23rd of March

St Victorian, proconsul of Carthage, and others, martyrs, 484. St Alphonsus Turibius, Archbishop of Lima, 1606.

Born. – Pierre Simon Laplace, French savant, author of Mécanique Céleste, 1749, Beaumont-en-Ange
Died. – Peter the Cruel, king of Castile, 1369; Pope Julius III., 1556; Justus Lipsius eminent historical writer, 1606, Louvain; Paul, Emperor of Russia, assassinated, 1801, St Petersburg; Augustus frederick Kotzebue, German dramatist, 1819, assassinated at Mannheim; Carl Maria von Weber, German musical composer, 1829, London.


Medical men see more strange things, perhaps, than any other persons. They are repeatedly called upon to grapple with difficulties, concerning which there is no definite line of treatment generally recognised; or to treat exceptional cases, in which the usual course of proceeding cannot with safety be adopted. If it were required to name the articles which a woman would not be likely to swallow, a brass padlock might certainly claim a place in the list; and we can well imagine that a surgeon would find his ingenuity taxed to grapple with such a case. An instance of this kind took place in Edinburgh in 1837; as recorded in the local journals, the particulars were as follows: On the 23d of March, the surgeons at the Royal Infirmary were called upon to attend to a critical case. About the middle of February, a woman, while engaged in some pleasantry, put into her mouth a small brass padlock, about an inch and two-thirds in length, and rather more than an inch in breadth. To her consternation, it slipped down her throat. fear of distressing her friends led her to conceal the fact. She took an emetic, but without effect; and for twenty-four hours she was in great pain, with a sensation of suffocation in the throat. She then got better, and for more than a month suffered but little pain. Renewed symptoms of inconvenience led her to apply to the Infirmary. One of the professors believed the story she told; others deemed it incredible; and nothing immediately was done. When, however, pain, vomiting, and a sense of suffocation returned, Dr James Johnson, hospital-assistant to Professor Lizars, was called upon suddenly to attend to her. He saw that either the padlock must be extracted, or the woman would die. An instrument was devised for the purpose by Mr Macleod, a surgical instrument maker; and, partly by the skill of the operator, partly by the ingenious formation of the instrument, the strange mouthful was extracted from the throat. The woman recovered.

On this Day in Other Sources.

We gather from its contents that the writer was a McGregor, acknowledging McGregor of Glensthrae for his chief; that he was a priest, and “said his first mann” at Whitsunday 1531; that he came to the cure of Fortirgall at Beltane 1532; and that he spent the remainder of his life in that neighbourhood. He records chiefly the obits and funerals of Fortirgall and Inchaddin, though mixed with such as interested him of the passing events of the Highlands, and of the public affairs of the country. He records that he began to sow oats in the Borllin of Fortirgall on 23d March of each of the years 1575 and 1576; 

– Sketches, pp.341-394.

March 23 [1619.] – It had been a custom of the congregations in Edinburgh to hold a meeting on the Tuesday before the administration of the communion. ‘If anything was amiss in the lives, doctrines, or any part of the office of their pastors, every man had liberty to show wherein they were offended; and if anything was found amiss, the pastors promised to amend it. If they had anything likewise to object against the congregation, it was likewise heard, and amendment was promised. If there was any variance among neighbours, pains were taken to make reconciliation, that so both pastors and people might communicate in love at the banquet of love.’ On the present occasion, the affair had much the character of a modern public meeting, and the people stood boldly up to their pastors, arguing against the innovations of worship now about to be introduced, particularly kneeling at the sacrament. – Cal

– Domestic Annals, pp.177-227.

Mr. Williamson, king’s messenger for Scotland, traced the Deacon from point to point till he reached Dover, where after an eighteen days’ pursuit he disappeared; but by a sort of fatuity, often evinced by persons similarly situated, he gave clues to his own discovery. He remained in London till the 23rd of March [1787.] He took his passage on board the Leith smack Endeavour for that port, disguised as an old man in bad health, and under the name of John Dixon; but on getting out of the Thames, according to some previous arrangement, he was landed at Flushing, and from thence reached Ostend. On board the smack he was rash enough to give in charge of a Mr. Geddes letters addressed to three persons in Edinburgh, one of whom was his favourite mistress in Cant’s Close. Geddes, full of suspicion, on reaching Leith gave the documents to the authorities. Mr. Williamson was once more on his track, and discovered him in Amsterdam, through the treachery of an Irishman named Daly, when he was on the eve of his departure for America;.. 

– Old and New Edinburgh, pp.112-118.


