31st of March

St Acacius (or Achates), Bishop of Antioch, 3rd century. St Benjamin, Deacon, martyr, 424. St Guy (or Witen), Abbot at Ferrara, 1046.

Born. – Prince Arthur, Duke of Brittany, 1187; Henry II. of France, 1518, St Germain; René Descartes, French philosopher, 1596, La Haye; Pope Benedict XIV., Bologna; Frederick V. of Denmark, 1732; Francis Joseph Haydn, musical composer, 1732, Rohrau
Died. – Francis I. of France, 1547, Rambouillet; Philip III. of Spain, 1621, Madrid; Peter Burman, law-writer and Leyden professor, 1741; George, Earl Macartney, Ambassador to China, 1806, Chiswick; Ludwig Beethoven, musical composer, 1827, Vienna; JOhn C. Calhoun, American Statesman, 1850.


George Macartney, a descendant of the Macartneys of Auchenleck, near Kirkcudbright, was born at his father’s seat, Lissanoure, in the county of Antrim, Ireland, on the 14th of May 1737. So quick was he to learn, and so well instructed by a private tutor named Dennis, that, at the early age of thirteen, he was admitted a fellow commoner of Trinity College, Dublin. His choice of profession inclined him towards medicine, until accidentally reading ‘certain curious old tracts on chronology’ (the Book of Days of the period), his circle of ideas became enlarged, and an honourable spirit of ambition changed his first design. And long after, when he had it in his power to reward his tutor’s care with two rich benefices, he emphatically acknowledged that ‘the events, dates, and other facts’ gleaned up, when a boy, from those old chronological works, not only pointed out the way, but were of the greatest service to him as he travelled the arduous path which eventually led to wealth and distinction. Having obtained the degree of M.A., he spent some time in travel, during which he fortunately made the acquaintance of Stephen, son of Lord Holland, and elder brother of the renowned orator and statesman, Charles James Fox. Here was the tide that led to fortune, nor was the ambitious youth, whose head was stored with ‘facts, dates, and other events,’ slow to take advantage of the flood. The abilities and personal advantages of the young Irishman were soon recognised at Holland Housel; and, after a short course of political training, he was brought into Parliament for the borough of Midhurst, then at the command of his influential patron. He did not disappoint the expectations of his friends. Just at that period, statesmen of all parties were puzzled by the attitude of Russia. Scarcely permitted, by the public opinion of Europe, to hold a place among civilized states, the empire of the Czars had, at one bound, stepped into the first class, under the clever guidance of an ambitious woman, whom romantically unexpected events had placed upon the throne. Macartney was the first to see the position and accept it, in the following oracular words, – ‘Russia,’ he said, ‘is no longer to be gazed at as a distant glimmering star, but as a great planet, that has obtruded itself into our system, whose place is yet undetermined, but whose motions must powerfully affect those of every other orb.’

He was appointed Chief Secretary for Ireland, and soon after made a Knight Companion of the Bath. For several stormy sessions, he sat in the Irish House of Commons, and on one occasion, being taunted with his red ribbon and White Eagle, he gave a reply which effectually prevented any other attacks of that kind; observing in conclusion – ‘Thus, Sir, I was employed at a very early age, whilst some of my opponents were engaged in the weighing of syllables, the measurement of words, and the construction of new phrases. If, in my embassies, I have received testimonies never before granted but to my superiors; if my person is adorned with extraordinary proofs of distinction, let me tell these gentlemen that they are badges of honour, not of shame and disgrace. Let me tell them that, if, from my public situation, my name should ever pass to posterity, it will be transmitted as a testimony of my services and integrity, not as a record of infamy and crimes.’

We next find Sir George in the British parliament, representing the burghs of Ayr, Irvine, Rothesay, &c., most probably by the influence of Lord Bute, whose daughter, Lady Jane Stewart, he had lately married. In 1775 he was appointed Governor of Grenada, and in the following year advanced to the Irish peerage, under the title of Lord Macartney, Baron of Lissanoure.

On this Day in Other Sources.

The last of March, the most part of the nobility, with seven noblemen of England, and his majesty’s secretary of state, [James Elphinstone] the Lord Balmerino, came to Edinburgh cross, the Secretary read, and Sir David Lindsay of [the Mount], knight, Lyon King of Arms, proclaimed King James [VI.], King of Scotland, England, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith. 

– Historical Works, pp.340-416.

