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MEMOIR, &c. 







TOx, >-i:\v jEiisEr. 






EHTKRF.D, according to the act of Congress, in the year 1840, by 
SAMUEL MILLKR, D.D., in the office of the Clerk of the District 
Court for the District of New Jersey. 









Princeton, August 20, 1840, 




His birth. Early education. Course in 
the University of Edinburgh. Entrance 
on the study of Theology. License to 

preach the Gospel Staled supply in the 

Gorbals of Glasgow. Call to Mont rose. 
- Ordination. Marriage. Epithala- 
mium Montrosianum. Thought of as 
President of Princeton College. His ac 
knowledged learning. His extensive lite 
rary and social connections 13 


Slate of the Church of Scotland ichen Mr. 
Nisbet entered her ministry. He attaches 
himself immediately and inviolably to the 
Orthodox party. Specimens of his speeches 
in the General Assembly of the Church. 
His correspondence with the Countess of 
Huntingdon. His Review of the System 
of Methodism. Character of that Review. 2.9 



His ministry in Scotland continued. Hi& 
uniform friendliness to Civil and Religious 
Liberty. He is friendly to the cause of 
the American Colonies during the Revolu 
tionary contest. Specimen of his preach 
ing on a Fast day during the, American 
war. His opposition to the Patronage 
Act. His correspondence with the. Coun 
tess of Le,ven> and ivilh the Earl of Buchan. 74 


Establishment of Dickinson College. Dr. 
Nisbet chosen the first President. Cor 
respondence with the Countess of Lev en in 
relation to this appointment. 1lso with 
Dr. Rush and the Trustees. And ivilh 
the Earl of Buchan. He finally accepts 
the appointment, and sails for the United 
States, Arrival at Philadelphia. . . 100 


Dr. Nisbet spends a few days in Philadelphia. 
Pays a short visit to Dr. Witherspoon 
at Princeton. Sets out for Carlisle* 


Pleasant arrival there. Inauguration 
in his office. Writes to the Earl of Bu~ 
cha/t, an account of his voyage, and situa 
tion. Becomes tediously and dangerous 
ly sick. Is discouraged. Resigns liis of 
fice and defer/nines to return to Scotland. 
- But soon recovers. TV re-elected to the 
Presidentship, and again accepts it. Ac 
count of the Lectures and Labours ivhich 
he undertook in the discharge of the duties 
of his ojjicc. Embarrassments and diffi 
culties of (he College. Correspondence 
with the Earl of Ihtchanwith the Rev. 
James Pat onwith the Countess of Lev en 
and with Dr. Beat tie. Marriage of his 
eldest Daughter ..... 137 


The author s first interview with Dr. Nisbet. 
His impressions from that interview. 
Remarks on the difference between know 
ledge acquired by Books, and by oral com 
munication. Dr. Nisbet s correspondence 
with the Countess of Leven. His visit to 
Governor Dickinson. Correspondence 
with Dr. Wit her spoon and Dr. Erskine. 
Marriage of his younger Daughter. 
Sentiments and conduct respecting the 


French Revolution. Correspondence with 
the author of this Memoir, and with Dr. 
Paton of Scotland. His remarks on the 
Eighteenth Century. ... i . . .210 


Dr. Nisbet s discouragements in his official 
station. His last illness and death. 
Extracts from the Sermon preached on oc 
casion of his funeral. Ross s Latin Ode 
to his memory. Inscription on his Tomb. 
Description of his Person. His Library, 
and the disposition made of it. His chil 
dren and grand children. The course of 
Dickinson College after his decease. . . 282 


His general character. Letter of the Rev. 
President Green. Letter of the Rev. Pre 
sident Brown. Letter of the Rev. Dr. 
Martin. Character of his intellectual 
powers. His erudition. His extraordi 
nary knowledge of Languages. ///* cha 
racter as a Divine as a Preacher as an 
Author as President of a College as a 
Wit. Closing remarks 305 


P. 242, 1. 26, for reasonable read seasonable. 

P. 257, 1. 25, for l)r- read Mr. 

P. 267, 1. 3, dele Rev. Mr. Miller, N. Y. 


His Early Life. 

THE subject of the following Memoir was one of 
those great and good men, who have been called 
from spheres of usefulness and honour in Europe, to 
enrich the literature, and adorn the Church on this 
side of the Atlantic. And although, in his case, our 
country has been culpably tardy in paying her debt 
of respect and gratitude; yet that debt has been deep 
ly felt, and often acknowledged; and if the formality 
of making a permanent record of it has been unduly 
postponed, the result has shown that the lapse of time, 
instead of consigning an elevated character, and im 
portant services to forgetful ness, has rather served to 
deepen the impression of them, and to give a testimo 
nial of their value rather strengthened than weakened 
by being delayed. 

By this delay, however, a serious disadvantage has 
been incurred. Almost all the contemporaries of the 
deceased have passed from the stage; and, of course, 
a large part of that information concerning his early 
life which might have been easily obtained from his 



native country, thirty years ago, is now irrecoverably 
lost. But even with regard to this loss, there are 
counterbalancing considerations. Time has been 
left for the first fervour of feeling on the departure 
of an eminent man to subside. His character is now 
viewed with the calmness and impartiality of a long, 
and leisurely retrospect. The statement and portrait 
about to be presented are not drawn under the pain 
ful and exciting impression of a recent bereavement. 
There has been time to consult the award of faith 
ful public suffrage. Perhaps the most candid and 
impartial, if not the most feeling and racy biographi 
cal sketches, are those which have been formed many 
years after their subjects have passed from the stage 
of action. The erection of this humble memorial is 
reserved for one who knew the subject of it well, who 
venerates his memory; and who considers it as an 
honour to contribute any thing towards embalming 
the memory of so distinguished and worthy a man. 

CHARLES NISBET was born in Haddington, in 
Scotland, on the 21st day of January, A. I). 1736. 
He was the third son of William Nisbet, and *ftli- 
son, his wife, who, for many years, resided in that 
place. His father had two other children besides 
Charles; one elder and the other younger. The el 
der was Andrew, afterwards the Rev. Andrew Nis- 
bet, pastor of the parish of Garvalcl, in the Presbyte 
ry of Haddington, who never married, and who died 
several years before his brother Charles. The young 
er son was William, who devoted himself to mercan 
tile pursuits, and who died about the time that Charles 
came to this country. 

Of the occupation or circumstances of his Father 


little is now known, excepting that they were not 
such as to admit of his sustaining his son in the more 
advanced stages of his education, when it was neces 
sary for him to leave home, the advantages of which, 
nevertheless, that son was intent on enjoying. Ac 
cordingly he remained with his father until the six 
teenth year of his age, diligently employed in study 
ing the Latin and Greek languages, and the various 
elementary branches of knowledge which are consid 
ered as requisite to entering the university. In 1752, 
he entered the University of Edinburgh, and from 
this time he never more received from his father any 
pecuniary aid. Such was his thirst for knowledge, 
and such his ardour and energy of character, that 
immediately on going to Edinburgh, he made en 
gagements as a private teacher, which enabled him 
to bear all the expenses of his College course. Even 
at such an early age did this remarkable youth give 
that evidence of accurate scholarship, dignity of de 
meanor, and capacity for instructing others, which 
gained at once the confidence of his friends, and in 
troduced him to the means of independent and hon 
ourable subsistence. 

How rarely is it that young men, in laying the 
foundations of their knowledge, are equally wise, or 
equally successful. A great majority of those who 
pass through a course of what is called liberal educa 
tion, are so loose and careless in studying the ele 
ments of literature and science, that they are not suf 
ficiently grounded in any one branch to be prepared 
for successfully leaching it. The consequences of 
this negligence are unhappy in a variety of ways. 
When the foundations of knowledge are slightly and 


superficially laid, the superstructure must ever par 
take of the same unsolid and insecure character.- No 
one was ever strong in any branch of knowledge, in 
the elements of which he was weak. He who lays 
a deep and thorough foundation, has his work more 
than half done, and proceeds at every step afterwards 
with more ease, with more expedition, and with 
more firmness of advance. In this case, too, the stu 
dent, if in straitened circumstances, or if suddenly re 
duced to the necessity of relying on his own efforts, 
is better prepared to go forth, and acquire, in the 
early morning and evening, by instructing others, 
what will sustain him the remainder of his time. 
This was the wisdom and happiness of young Nis- 
bet, who, ia the outset of his career, gave a very 
decided presage of that scholarship and extensive 
erudition, as well as force of mind, which afterwards 
rendered him one of the most remarkable men of his 

Of the general character of young Nisbet s course 
in the University no record now remains. The 
proofs, however, of his accurate and mature scholar 
ship are so many and unquestionable, that his under 
graduate career must have been not only exemplary 
but highly honourable. He was graduated in the 
year 1754, in the eighteenth year of his age.* 

Immediately on completing his course in the Uni 
versity, he entered the Divinity Hall in Edinburgh, 
as a student of Theology, with a view to the Gospel 

* The year of his graduation is not certainly known. But, as he 
is said to have been six years in the Theological Hall, he must 
either have been graduated in the year above mentioned, or have enter 
ed the Theological Hall before his graduation, which is not probable. 


Ministry. In this new situation he supported him 
self by an engagement as Editor of a popular periodi 
cal publication, the character of which, while he con 
tinued to preside over it, bore ample testimony to 
his intellectual and literary resources. Of his ap 
pearance in the Divinity Hall, the Rev. Samuel Mar 
tin, of Monimail, a respectable contemporary and fel 
low student, bears the following testimony. " The 
first time that I distinguished Dr. Nisbet was in the 
Divinity Hall at Edinburgh. Dr. Hamilton, our 
worthy and learned Professor, had appointed the 
impugning and defending a Thesis, according to 
mood and figure, in Latin: The Professor was an 
excellent Latin scholar himself, and seemed to be as 
much at his ease in Latin as in English. The 
shrewdness and ability, the command of argument 
and of language in Mr. Nisbet struck me much." 

While Mr. Nisbet was a student in the Theologi 
cal Hall, his private papers show that his mind was 
very seriously and solemnly exercised with respect 
to divine things On the 10th of March, 1756, he 
recorded an act of solemn dedication to God, drawn 
in a spirit of enlightened and ardent devotion. And 
on the ISth of April, 1759, he drew up another pa 
per, in a different form, but of similar import; both 
very strikingly evincing that while he was diligent 
ly engaged in studying Theology as a science, he was 
by no means forgetful of its practical and experimen 
tal influence on his own heart as a Christian. 

In the Divinity Hall he continued to study, ac 
cording to the excellent habit of his country, for six 
years. At the end of this time, on the 24th day of 
September, A. D. 1760, he was licensed to preach the 


Gospel, by the Presbytery of Edinburgh, in the 
twenty-fourth year of his age. 

Young Nisbet, in the course of his education, had 
become early and intimately acquainted with the 
late Dr. Witherspoon, who was about fourteen years 
older than himself. Under the direction of Dr. 
Witherspoon, indeed, some of his studies, especially 
that of the French language, had been conducted. 
The first sermon which Mr. Nisbet preached after be 
ing licensed was in the pulpitof his friend, then settled 
in Paisley, a flourishing town of Scotland, about fifty 
miles west of Edinburgh. These distinguished men 
continued to be affectionate friends until the death 
of Dr. Witherspoon, in 1794. And it is not at all 
improbable that their early friendship had consider 
able influence in inducing Mr. Nisbet to listen to an 
invitation to remove to the United States. 

Mr. Nisbet s first engagement as a stated preach 
er, was to supply a church in the Gorbals of Glas 
gow. Here he remained about two years. The 
congregation had stipulated, besides paying the sala 
ry mentioned in their call, to furnish hi-m with 
a house. This stipulation, however, they had fail 
ed of fulfilling. Though their young preacher was 
highly acceptable and papular; yet as he had no 
family, and a domestic residence did not seem neces 
sary for him, they postponed a compliance with their 
engagement. Receiving a call to another Church, he 
thought it his duty to remove. On taking leave of 
the congregation, he selected as a text for his farewell 
sermon, Acts xxviii. 30. Jlnd Paul dwelt two 
whole years in his own hired house, and received 
all that came in unto him. 


The call referred to in the preceding paragraph, 
was from the church of Montrose, a large and flour 
ishing town on the east coast of Scotland, a royal 
borough, and a place of considerable importance both 
for its maritime trade and its valuable manufactures. 
This church was large, and embraced much cultiva 
tion and intelligence. Having been for some time 
in want of an Assistant to their aged and infirm Pas 
tor, they applied to the Rev. Dr. Gillies, of Glasgow, 
to recommend to them a suitable candidate. The 
Doctor immediately named his young friend, Mr. 
Nisbet, as the most able and promising preacher he 
could think of. This nomination met with prompt 
acceptance, and immediate measures were taken by 
the church to present him a call. Mr. Nisbet 
thought it his duty to accept of it, and soon entered 
on his new charge. The right of patronage of this 
Parish was vested in the King George III. and 
the duty of taking the lead in measures to fill the 
vacancy, was committed to the Town Council. 

As the documents which conveyed and authenti 
cated this call, were in a form not very familiar to 
Presbyterians in the United States, where patronage 
is happily unknown; and as they are somewhat his 
torical in their character, they are here given at 

The original call from the Town Council of Mont- 
rose, is as follows: 

" At Montrose, the twenty-sixth day of January, 
one thousand seven hundred and sixty-three years; 
which day the magistrates and remanent members of 
the Town Council of the said Burgh, being met and 
convened within the new Council House thereof, and 


taking into their serious consideration that the office 
of an assistant or helper to Mr. John Cooper, first 
minister of the gospel of this Burgh, has been for 
some time vacant, by Mr. John Miller, his late as 
sistant, being called to and now settled minister at 
Newburgh; and that by the agreement between the 
Council and Mr. Cooper, he empowerslhem to choose 
any person they shall think proper to be his assist 
ant; and having had this day laid before them an 
extract of an act or report of the church session of 
this Burgh, dated the 25th day of January instant, 
bearing that the several members of session declared 
that, according to the best of their information, the 
congregation in general were well satisfied that Mr. 
Nisbet, preacher of the Gospel, should be settled 
Assistant, and that proper steps be taken for his being 
also successor to Mr. John Cooper. And the Coun 
cil, having considered the said report, and also con 
sidering that the said Mr. Charles Nisbet has been, 
for some considerable time by-past, preacher of the 
Gospel at Gorbals, near Glasgow: And (as the Coun 
cil are well informed), has discharged his office there 
to the satisfaction of his auditory; and that the Coun 
cil has received a very agreeable character of his 
sufficiency from very competent judges; and they 
also considering that he had preached in the Church 
here, several times in the month of July, 1761, to the 
general satisfaction of the Congregation; and they, 
looking upon him as a very proper person to be both 
Helper and Successor to Mr. Cooper: Therefore the 
Council did, and hereby do, unanimously elect and 
choose the said Mr. Charles Nisbet to be Helper or 
Assistant to the said Mr. John Cooper, as Minister 


aforesaid; and also they, for the reasons and causes 
mentioned in their Act of Council, dated the 14th 
day of January, A. D. 1761, do hereby entitle the 
said Mr. Charles Nisbet, as long as he shall exercise 
the aforesaid office of Assistant to Mr. Cooper, a 
salary of fifty pounds sterling yearly (being Ihe same 
which was settled on the two former Assistants), to 
be paid to him at two terms in the year, Whitsunday 
and Martinmass, by equal portions, and to com 
mence upon the first Sabbath that he shall hereafter 
perform divine service in the Church of this Burgh. 
And further, the Council do hereby promise and 
engage that they will, without loss of time, cause 
to be made application to his majesty, as patron of the 
first Minister s charge here, for his royal signed 
manual in Mr. Nisbet s favour, naming him both 
Assistant to Mr. Cooper during his life time, and 
also Successor to him in his office at his death: and 
that they will thereafter take the proper steps in 
order to get him ordained a Minister and settled 
Helper and Successor as aforesaid, according to the 
rules of the Church. And they appoint the Clerk 
to make out an extract of this their act, and Baillie 
Lauchlan Mouson to transmit the same to Mr. Nis 
bet, and to request him to come to this place as soon 
as possibly he can in order to take upon himself the 
aforesaid office of an Assistant, in regard his pre 
sence, is much wanted here, as the whole of the 
ministry lies heavy upon Mr. Aitken, the other Min 
ister." " Extracted from the Records of Council." 

The Presentation, by the Royal Patron, was in the 


following words. It will be perceived that it bears 
date near eleven months after the call of the Town 
Council. This is probably to be accounted for in 
two ways. First, the presentation by the Royal 
Patron was not necessary to the choice and settle 
ment of an Assistant to the Pastor; but it was 
necessary to prepare the way for that Assistant to be 
" Successor in the Pastoral charge." Secondly, the 
Town Council probably had assurance that the Royal 
presentation would be made in due time, and on this 
assurance both they and the gentleman called, re 
posed with confidence, and proceeded at once to take 
those steps which were desirable for obtaining aid 
to their aged Pastor as speedily and effectually as 
possible. Some formalities at the seat of govern 
ment led, no doubt, to delay in actually drawing up 
and transmitting the necessary document. 

" George fi. 

" Whereas, by an humble representation to us, 
from Mr. John Cooper, Minister of the Gospel at 
Montrose, and from the present Magistrates of the 
said Borough, and remanent members of the Town 
Council thereof, we are informed, that, by the great 
age and infirmities of the said John Cooper, and other 
circumstances of the said Parish, it appeared neces 
sary to the advancement of the Gospel, and the good 
of the said Parish, that Mr. Charles Nisbet, Preacher 
of the Gospel, should be ordained Assistant to the 
said John Cooper, during his life, and Successor in 
office, as Minister of the said Parish, after his death, 
provided our consent was obtained thereto, the pre 
sentation upon the death of the said John Cooper 


being in our gift, and at our disposal: Therefore we 
are graciously pleased, from a due regard to the said 
representation, and the advancement of the Gospel 
in said Parish of Montrose, to give the Royal Assent 
to the said settlement, and to will and consent that, 
upon the death of the said John Cooper, the said 
Charles Nisbet be entitled to the stipend, benefice, 
and profits now belonging to the said John Cooper, 
in the same manner as if he had been presented upon 
the vacancy of the said Parish. Given at our Court 
at St. James s, the 25th day of November, 1763, in 
the fourth year of our reign." 

" By his Majesty s Command, 


Mr. Nisbet, as before stated, considered it as his 
duty to accept this call, and soon after removed from 
the vicinity of Glasgow to Montrose. He was regu 
larly ordained to the work of the Gospel Ministry, 
on the 17th of May, A. D. 1764, by the Presbytery 
of Brechin, within the bounds of which he was now 
placed. The Church to which he now undertook to 
minister was unusually large. The tradition is, that 
in the administration of the Lord s Supper, which, in 
the Church of Scotland, is dispensed at tables, and 
not pews, there were usually fourteen or fifteen 
tables. Such a charge, when the duties which, in 
the former and better days of the Church, it was 
considered as imposing, such as visiting, catechising, 
&c., as well as preaching, are taken into considera 
tion, must have been a formidable undertaking for a 
young man. He addressed himself to it, however, 
with something of the spirit which its nature de- 


manded, and was favoured with great acceptance by 
the people. Though he was officially a Helper or 
Assistant in the charge, yet the chief weight of all 
the duties connected with it devolved on him, as Mr. 
Cooper, the senior Minister, was aged and infirm, 
and seldom able to appear in public. He lived, how 
ever, nearly ten years after Mr. Nisbet was brought 
into connection with him, viz. until 1773, when he 
deceased, and left his young Assistant in the sole 
charge of the congregation. 

About two years after Mr. Nisbet settled at Mont- 
rose, he was united in marriage with Miss Anne 
Tweedie, a daughter of Thomas Tweedie, Esquire, 
of Quarter, about thirty miles south of Edinburgh. 
His elder brother, Mr. Andrew Nisbet, before spoken 
of, afterwards minister of a Church in the neighbour 
hood of Glasgow, was, for several years prior to his 
ordination, engaged as a private Tutor in the family 
of Mr. Tweedie. During this period, the subject of 
this memoir, while a student in the University, and 
about eighteen years of age, paid a visit to his bro 
ther. In the course of this visit he became attached 
to Mr. Tweedie s daughter Anne. This attachment 
was favourably received, and ultimately led to a mat 
rimonial engagement. Their marriage, however, on 
account of his situation, was postponed for twelve 
years. In the month of June, 1766, they were 
united, and lived together about thirty-eight years, 
in great harmony and comfort. About the same 
time with the marriage of Mr. Nisbet, the nuptials of 
another distinguished individual occurred at Mont- 
rose, both of whom were particular friends of Dr. 
Beattie, the celebrated moral philosopher and poet 


of Marischal College, Aberdeen. On this occasion, 
Dr. Beattie composed and transmitted a beautiful 
Poem, which he styled EPITHALAMIUM MONTROSI- 
ANUM. Pains have been taken to recover this ele 
gant testimonial of friendship from so popular and 
honoured a pen, but without success. 

Not long after Mr. Nisbet became an assistant 
Minister at Montrose, another event occurred which 
showed the high esteem and confidence in which he 
was held by those who were most competent to judge 
of his character and attainments. In the month of 
November, 1766, on the death of the Rev. Dr. Fin- 
ley, President of the College of New Jersey, the 
Rev. Dr. Witherspoon, then Pastor of the Church of 
Paisley, in the west of Scotland, was unanimously 
chosen to succeed him in the Presidentship of that In 
stitution. His first answer to this call was in the 
negative. He felt himself so bound to the land and the 
Church of his nativity, that he could not consent to 
sever himself from them, and go to a land of stran 
gers. While in this state of mind, feeling it im 
possible that he himself should accept the office, he 
addressed the following letter to Mr. Nisbet. 

"Paisley, May 25, 1767." 
" Dear Sir," 

" I received a letter from you, some time ago 5 
upon the ^subject of the call from New-Jersey, 
which I did not answer immediately, as that affair 
was under deliberation. It has indeed given me the 
greatest uneasiness that ever any thing of the kind 
did, for I felt a very strong inclination in myself to 
comply; but met with so many difficulties from my 


family and connexions, particularly my wife s insu 
perable aversion, that I have been at last obliged to 
give it up. I find the gentlemen here are still de 
sirous of having one from Scotland, and particularly 
a young gentleman, Mr. Rush, from that country, a 
Student of Medicine at Edinburgh, a most agreea 
ble young man, and who has the warmest attachment 
to the interest of that Seminary, was with me the end 
of last week on that subject. I then named you to 
him as the person of all my acquaintance the fittest 
for that office, and said that your being so much 
younger than me was, in my opinion, an advantage, 
instead of a loss. He told me you had been men 
tioned by his friends at Edinburgh; and that he was 
sure that any person recommended by me to them 
would be chosen by the Trustees. I, therefore, un 
dertook to write to you on the subject, which I now 
beg you may take into your immediate serious con 
sideration. I dare say you will consider this as a 
mark of my undissembled esteem, and assure you 
that you have not a sincerer friend; and that I be 
lieve it to be a station in which you may be emi 
nently useful, as well as a station of much honour 
and profit. I know there is one difficulty: a prudent 
man may be backward to give his consent, when 
there is only a possibility, not a certainty, of his be 
ing elected; but when you consider the necessity of 
the case, and the disappointment they have already 
incurred, you will be sensible that we cannot write 
to them to make an election of another in Britain, 
unless they have reason to think it will be success 
ful; and therefore hope you will overcome this diffi 
culty; and that jou may not run the least risque, I 


have taken Mr. Rush, and engaged that no person shall 
know of this application to you but your friends at 
Edinburgh, Mr. Erskine and Mr. Wallace. Let 
me have your answer as soon as you possibly can on 
such a subject." 

" I rejoice to hear of Mrs. Nisbet s welfare and 
fruitfulness; and do heartily wish you much plea 
sure and comfort in your family. Present my com 
pliments to her in the most affectionate manner. 
" I am, dear sir, 

" Your affectionate brother," 


When we consider that Mr. Nisbet was now only 
thirty-one years of age; that the gentleman who 
spoke thus of him was Doctor Witherspoon, un 
doubtedly one of the most sagacious and wise men 
of his day; and that such a judge, who had long and 
intimately known him, pronounced him "the fittest 
man of all his acquaintance" to be the head of a Col 
lege; we are presented with a testimonial of Mr. 
Nisbet s reputation in Scotland, at this time, for 
talents and learning, of the most remarkable kind. 

Whether, in consequence of this recommendation 
by Doctor Witherspoon, any movement was ever 
made in the Board of Trustees of Princeton College 
towards the election of Mr. Nisbet, is not now known. 
There is no record to that amount in the minutes of 
that Body. But the fact is, that in a very short time 
after this letter announcing his own refusal of the 
call to America, and recommending Mr. Nisbet, was 
written, Dr. Witherspoon reconsidered the subject; 
jjnd intimated to the Trustees of the College that, if 


their call should be repeated, he would accept of it. 
It was unanimously repeated. He declared his ac 
ceptance of it; and the next year removed to Ame 
rica, and entered on the duties of a station which he 
adorned for twenty-six years. 

The truth is, Mr. Nisbet was now regarded as among 
the most learned men in Scotland, and was prover 
bially called " the, walking Library" Nor was 
this wonderful. His thirst for knowledge was insa 
tiable. His habits of study were singularly diligent. 
His memory was not only excellent, but bordered 
on the prodigious. The Libraries within his reach 
were large and rich. And his access to the society of 
literary men, both in and out of the Church, was such 
as seldom falls to the lot of one so youthful, and who 
could boast so little of what is called worldly pa 

The secret of the last mentioned circumstance was 
this. His social talents were singularly excellent. 
His wit and humour might be said to be unrivalled. 
He was really qualified to instruct and highly to en 
tertain any circle, literary or religious, of the most 
elevated class. The consequence was, that his com 
pany was as much courted, and his social connexions 
as large and honourable, as almost any man of his 
day in the Church of Scotland. Circumstances, in 
his early history, made him intimately acquainted 
with several of the nobility of Scotland, both male 
and female; and his peculiarly interesting social 
character, served to rivet and extend friendships of 
this kind, and led to much intercourse with them, 
while he remained in his native couatry, and to a 
gratifying correspondence after he carne to Ame-. 



His Ministry in Scotland. 

WHEN Mr. Nisbet entered on the Ministry in the 
Church of Scotland, that Church, as is well known, 
was divided, and had long been divided, into two 
great parties the Orthodox and the Moderate. 
The Orthodox were distinguished by their attach 
ment to evangelical truth, and faithful preaching; 
and by their opposition to Patronage, especially to 
its abuses. And although they were not enemies to 
the ecclesiastical establishment; yet they were jeal 
ous of the encroachments of the civil government, 
and ever on the watch to maintain the spiritual 
purity of the Church, and to guard its ministers and 
judicatories from being made the instruments of de 
signing statesmen to accomplish schemes of secular 
policy, at the expense of real religion. The Mode 
rate were more lax in their doctrinal views; less 
evangelical in their preaching; friends of the system 
of patronage; and more accommodating in their feel 
ings and votes to the plans of secular politicians. 
The Orthodox were disposed to contend for the 
rights of the people in the settlement of ministers, 
and in all their judicial proceedings. The Mode 
rate were, in general, favourable to the influence 
of the crown in the courts of the Church; willing 


to let the law of patronnge take its legal course> 
however hardly it might bear on the popular choice; 
and always reluctant to thwart the views of the civil 

Mr. Nisbet, from the first, associated himself de 
cisively and uniformly with the Orthodox party. 
He contended, side by side, with his early and faith 
ful friend, Dr. Witherspoon ; and, although the class to 
which he belonged were, at that time, and continued 
for many years to be a minority; yet he adhered to 
his principles with steadfastness, and the laudable 
efforts of himself and his faithful associates were 
sometimes crowned with unexpected success. His 
piety, his learning, his wit, his powerful appeals, not 
unfrequently prevailed over all the talents, the plau 
sibility, the tactics, and the governmental favour of 
his opponents. 

Of Mr. Nisbet s talents as a debater in the Gene 
ral Assembly, the traditionary statements are of the 
strongest kind. At this distance of time, however, 
two specimens only can be given. For the space 
which these specimens occupy, no apology will be 
deemed necessary by those who are capable of appre 
ciating genuine eloquence. It would be unjust to his 
memory to deny them a place in this Memoir. They 
are-both extracted from the volume of the "London 
Magazine," for 1773, where they are accompanied 
with expressions of approbation of the highest kind. 

By the constitution of Scotland, it is granted to 
the civil and ecclesiastical powers, jointly, to regu 
late the extent and number of parishes, by making 
such alterations as shall be judged to conduce to the 
general good; formiag two, parishes out of one largs 


one, or annexing one parish to another, and 1 , conse 
quently, sinking one altogether. On a case of a pro 
posed annexation of one parish to another, and, of 
course, diminishing the number of parishes, which 
the Presbytery of Brechin, to which Mr. Nisbet be 
longed, had ordered, and which the synod of Perth 
and Stirling had affirmed; upon being brought before 
the General Assembly, in the year 1771, Mr. Nis 
bet, who had stood alone in the Presbytery, and 
also in the Synod, in opposition to the proposed 
measure, delivered the following speech: 

" Moderator." 

" I bring this complaint, not for any private profit 
or emolument, but solely for the interest of the 
Church of Scotland, the very being of which I appre 
hend to be concerned in the issue of it. It may seem 
to need some apology, that I have adventured to 
differ from a whole presbytery and synod of my re 
verend fathers and brethren ; but this will seem the 
less presumption, when it is considered, that only 
two members of presbytery, and five of the synod, 
have had an opportunity of judging in the matter, 
and even these were solicited and bespoke by the 
professed enemies of this church. In a case over 
loaded with truth and evidence, one must be under 
an unusual difficulty to adduce arguments. Dr. Til- 
lotson complains that it is extremely ha-rd that a man 
should be obliged to write a book to prove that an 
egg is not an oyster, or that a musket ball is not a 
pike. I find myself precisely in the same situation 
at present. I am to prove, I hope to your convic 
tion, that it is. for the interest of religion, that parish 


churches should be preserved, instead of being de 
stroyed, and do not imagine that I stand in need of 
any extraordinary eloquence or logic for that pur 
pose. I must however beg the attention of the house 
to the cause, as, however trifling it may appear to 
some, it is no less than articulus stantis aut cadcn- 
tis ecclesias. How any member of this church should 
be overpersuaded into a scheme tending to its de 
struction, as it must appear a paradox, I reckon my 
self obliged to account for it. One thing only I beg 
leave to add, by way of preamble, before I enter on 
the narrative, namely, to purge myself of malice and 
partial counsel. As I am to narrate the actions of 
sundry gentlemen interested in this business, I begin 
with declaring, in the presence of that Being who 
knows my heart, that I have no personal enmity to 
any of them, that from some of them I have received 
good offices, and would be ready to serve all of them 
in an honest way. 

The rise of this proposal of annexation, to the best 
of my knowledge, is as follows. Some time ago Mr. 
Bruce, one of the ministers of Brechin, applied to his 
presbytery for their concurrence in a process he in 
tended to raise against his heretors for the augmenta 
tion of his stipend, which was readily granted ; but 
afterwards, being apprehensive of the length and ex- 
pence of such a process, he resolved to try, with the 
consent of his presbytery, what he could get from 
them in the way of private negociation, A meeting 
was accordingly appointed for this purpose, betwixt 
the heretors and a committee of presbytery. At this 
meeting the heretors consented to make some addi. 
tion to Mr. Bruce s stipend ; but it seems they in- 


tended it should not be at their own charge s. One 
parish was proposed to" be annexed, to make some 
small addition to the living of another. The parish 
of Kinnaird, in the neighborhood of Brechin, was 
pitched upon for that purpose, and a scheme was set 
on foot by the tutors of Sir David Carnegy of South- 
esk, a minor, sole heretor of the parish of Kinnaird, 
in conjunction with sundry gentlemen, heretors of 
the parish of Brechin, to bring a process before the 
lords commissioners for plantation of kirks, &c. for 
suppressing the church and parish of Kinnaird, and 
annexing it to the adjacent parishes of Farnwell and 
Brechin, and to apply to the presbytery for their 
consent to said process. But as it could not be sup 
posed that the presbytery would give their consent 
to a plan tending to the destruction of all their chur 
ches, they were not left to their liberty in judging. 
The gentlemen interested in the cause, by them 
selves or their agents, had first bespoken and enga 
ged most of the members to support, or at least not 
to oppose this design ; and not till these solicitations 
were over, a presbytery pro re. nata was called, in 
the middle of harvest, when few members could at 
tend, and a petition from the heretors of the parishes 
of Kinnaird, Farnwell and Brechin, was presented to 
them, setting forth, that whereas many parishes in 
Scotland are incommodiously large, and others very 
small, the support of churches and manses was there 
by rendered heavy upon heretors ; and whereas the 
parish of Kinnaird is a small one, consisting of not 
much more than one hundred examinable persons, 
and lying within one mile of the church of Farn 
well, and not much farther from Brechin, therefore 


praying that the presbytery would consent to a more 
commodious division of said parish, hy annexing the 
parish of Kinnaird to the adjacent parishes of Farn- 
well and Brechin, and that they the heretors would 
engage to enlarge the church at Farnwell, so far as 
should be necessary for the accommodation of the 
new parishioners. This petition, after a delay of a 
fortnight, hardly obtained, was at last granted in a 
meeting of five members of the presbytery, three of 
whom were interested in the question. 

On this occasion I thought it my duty, after plead 
ing in vain what occurred to me in opposition to this 
destructive scheme, and having consulted with some 
of the most learned of my brethren, to dissent from 
this sentence of presbytery, and to complain of it to 
the ensuing synod. At the meeting of the synod in 
October following, out of seventy-two members, of 
whom the synod consists, only five attended, besides 
the presbytery of Brechin, who were parties ; and 
these, with a correspondent from the synod of Perth 
and Stirling, whom they put into the chair at hear 
ing the complaint, were pleased to dismiss it as fri 
volous, and it was even proposed to censure the corn- 
plainer. Finding the interest of the church so scan 
dalously neglected by the synod on this occasion, by 
means of the influence of heretors, I found myself 
under a necessity of bringing my complaint before 
this house, where I am persuaded that local prejudi 
ces and party influence will have no place. I am to 
show that the proposed annexation, agreed to by the 
presbytery and synod, is illegal, unnecessary, and 
ruinous to the interest of this church, and that it has 
been contrived by our professed enemies, to make a 


precedent for destroying this church piece meal. It 
is indeed represented by the gentlemen petitioners 
to the presbytery as a more commodious division of 
the parishes in question, and what they propose by 
way of remedy to their present inconvenient divi 
sion, is not that part of the greater parish should be 
annexed to the lesser, to bring them nearer to an 
equality, but that the least of them should be wholly 
suppressed, and annexed to the two others. This is 
commodious indeed : but to whom ? to the landed 
gentlemen only, who think they will have less sti 
pend to pay, and fewer churches to support in con 
sequence of it. They observe that some parishes are 
too large, and others too small. Granted ; but the 
common remedy they propose for both these incon 
veniences is annexation. Wonderfully commodious 
again ! I once knew a gentleman, who used to say, 
that there were only two kinds of dogs that he could 
not bear, the great dogs and the little dogs : the gen 
tlemen petitioners seem to have the same idea of pa 
rishes, as they propose that the small parishes should 
be annexed to the great ones, to render them more 
commodious, and the fitter to be annexed in due time. 
Wonderful indeed ! En cor Zenodoti, en jecur 
Cratetis ! Does this scheme fall any thing short of 
a design to destroy all the parish churches in Scot 
land one after another ? Non-jurant meetings were 
suppressed by law in 1746, though connived at by 
the present ministry for reasons of state. If an at 
tempt had been made to suppress any of these, though 
against an express law, the promoters of this scheme 
would have cried out persecution, and applied to the 
throne for redress. But it seems it is lawful enough 


to contrive the suppression of established churches, 
and to make use of the law, which was made for their 
preservation, for their destruction. As the lenity of 
the ministry has tolerated these non-jurant meetings, 
why should not the benefit of this toleration be ex 
tended to the established church ? 

If such things go on, no one can say how far this 
idea of conveniency may be extended. Dionysius, a 
respectable heretor in ancient times, thought it ex 
tremely convenient for him to abstract the golden 
cloak from the statue of Jupiter, and to annex it to 
his own property ; and he gave very good reasons 
for it : it was too heavy in summer, and too cold in 
winter : and by the same train of thinking among 
our landed gentlemen, it may possibly soon be found 
most convenient to have no churches at all. Our 
legal establishment must be wholly elusory, if it is 
to be cut and carved upon by every gentleman at 
pleasure, according to his notions of ideal convenien 
cy. Although it were not publicly known, that the 
pretender s friends are at the bottom of this design, 
the very nature of it proves it the work of an enemy 
to our church. The Jews reasoned well when they 
said, " He loveth our nation, and hath built us a sy 
nagogue." And may we not say as justly, He hates 
our constitution, and has destroyed us a church ? It 
might seem wonderful indeed in one view, how the 
persons concerned in this design should ever have 
been united ; but a little time ago, on occasion of a 
controverted election, they were as bitter enemies to 
each other as ever Herod and Pontius Pilate. But 
when a church is to be destroyed, they become at 
once hearty friends ; and when it is considered that 


a non-jurant meeting has been lately erected at Bre- 
chin by one of the subscribers, the cause of their 
union may be easily guessed. 

<; But to consider this proposal in the view of real 
conveniency ; the parish of Brechin is six miles long, 
and near three broad, sufficiently inhabited, besides 
the large town of Brechin in the centre. The church 
is too small already for the people that attend it, 
and the expense of supporting the fabric is furnished 
out of the poor s money. Such a parish does not 
seem to stand in any need of an addition to make it 
more convenient. The parish of Farnwell is at pre 
sent as large as many others in its neighbourhood, and 
the minister has a living superior to most in the 
country: so that neither does this parish need any 
addition. If real conveniency was sought for, the 
smallest degree of common sense would dictate, that 
the smaller parish should be augmented from the 
greater. But it seems this did not occur to the wise 
projectors of this scheme, or they did not think it so 
much for their interest. It is evident then, that no 
part of the parish of Kinnaird can be annexed to 
Brechin, as the church is already too small, and the 
heretors have no power to enlarge it. This being 
the case, how are the parishioners of Kinnaird to be 
accommodated when annexed to Brechin, unless 
they could contract themselves into as small dimen 
sions as the audience of the Pandsemonium, or choose 
to go to the non-jurant meeting? Besides, the ex 
pense of opening the wall of that cathedral would 
amount to more than these heretors have bestowed 
on churches these fifty years past. Our Church, 
Sir, is established by law, and unless that establish- 


ment be entirely elusory, it must extend to all and 
every one of our parish churches, except where the 
law has declared otherwise. It is true, that (he 
lords commissioners have a power to annex churches; 
but this power is limited by law, and will be found 
not to extend to the case in hand. The act which 
defines their powers is act 3, part 22, Ja. VI. 18th 
June, 1617, and has these express words: With 
special power to the said commissioners, to unite 
sik kirks, ane or rnoe, as may conveniently be unite, 
where the fruits of any one alone will not suffice to 
entertain ane minister. It is evident from these 
words, that small and insufficient livings only were in 
the view of the legislature, and that a sufficient living 
is incapable of annexation. The parish of Kinnaird 
is a sufficient living: there are twelve parishes in the 
presbytery, whose living is inferior to it, and but 
four greater. Unfavourable statutes ought to be strict 
ly interpreted: what the law permits the lords to do 
in one case only, can in no shape be extended to any 
other case whatever. The power of the lords com 
missioners is for edification, and not for destruction: 
they are designed in the act, lords commissioners for 
plantation of kirks and valuation of tiends: now to 
destroy one church in three over all the kingdom, 
can never be called planting of kirks. They have 
power indeed to annex insufficient livings, as an act of 
mercy to ministerswhen no other provision can be got 
for them, but have no power to touch those that are 
already sufficient. This parish of Kinnaird is a suf 
ficient living, and it is not the least in Scotland, nor 
of the presbytery where it lies; and as the estate of 
Southesk, of which it is a part, has been under for- 


ieiture since 1715, it is no wonder that it is not very 
populous at present, though, when the improvements 
already projected shall be carried into execution, it 
will probably be as populous as many others. But 
the promoters of this scheme have chosen to catch 
the time for it while this objection is in force, by a 
policy similar to that of valuing their liends before 
their rents are raided. But does not the establish 
ment of ail chinches tolerate small parishes as well 
as large ones? Small and great are relative terms, 
and, though this design .should succeed, some parish 
es will be smaller than others till we come to the 
greatest of all, by destroy ing them one by one, De 
mo unidti, (/e. . io ctia tn unum, thini cadat clusus 
ratinne ruciitix accrvi: so that the utmost favour 
that any paiish in Scotland could expect from this 
annexing scheme is only the same that Polyphemus 
promised to Ulysses, to be devoured last of all. Min 
isters of small parishes may be useful to the church 
by the works of their retirement. Some of the min 
isters of our church have begun to figure in his 
torical composition; ami unless we tolerate small 
charges, how shall our minivers find time to write 
histories? Every sufiH-ient living j Sj by the plain 
meaning of this act, continued upon the establish 
ment, and it is out of the power of the lords commis 
sioners to touch it: but if this line is once broken, 
and one sufficient living suppressed, our whole estab 
lishment becomes a Inseless fabric, and may be 
undermined at pleasure. Why should this little 
church be denied the benefit of all other churches? 
Is it not robbery, is it not assassination, to disjoin it 
from the common foundation of the rest, to destroy 


it with more ease? This is like taking a man into a 
dark corner, and knocking him down before he can 
call for help. But the words of the statute are ex 
press to this purpose, so that we need not rest on 
general inferences; for it afterwards expressly finds 
and declares, that all kirks which are planted with mi 
nisters, whose stipends extend to five chalders victual, 
or five hundred merks money, [the then minimum 
of that country] are expressly excepted out of this 
commission, and no wayes comes under the compasse 
thereof, neither shall the said commissioners have 
any power, by virtue hereof, to meddle with any 
kirks or stipends which are in that case, seeing the 
said commission is not extended to the same/ No 
words can be conceived more positive or express 
for hindering the annexation of sufficient livings; 
nay, the legislature seem anxious to declare this to 
be their meaning. What then must we think of the 
logic or candour of those who would subject them to 
it at pleasure? Dr. Donne tells us of an ingenious 
critic, who, in explaining the Decalogue, expunged 
the negative particle from every precept, and would 
have the twelve negatives taken from it, to be insert 
ed in the several articles of the Apostle s Creed, to 
make a complete and consistent body of doctrine. 
And surely it must need no less licentious interpre 
tation to evince, that a sufficient church living can 
be annexed, since the law is so express to the con 
trary. Some may alledge, that the lords have a dis 
cretionary power to annex what churches they think 
fit, but the law gives them no such power; and how 
ever fit the present lords may be to have such a pow 
er, I dare not trust their successors. The law requi- 


res t\vo things to make a parish legally annexable: 
insufficiency of living, and commodiousness for an 
nexation. Neither of these have place in the pre 
sent case. Besides, this church of Kinnaird is rather 
better founded than most others, not being a popish 
foundation, but erected by the lords, upon mature 
deliberation, and conviction of its necessity, in 1661, 
an age of no very violent zeal for religion, when 
building of churches was far from being the the ru 
ling passion. And the spine lords were so convinced 
of the necessity and importance of this erection, that 
in 1718 they granted an augmentation of stipend to 
the minister. I know there is a story told, which 
seems contrived on purpose to favour this annexa 
tion: it is said, that about 1661 there was an iminor- 
lale odium $ nunquam fanabile vulniis betwixt 
the earl of Souihesk and (he earl of Airlie then resi 
ding in the neighbourhood, because the parson of 
Farnwell, where they buih attended divine worship, 
used to bow to Lord Airlie before his lordship, and 
that this parish of Kinnair > was disjoined from that 
of Farnwell and Brechin, only that his lordship might 
have the inexpressible satisfaction of receiving the 
first bow from the parson a favour not so much 
esteemed in our days. This absurd story has been 
evidently contrived to represent the erection of this 
parish to have proceeded from a whim, that it might 
be destroyed by another whim. 

"The gentlemen concerned in this design would 
perhaps laugh at the mention of sacrilege, so that I 
shall not insist upon that; but must it not at least be 
felony to attempt the destruction of a church already 
as well secured as the law can secure it, and to ab- 


stract the revenues of it from the lawful proprietors? 
These gentlemen would have been hanged by the 
neck, if they had formed the same design against a 
private house; and why it should be more lawful to 
assault a church is hard to say. I have heard of a 
couple of Highland gentlemen, long ago, who hav 
ing some difference about the division of the spoil 
they had taken in conjunction during the Michaelmas 
moon, gravely resolved to have it decided by the 
court of session. The present case, in my view of 
it, not a little resembles theirs. To demand the con 
sent of the judges to an unlawful design is an insult 
upon all law whatever. It signifies nothing to say, 
that the stipend, when annexed, is to be divided 
amongst the neighbouring clergy. God hates rob 
bery for burnt offering, and so should all his servants. 
If a robber takes my money on the road, whether he 
keeps it to himself, or gives it to his whore, I am 
equally injured, and the law is equally transgressed in 
both cases. If the ministers of large parishes are to 
be allowed to annihilate the lesser livings, and to di 
vide them among themselves, must not this tend to 
corrupt the clergy, by offering baits to their avarice, 
and making them have an evil eye towards their 
brethren? not to say, that this would be an erecting 
of dignities in the church, and introducing episcopacy 
in masquerade. 1 have seen a print representing a 
parson grasping at all the churches in his view; but 
were I possessed of the genius of a Raphael or a Mi 
chel Angelo, I would draw the figure of an annexing 
heretor scowling at all the churches around him, and 
threatening their destruction. If ministers, whose 
livings are already almost double those of many of 


their brethren, are allowed to hope for further in 
crease of them by the destruction of their neigh 
bours, we may soon expect to hear of annexations 
projected by ministers, and some are already talked 
of in this neighbourhood. We have had already 
four annexations in this presbytery since the Refor 
mation, and we have now as many non-jurant meet 
ings. Some of these annexations have been attended 
with great inconveniences. By one of them, in the 
hill country, ihe parish is rendered more than seven 
Scots miles in length; so that some people do not at 
tend the church from their baptism till their marriage. 
By another of them the minister is obliged to ride 
three miles in bad road every second Sabbath. 
Such arc the blessed fruits of annexation; but we 
complain not of what has been done according to law. 
The assembly ought to be more suspicious of this 
project of annexation, as this is a disaffected country, 
where there are too many that would wish to see all 
our churches suppressed, and this annexation must 
soon be followed by many others. If the law does 
not secure every sufficient living from annexation, 
our establishment can stand only till the necessary 
processes for its ruin are completed. 

" I must likewise beg leave to call the attention of 
the house to this cause, on account of the too great 
passiveness of ministers and inferior judicatures in 
matters of annexation. Of this the assembly was 
formerly so sensible, that by act 5, ass. 1740, sess. 9, 
they expressly discharged all presbyteries to con 
sent to, or connive at the annexation or suppressing 
of parishes, without the consent or approbation of the 
synod of the bounds, or the general assembly ." 


The present cause evinces, that it is possible for here 
to rs to persuade a presbytery, and even a synod, that 
the suppression of a parish church is for the good of 
the community, because it may promote the tempo 
ral interest of some individuals, and give hopes of like 
gain to others. Amazing indeed must have been 
the eloquence of Mr. Habakkuk Slyboots, who could 
persuade a man to hang himself in cold blood. The 
present cause exhibits no less a prodigy churchmen 
convinced that the destruction of parishes is for the 
good of the national church. Such is the wonderful 
influence of heretors! When inferior judicatories 
are become thus weak and slavish, and in the interest 
of our adversaries, it must become the wisdom of 
this house to put a stop to these proceedings, by re 
versing the acts of the presbytery and synod com 
plained of, and opposing the projected annexation, 
and all such illegal attempts against our establish 

" Thus, Sir, I have stated tothe assembly this cause, 
which is properly the cause of the whole church. 
Self-preservation should teach us to defend ourselves 
as long as we can. Est enim hsec non scripta, sed 
nata lex, quam non didicimus, accepimus, legi- 
mus,fed ex ipsa natiira arripuimus, hausimus, 
expressimus. I hope the house will see, that the 
present project is only a branch of a design against 
the whole church, and demands your strictest atten 
tion. What is now the case of this small parish, 
may soon be that of many others. Nam tua res 
agitur, paries cum proximus ardet. It is true to 
a proverb, multis minatur, uni qui injuriam fa~ 
cit. No reason can be pleaded for the suppression 


of this parish, which does not militate with equal 
force against a hundred others. It is not wonderful, 
that the enemies of our happy establishment should 
be zealous and active in promoting non-jurant meet 
ings; but to suppress established churches to make 
room for them is rather too much- Some may be 
averse to believe, that our church should be in dan 
ger from attempts of this sort; but if present instan 
ces are less clear, the records of past times will prove 
beyond doubt, that the like practices have been for 
merly used by the enemies of the church. We find 
in the records of the Concilium Byzacennm, that 
annexation was one of the methods employed, during 
the Arian persecution, for the destruction and extir 
pation of the Catholics; and in latter times, before 
the formal revocation of the edict of Nantes, the 
churches of the Protestants were taken from them 
in sundry places, on the pretence of their being un 
necessary. The policy of our enemies, and their 
present situation by our laws, does not permit them 
at once to show the cloven foot, or tell us that they 
design our destruction; but if we are not extremely 
blind, we may easily discern the drift of their designs, 
Their interest is to proceed by silent sap and machi 
nation, and especially to make use of some of us to 
ruin the rest. Much, alas! has been done this way 
already through their influence, by driving away the 
people from the churches; and because that method 
does not succeed fast enough for their wishes, it 
seems that what remains of our ruin is to be accom 
plished by taking away the churches from the peo 
ple. The design in hand is visibly contrived for 
your destruction, by annihilating your parishes one 


by one. What a dismal prospect for this church! 
Quid facerent hosles capla cntdclius urbe? By 
an invasion of foreign enemies our possessions might 
be ruined, and our churches burnt; but shall we 
f-tanJ by and see the same thing done by our coun 
trymen in time of peace, and under colour of law? 
Shall our venerable and ancient constitution, which 
has resisted so long the attempts of persecutors, and 
stood the shock of two rebellions, be gradually sub 
verted by the covert machinations of the church 
and stale? Shall we be reduced to take up the poet s 

-" Captiq ; dolls lacrymisq ; coacti, 

Quos non Tydides, nee Larissaus Achilles, 
Non anni domuere dccem, non mille carince." 

" It is not to be wondered at, that some of the real 
friends of our establishment are found among the pro 
moters of this annexation, as it is common to see 
such overreached and blindfolded by their adversa 
ries. Few have ever been betrayed except by their 
friends. I have done my duty in warning you of 
your danger; I have shown you the Pretender s 
soldiers actually at work upon your church, with 
the axes and hammers of annexation and demembra- 
tion. It remains that you do your duty by defend 
ing it to the utmost. If you can stand tamely by, 
while your enemies are so busy, you will fall de 
spised and unpitied, as your ruin will be of your 
selves. Every wise woman buildelh her house, but 
the foolish plucketh it down with her hands! If the as 
sembly give their consent to this annexation, the con 
sequence must be the instant ruin of many parishes; 


but if they vigorously support the interest of the 
church by opposing it, and reversing the sentences 
of the Presbytery and Synod, I have reason to be 
lieve that the principal party interested in this cause 
is so worthy a person, and so much a friend to this 
church, that, in respect to the authority of this house, 
he will desist from the attempt, and I he little under 
strappers of Jacobite polities will be hindered from 
accomplishing their wicked designs. 

" But if, after all, this annexation shall be carried 
into execution, with or without the consent of the 
Assembly, I find myself unable to express my ap 
prehensions for our whole establishment, and there 
fore shall conclude in the words of a celebrated au 
thor,* who is an ornament to the present age: 

" No oppression is so heavy or lasting as that 
which is inflicted by the perversion and exorbitance 
of legal authority: the robber may be seized, and the 
invader repelled whenever they are found; they 
who pretend no right but that of force may by force 
be punished or suppressed: but when plunder bears 
the name of impost, and murder is perpetrated by a 
judicial sentence, Fortitude is intimidated, and Wis 
dom confounded; Resistance shrinks from an alli 
ance with Rebellion, and the villain remains secure 
in the robes of the magistrate. 

The Editor of the London Magazine, after giving 
this speech at length, adds: " Though Principal Ro 
bertson, and several more of the court luminaries, 
spoke warmly in favour of the annexation, the Ge 
neral Assembly, by a great majority, reversed the 

* "Rambler, No. 145, vol. iii. p. 227." 


sentence of which Mr. Nisbet complained, and, for 
once, the force of eloquence was visibly exemplified." 
The sconcl specimen of Mr. Nisbet s eloquence in 
the General Assembly, is found in a speech which 
he delivered in that Body, in 1772. This speech 
was occasioned by an appeal from the Synod of Jln- 
gus and Mearns, which had affirmed a sentence of 
the Presbytery of Fordun, settling, or inducting 
Mr. John Brymer, as Minister of Mary kirk. The 
original charge was, that the presentation of Mr. 
Brymer to the parish, was effected by an act of Si 
mony. This charge was set aside, and the settle 
ment ordered to proceed, by the Presbytery, and 
afterwards by the Synod. The whole subject was 
brought by appeal before the General Assembly. 
On the trial of this appeal, Mr. Nisbet, on behalf of 
the appellants, made the following Speech: 

" Moderator" 

" I appear not at your bar as a party, but as a 
member of an inferior court, warranted by the con 
stitution of this church to complain of a decision 
of my superiors. The right of dissent and com 
plaint is competent to every member of this church, 
and I hope that my using it in the present case will 
not deprive me of the character of a peaceable mem 
ber. It gives me pleasure to reflect, that in this 
complaint I am not alone, but that many worthy 
ministers voted as I did, and the most worthy and 
respectable member of our Synod joined my dissent. 

