, whom she had wished to see, a true ‘Montagnarde de Ecossaise.’ The name of the authoress is not given; but it will, we daresay, be recognised in the neighbourhood of the ‘capital of the Highlands’ as that of a delicately nurtured lady, the daughter of a late distinguished physician, well known to the north of the Grampians as an able and upright man, who, had he not so sedulously devoted himself to the profession which he adorned, might have excelled in almost any department of science. And in strong sound sense and genial feeling, we find the daughter worthy of such a father. Some of our more zealous Protestants professed at one time not a little alarm lest the lady nurses might be Papists in disguise; and certainly their ‘regulation dresses,’ all cut after one fashion, and of one sombre hue, did seem a little nun-like, and perhaps rather alarming. But the following passage––which, from the amusing mixture which it exhibits of strong good sense and half-indignant womanly feeling, our readers will, we are sure, relish––may serve to show that some of the ladies who wore the questionable dress, liked it quite as ill as the most zealous member of the Reformation Society could have done, and were very excellent Protestants under its cover. The authoress of the volume before us is a Presbyterian; and the occasion of the following remarks was the meeting of the British Consul at Marseilles, and the necessity that herself and her companions felt of getting head-dresses for themselves, that could be looked at ere entertaining him at dinner. ‘Perhaps it may be thought,’ says our authoress, ‘that all this solicitude about our caps was unsuitable in persons going out as what is called “Sisters of Mercy;” but I must once for all say that, as far as I was concerned, I neither professed to be a “Sister of Charity,” a “Sister of Mercy,” nor anything of the kind. I was, as I told a poissarde of Boulogne, a British woman who had little to do at home, 298 and wished to help our poor soldiers, if I could, abroad. The reason given to me for the peculiarity and uniformity of our dress was, that the soldiers might know and respect their nurses. It seems a sensible reason, and one which I could not object to, even disliking, as I did, all peculiarity of attire that seemed to advertise the nurses only as serving God, or serving Him pre-eminently, and thus conveying a tacit reproach to the rest of the world; for the obligation lies on all the same. I did not feel then, nor do I now, that we were doing anything better or more praiseworthy than is done in a quiet, unostentatious way at home every day. On the contrary, to many temperaments, my own among the number, it is far less difficult to engage in a new and exciting work like the one we were then entering on there, than to pursue the uneventful monotony of daily doing good at home. As for the dress itself, I have nothing to say against it. Although not perhaps of the material or texture I should have preferred, still the colour, grey, was one I generally wore from choice. But I must confess, that when I found myself restricted to it, without what seemed a good reason, an intense desire for blue, green, red, and yellow, with all their combinations, took possession of me; though, now that I may wear what I please, I find my former favour for grey has returned in full force. However, allowing that it was desirable we should have had some uniform costume, it certainly was unnecessary that ladies, nurses, and washerwomen should have been dressed alike, as we were. That was part of the mistake I have already adverted to, and was productive of confusion and bad feeling.’

Despite of the uniform dresses, however, the sick and wounded soldiers soon learned to distinguish between the paid nurses and the ladies who had left their comfortable British homes to lavish upon them their gratuitous, priceless labours. 299

There is no assumption in this volume. Its authoress writes as if she had done only her duty, and as if the task had not been an exceedingly hard or difficult one; but the simple facts related show how very much was accomplished and endured. Every chapter justifies the judgment pronounced by the tall Irish sergeant. This lady nurse is a ‘real fine woman,’––a noble specimen of the class whose disinterested and self-sacrificing exertions gave to the late war its most distinctive and brilliant feature. The bravery of British men had been long established; the superadded trait is the heroism of British women. In what circumstances of peril and suffering that heroism was exerted, the following extract, with which we conclude, may serve to show. It is the funeral of one of the lady nurses, who sank under an attack of malignant fever, that the following striking passage records:––

‘The Protestant burial-ground is a dismal-looking, neglected spot. It was chosen from an idea that Drusilla’s friends at home might prefer it to the open hill where the soldiers lay; but if there had been time for consideration and inspection, it would have been otherwise arranged: for the appearance of the place struck a chill to our hearts––it looked so dark and dreary, with the grass more than a foot high, and the weeds towering above it; and from its being close to the bay, and the porous nature of the soil, the grave which had been dug on the forenoon was almost filled by water; and on the words, “Forasmuch as it hath pleased Almighty God,” we heard the coffin splash into the half-full grave. There was a general regret afterwards that this burial-ground had been chosen, but poor Drusilla will not sleep the less soundly; and we all agreed, on leaving her grave, that whoever of us was next called to die, should be buried on the hill, in the spot allotted to the poor soldiers, open and unprotected as it was. Death seemed 300 very near to us then; we had already lost two orderlies, and many of the nurses were lying at the gates of death. Miss A––– had made an almost miraculous escape, and was not yet out of danger from relapse. The first gap had been made in our immediate party, and who of us could tell whether she herself was not to be the next?

‘The evening was fast closing as we returned, some in caiques, and others walking solemnly and sadly; for, besides the feelings naturally attending such a scene, we all regretted poor Drusilla, who, although she had not been long among us, was so obliging and anxious to be of use. She was a good-looking young woman, and immediately on her arrival had become the object of attraction to one of the clerks, whose attentions, however, she most steadily declined. He still persisted in showing the most extraordinary attachment to her, and during her illness was in such a state of excitement and distress as to be utterly incapacitated for attending to his duties properly. He used to sit on the stairs leading to her room, in the hopes of seeing some one who could tell him how she was, and went perpetually to the passage outside her room, entreating of the Misses Le M–––, who generally sat up with her, to let him in to see her. This they refused till the night of her death, when she was quite insensible, and past all hope of recovery; so that his visit could do her no harm. He stayed a few minutes, and looked his last on her; for in the morning at seven o’clock she died. I shall never forget his face when he came to my store-room, in accordance with his duty, to correct some inaccuracy in the diet-roll. He seemed utterly bewildered with sorrow; and Miss S–––, who had also occasion to speak to him, said she never saw grief so strongly marked in a human face. He insisted on following her remains to the grave as chief mourner, and wearied himself with carrying the coffin. No one interfered with him; for all seemed to think he had acquired 301 the right, by his unmistakeable affection, to perform these sad offices; and the lady superintendent, moved by his sorrow, allowed him to retain a ring of some small value which the deceased had been accustomed to wear.’

June 14, 1856.



It is not uninteresting to mark the rise and progress of certain branches of poetry and the belles lettres in their connection with sects and Churches. They form tests by which at least the taste and literary standing of these bodies can be determined; and the degree of success with which they are cultivated within the same Church, in different ages, throws at times very striking lights on its condition and history. One wholly unacquainted with the recorded annals of the Church of Scotland might safely infer, from its literature alone, that it fared much more hardly in the seventeenth century, during which the literature of England rose to its highest pitch of grandeur, than in the previous sixteenth, in which its Knoxes, Buchanans, and Andrew Melvilles flourished; and further, that its eighteenth century was, on the whole, a quiet and tranquil time, in which even mediocrity had leisure afforded it to develope itself in its full proportions. Literature is not the proper business of Churches; but it is a means, though not an end. And it will be found that all the better Churches have been as literary as they could; and that, if at any time the literature has been defective, it has been rather their circumstances that were unpropitious, than themselves that were in fault. Their enemies have delighted to represent the case differently. Our readers must remember the famous instance in Old Mortality, so happily exposed by the elder M’Crie, in which Sir Walter, when he makes his Sergeant Bothwell a writer of verses, introduces Burley as peculiarly a verse-hater, and ‘puts into his mouth that condemnation of 303 elegant pursuits which he imputes to the whole party;’ ‘overlooking or suppressing the fact,’ says the Doctor, ‘that there was at that very time in the camp of the Covenanters a man who, besides his other accomplishments, was a poet superior to any on the opposite side.’ It is equally a fact, however, and shows how thoroughly the mind of even a highly intellectual people may be prostrated by a long course of tyranny and persecution, that Scotland had properly no literature after the extinction of its old classical school in the person of Drummond of Hawthornden, until the rise of Thomson. The age in England of Milton and of Cowley, of Otway, of Waller, of Butler, of Dryden, and of Denham, was in Scotland an age without a poet vigorous enough to survive in his writings his own generation. For even the greater part of the popular version of its Psalms, our Church was indebted to the English lawyer Rous. Here and there we may find in it the remains of an earlier and more classical time: its version of the hundredth Psalm, for instance, with its quaintly-turned but stately octo-syllabic stanzas, was written nearly a hundred years earlier than most of the others, by William Keith, a Scottish contemporary of Beza and Buchanan, and one of the translators of the Geneva Bible. But we find little else that is Scotch in it; the Church to which, in the previous age, the author of the most elegant version of the Psalms ever given to the world had belonged, had now––notwithstanding the exertions of its Zachary Boyds––to import its poetry. In the following century, the Church shared in the general literature of the time. She missed, and but barely missed, having one of its greatest poets to herself––the poet Thomson––who at least carried on his studies so far with a view to her ministry, as to commence delivering his probationary discourses. We fear, however, he would have made but an indolent minister; and that, though his occasional sermons, judging from the hymn which concludes 304 the Seasons, might have been singularly fine ones, they would have been marvellously few, and very often repeated. The greatest poet that did actually arise within the Church during the century was Thomson’s contemporary, Robert Blair,––a man who was not an idle minister, and who, unlike his cousin Hugh, belonged to the evangelical side. The author of the Grave was one of the bosom friends of Colonel Gardiner, and a valued correspondent of Doddridge and Watts. Curiously enough, though the great merit of his piece has been acknowledged by critics such as Southey, it has been regarded as an imitation of the Night Thoughts of Young. ‘Blair’s Grave,’ says Southey in his Life of Cowper, ‘is the only poem I can call to mind which has been composed in imitation of the Night Thoughts;’ and though Campbell himself steered clear of the error, we find it introduced in a note, as supplementary to the information regarding Blair given in his Essay on English Poetry by his editor, Mr. Cunningham. It is demonstrable, however, that the Scotchman could not have been the imitator. As shown by a letter in the Doddridge collection, which bears date more than a twelvemonth previous to that of the publication of even the first book of the Night Thoughts, Blair, after stating that his poem, then in the hands of Isaac Watts, had been offered without success to two London publishers, states further, that the greater part of it had been written previous to the year 1731, ere he had yet entered the ministry; whereas the first book of Young’s poem was not published until the year 1744. Poetry such as that of Blair is never the result of imitation: its verbal happinesses are at least as great as those of the Night Thoughts themselves, and its power and earnestness considerably greater. ‘The eighteenth century,’ says Thomas Campbell, ‘has produced few specimens of blank verse of so powerful and simple a character as that of the Grave. It is a popular poem, not merely because it is religious, but because its 305 language and imagery are free, natural, and picturesque. The latest editor of the poets has, with singularly bad taste, noted some of the author’s most nervous and expressive phrases as vulgarisms, among which he reckons that of friendship, the “solder of society.” Blair may be a homely, and even a gloomy poet, in the eye of fastidious criticism; but there is a masculine and pronounced character even in his gloom and homeliness, that keeps it most distinctly apart from either dulness or vulgarity. His style pleases us like the powerful expression of a countenance without regular beauty.’ Such is the judgment on Blair––destined, in all appearance, to be a final one––of a writer who was at once the most catholic of critics and the most polished of poets. There succeeded to the author of the Grave, a group of poets of the Church, of whom the Church has not been greatly in the habit of boasting. Of Home, by a curious chance the successor of Blair in his parish, little need be said. He produced one good play and five enormously bad ones; and his connection with the Church was very much an accident, and soon dissolved. Blacklock, too, was as much a curiosity as a poet; and, save for his blindness, would scarce have been very celebrated in even his own day. Nor was Ogilvie, though more favourably regarded by Johnson than most of his Scottish contemporaries, other than a mediocre poet. He is the author, however, of a very respectable paraphrase––the sixty-second––of all his works the one that promises to live longest; and we find the productions of several other poets of the Church similarly preserved, whose other writings have died. And yet the group of Scottish literati that produced our paraphrases, if looking simply to literary accomplishment––we do not demand genius––must be regarded as a very remarkable one, when we consider that the greater number of the individuals which composed it were all at one time the ministers of a single Church, and that one of the smallest. We know 306 of no Church, either in Britain or elsewhere, that could now command such a committee as that which sat, at the bidding of the General Assembly, considerably more than sixty years ago, to prepare the ‘Translations and Paraphrases.’ Of the sixty-eight pieces of which the collection is composed, thirty are the work of Scottish ministers; and the groundwork of most of the others, furnished in large part by the previously existing writings of Watts and Doddridge, has been greatly improved, in at least the composition, by the emendations of Morrison and Logan. With all its faults, we know of no other collection equal to it as a whole. The meretricious stanzas of Brady and Tate are inanity itself in comparison. True, the later Blair, though always sensible, was ofttimes quite heavy enough in the pieces given to him to render––more so than in his prose; though, even when first introduced to that, Cowper could exclaim, not a little to the chagrin of those who regarded it as perfection of writing: ‘Oh, the sterility of that man’s fancy! if, indeed, he has any such faculty belonging to him. Dr. Blair has such a brain as Shakespeare somewhere describes, “dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage.’” But the fancy that Blair wanted, poor Logan had; and the man who too severely criticises his flowing and elegant paraphrases would do well to beware of the memories of his children. A poet whose pieces cannot be forgotten may laugh at the critics. Altogether, our ‘Translations and Paraphrases’ are highly creditable to the literary taste and ability of the Church during the latter half of the last century; and it serves to show how very much matters changed in this respect in about forty years, that while in the earlier period the men fitted for such work were all to be found within the pale of the Church’s ministry, at a later time, when the late Principal Baird set himself, with the sanction of the General Assembly, to devise means for adding to the collection, and 307 for revising our metrical version of the Psalms, he had to look for assistance almost exclusively to poets outside the precincts of even its membership.

And yet, even at this later time, the Church had its true poets––poets who, though, according to Wordsworth, they ‘wanted the accomplishment of verse,’ were of larger calibre and greater depth than their predecessors. Chalmers had already produced his Astronomical Discourses, and poor Edward Irving had begun to electrify his London audiences with the richly antique imagination and fiery fervour of his singularly vigorous orations. Stewart of Cromarty, too, though but comparatively little known, was rising, in his quiet parish church, into flights of genuine though unmeasured poetry, of an altitude to which minor poets, in their nicely rounded stanzas, never attain. Nor is the race yet extinct. Jeffrey used to remark, that he found more true feeling in the prose of Jeremy Taylor than in the works of all the second-class British poets put together; and those who would now wish to acquaint themselves with the higher and more spirit-rousing poetry of our Church, would have to seek it within earshot of the pulpits of Bruce, of Guthrie, and of James Hamilton. Still, however, it ever affords us pleasure to find it in the more conventional form of classic and harmonious verse. A Church that possesses her poets gives at least earnest in the fact that she is not falling beneath the literature of her age; and much on this account, but more, we think, from their great intrinsic merit, have we been gratified by the perusal of a volume of poems which has just issued from the press under the name of one of our younger Free Church ministers, the Rev. James D. Burns. We are greatly mistaken if Mr. Burns be not a genuine poet, skilled, as becomes a scholar and a student of classic lore, in giving to his verse the true artistic form, but not the less born to inherit the ‘vision and the faculty’ which cannot be acquired. Most men of great talent have 308 their poetic age: it is very much restricted, however, to the first five years of full bodily development, also particularly then a sterner and more prosaic mood follows. But recollections of the time survive; and it is mainly through the medium of these recollections that in the colder periods the feelings and visions of the poets continue to be appreciated and felt. It was said of Thomson the poet by Samuel Johnson, that he could not look at two candles burning other than poetically. The phrase was employed in conversation by old Johnson; but it must have been the experience of young Johnson, derived from a time long gone by, that suggested it. It is characteristic of the poetic age, that objects which in later life become commonplace in the mind, are then surrounded as if by a halo of poetic feeling. The candles were, no doubt, an extreme illustration; but there is scarce any object in nature, and there are very few in art, especially if etherealized by the adjuncts of antiquity or association, that are not capable of being thus, as it were, embathed in sentiment. With the true poet, the ability of investing every object with a poetic atmosphere remains undiminished throughout life; and we find it strikingly manifested in the volume before us. In almost every line in some of the pieces we find a distinct bit of picture steeped in poetic feeling. The following piece, peculiarly appropriate to the present time, we adduce as an illustration of our meaning:––


Strait of Ill Hope! thy frozen lips at last
Unclose, to teach our seamen how to sift
A passage where blue icebergs clash and drift,
And the shore loosely rattles in the blast.
We hold the secret thou hast clench’d so fast
For ages,––our best blood has earned the gift.––
Blood spilt, or hoarded up in patient thrift,
Through sunless months in ceaseless peril passed.
309 But what of daring Franklin? who may know
The pangs that wrung that heart so proud and brave,
In secret wrestling with its deadly woe,
And no kind voice to reach him o’er the wave?
Now he sleeps fast beneath his shroud of snow,
And the cold pole-star only knows his grave.
Alone, on some sharp cliff, I see him strain,
O’er the white waste, his keen, sagacious eye,
Or scan the signs of the snow-muffled sky,
In hope of quick deliverance––but in vain;
Then, faring to his icy tent again,
To cheer his mates with a familiar smile,
And talk of home and kinsfolk to beguile
Slow hours which freeze the blood and numb the brain.
Long let our hero’s memory be enshrined
In all true British hearts! He calmly stood
In danger’s foremost rank, nor looked behind.
He did his work, not with the fever’d blood
Of battle, but with hard-tried fortitude;
In peril dauntless, and in death resigned.
Despond not, Britain! Should this sacred hold
Of freedom, still inviolate, be assailed,
The high, unblenching spirit which prevailed
In ancient days, is neither dead nor cold.
Men are still in thee of heroic mould––
Men whom thy grand old sea-kings would have hailed
As worthy peers, invulnerably mailed,
Because by Duty’s sternest law controlled.
Thou yet wilt rise and send abroad thy voice
Among the nations battling for the right,
In the unrusted armour of thy youth;
And the oppressed shall hear it and rejoice:
For on thy side is the resistless might
Of Freedom, Justice, and Eternal Truth!’

This is surely genuine poetry both in form and matter; as just in its thinking as it is vivid in its imagery and classic in its language. The vein of strong sense which runs through all the poetry of Mr. Burns, and imparts to it 310 solidity and coherency, is, we think, not less admirable than the poetry itself, and is, we are sure, quite as little common. Let the reader mark how freely the thoughts arise in the following very exquisite little piece, written in Madeira, and suggested by the distant view of the neighbouring island of Porto Santo, one of the first colonized by the Portuguese adventurers of the fifteenth century. Columbus married a daughter of Bartolomeo Perestrillo, the first governor of the island, and after his marriage lived in it for some time with his father-in-law. And on this foundation Mr. Burns founds his poem:––


Glance northward through the haze, and mark
That shadowy island floating dark
Amidst the seas serene:
It seems some fair enchanted isle,
Like that which saw Miranda’s smile
When Ariel sang unseen.
Oh happy, after all their fears,
Were those old Lusian mariners
Who hailed that land the first,
Upon whose seared and aching eyes,
With an enrapturing surprise,
Its bloom of verdure burst.
Their anchor in a creek, shell-paven,
They dropped,––and hence “The Holy Haven”
They named the welcome land:
The breezes strained their masts no more,
And all around the sunny shore
Was summer, laughing bland.
They wandered on through green arcade
Where fruits were hanging in the shades,
And blossoms clustering fair;
Strange gorgeous insects shimmered
And from the brakes sweet minstrelsy
Entranced the woodland air.
Years passed, and to the island came
A mariner of unknown name,
And grave Castilian speech:
The spirit of a great emprise
Aroused him, and with flashing eyes
He paced the pebbled beach.
What time the sun was sinking slow,
And twilight spread a rosy glow
Around its single star,
His eye the western sea’s expanse
Would search, creating by its glance
Some cloudy land afar.
He saw it when translucent even
Shed mystic light o’er earth and heaven,
Dim shadowed on the deep;
His fancy tinged each passing cloud
With the fine phantom, and he bowed
Before it in his sleep.
He hears grey-bearded sailors tell
How the discoveries befell
That glorify their time;
And forth I go, my friends,” he cries,
To a severer enterprise
Than tasked your glorious prime.
Time was when these green isles that stud
The expanse of this familiar flood,
Lived but in fancy fond.
Earth’s limits––think you here they are?
Here has the Almighty fixed His bar,
Forbidding glance beyond?
Each shell is murmuring on the shore,
And wild sea-voices evermore
Are sounding in my ear:
I long to meet the eastern gale,
And with a free and stretching sail
Through virgin seas to steer.
Two galleys trim, some comrades stanch,
And I with hopeful heart would launch
Upon this shoreless sea.
Till I have searched it through and through.
And seen some far land looming blue,
My heart will not play free.”
Forth fared he through the deep to rove:
For months with angry winds he strove,
And passions fiercer still;
Until he found the long-sought land,
And leaped upon the savage strand
With an exulting thrill.
The tide of life now eddies strong
Through that broad wilderness, where long
The eagle fearless flew;
Where forests waved, fair cities rise,
And science, art, and enterprise
Their restless aim pursue.
There dwells a people, at whose birth
The shout of Freedom shook the earth,
Whose frame through all the lands
Has travelled, and before whose eyes,
Bright with their glorious destinies,
A proud career expands.
I see their life by passion wrought
To intense endeavour, and my thought
Stoops backwards in its reach
To him who, in that early time,
Resolved his enterprise sublime
On Porto Santo’s beach.
Methinks that solitary soul
Held in its ark this radiant roll
Of human hopes upfurled,––
That there in germ this vigorous life
Was sheathed, which now in earnest strife
Is working through the world.
Still on our way, with careworn face,
Abstracted eye, and sauntering pace,
May pass one such as he,
Whose mind heaves with a secret force,
That shall be felt along the course
Of far Futurity.
Call him not fanatic or fool,
Thou Stoic of the modern school;
Columbus-like, his aim
Points forward with a true presage,
And nations of a later age
May rise to bless his name.’

There runs throughout Mr. Burns’s volume a rich vein of scriptural imagery and allusion, and much oriental description––rather quiet, however, than gorgeous––that bears in its unexaggerated sobriety the impress of truth. From a weakness of chest and general delicate health, Mr. Burns has had to spend not a few of his winters abroad, under climatal influences of a more genial character than those of his own country; and hence the truthfulness of his descriptions of scenes which few of our native poets ever see, and a corresponding amount of variety in his verse. But we have exhausted our space, and have given only very meagre samples of this delightful volume, and a very inadequate judgment on its merits. But we refer our readers to the volume itself, as one well fitted to grow upon their regards; and meanwhile conclude with the following exquisite landscape,––no bad specimen of that ability of word-painting which is ever so certain a mark of the true poet:––

Below me spread a wide and lonely beach,
The ripple washing higher on the sands:
A river that has come from far-off lands
Is coiled behind in many a shining reach;
But now it widens, and its banks are bare––
314 It settles as it nears the moaning sea;
An inward eddy checks the current free,
And breathes a briny dampness through the air:
Beyond, the waves’ low vapours through the skies
Were trailing, like a battle’s broken rear;
But smitten by pursuing winds, they rise,
And the blue slopes of a far coast appear,
With shadowy peaks on which the sunlight lies,
Uplifted in aërial distance clear.

November 8, 1854.



After the labour of years, the seventh edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica has been at length completed. It is in every respect a great work––great even as a commercial speculation. We have been assured the money expended on this edition alone would be more than sufficient to build three such monuments as that now in the course of erection in Edinburgh to the memory of Sir Walter Scott. And containing, as it does, all the more valuable matter of former editions––all that the advancing tide of knowledge has not obliterated or covered up, and which at one time must have represented in the commercial point of view a large amount of capital––it must be obvious that, great as the cost of the present edition has been, it bears merely some such relation to the accumulated cost of the whole, as that borne by the expense of partial renovations and repairs in a vast edifice to the sum originally expended on the entire erection.

It is a great work, too, regarded as a trophy of the united science and literature of Britain. Like a lofty obelisk, raised to mark the spot where some important expedition terminated, it stands as it were to indicate the line at which the march of human knowledge has now arrived. We see it rising on the extreme verge of the boundary which separates the clear and the palpable from the indistinct and the obscure. The explored province of past research, with all its many party-coloured fields, stretches out from it in long perspective on the one hand,––luminous, well-defined, 316 rejoicing in the light. The terra incognita of future discovery lies enveloped in cloud on the other––an untried region of fogs and darkness.

The history of this publication for the last seventy years––for so slow has been its growth, that rather more than seventy years have now elapsed since its first appearance in the world of letters––would serve curiously to illustrate the literary and scientific history of Scotland during that period. The naturalist, by observing the rings of annual growth in a tree newly cut down, can not only tell what its exact bulk had been at certain determinate dates in the past––from its first existence as a tiny sapling of a single twelvemonth, till the axe had fallen on the huge circumference of perchance its hundredth ring––but he can also form from them a shrewd guess of the various characters of the seasons that have passed over it. Is the ring of wide development?––it speaks of genial warmth and kindly showers. Is it narrow and contracted?––it tells of scorching droughts or of biting cold. Now the succeeding editions of this great work narrate a somewhat similar story, in a somewhat similar manner. They speak of the growth of science and the arts during the various succeeding periods in which they appeared. The great increase, too, at certain times, in particular departments of knowledge, is curiously connected with peculiar circumstances in the history of our country. In the present edition, for instance, almost all the geography is new. The age has been peculiarly an age of exploration––a locomotive age: commerce, curiosity, the spirit of adventure, the desire of escaping from the tedium of inactive life,––these, and other motives besides, have scattered travellers by hundreds, during the period of our long European peace, over almost every country of the world. And hence so mighty an increase of knowledge in this department, that what the last age knew of the subject has been altogether overgrown. Vast 317 additions, too, have been made to the province of mechanical contrivance: the constructive faculties of the country, stimulated apparently by the demands of commerce and the influence of competition both at home and abroad, have performed in well-nigh a single generation the work of centuries.

Even the Encyclopædia itself, regarded in a literary point of view, is strikingly illustrative of a change which has taken place chiefly within the present century in the republic of letters.

We enjoyed a very ample opportunity of acquainting ourselves with it in its infancy. More years have passed away than we at present feel quite inclined to specify, since our attention was attracted at a very early age to an Encyclopædia, the first we had ever seen, that formed one work of a dozen or so stored on the upper shelf of a press to which we were permitted access. It consisted of three quarto volumes sprinkled over with what seventy years ago must have been deemed very respectable copperplates, and remarkable, chiefly in the arrangement of its contents, for the inequality of the portions, if we may so speak, into which the knowledge it contained was broken up. As might be anticipated from its comparatively small size, most of the articles were exceedingly meagre. There were pages after pages in which some eight or ten lines, sometimes a single line, comprised all that the writers had deemed it necessary to communicate on the subjects on which they touched. And yet, set full in the middle of these brief sentences––these mere skeletons of information––there were complete and elaborate treatises,––whales among the minnows. Some of these extended over ten, twenty, thirty, fifty pages of the work. We remember there was an old-fashioned but not ill-written treatise on Chemistry among the number, quite bulky enough of itself to fill a small volume. There was a sensibly written treatise 318 on Law, too; a treatise on Anatomy not quite unworthy of the Edinburgh school; a treatise on Botany, of which at this distance of time we remember little else than that it rejected the sexual system of Linnæus, then newly promulgated; a treatise on Architecture, sufficiently incorrect, as we afterwards found, in some of its minor details, but which we still remember with the kindly feeling of the pupil for his first master; a treatise on Fortification, that at least taught us how to make model forts in sand; treatises on Arithmetic, Astronomy, Bookkeeping, Grammar, Language, Theology, Metaphysics, and a great many other treatises besides. The least interesting portion of the work was the portion devoted to Natural History: it named and numbered species and varieties, instead of describing instincts and habits, and afforded little else to the reader than lists of hard words, and lines of uninteresting numerals. But our appetite for books was keen and but ill supplied at the time, and so we read all of the work that would read,––some of it oftener than once. The character of the whole reminded us somewhat of that style of building common in some of the older ruins of the north country, in which we find layers of huge stones surrounded by strips and patches of a minute pinned work composed of splinters and fragments.

This Dictionary of the three quarto volumes was the first edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica,––the identical work in its first beginnings, of which the seventh edition has been so recently completed. It was published in 1771––in the days of Goldsmith, and Burke, and Johnson, and David Hume––several years ere Adam Smith had given his Wealth of Nations or Robertson his History of America to the public, and ere the names of Burns or Cowper had any place in British Literature.

The world has grown greatly in knowledge since that period, and the Encyclopædia Britannica has done much 319 more than kept pace with it in its merits of acquirement. The three volumes have swelled into twenty-one; and each of the twenty-one contains at least one-third more of matter than each of the three. The growth and proportions of a work of genius seem to be very little dependent on the period of its production. Shakespeare may be regarded as the founder of the English drama. He wrote at a time when art was rude, and science comparatively low. All agree, at least, that the subjects of Queen Victoria know a very great deal which was not known by the subjects of Queen Elizabeth. There was no gas burned in front of the Globe Theatre, nor was the distant roar of a locomotive ever heard within its dingy recesses; nor did ever adventurous aeronaut look down from his dizzy elevation of miles on its tub-like proportions, or its gay flag of motley. And yet we question whether even Mr. Wakley himself, with all his advantages, would venture to do more than assert his equality with the Swan of Avon. Homer, too, wrote in a very remote period,––so very remote and so very uncertain, that the critics have begun seriously to doubt whether the huge figure of the blind old man, as it looms through the grey obscure of ages, be in reality the figure of one poet, or of a whole school of poets rolled up into a bundle. But though men fight much more scientifically now than they did at Troy, and know much more about the taking and defending of walled towns, no poet of the present day greatly excels Homer,––no, not the Scotch schoolmaster even who wrote Wolfe’s Ode, or the gentleman who sends us abstruse verses which we unluckily cannot understand, and then scolds us in perspicuous prose for not giving them a place in our columns.