Mar. 31 [1631.] – There being a scarcity at this time on the continent, while Scotland possessed a considerable quantity of wheat, the Privy Council, considering these facts, and, moreover, that wheat is not ‘the common grain wherewith the whole lieges are ordinarily fed,’ granted license for the exporting of 4000 bolls. – P. C. R

– Domestic Annals, pp.228-256.

On Easter Sunday, the 31st of March, 1689, the assassin loaded his pistols, and went to the choir of St. Giles’s church, from whence he dogged him home to the Old Bank Close, and though accompanied by Lord Castlehill and Mr. Daniel Lockhart, shot him in the back just as he was about to enter his house – the old one whose history we have traced. Lady Lockhart – aunt of the famous Duke of Wharton – was confined to her bed with illness, but sprang up on hearing the pistol-shot; and on learning what had occurred, rushed forth in her night-dress and assisted to convey in the victim, who was laid on two chairs, and instantly expired. The ball had passed out at the left breast. Chiesly was instantly seized. “I am not wont to do things by halves,” said he, grimly and boastfully; “and now I have taught the president how to do justice!” He was put to the torture to discover if he had any accomplices; and as he had been taken red hand, he was on Monday sentenced to death by Sir Magnus Price, Provost of the city, without much formality, according to Father Hay, and on a hurdle he was dragged to the Cross, where his right hand was struck off when alive; then he was hanged in chains at Drumsheugh, says another account; between the city and Leith at the Gallowlee, according to a third, with the pistol tied to his neck. His right hand was nailed on the West Port. The manor house of Dalry, latterly the property of Kirkpatrick, of Allisland, was after this alleged to be haunted, and no servant therein would venture, after dark, alone into the back kitchen, as a tradition existed that his body – which his relations had unchained and carried off, sword in hand, under cloud of night – was buried somewhere near that apartment. 

– Old and New Edinburgh, pp.112-118.

But besides such gratuities there appear to have been both “fees” and perquisites paid to the provosts and bailies. Thus in 1573-4 there occurs an entry of a payment “to my lord provost for his fie xiij lib. vjs. viijd. (£2, 4s. 6d.) and to thrie of the bailies for their fies xx lib.” (about £1, 18s. each). And from a subsequent minute of council it appears that each year were given to the provost, “quhilk hesbein in vse thairof of befoir.” In subsequent years the fees vary in amount. They appear to have been discontinued before the end of the seventeenth century, and in 1720 a small fixed allowance was made to the provost. On the 31st of March of that year a minute of council bears that “in respect the provest as Chiefe Magistrat whiles in that station is obliged to keep up a post suitable thereto, and cannot but be at considerable charge in furnishing his house with wines for the entertainment of gentlemen who may have occasion to wait on him at his house, it is their judgment there should be fourty pound sterling settled upon the provest yearly for defraying the said charge and he may therewith furnish himself with what wines he thinks most fitted.” This payment continued to be made down to the passing of the first reform act, when it was abolished. 

– Old Glasgow, pp.215-237.

Mr. D. Ross thus writes in reference to one of those clearances and evictions which had just then taken place under the authority of a certain Sheriff of the district, and by means of a body of policemen as executioners:- ‘The feeling on this subject, not only in the district, but in Sutherlandshire and Ross-shire is, among the great majority of people, one of universal condemnation of the Sheriff’s reckless conduct, and of indignation and disgust at the brutality of the policemen. Such, indeed, was the sad havoc made on these females on the banks of Carron, on the memorable 31st March [1854], that pools of blood were on the ground – that the grass and earth were dyed red with it – that the dogs of the district came and licked up the blood; and at last, such was the state of feeling of parties who went from a distance to see the field, that a party (it is understood by order or instructions from head-quarters) actually harrowed the ground during the night to hide the blood!’ 

These things were brought to light during the recent war with Russia; who can marvel at the sympathising author thus expressing himself, when concluding the astonishing account – 

‘The affair at Greenyard, on the morning of the 31st March last, is not calculated to inspire much love of country, or rouse the martial spirit of the already ill-used Highlanders. The savage treatment of innocent females on that morning, by an enraged body of police, throws the Sinope butchery into the shade; for the Ross-shire Haynaus have shown themselves more cruel and more blood-thirsty than the Austrian women-floggers. What could these poor men and women, with their wounds, and scars, and broken bones, and disjointed arms, stretched on beds of sickness, or moving on crutches, the result of the brutal treatment of them by the police at Greenyard, have to dread from the invasion of Scotland by Russia?’ 

