Edinburgh Bookshelf

Kay's Originals Vol. 2


70 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. consulted on the subject. He was an uncompromising supporter of the Constitution, from a conviction of its utility; yet his Plans of Reform, in 1782 and 1831, clearly show that he was by no means insensible to improvement. His support of the corn laws arose from 8 belief that certain restrictions were necessary for the protection of the British grower, and that the prosperity of a country cannot be solid where the foundation does not rest on adequate cultivation. The state of Europe during‘the greater parti of his public life tended to strengthen this maxim ; and the great aim of his ambition seemed to be, by improved and extended culture, to render Britain independent of foreign supplies. Whether his politics in this respect be sound or otherwise, no one can deny the purity of his motives. The political character and writings of Sir John may be forgotten; but his memory, as a practical benefactor of his country, must remain imperishable. That he was no heartless theorist is amply attested by the improvements effected on his own estate, in which the interests of his numerous tenantry were equally consulted with that of the soil. In no district of Great Britain has population increased for the last twenty or thirty years on a ratio equal with the county of Caithness. This is no doubt mainly to be ascribed to the fisheries, in the establishment of which Sir John took a leading interest. By liberal encouragement and assistance, he induced the settlement of companies-prevailed upon the Society for promoting British Fisheries to form a settlement at Wick-and, besides founding several villages, introduced various branches of industry. By his exertions, so early as 1785, in procuring funds from the forfeited estates of Scotland, towards the formation of roads throughout the northern counties, the influence of his public spirit has long been felt in the improved means of communication ; industry and prosperity now prevail where apathy and indolence formerly existed, and Caithness has long been distinguished as the most extensive fishing district in Scotland. Whether in improved fields, abundant harvests, the breed of cattle, or the condition of the rural population, the public spirit and example of Sir John Sinclair has been felt over all Scotland: In whatever regarded his native country he took especial interest. He was President of the Highland Society of London, as well ag an original member of the Highland Society of Scotland, and he was sensitively alive to the preservation of whatever was characteristic in national language, dress, or manners. He frequently presided at the annual competition of pipers in Edinburgh, and was enthusiastic in his admiration of the music of Scotland.’ 1 The following instance is given by his biographer :-One year he insisted upon carrying along with him two Italian noblemen-a Count from Milan, and a Marchese from Naplea-contrary to the wishes of his friends, who in vain assailed him with essmces that, to the refined e m of Italy, the great Highland bagpipe would be intolerably offensive. When hie Italian pests 8aw the exertions of the competitom, the enthusiasm of the audience, and the exultation of the conqueror ; and when they heard the rapturous applause with which every sentence of the oration of the presea wm received, they declared that they had never witneased any epeotacle so gratifying. “I am pmud to think,” said the Marchese, (‘that we too have the bagpipe in our country ; it is played by all the peasantry of Calabria.” But a great triumph awaited him. ‘ “ I would have come from Italy to be present,” $aid the Count
Volume 9 Page 92
  Enlarge Enlarge  
Volume 9 Page 93
  Enlarge Enlarge     Pictures Pictures