‘Caledonian Mercury’, January 7, 1861.

[Caledonian Mercury Contents]


OF JANUARY 7, 1861.


THIS DAY TWO HUNDRED YEARS AGO appeared in this city, as an organ of local opinion, and a disseminator “of Forraign Intelligence,” the humble little sheet that accompanies our present number.

“Take it up tenderly,
Fashioned so slenderly.”

It is our tiny original – the infant of “a span long” now grown to our present ample dimensions – the first newspaper, written, edited, and printed in Scotland – the father, in a word, of the existing Press of our country. “‘Twere hard to tell” at this distant date what combination of circumstances gave it birth. Little, very little, is known either as to its origin or history. This much is certain, that it made its appearance during a period of great political and religious excitement – a period when small quartos were travelling in dozens, under all imaginable names, across the Border, and Scotland needed a journal to vindicate the Royal cause and support the constituted against the unconstituted authorities of the day. Some of these quartos, or diurnals, as they were usually called, indicate expressively, by their titles, the circumstances under which they were brought into being, and the policies and parties they were meant to conserve. Between 1643 and 1700, we have been able to find no fewer than forty, bearing what seems to have been then the favourite newspaper title of “Mercurius,” or “Mercury,” united to some other term descriptive of principle or character. Thus we have, indicative of nations, “Mercurius Scoticus,” “Mercurius Caledonius,” “Mercurius Hibernicus,” “Mercurius Britannicus,” the editor of which was the versatile Marchmont Needham, “Mercurius Cambro-Britannicus,” and “Mercurius Anglicus;” descriptive of principles of Government, “Mercurius Monarchicus,” “Mercurius Democritus,” “Mercurius Republicus,” to which we may add, “Mercurius Politicus,” “Mercurius Populus, or News Declaring Plain Truths to the People,” “Mercurius Publicus,” “Mercurius Civicus,” “Mercurius Rusticus, or News from the Several Counties,” “Mercurius Bellicus, or an Alarm to all Rebels,” and “Mercurius Militaris;” characteristic of professions, educational standing, social and moral qualities, &c., “Mercurius Medicus,” “Mercurius Clericus,” “Mercurius Phreneticus,” “Mercurius Zeleticus,” “Mercurius Heraclitus,” “Mercurius Classicus,” “Mercurius Academicus,” “Mercurius Poeticus,” “Mercurius Honestus,” “Mercurius Fidelicus,” “Mercurius Censorius,” “Mercurius Jocosus,” “Mercurius Melancholius,” “Mercurius Pragmaticus, communicating Intelligence from all Parts, touching all Affaires, Designes, Humours, and Conditions throughout the Kingdom,” “Mercurius Anti-Pragmaticus,” and “Mercurius Bellicosus.” Nay, more, among the crowd of the period there appear, “Mercurius Mastix, faithfully Lashing all Scouts, Mercuries, Posts, Spyes, and others,” “Mercurius Fumigosus, or the Smoaking Nocturnal,” “Mercurius Rhadamanthus,” “Mercurius Acheroniticus, or News from Hell brought fresh to Town,” “The Laughing Mercury” too, and “The Coffee House Mercury.”

In such strange company, or associated during a portion of its existence with a number of such curiously named prints, the “Mercurius Caledonius” entered on journalistic life. Its first number, it will be seen, bears date “From Monday Decemb. 31 to Tuesday Jan. 8th. 1661.” The little sheet was published at irregular dates, and of irregular size. The number now issued is of eight pages. The second bears date “From Tuesday 8th Jan. to Wednesday 16 January,” and is of sixteen pages – the folios being numbered on from the first; the third is “From Wednesday January 16 to Friday Jan. 25,” and is also of sixteen pages, though separately numbered, as if it had no connection with the first and second; the fourth, “From Friday January 25 to Friday February 1,” is of twelve pages, numbered on from the third; the fifth, “From Friday February 1 to Friday February 8,” is also of twelve pages, the folios being carried regularly on from the third; the later numbers – some counting twelve and others sixteen pages – proceed systematically on, with the folios correctly indicated, though the mottos sometimes change, till the date of the suppression of the whole, apparently by the ruling Powers of the day.

