Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

66

In either view, they possess much in with which he poured forth his acterest. With almost all the great men cumulated stores.

Whenever any of the period in which he lived he was difficult or abstruse question engaged brought, by his position in society, and the attention of the legislature or the the considerable part he took in public public, Mr Sinclair was sure to write atfairs, into frequent contact; and he on it, and to embody all the facts newas too acute and accurate an observer cessary to a sound conclusion which not to form a tolerably just estimate could be gathered from the records of of the various interesting characters past ages, or the testimony of living thus placed within the range of inspec- witnesses. Even those who differed tion. Indeed we cannot but regret from his conclusions were forced to that, with his superior powers and admit the value and accuracy of his extensive opportunities of observation, premises. he was not induced to embody in a se- The tide of misfortune which flowed parate work his parliamentary recol- in upon the country with scarcely any lections, and the valuable floating remission during the whole duration of anecdotes with which his memory was the American war, led Mr Sinclair to amply stored.

devise measures for putting an end to In the year 1780 Sir John (then that unfortunate contest. Parties were Mr) Sinclair first entered Parliament, then (1782), as now, rather nicely as member for his native county. His balanced in the House of Commons. political opinions led him to support The number of members in the habit Lord North; and an offer which he of attending the House was about made to second the address led to a 430, of whom 230 generally supported friendly intercourse with the Minister. the Ministry, and 200 the Opposition. In the year following Mr Sinclair Among the nominal adherents of each made his debut as a parliamentary ora- party might be reckoned about fifty, tor, and shortly afterwards he pub- whose support was lukewarm and lished his first pamphlet, entitled, precarious, consisting chiefly of Lord “ Thoughts on the Naval Strength of Gower's friends and a body of indethe British Empire." This was fa- pendent country gentlemen, who acvourably received, and soon followed knowledged no leader, and voted acby another. From this period for- cording to their own judgment. Of ward he seems to have kept up a warm course, in such circumstances a strong fusillade of brochures on matters na- Government was impossible. The val, military, political, agricultural, defection of sixteen members could statistical, and literary. Of these- at any time turn the scale. amounting in number to several hun- In this predicament of party Mr dreds—we believe there are few which Sinclair, convinced that any overtures do not contain much valuable infor- for peace were not to be expected mation. Indeed it could not be other- from Lord North, made a bold and wise. Whatever subject might en- active effort for the overthrow of his gage the attention of Mr Sinclair, it Government by means of a coalition. was always his first object to gather He held frequent conferences with into one focus all the facts and cir- the independent party,—represented cumstances connected with it. In the to them the influence they might acpursuit of information he was indefa- quire from co-operation,--and propotigable, and with his extraordinary in- sed, with their aid, that a Cabinet dustry, and the gift of a memory un- should be formed, embracing the usually retentive, it will readily be leading members of the two great conceived that his mind became stored parties. Mr Sinclair strongly stated with a vast and increasing mass of va- his conviction that in this manner, luable knowledge on a greater variety and in this alone, could the sinking of topics than, perhaps, ever before fortunes of the nation be retrieved. engaged the attention of a single indi- These views he not only enforced vidual.

in personal communications with the It was scarcely possible, therefore, different members, but in the pages for Mr Sinclair to write on any sub- of four pamphlets which he published ject without communicating instruc- on the occasion. The persuasions of tion. Indeed we can conceive no- tongue and type, however, were alike thing more convenient to the statesunavailing. A few of the members men of the time than the prodigality were prevailed on to meet occasionally

a

[ocr errors]

at the St Alban's Tavern for the pur- of Norfolk).' will meet Mr Sinclair, and pose of discussing the prospects of the the gentlemen mentioned by him, at the country, the proceedings of the Mi. St Alban's.' nistry, and a good dinner. In regard

.

“Mr Sibthorpe, member for Boston, to the last of these subjects there ex

' will give Mr Sinclair's papers much atisted perfect unanimity; the two tention in the first moment of leisure.' former were met by greater reserve.