Works of genius bear no reference in their bulk and proportions, if we may so speak, to the period at which they are produced; but it is far otherwise with works of science and general information: they grow with the world’s growth; 320 the tomes from which the father derived his acquaintance with facts and principles, prove all inadequate to satisfy the curiosity of the son: almost every season adds its ring to the ‘tree of knowledge;’ and the measuring line which girthed and registered its bulk in one age, fails to embrace it in the succeeding one. And hence one element at least in the superiority of this edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica to every other edition, and every other Encyclopædia.

It appears at the period of the world’s greatest experience. But there are other very important elements, characteristic, as we have said, of a peculiarity in the literature of the age, which have tended also to this result. We have remarked that the first edition appeared in the days of Hume, Robertson, and Adam Smith. None of these men wrote for it, however.

In France the first intellects of the country were engaged on their National Encyclopædia, and mighty was the mischief which they accomplished through its means; but works of this character in Britain were left to authors of a lower standing. Smollett once conducted a critical review; Gilbert Stuart an Edinburgh magazine; Dr. Johnson drew up parliamentary debates for two years together; Edmund Burke toiled at the pages of an Annual Register; and Goldsmith, early in his career, wrote letters for the newspapers. But, like the apothecary in Shakespeare, it was their ‘poverty, not their will, that consented;’ and when their fortunes brightened, these walks of obscure laboriousness were left to what were deemed their legitimate denizens––mere mediocritists and compilers. A similar feeling seems to have obtained regarding works of an encyclopædiacal character. The authors of the first edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica were merely respectable compilers,––we know not that any of their names would now sound familiar to the reader, with perhaps the exception of that of Smellie, an Edinburgh writer of the last century, 321 whose philosophical essays one sometimes meets with on our bookstalls.

But among the other great changes produced by the French Revolution, there was a striking and very important change effected in our periodical literature. The old foundations of society seemed breaking up, and the true nature of that basis of opinion on which they had so long rested came to be everywhere practically understood.

Minds of the larger order found it necessary to address themselves direct to the people; and the newspaper, the review, the magazine, the pamphlet, furnished them with ready vehicles of conveyance. Archimedes, during the siege of Syracuse, had to quit the sober quiet of his study, and to mix with the armed defenders of his native city, amid the wild confusion of sallies and assaults, the rocking of beleaguered towers, the creaking of engines, and the hurtling of missiles. It was thus with some of the greatest minds of the country during the distraction and alarm of the French Revolution. Coleridge conducted a newspaper; Sir James Mackintosh wrote for one; Canning contributed to the Anti-Jacobin; Robert Hall of Leicester became a reviewer; Southey, Jeffrey, Brougham, Scott, Giffard, all men in the first rank, appeared in the character of contributors to the periodicals.

The aspect of this department of literature suddenly changed, and the influence of that change survives to this day. Even now, some of our first literary names are known chiefly in their connection with magazines and reviews. Men such as Macaulay and Sidney Smith have scarce any place as authors dissociated from the Edinburgh; and Lockhart and Wilson are most felt in the world of letters in their connection with Blackwood and the Quarterly. And this change affected more than the periodicals. Its influence extended to works of the encyclopædiacal character. The two great Encyclopædias of Edinburgh––that 322 which bears the name of the city, and that whose name we have placed at the head of this article––came to reckon among their contributors the first men of the kingdom, both in science and literature: they benefited as greatly by the change we describe as the periodicals themselves. The Revolution, in its reflex influence, seems to have drawn a line in the British encyclopædiacal field between the labours of mere compilers and the achievements of original authorship; and the peculiarity of plan in the Encyclopædia Britannica, to which we have already referred––that peculiarity which gives an art or science entire as a treatise, instead of breaking it down into as many separate articles as it possesses technical terms––enabled this work to avail itself to the fullest extent of the improvement. No author, however great his powers, can be profound in the compass of a few paragraphs.

Goldsmith could assert that in an essay of a page or two it is even a merit to be superficial; and few there are who possess, with Goldsmith, the pure literary ability of being superficial with good effect.

But it is not enough to say of this work that it is enriched by contributions from not a few of the ablest writers which the present century has produced. It should be added, further, that it contains some of the masterpieces of these men. No one ever excelled Sir James Mackintosh in philosophical criticism. It was peculiarly his forte. He was rather a great judge of metaphysical power than a metaphysician. And yet it is this admirable critic who decides that the exquisitely classical dissertation of Dugald Stewart, written for this Encyclopædia, is the most magnificent of that philosopher’s works; and remarks, in accounting for the fact, that the ‘memorable instances of Cicero and Milton, and still more those of Dryden and Burke, seem to show that there is some natural tendency in the fire of genius to burn more brightly, or to blaze more fiercely, in 323 the evening than in the morning of human life.’ We are mistaken if Sir James’s own contribution to this work does not take decidedly a first place among his productions. The present age has not produced a piece of more exquisitely polished English, or of more tasteful or more nicely discriminating criticism.

There is an occult beauty and elegance in some of his thoughts and expressions, on which it is no small luxury to repose,––lines of reflection, too, along which one must feel as well as think one’s way.

What can be finer, for instance, than his remarks on the poetry of Dr. Thomas Brown, or what more thoroughly removed from commonplace? He tells us how the philosophic poet ‘observed man and his wider world with the eye of a metaphysician;’ that ‘the dark results of such contemplations, when he reviewed them, often filled his soul with feelings which, being both grand and melancholy, were truly poetical;’ that ‘unfortunately, however, few readers can be touched with fellow-feeling;’ for that ‘he sings to few, and must be content with sometimes moving a string in the soul of the lonely visionary, who, in the daydreams of youth, has felt as well as meditated on the mysteries of nature.’ The dissertation of Playfair is also pitched on the highest key to which that elegant writer ever attained. If we except the unjust and offensive estimate of the powers of Franklin, a similar judgment may be passed on the preliminary dissertation of Sir John Leslie. Jeffrey’s famous theory of beauty is, of all the philosophic pieces of that accomplished writer, by far the most widely known; and Sir Walter Scott’s essay on the drama is at least equal to any of the serious prose compositions of its great author. There is something peculiarly fascinating in the natural history of this edition,––a department wholly rewritten, and furnished chiefly by the singularly pleasing pen of Mr. James Wilson. It is not yet twenty years since Constable’s supplement 324 to the last edition appeared; and yet in this province, so mightily has the tide risen, that well-nigh all the old lines of classification have been obliterated or covered up. Vast additions have been also made. At no former time was there half the amount of actual observation in this field which exists in it now; and it is well that there should be so skilful a workman as Mr. Wilson to avail himself of the accumulating materials. His treatises show how very just is the estimate of his powers given to the public in Peter’s Letters considerably more than twenty years ago, at a time when he was comparatively little known. But we cannot enumerate a tithe of the masterpieces of the British Encyclopædia.

Judging from the list of contributors’ names attached to the index, we must hold that Moderatism in the field of literature and science is very much at a discount. But there is no lack of data of very various kinds to force upon us this conclusion. Among our sound non-intrusionists we find the names of Lord Jeffrey, Sir David Brewster, Professor John Fleming, Professor David Welsh, Professor Anderson, Dr. Irvine, the Rev. Mr. Hetherington, the Rev. Mr. Omond, Mr. Alexander Dunlop, and Mr. Cowan; whereas of all the opposite party who record their votes in our church courts, we have succeeded in finding the name of but a single individual, Dr. John Lee.

Why has Dr. Bryce thus left the field to the fanatics? had he nothing to insert on missions? Or could not Mr. Robertson of Ellon have been great on the article Beza?

Was there no exertion demanded of them to save the credit of the Earl of Aberdeen’s learned clergy? One of the main defects of omission in the work (of course we merely mention the circumstance) is the omission of the name of one very great non-intrusionist. Ethical and metaphysical philosophy are represented by Dugald Stewart and Sir James Mackintosh; mathematical and physical science 325 by Sir David Brewster, Sir John Leslie, Playfair, and Robinson; political economy by Ricardo, M’Culloch, and Malthus; natural history by James Wilson and Dr. Fleming; Hazlitt and Haydon discourse on painting and the fine arts; Jeffrey on the beautiful; Sir Walter Scott on chivalry, the drama, and romance; the classical pen of Dr. Irvine has illustrated what may be termed the biographical history of Scotland; physiology finds a meet expounder in Dr. Roget; geology in Mr. Phillips; medical jurisprudence in Dr. Traill. But in whom does theology find an illustrator? Does our country boast in the present age of no very eminent name in this noble department of knowledge––no name known all over Scotland, Britain, Europe, Christendom––a name whom we may associate with that of Dugald Stewart in ethical, or that of Sir David Brewster in physical science? In utter ignorance of the facts, we can, as we have said, but merely refer to the omission as one which will be assuredly marked in the future, when the din and dust of our existing controversies shall be laid, and when all now engaged in them who are tall enough to catch the eye of posterity, will be seen in their genuine colours and their true proportions. The article Theology in the Encyclopædia Britannica is written, not by Dr. Chalmers, but new-modelled from an old article by the minister of an Independent congregation in Edinburgh, Mr. Lindsay Alexander––we doubt not an able and good man, but not supereminently the one theologian of Scotland.

We mark, besides, a few faults, of commission in the work, apparently of a sub-editorial character, but which, unlike the defect just pointed out, the editor of some future edition will find little difficulty in amending. Works the production of a single mind, bear generally an individual character; works the productions of many minds, are marked rather by the character of the age to which they belong. We find occasional evidence in the Encyclopædia that it belongs to 326 the age of Catholic Emancipation,––an age in which the true in science was deemed a very great matter by men to whom the true in religion seemed a much less one. One at least of the minds employed on the minor articles of the work had palpably a papistical leaning.

A blaze of eulogium, which contrasts ludicrously enough with the well-toned sobriety of what we may term its staple style, is made to surround, like the halo in old paintings, some of the men who were happy enough to be distinguished assertors of the Romish Church. We would instance, as a specimen, the biographical sketches of Bossuet and the Jesuit Bourdaloue, written by the late Dr. James Browne. These, however, are but comparatively minute flaws in a work so truly great, and of such immense multiplicity. They are some of the imperfections of a work to which imperfection is inevitable, and which, after all such deductions have been made, must be recognised as by much the least faulty and most complete of its class which the world has yet seen.

April 30, 1842.




–––, Isle of Skye.

.... I know not when this may reach you. We are much shut out from the world at this dead season of the year, especially in those wilder solitudes of the island that extend their long slopes of moor to the west. The vast Atlantic spreads out before us, blackened by tempest, a solitary waste, unenlivened by a single sail, and fenced off from the land by an impassable line of breakers. Even from the elevation where I now write––for my little cottage stands high on the hill-side––I can hear the measured boom of the waves, swelling like the roar of distant artillery, above the melancholy moanings of the wind among the nearer crags, and the hoarser dash of the stream in the hollow below. We are in a state of siege: the isle is beleaguered on its rugged line of western coast, and all communication within that quarter cut off; while in the opposite direction the broken and precarious footways that wind across the hills to our more accessible eastern shores, are still drifted over in the deeper hollows of the snow of the last great storm. It was only yester-evening that my cousin Eachen, with whom I share your newspaper, succeeded in bringing me the number published early in the present month, in which you furnish your readers with a report of the great railway meeting at Glasgow.

My cousin and I live on opposite sides of the island. We met at our tryst among the hills, not half an hour, before sunset; and as each had far to walk back, and as a storm seemed brewing––for the wind had suddenly lowered, 328 and the thick mists came creeping down the hill-sides, all dank and chill, and laden with frost-rime, that settled crisp and white on our hair––we deemed it scarce prudent to indulge in our usual long conversation together.

‘You will find,’ said Eachen, as he handed me the paper, ‘that things are looking no better. The old Tories are going on in the old way, bitterer against the gospel than ever. They will not leave us in all Skye a minister that has ever been the means of converting a soul; and what looks as ill, our great Scotch railway, that broke the Sabbath last year, in the vain hope of making money by it, is to break it this year at a dead loss. And this for no other purpose that people can see, than just that an Edinburgh writer may advertise his business by making smart speeches about it. Depend on’t, Allister, the country’s fey.’

‘The old way of advertising,’ said I, ‘before it became necessary that an elder should have at least some show of religion about him, was to get into the General Assembly, and make speeches there. If the crisis comes, we shall see the practice in full blow again. We shall see our anti-Sabbatarian gentlemen transmuted into voluble Moderate elders, talking hard for clients without subjecting themselves to the advertisement duty,––and the railway mayhap keeping its Sabbaths.’

‘Keeping its Sabbaths,’ replied Eachen; ‘ay, but the shareholders, perhaps, have little choice in the matter. I wish you heard our catechist on that. Depend on’t, Allister, the country’s fey.’

‘Keeping its Sabbaths? Yes,’ said I, catching at his meaning, ‘if we are to be visited by a permanent commercial depression––and there are many things less likely at the present time––the railway may keep its Sabbaths, and keep them as the land of Judea did of old. It would be all too easy, in a period of general distress, to touch that line of necessarily high expenditure below which it would 329 be ruin for the returns of the undertaking to fall. Let but the invariably great outlay continue to exceed the income for any considerable time, and the railway must keep its Sabbaths.’

‘Just the catechist’s idea,’ rejoined my cousin. ‘He spoke on the subject at our last meeting. “Eachen,” he said, “Eachen, the thing lies so much in the ordinary course of providence, that our blinded Sabbath-breakers, were it to happen, would recognise only disaster in it, not judgment. I see at times, with a distinctness that my father would have called the second sight, that long weary line of rail, with its Sabbath travellers of pleasure and business speeding over it, and a crowd of wretched witnesses raised, all unwittingly and unwillingly on their own parts, to testify against it, and of coming judgment, at both its ends. I see that the walks of the one great city into which it opens are blackened by shoals of unemployed artisans; and that the lanes and alleys of the other number by thousands and tens of thousands their pale and hunger-bitten operatives, that cry for work and food. They testify all too surely that judgment needs no miracle here. Let but the evil continue to grow––nay, let but one of our Scottish capitals, our great mart of commerce and trade sink into the circumstances of its manufacturing neighbour Paisley––and the railway must keep its Sabbaths. But alas! there would be no triumph for party in the case. Great, ere the evil could befall, would the sufferings of the country be, and they would be sufferings that would extend to all.” What think you, Allister, of the catechist’s note?’

‘Almost worth throwing into English,’ I said. ‘But the fog still thickens, and it will be dark night ere we reach home.’ And so we parted.

Dark night it was, and the storm had burst out. But it was pleasant, when I had reached my little cottage, to pile high the fire on the hearth, and to hear the blast roaring 330 outside, and shaking the window-boards, as if some rude hand were striving to unfasten them. I lighted my little heap of moss fir on the projecting stone that serves the poor Highlander for at once lamp and candlestick, and bent me over your fourth page, to scan the Sabbath returns of a Scottish railroad. But my rugged journey and the beating of the storm had induced a degree of lassitude; the wind outside, too, had forced back the smoke, until it had filled with a drowsy, umbery atmosphere, the whole of my dingy little apartment: Mr. M’Neill seemed considerably less smart than usual, and more than ordinarily offensive, and in the middle of his speech I fell fast asleep. The scene changed, and I found myself still engaged in my late journey, coming down over the hill, just as the sun was setting red and lightless through the haze behind the dark Atlantic. The dreary prospect on which I had looked so shortly before was restored in all its features: there was the blank, leaden-coloured sea, that seemed to mix all around with the blank, leaden-coloured sky; the moors spread out around me, brown and barren, and studded with rock and stone; the fogs, as they crept downwards, were lowering the overtopping screen of hills behind to one dead level. Through the landscape, otherwise so dingy and sombre, there ran one long line of somewhat brighter hue: it was a long line of breakers tumbling against the coast far as the eye could reach, and that seemed interposed as a sort of selvage between the blank, leaden sea, and the deep, melancholy russet of the land. Through one of those changes so common in dreams, the continuous line of surf seemed, as I looked, to alter its character. It winded no longer round headland and bay, but stretched out through the centre of the landscape, straight as an extended cord, and the bright white saddened down to the fainter hue of decaying vegetation. The entire landscape underwent a change. Under the gloomy sky of a stormy evening, I 331 could mark on the one hand the dark blue of the Pentlands, and on the other the lower slopes of Corstorphine. Arthur’s Seat rose dim in the distance behind; and in front, the pastoral valley of Wester Lothian stretched away mile beyond mile, with its long rectilinear mound running through the midst,––from where I stood beside one of the massier viaducts that rose an hundred feet overhead, till where the huge bulk seemed diminished to a slender thread on the far edge of the horizon.

It seemed as if years had passed––many years. I had an indistinct recollection of scenes of terror and of suffering, of the shouts of maddened multitudes engaged in frightful warfare, of the cries of famishing women and children, of streets and lanes flooded with blood, of raging flames enwrapping whole villages in terrible ruin, of the flashing of arms and the roaring of artillery; but all was dimness and confusion. The recollection was that of a dream remembered in a dream. The solemn text was in my mind, ‘Voices, and thunders, and lightnings, and a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake and so great;’ and I now felt as if the convulsion was over, and that its ruins lay scattered around me. The railway, I said, is keeping its Sabbaths. All around was solitary, as in the wastes of Skye. The long rectilinear mound seemed shaggy with gorse and thorn, that rose against the sides, and intertwisted their prickly branches atop. The sloe-thorn, and the furze, and the bramble choked up the rails. The fox rustled in the brake; and where his track had opened up a way through the fern, I could see the red and corroded bars stretching idly across. There was a viaduct beside me: the flawed and shattered masonry had exchanged its raw hues for a crust of lichens; one of the taller piers, undermined by the stream, had drawn two of the arches along with it, and lay adown the water-course a shapeless mass of ruin, 332 o’ermasted by flags and rushes. A huge ivy, that had taken root under a neighbouring pier, threw up its long pendulous shoots over the summit. I ascended to the top. Half-buried in furze and sloe-thorn, there rested on the rails what had once been a train of carriages; the engine ahead lay scattered in fragments, the effect of some disastrous explosion, and damp, and mould, and rottenness had done their work on the vehicles behind. Some had already fallen to pieces, so that their places could be no longer traced in the thicket that had grown up around them; others stood comparatively entire, but their bleached and shrivelled panels rattled to the wind, and the mushroom and the fungus sprouted from between their joints. The scene bore all too palpably the marks of violence and bloodshed. There was an open space in front, where the shattered fragments of the engine lay scattered; and here the rails had been torn up by violence, and there stretched across, breast-high, a rudely piled rampart of stone. A human skeleton lay atop, whitened by the winds; there was a broken pike beside it; and, stuck fast in the naked skull, which had rolled to the bottom of the rampart, the rusty fragment of a sword. The space behind resembled the floor of a charnel-house––bindwood and ground-ivy lay matted over heaps of bones; and on the top of the hugest heap of all, a skull seemed as if grinning at the sky from amid the tattered fragments of a cap of liberty. Bones lay thick around the shattered vehicles; a trail of skeletons dotted the descending bank, and stretched far into a neighbouring field; and from amid the green rankness that shot up around them, I could see soiled and tattered patches of the British scarlet. A little farther on there was another wide gap in the rails. I marked beside the ruins of a neighbouring hovel a huge pile of rusty bars, and there lay inside the fragment of an uncouth cannon marred in the casting. 333

I wandered on in unhappiness, oppressed by that feeling of terror and disconsolateness so peculiar to one’s more frightful dreams. The country seemed everywhere a desert. The fields were roughened with tufts of furze and broom; hedgerows had shot up into lines of stunted trees, with wide gaps interposed; cottage and manor-house had alike sunk into ruins; here the windows still retained their shattered frames, and the roof-tree lay rotting amid the dank vegetation of the floor; yonder the blackness of fire had left its mark, and there remained but reddened and mouldering stone. Wild animals and doleful creatures had everywhere increased. The toad puffed out his freckled sides on hearths whose fires had been long extinguished, the fox rustled among its bushes, the masterless dog howled from the thicket, the hawk screamed shrill and sharp as it fluttered overhead. I passed what had been once the policies of a titled proprietor. The trees lay rotting and blackened among the damp grass––all except one huge giant of the forest, that, girdled by the axe half a man’s height from the ground, and scorched by fire, stretched out its long dead arms towards the sky. In the midst of this wilderness of desolation lay broken masses, widely scattered, of what had been once the mansion-house. A shapeless hollow, half filled with stagnant water, occupied its immediate site; and the earth was all around torn up, as if battered with cannon. The building had too obviously owed its destruction to the irresistible force of gunpowder.

There was a parish church on the neighbouring eminence, and it, too, was roofless and a ruin. Alas! I exclaimed, as I drew aside the rank stalks of nightshade and hemlock that hedged up the breach in the wall through which I passed into the interior––alas! have the churches of Scotland also perished? The inscription of a mutilated tombstone that lay outside caught my eye, and I paused 334 for a moment’s space in the gap to peruse it. It was an old memorial of the times of the Covenant, and the legend was more than half defaced. I succeeded in deciphering merely a few half sentences––‘killing-time,’ ‘faithful martyr,’ ‘bloody Prelates;’ and beneath there was a fragmentary portion of the solemn text, ‘How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost Thou not judge and avenge our blood?’ I stepped into the interior: the scattered remains of an altar rested against the eastern gable. There was a crackling as of broken glass under my feet, and stooping down I picked up a richly-stained fragment: it bore a portion of that much-revered sign, the pelican giving her young to eat of her own flesh and blood––the sign which Puseyism and Popery equally agree in regarding as adequately expressive of their doctrine of the real presence, and which our Scottish Episcopalians have so recently adopted as the characteristic vignette of their service-book. The toad and the newt had crept over it, and it had borrowed a new tint of brilliancy from the slime of the snail. Destruction had run riot along the walls of this parish church. There were carvings chipped and mutilated, as if in sport, less apparently with the intention of defacing, than rendering them contemptible and grotesque. A huge cross of stone had been reared over the altar, and both the top and one of the arms had been struck away, and from the surviving arm there dangled a noose. The cross had been transformed into a gibbet. Nor were there darker indications wanting. In a recess set apart as a cabinet for relics, there were human bones all too fresh to belong to a remote antiquity; and in a niche under the gibbet lay the tattered remains of a surplice dabbled in blood. I stood amid the ruins, and felt a sense of fear and horror creeping over me: the air darkened under the scowl of the coming tempest and the closing night, and the wind shrieked more mournfully amid the shattered and dismantled walls. 335

There came another change over my dream. I found myself wandering in darkness, I knew not whither, among bushes and broken ground; there was the roar of a large stream in my ear, and the savage howl of the storm. I retain a confused, imperfect recollection of a light streaming upon broken water––of a hard struggle in a deep ford––and of at length sharing in the repose and safety of a cottage, solitary and humble almost as my own. The vision again strengthened, and I found myself seated beside a fire, and engaged with a few grave and serious men in singing the evening psalm, with which they closed for the time their services of social devotion.

‘The period of trial wears fast away,’ said one of the number, when all was over––a grey-haired, patriarchal-looking old man––‘The period of trial is well-nigh over, the storms of our long winter are past, and we have survived them all. Patience! a little more patience, and we shall see the glorious spring-time of the world begin! The vial is at length exhausted.’

‘How very simple,’ said one of the others, as if giving expression rather to the reflection that the remark suggested, than speaking in reply,––‘how exceedingly simple now it seems to trace to their causes the decline and fall of Britain! The ignorance and the irreligion of the land have fully avenged themselves, and have been consumed in turn in fires of their own kindling. How could even mere men of the world have missed seeing the great moral evil that lay at the root of’––

‘Ay,’ said a well-known voice that half mingled with my dreaming fancies, half recalled me to consciousness; ‘nothing can be plainer, Donald. That lawyer-man is evidently not making his smart speeches or writing his clever circulars with an eye to the pecuniary interests of the railroad. No person can know better than he knows that the company are running their Sabbath trains at a 336 sacrifice of some four or five thousand a year. Were there not a hundred thousand that took the pledge? and can it be held by any one that knows Scotland, that they aren’t worth over-head a shilling a year to the railway? No, no; depend on’t, the man is guiltless of any design of making the shareholders rich by breaking the Sabbath. He is merely supporting a desperate case in the eye of the country, and getting into all the newspapers, that people may see how clever a fellow he is. He is availing himself of the principle that makes men in our great towns go about with placards set up on poles, and with bills printed large stuck round their hats.’

Two of my nearer neighbours, who had travelled a long mile through the storm to see whether I had got my newspaper, had taken their seats beside me when I was engaged with my dream; and after reading your railway report, they were now busied in discussing the various speeches and their authors. My dream is, I am aware, quite unsuited for your columns, and yet I send it to you. There are none of its pictured calamities that lie beyond the range of possibility––nay, there are perhaps few of them that at this stage may not actually be feared; but if so, it is at least equally sure that there can be none of them that at this stage might not be averted.



Among the some six or eight and twenty volumes of pamphlets which have been already produced by our Church controversy, and which bid fair to compose but a part of the whole, there is one pamphlet, in the form of a Sermon, which bears date January 1840, and two other pamphlets, in the form of Dialogues, which bear date April 1843. The Sermon and the Dialogues discuss exactly the same topics. They are written in exactly the same style. They exhibit, in the same set phrases, the same large amount of somewhat obtrusive sanctimoniousness. They are equally strong in the same confidence of representing, on their respective subjects, the true mind of Deity. They solicit the same circle of readers; they seem to have employed the same fount of types; they have emanated from the same publishers. They are liker, in short, than the twin brothers in Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors; and the only material dissimilarity which we have been yet able to discover is, that whereas the Sermon is a thorough-going and uncompromising defence of our Evangelical majority in the Church, the Dialogues form an equally thorough-going and uncompromising attack upon them. This, however, compared with the numerous points of verisimilitude, the reader will, we are sure, deem but a trifle, especially when he has learned further that they represent the same mind, and have employed the same pen––that the Sermon was published by the Rev. Alexander Clark of Inverness in 338 1840, and the Dialogues by the Rev. Alexander Clark of Inverness in 1843.

We spent an hour at the close of twilight a few evenings ago, in running over the Sermon and the Dialogues, and in comparing them, as we went along, paragraph by paragraph, and sentence by sentence. We had before us also one of Mr. Clark’s earlier publications, his Rights of Members of the Church of Scotland, and a complete collection of his anti-patronage speeches for a series of years, as recorded in The Church Patronage Reporter, with his speech ‘anent lay patronage’ in the General Assembly, when in 1833 he led the debate on the popular side. The publications, in all, extended over a period of fourteen years. They exhibited Mr. Clark, and what Mr. Clark had held, in 1829, in 1831, in 1832, in 1836, in 1840, and in 1843. We found that we could dip down upon him, as we went along, like a sailor taking soundings in the reaches of some inland frith or some navigable river, and ascertain by year and day the exact state of his opinions, and whether they were rising or falling at the time. And our task, if a melancholy, was certainly no uninteresting one. We succeeded in bringing to the surface, from out of the oblivion that had closed over them, many a curious, glittering, useless little thing, somewhat resembling the decayed shells and phosphoric jellies that attach themselves to the bottom of the deep-sea lead. Here we found the tale of a peroration, set as if on joints, that clattered husky and dry like the rattles of a snake; there an argument sprouting into green declamation, like a damaged ear of corn in a wet harvest; yonder a piece of delightful egotism, set full in sentiment like a miniature of Mr. Clark in a tinsel frame. What seemed most remarkable, however, in at least his earlier productions, was their ceaseless glitter of surface, if we may so speak. We found them literally sprinkled over with little bits of broken figures, as if the reverend gentleman had pounded his metaphors and comparisons 339 in a mortar, and then dusted them over his style. It is thus, thought we, that our manufacturers of fancy wax deal by their mica. In his Rights of Members, for instance, we found in one page that ‘the gross errors of Romanism had risen in successive tides, until the light of truth suffered a fearful eclipse during a long period of darkness;’ and we had scarce sufficiently admired the sublime height of tides that occasion eclipses, when we were further informed, in the page immediately following, that the god of this world was mustering his multifarious hosts for the battle, hoping, amidst the waves of popular commotion, ‘to blot out the name of God from the British Constitution.’ Assuredly, thought we, we have the elements of no commonplace engagement here. ‘Multifarious hosts,’ fairly mustered, and ‘battling’ amid ‘waves’ in ‘commotion’ to ‘blot out a name,’ would be a sight worth looking at, even though, like the old shepherd in the Winter’s Tale, their zeal should lack footing amid the waters. But though detained in the course of our search by the happinesses of the reverend gentleman, we felt that it was not with the genius of Mr. Clark that we had specially to do, but with his consistency.

For eleven of the fourteen years over which our materials extended, we found the Rev. Mr. Clark one of the most consistent of men. From his appearance on the platform at Aberdeen in 1829, when he besought his audience not to deem it obtrusive in a stranger that he ventured to address them, and then elicited their loud applauses by soliciting their prayers for ‘one minister labouring in northern parts,’ who ‘aspired to no higher distinction on earth than that he should spend and be spent in the service of his dear Lord and Master,’ down to 1840, when he published his sermon on the ‘Present Position of the Church, and the Duty of its Members,’ and urged, with the solemnity of an oath, that ‘the Church of Scotland was engaged in asserting principles which the allegiance it owes to Christ would never permit 340 it to desert,’ Mr. Clark stood forward on every occasion the uncompromising champion of spiritual independence, and of the rights of the Christian people. He took his place far in the van. He was no mere half-and-half non-intrusionist,––no complaisant eulogist of the Veto,––no timid doubter that the Church in behalf of her people might possibly stretch her powers too far, and thus separate her temporalities from her cures. Nothing could be more absurd, he asserted, than to imagine such a thing. On parade day, when she stood resting on her arms in the sunshine, Mr. Clark was fugleman to his party,––not merely a front man in the front rank, but a man far in advance of the front rank. Nay, even after the collision had taken place, Mr. Clark could urge on his brethren that all that was necessary to secure them the victory was just to go a little further ahead, and deprive their refractory licentiates of their licences. We found that for eleven of the fourteen years, as we have said, Mr. Clark was uniformly consistent. But in the twelfth year the conflict became actually dangerous, and Mr. Clark all at once dropped his consistency. The great suddenness––the extreme abruptness––of the change, gave to it the effect of a trick of legerdemain. The conjurer puts a pigeon into an earthen pipkin, gives the vessel a shake, and then turns it up, and lo! out leaps the little incarcerated animal, no longer a pigeon, but a rat. It was thus with the Rev. Mr. Clark. Adversity, like Vice in the fable, took upon herself the character of a juggler, and stepping full into the middle of the Church question, began to play at cup and ball. Nothing, certainly, could be more wonderful than the transformations she effected; and the special transformation effected on the Rev. Mr. Clark surpassed in the marvellous all the others. She threw the reverend gentleman into a box, gave him a smart shake, and then flung him out again, and lo! to the astonishment of all men, what went in Mr. Clark, came out Mr. Bisset of 341 Bourtie. In order, apparently, that so great a marvel should not be lost to the world, Mr. Clark has been at no little trouble in showing himself, both before he went in and since he came out. His pamphlet of 1840 and his pamphlets of 1843 represent him in the two states: we see him going about in them, all over the country, to the extent of their circulation, like the mendicant piper in his go-cart,––making open proclamation everywhere, ‘I am the man wot changed;’ and the only uncomfortable feeling one has in contemplating them as curiosities, arises solely from the air of heavy sanctity that pervades equally all their diametrically opposed doctrines, contradictory assertions, and contending views, as if Deity could declare equally for truth and error, just as truth and error chanced to be held by Mr. Clark. Of so solemn a cast are the reverend gentleman’s belligerent pamphlets, that they serve to remind one of antagonist witnesses swearing point blank in one another’s faces at the Old Bailey.