It is a matter of concern with us that we are not able to state at what price the “MERCURIUS CALEDONIUS” was sold, or to what extent it was circulated. The records of the period, so far as we have been able to examine them, furnish no information on the subject. One fact, however, and that of interest, is known – the name of the editor who presided at its birth, and secured to it “a local habitation and a name.” Thomas Sydserff, son of the then Bishop of Orkney, was the favoured mortal who had the honour of starting the first newspaper, edited, written, and printed in this country. Happy editorial days his must have been, when “the leader,” as in the number now before our readers, counted nine lines, and the whole correspondence, with a week to look over it, might be swallowed up in two columns of our present daily sheet! The ardent and trenchant Cavalier could not have dreamt that two hundred years after the black-ball had dried on his little quarto, an humble successor should ask the Scottish public to judge of his matter and style by extracts taken from some of his performances. It is right to say that Sydserff seems to us to have been quite equal in point of ability to the best redacteurs of his day; in tomahawking and scalping, at all events, he appears, though the son of a Bishop, to have been admirably suited to his age. He manifests very little of the suaviter in modo, and probably indulges rather too much in the fortiter in re – certainly when, in his own opinion, he feels “shut up” to it, he hesitates not to belabour with no gloved hands all “Phanaticks” or Presbyterians daring to protest against the religious intolerance and civil despotism of the reigning Stuart of the time. Now then to our extracts. The following is “the leader” of the third paper:-

     “Since our Parliament proceeds with such admirable discretion and Loyalty, I must do the late Committee of Estates so much right, as to let the world know of an Action done by them, that meriteth to be registrated in Characters of Brasse, viz. They Ordered that the Tomb-stone of Mr George Gillespie (Whereon was engraven a scandalous Inscription) should be fecht from the Burial-place, and upon a Mercat-day at the Cross of Kirkadie, where he had been formerly Minister, and there solemnly broken by the hands of the Hang-man. Which was accordingly done: a just indignity upon the memory of so dangerous a person. And it is fitting, that our posterity should know that we are now living in an Age, that will not suffer a Monument of Honour to be fixed upon a Trumpeter of Sedition: for, that unhappy man, the disgrace of his Calling, hath breathed as black and contagious Doctrine in Scotland, as ever Parson Peters did in England, witnesse his bloody Book, written upon his death-bed, which is Entituled, His Last Will and Testament. So that this Action of the worthy Committee, with the honourable reparation the Parliament made to the body of the great Marquis of Montrose, is sufficient to expresse the blessings we may expect from such a grand Councel as they are, being both happily joyned together.”

There is no use remarking how the Cavalier displays himself in this passage, nor is it necessary to state that the Gillespie to whom he refers is the distinguished divine – author of “Aaron’s Rod Blossoming,” and one of the Scotch representatives at the Westminster Assembly – whose memory, among others, Scotland, on the 20th of last month, showed herself delighted to honour. Our second extract is from the fifth number. It is as follows:-

     “One Genius possesses the three Kingdoms, as easily may be seen in the ensuing Intelligence; which manifests the only and great Work, they are all breathing at: a worthy Heroick, and Christian concertation, to outvye one another, in re-building a ruined Kirk and shaken State. Henceforth may restless and unconfined Ambition, seek some where else to plant it self, then in any of these His MAJESTIES Dominions; seing even these deceived Phanaticks hasten to their Allegiance, as they declare in the late Apologie of Anabaptists, printed lately at London.”

