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to allow him to remain long in a subordinate capacity: he became his zealous friend, and recommended him to Mr. Wilson of Howden, writer to the signet in Edinburgh, with whom, after serving a regular apprenticeship, he became an active and efficient partner.
It was during this period of his laborious professional life that, for several years, he used to rise at four o'clock every morning, to study Greek with Dr. Marshall.* About the same time, he obtained the favourable notice of Lord Kaimes, whose reputation for talents and learning was then very high in Edinburgh.
It was about the year 1778 that the regiment of M'Cra Highlanders (then quartered in Edinburgh) mutinied, and refused to embark at Leith for America, maintaining that they had been enlisted for home service only, and that the government had broken faith with them in proposing to send them abroad. These fierce mountaineers posted themselves on Arthur's Seat, and obstinately refused to obey the orders of their commanding officers. In this alarming emergency, Mr. Archibald Fletcher was chosen to negotiate with them. He prevailed on them to lay down their arms, and the Government agreed to accept their limited services to Ireland, from which they were afterwards drafted into other volunteer corps, to serve in America during the war.
Soon after the time at which Mr. Fletcher entered into partnership with Mr. Wilson as a writer to the signet, the Faculty of Advocates in Edinburgh attempted to establish a regulation, that no man above twenty-seven years of age should become a member of their body. On this subject Mr. Fletcher wrote a very able and argumentative pamphlet, addressed to the Society of Writers to the Signet, exposing the illiberality of this regulation, and ascribing it to an aristocratical spirit of exclusion. This essay obtained for the author the thanks of the Society of Writers to the Signet; and the irony and sound argument it contained bore so severely against the exclusionists in the Faculty of Advocates that they withdrew the proposed regulation, and never afterwards attempted to enforce it.
* This ingenious philologist afterwards practised medicine with high reputation in London.
VOL. XIV. 3
Very soon after this pamphlet had attained its object, Mr. Fletcher published an essay on Church Patronage, a subject at that time warmly discussed in the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. He took the popular side of the question, and demonstrated, by the most conclusive reasoning, that the choice of their clergy should be vested in the people.
It was on the opening of the American revolutionary war that the attention of Mr. Fletcher was first directed to politics; and he then acquainted himself extensively with the history of nations, and the manner in which different forms of government had influenced the human character. From that period political science was his favourite object, it may almost be said that it became his passion. He hailed the establishment of American independence, as one of those great events which serve to teach practical wisdom and moderation to old governments, and as an experiment of republican principles, under circumstances much more favourable to their developement than the ancient republics had enjoyed. From that time he became an ardent admirer of Mr. Fox, but his love of liberty did not confine itself to cold and abstract speculation. In the year 1784, he became a member of a society, the object of which was to enquire into a reform of the abuses of the Scottish burghs; the close system of a self-elected and irresponsible magistracy, which prevails there, being, as he conceived, the root and hot-bed of all political delinquency, as it separates the interests of the governors frOm those of the governed, and indulges the selfish and corrupt principles of mankind in a few, at the expense of the public good. To the object of Scottish burgh reform Mr. Fletcher for some time, in a great degree, concentrated his exertions; and his gratuitous labours in that cause were, for several years, intense and unremitted. He was chosen secretary to the Edinburgh Society for Burgh Reform, and as such opened an active and extensive correspondence with the liberal promoters of that measure in every burgh in Scotland. The delegates from these burghs met annually in Edinburgh; and after their secretary had collected a vast mass of evidence, proving the corruption of the system, and the monstrous abuses to which it led, he was desired to draw up "The Principles of a Bill for Burgh Reform in Scotland," to be submitted to the consideration of Parliament.
In February, 1787, Mr. Fletcher, in company with some other gentlemen, was sent to London as a delegate from the Scottish burghs; and it was then that he first became personally acquainted with Mr. Fox and the other distinguished leaders of the Whig party. Mr. Fox expressed his decided approbation of the views of the Scottish burgh reformers, but lamented that he should not have leisure that session to do justice to their cause. He recommended the delegates to wait on Mr. Sheridan, and commit their important business to him. They did so, and Mr. Sheridan readily undertook to be their champion; and at an early period of the session obtained the appointment of a Committee of the House of Commons, to enquire into the abuses of the Scottish burgh system.