‘What, indeed,’? echo back these depopulated glens. 

Mr. Ross went from Glasgow to Greenyard, Ross-shire, to investigate the case on the spot, and found that Mr. Taylor, a native of Sutherland, (well educated in eviction schemes and murderous cruelty of that county) and Sheriff substitute of Ross-shire, marched from Tain upon the morning of the 31st March at the head of a strong party of armed constables, with heavy bludgeons and fire arms, conveyed in carts and other vehicles, allowing them as much ardent drink as  they chose to take before leaving and upon their march, so as to qualify them for the bloody work they had to perform. Fit for any outrage, fully equipped, and told by the Sheriff to shew no mercy to any one who would oppose them, and not allow themselves to be called cowards, by allowing these mountaineers victory over them. In this excited half drunk state they came in contact with the unfortunate women of Greenyard, who were determined to prevent the officers from serving the summons of removal upon them, and keep their holding of small farms where they and their forefathers lived and died for generations. But no time was allowed to parley; the Sheriff gave the order to clear the way, and be it said to his everlasting disgrace (but to the credit of the county of Sutherland) that he struck the first blow at a woman, the mother of a large family, and large in the family way at the time, who tried to keep him back, then a general slaughter commenced, the women made noble resistance, until the bravest of them got their arms broken, then they gave way. This did not allay the rage of the murderous brutes, they continued clubbing at the protectless creatures until every one of them was stretched on the field wallowing in their blood, or with broken arms, ribs, and bruised limbs; in this woeful condition many of them were handcuffed together, others tied with coarse ropes, huddled into carts and carried prisoners to Tain jail. I have seen myself in the possession of Mr. Ross of Glasgow, patches or scalps of the skin with the long hair adhering to them, which was found upon the field a few days after this inhuman affray. 

– Gloomy Memories, pp.191-202.


   The CHAIRMAN said it had been discovered that appended to the Supreme Court of Judicature Act, 1875, constituting a high Court of Justice, there was a schedule under which persons resident in Scotland were liable to be brought before the Courts of Law at Westminster to defend themselves there, though the action might be without foundation. As the directors could not but think that this was an oversight when the bill was drawn up and passed, and as it was a violation of the Act of Treaty and Union between England and Scotland, they had petitioned Parliament in favour of a bill to amend this, called the Judicature Act Amendment Bill, which had been introduced by some Irish members – Ireland being affected in the same way as Scotland by the schedule – and had appointed Messrs McLaren, Cowan, and McLagan, M.P.s, to represent the Chamber in a deputation to Government on the subject.” 

– Scotsman, Friday 31st March, 1876.

   “Even in the time of Ptolemy these Islands were known as Britain, and a Greek poet who flourished nineteen centuries ago referred to the position of the British Isles. The name is thus more ancient than that of either England or Scotland, and apart from any geographical considerations, it has been since 1707 the only legal name for the united realms. Scotsmen have bore no small and no inglorious share in the toils and struggles that helped to build and consolidate the British Empire. They have given of their valour, they have freely shed their blood in the creation of this grand Imperial whole, and their efforts deserve a better reward than that which would be bestowed by those who desire Scotland to occupy the position of a mere province… at Waterloo the Gay Gordons leapt forward shouting ‘Scotland for ever,’ so at Dargai their gallant charge was led by the ‘shrill blast’ of the bagpipes. The realm of Britain owes something to the constant valour of the Scot, and while it is right and fitting that England should be accorded all the dignity and privileges that justly accrue to it, Scotland cannot reasonably be expected to accept the ignoble position of a conquered province.”  

– North Star and Farmers’ Chronicle, Thursday 31st March, 1898.

– Treaty of Union Articles, 1875-1900.

Scots Request a Militia for Home Defence

“Fabros ferrarios, carpentarios, macellarios, et carvorum, aprorumque venatores, convenit sociare militia. 
   [Blacksmiths, carpenters, butchers and deer hunters, such are proper, agreed to join the military.] 
VEGET. de rc Militari.


   HOW widely does this celebrated and much admired author, amongst the friends of liberty, differ in his military doctrine from that aristocratical faction, who consider an army to be no otherwise useful than to overawe the subject, and to support their own oppressive measures! these invent laws to disarm and expose the people, defenceless on every occasion, those avow the necessity of putting arms into the hands of smiths, carpenters, all sorts of workmen, and of gentlemen that delight in the diversion of hunting the fox, the boar, and the stag? the very doctrine of defence, on which the militia is now established by act of parliament, in South Britain. 

