Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/166

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.


536 COLTN MACLAURIN.

roueously laid down on all our maps, to examine their natural history, to survey the coasts, and take the measure of a degree of the meridian, and for this purpose he applied to Mr Maclaurin for his assistance ; but his domestic affaire not permitting him to undertake the journey, he drew up a plan of what he thought necessary to be observed, furnished the proper instruments, and recom- mended Mr Short, the celebrated optician, as a tit operator for managing them. The accounts Mr Maclaurin afterwards received of this voyage, made him still more sensible of the erroneous geography we had of those parts, by which so many shipwrecks had been occasioned, and he therefore employed several of his scholars, who were then settled in the northern counties, to survey the coasts.

Mr Maclaurin had still more extensive views for the improvement of geo- graphy and navigation over all the surface of the globe. After carefully perus- ing all the accounts of voyages, both in the South and North Seas, he was of opinion that the sea was most probably to be found open from Greenland to the South Sea, by the North Pole ; and, when schemes for finding out such a passage were submitted to parliament in 1744, he was consulted concerning them by several persons of high rank a. id influence ; but before he could finish the me- morials which he proposed to have sent, the premium was limited to the dis- covery of a north-west passage, and Mr Maclaurin used to regret that the word west was inserted, because he thought a passage, if at all to be found, must lie not far from the pole. Of this he appeared to be so deeply persuaded, that he has been heard to say, if his situation could admit of such adventures, he would gladly undertake the voyage, even at his own cost

Such was the zeal this amiable and celebrated man evinced on every occasion for the public good : the last and most remarkable instance is that which we shall now relate.

In 1745, when the Highland army had got between Edinburgh and the king's troops, Mr Maclaurin was the first to rouse the friends of the existing government from the security in which they had hitherto continued; and though he was aware that the city was not long defensible, or able to resist even the un- disciplined and ill-armed host that was advancing to attack it, yet as he fore- saw how much might be gained by the insurgents' possessing themselves of the capital, and the king's forces, under Sir John Cope, being daily expected, he made plans of the walls, proposed the several trenches, barricades, batteries, and all such defences as he thought could be thrown up before the arrival of the enemy, earnestly hoping that the town might thus hold out till relieved. The whole burden, not only of contriving, but also of overseeing the execution of this hasty defence, fell to Mr Maclaurin's share. He was indefatigable in his exertions, employed both night and day in drawing plans, and running from place to place ; so that the anxiety, fatigue, and cold to which he was thus ex- posed, affecting a constitution naturally weak, laid the foundation of the disease of which he died. It is not properly connected with our subject to inquire how Mr Maclaurin's plans were neglected or defeated, or by what means prince Charles got possession of Edinburgh ; but, after defeating the king's troops at Prestonpans, he found himself in such strength as to issue several very arbitrary orders, among which Tvas one commanding all who had been volunteers in the defence of the city, before a stated time, to wait on his secretary, to subscribe a recantation of what they had done, and a promise of submission to the new government, under the pain of being deemed and treated as rebels. Mr Mar- laurin had acted too conspicuous a part as a volunteer, to hope to escape their vengeance, if he once fell into their hands ; he therefore privately withdrew into England, before the last day of receiving the submissions, but not before he