William Thomson.

A tour in England and Scotland, in 1785 online

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arid arts, villages into towns.- Our oldeft
boroughs, agreeably to thefe obfervations,
are fituated near places of ftrength, and the
manfiona of the great. They who took up
their refidence in fuch places, found it ne*
ceflary for their farther fecurity, to furround
them with walls or other fences. Hence the
towns or villages were termed burgs, and
their inhabitants, burgenfes, long before the
practice of incorporating them into commu-
nities by charter was introduced, either in
this ifland, or on the continent of Europe.

Burghers were of two forts : inhabitants of
burgs within the domains of fovereigns ; and
inhabitants of burgs within the territories of


( 26. )

powerful barons and ecclefiaftics. Each
burgefs paid a fixed fum yearly to the king,
or to the lord paramount, in whofe town he
lived or had his burgagium. Certain cuf-
toms were alfo exacted from the burgefTes by
the fuperior, whether the king or a fubject,
on the fale of different commodities. In
return for thefe exactions, the burgefles were
indulged from time to time with fundry pri-
vileges, which placed them in a very different
condition from the inhabitants of the coun-
try, or ruftici, whofe occupations were en-
tirely confined to agriculture or the breed of
cattle j and who, confined to the foil which
they were doomed to cultivate, were not al-
lowed to apply themfelves to any kind of
commerce or mechanical .employment. And,
for encouragement of .the country-people to
refort to the towns, it became a law in
Scotland and England, as well as in other
parts of Europe, that if the predial fa-ve, or
if that fhould be thought too flrong a term,
o predial labourer of any earl or baron, or


( 262 )

other proprietor, fhoukl purchafe a burgagium
in any burg, even to the extent of only one
rood, and remain therein for the fpace of a
year and a day without being challenged by his
lord, he fhould thenceforth be free j and en-
joy all the rights and immunities of a burgefs,
provided that he did not belong to the king.
All thefe privileges, however, were found
infufficientevento protect the king's burgefles
againft the tyranny and oppreflion of the
great lords in their neighbourhood. A new
policy was therefore introduced, of forming
them into communities by royal charters,
granting them a certain domain fubjecl to a
yearly quit-rent, and appointing officers to
be chofen by themfelves, for managing their
common affairs, and fettling their private
difputes. This practice appears to have been
introduced firft in France -, and, as it was a very
natural expedient in itfelf, in all kingdoms
where the feudal fyftem was eftablifhed, fo it
was quickly diffufed by a principle of imita-
tion throughout other European countries.


On each fide of the ridge 'that forms the
bafe of the Scotch metropolis is a very deep
valley. The northern one was once filled
with water, but it is now drained off, and a
bridge of three arches built over the dry
land, the centre arch 95 feet high. This
forms a communication with the North or
New Town, in which is a fpacious fquare
called St. Andrew's. Theftreets adjacent are
very wide and handfome : many of the
houfes are built of free ftone, ami are truly
magnificent. At the north end of this bridge
is a very elegant building, which is in-
tended for a regifter-office, and at the weft
end of the New Town, a ball-room, &c. is
erecting, which will, perhaps, furpafs in ele-
gant magnificence, any one in Britain. The
houfes on the north fide of the New Town.
command a beautiful view of the Firth, and
the town of Leith. On the fouth fide of the
cattle, are feveral public buildings. The
college, in which are about one thoufand
Undents, two hofpitals, which are large and
R 4 well

well endowed, a work-houfe, and a houfe for
lunatics. In this part of the city is a hand-
fome fquare called George's. We were prefent
at the laying the firft ftone of a new bridge
which is to form a communication from
the fouth to the centre part of the city, on a
ftrait line with the bridge which is already
built to the north. This is not only highly
conducive to convenience, but will have a
very handfome appearance. To enumerate
the other public buildings which are intend-
ed to be erecied in Edinburgh, would afto-
jii.li any perfon who confiders that Edin-
burgh is not a commercial city.

