Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Findlater, Charles

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FINDLATER, CHARLES (1754–1838), agricultural writer and essayist, was born 10 Jan. 1754 in the manse of West Linton, Peeblesshire. His grandfather, Alexander Findlater, was a native of Moray, and married into the famous Scotch family, Kirkaldy of Grange. Thomas (1697-1778), his son, was minister of West Linton, but his settlement there in 1729 was resolutely opposed by certain of the parishioners, and led to the rise of a secessionist congregation, which still survives. Charles was Thomas Findlater's son by his second wife, Jean, daughter of William Brown, an Edinburgh bookseller. He graduated at Edinburgh University 14 Nov. 1770. In 1777 he was ordained assistant to his father, and in 1790 was presented by the Duke of Queensberry to the neighbouring parish, Newlands, where he lived until 1835, and then retiring from duty, died at Glasgow 28 May 1838, aged 84. His appointment at Newlands, like his father's at West Linton, was opposed, and led to the establishment of a seceding congregation, which yet exists. He married (26 July 1791) Janet Hay Russell (who was accidentally burnt to death in 1828). He was father of the synod of Lothian and Tweeddale, and was buried at Newlands. A marble bust of him, executed at the cost of many admirers, is in the Peebles Art Gallery.

Himself of the moderate theological school, Findlater's liberal opinions and neglect of conventionalities, united with much kindness of heart and intellectual power, marked him among his brother clergy. The cordiality of his friendship and correctness of his life were universally acknowledged. He established one of the first local savings banks, and used to carry his account-book for it regularly with him on his pastoral visitations. He would sing a song at a cottar's wedding, and on many wintry Sundays gather his congregation round him in his kitchen and give them dinner afterwards.

Findlater's books show him to have been well read in moral and political economy. He published: 1. 'Liberty and Equality; a Sermon or Essay, with an Appendix on Godwin's system of society in his "Political Justice,"' 1800. This sermon, preached at Newlands, was directed against the 'new doctrine of French philosophy, the monstrous doctrine of equality.' Few of his parishioners could have understood a word of it. Yet some sympathisers with the obnoxious doctrine attacked Findlater, and he was obliged to hide himself until the lord advocate, Sir James Montgomery, was able to appease the outcry. The sermon was dedicated to Montgomery when printed. 2. 'General View of the Agriculture of the County of Peebles,' Edinburgh, 1802. This is descriptive rather than didactic. Restates that pigeons and bees are rather disadvantageous than otherwise to the Peebles farmers from their impoverishing the ground, and, curiously enough, never mentions in his survey either the game or the fish of the county. The industry and sobriety of the inhabitants are commended, 'with the exception of a few instances of perversion of principle, occasioned by the introduction of the French philosophy, and these chiefly confined to the county town.' 3. 'Sermons or Essays, as the Reader shall chuse to design them, upon Christian Duties,' 1830. In these are contained 'a plain statement of some of the most obvious principles of political economy.' 4. Accounts of West Linton and of Newlands in Sinclair's 'Statistical Account' and in the new 'Statistical Account.'

[Findlater's Works in the British Museum ; Dr. Hew Scott's Fasti Ecclesiæ Scoticanse, pt. i. 247, 253 ; Presbytery and Synod Records at Newlands; private information from the Rev. J. Milne, minister of Newlands.]

M. G. W.