"The sentence I am to complain of is, in my 
opinion, and I hope to make it appear to this house, 
contrary to the word of God, to common sense, and 


the express laws of this church. This cause has been 
urged into an early diet of this assembly, on account 
of its relating to the moral character of a minister. 
In my opinion, it is of infinitely greater importance 
than the character of any individual. On the deci 
sion which you must give in this cause, the moral 
character of this church and its assemblies immedi 
ately depends; and it must be evident, by your con 
duct this day, whether piety, learning, and prudence 
shall be the necessary requisites in the clerical cha 
racter, or merely the possession of a little money. 
To give the house a full view of this cause, I shall 
first give a brief narrative of the whole procedure, 
taking notice of sundry irregularities committed in 
the course of it, and laslly set forth the proofs of 
simony against this presentee, which ought to set 
aside his settlement, had it been ever so regularly 
and formally conducted. 

"To begin with the narrative. It is well known 
that sundry years ago, the King s college of Aber 
deen exposed to public sale, by way of auction, in 
consequence of an advertisement in the public papers, 
the patronage of sixteen churches then in their gift, 
of which that of this parish of Marykirk was one. 
At said auction, one Brymer, an innkeeper at Mar- 
nock-kirk, in BanfiThire, father to the now presentee, 
became purchaser of the patronage of Marykirk, 
having previously paid a visit to the incumbent, to 
enable him to judge what price he might venture to 
give for it. As it was known at the time of the sale 
that this Brymer had a son, the now presentee, then 
prosecuting the study of divinity, no one needed to be 
told that this purchase was intended for his benefit, 


and in this view it appeared new and strange to all 
that heard of it; and it is well known that the said 
patron, on viewing the strength and healthy look of 
the incumbent, declared that he might probably live 
almost as long as his son, and that instead of 300Z. 
which the college had asked, he would venture no 
more than 200/. 

" On the death of Mr. Thomson, minister of Mary- 
kirk, Brymer, now patron by the articles of the roup, 
issues his presentation to his son, the now presentee, 
concealing however his relation to himself. When 
this presentation came into the country, the parish 
ioners of Marykirk, astonished to see themselves 
bought and sold, as to their spiritual interests, by 
those whose duty it was to have protected them, 
were alarmed for their safety; but expected that the 
laws of this church would prevent such a scandalous 
bargain from being carried into execution. With 
this view, some of the elders, the now appellants, 
attended the meeting of the presbytery of Fordoun, 
when it was expected that this new presentation 
would make its appearance. But the members, be 
ing already gained by the patron s friends, gave 
them no opportunity of objecting against it. The 
presentation was given in, read, and sustained in a 
whisper a practice that seems borrowed from the 
privy council of the kings of Brentford. 

" A meeting of presbytery was appointed for the 
moderation of a call, at which the heretors (though 
only one of them is of the communion of this church) 
appeared, and gave their consent to the settlement 
of the presentee, having used all endeavours, by 
threats, promises, &c. to prevail on their tenants and 


dependants to sign the call. The parishioners had 
employed a notary to appear for them, and to pro 
pose objections against the settlement; but as in this 
slavish country no notary of character could be got 
to appear against gentlemen of property, for fear of 
their resentment, the parishioners were obliged to 
employ one given to drinking, who, being plied by 
the heretors agents, was soon rendered incapable of 
conducting their business properly. However, he 
got access to the presbytery, gave in his letters of 
proxy, and objected against sustaining the call, on 
account of its being signed only by the heretors, and 
a few of the lowest of the people; and on the pres 
bytery s sustaining it, he appealed to the ensuing 
synod, and gave in his reasons: but the presbytery 
having; adjourned to :i blind ale-honsfi along with the 
heretors, refused to take in his reasons, or give 
an extract of their sentence, and appointed a day 
for tlse admission of the presentee, notwithstand 
ing the appeal, which it seemed they intended to 
smother. They dismissed without prayer. 

At the meeting of the presbytery for the admis 
sion of the presentee, the parishioners procured an 
agent from a distance, who gave in objections against 
the presentee in form of a libel, and referred himself 
to the presentee s oath for proof of his assertions. 
His objections were overruled, his libel refused to 
be admitted to proof: on which he appealed to the 
ensuing synod, and the presentee was admitted in the 
face of the appeal, and amidst the tears and groans 
of the congregation. One of the parishioners object 
ing to the presentee s doctrine, and endeavouring to 
support his objections from the scriptures, one of the 


heretors, standing in a gallery above, aimed a push 
at him with a pike-staff, which drove his Bible out 
of his hand, and pierced through the whole of the 
Acts of the Apostles; which obliged the poor man 
to drop his argument, and to escape for his life. 

" The parishioners, however, rested on their ap 
peal to the synod, notwithstanding every method 
was used to intimidate and distress them, especially 
by a committee of the presbytery, who procured an 
order from the sheriff of the county to the kirk trea 
surer, to deliver up the poor s box to the presentee 
without receipt, under the pain of instant imprison 
ment; which order, however, upon proper represen 
tations, was at last recalled. 

" Before the meeting of synod, commissions of 
array were issued by the heretors, and sent by the 
presentee to many members of the synod, summon 
ing them, under the pain of their high displeasure, 
to attend that court, and support the presentee, which 
is the common way of conducting synod business in 
this country. At this meeting of synod, though 
packed and summoned by the influence of the here 
tors, the presbytery s sentence was affirmed by a 
majority of a few votes only, and the cause now 
waits the decision of this court. 

" To enumerate all the irregularities committed in 
the dependance of this cause before the presbytery 
would be an endless task. The very orders of the 
presentee were irregular. He had been ordained 
some time before by the presbytery of Strathbogie, 
ad ministerium vagum, without any parochial 
charge, to avoid the examination of the presbytery 
of Fordoun as to his ministerial talents; and of this, 


that presbytery was so sensible, that they brought 
an overture to next synod for preventing the like 
practice in time coming. To ordain a clergyman 
without a title or charge is contrary to the laws of 
all churches; and if this were permitted, it were 
easy to prove that one presbytery, assisted by pa 
trons, and brokers in patronages, might furnish minis 
ters to all this church, of whatever characters they 
pleased. The laws of our church appoint ministers 
to be ordained by that presbytery, within which they 
are to have a parochial charge, unless they have for 
merly been ordained by another where they had the 
like concern. But our laws give no license to any 
presbytery to ordain "ministers for exportation; in 
which case it might be justly suspected, that they 
would be the more careless as to their fitness for the 
ollice: and as this ordination of the presentee was 
procured after the purchase of the patronage, it ap 
pears to be a branch of the same design, and in the 
strongest manner to infer a simonial intention, unless 
it likewise was paid for, which might be the case for 
any thing I know. Another irregularity is the pres 
bytery s proceeding to admit the presentee in the 
face of an appeal. To say nothing of the first ap 
peal, which the presbytery affect to deny, and have 
kept out of their minutes, their proceeding in the 
face of the second appeal is in the highest degree 
irregular. I know that our forms allow inferior 
church courts to proceed usque ad sententiam, not 
withstanding appeals; but to execute their sentence 
in the face of an appeal is such a stretch of lawless 
and arbitrary power, as, should it be once permitted, 
would render superior courts wholly useless. The 


rights of appeal have been reckoned sacred among all 
nations, and have been religiously regarded even in 
the most arbitrary times. The great Apostle Paul, 
finding himself before a partial judge, appealed to the 
Roman emperor; but it was the apostle s great mercy 
that he never met with such judges as the presby 
tery of Fordoun, who, as it is evident from their 
conduct, would have laughed at his appeal. These 
gentlemen would have told him, No, sir, you have 
no right to appeal: we will kill you; we will exe 
cute our sentence, and then you may appeal to Caesar 
when you please. How low is this church sunk 
in point of character, when its judges want the pro 
bity of heathens, and the integrity of infidels! 

" Another irregularity in this business is the want 
of a legal call, without which, according to our con 
stitution, no relation can be established between a 
minister and a congregation. As to the call of here- 
tors, who are not members of our church, I am 
ashamed to mention it, it being contrary to the most 
obvious dictates of common sense, that persons 
should be callers of a minister who are never to have 
any connexion with him, nor to attend his ministry. 
It has this additional circumstance of aggravation in 
it, that these heretors declared under their hands 
that they committed to the presentee the care of their 
souls, and promised him all due obedience in the 
Lord! I want words to express the absurdity and 
profanity of such a conduct, especially considering it 
as countenanced and allowed by a presbytery of this 
church; but I hope that the gentlemen concerned 
will be censured for it by their own bishops. 

" Our people, sir, never intermeddle with elections 


of Kpiscopal ministers, nor renounce the communion 
of this church, in order to have a share in them; and 
if these gentlemen had been possessed of that sense 
and breeding which our people have always had, they 
would have had no concern in these matters. Be 
sides, sir, these gentlemen are totally ignorant of our 
laws, and imagine that heretors have the power of 
ordination: so- it is to be wished, that they would 
confine themselves to the affairs of their elections, 
their draught horses or setting dogs, or some subject 
that lies level to their understandings. As to the 
few people of the communion of this church who 
have signed the call, they were obliged to it by 
threats and concussion, and some of them were lite 
rally beaten by their worthy masters. It was a mat 
ter of no importance to the heretors who was minis 
ter of Marykirk, as they were to have no concern 
with him, nor to attend his ministry; but it was of 
the utmost importance to the parishioners who are 
members of this church, and depend for edification 
and spiritual instruction on the ministration of their 
parish minister. I know there are some among us 
who pay great regard to the consent of the landed 
gentlemen, as such, in the settlement of parishes; 
becau-se they suppose that the landed interest are the 
supporters of the church. I remember but one time 
when our church was in danger: I mean in the late 
rebellion ; and what then became of our noble friends? 
They either joined the pretender, or took protection 
from him, or ran like frighted hares to the border, and 
happy was the man that could get first to London. 
Such are our boasted supporters! But as the ordi 
nation of a minister, being a spiritual transaction, 


has no relation whatever to land, it is evident that 
the proprietors of land, as such, have no sort of inter 
est in it. But whatever be in this argument, the 
parishioners joined issue in the main with the here- 
tors: they have given their consent that the presen 
tee should be established minister at Mary kirk; that 
is, they have declared that he is a minister not fit for 
them to hear, and the parishioners are exactly of the 
same opinion. 

"But to come to the grand objection against this 
settlement, to wit, simony: this, in my apprehen 
sion, is so plain, that it is but mere wrangling to at 
tempt to deny it. Simony is defined by the canon 
ists, Studiosa cupiditas emendi aut vendendi spi- 
ritualia, aut spiritualibus annexa. This crime 
may be committed in a variety of forms, and may 
have sundry objects. The canonists mention sacra 
ments, orders, induction, and promotion; but the 
above definition comprises the essence of it. It is 
called crlmen mere, ecclesiasticum, and to the com 
mission of it three parties are requisite, the seller, 
the buyer, and the accepter. As crimes love dis 
guise, and as no one yet has been hardy enough to 
present himself to a benefice, it is natural to suppose 
that the simoniacal presentee will get some friend or 
relation to act the part of the ostensible patron, as in 
the present case; but it is to be observed, that in the 
canons against this crime, the vengeance of the sen 
tence falls first upon the accepter, it being for his 
account that the bargain is made, as we commonly 
ay, that if there were no receipts, there would be 
no thieves. This crime has always been considered 
as the greatest corruption, and forbidden under the 


pain of deposition in all ages of (he church. The 
first ages of Christianity knew not that operose dis 
tinction and precision, which have become necessary 
in latter ages for describing this crime. The story 
of Simon Magus, in the Acts of the Apostles, was 
the pattern from whence they borrowed their no 
tion of it, and the name of it. The most ancient 
canons depose without distinction all such as are or 
dained or inducted by the influence of money, by 
whomsoever given or however artfully concealed. 
The canons that go by the name of the Apostles, 
though not quite so ancient, are plain to this purpose. 
I quote Father Caranza s translation of them. Si 
quis episcopits, ant presbyter, aut diaconus 
per pecunias hanc oblinuerit dignitatem, deji- 

Cictllir ij)*R ft nrdimtior fjue, ci d com *mmiOne 

jtiodcs omnibus abscindatur, ficut Kimcn Magus 
a Pelro. Again, in the second council of Orleans, 
can. 4, Si quis saccrdolinm per pecunix nundinum 
cxccrabile ambitione quxsierit, abjiciatur ul re- 
jwobiis, quia apostolica sententia donnm Dei esse 
prxcipit pecunix trnlina minime comparandum. 
I quote these decrees of councils, and could quote 
many more to the same purpose, not as of autho 
rity in this church, but as the opinions of wise and 
disinterested men in the earliest times of the church, 
and they deserve great regard on that score. You 
see they condemn as simoniacal all settlements or or 
dination of ministers, wherof money is the procur 
ing cause, by whomsoever given, and however the 
simoniacal intention may be covered; and it is a 
maxim among the canonists, authorised by common 
sense, that money given by any one person to ano- 


ther, with the view of getting a person fixed in a 
pastoral charge, infers simony against the accepter 
of said charge, unless it can be proved that it was 
given maliciously, with an intent to procure his 

" To bring home this doctrine to the present case, 
it is evident that money is the sole cause of Mr. Bry- 
mer s settlement. The sale of the patronage was 
public, and the parties known. The design of the 
father to provide for his son is necessarily inferred 
from his buying the patronage, his visit to Mr. Thom 
son before the purchase, and afterwards actually pre 
senting his son to the benefice. Can the simoniacal 
intention be clearer in any supposable case than in 
the present one? It is notdenied that Brymer the 

fathpr hriught th c patronngcj but it is eaiH, that. it. doGS 

not appear that he intended it for his son, and conse 
quently here is no simony. I could peril the whole 
cause upon this single point: if any gentleman of cha 
racter will stand up and give his oath, that he be 
lieves in his conscience that the father had no inten 
tion of this sort, I here give up my argument; but I 
find this challenge will not be accepted. Intention 
is the soul of all crimes; but as it is not visible of it 
self, nor will be owned by the accused party, it must 
be inferred from overt acts: and in the present case 
a man has no need of being a conjuror to determine 
positively, that Brymer the patron purchased this 
benefice solely as a provision for his son, and for his 
emolument allenarly. It is not to be supposed, that 
a candidate will purchase a patronage openly by him 
self, in order to manifest his simoniacal intention, and 
facilitate his conviction; and there is no person so 


bad, or so insignificant, as not to have a friend or 
relation to make the bargain for them, and fulfil their 
intention. Simony, like other crimes, will always 
affect to be under cover; but in the present case the 
cover is so thin and transparent, that none can be de 
ceived by it, except those who have a mind to be de 
ceived. A father, of the rank of an innkeeper, has a 
son following the study of divinity, and buys the pa 
tronage of a benefice. Can it be believed by any per 
son of common sense, that he had no intention to pre 
sent his son to it, or that his son knew nothing of the 
transaction? I can only say that every man, woman 
and child, in the country where I live, knew the con 
trary in the present case. A father must be concern 
ed to provide for his own son: on account of his near 
relation to him he must be prejudiced in his favour, 
cannot be a judge of his qualifications. A patron 
exercises a judgment in the choice of his patentee, 
and there is in every presentation an explicit dclec- 
tns personx for his fitness real or supposed; but in 
the present case no judgment could be exercised, and 
no deliberation could have place, on account of the 
near relation betwixt the patron and presentee. Asa 
father cannot be the judge of his own sen, nor a wit 
ness for him, so by parity of reason he cannot be his 
patron. Nor is this a new notion. The tenth council of 
Toledo, in their third canon, expressly inhibits pre 
lates, who were then the only patrons, from present 
ing their relations, or even their dependants, to any 
benefice in their gift. The canon is entitled, Contra 
episcopos qui monasteriis vel ecclesiis consangui- 
neos, vel sibi faventes prseficiunt , and runs thus: 
*flgnovimus enim quosdam pontijices i 


principiis apostolorum (qui ait, Pascite qui in 
vobis est gregem, non coacte, sect spontanee, neque 
vi dominantes in c/ero, $?c.) ita esse immemores, 
tit quibusdam monasteriis parochialibusque eccle- 
slis, ant suss consanguinilatis personas, aut sui 
favoris participes, iniquum ssepe slatuant in prse- 
luturam, ita illis providentur commoda inhonesta, 
ut aut eisdem deserantur quseproprio episcopodari 
Justus ordo depoposcerit, aut quse rapere deputati 
exaclorifi violent ia poterit. Proinde placuit nobis 
fy in prsesenti tale rescindere facturn, * non esse 
de csetero faciendum. Nam quisque pontijicium 
deinceps aut sanguine propinquis aut favore per- 
sonis quibuscunque sibi conjunctis talia commen- 
dare lucra tentaverit, ad suum nefandse prsssump- 
tionis excidiurn^ et quod jussum fuerit, devoce- 
tur in irrilum, fy qui ordinavit, annux excommu- 
nicationi subjaceat. Further, in a synod assembled 
at London, anno 1171, can. 9. Let none transfer 
a church to another in the name of a portion, or take 
any money or covenanted gain for the presentation 
of any one. He that is guilty, by conviction or con 
fession, is for ever deprived of the patronage of that 
church by the king s authority and ours. I own 
that the practice of buying and selling benefices is 
tolerated in the neighbouring church of England, 
though no less contrary to the laws of that church 
than of this; and there every presentee is obliged to 
take a tremendous oath against simony, bearing that 
neither he himself, nor his friends, have purchased 
the benefice on his account. All good men in the 
church of England have lamented and abhorred this 
practice, as contrary to Christianity, and lending to 


the utter corruption of the clerical order, and its 
fruits have been answerable to their apprehensions. 
But simony cannot be more expressly forbidden in 
any church than in ours. By three several acts of 
assembly in 1753, 1757, and 1759, it is declared to 
infer deposition in a minister, and forfeiture of li 
cense to a probationer, to bargain with the patron or 
his friends, either by themselves, or by their friends, 
with or without their knowledge, or to give or pro 
mise any reward whatever to the patron or his friends, 
in consideration of his settlement, or to fulfil any 
such bargain when made, or to conceal it when 
brought to his knowledge; and presbyteries are re 
quired to proceed to the sentence of deposition in all 
the cases above specified, or when any simoniacal 
paction or practice is used by any person whatever 
in consideration of a particular settlement. It is 
most childish reasoning to allege, as has been done 
on the other side, that because the buying of rights 
of patronage is not expressly mentioned in these acts, 
therefore such purchase cannot infer simony. These 
acts specify all the modes of simony that had fallen 
under the consideration of the assembly at that time; 
and as they comprehend and mention much lesser 
degrees of the crime of simony than that of buying 
the patronage of a benefice, can it be believed by any 
person in his senses, that such merchandize is not as 
much, and indeed more contrary to the spirit of these 
laws, than the buying of a presentation? If it is si 
mony by our laws, as no one doubts, for a candidate to 
purchase from the patron one single vice, can it be less 
so to purchase the] patronage absolutely, or that the 
candidate himself should become patron in the person 


of his friend? Common sense revolts at the men 
tion of so absurd a distinction. The assembly will 
be pleased to attend a moment to the consequence of 
such transactions. If they are permitted to go on, 
persons of the most infamous characters, destitute of 
every ministerial talent, if possessed only of a little 
money, and the favour of a single presbytery, may 
purchase any benefice in this kingdom. It is well 
known that a person who a few years ago appeared 
as a tumbler in several towns in Scotland, has pur 
chased a benefice of considerable revenue in the west 
of England, and it may be expected that tumblers of 
inferior reputation will soon purchase into our church 
in the same manner. How venerable would this as 
sembly appear to the public, if we had seen one half 
of its members with their heels upwards! We see 
already that there are patrons ready enough to sell 
their patronages to candidates or their friends, as 
often as they can make a penny by the bargain. The 
King s college of Aberdeen has set a noble example 
to the rest, so that we may soon find more instances 
of this kind. That learned body, fired by the noble 
love of wealth that animates most of our modern lite 
rati, have openly set to sale the sacred trust reposed 
in their ancestors. Money is the principal thing, 
therefore get money: this seems to have been their 
maxim. I shall not repeat what a learned gentleman 
has just now observed as to the stomachs of literary 
men; but to avoid offence, I shall read a short quota 
tion from an eminent author, which I find acciden 
tally among my notes. Such is the state of the 
world, that the most obsequious of the slaves of pride, 
the most rapturous of the gazers upon wealth, the 


most officious of the whisperers of greatness, are col 
lected from seminaries appropriated to the study of 
wisdom and virtue, where it was intended that appe 
tite should learn to be content with little, [here in 
deed is something relating to their stomachs] and 
that hope should aspire only to honours which no 
human power can give or lake away. Rambler, 
No. -ISO. 

" By the laws of our church, sir, a candidate for the 
ministry is obliged to undergo a long and laborious 
course of study, and to maintain a decent and irre 
proachable character. He must be certified by a 
professor of divinity, and examined carefully by a 
presbytery, before he obtains license to preach, and 
when presented to any particular charge, must under 
go a new trial before that presbytery in whose bounds 
the charge lies, before he is ordained a minister; and 
at his ordination all persons are called upon to pro 
duce, if they can, any accusation against his life and 
doctrine. So anxious is our church for the purity 
of the clerical character, and their being possessed of 
proper talents for the ministry, that their whole set 
tlement is .made to turn upon that: But how differ 
ent a course has been followed by this presentee; and 
if allowed, will be followed by other candidates! If 
this settlement is affirmed, persons without learning, 
piety, or moral character, need only get the favour 
of any particular presbytery, which will not be diffi 
cult to be found, and get themselves ordained ad mi- 
nisterium vagum; and then, if they have but a little 
money, or can get credit for it till the benefice be 
comes vacant, they will find patrons to sell them 
their right, or to seem to sell it them till their turn 


is served. I readily allow that simony is the natu 
ral offspring of patronage, as that is of the mother of 
harlots and abominations of the earth; but it must be 
evident to every person of common sense, that if the 
settlement in question is affirmed, nothing but the 
want of money will be able to prevent the most in 
famous and unfit persons from becoming ministers of 
this church. Every minister at his ordination is 
obliged to declare solemnly, and as in the presence 
of God, that he has not used any undue methods to 
procure his settlement, either by himself or his 
friends. And when this declaration is made by 
those in the circumstances of the present presentee, 
as it has been made by him, it must put an end to 
their moral character instead of establishing it. When 
a person begins his ministry with such a solemn 
prevarication, not to say perjury, what edification 
or profit to the church may be reaped from his mi 
nistry may be easily imagined. In controversies 
about settlements, the opposers of presentees are 
often reviled on account of their rank in life; they 
are represented as illiterate vulgar, incapable of judg 
ing of the talents and qualifications of ministers; but 
it seems patronage sanctifies every thing, and, like 
the popish sacraments, confers grace, and sense, and 
wisdom. Had this innkeeper, who is now the pa 
tron, been an inhabitant of the parish of Mary kirk, 
and an opposer of this presentee, those who are now 
his friends would have held him in the utmost deri 
sion; but by his becoming patron, he immediately 
commences wise, just, and infallible; so mighty a 
thing is it to have credit for two hundred pounds, in 
the opinion of some men. I cannot look upon this 


patron in the same light with any other patron. His 
right was a fresh purchase, with a visible design to 
provide for a son, whether qualified for the ministry 
or not; and it appears by this transaction, that the 
presentee s father thought as meanly of his son s 
talents as any of his opposers do. If he had thought 
that his son had as much merit as would recommend 
him to any patron or parish whatever, he would 
never have parted with 200/. to provide him in a 
settlement. No application was made to this patron, 
as is always the case with others; because his inten 
tion of conveying it to his son was known to every 
person from the time of the purchase. If it is said, 
that no simoniacal intention appears, I answer, that 
it appears as clearly as any criminal intention can 
ever be supposed to appear. May we not as fairly 
and legally infer the simoniacal intention from the 
circumstance of the purchase, and the settlement fol 
lowing upon it, as the lords of justiciary, in cases of 
murder, infer the animus injuriandi, or criminal 
intention, from the overt acts and behaviour of the 
pannel? And if this is not admitted, no criminal 
whatever can be condemned, as all crimes consist in 
intention. If this transaction has all the circum 
stances, appearances and consequences of a simonia 
cal transaction, as it must be owned it has, why in 
the name of common sense is it to be called by any 
other name? At this rate, a man might believe tran- 
substantiation itself, and hold that accidents can sub 
sist without a substance." 

"In a word, you must either find this settlement 
simoniacal, or declare that simony never was nor can 
be committed by any person. If these things go on, 


you may soon expect to see your churches filled 
with useless and immoral clergymen. If money is 
sufficient to give a right, patrons will be found ready 
to sell, and candidates to buy. What need have we 
of probity or character, if money does quite as well? 
What need have we of professors of divinity, except 
to cry out, O eives! civts! quserenda pecunia pri- 
mum est; and if clandestine ordinations in distant 
presbyteries are allowed, they need not add, Virtus 
post nummos. Your churches will be res in com- 
mercio, and patronages transacted at fairs and mar 
kets; the price of patronages, as well as other provi 
sions, will rise in proportion to the demand, and 
clergymen, paying so high for their settlements, 
must languish out the rest of their lives under a load 
of debt and misery. How honourable for our church 
would such a paragraph be in our public papers as 
this? We hear from Falkirk, that on Wednesday 
last, there was a great show of cattle, but little de 
mand. Patronages bore a very high price, all those 
brought to market having been bought up the night 
before by an eminent dealer in horses, so that many 
clergymen were disappointed. Nor is this suppo 
sition too extravagant: I have heard already of an 
eminent dealer in horses who intends to buy a bene 
fice for his son, having discovered that he has no ge 
nius for his own profession. But dropping conse 
quences, it is evident that the present transaction 
comes precisely within the limits of the acts of 1758 
and 1759. At the time of it the college of Aberdeen 
were patrons of Marykirk. Mr. Brymer s friends 
offered and gave money for the presentation, as there 
could be no surer way of securing it than buying 


the right; so that the presentee, by accepting said 
presentation, incurs ipso facto the sentence of depo 
sition, according to the express tenor of said acts. 
Besides, it may be shown, that at the time of making 
these acts, the word presentation was used to signify 
a right of patronage, as well as a single vice, as it 
was not till of late years that this strictness of speak 
ing obtained amongst us. Moreover, it is confi 
dently asserted, that though Brymer, the patron, 
bargained ostensibly for the right of patronage, he 
was obliged, by a secret article, to dispone it to a 
certain gentleman after he had served his turn by it, 
and that it is already sold to another patron; so that 
a single vice or turn of presenting was the very thing 
bargained for. It is true, that at the synod the 
presentee s agent held up a piece of parchment, 
which he affirmed to be the right in question, but it 
might have been only a piece of an old drum-head, 
for ought I know; and a collusion betwixt the buyer 
and seller was so easy in this case, that no sort of 
stress can be laid upon that. If innkeepers are to be 
patrons of our churches, and have no sons willing to 
accept, it may be expected that the greatest drinkers 
will be generally preferred; and I am by no means sure 
that these will be the most eminent for learning, piety, 
and other ministerial qualifications. Whenever these 
are disregarded, and money is found sufficient to 
supply their place, the whole fabric of our constitu 
tion must be totally ruined. Upon the whole, the 
character of this assembly depends upon this day s 
decisions, and if this settlement is not found simonia- 
cal, and reduced accordingly, your sentences will 
amount only to an advertisement to all persons in- 


tending to purchase benefices, to get their fathers o? 
friends to make the bargain for the patronage for 
their behoof, and that they be .sure to get clandes 
tinely into orders before-hand, in order to prevent 
any troublesome examination into their qualifications 
by the presbytery where the benefice lies. Such a 
plain countenancing of the grossest simony is what I 
cannot expect from an assembly that has the least 
regard to character or conscience; but if I am disap 
pointed in this, I would beg leave to hint to any his 
torian who is to write the history of our times, to 
draw a line at the present year, as Mr. Calderwood 
does at a certain period, with this inscription: Here 
end the sincere assemblies of the Church of Scotland. 
" As your decisions will be freely and impartially 
examined by the public, I would beg leave to know 
how you can avoid being considered as an assembly 
of venal and corrupt men, if you openly encourage 
corruption and venality in others, and make them 
the surest ways of introduction to benefices in this 
church. To prevent, if possible, such reproach, I 
beg leave to put you in mind of an awful passage of 
scripture, which applies to cases of this kind, and 
which has already been fulfilled, with regard to the 
presbytery of Fordoun, and the majority of last sy 
nod of Angus and Mearns: it is Malachi ii. 8, 9: 
4 But ye are departed out of the way; ye have caus 
ed many to stumble at the law; ye have corrupted 
the covenant of Levi, saith the Lord of Hosts, 
Therefore have I also made you contemptible and 
base before all the people, according as ye have not 
kept my ways, but have been partial inthe law/ But 
as I find that quotations from scripture are disagree.- 


able to some members, I shall conclude with a few 
monkish verses, quoted by Johannes Andreas van 
der Muylen, professor of the civil law at Utrecht, in 
his book De imperio conscientise circa hominis 
mores, which I leave to the consideration of this as 

" Judicabit judices judex generalis, 
Ibique non proderit dignitas papalis, 
Sive sit episcopus, sive cardinalis, 
Reus condemnabitur, nee dicetur qualis, 
Ibi non proderit multum allegare, 
Neque excipere, neque explicare, 
Neque ad sedem apo;tolicam appellare, 
Reus condemnabitur, nee dicetur quare, 
Cogitate, miseri, qui et quales estis, 
Quidque in hoc judicio dicere potestis, 
Ubi neque locus erit codici nee digestis, 
Reus condemnabitur, nee producetur testis." 

The result, in this case, was not so favourable as 
in the former. Notwithstanding this strong appeal, 
the advocates of the system of Patronage were so 
powerful that the General Assembly affirmed the 
judgment of the courts below, in favour of the pre 
sentation, by a large majority. 

The truth is, it would not be easy to conceive of 
a more formidable opponent than this remarkable 
man in a deliberatave body. His memory was such 
as to furnish him with apt quotations from every de 
partment of literature, with the peculiar adaptedness 
and pungency of which he frequently disconserted 
and sometimes demolished his opponent, and seldom 
failed to electrify the body which he addressed. His 
inexhaustible wit and humour also supplied him 
with a weapon which no one ever used with more 


readiness or effect. It appeared as if no argument, 
no quotation, no bon mot, could ever take him by 
surprise. If any one ever attempted to play the 
wit at his expense, quick as lightning, flash after 
flash, of superior wit, would break from his lips, ac 
companied with a peculiar expression of his counte 
nance, which, when he chose to indulge it, might be 
said to blaze with wit, which generally proved irre 
sistible, and seldom failed completely to turn the 
laugh on his prostrate adversary. 

In 1771, the subject of this Memoir had a corres 
pondence with the Countess of Huntingdon, well 
known, for many years, in the religious world, not 
only as a fervently pious Christian, but also as a warm 
friend of Whitefield, and as an active and munifi 
cent promoter of the cause of truth and piety through 
out Great Britain, and, indeed, as far as her power 
extended . This correspondence seems to have arisen 
on the part of Lady Huntingdon, who wished to con 
sult Mr. Nisbet in regard to certain opinions which 
she considered as erroneous, and which then appear 
ed to be gaining ground. 

The only portion of this correspondence which 
has been preserved, consists of one of Mr. Nisbet s 
letters to that illustrious and excellent female, who 
seems to have lived only to do good, and who de 
nied herself many of what were considered as the 
ordinary comforts of life, that she might have the 
more to give for the promotion of the Redeemer s 
kingdom. This letter appears to have been written 
in answer to a solicitation of his opinion in respect 
to a proposed public Conference between the friends 
of truth and the followers of Mr. Wesley. On this 


subject, so interesting at that time to a portion of the 
religious public, Mr. Nisbet writes thus: 

" Montrose, 2Qth July, 1770." 
" Madam" "It must give pleasure to every lo 
ver of Christ and of true religion to hear that a per 
son of your Ladyship s rank is so interested in the 
affairs of Christ s kingdom, in so degenerate an age 
as ours is. It would seem that Mr. Wesley, by his 
preaching and conferences, has been but too success 
ful in seducing many of the ignorant and unwary 
into his notions. He has been long suspected of 
teaching doctrines inconsistent with the gospel of 
Christ, and tending to encourage fallen sinners in a 
reliance on their own works and merit for justifica 
tion. In his last conference he seems to have taken 
off the mask, and openly to inculcate the old Popish 
doctrine of the merit of good works wrought by sin 
ners in a fallen state, in direct opposition to the arti 
cles of the Church of England, which he must have 
subscribed, and to the doctrine which he has many 
times preached. It is easy to revive an old, explo 
ded heresy, when we take no notice of what has been 
said against it, by torturing a single expression in 
Holy Scripture to give it countenance. The obscu 
rity and ambiguity with which Mr. Wesley express 
ed himself, gives strong suspicion against his sincer 
ity as well as his orthodoxy. If I had all Mr. Wes 
ley s publications by me, I think it would be easy to 
show that every doctrine asserted and countenanced 
in his last Conference, is directly contrary to what 
he himself has often preached and published to the 
world as the true Gospel of Christ. But I see that 


he is already provided with an answer to this, by ac 
knowledging that he and his brethren have been dis 
puting only about words for these thirty years past. 
It is true that General Councils and public Confer 
ences have seldom been favorable to the interests of 
true religion, as men bring their own private preju 
dices and attachments to those Assemblies, and eome 
resolved to maintain their former opinions, whatever 
may be said against them ; not to add, that these 
meetings have led many to found their faith on hu 
man authority, rather than the testimony of God in 
the Holy Scriptures." 

" But as the Conference alluded to is proposed by 
the acknowledged friends of true religion, who must 
know the situation of things; and besides, as it must 
tend to illustrate a point of fact, viz. that the doc 
trines now taught by Mr. Wesley and his brethren, 
are contrary to what is taught and believed by the 
truly orthodox ministers of Christ in Great Britain; 
for these reasons I rejoice that it is to be held, and 
cheerfully contribute my poor testimony in support 
of the truth. None can have the vanity to believe 
that Scripture, reason and argument will have the 
effect to enlighten Mr. Wesley, who is a person of 
great learning and ingenuity, and cannot be supposed 
to err from ignorance. But perhaps the concurring 
testimony of many acknowledged orthodox minis 
ters of Christ, may be sufficient to open the eyes of 
some of his followers, and to convince them that Mr. 
Wesley s new doctrines are countenanced only by 
the Papists and some Arminians. I shall be glad to 
hear of the issue of the intended Conference, and 
pray that God, by his Spirit, may so direct his failh- 


ful servants, that they may be enabled to bear ho 
nourable testimony to the truth of Christ, and in 
meekness to instruct those that oppose themselves, 
if God, peradventure, will give them repentance to 
the acknowledging of the truth." 

"I am, Madam, your Ladyship s most obedient 
humble servant, CHARLES NISBET." 

" The Countess of Huntingdon." 

In the same year (1771), when Mr. Wesley s 
system of doctrine was attracting considerable atten 
tion, and when some measures were taken to draw 
to it the notice of the theologians of Scotland, Mr. 
Nisbet drew up a Review of that system, which, 
though not published at the time, was committed to 
the press a number of years afterwards in a popu 
lar periodical. This Review is a very honourable 
monument of the learning, taste, piety and ortho 
doxy of the author. He treats the erroneous system 
of that remarkable man with an urbanity, a force of 
reasoning, and a comprehensive clearness, which 
evince the hand of a scholar, a logician, and a divine 
of no ordinary character. Yet it is probable that if 
the subject of this memoir had undertaken to speak 
of Mr. Wesley and his opinions twenty or thirty 
years afterwards, when the character of both was 
more fully developed, he would hardly have called in 
question the " sincerity " of that eminent man. His 
consistency and his orthodoxy he would, no doubt, 
still have assailed with undiminished confidence; but 
he would probably have awarded to him the praise of 
honest zeal, and of no small usefulness, however mis 
taken and erratic some parts of his system, 



His Ministry in Scotland continued. 

IT was not only in the General Assembly that Mr. 
Nisbet appeared as the advocate of the rights of the 
people, against the encroachments of civil or eccle 
siastical oppression. He was the uniform and ar 
dent friend of this great cause, and whenever he had 
an opportunity of pleading it, he was ever faithful to 
his trust, and as able as faithful. 

Not many years after his settlement in Montrose, 
the troubles commenced between Great Britain and 
her North American colonies. In this great contest, 
though he did not allow himself to violate the duty 
of a loyal subject, yet, in principle and feeling, he 
sided with the Colonies. His friend, Dr. Wither- 
spoon, had, in 1768, removed to America, and was 
known there as the active, uncompromising patron of 
the Colonial claims and feelings. Mr. Nisbet, it is 
believed, substantially agreed with him in his general 
sentiments; and though, from the difference of his 
situation, not prepared to go all lengths with his now 
American friend, yet he felt and acted, so far as his 
sacred function called him to act, with the enligh 
tened and patriotic Whigs of Great Britain of that 
day; considering the Colonies as having just grounds 
of complaint, and as pleading for rights which ought 
not to have been denied them. In short, Mr. Nisbet 
was a decided and warm friend of America in the 


contest in which she was engaged; and manifested 
his friendship as far as he was allowed by his situa 
tion. And as this was no secret, it attracted the no 
tice of the partizans of government, and drew upon 
him the frowns of many a tool of the administration. 
Being called to preach on a public Fast appointed 
by government during the American war, he took 
his text from Daniel v. 5, 25: In the same hour 
came forth fingers of a mail s hand, and ivrote 
over against the candlestick, upon the plaster of 
the wall of the king s palace; and the king saw 
the part of the hand that ivrote Jlnd this is 
ihe ivriting that was written, MENE, MENE, TE- 


The introduction to his discourse was in the fol 
lowing strong!} marked and characteristic strain: 

" We arc this day called by our superiours to fast 
and afllict our souls; and they have not called us to 
this duty until they had given us abundant reason to 
do so. We have many enemies: our sins and follies 
are many also; yet we do not chuse to be told of 
them. Prosperity intoxicates men s minds; and even. 
a great share of adversity is insufficient to open their 
eyes, and bring them to their senses. They love to 
be deceived, and hope to the last, till the punishment 
of their sins actually falls upon them. Nineveh is 
(.he only instance in history of a people repenting 
and obtaining a delay of their punishment. To dis 
charge our duty with as little offence as possible, we 
have chose the words of this text for the subject of 
our discourse on this occasion. They served to awa 
ken a mighty monarch, who does not appear to have 
ever thought before. After the destruction of Nine- 


veh, Babylon was the principal seat of the Assyrian 
monarch, though that empire did not continue long 
in vigour after the above period. Under Nebuchad 
nezzar it was terrible and extensive; but the weakness 
and incapacity of his grandson Belshazzar brought 
it to an end, as we are told in the chapter from which 
our text is taken, and as it had been long ago fore 
told by the prophet Isaiah, Chapter 45, 46, 47. Cy 
rus, the instrument chosen of God for that purpose, 
was named, long before his birth, by the prophet; 
and on this account, that he was raised up to execute 
God s judgments against Babylon, and to rebuild the 
Temple of Jerusalem, he is called the Lord s anoin 
ted. 7 The Babylonian empire consisted of a num 
ber of conquered provinces, whose princes were alto 
gether kings. Many of these had revolted, on ac 
count of the injuries they had suffered by the Baby 
lonian monarchs. An empire founded in violence, 
and stained with blood, can never be called secure, 
and nourishes in its bosom the seeds of its dissolu 
tion. An arbitrary prince rules over enemies, whose 
weakness alone obliges them to pretend to be his 
friends; but who are ready to seize the first opportu 
nity of revenging their wrongs, by abandoning, be 
traying or destroying their tyrant. The Medes and 
Persians were made use of in the destruction of Ba 
bylon, and were part of the nations that had been 
subject to its dominion in the time of Nebuchadnez 

On another public fast clay, during the continu 
ance of our revolutionary contest, the members of 
the Town Council of Montrose, who were always in 
the habit of attending public worship in Mr. Nisbet s 


church, and of occupying a pew in a conspicuous 
situation assigned to them in their official character, 
were seated as usual in their appropriate place. Per 
ceiving, soon after the commencement of the dis 
course, that its character was likely to he by no means 
agreeable to their taste, they rose in a body and left 
the Church. Mr. Nisbct, stretching forth his hand 
toward the seat which they had just occupied, said 
with emphasis, as they withdrew " The wicked flee 
when no man pursueth." 

It is hardly necessary to say, that things of this 
kind drew upon him no little odium from various 
quarters. But his great talents, his pre-eminent learn 
ing, and his acknowledged piety and faithfulness 
made such an impression on the public mind in his 
favour, that the friends of the administration did not 
consider it as cither wise or safe to do more than to 
smile at the wit and sarcasm, and complain of the 
censure, of which he so frequently and severely made 
them the subjects. 

Mr. Nisbct, however, in taking this course, was 
not alone. Some of the best men in Scotland sym 
pathized with him in his principles and preaching, 
and thus contributed not a little to divide and disarm 
the odium which might otherwise have borne more 
heavily on an unsupported individual. Among oth 
ers his venerable and highly respected friend, the 
Rev. Dr. Erskine, of Edinburgh, substantially agreed 
with him, and in his preaching and publications from, 
the press stood forth as the friend of America. A 
short time before the breaking out of the war which 
terminated in the independence of the United States, 
Dr. Erskine published a pamphlet, entitled " Shall 


we go to war with our brother Benjamin?" He, too> 
was charged with preaching and praying in a manner 
highly offensive to the advocates of the American 
war. When besought by a personal friend to pray 
differently for the king and his ministers, he said 
" Do I not pray for them every sabbath?" his friend 
replied " Yes, but you pray for them as if they were 
the greatest culprits in all his majesty s dominions." 
These circumstances, no doubt, among others of a 
still more interesting character, led to a warm attach 
ment between these two friends, which gave rise to 
much intercourse between them while Mr. Nisbet 
remained in Scotland, and to a confidential and affec 
tionate correspondence, after his removal to this coun 
try, which continued as long as Dr. Erskine lived. 
Some specimens of this correspondence will be given 
in a subsequent chapter. 

While Mr. Nisbet proved himself a warm friend 
to the enlightened claims of civil liberty, he was no 
less awake to the rights of conscience and of the 
Church. In 1781, he prepared a series of "Letters 
to the members of the established Church of Scot 
land," in which his views of the unhappy policy pur 
sued by the courts of the Church, are presented with 
great strength and eloquence. Argument, learning, 
and satire are all brought, with much ability, to bear 
on the subject. In one of the letters, a draft of a 
proposed petition to the king is found, in which faith 
ful warning, united with intense sarcasm, shows the 
hand of a great and good man, supremely devoted to 
what he deemed the best interests of the church, and 
of the nation. These Letters appear to have been 
five in number. Only two of them are found among 


his papers in any good measure complete. Whether 
all, or indeed any of them were ever published can 
not now be known. Even the two which remain in 
manuscript, do not appear to have been entirely pre 
pared for the press; and the publication of them with 
out the others would hardly be doing justice either 
to the author or the cause. 

In the year 1782, a special effort seems to have 
been made in Scotland to obtain from the Parliament 
a repeal of the Patronage Act, and restoring to the 
churches of the Scottish establishment the right to 
choose their own ministers. At such a time it was 
impossible for him to be idle. Accordingly, there 
was found among his papers, a series of Resolutions, 
in his own hand writing, drawn up and adopted at a 
large public meeting, of which the following is a 
copy, and which will sufficiently explain themselves. 

" Montrose, July 15, 1782. 

"A considerable number of the Elders, and the 
greater part of the inhabitants of this town and par- 
rish, who are members of the established Church, 
having this day met, and being informed that attempts 
are making, in several parts of this kingdom, to pro 
cure a repeal of the Patronage Act, they judged it 
their duty to join the other parishes and societies in 
Scotland, which intend to petition for a repeal of said 
Act; and unanimously agreed to the following Reso 
lutions, viz. 

I. "That patronage is not only contrary to the 
Scriptures, and the natural liberties of mankind, but 
also a direct encroachment on the rights and consti 
tution of the Church, established by the 5th Act of 


the first parliament of William and Mary, and rati 
fied by the Treaty of Union." 

II. " That Patronage, though restored by Queen 
Anne s Tory Ministry in 1712, was not received or 
submitted to by the judicatories of this Church, but 
repeatedly remonstrated against, till about forty years 
ago, when a corrupt party began to prevail, and the 
original principles of this Church were in a great 
measure forgotten. Nay Patronage has been so uni 
formly reckoned a grievance in this Church, that 
even those General Assemblies whose oppressive 
measures have given so much offence to the members 
of this Church, have never failed to instruct their 
commissioners to petition for a repeal of said Act, if 
a favourable opportunity offered." 

III. " That although the pretended intention of 
the Patronage Act was to prevent heats and divis 
ions; yet, by the experience of more than forty years, 
it has been found that the said Act, and the violent 
proceedings of Church Judicatories in compliance 
with it, has occasioned the greatest divisions ever 
known in this Church; and has driven from its com 
munion some hundreds of congregations of well dis 
posed persons, who are still of the principles of this 
Church, but who could not submit to such tyrannical 

IV. "That the said Act, restoring Patronages, by 
putting the power of settlements solely in the Patron, 
has introduced a servile and dependent spirit among 
the Clergy of this Church, whereby their votes and 
determinations are entirely governed by their Pat 
rons, or friends that procured their settlement; which 


makes them most unfit guardians and representatives 
of a free and independent church." 

V . " That, in consequence of this dependent spirit, 
the General Assemblies of this Church, composed 
mostly of such men as patronage only could have in 
troduced, are become so corrupt, slavish, and tyran 
nical in their proceedings, that they are the terror 
and aversion of all the friends of religion and liberty; 
as by their foolish and arbitrary proceedings they 
are lessening the numbers of the members of this 
Church every year; and thus openly wasting that 
body which it is their duty to preserve." 

VI. " That if some stop is not soon put to these 
destructive proceedings, which certainly cannot be 
expected from General Assemblies, who are the prin 
cipal authors of them, this Church must soon be re 
duced to a very contemptible number, and all its be 
nefices reduced to absolute sinecures; a circum 
stance that must hasten the ruin of our Church esta 
blishment; and as there already exist parishes, con 
sisting of only two, five, eight, and ten individuals, 
the rest being mostly dissenters, this period can be 
at no great distance." 

VII. " That Patronage gives an opportunity for 
simoniacal pactions, which, though condemned by 
the laws of all Christian countries, can never be pre 
vented where Patronage is established. And, though 
there is good reason to believe that sundry benefices 
in this Church have been bought with money ; it is of 
ten impossible to make legal proof of these deeds of 
darkness, whereof even the guilty actors are evi 
dently ashamed." 

VIII. "And that the people who remain in the 


communion of the Church, by the habit of submit 
ting to oppression, have, in a great measure, lost the 
spirit of liberty, and become the willing slaves of 
any that pretend dominion over them." 

IX. " For these reasons, we hereby declare our 
resolution to join with the other parishes and socie 
ties who have notified their resolution to petition 
the Legislature for the repeal of this most pernicious 
and destructive Act; and we appoint these our reso 
lutions to be notified to the Constitutional Society of 
correspondence at Glasgow, and to be published in 
the Caledonian Mercury, the Edinburgh Evening 
Courant, and the London Chronicle; and we hereby 
promise to defray a proportional part of the expense 
of the application to Parliament, along with all those 
other societies who shall join in said application." 

Although Mr. Nisbet, by thus opposing, both in 
church and state, the policy most acceptable in the 
" high places" of the land, incurred not a little odium, 
he held a place in public estimation too high to be 
contemned, and too firm to be shaken. But not only 
was the popular voice strong in his favour. Even 
some of the noblesse of the country were constrained 
to do honour to his exalted character, and to show 
that they knew how to estimate pre-eminent accom 
plishments and worth, however unbending to the 
authority of the court. Accordingly, the subject of 
this Memoir was favoured with the peculiar friend 
ship and confidence of a large number not only of the 
most distinguished and excellent of the clergy and 
literati of Scotland; but also of some individuals of 
both sexes belonging to noble families, who delighted 
to testify their veneration for the piety, the talents. 


snd the extraordinary erudition which all parties as 
cribed to him. Among a number of names which 
might be mentioned as examples of this friendship, 
those of the Earl of Buchan, and the Countess of 
Leven and Melville, in Scotland, and of Lady Hunt 
ingdon, before mentioned, in England, are particu 
larly specified, because some remains of their corres 
pondence are still preserved among the papers of 
this remarkable man. 

A few specimens of the letters of the Countess of 
Levcn will, doubtless, be interesting to the reader, 
as examples of plain, simple, unpretending, but en 
lightened Christian friendship, equally honourable to 
the illustrations female by whom they were written, 
and the venerable minister to whom they are ad 

The first is without date as to the year, but proba 
bly written about the year 1778 or 1779. 

" Melville House, Sept. 1th, 

li As I have a great esteem for your character, and 
some attachment to your name," I take the liberty 
to write a few lines to you concerning a book which 
is in your possession, and which, at present, occa 
sions a good deal of speculation. I need not, after say 
ing this, add the name of the book, which I am not 
thoroughly acquainted with. The author s name is 
Nostradamus. It would be doing my Lord and me 

* The Earl of Levcn had married Miss JJ Hhelmina Nisbet, of a 
family which, though it bore the name of the subject of this Memoir, 
was not known to bear any relation to him, of either consanguinity 
or aJTmitv. 


a favour if you would take the trouble to cause to be 
written out a few of the most remarkable passages^ 
alluding to these times, and send them by post." 

"Should this correspondence prove an introduc 
tion to future acquaintance, it will bring about a 
wished for event. If it is agreeable and convenient 
for you, my Lord and I will be glad to see you, 
either at Melville House, or Edinburgh." 

" I beg you will forgive this trouble; and that you 
may believe me to be, with esteem," 

"Sir, your humble servant," 

" W. LEVEN." 

"Rev. Mr. Nisbet, Montrose" 

The book mentioned by Lady Leven is a very rare 
and a very curious one. The author of this Memoir 
never saw a copy of it excepting the one possessed by 
Dr. Nisbet, of which he often heard the Doctor speak 
with no small interest. Nostradamus was a celebrated 
physician and astrologer of France, who flourished 
in the sixteenth century. His prophecies, like those 
of the Delphic Oracle, were interesting chiefly on 
account of their mysterious and equivocal character. 
It was not difficult to find the fulfilment of an oracle 
so expressed that it might be made to mean almost 
any thing. Dr. Nisbet considered this work as one 
of the most singular productions of modern times, 
and often amused himself in comparing its pretended 
predictions with late events. 

From the same. 

"Nov. 29, 1779." 
" Rev. Sir," 

" I would have written before now, to inquire after 


you, and to thank you for your kind visit, had I not 
waited for a frank: and, in the mean time, a very 
mounful event occurred, which gave much concern 
to this family; and I truly helieve that the death of 
our worthy friend, Lady Norlhesk, has given very 
general concern. Her own family have sustained a 
very great loss. But I have no time to enlarge upon 
this extensive subject." 

" I am much obliged to you for the frank manner 
in which you expressed a desire to comply with my 
request for a reading of your Lecture, had it heen 
written: and still more by your offer to gratify my 
inclination, recollecting your pious meditations on 
that rich Psalm, and writing them out for me. I 
cannot deny myself so far as to decline so instruc 
tive an offer, though sensible it must be attended 
with considerable trouble to you. I do, therefore, 
thankfully accept of it. And, when a leisure hour 
may permit, I beg you may fulfil the further offer 
you made of letting me have your thoughts, now and 
then, on some further passages of scripture as they may 
occur. I have an interleaved Bible, in which 1 have 
collected some Annotations, particularly all that are 
to be found in Mr. Hervcy s writings (should be glad 
to know your opinion of these writings.) It will be 
doing me a great favour to send me some notes for 
that purpose/ 

"All this family join in best respects to you; and 
I beg you may believe me, with much esteem," 
" Dear sir, your humble servant," 


" Rev, Mr. Nisbet." 



From the same. 

"March 9M, 1780." 
Dear Sir," 

"I received yours of February 21st, which gave 
me much satisfaction, and for which I do most sin 
cerely thank you. My good correspondents, and, 
of course, my inclination for writing, are much fallen 
off of late. But when I meet with one whose senti 
ments agree with my own in so many particulars as 
you have yet had occasion to mention, it encourages 
me to proceed, in hopes of receiving profit. As to 
your sentiments of Sermons, they give me much 
pleasure, if I mistake them not. I suppose you give 
the preference to sermons which affect the heart, 
which many condemn. For my part, those sermons 
which do not affect my heart, and draw tears from my 
eyes, have little effect upon me at all. They go in 
at one ear and out at the other, without making any 
lodgment in the memory. Your verdict concerning 
Commentators is also, in general, most just. I never 
met with one of the few I have seen, without ob 
serving the coldness with which they could treat of 
the most interesting truths. I thought you might 
know of one of another spirit; who wrote with more 
feeling than the generality of Commentators do; and 
with another view than multiplying their critical 
notes and observations. This made me prize Mr. 
Hervey s writings. He writes with such warmth, 
and his ideas are so exalted." 

"I am much obliged, and much edified by your 
notes upon the other verses of the XXXII. Psalm. I 
say it without an idea of flattery (indeed my opinion 
is little worth having), that I think you would make 


a most excellent Commentator. And this opinion, 
I dare say, is not peculiar to me. I should be much 
indebted to you for any addition to the notes already 
collected in my interleaved Bible, which are not 
many; mostly confined to Mr. Hervey s. I cannot 
name any particular texts or places. Whatever 
strikes or occurs naturally to yourself will be most 
agreeable, and from time to time, as you find lei 
sure and inclination. I suppose notes from old 
lectures (if you have them) abridged, would answer 
very well. But I have some idea that you said you 
did not write your lectures, which is a pity." 

" I am glad to find that your health was improved 
when you wrote last. I hope your family are all 
well, to which I am persuaded, from your habits, and 
the character of your mind, you are much attached." 

" I have not been so well for a week past, as for 
some time before. The degree of health to which I 
have been restored is a great blessing, and demands 
my most thankful acknowledgments to my Almighty 
Deliverer. that more precious fruits may grow 
from this new lease of life than I have ever brought 
forth hitherto; and all be dedicated to Him who has 
yet spared and redeemed from the power of the 

"I tire of writing, so will add no more, but ask 
your opinion of Baxter s Saint s Rest abridged, and 
his Dying Thoughts l Converse with God in So 
litude all abridged, by B. Fawcett. If you noticed 
a letter in the newspaper (London Chronicle) from 
Mr. Wesley, concerning Popery, I think you would 
approve of all. I like those pieces of Baxter very 
much. Perhaps you have not seen them in their 


present state. My Lord, and all the young people, 
send their best respects. I am, with much esteem, 
" Dear sir, your humble servant, 

"W. LEVEN." 
" Rev. Mr. Nisbet." 

