Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Volume 62, No. 383, September 1847 online

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"My dear Dunshunner," said my friend Robert M'Corkindale as he entered my
apartments one fine morning in June last, "do you happen to have seen the
share-list? Things are looking in Liverpool as black as thunder. The
bullion is all going out of the country, and the banks are refusing to

Bob M'Corkindale might very safely have kept his information to himself. I
was, to say the truth, most painfully aware of the facts which he
unfeelingly obtruded upon my notice. Six weeks before, in the full
confidence that the panic was subsiding, I had recklessly invested my
whole capital in the shares of a certain railway company, which for the
present shall be nameless; and each successive circular from my broker
conveyed the doleful intelligence that the stock was going down to Erebus.
Under these circumstances I certainly felt very far from being
comfortable. I could not sell out except at a ruinous loss; and I could
not well afford to hold on for any length of time, unless there was a
reasonable prospect of a speedy amendment of the market. Let me confess
it - I had of late come out rather too strong. When a man has made money
easily, he is somewhat prone to launch into expense, and to presume too
largely upon his credit. I had been idiot enough to make my _debut_ in the
sporting world - had started a couple of horses upon the verdant turf of
Paisley - and, as a matter of course, was remorselessly sold by my
advisers. These and some other minor amusements had preyed deleteriously
upon my purse. In fact, I had not the ready; and as every tradesman
throughout Glasgow was quaking in his shoes at the panic, and
inconveniently eager to realise, I began to feel the reverse of
comfortable, and was shy of showing myself in Buchanan Street. Several
documents of a suspicious appearance - owing to the beastly practice of
wafering, which is still adhered to by a certain class of
correspondents - were lying upon my table at the moment when Bob entered. I
could see that the villain comprehended their nature at a glance; but
there was no use in attempting to mystify him. The Political Economist
was, as I was well aware, in very much the same predicament as myself.

"To tell you the truth, M'Corkindale, I have not opened a share-list for a
week. The faces of some of our friends are quite long enough to serve as a
tolerable exponent of the market; and I saw Grabbie pass about five
minutes ago with a yard of misery in his visage. But what's the news?"

"Every thing that is bad! Total stoppage expected in a week, and the mills
already put upon short time."

"You don't say so!"

"It is a fact. Dunshunner, this infernal tampering with the currency will
be the ruin of every mother's son of us!" - and here Bob, in a fit of
indignant enthusiasm, commenced a vivid harangue upon the principles of
contraction and expansion, bullion, the metallic standard, and the bank
reserves, which no doubt was extremely sound, but which I shall not
recapitulate to the reader.

"That's all very well, Bob," said I - "very good in theory, but we should
confine ourselves at present to practice. The main question seems to me to
be this. How are we to get out of our present fix? I presume you are not
at present afflicted with a remarkable plethory of cash?"

"Every farthing I have in the world is locked up in a falling line."

"Any debts?"

"Not many; but quite enough to make me meditate a temporary retirement to

"I believe you are better off than I am. I not only owe money, but am
terribly bothered about some bills."

"That's awkward. Would it not be advisable to bolt?"

"I don't think so. You used to tell me, Bob, that credit was the next best
thing to capital. Now, I don't despair of redeeming my capital yet, if I
can only keep up my credit."

"Right, undoubtedly, as you generally are. Do you know, Dunshunner, you
deserve credit for your notions on political economy. But how is that to
be done? Every body is realising; the banks won't discount; and when your
bills become due, they will be, to a dead certainty, protested."

"Well - and what then?"

"_Squalor carceris_, etcetera."

"Hum - an unpleasant alternative, certainly. Come, Bob I put your wits to
work. You used to be a capital hand for devices, and there must be some
way or other of steering clear. Time is all we want."

"Ay, to be sure - time is the great thing. It would be very unpleasant to
look out on the world through a grating during the summer months!"

"I perspire at the bare idea!"

"Not a soul in town - all your friends away in the Highlands boating, or
fishing, or shooting grouse - and you pent up in a stifling apartment of
eight feet square, with nobody to talk to save the turnkey, and no
prospect from the window, except a deserted gooseberry stall!"

