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Kay's Originals Vol. 1


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. 307 on the 25th February. The enemies of Muir represented his absence as an intentional flight from justice, arising from consciousness of guilt ; but he accounted for the circumstance by the menacing attitude then assumed by the two countries, and the consequent difficulty of obtaining a conveyance home. He at last found a passage in a vessel cleared out for America, but which in reality was bound for Ireland. After a short detention in Dublin, where he became a member of the “ Society of United Irishmen,” and was warmly received by the Reformers of that city, he sailed for Scotland in the month of July, professedly with the intention of standing trial. In this intention, however, he was anticipated; as, on his arrival in Stranraer, he was recopised by an under officer of the customs, upon whose information he was arrested, and had all his papers taken from him.’ From the prison of Stranraer he was once more conducted to Edinburgh under the charge of Williamson, where he was brought to trial on the 30th August. The Court was opened by the Lord Justice-clerk (Macqueen of Braxfield), and four Lords Commissioners of Justiciary-Lord Henderland, Lord Swinton, Lord Dunsinnan, and Lord Abercromby. The gentlemen of the jury were- Sir James Foulis of Colinton, Bart. Captain John Inglis of Auchindinny John Wauchope of Edmonstone John Balfour, younger of Pilrig Andrew Wauchope of Niddry, Marischal John Trotter of Mortonhall Gilbert Innes of Stow a Donald Smith, James Rocheid of Inverleith John Alves of Dalkeith William Dalrymple, merchant, Edinburgh James Dickson, bookseller, do. George Kinnear, banker, do. Andrew Forbes, merchant, do. John Horner, merchant, do. banker, Edinburgh In the indictment Muir was charged with creating disaffection, by means of seditious speeches and harangues-of exhorting persons to purchase seditious publications-and, more particularly, of having been the principal means of convening a mceting of Reformers at Kirkintilloch on the 3d November 1792 ; also, of convening another meeting during the same month, at Milltown, parish of Campsie : and farther, “ the said Thomas Muir did, in the course of the months of September, October, or November aforesaid, distribute, circulate, or cause to The following were the most important :- Ten copies of a pamphlet entitled “Proceedings of the Society of United Irishmen of Dublin, printed by order of the Society, 1793.” A printed copy of an Act to Prevent Tumultuous Risings, of the 27th Geo. III. ; printed at Dublin, 1787. A passport from the department of Paris, in favour of citizen Thomas Muir, dated 23d April 1793. Receipt by A. Macdougall to Mr. Muir, for nine hundred livres, for his passage in the cabin of Certificate that Thomas Muir had been duly elected one of the members of the Society of United Signed by Archibald Hamilton Rowan, secretary. Sealed letter, directed-“ The Rev. Thomas Fyshe Palmer, Edinburgh.” Passport of the Commissary of the gection of the Tuilleries, in favour of citizen Thomas Muir. Mr. Innea was perhaps the richest commoner iu Scotland-he left upwards of a million Among the papers there were none of any consequence. the ship from Have de Grace to the port of New York. Irishmen of Dublin. Dated Havre de Grace, 16th May 1793. Dated 11th January 1793. Dated 4th May 1793. sterling.
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308 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. be distributed and circulated in the town of Glasgow, Kirkintilloch, Milltown aforesaid, and at Lennoxtown, in the said parish of Campsie, and county of Stirling, or elsewhere, a number of seditious and inflammatory writings or pamphlets, particularly a book or pamphlet entitled ‘ The Works of Thomas Paine, Esq.’ etc.” He was likewise charged with having been present at a meeting of the “ Convention of Delegates‘ of the Associated Friends of the People,” held in Lawrie’s Room, in James’s Court, Edinburgh ; at which he read “ an Address from the Society of United Irishmen in Dublin to the Delegates for promoting a Reform in Parliament,” and proposed that the same should lie on the table, or a vote of thanks, or some acknowledgment be made to those from whom the address had been transmitted. The witnesses brought forward established the various charges against the prisoner, but they almost unanimously bore testimony to the constitutional mode by which he recommended the people to proceed in their demands for a redress of grievances. Indeed, at this distance of time, and considered apart from that dread of every thing approaching, even in name, to a republic, which the horrors of the French Revolution had inspired, it is not easy to discover from the evidence the precise degree of guilt which could possibly be attached to the prison er . His appearance at the bar has been variously represented. By those of opposite politics (and there are several gentlemen yet alive-1 83’7-who witnessed his trial), he has been described as “ a most silly creature, and a pitiful speaker.” The records of the proceedings by no means support this assertion. Without deigning to descend to mere legal quibbling, his conduct of the case does not seem to have been deficient in tact, nor his appeals to the bench and to the jury devoid of eloquence or power. ‘(This is no time for compromise,” said Muir, in his concluding address to the jury. “ Why did the Lord Advocate not at once allow that I stand at this bar because I have.been the strenuous supporter of parliamentary reform 1 Had this been done, and this alone been laid to my charge, I should at once have pled guilty-there would have been no occasion for a trial ; and their lordships and you would have been spared the lassitude of so long an attendance. But what sort of guilt would it have been? I have been doing that which has been done by the first characters in the nation. I appeal to the venerable name of Locke, and of the great oracle of the English law, Judge Blackstone. The Prime Minister of the country, Mr. Pitt himself-the Commander-in-Chief of the army, the Duke of Richmond-have once been the strenuous advocates of reform ; and yet they have been admitted into the King’s counsel. Are they then criminal as I am 1 But it is needless, gentlemen, to carry you beyond the walls of this house. The Lord Advocate (Robert Dundas, Esq.) himself has been a Reformer, and sat as a delegate from one of the counties for the purpose of extending the elective franchise.’’ The concluding words of Muir were-“ I may be confined within the walls of a prison-I may even have to mount the hluir had no counsel. He conducted the defence himself. But why need I refer to writers who are now no more!
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