William Thomson.

A tour in England and Scotland, in 1785 online

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to a great height ; and on the north, and
north-weft, by the Firth of Forth, Fife, and
the Grampians over-topping intervening
hills, and raifing their blue fummits to the
flues. The objecls feen from hence are not
only fitted to pleafe and foothe the imagi-
nation, by their natural fublimity and beau-
ty, but fuch as aflbciate in the mind of a
Scotchman, the moft important paflages in


the hiftory of his country, and arc, on that
account, doubly interesting. For, without
entering into the queftion ftarted by the
learned and ingenuous profeiTor Reid, (the
father in this country of that philofophy,
which is injurioufly afcribed by many to Dr.
Beattie of Aberdeen) whether it be not fome-
thing moral that is at bottom of that plea-
fare which we take in contemplating the
grandeur and beauty of natural objedts, cer-
tain it is, that where we are interefled in any
fcene by moral affbciations, its beauties arc
perceived and relifhed with double fenfibility
and ardour. A traveller might behold from
one of the Cordilleras, or Andes, in South
America, a fpe6lacle ftill more extenfive and
majeitic, than what is to be enjoyed from
any of the mountains of Savoy. But how
different the efFecls of thefefublime profpecls,
on the mind of the cultivated European ?
Italy and the Mediterranean Sea, are out-
done in extent and natural magnificence by
Chili, and the Pacific Ocean : nor is the Po,


with the Plain of Lombardy, to be com-
pared with the Rio de la Plata, or the River
of the Amazons, and the regions that are ex-
tended on their fhores : but they excite not
thofe ideas and correfpondent emotions that
are luggerced to the mind by the hi (lory of
the Egyptians, the Phcenecians, the Car-
thaginians, the Greeks, and the Romans.

But, at the fame time that the New Town
of Edinburgh emphatically difplays the
profperity of Scotland, and that profperity
leads us to the Union which gave it birth,
we muft acknowledge that this great political
meafure, if it conferred on the people of
Scotland the bleilings of free government,
and extended commerce, was yet attended
with many difadvantages. It deprived the
Scots of the commercial privileges which
were granted to them by foreign nations,
particularly by France, and fubjecled them,
while their trade was yet ill able to bear it,
to the difcou raging cuftoms and impofls
which took place in England. It flunned


and checked the commerce on their eaftern
coafts. It almofl difmantled the beautiful
peninfula of Fife, of that chain of towns that
fringed its coafts. It drew the nobility and
principal gentry to London. And fo languid
and melancholy was the ftate of Scotland,
like a tranfplanted vegetable before it ftrikes
its roots into the new foil, that within fix or
feven years after the Union, a motion was
made by the Scotch peers, in the Houfe of
Lords, for its difTolution. The blood hr.s
now returned to the mod northerly extre-
mities of the empire : but its influx to the
heart left them long pale and trembling.

By the Union, too, the Scotch nation muft
have loft not a little of their national charac-
ter > and that ardour which is infpired by the
prefcnce of the fovereign, and the exclulive
direction of their own affairs. If a nation
is fmall, and inhabits a narrow country, they
lofe their independence, and fall under the
power of fome powerful neighbour. If they
are very numerous, and inhabit a large and


extenfive territory, they are difunited, and
lofe fight of their interefts and honour, as
one community. A few ingrofs the ma-
nagement of public affairs, and with-hold
or (hade from the many, the fubjetts of pub-
lic zeal and political occupation. The
greater part are thrown into a ftate of lan^
guor and obfcurity, and fuffer thernfelves, as
is well obferved by Profeffor Fergufon, to be
governed at difcretion, The Roman people
loft their patriotifm, when the rights of
Romans were extended to the other nations
of Italy*

The body of the Scotch people, it is
true, rather gained political importance by
the Union of their nation with England,
than loft it : for, though excluded by the
ariftocratical fway that prevails in Scotland
from parliamentary elections, by the Union
they acquired wealth, which is always at-
tended by influence and power in various
fiiapes : and, on all public emergencies, and
in all great political queftions, the voice of


rrien of property will always make its way,
and have its effect in the aflemblies of the
nation. But, what would the face of af-
fairs have been in Scotland, if the people,
as in England, had been made partakers of
political power, and the antient race of their
kings have flill fwayed the fceptre within
the precincts of the kingdom ? With thefe ad-
vantages, with a nouriihing colony at Darien,
and the favour of all the national enemies of
England, what progrefs would they not have
made in manufactures, arts, navigation,
commerce, and all that gives power and fplen-
dour to nations ? Fortunately for England,
thefe fuppoiitions were never realized, and
both nations are happily united in one for-
tune and fate, as in one ifland.

