10th of December

St Eulalia, virgin and martyr, about 304. St Melchiades, pope, 314.

Born. – General Sir William Fenwick Williams, hero of Kars, 1800, Nova Scotia.
Died. – Llewellyn, Prince of Wales, killed, 1282; Jean Joseph Sue, eminent physician, 1792, Paris; Casimir Delavigne, French dramatist, 1843, Lyon; Tommaso Grossi, Italian poet, 1853, Florence.


On the 10th of December 1720, John Law, late comptroller-general of the finances of France, retreated from Paris to his country-seat of Guermande, about fifteen miles distant from the metropolis, and in a few days afterwards quitted the kingdom, never again to return. A few months before, he had enjoyed a position and consideration only comparable with that of a crowned monarch – if, indeed, any sovereign ever received such eager and importunate homage, as for a time was paid to the able and adventurous Scotchman. 

The huge undertaking projected by Law, and known by the designation of the Mississippi Scheme, was perhaps one of the grandest and most comprehensive ever conceived. It not only included within its sphere of operations the whole colonial traffic of France, but likewise the superintendence of the Mint, and the management of the entire revenues of the kingdom. The province of Louisiana, in North America, then a French possession, was made over by the crown to the ‘Company of the West,’ as the association was termed, and the most sanguine anticipations were entertained of the wealth to be realised from this territory, which was reported, amid other resources, to possess gold-mines of mysterious value. In connection with the same project, a bank, established by law, under the sanction of the Duke of Orleans, then regent of France, promised to recruit permanently the impoverished resources of the kingdom, and diffuse over the land, by an unlimited issue of paper-money, a perennial stream of wealth. 

For a time these sanguine anticipations seemed to be fully realised. Prosperity and wealth to a hitherto unheard of extent prevailed throughout France, and Law was, for a short period, the idol of the nation, which regarded him as its good genius and deliverer. Immense fortunes were realised by speculation in Mississippi stock, the price of which rose from 500 livres, the original cost, to upwards of 10,000 livres by the time that the mania attained its zenith. A perfect frenzy seemed to take possession of the public mind, and to meet the ever-increasing demand, new allotments of stock were made, and still the supply was inadequate. Law’s house in the Rue Quinquempoix, in Paris, was beset from morning to night by eager applicants, who soon by their numbers blocked up the street itself and rendered it impassable. All ranks and conditions of men – peers, prelates, citizens, and mechanics, the learned and the unlearned, the plebian and the aristocrat – flocked to this temple of Plutus. Even ladies of the highest rank turned stockjobbers, and vied with the rougher sex in eagerness of competition. So utterly inadequate did the establishment in the Rue Quinquempoix prove for the transaction of business, that Law transferred his residence to the Place Vendôme, where the tumult and noise occasioned by the crowd of speculators proved such a nuisance, and impeded so seriously the procedure in the chancellor’s court in that quarter, that the monarch of stockjobbers found himself obliged to shift his camp. He, accordingly, purchased from the Prince of Carignan, at an enormous price, the Hôtel de Soissons, in which mansion, and the beautiful and extensive gardens attached, he held his levees, and allotted the precious stock to an ever-increasing and enthusiastic crowd of clients. 

With such demands on his time and resources, it became absolutely impossible for him to gratify one tithe of the applicants for shares, and the most ludicrous stories are told of the stratagems employed to gain an audience of the great financier. One lady made her coachman overturn her carriage when she saw Mr Law approaching, and the ruse succeeded, as the gallantry of the latter led him instantly to proffer his assistance, and invite the distressed fair one into his mansion, where, after a little explanation, her name was entered in his books as a purchaser of stock. Another female device to procure an interview with Law, by raising an alarm of fire near a house where he was at dinner, was not so fortunate, as the subject of the trick suspecting the motive, hastened off in another direction, when he saw the lady rushing into the house, which he and his friends had emerged from on the cry of fire being raised. 

