20th of February

Saints Tyrannio, Zenobius, and others, martyrs in Phœnicia, about 310. St Sadoth, bishop of Seleucia and Ctesiphon, with 128 companions, martyrs, 342. St Eleutherius, bishop of Tournay, martyr, 522. St Mildred, virgin abbess in Thanet, 7th century. St Eucherius, bishop of Orleans, 743.

Born. – François-Marie Arouet de Voltaire, poet, dramatist, historical and philosophical writer, 1694, Chatenay. 
Died. – Charles III. (of Savoy), 1773; Joseph II. (Emperor), 1790; Dr John Moore, novelist, 1802. Richmond; Andreas Hofer, Tyrolese patriot, shot by the French, 1810; Joseph Hume, statesman, 1855.


The name of Joseph Hume has become so inseparably associated with his long-continued exertions to check extravagance in the use of public money, that most persons will hear with a feeling of surprise that he was in reality disposed to a liberal use of the state funds wherever a good object was to be served, and especially is that object involved the advancement of knowledge among the people. The Earl of Ellesmere, in his address to the Geographical Society, in 1855, bore strong testimony to the help which Mr Hume had given in promoting the claim of that body for assistance towards giving it a better place of meeting, and enabling it to throw open to the public the use of its ‘instruments of research and instruction.’ The present writer can add a grateful testimony, in regard to the Scottish Society of Antiquaries. That body, being a few years ago hardly rich enough to keep a person to shew its valuable museum, a proposal was made that it should hand its collection over to the state, who might then keep it open for the instruction and gratification of the public at its own expense. Mr Hume became satisfied that the proposal was an honest one, calculated to prove serviceable to the public; and the Society had no such friend and advocate as he in getting the transaction with the Treasury effected. The result has been such as fully to justify the zeal he shewed on the occasion. 

Mr Hume was a native of Montrose, made his way through poverty to the education of a physician, and, realizing some wealth in India, devoted himself from about the age of forty to political study of this remarkable man to protect and advance the interests of the pubic; he specially applied himself, in the earlier part of his career, to the advocacy of an economical use of the public purse. He met with torrents of abuse and ridicule from those interested in opposite objects, and he encountered many disappointments; but nothing ever daunted or disheartened him. Within an hour of a parliamentary defeat, he would be engaged in merry play with his children, having entirely cast away all sense of mortification. The perfect single-heartedness and honesty of Joseph Hume in time gained upon his greatest enemies, and he died in the enjoyment of the respect of all classes of politicians.

On this Day in Other Sources.

The 20th day of February, 1452, the King stabs [William] the Earl of Douglas in his closet window, in Edinburgh castle; thus ended the father of all the insolencies and mischiefs of these times: and to him succeeded his brother James, formerly provided to the succession (by the King’s grant and confirmation) in case of his brother’s decease without heirs male of his own body.

– Historical Works, pp.166-189.

On the 20th of February, 1550, both the castle and fort were taken by Des Thermes, who brought against the English in this quarter an army composed of Scots, Germans, and French.

– Scotland Illustrated, p.143.

‘A vehement frost continued from Martinmas till the 20th of February [1608.] The sea froze so far as it ebbed, and sundry went into ships upon ice and played at the chamiare a mile within the seamark. Sundry passed over the Forth a mile above Alloa and Airth, to the great admiration of aged men, who had never seen the like in their days.’ – Cal.

– Domestic Annals, pp.177-227.

A few years afterwards a poor woman who had ventured to become a teacher without official permission, is thus summarily disposed of by the town council: “The same day appoynts the Baillies to discharge [inhibit] the womane that hes tackine vpe an schole in the heid of the Salt Mercatt at hir awin hande.”1

– Old Glasgow, pp.276-289. 

1  20th Feb. 1658.

During February [1674], the rough weather continued; and at length, on the 20th of the month, a heavy fall of snow, accompanied by vehement frost, set in, which lasted for thirteen days. This was afterwards remembered by the name of the Thirteen Drifty Days.

– Domestic Annals, pp.322-337.

C.E. 1796 In this year MacPherson died. Mrs. Grant of Laggan describes his end in a letter dated February 20, and tells that one of his latest acts was to “frank a letter.” So the Highland schoolmaster had risen high.

– Popular Tales, v.4, pp.75-96.

   “Not even the most hostile of critics will venture to assert that the case of Scotland was not well-presented by those members of the deputation who addressed Mr Gladstone. They asked for nothing unreasonable. Lord Lothian admirably pointed out that they were making no movement against the Union – that they were seeking nothing in the nature of what was ordinarily understood as Home Rule. The Lord Provost of Edinburgh further emphasised this point, and made others of marked importance. It was not said – perhaps it was unnecessary to say – that what is now asked was left to Scotland by the Treaty of Union. We have lost our separate Minister, as we have lost some other things, partly from one cause and partly from another. It may be said, without the slightest desire to cause irritation, that Scotland has suffered administratively and in other respects through the aggressiveness of English Departments and English institutions. Even the semi-independence of the Lord Advocate was, as Lord Balfour showed, abolished by the late Government; and a still later and most glaring instance of aggression is to be found in the attempts of English Law Courts to take charge of Scottish cases. Lord Fraser has declared that this latter aggression is a clear breach of the Treaty of Union, and his authority will not be lightly disregarded. It is, therefore, not against the Union, but in fulfilment of the terms of the Treaty, that the present demand is made. The Scottish people are not sticklers for trifles in the matter of political government, so long as their work is fairly done. Probably that is the reason why some of the English aggressions of the past have not been resented; possibly some of them might even at the time be advantageous. But, as the Lord Provost of Edinburgh showed, the increase in wealth and importance, and consequently in administrative requirements, has made the existing order of things intolerable. Mr Anderson, in the excellent statement which he made to the Premier, indicated an opinion that it was chiefly in regard to Parliament that a separate department is required. He spoke from the fulness of personal experience, and he was supported by what had previously fallen from Lord Balfour. But we are inclined to think that he underrates the inconvenience caused to the country by the present system of administration, not because he fails to see it, but because his grievance, which is the grievance of all Scottish members of Parliament, is all but unbearable. Only those who have to do with municipal and other like matters know in how many cases the present system fails, and how much public business and public interests suffer from the want of a department specially charged with Scottish affairs. The case pointed out by Lord Balfour as to the allocation of road grants in Scotland is but one striking instance of a great grievance. For two years, sums have been voted towards the completion of the Museum of Science and Art in Edinburgh; and this year, as last, the vote will lapse because departments, squabbling among themselves, cannot or will not decide on the plans for the new building, or on the appropriation of it. Does anybody suppose that this would have happened had there been a Scottish Minister at the head of a Scottish department? It is very much the same with other things. Scotland would get better attention as to harbours, telegraphs, public buildings, and matters of many kinds if she had a department with a strong Minister at its head. Mr Duncan McLaren pressed the claim with all the authority of one who had long advocated it, and he was deservedly complimented by Mr Gladstone. It seems to us that he put more stress upon the question of the appropriation of the office of Privy Seal than was necessary. Indeed, he appeared to be under some mistake in regard to what has been proposed as to that appropriation. But this is a small matter, and it does not lessen the force or weaken the authority with which Mr McLaren spoke as to public opinion in Scotland.”  

– Scotsman, Wednesday 20th February, 1884.

– Treaty of Union Articles, 1875-1900.

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