"P. S. You have heard that Mr. Taylor, of Pais- 
ley, goes to Glasgow, and Mr. Burnside to Dumfries. 
A Mr. Buchanan, from Glasgow, is spoken of for 
Leith. I think that is his name. Mr. Boner might 
have gone to Glasgow had he inclined; but (what is 
very uncommon) wisely thought himself too young 
for such a charge; and that it might have been a loss 
to him in the most essential respects." 

From the same. 

"Melville House, Nov. 4, 1783." 
"Rev. Sir," 

" I had the favour of yours, and really take it as 
a favour; for, although your pen writes readily, it 
cannot be called the pen of a ready writer. Nei 
ther is mine, I am sure, for, whatever it has been, I 
find a great change. I wish I could say that indo 
lence, much as I dislike the idea of that, was the 
only cause of my unwillingness to write. But if I 
ever had any genius for it, it is now lost. Of this, I 
must not delay to give you a specimen, to convince 
you that I am not insensible of your favour; and, 
therefore, write, perhaps a few, perhaps many lines, 
in answer to your truly valuable letter, for which I 
thank you, and give you joy of your victory. As 
matters seem to go on slowly, it will probably come 
to be another outgo, if then it be restored." 


" Your expectations concerning the effects of peace 
have been different from mine. I could earnestly 
wish you had been right; but I always dreaded that 
when the war ended, people would then imagine 
they had less to fear, and their minds, consequently 
become dissipated, especially with regard to secular 
affairs, as it made a new opening for trade. As for 
the other warnings from Providence, most awful in 
deed have they been; and I trust that those who have 
been more immediately concerned, have been led to 
repentance by the judgments of God: but at this dis 
tance they seem to have had no effect. Neither do 
the direful effects of war, or threatened famine, which 
so many have suffered by, appear to have accom 
plished the purpose for which they were sent. By 
all accounts, we continue to revolt more and 
more. Extravagance and luxury daily increase. 
God only knows what the consequence will be! He 
knows what we deserve. No nation has better rea 
son to say, that judgment is his strange work; 
and that it is of his mercy that we are not consu 
med. " 

" As for the Unitarian sect which you mention as 
lately introduced at Montrose, it is pretty plain that 
God has not joined them together, therefore endea 
vours may be used to put them asunder. Yet I dare 
say, open opposition is the readiest way to make 
these small beginnings grow and flourish. I remem 
ber to have heard that Barclay, the Quaker, was 
sadly disappointed that he was not persecuted. I 
just now read a passage, which I will transcribe, as 
somewhat to the purpose. It is meet we should 
tremble for fear, and stand amazed when we behold 


the most grievous judgments of God; how he con 
founds the understanding of the learned of this world; 
whilst many persons not indeed destitute of good na 
tural understanding and sagacity, are so offended at 
the great simplicity of the holy Scriptures, that they 
have found out divers ways of inverting the sense of 
clear words, and use their utmost endeavours to deny 
their plain meaning; draw them to a foreign sense, 
and accommodate them to the taste of their corrupt 
reason. Although the words themselves be so mani 
festly perspicuous as to glare in their eyes, the ex 
ample of those men, who look upon the words of St. 
John, in the first chapter of his Gospel, as divinely 
inspired, and nevertheless, impugn the eternal divi 
nity and majesty of our Lord Jesus Christ, ought to 
render us cautious and circumspect, that we do not 
pervert the holy writings to our own destruction; on 
the contrary, that we strive, with the greatest ear 
nestness, to receive the plain truths of God, with plain 
and honest hearts, and earnestly pray to him for the 
true sense thereof. Lord, incline us ever to hear, 
to receive every truth from thy word, and every dic 
tate of thy Spirit with docility and love!" 

"My Lord, and all the family send their best re 

" Ever respectfully yours," 

"W. LEVEN." 

" Rev. Mr<Nisbet." 

Several years before Mr. Nisbet was invited to 
America, he entered his eldest son, Thomas, as a stu 
dent in the University of Edinburgh. On one occa 
sion, when the young man returned to his studies in 


that Institution, his father gave him a letter to the 
Earl of Buchan,* commending him to the paternal 
notice of that nobleman, with whom his father had 
been long and intimately acquainted. The follow 
ing is the letter borne by the son; and the reply of 
the Earl is added. 

" Montrosc, 22d October, 17S2." 
My Lord," 

If I were not fully assured of your Lordship s 
goodness and condescension, I would not have taken 
the liberty, though at your express desire, of pre 
senting my son to your patronage and protection, as 
I hereby do. I should have reckoned them words 
of course, like the offers of service usually made by 
courtiers. But as I have a quite different opinion of 
your Lordship, and have been informed of the care 
you have taken of encouraging youth in the study of 
letters, I would gladly hope that the very circum 
stance of being presented to your Lordship, and the 
observing, if he were capable to observe, what lustre 
the study of letters adds to persons of rank, may ex 
cite in my boy an ambition to deserve the approba 
tion of the declared patron of letters and liberty. 
.Your Lordship will find him extremely raw and un 
furnished with ideas, as must be the case with boys 

* This is the Lord Buchan, who sent to General Washington a 
box made of the Oak which sheltered the great Sir U ~illiain Wallace, 
after the battle of Falkirk, and to whom the American Chief, with so 
much characteristic delicacy and dignity, bequeathed back the inter 
esting gift in his last will, not willing to take on himself the selection 
of the man most worthy of possessing it. This Scottish Nobleman 
seems to have been an enlightened, honest, eminently patriotic and 
worthy man. 


educated in a country burgh, and merely as the rude 
block out of which an image is to be cut by the skill 
of the statuary." 

" The gentlemen of this country, (I scruple to call 
them Freeholders) appear to be quite unworthy of 
your Lordship s late address, and it would be a trans 
gression of the express precepts of the gospel to ten 
der it to them. For the most part they seem to have 
no idea of an equal representation, or indeed of any 
representation at all, except such as may occasionally 
profit their sons and dependents. Some late incidents 
contributed to carry the business of making game 
votes as far as it could go in this country. It is now 
considered as the law of the land, and though some 
gentlemen for a time affected to complain of it, each 
great proprietor grudges to be deprived of the support 
of his subordinate myrmidons. It is with great con 
cern that I observe that our present Premier seems to 
have referred the business of the Caledonian Band to 
the arbitrament of the Treasurer of the Navy. I 
wish that the good genius of Great Britain had desti 
ned your Lordship a more equitable judge, but I am 
not without hopes that the representation of the state 
of this country, which will be made by the noblemen 
and gentlemen concerned, and to which the Lord Ad 
vocate cannot yet be a stranger, as well as the distin 
guished loyalty and good character of the solicitors, 
may make some impression even on a person of pre 
rogative principles. Poor Scotland can never expect 
to reap any benefit from the late act for arming the 
people, nor indeed to be any thing more than a nur 
sery of the farces of the Crown, if by any unlucky. 


means the present project should be set aside. I am, 
with unfeigned respect," 
"My Lord," 

"Your Lordship s most obedient," 
" Humble servant," 

The. Right Honourable, the 

Earl of Buchan, Edinburgh" 

The Reply. 
" Edinburgh, November 2d, 1782." 

" Reverend /Sir," 

"Your acceptable letter of the 22d ult. found me 
at dinner with the Lord Provost, by which means I 
was deprived of the pleasure of seeing the bearer of 
it, to whom I shall pay the attention, during the 
course of his studies at Edinburgh, which I imagine 
you would desire." 

" The great object of education is to form good and 
useful citizens, and to give a proper direction to the 
energy of youth." 

"I flatter myself that I possess the faculty, or 
knack, as we vulgarly call it, of discerning the 
forte and the foible of young people, and of laying 
hold of both or cither to set the intellectual machine 
in motion. I shall be very glad to exercise this 
gift, and bestow it on the son of a respectable and 
very singular Scotch Clergyman." 

" I say singular, not because f think it rare to meet 
with a respectable clergyman in our Kirk. God for 
bid! Very far from it. But I am sorry to say, that 
I find it very singular for a Scotch Clergyman to 


hold so high a place as you do among the friends of 
liberty, and the English Constitution of government. 
1 wish I could call it British" 

"Your alliterations on the C. B. are much relish 

"I am, Reverend Sir, with regard, your obliged 
humble servant, BUCHAN." 

" Rev. Mr. Nisbet, Mont rose." 

Mr. Nisbet to the Earl of Buchan. 

"Montrose, Nov. \2th, 1782." 
" My Lord," 

"Your Lordship s letter of the 2d instant, which 
I duly received, entirely justified, but could not ex 
ceed the opinion I had conceived of the Earl of Bu 
chan. I greatly respect the Scotch Peerage; but I 
feel a far greater respect for persons possessed of ele 
vated sentiments, public and private virtue, and a 
true regard to the welfare of our country. Poor 
Caledonia has suffered and still suffers much, by the 
rarity of these qualities in men of rank. It is now 
visible, that neither high descent, great wealth, nor 
a mysterious and haughty behaviour will command 
the esteem of freeborn Britons, nor even of degene 
rate Scotchmen, even though attended with polite 
ness of address, connections with ministry, and pos 
session of the most lucrative offices. Since we daily 
see persons possessed of all these advantages, as far 
from obtaining as they are from deserving the re- 

* There is an allusion here to a literary jeu (f esprit of a very in 
genious and highly amusing character, which Dr. Nisbet, a short time 
before, when on a visit to the Earl of Leven s family at Melville 
House, had sent to the Earl of Buchan. 


gard of their fellow subjects. I hope your Lordship 
has discovered the true secret of becoming import 
ant, by meriting the esteem of the public, instead of 
challenging it as clue by hereditary right, without 
merit. In private life, mankind know their friends, 
and respect them: though I am sorry to observe that 
with regard to their sovereigns they have generally 
paid the greatest honours to those who do the most 
mischief. It is natural for great men to desire to 
rule, and to have an extensive influence among their 
inferiors in rank, and those are not. last in feeling 
this desire who are conscious of their title to the re 
spect of the public; but if I had the honour to be ad 
mitted of their privy council, I would respectfully 
hint to them, that they mistook the road to influence 
and esteem, if they thought of forcing it by autho 
rity, or attracting it by outward show, and the trap 
pings of false dignity. To convince the public that 
one wishes their welfare will establish a greater and 
more permanent interest than legions of superiority 
votes, or the temporary power of distributing places 
and pensions. Your Lordship has laboured to con 
vince your countrymen that you understand their in 
terest, and are zealous to promote it. I hope that 
they will at last be convinced of it, and that the man 
of the people will soon be a more honourable, as it 
is certainly a more solid distinction, than the friend 
of the king. The order of nature requires that some 
should be exalted above others; but if those whom 
Providence has exalted, do not show a desire to be 
nefit, as well as to command others, they have no 
reason to complain when they are neglected or de 
spised by their inferiors. A little benevolence, con- 


descension and humanity goes a great way, when it 
comes from persons of quality. And as the virtues 
of men of rank bear a higher proportion to those of 
others in the esteem of the public than that of gold 
to silver, it is not a little surprising that persons of 
distinction should be so negligent in acquiring, and 
so parsimonious in circulating, this sort of coin. 
With the abilities they already possess, they might 
have far greater influence, and benefit their country 
much more into the bargain, if they took care to 
give them a proper direction. A visible regard to 
virtue and religion in the representative of a great 
family, will go farther to the reformation of their de 
pendents and domestics than many sermons and ad 
monitions. Scotchmen, above all others, love to be 
led by authority, and to imitate the example of their 
superiors; so that y those are surely blameable who do 
not acquire influence among us, where it is so easily 
gained. If the mere shadow of popularity, and an 
artful, though counterfeit, imitation of public virtue, 
have raised some wicked and designing men to great 
esteem and authority, what may not we expect from 
true and permanent patriotism, which is now become 
almost a title of reproach? I should have asked par 
don for using a style so different from that in use, or 
rather have declined using it at all, were I not per 
suaded that I know the person to whom I am writ 
ing. I know that it is commonly objected to political 
reformers, that their notions are quite visionary, and 
that they expect from men a higher degree of virtue 
than can be found among them, and that they dream of 
a Republic like Plato s. But surely it is no Utopian 
dream to expect a much higher degree of virtue and 


public spirit than is presently the ton among great 
men. That which has been done, may be done again; 
and human nature may yet produce as shining charac 
ters as it has ever produced. I have been much provo 
ked at hearing human infirmity pleaded in excuse for 
the most scandalous enormities, as if men could not 
be men of virtue unless they were canonisable saints; 
and as if it were only an imperfection to be an infa 
mous knave, or a mischievous tyrant. I wish our 
times were showing some symptoms of reformation 
by the appearance of some more characters similar to 
your Lordship. I consider you as the Apostle of 
the higher classes, and hope you will preach so as to 
make many converts. I find the degeneracy of our 
people prophesied in the Canon law, but lest I should 
have lost credit with your Lordship in quoting anti 
quity, I assure you that the following passage is co 
pied from the Dccretum Gratiani, printed at Paris, 
1550, Distinct. 56, fol. 100, Col. 4. Bonifacius 
Martyr, Scribcns Regi Anglorum, Si Gens Anglo- 
rum, ait, < sicut per istas provincias divulgatum est, et 
nobis in Francia et in Italia improperatur, et ab ipsis 
Paganis improperium nobis objicitur, spretis legalibus 
con"nubiis, adulterando, et luxuriando ad instar sodo- 
miticEE gentis foe dam vitam duxerit, de tali commix- 
tione mcretricum acstimandum est, degeneres populos 
et ignobiles et furentes libidine fore procreandos, et 
ad extremum universam plebem ad deteriora ct igno- 
biliora vergcntem, et novissime nee bello seculan 
fortem, nee in fide stabilem, et nee honorabilem ho- 
minibus, nee Deo amabilem esse venturam. I am 
afraid that if any body should write the King of Eng- 


land in such a style at this day, he would quickly 
have the same honour conferred on him as St. Boni 
face. I am with sincere respect," 
" My Lord," 

" Your Lordship s much obliged, 7 
" Humble servant," 

" The Right Honourable, the 

Earl of Buchan, Edinburgh" 

At the Commencement in Princeton College in 
the year 1783, the Trustees of that Institution, with 
cordial unanimity, conferred upon the subject of this 
Memoir the degree of Doctor of Divinity. He was" 
then in the 48th year of his age. His reputation had 
been for several years well and honourably known on 
this side of the Atlantic; and his affectionate friend, 
Dr. Witherspoon, the President of the College, de 
lighted, no doubt, to co-operate in bestowing this 
testimonial of respect on his old friend and beloved 
brother. Academical Degrees were never of much 
value. They are every day becoming less and less 
worthy of regard. But it would be happy for Col 
leges, as well as for the learned professions, if colle- 
gial honours were generally bestowed with as enligh 
tened a regard to intellectual and literary merit as in 
the case of this distinguished man. It is not impro 
bable that this public testimonial of respect and es 
teem would have been given at an earlier period, had 
the intercourse between this country and jjreat Brit 
ain been regular and amicable. But a sjfen year s 
war between the United States and that coimtry had 


scarcely closed. During the continuance of the con 
test, the college at Princeton was in a great measure 
abandoned; and the usual interchange of kind offices 
between Americans and Britons had been almost en 
tirely suspended. 



His Invitation and Removal to the United 

SOON after the return of peace, measures were 
taken to establish a new College in the town of Car 
lisle, in Cumberland county, Pennsylvania, one hun 
dred and twenty miles west of Philadelphia. Among 
the gentlemen most zealous and active in founding 
this institution, were the Hon. JOHN DICKINSON, 
then Governor of the State of Pennsylvania, and ce 
lebrated as the author of some eloquent and popular 
publications connected with American Independence; 
HENRY HILL, Esquire, and several others, distin 
guished for their wealth, patriotism, and public spirit. 
This institution received the name of DICKINSON 
COLLEGE, in honour of the eminent statesman and 
political writer who nominally took the lead in its 
establishment, and who was also its most liberal be 
nefactor. This name it still bears. Its erection 
was no sooner agreed upon, and in some good degree 
realized, in the year 1783, than the attention of the 
Board of Trustees was directed to Doctor Nisbet, as 
the first President* of their new College. This choice 

* In the Charter and laws of Dickinson College, the title of the 
presiding officer was " Principal," and by that title was Dr. Nisbet 
addressed in all official acts. But as this title is scarcely known, in 
any other instance, out of Scotland; and as to the ear of a large por- 


was made on th.e 8th day of April, 17S4, not only 
with unanimity, but with a warmth and cordiality 
which indicated the peculiarly high estimation in 
which his character was held on this side of the At 
lantic. Measures were immediately taken to apprise 
him of the choice, and to urge him to accept of his 
new appointment. Besides the official communica 
tion of the Board of Trustees, Mr. Dickinson and 
Dr. Rush"* each addressed to him several private let 
ters, in which, with great fervour and eloquence, the 
attractions presented by the office to which he was 
chosen, were earnestly laid before him; promising 
him every thing that wealth, honour, and Christian 
kindness could bestow, if he would leave his native 
country, and accept the chair to which he was elect 
ed. This strain of eloquent importunity, and of high- 
wrought glowing anticipation, especially character 
ized the letters of Dr. Hush, and was adapted to 
make a deep impression on the mind of one who had 
never seen the new world to which he was invited, 
and who knew not from experience how to estimate 
its habits or its institutions. 

The fact is, the establishment of Dickinson Coi 
tion of the American community it would not convey a very definite 
meaning the title " President" in here and elsewhere used, as more 
in accordance with American usage ; as more universally intelligible ; 
and quite as perfectly in accordance with substantial fact 

* Dr. BENJAMIN Rrsii had received his Medical education in the 
University of Edinburgh ; had been acquainted with Dr. Wither- 
spoon in Scotland ; had some agency in prevailing on him to accept 
the presidentship of the College of New Jersey ; and, it is believed* 
during his residence in Britain, also made the acquaintance of Doctor 
Nisbet. He returned from Scotland to Philadelphia in the year 



lege was not now called for, either by the resources 
of the country, or by its literary wants. The " Uni 
versity of Pennsylvania," in Philadelphia, on the 
one hand, and " the College of New Jersey," at 
Princeton, on the other, furnished all the means of 
instruction which were then really demanded, and 
indeed more than could receive adequate patronage 
in the impoverished and embarrassed state of the 
country. The small number of students in both 
these institutions plainly showed that another was 
not required. But some movements of the Legisla 
ture of Pennsylvania, in 1779, in founding and en 
dowing the " University," had exceedingly disoblig 
ed a number of gentlemen in Philadelphia, and none 
more than Dr. Rush. He indulged a strong animo 
sity against the Rev. Dr. Ewing, the " Provost" of 
the University, and little less against the Rev. Dr. 
Witherspoon, the President of the College at Prince 
ton. From this animosity, there is little doubt, 
arose, at least in part, the plan of founding a new 
College at Carlisle. Even the clergy, and other lite 
rary men in the immediate neighbourhood of Carlisle, 
did not at first see either the wisdom or the practi 
cability of establishing the new institution. But the 
unwearied zeal and eloquence of Dr. Rush, and the 
sanguine hopes and promises of the opulent gentle 
men in Philadelphia, who lent their names, and 
pledged their purses in its behalf, at length removed 
every difficulty. Objections were obviated. Pros 
pects were made to appear fair. A Charter was ob 
tained; and the College set in motion with flattering 
hopes of success. 

All this might have been fair and proper enough 


had the personal and domestic comfort of none been 
implicated but those who were acquainted with our 
country, and capable of estimating the character and 
prospects of the projected institution. But the first, 
and indeed the most vital step; nay, that which was 
relied on for giving life and vigour and success to 
the whole plan, was to invite a learned and venerated 
stranger, who was wholly unable to estimate the 
probabilities of the case, to leave a comfortable sta 
tion at home, and commit himself to the fortunes of 
a new and hazardous enterprise. 

This invitation was one of very serious import. 
The venerable man to whom it was directed had now 
passed the meridian of life; was in a very important 
sphere of usefulness as a pastor; was greatly respect 
ed and beloved by a large circle of friends; was 
favoured with a temporal support equal to all his 
wants; was surrounded with the most ample means 
of gratifying his literary and pious taste; and more 
unfit than most men of his talents and learning, to be 
a pioneer in the track of a dubious enterprise, or to 
cope with, and overcome the difficulties of a new in 
stitution, and of a country just starting in its career 
of independence, and national cultivation. We may, 
therefore, naturally suppose that it cost him many a 
painful conflict before he could persuade himself to 
give up all the advantages which he enjoyed, and to 
cast himself upon all the contingencies of an arduous 
and untried undertaking. 

While his mind was agitated with the decision of 
a question so important to the future prospects of 
himself and his family, his old friend, the Countess 


of Leven and Melville, addressed to him the two fol 
lowing letters. 

" Melville House, July 26th, 1784." 
"Dear Sir," 

"I received yours, with the inclosed. The day 
on which it came to hand I have forgotten, being 
wholly engrossed hy the present distress in this fa 
mily. Lord Balgonie s second son, one of the finest 
little creatures I ever saw, has been near three weeks 
ill of a worm fever, so that his life is despaired of, 
and, to all appearance, he cannot live long. I must 
leave all reflections upon this melancholy event to 
your pious mind. For my part, I am so overcome 
with the thought of God s goodness in bestowing so 
many comforts of this nature, and continuing them 
so long, that I cannot get utterance to speak of it. It 
well becomes us to be submissive to his divine will 
in all things. Parting with such bewitching com 
forts is not an easy duty: but God, by his goodness? 
which endureth continually^ and is ever a present 
help in time of need, can make his grace sufficient 
for us, and his strength perfect in our weakness. 
My dearly beloved Mary like the mother of our 
Lord, ponders things in her heart, and truly behaves 
in the most exemplary manner. Calm and quiet as 
a weaned child, waiting the Lord s will, and adoring 
him as the author of all her mercies, and justifying 
him when calling for what he gave. I could write 
a long ticne on this sweet but melancholy subject, 
did not my duty call me to be with her almost every 
hour, when she is not reposing for rest; and, indeed,, 
I am wonderfully enabled to, da more than could be 


expected from my small bodily strength, and present 
feelings. But, to the praise of God be it said, I have 
ever found this to be the case." 

" I cannot mention the half of the thoughts which 
occur to my mind upon perusing your letter and the 
enclosed. Only this, in general, I think is plain, 
that you ought to be in no hurry with your positive 
determination; as the foundation of the College seems 
not yet to be laid. I said before that it would be a 
dreadful idea to me to say any thing against a clear 
call in Providence: and also it would give me pain to 
think of counteracting a design and earnest wish of 
my kind friend, Dr. Rush, whose name, upon one 
particular account, especially, will ever be dear to me 
and all this family; and I should be sorry he should 
ever kno\v that I wrote to you upon this subject. 
But, at the same time, as a fool may give a wise man 
good counsel, 1 cannot help saying what occurs to me 
on this subject. I find, from what I can learn, that 
the whole originates from Dr. R. His temper is 
warm and lively, and has the same impression upon 
the people there, that his importunate expostulations 
have had upon you. His eloquence I have had much 
experience of by a long correspondence with this fa 
mily; and by his persevering, and overcoming all Dr. 
Ws difficulties, which were many and great, though 
small, 1 think, when compared with yours.* How 
do you know whether the forty members of the 
Board of Trustees, of whom you have heard, will all 
continue of one mind, especially as they are compo 
sed of all sects? How will the duty of teaching 

* The Countess here probably refers to the importunity which drew 
Dr. Withcrspoon from Scotland, in which Dr. Rush had also a share. 


three hours every day agree with you? How do you 
know but that Dr. . is in the right, and that he is 
really your friend, in dissuading you from going? 
He is a good man, and we should not suppose that 
mercenary views would induce him to mislead a 
brother. Have you a turn for managing a farm, and 
improving land? Consider the great difficulties that 
have been surmounted (if they have been surmount 
ed) in bringing this College to a bearing. Indeed it 
has not yet come the length of the infant described 
by the good Doctor. I find that much of the good 
opinion conceived of you in that quarter rests upon 
Mr. B. s evidence; and how do you know but that, 
like Dr. . you might not bring the same character 
back with you to Scotland, that you carried with you 
to America? It is a business of importance, which, 
like matrimony, ought to be well weighed, as it can 
not ever be undone with honour. Remember that I 
write to you in confidence, never to be read but by 
yourself. But your situation craves the attention 
and the interference of your friends. I wish I was a 
fitter one to advise. Indeed it is presuming too far 
to say as much I have done: but the dread of your 
being decoyed away from your country and friends, 
where you and other good people are as much need 
ed as you can be any where, makes me think it ne 
cessary to give only this hint, to take good heed, and 
ponder well the path of duty. No doubt you have 
done this: but oh! it is sometimes hard to know; and 
it is a great mercy when the Lord sets a plain path 
before us. You seem to make little account of the 
removal of an "obscure individual:" but this you 
would not do, if that individual was not yourself. 


We should not, I believe, so much consider whom 
the Lord will or can raise up, as to work the work 
given us to do. I tremble while I mention this, and 
am ready to blot it out, when I compare myself with 
the person to whom I write. But as there are very 
few to do the Lord s work among us, an obscure in 
dividual is of great importance. We see what great 
things have been sometir. - by an individual. 

I dare say, it will ever be your chief end to glorify 
God, wherever or in whatever work be may be 
pleased to employ you; but surely you need not leave 
this country to seek opportunities of g-oatcr useful 
ness: and you say youiseK, ...less God 
that we arc not pcrsc. the frith, nor obliged 
to fly to a different country for safety that we 
should be thankful for the ity of our station, 
and labour to improve ; ur of the Giver of 
all good. I should ! 7 to uch a sort of 
vigorous duty, was more th;: province of pious young 
men, than one come to y [if \vith such 
indifferent health as y.- 

" I took a spare half hour to scribble this, at two 
different time?. Since it \ in, it has pleased 

God to call away l.nnb. I can 

only add, that many n i .inrcs might 

be mentioned. Oh that I could be w.^ehful in search 
ing out the innumerable : n es of that love that 
never failcth. Alas, it is liltic of it we know. I, 
in particular, inexcusably collect to observe and im- 
p\x>ve the operations of his hands, who is ever cm- 
ployed in doing what is good and best for us. I am 
sure you would be pleased to see my dear Mary s 
behaviour upon this occasion; who, though one of 


the most affectionate, attentive mothers, who devotes 
her whole time to her children, is, nevertheless, as 
composed and resigned as you ever saw a person. 
What a mercy! We have been truly much afflicted, 
and no wonder upon this occasion. May the Lord 
sanctify the dispensation, and unite our hearts more 
closely to himself, and be weaning them more and 
more from the love of the creature! Pray for us, 
dear sir, and believe me, with much esteem, &c." 
"Your sincere well wisher," 

"W. LEVEN." 
" Rev. Dr. Nisbet." 

From the same. 
"Melville House, Nov. 20th, 1784." 

" Dear Sir," 

11 1 received your long letter, and do really regret the 
trouble you take in writing to me as one of your ad 
visers, which I have told you I never would pretend 
to be; though I felt an irresistible desire to offer 
some thoughts that occurred to my weak judgment, 
perhaps ill supported by sense or argument, and also 
too partial to be sustained as of much weight. I see 
the wise and good often so different in their judg 
ment in matters of importance, that they think it 
their duty to argue and act in opposition to their own 
inclination, from a dread that a bias that way may 
lead them to measures contrary to the will and pro 
vidence of God. But to such tender consciences, does 
not God, in mercy, ordinarily make the way clear, and 
scatter the clouds which darken their minds? Too 
much consulting with flesh and blood, is not the way 
to come to the knowledge of the truth (but I need 


not tell you this ) Those who advise to the side 
that nature leads to, are suspected of partiality; while 
some who put nature out of the scale for others, 
would find it a more weighty matter were they ba 
lancing for themselves. I think the Lord in mercy 
often forms our natural tempers according to the 
work to be done. You are not endowed with a 
hardy spirit. You do not seem form formed for en 
terprise in the bustle of public life. Perhaps you 
may step out of your proper sphere of action, in con 
tradiction to your own inclination, from a dread of 
sinful indulgence. Surely, there are many argu 
ments on the slaying side very weighty, as well as 
upon the side of removing, had I the pen of a 
Rush to illustrate them. I do not think his fixing 
on you, at the distance of twenty years, at all sur 
prising. It is a question if he had heard much con 
cerning people in your line during that time; and 
scarcely of any one whose chcracter he could depend 
upon as friendly to America. So tint he had, per 
haps, no choice; unless, upon your refusal, he had 
made inquiry, and consulted with you and others for 
a suitable one, who had less (in the. Providence of 
Gocl), to detain him on this side of the Atlantic than 
you have. I hope this is no improper parenthesis. 
Are not your long settlement in u charge; your 
a r -, your wife and family ; your hoppy connec 
tions; all detaining arguments of some weight? 
The present call from abroad ccitainly appears far 
from clear; and is at best but an indigested scheme, 
of the maturity of which one may lawfully entertain 
great doubts, considering the contentions which at 
present appear to exist among them. Your ideas of 


the other side of the water, present, I am afraid, too 
flattering a picture. What good reason is there to 
believe that they are a sheet of clean paper, as you 
seem to think they are? Every thing, you say, 
*is to form; the minds of men there are free from 
the shackles of authority; and can more easily yield 
to reason, &c. &c. I wish I could perceive good 
reason to see with your eyes, the people there in 
such a favourable light. But though I have ever 
been partial to them, and have fought many small 
battles for them, I cannot but believe that they are 
like ourselves, much improved in the knowledge 
and practice of evil. We read of contentions and 
animosities begun and carrying on with a high hand; 
and while there are so many masters. I fear there 
will be constant division among them." 

" I thought I had put a finis to this subject when 
1 wrote to you at the end of the last month but 
one word brings on another; and it is said of our sex 
that we like to have the last. But this is not the case 
with me; for I like to have you in my debt, which 
is the reason I am swifi to reply. This is liUle for 
your ease, but I can wait your time till the conven 
ient season arrives, and till you get answers to some 
important queries you expected to have solved be 
fore you formed any determination. I am always 
angry at myself for saying too much upon a subject 
on which I have so little title to advise; and yet al 
ways fall into the same error, though ready to con 
fess myself the most unfit of all your correspodents 
to be of any use to you either by prayer or counsel, 
though I honestly wish it was otherwise." 

" I told Mr. T. of your difficulties, and, as impar- 


lially as 1 could, your reasons for and against remov 
ing. He seems to think that the state of affairs 
there, and more especially that of the College, is very 
precarious; and that it ought to be further advanced, 
and the state of affairs more settled, before it would 
be prudent to engage, or for any to leave his 
country, where he is of great use, which he is cer 
tain is the case with you, and a very wise sagacious 
man he appears to be." 

"The parish of INI are exceedingly happy 

in having obtained Mr. T. for their minister; and 
likewise rejoice that my Lord was victorious over 
all the means that could possibly be used to defeat 
the settlement. But this must be the business of 
conversation, not of correspondence. About two 
hundred of them came here on Sabbath to hear him, 
in a pour of a rain and high wind, and said they 
were well requited for their trouble. An elder said 
that had Lord Leven given the parish three thou 
sand guineas, he would not have made them so hap 
py. Adieu! It is not from having much time to 
spare that T write you such a long letter, but for the 
esteem with which I am," 

" Your sincere well wisher," 


" Rev. Dr. Nisbet." 

"P. S. When an opportunity offers we shall be 
very glad to see you. Lord B. leaves us before or 
about Christmas. I wish you could have seen them. 
Lord B. would like to hear all your ideas concern 
ing many things. I do not rightly understand what 


you say concerning the East India Company, and 
the forfeited estates." 

The writer of the foregoing letters would have 
been a noble woman without her title. The union 
of so much piety, wisdom, unobtrusive delicacy, and 
yet faithfulness of friendship, are rarely found united 
in epistles not intended for the public eye, but as a 
confidential testimonial of respect and Christian af 

The reader will be very much struck with the con 
trast between the prudence, the caution, and the dis 
cerning hesitation of Lady Leven, and the sanguine 
calculations, the unlimited confidence, and the un 
qualified promises of Dr. Rush. He thus writes to 
Dr. Nisbet. 

"Philadelphia, May J5M, 1784." 
" Dear Sir." 

"I did myself the honor of writing a long letter 
to you last month, in which I endeavoured to state 
your appointment to be Principal of Dickinson Col 
lege, in Cumberland County, in such terms as to in 
duce you to accept of it. 1 informed you of the great 
opportunities of usefulness which were before you, 
and of the happiness you might enjoy in your new 
and elevated station. I have now only to add, that 
the public mind is more filled than ever with expec 
tations from your character. They destine our Col 
lege to be THE FIRST IN AMERICA, under your direc 
tion and government. The Ministers who compose 
the Synod of New York and Philadelphia begin to 
feel themselves interested in your arrival. They ex- 


pect, in proportion to your superior knowledge and 
abilities, that you will bear a superior share of the 
labour in the harvest fields of the church in Ameri 

Mr. Bowie tells me that you have a dislike to 
the sea. I am not in the least jealous of that element. 
It cannot it must not separate you from us. Your 
benevolence and sense of duty, I am sure, will over 
come every fear, and even antipathy itself. Remem 
ber the words of the Saviour " // is I" " I, who 
" govern both winds and waves. I, who have quali- 
" fied you with so many gifts and graces for the sta- 
" tion to which you are called, I, who by my Pro- 
vidence have made your name known and dear to 
: the people of America. I, who have many people 
in that country, to be enlightened and instructed, 
directly or indirectly, by you. I, who preside over 
" the whole vineyard of my Church, and, therefore, 
"know best in what part of it to place the most skil- 
" ful workmen. It is I, who call you to quit your 
" native country and to spend the remainder of 
" your days in that new world in which the triumphs 
" of the Gospel shall ere long be no less remarkable 
than the triumphs of liberty. I have now done 
with ministers of my Providence. Washington, 
i( and the Adams have finished their work. Here- 
after I shall operate on the American States chiefly 
" by the ministers of my grace." 

" I neglected to inform you in my last letter of the 
seal of your College. The device consists of a Bible, 
a Telescope, and a Cap of Liberty the two last 
placed over the first. The motto is Pietate et Doc- 
trina tuta libertas. This excellent sentiment was 


suggested by our worthy Governor, Mr. Dickinson-^ 
a gentleman who unites with the finest accomplish 
ments of the man, and the patriot, a sacred regard to 
the doctrines and precepts of Christianity. You will 
receive with this letter a duplicate of his letter of 
invitation, together with a copy of the minutes of 
your election, and No. 3 of a bill of Exchange." 

" We expect to see you this fall. I beg, upon your 
arrival in our river, near our city, that you would 
convey notice of it to me. My carriage shall be 
ready at a moment s warning to conduct Mrs. Nisbet 
to my house; where I shall insist upon you and your 
whole family making your home till you set out for 

" Adieu yours yours, sincerely, 

"B. RUSH." 

" The Rev. Dr. Charles Nisbet, Montrose" 

From the Same. 

" Philadelphia, June 1st. 1784." 
"Dear Sir." 

"Avessel fhat sails in a few hours gives mean 
opportunity of acknowledging the recept of your po 
lite and interesting letter of the 5th of February last, 
by the English Packet, which came to hand this day. 
My letter by Captain T. ofthe22d of April, will 
give you, I hope, the satisfaction you have required 
upon the subject of the College at Carlisle. Our pros 
pects with respect to that Institution brighten daily. 
Our funds amount to near three thousand pounds; 
and as to buildings, we expect to purchase some pub 
lic works built with brick, within half a mile of Car 
lisle, during the late war. They are large and com- 


modious, and may be had at a small expense from the 
United States. Our Legislature has patronized the 
new College, insomuch that we expect an endowment 
from them, at their next session, of five hundred 
pounds a year. From the plans which have been 
adopted for obtaining funds for our College, we have 
little doubt but what we shall have ten thousand 
pounds in the course of a year or two, from public 
and private donations. Indeed, sir, every finger of 
the hand of heaven has been visible in our behalf. 
Our enemies have not only become our friends; but 
have contributed largely to our design. Dickinson 
College, with Dr. Nisbet at its head, bids fair for 
being the first literary institution in America. * 

" I am happy to find that you feel such an attach 
ment to your profession as a minister of the gospel. 
You will have an opportunity of preaching every 
Sunday at Carlisle. It will be expected nay more 
it will be required of you for the benefit of your 
pupils. The pastoral charge of the Congregation of 
Carlisle will be given to the Rev. Dr. Davidson, who 
will fill a subordinate Professor s chair in the College. 
As the bounds of the Congregation extend four or 
five miles from Carlisle, most of his time will be 
taken up in visiting his people. His name will be 
of use to us, for he is a man of learning, and of an ex 
cellent private character. If your preaching should 
prove acceptable at Carlisle, (which I am persuaded 
will be the case, for you and the Presbyterian con 
gregation there hold exactly the same principles), I 
am well assured that you will receive fifty pounds a 
year from them, in addition to your salary from the 
College. The duties of your exalted station, in teach- 


ing governing seeing company corresponding 
and attending Presbyteries, Synods, &c. will be such 
that you will be glad to be excused from performing 
any other of what are commonly called pastoral du 
ties, than preaching" 

"Calvinism, among Protestants of all denomina 
tions, is the fashionable religion of our country. Mr. 
Haslet (a disciple of Dr. Priestley s], has attempted 
to introduce Socinianism among us. But he met with 
so little encouragement, that he is obliged to betake 
himself to teaching in order to gain bread for his 
family. He preached once in your church in Car 
lisle, when his principles were detected, and exposed 
with all the zeal of orthodox indignation." 

" I shall communicate your hints respecting pro 
viding for emigrants from the North of Scotland to 
some of our enterprising merchants." 

" The letter which you will receive from Mr. Coop 
er and Mr. Linn will, I hope, be acceptable to you. 
The former is a learned and respectable divine; the 
latter is an elegant scholar, and a very popular and 
eloquent preacher. They are both men of great 
prudence and piety." 

" Adieu, yours yours," 


" To the Rev. Dr. Nisbet." 

From the same. 

"Philadelphia, Nov. 28, 1784." 
" My Dear Friend" 

" I am afraid I shall oppress you with the number 
and postage of my letters; but f cannot omit an op 
portunity which offers to-morrow, by the way of 


London, of informing you, that I have written three 
letters to you within these three weeks, in each of 
which I have given you such assurances of the safety 
and flourishing state of our College, as will determine 
you to embark in the spring for Pennsylvania. Mr. 
Dickinson seems very sensible of the prematurity of 
his fears communicated to you by the November 
Packet. You will receive with my letters a letter 
from him, in which he acknowledges a change in his 
opinions and prospects. If our river should not 
freeze before Christmas, you will receive a letter from 
the Trustees in the neighborhood of Carlisle. But 
if the obstructions in our navigation should check any 
future opportunities of writing to you, you may pre 
sume as much upon their honour and friendship as if 
you had received bonds from each of them. Not 
only honour and friendship, but interest, patriotism 
and religion arc all concerned in your support." 

" I find, by your papers, that your ministry pro- 
pagate as many falsehoods about us now as they did 
during the war, when it was more difficult than at 
present to contradict them. The factions, riots, and 
executions in London, and the bankruptcies, clamours 
and distresses of every part of England and Scotland, 
afford a most striking contrast to the order, industry, 
and contentment which prevail in every part of this 
country. After the disbanding of an army of 10,000 
men, it was expected that the strength of our govern 
ment would have been tried. But we have happily 
been mistaken. Not a single instance has occurred 
of a soldier having broken the peace in any one of 
the states. All the crimes that have been commit 
ted since the war, have been by deserters from the 


British army, and emigrants from Britain and Ire 
land. And indeed even these have been compara 
tively few. The means of subsistence here are so 
easy, and the profits of honest labour so great, that 
rogues find it less difficult to live by work than by 
plunder. You are at liberty, if you please, to make 
this information public through the channel of your 

" We have allotted a room in our house for your 
reception, which goes by the name of" Dr. Nisbet s 
room." My little folks often mention your name, 
especially my boys, who have been taught to consi 
der you as their future master. Possibly this will be 
the last letter you will receive from me on the other 
side of the Atlantic. To the direction and protec 
tion of Heaven I commit you, till I take you by the 
hand on the peaceful shores of Pennsylvania. Adieu! 

" Yours," " BENJAMIN RUSH." 

" The Rev. Dr. Charles Nisbet, 
at Montrose, Scotland." 

In other letters, written about the same time, Dr. 
Rush represents the prospects of the rise and firm 
establishment of the College as unquestionable and 
brilliant; assures Dr. Nisbet that its funds were such 
as might be firmly relied on; that his ample support 
as President rested upon a solid basis which could 
not possibly fail; that the Board of Trustees embra 
ced a large number of men of wealth, several of them 
of very great wealth every one of whom would con 
sider his estate and his honour pledged to see that 
their newly elected President should not have a 


want as long as he lived; and that the most gratifying 
amount both of usefulness and honour awaited him on 
his arrival in America, and entering on his new 

So far as the College and its endowments were con 
cerned, these promises, as we shall see in the sequel, 
were not realized, though honestly intended, and 
ought never, in this alluring form, to have been made. 
There was, indeed, a moral impossibility, that in the 
then existing state of the country, immature in all 
literary matters at least, and just emerging from the 
exhaustion of the severe revolutionary contest, ex 
pectations thus excited should have been satisfacto 
rily answered. The trulh is, Dr. Rush was an ardent 
and sanguine man. His whole soul was embarked in 
the cause of the College at Carlisle. His patriotism, 
and his zeal for the advancement of literature were 
unfeigned and great; but in his plans in relation to 
the College for he might be said to have been, in 
the outset, the master spirit of the whole scheme 
there was, as we have seen, a large admixture of the 
stimulus of personal and party feeling. Without this, 
the enterprise would scarcely have been undertaken, 
at the time, and by the men who urged it on: and 
when this stimulus ceased to operate as powerfully as 
at first, the College, and its learned and venerable 
Head, engaged less of the attention of its original 
friends than they did in the beginning. New diffi 
culties arose; their primitive zeal had cooled; and 
their early pledges were in a great measure forgotten. 

Dr. Nisbet, indeed, was not without some intima 
tions unfavourable to his acceptance of the Ameri 
can call from gentlemen on this side of the Atlantic. 


Governor Dickinson himself, at one time, was dis 
couraged by the aspect of things, and felt bound to 
express doubts whether the Doctor ought, in exist 
ing circumstances, to take a step so momentous to 
himself. After the receipt of such a communication 
from such a source, he seems, for a time, to have 
abandoned all thoughts of coming to America. It 
was in this state of mind that he addressed the fol- 
lovvidg letter to his old and firm friend, the Earl of 

" Montrose, 5th Jan. 1785." 
" My Lord," 

" As your Lordship has been so good as to take 
an interest in my affairs, I think it my duty to in 
form you of a material alteration in them that has 
lately taken place. I received lately a letter from 
Governor Dickinson, informing me that, by the new 
elections on the 12th October, a great change in the 
political affairs of that state has taken place; so that 
he thought himself obliged, in honour and justice, to 
request me not to think of coming out to America 
in its present divided state % Since the re-admission 
of the loyalists the majority is against my friends, 
and what is wonderful, they exclude Quakers, though 
near half the state, from the privilege of citizens, 
giving as a_ reason for it, their attachment to the go 
vernment of Great Britain, and they have now voted 
out that majority which voted them in. Perhaps 
this delusion may not continue. I imagined that a 
coalition of parties was in view, as I received in Au 
gust last, a very polite and friendly letter from 
General Reed, the head of the now prevailing party, 


-expressing his great satisfaction at the news of my 
going to America, and begging me to number him 
among my friends. But the admission of the loyalist. ! 
has put that matter out of sight. Perhaps the late As 
sembly of Pennsylvania have been too much in haste 
to obtain the reputation of being humane and merciful, 
by taking in those who have turned out themselves, 
If they had contented themselves with restoring the 
loyalists to their estates, but denied them the privi 
lege of voting, till they had passed a novitiate often 
or twelve years, the present confusion might have 
been avoided. The loyalists could have had no ex 
ception at being put in the same state in which the 
Quakers, a more numerous and respectable body, 
have remained for eight years past. But imprudent 
counsels are common in all states. Wishing your 
Lordship and Lady Buchan many happy years, I 
am, with great esteem," 
" My Lord," 

" Your Lordship s most obedient," 
" Humble servant," 

" The Eight Honourable, the 

Earl of Buchun, Edinburgh. 

To this letter, Lord Buchan returned the follow 
ing characteristic answer: 

" Reverend Sir" 

"A mother whose constitution is broken, seldom 
produces healthy children. " 

" I am sorry to see the features of the mother grow 
everyday stronger in North America; and I can harcl- 


ly condole with you upon your being obliged to live 
among your countrymen." 

" I flatter myself that posterity will discover, that 
I have endeavoured, not altogether without success, 
to make Scotland more worthy of retaining you as a 
citizen, and a pastor of our Church, than it has been 

" That you should have been prevented from ac 
cepting your appointment in the proposed College at 
Carlisle, by the Calvinistic party in Pennsylvania, is 
amusing enough; as are the strange inconsistencies 
of admitting the loyalists to citizenship, and exclud 
ing the followers of the legislator or founder of the 

" I have marked, with a jealous eye, your whole 
conduct; and I can find no fault with it, but that you 
are more honest and open than I am, and that your 
enemies have availed themselves of it." 

"Since your train of thought has been led to the 
institution of youth, why are you to be prevented 
from the exercise of your talents and your laudable 
ambition here, because you are not allowed by pru 
dence to white-wash the ill instituted youth of a dis 
tant country?" 

" Only prove it is in your power that you can 
make a man, and you will have many at your com 
mand. In the mean time, allow me to call your at 
tention to a learned subject, which I have been 
lately endeavouring to elucidate the progress of 
the Roman arms in your part of the world." 

" There are the remains of two camps, about six 
miles from each other, connected with a causeway, 
and these are not far from you. They are called the 


Haw-dykes and the Battle-dykes. Mr. Jamieson, 
of Forfar, has informed me of them, and I wish to 
have a description and measurement of them, accom 
panied by a tirawin"-, and a map of the adjacent 
country, re present ing the nature of the ground inde 
pendent of cultivation. From these, and a string of 
Roman entrenchments, through Strathmore to the 
pass of the Grampian, near Stonehive, I mean to fol 
low Agricola in his march, and to determine the 
field of the last great battle where Galgacus, and the 
combined clans, were defeated." 

" Lady Buchan desires me to present her compli 
ments; and I am," 

" Rev d sir, with great regard," 

" Your obedient humble servant," 


" To the Rev. Dr. Nisbet, Mont rose." 

The suggestion in Lord Buchan s letter, that Dr. 
Nisbet s election to the Presidency of Dickinson 
College was opposed by " the Calvinistic party of 
Pennsylvania" is as totally destitute of foundation as 
possible. Two classes of persons only, so far as ig 
now known, opposed the measure, viz: 1st, the cau 
tious and calculating, who were afraid of exciting 
expectations which could not be fulfilled, and who 
strongly doubted the propriety of bringing so distin 
guished and venerable a man from Great Britain to 
a situation less comfortable than that which he occu 
pied in his native country; and, 2dly, the few who 
feared that the erection of a new College in Carlisle 
might interfere with the prosperity of institutions 
already existing, and with which they were con- 


nected. But Calvinism, assuredly, formed no part 
of the dividing line in either case. Among all the 
opposers of both classes, only one nominal Calvinist 
is now recollected; whereas the great mass of Cal- 
vinistic influence in Pennsylvania was ultimately in 
favour of Dr. Nisbet s appointment. 

In the mean while, some of the Trustees of the 
College, having heard of Mr. Dickinson s letter to 
Dr. Nisbet, and the unfavourable impression which 
jt had made on his mind, although there could not be 
a formal meeting of the Board, determined to address 
to him a joint and countervailing communication. 
This was done in the following terms: 

" Philadelphia, Nov. 16M, 1784." 
" Sir," 

Mr. Dickinson having communicated to us, the 
subscribers, Trustees of the College at Carlisle, occa 
sionally met in Philadelphia, a copy of his letter to 
you of the 25th of October, we are happy in an op 
portunity of informing you that we conceive the 
apprehensions and fears contained in that letter to be 
wholly without foundation." 

" We beg leave to inform you that the aforesaid 
letter was written by Mr. Dickinson in his private 
capacity, without the knowledge of any one of the 
Trustees, and that we are fully of the opinion that 
the charter of our College is as secure as any private 
property in the state." 

* We expect to have the pleasure of seeing you in 
the spring, and to realize all our expectations of the 
future usefulness of our College, from your patron 
age as its Principal." 


" In the mean while, we beg you would place the 
fullest confidence in the assurances and obligations 
of the Board of Trustees, contained in their public 
letter of the 30th of September last, which was signed 
by their order, by the President of our Board." 

" With sincere wishes for your prosperous voy 
age to America, and assurances of future friendship, 
we are," 


" With great respect," 

" Your obed t humble serv ts," 

" JAMES E WING, } rr r 

Trustees of the 

KOBT. M rHERSON. ,, ~ 

College, of Car- 

1} , lisle." 


After much hesitation, and many conflicts, the im 
portunity and solemn assurances of Dr. Rush, and 
other members of the Board of Trustees, prevailed. 
Dr. Nisbct declared his acceptance of the office to 
which he had been elected, and, in a short time, pre 
pared for his voyage to America. 

In taking leave of the Presbytery of Brcchin, of 
which he had been, for many years, a member, the 
following testimonial was given him by that body; 
which, as it is much more extended than is com 
monly given on such occasions, and especially as it 
was voted by a body in which he had long been, 
and continued to be, in a struggling and persevering 
minority, a minority to many of the important and 
controuling members of the church of Scotland in 
no small degree offensive, is the more worthy of re 
gard. Such a testimonial, in such circumstances 


could not have been accorded except to a man whose 
talents, learning, and acknowledged piety, were so 
pre-eminent as to triumph even over party animo 

"At Brechin, the 6th day of April, 1785, the 
Ilev. Dr. Charles Nisbet, who has been minister of 
Montrose, within the bounds of this Presbytery, 
since the 17th day of May, 1764, having signified 
to us his intention of removing from his present 
charge to a settlement in a distant part of the world, 
We hereby certify, that the said Dr. Nisbet, has, dur 
ing the time of his residence wilhin our bounds, dis 
charged the several duties of the pastoral office, with 
great faithfulness, diligence, and assiduity; and that 
his conduct, both in private and in public life, has 
been in every respect unexceptionable, and highly 
ornamental to his character and profession, as a Chris 
tian, and a minister of the Gospel. We deplore his re 
moval, as depriving this Presbytery of a worthy and 
valuable member; as a loss to the town and parish 
of Montrose in particular, and to the Church of Scot 
land in general; and we are fully confident, from our 
own knowledge and experience, that he will prove a 
real blessing to any Christian society in any part of 
the world, with which Ive may happen to be con 
nected, and in any station or department in which 
Providence may place him. Signed in the name, in 
the presence, and by the appointment of the Presby 
tery of Brechin, at Brechin, place and date as above, 
by" "ROBERT HANNAH, Moderator." 

" JOHN PIRIE, Clerk* 

But before Dr. Nisbet left Scotland, his faithful 


and anxious friend, Lady Leven, addressed to him 
the following letters: 

"Melville House, Jan.. 17, 1785." 
DA Jtr Sir," 

- I intended to have written to you before now, 
had not the high postage laid an embargo. Mr. Mar 
tin has been so good as to give me a reading of your 
letter to him, which is the cause of my taking the pen 
immediately; in case I should by mistake, be classed 
among your " mistaken Right Honourable friends;" 
that I may assure you, that whoever these may be, 
I never was among the number; but had penetration 
enough, upon the first reading, to discover the true 
import of the words. And I really think it required 
but a small degree of penetration to pass a true judg 
ment upon them by any person who, knows the au 
thor s manner and feelings. I thought the words 
alluded to could never have been construed in any 
light but in jest, though the writer had been un 
known; but surely none that know the humanity of 
your disposition, and your sympathy with all, in dis 
tress, could suppose you guilty of hard measures. 1 
think it was not prudent to write in that style to such 
a distance. The other particulars of your letter to 
Mr. W. I remember little about; the note about the 
Loyalists being the only thing I had taken notice 0f, 
and on which I was at a loss for a commentary. I 
hope you keep good health in this severe season. 
Both my Lord and I have been ailing. He has shar 
ed in a distemper very epidemic of late in many 
places, a complaint in the bowels, attended with a 
fl-ux. He is now pretty well again. A great mercy 


among many mercies to his family, that cannot be 

" We have no word yet of the ship in which our 
son David sailed for G.bruitar the end of November 
last, which is matter of great anxiety to my mind. 
Dr. Erskine s only remaining son has been very ill, 
and is still far from well. They dreaded water in 
his head. The worthy man is very low." 

" I only got your letter yesterday from Mr. M. He 
only got it himself on Saturday, as he had been in 
Edinburgh. I should not write so soon, but did not 
wish that you should suppose me so ignorant of your 
Christian disposition as to misconstrue your words 
when they would bear a meaning that implied no 

" In haste, adieu. I take the opportunity of our 
carrier to send this to Edinburgh. I am, Reverend 
and dear sir, 

" Yours, with great regard," 

" W. LEVEN." 

" The Rev. Dr. Charles Nisbef," 
" Monfrose." 

From the same. 

" Melville House, March, 23, 1785." 
" Rev. and ivortliy Sir." 

" It was lucky for me that your final departure was 
sudden and unexpected the day you left Melville 
House. I had no apprehension that it was to be the 
last meeting. It is always very hard upon me to bid 
adieu to a friend, much more especially when I never 
expect to see him again. You have by this time, no 
doubt, felt enough of this trial, which to me is al- 


ways affecting. I intended writing to you before 
now, but waited for some convenient opportunity. 
But upon hearing accidentally that you was to be at 
Dundee on Wednesday, on your way to Greenock, 
I take up the pen to express my good wishes for a 
safe and easy passage, and that you may be long pre 
served for valuable purposes. I heartily sympathize 
with Mrs. Nisbet. If her views are not clear as to the 
path of duty, she must suffer deeply. I beg that you 
will write to me sometimes. And do not conceal 
the truth, if matters do not answer your expectaiions, 
I still think you have been hurried off this stage, 
which I do most sincerely regret. My worthy 
friend, Dr. Rush and I would be antipodes in your 
affairs. I beg, however, that you will assure him of 
my constant love and regard, for the friendly duty 
he performed, to the last remains of HIM, whom \ 
loved as my own life.* I have half written several 

The repeated and strong expressions of grateful attachment to Dr. 
Rush, on the part of the Countess of Leven and her family cannot have 
escaped the notice of any attentive reader. It is due to the memory of 
both paities to assign the reasons of this attachment. When Dr. 
Rush was pursuing his medical studies in the University of Edin 
burgh, he became particularly acquainted with the Earl of Leven s 
family, and was a frequent visitor at Melville House. Nor will any 
one who ever had an opportunity of observing the refined and polish 
ed manners, and the peculiarly fascinating conversational powers with 
which he was endowed, wonder that, when he returned to America, 
he left behind him in such a family, not only a respectful, but even 
an affectionate memorial. But there was another tie still more tender 
and deeply interesting which bound him to that noble family. 