The parliament-houfe in the old city, is
about half as large as Weftminfter-hall; there
the court of feflion for Scotland is held, nine
of the lords always attending to dobufmefs.
Under the parliament-houfe is a public
library, which contains a great number of
antient and modern books. Near the library
(he public records are kept, among which we


( 265 )

were (hewn the articles of Union between
England and Scotland ; and it is fmgular to
obferve, that thofe articles are included irj.
twenty pages of folio parchment, each page
containing about twenty lines only : when,
at this period, twice as much parchment and
writing is confidered as neceflaiy to draw up
the marriage articles of a Highland laird, or
to convey an acre of land from one man to

Holyrood-houfe, which is a large palace*
forming a quadrangle, has a number of fpa-
cious rooms in it, and being ftill confidered
as a royal houfe, the fuit of apartments
which are intended for the king, are kept
as rooms of ftate, but have no furniture
in them. The other apartments are occu-
pied by the Duke of Hamilton, who is
keeper, and fome let to other noblemen. In
one of thofe rooms is a picture of Charles II.
and his queen going to mount their Jiorfes,
and a number of little fpaniels about them.
This picture was done by Vandyke, and


( 266 )

is inimitable. In the gallery are the por-
traits of all the kings r>f Scotland, many
of them well painted : but in the laft rebel-
lion fome foldiers who were quartered in the
palace, mifchievoufly tore the canvafs of
moil of them with their bayonets, The
chapel, which joins the palace, is a handfome
gothic building, and was roofed in by the
prefent Earl of Dundonald's father j but the

roof was made fo heavy, that it fell down, and
brought great part of the walls with it : fince
which time it has remained in ruins. In
this chapel we were {hewn by a woman, the
bones of Darnly, who was a remarkably large
man ; with thofe, too, of fome of the
other kings of Scotland, as fhe called them.
A human carcafs was alfo laid before us with
the flefh dried on, and remarkably well pre-
ferved. She called this the body of the
Countefs of Roxburgh, who had been buried
there for feveral hundred years. This exhi-
bition was the moft indelicate I ever beheld :
and it ought not to be fufFered.


( 267 -)

It is partly, perhaps, to the crouded and
inconvenient fituation of old Edinburgh,
that Scotland is indebted for the new town,
which may juftly be confidered as a national
ornament. Had the Scottiih* metropolis
been fituated on an eafy declivity, or a
plain, however narrow and irregular its
ftreets, the inhabitants would not have
looked about for a new fpot, but have con-
tented themfelves with making the mofl of
the old, and building, without a general
and comprehenfive plan, according to acci-
dent or to caprice. The filuation of Edin-
burgh did not eafily admit of fuch improve-
ment and extenfion as might correfpond, in
an elegant, luxurious, and enlightened age, to
the ideas and the wants of a people who have
their eyes open on the progreflive courfe of
fcience and art, and every invention that can
either embelliih, or add to the plcafure or
comfort of life. Happily the advancement
of agriculture, manufactures, and commerce,
has enabled the Scottim nation to realize and


( 268 )

give bodily conftitution and fhape, to thofe
Ideas of convenience and elegance which
they naturally acquire from their inquifitive
and fpeculative turn, and alfo from that en-
terprizing and wandering difpofition, which
carries them out as adventurers, in fo many
walks of life, not only into England, and
all the foreign dependencies of the Britifh
empire, but into every kingdom of note on
the face of the earth. The fpirit of adven-
ture not only tends to introduce into North
Britain new ideas or models of refine-
ment; but it it is a fource of wealth, as
well as commerce, or rather it is itfelf, con-
fidered in a natural view, a fpecies of com-
merce, and that of a very advantageous
|dnd, and in which the balance of trade is
wholly in its favour. A great part of the
Scottifh youth quit their country, from
about fifteen to twenty years of age, and
pafs through London, but without being na-
^uralized in it, and enervated by its vices, to
yarious countries, in purfuit of fame and


fortune. Their hearts by this time are im-
prefled with an attachment to their kindred,
their acquaintance, the companions of their
youth, perhaps to objects of the tendered
vows ; nay, and in fome degree, to the very
mountains, lakes, rivers, rocks and woods*
that give a fpecies of animation to a roman-
tic country, and even to wild wafles which
endear their native village, by excluding
grangers and marking it as their own.
Scotchmen, but particularly the Highlan-
landers, are well known to be fubjecl: to that
Waladieditpais, that longing defire of revifit-
ing their native country, which characterizes
{till more ilrongly the natives of Switzerland.
Soldiers, failors, merchants, phyficians, and
others, in whofe imaginations, Scotland hag
been uniformly uppcrmoft amidftall their pe-
regrinations and all the viciflitudes of life,
returning home with the earnings of in-
duftry and the favours of fortune, add to the
general wealth of the nation. Scotland,
though barren of many things, is yet fcrax

uirorum :

( 270 )

Dtrorum : and men undoubtedly are the mofl
important articles in any country.

