GLASGOW (1819–1825)–RADICAL DISTURBANCES–HARRY SMITH ONCE MORE ON THE STAFF AS MAJOR OF BRIGADE–GEORGE IV.'S VISIT TO EDINBURGH–HARRY SMITH REVISITS PARIS–HE REJOINS HIS REGIMENT IN IRELAND.
GLASGOW at this season of the year, October, is a most melancholy, dirty, smoky city, particularly the end in which the barracks are placed; and such was the state of the city, my wife had to live in barracks and we were again shut up in one room, as during the war. When matters approached the worst, I sent my wife to Edinburgh, where she received every kindness and hospitality. There was living there then Mrs. Beckwith, who had campaigned with her husband in Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick's time. She was then ninety-four, and lived afterwards to upwards of a hundred, the mother of Sir George Beckwith, my dear Sir Sydney, and several other sons. She was in full possession of her intellect, and was delighted to talk of war with my wife. The latter said one day, "I am afraid I do not speak English well enough to explain myself." "Not speak well enough! Why?" "Because I am a Spaniard, and have only recently learned to speak English." "A Spaniard? Stand up, and let me look at your feet and ankles, for I have always heard your countrywomen celebrated for their neatness." My wife was still in heart a Spaniard, and as particular as ever in shoes and stockings, and the poor old lady was delighted. After talking for a certain time, she used to say, "Now go; I am tired."
Our duty in Glasgow was very laborious and irksome. We had neither enemy nor friends: a sort of Bellum in Pace, which we old campaigners did not understand. But, although constantly insulted by the mob in the streets, either individually or in a body, our deportment was so mild that we soon gained rather the respect than otherwise of the misguided and half-starved weavers. They had many old soldiers amongst them, and had organized themselves into sixteen Battalions. Many of these old soldiers I knew; one was a Rifleman–an old comrade who had lost his arm at New Orleans–and from him I ascertained their perfect organization. They had a General, or Central, Committee of Delegates ("a House of Lords"), and each district had a committee, who sent a delegate to the Central Committee. The regiments were formed by streets, so that in case of a turn-out they could parade–"Ah, just as we did in the towns of Spain and France," 78 my comrade said.
One day my Company was sent out with twenty of the 7th Hussars, just before daylight, to arrest a party of delegates. We had magistrates, etc. with us, and succeeded in arresting every man. I saw a violent storm of mob assembling. I put the prisoners in the centre of my Company, under the command of my subaltern, Henry Havelock,79 now a hero of Burma, Afghanistan, and Maharajpore celebrity, a clever, sharp fellow, and said, "Move you on collected to the barracks, and I will cover you with the Hussars." On my word, they were violent, and the Hussars, with the flat of their swords, as I particularly directed, did make the heads of some ache, while brickbats, stones, etc. were flying among us half as bad as grapeshot. The magistrates were horridly timid and frightened lest I should order the troops to fire. I said, "You command," which in those days they did, nor could the officer fire, according to law, without their order.
The Commander-in-Chief in Scotland, Major-General Sir T. Bradford, was then in Glasgow, and also Sir W. Rae, the Lord-Advocate. Officers who had been on duty were to report direct to the Commander-in-Chief. This I did, and hardly was my report received, when I was sent for to the Inn where these authorities were. Sir Thomas, ever a kind friend to me, met me at the door of the room where they were, and said, "Smith, the Lord-Advocate is most annoyed that you permitted His Majesty's troops to be insulted this morning with impunity, and desires to speak with you." Sir W. Rae, although afterwards I found him a capital fellow, was dictatorial in his manner, and violent and pompous in his address. He sat when I advanced towards him. I saw by his eye what was coming, and my blood was as hot as his; and the thought rushed into my mind, "What! to be rowed by this man, who have ever been approved of by the Duke!"
"Pray, sir, are you the officer who allowed His Majesty's troops to be insulted in such a manner, with arms in their hands? I am surprised, sir. Why did you thus tamely act?" So I replied, quite as dictatorially as my lord, "Because, my lord, I was acting under the officers of the law, the magistrates, of whom you are the Commander-in-Chief. They would not act, and I did not desire to bring upon my head either the blood of my foolish and misguided countrymen, or the odium of the Manchester magistrates." (An affair of Yeomanry 80 had lately occurred.) "I brought off every prisoner; but, my lord, since that is your feeling, give me a written order to march through Glasgow with the same party of soldiers and my prisoners. A mob will soon attempt the rescue, and d— me, my lord, but I will shoot all Glasgow to please you." I saw Sir Thomas Bradford biting his lips, and looking at me as much as to say, "Gently, Smith." I turned on my heel, and said, "Good morning, my lord."