The terrible crash at last came. The amount of notes issued from Law’s bank more than doubled all the specie circulating in the country, and great difficulties were experienced from the scarcity of the latter, which began both to be hoarded up and sent out of the country in large quantities. Severe and tyrannical edicts were promulgated, threatening heavy penalties for having in possession more than 500 livres or £20 in specie; but this ukase only increased the embarrassment and dissatisfaction of the nation. Then came an ordinance reducing gradually the value of the paper currency to one half, followed by the stoppage of cash-payments at the bank; and at last the whole privileges of the Mississippi Company were withdrawn, and the notes of the bank declared to be of no value after the 1st of November 1720. Law had by this time lost all influence in the councils of government, his life was in danger from an infuriated and disappointed people, and he was therefore fain to avail himself of the permission of the regent (who appears still to have cherished a regard for him) to retire from the scene of his splendour and disgrace. After wandering for a time through various countries, he proceeded to England, where he resided for several years. In 1725, he returned again to the continent, fixed his residence at Venice, and died there almost in poverty, on 21st March 1729.


Such was the end of the career of the famous John Law, who, of all men, had an undoubted title to be ranked as a prince of adventurers. In him the dubious reputation formerly enjoyed by Scotland, of sending forth such characters, was fully maintained. He was descended from an ancient family in Fife; but his father, William Law, in the exercise of the business of a goldsmith and banker in Edinburgh, gained a considerable fortune, enabling him to purchase the estate of Lauriston, in the parish of Cramond, which was inherited by his eldest son John. The ancient mansion of Lauriston Castle on this property, beautifully situated near the Firth of Forth, is believed to have been erected in the end of the sixteenth century, by Sir Archibald Napier of Merchiston, father of the celebrated inventor of logarithms, and then proprietor of Lauriston. It is represented in the accompanying engraving. In recent years, the building was greatly enlarged and embellished by Andrew Rutherford, Lord Advocate for Scotland, and subsequently one of the judges of the Court of Session. Law is said to have retained throughout a strong affection for his patrimonial property, and a story in reference to this is told of a visit paid to him by the Duke of Argyle in Paris, at the time when his splendour and influence were at the highest. As an old friend, the duke was admitted directly to Mr Law, whom he found busily engaged in writing. The duke entertained no doubt that the great financier was busied with a subject of the highest importance, as crowds of the most distinguished individuals were waiting in the anterooms for an audience. Great was his grace’s astonishment when he learned that Mr Law was merely writing to his gardener at Lauriston regarding the planting of cabbages at a particular spot! 

Of Law’s general character, it is not possible to speak with great commendation, He appears to have been through life a libertine and gambler, and in the latter capacity he supported himself for many years, both before and after his brief and dazzling career as a financier and political economist. In his youth, he had served an apprenticeship to monetary science under his father, and a course of travel and study, aided by a vigorous and inventive, but apparently ill-regulated intellect, enabled him subsequently to mature the stupendous scheme which we have above detailed, and succeed in indoctrinating with his views the regent of France. His first absence from Great Britain was involuntary, and occasioned by his killing, in a duel, the celebrated Beau Wilson, and thus being obliged to shelter himself by flight from the vengeance of the law. He then commenced a peregrination over the continent, and after a long course of rambling and adventure, settled down at Paris about the period of death of Louis XIV. A pardon for the death of Wilson was sent over to him from England in 1719.

On this Day in Other Sources.

Within the church of this great monastery, William the Lion chose his place of sepulture, and there, on the 4th of the Ides [10th] of December 1214, he was buried before the high altar,1 in presence of his successor and a vast assemblage of the nobles of Scotland. 

– Sketches, pp.144-172.

1  Ante majus altare. – Fordun.

With the privileges derived from their superior’s enlarged jurisdiction, and by the influence of increasing wealth and consequence, Glasgow had made some approach to an independent constitution before the reformation.1

Sketchess, pp.29-70.

1  This is apparent even from the care with which the archbishop in 1553 recorded the form of his selection of magistrates from the leet presented by the community. Only next year, the archbishop sued the community for “alleging itself to be doted and infeft be the bishop’s predecessors in certain privileges and liberties, and to be infeft be the kings,” and for refusing to pay certain duties to the bishop. In that suit the burgh was assoilzied. – Decree 10th Dec. 1554, in archiv. Civit. Glasg.