In the British army sent over for the subjugation of the Colonies, 
the Earl of Lcven had a son the honorable Captain William Leslie, 
of the 17th Regiment, who is said to have been an elegant and pro- 
inising young man. In the battle of Princeton, January 3d, 1777, 


letters to him, and write him many in my thoughts; 
but never could get one completed that pleased me. 
My Lord has written to the Doctor three or four 
times, both before and since hostilities closed. I 
hope he has received some of them. I would not for 
any thing have him suspect any diminution of the 
grateful sense which all this family will ever retain 
of the regard due to one who showed himself to be 
such a friend in a far country. It gives me great 
pleasure to learn, from time to time, that he is so 
happy in his domestic concerns. I have desired my 
daughter to put into your keeping a small box direc 
ted to Dr. Rush, which you will be so good as to take 
care of and deliver to him." 

this young officer was among the slain. After the retreat of the Bri 
tish, leaving a number of their killed and wounded on the field, Gene 
ral Washington, accompanied by Doctor Rush then Physician Ge 
neral of the American army and several other gentlemen, rode up 
to that part of the ground on which the greatest number of the killed 
and wounded were lying, and made some inquiry concerning the 
regiments which had been engaged, and especially respecting the 
body of an officer immediately in view, which attracted his particular 
attention. It was answered, that that was the body of he honourable 
Captain Leslie, of the 17th Regiment. Upon hearing this, Dr. Rush 
was much affected; immediately dismounted; with the aid of a servant, 
laid the body on a suitable vehicle, which happened to be near at hand; 
took it with him when the American army withdrew from Piinceton ; 
and when they halted at Pluckamin, a small village, a little more than 
twenty miles north of Princeton, caused the interesting remains of his 
friend s son to be interred with appropriate honours and solemnity. This 
distinguished respect and sympathy on the par; of an old acquain 
tance now a magnanimous foe made, as it well might a deep im 
pression on the minds of the Earl of Lcvcn s family. That it should 
never be effaced from a mother s heart, every one acquainted with ma- 
tern al feelings would, of course, expect. 


" I write this in a hurry, having no time to lose. 
I shall wish you and your family well, in all places, 
and at all times; being, with much esteem and regret, 
your humble servant," 

" W. LEVEN." 
" The Rev. Dr. Charles Nisbet." 

After perusing such letters as these, it is probable 
that every reader will feel more and more surprise, 
that Dr. Nisbet, after having lived nearly half a cen 
tury in Scotland, and af L or having long enjoyed the 
intercourse and affectionate confidence of such friends, 
should consent to tear himself away from their socie 
ty, and from all the attractions connected with it, and 
to launch, after having passed the meridian of life, 
into new scenes; among entirely new connections; 
and on a theatre of action as arduous as it was un 
tried and responsible. 

Nor did Dr. Rush s generous conduct end here. Knowing that the 
location of the remains of a stranger, deposited in an obscure village 
church yard, might soon pass from the memory of those who felt little 
interest in the deceased, he caused a handsome marble monument to 
be erected over the grave, bearing the following inscription: 

" In memory of 

The Honourable Captain William Leslie, 

Of the 17th British Regiment, 

Son of the Earl of Levcn, 

In Scotland. 
He fell January 3d, 1777, aged 20 years, 

At the battle of Princeton. 
His friend, Benjamin Rush, M. D. 

Of Philadelphia, 

Hath caused this stone to be erected, 

Asa mark of his esteem for his worth, 

And of his respect for 

His noble Family." 


Yet when we consider the pictures of certain and 
great usefulness which were held up to his view; the 
prospect of being able to raise the standard of knowl 
edge and intellectual improvement in the new world; 
and the solemn, reiterated pledges of ample and even 
generous support to the end of life, grven by men of 
so much elevation in society, we shall easily be able 
to understand how his difficulties were overcome, and 
he constrained to commit his future comfort to the 
new enterprise. 

Dr. Nisbet sailed from Greenock, with his family, 
on the 23d day of April, 1785, and after a voyage of 
what was then deemed a medium length, and mark 
ed by no very unusual circumstances, landed at Phi 
ladelphia on the 9th day of June following. He was 
now in the fiftieth year of his age. He had lost by 
death four children, two sons and two daughters in 
Scotland. The family which he brought with him 
consisted of Mrs. Nisbet, together with two sons and 
two daughters. Thomas, the elder of the sons, had 
passed through a regular course of study, and been 
graduated in the University of Edinburgh, before he 
left Scotland. He was a young man of uncommon 
ly fine talents, and of accurate and mature scholar 
ship, and promised, at that time, to be an ornament 
and a blessing to his family. 

Dr. Nisbet remained with his family in Philadel 
phia nearly three weeks after their arrival. During 
this time, according to a previous arrangement, the 
house of Dr. Rush was their home. Here they re 
ceived all those kind and polite attentions from the 
family of their host, and from the citizens of Phila 
delphia, which strangers so interesting, and so high- 


ly esteemed might have been expected to draw from 
an intelligent and polished community. 

During this interval he paid a short visit to his old 
friend, Dr. Witherspoon, of Princeton, by whom he 
was cordially received, and introduced to the litera 
ry gentlemen connected with the College in that 

In four or five days after his arrival in Philadel 
phia, he wrote thus to his friend, the Earl of Buchan: 

" Philadelphia, June loth, 1785." 
" My Lord," 

" As your Lordship is kind enough to take an in 
terest in my affairs, I give you the trouble of this to 
inform you, that after a pretty good passage of seven 
and forty clays, I arrived here on Thursday last at 
three o clock afternoon. We had several smart gales, 
and one calm with a high sea, near the banks of 
Newfoundland. I used the directions I got from 
your Lordship, having procured a bag of saffron at 
Grecnock. I had no attack of the sea sickness all 
the passage, but my youngest boy had it severely for 
eight days, but is now well recovered. The spring 
has been rainy and backward in this country. The 
weather is only become fine and clear since our ar 
rival. The heats however are not yet come on. I 
have been waited on since my coming here by many 
people of property and influence in this State, from 
whom 1 have received every mark of respect and 
attention, and the republicans here, I am assured, 
never deign to bestow these where they are not in 
earnest, as they have nothing to ask of any man liv 
ing. I lodge with my family in Dr. Rush s house 


where we are entertained with a hospitality that 
would do honour to any age or country. I have been 
visited by sundry ministers of the English, German 
and Scotch churches, who have cordially welcomed 
me to this country. Party spirit is beginning to sub 
side, and commerce appears to flourish, from the vast 
number of ships of all nations with which the river 
is lined for a mile and an half opposite this city. 
Every thing seems quiet and orderly, and those in 
office are respected by all parties. A Spanish fri 
gate brought over an Ambassador from his Catholic 
Majesty to the United States. England, who will 
send none, has fairly outdone the Spaniards in haugh 
tiness. The people here bear no grudge at Great 
Britain, and continue to prefer her manufactures. I 
am assured that British debts are recovered every 
day in the courts of this Stale, whatever is said on 
your side the Atlantic. Dr. Rush has written an 
Essay on the progress of Agriculture and Population 
in Pennsylvania for the information of a friend in 
London. I have begged a copy to enclose for your 
Lordship, with which I hope you will not be dis 
pleased. As Agriculture and Commerce are the chief 
objects here, there cannot be much literature, though 
I am assured there are more than could have been 
expected, who possess no small degree of learning. 
There is a Philosophical Society in this city, which 
has subsisted for some time, and has already pub 
lished a volume of their transactions. They are 
just now getting a hall built for their meetings, the 
Assembly having given them the ground for that 
purpose. Perhaps it is possible to make the sciences 
flourish without royal patronage. The like societies 


exist, as I am informed, in the Northern States, and 
are rising to reputation. If this country continues 
in peace for a considerable time, as 1 hope it will, 
learning and good taste may be diffused among its 
citizens to a much greater degree than at present, as 
they are still far from having acquired that portion 
of wealth which enervates the mind, and renders it 
incapable of exertion. 1 should imagine likewise 
that the general sobriety that prevails here, must be 
favourable to regular thinking and distinct perception. 
The West Indians, and the inhabitants of the South 
ern States, on account of their dissipation and intem 
perance, cannot be expected to figure in science, or 
even to live so long as to be able to acquire it. The 
mania of purchasing vast quantities of land prevails 
not a little among the people of property in this coun 
try. Many are distressed, and unable to pay their 
debts, merely on account of their extensive purchases. 
The mania of possessing land after the price is spent, 
Is the nearest thing you have to it in Great Britain. 
The greatest inconvenience of this country at pre 
sent is the suspension of private credit, which keeps 
much money out of circulation, and the want of ex 
ports to answer their imports. Luxury in dress and 
furniture prevails more than excess in eating and 
drinking. Frugality and moderation is rendered 
more difficult by the vast importations of European 
goods. The intercourse with the Spanish settle 
ments is perhaps the most profitable branch of trade 
possessed by these States. It is much to be wished 
that they may cultivate the friendship of that Court. 
But this may be rendered difficult by the high spirit 
and thoughtlessness of our back settlers. In regard 


to my own affairs, my prospects are more encoura 
ging than I expected. I mean to leave this city next 
week, as some gentlemen of Carlisle are expected to 
convey me thither. No regulations are yet estab 
lished, and the whole will be left to my discretion. 
I have not been at Princeton, and perhaps may not 
have it in my power to get there till September next. 
If your Lordship desires any information from this 
country which I can furnish, I shall be proud to re 
ceive your commands. I beg my sincere respects to 
Lady Buchan, and remain," 
My Lord," 

" Your Lordship s most obedient," 
" Humble servant," 

" The Right Honourable, the 

Earl of Buchan, Edinburgh" 



His Residence in the United States. 

EARLY in July, 1785, Doctor Nisbet set out from 
Philadelphia, for Carlisle, and reached it on the 
fourth of that month, in the midst of the spirited 
and patriotic celebration of the Anniversary of Inde 
pendence. The inhabitants of the town and neigh 
bourhood, who had assembled in great numbers to 
commemorate the day, being informed of his ap 
proach, dispatched a deputation of the citizens, toge 
ther with the Carlisle troop of horse, to escort him 
into the borough. He entered it in the midst of joy 
and congratulation, and was received and treated 
with all those marks of respect and esteem which 
distinguished and long expected strangers, having so 
many strong claims on the public favour, had a right 
to anticipate. On the next day, the 5th of July, the 
oath of office was administered to the Doctor; and 
he immediately began to address himself to those 
duties which devolved on the Head of an infant In 
stitution, existing, as yet, chiefly on paper; whose- 
students were to be attracted; whose character was. 
to be formed; and whose success, under God, was to 
be insured only by the wisdom and reputation of a 
distinguished individual called to preside over it. 

It was on this occasion, that Dr. Nisbet delivered 
the only discourse that he ever allowed to be printed. 
It was founded on Jlcts vir. 22: " rfnd Moses was - 


learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and* 
was mighty in ivords, and in deeds." The scope 
of the sermon was to show " the importance of the 
union of piety and learning." It is hardly neces 
sary to say that the sermon was an able one, and that 
those who have read it, have been disposed instinc 
tively to regret that the author should not have pub 
lished much more. 

Scarcely had he entered on the arduous duties of 
this new and responsible office, before he and several 
members of his family, were attacked with a severe 
and protracted illness. Although Carlisle and its 
neighbourhood have, in general, been and still are 
considered as rather remarkably healthy; yet these 
interesting strangers underwent what has been called 
a seasoning to the climate, of the most dangerous 
and trying kind. Most of them were seized with 
an obstinate fever, which brought them very low, 
and from which their recovery was difficult and ex 
tremely slow; The Doctor himself suffered more 
severely than any other member of the family. His 
strength was so greatly reduced by the obstinate 
continuance of the disease, that he was confined in a 
jrreat measure to his house for several months, and 


rendered wholly unfit for any effort, either bodily or 
mental; and so completely discouraged, that, on the 
18th of October following his arrival, he sent in to 
the Board of Trustees of the College, his resignation 
of the office of President, and determined on return 
ing to Scotland. The Board received this commu 
nication with great regret, and were unwilling to 
accept it. But finding the Doctor s mind filled with 
the most gloomy impressions concerning his pros- 


pects, and in a. state which precluded the hope of 
being able to retain him, they at length, with much 
reluctance, determined to yield to his desires, and 
accepted his resignation. 

In this state of depression and despondency, he 
addressed the following letter to, the Earl of Buchan: 

" Carlisle, 15M December, 1785." 
" My Lord." 

"I had the honour of your Lordship s esteemed 
letter of the 14th, Sept. eight days ago. It will no 
doubt surprise you to learn that I am preparing to 
leave this country by the first opportunity. I have 
not been in a condition to enjoy life, or do business 
since I entered it. The great heats, though last sum 
mer was one of the mildest ever known here, are be 
yond the conception of any person who has not felt 
them. Fevers and agues are the reigning distresses, 
to some they are annual and periodical, and in all 
cases most violent and oppressive to the nervous sys 
tem. I run a great risk of falling a sacrifice to the 
climate. My whole family were ill for three months 
together, and I have heard of their lasting five years. 
Immoderate heat extinguishes activity, and damps the 
spirit of enterprise in persons of my weak nervous con 
stitution, I can give no other reason for the universal 
gravity that reigns among the people of this country, 
but that their nerves are quite relaxed. They would 
answer Lord Chesterfield s taste to a tittle." 

" America will doubtless be a great and flourishing 
empire, but it must undergo a great change before it 
becomes so. They must have more virtue, more in- 


dustry, and more confidence in one another than at 
present. What looks most ominous for the rising 
generation is the extravagant indulgence that is shown 
to children. They must have the choice of their 
masters, and may go to school or not as they please. 
The whip is reserved for negroes. Yet the Roman 
ferula, of the very shape in which it is represented 
in the statue of the Schoolmaster at Lyons, is used in 
schools here, and often is not idle." 

Those who have not been in Europe, who are the 
majority, and consequently the rulers, have no notion 
of any difference betwixt a college and a school for 
boys and girls of six years of age. They would have 
their teachers be mere day-labourers for seven hours 
a day, for summer and winter, and allow only two 
months a year for vacation. For which reason the 
lessons they receive are crude and indigested. Pri 
vate study is impractible, no time being left for it, 
and the students acquire only a confused and imper 
fect idea of what they think they have learned, not 
to mention that many contract a decided aversion for 
books and learning, in consequence of the great con 
finement and little satisfaction they experience at 
their colleges." 

" Parents would have their children become learn 
ed, but the way in which they are to attain it must 
be dictated by those who know nothing of the matter. 
The power of the Trustees is absolute, and without 
appeal. They receive the tuition money paid by the 
parents, and allow the teachers what salaries they 
please: they turn them off when they think proper, 
and they confer degrees plena jure, the teachers 


serving only as clerks for drawing up and signing the 
diplomas, the Trustees receiving the money that is 
paid for them. It is no wonder that they should be 
bestowed on subjects that disgrace them. Nor is 
the case altered though some of the Trustees should 


be persons of virtue and learning. They will oblige 
their friend?, and take such measures as may render 
their college agrecble to the people, and draw stu 
dents from a distance. What they consider as the 
ultimate end of learning, is that students may be able 
to speak readily in public; so that the preparing and 
delivering their speeches, make the greatest part of 
their employment. " 

" I know not when or whether these things 
will be altered, as the Americans seem much more 
desirous that their affairs be managed by themselves 
than that they should be well managed. Many Aca- 
damies and Seminaries are erected or erecting in 
different Slates, but from the foolishness of their plan 
I suppose that learning will be long a stranger in this 
country. Their taste seems to belike that of the 
Romans, who made every thing subservient to orato 
ry. They are strongly attached to liberty, and can 
make great exertions upon any sudden emergency, 
but are quite inattentive to futurity. The general 
mania of removing to the westward must be hurtful 
to the other parts of this State. I imagined that, as I 
was acceptable to all parties, I might cure them of 
their wrong notions of education and Colleges; but 
when I presented a few hints to the meeting of the 
Trustees, not the smallest attention was paid to them, 
though I know that many of them approved of them, 


in their hearts. Every thing was ordered according 
to the old mumpsimus. Will your Lordship blame 
me for leaving this country ? I beg my sincere re 
spects to Lady Buchan. I am," 

"My Lord," 

" Your Lordship s most obedient" 
" Humble servant," 


" To the. Right Honourable, the 
Earl of Buchan, Edinburgh" 

An immediate return to Scotland, however, being 
impracticable, for want of strength and spirits, 
and of a good opportunity; and a voyage in mid-winter 
being both uncomfortable and unsafe, it became ne~ 
cessary to remain in Carlisle until the ensuing spring. 
But before the close of winter, both the Doctor him 
self and all the invalid s of his family hacJ su far reco 
vered; and with the return of health, their spirits and 
comfortable feelings had so far rallied; that they be 
gan to admit the idea of remaining with health and 
usefulness in America. Under the influence of these 
altered feelings, he thus announced the change in his 
purpose, to his old friend, I^ord Buchan^ 

Carlisle, 20th rfpril, 1786," 
" My Lord," 

" I informed your L.ordship, some month ago, of 
my resolution to leave this country, in which, indeed, 
I have met with many discouragements and disap 
pointments; but as it pleased God to restore my 


health in December last, and many people were still 
earnest for my staying, I intimated to the Trustees 
my willingness to resume my former office, to which 
I hope to be re-elected in May next. This country 
is in a torpid state with regard to public spirit, arts 
and industry, and far from being united in politics. 
Indeed, private interest seems every where to be 
pursued in preference to the public good. Some 
few are wise, but the far greater part otherwise. 
Their public debts, though easily payable by good 
management, bear hard upon them. Industry and 
manufactures, even with the thin population we have, 
might extricate us from our difficulties; but most 
people here think that what has not been done can 
never be done. The ruinous practice of moving to 
the westward still continues, both in this and sundry 
other States. Kentucky is daily growing at their 
expense, though I cannot see how a people that live 
a thousand miles from the sea can find any market 
for their produce, or subsist by themselves. On ac 
count of the scarcity of working people, agriculture 
is in a low state, and the want of proper exports is 
continually taking money out of this country, and run 
ning our merchants in debt to England more than they 
can pay. The easy and extensive credit granted by 
English merchants prevents people here from think 
ing of manufactures, but as a corn-trade is a very bad 
staple, our people cannot long make punctual remit 
tances, and necessity and want of credit must at last 
drive them to do something for themselves. Some 
small beginnings of manufactures have taken place in 
the northern States, but there is no appearance of 
any such thing here. A love of letters and know- 


ledge prevails among the youth; but the seminaries 
of this country are upon the worst footing, owing to 
their being too often under the government of igno 
rant Trustees." 

" The national frugality and industry of the Ger 
mans render them the most thriving inhabitants of 
this State, but their ignorance and superstition are 
much against them. A deference to absurd customs, 
and an aversion to labour, prove a dead weight on all 
schemes of improvement. Hence the lands produce 
little; most of the ground is in wood or waste; the 
highways in a state of nature; and the inhabitants, 
by living so distant from each other, are deprived of 
the benefit of society, and especially of that emula 
tion which is excited by neighbourhood. Indeed, 
societies for improvement of agriculture have been 
formed at Philadelphia and Baltimore; but their out 
set is very faint, and the people are not disposed to 
listen to them. The few rich men lay out all their 
money on land, which they keep up, in hopes of a 
high price; but personal credit does not exist, and 
no man chooses to trust another without a mortgage. 
I hear of no such thing as a man of fortune residing 
on his estate in the country, and setting an example 
of rational agriculture to his neighbours. Plence the 
meanness of the country houses, and the neglected 
and squalid state of farms. In the southern States, 
indeed, there are men of fortune, who occupy large 
territories, but they have no neighbours, and live on 
the labours of herds of slaves, without elegance, 
taste, or usefulness." 

" If any thing worthy your Lordship s attention 
should come to my knowledge, I shall be ready to 


communicate it. I beg my best respects to Lady 
Buchan, and remain, with esteem," 
"My Lord," 

" Your Lordship s most obedient" 
" Humble servant," 

l< The Right Hon. the Earl of 
Buchan, Edinburgh." 

Accordingly, on the 10th of the following May, 
17S6, he was unanimously re-elected to the office 
which he had relinquished, and immediately re 
sumed the performance of its duties. Happily, in 
the good providence of God, the climate of Carlisle 
never afterwards subjected him to a similar trial. 
His health was never again, for any length of time, 
seriously interrupted, until the approach of that fatal 
illness which, many years afterward, terminated his 

It was not, however, for a number of months after 
he went abroad, and began to resume :u of 

his station, that he recovered his usual sircngth of 
body, and his wonted vigour and activity of mind. 
During the continuance of this impaired ..ew 

er, when his memory, which might be conuidi. 
one of his master faculties, did not serve him as 
promptly as usual, an intelligent gentleman inform 
ed the author of this Memoir, that he h 
Nisbet preach. He remarked that his preaching 
so far as he could judge, as rich and instructive as 
usual; but not marked with so much vigour and 
sprightliness. But what struck him as evincing a 
slight failure of memory, and at the same time the 


wonderful fertility of his mind was this. When he 
had gone through the expository and didactic part of 
his discourse, he distinctly announced his purpose to 
apply the subject, and made a practical application, 
in the usual form, and, in the estimation of the gen 
tleman, in a very appropriate and happy manner, 
But, just as he had completed it, his recollection 
seemed, for a moment to fail him and he said, a 
second time " Let us now apply the subject. 7 Upon 
which he commenced a new application, drawn out 
into a number of particulars without repeating a 
single idea that he had already expressed, and yet all 
equally appropriate and happy with that which he 
had before delivered. Here appeared an anomaly of 
memory of a peculiar kind. It failed him as to the 
fact, that he had already applied his subject; but did 
not fail him with respect to the topics on which he 
had just enlarged, and which he had urged in ma 
king that application. His mind was so fertile and 
full that he evidently had the power, without pre 
vious preparation, to illustrate and apply the same 
subject in a variety of different ways, without inter 
ference or confusion. This failure of his memory, 
however, lasted only for a short time. The full ex 
ercise of that faculty, so peculiarly strong in him, 
was soon restored, and continued to serve .him with 
its wonted promptness and vigour, until the approach 
of his last illness. 

The Rev. Dr. JOHN ERSKINE, one of the ministers 
of Edinburgh, was mentioned in the preceding chap 
ter as one of Dr. Nisbet s early and affectionate 
friends. This excellent man, who seemed to take an 
interest in every thing benevolent or useful in every 


part of the world, by no means ceased to care for his 
beloved brother after his removal to America. Hear 
ing of his sickness, his discouragement, and his seri 
ous thoughts of abandoning the country, and return 
ing to Scotland, he wrote to him in the most affec 
tionate manner, and at the same time expressing with 
candour his opinion of the course which ought to be 
pursued. Among the letters written on this occa 
sion, the following will serve to manifest the spirit 
and practical character of the venerable writer. 

"Edinburgh, July 28, 1786." 
< Dear Sir," 

" I wrote, and sent you a small parcel of books, for 
your College, to the care of Dr. Wistar, of Philadel 
phia, now in London, three days ago. The only in 
tention of this is to give you the satisfaction of send 
ing three letters, which will show you the deep affec 
tion for you, and concern for your interest felt by 

Dr. and Dr. - . I beg that they may be 

burnt, that no person may know of the contents of 
them; particularly that the writers may have no hint 
of my having sent them to you. I have equal proofs 
of Sir Henry Moncrieff s, and of Mr. Henry Ers- 
kine s attention, though I do not send them. I am, 
however, of opinion that all your friends in Scotland, 
(except, perhaps, Lady Leven) think that, although 
there is room to doubt as to your first success in the 
Presidentship of Dickinson College; there is none 
that your staying in America will be more for your 
honour, your interest, and the general interests of 
religion, than your returning." 

" Let me know what branches you teach in the 


College, and what are taught by others, whether Pro 
fessors or Tutors; and also what place in London 
parcels for you, or for Dickinson College, should be 
left at." 

" I am, my dear Sir," 

" Yours, affectionately," 

" To the. Rev. Dr. Nisbet, 

President of Dickinson College, Carlisle" 

From the Same. 

" Edinburgh, Sept. 29th, 1786." 
" Dear Sir," 

"Nothing important has occurred since my last 
letter of July 28th. I send this chiefly for the pur 
pose of inclosing one to you from Lord Buchan." 

" Holland seems on the eve of a civil war, in which 
some of our shallow, short-sighted politicians are re 
joicing, on account of the temporary advantage to our 
commerce; not considering the increase of the power 
of France which must be produced by their ruin, and 
probably soon involve Britain in the same fate. But 
the popular voice will be let the ungrateful Dutch 
fight their own battles and the ministry will listen 
to it." 

"As you are in a strange country, remember that 
you have two ears and but one tongue; and therefore, 
without necessity, and a thorough knowledge of the 
prudence as well as honesty of your correspondents, 
write nothing which you would be uneasy if it was 

" I wish you would ftx on places at London, Phi- 


ladelphia, and New York, for sending parcels to your 
self or your College." 

" I am, dear Sir," 

" Yours, affectionately," 

" To the Rev. Dr. Charles Nisbet, 

President of Dickinson College, Carlisle." 

Dr. Nisbet s faithful and enlightened friend, the 
Countess of Leven and Melville, whose anxious mind 
followed her venerable correspondent to America, 
about this time, having received from himself an ac 
count of his safe arrival, addressed to him the fol 
lowing letter. 

"Melville House, August 8, 1785." 
" Dear Sir," 

"I am much indebted to you for writing me so 
soon after your arrival, and acquainting me with your 
safe landing on the American shore. You give me 
a very distinct account of your voyage. Your son s 
dangerous illness would, of course, divert your fears 
for one week: though I dare say you had many 
awful alarms, and your poor wife would be in great 
distress. I do not know how it has been with you 
as to the article of heat; but we have seen no such 
warm summer for twenty or thirty years. There 
was also a great deal of thunder and lightning on 
Tuesday the 26th of last month, which seems to 
have been universal; at least, we have heard of its 
effects, east and west, south and north." 

" I rejoice that you found the worthy Dr. Rush in 
comfortable circumstances. I shall never be indif- 


ferent concerning him. He gained my good opinion 
in his early days, and has done much since to con 
firm it. I never think of him but with affection. 
My not writing to him is not a mark of my want of 
esteem; but that the subject which first presents itself 
to my mind, when I attempt to write to him, (which; 
I have done often) is too tender. He has a feeling 
heart. I wish you had told me whether the box 
directed to him, which followed you to Glasgow, by 
Mr. Lake, arrived in safety. When you write, let 
me know about his family, &c. and also about your 
fellow voyager, Mr. Thompson; and whether he has 
got any thing in a settled way. Poor Mr. Peterkin 
has waited for some time for a ship; and, in the mean 
time, Mr. G. is dead, who was chaplain of Sterling 
Castle, arid Mr. P. has applied for that small living. 
If he succeeds, it will prevent the necessity of leav 
ing his poor family; who will be in a very poor 
way if he is obliged to leave them." 

( Your Glasgow correspondents will write you 
all about a Jew who has been preaching there and in 
Edinburgh. I would gladly hope it is the beginning 
of a more plentiful harvest. He has published a 
short account of his conversion, which Mr. Peterkin 
will carry, if he goes. 1 intend to send this letter 
by him, which causes, me to write in a hurry, as his 
motions are uncertain. It will soon be known if 
there is any hope of his success." 

"I have the pleasure to inform you, that Lord 
Balgonie has a son. The mother is well, and mak 
ing a fine nurse. We expect them (God willing) in 
about a fortnight. This is a very comfortable event, 
I hope you will not forget your friends in your pray- 


ers, now that you are in a far country. No distance 
of place can remove us from HIM who is the confi 
dence of all the ends of the earth, and is not far from 
every one of us. that I felt this truth in such a 
manner as to have its due influence upon all my 
thoughts, and words, and actions!" 

" I have little new to write, for either instruction 
or comfort. What takes up the attention, and is the 
foundation of much speculation, at present, is* calcu 
lated for neither of these ends, viz: that Mr. M., of 
B . at the age of above sixty, has gone off with a lady 
between thirty and forty, and left his worthy wife to 
mourn for his absence and his sins. She is a very 
pious good woman, and at present will find abundant 
use for the exercise of all Christian graces. She will 
have the prayers of many good people in her singu 
larly trying situation. He has 10,000 sterling a 
year, and left a letter for the minister of the parish, 
requesting him to take care and comfort Lady Catha 

" For Church news, I leave it to all your brethren 
to communicate; and for State news, I do not allow 
myself to interfere with it. I shall be glad to find 
that Presbyterians with you stand their ground. I 
suppose, after you are settled, you will find time to 
write to old friends, and will sometimes find private 
hands coming in case you have any pamphlet or 
parcel. I think much of your writing to me so 
soon. My Lord joins, with all the family, in best 
respects to you. If Mr. Peterkin should go out, I 
hope you will show him some favour. I am per 
suaded that he is a very serious good man. This, is 
aU I can give you at present. We are all much as. 


you left us, which is a singular mercy. My best 
respects to Mrs. Nisbet. She has not yet forgotten 
Montrose. Believe me, with much esteem," 
" Your humble servant," 

"W. LEVEN." 
" The Rev. Dr. Charles Nisbet: 

The following letter, also from the same excellent 
lady, will show how strong the attachment of the 
Church at Montrose was to the venerable Pastor of 
whom they had been recently deprived, and with 
what cordiality they would have received him back, 
had he been willing to return. It appears from the 
statement of Lady Leven, that Dr. Nisbet s sickness 
soon after his arrival; his discouragement; his inten 
tion of leaving Carlisle, and returning to his native 
country were all, to some extent, known in Scot 
land; and that his friends, in the spring of 1786, 
were every day looking for his return with the deep 
est interest, and were greatly disappointed at his de 
termining to remain in America. 

" Melville House, dug. 25th, 1786." 
Dear Sir," 

" Just when I was meditating a letter to you, yours 
of June 24th, came to hand. Had 1 been in good 
health, I should not have been so long in acknow 
ledging your letter without date, which I received 
about three or four weeks ago. It filled me with 
much surprise, considering its immediate predeces 
sor, and that we had long looked for you, and daily 
expected your arrival on the Scotch coast. I had 
heard surmises, but none of them appeared such as 


could be depended on, till I had it from your own 
hand. Most wishfully your friends were expecting 
you, and the people at Montrose kept the Church 
vacant till your not coming was almost certain. But 
perhaps you did not know of this. I trust that you 
have been directed to what is best, and most for pro 
moting that interest which you wish to spread. I 
am sorry to find that your health has been again af 
fected in the hot weather, and that your family are 
suffering by it. I shall be glad to learn that you are 
all better, and other particulars concerning them." 

" I am much obliged to you for writing me so par 
ticularly concerning the state of religion. I fear 
you are prejudiced, and, therefore, do not do all the 
justice to the Methodists that many deserve who go 
under that designation. You know they were al 
ways in two parties. Those bearing the name of 
Mr. Whilefield are orthodox, as I suppose, in all 
points. And, although some of Mr. Wesley s are 
not so; yet I am persuaded they have done a great 
deal of good in reforming the lives and manners of 
thousands; and that Mr. Wesley has been counte 
nanced in his indefatigable labours by his Divine 
Master. To Him, according to his views, he has 
been a faithful servant for 70 years. He is now 
near 90, still active and vigorous, and anxiously con 
cerned, I truly believe, to do the will of his heavenly 

" I should be glad to learn more particulars con 
cerning the Shakers, being entirely ignorant of 
their history or tenets. I will be much obliged to 
you for writing frequently. I am sure you will 
hear much good of Mr. Whitefield, and still find 


some of his disciples making a good figure. It is 
always a pleasure to me to hear any thing to his 
praise. You will have heard, perhaps, before this 
reaches you, of the great loss which the Church and 
people of God have met with in the death of the 
precious Lady GLENORCHY. I fear we shall never 
see her like again. But the subject is too copious. 
I must only give you the text, which you can en 
large upon better than I. She left only the scrawl 
of an unsigned will, in which she devised 5000 to 
the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge in 
Scotland; and a like sum for pious uses in England. 
It is not ascertained whether or not Lady Souther- 
land and her husband will fulfil her intentions; but I 
should suppose their doing so cannot be doubted. 
There is a good deal more devised for pious uses." 

"As I suppose you get Scotch newspapers which 
go to Philadelphia, I need not write concerning cur 
rent news. Many strange things daily fall out. 
We hear of much evil, and little good. May a hap 
py reverse soon take place! Shall we ever see the 
unhappy division between America and her mother 
made up again? Shall we see that breach which 
was and is the cause of so many evils, repaired? I 
am persuaded that both parties would be happier 
and more affectionate than ever. Alas! pride, that 
easily besetting sin, stands in the breach, ever indus 
trious to widen it. that men were wise!" 

" Let me know if it be true that Dr. Witherspoon 
has given up the Presidentship of Princeton College. 
I am glad to find that Mr. Thompson is alive and 
well. We had heard that he was dead. As I have 
an opportunity of sending this free and safely, I has- 


ten to conclude. I hope our worthy friend, Dr. Rush, 
and family, continue well and happy. I had a kind 
letter from him lately, which gave me very great 
pleasure. Had I been well, I should have written 
an answer before now, and have sometimes been on 
the point of doing it, but have been prevented. My 
best respects and wishes ever attend him and all his 

" All this family desire to be kindly remembered 
to you and the worthy Dr. Rush. I am ever, with 
esteem, dear sir," 

" Your humble servant," 

V, r . LEVEN." 
" The. Rev. Dr. Charles Nislef, 

Care of Dr. Rush, Philadelphia." 

Dr. Nisbct, as soon as his health was established, 
not only entered on the duties of his office; but per- 
sued them to an extent, and with an alacrity and vi 
gour which none buta man of his extraordinary resour 
ces, and great energy could have safely undertaken. 
He immediately began the preparation and delivery 
of four co-ordinate courses of Lectures One on 
Logic; another on the Philosophy of the Mind; a 
third on Moral Philosophy; and a fourth, on Belles 
Lettres, including interesting views, historical and 
literary, of the principal classical writers, both Greek 
and Latin. These were all carried on at the same 
time, and with the greatest apparent ease; the lecture 
of each successive day being, for the most part, writ 
ten, so far as it was committed to writing at all, on 
the preceding evening. But it was not necessary 
for him to write more than the leading outlines of a 


Lecture on almost any subject. His mind was so full 
of digested and arranged matter, that a little premedi 
tation, and committing to paper a few facts, dates and 
hints, were all that he required for an ample prepa 
ration to meet and gratify his class. 

But besides the four courses of Lectures already 
mentioned, this learned man delivered a fifth on 
Systematic Theology, which deserves particular no 
tice, as it was, probably, the very first cou rse of Lec 
tures on that subject ever prepared and delivered in 
the United States. 

A small band of pious students, who graduated in 
the College in 1788, conceived so high an opinion of 
this venerable man as an instructor, in every depart 
ment of knowledge through which he had conducted 
them, that they requested him, after the completion of 
their collegiate course, to give them some instruction 
and aid in pursuing their theological studies. With 
this request he promptly consented to comply ; and at 
once formed the plan of preparing and delivering a 
regular course of Theological Lectures. To a mind 
so highly furnished and active as his, the distance 
between plan and execution was very small. He im 
mediately addressed himself to the preparation of the 
proposed course, and after the short vacation, which 
commenced with the last week of September, he en 
tered on the public delivery of it. t\\$ first Theo 
logical Lecture was delivered October 31, 1788, and 
the last Januarys, 1791; thus extending to a little 
more than two years and two months. The whole 
number of Lectures comprised in the course, was 
four hundred and eighteen. His habit was, during 
term time, to deliver a Lecture every day in the 


wee"k, excepting Saturday and the Lord s day. These 
lectures were fully written out, and slowly read; 
and each hearer was required to take down the whole 
from the lips of the Lecturer. So that every stu 
dent was expected to possess a complete copy of the 
whole course. 

The theological class to which these Lectures were 
delivered consisted of about eight or nine. Of these, 
one or two had not the patience or perseverance to 
follow the venerable Lecturer through the whole 
course, but left him before it was finished. Then, as 
well as now, young men were found unwise enough 
to prefer their ease or convenience to their solid im 
provement, and upon various pretexts to deprive 
themselves of precious opportunities of instruction. 

Dr. Nisbet never affected novelties in theology. 
He was not ambitious, in his theological instruction, 
to appear as an inventor of new opinions; or even of 
new exhibitions of truth. He, therefore, apprised 
his pupils that, in these lectures, he did not claim to 
be entirely original; that he drew freely from appro 
ved authors; and specified Turreline, fVitsius, Ri 
vet, Le JBlanc, and others, as those which he most 
largely employed as auxiliaries and guides. And, 
accordingly, it has been stated, by one, if not more, of 
this class of students, that when a suggestion was 
made to him, that it might be desirable to commit 
these lectures to the press, he repelled the proposal 
with evident marks of disapprobation; because he 
would by no means palm them upon the public as an 
entirely original work. 

When the Doctor had closed his course of lec 
tures on Theology, the members of the class felt 
themselves so much gratified and interested by them, 


that they requested him to give them some inslruc- 
tion on ihe Pastoral Office. With this request he 
also readily complied, anil delivered on this subject 
twenty-two lectures, which were deemed excellent, 
and which were taken down from his lips by the 
students in the same manner as before. 

In addition to all his labours as the President of 
the College, and lecturer on so many different branch 
es of knowledge, he regularly preached in the Pres 
byterian church in Carlisle, alternately with the Rev. 
Dr. Davidson, Vice President of the College, and 
Pastor of the church. In this part of his public 
duties, as well as others, he was highly acceptable 
and popular. Without what are commonly called 
the graces of delivery, and though always preaching 
without written preparation, his discourses never fail 
ed to be in a high degree instructive and interesting. 

Dickinson College, under the supervision of her 
learned and accomplished head, soon began to rise 
in reputation and in the number of her students. 
The first Commencement in that Institution was 
held on the Stith day of September, 1757; when nine 
young gentlemen received from his hands the first 
degree in the arts. 

But notwithstanding these favourable circumstan 
ces, it cannot be denied, and there seems to be no ade 
quate reason for concealing, that Dr. Nisbet, in com 
ing to America, was not a little disappointed. It 
could scarcely, indeed, have been otherwise. The 
truth is, the first five or six years after he arrived in 
the United States formed one of the most unfortunate 
periods in which a stranger could have transferred 
his residence from Great Britain to this country. A 


protracted and exhausting war had just closed. The 
currency and commerce of the nation were in a state 
of deplorable depreciation. In fact, the States, in their 
united as well as individual capacity, might be said 
to be bankrupt. Public and private credit had sunk 
to a very low ebb. The value of real estate was de 
pressed to a most discouraging degree. Enterprise 
had no reward. There was no harmony of action 
among the States. The government of the Union, 
go far as it deserved the name, was in a great mea 
sure inert, for want of adequate powers. Indeed 
from the ye;ir 178 I to 1789, when the Constitution 
of the United States went into operation, so many 
were the difficulties of our confederated republics, 
and so gloomy their prospects, that many of the zeal 
ous advocates of Liberty and Independence began to 
be less sanguine in their hopes from the American 
revolution; and to doubt whether we were yet pre 
pared to take that stand among the nations of the 
earth which the God of battles had assigned to u?. 
Such was the state of the country at large. 

The state of Dickinson College partook of the na 
tional embarrassment. An infant Institution, and, 
from the first but slenderly endowed, it was beset with 
most formidable difficulties. Neither its funds nor 
its students had increased as rapidly as its sanguine 
founders and friends had expected. Money was too 
scarce to allow many parents who desired it, to give 
their children a liberal education. The Legislature 
of the State of Pennsylvania was not then sufficient 
ly alive to the interests of literature to make any 
considerable grants to seminaries of learning. And, 
to crown all, the Board of Trustees of the Colle* 


was a body so large, and consisted of gentleman so- 
little homogeneous in their principles and character, 
that united and energetic action for any length of 
time together was not to be expected, and certainly 
was not realised. They honoured the accomplish 
ments, and were proud of the reputation of their new 
President; but they found it difficult to sustain him in- 
that ample and honourable manner which he had been 
led to expect. 

But besides all the difficulties of his official station, 
the social and literary state of the country, and the 
general state of public improvement, were such as 
was ill adapted to answer the expectations, and grati 
fy the feelings of one who had been in Scotland al 
most the idol of a large circle of friends; who, when 
ever he went to Edinburgh, is said to have had at 
least one hundred intelligent and literary acquaint 
ances, gentlemen of wealth and leisure, some of them 
among the first noblemen of the country, who re 
joiced to see him, and in whose society and conver-. 
sation he enjoyed the most refined satisfaction. In- 
intercourse with such circles, and with easy access, 
to large Libraries, in which he took so much delight, 
he found himself in circumstances^ in many respects, 
eminently congenial to his- taste 

It is true, indeed, that long before the subject of 
this memoir came to America, he had imbibed feel 
ings of strong partiality to our country. He sympa 
thized with us in our revolutionary struggle, and 
wished well to us in all our interests, before he waa 
induced personally to cast in his lot with us. He 
came to the country, therefore, with partial feelings. 
And though he was aware that a boily of youthful 


colonies, recently become independent, could not be 
expected to present all the stability of order, and all 
the maturity of improvement, to be looked for in 
older states; yet he imagined that in a population in 
which there had been displayed so much intelligence 
as to understand, and so much high-minded patriot 
ism as to contend for, the rights and privileges of 
freemen, he should find more of the simplicity and 
Bturdiness of virtue than in his native land. The 
very circumstance of those who called him manifest 
ing, in all their communications, an ardent zeal for 
the promotion of literature; and an earnest desire to 
attract from the other side of the Atlantic great and 
good men to " go in and out before them," for the 
purpose of lifting up the literary character of our 
country, was well adapted to beget a confidence that 
each men, when obtained, would be cordially wel 
comed, and honourably supported. No wonder, then, 
that some degree of painful disappointment ensued, 
when he found on his arrival in this country, that 
the general standard of literature was low; that a 
thorough classical and scientific course would be sub- 


milted to by very few of the youth who aspired to 
Collegiate honours; that the very small number of 
professional and other gentlemen who laid claim to 
literary character, were generally so busy as to ren 
der much social intercourse wholly impracticable; 
and that, of course, with his habits and estimates of 
things, there was little prospect of his being able 
very essentially to benefit the country, or to become, 
speedily, if at all, instrumental in elevating the cha 
racter of its literature. And when, above all, he 
found the state of religion so low and languishing as 


it undoubtedly was, for a number of years after the 
revolutionary war, it can hardly be imagined that a 
mind so enlightened, so sensitive, so enlarged, and so 
intent on the literary and reHgious improvement of 
all around him, as his, could be otherwise than dis 
posed to gloom. 

Besides these considerations, so well adapted to 
make an unfavourable impression on his mind, there 
were other considerations, more immediately per 
sonal, which could not fail to concur in diminishing 
his comfort. His salary, though by no means large, 
was imperfectly paid. The provision made for ac 
commodating his family with a dwelling, was, from 
the beginning, far from comfortable; and the retired 
place of his residence, though, in many respects, 
exceedingly pleasant, presented very few social cir 
cles adapted to gratify a man so pre-eminently devo 
ted to books, and so well fitted to instruct and enter 
tain those in the highest stations. 

As these things could not fail painfully to impress 
his mind, so it. was natural that he should, from time 
to time, make some reference to them in correspon 
ding with his friends in Scotland, many of whom 
took a deep interest in his comfort, and followed him 
with anxious inquiries as to his situation and pros 
pects. Accordingly it is easy to see, from the lan 
guage of several of his correspondents in Britain, 
that his situation was far from being one of unmixed 
comfort; and that as late as the year 1794 or 1795, 
the idea of his return to Scotland, though laid aside 
by himself, was not wholly abandoned by his friends 
on the other side of the Atlantic. 


The following letters will serve to throw some 
light on the subject of the foregoing remarks. 

Dr. Nisbet to the Earl of Buchan. 

" Baltimore,21th June, 1786. " 
" My Lord," 

" Being detained here by a fit of the ague, and un 
derstanding that there are several English ships in 
this port, I take the opportunity of testifying my sin 
cere respect to your Lordship, though I have very 
little intelligence to communicate. Knowledge is 
very rare in this country, and has been the least of 
our importations. The love of money checks its 
progress, and the desire of it among the generality, is 
not great. It is true that Colleges, Academies and 
Schools are founding in many places; but there is a 
penury of men, books and rational regulations. Po 
litical knowledge, however necessary in this country, 
is very imperfect, on account of the undue and false 
notions of liberty that generally prevail. Public 
spirit is rare; and even where it exists, it is checked 
by the dreadful reflection, that it can be of no use 
unless it can be infused into a majority. And where 
is the community so enlightened that a majority of 
it are wise men? A king, surrounded with guards, 
ministers and courtiers, is not more inaccessible than 
the minds of a multitude beset with prejudices and 
ignorance. Natural knowledge, however suitable 
and necessary in this country, where it has so large 
a field, does not flourish among us. No species of 
science is so much honoured as Mathematics, which, 
however excellent as an adminicle, is barren in itself. 
The king of France has purchased a Botanie Garden 


in Jersey, which may, perhaps, excite some curi 
osity for Natural History. Mines have been said to 
be discovered in several places, but I cannot ascer 
tain the fact; and even if the report were true, the 
possessors of those mines would do well to keep them 
a secret. I believe the ancient adage still holds Si 
qua foret tellus qusefulvum milteret aurum, hos- 
tis erat. I have discovered a strange coincidence- 
between a part of the superstition of the Indians, and 
that of the ancient inhabitants of Europe. Where- 
ever the Indians discover bees, they take for grant 
ed that white men will soon come after them. In 
the seventh book of the ./Elneid, when a swarm of 
bees had hived near the palace of king Latinus, the 
came construction was put on the phenomenon. Con- 
tinuo vales; exlernos cernimus, in quit, adventure 
viros. This is strange enough. Virgil never visit 
ed America; nor did the Indians ever read Virgil. I 
have been assured that in the western parts of this 
country, on both sides of the Mississippi, there are 
monuments discovered which render it almost cer 
tain that that region has been inhabited by a people 
much more civilized than its present inhabitants. A 
gentleman who is proprietor of a mine, assured me 
that they had discovered digging tools many fathoms 
under ground. I was informed by another, that, in 
sinking a well, he found a small furnace of brick 
work thirty feet below the surface, with coals and 
brands that had been ignited. Near the falls of the 
Ohio there is a salt spring in the bed of the river, 
which had been inclosed with stone work of un 
known antiquity, to keep out the fresh water; but 
this inclosure being ruined by the freshets, the inha- 


bitants have no use of the spring except when the 
river falls so low as to leave its environs dry. In 
many places circular fortifications have been disco 
vered, inclosed with deep ditches, and fenced with 
a breast work. Yet no traces of ancient habitations 
are to be seen. Perhaps the inhabitants have been 
contented with wooden houses, like Attila, though in 
possession of a great part of the Roman empire. Pit 
coal is found in abundance in the western counties of 
Pennsylvania, and at Wyoming on the Susquehanna; 
but the great abundance of wood renders it of little 
use as yet. The want of industry is one great cause 
of the little progress of the useful arts in this coun 
try; but the climate is enough to damp the most ac 
tive minds. Many people here observe the siesta 
as regularly as the Spaniards and Italians; finding 
their animal spirits, if such there are, very apt to be 
evaporated by the intense heat of the sun: yet we 
hear of none dying here by a coup de soleil, though 
that accident is common in France and Italy." 

" The humour of making new States seems unpro- 
pitious to this country. Kentucky is admitted into 
the Union on condition of their putting themselves 
in the order of a State before a given day, and taking 
a proportional share of the public debt of Virginia. 
Vermont is tacitly permitted to govern itself, but not 
represented in Congress, or admitted into the confe 
deration. The state of Massachusetts threatens di 
vision, though it has not yet taken place. The dif 
ferences at Wyoming still subsist, though not pub 
licly supported by the State of Connecticut. Ethan 
Allen is actually amongst them, and undertakes to. 
command their forces against all opposition; and a 



number of ill-disposed and profligate people are as 
sembling from all the states, which may occasion a 
civil war for a time." 

" I hear that grants of American lands are becom 
ing merchantable commodities on the Exchange of 
London; and I am just now informed that an eminent 
American land-jobber is actually at Hamburgh, and 
finds purchasers in that city. If this is true it will 
interest foreigners in the prosperity of this country, 
and may be a means of encouraging industry, and 
introducing useful hands, and useful arts among us, 
of which we are still in great want." 

" I beg my best respects to Lady Buchan, and am 
with the most unfeigned esteem," 
"My Lord," 

"Your Lordship s much obliged/* 
" Humble servant," 

^ The Right Honourable, the 

Earl of Buchan, Edinburgh" 

The next letter is from Dr. Nisbet, to the Rev. 
James Paton, the pious and excellent pastor of 
Craig, a town in the neighbourhood of Montrose, 
with whom the Doctor maintained a long and en 
deared friendship. 