Such were some of the thoughts which arose in our mind when spending an hour all alone with the Rev. Mr Clark’s pamphlets. We bethought us of an Eastern story about a very wicked prince who ruined the fair fame of his brother, by assuming his body just as he might his greatcoat, and then doing a world of mischief under the cover of his name and appearance. What, thought we, if this, after all, be but a trick of a similar character? Dr. Bryce has been long in Eastern parts, and knows doubtless a great deal about the occult sciences. We would not be much surprised should it turn out, that having injected himself into the framework of the Rev. Mr. Clark, he is now making the poor man appear grossly inconsistent, and both an Erastian and an Intrusionist, simply by acting through the insensate carcase. The veritable Mr. Clark may be lying in deep slumber all this while in the ghost cave of Munlochy, like one of the seven sleepers of Ephesus, or standing 342 entranced, under the influences of fairy-land, in some bosky recess of the haunted Tomnahurich. We must just glance over these Dialogues again, and see whether we cannot detect Dr. Bryce in them.

And glance over them we did. There could be no denying that the Doctor was there, and this in a much more extreme shape than he ever yet wore in his own proper person. Dr. Bryce asserts, for instance, in his speeches and pamphlets, that the liberty for which the Church has been contending is a liberty incompatible with her place and standing as an Establishment––and there he stops; but we found him asserting in Mr. Clark’s Dialogues, that it is a liberty at once so dangerous and illegal, that Voluntaries must not be permitted to enjoy it either. We saw various other points equally striking as we went along. Our attention, however, was gradually drawn to another matter. The dramatis personæ to which the reader is introduced are a minister and two of his parishioners, the one a Moderate, the other a Convocationist. It is intended, of course, that the clerical gentleman should carry the argument all his own way; and we could not help admiring how, with an eye to this result, the writer had succeeded in making the parishioners so amazingly superficial in their information, and so ingeniously obtuse in their intellects. They had both been called into existence with the intention of being baffled and beaten, and made, with a wise adaptation of means to the desired end, consummate blockheads for the express purpose. ‘A man is a much nobler animal than a lion,’ said the woodman in the fable to the shaggy king of the forest; ‘and if you but come to yonder temple with me, I will show you, in proof of the fact, the statue of a man lording it over the statue of a prostrate lion.’ ‘Aha!’ said the shaggy king of the forest in reply, ‘but was the sculptor a lion? Let us lions become sculptors, and then we will show you lions 343 lording it over prostrate men.’ In Mr. Clark’s argumentative Dialogues, Mr. Clark is the sculptor. It is really refreshing, however, in these days of cold ingratitude, to see how the creatures called into existence by his pen draw round him, and sing Io Pæans in his praise. A brace of Master Slenders attend the great Justice Shallow, who has been literally the making of them; and when at his bidding they engage with him in mimic warfare, they but pelt him with roses, or sprinkle him over with eau de Cologne. ‘Ah,’ thought we, ‘had we but the true Mr. Clark here to take a part in this fray––the Mr. Clark who published the great non-intrusion sermon, and wrote the Rights of Members, and spoke all the long anti-patronage speeches, and led the debate in the Assembly anent the rights of the people, and declared it clear as day that the Church had power to enact the Veto,––had we but him here, he would be the man to fight this battle. It would be no such child’s play to grapple with him. Unaccustomed as we are to lay wagers, we would stake a hundred pounds to a groat on the true Mr. Clark!’

The twilight had fallen, the flames rose blue and languid in the grate, the deep shadows flickered heavily on the walls and ceiling; there was a drowsy influence in the hour, and a still drowsier influence in the Dialogues, and we think––for what followed could have been only a dream––we think we must have fallen asleep. At all events, the scene changed without any exertion on our part, and we found ourselves in a quiet retired spot in the vicinity of Inverness. The ‘hill of the ship,’ that monarch of Fairy Tomhans, rose immediately in front, gaily feathered over with larch and forest trees; and, terminating a long vista in the background, we saw Mr. Clark’s West Kirk, surmounted by a vast weathercock of gilded tin. Ever and anon the bauble turned its huge side to the sun, and the reflected light went dancing far and wide athwart the landscape. 344 Immediately beneath the weathercock there flared an immense tablet, surmounted by a leaden Fame, and bordered by a row of gongs and trumpets, which bore, in three-feet letters, that, ‘in order to secure so valuable an addition to the church accommodation of the parish, the Rev. Mr. Clark had not hesitated, on his own personal risk, to guarantee the payment of three thousand pounds.’ Our eyes were at first so dazzled by the blaze of the lackering––for the characters shone to the sun as if on fire––that we could see nothing else. As we gazed more attentively, however, we could perceive that every stone and slate of the building bore, like the tablet, the name of Mr. Clark. The endless repetition presented the appearance of a churchyard inscription viewed through a multiplying glass; but what most astonished us was that the Gothic heads, carved by pairs beside the labelled windows, opened wide their stony lips from time to time, and shouted aloud, in a voice somewhat resembling that of the domestic duck when she breaks out into sudden clamour in a hot, dry day, ‘Clark, Clark, Clark!’ We stood not a little appalled at these wonders, marvelling what was to come next, when lo! one of the thickets of the Tomhan beside us opened its interlaced and twisted branches, and out stepped the likeness of Mr. Clark, attired like a conjurer, and armed with a rod. His portly bulk was enwrapped in a voluminous scarf of changing-coloured silk, that, when it caught the light in one direction, exhibited the deep scarlet of a cardinal’s mantle, and presented, when it caught it in another, the sober tinge of our Presbyterian blue. Like the cloak of Asmodeus, it was covered over with figures. In one corner we could see the General Assembly done in miniature, and Mr. Clark rising among the members like Gulliver in Lilliput, to move against the deposition of the seven ministers of Strathbogie. In another the same reverend gentleman, drawn on the same large scale, was just getting on his legs 345 at a political dinner, to denounce his old friends and allies the Evangelicals, as wild destructives, ‘engaged in urging on the fall of the Establishment, in the desperation of human pride.’ Here we could see him baptizing the child of a person who, as he had fallen out of church-going habits, could get it baptized nowhere else; there examined in his presbytery for the offence with closed doors; yonder writing letters to the newspapers on the subject, to say that, if he had baptized the man’s child, it was all because the man was, like himself, a good hater of forced settlements. There were a great many other vignettes besides; and the last in the series was the scene enacted at the late Inverness Presbytery, when Mr. Clark rose to congratulate his old associates, in all the stern severity of consistent virtue, on the facile and ‘squeezable’ character of their representative for the Assembly.

The conjurer came out into an open space, drew a circle around him, and then began to build up on the sward two little human figures about three feet high, as boys build up figures of snow at the commencement of a thaw. Harlequin performs a somewhat similar feat in one of the pantomimes. He first sets up two carrots on end, to serve for legs; balances on them the head of a large cabbage, to serve for a body; sticks on two other carrots, to serve for arms; places a round turnip between them, to serve for a head; gives the crazy erection a blow with his lath sword, and straightway off it stalks, a vegetable man. Mr. Clark had, in like manner, no sooner built up his figures, than, with a peculiarly bland air, and in tones of the softest liquidity, he whispered into the ear of the one, Be you a Convocationist, and into that of the other, Be you a Moderate; and then with his charmed rod he tapped them across the shoulders, and set them a-walking. The creatures straightway jerked up their little heads to the angle of his face, bowed like a brace of automaton dancing-masters, 346 and after pacing round his knees for a few seconds, began Dialogue the first, in just the set terms in which we had been reading it beside our own fire not half an hour before. It seemed, for a few seconds, as if the conjurer and his creations had joined together in a trio, to celebrate the conjurer’s own praises. ‘Excellent clergyman!’ said the Convocationist. ‘Incomparable man!’ exclaimed the Moderate. ‘No minister like our minister!’ said the two in a breath. ‘Ah, gentlemen,’ said the conjurer, looking modestly down, ‘even my very enemies never venture to deny that.’ ‘You, sir,’ said the Convocationist, ‘bring on no occasion the Church question to the pulpit; you know better––you have more sense: we have quite as much of the Church question as is good for us through the week.’ ‘For you, sir,’ chimed in the Moderate, ‘I have long cherished the most thorough respect; but as for your old party, I dislike them more than ever.’ ‘I am not mercenary, gentlemen,’ said the conjurer, laying his hand on his breast; ‘I am not timid, I am not idle; I am a generous, diligent, dauntless, attached pastor; I give alms of all I possess––in especial to the public charities; I make long prayers,––my very best friends often urge on me that my vast labours, weekly and daily, are undermining my strength; I fast often,––I have guaranteed the payment of three thousand pounds for the West Kirk, and three-fourths of my stipend have gone this year to the liquidation of self-imposed liabilities. True, I will be eventually repaid,––that is, if my people don’t leave me; but I have no other security beyond my confidence in the goodness of the cause, and the continued liberality of my countrymen.’ And in this style would the reverend gentleman have continued down to the bottom of the fifth page in his first Dialogue, had it not been for a singularly portentous and terrible interruption.

The haunted Tomnahurich rose, as we have said, immediately behind us, leafy and green; and not one of its 347 multitude of boughs trembled in the sunshine. Suddenly, however, the hill-side began to move. There was a low deep noise like distant thunder; and straightway the débris of a landslip came rolling downwards, half obliterating in its course the circle of the conjurer. Turf, and clay, and stone lay in a mingled ruin at our feet; and wriggling in the midst, like a huge blue-bottle in an old cobweb, there was a reverend gentleman dressed in black. He gathered himself up, sprung deftly to his feet, and stood fronting the conjurer. Wonderful to relate, the man in black proved to be the veritable Mr. Clark of three years ago––Mr. Clark of 1840––Mr. Clark who published the great non-intrusion discourse, who wrote the Rights of Members, who spoke the long anti-patronage speeches, who led the debate in the Assembly anent the rights of the people, and who declared it clear as day that the Church had power to enact the Veto. The conjurer started backwards like a man who receives a mortal wound: the two little figures uttered a thin scrannel shriek apiece, and then slunk out of existence. ‘Avoid ye,’ exclaimed the conjurer, ‘Avoid ye! Conjuro te, conjuro te!’ He then went on to mutter, as if by way of exorcism, in low and very rapid tones, ‘I have no anxiety to refute the charge of inconsistency, which some have endeavoured to fasten on me, from detached portions of what I have written or spoken, during several years, on what may be termed Church politics. In matters not essential to salvation, increased light or advanced experience may properly produce change of sentiment in the most enlightened and conscientious Christian. For a man to assert that he is subject to no change, is to lay claim to one of the perfections–––’ Dialogue 1st, p. 6.

‘And so you won’t go out,’ said the true Mr. Clark, interrupting him.

‘No, sir,’ replied the conjurer. ‘I have maturely considered the proposed secession from the Established Church, 348 and, without pronouncing any judgment on the motives or doings of others who may think or act differently, I deeply feel that in such a measure I could not join without manifest sin against the light of my conscience.’––Dialogue 1st, p. 4.

‘Ah,’ rejoined the true Mr. Clark, ‘did I not say it would be so? I knew there would be found a set of recreant priests, who, for a pitiful morsel of the world’s bread, would submit to be the instruments of trampling on the blood-bought rights of the Scottish people, and call themselves a Church, while departing from their allegiance to Him who is the source of all true ecclesiastical authority; but never can these constitute the Church of Scotland!’––Sermon, p. 40.

‘I cannot reconcile it with the views I have long entertained of my duty to the Church and to the country,’ said the conjurer, ‘to secede from the National Establishment, simply because it wants what it wanted when I became one of its ministers.’––Dialogue 1st, p. 12.

‘Wanted when you became one of its ministers!’ exclaimed the true Mr. Clark. ‘No, sir. The civil courts are now compelling obedience in cases in which they have no jurisdiction, and have levelled with the ground the independent jurisdiction of the Church,––a Church bearing in its diadem a host of martyrs, and which never hitherto submitted to the supremacy of any power, excepting that of the Son of God.’––Sermon, pp. 59-63.

‘I won’t go out,’ reiterated the conjurer.

‘Well, you have told me what you have long deemed to be your duty,’ said the true Mr. Clark. ‘I shall repeat to you, in turn, what I three years ago recorded as mine. “It is the duty of the Church,” I said, “to maintain its position, confirmed as it is by solemn statutes and by the faith of national treaties, until that shall be overthrown by the deliberate decision of the State itself. Should such a circumstance really occur, as that the Legislature should insist that the Church holds its endowments on the express condition 349 of its rendering to civil authority the subjection which it can consistently yield to Christ alone, there being then a plain violation of the terms on which the Church entered into alliance with the State, that alliance must be dissolved, as one which can be no longer continued, but by rendering to men what is due to God.’”––Sermon, p. 28.

‘I deny entirely and in toto,’ said the conjurer, ‘that the present controversy involves the doctrine of the Headship.’––See 2d Dialogue.

‘Admit,’ said the true Mr. Clark, ‘but the right of secular courts to review, and thus to confirm or annul, the proceedings of the Scottish Church in one of the most important spiritual functions, and the same power may soon be, under various pretexts, used to control all the inferior departments of its ecclesiastical procedure. Will any man say that a society thus acknowledging the supremacy of a different power from that of Christ is any longer to be regarded as a branch of the Church whose unity chiefly exists in adherence to Him as its Head?’––Sermon, p. 45.

‘The claim,’ said the conjurer, ‘is essentially Papal.’––Dialogue 2d, p. 6.

‘No,’ replied the true Mr. Clark, ‘not Papal, but Protestant: our confessors and martyrs chose to suffer for it the loss of all their worldly goods, and to incur the pains of death in its most appalling forms.’––Sermon, p. 45.

‘Papal notwithstanding,’ reiterated the conjurer. ‘But it is not to be wondered at, that in the earliest stages of the Reformation, men newly come out of the Church of Rome should have been led to assert for the office-bearers of their Church the prerogatives which Romanism claimed for her own.’––Dialogue 2d, p. 7.

‘What!’ exclaimed the true Mr. Clark, ‘is not the present contest clearly for the rights of the members of Christ,––rights manifestly recognised in His word, and involving His Headship?’––Sermon, p. 37. See also p. 31. 350

‘Not at all,’ replied the conjurer. ‘The question is one of faction, and of faction only. Struggles for the victory of mere parties have been as injurious to vital godliness in the Church as the same cause has been to the true prosperity of the State.’––Dialogue 1st, p. 15.

‘Faction!’ exclaimed the true Mr. Clark; ‘the Church of Scotland is now engaged in asserting principles which the allegiance it owes to Christ will never permit it to desert. And let it be rung in the ears of the people of Scotland, that the great reason why the asserting of the Church’s spiritual jurisdiction is so clamorously condemned in certain quarters, is because it is employed to maintain the rights of the people.’––Sermon, pp. 37-39.

‘To be above the authority of the law, no Church in this country can be,’ said the conjurer. ‘The Church courts would be able, were their principles fully recognised, to tread under foot the rights of the people as effectually as ever they resisted those of patrons.’––Dialogue 1st, pp. 14 and 16.

‘Nothing can be more absurd than such insinuations,’ exclaimed the true Mr. Clark. ‘The Church disclaims every kind of civil authority, and simply requires that there be no interference on the part of civil rulers with its spiritual functions. How that which declines a jurisdiction in civil matters, can in any sense of the word, or in any conceivable circumstances, be injurious to civil liberty, it is impossible to conceive.’––Sermon, p. 32.

‘Alas,’ said the conjurer, ‘if the Church by recent events has been exhibited in a lower position than Scotsmen ever saw it placed in before, this has been occasioned by the unhappy attitude of defiance of the civil tribunals in which it was unadvisedly placed, and which no body, however venerable, can be permitted to occupy with impunity in a well-governed country.’––Dialogue 1st, p. 12.

‘Degradation!’ indignantly exclaimed the true Mr. Clark; ‘did the Church, in consequence of the findings of the 351 civil courts, proceed to act in opposition to what it believes and has solemnly declared to be founded on the Scripture, and agreeable thereto, it would exhibit itself to the world a disgraced and degraded society, utterly fallen from the faithfulness to religious duty which marked former periods of its history.’––Sermon, p. 21.

‘Clear it is,’ said the conjurer, ‘that the Church must not be permitted to retain with impunity her attitude of defiance to the civil tribunals. Were it otherwise, an ecclesiastical power might come to be established in this kingdom, fully able to trample uncontrolled on the most sacred rights of the nation.’––Dialogue 1st, p. 12.

‘Nothing, I repeat,’ said the true Mr. Clark, ‘can be more absurd than the insinuation. The liberties of the Church of Scotland have been often assailed by the civil authorities of the land, but uniformly by those who were equally hostile to the civil freedom of the country. Its rights were, during one dreary period, so effectually overthrown, that none stood up to assert them but the devoted band who, in the wildest fastnesses of their country, were often compelled by the violence of military rule to water with their blood the moors, where they rendered homage to the King of Zion; while, in the sunshine of courtly favour, ecclesiastics moved, who without fear bartered, for their own sordid gain, the blood-bought liberties of the Church of God, and showed themselves as willing to subvert the civil rights of their countrymen as they had been to destroy their religious privileges.’––Sermon, p. 30.

‘To be above the law,’ reiterated the conjurer, ‘no Church in this country can be.’––Dialogue 1st, p. 16.

‘There may arise various occasions,’ said the true Mr. Clark, ‘on which the injunctions of man may interfere with the injunctions of God; and in every such case a Christian man must yield obedience to the authority of the highest Lord.’––Sermon, p. 22. 352

‘Sad case that of Strathbogie!’ ejaculated the conjurer.

‘Very sad,’ replied the true Mr. Clark. ‘What is your version of it?’

‘Listen,’ said the conjurer. ‘What has been termed the Veto Law was enacted less than ten years ago, and after lengthened legal proceedings, was declared illegal by the House of Lords, the highest judicial authority in this kingdom. For proceedings adopted in conformity to this decision, seven ministers in the Presbytery of Strathbogie were first suspended and then deposed from their ministerial offices, without any other charges laid against them than that they sought the protection of the civil courts in acting according to their decision. For refusing to obey a law which the House of Lords declared to be illegal, no minister can be lawfully deposed from his office in this country, unless we are prepared to adopt a principle which would ultimately subvert the entire authority of the law. The civil courts, simply on the ground that these ministers had been deposed for obeying the statutes of the realm, reversed the sentence, as what was beyond the lawful powers of any Church in this land, whether Voluntary or Established. And on the same principle, they interfered to prevent any from treating them as suspended or deposed.’––Dialogue 1st, p. 10.

‘A most injurious representation of the case,’ said the true Mr. Clark. ‘Seven ministers, forming the majority of the Presbytery of Strathbogie, chose to intimate their resolution to take steps towards the settlement of Mr. Edwards as minister of Marnoch, in defiance of the opposition of almost all the parishioners, and in direct contempt of the instructions given them by the superior church courts. The civil courts in the meantime merely declared their opinion of the law, but they issued no injunction whatever, so as to give the presbytery the pretext of choosing between obeying the one or the other jurisdiction; and they violated 353 the express injunction of the supreme church court, without being able to plead in justification that they had been compelled by the civil authority to do so. They chose to act ultroneously in violation of their duty to the Church. They had solemnly promised to obey the superior church courts, and had never come under any promise to obey in spiritual things any other authority. In proposing to take the usual steps for conferring the spiritual office of a pastor in the Church of Christ, in defiance of the injunction laid upon them by the supreme court of the Church of Scotland, they plainly violated their ordination engagements. And in actually ordaining Mr. Edwards, the whole procedure was a solemn mockery of holy things.’––Sermon, p. 26.

‘After all,’ said the conjurer, with a sigh, ‘the agitated question is but of inferior moment.’––Dialogue 1st, p. 3.

‘Inferior moment!’ exclaimed the true Mr. Clark; ‘no religious question of the same magnitude and importance has come before this country since the ever-memorable Revolution in 1688. The divisions of secular partisanship sink into utter insignificance when compared with this. Let the principles once become triumphant for which the Court of Session is now contending, and the Church of Scotland is ruined.’––Sermon, pp. 7 and 59.

‘Ruined!’ shouted out the conjurer; ‘it is you who are ruining the Church, by urging on the disruption. For my own part, I promised, as all ministers do at their ordination, never, directly or indirectly, to endeavour her subversion, or to follow divisive courses, but to maintain her unity and peace against error and schism, whatsoever trouble or persecution might arise; and now, in agreement with my solemn ordination engagements, have I determined to hold by her to the last.’––Dialogue 1st, p. 9.

‘What mean you by the Church?’ asked the true Mr. Clark. ‘The Church and the establishment of it are surely very different things. Men have talked of themselves as 354 friends of the Church, because they were the friends of its civil establishment, and loudly declaim against the proceedings of the majority of its office-bearers now, as fraught with danger to this object. But what do they mean by the civil establishment of an Erastian Church! Is it possible that they mean by it the receiving of certain pecuniary endowments as a price for rendering a divided allegiance to the Son of God? If that be their meaning, it is time they and the country at large should know that the Church of Scotland was never established on such principles.’––Sermon, p. 42.

‘It is not true, however,’ said the conjurer, ‘that the majority of the faithful ministers of Scotland have resolved to abandon the Establishment, though this may be the case in some parts of the country.’––Dialogue 1st, p. 16.

‘Not true, sir!’ said the true Mr. Clark; ‘nothing can be more true. All––all will leave it except a set of recreant priests, who for a pitiful morsel of this world’s bread will submit to be the instruments of trampling on the blood-bought rights of the Scottish people.’––Sermon, p. 42.

‘What has pained me most in all this controversy,’ remarked the conjurer, ‘has been the insidious manner in which certain persons have endeavoured to sow disunion––in some cases too successfully––between ministers and their hearers.’––Dialogue 1st, p. 3.

‘Sir,’ exclaimed the true Mr. Clark, ‘Sir, every individual would do well to remember, when summoned to such a contest as this, the curse denounced against Meroz for remaining in neutrality when the battle raged in Israel. This curse was denounced by the angel of the Lord, and is written for the admonition of all ages, as a demonstration of the feelings with which God regards the standing aloof, in a great religious struggle, by whatever motives it may be sought to be justified.’––Sermon, p. 59.

‘The men who thus sow disunion,’ said the conjurer, 355 ‘never venture to deny that they, whose usefulness they endeavour to destroy, are ministers of the gospel,––urging on the acceptance of a slumbering world the message of celestial mercy, which must produce results of weal or woe destined to be eternally remembered, when the strifes of words which have agitated the Church on earth are all forgotten.’––Dialogue 1st, p. 4.

‘Hold, hold, sir,’ said the true Mr. Clark. ‘On the event of this struggle depends not merely the temporal interests of our country, but the welfare of many immortal spirits through the ceaseless ages of future being.’––Sermon, p. 60.

‘It is so distracting a subject this Church question,’ said the conjurer, ‘that I make it a point of duty never to bring it to the pulpit.’––Dialogue 1st, p. 3.

‘In that you and I differ,’ said the true Mr. Clark, ‘just as we do in other matters. I have written very long sermons on the subject, ay, and published them too; and in particular beg leave to recommend to your careful perusal my sermon on the Present Position, preached in Inverness on the evening of the 19th January 1840.’

‘I suppose you have heard it said, that I changed my views from the fear of worldly loss,’ said the conjurer.––Dialogue 1st, p. 4.

‘Heard it said!’ said the true Mr. Clark. ‘You forget that I have been bottled up on the hill-side yonder for the last three years.’

‘Sir,’ said the conjurer, with great solemnity, ‘when the West Church was built, in order to secure this valuable addition to the church accommodation of the parish, I did not hesitate to undertake, on my own personal risk, to guarantee the payment of three thousand pounds. This obliged me to diminish, to no small extent, my personal expenditure, as the only way in which the pecuniary burden could be met, without diminishing my contributions to 356 the public charities of the town, and to the numerous cases of private distress brought continually under my notice, in the various walks of ministerial duty. And though the original debt is now reduced to half that amount by the liberal benefactions received from various individuals, still nearly three-fourths of my stipend this year has been expended on this object, in terms of my voluntary obligation. The large sum which I am now in advance, I believe, will be eventually repaid; but for this I have no security beyond my confidence in the goodness of the cause, and the continued liberality of my countrymen. All this respecting the West Church is known to few, and would not have been mentioned by me at this time, had it not been for the perseverance with which some, inaccessible to higher motives themselves, have endeavoured to persuade my hearers that mercenary considerations have produced the position I have felt it my duty to take in the present discussion.’––Dialogue 1st, p. 5.

For a few seconds the true Mr. Clark seemed as if struck dumb by the intelligence. ‘Ah! fast anchored!’ he at length ejaculated. ‘Fairly tethered to the Establishment by a stake of fifteen hundred pounds. Demas, happy man, had a silver mine to draw him aside––a positive silver mine. The West Church is merely a negative one. Were it to get into the hands of the Moderates, it would become waterlogged to a certainty, and not a single ounce of the precious metal would ever be fished out of it; whereas you think there is still some little chance of recovery when you remain to ply the pump yourself. Most disinterested man!––let your statement of the case be but fairly printed, and it will serve you not only as an apology, but as an advertisement to boot.’

‘Printed!’ said the conjurer; ‘I have already printed it in English, and Mr. M’Donald the schoolmaster is translating it into Gaelic.’ 357

But we have far exceeded our limits, and have yet given scarce a tithe of the controversy. We found ourselves sitting all alone in front of our own quiet fire long ere it was half completed; and we recommend such of our readers as are desirous to see the rest of it in the originals, to possess themselves of the Rev. Mr. Clark’s Sermon, and the Rev. Mr. Clark’s Dialogues. They form, when bound up together, one of the extremest, and at the same time one of the most tangible, specimens of inconsistency and self-contradiction that controversy has yet exhibited; and enable us to anticipate the character and standing of the evangelic minority in the Erastian Church. ‘If the salt has lost its savour, wherewithal shall it be salted?’

April 12, 1843.



There are two antagonist perils to which all evangelical Churches, whether established or unendowed, are exposed in an age in which men’s minds are so stirred by the fluctuations of opinion, that though there may not be much progress, there is at least much motion. They lie open, on the one hand, to the danger of getting afloat on the tide of innovation, and so drifting from the fixed position in which Churches, as exponents of the mind of Christ, possess an authoritative voice, into the giddy vortices of some revolving eddy of speculation, in which they can at best assume but the character of mere advocates of untried experiment; or, on the other hand, they are liable to fall into the opposite mistake of obstinately resisting all change––however excellent in itself, and however much a consequence of the onward march of the species––and this not from any direct regard to those divine laws, of which one jot or tittle cannot pass away, but simply out of respect to certain peculiar views and opinions entertained by their ancestors in ages considerably less wise than the times which have succeeded them.

An evangelistic Church cannot fall into the one error without losing its influential voice as a Church. It may gain present popularity by throwing itself upon what chances to be the onward movement of the time; but it is a spendthrift popularity, that never fails in the end to leave it exhausted and weak. The political ague has always its cold as certainly as its hot fever fits: action produces reaction; 359 great exertion induces great fatigue; the desired object, even when fully gained, is sure always, like all mere sublunary objects of pursuit, to disappoint expectation; and the Church that, forgetting where its real power lies, seeks, Antæus-like, to gather strength in this way from the earth, contracts in every instance but the soil and weakness inherent in those earthy and unspiritual things to which it attaches itself. It, too, comes to have its cold ague fits and its reaction––periods of exhaustion, disappointment, and decline. And the opposite error of clinging to the worn-out and the obsolete produces ultimately the same effect, though it operates in a different way. A Church that, in behalf of some antiquated type of thought or action, opposes itself to what is in reality the onward current of the age, is sure always to fare like stranded ice-floes, that, in a river flooded by thaw, retain the exact temperature under which they were formed, when the temperature all around them has altered. The ice-floes and the obsolete Church may be alike successful for a time in keeping up the ancient state of things within their own lessening limits, but both are eventually absorbed and disappear. While the more versatile ecclesiastical body, tossed by the cross currents and eddies of novel and uncertain change, loses its true course and makes shipwreck, the rigidly immoveable one, anchored over the worn-out peculiarities of bygone days, is borne down by the irresistible rush of the stream, and founders at its moorings.

The Free Church, as a body, is, we trust, not greatly in danger from either extreme. They are the extremes, however, which in the present day constitute her true Scylla and Charybdis; and it were perhaps well that she should keep the fact steadily before her, by laying them down as such on their chart. Not from the gross and earthy fires of political movement in the present day, or from the cold grey ashes of movement semi-political in some uninspired age of the past, must that pillar of flame now ascend which 360 is to marshal her on her pilgrimage through the wilderness, at once reviving her by its heat and guiding her by its effulgence. The light borrowed from the one would but flicker idly before her, a wandering and delusive meteor; the other would furnish her with but an unlighted torch, unsuited to cast across her way a single beam of direction and guidance. Her light must be derived from an antiquity more remote than that of the uninspired ages, and her heat from a source more permanent than that of present excitement, social or political: the one direct from the unerring record of those times when God walked the earth in the flesh; the other from that living spirit without whose influence energy the most untiring can be influential in but the production of evil, and earnestness the most intense may be profession, but cannot be revival. Strength must be sought by her, not in the turmoil of evanescent agitation, nor in the worn-out modes of an age the fashion of which has perished, but in the perennial verities of the everlasting gospel. While so far adapting herself to the times as to present an armed front to every form of error, she must preach to her people as if the prisoner of Patmos had but just completed the record of Revelation.