Nor is the fpirit of adventure and emigra-
tion confined to the younger Cons of good
families : it is general throughout all ranks
and orders of fociety. This fpirit of adven-
ture is connected with another fpirit not lefs
general in Scotland: a fpirit of literature and
religion, which appear, at leaft, in the great
mafs of the people, to influence and fupport
each other. In this country, the middling
and lower ranks of the people are constant
and devout in their attendance on religious
duties ; worfhip God in their families once,
and often twice every dayj and, what will ap-
pear extraordinary, many, nay moil of them
are alert difputants in the abilracled and me-
taphyfical doctrines of religion, which their
chief care is to teach to their children : and
this religious turn is by far the mofl ftriking
feature in the character of the Scottifh na-


( 271 )

Learning had been planted in Great-Bri-
tain by apoftolical miffionaries, and Roman
colonies and legions, for feveral centuries be-
fore the Roman empire yielded to inunda-
tions of barbarians ; and, retiring before the
rude Saxons into Wales, Scotland, and the
adjacent iilands, maintained, even in fuch
fequeftered corners as Icolmkil, her facred
fire along with political independence, dur-
ing the darknefs of the middle ages. As far as
written memorials carry back our views, we
find a lettered education very general in Scot-
land. In every parifh, the clerk, who was alfo
precentor and fchool- matter, was inftructed
not only in arithmetic and the elements of geo-
metry and menfuration, but in the Latin, and
fometimes the Greek tongue j nay, and in fome
in fiances, in that logic and cafuiftry which
maintained their ground in the univerfities
and gave thefafiionor tone to the polite circles
of Europe for ages. It is fufficient to al-
lude to the hiflory of Abelard and the fa-
mous Crichton, to prove that there was a


C 272 )

time when it was accounted as gentleman-like
an accomplishment to be a fubtle reafoner, as
it is at prefent to excell in every thing that is
connected with elegance or miltary glory. A
tincture, at leaft, of erudition was often pof-
fefled even by nifties and mechanics, in rude
and turbulent periods ; and it muft have
been a very lingular fpectacle to a native of
Conftantinople or Rome, to behold a race of
learned and religious barbarians.

The fons of mechanics and fmall farmers,
after fpending the fummer and autumn in
various rural occupations, go to the parifli
fchool in winter, to learn writing, arithmetic,
and fometimes the Latin language : for, as to
Englifh, the boys and girls of the poorer fort
of people in Scotland, are taught, for the
Hiofl part, to read in the Bible even before
they fet their foot in a fchool. And a more
delightful piclure cannot be conceived by
human imagination, than that of a young
woman, in all the bloom of health and of
virtue, (pinning 1 flax with her little wheel,


( -73 )

with a child leaning on her knee, with his
catechifm, or fomc collection or portion of
the fcriptures laid on her lap : while the child
reads, the work is not interrupted ; for the
pious mother knows what he reads, by heart.
The religious education of the Scots na-
turally leads them to perufe not only books
connected with the Chriftian doctrines, but
books on all fubjecls. And, if we may be al-
lowed to compare great things to fmall, in
the fame manner that human literature was
indebted in a very high degree for its prefer-
vation, during the reign of barbarifm, and
its revival in the fifteenth and fixteenth cen-
turies, to the enquiries and difputes of reli-
gionifts ; fo the religious habits of the Scots
carry them forward to general reflection and
invefligation. The free and equal govern-
ment of the Saxons, and a more genial cli-
mate and foil, naturally turned the bent
of the Englifh nation to various purfuits
of induftry, and interefted them in thofe
public councils, in which they enjoyed a
S par-

( 2 74 )

participation. In Scotland, the natural ri-
gour of the climate and foil, the want of com-
merce and of political importance, and that
ftate of vafTalage and flavery, in which the
great body of the people were held by their
chieftains, prefented not to the activity of
their mind any grand objel of hope or of
exertion in this world, at leaft, within the
precincts of this ifland.* They therefore
looked around them to foreign nations, or
forward to a country and ftate of exiftence to
come. But the force of their rninds was
chiefly directed to the objects of religion,
which confoled them under their poverty and
civil flavery, by holding up to their views-
trie moil tranfporting hopes beyond death
and the grave, and raifing them to a fellow-
fliip and communion with the King of Kings,
in whofe fight all mortals are equal. This
expanded fentiment of citizenfhip and foci-
ety with fuperior beings, this religious enthu-


* Being the natural enemies before the Acceflion, and:
until the Union, the rivals of England.

