Discontent, Loyalty and the Economy
Home ] Up ]



Studies: Publications

Educational Resources

Historic Sites in Scarborough Heights

Links for Toronto Links


Scarboro Heights Record

Search This Site

Table of Contents



On the Road to Democracy, Fairness and Equity
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.

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

PS Dec. 29 2012

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.