There is one special error regarding this the most important portion of her proper work––the preaching of the word––to which it may be well to advert. It has become much the fashion of the time––most unthinkingly, surely––to speak of preaching as not the paramount, but merely one of the subsidiary duties of a clergyman. ‘He is not a man of much pulpit preparation,’ it has become customary to remark of some minister, at least liked if not admired, ‘but he is diligent in visiting and in looking after his schools; and preaching is in reality but a small part of a minister’s duty.’ Or, in the event of a vacancy, the flock looking out for a pastor are apt enough to say, ‘Our last minister was an accomplished pulpit man, but what we at present want 361 is a man sedulous in visiting; for preaching is in reality but a small part of a minister’s duty.’ Nay, ministers, especially ministers of but a few twelvemonths’ standing, have themselves in some cases caught up the remark, as if it embodied a self-evident truth; and while they dare tell, not without self-complacency, that their discourses––things written at a short sitting, if written at all––cost them but little trouble, they add further, as if by way of apology, that they are, however, ‘much occupied otherwise, and that preaching is in reality but a small part of a minister’s duty.’ We have some times felt inclined to assure these latter personages in reply, that they might a little improve the matter just by making preaching no part of their duty at all. But where, we ask, is it taught, either by God in His word or by the Church in her standards, that preaching is merely one of the minor duties of the minister, or indeed other than his first and greatest duty? Not, certainly, in the New Testament, for there it has invariably the paramount place assigned to it; as certainly not in our standards, for in them the emphasis is ‘especially’ laid on the ‘preaching of the word’ as God’s most ‘effectual means’ of converting sinners. If it be a truth that preaching is but comparatively a minor part of a minister’s duty, it is certainly neither a Scripture nor a Shorter Catechism truth; and, lest it should be not only not a truth at all, but even not an innocuous untruth, we think all who hold it would do well to inquire how they have come by it.

We have our own suspicion regarding its origin. It is natural for men to exaggerate the importance of whatever good they patronize, or whatever improvement or enterprise they advocate or recommend. And perhaps some degree of exaggeration is indispensable. In order to create the impulse necessary to overcome the vis inertiæ of society, and induce in the particular case the required amount of exertion, the stream of the moving power has––if we may so 362 speak––to be elevated to the level of hopes raised high above the point of possible accomplishment. To employ the language of the mechanist, the necessary fall would be otherwise awanting, and the machine would fail to move. If, for instance, all men had estimated the advantages of free trade according to the sober computations of Chalmers, the country would have no Anti-Corn-Law League, and no repeal of the obnoxious statutes. And yet who can now doubt that the calculations of Chalmers were in reality the true ones? In like manner, if it had been truly seen that the ‘baths for the working classes’ could have merely extended to the humbler inhabitants of our cities those advantages of ablution which the working men of our sea-coasts already possess, but of which––when turned of forty––not one out of a hundred among them ever avails himself, we would scarce have witnessed bath meetings, with Dukes in the chair; nor would the baths themselves have been erected. But the natural exaggerative feeling prevailed. Baths for the working classes were destined somehow to renovate society, it was thought; and so, though Chartism be now as little content as ever, baths for the working classes our cities possess. And, doubtless, exaggeration of a similar kind has tended to heighten the general estimate of the minor duties of the clergyman; and were there no invidious comparisons instituted between the lesser and the paramount duties,––between what is secondary in its nature magnified into primary importance, and what is primary in its nature diminished into a mere secondary, and standing as if the one had been viewed by the lesser, and the other through the greater lens of a telescope,––we would have no quarrel whatever with the absolute exaggeration in the case, regarded simply as a mere moving force. But we must quarrel with it when we see it leading to practical error; and so, in direct opposition to the common remark, that preaching is but a small part of the minister’s duty, we assert that it is not a small, 363 but a very large, and by far the most important part of it; and that it is not our standards or the Scriptures that are in error on this special head, but the numerous class who, taking up the antagonist view, maintain as a self-evident proposition what has neither standing in the New Testament, nor yet guarantee in the experience of the Church.

No apology whatever ought to be sustained for imperfect pulpit preparation; nay, practically at least, no apology whatever has or will be sustained for it. It is no unusual thing to see a church preached empty; there have been cases of single clergymen, great in their way, who have emptied four in succession: for people neither ought nor will misspend their Sabbaths in dozing under sermons to which no effort of attention, however honestly made, enables them to listen; and what happens to single congregations may well happen to a whole ecclesiastical body, should its general style of preaching fall below the existing average. And certainly we know nothing more likely to produce such a result than the false and dangerous opinion, that preaching is comparatively a small part of a minister’s duty. It is supereminently dangerous for one to form a mean estimate of one’s work, unless it be work of a nature very low and menial indeed. ‘No one,’ said Johnson, ‘ever did anything well to which he did not give the whole bent of his mind.’ It is this low estimate––this want of a high standard in the mind––that leads some of our young men to boast of the facility with which they compose their sermons,––a boast alike derogatory to the literary taste and knowledge and to the Christian character of him who makes it. Easy to compose a sermon!––easy to compose what, when written, cannot be read; and what, when preached, cannot be listened to. We believe it; for in cases of this kind the ease is all on the part of the author. We believe further, we would fain say to the boaster, that you and such as you could scuttle and sink the Free Church with amazingly little trouble to yourselves. 364 But is it easy, think you, to mature such thoughts as Butler matured? And yet these were embodied in sermons. Is it easy, think you, to convey in language exquisite as that of Robert Hall, sentiments as refined and imagery as classic as his? And yet Hall’s noblest compositions were sermons. Is it easy, think you, to produce a philosophic poem, the most sublime and expansive of any age or country? And yet such is the true character of the Astronomical Sermons of Chalmers. Or is that spirituality which impresses and sinks into the heart of a people, independently at times of thought of large calibre or the polish of a fine literary taste, a thing easily incorporated into the tissue of a lengthened sermon? Think you, did Maclaurin’s well-known Sermon on the Cross cost him little trouble? or the not less noble sermon of Sir Matthew Hale, on Christ and Him crucified? Look, we beseech you, to your New Testaments, and see if there be ought slovenly in the style, or loose and pointless in the thinking, of the model sermons given you there. The discourse addressed by our Saviour from the mount to the people was a sermon; as was also the magnificent address of Paul to the Athenians, where he chose as his text the inscription on one of their altars, ‘To the unknown God.’ There may be a practical and most mischievous heterodoxy embodied in the preacher’s idea of sermons, as certainly as he may embody a heterodoxy theoretic and doctrinal in the sermons themselves.

The ordinary course of establishing a Church in any country, as specially shown by New Testament history and that of the Reformation, is first and mainly through the preaching of the word. An earnest, eloquent man––a Peter in Jerusalem––a Paul at Athens, on Mars Hill––a John Knox in Edinburgh or St. Andrews––a George Whitfield in some open field or market-place of Britain or America––or a Thomas Chalmers in some metropolitan pulpit, Scotch or English––addresses himself to the people. 365

There is a strange power in the words, and they cannot but listen; and then the words begin to tell. The heart is affected, the judgment convinced, the will influenced and directed: ancient beliefs are, as the case may be, modified, resuscitated, or destroyed; new or revived convictions take the place of previous convictions, inadequate or erroneous; and thus churches are planted, and the face of society changed. We limit ourselves here to what––being strictly natural in the process––would operate, if skilfully applied, as directly on the side of error as of truth. It is the first essential of a book, that it be interesting enough to be read; and of a preacher, whatever his creed, that he be sufficiently engaging to be attentively listened to; and without this preliminary merit, no other merit, however great, is of any avail whatever. And when a Church possesses it in any great degree, it is sure to spread and increase. Are there churches in the Establishment which, though thinned by the Disruption, have now all their seats let, and are crammed every Sabbath to the doors? If so, be sure there is popular talent in the pulpit, and that the clergyman who officiates there does not find it a very easy matter to compose his sermons. Nay, dear as the distinctive principles of the Free Church are to the people of Scotland, with superior pulpit talent in the Establishment on the one hand, and in the ranks of the disendowed body, on the other, a goodly supply of those youthful ministers who boast that they either never write their sermons, or write them at a short sitting, we would by no means guarantee to our Church a ten years’ vigorous existence. These may not be palatable truths, but we trust they are wholesome ones; and we know that the time peculiarly requires them. It is, however, not mainly with the Establishment that the Free Church has to contend.

We ask the reader whether he has not marked, within the last few years, the début of another and more formidable 366 antagonist, with which all Christian Churches may be soon called on to grapple?

Our newly-instituted athenæums and philosophical associations form one of the novel features of the time,––institutions in which at least the second-class men of the age––Emersons, and Morells, and Combes––with much that is interesting in science and fascinating in literature, blend sentiments and opinions at direct variance with the great doctrinal truths embodied in our standards. The press, not less formidable now than ever, is an old antagonist; but, with all its appliances and powers, it lacked the charm of the living voice. That peculiar charm, however, the new combatant possesses. The pulpit, met by its own weapons and in its own field, will have to a certainty to measure its strength against it; and the standard of pulpit accomplishment and of theological education, instead of being lowered, must in consequence be greatly elevated. The Church of this country, which in the earlier periods of her history, when Knox was her leader, and Buchanan the moderator of her General Assembly, stood far in advance of the age in popular eloquence, solid learning, and elegant accomplishment, and which, in the person of Chalmers in our own days, was vested in the more advanced views and the more profound policy of a full century hence, must not be suffered to lag behind the age now. Her troops must not be permitted to fall into confusion, and to use as arms the rude, unsightly bludgeons of an untaught and undisciplined mob, when the enemy, glittering in harness, and furnished with weapons keen of temper and sharp of edge, is bearing down upon them in compact phalanx.

We know what it is to have sat for many years under ministers who, possessed of great popular talent and high powers of original thought, gave much time and labour to pulpit preparation. We know how great a privilege it is to have to look forward to the ministrations of the Sabbath,––not 367 as wearinesses, which, simply as a matter of duty, were to be endured; but as exquisite feasts, spiritual and intellectual, which were to be greatly relished and enjoyed. And when hearing it sometimes regretted, with reference to at least one remarkable man, that he did not visit his flock quite so often as was desirable––many of the complainants’ sole idea of a ministerial visit, meanwhile, being simply that it was a long exordium of agreeable gossip, with a short tail-piece of prayer stuck to its hinder end––we have strongly felt how immensely better it was that the assembled congregation should enjoy each year fifty-two Sabbaths of their minister at his best, than that the tone of his pulpit services should be lowered, in order that each individual among them might enjoy a yearly half-hour of him apart. And yet such, very nearly, was the true statement of the case. We fully recognise the importance, in its own subordinate place, of ministerial visitation, especially when conducted––a circumstance, however, which sometimes lowers its popularity––as it ought to be. But it must not be assigned that prominent place denied to it by our standards, and which the word of God utterly fails to sanction.

It is, though an important, still a minor duty; and the Free Church must not be sacrificed to the ungrounded idea that it occupies a level as high, or even nearly as high, as ‘the preaching of the word.’ To that peculiar scheme of visitation advocated by Chalmers as a first process in his work of excavation, we of course do not refer. In those special cases to which he so vigorously directed himself, visitation was an inevitable preliminary, without which the appliances of the pulpit could not be brought to bear. Philip had to open the Scriptures tête-à-tête to the Ethiopian eunuch, for the Ethiopian eunuch never came to church.

But even were his scheme identical with that to which we particularly refer, we would say to the young preacher who sheltered under his authority, ‘Well, prepare for the 368 pulpit as Dr. Chalmers did, even when he had the West Port congregation for his audience, and we shall be quite content to let you visit as much as you may.’ The composition of a sermon was never easy work to him. He devoted to it much time, and the full bent of his powerful mind; and even when letting himself down to the humblest of the people, the philosopher of largest capacity might profitably take his place among the hearers, and listen with an interest never for one moment suffered to flag.

May 3, 1848.



It is now more than forty years since it was remarked by Jeffrey, in his Review, that metaphysical science was decidedly on the decline in Scotland. Dugald Stewart, though in a delicate state of health at the time, was in the full vigour of his faculties, and had still eighteen years of life before him; Thomas Brown had just been appointed his assistant and successor in the Moral Philosophy Chair of the University of Edinburgh; and the élite of the Scottish capital were flocking in crowds to his class-room, captivated by the eloquence and ingenuity of his singularly vigorous and original lectures. Even fifteen years subsequent, Dr. Welsh could state, in the Life of his friend, that the reception of his work on the Philosophy of the Human Mind had been ‘favourable to a degree of which, in metaphysical writings, there was no parallel.’ It has been recorded as a very remarkable circumstance, that the Essay of Locke––produced at a period when the mind of Europe first awoke to general activity in the metaphysical province––passed through seven editions in the comparatively brief space of fourteen years. The Lectures of Dr. Brown passed through exactly seven editions in twelve years, and this at a time when, according to Jeffrey, that science of mind of which they treated was in a state of gradual decay. The critic was, however, in the right. The genius of Brown had imparted to his brilliant posthumous work an interest which could scarce be regarded as attaching to the subject of it; and in a few years after––from about the year 1835 till 370 after the disruption of the Scottish Church––metaphysical science had sunk, not in Scotland only, but all over Britain, to its lowest ebb. A few retired scholars continued to prosecute their researches in the province of mind; but scarce any interest attached to their writings, and not a bookseller could be found hardy enough to publish at his own risk a metaphysical work. We are old enough to remember a time, contemporaneous with the latter days of Brown, when young students, in their course of preparation for the learned professions, especially for the Church, used to be ever recurring in conversation to the staple metaphysical questions,––occasionally, no doubt, much in the style of Jack Lizard in the Guardian, who comforted his mother, when the worthy lady was so unlucky as to scald her hand with the boiling tea-kettle, by assuring her there was no such thing as heat, but which at least served to show that this branch of liberal education fully occupied the mind of the individuals ostensibly engaged in mastering it; and we remember a subsequent time, when students––some of them very clever ones––seemed never to have thought on these questions at all, and remained silent in conversation when they chanced to be mooted by the men of an earlier generation. During, however, the last ten years, mainly through the revival of a taste for metaphysical inquiry in France and Germany, which has reacted on this country, abstract questions on the nature and functions of mind are again acquiring their modicum of space and importance in Scotland. Our country no longer takes the place it once did among the nations in this department, and never again may; but it at least begins to remember it once was, and to serve itself heir to the works of the older masters of mind; and we regard it as an evidence of the reaction to which we refer, that a greatly more complete edition of the writings of Dugald Stewart than has yet appeared is at the present time in the course of issuing from 371 the press of one of our most respected Scotch publishers––the inheritor of a name paramount in the annals of the trade––Mr. Thomas Constable.

The writings of Dugald Stewart have been unfortunate in more than that state of exhaustion and syncope into which metaphysical science continued to sink during the lapse of more than half a generation after the death of their author, and the commencement of which had been remarked by Jeffrey more than half a generation before. From some peculiar views––founded, we believe, on an overweening estimate of their pecuniary value––the son and heir of the philosopher tabooed their publication; and it is only now that, in consequence of his death, and of the juster views entertained on the subject by a sister, also recently deceased, that they are permitted to reappear. The time, however, from that awakened interest in metaphysical speculation which we have remarked, seems highly favourable for such an undertaking; and we cannot doubt that the work will find what it deserves––a sure and steady, if not very rapid sale. Stewart may be regarded as not merely one of the more distinguished members of the Scottish school of metaphysics, but as peculiarly its historian and exponent. The mind of Reid was cast in a more original mould, but he wanted both the elegance and the eloquence of Stewart, nor were his powers of illustration equally great. His language, too, was not only less refined and flowing, but also less scientifically correct, than that of his distinguished exponent and successor. We would cite, for instance, the happy substitution by the latter of the terms ‘laws of human thought and belief,’ for the unfortunate phrases ‘common sense’ and ‘instinct,’ which raised so extensive a prejudice against the vigorous protest against scepticism made in other respects so effectively by Reid; and he passes oftener from the abstractions of his science into the regions of life and character in which all must feel 372 interested, however slight their acquaintance with the subtleties of metaphysical speculation. The extraordinary excellence of Professor Stewart’s style has been recognised by the highest authorities. Robertson was perhaps the best English writer of his day. The courtly Walpole, on ascertaining that he spoke Scotch, told him he was heartily glad of it; for ‘it would be too mortifying,’ he added, ‘for Englishmen to find that he not only wrote, but also spoke, their language better than themselves.’ And yet the Edinburgh Reviewers recognised Stewart as the writer of a more exquisite style than even Robertson. And Sir James Mackintosh, no mean judge, characterizes him as the most perfect, in an artistic point of view, of the philosophical writers of Britain. ‘Probably no writer ever exceeded him,’ says Sir James, ‘in that species of eloquence which springs from sensibility to literary merit and moral excellence; which neither obscures science by prodigal ornament, nor disturbs the serenity of patient attention; but, though it rather calms and soothes the feelings, yet exalts the genius, and insensibly inspires a reasonable enthusiasm for whatever is good and fair.’ Now, it is surely not unimportant that the writings of such a man, simply in their character as literary models, should be submitted to an age like the present, especially to its Scotchmen. It is stated by Hume, in one of his letters to Robertson, that meeting in Paris with the lady who first gave to the French a translation of Charles V., he asked her what she thought of the style of the work, and that she instantly replied, with great naïveté, ‘Oh, it is such a style as only a Scotchman could have written.’ Scotland did certainly stand high in the age of Hume and Mackenzie, of Robertson and of Adam Smith, for not only the vigour of its thinking, but also for the purity and excellence of its style. We fear, however, it can no longer arrogate to itself praise on this special score. There have been books 373 produced among us during the last twenty years, which have failed in making their way into England, mainly in consequence of the slipshod style in which they were written. A busy age, much agitated by controversy, is no doubt unfavourable to the production of compositions of classic beauty. ‘The rounded period,’ says an ingenious French writer, ‘opens up the long folds of its floating robe in a time of stability, authority, and confidence. But when literature has become a means of action, instead of continuing to be used for its own sake, we no longer amuse ourselves with the turning of periods. The period is contemporary with the peruke––the period is the peruke of style. The close of the eighteenth century shortened the one as much as the other. The peruke reaching the middle of the loins could not be suitable to men in haste to accomplish a work of destruction. When was J. J. Rousseau himself given to the turning of periods? Assuredly it was not in his pamphlets!’ Now the style of Stewart was first formed, we need scarce remark, during that period of profound repose which preceded the French Revolution; and his after-life, spent in quiet and thoughtful retirement, with the classics of our own and other countries, ancient and modern, for his companions, and with composition as his sole employment––though the world around him was fiercely engaged with politics or with war––had nothing in it to deteriorate it. He never heard the steam-press groaning, as the night wore late, for his unfinished lucubrations; nay, we question if he ever wrote a careless or hurried sentence. His naturally faultless taste had full space to satisfy itself with whatever he deemed it necessary to perform; and hence works of finished beauty, which, as pieces of art, the younger literati of Scotland would do well to study and imitate. There may be differences of opinion regarding the standing of Stewart as a metaphysician, but there are no differences of opinion regarding his excellence as a writer. 374

With regard to metaphysics themselves, we are disposed to acquiesce in the judgment of Jeffrey, without, however, acquiescing in much which he has founded upon it. To observe as a mental philosopher, and to experiment as a natural one, are very different things; and never will mere observation in the one field lead to results so splendid or so practical as experiment on the properties of matter, to which man owes his extraordinary control over the elements. To the knowledge acquired by his observations on the nature or operations of mind, he owes no new power over that which he surveys: in at least its direct consequences, his science is barren. It would be difficult, however, to overestimate its indirect consequences. It seems impossible that the metaphysical province should long exist blank and unoccupied in any highly civilised country, especially in a country of active and acquiring intellects, such as Scotland. If the philosophy of Locke or of Reid fail to occupy the field, we find it occupied instead by that of Comte or of Combe. Owens and Martineaus take the place of Browns and of Stewarts; and bad metaphysics, of the most dangerous tendency, are taught, in the lack of metaphysics wholesome and good. All the more dangerous parties of the present day have their foundations of principle on a basis of bad metaphysics. The same remark applies to well-nigh all the religious heresies; and the less metaphysical an age is, all the more superficial usually are the heresies which spring up in it. We question whether Morrisonianism could have originated in what was emphatically the metaphysical age of Scotland, in the latter days of Reid, or the earlier days of Stewart. What became in our times a heresy in the theological field, would have spent itself, as the mere crotchet of a few unripened intellects, in the metaphysical one. It would have found vent in some debating club or speculative society, and the Churches would have rested in peace. There are other indirect 375 benefits derived from metaphysical study. It forms the best possible gymnastics of mind. All the great metaphysicians, if not merely acute, but also broad-minded men, have been great also in the practical departments of thought. The author of the Essay on the Human Understanding was the author also of the Treatise on Government and the Letters on Toleration. Hume, in those Essays on Trade and Politics, which are free from the stain of infidelity, was one of the most solid of thinkers; and he who produced the Theory of Moral Sentiments continues to give law at the present time, in his Wealth of Nations, to the commerce of the civilised world. From a subtile but comparatively narrow class of intellects, though distinguished in the metaphysical province, mankind has received much less. Berkeley was one of these, and may be regarded as their type and representative. Save his metaphysics,––demonstrative of the non-existence of matter, or demonstrative rather that fire is not conscious of heat, nor ice of cold, nor yet our enlightened surface of colour,––he bequeathed little else to the world than his tar-water; and his tar-water, no longer recognised as a universal medicine, has had its day, and is forgotten. Without professing to know aught of German metaphysicians––for in the times when we used to read Hume and Reid they were but little known in this country––we can by no means rate them so high as the men whose writings they are supplanting. What, we have been accustomed to ask, are their trophies in the practical? Have any of them given to the world even tar-water? Where are their Lockes, Humes, and Adam Smiths? The man who, according to Johnson, can walk vigorously towards the east, can walk vigorously toward the west also. How is it that these German metaphysicians exhibit their vigour exclusively in walking one way? Where are their works of a practical character, powerful enough to give law to the species? Where their treatises like those of Locke on 376 Toleration or on Government, or their essays like that of Hume or of Adam Smith on the Balance of Power or the Wealth of Nations? Are they doing other, to use a very old illustration, than merely milking rams, leaving their admirers and followers to hold the pail?

Dugald Stewart, though mayhap less an original in the domain of abstract thought than some of his predecessors, belongs emphatically to the practical school. With him philosophy is simply common sense on that large scale which renders it one of the least common things in the world. And never, perhaps, was there a more thoroughly honest seeker after truth. Burns somewhat whimsically describes him, in a recently recovered letter given to the world by Robert Chambers, as ‘that plain, honest, worthy man, the Professor. I think,’ adds the poet, ‘his character, divided into ten parts, stands thus: Four parts Socrates, four parts Nathaniel, and two parts Shakespeare’s Brutus.’ The estimate of Sir James Mackintosh is equally high; nor will it weigh less with many of our readers that the elder M’Crie used to give expression to a judgment quite as favourable. ‘He was fascinated,’ says the son and biographer of the latter, ‘with the beau ideal of academical eloquence which adorned the Moral Chair in the person of Dugald Stewart. Long after he had sat under this admired leader, he would describe with rapture his early emotions while looking on the handsomely erect and elastic figure of the Professor––in every attitude a model for the statuary––listening to expositions, whether of facts or principles, always clear as the transparent stream; and charmed by the tones of a voice which modulated into spoken music every expression of intelligence and feeling. An esteemed friend of his happening to say to him some years ago, “I have been hearing Dr. Brown lecture with all the eloquence of Dugald Stewart,” “No, sir,” he exclaimed with an air of almost Johnsonian decision, “you have not, and no man ever will.’” The first 377 volume of the collected works of Stewart, now given to the world in a form at once worthy of their author and of the name of Constable, contains the far-famed Dissertations, and is edited by Sir William Hamilton. It contains a considerable amount of original matter, now published from the author’s manuscripts for the first time. It would be idle to attempt criticising a work so well established; but the brief remark of one of the first of metaphysical critics––Sir James Mackintosh––on what he well terms ‘the magnificent Dissertations,’ may be found not unacceptable. ‘These Dissertations,’ says Sir James, ‘are perhaps most profusely ornamented of any of their author’s compositions,––a peculiarity which must in part have arisen from a principle of taste, which regarded decoration as more suitable to the history of philosophy than to philosophy itself. But the memorable instances of Cicero, of Milton, and still more those of Dryden and Burke, seem to show that there is some natural tendency in the fire of genius to burn more brightly, or to blaze more fiercely, in the evening than in the morning of human life. Probably the materials which long experience supplies to the imagination, the boldness with which a more established reputation arms the mind, and the silence of the low but formidable rivals of the higher principles, may concur in providing this unexpected and little observed effect.’

August 26, 1854.



It is a grand, though doubtless natural, mistake to hold that the members of the Town Councils of our Scottish cities and burghs really represent in opinion and feeling their nominal constituencies the electors, through whose suffrages they have been placed in office. In very many cases they do not represent them at all: they form an entirely dissimilar class,––a class as thoroughly different from the solid mass of the community, on which they float like froth and spume on the surface of the great deep, as that other class from which, because there are unhappily scarce any other men in the field, we have to select our legislators. The subject is one of importance. In the Sabbath controversy now carrying on, it has been invariably taken for granted by the anti-Sabbatarian press of the country, that our Town Councils do represent the general constituency; and there has been much founded on the assumption. We shall by and by be finding the same assumption employed against us in the Popery endowment question; and it would be well, therefore, carefully to examine the grounds on which it rests, and to ascertain whether there may not exist some practical mode of testing its unsolidity.

It is not difficult to see how that upper class to which our legislators of both Houses of Parliament mainly belong, should differ greatly from the larger and more solid portion of the middle classes in almost all questions of a religious character and bearing. Bacon, in his Essay on Kings, has quaintly, but, we are afraid, all too justly remarked, that 379 ‘of all kind of men, God is the least beholding unto them [kings]; for He doth most for them, and they do ordinarily least for Him.’ But the character applies to more than kings. It affects the whole upper layers of the great pyramid of society, from its gilded pinnacle down to the higher confines of its solid middle portion; and to these upper layers of the erection our legislators, hereditary and elective, with, of course, a very few exceptions in the Lower House, all belong. They are drafted from the classes with which, if we perhaps except the lowest and most degraded of all, religious questions weigh least. There is, of course, no class wholly divorced from good; and those exceptions to which Cowper could refer two generations ago obtain still:

We boast some rich ones whom the gospel sways,
And one who wears a coronet, and prays:
Like gleanings of an olive tree, they show
Here and there one upon the topmost bough.’

But in at least the mass, religion has not been influential among the governing classes in Britain since the days of the Commonwealth. It has formed one of the great forces on which they have calculated––a formidable power among the people, that they have striven, according to the nature of the emergency, to quiet or awaken, bias or control,––now for the ends of party, when an antagonist faction had to be overborne and put down,––now for the general benefit of the country, when a foreign enemy had to be repelled or an intestine discord to be suppressed; but it has been peculiarly a force outside the governing classes––external, not internal, to them,––a power which it has been their special work to regulate and direct, not a power which has regulated and directed them. The last British Government which––God, according to Bacon, having done much for it––laboured earnestly to do much for God, was that very remarkable one which centred in the person of the Lord Protector. 380

Hence naturally much that is unsatisfactory to the comparatively religious middle classes of the country, in the conduct, with regard to religious questions, of the classes on whom devolves the work of legislation. There is no real community of feeling and belief in these matters between the two. To the extent to which religion is involved in the legislative enactments of the time, the middle class is in reality not represented, and the upper class does not represent. It may not seem equally obvious, however, how there should be a lack of representation, not only among our members of Parliament, but also among our members of Council. They at least surely belong, it may be said, to the middle classes, by whom and from among whom they are chosen for their office. Certainly in some cases they do; in many others, however, they form a class scarce less peculiar than those upper classes out of which the legislators of the country come to be drawn, simply because there is no other class in the field out of which they can be selected.

The Reform and Municipality Bills wrought a mighty change in the Town Councils of the kingdom. The old close burgh system, with all its abuses, ceased for ever, save in its remains––monumental debts, and everlasting leases of town lands, granted on easy terms to officials and their friends; and droll recollections, like those embalmed by Galt in our literature, of solid municipal feasting, and not so solid municipal services,––of exclusive cliqueships, misemployed patronages, modest self-elections,––in short, of a general practice of jobbing, more palpable than pleasant, and that tended rather to individual advantage than corporate honour. The old men retired, and a set of new men were elevated by newly-created constituencies into their vacated places, to be disinterested on dilapidated means, and noisy on short commons. The days of long and heavy feasts had come to a close, and the days of long and heavy speeches succeeded. No two events 381 which this world of ours ever saw, led to so vast an amount of bad speaking as the one Reform Bill that swept away the rotten burghs, and the other Reform Bill that opened the close ones. By and by, however, it came to be seen that the old, privileged, self-elected class were succeeded in many instances by a class that, though elected by their neighbours, were yet not quite like their neighbours. Their neighbours were men who, with their own personal business to attend to, had neither the time nor the ambition to be moving motions or speaking speeches in the eye of the public, and who could not take the trouble to secure elections by canvassing voters. The men who had the time, and took the trouble, were generally a class ill-hafted in society, who had high notions of reforming everything save themselves, and of keeping right all kinds of businesses except their own. The old state of things was, notwithstanding its many faults, a state under which our Scotch burghers rose into consideration by arts of comparative solidity. A tradesman or shopkeeper looked well to his business,––became an important man in the market-place and a good man in the bank,––increased in weight in the same proportion that his coffers did so, and grew influential and oracular on the strength of his pounds sterling per annum. With altered times, however, there arose a new order of men,––

‘The wits of Charles found easier ways to fame.’