“ Mr J. Rolle (afterwards Lord Rolle) Meeting after meeting took place, but will attend with great readiness the next concord of opinion was wanting, both

meeting at the St Alban's, and will be as to the mode of action and the ob

happy in co-operating with other indepen

dent members to support such measures as ject to be gained by it. Mr Sinclair

may appear to them for the real interest of appears to have been the only active

his king and country.' and zealous member of the party ;

“ Mr Lygon (afterwards Earl Beauand after much trouble, and much champ), having been called into the councorrespondence, and many dinners, try, is much obliged by Mr Sinclair's rethe project died of mere inanition, and

collection of a runaway,' and describes Lord North retained office till driven the county of Worcester “in high spirits, from it by a different influence. We thinking a change of Ministers implies every give the following extract from the blessing that can restore a kingdom.' Memoirs, because it affords an apt “Mr George Ross being prevented and curious illustration of the impe- from attending by illness, hopes that the diments to be overcome in procuring meeting was numerous and respectable, active support for any new political and will send in the evening for a list.' project. It contains an abstract of “ Sir Henry Houghton, member for the answers of the different members Preston, receives with great satisfaction to Sir John Sinclair's communication,

Mr Sinclair's information that there is a soliciting co-operation.

prospect of an union of independent mem

bers of Parliament in some efforts to save “ Mr (afterwards Sir William) Pulte- their sinking country.' ney is ' obliged by the perusal of the pa- “ Mr Brickdale, member for Bristol, pers, and will attend as early as possible will be glad at any time to communicate in the House of Commons, to receive far- with Mr Sinclair on the subject of his ther explanations.'

plans.' Lord Vahon consents to a resolution, “Mr Montague, in six successive notes, reprobating offensive war upon the Con- assures Mr Sinclair, that he is full of zeal tinent of America against the British re- in the cause,' and will observe ‘ secrecy,' volted colonies, as tending to weaken our adding, however, that, he is forbidden efforts against the House of Bourbon.' by his physicians not only to attend the

“ Sir Herbert Mackworth, member for House, but even to hold conversation at Cardiff, enters warmly into the measures any length.' suggested : he is detained in the country ; “Mr Strutt, member for Maldon, enters .but,' continues he, 'I beg you will con- warmly into Mr Sinclair's plans ; has comsider me as one of your number present, municated them to Mr Bramston, Mr Siband joining in the plan as one of the so- thorpe, and Mr Bulloch; recommends ciety : I can very safely depute you my caution ; and proposes that the first meetproxy, if it may be admitted on the pre- ing should consist of not more than ten or sent occasion, having a perfect confidence twelve members, 'for,' says he, every in the uprightness of your intentions, and man, however shackled, wishes to be conabilities to adapt them to great public sidered as free and independent.' He good.'

adds, “Whether the present Ministry is “ Viscount Maitland (now Earl of Lau- equal to the conduct of the war, is not for derdale) writes in great haste, expecting me to determine, and yet I wish a change what he terms 'a motion of a conciliatory of two persons. But I will be bold to nature, declaring the inexpediency of the say, that neither this nor any other Miaffairs of the country remaining in the nistry can be active and frugal who have same hands, without specifying who or to contend with an Opposition so virulent what number ought to be removed.' and as the present. I confine my

“Sir Robert Herries, member for Dum- self to the leaders and their particular adfries, 'thinks Mr Sinclair is entitled to herents. Something must be done to commuch praise for having executed as well pel the Minister, whoever he may be, to as planned a laudable institution,' and re- economy; and to excite to decided and quests a conference with him on the sub- vigorous measures : at the same time opject.

position must be silenced.' “ The Earl of Surrey (afterwards Duke “But perhaps the nature and objects of

[ocr errors]

6

to power.

