Chap 27: Burke in Scotland

Chap 27: Burke in Scotland

  • Burke had been elected Lord Rector of the University of Glasgow in November 1783 in succession to Dundas.
    • He came to Scotland to be installed in the following April.
    • He spent 8 or 10 days in Smith’s company.
      • Smith went with him wherever he went.
  • Burke and Smith always profoundly admired each other’s writings.
    • They had grown warm friends during Smith’s recent lengthened residence in London.
    • Even in the brilliant circle round the brown table in Gerrard Street there Burke loved or esteemed Smith the most.
  • Burke’s eminent literary friend visited at Beaconsfield after his retirement from public life.
    • His friend said that Burke admired:
      • Smith’s vast learning,
      • Smith’s profound understanding, and
      • the great importance of Smith’s writings.
    • Burke said that:
      • Smith’s heart was as good and rare as his head, and
      • his manners were “peculiarly pleasing.”[327] (one of Burke’s biographers)
  • Smith was drawn to Burke also by a powerful attraction.
    • He once complimented Burke which made Burke particularly gratified.
      • Smith repeated it to his literary friend on this same occasion.
      • “Burke is the only man I knew who thinks on economic subjects exactly as I do, [Pg 388] without any previous communications between us.”[328] (Smith)
  • The installation of Lord Rector was to take place on Saturday April 10.
    • Burke arrived in Edinburgh on the previous Tuesday or Wednesday.
  • I do not know whether he was Smith’s guest there.
    • At any rate, Smith:
      • did the honours of the town to him and
      • accompanied him wherever he went.
  • Dalzel, the Greek professor, gives an account of Burke’s visit to Sir Robert Liston.
    • Sir Liston was his old friend and class-fellow
    • “Lord Maitland attended him and Mr. Adam Smith constantly.
    • They brought him to my house the day after he arrived.”(Dalzel)
  • Lord Maitland was the eldest son of the Earl of Lauderdale.
    • He became a well-known figure in politics and in scientific economics after he succeeded to the peerage himself.
    • I have already mentioned him for:
      • his admiration of Smith, and
      • his defence of Smith from Fox’s disparaging remarks.
    • He was no blind follower of the Wealth of Nations.
      • But he was one of the earliest and not the least acute of the critics of that work.
    • At this time, he was  one of the rising hopes of the Whigs in the House of Commons.
    • He had entered it as representative of a Cornish borough in 1780.
  • Dalzel had been his tutor and had accompanied him to Oxford.
    • being also a great favourite with Smith, whom he respected for his knowledge of Greek,
    • He was naturally among the first of the eminent citizens to whom they introduced their distinguished guest.
  • On Thursday morning, Burke and Smith went out with Lord Maitland to Hatton, the Lauderdale seat in Midlothian, to dine and stay the night there on their way to Glasgow.
    • Dugald Stewart and Dalzel joined them later in the day after they had finished their college classes.
  • The conversation happened very naturally to touch on party prospects.
    • They were at the moment in the thick [Pg 389]of a general election—the famous election of 1784.
      • It was so fatal to the Whigs because nearly 160 Coalition Ministry supporters —”Fox’s martyrs”—lost their seats.
    • Pitt was sent back with an enormous majority behind him.
    • Parliament had been dissolved a fortnight before.
    • Many of the elections were already past.
    • Burke himself had been returned for Malton on his way north.
      • But the battle was still raging.
    • In Westminster, where the Whig chief was himself fighting, it lasted a month longer.
      • In many other constituencies the event was as yet undecided.
    • As far as returns had been made, however, things had gone hard with the Whigs.
      • Burke was despondent.
        • He had been some 20 years in public life without his party being in power as many months.
        • The party seemed now doomed to 20 years of opposition again.
        • He turned to Lord Maitland and said
          • “Lord Maitland, if you want to be in office, if you have any ambition or wish to be successful in life, shake us off, give us up.”
        • But Smith intervened.
          • With singular hopefulness, he predicted that in two years things would come round again.
        • Burke replied
          • “Why, I have already been in a minority 19 years, and your two years, Mr. Smith, will just make me 21.
          • It will surely be high time for me to be then in my majority.”[329]
  • Smith’s hearty remark implies his continued loyalty to the Rockinghams.
    • It shows that just as he two years before approved of their separation from Lord Shelburne, which many Whig critics have censured, so he now equally approved of their coalition with their old adversary, Lord North, which Whig critics have censured more severely still.
  • But his sanguine forecast was far astray.
    • Burke never again returned to office.
    • The whole conversation reads strangely in the light of subsequent events.