From that day the Lord-Advocate took a great fancy to me, and gave me some of the most laborious night-marches I ever made, especially one to Galston New Mills and Kilmarnock. It was so dark (and an ignis fatuus dancing before us to make it worse), I had a 6-pounder upset over a bridge. Throughout my previous services I never had more arduous duties than on this occasion.
A Battalion of Volunteer Riflemen were organized here,81 all young gentlemen, under the superintendence of my old Regiment, now called the Rifle Brigade.82 This corps more nearly deserved the comprehensive appellation "soldiers" than any corps ever did, except those of the line. Their Colonel, Sam Hunter, walked twenty-two stone, an enormous man, with a capacity of mind fully proportioned to his corporeal stature. Many are the arduous duties I exacted of these Volunteers, and they were executed with cheerfulness and prompt obedience.
Sir Hussey Vivian came down to command, bringing with him as his Major-of-Brigade, my friend, (now Sir) De Lacy Evans. Evans did not wish to serve, but to study in London to prepare himself to be a senator, and he kindly went to the Horse Guards and said, "If my appointment is filled up by Harry Smith of the Rifles, I will resign." This arrangement was readily assented to, and I was again on the Staff, where I remained until 1825.
I had occasionally the most disagreeable duty, and always a difficulty to resist the importunity of the kindest hospitality that ever I and my wife received in this world. Immediately after I was appointed Major-of-Brigade, Major-General (now Sir T.) Reynell was appointed to command the district of Glasgow and the West of Scotland in place of Sir Hussey Vivian. In a year, as affairs in Glasgow assumed a more tranquil appearance, Queen Caroline's trial being finished and Her Majesty's death having occurred, Major-General Reynell was removed from the Staff of Glasgow, and went out in the Glasgow frigate to the East Indies to a command in Bengal, but I, the Major-of-Brigade, was kept on. My orders were to report direct to the Commander-in-Chief, Sir T. Bradford, in Edinburgh, and to receive no orders from any one but himself; and I could give any orders in his name which the exigencies of the moment required. Of course I was very cautious, fully aware of the delicacy of my position as regarded my senior officers, some of whom were very jealous of the authority vested in me, although personally I had never had a controversial word with them.
A great part of my duty in the summer was to inspect the various Corps of Yeomanry throughout the Western District, a most delightful duty. I was treated en prince by the Duke of Montrose, Lord Glasgow, Lord Douglas, Lord-Lieutenants of counties, Lord Blantyre, etc. The officers of the Corps of Yeomanry, too, all belonged to the aristocracy of the country, and their houses were open as their hospitable hearts.
In 1820 I had with me Sir John Hope's and Lord Elcho's Troops of the Edinburgh Light Horse, consisting entirely of gentlemen of the highest class in Scotland, and we were employed upon some very arduous duty together. I have seen these gentlemen after a long, heavy, and wet night's march, every one dressing his own horse, feeding him, etc., like a German Hussar, ere they thought of anything for themselves. One of the Troop, Corporal Menzies, is now a Judge at the Cape, my most intimate friend, and many is the laugh we have had at his military experiences.
When we see the gentlemen of the country thus devoted to it, we need have little fear of its continued prosperity. In my opinion there is no system which can be adopted of such importance to our country as the yearly calling-out of the Yeomanry for a few days' exercise. It brings the educated aristocracy in contact with the less favoured in life, the cultivators of the soil,–landlords with tenants. It shows the latter in their true character–honest, manly, and liberal fellows, and teaches them to look up to their superiors, while it also shows the former what a noble set of men their tenants are, obedient, but as proud as an English yeoman ought to be, and that, thus engaged in the defence of our country and in the maintenance of our rights as British subjects, they are to be treated with the respect due to every individual of the social compact.
When His Majesty George IV. paid a visit to Edinburgh [15-27 Aug. 1822], I was ordered thither, and sent to Dalkeith (where His Majesty was to reside in the palace of the Duke of Buccleugh) to superintend the guards and escorts, etc., for his Majesty's state (his protection was in the safe custody of the hearts of his loyal people); and when Sir Walter Scott and the Commander-in-Chief, Sir Thomas Bradford, had planned all the various processions, the organization and conduct of them was given to me, and His Majesty was kind enough to say they were conducted to his royal satisfaction. He never once was delayed in the streets by a check, thanks to the lesson I learnt in the Light Division how to regulate the march of a column.