It was no longer necessary to spend the greater part of a lifetime in acquiring money and character: a glib tongue, a few high professions of public principle, and a few weeks’ canvassing, were found to serve the turn more than equally well.

There commenced straightway a new dynasty of dignities and honours. Councillors got into print in the capacity of speechmakers, who, save for the revolution effected, would 382 never have got into print in any other capacity than, mayhap, that of bankrupts in the Gazette. Eloquent men walked to church in scarlet, greatly distinguished as provosts and bailies, who but for the happy change would have crept unseen all their lives long among the crowd. Members of Parliament went arm-in-arm, when they visited their constituencies, with folk altogether unused to such consideration; and when a burgher’s son sought to be promoted to the excise, or a seaman to the coast-guard service, it was through the new men that influence had to be exerted. And of course the new men had to approve themselves worthy of their honours, by making large sacrifices for the public weal. They had in many cases not much to do: the magistracy of the bygone school, whom they succeeded, had obligingly relieved posterity of the trouble of having a too preponderous amount of municipal property to manage and look after; but if they had not much to do, they had at least a great deal to say; and as they were ambitious of saying it, their own individual concerns were not unfrequently neglected, in order that their constituencies might be edified and informed. In cases not a few, the natural consequences ensued. We have in our eye one special burgh in the north, in which every name in the Town Council, from that of the provost down to that of the humblest councillor, had, in the course of some two or three years, appeared also in the Gazette; and the previous provost of the place had got desperately involved with the branch banks of the district, and had ultimately run the country, to avoid a prosecution for forgery.

Let it not be held that we are including the entire tribe of modern town functionaries in one sweeping condemnatory description. We ourselves, in our time (we refer to the fact with a high but surely natural pride), held office as a town councillor, under the modern régime, for the space of three whole years in a parliamentary burgh that contained 383 no fewer than forty voters. All may learn from history how it was that Bailie Weezle earned his municipal honours during the ancient state of things in the famous burgh of Gudetown. ‘Bailie Weezle,’ says Galt, ‘was a man not overladen with worldly wisdom, and had been chosen into the Council principally on account of being easily managed. Being an idle person living on his money, and of a soft and quiet nature, he was, for the reason aforesaid, taken by one consent among us, where he always voted on the provost’s side; for in controverted questions every one is beholden to take a part, and the bailie thought it was his duty to side with the chief magistrate.’ Our own special qualifications for office were, we must be permitted in justice to ourselves to state, different from Bailie Weezle’s by a shade.

It was generally held, that if there was nothing to do we would do nothing, and if nothing to say we would say nothing; and so thoroughly did we fulfil every expectation that had been previously formed of us, that for three years together we said and did nothing in our official capacity with great éclat, and regularly absented ourselves from every meeting of Council except the first, to the entire satisfaction of our constituency. It will not be held, therefore, in the face of so important a fact, that we include in our description all the town magistracies under the existing state of things, and most certainly not all modern town councillors.

Nothing, however, can be more certain, we repeat, than that they differ from their constituencies as a class, and that they are chosen to represent them in municipal affairs, just as another and higher class is chosen to represent them in the Legislature––merely because there is no other class in the field. The solid middle-class men of business have, as has been said, something else to employ them, and cannot spare their services. They cannot accept of mere notoriety, with mayhap a modicum of patronate influence attached, as an adequate price for the time and labour which their own 384 affairs demand. It is a peculiar class in the municipal as in the literary field, that ‘weigh solid pudding against empty praise,’ and come to regard the empty praise as solid enough to outweigh the pudding. Not but that it is a fine thing to be in a Town Council, and to see one’s fortnightly speeches flourishing in the public prints. Where else could some of our Edinburgh worthies bring themselves so prominently before the eyes of the country?

Where else, for instance, could Councillor ––– impart such universal interest to the fact that he taught in a Sabbath school, and rode out of town every evening to attend to its duties by a Sunday train,––thus forming an invariable item, it would seem, in the average of the ninety-two Sabbath journeyers that travelled by the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway, and failed to remunerate the proprietors? Or where else could Councillor ––– refer with such prodigious effect to Dr. Chalmers’s bloody-minded scheme of ‘executing the heathen?’ Or where else could Councillor ––– succeed in eliciting so general a belief that he was one of the poor endangered heathens over which the threatened execution hung, through his famous oath ‘By Jupiter?’

By the way, is this latter gentleman acquainted with Smollett’s story of the eccentric Mr. H., and chivalrously bent, on the same principle, in acknowledging a deity in distress? ‘Mr. H., some years ago, being in the Campidoglio at Rome,’ says Smollett, ‘made up to the bust of Jupiter, and bowing very low, exclaimed, in the Italian language, “I hope, sir, if ever you get your head above water again, you will remember that I paid my respects to you in your adversity.” This sally,’ continues the historian, ‘was reported to the Cardinal Camerlengo, and by him laid before the Pope Benedict XIV., who could not help laughing at the extravagance of the address, and said to the Cardinal, “Those English heretics think they have a right to go to the devil in their own way.’” 385

Now, standing, as we do, either on the threshold of serious national controversies of a religious bearing, or already entered upon them, it would be well to mark and test the facts which it is our present object specially to point out. It would be well to take measures for rendering it an as palpable as it is a solid truth, that the municipal tail of the country’s representation no more really represents it in several very important respects than its parliamentary head. It represents it most inadequately on the Sabbath question now; it will represent it quite as inadequately in the Popish endowment question by and by; and if in reality we do not wish to see the battle going against us on both issues, there must be effective means employed to demonstrate the fact. In matters of a religious bearing, the ill-hafted notoriety-men of our Town Councils much more nearly resemble the upper indifferent classes, from which our legislators are drafted, than they do the solid bulk of the community.

They are decidedly in the movement party, and form a portion, not of the ballast, but of the superfluous sail, of the State. Nor should it be difficult to render the fact evident to all. In one of our northern burghs––Dingwall––a majority of the Town Council lately memorialized the Directors of the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway in exactly the same vein as the majority of our Edinburgh Town Council. So extreme a step seemed rather extraordinary for Ross-shire; and a gentleman of the burgh, one of the voters, convinced that the officials were far indeed from representing their constituency, shrewdly set himself to demonstrate the real state of the case. First he possessed himself of an accredited list of the voters; and then, with a memorial addressed to the Directors, strongly condemnatory of the conduct of the Council, he called upon every voter in the burgh who had not taken the opposite side in the character of a councillor, with the exception of two, 386 whose views he had previously ascertained to be unfavourable. And what, thinks our reader, was the result? Seven councillors had voted on the anti-Sabbatarian side; and the provost, for himself and the Council, had afterwards signed the memorial. And of the voters outside, four were found to make common cause with them. Two more did not make common cause with them, but were not prepared to condemn them, and so did not sign. There were thus fourteen in all who were either not opposed to the running of Sabbath trains, or who were at least not disposed openly to denounce the parties who had memorialized the Directors, in the name of the burgh, to the effect that Sabbath trains should be run. Of the other electors, ten were non-resident, five more were out of town at the time, three had fallen out of possession since the roll had been made up, and one was dead. And all the others, amounting to sixty-nine in number, at once signed the document condemnatory of the Council, and were happy to have an opportunity of doing so. The available votes of the burgh were opposed to those of their pseudo-representatives in the proportion of nearly six to one.

In the parliamentary burgh of Cromarty an almost similar experiment was made. There, however, though the movement party had composed the majority of the Council only a few years since, they had been cast out of office, partly through a strong reaction which had taken place against them, partly in consequence of a quarrel among themselves. And so the existing Town Council took the initiative in memorializing the Directors in favour of the recent resolution not to run Sunday trains. Of all the voters of the burgh, only five stood aloof; all the others made common cause with the Town Council in attaching their names to their document.

But it is a significant fact, that in the knot of five the ex-councillors of the movement party were included; and 387 that had they been in the Council still, a majority would to a certainty have voted in the wake of the Edinburgh Town Council. There is much instruction in facts such as these; and they may be turned to great practical account.

Why should not the sentiments of every voter in Scotland be taken on this same Sabbath question now? or what is there to prevent us from taking the sentiments of every voter in Scotland on the Popish endowment question by and by?

It is a tedious and expensive matter to get up petitions, to which all and sundry affix their names; but the franchise-holders of Scotland are comparatively a not very numerous class; and about the same amount of labour that goes to a monthly collection for the Sustentation Fund, would be quite sufficient to place before Government and the country the full expression of their feelings and opinions on the two leading questions of the day. But enough for the present––‘a word to the wise.’

January 20, 1847.





There appeared at Paris, about five years ago, a singularly ingenious work on political economy, from the pen of the late M. de Sismondi, a writer of European reputation. The greater part of the first volume is taken up with discussions on territorial wealth, and the condition of the cultivators of the soil; and in this portion of the work there is a prominent place assigned to a subject which perhaps few Scotch readers would expect to see introduced through the medium of a foreign tongue to the people of a great continental State. We find this philosophic writer, whose works are known far beyond the limits of his language, devoting an entire essay to the case of the late Duchess of Sutherland 389 and her tenants, and forming a judgment on it very unlike the decision of political economists in our own country, who have not hesitated to characterize her great and singularly harsh experiment, whose worst effects we are but beginning to see, as at once justifiable in itself and happy in its results. It is curious to observe how deeds done as if in darkness and a corner, are beginning, after the lapse of nearly thirty years, to be proclaimed on the house-tops. The experiment of the late Duchess was not intended to be made in the eye of Europe. Its details would ill bear the exposure. When Cobbett simply referred to it only ten years ago, the noble proprietrix was startled, as if a rather delicate family secret was on the eve of being divulged; and yet nothing seems more evident now than that civilised man all over the world is to be made aware of how the experiment was accomplished, and what it is ultimately to produce. It must be obvious, further, that the infatuation of the present proprietor, in virtually setting aside the Toleration Act on his property, must have the effect of spreading the knowledge of it all the more widely, and of rendering its results much more disastrous than they could have possibly been of themselves.

In a time of quiet and good order, when law, whether in the right or the wrong, is all-potent in enforcing its findings, the argument which the philosophic Frenchman employs in behalf of the ejected tenantry of Sutherland, is an argument 390 at which proprietors may afford to smile. In a time of revolution, however, when lands change their owners, and old families give place to new ones, it might be found somewhat formidable,––sufficiently so, at least, to lead a wise proprietor in an unsettled age rather to conciliate than oppress and irritate the class who would be able in such circumstances to urge it with most effect. It is not easy doing justice in a few sentences to the facts and reasonings of an elaborate essay; but the line of the argument runs somewhat thus.

Under the old Celtic tenures––the only tenures, be it remembered, through which the lords of Sutherland derive their rights to their lands––the Klaan, or children of the soil, were the proprietors of the soil: ‘the whole of Sutherland,’ says Sismondi, belonged to ‘the men of Sutherland.’ Their chief was their monarch, and a very absolute monarch he was. ‘He gave the different tacks of land to his officers, or took them away from them, according as they showed themselves more or less useful in war. But though he could thus, in a military sense, reward or punish the clan, he could not diminish in the least the property of the clan itself;’––he was a chief, not a proprietor, and had ‘no more right to expel from their homes the inhabitants of his county, than a king to expel from his country the inhabitants of his kingdom.’ ‘Now, the Gaelic tenant,’ continues the Frenchman, ‘has never been conquered; nor did he forfeit, on any after occasion, the rights which he originally possessed;’––in point of right, he is still a co-proprietor with his captain. To a Scotchman acquainted with the law of property as it has existed among us, in even the Highlands, for the last century, and everywhere else for at least two centuries more, the view may seem extreme; not so, however, to a native of the Continent, in many parts of which prescription and custom are found ranged, not on the side of the chief, but on that of the vassal. ‘Switzerland,’ 391 says Sismondi, ‘which in so many respects resembles Scotland––in its lakes––its mountains––its climate––and the character, manners, and habits of its children––was likewise at the same period parcelled out among a small number of lords. If the Counts of Kyburgh, of Lentzburg, of Hapsburg, and of Gruyeres, had been protected by the English laws, they would find themselves at the present day precisely in the condition in which the Earls of Sutherland were twenty years ago. Some of them would perhaps have had the same taste for improvements, and several republics would have been expelled from the Alps, to make room for flocks of sheep.’ ‘But while the law has given to the Swiss peasant a guarantee of perpetuity, it is to the Scottish laird that it has extended this guarantee in the British empire, leaving the peasant in a precarious situation.’ ‘The clan––recognised at first by the captain, whom they followed in war and obeyed for their common advantage, as his friends and relations, then as his soldiers, then as his vassals, then as his farmers––he has come finally to regard as hired labourers, whom he may perchance allow to remain on the soil of their common country for his own advantage, but whom he has the power to expel so soon as he no longer finds it for his interest to keep them.’

Arguments like those of Sismondi, however much their force may be felt on the Continent, could be formidable at home, as we have said, in only a time of revolution, when the very foundations of society would be unfixed, and opinion set loose, to pull down or reconstruct at pleasure. But it is surely not uninteresting to mark how, in the course of events, that very law of England which, in the view of the Frenchman, has done the Highland peasant so much less, and the Highland chief so much more than justice, is bidding fair, in the case of Sutherland at least, to carry its rude equalizing remedy along with it. Between the years 1811 and 1820, fifteen thousand inhabitants of this 392 northern district were ejected from their snug inland farms, by means for which we would in vain seek a precedent, except, perchance, in the history of the Irish massacre. But though the interior of the county was thus improved into a desert, in which there are many thousands of sheep, but few human habitations, let it not be supposed by the reader that its general population, was in any degree lessened. So far was this from being the case, that the census of 1821 showed an increase over the census of 1811 of more than two hundred; and the present population of Sutherland exceeds, by a thousand, its population before the change. The county has not been depopulated––its population has been merely arranged after a new fashion. The late Duchess found it spread equally over the interior and the sea-coast, and in very comfortable circumstances;––she left it compressed into a wretched selvage of poverty and suffering, that fringes the county on its eastern and western shores. And the law which enabled her to make such an arrangement, maugre the ancient rights of the poor Highlander, is now on the eve of stepping in, in its own clumsy way, to make her family pay the penalty. The evil of a poor-law can be no longer averted from Scotland. However much we may dislike compulsory assessment for the support of our poor, it can be no longer avoided. Our aristocracy have been working hard for it during the whole of the present century, and a little longer; the disruption of the Scottish Church, as the last in a series of events, all of which have tended towards it, has rendered it inevitable. Let the evidence of the present commissioners on the subject be what it may, it cannot be of a kind suited to show that if England should have a poor-law, Scotland should have none. The southern kingdom must and will give us a poor-law; and then shall the selvage of deep poverty which fringes the sea-coasts of Sutherland avenge on the titled proprietor of the county both his mother’s error and 393 his own. If our British laws, unlike those of Switzerland, failed miserably in her day in protecting the vassal, they will more than fail, in those of her successor, in protecting the lord. Our political economists shall have an opportunity of reducing their arguments regarding the improvements in Sutherland into a few arithmetical terms, which the merest tyro will be able to grapple with.

We find a similar case thus strongly stated by Cobbett in his Northern Tour, and in connection with a well-known name:––‘Sir James Graham has his estate lying off this road to the left. He has not been clearing his estate––the poor-law would not let him do that; but he has been clearing off the small farms, and making them into large ones, which he had a right to do, because it is he himself that is finally to endure the consequences of that: he has a right to do that; and those who are made indigent in consequence of his so doing, have a right to demand a maintenance out of the land, according to the Act of the 43d of Elizabeth, which gave the people a COMPENSATION for the loss of the tithes and church lands which had been taken away by the aristocracy in the reigns of the Tudors. If Sir James Graham choose to mould his fine and large estate into immense farms, and to break up numerous happy families in the middle rank of life, and to expose them all to the necessity of coming and demanding sustenance from his estate; if he choose to be surrounded by masses of persons in this state, he shall not call them paupers, for that insolent term is not to be found in the compensation-laws of Elizabeth; if he choose to be surrounded by swarms of beings of this description, with feelings in their bosoms towards him such as I need not describe,––if he choose this, his RIGHT certainly extends thus far; but I tell him that he has no right to say to any man born in his parishes, “You shall not be here, and you shall not have a maintenance off these lands.’” 394

There is but poor comfort, however, to know, when one sees a country ruined, that the perpetrators of the mischief have not ruined it to their own advantage. We purpose showing how signal in the case of Sutherland this ruin has been, and how very extreme the infatuation which continues to possess its hereditary lord. We are old enough to remember the county in its original state, when it was at once the happiest and one of the most exemplary districts in Scotland, and passed, at two several periods, a considerable time among its hills; we are not unacquainted with it now, nor with its melancholy and dejected people, that wear out life in their comfortless cottages on the sea-shore. The problem solved in this remote district of the kingdom is not at all unworthy the attention which it seems but beginning to draw, but which is already not restricted to one kingdom, or even one continent.



We heard sermon in the open air with a poor Highland congregation in Sutherlandshire only a few weeks ago; and the scene was one which we shall not soon forget. The place of meeting was a green hill-side, near the opening of a deep, long withdrawing strath, with a river running through the midst. We stood on the slope where the last of a line of bold eminences, that form the southern side of the valley, sinks towards the sea. A tall precipitous mountain, reverend and hoary, and well fitted to tranquillize the mind, from the sober solemnity that rests on its massy features, rose fronting us on the north; a quiet burial-ground lay at its feet; while, on the opposite side, between us and the sea, there frowned an ancient stronghold of time-eaten stone––an impressive memorial of an age of violence and bloodshed. The last proprietor, says tradition, had to quit this dwelling by night, with all his family, in consequence of some unfortunate broil, and take refuge in a small coasting vessel; a terrible storm arose––the vessel foundered at sea––and the hapless proprietor and his children were nevermore heard of. And hence, it is said, the extinction of the race.

The story speaks of an unsettled time; nor is it difficult to trace, in the long deep valley on the opposite hand, the memorials of a story not less sad, though much more modern. On both sides the river the eye rests on a multitude of scattered patches of green, that seem inlaid in the brown heath. We trace on these islands of sward the marks of furrows, and mark here and there, through the loneliness, the remains of a group of cottages, well-nigh levelled with the soil, and, haply like those ruins which eastern conquerors leave in their track, still scathed with 396 fire. All is solitude within the valley, except where, at wide intervals, the shieling of a shepherd may be seen; but at its opening, where the hills range to the coast, the cottages for miles together lie clustered as in a hamlet. From the north of Helmsdale to the south of Port Gower, the lower slopes of the hills are covered by a labyrinth of stone fences, minute patches of corn, and endless cottages. It would seem as if for twenty miles the long withdrawing valley had been swept of its inhabitants, and the accumulated sweepings left at its mouth, just as we see the sweepings of a room sometimes left at the door. And such generally is the present state of Sutherland. The interior is a solitude occupied by a few sheep-farmers and their hinds; while a more numerous population than fell to the share of the entire county, ere the inhabitants were expelled from their inland holdings, and left to squat upon the coast, occupy the selvage of discontent and poverty that fringes its shores. The congregation with which we worshipped on this occasion was drawn mainly from these cottages, and the neighbouring village of Helmsdale. It consisted of from six to eight hundred Highlanders, all devoted adherents of the Free Church. We have rarely seen a more deeply serious assemblage; never certainly one that bore an air of such deep dejection. The people were wonderfully clean and decent; for it is ill with Highlanders when they neglect their personal appearance, especially on a Sabbath; but it was all too evident that the heavy hand of poverty rested upon them, and that its evils were now deepened by oppression. It might be a mere trick of association; but when their plaintive Gaelic singing, so melancholy in its tones at all times, arose from the bare hill-side, it sounded in our ears like a deep wail of complaint and sorrow. Poor people! ‘We were ruined and reduced to beggary before,’ they say, ‘and now the gospel is taken from us.’

Nine-tenths of the poor people of Sutherland are adherents 397 of the Free Church––all of them in whose families the worship of God has been set up––all who entertain a serious belief in the reality of religion––all who are not the creatures of the proprietor, and have not stifled their convictions for a piece of bread––are devotedly attached to the disestablished ministers, and will endure none other. The residuary clergy they do not recognise as clergy at all. The Established churches have become as useless in the district, as if, like its Druidical circles, they represented some idolatrous belief, long exploded––the people will not enter them; and they respectfully petition his Grace to be permitted to build other churches for themselves. And fain would his Grace indulge them, he says. In accordance with the suggestions of an innate desire, willingly would he permit them to build their own churches and support their own ministers. But then, has he not loyally engaged to support the Establishment? To permit a religious and inoffensive people to build their own places of worship, and support their own clergy, would be sanctioning a sort of persecution against the Establishment; and as his Grace dislikes religious persecution, and has determined always to oppose whatever tends to it, he has resolved to make use of his influence, as the most extensive of Scottish proprietors, in forcing them back to their parish churches. If they persist in worshipping God agreeably to the dictates of their conscience, it must be on the unsheltered hill-side––in winter, amid the frosts and snows of a severe northern climate––in the milder seasons, exposed to the scorching sun and the drenching shower. They must not be permitted the shelter of a roof, for that would be persecuting the Establishment; and so to the Establishment must the people be forced back, literally by stress of weather. His Grace owes a debt to the national institution, and it seems to irk his conscience until some equivalent be made. He is not himself a member––he exercises the same sort of 398 liberty which his people would so fain exercise; and to make amends for daring to belong to another Church himself (that of England), he has determined, if he can help it, that the people shall belong to no other. He has resolved, it would seem, to compound for his own liberty by depriving them of theirs.

How they are to stand out the winter on this exposed eastern coast, He alone knows who never shuts His ear to the cry of the oppressed. One thing is certain, they will never return to the Establishment. On this Sabbath the congregation in the parish church did not, as we afterwards learned, exceed a score; and the quoad sacra chapel of the district was locked up. Long before the Disruption the people had well-nigh ceased attending the ministrations of the parish incumbent. The Sutherland Highlanders are still a devout people; they like a bald mediocre essay none the better for its being called a sermon, and read on Sabbath. The noble Duke, their landlord, has said not a little in his letters to them about the extreme slightness of the difference which obtains between the Free and the Established Churches: it is a difference so exceedingly slight, that his Grace fails to see it; and he hopes that by and by, when winter shall have thickened the atmosphere with its frost rime and its snows, his poor tenantry may prove as unable to see it as himself. With them, however, the difference is not mainly a doctrinal one. They believe with the old Earls of Sutherland, who did much to foster the belief in this northern county, that there is such a thing as personal piety,––that of two clergymen holding nominally the same doctrines, and bound ostensibly by the same standards, one may be a regenerate man, earnestly bent on the conversion of others, and ready to lay down his worldly possessions, and even life itself, for the cause of the gospel; while the other may be an unregenerate man, so little desirous of the conversion of others, that he would but decry and detest 399 them did he find them converted already, and so careless of the gospel, that did not his living depend on professing to preach it, he would neither be an advocate for it himself, nor yet come within earshot of where it was advocated by others. The Highlanders of Sutherland hold in deep seriousness a belief of this character. They believe, further, that the ministers of their own mountain district belong to these two classes––that the Disruption of the Scottish Church has thrown the classes apart––that the residuaries are not men of personal piety––they have seen no conversions attending their ministry––nor have they lacked reason to deem them unconverted themselves. Unlike his Grace the Duke, the people have been intelligent enough to see two sets of principles ranged in decided antagonism in the Church question; but still more clearly have they seen two sets of men. They have identified the cause of the gospel with that of the-Free Church in their district; and neither the Duke of Sutherland nor the Establishment which he is ‘engaged in endeavouring to maintain,’ will be able to reverse the opinion.

We have said that his Grace’s ancestors, the old earls, did much to foster this spirit. The history of Sutherland, as a county, differs from all our other Highland districts. Its two great families were those of Reay and Sutherland, both of which, from an early period of the Reformation, were not only Protestant, but also thoroughly evangelical. It was the venerable Earl of Sutherland who first subscribed the National Covenant in the Greyfriars. It was a scion of the Reay family––a man of great personal piety––who led the troops of William against Dundee at Killiecrankie. Their influence was all-powerful in Sutherland, and directed to the best ends; and we find it stated by Captain Henderson, in his general view of the agriculture of the country, as a well-established and surely not uninteresting fact, that ‘the crimes of rapine, murder, and plunder, though not 400 unusual in the county during the feuds and conflicts of the clans, were put an end to about the year 1640’––a full century before our other Highland districts had become even partially civilised. ‘Pious earls and barons of former times,’ says a native of the county, in a small work published in Edinburgh about sixteen years ago, ‘encouraged and patronized pious ministers, and a high tone of religious feeling came thus to be diffused throughout the country.’ Its piety was strongly of the Presbyterian type; and in no district of the south were the questions which received such prominence in our late ecclesiastical controversy better understood by both the people and the patrons, than in Sutherland a full century ago. We have before us an interesting document, the invitation of the elders, parishioners, and heritors of Lairg, to the Rev. Thomas M’Kay, 1748, to be their minister, in which, ‘hoping that’ he would find their ‘call, carried on with great sincerity, unanimity, and order, to be a clear call from the Lord,’ they faithfully promise to ‘yield him, in their several stations and relations, all dutiful respect and encouragement.’ William Earl of Sutherland was patron of the parish, but we find him on this occasion exercising no patronate powers: at the head of parishioners and elders he merely adhibits his name. He merely invites with the others. The state of morals in the county was remarkably exemplified at a later period by the regiment of Sutherland Highlanders, embodied originally in 1793, under the name of the Sutherlandshire Fencibles, and subsequently in 1800 as the 93d Regiment. Most other troops are drawn from among the unsettled and reckless part of the population; not so the Sutherland Highlanders. On the breaking out of the revolutionary war, the mother of the present Duke summoned them from their hills, and five hundred fighting men marched down to Dunrobin Castle, to make a tender of their swords to their country, at the command of their 401 chieftainess. The regiment, therefore, must be regarded as a fair specimen of the character of the district; and from the description of General Stewart of Garth, and one or two sources besides, we may learn what that character was.

‘In the words of a general officer by whom they were once reviewed,’ says General Stewart, ‘they exhibited a perfect pattern of military discipline and moral rectitude.’

‘When stationed at the Cape of Good Hope, anxious to enjoy the advantages of religious instruction agreeably to the tenets of their national Church, and there being no religious service in the garrison except the customary one of reading prayers to the soldiers on parade, the Sutherland men formed themselves into a congregation, appointed elders of their own number, engaged and paid a stipend (collected among themselves) to a clergyman of the Church of Scotland (who had gone out with an intention of teaching and preaching to the Caffres), and had divine service performed agreeably to the ritual of the Established Church.... In addition to these expenses, the soldiers regularly remitted money to their relatives in Sutherland. When they disembarked at Plymouth in August 1814, the inhabitants were both surprised and gratified. On such occasions it had been no uncommon thing for soldiers to spend in taverns and gin-shops the money they had saved. In the present case the soldiers of Sutherland were seen in book-sellers’ shops, supplying themselves with Bibles and such books and tracts as they required. Yet, as at the Cape, where their religious habits were so free of all fanatical gloom that they occasionally indulged in social meetings and dancing, so here, while expending their money on books, they did not neglect their personal appearance; and the haberdashers’ shops had also their share of trade, from the purchase of additional feathers to their bonnets, and such extra decorations as the correctness of military regulations allow to be introduced into the uniform. Nor, while thus 402 mindful of themselves––improving their mind and their personal appearance––did such of them as had relations in Sutherland forget their destitute condition, occasioned by the loss of their lands, and the operation of the improved state of the country. During the short period that the regiment was quartered at Plymouth, upwards of £500 were lodged in one banking house to be remitted to Sutherland, exclusive of many sums sent through the Post Office and by officers. Some of the sums exceeded £20 from an individual soldier.’

‘In the case of such men,’ continues the General, ‘disgraceful punishment was as unnecessary as it would have been pernicious. Indeed, so remote was the idea of such a measure in regard to them, that when punishments were to be inflicted on others, and the troops in camp, garrison, or quarters assembled to witness the execution, the presence of the Sutherland Highlanders––either of the fencibles or of the line––was dispensed with; the effect of terror, as a check to crime, being in their case uncalled for, “as examples of that nature were not necessary for such honourable soldiers.” Such were these men in garrison. How thoroughly they were guided by honour and loyalty in the field, was shown at New Orleans. Although many of their countrymen who had emigrated to America were ready and anxious to receive them, there was not an instance of desertion; nor did one of those who were left behind, wounded or prisoners, forget their allegiance and remain in that country, at the same time that desertions from the British army were but too frequent.’

This is testimony which even men of the world will scarce suspect. We can supplement it by that of the missionary whom the Sutherlandshire soldiers made choice of at Cape Town as their minister. We quote from a letter by the Rev. Mr. Thom, which appeared in the Christian Herald of October 1814:––

‘When the 93d Sutherland Highlanders left Cape Town 403 last month,’ writes the reverend gentleman, ‘there were among them 156 members of the church (including three elders and three deacons), all of whom, so far as man can know the heart from the life, were pious persons. The regiment was certainly a pattern for morality and good behaviour to every other corps. They read their Bibles; they observed the Sabbath; they saved their money in order to do good; 7000 rix-dollars (£1400 currency) the non-commissioned officers and privates gave for books, societies, and the support of the gospel––a sum perhaps unparalleled in any other corps in the world, given in the short space of seventeen or eighteen months. Their example had a general good effect on both the colonists and heathen. How they may act as to religion in other parts is known to God; but if ever apostolic days were revived in modern times on earth, I certainly believe some of these to have been granted to us in Africa.’

One other extract of a similar kind: we quote from a letter to the Committee of the Edinburgh Gaelic School Society, Fourth Annual Report:––

‘The regiment (93d) arrived in England, when they immediately received orders to proceed to North America; but before they re-embarked, the sum collected for your Society was made up, and has been remitted to your treasurer, amounting to seventy-eight pounds sterling.’

We dwell with pleasure on this picture; and shall present the reader, in our next chapter, with a picture of similar character, taken from observation, of the homes in which these soldiers were reared. The reverse is all too stern, but we must exhibit it also, and show how the influence which the old Earls of Sutherland employed so well, has been exerted by their descendants to the ruin of their country. But we must first give one other extract from General Stewart. It indicates the track in which the ruin came.

