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Kay's Originals Vol. 2


446 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. then in his forty-sixth year, while Miss Dawson (from the vicinity of Doncaster) was no more than seventeen, the union was understood to be one of real affection, and proved most happy in its results.’ Strictly constitutional in his political views, and foreseeing the error into which the Friends of the People were betraying themselves, Mr. Fletcher took no part in the memorable proceedings of 1793-4. He shrunk not, however, from the fearless avowal of his opinions. He acted gratuitously as counsel for Joseph Gerrald and others accused of sedition, and was one of the minority of thiTty-eight who, in 1796, opposed the deposition of the Hon. Henry Erskine, then Dean of Facaulty. In 1797 he was one of the counsel for the late Mr. John Johnstone, printer and publisher of the Scots Chronicle, in an action of damages brought against him and John Morthland, Esq., advocate, (who was connected responsibly with the paper), in the name of the late Mr. Cadell of Tranent, Deputy-Lieutenant and a Justice of the Peace for the county of Haddington. A quonim of the Justices had met at Tranent for the purpose of balloting for men liable to serve in the militia; and as this was tl measure which was unpopular with a great proportion of the people, especially the working classes, a crowd collected at Tranent with the design of impeding the Lieutenancy in the discharge of their duty. The mob, by intimidation and threats, and by maltreating the peace-officers, obliged the Justices to send an express to Piershill barracks for a troop of dragoons, part of the Cinque Ports Cavalry regiment, then lying there. The dragoons were soon on the spot, and scoured the streets, when a considerable number of the mob got down the closes, and took to the roofs of the houses, from which they assailed the soldiers with stones and brick-bats, and some, it is believed, had firearms. This so exasperated the soldiers, that they became regardless, fired in all directions, and killed several persons. Mr. Johnstone inserted in his newspaper an account of the proceedings, forwarded to him by one Rodgers (whose sister had been shot within her own house), in a letter from Tranent, wherein it was insinuated, if not directly stated, that the soldiers had been guilty of deliberate murder, and that Mr. Cadell and the other magistrates were accessories. This gave rise to the action of damages, in which a long and voluminous proof was taken, printed, and prepared for the Court; and Mr. Fletcher was one of the counsel who stated the defence. As may be anticipated, the decision was unfavourable (or rather ruinous) to the defenders. Though at one time, in consequence of his political predilections, almost a “ briefless barrister,” and occasionally, it is said, reduced to his last guinea, 1 By his wife Mr. Fletcher had several children. His eldest son, Miles, was brought up to the bar. He married Miss Angusta Clavering, daughter of General Clavering (who attracted so much notice during the investigation of the charges against the Duke of York), by whom he had a family. He died in the prime of life, much regretted. His widow afterwards married John Christison, Esq., advocate. The second son, Angus, relinquished the profession of a Writer to the Signet, for which he had been educated, and became a sculptor in London. One of Mr. Fletcher’s daughtem married John Taylor, Esq., at one time a member of Parliament, and another, Dr. Davy, a brother of the late Sir Humphrey Davy.
Volume 9 Page 595
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