   The advantages of this establishment, though but in its infancy, have been already manifested in a most extraordinary degree in England. For, though little more than one half of their number has been disciplined and called into actual service., this militia was found effectual to repulse any invader, and to remove the fears of that nation, which, but a few years ago, being obliged to put its whole dependence upon an army of regular mercenaries, was over-run by a handful of undisciplined highlanders. 

   To this constitutional measure, which our Aristocraticks treat as chimerical, are owing that firmness and dignity of the English in the midst of the most vigorous preparations of their enemies to invade them; that unshaken credit, with which they are able to raise immense sums, required to maintain their property, and to avenge themselves of their enemies; and that improvement in their strength, as, from being driven to the necessity of importing foreign troops for their internal defence, to be in a capacity to employ their regular troops in operations abroad, which have added the greatest lustre and advantage to the British name. The victories at Louisbourg, Minden and Quebeck, are the happy effects of this measure; and will perpetuate to future ages the only means for Britain to maintain her glory, trade, and dominion. 

   In this delightful prospect, almost bewildered with the infinite blessings, that arise from an army of the people, there is still something wanting to make it compleat, and a something extremely disagreeable to a North-Briton. This deficiency is the want of its establishment in that part of the island called the kingdom of Scotland. For confining the protection by a militia, within the kingdom of England; the whole country north of the Tweed, is left an easy prey to every daring and despicable enterpriser, that can find means to land upon the coast of Scotland.  

   This was very lately the case: when Thurot’s squadron, that pretty instrument of Gallick insolence, was known to steer a Northern course, how great was the panick in Scotland! The inhabitants, dismayed, fled from their coasts, and more than a million of people, as it were devoted to slaughter, durst not put themselves into a posture of defence, whilst their fellow-subjects in England were prepared against every event, defended by arms, put into the hands of labourers and mechanicks, under the command of fox and stag hunters, &c.  

   Such a distinction in the politicks of Great Britain, must be confessed very unaccountable. Why a people, united under one and the same King, and entitled to the same protection in their laws, religion and property, should be neglected in the distribution of arms; should not be admitted to a union of strength, should not be put upon an equal footing of defence against a foreign enemy, and against domestick riots and insurrections: should be denied that privilege, which is the grand criterion of liberty: or, why the inhabitants of South Britain are admitted to bear arms, and those in North Britain are not, is a question not to be slightly answered, and deserves the most serious attention and immediate consideration of the legislature, to prevent the hazard and injustice of so great a partiality.  

   Whence could such a partiality arise? there can be no objection to the military genius of the Scots. They, on all occasions have given proofs, that they yield not the least to the English, or to any other nation, for courage and conduct. No people are less addicted to the vices of the age or more respectful to their superiors: and their gentlemen have given proofs of their courage and military talents. 

   Is it unconstitutional? Scotland is a free government, and the possession of arms is the distinction of a freeman from a slave. There can be no real security to the liberties of the people; but, that which puts the sword into their own hands. He who is born a freeman and has a property, ought to have arms to defend himself, and what he possesses, in case of need, otherwise he lives precariously, and at the discretion of another, that is more powerful. Whatever is found necessary for internal defence is constitutional; because liberty and property can subsist no longer than they are properly and effectually protected. And as many instances can be produced to prove, that a standing army is unequal to the uses of a free people, they can find defence in no other force, than a militia raised out of their own body. 

   But they who oppose this measure, say, that a military spirit is inconsistent with the commercial interest of the nation. Hereby labour is deprived of many hands: trade and manufactures will be interrupted: that the wealth of the nation will decay in proportion to the increase of the militia. A mere sophism! can property be preserved without strength? is that contrary to our interest, which is necessary for our safety? is not that form most eligible, which is most powerful and least harmful to industry and labour? if so, a militia is preferable to a standing army; and trade and manufactures gain by the institution thereof; because, by the rotation of the militia men, we have hopes of seeing all the honest men in the nation trained to arms; who, except the few days of exercise, and when the service of the publick require them to take the field, return home and follow their occupations: whereas, those large recruits, raised chiefly out of our manufacturers, artists and labourers, for the army, are generally totally lost to their country, at the conclusion of a war. A militia man inrolled for three years only, can scarce be thought to lose sight of the trade or occupation to which he had been bred; but this will seldom be the case of a soldier after six or seven campaigns.  