That our readers may comprehend the full import and bearing of this, we may inform them that “the ensuing intelligence” alluded to “rescinds the Parliament 1649, where all Laick Patrons were restored to their former right of presentations, the Parsons reponed to their right of Tithes, and special care had of the present Maintenance of Ministers,*” embraces an Act brought in by the Lords of the Articles “for rescinding the Forfeiture of the late Marquess of Montrose;” also, an Act “Rescinding that Fatal League and Covenant,” “his Majestie, with Advice and Consent of his Estates,” inhibiting “all his Majesties Subjects within this Kingdom that none of them presume upon any pretext, by any authority whatsoever, to require the renewing or swearing of the said League and Covenant, or of any other Covenants or publick Oathes concerning the Government of the Church or Kingdom without his Majesties Special Warrant and Approbation;” and thirdly, a Proclamation “for Restraint of Killing, Dressing, and Eating of Flesh in Lent, or on Fishdays, appointed by the Law to be observed,” one clause requiring security to the amount of forty Pounds “that the Butchers kill no Flesh, and that the other Persons before mentioned [all Inholders, Keepers of Ordinary Tables, Cooks, Butcher, Victuallers, Alehousekeepers, and Taverners] shall not dress, nor suffer any flesh to be eaten in their houses in the Lent Time, or at any time prohibited, contrary to Law.” There is also another Proclamation in the same number “by the Lords and Council,” for “a Solemn Humiliation on the 30th of January,” the first paragraph of which is too rich as a Royalist effusion not to appear in our columns:-

     “We cannot doubt of the happy condition of our late dzead Soveraign of ever blessed memory, Charles the First; being assured by the voice of Truth it self, that uhosoever looseth his life for Christs sake, shall find it; in uhich respect Martyrdome (uherewith he was undoubtedly crowned) hath justly been stiled the Baptism of Blood, and the anniversary days of the death of the Martyrs, have been ever observed by the Church of God as the birth days of their glory; so as it might seem half a crime to shed a tear for him uhose Soul the Lord hath delivered from death, his eyes from tears,and his feet from falling, uhom his bloody Enemies did advantage more by their malice and cruelty, then they could have done by the pretension of Allegiance and Loyalty, snatching him from the sweet society of his dearest Consort, and most hopefull and Royal Issue, and from the Government of all his Kingdoms and People, to place him in the bosome of the blessed Angels and Saints triumphant.”

To Sydserff’s editorials, however, we must come back, albeit the “intelligence” contained in his paper contrasts favourably with his comments upon it. From the eighth number we take the subjoined, which may be said to explain itself:-

     “Our Parliament having done their Duties, in settling the Royal Prerogative: Their next care is, that our Fountains of Learning run clear with streames flowing from persons of sound principles and defæcate judgements, whereby the Youth sucking sincere and wholsome Milk, the Nation ever after may continue happy in their duty to GOD and the KING. For this purpose, the Parliament hath Commissionated a certain number of approven persons to Visit and take Cognizance of the University of Aberdeen; there to purge and redresse what is or hath been amisse. This is that Nursery of Learning which was so eminent, though unsuccessfull in opposition to the Tumults at the beginning.”

Our last quotation is on the whole more characteristic of the writer’s spirit and style. It is from the eleventh number, and reads thus:-

     “Our Noble Parliament, like faithfull and generous Patriots, makes it appear that they are equally concerned in the honor as well as profit of the Kingdom, by removing the durty reproaches, with which the world hath blasted us so many years, in order to the Kings Vendition: And we hope, that this ensuing Act of Parliament will not only satisfy the judicious, but even the slenderer sort of understandings, who grounds their belief upon the first bound of report: And if the frantick distempers, of the prevailing party at that time be rightly considered, it will be thought no great wonder to find them acting madness beyond the degrees  of Hellebore. O! what sweet savours and specious pretences were alleged, to intice the well meaning Commonalty into the snares they were driven into, till they had the Prey at their command. But now blessed be GOD, their ugly face is unmasked, and they themselves ensnared in the trap devised for others.”

