« PreviousContinue »
convenience and assistance of foreign and inland traders and manufacturers, to discuss memorials regarding trade, to assist in procuring redress for trade grievances, to consider the Corn Laws in so far as they affected the industrious poor, and, in general, to take cognisance of everything in the least degree connected with commerce or manufactures. In November, 1789, Mr. Colquhoun removed with his family to London, mainly for the purpose of promoting a Scottish trade there. Having, however, composed several popular treatises on the subject of Police Government, he was, in 1792, when seven police offices were established, appointed to one of them through the influence of his friend, Henry Dundas, afterwards Viscount Melville. Three years later he published a treatise on the Police of the Metropolis, which passed through six editions, and brought him the honorary degree of LL.D. from Glasgow University. He was also appointed by the local legislature of the Virgin Islands, in the West Indies, agent for the colony in Great Britain. In 1800, Mr. Colquhoun published his important work on the Police of the River Thames, containing an historical account of the trade of the port of London, and suggesting means for the protection of the River and adjacent wharves and warehouses. His plan was afterwards adopted, and a new police office erected at Wapping. As some acknowledgment of the success of his endeavours to promote the safe navigation of the Thames, it is mentioned by his biographer that the West India merchants presented him with £500, while the Russian Company voted him a piece of plate valued at 100 guineas. Mr. Colquhoun's early publications in Glasgow, at least eight in number, had chiefly reference to the cotton trade and the exchange of home manufactures with foreign countries. While on the Police Bench in the Metropolis he issued "Friendly Advice to the Labouring Poor" (1799); "Police of the River Thames," already referred to (1800); "Suggestions, drawn up at the desire of the Lords of Council, for the Encouragement of Soup Establishments" (1800); "The Duties of a Constable" (1803); "A New System of Education" (1806); "Indigence," exhibiting a general view of the national resources for productive labour (1806); and finally, his largest, if not
most important work, on "The Population, Wealth, Power, and Resources of the British Empire in every quarter of the World, including the East Indies " (4to, 1814). The career of this active, practical philanthropist was closed in London in April, 1820, when it was found he had bequeathed the interest of £200 for division yearly among poor people of the name of Colquhoun, residing in the parishes of Dumbarton, Cardross, Bonhill, and Old Kilpatrick, not in receipt of parochial relief. Dr. Colquhoun died at his residence, St. James' Street, Pimlico, and was buried in the Churchyard of St. Margaret's, Westminster, adjoining the Abbey. A memorial tablet near the west door of the church (the old parish church of Westminster) makes lengthy mention of Dr. Colquhoun's varied labours and attainments, the well-merited eulogium concluding by making mention of his mind as "fertile in conception, kind and benevolent in disposition, bold and persevering in execution."
TIME, exercising its usual influence, has smoothed down many asperities arising out of controversies in which Sir Archibald Alison was concerned as a politician or historian. Dead now (Dec., 1882) for over fifteen years, it is pleasant to brush aside opinions on social questions, erroneous as we thought them at the time, although held with unflinching sincerity, and think only of the impartial painstaking judge, the industrious author, the high-minded accomplished gentleman. Parliamentary Reform, the Currency, the Corn Laws, and even Education, have all moved from the lines for which Sir Archibald battled with unwearied persistence, but years as they roll on have in no way lessened the justly high reputation of the courageous magistrate whom neither conspirators nor rioters could intimidate. The two new handsome volumes, modestly
styled "Some Account of my Life and Writings," edited with much intelligent discretion by the present Lady Alison, proceeds on the principle now widely recognised, that an author who has met with any degree of success owes a brief account of his career, on private as well as public grounds-to the family, that his memory may not be injured after death, as happened on a recent memorable occasion, by the indiscreet zeal of surviving friends or the injudicious disclosures of partial biographers; to his country, that readers may know by what means success was obtained, and how often it falls to those who apply themselves with industry to such task as they undertake. Sir Archibald Alison would appear never to have kept a "Journal," in the ordinary sense of the term, but when he died in May, 1867, he left in manuscript an Autobiography written at various times of leisure from 1851, and which was complete from his earliest years to the close of his literary career in 1862. appearance of vanity, no part of the "Autobiography" was to or even to be shown to any one during Sir Archibald's life. object, as explained by himself, was to convey to future times, if the work should live so long, a faithful portrait of the eventful period in which he lived and of the many eminent persons he had met during a long and varied life. By