"O Bob, don't talk in that way! You make me perfectly miserable."

"And all this for a ministerial currency crotchet? 'Pon my soul, it's too
bad! I wish those fellows in Parliament - - "

"Well? Go on."

"By Jove! I've an idea at last!"

"You don't say so! My dear Bob - out with it!"

"Dunshunner, are you a man of pluck?"

"I should think I am."

"And ready to go the whole hog, if required?"

"The entire animal."

"Then I'll tell you what it is - the elections will be on immediately - and,
by St Andrew, we'll put you up for Parliament!"


"You. Why not? There are hundreds of men there quite as hard up, and not
half so clever as yourself."

"And what good would that do me?"

"Don't you see? You need not care a farthing about your debts then, for
the personal liberty of a member of the House of Commons is sacred. You
can fire away right and left at the currency; and who knows, if you play
your cards well, but you may get a comfortable place?"

"Well, you _are_ a genius, Bob! But then, what sort of principles should I

"That is a matter which requires consideration. What are your own feelings
on the subject?"

"Perfect indifference. I am pledged to no party, and am free to exercise
my independent judgment."

"Of course, of course! We shall take care to stick all that into the
address; but you must positively come forward with some kind of tangible
political views. The currency will do for one point, but as to the others
I see a difficulty."

"Suppose I were to start as a Peelite?

"Something may be said in favour of that view; but, on the whole, I should
rather say not. That party may not look up for some little time, and then
the currency is a stumbling-block in the way. No, Dunshunner, I do not
think, upon my honour, that it would be wise for you to commit yourself in
that quarter at the present moment."

"Suppose I try the Protectionist dodge? One might come it very strong
against the foreigners, and in favour of native industry. Eh, Bob? What do
you say to that? It is an advantage to act with gentlemen."

"True; but at the same time, I see many objections. The principles of the
country party are not yet thoroughly understood by the people, and I
should like to have you start with at least popularity on your side."

"Radical, then? What do you think of Annual Parliaments, Universal
Suffrage, Vote by Ballot, and separation of Church and State?"

"I am clear against that. These views are not popular with the Electors,
and even the mob would entertain a strong suspicion that you were
humbugging them."

"What, then, on earth am I to do?"

"I will tell you. Come out as a pure and transparent Whig. In the present
position of parties, it is at least a safe course to pursue, and it is
always the readiest step to the possession of the loaves and the fishes."

"Bob, I don't like the Whigs!"

"No more do I. They are a bad lot; but they are _in_, and that is every
thing. Yes, Augustus," continued Bob solemnly, "there is nothing else for
it. You must start as a pure Whig, upon the Revolution principles of
sixteen hundred and eighty-eight."

"It would be a great relief to my mind, Bob, if you would tell me what
those principles really are?"

"I have not the remotest idea; but we have plenty time to look them up."

"Then, I suppose I must swallow the Dutchman and the Massacre of Glencoe?"

"Yes, and the Darien business into the bargain. These are the principles
of your party, and of course you are bound to subscribe."

"Well! you know best; but I'd rather do any thing else."

"Pooh! never fear; you and Whiggery will agree remarkably well. That
matter, then, we may consider as settled. The next point to be thought of
is the constituency."

"Ay, to be sure! what place am I to start for? I have got no interest, and
if I had any, there are no nomination burghs in Scotland."

"Aren't there? That's all you know, my fine fellow! Hark ye, Dunshunner,
more than half of the Scottish burghs are at this moment held by

"You amaze me, Bob! The thing is impossible! The Reform Bill, that great
charter of our liberties - - "

"Bravo! There spoke the Whig! The Reform Bill, you think, put an end to
nomination? It did nothing of the kind, it merely transferred it. Did you
ever hear of such things as CLIQUES?"

"I have. But they are tremendously unpopular."