The “dirty reproaches” said to have been “removed” though they have been repeated times without number ever since, are included in “The Act Condemning the Transactions concerning the King’s Majestie whilst he was at Newcastle in the years 1646 and 1647.” Poor Sydserff! Though father of all in this country who grind day and night at the newspaper “organ,” his own feet were caught in “snares,” and it is not quite clear that “dirty reproaches” that affected his character were ever thoroughly removed. Though he had done valiant service both to Church and State in his time, and in his own way, he felt it necessary to leave Edinburgh. Whether he found the labour of the paper too heavy, or the city too hot, tradition sayeth not. He turned up again in a few years, and once more proved himself an originating genius, as manager of a play-house in the Canongate – the first School of Thespis, it is believed, in Scotland. On the 8th May 1669 he narrowly escaped being slain in the theatre by a Mungo Murray, lieutenant in the King’s Guard. He was highly complimented for his poetical powers by the Earl of Dorset.

Coming down the course of time, chequered by ten thousand changes, “THE CALEDONIAN MERCURY” – “MERCURIUS CALEDONIUS” having long gone to its rest – made its appearance on the 28th April 1720, in a goodly-sized folio of six pages, printed in a fine bold Great Primer type; and, considering  the period, on a remarkably fine paper. Its first page is surmounted by a large engraving of the Scottish arms, with the motto “Nemo me impune lacessit;” it professes in its general heading to supply “A Short Account of the most Considerable News, Foreign and Domestick, and of the latest Books and Pamphlets imported from Abroad or Printed here;” and in a sort of introductory statement made “For the Satisfaction of the Reader,” we are told that

     “The authors of this Paper do in a few Words inform them, That they may expect in it a full, faithful, and impartial Account of the News taken from the English and Foreign Prints, and also from the Letters written to them from their Correspondents. Particular care will be taken to insert Memorials, Speeches, or any other Papers that are valuable, and worth Preserving. And the Account of the new Books will be done with all imaginable Impartiality.
     “This Paper will be Published Thrice every Week, in a few Hours after the Arrival of the Post. Such as Subscribe for a Year’s Papers shall have them delivered in as soon as Published to any House in Edinburgh, or the Suburbs, appointed by the Subscribers, they paying yearly 15 sh. of which 3 sh. and 9d. to be paid at the Beginning of each Quarter.”

The paper, it appears, was published at 1½d. per copy, and was “Printed for W. Rolland, by Wm. Adams, junior, and sold at the Sign of the Printing Press in the Parliament Close, and at the Printing House in Carrubber’s Close, on the west side of Bishop’s Land, at both the which places Advertisements and Subscriptions are taken in.” It seems to have consisted altogether of compilations of news, book notices, and Advertisements, some of the latter being amusing and curious in the extreme. Nothing in the shape of “an editorial,” even to the extent of Sydserff’s, makes its appearance throughout the first volume, nor indeed – we may at once say it, and save further remark on the subject – does a single line of strictly editorial matter expressive of opinion on the current topics of the day makes its appearance down to the year 1839, when the whole arrangements or “make up” of the paper assumed very much the form and manner of the present day. It is impossible, under these circumstances, to state what special views or principles were held by the conductors. News, and news alone, was desiderated, and to gratify this desire the happiest state of feeling must evidently have existed in the matter of “exchanges” and “acknowledgments” among the existing English and Scotch papers. Our neighbour the Courant, which had assumed its present title in 1718, and was then, with ourselves, supplying the Scottish public, three times a week, with “a just Account of Publick Affairs and Occurrences in the World,” copied freely from our despatches, as we confess we did as freely from theirs; in both cases, however, as honourable feeling prompted and justice required, with suitable acknowledgments.

