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On the Road to Democracy, Fairness and
Sending a Message in 1821
Lanarkshire's political leaders were obviously concerned about the spread of discontent
amongst the working class and the violence to which many were turning. However, the County
elite were clearly and fundamentally divided on just how to meet the problem. On January
11, 1821, "a general meeting of the Noblemen, Freeholders, Justices of the Peace and
Commissioners of Supply of the County of Lanark" was held to consider a proposed
"Address to His Majesty on the present State of the Country, expressive of their
attachment to His Majesty's person..."
The opening paragraph of the proposed Address was moderate and harmless enough.
However, the principal message of the remaining text was a loud warning to those who
might like to cultivate discontent:
We, your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects... humbly beg leave to approach
the Throne with renewed assurances of our fidelity and attachment to your Majesty's sacred
person, and to that Constitution under which we have enjoyed so many blessings, and which
has been for ever the pride of this Country and the admiration of the World.
Impressed with these feelings, we have beheld, with regret, the efforts which have
been made to infuse into the minds of your Majesty's subjects a spirit of discontent...
Feeling, as we do, that a free and unlicensed press has led to the great blessings,
religious and civil, which we at this moment enjoy, we cannot but deplore the unceasing
attempts which are made by a base and corrupt portion of it to agitate the worst, and
mislead the best, dispositions of our nature.
We beg leave to assure your Majesty that we are determined to resist -- and by
every means in our power to defeat -- all attempts which designing or deluded men may
hazard to disturb the tranquility of the country, now so happily restored, and which, we
trust, the reviving state of Commerce and the returning good sense of the people will long
continue to preserve. And we have the firmest reliance, that, by your Majesty's paternal
love, aided by the wisdom of Parliament, and sanctioned by the unshaken fidelity and
loyalty of the great body of your Majesty's subjects, such measures will be adopted as may
promote the best interests of the Empire, and ensure not only the continued possession,
but the transmission to posterity, of our glorious Constitution unimpaired.
That the attempts of the seditious and profligate may ever prove abortive, and that
your Majesty may long continue to reign over a free, happy and loyal people, is our
sincere and most fervant prayer.
The rather threatening wording met with some resistance at the meeting, particularly
from several leading landowners in Lesmahagow Parish:
Mr. Hope Vere [James Joseph Hope Weir of Blackwood,
Lesmahagow] addressed the meeting and moved, as an amendment, that a passage in the
original address respecting efforts having been made by designing individuals to destroy
the loyalty of the people, be omitted and a passage recommending retrenchment and economy
be inserted. He said that addressing the throne in the language of loyalty was an act in
which there was likely to be unanimity; and, unquestionably, at the present time addresses
of this description were swarming through Scotland; and the county of Lanark will not
refuse to compliment the Sovereign; but the address, as proposed, is wanting in a great
deal, and is vague. This address is not such an one as ought to go from the county of
Lanark. I cannot say that an address, expressive of loyalty, should be forwarded to the
throne annually, or that one should be sent at the present time. The address proposed
alludes to discontent; but it is not described. When the county last met to address the
throne there was necessity for rallying round the Sovereign and the Constitution: but that
necessity does not now exist. Discontent was among the people at that time, which is not
the case at present. It gives me pleasure to think that there is a greater degree of
happiness now enjoyed by the lower orders than was some time ago -- and great praise is
due to them for the honourable way in which that class of his Majesty's subjects conducted
themselves, when labouring under great privations. But, while we address the throne,
expressing our loyalty, let us do so in the spirit and language becoming independence, and
not imitate the other counties of Scotland, whose effervescene breath a spirit of
political servility. Let us address the throne in terms that would be agreeable and
honourable to the Sovereign. The addresses of the other counties are more expressive of
loyalty to his Majesty's Ministers than to his person... Mr. Vere now said that he would
not detain the meeting with any farther remarks; and concluded by reading the amendment,
which recommended economy as the means of bettering the state of the country.
Mr. Vere's amendment was to be "inserted immediately after the first paragraph of
the proposed address, and be substituted for the remainder thereof":
That while we humbly offer to your Majesty those assurances of our determined
loyalty to your sacred Person, and to the Constitution as established at the Revolution in
1688, it would be want of duty not to express to your Majesty our conviction, that a
strict regard to economy in the public expenditure, and the adoption of conciliatory
measures, are essentially necessary to remove the Financial Embarrassment of the Country
-- to allay the prevailing discontents -- to restore confidence to the people in your
Majesty's Government -- and to secure the tranquillity and prosperity of the nation.
Mr. Vere's amended address was seconded by another Lesmahagow landowner, Hugh Mossman of Auchtyfardle. Following a lengthy debate, the amended
address was "carried by a majority of four -- ninety four having voted for the
Address, as amended, and ninety for the original Address".
Mr. Hope Vere then mounted the table and, with most vehement gesticulation, moved
that the amended address be presented to his Majesty.
From Vere's closing performance, one can almost taste the triumph in the air of Mrs.
Currie's Inn. Those of the privileged class who sympathized with the plight of the
ordinary folk of Lanarkshire had just narrowly won a small -- but non-trivial --
battle in western society's long war
for human rights and fairness.
PS Dec. 29 2012
The passages above are from the Clydesdale Journal, as cited in a
draft of Catching Up With the Market Economy
The Scarboro Heights Record V12 #6
Just over half of the privileged landowners in Lanarkshire opted to
recommend a conciliatory and proactive approach to solving the financial
problems of the country. They voted to remove language that suggested they would
do all they could to muzzle those who disagreed with them. Ontario's Bill
115 is an affront to our legacy of democracy.