‘Men like these,’ he says, referring to the Sutherland 404 Highlanders, ‘do credit to the peasantry of the country. If this conclusion is well founded, the removal of so many of the people from their ancient seats, where they acquired those habits and principles, must be considered a public loss of no common magnitude. It must appear strange, and somewhat inconsistent, when the same persons who are loud in their professions of an eager desire to promote and preserve the religious and moral virtues of the people, should so frequently take the lead in approving of measures which, by removing them from where they imbibed principles which have attracted the notice of Europe, and placed them in situations where poverty, and the too frequent attendants, vice and crime, will lay the foundation of a character which will be a disgrace, as that already obtained has been an honour, to this country. In the new stations where so many Highlanders are now placed, and crowded in such numbers as to preserve the numerical population, while whole districts are left without inhabitants, how can they resume their ancient character and principles, which, according to the reports of those employed by the proprietors, have been so deplorably broken down and deteriorated––a deterioration which was entirely unknown till the recent change in the condition of the people, and the introduction of that system of placing families on patches of potato ground, as in Ireland––a system pregnant with degradation, poverty, and disaffection, and exhibiting daily a prominent and deplorable example, which might have forewarned Highland proprietors, and prevented them from reducing their people to a similar state? It is only when parents and heads of families in the Highlands are moral, happy, and contented, that they can instil sound principles into their children, who, in their intercourse with the world, may once more become what the men of Sutherland have already been, “an honourable example, worthy the imitation of all.’” 405


We have exhibited the Sutherland Highlanders to the reader as they exhibited themselves to their country, when, as Christian soldiers,––men, like the old chivalrous knight, ‘without fear or reproach,’––they fought its battles and reflected honour on its name. Interest must attach to the manner in which men of so high a moral tone were reared; and a sketch drawn from personal observation of the interior of Sutherland eight-and-twenty years ago, may be found to throw very direct light on the subject. To know what the district once was, and what it is now, is to know with peculiar emphasis the meaning of the sacred text, ‘One sinner destroyeth much good.’

The eye of a Triptolemus Yellowlee would have found exceedingly little to gratify it in the parish of Lairg thirty years ago. The parish had its bare hills, its wide, dark moors, its old doddered woods of birch and hazel, its extensive lake, its headlong river, and its roaring cataract. Nature had imparted to it much of a wild and savage beauty; but art had done nothing for it. To reverse the well-known antithesis in which Goldsmith sums up his description of Italy,––the only growth that had not dwindled in it was man. The cottage in which we resided with an aged relative and his two stalwart sons, might be regarded as an average specimen of the human dwellings of the district. It was a low long building of turf, consisting of four apartments on the ground floor,––the one stuck on to the end of the other, and threaded together by a passage that connected the whole. From the nearest hill the cottage reminded one of a huge black snail crawling up the slope. 406 The largest of the four apartments was occupied by the master’s six milk cows; the next in size was the ha’, or sitting-room,––a rude but not uncomfortable apartment, with the fire on a large flat stone in the middle of the floor. The apartment adjoining was decently partitioned into sleeping places; while the fourth and last in the range––more neatly fitted up than any of the others, with furniture the workmanship of a bred carpenter, a small bookcase containing from forty to fifty volumes, and a box-bed of deal––was known as the stranger’s room. There was a straggling group of buildings outside, in the same humble style,––a stable, a barn, a hay-barn, a sheep-pen with a shed attached, and a milk-house; and stretching around the whole lay the farm,––a straggling patch of corn land of from twelve to fifteen acres in extent, that, from its extremely irregular outline, and the eccentric forms of the parti-coloured divisions into which it was parcelled, reminded one of a coloured map. Encircling all was a wide sea of heath studded with huge stones––the pasturage land of the farmer for his sheep and cattle––which swept away on every hand to other islands of corn and other groups of cottages, identical in appearance with the corn land and the cottages described.

We remember that, coming from a seaport town, where, to give to property the average security, the usual means had to be resorted to, we were first struck by finding that the door of our relative’s cottage, in this inland parish, was furnished with neither lock nor bar. Like that of the hermit in the ballad, it opened with a latch; but, unlike that of the hermit, it was not because there were no stores under the humble roof to demand the care of the master. It was because that, at this comparatively recent period, the crime of theft was unknown in the district. The philosophic Biot, when occupied in measuring the time of the seconds pendulum, resided for several months in one of the 407 smaller Shetland islands; and, fresh from the troubles of France,––his imagination bearing about, if we may so speak, the stains of the guillotine,––the state of trustful security in which he found the simple inhabitants filled him with astonishment. ‘Here,’ he exclaimed, ‘during the twenty-five years in which Europe has been devouring herself, the door of the house I inhabit has remained open day and night.’ The whole interior of Sutherland was, at the time of which we write, in a similar condition. It did not surprise us that the old man, a person of deep piety, regularly assembled his household night and morning for the purpose of family worship, and led in their devotions: we had seen many such instances in the low country. But it did somewhat surprise us to find the practice universal in the parish. In every family had the worship of God been set up. One could not pass an inhabited cottage in the evening, from which the voice of psalms was not to be heard. On Sabbath morning, the whole population might be seen wending their way, attired in their best, along the blind half-green paths in the heath, to the parish church. The minister was greatly beloved, and all attended his ministrations. We still remember the intense joy which his visits used to impart to the household of our relative. This worthy clergyman still lives, though the infirmities of a stage of life very advanced have gathered round him; and at the late disruption, choosing his side, and little heeding, when duty called, that his strength had been wasted in the labour of forty years, and that he could now do little more than testify and suffer in behalf of his principles, he resigned his hold of the temporalities as minister of Dornoch, and cast in his lot with his brethren of the Free Church. And his venerable successor in Lairg, a man equally beloved and exemplary, and now on the verge of his eightieth year, has acted a similar part. Had such sacrifices been made in such circumstances for other than the cause of Christ––had they been made 408 under some such romantic delusion as misled of old the followers of the Stuarts––the world would have appreciated them highly; but there is an element in evangelism which repels admiration, unless it be an admiration grounded in faith and love; and the appeal in such cases must lie, therefore, not to the justice of the world, but to the judgment-seat of God. We may remind the reader, in passing, that it was the venerable minister of Lairg who, on quitting his manse on the Disruption, was received by his widowed daughter into a cottage held of the Duke of Sutherland, and that for this grave crime––the crime of sheltering her aged father––the daughter was threatened with ejection by one of the Duke’s creatures. Is it not somewhat necessary that the breath of public opinion should be let in on this remote country? But we digress.

A peculiar stillness seemed to rest over this Highland parish on the Sabbath. The family devotions of the morning, the journey to and from church, and the public services there, occupied fully two-thirds of the day. But there remained the evening, and of it the earlier part was spent in what are known in the north country as fellowship meetings. One of these was held regularly in the ‘ha’’ of our relative. From fifteen to twenty people, inclusive of the family, met for the purposes of social prayer and religious conversation, and the time passed profitably away, till the closing night summoned the members of the meeting to their respective homes and their family duties. We marked an interesting peculiarity in the devotions of our relative. He was, as we have said, an old man, and had worshipped in his family long ere Dr. Stewart’s Gaelic translation of the Scriptures had been introduced into the county; and as he was supplied in those days with only the English Bible, while his domestics understood only Gaelic, he had to acquire the art, not uncommon in Sutherland at the time, of translating the English chapter for them, as he read, into their native 409 tongue; and this he had learned to do with such ready fluency, that no one could have guessed it to be other than a Gaelic work from which he was reading. It might have been supposed, however, that the introduction of Dr. Stewart’s edition would have rendered this mode of translation obsolete; but in this and many other families such was not the case. The old man’s Gaelic was Sutherlandshire Gaelic. His family understood it better, in consequence, than any other; and so he continued to translate from his English Bible, ad aperturam libri, many years after the Gaelic edition had been spread over the county. The fact that such a practice should have been common in Sutherland, says something surely for the intelligence of the family patriarchs of the district. That thousands of the people who knew the Scriptures through no other medium, should have been intimately acquainted with the saving doctrines and witnesses of their power (and there can be no question that such was the case), is proof enough, at least, that it was a practice carried on with a due perception of the scope and meaning of the sacred volume. One is too apt to associate intelligence with the external improvements of a country––with well-enclosed fields and whitewashed cottages; but the association is altogether a false one. As shown by the testimony of General Stewart of Garth, the Sutherland regiment was not only the most eminently moral, but, as their tastes and habits demonstrated, one of the most decidedly intellectual under the British Crown. Our relative’s cottage had, as we have said, its bookcase, and both his sons were very intelligent men; but intelligence derived directly from books was not general in the county; a very considerable portion of the people understood no other language than Gaelic, and many of them could not even read; for at this period about one-tenth of the families of Sutherland were distant five or more miles from the nearest school. Their characteristic 410 intelligence was of a kind otherwise derived: it was an intelligence drawn from these domestic readings of the Scriptures and from the pulpit; and is referred mainly to that profound science which even a Newton could recognise as more important and wonderful than any of the others, but which many of the shallower intellects of our own times deem no science at all. It was an intelligence out of which their morality sprung; it was an intelligence founded in earnest belief.

But what, asks the reader, was the economic condition––the condition with regard to circumstances and means of living––of these Sutherland Highlanders? How did they fare? The question has been variously answered: much must depend on the class selected from among them as specimens of the whole,––much, too, taking for granted the honesty of the party who replies, on his own condition in life, and his acquaintance with the circumstances of the poorer people of Scotland generally. The county had its less genial localities, in which, for a month or two in the summer season, when the stock of grain from the previous year was fast running out, and the crops on the ground not yet ripened for use, the people experienced a considerable degree of scarcity,––such scarcity as a mechanic in the south feels when he has been a fortnight out of employment. But the Highlander had resources in these seasons which the mechanic has not. He had his cattle and his wild pot-herbs, such as the mugwort and the nettle. It has been adduced by the advocates of the change which has ruined Sutherland, as a proof of the extreme hardship of the Highlander’s condition, that at such times he could have eaten as food a broth made of nettles, mixed up with a little oatmeal, or have had recourse to the expedient of bleeding his cattle, and making the blood into a sort of pudding. And it is quite true that the Sutherlandshire Highlander was in the habit, at such times, of having 411 recourse to such food. It is not less true, however, that the statement is just as little conclusive regarding his condition, as if it were alleged there must always be famine in France when the people eat the hind legs of frogs, or in Italy when they make dishes of snails. We never saw scarcity in the house of our relative, but we have seen the nettle broth in it very frequently, and the blood-pudding oftener than once; for both dishes were especial favourites with the Highlanders. With regard to the general comfort of the people in their old condition, there are better tests than can be drawn from the kind of food they occasionally ate. The country hears often of dearth in Sutherland now: every year in which the crop falls a little below average in other districts, is a year of famine there; but the country never heard of dearth in Sutherland then. There were very few among the holders of its small inland farms who had not saved a little money. Their circumstances were such, that their moral nature found full room to develope itself, and in a way the world has rarely witnessed. Never were there a happier or more contented people, or a people more strongly attached to the soil; and not one of them now lives in the altered circumstances on which they were so rudely precipitated by the landlord, who does not look back on this period of comfort and enjoyment with sad and hopeless regret. We have never heard the system which has depopulated this portion of the country defended, without recurring to our two several visits to the turf cottage in Lairg, or without feeling that the defence embodied an essential falsehood, which time will not fail to render evident to the apprehensions of all.

We would but fatigue our readers were we to run over half our recollections of the interior of Sutherland. They are not all of a serious cast. We have sat in the long autumn evenings in the cheerful circle round the turf-fire of the ha’, and have heard many a tradition of old clan feuds pleasingly 412 told, and many a song of the poet of the county, Old Rob Donn, gaily sung. In our immediate neighbourhood, by the side of a small stream––small, but not without its supply of brown trout, speckled with crimson––there was a spot of green meadow land, on which the young men of the neighbourhood used not unfrequently to meet and try their vigour in throwing the stone. The stone itself had its history. It was a ball of gneiss, round as a bullet, that had once surmounted the gable of a small Popish chapel, of which there now remained only a shapeless heap of stones, that scarce overtopped the long grass amid which it lay. A few undressed flags indicated an ancient burying-ground; and over the ruined heap, and the rude tombstones that told no story, an ancient time-hallowed tree, coeval with the perished building, stretched out its giant arms. Even the sterner occupations of the farm had in their very variety a strong smack of enjoyment. We found one of the old man’s sons engaged, during our one visit, in building an outhouse, after the primitive fashion of the Highlands, and during our other visit, in constructing a plough. The two main cupples of the building he made of huge trees, dug out of a neighbouring morass; they resembled somewhat the beams of a large sloop reversed. The stones he carried from the outfield heath on a sledge; the interstices in the walls he caulked with moss; the roof he covered with sods. The entire erection was his workmanship, from foundation to ridge. And such, in brief, was the history of all those cottages in the interior of Sutherland, which the poor Highlanders so naturally deemed their own, but from which, when set on fire and burnt to the ground by the creatures of the proprietor, they were glad to escape with their lives. The plough, with the exception of the iron work, was altogether our relative’s workmanship too. And such was the history of the rude implements of rural or domestic labour which were consumed in the burning dwellings. But we anticipate. 413

There is little of gaiety or enjoyment among the Highlanders of Sutherland now. We spent a considerable time for two several years among their thickly-clustered cottages on the eastern coast, and saw how they live, and how it happens that when years of comparative scarcity come on they starve. Most of them saved, when in the interior, as we have said, a little money; but the process has been reversed here: in every instance in which they brought their savings to the coast-side has the fund been dissipated. Each cottage has from half an acre to an acre and half of corn land attached to it––just such patches as the Irish starve upon. In some places, by dint of sore labour, the soil has been considerably improved; and all that seems necessary to render it worth the care of a family, would be just to increase its area some ten or twelve times. In other cases, however, increase would be no advantage. We find it composed of a loose debris of granitic water-rolled pebbles and ferruginous sand, that seemed destined to perpetual barrenness. The rents, in every instance, seem moderate; the money of the tenant flows towards the landlord in a stream of not half the volume of that in which the money of the landlord must flow towards the tenant when the poor-laws shall be extended to Scotland. But no rent, in such circumstances, can be really moderate. A clergyman, when asked to say how many of his parishioners, in one of these coast districts, realized less than sixpence a-day, replied, that it would be a much easier matter for him to point out how many of them realized more than sixpence, as this more fortunate class were exceedingly few. And surely no rent can be moderate that is paid by a man who realizes less than sixpence a-day. It is the peculiar evil produced by the change in Sutherland, that it has consigned the population of the country to a condition in which no rent can be moderate––to a condition in which they but barely avoid famine, when matters are at the best with them, and fall 414 into it in every instance in which the herring fishing, their main and most precarious stay, partially fails, or their crops are just a little more than usually scanty. They are in such a state, that their very means of living are sources, not of comfort, but of distress to them. When the fishing and their crops are comparatively abundant, they live on the bleak edge of want; while failure in either plunges them into a state of intense suffering. And well are these Highlanders aware of the true character of the revolution to which they have been subjected. Our Poor-Law Commissioners may find, in this land of growing pauperism, thousands as poor as the people of Sutherland; but they will find no class of the population who can so directly contrast their present destitution with a state of comparative plenty and enjoyment, or who, in consequence of possessing this sad ability, are so deeply imbued with a too well-grounded and natural discontent.

But we have not yet said how this ruinous revolution was effected in Sutherland,––how the aggravations of the mode, if we may so speak, still fester in the recollections of the people,––or how thoroughly that policy of the lord of the soil, through which he now seems determined to complete the work of ruin which his predecessor began, harmonizes with its worst details. We must first relate, however, a disastrous change which took place, in the providence of God, in the noble family of Sutherland, and which, though it dates fully eighty years back, may be regarded as pregnant with the disasters which afterwards befell the country. 415


Such of our readers as are acquainted with the memoir of Lady Glenorchy, must remember a deeply melancholy incident which occurred in the history of this excellent woman, in connection with the noble family of Sutherland. Her only sister had been married to William, seventeenth Earl of Sutherland,––‘the last of the good Earls;’ ‘a nobleman,’ says the Rev. Dr. Jones, in his Memoir, ‘who to the finest person united all the dignity and amenity of manners and character which give lustre to greatness.’ But his sun was destined soon to go down. Five years after his marriage, which proved one of the happiest, and was blessed with two children, the elder of the two, the young Lady Catherine, a singularly engaging child, was taken from him by death, in his old hereditary castle of Dunrobin. The event deeply affected both parents, and preyed on their health and spirits. It had taken place amid the gloom of a severe northern winter, and in the solitude of the Highlands; and, acquiescing in the advice of friends, the Earl and his lady quitted the family seat, where there was so much to remind them of their bereavement, and sought relief in the more cheerful atmosphere of Bath. But they were not to find it there. Shortly after their arrival, the Earl was seized by a malignant fever, with which, upheld by a powerful constitution, he struggled for fifty-four days, and then expired. ‘For the first twenty-one days and nights of these,’ says Dr. Jones, ‘Lady Sutherland never left his bedside; and then at last, overcome with fatigue, anxiety, and grief, she sank an unavailing victim to an amiable but excessive attachment, seventeen days before the death of her 416 lord.’ The period, though not very remote, was one in which the intelligence of events travelled slowly; and in this instance the distraction of the family must have served to retard it beyond the ordinary time. Her Ladyship’s mother, when hastening from Edinburgh to her assistance, alighted one day from her carriage at an inn, and, on seeing two hearses standing by the wayside, inquired of an attendant whose remains they contained? The remains, was the reply, of Lord and Lady Sutherland, on their way for interment to the Royal Chapel of Holyrood House. And such was the first intimation which the lady received of the death of her daughter and son-in-law.

The event was pregnant with disaster to Sutherland, though many years elapsed ere the ruin which it involved fell on that hapless county. The sole survivor and heir of the family was a female infant of but a year old. Her maternal grandmother, an ambitious, intriguing woman of the world, had the chief share in her general training and education; and she was brought up in the south of Scotland, of which her grandmother was a native, far removed from the influence of those genial sympathies with the people of her clan, for which the old lords of Sutherland had been so remarkable, and, what was a sorer evil still, from the influence of the vitalities of that religion which, for five generations together, her fathers had illustrated and adorned. The special mode in which the disaster told first, was through the patronages of the county, the larger part of which are vested in the family of Sutherland. Some of the old Earls had been content, as we have seen, to place themselves on the level of the Christian men of their parishes, and thus to unite with them in calling to their churches the Christian ministers of their choice. They knew,––what regenerate natures can alone know with the proper emphasis,––that in Christ Jesus the vassal ranks with his lord, and they conscientiously acted on the conviction. But matters 417 were now regulated differently. The presentation supplanted the call, and ministers came to be placed in the parishes of Sutherland without the consent and contrary to the will of the people. Churches, well filled hitherto, were deserted by their congregations, just because a respectable woman of the world, making free use of what she deemed her own, had planted them with men of the world who were only tolerably respectable; and in houses and barns the devout men of the district learned to hold numerously-attended Sabbath meetings for reading the Scriptures, and mutual exhortation and prayer, as a sort of substitute for the public services, in which they found they could no longer join with profit. The spirit awakened by the old Earls had survived themselves, and ran directly counter to the policy of their descendant. Strongly attached to the Establishment, the people, though they thus forsook their old places of worship, still remained members of the national Church, and travelled far in the summer season to attend the better ministers of their own and the neighbouring counties. We have been assured, too, from men whose judgment we respect, that, under all their disadvantages, religion continued peculiarly to flourish among them;––a deep-toned evangelism prevailed; so that perhaps the visible Church throughout the world at the time could furnish no more striking contrast than that which obtained between the cold, bald, commonplace services of the pulpit in some of these parishes, and the fervid prayers and exhortations which give life and interest to these humble meetings of the people. What a pity it is that differences such as these the Duke of Sutherland cannot see!

The marriage of the young countess into a noble English family was fraught with further disaster to the county. There are many Englishmen quite intelligent enough to perceive the difference between a smoky cottage of turf and a whitewashed cottage of stone, whose judgment on their 418 respective inhabitants would be of but little value. Sutherland, as a country of men, stood higher at this period than perhaps any other district in the British empire; but, as our descriptions in the preceding chapter must have shown,––and we indulged in them mainly with a view to this part of our subject,––it by no means stood high as a country of farms and cottages. The marriage of the Countess brought a new set of eyes upon it,––eyes accustomed to quite a different face of things. It seemed a wild, rude country, where all was wrong, and all had to be set right,––a sort of Russia on a small scale, that had just got another Peter the Great to civilise it,––or a sort of barbarous Egypt, with an energetic Ali Pasha at its head. Even the vast wealth and great liberality of the Stafford family militated against this hapless county: it enabled them to treat it as the mere subject of an interesting experiment, in which gain to themselves was really no object,––nearly as little so as if they had resolved on dissecting a dog alive for the benefit of science. It was a still further disadvantage, that they had to carry on their experiment by the hands, and to watch its first effects with the eyes, of others. The agonies of the dog might have had their softening influence on a dissector who held the knife himself; but there could be no such influence exerted over him, did he merely issue orders to his footman that the dissection should be completed, remaining himself, meanwhile, out of sight and out of hearing. The plan of improvement sketched out by his English family was a plan exceedingly easy of conception. Here is a vast tract of land, furnished with two distinct sources of wealth. Its shores may be made the seats of extensive fisheries, and the whole of its interior parcelled out into productive sheep-farms. All is waste in its present state: it has no fisheries, and two-thirds of its internal produce is consumed by the inhabitants. It had contributed, for the use of the community and the landlord, its large herds of black cattle; but 419 the English family saw, and, we believe, saw truly, that for every one pound of beef which it produced, it could be made to produce two pounds of mutton, and perhaps a pound of fish in addition. And it was resolved, therefore, that the inhabitants of the central districts, who, as they were mere Celts, could not be transformed, it was held, into store-farmers, should be marched down to the sea-side, there to convert themselves into fishermen, on the shortest possible notice, and that a few farmers of capital, of the industrious Lowland race, should be invited to occupy the new subdivisions of the interior.

And, pray, what objections can be urged against so liberal and large-minded a scheme? The poor inhabitants of the interior had very serious objections to urge against it. Their humble dwellings were of their own rearing; it was they themselves who had broken in their little fields from the waste; from time immemorial, far beyond the reach of history, had they possessed their mountain holdings,––they had defended them so well of old that the soil was still virgin ground, in which the invader had found only a grave; and their young men were now in foreign lands, fighting, at the command of their chieftainess, the battles of their country, not in the character of hired soldiers, but of men who regarded these very holdings as their stake in the quarrel. To them, then, the scheme seemed fraught with the most flagrant, the most monstrous injustice. Were it to be suggested by some Chartist convention in a time of revolution, that Sutherland might be still further improved––that it was really a piece of great waste to suffer the revenues of so extensive a district to be squandered by one individual––that it would be better to appropriate them to the use of the community in general––that the community in general might be still further benefited by the removal of the one said individual from Dunrobin to a road-side, where he might be profitably employed in breaking stones––and 420 that this new arrangement could not be entered on too soon––the noble Duke would not be a whit more astonished, or rendered a whit more indignant, by the scheme, than were the Highlanders of Sutherland by the scheme of his predecessor.

The reader must keep in view, therefore, that if atrocities unexampled in Britain for at least a century were perpetrated in the clearing of Sutherland, there was a species of at least passive resistance on the part of the people (for active resistance there was none), which in some degree provoked them. Had the Highlanders, on receiving orders, marched down to the sea-coast, and become fishermen, with the readiness with which a regiment deploys on review day, the atrocities would, we doubt not, have been much fewer. But though the orders were very distinct, the Highlanders were very unwilling to obey; and the severities formed merely a part of the means through which the necessary obedience was ultimately secured. We shall instance a single case, as illustrative of the process. In the month of March 1814, a large proportion of the Highlanders of Farr and Kildonan, two parishes in Sutherland, were summoned to quit their farms in the following May. In a few days after, the surrounding heaths on which they pastured their cattle, and from which at that season the sole supply of herbage is derived (for in those northern districts the grass springs late, and the cattle-feeder in the spring months depends chiefly on the heather), were set on fire and burnt up. There was that sort of policy in the stroke which men deem allowable in a state of war. The starving cattle went roaming over the burnt pastures, and found nothing to eat. Many of them perished, and the greater part of what remained, though in miserable condition, the Highlanders had to sell perforce. Most of the able-bodied men were engaged in this latter business at a distance from home, when the dreaded term-day came on. The pasturage had 421 been destroyed before the legal term, and while, in even the eye of the law, it was still the property of the poor Highlanders; but ere disturbing them in their dwellings, term-day was suffered to pass. The work of demolition then began. A numerous party of men, with a factor at their head, entered the district, and commenced pulling down the houses over the heads of the inhabitants. In an extensive tract of country not a human dwelling was left standing, and then, the more effectually to prevent their temporary re-erection, the destroyers set fire to the wreck. In one day were the people deprived of home and shelter, and left exposed to the elements. Many deaths are said to have ensued from alarm, fatigue, and cold. Pregnant women were taken with premature labour in the open air. There were old men who took to the woods and rocks in a state of partial insanity. An aged bedridden man, named Macbeath, had his house unroofed over his head, and was left exposed to wind and rain till death put a period to his sufferings. Another man lying ill of a fever met with no tenderer treatment, but in his case the die turned up life. A bedridden woman, nearly a hundred years of age, had her house fired over her head, and ere she could be extricated from the burning wreck, the sheets in which she was carried were on fire. She survived but for five days after. In a critique on the work of Sismondi, which appeared a few months since in the Westminster Review, the writer tells us, ‘it has even been said that an old man, having refused to quit his cabin, perished in the flames.’ But such was not the case. The constituted authorities interfered; a precognition was taken by the Sheriff-substitute of the county, and the case tried before the Justiciary Court at Inverness; but the trial terminated in the acquittal of the pannels. There was no punishable crime proven to attach to the agents of the proprietor.

Their acquittal was followed by scenes of a similar 422 character with the scene described, and of even greater atrocity. But we must borrow the description of one of these from the historian of the clearing of Sutherland,––Donald M’Leod, a native of the county, and himself a sufferer in the experimental process to which it was subjected:––

‘The work of devastation was begun by setting fire to the houses of the small tenants in extensive districts––Farr, Rogart, Golspie, and the whole parish of Kildonan. I was an eye-witness of the scene. The calamity came on the people quite unexpectedly. Strong parties for each district, furnished with faggots and other combustibles, rushed on the dwellings of the devoted people, and immediately commenced setting fire to them, proceeding in their work with the greatest rapidity, till about three hundred houses were in flames. Little or no time was given for the removal of persons or property––the consternation and confusion were extreme––the people striving to remove the sick and helpless before the fire should reach them––next struggling to save the most valuable of their effects––the cries of the women and children––the roaring of the affrighted cattle, hunted by the dogs of the shepherds amid the smoke and the fire––altogether composed a scene that completely baffles description. A dense cloud of smoke enveloped the whole country by day, and even extended far on the sea. At night, an awfully grand but terrific scene presented itself––all the houses in an extensive district in flames at once. I myself ascended a height about eleven o’clock in the evening, and counted two hundred and fifty blazing houses, many of the owners of which were my relations, and all of whom I personally knew, but whose present condition I could not tell. The conflagration lasted six days, till the whole of the dwellings were reduced to ashes or smoking ruins. During one of these days, a boat lost her way in the dense smoke as she approached the shore, but at night she 423 was enabled to reach a landing-place by the light of the flames.’

But, to employ the language of Southey,

Things such as these, we know, must be
At every famous victory.’

And in this instance the victory of the lord of the soil over the children of the soil was signal and complete. In little more than nine years a population of fifteen thousand individuals were removed from the interior of Sutherland to its sea-coasts, or had emigrated to America. The inland districts were converted into deserts, through which the traveller may take a long day’s journey, amid ruins that still bear the scathe of fire, and grassy patches betraying, when the evening sun casts aslant its long deep shadows, the half-effaced lines of the plough. The writer of the singularly striking passage we have just quoted, revisited his native place (Kildonan) in the year 1828, and attended divine service in the parish church. A numerous and devout congregation had once worshipped there: the congregation now consisted of eight shepherds and their dogs. In a neighbouring district––the barony of Strathnaver, a portion of the parish of Farr––the church, no longer found necessary, was razed to the ground. The timber was carried away to be used in the erection of an inn, and the minister’s house converted into the dwelling of a fox-hunter. ‘A woman well known in the parish,’ says M’Leod, ‘happening to traverse the Strath the year after the burning, was asked, on her return, What news? “Oh,” said she, “sgeul bronach, sgeul bronach! sad news, sad news! I have seen the timber of our kirk covering the inn at Altnaharran; I have seen the kirkyard, where our friends are mouldering, filled with tarry sheep, and Mr. Sage’s study-room a kennel for Robert Gun’s dogs.’” 424


Let us follow, for a little, the poor Highlanders of Sutherland to the sea-coast. It would be easy dwelling on the terrors of their expulsion, and multiplying facts of horror; but had there been no permanent deterioration effected in their condition, these, all harrowing and repulsive as they were, would have mattered less. Sutherland would have soon recovered the burning up of a few hundred hamlets, or the loss of a few bedridden old people, who would have died as certainly under cover, though perhaps a few months later, as when exposed to the elements in the open air. Nay, had it lost a thousand of its best men in the way in which it lost so many at the storming of New Orleans, the blank ere now would have been completely filled up. The calamities of fire or of decimation even, however distressing in themselves, never yet ruined a country: no calamity ruins a country that leaves the surviving inhabitants to develope, in their old circumstances, their old character and resources.