In 1725, “THE CALEDONIAN MERCURY” again changed its form. On the 14th of June it presented itself as a small quarto of four pages, without the Scottish arms. It was coarsely printed, on inferior paper, and published three times a week – Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. It was then “Printed for Wm. Rolland by Mr Thomas Ruddiman.” In this form, and with these days of publication, it remained till 1753. the price is not stated in the new volume, nor indeed throughout the subsequent volumes of the period; it may be interesting, however, to the general public to learn that during these twenty-eight years, and for wellnigh ten years afterwards, it was “Printed for and by Thomas and Walter Ruddimans” – names of no inferior literary and publishing note in the history of Scotland, Thomas having been, during a period of fifty years, the Keeper of the Library of the Society of Advocates, and author, as well as printer, of a number of erudite and valuable works. It cannot fail, also, to interest the Scottish public, whose memories are not likely to be impressed with the fact, that during the struggle of ’45, “THE CALEDONIAN MERCURY” was the Pretender’s organ, all the Prince’s public documents and despatches having appeared in it until his decisive defeat at Culloden. It would be a reflection on our journalistic character were we to keep back a fact like this, or insinuate that the principles of the “CALEDONIAN MERCURY” have remained unchanged during the lengthened period of its existence. Though the “MERCURIUS CALEDONIUS” fought the battle of Charles II. against the best of his subjects, and “THE CALEDONIAN MERCURY” gave its heartiest support to the Pretender against the claims of the House of Hanover, the latter has since had on its subscribers’ list the names of all the Georges of the British Throne, George IV. – the last of our Royal readers – like a faithful Prince, sending to our publisher, who admits that he had to “dun” his Majesty, on the occasion of his visit to Edinburgh, an order for £20, the amount of several years’ arrears. How we stand now on general principles, political and religious, as compared with “THE CALEDONIAN MERCURY” in 1745, the Scottish public do not need to be informed.

In the year 1753 another change occurred in the history of the paper. It then appeared as a goodly sized folio, about one-fourth the dimensions of the present sheet. Its first number of the year had the following announcement, which indicates the extent of the improvements:-

     “We take this Opportunity of wishing our Readers the Compliments of the Season. Our Appearance in this new Shape would have taken Place with the New Stile, had we not been under a Necessity of postponing it,  in condescension to the Stamp Office, which had a Quantity of their former Paper on Hand. – What naturally led us to this Enlargement was a grateful Regard to our Readers, as we have been for some Time past abundantly sensible of the Scantiness of our News, by reason of the great Number of Advertisements. By this new Method we hope in Time coming to be able to gratify the general Taste without advancing the Price, notwithstanding the increased expense of the Paper.”

At this period, so far as we can discover, Edinburgh had only its two papers – “THE CALEDONIAN MERCURY” and “THE EDINBURGH EVENING COURANT;” Glasgow, however had succeeded before this date in establishing two, both of which have long ceased to exist; Aberdeen had got up one, “THE ABERDEEN JOURNAL,” which was begun in 1746, and has continued prosperous down till the present time; and Dumfries had also, in 1750, secured to itself a special organ now numbered among “the things that were.”

The enlargements of our sheet and the improvements effected on it subsequent to 1753 have been numerous. In 1769 the paper was added to, both in length and breadth; still greater additions were made to it in 1774 and 1786. In the latter year it assumed the flying Mercury as its typical head. It then cost “46s. 6. per Annum when sent by Post, 40s. 6d. when sent to any house in the City or Suburbs, 37s. 6d. when called for at the Printing House, and a single paper 3d.” It purports to have been “Printed for and by John Robertson, and sold at the Printing House in the Old Fishmarket Close.” In 1791, when the paper became the property of Mr Robert Allan, in whose family it has since remained, it was once more greatly increased in size. Its publishing days then became Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Its price was increased to 3½d. per copy; and so rapidly did its advertisements accumulate, no doubt as much owing to the great influence of the proprietor as to the increasing circulation of the paper, that in 1810, when Mr Thomas Allan took the management, a sheet had to be produced of dimensions equal almost to “THE CALEDONIAN MERCURY” of the present day. Further additions were made in 1839, when the paper was increased to 4½d. per copy, and assumed all the features of the present issue. In 1842 and 1844 other enlargements took place; in 1854 the paper was increased to its greatest possible dimensions under the law regulating public journals. It was then, however, published twice a week – Mondays and Thursdays – instead of three times as formerly. In 1855 the greatest change in its history occurred. In that year the postal stamp on newspapers was made optional, and a crowd of new journals, of all sizes and at all prices, rushed into the market. A large number of these have since disappeared, the older established papers being preferred. “THE CALEDONIAN MERCURY,” to be abreast of the age, reduced its proportions, and appeared daily at 1½d. At this price – a dangerous one, it must be confessed, when there were penny rivals in the field – it continued till July 1857, when it was published at that which was then seen and felt to be the recognised and popular sum. Since 1857 two enlargements of our sheet have been made, with safety and success, and should our advertising friends continue to increase their favours as they have of late done, a further enlargement may not be far distant.