the St Alban's Club, and the sentiments

Lord North experienced generally pervading its members, may be the usual fate of an unfortunate Mibest collected from the following letter of nister, iu being deserted by many of Mr Gilbert, the member for Litchfield :-- those who had been among the most

“ • Lillyshall, 2d Jan. 1782. subservient while he remained in “Dear Sir,- I have been in the coun- power. The following anecdote is try ten days ; but so much engaged in a interesting, as recording an authentic variety of business, as to prevent my at- instance of gratitude in a Scotchman. teption to those very important concerns We give it, in spite of the incredulity respecting the public which have of late with which it will be receivell south so much engrossed your thoughts and mine; of the Tweed. however, from a desire to contribute the utmost of my endeavours to promote so

“ Having quoted from my father's paexcellent a plan, and to show that regard

pers a few reminiscences of Lord North which is due to you for your very laudable

when in power, I may here add one anecexertions therein, I lave retired for an

dote of that Minister, long after his resig

nation. It is not often that fallen greathour or two from other affairs to resume the consideration of our favourite ob

ness receives testimonies of gratitude and ject, and to communicate my thoughts a

good feeling from the objects of its former little farther to you.

bounty. Lord North had much promoted «. I think we cannot do better service

the restoration of the forfeited estates in

Scotland. Some time before that measure at present than by communicating our plan to such public-spirited members as we lap

was agreed upon, young Cameron of

Lochiel had been introduced to the Minipen to be connected or acquainted with, who have the real love of their country at

ster, who was so much pleased with his

address as to remember him at a crisis heart; all these, I doubt not, will cheerfully co-operate with aud assist us, in a

when his patronage was most desirable,

and to insist upon the Lochiel estate being work so essential at this crisis, and which

added to the list of those to be restored. promises so much relief to this poor, I

A relation of Lochiel took an opportunity may add unfortunate, divided, and distracted country ; at the very brink of ruin, by his family after the Minister was out of

to show the sense of obligation cherished whilst she is possessed of resources sufficient to extricate her from her present place, and blind. Having the captaincy distresses, to make her a scourge to her

of an East-Indiaman to give away, this haughty and perfidious enemy, and to raise gentleman (whose name was Cameron) her to a greater pitch of glory than she has

wrote to Lord North, with the offer to apever yet attained ; if they were properly point any person whom his Lordship might

recommend. The retired statesman was exerted, and her affairs administered with

much affected by this evidence of generous that spirit, equity, justice, and economy which they ought.

feeling, and declared, almost with tears, ““ I think with you, that we ought to

• This is the only instance of undoubted be prepared with a plan for our coadjutors gratitude that I have ever met with. to look up to, for the speedy attaining The portion of the present work these desirable ends ; when that is settled, which is devoted to matters merely I trust there is virtue and spirit enough political, though full of amusing anecyet left in this country, both in the sove- dote, is less interesting, we think, reign and the people, to accomplish the than that which relates to Sir John great and good work.

Sinclair's labours as an agriculturist “ "Notwithstanding my engagements in and statist. In the former capacity private affairs, I shall devote many hours his zeal for improvement was unto the consideration of these most impor- bounded, and in his native county tant concerns Lefore I have the pleasure his name will long be remembered as of seeing you, which I hope will be on the its first and greatest benefactor. That 20th of this month. I have been from

the whole north of Scotland occaCotton some days, and shall not return till sionally benefited by his zeal, activiSunday or Monday se’onight, having many ty, and sound judgment, the following engagements in this and the adjoining counties. I have the honour to be, with the

passage, in common with many others

in the work, bears ample and unanutmost respect, dear sir, your most faithful and obedient servant,

swerable testimony. ««• Thomas Gilbert.''

