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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. II


High Street.] THE BRITISH LINEN COMPANY. 279 resided here was John, fourth Marquis, who was Secretary of State for Scotland from 1742 till 1745, when he resigned the office, on which the Government at once availed themselves of the opportunity for leaving it vacant, as it has remained ever since. He died in 1762, and soon after the carriageentrance and the fine old terraced garden of the house, which lay on the slope westward, were removed to make way for the Episcopal church in the Cowgate-doomed in turn to be forsaken by its founders, and even by their successors. From the Tmeeddale family the mansion passed into the hands of the British Linen Company, and became their banking house, until they deserted it for Moray House in the Canongate, from which they ultiniatelymigrated to a statelier edifice inSt. Andrew Square. This company was originally incorpo- Tated by a charter under the Privy Seal granted by George 11. on the 6th of July, 1746, at a time when the mind of the Scottish people was still agitated by the events of the preceding year and the result of the battle of Culloden; and it was deemed an object of the first importance to tranquillise the country and call forth its resources, so that the attention of the nation should be directed to the advantages of trade and manufacture. With this view the Government, as well as many gentlemen of rank and fortune, exerted themselves to promote the linen manufacture, which had been lately introduced, deeming that it would in time become the staple manufacture of Scotland, and provide ample employment for her people, while .extensive markets for the produce of their labour would be found alike at home and in the colonies, then chiefly supplied by the linens of Germany. By the Dukes of Queensberry and Argyle, who became the first governors of the British Linen Company, representations to this effect were made to Government, and by the Earls of Glencairn, Eglinton, Galloway, Panmure, and many other peers, together with the Lord Justice Clerk Fletcher of Saltoun, afterwards Lord Milton, who was the first deputy governor, and whose mother, when an exile in Holland during the troubles, had secretly obtained a knowledge of the art of weaving and of dressidg the fine linen known as ? Holland,? and introduced its manufacture at the village of Saltoun; by the Lord Justice Clerk Alva ; Provost George Drummond ; John Coutts, founder of the famous banking houses of Forbes and Co., and Coutts and Co. in the Strand; by Henry Home, Lord Kames ; and many othqs, all of whom urged the establishment of the company, under royal sanction, and offered to become subscribers to the undertaking. A charter was obtained in accordance with their views and wishes, establishing the British Linen Company as a corporation, and bestowing upon it ample privileges, not only to manufacture and deal in linen fabrics, but also to do all that might conduce to the promotion thereof; and authority was given to raise a capital of ~roo,ooo, to be enlarged by future warrants under the sign manual of his Majesty, his heirs and successors, to such sums as the affairs of the company might .require. After this the company engaged to a considerable extent in the importation of flax and the manufacture of yarns and linens, having warehouses both in Edinburgh and London, and in its affairs none took a more active part than Lord Milton, who was an enthusiast in all that related to the improvement of trade, agriculture, and learning, in his native country; but it soon became apparent that the company ? would be of more utility, and better promote the objects of their institution, by enlarging the issue of their notes to traders, than being traders and manufacturers themselves.? By degrees, therefore, the company withdrew from all manufacturing operations and speculations, and finally closed them in 1763, from which year to the present time their business has been confined to the discount of bills, advances on accounts, and other b.ank transactions, in support of Scottish trade generally, at home and abroad. ?By the extension of their branch agencies to a great number of towns,? to quote their own historical report, ? and the employment in discounts and cash advaqces of their own funds, as well as of that portion of the formerly scanty and inactive money capital of Scotland which has been lodged with the company, they have been the means of contributing very materially to the encouragement of useful industry throughout Scotland, and to her rapid progress in agricultural and mechanical improvements, and in commercial intercourse with foreign countries. As regards the particular object of the institution of the companythe encouragement of the linen manufa.cture-considerably more than half of the flax and hemp imported into the United Kingdom, is now (in 1878) brought to the Scottish ports.? Now the bank has nearly eighty branch or subbranch offices over all Scotland alone. The company?s original capital of AIOO,OOO has been gradually increased under three additional charters, granted at different times, under the Great Seal By Queen Victoria, their fourth charter, dated 19th March, 1849, ratifies and confirms all, their privileges and rights, and power was given to augment their capital to any sum not exceeding A r,5oo,ooo in all, for banking purposes. The amount of new
Volume 2 Page 279
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