"Nevertheless, they hold the returning power. There is a Clique in almost
every town throughout Scotland, which loads the electors as quietly, but
as surely, as the blind man is conducted by his dog. These are modelled on
the true Venetian principles of secrecy and terrorism. They control the
whole constituency, put in the member, and in return monopolise the whole
patronage of the place. If you have the Clique with you, you are almost
sure of your election; if not, except in the larger towns, you have not a
shadow of success. Now, what I want to impress upon you is this, that
where-ever you go, be sure that you communicate with the Clique."

"But how am I to find it out?

"That is not always an easy matter, for nobody will acknowledge that they
belong to it. However, the thing is not impossible, and we shall certainly
make the experiment. Come, then, I suppose you agree with me, that it is
hopeless to attempt the larger towns?"

"Clearly. So far as I see, they are all provided already with candidates."

"And you may add, Cliques, Dunshunner. Well, then, let us search among
the smaller places. What would you think of a dash at the Stirling
District of Burghs?"

"Why, there are at least half-a-dozen candidates in the field."

"True, that would naturally lessen your chance. Depend upon it, some one
of them has already found the key to the Clique. But there's the
Dreepdaily District with nobody standing for it, except the Honourable
Paul Pozzlethwaite; and I question whether he knows himself the nature or
the texture of his politics. Really, Dunshunner, that's the very place for
you; and if we look sharp after it, I bet the long odds that you will
carry it in a canter."

"Do you really think so?

"I do indeed; and the sooner you start the better. Let me see. I know
Provost Binkie of Dreepdaily. He is a Railway bird, was an original
Glenmutchkin shareholder, and fortunately sold out at a premium. He is a
capital man to begin with, and I think will be favourable to you: besides,
Dreepdaily is in old Whig burgh. I am not so sure of Kittleweem. It is a
shade more respectable than Dreepdaily, and has always been rather
Conservative. The third burgh, Drouthielaw, is a nest of Radicalism; but I
think it may be won over, if we open the public-houses."

"But, about expenses, Bob - won't it be a serious matter?"

"Why, you must lay your account with spending some five or six hundred
pounds upon the nail; and I advise you to sell stock to that amount at
least. The remainder, should it cost you more, can stand over."

"Bob, five or six hundred pounds is a very serious sum!"

"Granted - but then look at the honour and the immunity you will enjoy.
Recollect that yours is an awkward predicament. If you don't get into
Parliament, I see nothing for it but a stoppage."

"That's true enough. Well - hang it, then, I will start!"

"There's a brave fellow! I should not in the least wonder to see you in
the Cabinet yet. The sooner you set about preparing your address the

"What! without seeing Provost Binkie?"

"To be sure. What is the use of wading when you can plunge at once into
deep water? Besides, let me, tell you that you are a great deal more
likely to get credit when it is understood that you are an actual

"There is something in that too. But I say, Bob - you really must help me
with the address. I am a bad hand at these things, and shall never be able
to tickle up the electors without your assistance."

"I'll do all I can. Just ring for a little sherry and water, and we'll set
to work. I make no doubt that, between us, we can polish off a plausible

Two hours afterwards, I forwarded through the post-office, a missive
addressed to the editor of the Dreepdaily Patriot, with the following
document enclosed. I am rather proud of it, as a manifesto of my political


"GENTLEMEN, - I am induced, by a requisition, to which are appended the
signatures of a large majority of your influential and patriotic body, to
offer myself as a candidate for the high honour of your representation in
the ensuing session of Parliament. Had I consulted my own inclination, I
should have preferred the leisure of retirement and the pursuit of those
studies so congenial to my taste, to the more stormy and agitating of
politics. But a deep sense of public duty compels me to respond to your

"My views upon most subjects are so well known to many of you, that a
lengthened explanation of them would probably be superfluous. Still,
however, it may be right and proper for me to explain generally what they

"My principles are based upon the great and glorious Revolution settlement
of 1688, which, by abolishing, or at least superseding, hereditary right,
intrusted the guardianship of the crown to an enlightened oligarchy for
the protection of an unparticipating people. That oligarchy is now most
ably represented by her Majesty's present Ministers, to whom,
unhesitatingly and uncompromisingly, except upon a very few matters, I
give in my adhesion so long as they shall continue in office.