Early every day I went, as I was ordered, to the palace to receive orders through the Gold Stick. The morning His Majesty was to leave Dalkeith, he sent for me to express his approbation of all I had done, and as I left the apartment Sir William Knighton followed me, and asked me, by the king's command, if there was anything I desired. I was so young a Lieutenant-Colonel, only of eight years' standing, with hundreds senior to me, that I neither desired to ask such an exorbitant thing as to be Aide-de-Camp to His Majesty, nor felt any inclination, on account of such pacific services, to be exalted above so many of my more meritorious comrades. Knighthood I would not accept, so I very quietly said, "I will ask a great favour of His Majesty–to give Sir Thomas Bradford's Aide-de-Camp the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel." Sir William said, "If the Commander-in-Chief will write me a note, it shall be done," and thus as good a fellow as ever lived got his rank. There is much honour attached to the charge of royalty, and as many of my old comrades were about the king, Barnard, Vivian, etc., I spent a most agreeable time, but the expense for myself and my wife was enormous. It cost me upwards of a year's income in new uniforms, court dresses, etc. His Majesty particularly admired my wife's riding.
Never was the old adage of "like master, like man" more exemplified than in the royal household. In the organization of the processions, etc. I was frequently engaged with the servants, coachmen, footmen, etc. I never saw such obedient, willing, and respectful fellows in my life; and I never had to express more than a wish, to have any order implicitly, readily, and agreeably obeyed. Accustomed to the obedience of soldiers, I was particularly struck with equally obedient deportment on the part of those whom imagination had led me to believe to be a set of troublesome fellows. George IV. was a gentleman, and from His Noble Majesty was derived a "ton" which spread throughout his court and his household, an example and honour to the great nation he ruled.
In 1824 my gallant friend, Macdougall, requested me to accompany him to Paris to arrange a little matter of delicacy with a gentleman who had ill-used a lady, a great friend of Mac's family. We soon arranged that matter, the gentleman being one in fact, as well as in name, and acting as well as any could under the circumstances. Ten years had now elapsed since my first acquaintance with the south of France, and six since I had quitted Cambray. We landed at Boulogne, and had a long journey to Paris by diligence, that renowned and cumbrous and slow machine now replaced by the flying steam-coaches. Our diligence adventures were numerous but not unusual. But my new visit to France, and entry into Paris, forcibly brought to mind the immense Armies assembled around us in 1815,–the streets filled with uniforms of every civilized nation, the public resorts ornamented with the spoil of every nation in Europe except Great Britain!
Paris was now a quiet city, much like any other, and the only thing which attracted my attention was the number of drunken soldiers in the streets. In London such a thing is of rare occurrence indeed. But it appeared to me that the French Army had acquired some of those habits of the English which we would willingly resign to them in perpetuity. I visited my old quarters at Neuilly. My good old landlady was no more. Imagination aroused a variety of feelings closely cemented with the past, while the present showed Paris aiming at English habits, just as London was rapidly acquiring French manners. In the streets of Paris we saw young dandies driving tilburys in the last style, with grooms in brown top-boots. To speak English was becoming fashionable, whereas formerly any Frenchman attempting to speak English was regarded as a Bourbonist, or an enemy to the blood-acquired liberties of his country. We left France now certainly flourishing, and speedily returned to our own land of fair and handsome faces, well-fed inhabitants, richly cultivated and enclosed fields. And oh, my countrymen, had you seen as many countries as I now have, and been banished so many years from your own, then would you bless that land of happiness and liberty which gave you birth, that land which was exempt from the horror of war through the ability of your statesmen, the blood of your sailors and soldiers, and the patriotism of the people!
During my residence in Glasgow, I twice went over to the Isle of Man, in expectation of succeeding to the Government of the House of Keys. The Governor was very ill, and desirous to retire. He got well, and forgot his former inclinations.
In 1825, such was the tranquillity in this immense manufacturing district, I was put off the Staff, and received from the Lord-Provost, Town Councillors, and Municipality every demonstration of their gratitude for the efficient aid I had afforded them to maintain tranquillity and subdue riots, mobs, and popular ebullitions.83 My answer was, that the only merit I claimed was that in the service of my country and in the execution of this duty on very trying and most irritating occasions for five years, not a drop of my deluded countrymen's blood had been shed, though it was often indeed difficult in the extreme to avoid it.
The parting of myself and wife from our numerous and most hospitable and kind friends in Glasgow, and the whole of the West of Scotland, is not to be described. My principal quarters I may say were Elderslie House,84 where the most amiable and numerous family were ever to us a source of happiness, Harhead, Lord Glasgow's, and Cumbernauld House, Admiral Fleming's, whose wife was a county-woman of mine; but to name these houses in particular is hardly fair, for throughout the country we received equal hospitality. Certainly the happiest five years of my life were spent in Scotland, amidst the society of such people. Books were to be had of every description, intellectual conversation was ever enjoyed, and amidst the learned professors of the colleges I have spent some of the most agreeable evenings.
