Walter Scott letter and letter to Scott
Lot 352
SCOTT (WALTER) Autograph letter signed to the Procurator Fiscal of Selkirk, sent accompanying "a prisoner by name William Kyne" who is being sent to gaol "for being accessory to an unlawful combination of the journey men weavers for preventing a man from working at what they termed under wages", 1812
Sold for £625 (US$ 1,009) inc. premium

Lot Details
Walter Scott letter and letter to Scott
SCOTT (WALTER)
Autograph letter signed ("Walter Scott"), to the Procurator Fiscal of Selkirk, sent accompanying "a prisoner by name William Kyne" who is being sent to gaol "for being accessory to an unlawful combination of the journey men weavers for preventing a man from working at what they termed under wages"; and stating that "as the crime is particularly serious just at this moment" he will be holding a Precognition (i.e. taking further witness statements) in the inn at Galashiels on Monday, at eleven, which he or Erskine will attend; adding sternly: "The nature of the crime being popular I am earnestly to request the Magistrates of Selkirk to suffer no general access to him and no carousing or the like in prison" but that no "decent friend or person of business" need be excluded; he finally requests that the Constable escorting the prisoner be generously rewarded; autograph address leaf, contemporary dockets and annotations (one stating that the constable had been paid 10/-); together with a letter addressed to Scott by R. Hamilton of Portobello, 2 pages, light dust-staining and minor wear at folds, 4to, Ashiestiel, 23 May 1812

Footnotes

  • THE HIGH TORY WALTER SCOTT URGES HARSH REPRESSION OF EARLY TRADE UNION MEETINGS BY SCOTTISH WEAVERS DURING THE YEAR OF THE LUDDITE RISINGS, styled in this letter as "an unlawful combination of the journey men weavers for preventing a man from working at what they termed under wages", that year seeing the Luddite Risings that were famously to be evoked in Charlotte Brontë's Shirley.

    By 1812, weavers' wages had dropped from 18/- for a six-day week since being regulated in 1792 to around 8/-, while nearly a half of all weavers were out of work. Despite the Court of Session ordering the magistrates to draw up a list of 'moderate and reasonable' wage rates, the employers refused to increase rates, and that November the weavers came out on strike. This quickly spread across Scotland and some forty-thousand stayed out for nine weeks in what has been claimed as Europe's largest strike at that time.

    Scott had been appointed Sheriff-Depute of Selkirkshire in 1799 and held the post until his death; this required him to act as principal judge in the county, presiding mainly over petty criminal cases, as well as acting as police officer in searching for culprits and gathering evidence: duties which he combined with those of his legal practice.

    The letter to Scott that is included in the lot is by R. Hamilton and recommends William Howison, surgeon in the Bengal Establishment of the Hon: East India Company [author of A case of phthisis pulmonanalis completely cured from the patient breathing mepliitic air]. Hamilton also tells Scott that "We were quite delighted with our Expedition, & with the Wonders of good things of Abbotsford". It is docketed in Scott's hand and dated 7 October 1825.
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