" Carlisle, 10M Jan. 1787." 
" Dear Sir," 

" Yoi rs, of the 9th of August, reached Philadel 
phia on the 22d of November, but did not reach me- 
for three weeks afterwards, as we have no post yet 
established on this read, and communication is diffi. 


cult this hard winter. I luul got a detail of all the 
transactions of your neighbourhood by J)r. Krskine, 
and some others. I bad no design of writing you in 
a dark manner; but many things here cannot be re 
lated in a few words. I am sorry for the deaths 
you acquaint me with, especially for those of wor 
thy ministers, who have been at all times scarce. I 
am glad to hear of the welfare of your family, and 
wish I could give you any idea of this country. 
Knowledge, industry, virtue and religion are greatly 
wanting; and though every man is a politician, true 
politics are little understood. The lands are mostly 
possessed by poor, ignorant, or indolent farmers; 
and yield extremely little in comparison with what 
they might yield under, wise and efficient manage 
ment. Trade is in a low state. Labour is very 
dear; and servants scarce, bad, ignorant and lazy. 
In the possession of an industrious, enterprising peo 
ple, this country would be a very rich one. To 
bacco, hops vines, and all sorts of fruit thrive here, 
but none of them to any extent are cultivated in this 
neighbourhood. Hemp and flax are rarely culti 
vated; though what little is sown rises plentifully. 
The people here have no attachment to their estates, 
but are ready to sell them whenever a buyer offers, 
and to retire into the wilderness. As this new 
world is unfortunately composed, like that of Epi 
curus, of discordant atoms, jumbled together by 
chance, and tossed by inconstancy in an immense 
vacuum, it greatly wants a principle of attraction 
and cohesion. Such may come in time, but it has 
not yet taken place. Legislative wisdom is greatly 
wanting, as most of our members have no olh-er poli- 


tical qualifications than their election bestows on 
them. Common sense may be introduced, but it 
must be gradually, and with difficulty. The great 
extent of the country is likewise against its improve 
ment. With regard to my own situation it is tole 
rable, though not according to expectation, and must 
improve only by the improvement of the public. I 
have more trouble with the old than with the young. 
Our Trustees are generally men of small acquaint 
ance with letters, even those that have been bred to 
learned professions, and can scarcely be made to un 
derstand their duty. The importation of books has 
almost ceased since the war, except novels, plays and 
such trifles. There is little curiosity, and conse 
quently little knowledge. The youth readily re 
ceive the superficial and introductory parts of know 
ledge; but are little fit for abstract studies, or any 
thing that requires perserverance and application; 
and being mostly destitute of books, helps, and ob 
jects of ambition, it is no wonder that they flag in 
their studies, and sit down contented with low at 

" My department in this College is moral philo 
sophy; but, for the want of an adequate number of 
teachers, I am obliged to give a course of logic and 
metaphysics. We have but four effective teachers, 
though we need two more at least. Donations have 
raised our library to about 2800 volumes. It con 
tains many good books; though our wants in that 
department are still numerous. Our numbers are 
short of a Scotch seminary, but nearly equal to 
these of this country. We have been in pretty good 
health since July last; though the extremes of heat 


xnd cold are still hard on us. As to sending out 
Probationers from Scotland to this country, I could 
not advise it till the people here are more sensible of 
their wants. A man must have the spirit of martyr 
dom that would travel thousands of miles, overlaree 

7 O 

deserts, not knowing where he is to settle, and when 
settled, having no certainty that most or all of his 
congregation may not leave the place, without taking 
him along with them. In September last, I made a 
journey to New York, which is 210 miles hence. 
The country of Jersey is flat and pleasant, and pretty 
well settled, though numbers of the inhabitants are 
daily moving westward. The Raritan, the Passaic 
the Hackensack, and the Hudson are fine navigable 
streams, though little commercial, except the last. 
New York is beautifully situated on the extremity 
of an island, and resembles an European city more 
than any place I have seen on this continent. I 
viewed, with a mixture of pleasure and concern, 
many of the scenes of last war, and surveyed the 
progress of the fire which was once so fatal to this 
city. Almost all the ruins were built up in a tolera 
ble, and some of them in a magnificent manner. The 
houses are higher than those in Philadelphia, though 
mostly of brick. The inhabitants are gay and luxu 
rious in the extreme, though not much attentive to 
religion, or paying their debts. I preached to two 
very large congregations, the most genteel in appear 
ance I ever saw, though I believe very few are 
opulent. I dined next day with the President of 
the Continental Congress, and the Representatives of 
nine States. Some of them are decent sensible men, 
and others young and raw, having been chosen only 


for their military service last war. Long Island is 
almost as near New York as Ferryden is to Mont- 
rose. It is a beautiful high land, seemingly well 
cultivated, and affords a fine prospect as far as the 
Narrows, about ten miles below the city. Staten 
Island has a wilder, but not a disagreeable appear 
ance. Mr. Thompson, after his wanderings in Vir 
ginia, has got a good congregation in Johnstown, 
150 miles above New York, Mr. Monro was or 
dained in June last, about 70 miles east from Car 
lisle, on the frontiers of Maryland; but I have never 
seen him, or had a letter from him. Mr. Addison, 
who went out with us, has been a year at Washing 
ton, 225 miles west of this place; but not being able 
to get settled, on account of the refractory humour 
of his Presbytery, is likely to change his profession 
for the more gainful one of the law. A daughter of 
Mr. Grant, late minister of Dundurcus, to whom he 
was engaged, came over to Philadelphia last summer. 
He went down, and they were married in Septem 
ber last, and passed this place on their way home, 
while I was at New York. Mr. Ross and his wife 
are settled at Pittsburgh, where he has made pur 
chases, though I do not know whether they will be 
gainful, at least for a time. He is building a distil 
lery, and has boats for supplying the town with coal. 
It is probable that Pittsburgh will be a considerable 
place in a short time, as so many are daily flocking 
to that neighbourhood. Twenty waggons, upon an 
average, every day, have passed that way in the 
course of this year, and we have seen them passing 
even since the snow fell. 7 

" What may be the fate of this country is uncer- 


tain; but there is a large scope for industry, if direct 
ed by wisdom, and not interrupted by war. We 
have little or no intelligence here, which makes us 
very dull, and the people in general are not curious 
either as to what passes among themselves or else 
where. We are alarmed with the report of a war 
with England, upon a suspicion, it is said, that the 
people of this country intend to seize some of their 
West India Islands; but your ministry would be 
foolish indeed were they to entertain any such sus 
picion of people that have neither ships nor any de 
sire for insular possessions. The people here are 
not in the least disposed to make war against any 
power whatever, except with Spain, whose posses 
sions are too distant to be in any danger from their 
efforts, at least for a century to come. Some thought 
less people in the southern States would be glad to 
declare war against Spain, for opening the navigation 
of the Mississippi, though they have no use for such 
a navigation at present, and cannot procure the con 
sent of the other States to any tiling of this kind. I 
hear of little or no emigration to this country: 520 
people, being a whole parish in the Isle of Skye, 
emigrated this spring; but were advised to land at 
Quebec, as they were assured that England would 
make war against this country in a little time. 1 
observe in the London Reviews, that pamphlets are 
writing in England, prophecying the submission of 
this country to Great Britain; and Lady Leven s 
letter, without date, which accompanied yours, con 
tained a question, whether there was a disposition 
in the people here to return to their allegiance. I 
.suspect that something is brewing among you to re- 


vive the horrors of war in this country; but I hope 
that the death of the Prussian monarch may turn the 
attention of your great Commoner to conquer Ame 
rica in Germany, which will give no disturbance 
here. Manufactures must be introduced into this 
country before it can flourish; and this cannot be 
done but by a long peace, and the removal of strong 

" I have just now read Dr. Anderson s book on 
the improvement of the British Fisheries and West 
ern Islands. It contains many maxims of sound 
sense and good policy. I only differ from him as to 
the consequences of emigration; though he says 
that Dr. Price has been brought over to his opinion. 
He does not consider that almost every person who 
emigrates from Great Britain is in distress and po 
verty, and can get little or nothing to consume at 
home, for the encouragement of industry at home: 
whereas in his reasoning he supposes them all to be 
people of fortune, and excellent customers to the far 
mer, the butcher, the brewer, and baker, whereas 
most of them have not a morsel of bread, nor can 
get any work to earn it. Were Dr. Anderson s 
scheme to be instantly carried into execution, emi 
gration might become less necessary for many of the 
poorer sort. But at present I am certain that it is 
the interest of poor working people to emigrate to 
this country. If they come over young, they may, 
by industry, acquire the property of a good planta 
tion in ten or twelve years, which they could never 
hope for at home. If this country were cultivated 
by English or Scotch farmers, its product and riches 
would be very great, and it might maintain a large 


and opulent landed interest. But no body will be 
a tenant in a country where he can so soon become a 
proprietor; so that our landed interest consists of a 
yeomanry who labour their own lands, and who are, 
of course, not very enlightened. Their children, al 
most uniformly, embrace the same profession, as lands 
are always to be had. A tradesman, though he might 
make more money, is little thought of in compari 
son with a farmer. This perverse way of thinking, 
however, must continue either until they are in dis 
tress for want of foreign commodities, or till some 
projecting genius embraces the profession of a trades 
man or manufacturer. Dr. Anderson seems like 
wise to be wrong in discouraging the buildino- of 
villages, as all towns have grown out of them, even 
Rome and Laurence-kirk not excepted. They mav 
be improper in the Hebrides, but in a fertile country 
I think they ought to be encouraged; as all counties 
here are divided into townships. I have frequently 
told our farmers that they ought to build the rudi 
ments of a town in the most convenient situation 
near the centre of each of these townships, and told 
them that these would soon increase, especially if 
they would breed some of their children to trades, 
and settle them in these villages. The whole lands 
of the townships would rise in value. But this is 
what they cannot comprehend; and they would be 
sorry to contribute to the emolument of the proprietor 
of the lands nearest the village." 

" I am in hopes that the difficulties we are under 

here in discharging the high taxes laid in the last 

years of the war, will be soon over. Our ordinary 

Saxes are a mere trifle in comparison of yours in 



Great Britain, and cannot occasion the smallest incon 
venience. I am pleased to observe that our Legis 
lature are beginning to discern the importance and 
necessity of making good roads, and setting about 
that great work. I wish also that they could be per 
suaded to discourage travelling on the Lord s day, 
which abounds here to a shameful degree. We have 
laws good enough for that purpose, but nobody is 
appointed or encouraged to put them in execution. 
In a word, many things among us need reformation; 
and, though we have the means in our own hands, 
there is little prospect of their being reformed in 
haste. The ignorance of many of our citizens, who 
have come hither in a rude state, and their wanting 
opportunities of improvement by the distance of their 
dwellings, and the general neglect of public worship, 
as well as the scarcity and dearness of good books, 
contribute greatly to continue them in their igno 
rance, and to strengthen their prejudices. The 
Courts of Law are almost the only operative cause 
that brings men together here, or awakens the facul 
ties of their minds; and you cannot imagine to what 
degree these are employed and encouraged among 
us. Our Lawyers are not so learned as yours; but 
they are generally men of respectable knowledge and 
liberality of manners. The landed interest are the 
least enlightened, though there are some honourable 
exceptions. I imagine that the want of genius among 
our news-writers, and the barrenness of events in our 
papers, are likewise partial causes of that stagnation 
of the human faculties which prevails in this coun 
try; as well as the want of cross posts, and readiness 
of communication. 1 live a very laborious life, and 


must expect no interruption of labours for at least nine 
months to come. I am endeavouring to get the 
people to attend public worship, and we hope to have 
two sermons next sabbath, which is a great reform. 
Some people are beginning to think, and I hope bet 
ter times are approaching. Nine of my pupils are 
destined to the service of the Church, and have meet 
ings for prayer. But things must go on slowly. I 
consider myself as engaged, with others, in the inglo 
rious but useful labour of digging under ground, and 
laying the foundation of a building that may rise and 
make some figure in another age. Let me hear from 
you soon, and send me all the intelligence, public and 
private, that you can collect, Remember me kindly 
to all friends. I am, Reverend and Dear Sir, yours, 
affectionately,/ " CHARLES NISBET." 

" Rev. Mr. James Paton." 

Every one who recollects the state of our country 
from the close of the Revolutionary war in 1783, to 
the adoption and organization of the Federal govern 
ment, in 1789, during which the foregoing letter was 
written; the wide-spread poverty the prostration 
of commerce the general discouragement the mu 
tual distrust the absence of enterprise and the pre 
vailing gloom which were portrayed in a preceding 
page will undoubtedly regard the picture drawn by 
the venerable writer as an unexaggerated one; and 
will only wonder, that, coming as he did from a land 
of wealth and of established order he did not load 
his canvass with still darker colours. The truth is, 
this learned and excellent man fell into a mistake 
very common among the most enlightened who 


visit our country from the other side of the At 
lantic. He found it difficult to make the requisite 
allowance for a young country, struggling into na 
tional organization and order. He measured Ame 
rican facts by European principles. Had he lived 
thirty years longer, he would have seen that the want 
of intelligence, of wakefulness to their advantages, 
and of enterprise in pursuing opportunities of im 
provement and of profit, was one of the last charges 
justly imptitable to the inhabitants of the United 

It was remarked, in a preceding chapter, that, in 
the great contest between the British government, 
and her American colonies, which issued in the in 
dependence of the United States, Dr. Nisbet was a 
warm whig, and gave much offence to many in his 
own country, by taking, on a variety of occasions, 
the side of the Colonies. With these feelings he 
eame to America, ft cannot be disguised, however, 
that when he found, after being for a time in the 
country, the general state of things to be so different 
from what he had been taught to expect; the low 
state of literature; the deranged condition of our com 
mercial affairs; the failure of the founders and guar 
dians of his College to redeem their pledges; and the 
erratic notions and conduct of many of our politicians 
respecting the govermental questions of the day; he 
was not a little revolted, and began to fear that the 
Republicanism of the United States would prove a 
miserable failure. And it must be acknowledged that 
the character of the first five or six years of his resi 
dence in our country, was such, that a mind of his sen 
sibility, and accustomed to European establishments. 


might well be pardoned for giving way to such a re 

To this may be added, that the impression from 
what hesawaround him, was greatly deepened by the 
occurrence of the French Revolution, and the terrific 
scenes which, for more than ten years, that nation 
presented to the civilized world. From the moment 
that revolution commenced, Dr. Nishet seemed to 
regard itwith horror, and predicted most of the dread 
ful results which are now matters of history. Of 
course, when he saw so many in the United States 
disposed to rejoice in that Revolution, and to applaud 
its worst features, he found it difficult to restrain 
his feelings, or to repress the language of indignant 
vituperation. When this subject was alluded to, it 
seldom failed to call forth his keenest wit, his most 
biting sarcasm, and the most distressing apprehen 
sions of fatal mischief likely to be poured forth from 
France, as from an awful volcano, on ourselves, and 
on every other nation within the sphere of her influ 
ence. In the course of a most interesting and long- 
continued correspondence with him, the writer of 
these pages recollects no one subject on which he 
poured out so much weight of thought; so much fer 
vid eloquence; so much that was adapted to exhibit 
him, amidst all his cutting severity, as one of the 
most benevolent and patriotic of men. 

From the Countess of Leven and Melville. 

" Dear Sir," 

" Melville House, Jan. 20M, 1788." 
" I received your letter dated the 17th of Septem 
ber, about a week ago; by which I am sorry to find 


your situation is not likely to become more agreea 
ble; and that you cannot give a more favourable re 
presentation of the state of religion, &c. in that part of 
the world where you now are. I am afraid the pic- 
lure you exhibit is by no means a caricature, extorted 
by predjudice or discontent; as I find others corrobo 
rating your statement, especially concerning the state 
of religion. A young gentleman from this neigh 
bourhood writes in the very same strain. He says 
the holy sabbath is not regarded, and the churches 
of Philadelphia very ill attended; not above forty 
communicants, lie states, in the church which he at 
tended. I have always wished, since you landed there, 
that you had come out from among them: for instead 
of being of more use there than at home, as matters 
now stand, I fear you are of much less. I have 
never had more than one view of that matter alto 
gether, as you well know; for I always told you my 
sentiments, though with much diffidence, and am sor 
ry that you did not take your departure from Ameri 
ca, as you had once firmly resolved to do. I always 
think that you will yet end your days on this side 
of the Atlantic. To be sure much depends on the 
state of your family, of which you never say any 
thing; how^the children are situated and employed, 
&c. Your lettersare very entertainingand instructive; 
but always make one sorry upon your own account, 
and on account of the woful change for the worse 
upon that once highly favoured part of the world, I 
forget who it is that says 

" Religion stands on tiptoe in our land, 
Ready to fly to the American strand." 


And surely I thought it had taken its flight thither; 
for once I thought they were all saints, especially 
from some samples I saw of them, and good reports 
we heard. But, hy all accounts, religion has taken 
wing again; though, alas! I c!o not find that she has 
landed on the British shore, or would meet with a 
welcome there." 

" I look for something extra coming from our be 
loved Sovereign s tedious illness; that it will not be 
unto death, but for the glory of God. It has called 
the attention of all ranks, and made a sort of solemn 
pause, and given many people time to consider who 
never think at all. The public amusements are all 
hushed, and churches crowded to hear the many fer 
vent prayers to heaven for the restoration of his pre 
cious health. The royal family are all quite deject 
ed, and afflicted, which maybe of great use by the 
blessing of God. The last time the king was abroad 
was at the Chapel, where he would be, in spite of ad 
vice to the contrary ; and the Queen, and Princes and 
Princesses have the worship of God in the Queen s 
apartment. Those, and other things too tedious to 
mention, appear to be tokens fur good. The nation 
was never more united, or more fervent in their 
wishes than they are at present for the preservation 
and establishment of the king s health. Surely there 
never was a sovereign more universally beloved." 

" I am at a loss how to fill the rest of my paper 
with such intelligence as would be interesting to 
you. All your friends are well, so far as I know." 

March 2d. I must just say to you, as the wor 
thy and Rev. Mr. Newton said to me, in a letter 
which I received from him lately, began about two 


months before it was finished; that he sent the first 
part to convince me of his intentions; but from vari 
ous occurrences, he had never found it convenient to 
finish what he had begun. This too, has been the 
case with me; and I would not send such a confused 
scrawl to such a distance, were it not as a proof that 
I had not forgotten you. My fear is, that my long 
silence may make you suspect what can never be 
truth concerning me, that I forget or can make light 
of a friend. Beside that, you may be assured I con 
sider the loss as my own, as your letters are a great 
entertainment to me. But the truth is, I am kept 
too busy; though I fear often idly busy. I hope this 
will find you well." 

"Since this letter was begun, a great change has 
been wrought in the state of affairs in Britain by the 
happy recovery of our beloved Sovereign. The joy 
is beyond description or imagination from the low 
est to the highest. I must refer you to the public 
papers for all that happened during the sad interval 
of his illness. There appears to be a great work up 
on the wheel at present. I wish I could have an 
opportunity of conversing with you, to hear your 
lively observations and animadversions about many 
things. Let me know how you are as to health and 
contentment; and whether you feel settled in life; or 
intend to end your days in Britain." 

" I am sorry to find that poor Mr. Muir has got 
no settlement. Perhaps, by this time, it may be 
otherwise. He is, I believe, a good man; what his 
foibles are I cannot say. When you write, pray let 
me know the history of your own family. This fa 
mily, by the blessing of God, and his infinite mercy, 


are all alive, and much increased. Lord IVdgonie 
has three sons. Mary has had nine children, of whom 
seven are still living; and she docs not look to he 
above twenty. Remember us in your prayers. Wo 
have much to be thankful for." 

" I thought you had corresponded with worthy 
old Dr. Gillies. lie is alive and well, and would es 
teem a letter from you very highlv. Mr. Martin 
and family arc all well. Ho remains the husband 
of one wife, notwithstanding; your prediction. My 
Lord sends his host respects to you, in which my 
daughters join. Please to offer mine to Mrs Nisbet; 
and be assured that I continue to be with real esteem, 
ycur humble servant," 

"W LT:VEN." 

" The Rev. Dr. Charles Nisbet, Carlisle." 

From the same. 

"Melville House, August \si, 17S8." 
" Dear Sir," 

"Though I am distressed with sore eyes, I have 
taken a large sheet of paper, in case I can find where 
withal to fill it. It is with regret that I reflect how 
long it is since I had yours of December 25th. Not 
answering it immediately is the reason of the delay; 
for a variety of pressing occupations makes me neg 
lect many necessary duties which slip out of my 

" I am sorry that you have no better news to write 
from your quarter, either with regard to your own 
situation, or the state of religion among you. I shall 
be glad to hear what your great expectations have 
resulted in from the new Constitution of the United 


States lately proposed and adopted. When I men 
tioned the possibility of a young man being better 
to go to America than you, I surely intended to say 
to combat, not to comply with, the prejudices of the 
people; for in many respects, indeed, this might be 
much against a man s character. In all difficult 
emergencies a steady person is the fittest; as sinful 
compliances are always attended with bad consequen 
ces. Though in other matters it is often necessary 
and winning to use gentle means." 

"It is a matter of deep regret to be informed of 
such a woeful change for the worse as America, in 
general, has undergone of late. I once looked upon 
it as the most highly favoured corner of the earth, in 
many respects, but chiefly with regard to religion. 
"When the Lord honoured Mr. Whitefield to be a lead 
ing man among them, in many places religion flour 
ished and increased. He had no bye views or ends. 
The glory of God, and the good of souls, were the 
main spring of all his movements. The war did 
much hurt; turned the people idle and forgetful of 
God, and indeed of every thing but liberty, falsely 
so called. And, I doubt not, it has been to many a 
fatal liberty, very different from that of the chil 
dren of light. Poor Mr. Thompson is arrived, in a 
very depressed situation. It is several months since 
he came to Britain. He is now in Dundee. He 
describes his situation to have been most affecting. 
Some of the people were unable to pay his stipend, 
from poverty; others, from want of will. The mo 
ney he carried out, (having sold his annuity,) he 
bought land with, of which he could make nothing; 
and was obliged to slip away, even without his poor 


wife, who staid, I fear, as a hostage. I hope the 
people of Dundee mean to serve him in some shape 
or other. He has, indeed, had a sore time of it." 

" There is nothing in this country to write about 
but what you will get from the newspapers and 
magazines. A great deal is said and attempted about 
Sunday schools, and reformation of manners, which, 
by the blessing of God, I hope will have a good 
effect. The former have already had wonderful 
effects, especially in large trading towns, both in Scot- 
and and England . Your friends about Glasgow, &c. 
could tell you much about this. I thought that Dr. 
Gillies and you corresponded. Surely Dr. Wither- 
spoon and he correspond. ITc is always busy about 
something, and will lie 1o the last, if his faculties re 
main. I beg to be remembered to Dr. Witherspoon, 
when you see him. I regretted not seeing him when 
he was in Scotland.* It surprises me that, when 
you write, you say nothing about your own family. 
I hope your son has gotten rid of all impediments in 
his sight, and is doing as you could wish him." 

" I find, by a letter from Mr. Muir, who was at 
Bermuda, that he is gone to New York. Of this Dr. 
W. would inform you, as he has written a short Pre 
face to a few Sermons he has published; the price of 
which, by the time it reached me a single volume 
was 19 shillings and 2 pence. He thoughtlessly 
sent it by post; whereas in a ship it would only have 
been a trifle, if any thing. He is a pious, good man, 

* Dr. Witherspoon, soon after the close of the American war, was 
commissioned by the Trustees of Princeton College to visit Great 
Britain, for the purpose of soliciting donations to that Institution. Hi* 
mission, however, was not attended with much success, 


I am persuaded, and wish he may succeed where be 
now is. He married too young, which is sometimes 
no small evil. He does not mention whether he has 
any children. 1 should be glad to know how he is 
received, or whether he is in any settled way. I am 
glad he is under the tuition of Dr. Rodgers, to whom 
he desires me to direct for him." 

"I shall be gratified to be informed how you and 
your family keep your health. Have you laid aside 
all thought of returning to your native land? I sin 
cerely wish you and yours may be happy. You have 
imbibed, I perceive,, a bad idea of the Methodists 
since you went abroad. There are good and bad in 
all sects and parlies. Yet strange that one who ever 
knew that eminent and favoured saint, Mr. George 
Whitefield, should harbour a doubt that the Lord was 
with him of a truth, and countenanced his labours more 
than those of any other man since the Apostles days; 
and at this moment I dare say that the best people in 
America are plants of the precious seed sown in his 
time. It hurts me to find you speaking lightly of 
the Methodists in general. The good that some of 
them have been enabled to do is most amazing. It 
is no wonder that Satan opposes them, and lays snares 
for them." 

"But my paper is nearly full, and my eyes are 
failing. 1 dare not send any pamphlets, as the trans 
portation of them is so expensive. I will try to get 
this letter sent a pennyworth. I fear at best ycui 
will think it a poor one. If I knew of any persons 
or family you wished to hear of, I would mention 
them. Mr. Martin is well; as are all this family, 
present or absent, so far as I know. Remember u,s 


in your prayers. Good reason have we to say, that 
the Lord is good and gracious. My Lord sends his 
best respects. Give mine to Mrs. Nisbet. How 
would she like to come back to Montrose? With 
much esteem, I am, Sir," 

" Your humble servant," 

"W. LEVEN." 
" The. Rev. Dr. Nisbet, Car/Isle College." 

From the same. 

"Melville House, Nov. 27, 1789." 
* Dear ,S7r," 

" It is truly presumptuous in me to begin upon a 
full sheet. Good example, I know, is of much worth: 
but we are often imitators in those tilings which we 
are least qualified to copy after. Your great letter 
of August 9th came to hand September 12l.h, and was 
a fund of entertainment and instruction, in regard to 
many tilings which we were before unacquainted 
with. To get these testimonies from a far country, 
upon the word of veracity itself, is rare news. Plen 
ty of news, indeed, pours in upon us, but little truth. 
What D.ivid said in his haste that all men are 
liars, a worthy friend once remarked, he might now 
say at his leisure. Your letters always give me plea 
sure; but I still find a cloud hanging over them: and 
my regret for your absence from your own country, 
is increased by every insinuation of your own for 
having left it. The decaying state of religion, and 
its fatal consequences, must greatly affect yours, and 
every righteous spirit. The famine of those fit to be 
made friends, and of hearers in your Church, must 
cast a damp even upon your good spirits. It is a 
16* " 


great mercy that you and your family have enjoyed 
good health; and you have all reason to hope that 
your indefatigable labours will be blessed. But you 
cannot expect to be long able to undergo such an ex 
ertion of strength of body and mind, as your present 
labour requires. You do not mention what assist 
ance you have, or whether those employed are dili 
gent and useful among the students, &c. If you 
were destitute of such comforts as the world cannot 
give, your situation would indeed, be most uncomfort 
able; as it is so little suited to your natural genius. 
But 3 ou have the comfort of knowing, that whatso 
ever state you are in, it is by the Divine Providence; 
that God has the ordering of it; that all the ingredi 
ents in your cup, and all the varieties of your state, 
are from Him. When you consider that there is no 
present state of things, how favourable soever, without 
an alloy; that there is something in every condition 
of life, in every place, to convince us of the fruitless 
effort of seeking rest here below. While we com 
plain of grievances in this or that situation, we might 
find worse in another. In every state there is some 
thing amiss; but, blessed be God, there is no state 
that can exclude those comforts and consolations 
which cannot be taken away. Peace grows every 
where from Him who is our Peace/ He is the 
Comforter of all the ends of the earth." 

" I cannot think of any thing to write for your 
amusement. There is nothing on this side of the 
Atlantic in which you are interested, but what you 
know as much of as you probably wish to know. 
Nothing seems to be improving so fast as the art of 
swindling, and deceiving the unwary. There are 


many l masters of arts in this profession; so that 
one cannot help admiring their ingenuity, while they 
grieve that it has not been employed to better pur 
pose. The state of the French nation, and of many 
places in Germany, 3 T ou will he informed of. They 
are in a most deplorable situation; and I believe the 
the wiset politician can form no idea of what will be 
the issue. Mr. Martin has written you all the news 
he could collect, which I am glad of, as I find that my 
letters can be little else than tokens of remembrance 
and of good wishes for you and your family. I hope 
your son will do well, and disappoint all your fears. 
Our youngest son, George, is now settled in business 
at Ostcnd, and is much satisfied with his situation. 
Has your son gotten his sight perfectly in his eye 
that was affected? My mind is at present in much 
anxiety and concern about my dear and only sister, 
Lady Banff. She has been in a declining state, from 
various causes, for these twelve months past. She 
has been better and worse; but there seems little 
appearance of returning health. That sweet fa 
mily will experience a great loss, if it should please 
God to take her to himself. She has three daughters 
still unmarried ; and Mrs. Murray, whom you will 
remember, has not seen a day s health these three 
years, since she had her third child; but I hope is 
now getting better. ; 

" I write all this as if to obtain your pious prayers. 
But, alas! what changes may have taken place before 
it can make its way to you! Mr. Martin will have 
mentioned about the weather, earthquakes, &c. No 
body remembers such a wet season. My Lord in 
tends to send with this a few Magazines, containing 


some account of General Assembly matters, and a 
few Scotch newspapers, which we hope will amuse 
you. Though I know nothing that at present occurs 
which promises to interest you, I beg you will con 
tinue your interesting and amusing history to me. 
We have littleJVom America that can be depended 
on. Mr. Martin, I take for granted, wrote you 
about Dr. M Gill. Nobody can say how that matter 
will end. It had much need to amend. I hope you 
will hear from Dr. Gillies what the Presbytery of 
Glasgow has done, and mean to do. If you send a 
commission to procure any books for your Library, 
I wish you would get two volumes entitled Horse 
Solitarise, or Essays, both Doctrinal and Practical, 
upon the Divinity of Christ and the Holy Spirit, and 
also upon the subject of the Trinity, showing it to 
have been a truth received from the earliest ages, and 
confirmed by the principles of the Gospel, in two 
volumes, octavo. The author s name is not prefix 
ed to the work; but it is well known to be by Am 
brose Serle, Esquire, Secretary to Lord Howe, du 
ring the American war. He is also the author of 
" The Christian Remembrancer," which I will send 
with the Magazines. His works are very much es 
teemed by good people; and I dare say you would 
admire that work very much, as it is esteemed a 
masterly performance; I mean the Horse Solitarise." 
"I must now conclude this very trifling epistle, 
which I am ashamed to think is to travel so far, to so 
little purpose; and which can serve only as a mark 
of that esteem which I have entertained for you ever 
since Nostradamus introduced us to each other s 
acquaintance; or rather those enemies of yours, who: 


raised such ridiculous stories about a sermon of 
your s, which I resolved to get to the bottom of by 
inquiring at the fountain head. Best respects await 
you from all here, and mine to Mrs. Nisbet. My 
Lord is much entertained with your letters, and de 
sires to be particularly remembered to you. Many 
thanks for the Pastoral Letter. It is an exceedingly 
good one. I would be much indebted to you for any 
scraps of lectures, or explanations of any passages of 
scripture, which you may judge adapted to be useful, 
lam very partial to your talents in this way; and 
really few possess them. You ought to publish a 

" How do Dr. Rush and all his family? It Js 
a long time since I had the pleasure of hearing of 
thom; 1 <!o sincerely wi>h them well. Believe 
me, with much esteem and friendship, your humble 
servant." " W. LEVEN." 

" The Rev. Dr. Nisbel, Carlisle College." 

The Earl of Buchan was a less punctual and a less 
devoted correspondent than Lady Leven. Still his 
letters are peculiarly characteristic, and by no means 
uninteresting. The following are a specimen. 

" Dryburgh rfbbey, December 21, 1790." 
" Rev. and dear Sir." 

" I did not receive yours, of March last, by the 
way of Liverpool, until two days ago: and since that 
letter contains observations and reflections which in 
dicate the uneasy state of your mind, which I wish 
to remove. I lose no time in giving you my opinions 
without reserve, which you will, I dare say, thiak 


Worthy of your deep and frequent attention, and will 
ponder them in your mind yet oftenerancl more ma 
turely than those relating to the future state of Ame 
rica, with respect to which I find no cause to change 
my opinion." 

" Re-enter, I beseech of you, into your own mind, 
and study more the \ K -ou 6sw than the <roXi 5 <rwv 
ovffMruv. How could you expect unregenerated and 
unsanctified human nature to he any otherwise in 
in the new than in the old hemisphere? How could 
you expect that the spawn of a highly civilized and 
corrupted nation, could, in colonies, formed at a time 
of uncommon corruption in the parent .Mate, should 
resemble in principles and in practice those societies 
that have grown out of a gradual alteration in the 
substance of original union among men in th c infan 
cy, of society; and which in the lapse of ten or 
twelve centuries, have passed through all the differ 
ent states of wandering families, feeding on kernels 
and fruits; of barbarous hunters; more innocent ten 
ders of flocks and herds; of husbandmen; and lastly 
of manufacturers and traders, united in great, weal 
thy and luxurious empires, tending again, continual 
ly, towards destruction and separation by corruption, 
of manners; while the wheel is again to be revolved 
in the same eventful manner, perhaps for ages?" 

"Why do you perplex your understanding, and 
wound your feelings by brooding over, and inquiring 
needlessly into the obliquities of mankind in the 
place of your residence? Were you in Scotland, or 
in any part of Europe, that your imagination might 
picture, as more suited to your taste, do you think 
you would not discover all the same roguery, the 


same disinclination to good learning, and the same 
errors and vices that elms; to society wherever it is 
formed upon the face of this planet, and, 1 suppose, 
upon the face of all the myriads of globes that elude 
the minutest research of our modern astronomers? 
No, sir, you cannot, after a moment s reflection, ex 
pect any material change upon the general construc 
tion of human society; nor do those Scriptures on 
which I hope and believe you depend for your best 
information with respect to futurity, give you any 
reason to look for such changes on this side of that 
which bids defiance to, and renders absurd all our 
speculations upon such inscrutable subjects." 

"From your youth you destined your life to the 
service of religion and virtue, by preaching the ever 
lasting Gospel, and exemplifying its precepts in your 
dealings and conduct in society. Re-enter into your 
own mil;;!, and renew your covenant to preach that 
Gospel faithfully, and to practice its precepts in your 
life, without perplexing yourself with needless dis 
contents concerning the crookedness and perversity 
of human nature. Who told you that the way was 
wide ant! easily practised, that leads to perfection and 
to everlasting felicity? Only Hie foolish philoso 
pher and the idle specula/ ist in politics. Follow 
rather Him who tells us that the way is narrow and 
aspcrous that leads to life, and that there be few in 
deed who find it. Seek you, therefore, to enter in 
at that gate, and give but an inattentive ear to any of 
the idle reasonings that, draw us from the contempla 
tion of the Supreme Beatitude. Hold Seneca in one 
hand, and Saint Paul in the other; and look up to 
Heaven for direction and for happiness. You cannot 


now desert the charge which, in mature age, you 
chose upon your bended knees, in dependence upon 
the Divine blessing, to set forward the improvement 
of a great but infant state. Make a Palinodium to the 
society you are connected with, not to utter a sylla 
ble, in word or in writing, to your discomfiture, but 
in action for your comfort, which, notwithstanding 
the circumstances you mention, will, I am persuaded, 
remove any of the troubles you complain of, and 
enable you to be still useful in the promotion of piety, 
virtue, and useful learning." 

" Dedicate your leisure to the study of nature and 
its glorious Author, and fence yourself against the 
various evils of life, by that Divine philosophy of the 
soul, which uniting it by grace to the eternal Foun 
tain of wisdom and consolation, will support you un 
der every trial, and render the evening, and the very 
close of your ministry, and of life, delightful. In the 
turbulence of society, you must ever expect many 
disagreeable disappointments and vexations, and eve 
ry thing about you will be subject to change, as it 
has been to all mankind ever since the beginning of 
the world. But remember that Jesus Christ is the 
same yesterday, to-day and forever. You say you 
have health, and long may you have it! I never 
enjoyed much health from my infancy, and 1 have 
been unsuccessful in all my undertakings, except 
that of dedicating myself, body and soul, to the ser 
vice of God, in the performance of his will in bene 
volence to his creatures. Yet I complain not of man 
kind. I look up to my Father which is in Heaven, 
and see nothing but his power and his goodness in 
the government of the Universe, and look forward to 


the grave with something more and better than phi 
losophic indifference. Lady Buchan joins me in 
good wishes for your health and happiness." " I re 
main, your sincere friend," " BUCHAN. " 
" To the Rev. Dr. Nisbet, $c." 

From the Same. 

" Dryburgh rfbbey, June 28, 1791." 
" Reverend and Dear Sir," 

" I cannot allow any opportunity of writing to you 
to pass. This will be handed to you by Mr. Archi 
bald Robertson, painter of Aberdeen, whom, as re 
commended to me by my learned friend, Mr. Pro 
fessor Ogilvie, of King s College, Aberdeen, I desire 
to recommend to the honour and pleasure of your 
countenance in America." 

I am happy to think you are now more agreeably 
situated than formerly; and if you can persuade your 
self of what I know to be true, that Britian is not 
worthy of the residence of the friends of a free con 
stitution of government, you will reconcile yourself 
to that of America, with all the inconveniences you 
have so justly depicted." 

" I have written, in the 21st. number of the Bee, a 
monitory paper on America, which may, perhaps, 
reach your College. I beg leave to reccommed 
the Bee to your attention and patronage in your 
neighbourhood. I hope you will encourage Book 
Societies in your town and neighbourhood, and the 
public Libraries will multiply apace, which will 
disseminate useful knowledge." 

" As Britian has been, since the Christmas of 1783, 
in a deep sleep of politics, I can send you no news. 


All around us the voice of Freedom is heard; but 
with ^ts nothing is relished but vile effeminacy and 
lubricity of manners. So here, Doctor, I present you 
with a Rowland for your Oliver. Rest, and be 

"Lady Buchan joins me in kind wishes; and I 
always am, Rev. and dear Principal, with great re 
gard, your obedient humble servant/ 

" Principal Nisbet, 
Carlisle College." 

But of all Dr. Nisbet s correspondents in Great 
Britain, the most persevering and punctual was the 
venerable Dr. Erskine, of Edinburgh, one of the 
most pious and public spirited men of his day. 
That gentleman probably maintained a more exten 
sive correspondence with American clergymen than 
any other European Divine. And probably, no pri 
vate man on the other side of the Atlantic ever sent 
so many books gratuitously to this country as Dr. 
Erskine. He probably had twenty or thirty corres 
pondents in different parts of the United States; and 
it is believed that almost every letter he wrote was 
accompanied by a package of books; "some of them 
for his correspondents themselves; and others for the 
public libraries of Colleges and other institutions, to 
which he was constantly remitting rare and curious 
books. Of this he never made any parade; as he was 
one of the most modest, as well as most pious of men. 
But it is a fact which ought to be known and remem 
bered by the friends of theological learning and li- 
erary taste in the United States. He was a punctual 


and affectionate correspondent of the elder President 
Edwards, to whom he sent, from time to time, a 
number of scarce and important hooks no whereto 
he found in America. And after the death of that 
illustrious divine, whose praise is in all the Protest 
ant world, he continued to direct especial attention 
to correspondence with the friends of religion in this 
country, until his death in 1S03, about one year be 
fore the decease of the subject of this Memoir. 

The three following letters are from his ever busy 
and ready pen: 

" Laurislon* rfpril 2\, 1789" 
" Rev. and dear Sir," 

" I have before me your letters of September 16th, 
and December 29th, 17SS. It has been an exciting 
and remarkable time in Britain since the beginning 
of November. On the 5th of that month, by ap 
pointment of the last Genral Assembly, a Thanks 
giving was observed through Scotland, for the Re 
volution in 1GSS. Most, or rather all of your old 
friends were hearty in the measure; as was Dr. Blair, 
on the other side, and many more. But my col- 
leognet was, throughout, cold, or rather unfriendly 
to the scheme, perhaps from the fear that on such an 
occasion, whig principles would be zealously incul 
cated. In fact they were so by Mr. Kemp, Mr. 
Jones, and several others in our Presbytery. Your 

* Dr. Erskinc s residence was in Edinburgh; Lanriston was a little 
rural retreat near the city. 

j- His colleague was the celebrated Dr. William Robertson, the his 
torian, and Principal of the University of Edinburgh, 


friend J chiefly considered the evils of Popery, the 
imminent danger of these evils, and the remarkable 
deliverance. My colleague, Mr. Greenfield, and 
some others, chiefly considered the influence of the 
Revolution in promoting just ideas of liberty, and in 
extending liberality of sentiment. And this has 
been much the tone of the printed sermons on this 
occasion. None of them, except Mr. Pedie r s, who 
succeeded Mr. Pattison, pleased my taste." 

" The joys of Nov. 5th, were soon turned into 
sorrow, by the king s dangerous illness. Seldom 
were more general and sincere prayers put up for the 
recovery of a Prince. This was occasioned, not only 
by fears of the unsettled government which often 
happens under a Regency, but by the virtuous pri 
vate character of the king and queen, aad the king s 
late proclamation against Sabbath breaking; the gen 
eral approbation of the measures of Mr. Pitt; the 
danger apprehended by some, lest a new administra 
tion might not have pursued his plans with regard to 
foreign* alliances, and the reduction of the national 
debt;, to which I might add, a growing conviction 
that the American war was occasiond by inform 
ation, false indeed, but which it was natural for 
the king and ministry to credit. No good change 
was expected by a Regency, unless, perhaps, in Scot 
land, where my friend Mr. H. E. would probably 
have succeeded Mr. H. D. whose high talents are so 
much obscured by his habits and manners." 

" Church affairs here, as well as civil, would have 
probably fallen into better hands. But we could 

t Meaning himself. 


hardly hope that the great affairs of the British 
Empire would he hotter conducted. Fears were in 
creased by a belief that the Duke of Portland, and 
Mr. Fox had less of the Prince of Wales s ear. for 
some time past, than Mr. Sheridan. But the anx 
iety of disinterested friends of the public, and their 
deep concern on account of the king s illness was 
soon ended by a recovery next to miraculous, for 
which last Thursday \vas observed as a day of Thanks 
giving. My subject on that day, was the improve 
ment we ought to make of Gods changing the times 
and seasons. I herewith send you a few books. I 
commit them to your discretion, excepting that I 
do not wish the work of Clodius to be put into a 
public library. He is half way over to the German 
Rationalists, as they call themselves." 
" I am, dear Sir, 

" Yours, affectionately/ 

" Rev. Dr. Nisbet." 

From the same. 

" Lauriston, Jan. 25, 1791." 
" Dear Sir," 

I sent you, on the 21st of July, my Hints and 
Sketches of Church History and two or three other 
books, to the care of Mr. Campbell, of New-York. 
I have since received yours of June, 1790, and thank 
you sincerely for so long and entertaining a letter, to 
one who only sends you scraps. The magistrates of 
Edinburgh, returning to the plan of presenting, are 
likely in time to fill our vacant pulpits, so as to empty 
our Churches of many of the most sound, serious and 


judicious Christians. Our last vacancy is supplied 
by Mr. Finlayson, Professor of Logick, who is surely 
an adept in that science, if bold assertions, iU natured 
inuendoes, and unbecoming levity may pass for argu 
ment. I3r. Henry died two months ago; and, it is 
said, has left another volume of his History nearly 
ready for the press. He was a bold, able and honest 

man. Provost S. intended Mr. R . of D . 

as his successor; in gratitude for the attention he paid 

to his son s education. But, though Mr. R has 

considerable abilities, especially as one acquainted 
with the fine arts, people have in general thought 
so lowly of his pulpit and theological talents, that 
Provost S very wisely gave it up, and Mr. S. of 
L. came to Edinburgh; one of the same sentiments 
as to Church policy, but less violent, and a much su 
perior preacher. Mr. S of L died suddenly on 
a scaffold, where he was accompanying his daughter 
to see the last races. He was one of a decent minis 
terial behaviour, and of sound sentiments; but of 
second rate abilities; and his usefulness was much 
impaired by his being often held in leading strings 
by men more crafty than himself. The Session and 
Corporation of L. have been prevailed upon to elect 
or the second charge Mr. T. M , son of Dr. M , 
through fear that, otherwise, Mr. D would not get 
the presentation to the first charge. Mr. M. thinks 
Calvinism the only rational and consistent scheme of 
Christianity. He will make a more eloquent, though, 
perhaps, less plain preacher than Mr. S . His style 
and manner are as animated as his father s are dull. 
The father would be the better of the son s polish; 
aad the son would not be the worse for studying 


scripture as critically as his father does. We made 
a great acquisition, two years ago, by Mr. B of 
S succeeding Dr. M in the Cannongate. Mr. 
S of W , an excellent and able man, has gone to 
S ." 

" My Sketches have been favourably received 
by those who attend to Theology and Church His 
tory, unless a certain party, through whose influence, 
perhaps, no account of them has yet appeared either 
in the monthly or Critical Reviews. I have consi 
derable materials collected for a second volume, but 
have not yet advanced far in reducing them to order, 
and preparing them for the press." 

" I now send you, to Mr. Campbell s care, a pack 
age of books, which I hope you will receive in 

" I am, dear sir, yours, affectionately," 

Rev. Dr. Nisbet." 

From the same. 

" Laurision, October 29th, 1791." 
" Dear Sir," 

" I hope you received my parcel of July 26th. I 
have had no letter from you since. Much about the 
time of my writing you, worthy Mr. Grant, of Ochil- 
tree, died. The pious Patroness, Lady Glenorchy, 
applied, as formerly, to Dr. H and me for advice 
as to filling the vacancy. If I had been sole in the 
nomination, 1 should certainly have recommended 

Mr. R , of K , Mr. C , or some other, 

whose good behaviour in a Chapel of Ease, or in a 
charge in the establishment, where a good successor 



was probable, merited that distinction. But it was 
necessary we should recommend persons known to 
us both; and it would have had a bad appearance if 
those who had studied under Dr. H had been over 
looked. On that account, we recommended Messrs. 
- and L , as the two most proper persons for 
that parish, in the opinion of both of us. I wished 
the success of the last, as the most learned and zeal 
ous; but I believe the best ministers in the city and 
suburbs differed from me, as they considered the first 
as more prudent. The three last ministers who have 

come to Edinburgh are Dr. G , Mr. F , and Mr. 

S . Mr. M. Junior, who succeeded Mr. , of L. 

six months ago, preached an able sermon on the ad 
mission of Mr. S two weeks ago. I think my 
colleague (Principal Robertson) preaches with as 
much distinctness and vigour as ever, though his 
deafness much deprives him of the pleasures of so 
ciety. Mr. McCulloch, of Dairsie, has published 
Lectures on the first twelve chapters of the Pro 
phecy of Isaiah, in one octavo volume. If this vo 
lume succeeds, he intends to continue his Lectures 
on the rest of the Book. They contain no new cri 
ticisms, or augmmlum scicntiarum; but I hope 
will be useful to ordinary readers. I hear that Whi- 
taker, the author of a " History of Manchester," 
sometime since published, has just published a " His 
tory of Arianism." 

"The Birmingham riots show the strange blind 
zeal, not only of those engaged in the horrible scenes, 
but of many Church-of-England divines, and some 
Dissenters, who have treated these outrages in too 
tender a manner, and without proper expressions 


of detestation. Carnal weapons are not the proper 
means to bring every thought into captivity to the 
obedience of Christ." 

" I was remarkably free from colds last winter; but 
in May and part of June I have been distressed with 
rheumatic pains. Since these subsided, I have been 
troubled with bowel and stomach complaints. They 
have not, however, hindered my preaching regu 

" I have the pleasure of sending herewith a pack 
age of books; particularly some new works from 
Germany, which I hope will be interesting to you, 
both on the score of instruction and entertainment." 

" My wife and daughters, and my son David, join 
in offering to you and Mrs. Nisbet, and all your 
family, our best wishes." 

" I am, dear sir, yours, sincerely," 

" Pev. Dr. Nisbet." 

That Dr. Nisbet enjoyed the affectionate friend 
ship of the celebrated Dr. Beattie, of Aberdeen, was 
mentioned in a preceding chapter. This friendship 
did not terminate with Dr. Nisbet s departure from 
Britain. As a specimen of their correspondence, the 
following letters, it is presumed, will not be uninter 
esting to the reader. 

"Aberdeen, lOl/i August, 1788: Sunday." 
" Dear Sir," 

" I wish it were in my power to show any civili 
ties to Mrs. Craig, or to any person recommended 
by you. But in the present case I am deprived of 


the pleasure of doing so, by the lady s resolution 
of setting out immediately on her return to Ame 
rica. She arrived here at a time when I was from 
home; and I never heard of her till yesterday, when 
she did me the honour to call upon me, and inform me, 
to my very great regret, that finding things here not 
exactly as she wished and expected, she was to set 
out with her child on Monday morning early in the 
Fly for Edinburgh, and thence make all haste to 
Greenock, as the ship in which she intended to be a 
passenger would sail about the middle of this month. 
Thus I am deprived of the means of cultivating her 
acquaintance, from which I am sure I should have 
derived great satisfaction. " 

" Your letter is a very short one, but I thank you 
for it. The sight of your hand-writing recals a thou 
sand a greeable circumstances to my memory. Your 
departure for America gave me concern, and was in 
deed a disappointment; for a few days before you 
went, you informed me by letter, that you would 
not go. I am happy to hear that your health is bet 
ter, and that things are so well with you. Mrs. 
Craig informs me, to my great joy, that at Philadel 
phia there is peace and opulence, and every appear 
ance of public prosperity. The country you are now 
in has great resources, and I hope they shall, and 
heartily wish they may, be rightly improved." 

" When you have leisure, you would do me a great 
favour by giving me some account of your schools 
and colleges, the state of literature and your methods 
of education. From this country I can send you 
nothing new; but every thing will be so to me which 
you are so good as to send me from yours. I re- 


member nothing particular that has happened of late 
to any of the friends you left behind you. My bro 
ther-in-law and sister, and what remains of their 
family, are well. You would hear of poor James 
Valentine s fate; he perished in a hurricane off Ja 
maica the very day on which he was promoted to the 
command of a ship. His brother has not been so 
fortunate as we could have wished, or as his great 
abilities in his profession seemed to deserve; howev 
er he is pretty well, and commands a vessel that 
goes alternately to the Mediterranean and the Haltic. 
His sister commonly lives with me; but is just now, 
with my boy Montagu, on a visit to her father and 
mother at Montrose. My elder yon was last year 
appointed my assistant, and successor. It was what 
he wished himself, and it is an office for which he is 
eminently well qualified. The King presented him 
to it, upon the unanimous recommendation of the 
college. I mention these particulars relating to my 
family in order to stimulate you to give me intelli 
gence equally minute with regard to yours; for I am 
greatly interested in their welfare, and beg leave to 
offer my compliments and IK .VL wii-hes to them all. 
Our old friend, Charles Keith, is settled as a physician 
at Morpath, and does very well. I passed two days 
with him last year. Thomson is semper idem, that 
is to say, worse and worse; he drinks as much as pos 
sible, and does nothing else. David Yv alker. I am 
sorry to hear, has stopped payments." 

" If you have a convenient opportunity, I would 
trouble you to present my humble service to that 
venerable and wonderful man, Dr. Franklin, to whom 
I had the honour to be known about seventeen years 


ago in London; to our Reverend friend Dr. Wither* 
spoon, and to Dr. Rush, Professor of Chemistry at 
Philadelphia, to whom I am under great obligations." 

"Adieu, my dear sir. It is not likely that you 
and I shall meet any more in this world; but let us 
write to one another sometimes, and think of one 
another often." 

" Most faithfully and affectionately, yours," 

" The Rev. Dr. Nisbet." 

P. S. " This has been the finest summer I ever 
remember to have seen; and all over Great Britain 
there is every appearance of an early and most plen 
tiful harvest." 

From the same. 

" Peterhead, July 2d, 1792." 
Dear Sir," 

"I cannot tell you how much I am gratified by 
your very kind remembrance of me, and how much 
I have been entertained by your two excellent let 
ters. Be assured, that though a dilatory writer, I 
am not conscious of any diminution in my affection 
for you; that I often think of you; and that when I 
meet with any of our common friends, I often speak 
of you in terms which you would not dislike. For 
reasons that will occur to yourself, I cannot give a 
particular detail of the reflections suggested by the 
very interesting information with which you have 
favoured me. I shall only say, that it coincides, ex 
actly with the conjectures I had formed, and the in 
telligence I have received from some others; and 


that my principles on the subjects in question, are 
the same with yours." 

" You are pleased lo speak favourably of the first 
volume of the Elements of Moral Science. The 
second is now in the hands of the printer. 1 will 
endeavour to send you both. What I have said in 
the second on Slavery, and on the principles of Po 
litics, will not please every body; but I have honest 
ly given the sentiments which I have been teaching 
and pondering for thirty years and upwards; and 
they are sentiments in which, the more I see and 
hear of this changeable world, the more I am con 

" I need not give you any of the public news of 
this country: you will see all that in the newspapers. 
Our national prosperity is, just now, greater than I 
have ever known it: and nothing is wanting to make 
us a very happy people, but a right sense of that 
prosperity, and gratitude to that good Providence 
which bestows it. But we are evil and unthankful; 
and too many of us are not only discontented, but 
turbulent. Both in religion and in politics, we are 
pestered with foolish theories; the effect of levity 
and ignorance. If we could read more Greek and 
Latin, and less French; more histories, and fewer 
novels; and if we could speak less, and think more, 
it wouul be a good thing for us. The theories of 
the present time often put me in mind of that old 
sophist, (you will remember his name, though I do 
not) who took it upon him to give Hannibal a lec 
ture on the military art. The harangue was much 
admired by the author, and by such of his audience 
as knew nothing of practical tactics. The Cartha- 


ginian, however, bluntly said, that he never before 
had met with a blockhead so ignorant; and so con 

" You will be glad to hear that my sister, and her 
son and daughter are in their usual health. My bro 
ther-in-law, now in his 86th year, though he has been 
confined to bed these five years, eats well, and sleeps 
well, and is perfectly easy, contented and happy. 
Socinianism flourishes mightily at Montrose; the 

, who are all become authors, are the great 

apostles of that church. Our old friend died 

last winter of a fever. His son, who is in a very 
thriving way, offered to supply him with as much 
gin and porter as he could swallow; but the heroic 
Charles wandered from alehouse to alehouse, and 
tippled to the end of the chapter." 

" Of myself, I have nothing good to say. That 
old vertigo of my head (as you have often told me) 
will never leave me until I am dead. But I have so 
many other complaints that I cannot expect to be 
long here. About eighteen months ago, I was visi 
ted with an affliction, which, though I am entirely 
resigned to the will of Providence, has broken my 
heart. My son (whom you will remember) died at 
that time, of a consumption. His illness lasted a 
year, during which time I was always with him. He 
had every advantage that could be derived from affec 
tionate attendants and able physicians, and every 
thing was procured for him that the faculty recom 
mended; but all was vain. The king appointed him 
my assistant in the College five years ago; and an 
able assistant he was. Indeed, to all who were well 
acquainted with him, he was the object of admiration 


and delight. The inscription which I wrote for his 
tombstone contains his character in brief; and I as 
sure you without any exaggeration. It is in these 

JATOHO HAY BEATTIE, Jacob! filio: 
Philosoph. in A cad. Marischal Professor!. 


Ea modest i a, 

Ea suavitate morum, 

Ea bcnevolentia erga onincs, 

1 t humanum nihil supra. 

In bonis litcris, 

In Theologia, 

In omne Philosophia, 


Poetoe insuper, 

Kebus in levioribus faceto, 

In grandioribus sublime. 

Qui placidam animam efllavit 

XIXNovemb: MDCCXC : 

Annos habens XXII, diesque XIII. 

Pater mu-rens hoc marmor posuit. 

" I have collected and arranged as many of his pa 
pers as will justify every particular of this character; 
and intend, for the use of my friends, to print sixty 
or a hundred copies, one of which will be sent to 
you. It will bo either one pretty large volume, or 
two small ones; and, if I live, will be put to the press 
next winter. The epitaph touches upon the more 
important parts only of his character; but I will take 
the liberty to inform you further, that he was an able 
chemist, botanist, anatomist, profoundly skilled in 
the theory of music, an excellent performer on the 
violin and organ, an elegant drawer, a master of 
Greek and L.atin, a proficient in the French tongue, 


an admirable public speaker, expert in fishing, fow 
ling and fencing, and such a mechanic, that, two 
years before his death, he superintended the building 
of a very good organ for himself. In wit and hu 
mour he was not inferior to you; and though his 
piety, modesty and delicacy were exemplary; he re 
tained, even when he came to be a man, all the cheer 
fulness and playfulness of a boy. His poems are 
partly English and partly Latin; for he composed 
with equal ease in both languages. He foresaw his 
death long before it came, and met it with true Chris 
tian meekness and resignation. All this may seem 
extraordinary; but it is all literally true, as many 
persons now alive can testify." 

" I send this under cover to my friend, the Bishop 
of London, who will frank it as far as his privilege 
extends, that is, I suppose, to Falmouth." 

" With best wishes to Mrs. Nisbet and your fami 
ly, I ever am, dear sir, your affectionate humble 
servant, J. BEATTIE." 

" Rev. Dr. Nisbet, 

Principal of Carlisle College, Pennsylvania." 

In the year 1790, Dr. Nisbet s eldest daughter, 
Mary, was married to William Turnbull, Esquire, 
a native of Scotland, who had been for a number of 
years a respectable merchant of Philadelphia; at that 
time resident in the city of Pittsburgh. This proved 
a happy marriage. And although the subject of this 
memoir, up to this time, and even several years after 
wards, continued to be importuned by some of his 
friends on the other side of the Atlantic, to return to 
Scotland, as will be seen by letters to b.e hereafter 


introduced; yet his advancing age; his almost invin 
cible aversion to a sea voyage; and the happy settle 
ment of his daughter in this country; concurred with 
a variety of other circumstances to bind him to the 
United States, and to render him less and less dispo 
sed to withdraw from the important station to which 
he had been called. He saw, too, that while the 
American Union was agitated by party violence, and 
by what he deemed unwise governmental measures; 
his native country, and, indeed, the whole civilized 
world, were agitated in a similar manner, and by 
similar means. There was little hope, then, of bet 
tering his situation by returning to the old world. 
At the same time, the ties which bound him to the 
new, were becoming, every day, more strong and 
more interesting/ 




His residence in the United States continued. 

IT was in the Autumn of the year 1791, that the 
acquaintance of the author of this Memoir with the 
venerable subject of it commenced. The author 
had, anterior to this, pursued his Theological studies 
under the direction of a beloved and venerated Pa 
rent, near Dover in Delaware, his native place. On 
the decease of that parent, who had been the pastor 
of the Presbyterian church in Dover for nearly half 
a century, and after having received license to preach 
the Gospel, he determined to avail himself, for at 
least a few months, of the conversation and guidance 
of the distinguished man, whose learning, and whose 
course of Theological Lectures, had received so large 
a share of public approbation. For this purpose, in 
the month of November, of the year above mention 
ed, he repaired to Carlisle, and found Dr. Nisbet in 
good health and spirits, and busily engaged in his 
labours as the Head of Dickinson College, the winter 
session of which had, a few weeks before, commen 

He had never until then seen the eminent man 
whose instruction he sought. He expected to find 
so much learning connected with reserved and formal, 
if not repulsive manners; but was agreeably surprised 
to find Dr. Nisbet as affable, as easy of access, as sim- 


pie and unostentatious in his manners, and as attrac 
tive in all the intercourse of social life, as any man he 
had ever seen. He received llie inexperienced young 
Licentiate, with all the condescension and kindness 
of a parent; and after the first hour, placed him as 
much at his ease, as if he had lieen hanging on the 
lips of that parent according to the flesh, whose loss 
he had recently been called to mourn. 