    • Only a few years more and Burke had himself shaken off [Pg 390]his friends—from no view to power, it is true—and the young nobleman to whom he gave the advice in jest was to take the lead in avenging the desertion, and to denounce the pension it was proposed to give him as the wages of apostasy.
  • The French Revolution drove Burke back to a more conservative position.
    • It carried Lord Maitland, who had drunk in Radicalism from Professor John Millar, forward into the republican camp.
    • He went over to Paris with Dugald Stewart and harangued the mob on the streets pour la liberté,[330] and he said one day to the Duchess of Gordon,
    • “I hope, madame, ere long to have the pleasure of introducing Mrs. Maitland to Mrs. Gordon.”[331]
  • However at Hatton, they were all sad over the temporary eclipse on the cause of liberty.
    • On the following morning, they all set out for Glasgow.
    • Stewart and Dalzel were able to accompany them because it was Good Friday.
      • Good Friday was then a holiday at Edinburgh University.
    • They ate that evening with Professor John Millar, Smith’s pupil and Lord Maitland’s master.
    • Next day, they assisted at the ceremony of installation.
  • The chief business was the Rector’s address.
    • It was described in the Annual Register of the year as “a very polite and elegant speech suited to the occasion.”
    • Tradition says Burke broke down in this speech.
      • After speaking five minutes, he concluded abruptly by saying he was unable to proceed, as he had never addressed so learned an audience before.
    • This tradition is mentioned by Jeffrey.
      • He was a student at Glasgow only three years afterwards.
      • He was stated by Professor Young of the same University in his Lectures on Intellectual Philosophy (p. 334).
      • However, there appears to be no solid foundation for it.
      • It is not mentioned by Dalzel.
        • Dalzel would not likely omit such an interesting [Pg 391]circumstance in the gossips in his letter to Sir R. Liston.
  • After the installation, they adjourned to the College chapel for divine service, where they heard a sermon from Professor Arthur.
    • Then they dined in the College Hall.
  • On Sunday, Stewart and Dalzel returned to Edinburgh for their classes next day.
    • But Smith and Lord Maitland accompanied Burke on an excursion to Loch Lomond, of which we know Smith was a great admirer.
  • He said to Samuel Rogers it was the finest lake in Great Britain.
    • The contrast between the islands and the shore pleased him particularly.[332]
  • They did not return to Edinburgh until Wednesday.
    • They returned then by way of Carron, probably to see the ironworks.
  • On Thursday evening, they dined at Smith’s.
    • Dalzel was again of the party.
    • Burke seems to have been at his best—
      • the most agreeable and entertaining man in conversation I ever knew.
      • We got a vast deal of political anecdotes from him, and fine pictures of political characters both dead and living.
      • Whether they were impartially drawn or not, that is questionable, but they were admirably drawn.”[333] (Dalzel)
  • The elections were still proceeding.
  • April 29 was fixed for the election in Lanarkshire.
    • It had been represented for the previous 10 years by Andrew Stuart of Torrance, a strong personal friend of Smith.
  • I have already mentioned Stuart’s name in connection with his candidature for the Indian Commissionership.
    • Sir William Pulteney thought of proposing that to Smith.
    • Though now forgotten, he was a notable person in his day.
  • He came first strongly into public notice during the proceedings in the Douglas cause.
  • Having, as law-agent for the Duke of Hamilton, borne the chief part in preparing the Hamilton side of the case,
  • he was attacked unusually virulently in the House of Lords both [Pg 392]by:
    • Thurlow, the counsel for the other side, and
    • Lord Mansfield, one of the judges.
  • He met those attacks by:
    • fighting a duel with Thurlow, and
    • writing letters to Lord Mansfield which
      • obtained much attention and
      • won Stuart a high name for ability.
  • In 1774, he entered Parliament as member for Lanarkshire.
    • He made such rapid mark that he was appointed a Commissioner of Trade and Plantations in 1779.
    • He seemed destined to higher office.
    • But now in 1784, on the very eve of the election, Stuart suddenly retired from the field because of some personal considerations between him and the Duke of Hamilton.
    • He really wanted to explain why he did this to his personal friends in Edinburgh.
    • On April—the day before he wrote his resignation—he sent his whole correspondence with the Duke of Hamilton about the matter through to John Davidson, W.S., for their perusal, and especially, it would appear, for the perusal of Smith, the only one he names.
  • He says “I wish to inform Mr. Adam Smith of everything.”
    • Being the only friend specifically named in the letter, Smith seems to have been consulted by Davidson as to any other “particular friends” to whom the correspondence should be submitted.
  • Campbell of Stonefield was:
    • one of the Lords of Session, and
    • a brother-in-law of Lord Bute.
  • Stuart wrote Davidson on May 7, 1784 advising him to show it to Campbell of Stonefield:

My Lord Stonefield is an old faithful friend of A. Stuart.