"Opposed to faction and an enemy to misrule, I am yet friendly to many
changes of a sweeping and organic character. Without relaxing the ties
which at present bind together church and state in harmonious coalition
and union, I would gradually confiscate the revenues of the one for the
increasing necessities of the other. I never would become a party to an
attack upon the House of Peers, so long as it remains subservient to the
will of the Commons; nor would I alter or extend the franchise, except
from cause shown, and the declared and universal wish of the non-electors.

"I highly approve of the policy which has been pursued towards Ireland,
and of further concessions to a deep-rooted system of agitation. I approve
of increased endowments to that much neglected country; and I applaud that
generosity which relieves it from all participation in the common burdens
of the state. Such a line of policy cannot fail to elevate the moral tone,
and to develop the internal resources of Ireland; and I never wish to see
the day when the Scotsman and the Irishman may, in so far as taxation is
concerned, be placed upon an equal footing. It appears to me a highly
equitable adjustment that the savings of the first should be appropriated
for the wants of the second.

"I am in favour of the centralising system, which, by drafting away the
wealth and talent of the provinces, must augment the importance of London.
I am strongly opposed to the maintenance of my local or Scottish
institutions, which can merely serve to foster a spirit of decayed
nationality; and I am of opinion that all boards and offices should be
transferred to England, with the exception of those connected with the
Dreepdaily district, which it is the bounden duty of the legislature to
protect and preserve.

"I am a friend to the spread of education, but hostile to any system by
means of which religion, especially Protestantism, may be taught.

"I am a supporter of free trade in all its branches. I cannot see any
reason for the protection of native industry, and am ready to support any
fundamental measure by means of which articles of foreign manufacture
maybe brought to compete in the home market with our own, without
restriction and without reciprocity. It has always appeared to me that our
imports are of far greater importance than our exports. I think that any
lowering of price which may be the result of such a commercial policy,
will be more than adequately compensated by a coercive measure which shall
compel the artisan to augment the period of his labour. I am against any
short hours' bill, and am of opinion that infant labour should be
stringently and universally enforced.

"With regard to the currency, I feel that I may safely leave that matter
in the hands of her Majesty's present Ministers, who have never shown any
indisposition to oppose themselves to the popular wish.

"These, gentlemen, are my sentiments; and I think that, upon
consideration, you will find them such as may entitle me to your cordial
support. I need not say how highly I shall value the trust, or how
zealously I shall endeavour to promote your local interests. These,
probably, can be best advanced by a cautious regard to my own.

"On any other topics I shall be happy to give you the fullest and most
satisfactory explanation. I shall merely add, as a summary of my opinions,
that while ready on the one hand to coerce labour, so as to stimulate
internal industry to the utmost, and to add largely to the amount of our
population; I am, upon the other, a friend to the liberty of the subject,
and to the promotion of such genial and sanatory measures as suit the
tendency of our enlightened age, the diffusion of universal philanthropy,
and the spread of popular opinion. I remain, GENTLEMEN, with the deepest
respect, your very obedient and humble servant,

"_St Mirren's House,
"June, 1847_."

The editor of the Dreepdaily Patriot, wisely considering that this
advertisement was the mere prelude to many more, was kind enough to
dedicate a leading article to an exposition of my past services. I am not
a vain man; so that I shall not here reprint the panegyric passed upon
myself, or the ovation which my friend foresaw. Indeed, I am so far from
vain, that I really began to think, while perusing the columns of the
Patriot, that I had somewhat foolishly shut my eyes hitherto to the
greatness of that talent, and the brilliancy of those parts which were now
proclaimed to the world. Yes; it was quite clear that I had hitherto been
concealing my candle under a bushel - that I was cut out by nature for a
legislator - and that I was the very man for the Dreepdaily electors. Under
this conviction, I started upon my canvass, munimented with letters of
introduction from M'Corkindale, who, much against his inclination, was
compelled to remain at home.


