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Source: Bell's Weekly Messenger, No. 1862, Sunday, December 11, 1831

Interview with the King

The following amusing account, by the simple-minded visitor himself, is abridged from the Glasgow Chronicle They are extracts from a letter of Dr. Burns, of Paisley, giving an account of his visit to the King, on Tuesday the 22d of November last:—

"Having communicated to Mr. Young, Lord Melbourne's private secretary, the wish of the publishers of Wodrow's? Church History to have the next edition of it dedicated to his Majesty, as the first had been to George I., and that his Majesty would be pleased to accept a copy of the work, in the course of a few days I had an answer from Mr.Young, stating that his Majesty had most readily acceded to the petition, to have the work inscribed to him and that he had ordered Sir Herbert Taylor to say that his Majesty would be glad to see me at the Pavilion at Brighton, and to receive the copy of the work which had been prepared for his Majesty's acceptance. Accordingly I went down, and after breakfast on Tuesday, I had a card from Sir H. Taylor, stating that his Majesty around see me at half-past one. On going in to Sir Herbert, (who is a very tall and gentlemanly looking man, a general officer), he told me that kneeling was dispensed with, and that I might just do as I would in the presence of any nobleman or gentleman of rank. He led me into the presence chamber, announced my name, and then retired, leaving me thus alone with the King. His Majesty was sitting at a table, but rose and returned my obeisance just in the way that one gentleman is accustomed to do to another. I then walked up to him with my volumes in my hand, and addressed him on the nature of them. His Majesty employed himself in examining the title page, contents, plates, &c., with all which he expressed himself much pleased. On turning up successively the engravings of Sharpe, Claverhouse, Lauderdale, Carstairs, &c., remarks were made on each, and the King seemed to be very well informed in their respective histories. 'The work,' he said, 'contains, I think, the history of the persecutions in Scotland in the days of Charles II. A very valuable record it must be," he added. After speaking alittle more upon the subject of the book, the King asked, "Pray, Sir, what situation do you hold in Scotland?" "Please your Majesty, I am one of the parochial ministers at Paisley, so well known for its manufactures, and where, I am sorry to inform your Majesty, there is at present very great distress among the operatives, 2,000 or 3,000 of whom are out of work.' His Majesty asked the cause, when I adverted to several causes—such as the unsettled state of the public mind, occasioned by the delay in the settlement of the reform question, the prevalence of disease on the continent, and the restraints on trade by quarantine, the trade being overdone with us, and the periodical results of speculation, &c.' "Have you many Irish in Paisley, and are they mostly Roman Catholics?' I told we had a great many Irish families, that the greater part were Catholics, particularly those from the South and West—that it had a good many Protestants and Presbyterians from the North—that there are many poor amongst them—and that we felt the burden of supporting the poor of a country which had no system of poor-laws for itself. His Majesty said, 'That is a great evil, and something must be done by the legislature but they must take time to deliberate on a matter of such consequence. The ministry are determined to do nothing rashly, and they have had many things to occupy their thoughts of late.' There was also a good deal said on the subject of the state of the poor in England, and his Majesty showed that he understood the subject well, and entered fully into the objections against the system of paying the price of labour out of the rates, and thus degrading the labouring population of England into paupers. 'You manage these things better in Scotland.' 'Please your Majesty, our poor do not expert so much as the English poor. I observed a case in Court, the other day, where the dispute lay between 5s. a-head for each member of the family, and 2s. : and the Judges decided on a medium, 3s. 6d. In Scotland, in place of 12s. or 15s. for this family of poor applicants, the sum allowed for one member of it would have been held quite sufficient.' 'In Paisley you are all, I presume, of the Church of Scotland?' 'Please your Majesty, we have many Presbyterians, dissenters from us, yet our Dissenters differ from us almost wholly on one point—the law of lay-patronage. Our standard and mode of worship are the same. We have also an Episcopal Chapel in Paisley, to the building of which , if I am not mistaken, your Majesty was pleased to contribute; and I have to inform your Majesty, that when I left Scotland a few weeks ago, the erection was in progress, and it will be a a very great ornament to the town.' 'Your people in Paisley, I think, are mostly engaged in weaving?' I told his Majesty that weaving was our great staple—that about a hundred years ago Paisley began its career as a manufacturing town—that successively linen, thread, silk, gauze, and cotton in all its forms had been prominent—that like Spitalfields we feel deeply the depression of trade—yet that unlike Spitalfields we had not so near us the wealth and the resources of the metropolis. I noticed, however, the great kindness of the London Committee in 1822 and 1826, in contributing to our fund to the extent of 16,000l or 18,000l. The King spoke of there being no predisposition to riot either in Englishmen or Scotsmen, and this led us to notice the causes of excitement, such as poverty, evil advisers, bad publications, &c. After again thanking his Majesty for the honour done me, and expressing my fear of having intruded too long on his time, his Majesty replied very graciously, and I retired, after taking a sight of the apartments in the palace—said to be unequalled in Europe for splendour, I bid adieu to the palace.