   By extolling the use of a militia, there is no intention to degrade the soldiery. The militia is only designed for internal defence: our foreign interest and power require the arms of our regular forces: without a militia we cannot be secure; and without the additional strength of an army, we cannot be great and respectable on the continent of Europe, nor protect our settlements abroad.  

   Therefore, as no objection can lie against the establishment of a militia in Scotland, either from the constitution of that government, or from its commercial interest; and as its usefulness is indisputable, why were the Scots excluded from this necessary constitutional means of protection? Why do not they enjoy the benefit of the union in this important article of liberty? Can it be said that they have forfeited their right as Britons? Will not the least hesitation to the establishment of a Scottish militia, carry an imputation, either of cowardice, as if the ancient spirit of that kingdom was quite extinguished; or that it is become a province to England? How such an imputation would be relished by a people, whose ancestors, by arms alone, sustained the reputation and power of their kingdom, is more than I am willing to suggest. It is most probable, that their union with England would never have been effected, had they imagined, that the communication of all the rights, privileges, and advantages, which did then, or might thereafter belong to the subjects of either kingdom, as declared by the fourth article of the treaty of union, should empower their united brethren, the English, to deny them the privilege of arms for their own defence, in the same degree and proportion, as they themselves might at any time enjoy.  

   Thus obliged by the dangers and fears, that daily haunt a disarmed people, exposed to the ravages of a merciless enemy; and provoked with jealousy and reproach, it is much to be apprehended, that a miscarriage of so reasonable an application to parliament, which the North-Britons are a present making, for a militia, would be productive of great discontent, and at least make them think that it had been better for Scotland, has there been no Union. 

   All sons of liberty, and enemies to despotick power, heartily join in their good wishes for the success of their petition: and the freeholders and burghers of Scotland, will shortly have it in their power to prefer such of their representatives, as shall, in this instance of national liberty, deserve well of their constituents, and of branding them with disgrace, who, by sapine neglect, or any other way, shall tacitly look on, and betray the rights of their country, to indulge the disposition of a needy or sordid mind. 

   But, if neither affection for their country, nor the fear of disobliging their constituents, should be effectual to spirit up a true zeal for Scotland’s honour and safety, there is not the least doubt of the friendship of those worthy English patriots and patrons of the militia in South Britain. Like deserted children, those fathers of liberty will take us up; and the unexpected success and advantages they have found in the service of their own militia, will no doubt bring many, who opposed its establishment, at first, in England, to promote its extension to her sister kingdom. As no measure can more effectually contribute towards the happy conclusion of this glorious war, we have all the reason in the world to believe, that the administration will facilitate the proposal: and it was never the character of a British parliament to deny, or to be deaf to, the just claims of their fellow subjects. 

   Scotland stands more in need of a militia than England. By this establishment, every shire and township would be protected; and those coasts, friths and bays, which were, last year, left naked and exposed to the violence of the enemy, by drawing the regular troops round Edinburgh, when an invasion was meditating from France, might have been secured from those dreadful apprehensions, with which the whole coast was filled, without the power of making the least resistance. Besides, it is well known, that when both kingdoms have been in danger, the fleet and army are more necessarily employed in defence of that part of the island, where wealth and empire demand their assistance. 

   It has been insinuated that the Scots are a restless, dissatisfied and rebellious people. The terror and disgrace of the years 1715 and 1745, are produced to confirm this imputation, and thereby to prevent a militia act for their kingdom. The injustice of such a charge is most palpable. It is no more equitable to upbraid the Scottish nation with the universal spirit of rebellion, because some of her natives were prevailed upon to favour the designs of France; than to accuse every Englishman of bribery and corruption, because some of them make merchandize of their votes. The simple fact is this: A few thousand of the Highland clans over-run the country; which might, and would have been easily prevented, had the friends of liberty and of government been trusted with arms, and not obliged with grief and indignation to submit to the power of the sword… 

   Therefore, as there is nothing in a Scottish militia, that can be deemed unconstitutional: nothing but what the Scots have a right to by the act of union: nothing unsafe or dangerous to the present establishment: nothing to injure the commercial interest of the nation; and no more than what is necessary for its internal defence: why should any Englishman object to it? How can any ad—n think it unreasonable, or what should cool the Scots r—pr—s in the support of the people’s petition for arms, in defence of their king and country?  

I am, Sir, &c.


Caledonian Mercury, Monday 31st March, 1760.

– Treaty of Union Articles, Scots Request a Militia for Home Defence.

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