“ Mr Sinclair was this year the success

ful promoter of a measure which formed, Shortly afterwards a change of in after life, one of his most agreeable reMinistry took place, and Lord Rock- miniscences. Scotland had twice been ingham and the Whig party came in. visited with the miseries of famine, but in

a

6

neither instance more severely than at this is this :- That although many individuals time. So cold and stormy was the sum- suffered severely from the storm on Christmer of 1782, that the crops were late and mas-day, yet, having experienced the huunpromising. • On the fifth of October, mane interposition of Government during before they had time to ripen, a frost, a season of absolute scarcity, nothing less armed almost with the rigour of a Green- than an actual dearth will induce the counland climate, desolated, in one night, the ty again to apply to the bounty of Parliahope of the husbandman. The grain, ment. This proceeds from the apprehenfrost-bitten, immediately contracted sion of abusing or exhausting that liberalhoary whiteness. Potatoes and turnips, ity, to which the county has already been already dwarfish, were further injured. so much indebted. I have the honour to The produce of the garden was destitute be, sir, your most obedient and humble of its usual nourishment, and the fields servant,

MALCOLM LAING. yielded not one-third of an ordinary crop.' No wholesome food could be procured ;

"• Kirkwall, May 25th, 1807.' " and disease, as well as famine, began to overspread, not only the whole north of Another benefit, the extent and va. Scotland, but even some districts in the lue of which, perhaps, no man with south. On this occasion of general dis

Saxon blood in his veins can duly ap. tress and alarm, the member for Caithness preciate, Mr Sinclair was the chief earnestly besought the interposition of instrument in procuring for his Celtic Parliament. An objection was started

countrymen. We allude to the lethat no precedent could be found for such gislative exemption from the painful a grant as he solicited ; and that a prece- necessity of wearing breeches. The dent, once furnished, would lead to trou

act legalizing the philabeg passed in blesome and endless applications. The the middle of winter ; yet no sooner late Ministry having long been subject to

did it become known than, in the the trammels of office, adhered rigidly to

country north of Stirling, fifty addi. forms and rules. Their successors indul. ged more liberal ideas. Mr Sheridan, in

tional square miles of human skin particular (at that time Secretary to the

courted the refreshing influence of the

mountain breezes. The Io Pæans of Treasury), entered with great zeal into

the various clans on their enfranthe cause, and a motion was at last agreed to for a committee on the subject. Their

chisement from a bondage so disreport was so conclusive, that the House tressing were loud, if not musical. presented an address, recommending the

Bonefires blazed on Bramar, and talcalamitous state of the north of Scotland low candles in the windows of Inverto his Majesty's gracious consideration, ness; the heart of Thurso was made and promising to make good the expense glad, and wild expressions of gratiincurred. The whole cost of this well- tude and gratulation awoke all the timed relief was little more than L.15,000; mountain echoes of Badenoch and and yet no less a number than 111,521 Lochaber. Yet some dissentients, souls, inhabitants of fifteen counties, were though comparatively few, there must rescued from starvation.

have been from the reigning hilarity. “ The apprehensions entertained in Par- The unhappy Lowland tailors who, liament that the aid afforded in this in

induced by former similarity of garb, stance might lead to importunate and an

had pitched their shop-boards in these noying solicitations on occasions of less

mountain regions, saw the ruin of necessity, received, some years afterwards,

their hopes in the sudden deluge of a memorable rebuke from the gratitude and high spirit of the northern population. They became at once aware that in

kilts which overspread the land. A hurricane of unexampled severity laid waste, in 1807, some of the districts which

the country of the Gael their occuhad availed themselves of the Parliament- pation was gone for ever, and having ary grant. On this occasion my father

become bankrupt, and honourably paid wrote to Malcolm Laing, the historian, nothing in the pound, sought employsuggesting a petition to the Legislature ment for goose and shears among a for a renewal of its bounty. Mr Laing's population less proud of baring their answer is as follows:

persons to the action of the ele" • Sir,- I beg leave to acknowledge

ments. the honour of your letter, which I have

As for the great liberator, on the communicated to most of the gentlemen in approach of the summer solstice, he the county, and shall take the first oppor. appears to have cast aside his Sassetunity of laying before a county meeting.

nach habiliments, and proceeded on a The prevailing sentiment, I believe, tour of triumph through the country.

a

mons.

