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Kay's Originals Vol. 2


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
Volume 9 Page 87
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