I was to join my Corps in Belfast, and as we went down the Clyde in the steamer, the inmates of every seat on its banks were assembled to wave us, alas! a last farewell, for many of those dear and valued friends are now in the silent grave. Glasgow, with all your smoke, your riots, mobs, and disaffections, I look back to you with perfect happiness, and I love the Scotch nation with a similar degree of patriotism to that with which I have fought for my native land, the words of my dear mother ever ringing in my ears, "Remember, if ever you fight for your country, you were born an Englishman."
Belfast, although then a flourishing city, showed a great contrast to Glasgow in regard to the appearance of its population, although the gentlemen were as hospitable as possible, and most enthusiastic sportsmen, and, as I could ride a bit, I was soon at home among them. I was soon, however, ordered to Downpatrick, where my Company and two others were quartered. I was received by my dear old Regiment with every demonstration of affection, and spent a few months most happily at this little town of Downpatrick, among very amiable and kind people. The peasantry there were my delight, such light-hearted, kind creatures I never saw, and as liberal as primitive Christians. Not a day I had not sent me presents of eggs and butter, etc. It was painful occasionally to accept them, but as I saw that refusal created pain, I had no alternative. There were many of our old Light Division soldiers discharged and living in this neighbourhood, and every market day (Saturday) a re-enacting of old times was imposed on my patience. One, a noble soldier of the 43rd, celebrated every anniversary of a battle by getting gloriously drunk. On one occasion he was drunk without this exciting cause. I said, "Come, come, Murphy, this is too bad; to-day is no anniversary." "Maybe not, your honour, but, by Jasus, there are so many it is hard to remember them all, and the life's blood of me would dry up, if I missed the 'cilibration' of one of 'em–so it's safest to get drunk when you can."
78 See p. 166, bottom.
79 Henry Havelock, writing to his old Captain, then Major-General Smith, Oct. 3, 1840, refers perhaps to the events of this day. [Was it April 2, 1820? See Cope, p. 220.] "I feel that it is time I ought to be trying to ascend the ladder, if ever, for as the Battle of Glasgow Green was fought in 1820, I fear I must now be not very far from forty-six." It is perhaps not the least of Harry Smith's services to his country that he incited his subaltern, Henry Havelock, to make a serious study of the science of his profession. Havelock writes to him Sept. 5, 1840, as his "master," and writes of him on Oct. 2, 1847 (after his appointment to the Governorship of the Cape): "When I was a boy, he was one of the few people that ever took the trouble to teach me anything; and while all the rest around me would have persuaded me that English soldiering consisted in blackening and whitening belts with patent varnish and pipe-clay, and getting every kind of mercenary manœuvre, he pointed my mind to the nobler part of our glorious profession. As a public man I shall ever acknowledge his merits. He is an excellent soldier–one of the few now extant among us who have set themselves to comprehend the higher portions of the art. He has a natural talent for war, and it has been improved by the constant reflection of years, and much experience. There is no species of business which Harry Smith's mental tact will not enable him to grasp."–Marshman's Memoirs of Sir H. Havelock (1867), pp. 66, 165.
80 "Peterloo," 16 August, 1819. It is amusing to contrast the soldierly reference to an "affair of Yeomanry," with Shelley's Masque of Anarchy, called forth by the same occurrence.
81 "In 1819 and onwards for a few years, when the country was supposed to be in danger from a rising of the "Radicals," and there was certainly a good deal of disaffection, Glasgow was the centre of the agitation. In these circumstances it was resolved to re-embody the "Glasgow Volunteer Sharpshooters," a Corps which in 1808 had made way for the "Local Militia." This was accordingly done, the senior surviving officer of the old corps, the well known Samuel Hunter, of the "Glasgow Herald," being appointed Lieut.-Colonel Commandant, and Robert Douglas Alston, the Major. Colonel Hunter retired in 1822, and Major Alston became Colonel.
Colonel Alston was a capital officer, and the regiment, in appearance, discipline and drill, a very fine one. Some of the older citizens of Glasgow must still remember the grand reviews on the green, in which the Sharpshooters and Regulars took part under the command of Colonel Smith, afterwards Sir H. Smith, the hero of Aliwal."–The Old Country Houses of the Old Glasgow Gentry, 2nd edit., p. 6.
82 "By an order dated 'Horse Guards, Feb. 16, 1816,' the 95th was removed from the regiments of the line, and styled The Rifle Brigade.–Cope, p. 214.
83 He was now admitted to the Freedom of the City of Glasgow.
84 Then the seat of Archibald Speirs, Esq. His family consisted of five sons and nine daughters.–The Old Country Houses of the Old Glasgow Gentry, 2nd edit. pp. 95, 96.