“ Another boon which, during the same biographers, and economists, amountression, my father contributed to obtain ed to the prodigious number of 713; for Scotland, was not so important as the and when we consider that a consipreceding, but was highly popular and ac- derable number of these were works ceptable. An act was passed, repealing of great extent, and written in foreign the prohibition (19th George II.) of the languages, the amount of labour emancient Highland dress. On his next jour. ployed merely in research will excite ney through the Highlands, Mr Sinclair astonishment. Certain it is, that it availed himself of this national concession produced good fruit. The History of by appearing in full Highland costume. On

the Revenue is by far the most importhis way to visit Lord Breadalbane, passing ant work on financial statistics to be through the town of Logierait, he had an

found in the literature of Europe, and amusing proof of the association established

must remain a standard—in all probaby recent events in the minds of Highlanders, between their ancient garb and the bility an unrivalled—example of the fortunes of the house of Stuart. Having successful application of zeal and inquitted his carriage, he was enjoying on

dustry. foot a ramble among the wild and moun

Perhaps the most interesting crisis tain scenery of that neighbourhood, fol- in the constitutional history of Englowed by a multitude of the natives, speak- land, during the last century, occuring Gaelic with great vehemence. An old red on the first accession of Mr Pitt Highlander at length accosted him in a to power, when the Coalition party of cautious whisper, Sir, if you are come Fox and North still continued to comhere in the good old cause, I can give you mand a majority of the House of Comto understand that there are a hundred

The latter were exasperated gude men ready to join you, within the by defeat at the very moment when sound o' the bell o'Logierait.' These they felt sure of a triumph, and had simple-minded people took my father for Mr Pitt made a single false move in at least an emissary of Charles Edward, or

the great political game, it must have perhaps for Charles Edward himself."

been irretrievably lost. But the young From an early period of his life Minister showed that he was fully adeMr Sinclair had devoted much atten- quate to surmount the difficulties of tion to finance. In 1783 he publish the crisis. With the most consumed two pamphlets on the subject, mate skill he steered through the rocks which were well received by the pub- and shallows which surrounded him lic, and elicited expressions of appro- on all sides, and the Whigs for the bations from Dr Rice and other emi- next half century found themselves nent authorities on such matters. excluded from the Paradise (so it seemThis induced him to embark in the ed to them) of office, and condemned, arduous undertaking of writing a with the full approbation of the coun“ History of the Public Revenue of try, to the Pandemonium (so they felt the British Empire.” In this work it) of Opposition and empty pockets. his object was to trace the public re- At this exciting period Mr Sinclair venue and expenditure of England, seems to have taken a very active and from the most remote period down to useful part in support of the Minister. his own time, and also to afford an The following extract will show that analytical view of public revenue in his services were not unappreciated. general. The undertaking was novel. Nothing of the kind had been before

“ In the arduous struggle of the young attempted on a plan equally compre.

Minister against a majority in the House hensive. The information necessary

of Commons, exasperated by defeat at the for its completion was difficult to be very moment when they felt sure of a de

cisive triumph, the Member for Caithness acquired, and still more difficult to be sifted and arranged, from the vast importance of my father's services on this

gave him his most cordial support. The number and complication of details.

occasion But no obstacle, however formidable, letters, one from Mr Pitt himself, the

from the two following could depress the ardent mind of Mr Other from his confidential friend, J. J. Sinclair. In the execution of his Hamilton, Esq. (afterwards Marquis of task, he left no source of information, Abercorn) : ancient or modern, foreign or domes- “ • My dear Sir, I find the enemy tic, unexplored. His list of authori- circulating, that I said in my speech I ties, as stated in the Memoirs, inclu- would resign, in case of an address being ding historians, antiquaries, financiers, carried. I take for granted, they think

appears

« PredošláPokračovať »