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Kay's Originals Vol. 1


Volume 8 Page 375
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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. 269 now directed his attention to the Roman law ; and, after a short time spent in preparatory study, commenced giving lectures on the subject. He subsequently gave lectures on Scots law. In 1781, having qualified himself in the usual manner, he applied to be admitted a member of the Faculty of Advocates. The following information as to the opposition offered by the Faculty to his entry, is recorded in the minutes of the 8th December 1781 :- '' The vice-dean (John Swinton, afterwards Lord Swinton) informed the Faculty that Mr. John Wright, who for many years had exercised the profession of a private teacher of the civil and municipal law and mathematics, had called upon him, and acquainted him that he had presented a petition to the Court of Session, praying a remit to the Dean and Faculty of Advocates to take him on his trial. Upon this Mr. Swinton observed that he wished this step postponeda proposition which was assented to by Mr. Wright-till he had had an opportunity of mentioning the intention to the Faculty. He added-' that, so far as ever he could learn, Mr. Wright bore a fair and irreproachable character, and he did not mean the slightest reflection against him j but that the circumstances which appearedipeculiar in his case were, that, at his advanced time of life, it might be presumed he did not mean to take himself entirely to the profession and practice of the law, but only wished to add the character of advocate to his present employment.' " The Hon. Henry Erskine acquainted the Faculty that Mr. Wright had conversed with him upon this subject, and had authorised him to assure the Faculty that, in case of his being admitted advocate, he truly intended to follow the profession of the bar, and to lay aside private teaching of rnathematies, or any other science, except law ; and even to confine that teaching to private lectures to such as chose to attend them in his own house." A considerable difference of opinion appears to have been entertained, but the good sense of the majority ultimately settled that the Faculty should not interfere; and Mr. Wright was admitted an advocate upon the 25th January 1783. It has been said that the real cause of the opposition of Mr. Swinton and his party originated in their objections to Mr. Wright's humble birth ; and that the Hon. Henry Erskine bantered them so much, that they at last gave way. After listening to the observations of the opposition-" Well, well," said Mr. Erskine, U they say I am the son of the Earl of Bwhan-and you (pointing to -) are the sm of the Laird of --" , and thus going over the whole opposition in a strain of inimitable and biting sarcasm, he wound up the enumeration in his usual forcible manner-" Therefore, no thanks to us for being here ; because the learning we have got has been hammered into our brains !- whereas all Mr. Wright's has been acquired by himself; therefore he has more merit than us all. However, if any of you can put a question to Mr. Wright that he cannot answer, I will hold that to be a good objection. But, otherwise, Both sets of lectures were well attended. The Swintona of Swinton are a Berwickahire family of great antiquity.
Volume 8 Page 376
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