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QUARREL WITH ROUSSEAU.
and his subsequent acts that we find him desirous to compensate for the punishment he had inflicted on his assailant. The letters of his French friends, during the summer of 1767, show that he had earnestly exerted himself to protect Rousseau from the vengeance of the government;' and there is all reason to believe, that it was through this intervention that the wanderer was permitted to pursue his course in peace. On the other hand, when the dark cloud had completely passed away, the monomaniac appears to have awakened to a distressing consciousness of what he had done. He afterwards attributed his conduct in England to our foggy atmosphere, which had filled his mind with gloom and discontent; and the work at which he laboured busily with the fierce excitement of him who forges a weapon to avenge his wrongs, stopped short at the very point where his narrative of injuries was to commence.
1 On 1st June, 1767, Turgot writes, in answer to a letter from Hume: “Je me hâte d'y répondre par ce courier, quoique je n'aie encore fait aucune démarche pour le malheureux homme auquel, il est si digne de vous de prendre encore intérêt. Le degré de folie qu'il montre aujourdhui est en vérité préférable à une folie moins exaltée, qui le laissoit chargé de tout l'odieux d'un excès d'ingratitude envers vous et M. Davenport. Une pareille ingratitude réfléchie et méditée ne peut me paroître dans la nature. ... Je vous remercie de m'avoir choisi parmi vos amis de ce pays-ci pour m'associer à la bonne action que vous voulez faire en lui rendant service. J'y mettrai certainement tout le zèle dont je suis capable et à cause de son infortune, et à cause de l'intérêt que vous y prenez.” He continues to say, that to get him a safe passage may be easy: to find him a permanent asylum in France, would be a more difficult matter. “ La chose est possible hors du ressort du Parlement de Paris, mais il faut
le Roi y consente. Il n'y a que l'intérêt même que vous prenez, et la singularité de cette circonstance qui puisse peut-être adoucir le Roi sur le compte de Rousseau en faisant demander la chose en votre nom par M. de Choiseul.”
Hume Under Secretary of State - Church Politics - Official abilities —
Conduct as to Ferguson's book Quarrel with Oswald — Baron Mure's sons - Project of continuing the History - Ministerial convulsions — Hume’s conduct to his Family — His Brother — His Nephews – Baron Hume — Blacklock — Smollett — Church Patronage — Gibbon — Robert
Elliot – Gilbert Stuart - The Douglas Cause — Andrew Stewart Morellet - Return to Scotland.
The quarrel with Rousseau seems to have so fully occupied the attention of Hume, during its continuance, that he scarcely alluded to any other subject in his correspondence; and thus, though the preceding chapter is devoted entirely to that event, a very slight retrospect from the point of time reached at its conclusion, will suffice for whatever else, worthy of notice in his life or correspondence, has been preserved.
In the summer of 1766, he made a short visit to Scotland. " I returned,” he says, in his “ own life,” “ to that place, not richer, but with much more money, and a much larger income, by means of Lord Hertford's friendship, than I left it; and I was desirous of trying what superfluity could produce, as I had formerly made an experiment of a competency. But, in 1767, I received, from Mr. Conway, an invitation to be under-secretary; and this invitation, both the character of the person, and my connexions with Lord Hertford, prevented me from declining.”
He was thus solicited to undertake the very responsible duties of this office, by one who had good opportunities of knowing his capacity for public business; and the simple fact of the appointment is a testimony to the ability with which he had performed
the analogous functions of his office in France. He was indeed at all times a man of punctual habits, and his unwearied industry had not yet begun to slacken. He had a mind of that clear systematic order which was well fitted for the composition of official documents; and his triumphs in philosophical and historical literature never inflated him with the ambition of considering any business which he consented to undertake too insignificant to deserve his full attention. Some official documents, connected with the successive offices which he held, have been preserved, by collectors, as autographs of so celebrated a man: and they generally arrest the attention of every one who examines them, by the clearness and precision of the language, and not a little by the neatness of the handwriting.