Such were the habits and manners of this venera 
ble man, and also of his amiable family, that the 
writer, from the first day of his arrival in Carlisle, 
felt himself at home in his presence. His practice, 
in ordinary cases, was regularly, every evening, to 
sit with nim in his domestic circle two or three 
hours. And on whatever subject he might desire 
information, whether in Theology or Literature, 
ancient or modern, he had but to propose the topic, 
and suggest queries, to draw forth every thing that 
he wished. Nor were Dr. Nis oet s instructive com 
munications of that declaiming or preaching kind 
which some learned men are fond of exhibiting, but 
which can scarcely with propriety be called "conver 
sation," since they are all on one side. They pre 
sented a constant flow of rich amusement and infor 
mation, and yet so entirely free from ostentation, 
dogmatism, or pedantry, that every listener, was at 
once instructed, entertained and gratified. Prob 
ably no man on this side of the Atlantic ever brought 
into the social circle, such diversified and ample 
stores of erudition; such an extraordinary know 
ledge of men, and books, and opinions; such an ama 
zing fund of rare and racy anecdotes; and all poured 
out with so much unstudied simplicity; with such 


constant flashes of wit and humour; and with such a 
peculiar mixture of satire and good nature, as kept 
every company whether young or old hanging upon 
his lips, and doing constant homage to his wonderful 

Sometimes, when in the midst of these delightful 
effusions, a new visitor would step in, and introduce 
a new topic of discourse, it was wonderful with what 
facility he could change the train of conversation; 
strike upon a new and rich vein of thought; and ex 
cite new and endless surprise by his intellectual re 
sources. And if any member of the circle attempted 
to enter the lists with him as a competitor in either 
wit or learning, as was sometimes the case with those 
who did not " know their man," he soon manifested, 
with perfect good humour, with what entire ease 
he could distance every one on either track. Of 
scenes of this kind, the writer of this Memoir has 
been so often a witness, that he cannot call them to 
mind at the present hour without mixed feelings of 
surprise and admiration. 

He was ld, too, in consequence of the strong im 
pressions then made by the instructions of the living 
teacher, to doubt whether the popular estimate of the 
means of knowledge anterior to the discovery of the 
Art of Printing, is not, in some measure, both inade 
quate and incorrect. There were then, ind eed, few 
books. Their scarcity and costliness rendered them 
wholly inaccessible to a-ny but the wealthy and the 
powerful. However eager a poor man s desire for 
knowledge, he could very seldom obtain it by read 
ing. We are, perhaps, sometimes ready to carry 
our pity for them on this score to an extreme. They 


were, indeed, destitute of a privilege of immense 
importance. But the multiplication of hooks has its 
drawbacks as well as its advantages. They had an 
other source of instruction in some respects superior 
to that which we now enjoy. They were in the 
constant habit of travelling to different and distant 
parts of the world, as far as they were able; and of 
conversing and disputing with I lie greatest and most 
learned men wherever they went. Thus the ancient 
Greeks and Romans, anterior to the advent of the 
Saviour, pursued knowledge. Thus Roger Bacon, 
John Duns Scotus, and many of the most profound 
men of the middle and subsequent ages, constantly 
sought to strengthen and furni.-h their minds. They 
went to different Universities, residing several years 
in each, for the purpose of free, unreserved personal 
intercourse with the great men in each; that they 
might not only gain the knowledge which these men 
possessed, and were ready to impart; but that they 
might, by the literary and scientific conflicts, in other 
words, by the intellectual pugilism, then fashionable, 
acquire a wakeful ness, an adroitness, and a vigour of 
mental acl ion which unceasing oral disputation is pe 
culiarly adapted to nurture. It is not intended in 
these remarks, as all will understand, to undervalue 
books. Thev are a gift of inestimable value. Butitis 
intended to estimate more highly than many seem in 
clined to do, personal communications and conflicts; 
and to represent the latter source of instruction as pre 
ferable, on some accounts, to books. The knowledge 
acquired by unlimited reading, may be more exten 
sive; but that which is gained by conversation, and es 
pecially by unreserved discussion and oral controver- 


ay with superior minds, will generally befound tohave 
about it a life, a distinctness, a clearness, and an adhe 
sion to the mind, which do not ordinarily appear in an 
equal degree in the mere devourer of books. It is cer 
tain that the writer of this Memoir, when he left Car 
lisle, in the spring of 1792, carried with him a deeper 
impression than he ever had before, of the immense 
advantage to be derived from coming into contact 
daily with an acute, active and richly furnished mind, 
from which, as much might be learned in one hour, 
(especially on subjects concerning which books rare 
and difficult of access, are the only sources of in 
struction from reading,) as from the private study 
of a week. He left it also with no small regret 
that he had not derived from the enjoyment of 
this privilege more ample benefit; and a conviction, 
that if he had been more aware of its value at the 
time, and more awake to its importance, it might 
have been made far more productive of fruit than it 
was. Alas! it was with him, as with most others, 
that the most precious advantages are seldom ade 
quately appreciated until the possession of them is 

Happy are they, who, sensible of the defects of an 
intellectual culture formed by mere reading, habitu 
ate themselves to the mingling of reading with close 
thought; to independent inquiry; to impartial can 
vassing and sifting of the opinions proposed in books; 
to pausing, and comparing book with book; and, as 
far as possible, to the conversation of sound and strong 
minds, accustomed to think, and disdaining to walk 
in trammels. Without these adjuncts to reading, 
there is little hope of forming that robust mental 


structure; that intellectual promptness, vigour, and ac 
tivity which so eminently characterized men formed 
in the middle ages, by travel, by oral communication, 
and by personal conflict, 

The compiler of this volume has never seen a man 
so well adapted to benefit those around him, in these 
respects, as Dr. Nisbet. The rapidity and force of 
his mind in conversation; the pre-eminent richness 
of his mental furniture; his vivacity; his wit; his in 
exhaustible store of striking anecdotes, and of happy 
classical allusions, rendered him at all times a most 
instructive and entertaining companion; and served 
more indelibly to impress upon the mind what came 
from his lips than from those of almost any other 


The writer was not so happy as to enjoy the pri 
vilege of hearing any part of Dr. Nisbet s course of 
theological lectures. Their delivery had been com 
pleted ten months before he took up his temporary 
abode in Carlisle; and they were never repeated to a 
second class. A number of individual students, in 
deed, from time to time, resorted to him for direc 
tion in their studies; but the regular formation of a 
theological class was never again accomplished. The 
reasons of this reflected little credit on the youthful 
candidates for the ministry at that time. Some were 
discouraged by the prospect of a course of study 
which was to extend to between two and three years! 
This seemed a long time to those who imagined that 
an adequate course of theological instruction might 
be brought within a much shorter compass, and whose 
parents, still more impatient, could not be persuaded 
that such a long, and, as they thought, tedious train- 


ing could be necessary (o prepare candidates for the 
ministry for their work. They saw some other de 
nominations, with none of these advantages, and in* 
deed with scarcely an} study, sending forth scores of 
popular men; and hastily supposed that so much pro 
tracted labour in preparing for the ministry could not 
be needful. 

It was understood, too, that the requisition of the 
learned and venerable lecturer, that every member 
of his Theological class should commit to writing the 
whole of each Lecture, as it fell from his lips, was 
regarded with aversion, and deemed a drudgery too 
severe to be pursued through several years. This 
requisition would never have been made in other 
circumstances. But the Lecturer well knew that 
books were extremely scarce, especially in the west 
ern parts of our country ; and that, therefore, the pos- 
tcssion of a complete system of Theology, prepared 
with great care, would be a treasure of permanent 
and peculiar value. Even this, however, was not 
properly appreciated by short-sighted young men, 
and still more short-sighted parents. On these ac 
counts, a second class was never formed; and, al 
though the Lectures in question were copied by seve 
ral Theological students who had not the privilege of 
hearing them delivered, and were read in manuscript 
by a number of the neighbouring divines, they were 
never again repeated in public. 

When we contemplate the deplorable mistake un 
der which a large portion of American candidates for 
the ministry, as well as others, appear to labour re 
specting the requisite extent of professional study, 
we cannot wonder that enlightened and reflecting 


men regard it as deeply humiliating. That this mis 
take should still conlinue to be indulged bv so m;niy 
theological students, after all thai has been said and 
done by the General Assembly of ihe Church, as 
well as by individual ministers, to correct the evil, 
is indeed astonishing, and only to he accounted for 
on principles which reflect great discredit on the 
judgment of those who allow themselves to be the 
dupes of the error in question. When one who un 
derstands the nature and importance of mature study, 
sees so many of our aspirants to the sacred office con 
tenting themselves with a superficial course, can he 
be at any loss to explain why it is that so large a pro 
portion of their number are consigned to obscurity, 
and comparative uselessness all their days; why their 
leanness appears so conspicuous in all their public 
and private ministrations? 

No one, of course, will wonder, that Dr. Nish:t, 
after coming immediately from the Colleges and 
Theological Halls of North Britain, in which a train 
ing so extended and mature was then, and still is, 
demanded, should have been surprized and deeply 
revolted at the superficial plans and habits of stu:ly 
which he was constrained continuall} to witness, and 
yet had not the power to correct. Had he not felt and 
spoken respecting this infatuation very much as he 
did, it would have warranted an imputation either on 
his discernment or his faithfulness. If he fell into 
any mistake on this subject, perhaps it was in not 
making a more adequate allowance for the intrinsic 
difficulties of the case; and in not setting himself to 
obviate the evil by means more accommodated to the 
state of things on this side of the Atlantic, than those 


which were suited to European habits. It was, fits 
doubt, a severe trial to a man long accustomed to the 
best literary society, to ample libraries, and to bands 
of youth taking large views, and cherishing ardent 
desires of knowledge; to find so many of the young 
men committed to his care unwilling to submit to the 
labour of study ; complaining of hardship when it was 
required of them; and considering it as a great pri 
vilege to bear the name, and be decorated with the 
honour of college students, with few or none of their 
appropriate attainments. Who, in similar circum 
stances, could have had reason to be confident that 
he would have been more patient, or less disposed to 
direct toward the glaring evil the artillery of indig 
nant wit and withering sarcasm, than was this great 
and good man? 

The following letter from Lady Leven is the last 
found among Doctor Nisbet s papers from that excel 
lent and remarkable woman. The infirmities of age 
were now creeping upon her; her health soon after 
wards declined; and although her decease did not 
occur until 179S, her latter years, it is believed, were 
passed in much feebleness. 

" Melville House, August 22d, 1793." 
" Dear Sir," 

" I have just received your letter and parcel, which 
has roused me as from a dream, and awakened in n.e 
sincere regret for having never acknowledged your 
former long letter. To convince you that I had in 
tended it, 1 send this sheet, upon which 1 had begun 
an answer; but having let that opportunity slip, have 
never found a more convenient season. I think my- 


self that I have become unfit fur writing letters. If 
ever I had any capacity that way, it is much impair 
ed. But I cease from apologies, and admire your 
goodness in forgiving this seeming neglect ; but in 
deed there is nothing rc-iil in it. You have laid mo 
under a great obligit o:i by the treasure you have 
sent me, and tor which I return a great many thanks. 
I have not yet proved them; but I know they need 
no proof, as (hey arc from the. same tree from which 
I have tas: H[ such sweet fruits formerly." 

" I wonder Mr. Martin di.l nut deliver the com 
mission which I gave him to thank you, and make my 
excuse for not writing v did. He is not 

happy, having gotten his son a preacher and a kirk. 
It gives me groat pleasure to fi:i 1 your health is 
so goo. 1. It s)metimes comes across me that you 
will yet land 0:1 your native shore, and during the 
remainder of your life, enjoy the society of some old 
friends, among whom I rank myself. I am frail and 
feeble a.s to health; at the same time I wonder that I 
am so well. It is, indeed, a singular mercy to be 
free from many of those distresses incident to old 
ago. My dear friend (the Kirl of Leven) is surpris 
ingly healthy; and all my children and grand chil 
dren enjoy good health. I mu<t tell you a circum 
stance that is matter of wonder and praise. Our soil 
John, in the guards, returned to Britain just when 
the army was preparing to attack Valenciennes, which 
was a very unbooked for event by his anxious friends; 
and as comfortable as unexpected. The cause was, 
that three companies were to be raised, and added to 
the regiment; and he was appointed to one of them, 
which gives him the rank of Colonel, besides, 


bringing him home. I leave it to you to reflect 
ho\v this ought to affect lender parents. Yet we 
ought always to rejoice with trembling, not know 
ing where our danger or safety lies; but, in the 
mean time, it is relieving." 

" The situation of our troops before Valenciennes 
engrosses the attention of all ranks and denomina 
tions at present. What wonderful havock and bar 
barities have been committed since I wrote you last! 
What the end of these things will be, is only known 
to Him that knovvelh all things. O that men would 
become wiser and better by the judgments of the 
Lord, since goodness and mercy have failed of bring 
ing them to repentance!" 

" Mr. Martin will write you all the news. I am 
a very bad retailer; and indeed the most rapid 
sketch would fill a volume. I will send you some 
newspapers, in which you will find much true and 
much false The siege of Valenciennes engrosses at 
present the attention and anxiety of the public. May 
Divine mercy prevent dreadful consequences! I dare 
say people in Philadelphia constantly get the news 
papers from Britain. Sio ch newspapers will, of 
course, suit your taste best. We are all quiet at pre 
sent. No sickness or pains are troubling our consti 
tution. It is thought that the many late receipts for 
curing public disorders had a good effect. The 
rights of man have been of more use to show them 
their wrongs (by many just commentaries published 
on this subject) than any method that would have 
been discovered." 

< Aug. 25. The news of the surrender of Valen 
ciennes, came to our ears, and is indeed wonderful 


in oufeyes. I wish it was more believed to be the do 
ing of t be Lord. But nothing yet has been said, in al 
the accounts, which ascribe this wonderful success to a 
higher power than that of man. That such an event 
has been brought about with the loss of so few men, 
is indeed marvellous. I will send you newspapers, 
and leave all remarks to your own invention, which 
is not only fertile, but witty and wise." 

( I have just finished reading your Notes, which 
I had not perused, when I began this letter. I thank 
you very much for them. They have no fault but 
a small one. If ever you favour me with any more, 
you must, if you please, stretch out your hand writ 
ing, in pity to my dun styht. I have great reason, 
however, to be thankful that my sight is no worse. 
My Lord read some of them easily by candle-light. 
Would you have any objection to our publishing 
some parts of these Notes, if Dr. Erskine approved? 
There are some remarks that would be well timed, 
and might be useful. The author might, or might 
not be concealed." 

" Dr. E. published a Sermon sometime ago, which 
he was solicited to do, which I will send you. He 
preached a Sermon at Doctor Robertson s death, 
which, together with a Lecture, were esteemed mas 
ter-piece?, and nothing but the state of his health 
prevents his complying with the many earnest soli 
citations to publish them. It is with much pleasure 
that I venture to cay, he is continuing better, and 
preaches often, though very poorly. He is a won 
derful man! Dr. Gillies is also much recovered. 
He has, at last, been prevailed upon to take an as 
sistant. Mrs. Gillies died last winter, after which 


Mrs. Leslie staid with him near half a year. He is 
always anxious to hear about you." 

" i take for granted that Mr. Martin keeps you in- 
formed with regard to church-matters. 1 hope, in 
time, they will improve, and truth prevail against 
error; as inquiry has been making concerning this 
subject at Drs. Erskine and Hunter, and their party." 

* Oh! it is strange to reflect that America is so 
much in the French interest! I should imagine this 
partiality to be only apparent, and that Britain will 
still have a hold of their hearts. Though parents 
may have been thought harsh and severe in their 
measures, yet they are parents still; and blood is 
stranger than water. as the proverb says. Perhaps 
they may yet unite, and take one of our princes to 
rule over them. What says Nostradamus concern 
ing the present times and prospects? I hope some 
body sent you Mr. Fleming s prophetical conjee- 
lures concerning many things. I have but one 

" Now, that I have entered upon small talk, I 
shall rather tire than either edify or amuse you. It 
is, however, a gratification to me that I have covered 
so much paper, in cracking with my worthy 
friend in a far country; but would much rather doit 
at Melville fire-side. It is always a great pleasure 
to me to hear from you. Let me know what is do 
ing, either public or private; hqw you are now with 
respect to temporal concerns; and how religion ad 
vances, or declines; whether there is any encourage 
ment for good ministers, if we could spare any from 
our vsmall stock. Indeed, it is not the best here that 
generally meet with the greatest encouragement 


Perhaps you could send us a sample of your divines. 
I should like to see some of your raising, if they an 
swer your wishes and care. Many of ours are of 
the fashionable sort, and seem to have learned a new 
creed. I do not know how they can sign the Confes 
sion of Faith with a safe conscience. We do not hear 
many of them preach, but we hear much of them. 
Their burden, indeed, seems to be light, and they 
seem to have laid aside every weight, and all beset 
ting sins, and teach me so to do; but not in the way 
that He teaches who taught as never man taught, 
and that cannot be learned by the precepts of men. 
They have never yet learned of Him who said: 
Take my yoke upon you. Though I fear this 
class of divines, old and young, are too numerous, 
yet there are many excellent pious young men. But 
I must not waste my paper, having to thank you for 
another letter, just now received, bearing date June 
14th. J take this as a great mark of kindness, espe 
cially when I was appearing to you under the mask 
of unkindness, forgetful ness, &c.; a very unfair copy 
of my countenance toward you, my worthy old 
friend. I desire that whatever appearances may oc 
cur in that false light, you may regard and treat as 
not even the shadows of the truth; which, however, 
I have already told you at the beginning of this let 
ter. I am sorry you should make any apology for 
your excellent * Notes, which we highly prize, and 
wish that they and more of the same useful tendency, 
were in print." 

I am sorry for what you write concerning ^ . 

It does not correspond with his former professions of 
friendship. He must ever have my regard and good 


wishes, as in duty bound. But many are the chan 
ges which a little time produces in this uncertain 
state of things. Blessed be God! the foundation 
of the Lord standeth sure. This is firm footing; 
all is sand beside." 

" I cannot pretend to answer your letter, further 
than to say, that I approve of all the solid reasoning 
which it contains; that I beg the continuance of so 
edifying a correspondence; and that you inform me 
concerning the situation of your family. I beg also 
to be informed ho\v Doctor Witherspoon stood the 
operation which he underwent, and whether it had 
any good effect, which I sincerely wish; and would 
request, that, if you have any correspondence with 
him, you would say, in your next, that I remember 
him with esteem and good wishes. My good friend 
sends his best regards to you. He is much enter 
tained with your correspondence. Lord Balgonie s 
family is well. He has four promising sons. Lady 
Ruthven has two sons and five daughters; all healthy 
and thriving, so far. Her eldest son has been above a 
year in England, with Mr. D Courcey, who was in 
this country long ago in Lady Glenorchy s family, 
and is now settled at Shrewsbury. All the young 
man s tutors approved of his going there; and we had 
a visit from him and Mr. D C. this summer. He is 
much improved, and much beloved by every body. 
I write you this as a matter of great thankfulness. 
The girls are all very promising. Sir J. and Lady 
Jane are well, and their only daughter, a fine tall 
girl. Have you any grandchildren? Where and 
how are your young people employed? How does 
dear Mrs. Nisbet keep her health?" 


" I am afraid you will find my letter to contain 
very little for your edification, I ought to have said 
information. Whatever it contains, I intend it as a 
proof of cordial good will, which you must, accept 
for the deed. I can have no doubt concerning your 
usefulness, though it may not appear conspicuous to 
yourself. Being content with Matthew, Mark, Luke 
and John, is a happy sign, though not a sign of the 
times. To whom can we go, or to whom should 
we go to seek the truth, but to the precious word of 
God which testifies it; and though all men should 
become Jiars, this foundation standeth sure. You 
complain of preaching to a dead people. I wish I 
could tell you it would be different if you were here. 
A deep sleep seems to prevail over all ranks, so far 
as I can see or hear of. What says Mr. Martin? I 
have access to see no church that is differently situa 
ted. With esteem and friendship, believe me, dear 

" Your humble servant, " W. LEVEN." 

"Rev. Dr. Nisbel." 

"P. S. I thought that I had written to you that 
the author of Uorx Solilariae is a Mr. Serle, who 
was secretary to Lord Howe, during the last war; 
and now enjoys a place under government of about 
twelve or fifteen hundred pounds sterling a yrar; as 
they know him to be a man of business, as well as of 
learning and piety. He has written many pious 
small tracts, for the use of the poor, &c. I sent you 
his Christian Remembrancer. He is a very sin 
gular man in his generation. Tell me your opinion 
of his publications." 



In the spring of 1792, Doctor Nisbet paid a visit 
to Governor Dickinson, whose reputation and muni 
ficence had induced the Trustees to give his name to 
the College over which the subject of this Memoir 
presided. Mr. Dickinson was now residing in Wil 
mington, in the state of Delaware, in the enjoyment 
of the otium cum dignilate which became an afflu 
ent, enlightened, retired statesman. This visit ap 
pears to have been a highly gratifying one on both 
sides. .Mr. Dickinson seems to have retained, what 
some other members of the original Board of Trus 
tees did not, a deep sense of the obligation, result 
ing from their written pledges, in calling Dr. Nisbet 
from Scotland, to consult, and endeavour to secure, 
his personal comfort. He, therefore, ever treated 
him with the most pointed attention and respect. A 
gentleman who happened to be a witness of the in 
terview and conversation between these two gentle 
men, during the first evening after Dr. Nisbet s arri 
val, give the writer of these pages an account of it, 
which was in no small degree interesting. 

The conversation on that evening turned on the 
following subject" The probable effect of a zealous 
and ardent prosecution of the study of the physi 
cal sciences on the religious character; or, the ten 
dency of a long continued and earnest investiga 
tion of the wonders of nature to produce a forgetful- 
ness of the Creator and Governor of the world." la 
this conversation Dr. Nisbet, as was expected and 
desired, took the lead. He maintained the position, 
that unless the grace of God produced a different 
effect, the more intimately men became acquainted 
\yith the works of nature, the less mindful were they 


of their great Author. The gentleman who made 
report of this conversation, represented it as one of 
the most rich, instructive and interesting intellectual 
feasts that he ever enjoyed. At the close, Mr. Dick 
inson said to him " Doctor, what you have said, 
would form an invaluable octavo volume. I would 
give a large sum to have it in that form." lie ureed 


Ins venerable guest to pay him an annual visit. And 
on Doctor Xisbel s return home, he received notice 
that Mr. Dickinson had deposited five hundred dol 
lars in one of the I hiladelphiu banks, subject to his 
order, for hearing the cxpencc of the future visits 
which he had solicited. Accordingly, for several years 
afterwards, he continued lo pay an annual visit to 
Mr. Dickinson, and was always received and treated 
as might have been expected on the part of one who 
made a proper estimate of the talents, learning; and 


piety of his guest, and who remembered the solicita 
tions and promises which had allured him from his 
native land. 

These journeys were always made on horseback. 
The running of public stages between Carlisle and 
Philadelphia, had then, either not begun, or the es 
tablishments were on such an uncomfortable footing, 
and the roads so bad, that (lie most eligible mode of 
travelling, for him, was on the saddle. He preferred 
it to any other within his reach. 

In the year 17.^3, Dr. Nisbet passed through an 
ordeal which was in no small degree try in ^ to his 
feelings, and those of his family. In the progress of 
what was called the "Whiskey Rebellion,"* in that 

* A rebellion in Pennsylvania, occasioned by the tax laid by the 
government of the United States on the distilling of ardcnl spirits. 


year, which called out the military force of the 
United States, with Washington at its hend, to put it 
down the popular excitement at Carlisle was tre 
mendous. On this occasion the subject of the 
present Memoir concurred with his colleague, Dr. 
Davidson, in opinion that it was proper to sny some 
thing from the pulpit adapted to allay the dreadful 
tumult. Dr. Davidson in the morning, gave a ju 
dicious, hut modest and mild discourse, which though 
not very acceptable to the populace, gave but little 
offence. Dr. Nisbet in the afternoon, spoke out a 
little more plainly. His text was, 1. Thessalonians, 
iv. 11. *ftnd that ye study lo be quiet, and to do 
your own business* and to work with your own 
hands, us ILP. commanded you. In this f-eimon he 
endeavoured to show, with rr.uch force of reasoning, 
drawn from Scripture and experience, and not with 
out some significant occasional glances of a satirical 
kind, that all men were not equally fitted to be 
Philosophers, Legislators, and Statesmen; but that 
some were intended for working with their hands. 
This sermon gave great offence to a portion of the 
congregation; some of whom remarked, that "such 
doctrine did not suit this side of the Atlantic." 
Accordingly, a few days afterwards, when the Whis 
key insurgents came into Carlisle, from the adjacent 
country, to erect a Whiskey or Liberty Pole, it was 
feared, by many, that Dr. Nisbet s house would be 
violently assailed by the mob. Some respectable 
friends and neighbours offered to remain in his 
house for the purpose of defending it, if attacked. 
He declined however accepting the offer; wisely 
judging that if such an assemblage were known of, 


it might invite attack. The result showed that pro 
vision for defence was not wholly unnecessary. The 
mob were actually and furiously proceeding to the 
President s house, but were stopped by a friend, 
who informed them that his younger daughter was 
lying very ill, and that to attack his dwelling, under 
such circumstances, would be brutal rather than pa 
triotic. This remonstrance prevailed with the infu 
riated multitude to retire. 

Is it wonderful that this venerable servant of God 
should have received, from such scenes, impressions 
of an unfavourable kind concerning the population 
and institutions of our country ? Here was a man 
eminent for his learning and piety, who had, in his 
own country, warmly espoused the cause of America 
in our revolutionary war; who had fearlessly preach 
ed and prayed against the measures of his own gov 
ernment in that contest, yet without suffering any 
violence; who, on coming to a land of boasted free 
dom, for the simple declaration of his opinions, could 
scarcely be protected from the lawless ferocity of a 

The following extract of a letter addressed by Dr. 
Nisbet to his old friend, Dr. Witherspoon, December 
3, 1793, a few months only before the death of the 
latter, will give a characteristic view of the state of 
mind of the writer at that time, and of the aspect of 
various things in our country: 

" The consequences of the yellow fever in Phi 
ladelphia, and the reports of its having been in this 
place, have prevented the return of more than half 
of our students from the southern States; and I am 
afraid that some of the students themselves have had 


a hand in the affair, and misrepresented the situation 
of this place, in order to prevail with their parents 
not to send them back, as their indolence and their 
aversion to study are inexpressible, and the indul 
gence that is given them by their parents, is almost 
boundless. One C , from North Carolina, who was 
certified to us as qualified even to teach the ancient 
languages, (although he was afraid of being examined 
in them,) and as well acquainted with almost every 
part of philosophy, is gone, as I fear, to your College, 
because we would not admit him into the Philo 
sophy class, in the middle of the course, in hopes of 
obtaining a degree without any examination or fur 
ther instruction. I wonder that you did not men 
tion him in your letter. But it is probable that he 
would not mention to you that he had ever been in 
this place." 

"I have been informed that at the .College at 

they have no public lessons, and the students are not 
bound to give attendance at the institution; but that 
their teachers give them books, from time to time, 
from which they make extracts, or compose speeches, 
which they recite when they return to the College; 
and that the whole of their education is conducted in 
this manner. If students succeed in this way, 1 
think that they will not be much indebted to the la 
bour of their teachers. But every thing is supposed 
to be so much improved in the present age, that I 
should not be surprised to hear of students receiving 
degrees without any study at all; and the practice at 

, if my intelligence is to be depended on, 

seems to come very near it." 

" I hear that some of the friends of the people 


have come over from Scotland this year, and pub 
lished the most dismal accounts of the situation of 
that country, which are contrary to all the intelli 
gence that I have from my correspondents. I sup 
pose that you have already heard of the arrival of 
Dr. Priestley s son in this country, from France, and 
that his father is expected soon to follow him from 
England. Is it not somewhat surprising that this 
young man, who, scarcely a year ago, gave public 
thanks to the National Assembly of France, for the 
immense honour they had done him, by adopting 
him as a French citizen, should have so soon become 
sick of liberty and equality, and come over to 
this country, where we have only liberty? But as I 
hear that the expenses of the new play-house in 
Philadelphia are not yet defrayed, I am afraid that 
the Doctor will not find subscribers for building him 
a place of worship, and paying his salary, unless Con 
gress shall be pleased to vote him a pension, as a 
French citizen in distress, or to give him a salary 
for officiating as their chaplain, and should turn this 
office into a church-dignity in his favour." 

" By the way, I have seen the plan of the Federal 
City, and agree that it resembles the New Jerusalem 
in one respect; for, as St. John testifies, that he saw 
no temple there; so I find no plan or place for a 
church in all that large draught. But I cannot add 
what he mentions in the next verse, as I believe that 
our people will be well enough contented with the 
light of Liberty and Equality, together with that 
of French lanterns and Atheistical philosophy. You 
do not mention whether the citizen Minister has 
been successful in making proselytes for his repub- 


lie in the city of New- York; nor whether the gene 
rality of the citizens have left off wearing breeches. 
You ought to have informed me too, as you live so 
near the source of light and information, whether 
wooden shoes are worn by the majority of the people; 
whether soup maigre is in great request at their 
tables; and what is the current price of frogs in their 
markets. But it appears that you have too little cu 
riosity with regard to the affairs of your neighbours." 
" The subscription by the opposition party in Eng 
land, of a large subsidy, and a permanent annuity to 
Mr. Fox, in my opinion, does little honour, either 
to the givers, or to the receiver. Patriotism seems 
to have run very low in England, if the people could 
find no more proper object for their bounty and con 
fidence, than a man who has spent his whole life in 
the pursuit of wine, womeaand cards; and who only 
attended to the affairs of the public in the intervals 
of his debauchery. A similarity of character in his 
subscribers may be naturally inferred, from their 
choosing him as the object of their bounty. Besides, 
it does little honour to their understanding that they 
have attempted to limit a professed gambler, and to 
make his annuity inseparable from his person. As 
if that could not be staked on a card, as well as any 
other possession. Accordingly the newswriters pre 
tend that this man of the people has already lost 
his inseparable annuity at play, to a Scotch Lord, so 
that he has nothing remaining except the title of 
king of the beggars, which is likely to be more 
inseparable from him than his annuity." 

About this time his faithful correspondent, Dr. 
Elrskine, was assiduous in keeping him informed 


of the various events in Scotland which might be 
supposed to he interesting to his American friend. 
Though Dr. E, had many correspondents on this side 
of the Atlantic, the number which he addressed to 
Dr. Nisbet is really surprising. Out of many which 
might be inserted, all of which would be interesting, 
the following is a small specimen: 

" Edinburgh, August 12, 1793." 
" Dear Sir," 

I received your letters of 30th January, and June 
4th, and have not sent you a parcel since the 14th of 
February last, which I am glad went safely to your 

"The Rev. Mr. Dunn, of Kirkintillock, was im 
prisoned in Edinburgh Tolbooth, for three months. 
The ground of the sentence was, his cutting some 
leaves from the minutes of a Society of the Friends 
of the People, which might have authenticated a 
charge of sedition against them. But I believe some 
passages of his Synod Sermon on Rev. xxi. 5, occa 
sioned a severity which to many appeared too great. 
Some passages of the Sermon were thought to favour 
sedition; and though, from his explications in other 
parts, I hope he had no such design, I think he very 
improperly wrested and misapplied his text. None 
of the anonymous pamphlets were written by me. 
That against Mr. Dunn, is generally ascribed to Mr. 
Moody, of St. Andrew s church. Dr. Porteous, of 
Glasgow, a keen supporter of the slave trade, and of 
the measures of our ministry in the war with France^ 
has published a Sermon, Jeremiah vi, 16: Thus 
with the Lord, stand ye in the ways, &c. which 


many think has gone as far to one extreme, as Mr, 
Dunn s sermon to the other. Both of them are able 
men, and diligent and useful ministers; and, I believe, 
prompted in this instance by an honest zeal, the one 
for reforming things amiss in the constitution or ad 
ministration of government; and the other for pro 
moting good order, and a just subjection to lawful 
authority. But the zeal of neither has been, I think, 
according to knowledge: and both verify the max 
im, that not only stulti, but sapientes dum villa 
fugiunt, in contraria currunt. Indeed Paine, and 
many of the anonymous writers on the same side, 
have probably some with design, and some without 
it vented sentiments which lead to violent means 
for essentially altering our constitution, and even to 
an equalizing of property; and many of the replies, 
in their loyally, have forgotten whig principles, 
and vindicated as necessary government carrying on 
their measures by bribery and corruption. Dr. 
Hunter, however, Mr. M Gill, of Eastwood; and 
Mr. Somerville, of Jedburgh; have steered clear of 
these extremes. On the other hand, many, who had 
no other design, have been unjustly branded as 
friends of sedition, especially by those who belong 
to the moderate party. Mr. Thompson, of Ochil- 
tree, and Mr. Davidson, of Dundee, are instances of 
this; of whom ill-natured calumnies have been in 
vented and spread, and found too ready a belief 
from those whose distance and circumstances did not 
allow them to examine the change." 

" I know not how this war is more unpopular 
than that with America was, though administration 
plead necessity, as France, when pretending friend" 


ship, by secret emissaries, was encouraging disaffec 
tion and rebellion. Yet this notwithstanding, though 
many disapprove particular measures of government, 
our enemies are much mistaken, if they flatter them 
selves that we wish to get rid of our king and con 
stitution. There are some such among us; but their 
numbers, rank, character and influence are not alarm 
ing. It is fortunate for the interest of religion, 
that some, unjustly termed the wild Clergy, were 
the earliest to warn against and reprove the riots of 
1792; and that Palmer, the head of all the professed 
Socinians here, is thought to have been active in 
spreading seditious papers." 

" You have, no doubt, heard of my colleague, Dr. 
Robertson s death. Our opposite sentiments and 
conduct as to Church policy, and the late American 
war, did not hinder our mutual regard. He endured, 
for six weeks before his death, violent pain, with 
much fortitude and resignation. He was no friend 
to the Ayrshire doctrines as to the divinity and 
Atonement of Christ; and I have reason to think our 
sentiments as to the present posture of affairs, were 
much the same. The Sabbath after his burial I 
preached two sermons; the first on 1 Peter, i. 12 
15; and the second on 1 Chronicles xxix. 12: In thine, 
hand is to make great which I have been much 
urged to publish; though publishing the first is im 
possible, as nothing of it was written, except what 
related to my colleague s character, Mr. Baird, 
who has been only nine months a minister of Edin 
burgh, succeeds him as Principal of the University. 
His diligence in public and private ministerial duties, 
persuade me that he will do no dishonour to thai 


office; although those who wished it for the aged Dr. 
Blair, or the eloquent Dr. Hardie, make a great out 
cry against Provost Elder, for doing for his son-in- 
law what, perhaps, in a similar case, they would have 
done for theirs." 

"I herewith send you a small bundle of books, 
chiefly German periodicals." 

" I find that the observation which I ascribed to 
Mr. Nathaniel Mather, was indeed the observation 
of Mr. Samuel Mather. You will find it in Dr. Cot 
ton Mather s Magnalia, Book IV. p. 152. With 
best compliments to Mrs. Nisbet and your family, 
in which my wife and family join," 
" I am, dear Sir," 

" Yours, affectionately," 


" Rev. Dr. Nisbet." 

From the same. 

Edinburgh, July 24, 1797." 
" Dear Sir," 

"Four days ago, I wrote you a hasty line, which 
was all that my time then allowed, being much oc 
cupied by my Sketches/ vol. ii. I was favoured 
the day after with yours of May 22d. My parcel to 
you goes under cover to Mr. Samuel Campbell, by a 
ship from Leith for New York. I send this letter 
by another hand, in the same ship, that it may go by 
post from New York, and inform you of the parcel." 

" The ignorance of Church history, and especially 
of the Church history of the present century, appears 
to me very deplorable, and to mislead many well- 
Cleaning men. My second volume is almost con- 


fined to the modern history of Popery; and, I think, 
shows that, though Louis XVf. and the unfortunate 
King of Poland, were of tolerant principles, and the 
Emperors Joseph and Leopold not only friends to 
liberty of conscience, but promoters of the reforma 
tion of some of the greatest abuses of Popery; yet 
that the absurdities, idolatries, superstitions, and per 
secuting spirit of a great part of the Popish Church, 
remain the same. I think I have also given some 
reasons in opposition to the Seceders and others, who 
think as ill of Popery as I do, that the extremes of 
atheism, of infidelity, and of a levelling, anarchical 
spirit, when the evils engendered by them are for 
a time fell, will stimulate men to fly from them to 
the opposite evils of arbitrary power and superstition, 
being ignorant of the true cure in genuine Chris 

"The bad effects of the revolution in Holland will 
not, I suppose, immediately appear; as many of the 
worthiest ministers there continue to be supported 
by 7 their wealthy hearers, and continue to preach and 
to write as formerly on the great doctrines and du 
ties of Christianity. But as no clergymen are to be 
paid by the slate, if (which appears to me probable 
from the speeches which are published) private do 
nations to religious purposes are to be considered as 
sacred, the consequence will be the Roman Catholics 
in Holland will return to the possession of the many 
legacies and endowments made in their favour be- 


fore the Reformation; and, consequently, will be 
able to maintain their clergy at less expense, which 
must tempt covetous worshippers, of little conscience, 
at once to go over to their communion." 


"The Rev. Dr. Peirson, minister of the English 
church at Amsterdam, has been one of the greatest 
sufferers by the revolution. Apprehending it, he 
had sent on board an English ship silver plate, 
jewels, &c. belonging to his wife, and very valuable 
furniture, worth nearly 1400 sterling, which was 
seized in the Texel, by De Winter, then in the 
French service, and now the Prince of Orange s 
successor as Admiral of Holland. De Winter did 
not report the capture to the French commissaries. 
His roguery and meanness were condemned; but the 
Doctor could procure no restitution. On the first 
day of June, 1795, it was moved in the Classis at 
Amsterdam, to congratulate the municipality of that 
city on the treaty between France and Holland. 
The Doctor opposed the motion, and said, that the 
day of signing that treaty appeared to him the most 
sad and dismal day Holland had ever seen. The 
motion was over ruled by a majority of two votes, 
which discouraged attempts at procuring such con 
gratulations from other classes. The rulers were 
amazed at the Doctor, and became more so on his 
refusing a declaration, when summoned before the 
municipality on account of that speech, of submission 
to the new government, and that he never would do 
any thing for re-establishing the S tad holder. This 
he thought he could not do without renouncing his 
allegiance to his native sovereign, and leaguing him 
self with the king s enemies. On the 14th of July, 
1795, the municipality suspended him from his office 
and benefice, worth about 200 sterling; and on the 
20th of July they dismissed him from his office, and 
prohibited his leaving Amsterdam without the con- 


sent of the Committee of Vigilance, whom they ap 
pointed to keep a watchful eye over him. For a 
year and nine months he was thus under arrest, in 
his own house, and spies employed to watch his mo 
tions. This year, on the 14th April, the Committee 
of Vigilance forced him thence, and put him in pri 
son, none having access to him except the jailor and 
his servants; he and his lady not heing allowed even 
to write to each other without their inspection. The 
first ten days, she was not allowed to send him any 
victuals. On the 27th of April, they delivered him 
up to the Committee of Justice. Both friends and 
foes exclaimed against these proceedings. It is be 
lieved that nothing criminal can he found against 
him; and he says, with firmness, the motto of arms 
shall be death rather than disloyalty. I have 
heard of no later accounts of him than those bearing 
date the 15th of May last. He got a good deal of 
money with his lady; and his losses are supposed to 
amount to 2500 sterling; and it is supposed that 
the expenses of lawyers, &c. may amount to several 
hundred pounds more. When so much has been 
done for French emigrants, I hope our administra 
tion will not neglect a native of Britain, who, for 
his attachment to his king and the Prince of Orange, 
expressed, perhaps, with more honesty than pru 
dence, has suffered so severely. As these things 
have not appeared in our prints, and probably will 
not in yours, I have given them thus full} 7 ." 

" I will mention another and more agreeable anec 
dote, which I had from a friend near London, to 
whom it was related by one who had it in that city 
from the Polish General, Kosciusko. The Empe- 


ror Paul came to him in prison, incog. After in 
quiring about his health, he asked the General if he 
wished to he set at liberty? The answer was, cer 
tainly, but I know not how to obtain it. The visitor 
replied I have some interest at court, and if you 
will tell me what you would do if you had your li 
berty, I will use it in your behalf. The General 
replied I would go to America. On which, the 
unknown visitor said I am Paul, the Russian Em 
peror; my mother is now dead; and you are this 
moment at liberty to go where you please. I shall 
order 8000 to bear your expenses to America. 
My correspondent says, he has a pension there, and 
will get any quantity of land he can reasonably ask. 
He has a most painful and disabling wound in his 
thigh, so that he cannot walk. As soon as he came 
to London, Waronzoff, the Russian Ambassador, no 
doubt by order of his generous master, waited on 
him, showed him the utmost respect, and asked him 
if he would permit him to send his physician to him? 
The general consented; and the ambassador sent his 
physician, who took with him some other physi 
cians and skilful surgeons, who thought it would re 
quire two or three years for him to recover strength 
in his limb; but that he would be always lame. The 
American consul at Bristol took the general from 
the hotel, and entertained him at his own expense 
until he embarked for America. By accounts, both 
from London and Bristol, he is a most modest and 
unassuming man." 

"As ships sometimes sail from Philadelphia, and 
more frequently from New York) for Scotland, when 
you have an opportunity, write by Mr. Ebenezer 


Hazard, Philadelphia, or Mr. John Thompson, New 
York, merchant in Queen street, and every thing 
you commit to them will be correctly forwarded." 

"I was confined ahout ten weeks, the end of the 
last and beginning of the present year, but since have 
preached as usual. My wife has had no return of 
dangerous distress, but has had, for four months, 
rheumatic pains, which have prevented her visiting 
and being out at night, but have not hindered her 
going to church, and sometimes taking an airing in 
a chaise. I am, dear sir, yours, affectionately, " 


" Rev. Dr. Nisbet." 

" P. S. Dr. Snodgrass, of Paisley, died last month." 

From the same. 

" Lauriston, October 2d, 1797." 
" Dear Sir," 

" I chuse not to write what you will see as early, 
if not more so, from the public prints. The follow 
ing anecdote may not be disagreeable:" 

" The Stadtholder and suite were expected at Col 
chester, on their flight from Holland, late on Friday 
night. Mr. Sterry, a worthy clergyman there, sent 
word to the proper quarter, that he would gladly 
give the best accommodations in his power to some 
of them. Accordingly, M. De Lorry, and one or 
two more, came to Mr. Sterry s house, near 12 
o clock at night; and as they had hardly slept any 
for the six preceding nights, requested to be imme 
diately put to bed. In the morning they signified 
their inclination in every thing to conform to the 


usages of the family; attended family worship; atid 
breakfasted with them; Mr. S. desiring them to send 
for their servants, and, while the Prince remained in 
Colchester, to use all the freedom in his house they 
would in their own. On Saturday Mr. Sterry 
was introduced to the Stadtholder, and expressed his 
concern for the occasion of his visiting England, and 
his thankfulness that God had preserved his high 
ness in the danger to which he was exposed. The 
Prince received him with great cordiality; signified 
that he would be his hearer on the next day; and re 
quested the loan of a prayer-book, that he might pre 
viously read the prayers and lessons of the day. On 
the Sabbath, Mr. Sterry preached from 1 Chron. xx. 
12, and first viewed sin as the cause of all calamities 
and danger; and lastly, the proper consolation under 
such circumstances. The Prince stood during the 
whole of the sermon, and discovered the most seri 
ous attention. M De Lorry told Mr. S. that the 
Prince was well acquainted with his Bible, and fol 
lowed a plan and order by which he generally read 
it through thrice every year. On Monday Mr. Ster 
ry waited on the Prince before his departure, who 
thanked him for his hospitality to the gentlemen of 
his suite, and signified the pleasure with which he 
had, on the preceding day, heard his reasonable and 
useful discourse. One of the gentlemen in the Prince s 
suite had been, on some occasion, in the French 
army, under Pichegru, where he observed an order 
and subordination much superior to that in the 
armies of the allies and emigrants: and he under 
stood this strict order had been established by near 


2000 men being shot, for plundering and other 
crimes. " 

" Some very able and pious Missionaries have been 
sent to different parts, from the various societies 
in England and Scotland. Mr. Clark, at Sierra 
Leone, whose labours were so much blessed in this 
city, to a Sunday morning school, and to boarding 
schools, where he occasionally exhorted, united zeal 
with prudence; and there are now promising appear 
ances of his usefulness. A Dr. Vanderkemp, from 
Holland, studied medicine in Edinburgh more than 
twenty years ago, and published an uncommonly able 
and ingenious Thesis. Afterwards, he made a great 
figure, first in the medical line, and subsequently as 
an officer in the Dutch army. But all this while he 
was a thorough sceptic, or rather despiser of Chris 
tianity. On a fair and promising day, he, his lady, 
and his only child, went on a pleasure party on the 
water. A sudden water-spout overturned the boat; 
his lady and child perished; and he was preserved in 
a manner next to miraculous, by a boat from the land 
being driven to the place where he was about to sink. 
This deliverance, however, made no saving impres 
sion on his mind. But on a certain occasion worldly 
motives led him, notwithstanding his unbelief, to at 
tend and partake of the Lord s Supper. A deep 
conviction of guilt was made upon his mind, and his 
heart was soon opened to the King of glory. He 
immediately determined to devote himself to the ad 
vancement of the Redeemer s kingdom; and being 
warmly recommended by some worthy Dutch minis 
ters, he has offered himself to the London Missionary 


Society, to go as a Missionary whithersoever they 
may think proper to send him."* 

" I am sorry that some members of our Edinburgh 
Missionary Society have made excursions, especially 
to the North and West, and preached without ordi 
nation. I hope you have received my letter and 
Sketches, the first sent in July. When you have 
an opportunity to write by a ship from New-York, 
Mr. Cornelius Davis, bookseller, or Mr. John Thomp 
son, merchant there, will be safe channels of convey 
ance. I am, dear sir, affectionately yours," 

" Rev. Dr. Nisbet." 

From the same. 

" Lauriston, tfug. 6, 1799." 
" Rev. and Dear Sir," 

" The last letter I had from you was dated the 1st 
of February. My last letter and parcel were sent on 
the 10th of May last." 

"Notwithstanding the late successes of our allies 
in Switzerland, Italy and Egypt, the junction of the 
French and Spanish fleets appears to me an alarming 
event, which I fear is little laid to heart. Whether 
they are intended for the East Indies, for Britain, or 
for Ireland, if providence prevent our fleet from 
meeting them, or giving them a stroke, the conse 
quences may prove most fatal. The religious state 
of our country is still more alarming. Though our 
gentry generally cry out against French principles, 

* Dr. Vanderkemp was sent to South Africa, and was, for a num 
ber of years., a devoted and successful Missionary in that interesting 


their manner of spending the Sabbath makes their 
sincerity doubtful. The peculiar doctrines of the 
Gospel are seldom preached upon by some who do 
not directly oppose them; or, if mentioned at all, are 
expressed in cold and ambiguous language. Many in 
the lowest ranks are tinctured with infidelity. Mr. 
Robert Ilaldane, of Airthrie, who, some years ago, 
broached anti-monarchical tenets, has formed a new 
sect, and applied considerable sums for carrying on 
their designs, a full account of which they, very pru 
dently, have not published. His brother, at first a 
lay-preacher, but now ordained, and Mr. Ewing, who 
lately renounced his connexion with the Church of 
Scotland, now profess the Tory creed of passive obe 
dience and non-resistance. They bring a succession 
of ministers from England, who, on Sabbaths, preach 
in the circus, or itinerate through various parts of 
Scotland, for five or six weeks, and then return home. 
Their professed object is, to carry the pure gospel to 
those parts of the country which are most in want 
of it. Yet their chief efforts have been directed 
to Edinburgh, Glasgow, Perth, Dundee, and other 
places blessed with faithful ministers, of different de 
nominations; and their adherents are chiefly gained 
from some of the most sound and able, whom they, 
or the strangers they employ, insinuate are cold- 
hearted, because they give not their countenance to 
lay-preaching, and other irregularities. I am sorry 
that some who hourly declaim against these men, 
promote the growth of their party, both by an unpo 
pular manner of preaching, and by pushing with suc 
cess some late measures in our General Assemblies; 


for example laying difficulties and restrictions on 
new Chapels of Ease, which are like to drive many 
from our Church; an act last May, declaring it 
against the constitution of our Church to admit any 
into our pulpits who have not been licensed and or 
dained by her Presbyteries; and a warning then 
very properly emitted, against the circus people; 
but which has much defeated its own design, by a 
vague charge against them, as entertaining designs 
hostile to civil government. For though there may 
be suspicions against some of them, they amount not 
to conclusive evidence. Had only the evil tendency 
of their party been asserted, this might have been 
easily proved, not only by the jealousies and divis 
ions which they have excited among men whose 
union in the present crisis was important; but by 
some of the ablest of them maintaining that even de 
fensive war is unlawful, which must check all effec 
tual opposition to a French invasion." 

" We have agreeable accounts that Dr. Vander- 
kemp has been well received at the Cape of Good 
Hope, and is soon to enter on his mission. In his 
voyage, he was the means of preventing, by his per 
suasion, the execution of the conspiracy for murder 
ing the captain and sailors, and delivering the ship 
to the French; and also of converting several of the 
convicts, who were on their way to Botany Bay. 
But I am sorry to add, accounts received this day 
make it probable that the ship Duff has been cap 
tured in her second missionary voyage; though our 
enemies, on learning her destination, have set the 
missionaries at liberty." 


" I send herewith a small parcel of books, of 
which I beg your acceptance; and am, as ever, 
" Affectionately, yours," 


In 1795, Dr. Nisbet s youngest daughter, Alison, 
was married to Dr. Samuel M Coskry, an eminent 
physician, residing in Carlisle. By him she had a 
number of children, several of whom still survive. 
Of these notice will be taken hereafter. This mat 
rimonial connection of a second member of his fa 
mily formed another tie binding the Doctor to his 
adopted country, and precluding all thought of a re 
turn to Scotland. 

The light in which Doctor Nisbet regarded the 
French revolution, was alluded to in a preceding 
chapter. Every reader will recollect that the pe 
riod covered by the dates of the foregoing letters, 
was precisely that which presented the most thrill 
ing and revolting scenes of that great national catas 
trophe. From the first, he regarded it not only 
with suspicion, but with fixed aversion, and even ab 
horrence. He considered it, from the outset, as ori 
ginating with the infidel philosophers of France, for 
the overthrow of religion and of all government. He 
was accustomed to remark, that, many years before 
the revolution commenced, he had discovered the 
seeds of it vegetating and springing up in a variety 
of forms, and all indicating the exploding and de 
structive materials that were at work. He remarked, 
that even in such an article as the French fans, and 
other similar manufactures imported from that coun- 
tr/ years before, it was. easy to discover the presence 


of principles and feelings at war with all morality 
and all order. 

It is well known that at the commencement of the 
French revolution, and even after it had made consi 
derable progress, a large portion of the friends of ci 
vil an-d religious liberty in the United States regarded 
it with a favourable eye. Recollecting the friendly 
aid yielded to us by France in the course of our re 
volutionary contest; and considering that nation as 
engaged in a struggle, very similar to our own, 
against oppression, multitudes of our citizens not only 
wished well to what they deemed an effort to esta 
blish republicanism in France, but were strongly 
disposed to make common cause with her in her 
war with England. This, it is well known, gave 
rise to much diversity of opinion in our country; 
excited the most ardent part}- feelings; and agitated 
the nation in a most distressing and alarming man 
ner for a number of years. 

In this period of painful agitation, Doctor Nisbet 
could not think it his- duty to conceal either his 
opinions or his feelings. He expressed both from 
time to time, with candour and freedom. And al 
though he resided in a State which was greatly torn 
by party conflicts on this occasion, and occupied an 
office which some considered as dictating a cautious 
reserve on such a subject, his characteristic honesty 
would not allow him to take such a course. He 
spoke freely and openly in private and in public, 
and bore a decisive testimony against what he deem 
ed a system of infidel profligacy and crime, under 
the guise of a love of liberty. In addressing tha 
students of the college, as their official instructor and 


guide, and even on some public occasions, he warned 
his hearers against the impiety and the enormous 
cruelty and licentiousness exhibited on a theatre 
from which every channel of intelligence brought 
the most revolting and heart-rending accounts of 
bloodshed, and every species of inhuman and anti- 
christian practice. This freedom of censure, of 
course, gave offence to the advocates of the French 
party, as they were familiarly called; and, perhaps, 
deterred some parents from sending their sons to the 
College over which he presided. Violent politicians 
represented him as an enemy to civil and religious 
liberty; and inferred, that he who thought unfavour 
ably of the French revolution, must have been 
equally unfriendly to that revolution which gave in 
dependence to our own country. It was in vain 
that he appealed to his uniform course in favour of 
America, and in opposition to the war waged against 
us by the British government, before he came to 
our country. It was in vain that he urged the utter 
dissimilarity of the struggle in Fiance to that which 
gave freedom to the United States. He insisted, 
that the American revolution was commenced on 
just and solid grounds; was carried on by honest, 
enlightened, noble-minded patriots; was prompted 
by a sincere love of rational liberty; and established 
on a basis which sound political and religious prin 
ciples equally approved. While it was, in his opin 
ion, notorious that, although there had long been in 
France grievious oppressions and abuses, which 
needed correction; yet that the revolution in that 
country, so far as its leaders were concerned, was 
begun in Atheism; continually actuated, not by pa- 


triotism, but b} a hatred of all religion; by the bas 
est selfishness, and by that savage disregard of all 
moral obligation, and all sober government, which at 
once disgraced and defeated their professed object of 

Under these painful impressions, no wonder that 
he allowed himself to speak on this subject in terms 
of the strongest detestation. The following anec 
dote, while it may amuse the reader, will serve at 
once to illustrate and confirm our representation of 
his feelings. Sometime about the year 1794, when 
he happened to be in Philadelphia, a gentleman of 
his acquaintance said to him "Well, Doctor, what 
are we to think of the French Revolution now?" 
"Indeed, man," said he, "I can give you a better 
account of that matter now than ever before. What 
I am about to tell you is no fable, but a fact that re 
ally happsned in my neighbourhood lately. A poor 
old woman, who is no politician, but a plain, serious 
body, who had been for some time in a gloomy state 
of mind, anxious about the salvation of her soul, (a 
thing, by the way, that no politician ever thinks of,) 
dreamed that she died, and went to the bad place. 
It seemed to her like a great inclosure, surrounded 
by a high, massy wall. She knocked at the door, 
when who should open it but his Satanic Majesty 
himself. The old woman expressed her surprise 
that he should stoop to such an office, and her won 
der that he had not sent one of his imps or under 
strappers to open the door. Indeed, good woman, 
said he, the devil an imp or understrapper have I 
left in all my dominions. Hell is completely empty. 


