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Kay's Originals Vol. 2


64 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. out on a short tour to France during the Christmas recess. He travelled for some distance with Montgolfier, the inventor of balloons, and on his arrival in Paris was kindly received by Necker, then Prime Minister. “ The ladies of the family,’’ says his biographer, “seemed to have resolved on giving their Scottish guest an agreeable reception. He found Madame Necker reading Blair’s sermons, and Mademoiselle Necker, afterwards the celebrated De Stael, playing Lochber 710 more on the piano.” On his return to Britain, Mr. Sinclair communicated hints to Government respecting several improvements with which he had become acquainted in France ; and the title of Baronet was conferred on him (4th February 1786) as a reward for his public services. In 1786, Sir ,John proceeded on a more extended tour, in the course of which he visited Denmark, Sweden, Russia, and Poland ; from Warsaw he proceeded to Vienna- from thence to Berlin, Hanover, Holland, Flanders, and returned to England by France, having, in the short space of seven months, performed a journey of more than 7500 English miles. During his progress he was introduced to nearly all the courts of the various countries-was everywhere received with the utmost kindness and attention, and established a correspondence with many of the most eminent and remarkable men on the Continent. In Sweden, Denmark, and Russia, he met with several countrymen, particularly at Stockholm, where he found many of the nobles descendants of Scotsmen who had fought under Gustavus during the Thirty Years’ War. Not long after his return, Sir John again entered into the married relation, by espousing, on the 6th March 1788, the Honourable Diana, only daughter of Alexander first Lord Rlacdonald. The ceremony was performed in London, where the parties resided for a short time ; but they eventually settled in Edinburgh, taking up house in the Canongate.’ During his residence there, each day, with the exception of an hour or two, was laboriously devoted to study or business. His exercise usually consisted in a walk to Leith, between the hours of two and four; and it was one of his favourite sayings that “whoever touched the post at the extremity of the pier, took an enfeoffment of life for seven years.” To Caithness he performed regular journeys, generally diverging from the direct route to extend his agricultural acquaintance. On resuming an interest in Parliamentary affairs, he became gradually estranged from the support of the administration of Pitt, conscientiously differing with the Premier on many important points. The abandonment of Warren Hastings by the minister he considered an unworthy sacrifice to popular feeling -and on the “Regency Question” he was decidedly opposed to the ministerial propositions. Thus disaffected he naturally fell in with the “ Armed Neutrality,” a party so called from their profession of independence, of whom the Earl of Rloira was considered the head. Sir John now entered on a series of projects of great importance to the He afterwards removed to Charlotte Square, and latterly to George Street.
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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. 65 country. The first was the establishment of a Society for the improvement of British wool. The breed of sheep never had been a subject of proper inquiry, and so deteriorated had the wool become, that manufacturers were under the necessity of importing great quantities of the finer descriptions. The Society was ultimately formed at Edinburgh in 1791. In order to excite public attention on the subject, a grand sheep-shearing festival was held, under the patronage of the Society, at Newhalls Inn, near Queensferry. At this novel fete the utmost enthusiasm prevailed. The company wore pastoral decorations ; sheep of dxerent breeds were exhibited-the process of shearing was performed by rival clippers-and at the close a collation followed, at which a toast, “ The Royal Shepherd of Great Britain, and success to his flock,” was given by the chairman, and received with great enthusiasm, followed by a salute of twentyone guns from the Hind frigate at anchor in the Firth. By the exertions of the Society, great improvements were effected in the pastoral districts ; and many lands were nearly doubled in value by the new mode of sheep-farming. Sir John’s great national work, “ The Statistical Account of Scotland,” was undertaken about this period, and completed seven years afterwards, in twentyone volumes octavo. The expense, labour, and difficulties in the way of such an immense undertaking, had been considered insurmountable by all who had previously contemplated it, and nothing short of Parliamentary authority was deemed equal to the task? The indomitable perseverance of Sir John ultimately prevailed, and his magnificent work stands unparalleled in any age or nation. M7hile it gave an impetus to the study of statistics generally, the only true foundation of all political economy, the “ Statistical Account” has tended both directly and indirectly to promote the national character as well as prosperity of Scotland, Soon after the commencement of hostilities in 1’193, such a stagnation prevailed in commerce, in consequence of a deficiency in the circulating medium, that universal bankruptcy seemed almost inevitable. In this emergency Sir John came forward with a plan, which, althougli emanating from one who had stood opposed to them on some questions, met with the ready approval of Pitt and Dundas. This was the issue of Exchequer Bills to a certain amount, by way of loans in small sums to the merchants and manufacturers. The plan speedily passed, and proved the means of preventing general ruin. Several papers were afterwards drawn up by the Baronet, recommending measures for the better regulation of the circulating medium. Sir John had early contemplated the formation of a Board of Agriculture, to promote, improvements, and act as a centre for the general diffusion of ab& cultural knowledge ; but it was not till 1793, after experiencing great opposition, that he succeeded in its establishment. With the small funds placed at his In 1781, a8 noticed in a former article, the late Mr. Smellie, author of the Philosophy of Natural Eistory, drew up a plan for procuring a statistical account of the parishes of Scotland, which waa printed and circulated by order of the Society of Antiquaries. The result of this attempt was a report of the parish of Uphall, by the Earl of Buchan, in which he then resided, and three others, which are printed in the Transactions of the Society. VOL 11. K
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