I quote from the volume of extracts so well edited by Dr. Marwick: “The provest baillies and sounsale with the dekynnis of the crafts, and divers wtheris honest men of the toun, convenand in the counsal hous, and haveand respect and consideratio unto the greit dekaye and ruyne that the hie kirk of Glasgw is cum to throuch taking awaye of the leid, sclait, and wther grayth thairof in thir trublus tyme bygane, sua that sick ane greit monument will alluterlie fall doun and dekey without it be remedit, and becaus the helping thairof is so greit, and will extend to mair nor thai may spair, and that they are nocht addettit to the vphalding and repairing thairof be the law, yit of thair awin fre willis vncompellit, and for the zele thai beir to the kirk, of meir almous and liberalite, sua that induce na practik nor preparative in tymes cuming, conforme to ane writting to be maid thairanent, all in ane voce has consentit to ane taxt and impositioun of twa hundredtht pundis money to be taxt and payit be the tounschip and fremen thairof for helping to repair the said kirk and haldyng it wattirfast.” 

On a subsequent date, 10th December, 1581, the magistrates are joined by “the superintendent, with the deyne of facultie, principall of the college, and others members of the kirk,” and there is farther discussion as to the “rwyng and decay of the kirk.” 

– Old Glasgow, pp.104-116.

Dec. 10 [1582]. – The king’s new councillors of course felt that hard measure had been dealt to the ex-Regent. At this date, ‘the Earl of Morton’s head was taken down off the prick which is upon the high gavel of the Tolbooth, with the king’s license, at the eleventh hour of the day; was laid in a fine cloth, convoyed honourably, and laid in the kist where his body was buried. The Laird of Carmichael carried it, shedding tears abundantly by the way.’ – Cal

– Domestic Annals, pp.81-98.

The King calls a parliament to be [held] at Linlithgow, the 10th day of December, this year, [1585,] wherein, among many other acts, all leagues and bonds made without the king’s consent are declared null; also the revocation of the King’s property is ratified, and an act of assent granted by the estates to his majesty, for concluding of a league with Elizabeth, Queen of England, offensive and defensive, against all the enemies of the reformed protestant religion. 

– Historical Works, pp.340-416.

Dec. 10 [1616]. – The Privy Council this day ordained that there should be a school in every parish in the kingdom, for the advancement of the true religion, and the training of children ‘in civility, godliness, knowledge, and learning.’ The school was in each case to be established, and a fit person appointed to teach the same, upon the expenses of the parishioners, at the sight and advice of the bishop of the diocese.* This order for the plantation of schools was not vigorously carried out, and in 1626, King Charles I. is found making an effort to remedy the defect. 

– Domestic Annals, pp.177-227.

*  This was the enactment of the Education Act (Scotland) 1616, which goal was to eradicate the “Irische language” [Gaelic] from the “Ilis and Heylandis.” [Islands and Highlands]
Forsameikle as the Kingis Majestie having a speciall care and regaird that the trew religioun be advancit and establisheit in all the pairtis of this kingdome and that all his Majesties subjectis especiallie the youth, be exercised and trayned up in civilitie, godliness, knawledge, and learning, that the vulgar Inglishe toung be universallie plantit, and the Irische language, whilk is one of the cheif and principall causes of the continewance of barbarite and incivilitie amongis the inhabitantis of the Ilis and Heylandis, may be abolishit and removeit; and quhair as thair is no measure more powerfull to further his Majesties princlie regaird and purpois that the establisheing of Scooles in the particular parroches of this Kingdom whair the youthe may be taught at least to write and reid, and be catechised and instructed in the groundis of religioun.


To my loveing freind the Laird of Glenvrquhy.

     LOVING FREIND, – Accordeing to this othre lettre of my lordis, I will earnestlie desyire you to send heire my sonne, and to have him at your house in Glenvrquhy on Frayday at night the tuentie ane day of this instant preceislie, and I shall appoynt folkes to meitt him thair on Satterday in the morneing, for bringing him alonges heir. I hoipe ye wilbee cairfull to send sufficient company with him, and to cause prowyd some secure place be the way, quhar he may be that night he comes from you. So referring all to your cair, exspecteing assuredlie that ye will send him the tyme foirsaid, I rest your loveing freind, 


     Inverrarey, 14 Junii 1639.1

– Sketches, pp.341-394.

1  In the careful fashion of that age, an account was kept of the boy’s expenses, from which I cannot resist giving a few extracts. 
COMPT of MONEYIS debursit for clothes and utheris necessaris to my Lord of Lorne’s sone, beginnand the 26 of September 1633:- 
Given for ane pair schone to him the x of December 1633, 
xii s.
Mair geven him the first of December 1633 vi ell of mantling at xl s the ell, inde
xii lib.