They have all gone to help on the cause of liberty 
and equality in France." 

It is hardly necessary to say, that such language 
was deeply revolting to many. It was often made 
matter of heavy complaint. Still, although this ve 
nerable man continued, while he lived, to endure the 
suspicions, and even, in some cases, to be loaded with 
the abuse, of violent demagogues; yet such was his 
established character for integrity, benevolence and 
ardent piety, that even the violence of party spirit 
was disarmed, and all regarded him with real vene 
ration, as an honest, Christian patriot. And even 
many of those who once disapproved of his senti 
ments, and who hesitated about committing their 
sons to his tuition, lived to see the time, (though, with 
regard to many of them, he. did not live to see it,) 
when they were constrained to acknowledge, that his 
judgment on this subject was more sound than their 
own, and his prediction of the result, more in ac 
cordance with the actual catastrophe of that awful 

Candour seems to require from the author of this 
Memoir the acknowledgment, that the last remark 
applies in some measure to himself. lie was among 
the thousands of his countrymen who regarded the 
French Revolution, in its early stages, with a favour 
able eye, as the triumph of the spirit of liberty over 
misrule and oppression; and as promising, notwith 
standing all the crime and bloodshed with which it 
was attended, the ultimate reign of freedom and good 
government. Such were the hopes which he once 
entertained; and to which, almost without hope, he 
clung, long after every truly favourable aspect had 


vanished. During this period he maintained an in 
teresting and delightful correspondence with the ve 
nerated Friend, whose memory it is now his privi 
lege and his pleasure to endeavour to embalm. In 
the course of this correspondence that friend poured 
out his whole heart with the freedom of a father to a 
son. He frequently, indeed, uttered sentiments in 
reference to the French Revolution which the pre* 
sent writer could not then adopt, and some to which 
he is constrained yet to demur. But never did he 
pen a line which impaired the writer s confidence in 
his piety, his benevolence, or his genuine Christian 
patriotism. Never did the writer suffer, for a mo 
ment, this honest, candid expression of his corres 
pondent s feelings, to impair his deep veneration. 
And, in the end, he was constrained to say, with 
regard to most of the points then in discussion, that 
his venerable friend was more sagacious and wise 
than himself. And if that friend was sometimes 
driven by the enormities of French anarchy, and by 
the real anomalies and excesses of American demo 
cracy, to express sentiments which sometimes appear 
ed to militate with the principles of true republican 
freedom, no one who knew how to appreciate ster 
ling integrity, and pre-eminent worth, could regard 
them in any other light than as venial mistakes aris 
ing from the extreme sensibility of a great and good 
man. The truth is, no one who remembers the 
course of events in the United States, during the 
nineteen years from 1785, when Doctor Nisbet be 
came an American citizen, until 1504, when he died, 
will find the least difficulty in understanding why a 
steady friend to the rights and happiness of man 


should sometimes utter language manifesting painful 
disappointment with regard to the past, and deep ap 
prehension with respect to the future. 

The following letter from Dr. Nisbet to the author 
of this Memoir, is a specimen of the intercourse 
which subsisted between them in that trying and 
agitating period of our country s history. 

" Carlisle, July 6, 1798." 
" Dear Sir," 

" I have not had the pleasure of hearing from you 
for a long time; and in my visit to Philadelphia in 
May last, did not find you there occasionally, as I 
had done sometimes before. I had resolved to visit 
New York, but found it impracticable. I had sus 
pected that some coldness had taken place on your 
part, from I know not what cause, as I am not con 
scious of having given any occasion for it. I cannot 
persuade myself that the free communication of my 
sentiments would have given you offence, nor that 
you should have taken to yourself any thing that I 
have said of American sans culottes. I can assure 
you that it was merely in jest that I addressed you 
in that character; and if I had not thought that you 
were a sincere friend to the government under which 
you live, I should have had no desire to correspond 
with you.* I acknowledged my obligation to you 
for getting my box of newspapers and pamphlets out 
of the Custom-house, but never heard whether you 
received my letter." 

" So great a change of sentiment has taken place 

* The Doctor s suspicions were wholly groundless. The remotest 
thought of offence had not been entertained. 


among our citizens, in appearance at least, since my 
last letter, that I think I may now write you with 
some confidence, as one of the majority, without 
fearing to give you offence. The immense reve 
rence which our citizens had for the terrible Repub 
lic, is beginning to abate, and some of them even 
begin to suspect that Talleyrand might possibly be 
in the wrong, when he demanded only the small sum 
of twenty five millions of dollars from us by way of 
tribute: though others affect to wonder that he asked 
so little. They say that the French are still willing 
to be on friendly terms with us. Now as friendly 
communication consists in giving and receiving, when 
they found us averse to giving, they endeavour to 
try our friendship in the way of receiving, having 
lately made us a present of 700 sans culottes, inclu 
ding 300 negroes and mulattoes, of equal value with 
the rest. You might have heard that nine vessels, 
laden with these precious commodities, are now at 
Philadelphia, and that twenty-nine other vessels, no 
less richly laden, are soon expected there. We hear, 
likewise, that some vessels are gone to New-York; 
though perhaps your aristocratic Governor may not 
be willing to receive them, especially if their num 
ber is less than that of those who are sent to this 
state. But ive are happy in having a Governor 
wholly devoted to the sans culotte interest, who, 
though he scruples to receive the negroes and mulat 
toes, on account of the law against the importation 
of slaves, yet has no objection to receive the French 
citizens, as those that we have got already have not 
been so diligent in burning our towns, and revolu 
tionizing our citizens as the Directory had reason to 


expect. But as Congress have taken the business 
into their hands, it is to be feared that they may de 
clare against all communication with the French, 
either in the way of giving or receiving. And if 
this is the case, how shall B receive his pension? 
What will become of J , and G , and G , and all 
those who depend on the bounty of the terrible Re 

" Your democrats will, no doubt, be glad that M. 
Genet has received a large packet from the Directory, 
which will be a seasonable supply to them after the 
great expenses they must have incurred by celebrat 
ing the successes of the terrible Republic. Do you 
know whether he makes his distribution at his coun 
try seat on Long Island, or in the hall of the demo 
cratic society in your city? I hear that New York 
has been affected, though very moderately, with that 
change of opinion which has taken place in this state; 
though I believe that many of our new converts are 
not sincere. We are impatient to hear of the inva 
sion of England; but that project is now said to be 
laid aside, which must occasion great sorrow to our 
democratic societies. If our government is able to 
prevent our citizens from trading to the West Indies, 
the French might probably be soon starved out of 
those islands; but as we hear that many American 
citizens are found on board those privateers which 
are destroying our trade, it is probable that those of 
the same disposition, who remain at home, may be 
no less diligent in supplying the French with provi 
sions; and we hear that some lately supplied them 
with arms and ammunition. We are really a divid 
ed people, as Talleyrand says; though I hope not so. 


much divided as he supposes. If our government 
had the courage to seize and hang some of those mis 
creants who rob their countrymen, it might, perhaps, 
be a terror to the rest." 

" We have heard nothing^ as yet, of the success of 
our armed ships. The French have done their ut 
most to intimidate our seamen, by declaring that 
they will give no quarter to such as make any resist 
ance to the terrible Republic. Who would have ex 
pected to live to see the Pope become the poorest 
clergyman in Christendom? Yet this is the case at 
present. Had it happened in the reign of Ganga- 
nelli, who was a Franciscan, it would have been 
much less calamitous, as it would have only given 
him an opportunity of performing his vow of pover 
ty, which he had taken in entering into that order. 
Some are weak enough to think that Popery is at an 
end, by this misfortune of the Pope: but Popery 
exists in the minds of men, and exists not in the 
pockets of the Popes, or in the walls of Rome." 

" I long to hear that the French army has turned 
against the Directory, and that their new conquests 
have revolted, as I suppose this must happen some 
time or other; and until that infernal republic is 
overturned, I see no prospect of peace for America, 
or the rest of the world . It is happy for us that the 
ports of France are blockaded up by the British 
fleets, though many of our wise citizens would wish 
that those fleets which are our present protection, 
were sunk in the ocean. You must have read Pro 
fessor Robison s Proofs of a Conspiracy. It might 
have been entitled Satan s Invisible World Disco-, 
veredj as it lays open a scene of villany worthy of 


that great philosopher, and calculated for extending 
his dominions over all the world. I know that 
some of our sans culottes affect to treat it as a work 
of mere imagination, though the facts related in it 
are clothed with complete historical evidence. Per 
haps they may say the same thing of the account of 
the behaviour of the French in Suabia, which has 
been lately published: but facts cannot be put out of 
existence by reasonings, nor erased from the records 
of time, in order to save the reputation of republican 
soldiers. If an account of all the enormities com 
mitted by the French in sundry parts of Europe, 
could be collected, it would compose the most shock 
ing volume in all the history of mankind. Yet there 
are not a few among us, who wish to see them in 
this country, and who hope, by their assistance, to re 
generate, that is, to overturn the federal govern 

I shall be happy to hear from you with your con 
venience, and to be assured that I have given 
you no offence; being, my dear sir," 
" With much regard," 

" Your sincere friend," 


-Rev. Dr. Miller, New York." 

After perusing the foregoing remarks and let 
ter, the following letter, to a venerated friend in 
Scotland, will not surprise the reader: 

: - To the Rev. Dr. Paton, Craig, near Montroso, North Britain." 

" Carlisle, October 10M, 1799." 
; Rev. and dear Sir" 

} was favoured with yours of the 23d of July, a 


few days ago. I answered that of March 12th, soon 
after I received it. I have reason to be thankful 
that I and my wife and family are still in pretty 
good health. Though the yellow fever is raging in 
Philadelphia and New York, this season has been 
with us very healthy. It is long before we ean hear 
of the transactions of Europe. We are impatient to 
hear of the success of the secret expedition from 
England, the fate of the French fleet, and that of 
Buonaparte s army in^Syria, as well as of the issue of 
the infernal commotion in Paris. The success of 
the Russians in Italy, and of the Austrians in Swit 
zerland, leads us to hope that that great nest of vipers 
which has so long plagued France, and all Europe, 
will soon be crushed. But you will have the satis 
faction of hearing it long before us. I am sorry for 
the consequences of restraining the missionaries, and 
the erection of a new society of Dissenters among 
you.* Being hindered from preaching to the heathen 
abroad, they have revenged themselves by preaching 
it to the heathen at home, of whom no doubt } ou have 
not a few. And though this may be called preaching 
Christ out of strife and envy, yet your General As 
sembly have shown a spirit directly opposite to that 
of the Apostle Paul, who tells us that he rejoiced on 
an occasion of the like nature; whereas they have 
been so far from rejoicing, that they have got into a 
violent passion against the missionaries, and forbid 
their members to encourage them, or to employ them, 
by which means they have erected a new sect of 

* There is here a reference to obstacles thrown in the way of 
missionaries in the east, by the British government, together with, 
the consequences of these prohibitory acts. 


Dissenters, who will naturally associate with the en 
emies of government, after having been so ill treated 
by it." 

"When Mr. Whitefield itinerated in Scotland, 
some ministers employed him, and others not; but 
when an overture was brought in to inhibit them 
from employing him, the Assembly wisely rejected 
it, and declared that the employing or not employ 
ing Mr. Whitefield, should not be made a term of 
communion; by which moderate conduct, no schism 
took place. How wise would it have been to have 
imitated this conduct on the present occasion! Soon 
after, Mr. Whitefield came over to America; but our 
clergy at that time not being so wise as yours, those 
who employed him broke off all connection with 
those who did not, and these with the others; by 
which folly, a schism took place in the Presbyterian 
body, which was scarcely at an end when I arrived 
in this country. But your General Assembly have 
chosen to imitate the folly of this latter course, rather 
than the wisdom of their own predecessors. I have 
never heard of any measure of the British govern 
ment since the Revolution, that even resembled per 
secution; but this violent proceeding of Henry Dun- 
das amounts to persecution in the most gross and 
criminal sense of the word. Mr. Dundas is like the 
do<r in the manger, in the Fable of JEsop, as he will 
neither profit by the Gospel himself, nor suffer 
others to profit by it, if he can hinder them. Such 
conduct was never heard of in any other Christian 
country. The Roman Catholics have been com 
mended even by Protestant writers for their dili 
gence in propagating their religion in Heathen and 


Mahommedan countries. But no Roman Catholic 
missionary was ever prohibited, either by any Pope 
or Roman Catholic Prince, from visiting any country 
whatever with the view of propagating the Chris 
tian religion; far less did they ever attempt to ex 
clude them from any part of their own dominions. 
Such cruelty and absurdity seem to have been reserved 
for Protestant governments; and I am sorry that the 
only instance of it should have been found in the 
government of GreatBritain. The Assembly ought 
rather to have petitioned government to permit the 
emigration of these innocent ecclesiastics, and endea 
voured to convince them that the Gospel was never 
reckoned a contraband commodity by any Christian 
nation, nor supposed to have a tendency to produce 
any harm to society: that if government did not 
think these missionaries the fittest persons for propa 
gating the Christian religion, the design, at least, was 
laudable, and their zeal might evaporate, not only 
innocently, but profitably in India; whereas if it were 
violently restrained, it might produce a convulsion 
that might endanger both Church and State, as has 
actually been the case. The Missionaries must 
know that they have been unjustly and cruelly treat 
ed by government, and they must feel the indignity 
of being the only persons that are oppressed in a free 
nation. And can it be expected that they will be 
friends to that government which has made them the 
only victims of its injustice? The Roman Catholic 
clergy of France were kindly received and support 
ed, and permitted to propagate their religion in Eng 
land; but it seems that Protestant clergymen are 
dangerous persons, and not fit to be tolerated even. 



in a heathen country! Such persecution may be ex 
pected to draw down the vengeance of heaven on the 
government that is guilty of it; and I confess I am 
more apprehensive for the fate of Great Britain, on 
account of this unexampled persecution, than from 
all the armaments of the French, and all the plots of 
revolutionists and reformers." 

" But while I say this, I do not commend the con 
duct of the Missionaries. They ought rather to have 
gone to the East Indies by way of Cape Horn, or 
through Turkey and Persia, than to have encouraged 
division, and kindled the torch of discord in their 
native country." 

"Unius ob noxam et furias Hcnrici Dundas." 

" But in this case there seems to have been a strife 
betwixt the Missionaries, Henry Dundas, and the 
General Assembly, which of them should show them 
selves the greatest fools. And, in the competition, 
the General Assembly, who had the example of the 
others before them, are, undoubtedly, entitled to the 

" I have not yet seen Dr. Erskine s Sermons; but 
I suppose that they are in a parcel which he informs 
me that he had sent, but which I have not yet receiv 
ed. I congratulate you on your new church, and 
think that, excepting its size, it will be better filled by 
an old minister, such as you, than by many of those 
who have latelv come up. Your heritors ought to 
give you an assistant after so long an incumbency; 
but generosity to ministers is none of the vices of 
the present age. When the inhabitants are once 


assembled in their winter quarters, I shall direct in 
quiry to be made for the person you mention, though 
it is very difficult and often impossible to discover 
emigrants in a country, where few people continue 
any time in the same place. The summer has been 
very hot and dry in this country, though the heat 
did not set in early. The springs were mostly dried 
and the grass and hay consumed by the grasshoppers, 
before the sun could burn it up; and the cattle would 
have perished for want, if we had not got plentiful 
rains in the end of August, and the beginning of Sep 
tember, which produced a new crop of grass. The 
wheat crops were scanty, and the potatoes, indian 
corn, and buckwheat, were almost totally ruined by 
the drought. Our vessels are daily taken and plun 
dered by the French; but our citizens do not com 
plain, as they say the French are their friends. But 
when any of them are taken by the English, with 
French or Spanish property aboard, they cry out 
bitterly, and set no bounds to their resentment. We 
are a weak, foolish, and divided people; and nothing 
prevents our being subdued by the French, but that 
the English fleet keeps them at home, and gives them 
full employment. But we are so far from being 
thankful to them for this service, that they are the 
constant objects of the imprecations of the sans cu- 
lotte party among us. A republic is often said to be 
the cheapest form of government; but if we consi 
der the frequency and expense of elections, it may 
be said to be the dearest of all. This year, we have 
an election of a Governor; and I believe it will cost 
this State more than half a million of dollars, by the 
mere interruption of business, and, perhaps, a great- 


er sum in drink, canvassing, and distributing hand 
bills. But this is not all. The king of Spain, whose 
ambassador here is son-in-law to the democratic can 
didate for Governor, is supposed to have expended 
a greater sum still in private donations to dema 
gogues and agents, for procuring votes, which will 
be charged for secret services." 

" If your people were wise, they would see that 
the right of universal suffrage, which they so fool 
ishly contend for, is a nuisance and not a blessing, as 
it reduces elections to a mere lottery, in which de 
magogues have the disposal of the prizes, and ninety- 
nine parts in a hundred of the electors know nothing 
of either of the candidates, and often care as little. 
We are not yet certain that the democratic candi 
date for governor is chosen, as the election was only 
on the Sth instant, and all the voles in the different 
counties must be sent to the capital and numbered 
before the successful candidate can be declared. But 
as he had aids to which the other candidate had no 
thing to oppose, it is considered as almost certain 
that he will have the majority." 

The Millennium has been of late a subject of 
speculation here. Some of our ignorant clergy have 
imagined that it began with the French Revolution! 
But it is strange that the reign of Atheism should be 
called the reign of Christ. A minister in New Jer 
sey lost his senses by studying the prophecies re 
specting the Millennium, or rather by endeavouring 
to reconcile it to his own notions. After having set 
a day for its commencement, and being disappointed, 
he turned Anabaptist, and re-baptised some of his 
congregation, who were as mad as himself. In a 


little while he turned Episcopalian; and soon after* 
wards he expended an ample patrimony of his own, 
and all that he could collect from his friends, in erecting 
immense huildings, for stowing the goods and money 
of the Jewish nation, which he imagined they were 
to leave in his custody, while they were to proceed, 
poor and penniless, to take possession of the land of 
Canaan. It is plain that he knew nothing of Jews 
when he imagined that they were to leave their mo 
ney and goods behind them; though, if they expect 
ed to be restored by Buonaparte, that would have 
been a very wise measure, as he would have imme 
diately confiscated them for the benefit of the great 
nation. But this reverie took place long before 
the expedition to Egypt. Enthusiasm and Infidelity 
seem mutually to produce each other. I have just 
now been reading a German newspaper, published 
at York, in this neighbourhood, wherein it is assert 
ed that Buonaparte is the Saviour mentioned in 
Isaiah xix. 20; that Bonnier and JRoberjot are the 
two witnesses mentioned in the Revelation, and 
the two olive trees in Zechariah, as being ministers 
of peace. And I was lately assured by a clergyman 
of credit, that a distinguished Physician of Philadel 
phia had given it as his opinion, that the expedition 
of Buonaparte into Syria was to be understood by 
the high way out of Egypt into Assyria, Isaiah xix. 
23. Dr. Bryce Johnston s commentary on the Reve 
lation is the best that I have met with; though the 
Millennium is still, and ought to be, as long as it is 
future, involved in obscurity." 

"The Socinian and anarchical publications in 
England and Germany, seem to be more prejudicial 


to religion than direct infidelity, as they seduce many 
to renounce Christianity before they are aware of it. 
Buonaparte s adventures seem to be almost at an end 
by the defeat at St. John D Acre, and Sir Sidney 
Smith has had a noble opportunity of being revenged 
on the French, for the cruel usage he met with when 
a prisoner among them. It is manifest that the 
French despair of Buonaparte s success, by their 
having denounced those who sent him on his anti- 
Crusade, and by their sending him no reinforcements. 
Italy seems to be once more free, as we expect soon 
to hear that the French are driven from Geneva; and 
the deliverance of Switzerland may, perhaps, be as 
sudden as its conquest. When will men be at peace 
with one another? The eighteenth century seems 
to go out very bloody and threatening, and God only 
knows how the nineteenth is to set in." 

" I am rather uneasy at the rendezvous of the 
French and Spanish fleets at Brest; though it announ 
ces their complete disappointment with respect to 
their interests in Italy and Egypt. It is too near 
England and Ireland to be beheld without concern. 
As in the American war, the combined fleets only 
played at bo-peep with the English, and returned, 
without doing mischief, to their native shores, I have 
hopes that the same will be the case at present, espe 
cially as they were both stronger and more united 
than they can be now. Yet till they are disposed of, 
or driven away with disgrace, I am not without ap 
prehension for Great Britain. There are still many 
traitors and malcontents in all the three kingdoms; 
so that perhaps Henry Dundas may not find it so 
easy to keep the French out of England, as to keep 


the missionaries out of India. But I hope for better 
things. We are told that the secret expedition to 
Flanders or Holland is not to be given up on account 
of the return of the hostile fleets to Brest, and the 
French Directory are so distressed at home, that they 
cannot find out any army that could be formidable 
to Great Britain, especially after Buonaparte had de 
clined that expedition, and chosen rather to engage 
with Turks and Mamelukes. The state of suspense 
is a painful one; yet in this I must be content to re 
main, till I hear of the destruction or dispersion of 
the combined fleets, on which I think the safety of 
this country, as well as that of Great Britain depends 
at present. Our malcontents would hide their dimi 
nished heads, and disown their rebellious principles, 
when they were no longer supported by the French 
Republic, or encouraged by successes." 

"The Pope is, infallibly, in a ticklish situation in 
France, and the respect paid him by the remains of 
the Roman Catholics will, perhaps, cost him the loss 
of his head, unless the Directory have hopes of a 
ransom from the Catholic princes in the negociations 
for peace, which I hope is not far off; though I think 
no armistice ought to be agreed to, till France is 
stript of all her conquests, and content to submit to a 
limited monarchy. Indeed, an absolute one is too 
good for them. If it be true that the king of Prussia 
has acceded to the coalition, the business might soon 
be over. Remember me kindly to any in your 
neighbourhood who have not forgotten me, and let 
me hear frequently of your welfare, and that of all 
friends with you. I remain, with unfeigned esteem, 


Rev. and dear Sir, your very humble servant," 

" Rev. Mr. Miller, New York." 

The venerable friend and correspondent to whom 
the foregoing letter was directed, was considerably 
more advanced in life than Dr. Nisbet, and survived 
him for several years. He died in the year 1811, full 
of years, and of those sanctified honours with which it 
is the happiness of the pious and devoted minister of 
religion to close his faithful labours. 

Toward the close of A. D. 1800, the last year of 
the 18th century, the writer of this Memoir, then a 
pastor in the city of New-York, resolved to take 
public notice of the close of one century, and the 
commencement of another, in a discourse from 
the pulpit. This purpose he accordingly fulfilled 
on the first day of January, 1801; and out of that 
Sermon afterwards grew, unexpectedly, the enlar 
ged plan which issued in his "Retrospect of the 
Eighteenth Century," in two octavo volumes. A 
few weeks before the day just mentioned, he ad 
dressed a letter to his learned and venerated Friend 
at Carlisle, intimating his purpose, and soliciting 
from him any suggestions which might aid in execu 
ting his plan. That Friend was then in advanced 
life, in declining health, and in circumstances, on a 
variety of accounts, unfavourable to any response on 
an extended scale. Yet his compliance with the 
request made, was prompt, and as will be seen, both 
extended and able. The following characteristic an 
swer will show a mind awake to all the occurrences 
of the day, and especially sensitive with regard to 
every thing which had a bearing on the interests of 
good morals and religion. 


" Carlisle, 1G/A Dec. 1800." 
" Dear Sir," 

" Your design of preaching the funeral sermon, of 
the 18th century is pious and rational. It is fit that 
you should celebrate the Mother that bore you; and 
her character is large and various enough to afford 
numerous topics of praise and blame." 

"Perhaps the most distinguishing character of the 
age, is the spirit of free inquiry, which has been so 
prominent, and which indeed has beeji carried almost 
to madness. I was born in the thirty-sixth year of 
it, when it was rather past its vigour; and, of late> 
when it seems to be past child-bearing, it teems with 
the most monstrous and mis-shapen productions. 
Air-Balloons; the Rights of Man; the Sovereignty of 
the People; and the Guillotine, are the productions 
of its dotage and decrepitude. The arts of destruc 
tion have been improved beyond the examples of 
former ages. Fusillades, Royades, and massacres of 
six, seven or eight hundred men or women at a time, 
have been among its chief discoveries. Its love of 
scepticism has only been equalled by its hardiness 
of decision. Having proscribed the love of system, 
it is not shocked with the grossest contradiction. 
Hence an unrestrained liberty of thought, speech, 
publication and action, has been combined with an 
obligation to universal soldiership, though no two 
things more incompatible with each other can be 
conceived by the human imagination. And as old 
people are twice children, the present age, in the 
progress of decrepitude, is busy in vamping up old 
publications, and reviving old exploded errors, such 
as Atheism, Socinianism, and wha,t seeras the last 


stage of delirium, the indifference to all opinions in 
religion. Yet this is established by the constitution 
of the United States, and in all our state constitu 
tions. The equality of the opinions of one God, 
twenty Gods, or no God, is affirmed in Mr. Jeffer 
son s Notes on Virginia, and seems to be becom 
ing the established creed. By the vvay, I have just 
heard with sorrow that he has been chosen Presi 
dent of the United States, and Burr Vice-President. 
God grant us patience to endure their tyranny! 
Though it would appear by Buonaparte s drinking 
to the " Sixteen United Departments," at the enter 
tainment which he gave to our Ambassador, that he 
considers the sixteen United States as a part of his 
dominions. You must not forget some great disco 
veries which. have been made in the course of the 
century which you propose to celebrate. Dr. Hart 
ley has discovered that the soul of man is material, 
by which Dr. Priestley, and some of our own dis 
tinguished Savans, have been greatly enlightened. 
Lord Monboddo, in his " Essay on the Origin of Lan 
guage," has discovered that all men were originally 
beasts, and by passing successively through the state 
and nature of Dogs, Foxes, Jackalls, Monkeys, and 
Ourang Outangs, at last arrived at the vocality and 
rationality of human nature. His Lordship consi 
ders the race of Monkeys, Baboons, and Ourang Ou 
tangs as nations imperfectly civilized, but in the way 
to perfection. Mr. Taylor has discovered the re 
ality of the mythology of the ancient Greeks, and 
revived the worship of Jupiter, and the other fabu 
lous deities of Homer. He has made many disciples; 
but I know not whether he has obtained Buona- 


parte s license to visit Paris, and pay his devotion* 
to the Farnesian Hercules, the Apollo of Belvidere, 
and the Medicean Venus, or is obliged to worship, 
such copies and casts of them as England may afford. 
Buonaparte, while in Egypt, discovered the truth 
and divinity of the Mohammedan religion, which 
has been again discovered by Menou, his successor, 
even after Buonaparte had subsequently discovered, 
in France, the truth of the Christian religion. Tho 
mas Paine has discovered that the people have a 
right to change every form of government every 
hour, if they please. And the constitutional Clergy 
of France have discovered that Christianity is an im 
posture. At the same time, the whote people of 
France discovered that the body of a naked prosti 
tute was the supreme object of religious worship. 
Such discoveries surely cannot be matched in any 
age or nation. Yet, after Nature and Reason had 
been proclaimed to be the onJy Gods, Robespierre 
discovered that there was a Supreme Being; though 
afterwards, on recollection, he discovered that the 
c sovereign people were the Supreme Being, and 
swore by them accordingly. It has been discover 
ed that Republics are food of peace, and that mon- 
archs alone make war, by those who have destroyed 
all the Republics in Europe, except Hamburgh. 
Buonaparte has discovered that Liberty and Equal 
ity consist in an unconditional submission to the or 
der of one supreme Consul; and the whole people of 
France, the owners of this Liberty and Equality, 
have ratified the discovery. The Democrats of Ame 
rica have discovered that it is for the interest of 
Christianky to elect a President who is. indifferent 


whether the people believe that there is one God, or 
twenty Gods, or no God at all. May not this cen 
tury be denominated the age of discovery? Mr. 
Godwin has discovered that government, religion, 
morality, marriage and property, are so many en 
croachments on the liberties of mankind, and that 
gratitude is a vice and not a virtue." 

"Among the inventions of the eighteenth cen 
tury, you must not forget to commemorate the fact, 
that a Deistical meeting was established in London, 
by David Williams, originally a dissenting minister. 
In this place of worship they had sermons, prayers, 
&c. as in ordinary Christian assemblies. The Deists, 
however, soon became weary of hearing sermons; 
and Williams, after two years, went over to France, 
and, by an easy transition, became an Atheist; came 
back to England, and formed a Liturgy, and a sys 
tem of Psalmody, adapted to atheistical worship! 
Dr. Theophilus Lindsay, a clergyman of the Church 
of England, resigned his living in the establishment, 
for a better one among the Unitarians in London;, 
and prevailed on five other established clergymen 
to do the same, though they did not gain so much 
by the exchange as he did. They all became Socin- 
ians. One clergyman of the Church of Scotland re 
signed his charge for the same reason; and a popular 
Seceding minister declared himself a Deist. Several 
dissenting ministers in different parts of England 
put off the clerical and Christian character at once, 
and professed themselves Deists. 7 

" The revolutions of America, France, Venice, 
Rome, Holland, Naples, and Switzerland, are among 
the most remarkable events in this century, and 
likely to give birth to many others, and have eatire- 



ly changed the relative situation of the powers of 
Europe. The increase of infidelity and atheism, 
and the progress that the French Propagandists have 
made in demoralizing the minds of men, in order to 
grind them down into citizens, is very alarming, 
as it has extended to the greatest part of the civilized 
world, and seems to be still growing. The suppres 
sion of the Jesuits would have been noticed as a sur 
prising event, if it had not heen followed by many 
others of a much more surprising character. The 
unprincipled persecution of the French clergy, by 
pretended philosophers, who professed to abhor all 
persecution, might have been noticed as a signal 
contradiction, had not the promoters of it renounced 
all system and consistency of opinion. The murder 
of the kings of France and Sweden, and the poison 
ing of an Emperor and Empress of Germany, are 
among the early triumphs of Liberty and Equality, 
though those things were reckoned crimes in former 
ages. An ignorance and contempt of antiquity, and 
a boundless rage for theory and experiment, has 
been one of the distinguishing features of this age; 
and though the rage for Liberty and Equality in 
France has been obliged to succumb into submission 
to one person, this circumstance has not in the least 
abated the same rage in America, which may soon, 
perhaps, lead to a similar despotism, or, what is more 
probable, in subjection to the despot of France. This 
century is likely ta expire in blood, as the prospect 
of a general peace in Europe is still at a distance. 
The number of the victims of war in this century > 
would constitute a very great and powerful nation, 
especially if we include their possible posterity. " 
" With regard to the great works of the eighteenth 


century in Poetry, History, the translations of classic 
authors, Greek and Latin, and especially the princi 
pal works which belong to the department of Theo 
logy, Biblical Criticism, and Ecclesiastical History, 
I have reason to know that you need no suggestion. 
They are too familiar to your mind to require the 
least hint from me. But I hope, that in treating the 
Biblical and Theological part of your subject,* 
you will devote particular attention to the rise and 
progress of what is emphatically called Rationalism 
among the divines of Germany. This is so promi 
nent, so painful, and, at the same time, so instruc 
tive a feature in the ecclesiastical history of the 
18th century, that your readers, (if you should print 
what you deliver,) will, no donbt, expect a special 
notice of a matter so much talked of in every eccle 
siastical circle. And as my reading in German has 
been probably more extensive than yours, (I do not 
remember whether you read German at all,) I will 
give some sketches on the subject. The Divinity of 
Christ was the first doctrine attacked by the Neolo- 
gists, or New Reformers; and on this head some em 
braced the Arian, and some the Socinian system. 
The next was the Atonement, or Satisfaction of 
Christ, in attacking which they pretended that all 
those expressions of our Saviour and his Apostles 
from which this doctrine was inferred, were only in 

* This part of the original plan of the " Retrospect of the Eigh 
teenth Century" was never executed. When the author had com 
pleted the first pait on " The Revolutions and Improvement in Sci 
ence, Arts, and Literature, during that period," the remainder of the 
subject appeared so to swell under his hands, that he did not dare to 
pursue it. 



condescension to Jewish prejudices. Under this 
head they reckoned the quotations from the Old 
Testiment prophecies applied to Christ; his being 
called the Messiah, the Son of God, the Redeemer 
of Israel. They denied that his death was a sacrifice; 
but insisted that it was a mere martyrdom; that he 
was only a teacher of morality, and natural religion, 
and that by his doctrine he redeemed his followers 
from idolatry and superstition, from Levitical cere 
monies, and Jewish prejudices. The third doctrine 
that was attacked was that of Original Sin, or the cor 
ruption of human nature, and the loss of God s im 
age by the fall, the belief of which they contended, 
was inconsistent with our natural notions of the Di 
vine goodness and justice. The fourth doctrine was 
that of Faith. The new reformers contended that 
all that the Scriptures mean by Faith, is only the re 
ceiving the doctrines of Christ as true, and Jiving 
according to them; and some openly asserted that 
we are not bound to believe the history or miracles 
of Christ and his Apostles, but merely the moral 
precepts. The fifth doctrine was that of the Sacra 
ments, to which the Reformers ascribed little or no 
virtue. The sixth was the existence of Angels and 
Devils, which the Neologists denied, and the eternity 
of hell-torments, which they maintained to be con 
trary to all reason. They likewise rejected Creeds 
and Confessions of Faith, as altogether inconsistent 
with freedom of inquiry. This led to a contempt 
of the Scriptures, and a doubt of their divine inspi 
ration, or confining it to a part of the Scriptures. 
Some confined inspiration to the New Testament. 
At last they asserted that nothing in Scripture ought 


to be believed as coming from God, except what 
tended to promote the moral perfection of man. 
Their rules of criticism and exposition of the Scrip 
tures were adapted to this supposition; and they 
seemed to labour to alter the Christian faith, so as 
to render it more palatable to the Deists." 

" The philosophy of Leibnitz and Wolf, which en 
joins on all men to think for themselves, and to be 
lieve nothing of which they could not form distinct 
ideas, contributed greatly to the success of the New 
Reformers; and led them to expunge all mysteries 
and miracles out of their creed: and the translation 
of the works of the English Deists into German gave 
them still greater assistance. Commentaries, Dic 
tionaries, and Literary Journals were employed for 
propagating and recommending their new doctrines, 
by which means many were led to adopt them who 
had never read the Socinian or Deistical writers. 
In 1779 Dam published a translation of the New 
Testament according to these views, which he had 
conceived from 1758. He maintained that the books 
of Moses are only so far inspired as they lead to 
God; that the history of the fall is a fiction; that the 
book of Job is likewise a fiction; and that there are 
many falsehoods in the books of Samuel and Joshua; 
that the Psalms contain contemplations of the divine 
perfections, but no prophecies; that all the books of 
the Old Testament are mere human writings; and 
that the historical books of the New Testament are 
written in the taste and manner of the ancient Jews, 
in which truth and fiction are mingled; that Jesus is 
called the Son of God merely because he was a very 
good man, both in his life and doctrine: that he was 


the son of Joseph and Mary; that his doctrine is pure 
natural religion; that the truth of his doctrine does 
not depend on miracles or prophecies, hut on its in 
ternal worth: that his death was not a sacrifice or 
atonement for sin; nay that he did not really die on 
the cross, but fell into a fainting fit; and that he was 
taken out of his grave, and restored to life and health, 
after which he left the country of Judea. They 
maintained that he did not ascend into heaven; and 
that the effusion of the Holy Ghost on the day of 
Pentecost was no miracle, but the effect of a thunder 
gust, and the credulity of the multitude. That when 
the Evangelists relate miracles, they are always to 
be explained according to the laws of nature. That 
there are no mysteries, nor revealed religion. That 
the chief object of Christianity is morality, and no 
thing more. That the doctrine of the Trinity is not 
true. That there are no angels nor devils: and that 
when devils are mentioned in Scripture, they are to 
be interpreted as meaning either bad men, or grievous 
diseases. That the image of God consists only in Rea 
son which man has not lost. That the resurrection of 
the body is only a figurative representation of the 
soul scontinuing to exist after death. That the punish 
ment of bad men after death shall have an end. That 
what the Scripture says of the day of judgment, and 
the end of the world, is a mere allegory. Such in 
general are the doctrines of the New Reformers, 
though they are not all agreed among themselves. 
Professor Tollncr, at Frankfort on the Oder, depart 
ed in several points from the established Confession, 
but he was more discreet and less insolent than many 
others. Sleinbart, his successor, went further, and 


rejected every thing positive in religion, that is, all 
mysteries, together with the satisfaction of Christ, 
and the corruption of human nature. He published, 
in 1778, his book, entitled The Philosophy of Chris 
tianity separated from Hypothesis. Professor Base- 
dow, curator of the Philanthropin at Dessau, was one 
of the first and most zealous Reformers; but he was 
so honest as to confess that he was neither a Luthe 
ran nor a Calvinist. Ji. W. Teller, of Berlin, pub 
lished a Dictionary of the New Testament. His 
system was not just the same as that of Dam. The 
Old Testament, he said, was for the Jews, the New 
for Christains; of course all those ideas and express 
ions which the New Testament borrows from the 
Old, do not belong to Christian doctrine. He taught 
that the Old Testament was inspired only in so far 
as God is the author of all spiritual good; that Jesus 
is God s only-born Son, by his partaking of the di 
vine nature, and being an extraordinary messenger 
sent from God to men, and adopted by God for 
his Son; that he is our Redeemer, Mediator and Sa 
viour, as he has delivered us from the torment of a 
guilty conscience, and given us assurance of the fa 
vour of God; that as Mediator, he has by his sacrifice 
been Surety for men, that God would have them all 
to be saved ; but that his death is only called a sacri 
fice, in compliance with the Jews, who were accus 
tomed to sacrifices. Eberhard, formerly minister at 
Charlottenburgh, near Berlin, and now professor of 
Philosophy at Halle, belongs likewise to the New 
Reformers, as appears by his Apology for Socrates. 
Ludke, a minister of Berlin, in his treatise on Tole 
ration, and Busch ing, the consistorial counsellor, in 


his treatise on * Confessions/ evidently avow their 
connestion with the same class. Spalding and Sem- 
ler, but especially Dr. Bardt, and Nicolai, of Ber 
lin, have contributed signally to the propagation of 
the doctrine of the New Reformers, which being so 
nearly allied to Deism, gave countenance to professed 
infidelity. Lessing published the Wolfenbuttle 
Fragments, which had a great run in Germany. The 
tendency of all these fashionable writings was to 
render the old doctrines contemptible. These doc 
trines were on all sides exposed to ridicule, as irra 
tional, absurd and pernicious; and the teachers of 
them were held up to view as bigots, blockheads, and 
ignoramuses, &c. Many treatises were published 
against the new doctrines; but these, by being mis 
represented and abused in the fashionable journals, 
were little read. John Frederick Teller, superin 
tendent of Zeitz, wrote a Dictionary of the New 
Testament, in opposition to his brother, before men 
tioned: but without naming him. But it would be 
endless to enumerate all the answers that have been 
made to the New Reformers, especially as these are 
not perfectly consistent with each other, or with the 
doctrines of the first Reformers. But many of them 
are excellent; John E. Mebius, a Dutch minister, 
has published three volumes of Letters against 
Steinbart sPhilosophy of Christianity, and a humour 
ous performance entitled Letters from a Travelling 
Jew, exposing these doctrines to deserved ridicule. 
A treatise entitled The Wolf in Sheep s Clothing, 
without the name of the author, was printed in 1783, 
but it never appeared in the Booksellers shops, as it 
not only refuted the doctrines of the New Reformer* 


by arguments, but exposed them to deserved ridicule, 
the author having a talent for humour. This trea 
tise is highly commended by the orthodox journalists, 
and seems to have made a considerable, though tem 
porary impression." 

" As to religious revolutions in Holland, Switzer 
land, Denmark and Sweden, I know but little; but 
as French fashions have long prevailed in those coun 
tries, it cannot be wonderful if French infidelity 
should likewise become fashionable among them." 

" With regard to the most important of all sub 
jects, to wit, the state of orthodoxy and vital piety 
in the Church, I fear you will be obliged to represent 
it in the Eighteenth Century as every where decli 
ning, and in most places, awfully declining. In 
the Reformed Churches of Germany, France, Hol 
land, Switzerland, and Geneva, this representation, 
we all know, applies in a most distressing degree; 
and even in Great Britain, with few exceptions, it is 
also applicable. We have sometimes hoped that a 
revival of evangelical preaching, and of attachment 
to Gospel truth, was beginning to dawn on Scotland 
toward the close of the century. But, if I mistake 
not, it is certain that a more decisive revival of true 
religion has, within a few years, taken place in Eng 
land, both among some portions of the Dissenters, 
and still more remarkably in the established Church; 
under the ministry, and from the writings of such 
men as Romaine, John Newton, Simeon, Cecil, Scott, 
and others, distinguished for the general soundness 
of their opinions, and the fervour of their piety. 
When Romaine and Hervey arose, in the early part 
of the century, to plead for evangelical religion, they 


stood almost alone among the clergy of the establish 
ment. The spiritual desolation of the Church of 
England was then deplorable. A gratifying change 
has since taken place: but even yet I hear of scarcely 
any participation in this revival in the high places 
of that Church." 

" Thus have I gleaned, with great weakness and 
imperfection, a few hints concerning discoveries and 
improvements in the century just about to expire, 
and to which you may think proper to refer, either 
in the text or the notes of its funeral Sermon. You 
had no need to be apprehensive that your queries 
would give me trouble. They do me honour. I 
should be glad if I had such a man as you in my 
neighbourhood, who might put such questions to me 
every day. May the next century bring you peace, 
happiness and success in your ministry, and better 
prospects to the public than we have at present!" 

"I remain, with sincere and unaltered esteem, 
Dear Sir, your very humble servant," 


"Rev. Mr. Miller, New York." 

In the perusal of the foregoing letter, it ought to 
be borne in mind that it was written forty years ago, 
when the errors and leaders of the Rationalists of 
Germany were less extensively and familiarly known 
than they have since become; and, of course, that the 
sketches concerning them which it contains, were 
then of greater value than they would be now, when 
information on the subject is much more common. 
Still they indicate a mind alive to every thing which 
had a bearing on Religion, in every part of the world.. 


And, probably, there was not another individual in the 
United States, at that time, when an attention to Ger 
man literature had gained so little popularity even 
among the literati of our country, who had kept him 
self so well informed concerning every important 
movement in that country; a country which, ever 
since his day, has been teeming with literary and 
theological labourers greatly beyond any other section 
of our globe; and which has exceeded all others in the 
strange, grotesque, and impious productions of the 
press, as well in the science of Mind, as in that of 



His last Illness and Death. 

FOR a number of years before his decease, Dr. 
Nisbet was not only diligent but uninterrupted in 
his attendance on the duties of his office. From 
the time of his recovery from the severe illness 
which reduced him so low soon after his arrival in 
the country, until the access of that disease which 
terminated his life, such were his fidelity and zeal, 
that he had scarcely ever been prevented, for a sin 
gle day, from attending on the public duties of his 
station. He shrunk from no reasonable task, and 
was ever ready to undertake any labour which pro 
mised real benefit to the institution committed to his 
care. Indeed, literary labour, and especially that 
which consisted in imparting the elements of know 
ledge to ingenuous youth, appeared to be the delight 
of his heart. 

He was often, indeed, not a little distressed to find 
the Trustees of the College entertaining opinions so 
entirely different from his own, respecting the time 
necessary to be bestowed on a course of study, and 
in regard to the best means of conducting the affairs 
of a literary institution. Instead of enlarging and 
improving the system of public instruction, they 
were rather disposed to make it more narrow and su^ 
perficial; and a course already meagre, still more 
meagre, and adapted to disappoint the friends of 


sound learning. Accordingly, the Trustees, several 
years before the Doctor s death, directed the course 
of study in the College to be shortened, and required 
as much to be done in one year as had formerly oc 
cupied two years. To this measure, he strongly 
objected, as a kind of literary quackery; as adapted 
to deceive the public; to impose upon young men 
seeking a liberal education; and as pandering to po 
pular ignorance and parsimony in a manner disgrace 
ful to the guardians of education. His remonstrances, 
hosvever, were in Vain; and there is every reason to 
believe that the mortification and discouragement 
connected with this measure, and some others of a 
similar kind, and indicating the same spirit, preyed 
upon his mind, and convinced him, that the great 
hope which had brought him to the country, that 
he might be instrumental in raising the standard of 
knowledge and public improvement, could no longer 
be cherished. His letters, about this time, bear the 
marks of great depression of spirits, and the gradual 
departure of those fond expectations which he had 
once entertained of extensive usefulness to the cause 
of Literature in the United States. 

A few months before his death, in addressing the 
students of the College, he expressed himself thus: 
" You have studied at a time when the most false 
and absurd opinions concerning learning have been 
current, prevalent, and even rampant. We mean 
those opinions which suppose that a liberal educa 
tion may be attained in a very little time; that the 
study of the ancient languages is useless; that edu 
cation may be completed in the space of a year; that 
two years is too long, and that a great part of the 


time of education ought to be allotted to amusement, 
&c. The encouragement that has been given to 
these opinions among us, has been of far greater de 
triment to this Seminary than the most active malice 
of its numerous enemies; as they have rendered it 
impossible for its numerous friends to recommend 
or defend it. Who would undertake to recommend 
a Seminary that produces yearling graduates, and in 
which the studies of youth are conducted in the 
most expeditious manner? We ought not to wonder, 
therefore, that those gentlemen in other States, who 
have received advice from the newspapers of its pre 
sent state, have given it no countenance, though pre 
viously disposed to encouraged it." And, in the last 
address which he made to the students before his 
decease, the following strain of remark sufficiently 
indicates the bitterness of spirit with which he con 
templated his situation. " While this Seminary con 
tinues to exist, though in a degraded state, when 
compared with others, we shall think it our duty to 
do all that our circumstances permit, for the instruc 
tion of those who are committed to our care. It is, 
indeed, to be lamented that the teachers of youth 
among us, owing to the disgraceful subjection in 
which they are placed, cannot do what they would 
for the improvement of their pupils. To raise ex 
pectations which cannot be fulfilled; to undertake to 
accomplish what they know to be impracticable; to 
promise to do as much in one or two years, as other 
Seminaries can do in three or four, is undertaking 
an impossibility. Men of learning and experience 
would disdain to use the language of quacks and im- 
posters; and they would be inexcusable if they did 


it of their own accord. But when it is imposed on 
them by others, without their consent, their situa 
tion is singularly calamitous, and their circumstances 
make them resemble a sect under persecution. But, 
as in this new country, ever} thing is in a state of 
infancy; and as in the impei feet state of human af 
fairs, a considerable time is necessary before rational 
opinions, and salutary institutions, can be introduced, 
the teachers of youth must be contented to do what 
they can, though they have it not in their power to 
do what they would." 

"Some of those who have had the government of 
Seminaries have greatly deceived themselves and the 
public, by appreciating the labours of learned men by 
the standard of mechanics and day-labourers, and im 
agining that the education of youth could be conduct 
ed on agricultural and mechanical principles. They 
seem to have entirely forgotten that the will and ex 
ertions of the student are indispensably necessary to 
his receiving instruction ; that the master can only 
give lessons and exhortations; but that it depends 
wholly on the will and inclination of the student 
whether he will give any attention to them or not. 
A remedy for this, though a very imperfect one, has 
been proposed, by examination. But unless exam 
ination had a charm to draw out of the head of a stu 
dent what had never got into it, it is of no effect. A 
student on examination can only repeat what he al 
ready knows and remembers; but he cannot repeat 
any thing that he has forgotten, or to which he had 
never given any attention. Where such opinions 
are formed by the managers of Seminaries, it is im 
possible that learning should prosper, as they proceed 


from a profound ignorance of human nature. The 
human mind which is the object of education, is not 
a mere passive subject, like arable land, wood, or 
metal, which can make no resistance to the operations 
of the husbandman or mechanic; but it is a spiritual 
substance, endued with understanding and will, the 
former, perhaps, very weak, and the latter very 
strong and obstinate; and if the will does not con- 


sent to the cultivation of the understanding, all the 
efforts of the teacher must be fruitless. It some- 
limes requires a long time to excite the attention of 
youth, and to make them receive and comprehend 
the ideas contained in their lessons; and oftentimes a 
much longer time to make ihem delight in them, and 
receive them with sensible pleasure; and till this is 
the case no valuable progress can he made in learn 
ing: for no one will learn any thing against his will, 
or labour to understand what he dispises, and what 
gives him no pleasure." 

" Those who imagine that a liberal education 
may be obtained in a year or two, do not seem 
to consider this, but to suppose that scholars will 
as ^readily receive instruction as the earth yields 
to the plough-share, or the hot iron to the stroke 
of the hammer. But those who are practically 
acquainted with education, know by experience that 
this is not the case; but that many youthful minds re 
sist instruction for a considerable time, and occupy 
themselves with any trifles rather than their lessons, 
who, nevertheless, may afterwards be awakened to 
attention, ayd be successful, and, in some cases, 
even highly successful, in the acquisition of know 
ledge. Their time of awakening must be watch- 


ed and waited for, and much instruction must^be 
dispersed in the air, before they can be made to 
receive any. We must follow nature; we cannot 
contradict or control it. The quantity of knowledge 
acquired by any student must be in the compound ra 
tio of his natural capacity, and the degree of his atten 
tion and willingness to learn. And this accounts in 
the most satisfactory manner for the great difference 
that we discover in the attainments of students who 
have had the same opportunities for acquiring know 

" Hence we may see the absurdity and folly of all 
short roads to learning. They all proceed on false 
principles, and must end in miserable disappointment. 
Quacks and projectors in education have indeed pro 
posed an endless variety of plans for diminishing 
the labour, and shortening the time of study, by pro- 
misin"- to teach as much in a few lessons as has been 


hitherto done by the labour and application of seve 
ral years. In Germany and elsewhere, quacks have 
undertaken to teach young men every science by 
way of diversion: but not one real scholar has ever 
been formed by these compendious methods, which 
have never produced any thing else than dunces and 

While these trammels on the discharge of his offi 
cial duties mortified and grieved him, he was not 
free from embarrassment in regard to his temporal 
support. The salary which the Trustees of the Col 
lege originally promised to pay him, was 250 ster 
ling, or about $1200. A few years before his death, 
finding the number of students small, and the 
finances of the Institution declining, they reduced 


his salary to $800; a sum altogether insufficient for 
the comfortable support of his family. Even this 
sum, however, was miserably paid. Arrears were 
allowed to accumulate to an extent mortifying to 
him, and embarrassing to his family. Insomuch that, 
at the time of his decease, these arrears had nearly 
reached the amount of four or five years salary; and 
were recovered at last only by a legal process. The 
Church at Carlisle, to which he steadily ministered 
alternately with Dr. Davidson, as has been already 
mentioned, also stipulated to pay him a small salary 
for his services. It was a mere pittance; but, pit 
tance as it was, it was never punctually paid; and a 
considerable balance had accumulated at the time of 
his death, which his executor recovered by a similar 
process. It is unnecessary to say, that these things 
could not fail to make a deep impression on one who 
had laboured so faithfully and ably to serve the In 
stitution committed to his care; and who had left his 
native country on the faith of the prospects and prom 
ises which have been already described. 

About the beginning of January 1804, Dr. Nisbet 
was seized with a severe cold, accompanied with in 
flammation of the lungs and fever, which gradually 
gained ground until it terminated his life. After the 
disease began to assume a threatening aspect, and es 
pecially within a few days of the closing scene, he 
appeared to suffer exceedingly; but he endured it all 
with remarkable patience and fortitude. He retain 
ed the possession of his mental powers to the last. 
The only faculty which appeared to be strikingly 
impaired was his memory, which in health, was 
among the master powers of his mind. This pre- 


vented his holding much connected conversation 
with those around him during his last hours. The 
exercises of devotion appeared to occupy his heart 
and his lips as long as he was able to utter them. 
The last efforts of vocal utterance which could be 
distinguished, were employed in articulating with 
great tenderness, the name of his wife; and in say 
ing with peculiar fervour, " Holy, Holy, Holy!" 
With these words on his lips, he gently fell asleep, 
on the 18th day of January, A. D. 1804, having 
within three days completed the sixty-eighth year 
of his age. 

It is hardly necessary to say, that the demise of 
the venerated President, covered not only his family, 
but also the whole College with the mantle of mourn 
ing. For, notwithstanding ail the failures of the 
Trustees of the College to fulfill their engagements, 
and to provide for his comfort and that of his family, 
these failures were rather to be ascribed to the de 
plorable scantiness of the funds committed to their 
care, and the want of skill and enterprize in mana 
ging them, than to the want of respect or affection 
for his high character. The decease of this excel 
lent man called into exercise and manifested a widely 
extended and peculiar attachment and veneration. 
The College the town the whole neighbourhood 
were moved, and appeared as mourners. The fune 
ral was attended by multitudes. The Trustees, Fa 
culty and students of the College appeared in a man 
ner which marked their deep sense of the loss which 
they had sustained. A sermon was preached on the 
occasion by the Rev. Dr. Davidson, Vice President 
of the College, and Pastor of the Church in Carlisle. 