   SOME time since, and not very long ago either, ‘the Scotch argument,’ as we may term it, was a favourite one with English publicists and public men in their contests with Irish Home Rulers. There, it was said, is Scotland, which, like Ireland, had once a Parliament of its own, but which has, nevertheless, accepted the Union, and would not now dream of going back to the ante-Union state of things; it must be mere perversity which prevents Ireland from following her example. The argument had never much weight with the Irish, who considered that if Scotch men were content with a state of national degradation that was no reason why another people should exhibit a similar spectacle of degenerency. And now the example of Scotland is no longer held up for our imitation; the reason being the very sufficient one that the aforesaid example is no longer available. It is every day becoming more and more plain that Scotland is not content with her position in the empire, and signs are thickening that the change she desires, and will yet insist on, is not so very dissimilar, after all, from that demanded by Ireland. There now lies before us a pamphlet which is published by the eminent Edinburgh firm of Edmonston and Co., which is evidently the production of a Scot of more than average ability, and the object of which is “to lay briefly before the Scottish people the systematic neglect suffered by them at the hands of the Imperial legislature, in the hope that the time has come when it is evident that the present constitution of Great Britain does not provide a means of efficient administration for the three divisions of so great an empire, and that the attempted legislation for each kingdom forms an obstruction to leglislation for the other two.” We have been taught to believe that the Scotch are not swayed by what are sneeringly called sentimental considerations – that in their eyes national honour, for example, is as nothing compared with material advantages. The author of this brochure impliedly stigmatises this assertion as a libel. The noble lords and other persons who voted the Union for the sum of £20,540 17s 7d are here spoken of as ‘the creatures who sold their country like a mess of pottage.’ The ‘men who’ (in old times) ‘stood boldly forward as Scotsmen in the face of the world’ are contrasted with those who are ‘content to see Scotland daily becoming less and less a field for honest action or noble ambition; content to become Englishmen and to let themselves be called so; content to become utterly denationalized and see their hills and glens, with all their memories and traditions, made the hunting and pleasure grounds of the English idler and their own denationalized landholders.’ The design (of the existence of which strong proofs are given) to merge the Scottish judicature in that of England is denounced in unsparing terms, and in this connexion the declaration to Pope John the Twenty-second is quoted with enthusiastic approval, that ‘so long as one hundred Scotsmen remained alive they would never submit to the dominion of England.’ The neglected state of Edinburgh Castle, ‘the centre of a thousand stirring memories,’ is treated as an affront to the national mind, as is also the custom amongst Englishmen of speaking of ‘England’ when treaty obligations would compel them to say ‘Britain.’ Lastly, the Scottish people are called upon ‘to rouse themselves from their torpor and resolve with heart and hand to compel the British Government to maintain, if not the actual letter, at least the spirit of the Treaty of Union, by en masse asserting that Scotland has an individuality as a nation, with separate laws and institutions to protect alike from English interference and control.’ These are certainly not the slavish principles of public policy which have hitherto been supposed to prevail north of the Tweed. On the contrary, do they not bear a family resemblance to those which ‘the unreasonable Irish’ have been in the habit of advancing? But there is something even more notable to come. We have all heard much of the great material prosperity achieved by Scotland in the last half century. the writer of the pamphlet under notice admits all that is said on this point, but maintains, in opposition to all English notions, that the prosperity in question is so far from being the result of the legislative connection with England, that from the date of that connection to the present day there has been ‘an unceasing drain’ upon the people of the annexed country, and upon their money, ‘by the influence of studied centralisation.’ Recalling the vast sums expended in nursing the fishing industry in Scotland, and in cultivating the artistic tastes of the citizens of Edinburgh, we confess that, at first sight, this contention appears strange, but on reflection we cannot doubt that England has robbed Scotland as well as Ireland, though much less openly and to a much smaller extent. It is particularly noticeable, by the way, that Scotland and Ireland are both defrauded in the allotment of parliamentary representatives to the three divisions of the United Kingdom, for if the 658 members of the House of Commons were allotted proportionally to population, Ireland would be entitled to 112 instead of 105, Scotland to 70 instead of 60, and England to only 476 instead of 493. Nor can we doubt in the face of the evidence here presented that the Scotch labour under many serious grievances for which it is utterly vain to expect a remedy under present circumstances. Those sixty representatives who, because they had ‘loyally accepted’ the status quo! And now for the means proposed for securing the individuality and increasing the material prosperity of the Scottish nation. It is at this point we begin to feel ourselves at variance with the Scotch Home Rulers. The majority of them have not yet got beyond the idea of asking for a Chief Secretary with a seat in the Cabinet, and, although the writer of the pamphlet we have been examining alludes, in addition, to the United States system of local self-government as a possible model of a reconstructed set of Parliamentary institutions for the United Kingdom, it is evident that he does not contemplate a local Parliament with legislative powers for other than local or social purposes. His mistake is in thinking that a legislative union does not in the long run imply an administrative one – that the legislature of a small country can be united with that of a large without the one country being eventually absorbed in the other. Our experience is that with ‘a united parliament’ a Chief Secretary may be an instrument of scientific impoverishment, and the hope that an assembly empowered to pass only gas bills could avert provincialisation from a city requires only to be stated in plain language to be dismissed as chimerical. Our friends must go further, and we are confident that they will, possessing as they do so clear a conception of the character of the evils under which they labour from English rule. Meanwhile, in raising the cry of ‘Scotland for the Scots’ they have the hearty sympathy of those who want ‘Ireland for the Irish.’ ”  

– Dublin Weekly Nation, 23rd March, 1878. 

– Treaty of Union Articles, 1875-1900.

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