his will the Sheriff constituted his eldest son, now famous as General Sir Archibald Alison, his literary executor, and expressed a wish that the work should be printed at as early a period as might be deemed advisable. A few years ago it was thought the time had arrived when this might be done, but the nature of the younger Sir Archibald's military profession would appear never to have left him the quiet and leisure necessary to revise the manuscript. The task was therefore undertaken by his wife, Lady Alison, and executed with much fidelity, as a labour of love. Son of the Rev. Archibald, a clergyman of the Church of England, author of two volumes of Sermons, but still more widely known for his finished "Essay on Taste," and connected through his mother with the memorable Edinburgh family of Gregory, the Sheriff's very early days, or from his birth in 1792 till 1800, were passed in the parsonage
of Kenley, Shropshire. Chiefly for the purpose of securing a sound education for the family, his father, during the last-mentioned year, accepted the post of senior minister in the Episcopal Chapel, Cowgate, Edinburgh, and at the University there some years later study for the law was carried on till he passed as advocate in December, 1814. In the spring of that year the future historian made his first Continental trip, in company with P. F. Tytler and David Anderson of Moredun, and, although many years was to elapse before publication, it was the military displays in Paris during its occupation by the Allies which suggested the voluminous "History of Europe during the French Revolution." Earlier works were an anti-Malthusian Treatise on the Law of Population, and a useful book on the Criminal Law of Scotland, published in 1832. With a fair professional connection from the commencement of his career, official promotion naturally followed, his friend Sir William Rae, the Tory Lord-Advocate, bestowing on Alison in 1822 a Deputeship, which he held till 1830, when the Wellington Ministry was defeated on a division regarding the Civil List. The connection with "Blackwood" began with the first of a series of papers on the French Revolution, January, 1831. The appointment to the Sheriffship of Lanarkshire was made in 1834, during the period of Sir Robert Peel's first but short-lived Ministry.
A domestic interest surpassing anything connected with either the Sheriffship or the Baronetcy centered in two sons while on their first active service in the Crimea with the 72nd Highlanders, under Sir Colin Campbell as General of Division. The first interview of Captain, now General Sir Archibald, with Sir Colin is told graphically enough. Uncertain one night where to place his men in the trenches, he politely solicited instructions from his General, who was met by accident. "Don't ask me," replied Sir Colin; "I don't even know where I am." "Oh," resumed Captain Alison, "I think I can show you where you are," and with these words he drew from his breast a drawing of the trenches which he had copied in the inside of an envelope. Having pointed out the locality and placed his men, Sir Colin, after a little further
conversation, said "Well, Sir, you seem to be a sensible fellow; come to my chateau at two in the morning, when all is quiet, and we will have some talk.” Captain Alison naturally complied, and found the General's chateau to be a little hollow in the earth, just capable of holding two or three persons, in the middle of the trenches occupied by the Highlanders. They remained there for a short time in the dark, talking of the siege, and then separated to return to their respective duties. Captain, soon after to be Major Alison, accompanied Lord Clyde as military secretary during the Indian Mutiny, and was present at the relief of Lucknow, where he lost his left arm.
Projected, as has been mentioned, so early as 1814, it was not till fifteen years later that the composition of the "History," the great literary labour of Sir Archibald's life, was seriously begun. The first volumes appeared in 1839, the last of the Revolution set in 1842, the planning and writing thus extending over twenty-eight years, or five years longer than Gibbon devoted to his "Roman Empire." When Sir Archibald had completed his last page, far into a summer morning at Possil, the words of Gibbon on a similar occasion, in the summerhouse at Lausanne, naturally enough recurred to his mind-not that the books were to be compared with each other, but he felt that his labour had been pursued with as much perseverance, and had been the source of at least equal pleasure. Sir Archibald's work was generally accepted as upon the whole a valuable addition to European literature, such defects as were manifested being rather matters of taste and political opinion than literal inaccuracies, although there was no lack of these in the early editions. So far as the expression of political opinion was concerned, some readers approved, others overlooked them, and even the most fastidious admitted that it did not materially interfere with the great plan of the work. Its merits were admitted for minuteness and honesty-qualities which were accepted as a reasonable excuse for even a faulty style, strong political prejudices, and exaggerated declamation. His narrative of war operations especially were admitted to be not only minute and spirited, but to display considerable scientific knowledge. The different battlefields,