  • The papers about the County of Lanark may safely be communicated to him.
  • He is perfectly convinced of the propriety of what you and I agreed on, that the subject should be talked of as little as possible, and never but among his most intimate and cordial friends.

A. Smith.

Friday, May 7.[334][Pg 393]

  • When Mrs. Smith was visited on her deathbed by her minister, Adam Smith always remained in the room and joined in the prayers, though they were made in Christ’s name.
    • The Archdeacon thinks no infidel would have done that.
  • People in general would seem to have little belief in the natural affections.
    • But while they extracted from Smith’s filial love a proof of his infidelity, Archdeacon John Sinclair seeks to extract from it a demonstration of his religious faith.
  • He was so disconsolate that people could not explain it, except through his supposed unbelief in the resurrection.
    • They said, he sorrowed as those who have no hope. (Ramsay of Ochtertyre)
  • After being brightened by the agreeable visit of Burke, Smith became very sad by the death of his mother.
    • She died on May 23, in her 90th year.
    • Smith’s three avenues were always his mother, his books, and his political opinions.
      • His mother apparently was first of all. (Earl of Buchan)
    • They had lived together, off and on, for 60 years.
    • He was most tenderly attached to her.
      • He was never the same again.
  • However, Smith’s depression after his mother’s death was unfortunately due partly his own health beginning to fail.
    • He was now 61.
    • Stewart tells us that he aged very rapidly.
    • In two years more, he was suffering from the malady that carried him off.
    • The shock of his mother’s death affected him severely in his declining bodily condition.
  • Burke was —at Smith’s instance—elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in June 1784, in spite of several black balls.
    • “It would seem that there are some violent politicians among us” (Dalzel)
    • In August 1785, he was again in Scotland [Pg 394]attending to the duties of his Rectorship.
    • He was accompanied by Windham.
      • Windham:
        • was the most attached and beloved of his political disciples, and
        • had been a student at Glasgow in 1766.
      • If Dalzel was delighted with Burke, he was enchanted with Windham.
        • “besides his being a polite man and a man of the world, he is perhaps the very best Greek scholar I ever met with.
        • He had breakfast with me one morning and sat for three hours talking about Greek.
        • When we were at Hatton, we stole away as often as we could from the rest of the company to read and talk about Greek….” (Dalzel to Liston)
  • Smith was not at Hatton with them this time, but he saw much of them in Edinburgh.
    • Smith had probably known Windham already.
    • As soon as Burke and he arrived in Edinburgh on August 24 and stayed in Dun’s Hotel, they visited Smith.
    • They dined with him at his house the next day.
  • Among the guests mentioned by Windham were:
    • Robertson;
    • Henry Erskine, who had recently been Burke’s colleague in the Coalition Ministry as Lord Advocate; and
    • Mr. Cullen, probably the doctor, though it may have been his son (afterwards a judge), who lives in fame chiefly for his feats as a mimic.
  • Windham gives only mentions the remarks of Robertson about Holyrood.
    • Windham mentions the presence of Sir John Sinclair.
      • Sinclair had just re-entered Parliament for a constituency at the Land’s End.
        • He had been defeated in the Wick burghs by Fox.
  • Burke and Windham touring the Highlands.
    • Sir John advised them strongly to leave their post-chaise for that stage and [Pg 395]walk through the woods and glens on foot when they came to the beautiful district between Blair-Athole and Dunkeld.
    • They took the advice.
    • About ten miles from Dunkeld, they came upon a young lady, the daughter of a neighbouring proprietor, reading a novel under a tree.
      • They talked to her.
      • Windham was so much struck with her smartness and talent that three years later he came to Sinclair in the House of Commons and asked him:
        • “I have never been able to get this beautiful mountain nymph out of my mind.
        • Is she married or single?”
        • Windham was too late.
        • She was already married to Dr. Dick.
          • Dr. Dick was later a much-trusted medical adviser of Sir Walter Scott.
          • She had gone with her husband to the East Indies.
  • They returned to Edinburgh on September 13.
    • After dinner, they walked to Adam Smith’s.
    • They strongly felt the impression of a:
      • completely Scotch family.
      • House magnificent and place fine..
    • They found there Colonels Balfour and Ross, the former late aide-de-camp to General Howe, the latter to Lord Cornwallis.
    • The felt strongly the impression of a completely Scotch company.” (Windham)
  • Colonel Nesbit Balfour won great distinction in the American war.
    • He was the son of one of Smith’s old Fifeshire neighbours.
    • He was a proprietor in that county.
    • He afterwards became well known in Parliament, where he sat from 1790 to 1812.
  • Colonel (afterwards General) Alexander Ross had also taken a distinguished part in the American war.
    • He was Cornwallis’s most intimate friend and correspondent.
    • He was then Deputy-Adjutant-General of the Forces in Scotland.
    • I do not know whether he was a relation of the Colonel Patrick Ross of whom Smith speaks in one of his letters as his kinsman[335] .
  • Next day, the 14th, Burke and Windham dined with Smith.
    • There was no other guest except a Mr. Skene, one of Smith’s cousins from Pitlour, probably the[Pg 396] Inspector-General of Scotch Roads already mentioned.[336]
  • On the following morning, Burke and Windham proceeded southward.
  • John Logan was the poet, author of the Ode to the Cuckoo.
    • Burke thought it to be the most beautiful lyric in the language.
    • Fortune treated Logan cruelly in life and more cruelly after death by depriving him of the usual posthumous reparation.
    • Logan was at the moment in the thick of his troubles.
    • He had written a tragedy called Runnymede.
      • It was accepted by the management of Covent Garden’s management.
      • But it was banned by the Lord Chamberlain.
        • He smelled current politics in the bold speeches of the Barons of King John.
      • It was eventually produced in the Edinburgh theatre in 1783.
  • Its production immediately involved Logan as one of the ministers of Leith, in difficulties with his parishioners and the ecclesiastical courts similar to those which John Home had encountered 20 years before.
    • The trouble ended in Logan resigning in December 1786 on a pension of £40 a year.
  • Smith admired him.
    • He was a “great patron” of Logan.
    • He stood by him through these troubles. (Dr. Carlyle to Bishop Douglas)
  • When they first broke out in 1783 he wished, as Logan himself tells his old pupil Sir John Sinclair, to get the poet transferred from his parish in Leith to the more liberal and enlightened parish of the Canongate.
  • When Logan eventually made up his mind to take refuge in literature, Smith gave him the following letter of introduction to Andrew Strahan.
    • Andrew had become the head of the firm, since his father’s death:—