Dreepdaily is a beautiful little town, embosomed in an amphitheatre of
hills which have such a winning way with the clouds that the summits are
seldom visible. Dreepdaily, if situated in Arabia, would be deemed a
Paradise. All round it the vegetation is long, and lithe, and luxuriant;
the trees keep their verdure late; and the rush of the nettles is amazing.

How the inhabitants contrive to live, is to me a matter of mystery. There
is no particular trade or calling exercised in the place - no busy hum of
artisans, or clanking of hammer or machinery. Round the suburbs, indeed,
there are rows of mean-looking cottages, each with its strapping lass in
the national short gown at the door, from the interior of which resounds
the boom of the weaver's shuttle. There is also one factory at a little
distance; but when you reach the town itself, all is supereminently
silent. In fine weather, crowds of urchins of both sexes are seen sunning
themselves on the quaint-looking flights of steps by which the doors,
usually on the second story, are approached; and as you survey the swarms
of bare-legged and flaxen-haired infantry, you cannot help wondering in
your heart what has become of the adult population. It is only towards
evening that the seniors appear. Then you may find them either congregated
on the bridge discussing politics and polemics, or lounging in the little
square in affectionate vicinity to the public-house, or leaning over the
windows in their shirt-sleeves, in the tranquil enjoyment of a pipe. In
short, the cares and the bustle of the world, even in this railroad age,
seem to have fallen lightly on the pacific burghers of Dreepdaily.
According to their own account, the town was once a peculiar favourite of
royalty. It boasts of a charter from King David the First, and there is an
old ruin in the neighbourhood which is said to have been a palace of that
redoubted monarch. It may be so, for there is no accounting for
constitutions; but had I been King David, I certainly should have
preferred, a place where the younger branches of the family would have
been less liable to the accident of catarrh.

Dreepdaily, in the olden time, was among the closest of all the burghs.
Its representation had a fixed price, which was always rigorously exacted
and punctually paid; and for half a year thereafter, the corporation made
merry thereon. The Reform Bill, therefore, was by no means popular in the
council. A number of discontented Radicals and of small householders, who
hitherto had been excluded from participation in the good things of the
state, now got upon the roll, and seemed determined for a time to carry
matters with a high hand, and to return a member of their own. And
doubtless they would have succeeded, had not the same spirit been abroad
in the sister burghs of Drouthielaw and Kittleweem, which, for some
especial reason or other, known doubtless to Lord John Russell, but
utterly unintelligible to the rest of mankind, were, though situated in
different counties, associated with Dreepdaily in the return of their
future member. Each of these places had a separate interest, and started a
separate man; so that, amidst this conflict of Liberalism, the old member
for Dreepdaily, a Conservative, again slipped into his place. The
consequence was, that the three burghs were involved in a desperate feud.

In these days there lived in Dreepdaily one Laurence Linklater, more
commonly known by the name of Tod Lowrie, who exercised the respectable
functions of a writer and a messenger-at-arms. Lowrie was a remarkably
acute individual, of the Gilbert Glossin school, by no means scrupulous in
his dealings, but of singular plausibility and courage. He had started in
life as a Radical, but finding that that line did not pay well, he had
prudently subsided into a Whig, and in that capacity had acquired a sort
of local notoriety. He had contrived, moreover, to gain a tolerable
footing in Drouthielaw, and in the course of time became intimately
acquainted with the circumstances of its inhabitants, and under the plea
of agency had contrived to worm the greater part of their title-deeds into
his keeping.

It then occurred to Lowrie, that, notwithstanding the discordant situation
of the burghs, something might be done to effect a union under his own
especial chieftainship. Not that he cared in his heart one farthing about
the representation - Tyrian and Trojan were in reality the same to him - but
he saw that the gain of these burghs would be of immense advantage to his
party, and he determined that the advantage should be balanced by a
corresponding profit to himself. Accordingly, he began quietly to look to
the state of the neglected register; lodged objections to all claims given
in by parties upon whom he could not depend; smuggled a sufficient number
of his own clients and adherents upon the roll, and in the course of three
years, was able to intimate to an eminent Whig partisan, that he, Laurence
Linklater, held in his own hands the representation of the Dreepdaily

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