If the New Town of Edinburgh excel! s the
Old in beauty, elegance, and commodious
as well as falubrious difpofition and fituation,
the Old excells the New in variety, boldnefs,
and grandeur of afpecl. Both of them bear
marks, and may be confidered as emblema-

T tical

tical of the ages in which they received their
complexion and form. As the antient city
of Edinburgh is boldly terminated by the
caftle, on the weft fide, fo it is ftill more
nobly bounded by Salijlury Craggs, and Ar-
thur s Seat on the eaft : the firft denominated
from the Earl of Salifbury, who, in the reign
of Edward III. accompanied that prince in-
an expedition againft the Scots ; the laft
from Arthur, the Britifb prince, who, in the
end of the fixth century r defeated the Saxons
in the neighbourhood of that confpicuous

Arthur's Seat rifes, in a manner, bold and
abrupt, till its rocky fummit reaches an
height five hundred feet from the bafe. On
the weft fide of this hill, and on the other
fide of a fmall marfliy dell, lie Salifbury
Craggs, which prefent to the city an awful
front of broken and bafaltic rocks. Thefe,
befides ores, fpars, rock plants, and here
and there, it is faid, fome precious ftones,
afford an inexhauftible fupply of hard ftones


( 291 )

for pavement, and other purpofes ; and
it is from this quarry that we have a great
part of thofe which pave the ftreets of
London. The hand of the quarry-man has
worn down a part of the Craggs into a fpa-
cious fhelf, ftretching about midway from
their fummit to their bafe.

From this lofty terrace, which, at all times,
forms a dry walk, fheltered from the north-eaf-
terly and earl: winds, you look down on Edin-
burgh, of which, with its environs, and the ad-
jacent country, you have a near and diftincl:
profpecl:. But from the top of Arthur's Seat
the view is more noble and extenfive. The
German Ocean, the whole courfe of the
Forth, the diftant Grampians, and a large
portion of the moft populous and beft culti-
vated part of Scotland, form a landfcape fub-
lime, various, and beautiful. The filence,
folitude, and rugged afpecl of thefe neigh-
bouring hills, with adjacent morafles and
lakes, form a ftriking contraft with tire hur-
ry, the din, and the fnug artificialnefs of the

T 2 city 5

city; while the buftle, the anxiety, and the
conftraint of a city life, on the other hand,
fet off, and endear the charms of thefe rural
haunts, whofe genius, from the wild heights
of nature, looks down with amazement at
the vain cares, and with contempt, on the
proudeft edifices of toiling mortals. This
romantic ground, this affemblage of hills,
rocks, precipices, morafles, and lakes, was
enclofed by James V. and formed into a
park, belonging to the palace of Holyrood-
houfe, with which it communicates. Both
park and palace, with certain portions of
ground adjoining to the latter, afford an
afylum for infolvent debtors, who cannot
complain of wanting, in this fpacious prifon,
either air or exercife.

From the top of Arthur's Seat, you are
entertained with the fight of a very great
number of beautiful villas and gentlemen's
feats. Of thefe I fhall only mention Dud-
dinglton, the elegant manfion of the Earl of
Abercorn. Arthur's Seat, on the fouth, is,


( 2 93 )

Ln many parts, a perpendicular rock, com-
pofed of natural columns, regularly penta-
gonal, or hexagonal, about three feet in
diameter, and from forty to fifty feet
high. At the bottom of thefe bafaltes
is a lake of confiderable extent, and on the
other fide of this lake (lands Puddingfton.
The walks and ground about the 1-oufe,
which is at once a commodious habi-
tation, and a beautiful piece of architecture,
are laid out with great judgment. This vijr-
la is fo fituated as to be concealed from the
view of Edinburgh, which, as it is not two
miles from that city, (hews very ju ft tafte in
the noble proprietor. It would be difficult
to find another villa in Europe fo elegant,
and at the fame time fo rural and romantic
in its fituation, fo near a great city. I know
not of any great city that touches, like Edin-
burgh, on fuch fteep, rugged, and lofty an
hill, as Arthur's Seat, except Prague, the ca-
pital of Bohemia. On tli2 north-eaft fide of
Edinburgh lies the Calton-Hill, upon the top
of which there is an obfervatory, half-finifli-
T 3 ed.

cd. Around this hill there is a very pleafant
ferpentine walk, which commands a view of
the whole city of Edinburgh, and all the
adjacent country, which is well cultivated
and enriched with wood. You have alfo,
from this eminence, a view of Leith, the
whole Firth of Forth out to the fea, the
town of Prefton-Pans, and many other ob-

