in the continuity of the records we have of the poet; a lacuna all the more regrettable as these were the true germing years of his genius. Of the name of his trade-master, of the spot where the shop of the latter was situated, of his friends at that time, of his pursuits, his amusements, his studies, we know little, save what can be gathered from chance references in after-life. That they were busy years as regards his trade is certain from the success he achieved in it; and that Ramsay was neither a lazy, thriftless, shiftless, or vicious apprentice his after career effectually proves. That they were happy years, if busy, may, I think, be accepted as tolerably certain, for the native gaiety and hilarity of his temperament underwent no abatement. Whether or not his fashionable Edinburgh relatives took any notice of him, whether he was a guest at his grandfather, the lawyer's house, or whether the latter and his family, hidebound by Edinburgh social restrictions, found it necessary to ignore a Ramsay who soiled his fingers with trade, is unknown. Probably not, for it is matter of tradition that it was the fact of his family connections which weighed with Writer Ross in consenting to the union of his daughter with a tradesman.
In the spring of 1707 Allan Ramsay received back his indentures, signed and sealed, with the intimation from the ancient and honourable 'Incorporation of Wigmakers' that he was free of the craft. He appears almost immediately thereafter to have commenced business on his own account in the Grassmarket, being admitted at the same time, in virtue of being a craftsman of the town, a burgess of the City of Edinburgh. Though no trace can be found that the wigmakers ranked amongst the forty-two incorporated Societies or Guilds of the city (for their name does not appear), that they must have enjoyed the same privileges as the other trades, is evident from the fact of Ramsay being enrolled as a burgess, the moment he had completed his apprenticeship.
SCOTLAND IN THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY; THE UNION; RAMSAY'S MARRIAGE—1707-12
An important stage in Allan Ramsay's life's journey had now been reached. He was of age, he was a burgess of the town, he was a member, or free, of one of the most influential of the Crafts, or Guilds, in the capital, but, greatest step of all, he had started in business for himself, and had flung himself, with a sort of fierce determination to succeed, into that hand-to-hand fight with fortune for the sustenance of life, from which each of us emerges either made or marred.
At a time when all the youthful Ramsay's faculties were beginning to be strung to their utmost tension of achievement, strange would it have been if that of observation were not as eagerly exercised.
Scotland in general, and Edinburgh in particular, were at this period in the throes of a new political birth. The epoch of transition commenced in 1707, and ended only when the dangers of the repeated rebellions of 1715 and 1745 showed the supercilious statesmen by the Thames—the Harleys, the Walpoles, the Pelhams—that conciliation, not intimidation, was the card to play in binding Scotland to her greater neighbour. A patriotism that had burned clear and unwavering from the days of Wallace and Bruce to those of the exiled and discredited Stuarts, was not to be crushed out by a band of political wirepullers, by whom State peculation was reduced to an art and parliamentary corruption to a science.
Although the ultimate effects of the Union between England and Scotland were in the highest degree beneficial upon the arts, the commerce, and the literature of the latter, the proximate results were disastrous in the extreme; yet the step was imperative. So strained had become the relations between the two countries, consequent on the jealousy of English merchants and English politicians, that only two alternatives were possible—war, or the corporate union of the whole island. Yet in Scotland the very mention of Union was sufficient to drive the people into a paroxysm of rage. The religious animosity between the two countries was as important a factor in producing this feeling as any other.
English churchmen boasted that with any such Union would come the restoration of Episcopacy north of the Tweed, and the abolition of the Church of Scotland. The latter retaliated by pushing an Act of Security through the Scottish Legislature, which demanded an oath to support the Presbyterian Church in its integrity from every sovereign on his accession. The Scottish Whigs and the Scottish Jacobites, despite political differences wide as the poles, joined hands in resistance to what they considered the funeral obsequies of Scottish nationality. For a time the horizon looked so lowering that preparations actually were begun in Scotland to accumulate munitions of war.
But the genius, the patience, and withal the firmness, of Lord Somers, the great Whig Richelieu of his time, gradually overcame all difficulties, though he was reduced to wholesale bribery of the Scottish peers to effect his end. As Green puts it: 'The Scotch proposals of a federative rather than a legislative Union were set aside by his firmness: the commercial jealousies of the English traders were put by; and the Act of Union, as finally passed in 1707, provided that the two Kingdoms should be united into one under the name of Great Britain, and that the succession to the crown of this United Kingdom should be ruled by the provisions of the English Act of Settlement. The Scotch Church and the Scotch Law were left untouched, but all rights of trade were thrown open, and a uniform system of coinage adopted.'
Of all the negotiations for the consummation of the Union, Ramsay, doubtless, was an interested spectator. Patriotic to his heart's core, and sympathising as a Jacobite with the chivalrous feeling of his nation for the dynasty they had given to England, and which, after only eighty-six years of alternate loyalty and revolt, the Southrons had driven into exile, the keenly observant lad would follow every detail in the closing chapter of Scotland's history as an independent nation, with a pathetic and sorrowful interest. Undoubtedly, while yet an apprentice, with a few months of his time unexpired, he must have watched the last observance of that ancient and picturesque spectacle, annually recurring, but now to be abolished for ever—the 'Riding of the Parliament,' or the procession of members to the opening of the sittings in the old Parliament House. Perhaps he may even have secretly gained admission to overhear the fiery debates on the Union in that ultimate session of the Scottish legislature. Certainly he must have been one of the thousands of spectators who day by day thronged the purlieus of the hall where the national assembly met. Of the rage, brooding and deep, or loud and outspoken, according to temperament, which prevailed amongst the Edinburgh people at the mere idea of Union with the hated 'Southrons,' he must have been a witness. Nay, he may have been an onlooker, if not a participant, in that riot which occurred after all was over,—after Lord-Chancellor Seafield had uttered his brutal mot, 'There is the end o' an auld sang,' which gathered up for him the gall of a nation's execration for a century to come; and after the Commissioners of both nations had retired to sign the Treaty of Union. Not, however, to any of the halls of Court did they retire, but to a dingy cellar (still existing) of a house, 177 High Street, opposite the Tron Church—being nearly torn limb from limb in getting there. Then the mob, suddenly realising that now or never they must