In one of the eastern eclogues of Collins, where two shepherds are described as flying for their lives before the troops of a ruthless invader, we see with how much of the terrible the imagination of a poet could invest the evils of war, when aggravated by pitiless barbarity. Fertile as that imagination was, however, there might be found new circumstances to heighten the horrors of the scene––circumstances beyond the reach of invention––in the retreat of the Sutherland Highlanders from the smoking ruins of their cottages to their allotments on the coast. We have heard of one man, named M’Kay, whose family, at the time of 425 the greater conflagration referred to by M’Leod, were all lying ill of fever, who had to carry two of his sick children on his back a distance of twenty-five miles. We have heard of the famished people blackening the shores, like the crew of some vessel wrecked on an inhospitable coast, that they might sustain life by the shell-fish and sea-weed laid bare by the ebb. Many of their allotments, especially on the western coast, were barren in the extreme––unsheltered by bush or tree, and exposed to the sweeping sea-winds, and, in time of tempest, to the blighting spray; and it was found a matter of the extremest difficulty to keep the few cattle which they had retained, from wandering, especially in the night-time, into the better sheltered and more fertile interior. The poor animals were intelligent enough to read a practical comment on the nature of the change effected; and, from the harshness of the shepherds to whom the care of the interior had been entrusted, they served materially to add to the distress of their unhappy masters. They were getting continually impounded; and vexatious fines, in the form of trespass-money, came thus to be wrung from the already impoverished Highlanders. Many who had no money to give were obliged to relieve them by depositing some of their few portable articles of value, such as bed or body clothes, or, more distressing still, watches and rings and pins––the only relics, in not a few instances, of brave men whose bones were mouldering under the fatal rampart at New Orleans, or in the arid sands of Egypt––on that spot of proud recollection, where the invincibles of Napoleon went down before the Highland bayonet. Their first efforts as fishermen were what might be expected from a rural people unaccustomed to the sea. The shores of Sutherland, for immense tracts together, are iron-bound, and much exposed––open on the eastern coast to the waves of the German Ocean, and on the north and west to the long roll of the Atlantic. There could not be more 426 perilous seas for the unpractised boatman to take his first lessons on; but though the casualties were numerous, and the loss of life great, many of the younger Highlanders became expert fishermen. The experiment was harsh in the extreme, but so far, at least, it succeeded. It lies open, however, to other objections than those which have been urged against it on the score of its inhumanity.

The reader must be acquainted with Goldsmith’s remarks on the herring fishery of his days. ‘A few years ago,’ he says, ‘the herring fishing employed all Grub Street; it was the topic in every coffee-house, and the burden of every ballad. We were to drag up oceans of gold from the bottom of the sea; we were to supply all Europe with herrings upon our own terms. At present, however, we hear no more of all this; we have fished up very little gold that I can learn; nor do we furnish the world with herrings, as was expected.’ We have, in this brief passage, a history of all the more sanguine expectations which have been founded on herring fisheries. There is no branch of industry so calculated to awaken the hopes of the speculator, or so suited to disappoint them. So entirely is this the case, that were we desirous to reduce an industrious people to the lowest stage of wretchedness compatible with industry, we would remove them to some barren district, and there throw them on the resources of this fishery exclusively. The employments of the herring fisher have all the uncertainty of the ventures of the gambler. He has first to lay down, if we may so speak, a considerable stake, for his drift of nets and his boat involve a very considerable outlay of capital; and if successful, and if in general the fishery be not successful, the take of a single week may more than remunerate him. A single cast of his nets may bring him in thirty guineas and more. The die turns up in his favour, and he sweeps the board. And hence those golden dreams of the speculator so happily described by Goldsmith. But year after year may pass, and 427 the run of luck be against the fisherman. A fishing generally good at all the stations gluts the market, necessarily limited in its demands to an average supply, and, from the bulk and weight of the commodity, not easily extended to distant parts: and the herring merchant first, and the fisherman next, find that they have been labouring hard to little purpose. Again, a fishing under average, from the eccentric character of the fish, is found almost always to benefit a few, and to ruin a great many. The average deficiency is never equally spread over the fishermen; one sweeps the board––another loses all. Nor are the cases few in which the accustomed shoal wholly deserts a tract of coast for years together; and thus the lottery, precarious at all times, becomes a lottery in which there are only blanks to be drawn. The wealthy speculator might perhaps watch such changes, and by supplementing the deficiency of one year by the abundance of another, give to the whole a character of average; but alas for the poor labouring man placed in such circumstances! The yearly disbursements of our Scottish Fishery Board, in the way of assistance to poverty-struck fishermen, unable even to repair their boats, testify all too tangibly that they cannot regulate their long runs of ill luck by their temporary successes! And if such be the case among our hereditary fishermen of the north, who derive more than half their sustenance from the white fishery, how much more must it affect those fishermen of Sutherland, who, having no market for their white fish in the depopulated interior, and no merchants settled among them to find markets farther away, have to depend exclusively on their herring fishing! The experiment which precipitated the population of the country on its barer skirts, as some diseases precipitate the humours on the extremities, would have been emphatically a disastrous one, so far at least as the people were concerned, even did it involve no large amount of human suffering, and no deterioration of character. 428

One of the first writers, of unquestioned respectability, who acquainted the public with the true character of the revolution which had been effected in Sutherland, was the late General Stewart of Garth. He was, we believe, the first man––and the fact says something for his shrewdness––who saw a coming poor-law looming through the clearing of Sutherland. His statements are exceedingly valuable; his inferences almost always just. The General––a man of probity and nice honour––had such an ability of estimating the value of moral excellence in a people, as the originators of the revolution had of estimating the antagonist merits of double pounds of mutton and single pounds of beef. He had seen printed representations on the subject––tissues of hollow falsehood, that have since been repeated in newspapers and reviews; and though unacquainted with the facts at the time, he saw sufficient reason to question their general correctness, from the circumstance that he found in them the character of the people, with which no man could be better acquainted, vilified and traduced. The General saw one leviathan falsehood running through the whole, and, on the strength of the old adage, naturally suspected the company in which he found it. And so, making minute and faithful inquiry, he published the results at which he arrived. He refers to the mode of ejectment by the torch. He next goes on to show how some of the ejected tenants were allowed small allotments of moor on the coast side, of from half an acre to two acres in extent, which it was their task to break into corn land; and how that, because many patches of green appear in this way, where all was russet before, the change has been much eulogized as improvement. We find him remarking further, with considerable point and shrewdness, that ‘many persons are, however, inclined to doubt the advantages of improvements which call for such frequent apologies,’ and that, ‘if the advantage to the people were so evident, or if more lenient measures 429 had been pursued, vindication could not have been necessary.’ The General knew how to pass from the green spots themselves to the condition of those who tilled them. The following passage must strike all acquainted with the Highlanders of Sutherland as a true representation of the circumstances to which they have been reduced:

‘Ancient respectable tenants who have passed the greater part of life in the enjoyment of abundance, and in the exercise of hospitality and charity, possessing stock of ten, twenty, and thirty breeding cows, with the usual proportion of other stock, are now pining on one or two acres of bad land, with one or two starved cows; and for this accommodation a calculation is made, that they must support their families, and pay the rent of their lots, not from the produce, but from the sea, thus drawing a rent which the land cannot afford. When the herring fishing succeeds, they generally satisfy the landlord, whatever privations they may suffer; but when the fishing fails, they fall into arrears. The herring fishing, always precarious, has for a succession of years been very defective, and this class of people are reduced to extreme misery. At first, some of them possessed capital, from converting their farm-stock into cash, but this has been long exhausted; and it is truly distressing to view their general poverty, aggravated by their having once enjoyed abundance and independence.’

Some of the removals to which we have referred took place during that group of scarce seasons in which the year 1816 was so prominent; but the scarcity which these induced served merely to render the other sufferings of the people more intense, and was lost sight of in the general extent of the calamity. Another group of hard seasons came on,––one of those groups which seem of such certain and yet of such irregular occurrence in our climate, that though they have attracted notice from the days of Bacon downwards, they have hitherto resisted all attempts to include 430 them in some definite cycle. The summer and harvest of 1835 were the last of a series of fine summers and abundant harvests; and for six years after there was less than the usual heat, and more than the usual rain. Science, in connection with agriculture, has done much for us in the low country, and so our humbler population were saved from the horrors of a dearth of food; but on the green patches which girdle the shores of Sutherland, and which have been esteemed such wonderful improvements, science had done and could do nothing. The people had been sinking lower and lower during the previous twenty years, and what would have been great hardship before had become famine now. One feels at times that it may be an advantage to have lived among the humbler people. We have been enabled, in consequence, to detect many such gross misstatements as those with which the apologists of the disastrous revolution effected in Sutherland have attempted to gloss over the ruin of that country. In other parts of the Highlands, especially in the Hebrides, the failure of the kelp trade did much to impoverish the inhabitants; but in the Highlands of Sutherland the famine was the effect of improvement alone.

The writer of these chapters saw how a late, untoward year operates on the bleak shores of the north-western Highlands, when spending a season there a good many years ago. He found what only a few twelvemonths previous had been a piece of dark moor, laid out into minute patches of corn, and bearing a dense population. The herring fishing had failed for the two seasons before, and the poor cottars were, in consequence, in arrears with their rent; but the crops had been tolerable; and though their stores of meal and potatoes were all exhausted at the time of our coming among them (the month of June), and though no part of the growing crop was yet fit for use, the white fishing was abundant, and a training of hardship had enabled 431 them to subsist on fish exclusively. Their corn shot in the genial sunshine, and gave fair promise, and their potatoes had become far enough advanced to supplement their all too meagre meals, when, after a terrible thunder-storm, the fine weather broke up, and for thirteen weeks together there scarce passed a day without its baffling winds and its heavy chilling showers. The oats withered without ripening; the hardy bear might be seen rustling on all the more exposed slopes, light as the common rye-grass of our hay-fields, the stalks, in vast proportion, shorn of the ears. It was only in a very few of the more sheltered places that it yielded a scanty return of a dark-coloured and shrivelled grain. And to impart a still deeper shade to the prospects of the poor Highlanders, the herring fishery failed as signally as in the previous years. There awaited them all too obviously a whole half year of inevitable famine, unless Lowland charity interfered in their behalf. And the recurrence of this state of things no amount of providence or exertion on their own part, when placed in such circumstances, can obviate or prevent. It was a conviction of this character, based on experience, which led the writer of these remarks to state, when giving evidence before the present Poor-Law Commissioners for Scotland, that though opposed to the principle of legal assessment generally, he could yet see no other mode of reaching the destitution of the Highlands. Our humane Scottish law compels the man who sends another man to prison to support him there, just because it is held impossible that within the walls of a prison a man can support himself. Should the principle alter, if, instead of sending him to a prison, he banishes him to a bleak, inhospitable coast, where, unless he receives occasional support from others, he must inevitably perish?

The sufferings of the people of Sutherland during the first of these years of destitution (1836), we find strikingly described by M’Leod: 432

‘In this year,’ says the author, ‘the crops all over Britain were deficient, having bad weather for growing and ripening, and still worse for gathering in. But in the Highlands they were an entire failure; and on the untoward spots, occupied by the Sutherland small tenants, there was literally nothing fit for human subsistence. And to add to the calamity, the weather had prevented them from securing the peats, their only fuel; so that, to their previous state of exhaustion, cold and hunger were to be superadded. The sufferings endured by the poor Highlanders in the succeeding winter truly beggar description. Even the herring fishing had failed, and consequently their credit in Caithness, which depended on its success, was at an end. Any little provision they might be able to procure was of the most inferior and unwholesome description. It was no uncommon thing to see people searching among the snow for the frosted potatoes to eat in order to preserve life. As the harvest had been disastrous, so the winter was uncommonly boisterous and severe, and consequently little could be obtained from the sea to mitigate the calamity. The distress rose to such a height as to cause a sensation all over the island; and there arose a general cry for Government interference, to save the people from death by famine.’

Public meetings were held, private subscriptions entered into, large funds collected, the British people responded to the cry of their suffering fellow-subjects, and relief was extended to every portion of the Highlands except one. Alas for poor Sutherland! There, it was said, the charity of the country was not required, as the noble and wealthy proprietors had themselves resolved to interfere; and as this statement was circulated extensively through the public prints, and sedulously repeated at all public meetings, the mind of the community was set quite at rest on the matter. And interfere the proprietors at length did. Late in the 433 spring of 1837, after sufferings the most incredible had been endured, and disease and death had been among the wretched people, they received a scanty supply of meal and seed-corn, for which, though vaunted at the time as a piece of munificent charity, the greater part of them had afterwards to pay.

In the next chapter we shall endeavour bringing these facts to bear on the cause of the Free Church in Sutherland. We close for the present by adding just one curious fact more. We have already shown how the bleak moors of Sutherland have been mightily improved by the revolution which ruined its people. They bear many green patches which were brown before. Now it so happened that rather more than ten years ago, the idea struck the original improvers, that as green was an improvement on brown, so far as the moors were concerned, white would be an equally decided improvement on black, so far as the houses were concerned. An order was accordingly issued, in the name of the Duke and Duchess of Sutherland, that all the small tenants on both sides the public road, where it stretches on the northern coast from the confines of Reay to the Kyle of Tongue, a distance of about thirty miles, should straightway build themselves new houses of stone and mortar, according to a prescribed plan and specification. Pharaoh’s famous order could not have bred greater consternation. But the only alternative given was summed up in the magic word removal; and the poor Highlanders, dejected, tamed, broken in spirit as in means, well knew from experience what the magic word meant. And so, as their prototypes set themselves to gather stubble for their bricks, the poor Highlanders began to build. We again quote from M’Leod:

‘Previous to this, in the year 1829, I and my family had been forced away, like others, being particularly obnoxious to those in authority for sometimes showing an inclination 434 to oppose their tyranny, and therefore we had to be made examples of to frighten the rest; but in 1833 I made a tour of the district, when the building was going on, and shall endeavour to describe a small part of what met my eye on that occasion. In one locality (and this was a specimen of the rest) I saw fourteen different squads of masons at work, with the natives attending them. Old grey-headed men, worn down by previous hardship and present want, were to be seen carrying stones, and wheeling them and other materials on barrows, or conveying them on their backs to the buildings, and with their tottering limbs and trembling hands straining to raise them on the walls. The young men also, after toiling all night at sea endeavouring for subsistence, were obliged to yield their exhausted frames to the labours of the day. Even female labour could not be dispensed with; the strong as well as the weak, the delicate and sickly, and (shame to their oppressors) even the pregnant, barefooted and scantily clothed, were obliged to join in those rugged, unfeminine labours. In one instance I saw the husband quarrying stones, and the wife and children dragging them along in an old cart to the building. Such were the building scenes of that period. The poor people had often to give the last morsel of food they possessed to feed the masons, and subsist on shell-fish themselves. This went on for several years, in the course of which many hundreds of these houses were erected on unhospitable spots unfit for a human residence.’

We add another extract from the same writer:

‘It might be thought,’ adds M’Leod, ‘that the design of forcing the people to build such houses was to provide for their comfort and accommodation, but there seems to have been quite a different object,––which, I believe, was the true motive,––and that was to hide the misery that prevailed. There had been a great sensation created in the public mind by the cruelties exercised in these districts; and it 435 was thought that a number of neat white houses, ranged on each side of the road, would take the eye of strangers and visitors, and give a practical contradiction to the rumours afloat. Hence the poor creatures were forced to resort to such means, and to endure such hardships and privations as I have described, to carry the scheme into effect. And after they had spent their remaining all, and more than their all, on the erection of these houses, and involved themselves in debt, for which they have been harassed and pursued ever since, what are these erections but whitened tombs! many of them now ten years in existence, and still without proper doors or windows, destitute of furniture and of comfort,––the unhappy lairs of a heart-broken, squalid, fast-degenerating race.’ 436


We have exhibited to our readers, in the clearing of Sutherland, a process of ruin so thoroughly disastrous, that it might be deemed scarce possible to render it more complete. And yet, with all its apparent completeness, it admitted of a supplementary process. To employ one of the striking figures of Scripture, it was possible to grind into powder what had been previously broken into fragments,––to degrade the poor inhabitants to a still lower level than that on which they had been so cruelly precipitated,––though persons of a not very original cast of mind might have found it difficult to say how; and the Duke of Sutherland has been ingenious enough to fall on exactly the one proper expedient for supplementing their ruin. All in mere circumstance and situation that could lower and deteriorate, had been present as ingredients in the first process; but there still remained for the people, however reduced to poverty or broken in spirit, all in religion that consoles and ennobles. Sabbath-days came round with their humanizing influences; and, under the teachings of the gospel, the poor and oppressed looked longingly forward to a future scene of being, in which there is no poverty and no oppression. They still possessed, amid their misery, something positively good, of which it was possible to deprive them; and hence the ability derived to the present lord of Sutherland, of deepening and rendering more signal the ruin accomplished by his predecessor.

Napoleon, when on the eve of re-establishing Popery in France, showed his conviction of the importance of national religions, by remarking that, did there exist no ready-made 437 religion to serve his turn, he would be under the necessity of making one on purpose. And his remark, though perhaps thrown into this form merely to give it point, and render it striking, has been instanced as a proof that he could not have considered the matter very profoundly. It has been said, and said truly, that religions of stamina enough to be even politically useful cannot be made: that it is comparatively easy to gain great battles, and frame important laws; but that to create belief lay beyond the power of even a Napoleon. France, instead of crediting his manufactured religion, would have laughed at both him and it. The Duke of Sutherland has, however, taken upon himself a harder task than the one to which Napoleon could refer, probably in joke. His aim seems to be, not the comparatively simple one of making a new religion where no religion existed before, but of making men already firm in their religious convictions believe that to be a religion which they believe to be no such thing. His undertaking involves a discharging as certainly as an injecting process,––the erasure of an existing belief, as certainly as the infusion of an antagonistic belief that has no existence. We have shown how evangelism took root and grew in Sutherland, as the only form of Christianity which its people could recognise; how the antagonist principle of Moderatism they failed to recognise as Christianity at all; and how, when the latter was obtruded into their pulpits, they withdrew from the churches in which their fathers had worshipped, for they could regard them as churches no longer, and held their prayer and fellowship meetings in their own homes, or travelled far to attend the ministrations of clergymen in whose mission they could believe. We have shown that this state of feeling and belief still pervades the county. It led to an actual disruption between its evangelized people and its moderate clergy, long ere the disruption of last May took place: that important event has 438 had but the effect of marshalling them into one compact body under a new name. They are adherents of the Free Church now, just because they have been adherents to its principles for the last two centuries. And to shake them loose from this adherence is the object of his Grace; to reverse the belief of ages; to render them indifferent to that which they feel and believe to be religion; and to make them regard as religion that which they know to be none. His task is harder by a great deal than that to which Napoleon barely ventured to advert; and how very coarse and repulsive his purposed means of accomplishing it!

These harmonize but too well with the mode in which the interior of Sutherland was cleared, and the improved cottages of its sea-coasts erected. The plan has its two items. No sites are to be granted in the district for Free churches, and no dwelling-houses for Free Church ministers. The climate is severe; the winters prolonged and stormy; the roads which connect the chief seats of population with the neighbouring counties dreary and long. May not ministers and people be eventually worn out in this way? Such is the portion of the plan which his Grace and his Grace’s creatures can afford to present to the light. But there are supplementary items of a somewhat darker kind. The poor cottars are, in the great majority of cases, tenants at will; and there has been much pains taken to inform them, that to the crime of entertaining and sheltering a protesting minister, the penalty of ejection from their holdings must inevitably attach. The laws of Charles have again returned in this unhappy district; and free and tolerating Scotland has got, in the nineteenth century, as in the seventeenth, its intercommuned ministers. We shall not say that the intimation has emanated from the Duke. It is the misfortune of such men that there creep around them creatures whose business it is to anticipate their wishes; but who, at times, doubtless, instead of anticipating, misinterpret 439 them; and who, even when not very much mistaken, impart to whatever they do the impress of their own low and menial natures, and thus exaggerate in the act the intention of their masters. We do not say, therefore, that the intimation has emanated from the Duke; but this we say, that an exemplary Sutherlandshire minister of the Protesting Church, who resigned his worldly all for the sake of his principles, had lately to travel, that he might preach to his attached people, a long journey of forty-five miles outwards, and as much in return, and all this without taking shelter under the cover of a roof, or without partaking of any other refreshment than that furnished by the slender store of provisions which he had carried with him from his new home. Willingly would the poor Highlanders have received him at any risk; but knowing from experience what a Sutherlandshire removal means, he preferred enduring any amount of hardship, rather than that the hospitality of his people should be made the occasion of their ruin. We have already adverted to the case of a lady of Sutherland threatened with ejection from her home because she had extended the shelter of her roof to one of the protesting clergy––an aged and venerable man, who had quitted the neighbouring manse, his home for many years, because he could no longer enjoy it in consistency with his principles; and we have shown that that aged and venerable man was the lady’s own father. What amount of oppression of a smaller and more petty character may not be expected in the circumstances, when cases such as these are found to stand but a very little over the ordinary level?

The meannesses to which ducal hostility can stoop in this hapless district impress with a feeling of surprise. In the parish of Dornoch, for instance, where his Grace is fortunately not the sole landowner, there has been a site procured on the most generous terms from Sir George 440 Gun Munro of Poyntzfield; and this gentleman––believing himself possessed of a hereditary right to a quarry, which, though on the Duke’s ground, had been long resorted to by the proprietors of the district generally––instructed the builder to take from it the stones which he needed. Here, however, his Grace interfered. Never had the quarry been prohibited before; but on this occasion a stringent interdict arrested its use. If his Grace could not prevent a hated Free Church from arising in the district, he could at least add to the expense of its erection. We have even heard that the portion of the building previously erected had to be pulled down, and the stones returned.

How are we to account for a hostility so determined, and that can stoop so low? In two different ways, we are of opinion, and in both have the people of Scotland a direct interest. Did his Grace entertain a very intense regard for Established Presbytery, it is probable that he himself would be a Presbyterian of the Establishment. But such is not the case. The Church into which he would so fain force the people has been long since deserted by himself. The secret of the course which he pursues can have no connection therefore with religious motive or belief. It can be no proselytizing spirit that misleads his Grace. Let us remark, in the first place,––rather, however, in the way of embodying a fact than imputing a motive,––that with his present views, and in his present circumstances, it may not seem particularly his Grace’s interest to make the county of Sutherland a happy or desirable home to the people of Sutherland. It may not seem his Grace’s interest that the population of the district should increase. The clearing of the sea-coast may seem as little prejudicial to his Grace’s welfare now, as the clearing of the interior seemed adverse to the interests of his predecessor thirty years ago; nay, it is quite possible that his Grace may be led to regard the clearing of the coast as the better and more important clearing 441 of the two. Let it not be forgotten that a poor-law hangs over Scotland; that the shores of Sutherland are covered with what seems one vast straggling village, inhabited by an impoverished and ruined people; and that the coming assessment may yet fall so weighty, that the extra profits derived to his Grace from his large sheep-farms, may go but a small way in supporting his extra paupers. It is not in the least improbable that he may live to find the revolution effected by his predecessor taking to itself the form, not of a crime––for that would be nothing––but of a disastrous and very terrible blunder.

There is another remark which may prove not unworthy the consideration of the reader. Ever since the completion of the fatal experiment which ruined Sutherland, the noble family through which it was originated and carried on have betrayed the utmost jealousy of having its real results made public. Volumes of special pleading have been written on the subject; pamphlets have been published; laboured articles have been inserted in widely-spread reviews; statistical accounts have been watched over with the most careful surveillance. If the misrepresentations of the press could have altered the matter of fact, famine would not have been gnawing the vitals of Sutherland in every year just a little less abundant than its fellows, nor would the dejected and oppressed people be feeding their discontent, amid present misery, with the recollections of a happier past. If a singularly well-conditioned and wholesome district of country has been converted into one wide ulcer of wretchedness and wo, it must be confessed that the sore has been carefully bandaged up from the public eye; that if there has been little done for its cure, there has at least been much done for its concealment. Now, be it remembered that the Free Church threatens to insert a tent into this wound, and so keep it open. It has been said that the Gaelic language removes a district more effectually 442 from the influence of English opinion than an ocean of three thousand miles, and that the British public know better what is doing in New York than what is doing in Lewis and Skye. And hence one cause, at least, of the thick obscurity that has so long enveloped the miseries which the poor Highlander has had to endure, and the oppressions to which he has been subjected. The Free Church threatens to translate her wrongs into English, and to give them currency in the general mart of opinion. She might possibly enough be no silent spectator of conflagrations such as those which characterized the first general improvement of Sutherland, nor yet of such Egyptian schemes of house-building as that which formed part of the improvements of a later plan. She might be somewhat apt to betray the real state of the district, and thus render laborious misrepresentation of little avail. She might effect a diversion in the cause of the people, and shake the foundations of the hitherto despotic power which has so long weighed them down. She might do for Sutherland what Cobbett promised to do for it, but what Cobbett had not character enough to accomplish, and what he did not live even to attempt. A combination of circumstances have conspired to vest in a Scottish proprietor, in this northern district, a more despotic power than even the most absolute monarchs of the Continent possess; and it is, perhaps, no great wonder that that proprietor should be jealous of the introduction of an element which threatens, it may seem, materially to lessen it. And so he struggles hard to exclude the Free Church, and, though no member of the Establishment himself, declaims warmly in its behalf. Certain it is, that from the Establishment, as now constituted, he can have nothing to fear, and the people nothing to hope.

After what manner may his Grace the Duke of Sutherland be most effectually met in this matter, so that the 443 cause of toleration and freedom of conscience may be maintained in the extensive district which God, in His providence, has consigned to his stewardship? We shall in our next chapter attempt giving the question an answer. Meanwhile, we trust the people of Sutherland will continue, as hitherto, to stand firm. The strong repugnance which they feel against being driven into churches which all their better ministers have left, is not ill founded. No Church of God ever employs such means of conversion as those employed by his Grace: they are means which have been often resorted to for the purpose of making men worse, never yet for the purpose of making them better. We know that, with their long-formed church-going habits, the people must feel their now silent Sabbaths pass heavily; but they would perhaps do well to remember, amid the tedium and the gloom, that there were good men who not only anticipated such a time of trial for this country, but who also made provision for it. Thomas Scott, when engaged in writing his Commentary, used to solace himself with the belief that it might be of use at a period when the public worship of God would be no longer tolerated in the land. To the great bulk of the people of Sutherland that time seems to have already come. They know, however, the value of the old divines, and have not a few of their more practical treatises translated into their own expressive tongue: Alleine’s Alarm, Boston’s Fourfold State, Doddridge’s Rise and Progress, Baxter’s Call, Guthrie’s Saving Interest. Let these, and such as these, be their preachers, when they can procure no other. The more they learn to relish them, the less will they relish the bald and miserable services of the Residuary Church. Let them hold their fellowship and prayer meetings; let them keep up the worship of God in their families; the cause of religious freedom in the district is involved in the stand which they make. Above all, let them possess their souls in patience. 444 We are not unacquainted with the Celtic character, as developed in the Highlands of Scotland. Highlanders, up to a certain point, are the most docile, patient, enduring of men; but that point once passed, endurance ceases, and the all too gentle lamb starts up an angry lion. The spirit is stirred that maddens at the sight of the naked weapon, and that, in its headlong rush upon the enemy, discipline can neither check nor control. Let our oppressed Highlanders of Sutherland beware. They have suffered much; but, so far as man is the agent, their battles can be fought on only the arena of public opinion, and on that ground which the political field may be soon found to furnish. Any explosion of violence on their part would be ruin to both the Free Church and themselves. 445


How is the battle of religious freedom to be best fought in behalf of the oppressed people of Sutherland? We shall attempt throwing out a few simple suggestions on the subject, which, if in the right track, the reader may find it easy to follow up and mature.

First, then, let us remember that in this country, in which opinion is all-potent, and which for at least a century and a half has been the envy of continental states for the degree of religious freedom which it enjoys, the policy of the Duke of Sutherland cannot be known without being condemned. The current which he opposes has been scooping out its channel for ages. Every great mind produced by Britain, from the times of Milton and Locke down to the times of Mackintosh and of Chalmers, has been giving it impetus in but one direction; and it is scarce likely that it will reverse its course now, at the bidding of a few intolerant and narrow-minded aristocrats. British opinion has but to be fairly appealed to, in order to declare strongly in favour of the oppressed Highlanders of Sutherland. What we would first remark, then, is, that the policy of his Grace the Duke cannot be too widely exposed. The press and the platform must be employed. The frank and generous English must be told, that that law of religious toleration which did so much at a comparatively early period to elevate the character of their country in the eye of the world, and which, in these latter times, men have been accustomed to regard as somewhat less, after all, than an adequate embodiment of the rights of conscience, has 446 been virtually repealed in a populous and very extensive district of the British empire, through a capricious exercise of power on the part of a single man. Why, it has been asked, in a matter which lies between God and conscience, and between God and the conscience only, should a third party be permitted to interfere so far as even to say, ‘I tolerate you? I tolerate your Independency––your Episcopacy––your Presbyterianism: you are a Baptist, but I tolerate you?’ There is an insult implied, it has been said, in the way in which the liberty purports to be granted. It bestows as a boon what already exists as a right. We want no despot to tell us that he gives us leave to breathe the free air of heaven, or that he permits us to worship God agreeably to the dictates of our conscience. Such are the views with which a majority of the British people regard, in these latter times, the right to tolerate; and regarding a right NOT to tolerate, they must be more decided still. The Free Church, then, must lay her complaint before them. She must tell them, that such is the oppression to which her people are subjected, that she would be but too happy to see even the beggarly elements of the question recognised in their behalf; that she would be but too happy to hear the despot of a province pronounce the deprecated ‘I tolerate you,’ seeing that his virtual enunciation at present is, ‘I do NOT tolerate you,’ and seeing that he is powerful enough, through a misapplication of his rights and influence as the most extensive of British proprietors, to give terrible effect to the unjust and illiberal determination. The Free Church, on this question, must raise her appeal everywhere to public opinion, and we entertain no doubt that she will everywhere find it her friend.