Leith, which is between one and two miles
from Edinburgh, is the fea-port of that city,
and contains about ten thoufand inhabitants.
There is a tolerable pier at this place, with
about an hundred veflels belonging to it, of
different fizes, half of which, nearly, is em-
ployed in foreign, and the other half in the
coafting trade. The harbour is formed by
the conflux of the River Leith with the fea.
The depth of the water, at the mouth of the
harbour, is, at neap tides, about nine, but in
high fpring tides, about fixteen feet. The
town of Leith, fituated on the very brink of
the Forth, is evidently more commodious for


( 295 )

trade than that of Edinburgh, the inhabi-
tants of which have fallen on various expe-
dients to deprive their neighbours of thofe
advantages which arc held out to them by
die hand of nature.

The harbour of Leith was granted to the
community of Edinburgh, by a charter from
King Robert I. A. D. 1329 : but the banks
of the river that formed the harbour, be-
longed to Logan of Relialrig, from whom
the citizens were under the neceflity of pur-
chafing the wafte ground that lay between
their houfes and the river, for the purpofe
of wharfs for the conveniency of fhipping.
Neither could they keep fhops for the fale
of bread, wine, and other articles, nor build
magazines for corn, till the liberty of doing
fo was purchafed from the fuperior of the
ground. The citizens of Edinburgh, there-
fore, in order to exclude thole of Leith from,
.every branch of commerce, purchafed from
Logan an exclufive privilege of trade in that
town ; of keeping ware-houfes there, and
T 4 inns

( 296 )

inns for the reception and entertainment of
ftrangers. The inhabitants of this opprefTed
town were cheered, for a time, with the
hopes of relief from royal favour, but thefe
proved delufive -, and Leith continues, to this
day, to be dependent on Edinburgh.

Whether from a love of popularity, or that
natural benignity which jftirs in the human
breaft towards all who are not objects of ri-
vality and hatred, certain it is that, in every
nation, fovereign princes have ufually fhewn
marks of favour to the villages and towns
where they happened to take up their refi-
dence. Mary of Lorraine, Queen Regent,
on the eruption of thofe outrages that mark-
ed the courfe of the Reformation in Scotland,
perceived the importance of the town and
harbour of Leith, which opened a ready in-
let to troops from France, and afforded the
means of a retreat, on any defperate emer-
gency, to that kingdom. In this place me
frequently refided, and furrounded it with a
wall, ftrengthened with eight baftions. After


( 297 )

the inhabitants had purchafed from Reftalrig
the fuperiority of Leith, which they did at
the price cf 3000!. Scotch, fhe erected it into
a borough of barony, and promifcd to con-
ftilute it a royal borough. But, on her
death, Francis and Mary, violating the pri-
vate rights of the people of Leith, fold the
fuperiority of it to the community of Edin-r
burgh, to whom it has fmce been confirmed
by grants from fucceftive fovereigns.*

Between Edinburgh and Leith, there is a
fmall botanical garden, well flocked with
plants of various kinds. It is five acres in
extent : the foil, in general, light, fandy, or
gravelly. Although it is not quite twenty
years fmce it was made, the trees are fo far
advanced, as to afford good fhelter to the
tender plants, For this feminary, in which
botanical lectures are given every day, in the
fummer feafon, the world is indebted to
about 2000!. granted by the Britifli Govern-
ment, and 25!. annually from the city of


Arnot's Hiftory of Edinburgh.

Edinburgh, for paying the rent of the ground.
The city is undoubtedly deeply interefted in
every thing that may tend to attract Gran-
gers. They cannot employ the revenue of
their community to better purpofe, than in
beautifying the town, and promoting every
defign that may be fubfervient cither to uti-r
lity, elegance^ or advancement in fcience. It
is but juftice to the magiftrates pf Edin-
burgh, to obferve, that in the proraption
of thefe ends they are not backward.

The clear revenue of the city of Edin-
burgh, or that which remains after making
the fixed annual payments, amounts to about
12,000!. ilerling: and, it would have a-
mounted to one- third more, nay, probably,
to as much more, had it not been for the in-
troduction of tea, and the progreffive flames
of that infernal fpirit, whifky. Moil of the
royal boroughs of Scotland, I believe all of
them, have obtained from the legiflature, for
defray ing the expences of improvements, and
inflitutions of public utility, a duty of two-