Dec. 10 [1678]. – A great comet, which had been observed in Germany a month earlier, was first seen in Scotland this evening, ‘the night being clear and frosty; between five and seven at night, it set in the west, and was seen in the south-east in the morning of the following days. [It] had a great [tail] blazing frae the root of it, was pointed as it came from the star, and then spread itself; was of a broad and large ascent up to the heavens… the stream of it all the night over is seen.’ 

– Domestic Annals, pp.322-337.

AMONG the many unfortunates who have pined as prisoners of state in the Castle, few suffered more than Henry Neville Payne, an English gentleman, who was accused of being a Jacobite conspirator. About the time of the battle of the Boyne, when the Earl of Annandale, Lord Ross, Sir Robert Montgomerie of Skelmorlie, Robert Fergusson “the plotter,” and others, were forming a scheme in Scotland for the restoration of King James, Payne had been sent there in connection with it, but was discovered in Dumfriesshire, seized, and sent to Edinburgh. Lockhart, the Solicitor-General for Scotland, who happened to be in London, coolly wrote to the Earl of Melville, Secretary of State at Edinburgh, saying, “that there was no doubt that he (Payne) knew as much as would hang a thousand; but except you put him to the torture, he will shame you all. Pray you, put him in such hands as will have no pity on him!”1

The Council, however, had anticipated these amiable instructions, and Payne had borne torture to extremity, by boot and thumb-screws, without confessing anything. On the 10th of December, [1690,] under express instruction signed by King William, and countersigned by Lord Melville, the process was to be repeated; and this was done in the presence of the Earl of Crawford, “with all the severity,” he reported, “that was consistent with humanity, even unto that pitch that we could not preserve life and have gone further, but without the least success. He was so manly and resolute under his sufferings that such of the Council as were not acquainted with the evidence, were brangled, and began to give him charity that he might be innocent. It was surprising that flesh and blood could, without fainting, endure the heavy penance he was in for two hours.” This unfortunate Englishman, in his maimed and shattered condition, was now thrown into a vault of the Castle, where none had access to him save a doctor. Again and again it was represented to the “humane and pious King William” that to keep Payne in prison “without trial was contrary to law;” but notwithstanding repeated petitions for trial and mercy, in defiance of the Bill of Rights, William allowed him to languish from year to year for ten years;..

– Old and New Edinburgh, pp.66-79.

1  Melville’s Correspondence.

 70. ALEXANDER SPEIRS of Elderslie.

Born, 1714; died, 10th December, 1782. 

Virginia merchant. Treasurer of the City, 1755; Bailie, 1757 and 1762. One of “the four young men,” John Glassford of Dougalston (No. 461), William Cuninghame of Lainshaw, James Ritchie of Busbie, and himself, who first made Glasgow an important place of trade. At the outbreak of the American War – when so many of the Virginia merchants were ruined – Alexander Speirs was the largest holder of tobacco in Glasgow, or indeed in Europe, and he realised a great fortune from the rise in price. He bought various estates in Renfrewshire. He formed these into a barony, which he named Elderslie from the most notable of his purchases – the Elderslie of Sir William Wallace, lying to the west of Paisley. He bought this in 1767 from Helen Wallace, heiress of Elderslie (No. 84). His mansion, to which he gave the name of Elderslie House, stands on a separate property on the Clyde just above Renfrew. The old name of this property was King’s Inch; it was originally an island, lying between the present channel of the Clyde and an extinct channel to the south, which can be still traced in Elderslie park. In 1770 he bought as his town residence the famous “Virginia Mansion” (see Nos. 5, 608). There is a monument to him, erected by his friends on his death, in St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Greendyke Street. Married, first, Sarah Carey; second, Mary (No. 67), daughter of Archibald Buchanan of Auchintorlie. 

PAINTER – Sir Daniel Macnee, P.R.S.A., after William Cochran. 

– Memorial Catalogue, Gallery 1.

“Edinburgh, Dec. 7, 1883.

   SIR, – I would like to endorse the suggestion of ‘Progress’ with this addition, that the Deans of the Procurators throughout Scotland might call a meeting of their members and enter their earnest protest against the judgment of the Lord Chancellor. This would strengthen the hands of our excellent friend the Lord Advocate. Public bodies, such as Town Councils, Chambers of Commerce, and Trades Councils might also approach Mr Gladstone, the head of the Government, and a Scotch member, and point out to him that the English Judges have trampled upon the Constitution, invaded our liberties, and grievously insulted the people of Scotland.  