After the resignation of the Marquis of Tweeddale, in 1746, there was no longer a principal secretary of state for Scotland; and it became usual to consult the Lord Advocate, or any other ministerial officer, locally connected with the north, as to the policy to be pursued in Scottish affairs. None of the principal members of the Grafton ministry were Scotsmen; and there can be little doubt that Hume must then have exercised a large influence in all affairs connected with his native country. He held his office until the 20th
1 In the conclusion of Hume’s letter to Dr. Blair, of 27th May, 1767, cited above, there is the following paragraph:
Pray, how has the General Assembly passed ? I have had a long letter from Mass David Dickson, complaining of your injustice. Has John Home any thoughts of coming up? Tell Robertson that the compliment, at the end of General Conway's letter to him, was of my composing, without any orders from him. He smiled when he read it, but said it was very proper, and signed it. These are not bad puffs from ministers of state, as the silly world goes.” I inferred from this that the letter in question was the King's letter to the General Assembly of 1767; but I find no allusion to
of July 1768, when General Conway was superseded by Lord Weymouth.
The following letter contains a brief sketch of the general current of his official life.
HUME to DR. BLAIR.
“ 1st April, 1767. My way of life here is very uniform, and by no means disagreeable. I pass all the forenoon in the secretary's house, from ten till three, where there arrive, from time to time, messengers, that bring me
Robertson in that document, and am not aware of any letter, generally known at the period, which answers the above description. It is clear that Hume refers to some official communication from the secretary of state. The letter from Dickson is a long complaint about the conduct of some judicatories as to a forgotten church dispute. It begins with the statement;—“I am informed that His Majesty's letter to the General Assembly, of this year, is issued from the secretary's office, under your direction.” As it is pretty generally believed that the policy of the Home-office, in its communications with the Church of Scotland, was directed by Hume, during the period when he was under secretary, the following extract from the King's letter to the General Assembly, in 1767, is given, that the reader may judge for himself whether the style and matter are characteristic of Hume's
pen : “ Convinced, as we are, of your prudence and firm resolution to concur in whatever may promote the happiness of our subjects, it is unnecessary for us to recommend to you to avoid contentious and unedifying debates ; as well as to avoid every thing that may tend to disturb that harmony and tranquillity which is so essential in councils solely calculated for the suppression of every species of licentiousness, irreligion, and vice. And, as we have the firmest reliance on your zeal in the support of the Christian faith, as well as in the wisdom and prudence of your councils, we are thoroughly assured that they will be directed to such purposes as may best tend to enforce a conscientious observance of all those duties which the true religion, and laws of this kingdom require, and on which the felicity of every individual so essentially depends.” !
1 MS, R.S.E.
all the secrets of the kingdom, and, indeed, of Europe, Asia, Africa, and America. I am seldom hurried; but have leisure, at intervals, to take up a book, or write a private letter, or converse with any friend that may call for me; and from dinner to bed-time is all my own.
add to this, that the person with whom I have the chief, if not only transactions, is the most reasonable, equal tempered, and gentleman-like man imaginable, and Lady Aylesbury the same, you will certainly think I have no reason to complain ; and I am far from complaining. I only shall not regret when my duty is over; because, to me, the situation can lead to nothing, at least in all probability; and reading, and sauntering, and lounging, and dosing, which I call thinking, is my supreme happiness. I mean my full contentment.
“I thank you for the acquaintance you offer me of Mr. Percy; but it would be impracticable for me to cultivate his friendship, as men of letters have here no place of rendezvous; and are, indeed, sunk and forgot in the general torrent of the world. If you can therefore decline, without hardship, any letter of recommendation, it would save trouble both to him
In the beginning of the year 1767, Ferguson published his “Essay on the History of Civil Society," a work which speedily acquired a wide reputation through Europe. The allusions which Hume has been found making to some work of a similar character, so early as 1759, probably refer to a particular portion of this book. Immediately before its publication, he recommended Ferguson's friends to prevail on him to suppress the work, as likely to be injurious to its author's literary reputation : one of the few 1 MS. R.S.E.
See above, p. 56.