Somers, Robert (DNB00)

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SOMERS, ROBERT (1822–1891), journalist and author, son of Robert Somers by his wife, Jane Gordon Gibson, was born at Newton Stewart in the county of Wigtown, on 14 Sept. 1822, being of English extraction on his father's side and Scottish on his mother's. In early life he was well known as a lecturer on social and political questions. In 1844 he published a pamphlet on the ‘Scottish Poor Laws,’ containing a criticism of the Poor Law Amendment Act then passing through parliament. After the publication of this pamphlet he accepted an offer of the post of editor of the ‘Scottish Herald,’ a weekly newspaper then being started in Edinburgh. The management of this journal was soon afterwards amalgamated with that of the ‘Witness,’ edited by Hugh Miller [q. v.], whose colleague and assistant in the conduct of the two papers Somers became.

In 1847 Somers proceeded to Glasgow to join the staff of the ‘North British Daily Mail.’ In the autumn of the same year he went to the highlands, as commissioner for that paper, to inquire into the distress in the north-west of Scotland occasioned by the failure of the potato crop in 1846. The results of his inquiry he published in ‘Letters from the Highlands’ (London, 1848). From 1849 to 1859 Somers was editor at Glasgow of the ‘North British Daily Mail’ and, for the next eleven years, of the ‘Morning Journal.’ He turned his attention especially to the study of monetary and commercial questions, in which he became a recognised authority; and from time to time he published pamphlets dealing with current phases of banking, educational, and labour questions.

In 1870–1 Somers travelled for six months in America investigating the effect on the economic condition of the southern states of the political changes introduced by the civil war. On his return he published ‘The Southern States of America’ (London and New York, 1871), a work of considerable research.

Somers died in London on 7 July 1891, after several years of impaired health. Besides the works mentioned he was the author of:

  1. ‘Sheriff Court Reform, or Cheap and Speedy Justice,’ Edinburgh, 1853, 8vo.
  2. ‘Results of an Inquiry into the State of Education in Glasgow,’ London and Glasgow, 1857, 8vo.
  3. ‘The Secular Theory of Education examined,’ Edinburgh, 1872, 8vo.
  4. ‘Scotch Banks and their System of Issue,’ London, 1873, 8vo.
  5. ‘The Martyr of Glencree,’ an historical romance, London, 1878, 8vo.
He also published ‘The Education (Scotland) Act of 1872, with notes,’ London, 1873, 8vo, and wrote articles, ‘Budget,’ ‘Bullion,’ ‘Capital,’ ‘Commerce,’ ‘Corn Laws,’ ‘Corn Trade,’ ‘Exchange,’ &c., for ‘Encyclopædia Britannica’ (9th edit.).

[Private information; Allibone's Dict. of Authors, supplement vol. ii.]

E. I. C.