But how is its power to be directed? How bring it to bear upon the Duke of Sutherland? It is an all-potent lever, but it must be furnished with a fulcrum on which to rest, and a direction in which to bear. Let us remark, 447 first, that no signal privilege or right was ever yet achieved for Britain, that was not preceded by some signal wrong. From the times of Magna Charta down to the times of the Revolution, we find every triumph of liberty heralded in by some gross outrage upon it. The history of the British Constitution is a history of great natural rights established piecemeal under the immediate promptings of an indignation elicited by unbearable wrongs. It was not until the barrier that protected the privileges of the citizen from the will of the despot gave way at some weak point, that the parties exposed to the inundation were roused up to re-erect it on a better principle and a surer foundation. Now, the Duke of Sutherland (with some of his brother proprietors) has just succeeded in showing us a signal flaw in our scheme of religious toleration, and this at an exceedingly critical time. He has been perpetrating a great and palpable wrong, which, if rightly represented, must have the effect of leading men, in exactly the old mode, to arouse themselves in behalf of the corresponding right. If a single proprietor can virtually do what the sovereign of Great Britain would forfeit the crown for barely attempting to do––if a single nobleman can do what the House of Lords in its aggregate capacity would peril its very existence for but proposing to do––then does there exist in the British Constitution a palpable flaw, which cannot be too soon remedied. There must be a weak place in the barrier, if the waters be rushing out; and it cannot be too soon rebuilt on a surer plan. Here, then, evidently, is the point on which the generated opinion ought to be brought to bear. It has as its proper arena the political field. It is a defect in the British Constitution, strongly exemplified by the case of Sutherland, that the rights of property may be so stretched as to overbear the rights of conscience––that though toleration be the law of the land generally, it may be so set aside by the country’s proprietary, as not to 448 be the law in any particular part of it; and to reverse this state of things––to make provision in the Constitution that the rights of the proprietor be not so overstretched, and that a virtual repeal of the toleration laws in any part of the country be not possible––are palpably the objects to which the public mind should be directed.

We have said that the Duke of Sutherland has succeeded in showing us this flaw in the Constitution at a peculiarly critical time. A gentleman resident in England, for whose judgment we entertain the highest respect, told us only a few days since, that the rising, all-absorbing party of that kingdom, so far at least as the Established Church and the aristocracy are concerned, still continues to be the Puseyite party. If Puseyism does not bid fair to possess a majority of the people of the country, it bids fair at least to possess a majority of its acres. And we need scarce remind the reader how peculiarly this may be the case with Scotland, whose acres, in such large proportions, are under the control of an incipient Puseyism already. In both countries, therefore, is it of peculiar importance, in a time like the present, that the law of toleration should be placed beyond the control of a hostile or illiberal proprietary––so placed beyond their control, that they may be as unable virtually to suspend its operation in any part of the country, as they already are to suspend its operation in the whole of the country. We are recommending, be it remembered, no wild scheme of Chartist aggression on the rights of property––we would but injure our cause by doing so: our strength in this question must altogether depend on the soundness of the appeal which we can carry to the natural justice of the community. We merely recommend that that be done in behalf of the already recognised law of toleration, which Parliament has no hesitation in doing in behalf of some railway or canal, or water or dock company, when, for what is deemed a public good, it sets aside the absolute 449 control of the proprietor over at least a portion of his property, and consigns it at a fair price to the corporation engaged in the undertaking. The principle of the scheme is already recognised by the Constitution, and its legislative embodiment would be at once easy and safe. Property would be rendered not less, but more secure, if, in every instance in which a regularly-organized congregation of any denomination of Christians to which the law of toleration itself extended, made application for ground on which to erect a place of worship, the application would be backed and made effectual, in virtue of an enacted law, by the authority of the Constitution. There is no Scotch or English Dissenter––no true friend of religious liberty in Britain or Ireland––who would not make common cause with the Free Church in urging a measure of this character on Parliament, when fairly convinced, by cases such as that of Sutherland, how imperatively such a measure is required.

Unavoidably, however, from the nature of things, the relief which ultimately may be thus secured cannot be other than distant relief. Much information must first be spread, and the press and the platform extensively employed. Can there be nothing done for Sutherland through an already existing political agency? We are of opinion there can. Sutherland itself is even more thoroughly a close county now, than it was ere the Reform Bill had swamped the paper votes, and swept away the close burghs. His Grace the Duke has but to nominate his member, and his member is straightway returned. But all the political power which, directly or indirectly, his Grace possesses, is not equally secure. Sutherland is a close county; but the Northern Burghs are not rotten burghs; on the contrary, they possess an independent and intelligent constituency; and in scarce any part of Scotland is the Free Church equally strong. And his Grace derives no inconsiderable portion of his political influence from them. The member for Sutherland 450 is virtually his Grace’s nominee, but the member for the Northern Burghs is not his Grace’s nominee at all; and yet certain it is that the gentleman by whom these burghs are at present represented in Parliament is his Grace’s agent and adviser in all that pertains to the management of Sutherland, and has been so for many years. His Grace’s member for Sutherland sits in Parliament in virtue of being his Grace’s nominee; but the sort of prime minister through which his Grace governs his princely domains, sits in Parliament, not in virtue of being his Grace’s nominee, but in virtue of his being himself a man of liberal opinions, and an enemy to all intolerance. He represents them in the Whig interest, and in his character as a Whig. His Grace would very soon have one member less in Parliament, did that member make common cause with his Grace in suppressing the Free Church in Sutherland. Now, the bruit shrewdly goeth, that that member does make common cause with his Grace. The bruit shrewdly goeth, that in this, as in most other matters, his Grace acts upon that member’s advice. True, the report may be altogether idle––it may be utterly without foundation; instead of being true, it may be exactly the reverse of being true; but most unquestionable it is, that, whether true or otherwise, it exists, and that that member’s constituency have a very direct interest in it. He represents them miserably ill, and must be a very different sort of Whig from them, if he hold that proprietors do right in virtually setting aside the Toleration Act. The report does one of two things,––it either does him great injustice, or it shows that he has sat too long in Parliament for the Northern Burghs. It is in the power, then, of the highly respectable and intelligent Whig constituency of this district to make such a diversion in favour of the oppressed people of Sutherland, as can scarce fail to tell upon the country, and this in thorough consistency with the best and highest principles of their party. Let them put themselves 451 in instant communication with their member, and, stating the character of the report which so generally exists to his prejudice, request a categorical answer regarding it,––let them request an avowal of his opinion of the Duke’s policy, equally articulate with that opinion which the Hon. Mr. Fox Maule submitted to the public a few weeks ago in the columns of the Witness,––and then, as the ascertained circumstances of the case may direct, let them act, and that publicly, in strict accordance with their principles. Of one thing they may be assured,––the example will tell.

In order to raise the necessary amount of opinion for carrying the ulterior object––the enactment of a law––there are various most justifiable expedients to which the friends of toleration in the country should find it not difficult to resort. Petitions addressed to the Lower House in its legislative capacity, and to the members of the Upper House as a body of men who have, perhaps, of all others the most direct stake in the matter––we need scarce say how––ought, of course, to take a very obvious place on the list. Much, too, might be done by deputations from the General Assembly of the Free Church, instructed from time to time to ascertain, and then publicly to report on, the state of Sutherland. Each meeting of the Assembly might be addressed on the subject by some of its ablest men, in which case their statements and speeches would go forth, through the medium of the press, to the country at large. The co-operation and assistance of all bodies of evangelical Dissenters, both at home and abroad, should be sedulously sought after, and correct information on the subject circulated among them extensively. There has been much sympathy elicited for the Church, during her long struggle, among good men everywhere. Her cause has been tried, and judgment given in her favour, in France, Holland, and America, and in not a few of the colonies. In the case of Sismondi ‘On the Clearing of Sutherland,’ we see the 452 opinion of a continental philosopher re-echoed back upon our own country, not without its marked effect; and it might be well to try whether the effect of foreign opinion might not be at least equally influential ‘On the Suppression of the Toleration Laws in Sutherland.’ There is one great country with which we hold our literature in common, and which we can address, and by which we can be in turn addressed, in our native tongue. Unluckily, what ought to have existed as a bond of union and amity has been made to subserve a very different purpose; and we cannot conceal from ourselves the fact, that our own country has been mainly to blame. The manners, habits, and tastes of the Americans have been exhibited, by not a few of our popular writers, in the broadest style of caricature; they have been described as a nation of unprincipled speculators, devoid not only of right feeling, but even of common honesty, and remarkable for but their scoundrelism and conceit. Even were such descriptions just, which they are not, most assuredly would they be unwise. It is the American people, rather than the American government, who make peace and war; and the first American war with England will be one of the most formidable in which this country has yet been engaged. The bowie-knife is no trifling weapon; and the English writer laughs at a very considerable expense, if his satires have the effect of whetting it. At present, however, the war between the two countries is but a war of libel and pasquinade, and the advantage hitherto has been on the side of the aggressor. America has not been happy in her retaliation. We would fain direct her to aim where her darts, instead of provoking national hostility, or exciting a bitter spirit among the entire people of a country, would but subserve the general cause of liberty and human improvement. It is but idle to satirize our manners and customs; we think them good. There is nothing to be gained by casting ridicule on our 453 peculiar modes of thinking; they are the modes to which we have been accustomed, and we prefer them to any others. But there are matters of a different kind, regarding which the country bears a conscience, and is not quite at its ease; and there we are vulnerable. We speak often, we would fain say, of slavery in your country, literati of America, and justly deem it a great evil. It might do us good were you to remind us, in turn, that there are extensive districts in our own, in which virtually there exists no toleration law for the religion of the people, though that religion be Protestantism in its purest form. Cast your eyes upon the county of Sutherland.



Footnotes for all chapters in “Thoughts on the Educational Question”


Some of the reasonings of both the Established and Free Church courts on this matter would be amusing were they not so sad. ‘Feed my lambs,’ said our Saviour, after His resurrection, to Peter; and again twice over, ‘Feed my sheep.’ Now, let us suppose some zealous clergyman setting himself, on the strength of the latter injunction here, to institute a new order of preachers. As barbers frequently amuse their employers with gossip, when divesting them of their beards or trimming their heads, and have opportunities of addressing their fellow-men which are not possessed by the other mechanical professions, the zealous clergyman determines on converting them into preachers, and sets up a Normal School, in order that they may be taught the art of composing short sermons, which they are to deliver when shaving their customers, and longer ones, which they are to address to them when cutting their hair. And in course of time the expounding barbers are sent abroad to operate on the minds and chins of the community. ‘There is no mention made of any such order of prelectors,’ says a stubborn layman, ‘in my New Testament;’ ‘Nor yet in mine,’ says another. ‘Sheer Atheism,––Deism at the very least!’ exclaims the zealous clergyman. ‘Until Christianity was fairly established in the world, there was no such thing as shaving at all; the Jews don’t shave yet: besides, does not every decent Church member shave before going to church? And as for the authority, how read you the text, “Feed my sheep!’” ‘Weighty argument that about the shaving,’ say the laymen; ‘but really the text seems to be stretched just a little too far. The commission is given to Peter; but it confers on Peter no authority whatever to commission the barbers. Nay, our grand objection to the pseudo-successors of Peter is, that they corrupted the Church after this very manner, by commissioning the non-commissioned, until they filled the groaning land with cardinals, bishops, and abbots, monks and nuns,––

“Eremites and friars,
White, black, and grey, with all their trumpery.’”

Now, be it remembered that we are far from placing the Church-employed schoolmaster on the level of the parson-employed barber of our illustration. Rationally considered, they are very different orders indeed; but so far as direct Scripture is concerned, they stand, we contend, on exactly the same ground. The laity would do well in this controversy to arm themselves with the New Testament, and, if their opponents be very intolerant, to hand them the volume, and request them to turn up their authority. And, of course, if the intolerance be very great, the authority must be very direct. Mere arguings on the subject would but serve to show that it has no actual existence. When the commission of a captain or lieutenant is legitimately demanded, it is at once produced; but were one to demand the commission of a sergeant or boatswain’s mate, the man could at best only reason about it.


This passage has been referred to in several Free Church presbyteries, as if the writer had affirmed that the schoolmaster stands on no higher level than the shoemaker or tailor. We need scarce say, however, that the passage conveys no such meaning. By affirming that in matters of chimney-sweeping men choose for themselves the best chimney-sweeps, and in matters of indisposition or disease the best physicians, we do not at all level the physician with the chimney-sweep: we merely intimate that there is a best in both professions, and that men select that best, as preferable to what is inferior or worse, on every occasion they can.


We have learned that what was actually intended at this time was, not to ordain, but only to induct our schoolmasters. And their induction would have made, we doubt not, what Foigard in the play calls a ‘very pretty sheremony.’ But no mere ceremony, however imposing, can communicate to a secular profession a spiritual status or character.


A fac-simile of this letter was reproduced in the columns of the Witness.––Ed.


See Introduction.


What ought the General Assembly to do at the present Crisis? (1833.)


‘The sixth resolution [of the Educational Manifesto], in which the opinion of Dr. Chalmers is quoted, that Government [should] abstain from introducing the element of religion at all into their part of the scheme, must, as here introduced, be presumed to mean, that in the Act of the Legislature which shall carry the views of the resolutionists into practical effect, nothing shall be said about religious instruction; but that power shall be given to the heads of families to manage the schools, and prescribe the subjects to be taught, according to their own convictions of what is sound in religious and useful in secular instruction. But this would leave the religious rights of the minority completely unprotected. Government must do something more than omit the religious element: it must limit the power of the majority to introduce this element into their schools to the injury of the minority.’––Letter of Mr. George Combe on the Educational Movement.


The following portion of a motion on the educational question, announced in the Edinburgh Presbytery of the Free Church on the 6th of February last, is specially referred to in this paragraph:––

‘That the successful working of the present Government plan would be greatly promoted by the following amendments:––

‘1st, The entire omission in all cases (except, perhaps, the case of the Established Church) of the certificate regarding religious instruction, and the recognition of all bodies, whether Churches or private parties and associations, as equally entitled to receive aid.

‘2d, The adoption of a rule in proportioning Government grants to local efforts more flexible, and admitting of far more liberal aid in destitute localities, as compared with those which are in a better condition.

‘3d, The institution, on the part of Government, of an inquiry into the destitution confessedly existing in large towns, populous neighbourhoods, and remote districts, with a view of marking out places where elementary schools are particularly needed; and the holding out of special encouragement to whatever parties may come forward as willing to plant such schools.

‘That the preceding suggestions, if adopted, would go far to render the present Government plan unobjectionable in principle, and also to fit it in practice for ascertaining the educational wants of the country; but that a much more liberal expenditure of the public money would seem to be indispensable, as well as a less stringent application, upon adequate cause shown, of the rules by which the expenditure is regulated.’

In bringing the motion forward in the following meeting of Presbytery, the clause recommending the ‘entire omission in all cases of the certificate regarding religious instruction’ was suffered to drop.


Such are the proportions laid down in the official document for Scotland of the Committee of Her Majesty’s Privy Council on Education. We understand, however, that the Government inspectors possess certain modifying powers, through which the Government grant is occasionally extended to deserving teachers whose salary and fees united fall considerably short of the specified sum of forty-five pounds.


To demand of that Parliament which carried the Reform Bill the repeal of the Patronage Act, instead of enacting, on her own authority, the Veto Law.


‘I see,’ said Knox, when the Privy Council, in dividing the ecclesiastical revenues of the kingdom into three parts, determined on giving two of these to the nobility, and on dividing the remaining part between the Protestant ministry and the Court,––’ I see two-thirds freely given to the devil, and the other third divided between God and the devil: if the end of this order be happy, my judgment fails me!’ Our church courts, if they declare for the system of denominational grants, in opposition to the territorial endowments of a scheme truly national, will be securing virtually a similar division of the people, with but this difference, that God’s share of the reserved moiety may be a very small share indeed. And can it possibly be held that the shame and guilt of such an arrangement can be obviated by the votes of Synods or Assemblies? or that, with an intelligent laity to judge in the matter, the ‘end of this order’ can be other than unhappy? The schools of the Free Church have already, it is said, done much good. We would, we reply, be without excuse, in taking up our present position––a position in which we have painfully to differ from so many of the friends in whose behalf for the last ten years we deemed it at once a privilege and an honour to contend––did we believe that more than six hundred Protestant schools could exist in Scotland without doing much good. Of nothing, however, are we more convinced, than that the good which they have done has been accomplished by them in their character as schools, not in their character as denominational. We know a little regarding this matter; for in our journeyings of many thousand miles over Scotland, especially in the Highlands and the northern counties, we have made some use of both our eyes and ears. We have seen, and sickened to see, hordes of schoolboys of ten and twelve years bandying as nicknames, with boys whose parents belonged to the Establishment, the terms of polemic controversy. ‘Moderate’ has become in juvenile mouths as much a term of hatred and reproach in extensive districts of our country, as we remember ‘Frenchman’ used to be during the great revolutionary war. Our children bid fair to get, in their state of denominational separatism, at least religion enough heartily to hate their neighbours; and, we are afraid, not much more. Now, it may be thought that the Editor of the Witness, himself long engaged in semi-theological warfare, ought to be silent in a matter of this kind. Be it remembered, we reply, that it was men, not children, whom the Editor of the Witness made it his business to address; and that when, in what he deemed a good cause, he appealed to the understandings of his adult country-folk, he besought them in every instance to test and examine ere they judged and decided. He did not contemplate a phase of the controversy in which unthinking children should come from their schools to contend with other children, in the spirit of those little ones of Bethel who ‘came forth out of their city’ to mock and to jeer; or that immature, unreasoning minds should be torn by the she-bears of uncharitable feeling, at an age when the points really at issue in the case can be received only as prejudices, and expressed only by the mere calling of names. And seeing and knowing what he has seen and knows, he has become sincerely desirous that controversy should be left to at least the adult population of the country, and that its children of all the communions should be sent to mingle together in their games and their tasks, and to form their unselfish attachments, under a wise system of national tuition, as thoroughly Christian as may be, but at the same time as little as possible polemical or sectarian.


To the effect that there are a hundred thousand children in attendance at the parish schools of Scotland.


‘We are aware,’ says a respected antagonist, ‘that Mr. Miller is no Deist; his argument, nevertheless, rests on a deistical position,––a charge to which Dr. Chalmers’ letter is not liable to be exposed, in consequence of its first sentence, and of what it recommends in a Government preamble.’ If there be such virtue in a preamble, say we, let us by all means have a preamble––ten preambles if necessary––rather than a deistic principle. We would fain imitate in this matter the tolerance of Luther. ‘A complaint comes that such and such a reformed preacher will not preach without a cassock. “Well,” answers Luther, “what harm will a cassock do the man? Let him have a cassock to preach in; let him have three cassocks, if he find benefit in them.’”


It is not uninstructive to remark how invariably in this matter an important point has been taken for granted which has not yet been proven; and how the most serious charges have been preferred against men’s principles, on the assumption that there exists in the question a certain divine truth, which may be neither divine nor yet a truth at all. Wisdom and goodness may be exhibited in both the negative and positive form––both by avoiding what is wicked and foolish, and by doing what is good and wise. And while no Christian doubts that the adorable Head of the Church manifested His character, when on earth, in both ways, at least no Presbyterian doubts that He manifested it not only by instituting certain orders in His Church, but also by omitting to institute in it certain other orders. He instituted, for instance, an order of preachers of the gospel; He did not institute an order of popes and cardinals. Neither, however, did He institute an order of ‘religion-teaching’ schoolmasters; and the question not yet settled, and of which, without compromising a single article in our standards, either side may be espoused, is, whether our Saviour manifested His wisdom in not making use of the schoolmaster, or whether, without indicating His mind on the subject, He left the schoolmaster to be legitimately employed in an after-development of the Church.

Indeed, so entirely in this matter is the Free Church at sea, without chart or compass, that it has still to be determined whether the religious teaching of her schools be of a tendency to add to or to diminish the religious feeling of the country. ‘I sometimes regretted to observe,’ says Dr. Reid, in his Report on the Schools in connection with the Free Presbytery of Edinburgh, ‘that [their lessons in the Bible and Shorter Catechism] were taught rather too much in the style of the ordinary lessons. I do not object to places being taken, or any other means employed, which a teacher may consider necessary to secure attention during a Scripture lesson; but divine truth should always be communicated with solemnity.’ Now, such is the general defect of the religious teaching of the schoolroom. Nor is it to be obviated, we fear, by any expression of extra solemnity thrown into the pedagogical face, or even by the taking of places or the taws. And there seems reason to dread that lessons of this character can have but the effect of commonplacing the great truths of religion in the mind, and hardening the heart against their after application from the pulpit. But some ten or twelve years will serve to unveil to the Free Church the real nature of the experiment in which she is now engaged. For our own part, we can have little doubt, be the matter decided as it may, that experience will serve ultimately to show how vast the inferiority really is of man’s ‘teachers of religion’ to Christ’s preachers of the gospel.

We shall never forget at least the more prominent particulars of a conversation on this subject which we were privileged to hold with one of the most original-minded clergymen (now, alas, no more) our Church ever produced. He referred, first, to the false association which those words of world-wide meaning, ‘religious education,’ are almost sure to induce, when restricted, in a narrow, inadequate sense, to the teaching of the schoolmaster; and next, to the divine commission of the minister of the gospel. ‘Perverted as human nature is,’ he remarked, ‘there are cases in which, by appealing to its sentiments and affections, we may derive a very nice evidence respecting the divine origin of certain institutions and injunctions. For instance, the Chinese hold, as one of their religious beliefs, that parents have a paramount claim to the affections of their sons and daughters, long after they have been married and settled in the world; whereas our Saviour teaches that a man should leave father and mother and cleave to his wife, and the wife leave father and mother and cleave to her husband. And as, in the case of the dead and living child, Solomon sought his evidence in the feelings of the women that came before him, and determined her to be the true mother in whom he found the true mother’s love and regard, I would seek my evidence, in this other case, in the affections of human nature; and ask them whether they declared for the law of the Chinese Baal, or for that of Him who implanted them in the heart. And how prompt and satisfactory the reply! The love which of twain makes one flesh approves itself, in all experience, to be greatly stronger and more engrossing than that which attaches the child to the parent; and while we see the unnatural Chinese law making the weaker traverse and overrule the stronger affection, and thus demonstrating its own falsity, we find the law of Christ exquisitely concerting with the nature which Christ gave, and thus establishing its own truth. Now, regarding the commission of the minister of the gospel,’ he continued, ‘I put a similar question to the affections, and receive from them a not less satisfactory reply. The God who gave the commission does inspire a love for him who truly bears it; ay, a love but even too engrossing at times, and that, by running to excess, defeats its proper end, by making the servant eclipse in the congregational mind the Master whose message he bears. But I do believe that the sentiment, like the order to which it attaches, is, in its own proper place, of divine appointment. It is a preparation for the reception in love of the gospel message. God does not will that His message should be injured by any prejudice against the bearer of it; and that His will in this matter might be adequately carried out, was one of the grand objects of our contendings in the Church controversy. But we are not to calculate on the existence of any such strong feeling of love between the children of a school and their teacher. If, founding on the experience of our own early years, we think of the schoolmaster, not in his present relation to ourselves as a fellow-citizen, or as a servant of the Church, but simply in his connection with the immature class on which he operates, we will find him circled round in their estimation (save in perhaps a very few exceptional cases) with greatly more of terror than affection. There are no two classes of feelings in human nature more diverse than the class with which the schoolmaster and the class with which the minister of the gospel is regarded by their respective charges; and right well was St. Paul aware of the fact, when he sought in the terrors of the schoolmaster an illustration of the terrors of the law. And in this fence of terror we may perhaps find a reason why Christ never committed to the schoolmaster the gospel message.’ We are afraid we do but little justice, in this passage, to the thinking of our deceased friend; for we cannot recall his flowing and singularly happy language, but we have, we trust, preserved his leading ideas; and they are, we think, worthy of being carefully pondered. We may add, that he was a man who had done much in his parish for education; but that he had at length seen, though without relaxing his efforts, that the religious teaching of his schools had failed to make the rising generation under his charge religious, and had been led seriously to inquire regarding the cause of its failure.


Mr. Combe, however, may be regarded as an extreme man; and so the following letter, valuable as illustrating the views of a not very extreme opponent, though a decided assertor of the non-religious system of tuition, may be well deemed instructive. The writer, Mr. Samuel Lucas, was for many years Chairman of that Lancashire Public School Association which Mr. Fox proposes as the model of his scheme:––


Sir,––In your paper of the 26th ultimo, I observe among the advertisements a set of resolutions which have been agreed to and signed by a number of parties, with the view of a national movement in favour of an unsectarian system of national education. It is perhaps too early to say, that though the names of some of the parties are well known and highly esteemed in this country, yet that the names of many who might be expected to be foremost in promoting such an object are wanting.

I cannot, however, help thinking, that some of these may have been prevented from signing the document in question by some considerations which have occurred to myself on the perusal of it; and as a few lines of editorial comment indicate that the project has your sanction, you will perhaps allow me briefly to say why I think the people of Scotland should give to it the most deliberate consideration before committing themselves to it.

Agreeing, as I do most fully, with a large proportion of the contents of the resolutions, I regret that its authors have made an attempt, which it is impossible can be successful, to unite in the national schoolhouses, and in the school hours, a sound religious with an unsectarian education.

What is a sound religious education? Will not the professors of every variety of religious faith answer the question differently?

I think it was Bishop Berkeley who said, Orthodoxy is my doxy; heterodoxy is another man’s doxy. So it is with a sound religious education. What is sound to me is hollow and superficial, or perhaps full of error, to another.

If it be said that the majority of heads of families must decide as to what is sound and what is unsound, I must protest against such an injustice. The minority will contribute to the support of the public schools, and neither directly nor indirectly can they with justice be deprived of the use of them.

It appears to me that the authors of the resolutions are flying in the face of their own great authority, in proposing to introduce religious instruction into the public schools. It is true that Dr. Chalmers proposes that Government should ‘leave this matter entire to the parties who had to do with the erection and management of the schools which they had been called upon to assist;’ but he was not then contemplating the erection of national schools by the public money, but schools erected by voluntary subscription, which the Government might be called on to assist.

His opinion on the right action of Government in the present state of things is clear. He says: ‘That in any public measure for helping on the education of the people, Government [should] abstain from introducing the element of religion at all into their part of the scheme.’

What, then, should be the course taken by the promoters of public schools, in accordance with the principles enunciated by Dr Chalmers? It appears to me to be clearly this: to make no provision whatever for, or rather directly to exclude, all religious teaching within the walls of the school, and to leave, in the words of the fifth resolution, ‘the duty and responsibility of communicating religious instruction’ in the hands of those ‘to whom they have been committed by God, viz. to their parents, and, through them, to such teachers as they may choose to entrust with that duty.’

This was the course pursued by the Government of Holland in the early part of the present century; and I suppose no one will venture to call in question the morality or religion of the people of that country, or to throw a doubt upon the success of the system.

It is as an ardent friend of National Education, both in Scotland and England, that I have ventured to make these few observations. I desire to throw no obstruction in the way of any movement calculated to attain so desirable an object. It may be that I am mistaken in supposing that it is intended to convey religious instruction, in the public schools, of a kind that will be obnoxious to a minority; and if so, the design of the authors of the resolutions will have no more sincere well-wisher than, Sir, your obedient servant,

Samuel Lucas.

London, February 4, 1850.


There are about one thousand one hundred parish schoolmasters in Scotland: of these, not more than eighty (strictly, we believe, seventy-seven) adhered to the Free Church at the Disruption.


The Church as such ought to employ the schoolmaster, it has been argued, in virtue of the divine injunction, ‘Search the Scriptures:’ what God commands men to do, it is her duty to enable men to do. The argument is excellent, we say, so far as it goes; but of perilous application in the case in hand. It is the Church’s duty to teach those to read the Scriptures, who, without her assistance, would not be taught to read them. But if by teaching Latin, arithmetic, algebra, and the mathematics to ten, she is incapacitating herself from teaching twenty to read the Bible; or if, by teaching twenty to read the Bible who would have learned to read it whether she taught them or no, she is incapacitating herself from teaching twenty others to read it, who, unless she teach them, will never learn to read it at all; then, instead of doing her recognised duty in the matter, she is doing exactly the reverse of her duty––doing what prevents her from doing her duty. Let the Free Church but take her stand on this argument, and straightway her rectors, her masters in academies, and her schoolmasters planted in towns and populous localities, to teach the higher branches, become so many bars raised by herself virtually to impede and arrest her, through the expense incurred in their maintenance, in her proper work of enabling the previously untaught and ignorant to read the word of God, in obedience to the divine injunction.


This statement has been quoted by an antagonist as utterly inconsistent with our general line of argument; but we think we may safely leave the reader to determine whether it be really so. Did we ever argue that any scheme of national education, however perfect, could possibly supersede the proper missionary labours of the Churches, whether educational or otherwise? Assuredly not. What we really assert is, that if the Churches waste their energies on work not missionary, the work which, if they do it not, cannot be done must of necessity be neglected; seeing that, according to Bacon, ‘charity will hardly water the ground where it must first fill a pool.’

Footnotes for chapter “A Highland Clearing”


The Rosses of Glencalvie, by John Robertson, Esq. (article in the Glasgow National, August 1844).––Ed.

Footnotes for chapter “The Poet Montgomery”


20th October 1841.

Footnotes for chapter “The Sanctities of Matter”


See First Impressions of England and its People, ch. II.––Ed.

Footnotes for chapter “Characteristics of the Crimean War”


Ismeer, or Smyrna and its British Hospital in 1855. By a Lady. London: James Madder, 8, Leadenhall Street.

Footnotes for chapter “Sutherland as it was and is”


‘I will go and inquire upon the spot whether the natives of the county of Sutherland were driven from the land of their birth by the Countess of that name, and by her husband the Marquis of Stafford.... I wish to possess authentic information relative to that “CLEARING” affair; for though it took place twenty years ago, it may be just as necessary to inquire into it now. It may be quite proper to inquire into the means that were used to effect the CLEARING.’––Cobbett.

‘It is painful to dwell on this subject’ [the present state of Sutherland]; ‘but as information communicated by men of honour, judgment, and perfect veracity, descriptive of what they daily witness, affords the best means of forming a correct judgment, and as these gentlemen, from their situations in life, have no immediate interest in the determination of the question, beyond what is dictated by humanity and a love of truth, their authority may be considered as undoubted.’––General Stewart of Garth.

‘It is by a cruel abuse of legal forms––it is by an unjust usurpation––that the tacksman and the tenant of Sutherland are considered as having no right to the land which they have occupied for so many ages.... A count or earl has no more right to expel from their homes the inhabitants of his county, than a king to expel from his country the inhabitants of his kingdom.’––Sismondi.

Transcriber’s Notes

Typographical problems have been changed and these are highlighted.

Archaic and variable spelling is preserved.

Author’s punctuation style is preserved.