Edinburgh Bookshelf

Kay's Originals Vol. 2


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES, 249 “ In the beginning of the American war, the Lord Advocate of that time, hearing that there were many vessels bound to America, full of emigrants, who, he conceived, might be forced into the American armies at their landing, but who mould, at all events, be lost to their country, assumed to himself a power of laying those vessels under an absolute embargo ; and for so doing, he not only received an indemnity, but the thanks of Parliament. “ My predecessor in office. was certainly never reckoned a harsh or oppressive man ; and yet he took the responsibility on himself for an act which by law is felony. He received certain information of a letter being put into the Post Office at Perth for Edinburgh, which he apprehended to be of important consequence to the State, and he did not hesitate, upon his own responsibility, to have it taken out of the Post Office. It was this letter which led to the discovery and conviction of the traitor Watt. “ I myself, having learned that several vessels were on the point of sailing for America, which had. not on board above a third of the provisions necessary for the passengem on the voyage, positively laid them under an embargo, until the captain should satisfy the Custom-House officers of having taken in a sufficient quantity of provisions for the voyage ; and an act of Parliament has since been passed to prevent such practices for the future. In that case, too, I acted perhaps contrary to law, but I did not think it necessary to ask for an indemnity. Again, at the time of the insurrection in Ireland, last year, I thought it probable that many fugitives would come to Scotland. On a -former occasion, the Irish Government would not allow any person to leave that country without passports. There was no law in Scotland which required the production of such passports ; but I took it upon my own responsibility to order that no person coming from Ireland without a passport should be suffered to land in Scotland. There was no positive law which gave me power to do 60 ; and not having applied for an indemnity, I may be now liable to actions of damages to those people who by my orders were prohibited from landing. But still, I conceive it is the duty of a Lord Advocate of Scotland, to act decidedly in all cases where the State is in danger, upon his own responsibility ; and I will tell the hon. gentleman fairly, that if his motion does not deprive me of my place, I shall always act in the same manner, under similar circumstances. ” * * * “I shall now tell the real story of the transaction. Garrow had, with the knowledge of his master, entered into a volunteer corps. By attending after his work was finished, he had qualified himself as a soldier ; and in order to obtain those exemptions that the law gave, it was necessary that he should be inspected. Before the day of inspection, he asked his master’s leave to go, but was refused : he was so anxious then to reconcile his duty to his country to his duty to his master, that he got up in the middle of the night, and performed that task which his master had assigned him, and then went to inspection. On his return, Mr. Morrison turned him off, notwithstanding he offered to make any amends by additional labour, or by deduction from his wages ; but how did he turn him off? Not aa the hon. gentleman (Mr. Whitbread) would have turned off his servant ; no, he refiued to pay him the wages he had earned before that day, and would not pay him till he was compelled by a decree of the Sheriff’s Court. The time when he discharged him was also material. It was on the 13th of October, when a labourer in Scotland, who is generally engaged by the half-year, could not easily get employment. As there are no poor rates in Scotland, Garrow and his family might have starved in the winter, if they could not find employment. This then is the real case ; and now I will appeal to every man in this House, where ought the charge of injustice and oppression to attach? I almost doubt [fear] now that my legal opinion was correct, and [believe] that, under all the circumstances of the case, Mr. Morrison conld be compelled to pay Gmow his wages for the remainder of the half-year, as there was no neglect of duty on his part. The House will now judge whether it is Mr. Morrison or Garrow who is the injured man. “ Although I confess I had no particular information against Morrison, yet I must, in my defence, mention another circumtance which I was informed of. Early in the French Revolution, there had existed at the town of Portsoy, within two miks of Morrison’a house, a Society called ‘the Friends of Universal Liberty,’ who corresponded with the Jacobin Club of France. I knew that the head and p’mcm mobile of that Society was a man who was likely to have considerable influence over Mr. Morrison. I know that, after the meetings of that Society had become so seditious, when the Sheriff was obliged to crave leave ‘to he admitted to the honour of their sittings,’ they split into smaller partim ; and one of their favourite measures was to obstruct and discourage the raising of the volunteer force.’’ VOL. 11. 2K
Volume 9 Page 331
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