Though the subject is one that might tempt “learned leisure” to employ itself, we cannot venture upon a general retrospect of the innumerable political, social, and religious changes which have occurred in Scotland, as well as in the world’s history, since the “MERCURIUS CALEDONIUS” was first ushered into life. The difference between our present broad sheet and its price and the tiny article that first bore its name, is not more remarkable than are the great economic changes that, in every department of human life and progress, have characterised the beginning and end of the two centuries now gone to their rest. When the “MERCURIUS CALEDONIUS” made its appearance, the labours of a reforming century – a century during which “men of whom the world was not worthy” were overturning the whole fabric of civil and ecclesiastical despotism – had been well nigh obliterated, and the country itself well nigh destroyed, by one of the most unprinicpled and intolerant bigots that ever sat on the British throne. Charles II. then flourished – so did Middleton, so did Lauderdale, and so did Sharpe. Now, at the distance of two centuries, the nation glories in the constitutional edifice upreared by lion-hearted forefathers, rejoices in a measure of civil and religious freedom greater than is enjoyed by any kingdom on the face of the earth, and is jubilant at the thought that it has at its head the most gracious and beloved of all sovereigns that have ever swayed a sceptre over a devoted and loyal people. Two hundred years ago a journey from Edinburgh to London or Dublin, and indeed to many towns nearer hand, could be made only at great personal risk, after much preparation and many distressing leavetakings, and with the certainty of being at least from twenty to thirty days on the way. Now a trip to London or Dublin is a daily or nightly occurrence, involving no difficulty, and attended with no risk. A voyage to America can be made in seven or eight days without more inconvenience than formerly attended a journey to Aberdeen or Inverness; India itself, indeed, can be reached in almost as short a time, and certainly with less likelihood of danger, than two centuries ago a pedestrian could have travelled from the Scottish to the English metropolis. In manners and customs the transformations have been most remarkable; in industrial resources and material wealth the difference between the two periods almost staggers human belief; in civil and criminal jurisprudence, in mental acquirements and educational status, in the progress of literature, science, and the arts – in all the elements that tend to strengthen, refine, and exalt men and nations, this present year of grace 1861 is as much superior to 1661 as the age of Augustus was to the age of the Sabines, or the times of Alfred the Great to the times of the Roman invasion. Without alluding to other points, what man two hundred years ago would have believed in the possibility of an iron horse with three hundred passengers and many tons weight of goods, making the distance between Edinburgh and London in twelve hours? or what, let us ask, would have been thought of or done to the man who would have suggested the bare possibility of a vessel running between Liverpool and New York in seven days, of a telegraphic message being sent from London to Vienna in a few minutes, of news being received from St Petersburg or Alexandria in a couple of hours, or stranger still – and the feat will most certainly be accomplished – of the Atlantic being bridged by an electric cable so as to enable the merchants of these isles to ascertain daily the prices of stocks, shares, cottons, &c., at each of the leading centres of United States exchange?