( 275 )

fiafm, the moft powerful engine among mor-
tals, whenever it was powerfully excited,
formed a counterbalance, and fubverrcd in
Scotland all the powers of Government ; and at
all times, even the mofl tranquil, gave a firm-
nefs and dignity of conduct to the fmcere
profeflbr of religious principles, which to the
feudal tyrant was an object of jealoufy and
hatred. There are abundance of well-au-
thenticated inftances of lairds, a clafs of men
who form a kind of fecondary ariflocracy,
exprefling great antipathy to certain indi-
viduals who were their tenants, and even de-
priving them of their poflefiions, for no
other reafon than that they were tenacious
and zealous abettors of religious doclrines.
The haughty chief confidered religious zeal
as a kind of difloyalty to himfelf. In fact,
the grandeur of the laird was not a little di-
miniihed in the eyes of his tenants, when
once they became familiar with the Jewifli
prophets, who treated lords, princes, and
kings, as they dcfervcd, with great freedom

and feverity.

S 2 But

But, it is not the prefent object to illuf-
trate the political confequences that flow from
the religious turn of the Scots. Thefe in-
deed are fufficiently difplayed in the hiflory
of both Scotland and England. What is not
fo well underilood, is, that connection which
fubfifts between the literary and religious
genius of the Scottifh nation, on the one
part, and their fpirit of adventure and emi-
gration on the other. Literature, of which
religion is the moft important branch, is not
confined in Scotland to the circle of the few :
it extends to the many, and enlightens the
nation. Now, wherever we trace the pro-
grefs of knowledge and fcience, among an-
tient or modern nations, we behold their
powerful and beneficial tendency to elevate
as well as enlighten the mind, to dilate the
conceptions of men, to multiply their pro-
jects, and extend the fcene of their action.
The Scots, in every profeffion, from books,
from converfation, from the example of their
relations and acquaintance, acquire a fpirit


( 277 )

of enterprize, and launch forth as needy ad-
venturers . If they are fortunate, they return
with their wealth to their native country,
where they fettle, and raife and perpetuate
new races of travellers. This fpiritof wan-
dering will, however, abate of courfe, in
proportion to the improvement of their
own country, which, at prefent, appears to
be in a ftate of rapid progreflion. It is ob-
ferved, that aits of every kind make quicker
advances in countries that have been but
little cultivated, than in fuch as have enjoyed
the blefiings of Ikiil and indufhy, to a cer-
tain degree, for ages. As lime, or marie, or
any other manure, operates more quickly,
and with greater effect on new, than on old
ground, fo new inventions and inftitutions
iind eaficr admittance, as well as a freeer and
more rapid courfe, in countries not pre-oc-
cupicd by habits and cuftoms, than in fucfi
as are pofTefTed with a conceit, that they
have already reached the higheil pitch of im*
prove men t. The former are docile and ac-
S 3

tive : the latter prone to felf-conceit, and to
tread in beaten paths. For this reafon, va-
rious improvements are introduced with eafe
and with fuccefs into Rum* a, which are re-
jected by the Italians, the Portugueze, and
the Spaniards.

The; e is an evident, and a very impor-
tant diflinction, between nations in a ftate
of advancement, and nations in a ftate of
declination : thofe whom the ardour of
novelty and imitation carries forward to
improvement of every kind 5 and thofe who,
in familiar language, confider themfelves as
having had their day, who feel a degree of
melancholy dejec~lion and languor j who,
infcead of looking forward to a career in arts
and arms, have a conftant retrofpecl to fome
former period in their hirlory, and confole
themfelves by contemplating the talents, the
prowefs, the fplendour, and the fame of their
anceftors. But the fituation of Scotland
appears to be, in refpect to this diftinction,
fomewhat anomalous. For, though there


( 2 79 )

be not in Europe a nation of higher, per-
haps not of fuch high antiquity as Scotland,
that is, a nation more early, or fo early
known, that has preferred to the prefent day
its antient and original independence ; nor
yet any ftate or kingdom, now independent,
that was fooner vifited by literature and re-
ligion : yet it is certain, that in agriculture,
commerce, and mechanical arts, the Scots,
until late years, were greatly behind their
fouthern neighbours. Scotland then, in the
career of improvement, has darted, in the
prefent aufpicious sera, with peculiar advan-
tage. She looks backward with pride, yet
forward with alacrity ; and, with enlarged
views, ftudies to make the molt of her natu-
ral produce, and local fituation.

