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Kay's Originals Vol. 1

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Volume 8 Page 521
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374 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. this copartnery he was very prosperous ; and his good fortune was increased by obtaining the hand of Miss Mansfield, the daughter of the principal partner.. . Mr. Stirling first became connected with the Town Council in 1771, when he was elected one of the Merchant Councillors. During the years 1773-4, he held the. office of Treasurer; and from 1776 till 1790 was frequently in the magistracy. At the annual election of the latter year, he was chosen Lord Provost, and held that office during the city riots of 1792. The Reform of the Royal Burghs of Scotland had been keenly agitated throughout the country for some time previous; and a motion on the subject, by Mr. Sheridan, in the House of Commons, on the 18th of April, which was negatived by a majority of twentysix, had incensed the public to a great degree. Henry Dundas, Lord Melville, than Principal Secretary of State for the Home Department, by his opposition to the motion, rendered himself so obnoxious to the people, that in various parts of Scotland he was burnt in effigy by the mob. The Pitt administration had become unpopular by a proclamation issued at the same time against certain publications-a measure which the people viewed as an attack upon the liberty of the press. In this state of excitement the authorities of Edinburgh contemplated the approaching King's birthday, on the 4th of June, with much uneasiness ; but the measures of precaution adopted by them were imprudent, and tended rather to irritate than conciliate the populace. The disturbances which ensued are thus recorded in the journals of the day :- At this period politics ran high. " The Magistrates of Edinburgh having got information by anonymous letters and otherwise, that on ,the King's birth-day, many persons who had taken offence at the parliamentary conduct of Mr. Duudas, in the opposition of the Scottish Borough Reform, were determined to burn his eEgy, in imitation of the burghs of Dundee, Aberdeen, etc., in consequence of this information, they took the opinion of the high officers of the Crown, with regard to the conduct which it was proper to pursue, when they resolved to prevent, if possible, the designs of the populace, by bringing in some troops of dragoons to overawe and intimidate them. Accordingly, in the afternoon of the King's birth-day (Monday, 4th June 1792), the dragoons made their appearance in Edinburgh, riding furiously through the streets, with their swords drawn.l This behaviour, instead of having the desired effect, provoked the indignation of the people, who saluted them with bootings and hisses as they parsed along. Jn the afternoon, when the Xagistrates were assembled in the Parliament House to drink the usual healths and loyal toasts, the populace also assembled, and were indulging themselves, according to a custom which has prevailed in Edinburgh for many years, in the throwing of dead cats, etc., at one another, and at the city-guard, who are always drawn up to fire volleys as the healths are drunk by the Magistrates. At this time some dragoon officers, incautiously appearing on the streets, were insulted by the rahble. This induced them to bring out their men, who were accordmgly directed to clear the streets. Some stones were thrown at them ; but at last the mob retired without doing any material mischief. " On the evening of the next day, Tuesday, a number of persons assembled before Mr. Dundas's house in George Square, with a figure of straw, which they hung upon a pole, and were proceeding to burn, when two of Mr. Dundas's friends came out from the house, and very imprudently attempted to disperse the mob by force. Their conduct was immediately resented. The gentlemen were soon So furiously did they gallop up the High Street, that on passing the Luckenbooths, where the street was extremely narrow, one of the horsemen came violently in contact with the corner of the buildings, and was thrown with great force to the ground, where he lay apparently insensible for a eonsiderable time before any one came to his assistance-the people being greatly incensed by the appearance of the military.
Volume 8 Page 522
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