How much of all this has been due to the Press. In 1661 a few miserable diurnals and rough MSS., with a few high-priced books, the Bible included, formed the staple food of a small section of the British people; now knowledge “runs to and fro throughout the earth,” enlightening, enlivening, guiding, and strengthening all nations. To “THE EDINBURGH REVIEW,” Sydney Smith attributed the success of no fewer than twelve important reforms; how many twelves of not less value to the social, moral, and political wellbeing of the nation were secured by the newspaper Press before the Review entered on its work! Scotland in 1661 had only one newspaper of her own – the “CALEDONIUS MERCURIUS” published once a week – in 1720 she had only two, “THE CALEDONIAN MERCURY,” and “THE EDINBURGH COURANT,” published thrice a week; in Edinburgh, four in Glasgow, one in Aberdeen, and one in Dumfries; in 1838 she had fifty-seven, eleven each published in Edinburgh and Glasgow, four in Perth, three each in Ayr, Berwick, Cupar, Inverness, Kelso, Montrose, Stirling, Wick, and one each in Arbroath, Elgin, Forres, Greenock, Kilmarnock, and Paisley; now in 1861 she counts no fewer than one hundred and thirty-six, eighteen of these belonging to Edinburgh, and twenty to Glasgow, most of them it must be admitted, in both cities, being unknown, some, however, circulating more copies daily than the entire Press of the country did fifty years ago.

It would be worse than folly were we, on an occasion like the present, to attempt to disguise the fact that “THE CALEDONIAN MERCURY” has of late years changed to some extent its policies and principles, and that it is now, on a variety of questions – political, social, and religious – very much the opposite of what it formerly was. The simple matter of fact is, THE MERCURY, owing to a variety of circumstances, had a;most ceased to be regarded as having principles worth energetic support or entitling itself to be supported. it had got into a “feckless” sort of existence, satisfactory enough to a certain class of “canna-be-fashed” readers in town and country; it wanted something calculated to enlist the sympathies and command the support of the more earnest-minded and patriotic-souled of the Scottish people. To what state it had been reduced, as a power and property in this city, it is not for us to say; our opponents, however, as well as our friends, will, we think, readily acknowledge that they did not expect it to live another century; that they were not unimpressed by reports, sedulously and maliciously circulated, that its days were numbered, and that these days could not, at the time, exceed a few weeks, or months, or possibly a year. There are few now, we think, whose opinions on this subject have not been changed. We do not mean to affirm that as a journal we are yet in every respect up to the mark to which we desire to attain; that there is not room for improvement; we are entitled, however, to state that our recent progress had shown that we have turned a new leaf, and that the reading public are alive to the fact. Though the adoption of an earnest and decided Liberalism in preference to a do-nothing Whiggism or an obstructive Toryism – though the support and vindication of principles of eternal truth and right in opposition to all miserable sentimentalities or godless expediencies – have cost us the loss of a few old friends who read us without any very special regard, we have the satisfaction of stating that their places have been much more than filled up by men of different stamp and character, and better alive to the exigencies and requirements of the age in which we live. The simple truth is, and our friends will trust us in declaring it, “THE MERCURY” has never been during the two centuries of its history on so firm a footing and in so prosperous a conditition as to circulation and advertising as it is at this moment, and has been during the past twelve months. To the principles it has been for some years advocating – principles which we believe to be those of the great majority of the Scottish nation – must be attributed a result so satisfactory. It has required time and circumstances to develope these principles and make the advocacy of them by ourselves understood by those not accustomed to read “THE MERCURY;” it will require still more before we can hope to remove deep rooted habits and prejudices affecting those reasonable supporters and friends; the decided success of the past, however, is to us the surest guarantee of continued and even more decided success in the future, and we need not say that whatever we may have done of late years to increase the popular interest in our favour shall not be wanting, if not largely increased, in years still to come. A newspaper over which two centuries have rolled may have its days and moths of weakness and difficulty; only its own most culpable disregard of public interests, however, or most insane folly on the part of its conductors, can ever seriously imperil its existence as an institution of the realm.

*  This “special care” was no other than the imposition of the iniquitous Annuity-tax, against which in a worse form Edinburgh is now up in arms. The fact is striking; all the more so that just at this time also, while a Lord Advocate, like Middleton, is binding grievous burdens which ought to be removed, the Lords of Session, like the Lords of the Articles, are delivering judgments and opinions calculated to overturn the fabric of civil and religious liberty which the Reformation set up.