( 299 )

pence Scotch, that is, two-thirds of one half-
penny, on the pint* of ale and beer, con-
fumed within their royalty or jurifdic"lion.
This duty was extended by ftatutc in 1723,
from the city of Edinburgh over the Canon-
Gate, the pariih. of St. Cuthbcrt's, (which is
to the Scotch metropolis, what Mary-le-
bone is to London) and South and North
Leith. This duty, in 1690, when levied only
in the city, amounted to . 4000 o o
In 1724, - to - 7939 16 i
J 73^ 6101 10 8

I75 o - - - 4758 18 8
1764 - - - 3550 o o
And in 1776 - - - 2197 o o
Since this period, I have been informed, it


A Scotch pint makes four Euglifh pints : but a Scotch
pound is only twenty-pence. About twenty years ago, an
Englifh gentleman, at an inn in P-Tth, was told that claret
could not be fold under three />W>, i. e. pounds a pint. He
at firft fwore he would have none of it : but he changed his
mind when he was informed, that the Scotch pound was only
twenty-pence : but that their pint contained two Englifli

( 3 )

has continued to decreafe, but to what pre-
cife extent I cannot determine.

The late King of Pruffia was wont to fay,
et What have we Germans to do with tea ?
In my younger days I ufed to take a cup of
ale, even for breakfafi, and I never felt my-
felf the worfe for it.'' The magiilracy
of Edinburgh will, no doubt, applaud the
practice of his Pruflian Majefty, and wifh
that their fellow-citizens had followed his
example. But, the difufe of drinking ale in
Scotland, which is unfortunately very gene-
ral, is not fo much to be lamented, on ac-
count of the public revenue of Edinburgh, as
of thofe pernicious confequences which flow
from thofe pf the liquors fubftituted in its

Without reprobating the ufeof tea, an ele-
gant, fafe, and pleafmg refreshment, as well
as a fubjec~l of a very extenfive commerce,
and public revenue, there will appear to be
too good ground for lamenting the general
rejection of ale in North Britain, when we


( 3 01 )

reflect on itsfuccfdjntum, among the middling
and lower ranks, whijky> a fpecies of drink
which is equally pernicious to health and to
morals. The diftilling of fpirits in Scotland,
has of late become a great branch of manufac-
ture. Stills have been multiplied exceedingly :
and the Scotch diftillers, from the cheapnefs
of fuel and labour, and other caufes, have
been able to underfell the London diftillers in
their own market. It has been thought pro-
per by the legiflature, to impofe fuch taxes
on thzjpzrit trade of Scotland, as (hall equa-
lize it with that of the metropolis. This is
certainly a departure from that anti-mono-
polizing fpirit, which is the bafis of the Com-
mercial Treaty, the moft important meafure
that has been taken by the prefent Admini-
flration. If Scotland, or any other province
or divifion of this ifland, pofleiFes peculiar
advantages for carrying on any branch of
manufacture or commerce, why mould it
not improve, and pufh them to their utmoft

extent ?

( 3 2 )

extent ? Not to enter into general reafoning,
on a point fo obvious, and to confine our
views to the cafe in queflion, it may be ob-*
ferved, that the flourifhing ftate of the diftil-
leries in Scotland, promotes agriculture in
Norfolk and Yorkfliire, and other counties
in England. But is it not to be greatly
doubted whether, on an enlarged fcale of po-
litics, and of morality, which enters deeply
into every found political fyftem, it be wif-
dom to fuffer people in any country to con-
vert into liquid fire, fo great a proportion of
that grain, which affords falubrious fufte-
nance to man and to beaft, and forms the
flrength of a nation by nurfmg up a race of
healthful peafants ?

The excitement that is given to agri-
culture by diftilleries, could never be ren-
dered either general or permanent. It is
a tranfient and improper fubjecl: of tax-
ation, and fource of revenue which flrikes at
the very vitals of the people, and infenfibly
deftroys the roots of population. From the
languor of fatigue among the labouring


( 33 )

poor, from that of inoccupation, or what is
commonly called ennui in others, and from
that difappointment and agitation of mind,
whether of joy or forrow, which is incident
to all the fons of men, there is fo general a
propenfity to intoxication, that all wife go-
vernments ought to guard againft the in-
creafe of fpirituous liquors, as that Promethean
fire which is the fpring of all human cala-
mities. Sound temperance, the parent of
regular indufhy, provides with eafe for all
the wants of nature, or bears up with ala-
crity under misfortunes which cannot be
avoided. The li-obvious draught, which
fteeps the fenfcs in forgctfulnefs for a while,
expofes them afterwards to the keeneft ar-
rows of adverfity.