   It may be interesting to some of your readers to remind them that what has now happened was foreseen by our ancestors, who said that, being a poor people, with only a handful of members in the British Parliament, their liberties would continually be liable to invasion from their great and powerful neighbours the English, to which Defoe, the historian of the Union, replied that, ‘As the Parliament of Great Britain was founded, not upon the original rights of the peoples, as the separate Parliaments of England and Scotland were before, but upon the Treaty which is prior to the said Parliament, and consequently superior, so, for that reason, it cannot have power to alter its own foundation, or act against the power which formed it, since all constituted power is subordinate and inferior to the power constituting.’  

   This is true. The British Parliament have not the power to alter the Treaty, much less English Judges. How, then, is it done? By setting the Constitution at defiance. Your correspondent ‘Angus’ speaks of a federal union. That is the union that our ancestors wished; and the present Treaty was thrust down our throats in spite of the earnest protest of the whole people of Scotland. It will be an evil day for the United Kingdom if the old animosity between the English and Scots is revived. That English lawyers seem bent upon reviving the old feuds, or at least reckless whether that happens or not, seems painfully evident.  

   To ‘Nemo’ I have only to say that the Anglified Scot is an historical character – a canker in our flesh, which must just be endured. I wish no angry correspondence with him. – I am, &c.,  




Newton-Grange House, Newbattle,

December 8, 1883.

   SIR, – Might I suggest, as there is at present a very general awakening as to what is really Scotland’s legal position according to the terms of the Treaty of Union, that some patriotic lawyer would publish in cheap-pamphlet form the Act itself as passed by the Scottish Parliament, and also show all the alterations, repeals, &c., which have since been made upon it by the British Parliament? It is marvellous the ignorance that exists as to this document. I hold that, next to the Ten Commandments, it is the most important rule of faith and works for every Scotsman, and yet I meet daily with well-informed men, even public teachers, who never read it.  

   It should be spread broadcast over the entire country previous to the meeting of the National Convention to be held in Edinburgh during next January. – I am, &c.  


[‘Thistledown’ published the Treaty of Union many months ago.]

– The Scotsman, Monday 10th December, 1883.

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

“SOCIETY OF ANTIQUARIES OF SCOTLAND (10TH December [1894]). – Two urns from Culla Voe, Papa Stour, Shetland, were exhibited, and a notice by Rev. D. G. Barron of the small cemetery of cremated burials in which they were found was read. Dr. Joseph Anderson said the significance of this find was that it proved, what was before uncertain, that the early natives of Shetland used clay burial urns. Many stone urns had been found, but these were the first clearly authenticated urns of clay from that district. There was no specific difference between those now produced and clay urns from the mainland of Scotland. Generally speaking, he thought it might be said without hesitation that the race which had occupied the mainland had inhabited Shetland also in the stone age. A second Shetland communication was read from Mr. George Kinghorn, St. Rollox, Glasgow, consisting of notes on a deposit of polished stone axes and oval knives of porphyry in a knoll at Modesty, near Bridge of Walls. A quantity of pottery, nine axes and nine knives, from the find (presented to and acquired by the Society) were on the table. The pottery might either be sepulchral or domestic from its character. Dr. Anderson commented on the oval knives as common in and peculiar to Shetland, and as now found for the first time under circumstances which distinctly correlated them with the stone age. Mr. D. MacRitchie read a note concerning an underground structure at Gress, Lewis. From the presence of the bones of deer and sea-birds, he inferred that the inhabitants had lived by the chase. A boar’s tusk had been discovered also, but experts had indicated that there was no proof that the boar must have been wild. Nothing could therefore be founded on the detail, and the date of inhabitation of the dwelling might have been comparatively recent. Dr. William Cramond, Cullen, sent a notice of (1) a large censer or chafing dish found near Balveny castle, and (2) of a find of coins, Roman and otherwise, in Mortlach parish, Banffshire. The final paper, by Rev. H. J. Lawlor, B.D., was a note on non-biblical matter in the MS. Gospels, known as the Book of Mulling.” 

– Scots Lore, pp.56-60.

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