It was while on his way to London, wilh a mind intensely occupied by the subject of this mission, that Mr. Fletcher first met with the lady whom he afterwards married. He was called to the Scotch bar in the year 1790, and was married on the 16th of July, 1791. It might be supposed that having lived a bachelor above forty years, and having a character formed by long habits of professional life, as well as a mind directed to political and abstract speculation, Mr. Fletcher would have had little indulgence for one whose age and pursuits were so different from his own, the lady being only seventeen; but the contrary was remarkably the case. He was, in the best sense of the word, a most indulgent husband. He liberally admitted his wife to a participation of his intellectual stores, and exalted her by cultivating her sympathy in his own extensive views and elevated purposes.
Mr. Fletcher rejoiced in the dawn of liberty in France as the harbinger of good, not to that country only, but to the whole of Europe: he took a deep interest in the deliberations of the period. At home he strongly disapproved of those rash and chimerical plans of innovation which inconsiderate men of that time recommended; and he refused to take any part with the Society of the Friends of the People, or the British Convention which met in the year 1793 in Edinburgh. Hisdiscerntnentof the signs of the timesenabled himto perceive that such proceedings could only serve to increase the panic created in England by the French Revolution', and by that means strengthen the hands of an arbitrary administration; but as no one rejoiced more fervently in the prospect of freedom being established in France, and as he deprecated all foreign interference in the political affairs of a nation that struggled to be free, soheheartily co-operated with the Whigparty in Edinburgh in every public and private demonstration of aversion to the first French war. These opinions, which Mr. Fletcher openly avowed upon all occasions, were so hostile to those of. the political party which at that time governed Scotland, that his pecuniary interests as a lawyer were considerably affected by them. Such was then the servility of the public mind in Scotland, that it was not considered safe to trust a Whig lawyer with the management of a cause, from the supposed prejudices of the judges against men holding those opinions. Mr. Fletcher always maintained that this was an unfounded slander on the Scottish judges; for that, however they might, in some instances, have recommended themselves to seats on the bench by political servility, he never knew them violate the integrity ot justice from political prejudice against any member of the bar. Certain it is that the Whig barristers at that time in Scotland were comparatively briefless; and instances have been known in which an agent was instructed not to employ his own brother, because he happened to be opposed to the minister of the day. Many a time has Mr. Fletcher been reduced to his last guinea, while fearlessly contending for principles obnoxious to men in power. Although he declined to become a member of the British Convention, from his disapprobation of universal suffrage and annual parliaments, which that body advocated, he never shrank from being the professional advocate of those unfortunate and misguided men who suffered for the maintenance of such intemperate opinions. He acted gratuitously as counsel for Joseph Gerald, and others accused of sedition; and when party spirit was at its height of intolerance, and the Hon. Henry Erskine was deprived of the Deanship of the Faculty of Advocates, by a vote of the majority of that body, in 1796, on account of his being present at a meeting, the object of which was to oppose what were culled "the gagging bills," Mr. Fletcher was one of the courageous thirty-eight who formed the minority of the Faculty on that occasion.
At this period he took an active part as a member of the Edinburgh Committee for the Abolition of the Slave-trade, and bestowed much time on the business connected with the Society for the Improvement of the Highlands, of which he was one of the constituent members. His labours in the cause of burgh reform were now suspended, though his ardour on that subject had suffered no abatement; but the alarm on account of what were called "French principles" operated unfavourably on all questions of reform, and that of the Scottish burghs was now included in the cry against dangerous innovations.
Almost the only part of Mr. Pitt's administration which he heartily approved was the Irish Union; and he gave that statesman great credit for retiring from office, when he could not redeem the pledge he had given for Catholic emancipation. For that great measure Mr. Fletcher was a zealous and uncompromising advocate.
The death of Mr. Fox was an event which Mr. Fletcher deplored in common with every friend of constitutional liberty. He had early admired that statesman for his vigorous opposition to the American war, and still more for his consistent and manly resistance to all interference witli the internal affairs of France at the beginning of the Revolution. Mr. Fletcher was one of fourteen gentlemen who met to celebrate