Dear Sir

  • Mr. Logan is a clergyman of uncommon learning, taste, and ingenuity.
  • But he cannot easily submit to the puritanical [Pg 397]spirit of this country.
  • He quits his charge and proposes to settle in London, where he will probably exercise the trade of a man of letters.
  • He has published a few poems.
    • Several of them:
      • have great merit
      • are probably known to you.
  • He has also published a tragedy, which I cannot say I admire in the least.
  • He has another in manuscript, founded and almost translated from a French drama, which is much better.
  • But the best of all his works which I have seen are some lectures on universal history.
    • These were read here some years ago.
    • They were approved and even admired by some of the best and most impartial judges.
    • But they were run down by the prevalence of a hostile literary faction, to the leaders of which he had imprudently given some personal offence.
  • I recommend him most earnestly to your countenance and protection.
  • If he was employed on a review, he would be an excellent hand for giving an account of all books of taste, of history, and of moral and abstract philosophy.—

I ever am, my dear sir, most faithfully and affectionately yours,

Adam Smith.[337]

Edinburgh, September 29 1785.

  • The lectures which Smith praises so highly were published in 1779.
  • and are interesting as one of the first adventures in what was afterwards known as the philosophy of history.
  • But his memory rests now on his poems, which Smith thought less of, and especially on his Ode to the Cuckoo.
  • Logan has been accused so often of stealing from his deceased friend Michael Bruce.
  • but to which his title has at last been put beyond all doubt by Mr. Small’s publication of a letter, written to Principal Baird in 1791, by Dr. Robertson of Dalmeny, who acted as joint editor with him of their common friend Bruce’s poems.[338]

FOOTNOTES:

[327] Bisset’s Life of Burke, ii. 429.

[328] Bisset’s Life of Burke, ii. 429.

[329] Innes’s Memoir of Dalzel in Dalzel’s History of University of Edinburgh, i. 42.

[330] Add. MSS., 32,567.

[331] Best’s Anecdotes, p. 25.

[332] Clayden’s Early Life of Samuel Rogers, p. 92.

[333] Dalzel’s History of the University of Edinburgh, i. 42.

[334] Edinburgh University Library.

[335] See above, p. 361.

[336] See above, p. 243.

[337] Morrison MSS.

[338] Small, Michael Bruce and the Ode to the Cuckoo, p. 7.


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