23rd of June

St Mary of Oignies, 1213.

Born. – Gottfreid Wilhelm Leibnitz, historian, philosopher, 1646, Leipsic
Died. – Caius Flaminius, killed at the battle of Thrasimene, B.C. 217; Louis I. of France (Le Débonnaire), 840; James Mill, author of the History of India, &c., 1836, Kensington; John Lord Campbell, Lord Chancellor of England, 1861.


Though in a high degree romantic and wonderful, about no portion of their history do Englishmen shew less interest than in that which relates their struggles and conquests in India. On scarcely any matter is the attention of the House of Commons yielded less willingly than on Indian affairs. The reasons for this apathy may perhaps be traced to the complete division existing between the Hindoo and Englishman in race, mind, religion, and manners; and to the multitude of diverse tribes and nations who crowd Hindostan, turning India into a mere geographical expression, and complicating its history in a way to which even German history affords but a faint resemblance. We may imagine how all this might have been changed had the peninsula of Hindostan, like China, been ruled by one emperor, whose power Britain had sapped and overthrown. Instead of this the great drama is diffused in a myriad of episodes, and that unity is lost by which alone popular interest can be enthralled.

Until James Mill published his History of British India, in 1818, any one who wished to attain the truth concerning most parts of that history had to seek for it in a chaos of books and documents. It was Mill’s merit out of that chaos to evolve order. Many who have opened Mill’s history for amusement, have closed it in weariness; but Mill made no attempt at brilliancy, and was only careful to describe events accurately and clearly. From the first openings of intercourse with India to the establishment of the East India Company, in the reign of Queen Anne, down to the end of the Mahratta war in 1805, he ran a straight, broad, and firm road through what had before been a jungle of hearsay, and voluminous and confused authorities. Mill was no mere compiler. He was a hard thinker and a philosopher; he thoroughly absorbed his matter, and reproduced it from his brain in a masterly digest, which has won the praise of all whose business it has been to consult him with serious purpose.

James Mill was the son of a shoemaker and small farmer, and was born at Montrose, on the 6th of April 1773. He was a thoughtful lad, and Sir John Stuart, of Fettercairn, unwilling that his talents should be hidden, sent him to Edinburgh University, with the purpose of educating him for a minister in the Scottish Church. Mill, however, had little inclination for the pulpit, and Dugald Stewart’s lectures confirmed his taste for literature and philosophy in preference to theology. Long afterwards, in writing to a friend, he said, ‘The taste for the studies which have formed my favourite pursuits, and which will be so to the end of my life, I owe to Dugald Stewart.’ For some years he acted as a tutor or teacher, and in 1800, when in London, he accepted the editorship of The Literary Journal. This paper was a failure, but he soon secured other work, and for twenty years supported himself by writing for magazines and newspapers. Shortly after coming to London he married. In 1806 was born his celebrated son, John Stuart Mill, whose education, as well as that of eight other sons and daughters, he conducted. About 1806 he commenced the History of British India in the hours he could rescue from business, and in twelve years completed and gave it to the world in three quarto volumes. In the course of the history, he had meted out censure freely and honestly to the East India Company; but so highly were the directors impressed with the merits of the work, that in the spring of 1819 they appointed Mill to manage their finances, and subsequently their entire correspondence with India. In possession of affluence, Mill’s pen was active as ever, his favourite themes being political economy and metaphysics. He was the intimate friend and constant visitor of Jeremy Bentham; their opinions on nearly all things coincided, and by many he was considered Bentham’s ablest lieutenant. Mill died at Kensington, of consumption, on the 23rd of June 1836.

On this Day in Other Sources.

M. de Villeroy, the French ambassador, meantime came to Edinburgh, on the 23d of June [1567]; and desired to converse with the Queen, but was refused: whereupon, he returned home, through England, “finding such a troubled state, without the majesty of a prince.”

– Life of Mary, pp.155-184.

He also patronised the portrait-painter, George Jameson, now in the zenith of his fame and settled in Edinburgh. From a letter written by this distinguished person to Sir Colin, June 23, 1635, it appears that he charged for his portraits twenty merks each, he furnishing ‘claith and colours.’ The laird had given an order for pictures of a considerable number of his friends, and Jameson promised, if he began in July, to have sixteen ready in September. 

– Domestic Annals, pp.228-256.

June 23 [1689]. – This morning, being Sunday, the royal orders for the appointment of fifteen new men to be Lords of Session reached Edinburgh, all of them being, of course, persons notedly well affected to the new order of things. Considering the veneration professed for the day by zealous Presbyterians in Scotland, and how high stood the character of the Earl of Crawford for a religious life, one is rather surprised to find one of the new judges (Crossrig) bluntly telling that that earl ‘sent for me in the morning and intimated to me that I was named for one of them.’ He adds a curious fact. ‘It seems the business had got wind, and was talked some days before, for Mr James Nasmyth, advocate, who was then concerned for the Faculty’s Library, spoke to me to pay the five hundred merks I had given bond for when I entered advocate; which I paid. It may be he thought it would not be so decent to crave me after I was preferred to the bench.’ 

– Domestic Annals, pp.342-354.

Be this as it may touching whisky, the wigs in 1710 – the periwigs, not politicians – were to the rising generation an evil and expense no less ruinous than cigars are in 1855. Thus on one day, June 23, we find noted in the account: ‘To a wig, 36l.; to Charles Murthland to buy a London wig, 8 guineas’ – 103l. 4s. 8d. Scot; nor are some Irish ones much dearer in St. James’s Street to this day. 

London Quarterly.

In Monteith’s Close, in 1794, we find in the “Scottish Hist. Register” for 1795 recorded the death of Mr. John Douglas, Albany herald, uncle of Sir Andrew Snape Douglas, who was captain of the Queen Charlotte, of 110 guns, and who fought her so valiantly in Lord Bridport’s battle on “the glorious 23rd of June, 1795.” 

– Old and New Edinburgh, pp.274-282.

Probably Burns drew the suggestion of his hero, Tam o’ Shanter, from the character and adventures of Douglas Graham – born 6th January 1739, died 23[rd] June 1811 – son of Robert Graham, farmer at Douglastown, tenant of the farm of Shanter on the Carrick Shore, and owner of a boat which he had named Tam o’ Shanter. Graham was noted for his convivial habits, which his wife’s ratings tended rather to confirm than to eradicate. Tradition relates that once, when his long-tailed grey mare had waited even longer than usual for her master at the tavern door, certain humourists plucked her tail to such an extent as to leave it little better than a stump, and that Graham, on his attention being called to its state next morning, swore that it had been depilated by the witches at Alloway Kirk (MS. Notes by D. Auld of Ayr in Edinburgh University Library). 

– ‘Tam O’ Shanter’, Notes, Vol. 1, pp.433-441.

“10 Downing Street, Whitehall,  

June 21, 1886.  

   Sir, – I am desired by Mr Gladstone to inform you that he must decline with thanks the proposal that he should become patron of the Scottish Home Rule Association, as, at his age, he is compelled to abstain from undertaking new obligations. he thinks, also, that it would be better that Scottish opinion should form itself freely on the subject in whatever sense without any interference on his part. – I am, sir, your obedient servant, 


   C. Waddie, Esq.”  

– Greenock Telegraph and Clyde Shipping Gazette, Wednesday 23rd June, 1886.

– Treaty of Union Articles, Collection of Charles Waddie, AKA Thistledown’s, Correspondence.

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