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Alice Bemis Taylor Collection, Ms 0145

Robert Chambers
Transcribed by Angela Smith and Sondra Miley Cooney, July 2014

Notes from the transcribers:

This letter was probably written when the recipient, Mr. Tait, was on release from gaol in the summer of 1833. He had been imprisoned for four days for refusing to pay the Annuity Tax. The letter is referenced in "The Passive Resistance of Edinburgh, to the Clergy-Tax," Tait's Edinburgh Magazine, Vol. 3, No. 18, 1833 pp. 795-802. Horning, caption, and roup are all Scottish legal terms.

From: 17 Waterloo Place, Wed. morning, 6 o'clock

My dear Mr T.

To save a day's labour at home, I am going to Fisherrow before breakfast; but take this expedient for reminding you of your speech as far as I heard it or can recollect. 

When I first heard you, you were alluding to the Inquisition, which took care never to burn its victims itself, but handed them over to the civil power, by whom they were burnt,--or something to that effect. (Immense cheering.) These clergymen, though they appear to act indirectly in this matter, in reality are their own messengers and jailors--for such individuals are only deputies. Conceive, gentlemen, Dr Brewster handing off a poor widow to seizing the humble domestic utensils of a poor widow, and exhibiting them for sale at the Cross: this he virtually does, when he sanctions others in doing it. (Laughter and Cheers.) Conceive the learned Dr Horning, as he is now called, (Immense Laughter.) coming up to a man on the street, touching him on the shoulder, and ordering him away to jail, without allowing him a moment's time to make the necessary arrangements in his own business: this, gentlemen, Dr Horning actually did in my case, though he pretended to do it by the hands of another person. (Cheers). [Then you alluded to messengers, and pointed out that men who will be the vile tools of such a system ought to be treated with contempt; and the captions would soon come to an end as the roupings had done before. But before this you added, in reference to the above acts of the clergy "How different all this from the meek precepts of Christianity! How different from the conduct of the Apostle Paul, who, rather than be chargeable to those he preached to, told them that with own hands he would still maintain himself! How different from the conduct of the amiable founder of the religion! Can you conceive, gentlemen, that Jesus Christ would have ever ordered roupings or captions, or executed such unholy deeds either directly or indirectly?" You said you had searched the whole scriptures, and found no authority there whatsoever for the proceedings of the Edinburgh clergy.] Gentlemen, my sufferings in this matter have, I assure you, been very light. I was borne up by the assurance that I had the sympathy and approbation of my fellow citizens; and they are well spent, since they have called forth this great, this splendid, this majestic demonstration  of your abhorrence of the Annuity Tax. After this, gentlemen, that tax is no more--we have heard the last of it. In these transactions, I have been stigmatised as a rebel--for so the horning declares me to be--to the king; but, gentlemen, I believe I have as much loyal feeling towards our worthy old sovereign than many of the clergy themselves (cheers); and I would propose three cheers for him. [Those cheers accordingly given.] Now, gentlemen, I would propose three cheers more for the cause of religious liberty. [Three tremendous cheers given.] And now, gentlemen, I will put all that remains for me to say into one word--Good Night to the Annuity Tax!'

I have not remembered your thanks to the people, or your intreaties that they would disperse peacably; and I may have omitted some other points, which I hope you will be able to supply. All I aim at is to remind you of as much as I recollect.
In case of my name coming prominently forward in the reports and comments on this business, I would like some public writer, or yourself in any thing you may write upon it, to remark something to this effect--'Mr Chambers's motives were an ancient and zealous friendship for Mr Tait, whom he wished to countenance publicly his restoration to society, and a wish to mark his sense of the impropriety of the behaviour of the clergy. in this business That a person who, though his writings are universally perused, has never formerly been drawn by any public event from the privacy of domestic life, should have come forward in the way he has done on this occasion, is certainly among the most remarkable circumstances in the whole affair. It is the more so, that Mr. C. has distinguished himself as a public writer against innovatory movements in the state. 

I am, very dear Mr T.
yours ever most sincerely, 

I heard parties going {roaring and drumming?}home at all hours of the night. There must have been a good deal of toddys had, I suspect, on the occasion. 

Robert Chambers
Alice Bemis Taylor Collection
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