But, it is faid, that the people will have
fpirituous liquors at all adventures ; and,
that it is equally advantageous to the reve-
nue and to agriculture, to encourage the mak-
ing of home, rather than the importation of
foreign fpirits. It is not, however, to be


fuppofed, that the people of Scotland would
confume as great a quantity of foreign fpi-
rits, as they do of their whifky, which, from
the multiplication of Hills* becomes every day
more and more common. Does the native
of France eat as much animal food as an
Englifhman ? Or an Englishman drink as
much wine as a Frenchman ? I mean, not
the higher, but the middling, and the lower
ranks of the people. Inftead of encouraging
or not difcouraging diftilleries, it would be
good policy to raife, by all means, the duty
on fpirits and malt, which would fall on the
higher ranks and the diftillers, and lower it
on ale and beer, which would afford a very
wholefome and nouriming beverage to the
poor and the labouring people.

This commutation would contribute
greatly to the health and the population of
the country, and have an happy influence on
the herring fisheries. The poor Scot has
neither porter nor ale. The ale, as he calls
it, or two-penny, which he was wont to



drink before the impofition of the n: alt-tax,
has been diluted by that grievance into a vvafli,
in companion of which, the common table-
beer of England is Burton ale. Hence the
general practice in Scotland, of drinking fpi-
rits mixed fometimes with water, butoftcner
unmixed. This " heating potion," as is
obferved by a lively writer, " is ill qualified
c{ to quench the thirft of a palate, fpiced,
" falted, and peppered with a Glafgow her-
" ring, an oaten cake, and an onion. In
" former days, in the golden age of Scotland,
<c when men were at liberty to turn their
" barley, without reflraint, into wholefome
" ale, men of all ranks, as appears, among
" other evidences, from the poems of Cap-
<c tain Hamilton, and the poet Allan Ram-
" fay, would meet together, either at home,
" or fome fnug thatched tavern, not far from
" their refpeftive refidences, and enjoy the
tc tale or the fong in favour of Caledonia,
" or fome other difcourfe, over a cup of na-
" tive ale, and the produce of the fifliing-
U hook

" hook and net, fetched out by cheerfuf
" hands on their native fhores. Then the
" herring fifheries flourifhed, and the Scot-
" tifh fleets were found in every part of the
<e world. But where is the falamander that
" can make a comfortable repaft on a gill of
" whilky and a pickled herring ?"

Without adopting this gentleman's exag^
gerated praifes of former times, when the
Scotrifh nation laboured under greater op-
preffions than even that which he complains
of, I heartily join him in recommending to
the fociety for promoting the fifheries, and
the gentlemen of Scotland in general, " to
" endeavour, by all means, to pour forth
" again, throughout the parched land of
" Caledonia, the refrefhing dreams of good
" ale."

Although there is not any poor's tax ia
Scotland, there is not a people in the world,
among whom real objects of companion find
readier protection and affiftance than the
Scots. To the honour of the lower clafs of


( 37 )

people in Scotland, it muft be mentioned,
that they think it difgraceful to beg, and
even to accept the fmalleft charitable dona-
tion. They therefore, for the moft part,
purfue their different paths of induftry, as
long as they are able to crawl about, and
fubfiil on the private bounty, however fcanty,
of their neareft relations, rather than make
their wants known to the parifli. It is only
real and clamant neceflity that urges the
humbled Scot to accept of the eleemofynary
contributions of his countrymen, which are
not compulfatory, but voluntary, being col-
lected at the church doors on Sundays, and
on other occafions of public worfhip. The
wandering beggars that are met with in Scot-
land, come from the Highland country,
where there is not fuch regular encourage-
ment to induftry as in the Lowlands, and
where a failure of fuch crops of corn as a
cold and mountainous country, in fo nor-
therly a latitude, is fitted to produce, often
drives the poor people to make a tour into
U 2 the

the low countries, as their only refource,
It muft be confeffed, at the fame time, that
an Highlander, who is, from the nature of
his country, and his manner of life, a more
erratic animal than a Lowlander, is drawn
forth to the field of mendicants by a fmaller
degree of neceffity. It is alfo to be obferved,
that the fhame of begging is not fo great,
when they travel among a different and dif-
tant people, as it would be in their own pa-
rifhes. Befides all this r the Highlanders
were wont to confider their Lowland neigh-
bours, whom they confidered as interlopers,
and denominated Saxons, in the light of ene-
mies, whom it was no dishonour to deprive
of their wealth, whether by rapine or felici-
tation. A crew of failors, thrown on dif-
tant and inimical fhores, feel little, if any
fliame in begging, or remorfe at feizing the
neceflaries and comforts of life, by whatever
means he may acquire them. Somewhat of
this irregular and iniquitous fentiment in.

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Online LibraryWilliam ThomsonA tour in England and Scotland, in 1785 → online text (page 13 of 16)