The face of Scotland, interfered with na-
vigable rivers, lakes, and arms of the fea, and
variegated with mountains, moorlands, and
fertile vallics and plains ; the face of Scot-
Lind, which yields nothing to floth, but re-
fufes not any boon to the hand of induftry,

S 4 and

( 280 )

and thus provides for the health and hap-
pinefs of her fons, infpired the fagacious mind
of Acjron Hill, half a century ago, with a
prefage, that this unripencd beauty would
have her day, and even excell her filler Eng-
land, whom he compared to a gay coquette.
Certain it is, that the great manufacturers of
England have migrated from the eaftern and
the fbuthern, to the weftern and the northern
coafts of England. The woollen manufac-
ture was at firft carried on in Kent, SuiTex,
and EfTex. It palled into Devonshire, where
it ftill flourifhes ; and has travelled from
thence northward into York/hire. Lan-
cafhire and Warwick/hire have, in like man-
ner, become the feats of manufactures in
iron and fteej, which were at firft carried on
folely in and near the metropolis, whither
they were imported frqm Flanders. Cheap-
nefs of labour, provifions, and fuel, regularity
of manners, induflry, exemption from heavy
taxes : thefe were the circumftances which
effected thofe vicifiitucles - t and tli-i fame


( 28. )

caufes will continue to produce the fame ef-

Human induftry levels all the inequalities
of nature, and even converts apparent diffi-
culties and impofli bill ties, into the means of
anfwering fome ufeful or elegant purpofe.
On the bofom of the ocean, which feems de-
ftined to keep the nations afunder from each
ether, the bufy merchant wafts home to the
fhores of the ilerile north, the produce of
more bountiful climates, which the hardi-
nsfs and activity natural to cold regions con-
vert into articles of convenience and lux-
urious accommodation. The world begins
now to look for the produce of the mulberry
and the cotton tree, to the land of thirties
and lloes : and to the fierce Caledonians,
for fuch works of fancy and taitc, as were
formerly expected only from Italy and
Greece. rBut it is time to return from this
digrefiion, to whicii we have been led by a
profpect of the New Town of Edinburgh, a


( 282 )

pleafing proof, at once, of opulence and ele-
gant tafte.

The North Loch, formerly a part of that
lake which antiently furrounded Edinburgh
on every fide, excepting a narrow neck of
land on the eaft, and afterwards an ofFenfive
marfn, drained, adorned with fhrubbery, and
fubjecied to a magnificent bridge, forms a
ftriking boundary between the Old and the
New Town, and adds to the beauty of
both. Befides the communication that is,
opened acrofs the mar fli between the towns,
by that magnificent ftruclure, a terrace,
which is every day enlarged, has lately
been extended between them from the
Lawn-Market, near the Caflle-Hill. This
terrace is formed by the rubbage of old
boufes, and the earth which is dug up in
laying the foundations of new ones. That
the earth and rubbage fhould be difpofed of
in this manner, was the contrivance of a
very judicious and cool-headed citizen, who
has borne all the honours of magiftraey,


( 283 )

and is called, in honour of his name, Prt/voft
Grieves Br/gg. This, though one of the
moft fimple, is at the fame time, one of the
moft Jailing monuments of his judgment,
and concern for the public, that could be
deviled by human invention. Statues, pil-
lars, maufoleums, temples, palaces : all
thefe foon moulder away through time,
if they are fpared by the antipathy of barba-
rian invafion. But the flructure charged
with the memory of the worthy provofl,
fafely low, can never fall. Renovated and
augmented, like the vegetables that adorn
the face of nature, by what appears ofFenfive
and redundant, it will flourifh throughout
ages and ages, and frefh ilowers will fpring
in honour of its founder. When the proud
arch, thrown orertliemarih, in another part,
(hall be again levelled with the ground, as
it once has been ; the paiTenger (hall pafs
fccure on Provoft Grieve's Brigg, which is
not to be over-turned but by fome earth-

( 284 )

quake or inundation, or other convulfion of

It would be premature, did it come within
the compafs of our plan, if there can be faid
to be any plan in a collection of memoran-
dums taken merely as they occurred, to en-
ter into a minute defcription of a nafcent
town. Let it fuffice, therefore, to fay, that
New Edinburgh is built, or a building, on
an elevated plain, extending for many miles
from eaft to weft, with a gentle declivity on
the fouth, where the profpecT: is terminated
by the town and caftle of the old city, and
an adjacent hill riling almoft perpendicularly

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Online LibraryWilliam ThomsonA tour in England and Scotland, in 1785 → online text (page 12 of 16)