Of this sermon it is judged proper to give the follow 
ing extract. 

" We are called this day to perform a very mourn 
ful office indeed ! To convey to the house of silence 
what was mortal of a highly respected Brother and 
Servant of the lord. Great is the loss which we 
have this day to deplore! The world is deprived of 
a Scholar and a Divine worthy to be ranked among 
the most eminent that ancient or modern times have 
produced. The occasion will justify me in depart 
ing from our usual practice, and attempting a brief 
sketch of so worthy a character. This tribute is due 
to his great talents and services. Nor can I with 
hold it without doing violence to my own feelings. 
Having been associated with him in the duties of 
the same pulpit, and of the same literary institution 
for nearly nineteen years, no one can have had a 
better opportunity of observing and admiring his 
extensive acquaintance with languages and science 
his benevolent aims and exertions and his ardent 
zeal for the interests of religion and learning." 

" When some gentlemen of a truly public spirit 
had obtained a charter for a College in this Borough, 
(to bear the name of one of our earliest and most ac 
complished Patriots,) it was their wish to place at 
the head of it some one who was distinguished in 
the literary world; well knowing that the reputa- 
tation and usefulness of such a Seminary would de 
pend greatly on the plan of education first adopted, 
and the manner in which that plan was carried into 
effect. A Seminary in a neighbouring State, had 
risen to high reputation, under the direction of a 
President called from North Britain; a country 


long and justly famed for its learned Universities, 
and eminent scholars. It was expected by the 
founders of this institution^ that, under a similar 
iiead, it might acquire an equal degree of celebrity, 
and become equally useful." 

"The Rev. Dr. Charles Nisbet was known to be 
a scholar uncommonly well skilled in languages, an 
cient and modern, and in those sciences which are 
most necessary to form the minds of young men. 
But he was, at that time, and had been for more 
than twenty years, comfortably settled as a pastor of 
a large Church in Montrose; and to that people we 
are assured he had officiated, during that time, with 
such ability and assiduity, that they were greatly 
attached to him." 

" The Trustees, however, of the new College, hav 
ing unanimously chosen him for Principal, thought 
it their duty to press him by every affecting argu 
ment, to the acceptance of an office, in which they 
hoped he would be as comfortable as in his former 
station, and far more extensively useful. Great was 
the perplexity of his mind, during a whole year, be 
fore he could come to a final determination. To 
leave a society so much pleased with him as their 
spiritual teacher; to bid a last adieu to his native 
land, and the companions of his youth; to cross an 
ocean whose dangers appeared formidable; and to 
cast himself among strangers, in a new world; what 
a sacrifice of his feelings to a sense of duty did this 

" He arrived here on the 4th day of July, 1785, to 
enter immediately on the duties of his office; hoping 
soon to see his prospects of usefulness realized. But 


how uncertain are all our possessions, and all our 
prospects! Very soon after his arrival, by a violent 
fit of sickness, he was rendered incapable of any 
public duty. From the shock which his constitu 
tion then received, it seems never to have fully re 
covered; and such was his debility, and consequent 
dejection of spirits, that a return to his native land 
was seriously contemplated." 

"As soon, however, as his health, in the follow 
ing season was, pretty well restored, he resumed his 
former station. And now we see him entering on a 
scene of active usefulness, which it would be great 
injustice to his character to pass lightly over." 

"Such was his desire to put this College on a most 
respectable footing; and such were his ideas of the 
evils of a superficial education, and the advantages of 
a thorough and solid one, that he spared no pains to 
have his pupils well initiated in every branch of use 
ful knowledge. His acquaintance with books and 
languages was far, very far beyond what is common 
ly acquired by those who obtained a liberal educa 
tion. His memory was indeed extraordinary, and 
retained with ease whatever was committed to it! 
With the languages necessary to be known in order 
to a critical knowledge of ancient authors, sacred and 
profane, he was intimately conversant. The beau 
ties of the Greek and Latin classics lay unveiled to 
his penetrating eye; and there was scarcely a re 
markable passage which he could not accurately re 
peat at pleasure. To show still further the amazing 
powers of his mind, and the abundant sources of his 
knowledge, it is proper to mention, that his acquaint 
ance with the French, Italian, German, Low Dutch 


and Spanish languages, gave him easy access to the 
most celebrated works in these modern tongues. 
Hence we see how it was practicable for him to com 
pose, and deliver, from day to day, (as he did in the 
first years,) those Lectures on Criticism, Logic, and 
Moral Philosophy, which have been so much ad 

" In addition to these duties, after he had been 
some time here he undertook and executed anothe 1 
very important work, which scarcely any other 
man in his circumstances would have attempted. 
This was, to write and deliver, from day to day, 
for more than two years, a course of lectures on 
theological subjects. These lectures form one of the 
most valuable systems of Divinity that the world has 
perhaps ever seen. And these he had the patience 
to dictate to his pupils, (as he did also his philosophi 
cal lectures,) so that they could write down every 

"To complete his character let it be remembered, 
that he was an eminent minister of the Gospel; and 
that in addition to all his other labours, he preached 
for the most part statedly, as one of the pastors of 
this church. The soundness of his principles and 
the solidity of his sermons are well known." 

" The study of the holy Scriptures was his chief 
delight, and in the exposition and application of di 
vine truths, he was indeed a master in Israel. How 
serious and solemn was his manner! How plain 
and perspicous his style, and perfectly free from 
every thing pompous or affected ! He sought not the 
applause of men, but the salvation of souls, and the 
glory of his Redeemer. Ever solicitous to exalt the 


tove and grace of God, and to humble the pride of 
man, salvation by grace was his favourite theme. 
At me same time, no one could be a more severe re 
prover of vice, or more forcibly inculcate that purity 
of heart and life, without which all pretences to faith 
and religion are vain. To you my friends, the peo 
ple of this congregation, there is a voice addressed 
this day, calling upon you long and affectionately to. 
remember him, who has so long dispensed unto you 
the precious word of ftfe; to retain his instructions, 
and continue stedfast in your Christian profession. 
Remember also the excellent example which he set 
before you. View him sustaining with propriety 
every endearing relation, and with exquisite sensibili 
ty, attentive to every social duty. Was he not a most 
agreeable companion, especially in his more tranquil 
days? Was he not ever most happy when in the com 
pany of his friends, and diffusing cheerfulness all 
around him? Who could but admire his lively re 
marks, his quick replies, and the severe strokes he 
was frequently aiming at what he conceived to be 
the follies, the extravagancies, the injustice and im 
pieties that so greatly abound? To see religion flou 
rishing, and mankind rejoicing in its richest bless 
ings, together with the benefits of a wise and effi 
cient government, this he earnestly desired, and 
for this he fervently prayed." 

*- His addresses- to the pupils, and especially at. 
Commencements, contained most important direc 
tions for their conduct in life; and showed his great 
detestation of every vice, and of slavery and op-, 
gression under every form. Those addresses alone 
would make a considerable volume. Let all th 


sons of tin s Seminary affectionately remember the 
exhortations received from him, who felt for them all 
the solicitude of a Father." 

"Finally, let the Trustees and Patrons of this 
Seminary, amidst all their discouragements (and this 
which may appear the greatest of all,) be exhorted, 
not to faint or grow weary in well doing. This 
was an event sometime and certainly to be expected. 
An entire year has not yet elapsed, since your de 
ceased principal saw, to his great grief, the beautiful 
Edifice, that you had nearly finished, enveloped in 
flames. Yet you persevered in the good work 3 ou 
had undertaken; and in lieu of that which you lost, 
a much larger and more convenient building has ra 
pidly progressed, under your direction. how it 
would have pleased him to have seen it completed, 
and the institution, which has already sent forth so 
many young men to fill important stations in society, 
brought to the desired perfection, and placed on a 
broad and permanent basis! But such was not the 
will of Heaven! His race of usefulness here was 

"Attacked with violence, on the first day of the 
year, by a pulmonary complaint, that had been for 
some time growing upon him, the remaining days 
of life were spent with much bodily distress. But 
when the important moment arrived, quietly, with 
out a groan, he breathed his last; and committed, as 
we have sufficient ground to hope, into the hands of 
his Redeemer, a spirit ripe for glory ; and, bidding 
a world of uncertainty and sorrow an everlasting 
adieu, entered into the promised rest, At a good 
age, at the close of his G8th year concluded his. 


active and useful life. May we all live the life, as 
we would hope to die the death, of the righteous; 
and may our last end be like his!" 

Dr. Erskine, the excellent friend and affectionate 
correspondent of the subject of this Memoir, died just 
one year before him. In his will he bequeathed to 
Dr. Nisbet a large part of his Library, as a testimo 
nial of respect and affection. No information, how 
ever, of this bequest reached America before Dr. 
Nisbet s decease. In a few days after the death of 
Dr. Erskine, his surving Son addressed a letter to 
Dr. N. announcing the demise of his Father, but not 
mentioning the legacy. Toward the close of the 
year 1803, Miss Erskine addressed a letter to the 
venerable legatee announcing this token of her Fa 
ther s affectionate remembrance. But before this 
letter reached its destination, Dr. Nisbet was no 
more; and nothing further, of course, was said or 
done respecting the bequest. 

Soon after Doctor Nisbet s decease, the following 
Latin Ode to his memory was prepared by Mr. 
James Ross, who had once held a Professorship in 
Dickinson College; and was, at the date of this com 
position, a Professor in Franklin College, Lancaster, 
Pennsylvania; who knew him well, and was a warm 
admirer of his character. It seems to have been sub 
mitted to the judgement and the disposal of the res 
pectable Gentleman whose name appears in the In 
scription, and was probably by him committed to 
the press. And although its claims on the score of La 
tin poetry are indeed very humble, yet as a testimo 
nial of respect from a most excellent man, it is wor 
thy of being here recorded. 




Hos ego versiculos ; in memoriam viri integerrimi, ncc non ct ex 
omnibus quos setas prsesens, annis multis per orbem terrarum tulit, 
doctissimi, tesserulam honoris, typis, ad Te, tuis mandandos, raitto ; 
quippc qui tc faeilem et commodum meis, aliis occasionibus, haud se- 
mel prccibus dedisti. ^ A - Ross. 

In Obitum 

Viri chrissimi CAKOLI NISBET, D. D. 
Coll. Dickinson. Prrpsidis, qui octodecimo 
Januarii, A. D. 1804, vita decessit. 

TE quoque, qui nostris dignatus vivere Nisbet 

Finibus, eripuit mors ! fera Te eripuit ! 
Tu, tandem, fcssus, metam finernque laborum 

Docte, invenisti, corpore deposito. 
Prcchaus, turinis horninum, sociosque reliciros, 

Morte redeinptus, nunc despicis altivolus. 
Divithis quoque habe.s partas hie,, munera cuita 

Mentis neinjie boiuc, quas dedit ipse UKUS . 
IJaec autem, vostes, auruin, popularis et aura. 

Grata licet quondam, et fulgida, ditlugiunt. 
Finite ergo opere, propter quod missus in orbem. 

Tempore et expleto, convenit utiedeas. 
Haud aliter servus, longas legatus in oras 

Qui, domino, rediit, jam revocante domum. 
Nuncius Ameiicorum hie tristes pervolat oras, 

Aisbet mortuus ! Heu ! doctus et ille peril !" 
Menlibus, ore, oculis, Studiosi (Academia plorat) 

Nisbet nunc quscrunt auxilio ut subeat ! 
Nisbet namque docens, vestigia, qua) sua, pressit ; 

Non aliena sequens : legit at ille sua. 
Nisbet cos docuit falso secernere verum, 

Atque domique foris sedulus oflicio. 
Nisbet eos dscuit rerum cognoscere causas ; 

Nisbet et instituit quserere vera bona. 
O quoties, prseco pandis cum themata sacra, 

" Vivito" dixi " nee sit brevis hora tua ; 
; O felix, sortita Hunc, fausta Columbia, tellus ! 

". Vivito Nisbet ! nee mors fera Te rapiat !" 


Fidite ne vestris; heu ! vana opera omnia, dixit, 

Confugite ad JKSUM, vita in eoque salus. 
Vivere si licuisset nunc, o si ! frueremur 

Voce tua, aspectu, consilioque pio. 
O utinam vixisses ! omnia namque videnur 

Rapta simul Tecum, volaque nostra jacent ! 
Ceciopidae Anytique reum flebantque Platona, 

Nisbut, Te Juvenes non secus atque gement ! 
Vivet in aeternum virtus tua, nulla vetustas 

Delebit famam, conspicuumque decus. 
De patria que tua sors si certabitur olim, 

Te volet esse suum haec, illaque et esse suum, 
Nulla aetasque futura tacebit nomina Nisbet, 

Per terrarum orbsm clara, negata mori. 
Coll. Franklin Lancastrice, A al. Mart. 1804. 

The Trustees of the College desired, and we are 
assured, intended, to erect a suitable monument over 
the grave of their venerated President; but their 
poverty and a load of debt, together with tr?eir want of 
zeal and enterprize, prevented the execution of their 
wishes. At length however, this memorial of re 
spect was completed by the filial affection, and at the 
expense, of his only surviving son, the Hon. Alex 
ander Nisbet, Judge of the city court of Baltimore. 
The following is the epitaph which it bears, and 
which is Ascribed to the pen of the late Rev. Dr. 
JOHN M. MASOJJ, who is universally known as hav 
ing been one of the most accomplished and eloquent 
divines which have adorned the American Church, 
and who was one of the successors of Dr. Nisbet, as 
President of Dickinson College. 



Qui unanimi hortatu 
Curatorum Academja? Dickinson iensis, 


Ut Primarii ejusdem munia susciperct, 

Patria sua, Scotia, rtlicta, 
Ad Carleoluin vcnit, A. D. 1785. 
Pulque per novem dccem annos 

Sumnia cum laudc 

Muncri suo incubuit, 

Viri, si quis alius, probi piique 

Omni doctrinaornatissimi, 

Lectione immcnsa, memoria fideli, 

Acuminc vcro incronii facetiis salibusque 

Plane miri,ct undiquc clari. 

IS cmiui vero murtaliuin nisi iis infensi, 

Qui cum Philosophic proctcxtu saeris insultant. 

Familiar autcm SUJE amicisquc, 
Ob mores suaves, benignos, hilared comcsque 

Unicc delecti. 
Animam placide eftluvit Nino. Kal. Feb. 1804, 

Anno cetati.s 68vo. 
Abiit noster : proh dolor ! 

Cui similem hand lacilc posthac visuri sumus! 
At qucm Terra amisit, lucrifecit Ccclum, 

IVovo spli iulorc 

Corporis rcsuscitati, vitajque eterni 
Cutn Domino .lesu, omnibusque sanctis, 
Ovautoni reJiturum. 

Dr. Nisbet s person was, in height, rather below 
the middle stature, and, in earl) life, slender and full 
of agility. He often said, that in his youth, in walk 
ing, it was easy for him to keep pace with an ordi 
nary horseman; and that he frequently, on a winter 
morning, walked twenty or thirty miles before break 
fast, without any painful effort. Before his arrival 
at middle age, however, he became corpulent, and 
continued so to the end of life. It came upon him 
suddenly, like a disease; and no degree of abstinence 
which he could adopt, appeared to arrest or diminish 
it. Yet his corpulence did not interfere much with 


activity, even in advanced age. His motions were 
habitually rapid, and such as might have been ex 
pected in one who had been once so remarkably 
agile. He was characteristically quick in every 
movement, physical and intellectual. There was 
nothing sluggish or drawling in his constitution. 
Neither did his corpulence interfere with his health. 
This was seldom interrupted. He was, indeed, oc 
casionally troubled with some disorder of the sto 
mach, somewhat similar to the modern fashionable 
disease, called dyspepsia. He, however, very sel 
dom took medicine; but generally found himself en 
tirely relieved by a fast of twenty-four hours, which 
was his unfailing remedy. 

The Print prefixed to this Memoir is copied from 
a painting taken about the fortieth year of his age; 
which is said, by those who knew the venerable 
original at that early period, to be an excellent like 
ness of what he then was. The Mezzotinto copy 
here presented, is executed with admirable success. 

Mrs. Nisbet survived the Doctor more than three 
years. Her health and strength declined from his 
decease. She departed this life on the 12th day of 
May, 1807, in the hope and consolation of the Gos 
pel. She was an excellent woman, greatly attached 
to her husband, and peculiarly adapted and devoted 
to his comfort. 

The library which Dr. Nisbet left, was a peculiar 
one. It was rather select and curious than large. 
Such a collection of books is rarely found. Of what 
may be called common-place works, he had compa 
ratively few. But of books singular in their charac 
ter, or very rare, he was a zealous collector. In this 


respect, his library was probably a unique in our 
country. It comprised works not only in tbe Latin 
and Greek, but also in the French, German, Spanish, 
and Italian languages, all of which, it is believed, he 
read with entire ease. As he made no will, this 
collection fell, without any testamentary disposition, 
into the hands of his widow and children. Some 
years after his death, two of his grand children, viz. 
the Right Rev. Bishop M Coskry, of Michigan, and 
Henry C. Turnbull, E?q. of Maryland, who had ob 
tained the disposal of the Library, generously made 
a present of it to the Theological Seminary at Prince 
ton, as the most suitable ultimate destination of a 
collection of baoks made by a Presbyterian minister, 
whose ruling passion was the diffusion of human and 
divine knowledge, and who had come to our coun 
try, as has been already stated, with the hope of be 
ing able to contribute something toward elevating 
the standard of education, and especially of Theologi 
cal education, on this side of the Atlantic. 

This donation to the Theological Seminary being 
made at a time when it was uncertain whether heresy 
or schism, or both, might not expose every thing 
committed to that Institution to the danger of per 
version; the generous donors thought proper to ron- 
stitute the Presbytery of New Brunswick Trustees 
of the Library, to guard against its being employed 
to promote principles hostile to those of the original 
possessor, and, in case of such perversion, to make 
an ultimate disposal of it. This trust the Presbytery 
has accepted. 

The present chapter will be closed by a brief state- 


ment of the surviving children and descendants of 
this eminent man. 

At the time of his decease he left two sons, and 
two daughters living. 

His eldest son, Thomas, survived him only a 
short time. He was never married, and died with 
out reformation. 

His second son, Alexander, after graduating 
in Dickinson College, studied law with Judge 
Duncan, of Carlisle, and settled, in the practice 
of his profession, in the city of Baltimore; where 
his talents, integrity, and application soon secured 
him a respectable amount of professional success. 
He has occupied the office of Judge of the City Court 
of Baltimore for twenty-two years. He married 
Miss Mary C. wings, of Maryland. They have 
had seven children three sons, and four daughters. 
The daughters only survive. 

The Doctor s eldest daughter, Mary, who, as was 
before stated, married William Turnbull, Esquire, 
died about twenty years after her father. She left 
nine children; four sons and five daughters. Of 
these, all, except one of the sous, are still living, and 
in various highly respectable situations. 

The Doctor s younger daughter, Jllison, who mar 
ried Dr. M Coskry, in 1795. was left a widow, in 
the year 1818, and is still living. She has had six 
children; three sons and three daughters. Of these 
one son only, and two daughters survive. The son 
is the Right Reverend Samuel M Coskry, Bishop of 
the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of 
Michigan. Of the daughters, Mary, the second, 
married the Rev. Erskine Mason, D. D. of the city 


of New York; and Alison the youngest, married Mr. 
Charles D. Cleaveland, late Professor in Dickinson 
College, now Principal of a respectable literary In 
stitution in the city of Philadelphia. 

In a few months after the decease of Dr. Nisbet, 
an extended Monody to his memory was published 
by CHAIILES KEITH, IM. D. a Physician, of Scotland, 
who afterwards removed and practised his profession 
in England. He considered himself as deeply in 
debted to the Doctor, for a large part of his early 
education, and for his success in life; and was ar 
dently attached to his memory. After Dr. Nisbet s 
death, Dr. Keith, in a letter to his younger son, Alex 
ander Nisbet, Esquire, of Baltimore, expressed him 
self concerning his reverend friend in the following 
strong; lan^ua^e. " Ever dear to me must be the Son 

O C? ~ 

of my ever honoured and much lamented Friend. 
Proud I am to have had such a Friend: for, take him. 
for all and all, I never knew his equal: and proud 
you may well be to have had such a Father. His 
death was to me a grievous affliction. His loss I can 
never supply. But if I have lost so much in a friend 
separated from me by the wide Atlantic, what must 
not your mother and all of you have lost!" 

After the decease of Dr. Nisbet, Dickinson College 
continued still further to decline. Its deplorable 
poverty, and the still more deplorable want of zeal, 
harmony and efficiency on the part of the board of 
Trustees ensured an existence, if continued, sickly 
and feeble. Five or six Presidents in succession 
were appointed, but without any effectual relief; un 
til at length the Prpsbyterian board for such was 
the predominant influence which sustained the Insti- 


tution surrendered it into the hands of gentlemen 
connected with the Methodist Episcopal Church in 
the United States. By the brethren of that denomi 
nation, the Institution has since been borne onward 
and upward with commendable zeal, and with a very 
respectable degree of success. 



His Character, ^-c. 

THE attentive reader will have seen enough in the 
foregoing statements am! remarks to enable him to 
make a distinct estimate of the character of Dr. Nis- 
het, without any formal attempt to draw his por 
trait. Yet for the sake of furnishing a convenient 
medium for presenting to the public some of the Let 
ters, and other testimonials which follow, and which 
might have been greatly multiplied, this closing 
Chapter is added to the foregoing. The writer ac 
knowledges, too, that in making this addition, he is 
in some degree influenced by a lurking reluctance to 
take a final leave of a character so endeared to him 
self bv a thousand most respectful and affectionate 

Probablv no minister in the American Church, 
now living, was at once more intimately acquainted 
with Dr. Nisbet, and more capable of appreciating 
his character, than the Rev. Dr. Ashbel Green, late 
President of the College of New Jersey, and still, in 
a venerated old age, zealously and ably serving the 
cause of evangelical truth and order. This Father 
of the American Church, at the request of the writer 
of the present Memoir, transmitted to him the fol 
lowing Letter, which is inserted for the double pur 
pose of presenting to the public the interesting facts 
and opinions which it contains; and also, as a memo- 


rial of that early and long continued friendship which 
led to this union and co-operation in erecting an 
humble monument to the memory of the illustrious 

" Philadelphia, tfpril 30th, 1839." 
" Rev. and Dear Sir," 

" I am now to fulfil a promise which you drew 
from me, that I would furnish you with some of my 
reminiscences of the late Rev. Dr. Charles Nisbet. " 

; iMy first acquaintance with this eminent man 
was at Princeton, shortly after his arrival from Scot 
land, in the year 1785. My impression and belief 
is although I cannot affirm it as a fact that before 
he went to Carlisle, he left his family in Philadel 
phia, and made a short visit to his old friend Dr. 
Witherspoon. I was then a professor in the College 
at Princeton, and was, as a matter of course, introdu 
ced to Dr. Nisbet, with whom however I had but 
little intercourse or conversation. Nearly the whole 
of what I distinctly remember of him, at that time, 
is, that Dr. Witherspoon conducted him into the 
college chapel, where he offered the usual evening 
prayer with the faculty and students." 

" It was not till the month of February, in 1786, 
that I was licensed to preach, and not till the spring 
of 17S7, that I was settled in Philadelphia; and du 
ring this period I knew nothing more of Dr. Nisbet 
than I have already mentioned, except that he was 
established at Carlisle, as the President of Dickinson 

" Shortly after my collegiate connection with Dr. 
Sproat, I obtained but from whom I do not remem- 


b er a copy of a printed sermon delivered at Car 
lisle by Dr. Nisbet, soon after be bad entered on his 
official duties in tbat place. So far as I know, this 
was the only publication that he made in this coun 
try. It has been, I find, a prevalent belief, that after 
he left Scotland, (how it was before I know not,) he 
never made a publication of any kind: but of the 
sermon to which I have referred, I have a distinct 
recollection; and I have a strong impression, yet not 
amounting to confidence, that the text of the sermon 
was Acts vii. 22: And Moses was learned in all the 
wisdom of the Egyptians. 

" Dr. Nisbet was in the habit of visiting Philadel 
phia at the annual meetings of the General Assem 
bly of our church. When he was a member of that 
body, lie came here of course: and when he was not 
a member, he selected this period to make an excur 
sion for the benefit of his health, and to see and con 
verse with his clerical brethren, from all parts of our 
country; as well as to enjoy the company of a large 
circle of friends in this city friends among other 
denominations of Christians, as well as his own. He 
excelled in conversation, and greatly delighted in 
social intercourse. I well remember to have heard 
him remark, that at the meetings of our Presbyte 
ries, Synods, and General Assemblies, the private 
and friendly intercourse of the ministers and elders 
of our church, was, in his opinion, as useful as their 
ecclesiastical acts as judicatories; and to me, he ad 
ded, far more pleasing." 

" It was at an early period of my pastoral life, but 
the year I do not remember, that at one of his an 
nual visits to Philadelphia, we renewed our former 


acquaintance; and from that time till his death, I had 
much intercourse with him, both in personal con 
versation and in epistolary correspondence. Most 
of his letters to me were of great length closely 
written, but as legible, nearly, as a well printed book;, 
for his hand writing was beautiful, and remarkably 
distinct. He very rarely erased or amended a single 
word that he had first penned. I once asked him 
how he could do this, as I knew he never used trans 
cription. His reply was characteristic. Your 
question, said he, is easily answered. I always write 
what first comes into my head, and leave it to my 
correspondents to erase and amend just as much as 
they please. I regret to say, that I have lent and 
given away his letters, till I have not one remaining, 
of those he addressed to myself. A long one to Dr. 
Witherspoon has come into my hands, which I hope 
to insert in his life. " 

" Dr. Nisbet, was, beyond comparison, a man of 
the most learning that I have ever personally known. 
Of this learning, however, he was never ostentatious. 
It discovered itself in his conversation and letters, 
but without any thing like intentional display. In 
my hearing, he never even adverted to his various 
attainments. Yet from what I observed, and what 
I have learned from others, I believe it may be safe 
ly stated, that beside his own language, he was skill 
ed in Hebrew, including the Chaldee, Greek, Latin, 
French, Italian, Spanish, German, snJ probably Erse. 
Whether he was, or was not, acquainted with the 
Arabic, Syriac, Persic or Sanscrit, I do not know. 
With the ancient classics, and with the modern 
tongues I have mentioned, his familiarity was great 


in each, he had read a considerable portion of the 
best authors. When he left Europe, he was suppo 
sed to he among the best Greek scholars it contain 
ed. While at the University, I have been credibly 
informed, that, during one of the vacations, he read 
all the Homilies of Chrysostom. Of the Iliad of 
Homer, he could repeat by memory a great, if not 
the greater part. But he was not merely a linguist. 
There was scarcely a subject, or topic, in any depart 
ment of liberal knowledge, and even in some of the 
mechanic arts^pwiih which he was not acquainted 
doubtless with some, more accurately and extensive 
ly than with others. Of what are usually called the 
exact sciences, I think his knowledge was only gen 
eral. I have reason to know that he was an anato 
mist. Being greatly afflicted, in the early part of 
my ministry, with weak eyes, and observing that, at 
the age of about sixty, he never used spectacles, I 
asked him what means he had used to preserve his 
eye-sight, in what appeared to me a state of perfec 
tion, lie took up the subject at once, and after ex 
plaining the structure of the visual organs, with ana- 
tomicai exactness, he applied the explanation to the 
means which lie had used, and which others might 
use, to preserve them in a healthy state. By follow 
ing his directions, in connection with the use of some 
additional means of my own devising, the complaint 
of my eyes was gradually and entirely removed; so 
that now, in the latter part of my seventy seventh 
year, my vision is far belter, than is common, in men 
of my age. " 

" In stating my reminiscences, this may be as pro 
per a place as any other, to mention a remarkable oc- 


ctirrence in (he life of Dr. Nisbet, relative to an affec 
tion of his sense of tasting, the state of his stomach, 
and probably of his whole corporeal system; a descrip 
tion of which I received from his own lips. He 
said that at one period of his life, he was, for seve 
ral years, without any sensation of hunger, any de 
sire of food, or any relish of it, when it was taken; 
so that if he had been starved to death, he thought 
he should have died without any craving of suste 
nance. His general health, however, did not suffer 
much: and he took his meals, both ft to time and 
quantity, as his judgment dictated, and without 
loathing, but without any sensible gratification. At 
length, having occasion to go to a distance in a stage 
coach, he resolved to make the first stage, of some 
twelve or fifteen miles, without his breakfast; and 
that, on calling for it at the stage house, he, for the 
first time in twelve years, ate a part of a beef-steak, 
with appetite and relish. The whole time I was 
acquainted with him, he was, in his person, fleshy, 
without being corpulent, very active, and quick in 
all his muscular motions. He dined with me a 
number of times; and I remarked nothing peculiar 
in his eating or drinking, except that he always re 
fused gravy with his meat," 

"Dr. Nisbet s extensive reading in the principal 
languages of modern Europe, had rendered him well 
informed of the state and tendencies of society, in 
the several nations of that quarter of our globe. 
Hence it was, that from the very origin of the French 
revolution, he foresaw and predicted its desolating 
course, and denounced it with as much decision and 
bitterness as Edmund Burk himself. With the most 


of my countrymen, I thought favourably of it at 
first; and, in one of my letters, told him, that I 
hoped it might be the design of God, in this provi 
dential dispensation, to make use of the rough hand 
of infidelity to prostrate the barriers of Popish igno 
rance and superstition, and then to pour out his Spirit 
on the immense population of that kingdom, and 
produce a glorious revolution, in favour o! pure reli 
gion, and the liberties of mankind. lie answered 
me by saying, that if it was a desirable thing to pull 
down the Pope, and set up the Devil, it must be 
confessed that a glorious revolution was going on in 
France; and that if it was the design of God, in his 
providence, to make the enormities perpetrated 
am on * that people productive of any immediate 
good, we could only say, How unsearchable are his 
judgments, and his ways past finding out! My par 
tiality to the French revolution was terminated at 
an early period of its progress, and the Doctor, from 
that time, had no hesitation in giving me his whole 
mind on the subject. From some cause or other, 
he was able to predict coming events at that period, 
even in opposition to existing appearances. Thus, 
at the time when the Constituent Assembly had de 
creed that France should remain a monarchy, and 
the people were enthusiastically swearing fealty to 
their king, Dr. Nisbct wrote to me, as near as I can 
recollect, in these words: Poor Louis, he will have 
a sham trial, and a real execution. When I com 
plimented him on the sagacity manifested in his 
prognostics, he told me, that he deserved no other 
credit for his predictions, than what was due to his 
lucky interpretation of the prophetic enigmas of the 


celebrated Nostroclamus; that when he wished to 
know what was to come next, he had only to con 
sult Nostrodamus, (no doubt, in his Centuries of 
Quatrains, ) and employ his skill in solving his pro 
phetic symbols; in which he had hitherto been very 
successful. I told him, that since Nostroclamus was 
so sure a guide, I should like to know how the 
French revolution was to terminate. 0, said the 
Doctor, i* will all go to the Devil at lost. How 
much, or how little, of exact truth there was, in this 
statement about Nostrodamus, I pretend not to deter 
mine. Dr. Nisbel never trifled with truth, when 
the subject was serious; but he both hated and ridi 
culed the French revolution, and that incessantly. I 
could fill more than this second sheet of my remi 
niscences, with his ludicrous allusions to the events? 
and the language to which it gave rise. I will men 
tion but a single instance. While the General As 
sembly of our Church was in session, in May, 1156, 
a very valuable horse was stolen from me, out of a 
pasture-lot in the vicinity of the city. Dr. Nisbet, 
who was paying us his annual visit, on hearing of 
this occurrence, hastened to my house, and some 
thing like the following colloquy ensued: So, said 
he, 1 understand you have lost your horse. Yes, 
Doctor, I replied, the night before last, a thief fancied 
him, and I fear I shall never see him again. No 
doubt, said he, it was done by one of the sovereign 
people; he was taken, without your leave, by a pure 
act of sovereignty. But, sir, it was only a forced 
loan; it was an act of practical Liberty and Equal 
ity; the rascal thought that you had been riding 
long enough, and that, by all the laws of equality, it 


was his turn to rule now; and so he made use of his 
liberty to appropriate to himself a part of your pro 
perty, without your consent/ 

"Lord Kames, in his Elements of Criticism, says, 
* Memory and wit are often conjoined, sound judg 
ment seldom with either. Of the justice of at least 
the first half of this dictum of his countryman, Dr. 
Nisbet might be referred to, as a striking example. 
In memory and wit, I always viewed him as a pro 
digy. I do not mean to say, that his memory was 
without a parallel; for both in ancient and modern 
times, I have read of those who equalled him in this 
faculty. But I can truly say, that I never myself 
have known an individual that could pretend to be 
his equal. Every thing that he had read, heard or 
seen, seemed to be immovably fixed in his mind, and 
to be ready for his use. Not only could he refer to 
any fact or reasoning, in the numerous authors 
which he had perused in various languages, but all 
the incidents in the newspapers of the day, and in 
other ephemeral publications that fell under his no 
tice, he never forgot. His letters to me sometimes 
referred to occurrences in this city, which, although 
on the spot, I had not observed, or had entirely for 
gotten, till he called my attention to them. He told 
me, however, in one of the last interviews that I had 
with him, that he found his memory was less faith 
ful and tenacious than it had formerly been. In re 
gard to his wit, it seemed to be instinctive, and to 
gush out, almost involuntarily, on all occasions. 
Sometimes it showed itself in that pleasant play of the 
fancy which is denominated Humour; and sometimes 
and oftener, it might be called broad Wit, irresistibly 


provocative of agitating mirth, or laughter. Too 
often for his o\vn quiet, it was satirical, or sar-* 
castic; causing loss of friendship in some who could 
not make allowance for an overbearing" propensity. 
For truly, in him, satirical remark or allusion was 
not prompted by a misanthropic or malignant spirit, 
or disposition. On the contrary, he was benevolent, 
compassionate and kind, in no ordinary degree. 
Seldom have I known a man, more easily or certain 
ly melted by distress or misfortune; or more ready 
to do all in his power to relieve it. After the dread 
ful calamity, the yellow fever of 1793, his sympathy 
was so awakened by the death of his friends, that on 
his next visit to our city, he exhibited little else 
than sadness in his demeanour and conversation. I 
once took the liberty to say to him, that it seemed 
to me, that whether in the communications of others, 
or by his own observation, his attention was drawn, 
with somewhat more than ordinary force, to an ob 
ject, he speedily saw it in some obliquity of aspect, 
in some grotesque or ludicrous form, that rendered 
it ridiculous, or the fit subject of satire. He frank 
ly replied, I think there is something in that/ I 
thought it an evidence of deep conscientiousness, 
that, as far as possible, he restrained himself from 
saying what would cause levity and laughter on the 
Lord s day; and that he did not intentionally admit 
any effusion of wit into his sermons. You will no 
tice the qualification with which I have expressed 
myself in the last sentence; for the truth was, he was 
sometimes witty, and caused a smile, without intend 
ing it, or probably being conscious of it himself. 
Thus, he once made me smile, while preaching for 
me in my own pulpit; by comparing a man who i 


carried about by every wind of doctrine, and appa 
rently afraid to trust his own understanding to fix 
him steadfastly in any article of his religious creed, 
to a man who should make the experiment of tying 
up his own eyes, to see how he would walk blind 
folded. Expressions of this character were so com 
mon with him, both in conversation and writing, 
that I think he probably often used them, without 
being at all sensible that they were ludicrous." 

" He never showed a note in the pulpit; and what 
ever he might have done in the early periods of his 
ministry, I am persuaded that while I knew him, he 
rarely, if ever, wrote a sermon. His mind was so 
stored with ideas on every topic of a religious kind, 
and his acquaintance with the holy Scriptures was 
so accurate and familiar, that with his ready utter 
ance, he could preach on any subject without much 
labour of preparation. His public discourses abound 
ed in thought, and thought that was pertinent, useful, 
and often striking; but he was loose and miscellane 
ous, rather than close and methodical. He always, 
indeed, adhered to a general method, in the treat 
ment of his subject; but he was not solicitous to put 
each expression in its most proper place, or to ex 
clude matter merely collateral, if it fell in his way. 
His voice in preaching was articulate, but not power 
ful; not loud enough to reach the remote parts of 
a large and full church, so as to be heard without 
a painful listening. He was not aware of this, till 
he heard of it in the way of complaint; and then 
he altogether refused to attempt a public service in 
the larger churches of our city. I cannot preach in 
your mammoth houses, was his reply to every in 
vitation, after he had formed the resolution I have 


mentioned. Yet he was always ready, and apparent 
ly gratified to preach in any place or circumstances, 
in which he could he easily and fully heard. 1 once 
accompanied him when he went, I believe on his own 
voluntary offer, to preach to the convicts, in the pub 
lic prison of this city; and I was never better pleased 
with any sermon that I heard from him, than that 
which he delivered on this occasion." 

"In Theology, Dr. Nisbet was a decided Calvin- 
ist, of the old school, and deeply read in the writings 
of its most distinguished masters. Yet he was not 
intolerant of other denominations, if they held what 
he regarded as the fundamentals of religion. I never 
heard him speak with severity of any religious sect, 
except the Universalists. Of an individual of that 
sect, whom he believed to be a very bad man, I once 
heard him say, His is the only good rogue s re 
ligion. He knows, if that dont save him, he has no 
chance at all. 

"Of his general character as the President of a 
College, I know but little. Living at the distance of 
one hundred and twenty miles from Carlisle, and ha 
ving visited it but once during his presidency, and 
that at a time of vacation in the College, I had no- 
opportunity to make any observations for myself. I 
have always understood, that in the business of in 
struction, he never failed to perform with ability, 
diligence and punctuality, every duty to which he 
was pledged. I also know that he was greatly dis 
satisfied with the hasty and imperfect course of study, 
which he found himself obliged to tolerate; and that 
he gave great umbrage to some of the Trustees of the 
Institution, by the severity of the remarks which he 
cm the disposition which he believed they 



cherished, to favour a superficial system of educa 

"In like manner, I must state, that I know but 
little, from personal observation, of Dr. Nisbet s do 
mestic character. I have uniformly heard him repre 
sented as peculiarly amiable and kind, not only in 
his family, but in all his intercourse with others, in 
private life. When the General Assembly met at 
Carlisle, in 1792, he invited a company to dine with 
him, of whom I was one; and this, as far as I recol 
lect, was the only time, except on the following 
Lord s day, that I ever made a part of his domestic 
circle. The dinner party to which I have referred, 
was received and treated in a handsome style; and at 
its close, the Doctor indulged his witty and satirical 
vein,, beyond any tiling that I had before witnessed. 
At other times, it had broken out by flashes, with 
distinct intermissions; but it now blazed forth in a 
coruscation, with only fitful abatements, for more 
than an hour." 

" I conclude my reminisences of Dr. Nisbet, with 
stating, that he was a man of as much genuine in 
tegrity as I have ever known. Whatever were the 
subject, he abhorred, and denounced in unmeasured 
terms, all hypocrisy and all disguise. His own sen 
timents and feelings he disclosed with the simplicity 
of a child. Had he been more reserved, perhaps he 
he would have been more happy; but he had no ta 
lent for concealment." 

" Respectfully and affectionately," 
" Yours," 


" Rev. Dr. Samuel Miller" 


The following letter from the Rev. Dr. BROWN, 
President of Jefferson College, Canonsburg, Pennsyl 
vania, will show the estimation in which the subject 
of this Memoir is held by another highly respected 
head of an important Hterary Institution.. 

" Can&nsburg, June 29, 1840." 
" Reverend and Dear Sir," 

" I have a very high regard for the memory of Dr. 
Nisbet. It was my privilege to enjoy the benefit of 
his instruction, for several years, while a student at 
College, f have an entire copy of all his college Lec 
tures as he delivered them. Afterwards 1 studied 
Theology under his direction, and was favoured with 
the reading of the manuscript Lectures which he de 
livered previously to a Theological class. 

" Dr. Nisbet was certainly a very extraordinary 
man. He appeared to have read and studied every 
thing, and to have forgotten nothing. He seemed at 
home on every subject; to be familiar with all distin 
guished writers, ancient and modern; and to be ex 
tensively and accurately informed on every depart 
ment of literature. He was master of at least twelve* 
different languages, and could write and converse in 
most of them with ease and fluency. In Latin par 
ticularly he could con-verse and write with great fa 
cility and elegance. As President of the College, 
when present at the recitations or examinations of the 
different classes, he appeared perfectly familiar witk 

*In a subsequent page the number of languages with which he- 
was familiar, is represented as tune. That representation was intend 
ed to be strictly within bounds. Dr. Bxown thinks the number wan 


every department, mathematics, the natural sciences, 
and languages, as well as his awn peculiar depart 
ment. He was so perfectly familiar with the Latin 
and Greek classics usually studied in College, that 
"without book," he could hear a recitation, and cor 
rect the slightest error. He appeared to have the 
whole committed to memory. The power of his 
memory was altogether extraordinary. The Task, 
a favourite poem with him, he was said to have com 
mitted to memory perfectly by two readings. He 
could quote and repeat, with a familiarity truly won 
derful, most of the great Poets, Latin, Greek and 

" In Theology and the sacred Scriptures his knowl 
edge was extensive and profound. When 1 com 
menced the study of Theology under his care, he di 
rected me to read and study the Scriptures, at first 
without note or comment; and when any difficul 
ty occurred, to note the passage and present it to 
him, at the time appointed for meeting him. The 
moment he took the paper in his hand he seemed to 
anticipate the whole difficulty, referred at once to the 
connection, and commonly repeated literally, and 
with the utmost readiness, the whole context; and 
was prepared to throw the most satisfactory light 
upon it." 

" It was my privilege to sit under his ministry for 
several years. But I can give you no new information 
on this subject, as you had the same privilege, though 
for a shorter time. After I became familiar with his 
Scotch dialect and tone, I was delighted with him aa 
a preacher. There was, as might have been expect 
ed,, in his discourse a rich fund of thought expressed 


with peculiar vivacity and force of language; and 
when exposing error and vice, accompanied with a 
vein of satire for which he was so remarkable. His 
sermons, you know, were not written; but they were 
very systematic, and always well arranged. He had 
a singular command of that exhaustless fund of ideas 
with which his mind was stored. When 1 heard 
him in Carlisle, he seemed to limit himself exactly 
to an hour, in every discourse, by the watch. But 
this limitation of himself to the hour did not seem to 
destroy, or even to affect, the proportion or harmony 
of the different parts of his sermons." 

" His plan of instruction in College was by Lec 
tures, which the classes were expected to write in 
full. He delivered them with so much deliberation 
and with such pauses, that, after some practice, we 
were able to take down the whole. I have a full 
copy of all his lectures taken from his lips as he de 
livered them. There were, however, few classes, all 
the members of which would consent to sustain the 
labour of doing this. His lectures were thought by 
some to be too voluminous; but they were exceed 
ingly rich, and excellent in their kind. Besides a 
thorough and philosophical investigation of his sub 
ject, it was always illustrated by appropriate anec 
dotes, characterized by that wit and vivacity for 
which he was so distinguished. He seldom finished 
a lecture without some exhilarating anecdote, and 
some brilliant flashes of wit and humour, electrifying 
the whole class." 

" It has been often alleged that men who are re 
markable for memory and wit, are commonly defi 
cient In judgment, an<l the power of elose reasoning. 


and investigation. This remark, which has almost 
passed into a maxim, was not exemplified in the case 
of Dr. Nisbel. His Lectures on Metaphysics, on 
Mental Philosophy, and on the most difficult subjects 
in Theology, exhibit a mind capable of the closest 
reasoning, and the most discriminating and profound 
investigation, whilst at the same time his lucid style, 
and striking illustrations, throw an interest around 
those subjects which are usually considered as dry 
and unattractive." 

"And here I cannot forbear to give a little speci 
men of what I mean, extracted from one of his Lec 
tures on Logic. After treating on several sorts of 
syllogism and modes of argumentation, he added:" 

" Besides all the modes of argumentation already 
mentioned, there is another more ancient and much 
more in use, than any of the rest. This is com 
monly called the argument um bacculinum, or 
club argument, and consists in using force in bring 
ing others over to our opinion. But all other me 
thods of reasoning ought to be tried before this is 
used; yet in all governments this mode is absolutely 
necessary for supporting the honour of the laws; 
and indeed all government is only a jest without it. 
But it is not only the nerve of authority, but the 
soul of war. Whence Louis the 14th caused this 
inscription to be engraved on his cannon Ultima 
ratio regitm. There are some men of a nature so 
stupid that this is the only mode of reasoning that 
has any weight with them; and others are so stub 
born that even this mode of reasoning cannot change 
their opinion; but it has this convenient quality that, 
when it is vigorously applied, it either silences or 


convinces. It has the same property as the dilem 
ma, viz. that it is apt to be retorted; and if the per 
son who uses it, has not a force superior to his respon 
dent, he runs the risk of being confuted; because 
this mode of reasoning is of all others the most in 
fectious, and apt to be catched by the respondent, 
the moment that it is used against him, which ought 
to make young men very cautious in the use of this 
argument, lest Ihey give their respondent an oppor 
tunity of refuting them. But the most warrantable 
and safe use of this mode of argumentation is when 
one acts as a respondent; and this is the only justifi 
able use of it in private life. There is no mode of 
argument in which mankind are more liable to be 
licentious and disputatious. Young men in particu 
lar are very prone to the use of it, though generally 
forbidden by their teacher; and, indeed, they ought 
not to be allowed the use of it until they are acquaint 
ed with the rules of logic, so as to know its proper 
place, and the cases in which it ought to be used. 
Of all modes of reasoning this is, undoubtedly, the 
most generally used. Hence all history is full of it; 
on which account it may be reckoned surprising that 
Aristotle has said nothing about it in his Organon; 
and it was probably owing to this omission that his 
pupil, Alexander the Great, was so licentious in the 
use of it." 

" It is remarkable that although, in the common 
mode of syllogistic disputation, there is nothing so 
difficult as how to find a good middle term, on the 
contrary, in this way of disputation, there is nothing 
so easy. Almost every thing has been used as a 
middle term in this method of disputation. Hence 


Virgil says, Furor arma ininistrat, because a stone 
a stick, a fire-brand, or almost any thing within one s 
reach, may be used as a middle term. School-mas 
ters make use of their ferula for this purpose, and 
boys of their fists; and Horace tells us that the Thra- 
cians made use of their drinking cups by way of 
middle terms: and the moderns have imitated their 
example by using bottles and glasses for the same 
purpose. As it is necessary in disputation that the 
same person should not at once act as opponent and 
respondent, this gave rise to the shield, the hemlet, 
and the coat of mail, which served the same purpose 
to the disputant as the denial of any of the premises 
in ordinary logic, the effect of which is to render the 
argument on the other side useless. But since the 
invention of gunpowder, a new kind of middle term 
has been introduced, which renders defensive armour 
entirely useless. But the argumentuin bacculi- 
num is safest in the hands of the civil magistrates, 
because private persons are apt to use it with indis 
cretion. Young men ought not to be licentious in the 
use of any sort of argument; but they ought to be 
especially cautious in the use of the argumentuin 

" The moderns have introduced into their logic, 
an argument unknown to the ancients called argu- 
mentum ad crumenam, i. e. an argument addressed 
to the purse, which, however fashionable, has nothing 
to recommend it, because it has no tendency to pro 
duce conviction. It may embarrass a poor respond 
ent, but cannot convince his understanding. Be 
sides, this mode may also be retorted." 

" Another mode of argument is the argumentum 


Juratvrium, or attempting to demonstrate a conclu 
sion by oaths, instead of premises and middle terms. 
This kind does not admit of any rule, being really a 
breach of all rules, and commonly as unfriendly to 
truth as it is contrary to delicacy and propriety. 
Besides, swearing in common conversation has been 
observed to be almost inseparably connected with 
lying; so that one may pick out the lies out of any 
mixed discourse, without any other guide than the 
oaths by which they were accompanied. The fact 
is, when a man is conscious that he is speaking the 
truth, he will never suspect that it needs to be con 
firmed by an oath; whereas, when he knows that he 
is telling a lie, it is more than probable that he will 
swear to it." 

" I am doubtful whether there is any thing in the 
foregoing reminiscences which will be of any use to 
you, or which you do not know quite as well al 
ready. If any thing has been suggested which has 
heretofore escaped your notice, it will give pleasure 
to him who is very respectfully yours," 


Rev. Dr. Miller: 1 

More than thirty four years ago, when a plan had 
been formed for writing the life of Dr. Nisbet, which 
was afterwards, for several reasons, for a time laid 
aside, several ministers of the Church of Scotland 
were requested to furnish materials for that purpose. 
On that occasion, the following letter was received 
from the Rev. Dr. Samuel Martin, of Monimail, a 
very respectable and worthy Pastor of that Church, 
which it is thought proper to give at large. A part 


of the first paragraph was before quoted; but for the 
sake of the connexion, it is judged best to present the 
whole letter at one view. 

" Monlmail, June 1 3, 1805." 
" Dear Sir," 

" Vou apply to one who is very willing to contri 
bute his part for doing honour to the memory of our 
friend, Dr. Nisbet. But, alas! I am not so well 
qualified for this purpose as you seem to think. As 
suredly there are many who could furnish you with 
much more ample details respecting his life and its 
various events than I can, and who had better access 
to him, and more ability to estimate his character 
and endowments than myself. To show you, how 
ever, that 1 respect Dr. Nisbet s memory, and that I 
wish to oblige you, I shall frankly communicate, on 
the spur of the occasion, what occurs to my recollec 
tion, as interesting, and worthy of being recorded in 
a Memoir of that eminent man." 

"To go back, chronologically; perhaps the first 
time that I distinguished Mr. Nisbet, was in the Di 
vinity Hall at Edinburgh. Dr. Hamilton, our wor 
thy and learned Professor, had appointed the im 
pugning and defending a Thesis, according to mood 
and figure, in Latin. The Doctor was an excellent 
Latin scholar himself, and seemed to be as much at 
his ease in Latin as in English. The shrewdness 
and ability, the command of argument and of lan 
guage in Mr. Nisbet, struck me much in those days. 
This disputation was the more memorable, because 
it was the only one I witnessed in the Theological 
Class. I suppose the practice about that time 1757 


or 1758 was becoming obsolete; though it is kept 
up still, I believe, in some Presbyteries, in the licens 
ing of preachers, and in the secondary trials, before 
ordination, in our Church." 

" His command of Latin, which, at that time I ad 
mired, suggests to me the mention of his astonishing 
memory. In this faculty, he exceeded all men that 
I ever knew. A son of mine had returned from his 
first session in the University of St. Andrews, when 
Dr. Nisbet paid a visit to the Earl of Leven s fami 
ly, and therefore was with me.* He asked the boy 
what he was reading? He told him, such a book of 
Homer. The Doctor then began, and recited many 
lines of that book, without the least hesitation. I 
asked him how it was possible that such a quantity 
of Greek could remain in his mind? He replied, 
that he did not well know; that he read them, and 
they stuck. He assured me that he could once 
have repeated the whole J,ne\d } and Young s Night 
Thoughts. In his quotations from the Classics, and 
from modern books, I had occasion often to admire 
the strength of his memory, and the appositeness of 
his references. Butler s Hudibras seemed to be per 
fectly familiar to him, and was often quoted with 
happy effect. He was fond of wit, and the wit con 
joined with the learning of Hudibras, could not fail 
to please him. Like other wits, he could be playful, 
and descend to a play on words, very happily. For 
example, I carried him, one night, through intricate 
paths and windings, to him, at least, intricate and a 

* Mr. Martin was, for some time, a Chaplain in the Bail of Leven s 


labyrinth. At the end, he exclaimed" Martin! 
you will make an excellent commentator; you carry 
one safely and skilfully through dark passages." 

" Dr. Nisbet s appearances in the General Assembly 
attracted my notice long before I was introduced to 
his acquaintance. They were distinguished by 
acuteness, and learning, and wit, and happy quota 
tions, and quaint allusions. He felt strongly. One 
of his best friends used to say: " Quicquid vult 
valde vult. " He was, therefore, I suspect, some 
times too severe on his antagonists in his opinions, 
his conversations, and his public speeches. His 
speeches generally were short. He was far from. 
being declamatory. Weak nerves and diffidence ap 
peared in his utterance; but his matter was excel 
lent; full of point, of argument, and of happy illus 
tration. The Docter had given offence to some by 
quoting Scripture^in the General Assembly. The 
violent settlement of a minister, under the "Patron 
age Act," against the will of the congregation, was 
the subject before the Assembly. Two members 
had made flaming and menacing speeches in favour 
of the settlement, and reprobating, in strong terms, 
the sentence of the Synod refusing to let the presen 
tee be placed. After the preceding speakers had 
done, Dr. Nisbct stood up, and spoke as follows: 
Moderator, I was afraid the two last speakers 
would have called for thunder and lightening to fall 
on us and consume us. I have been often blamed 
for quoting Scripture in this house. I shall not 
trouble you with it just now; but will repeat (glanc 
ing an eye at the friends of Mr. Home, the celebrated 
author of the Tragedy of Douglas,) a few lines from 


Shakespeare, which, perhaps, will be more to the 
taste of some gentlemen. 

" Could great men thunder 

As Jove himself does, Jove would ne er be quiet ; 
For every pelting petty officer, 

Would use his heaven for thunder ; nothing hut thunder. 
Merciful heaven ! 

Thou rather, with thy sharp and sulphurous holt, 
Split st the unwedgeahle and gnarled oak, 
Than the soft myrtle : But man, proud man ! 
Brest in a little brief authority, 
Most ignorant of what he s most assured, 
His glassy essence, like an angry ape, 
Plays such fantastick tiicks before high heaven, 
As make the angels weep ."* 

"This electrified the Assembly; and by such 
means he often carried his point." 

"After I came to Fife, in 1776,1 had frequent 
opportunities of meeting with Dr. Nisbet, in the 
company of our common friend, Dr. Snodgrass, then 
minister of Dundee. They were congenial spirits 
in many respects. We enjoyed solid nights, as 
Dr. Snodgrass phrased it; rich with anecdotes, enli 
vened with wit and learning, and seria mistajocis. 
Our union, however, became closer after he was in 
troduced into the acquaintance of the Earl of Leven s 
family, and was a frequent visitant at Melville House. 
But I may say, in truth, our union became closer 
still, after he went to America. I had urged him 
exceedingly not to cross the Atlantic. I discovered 
a degree of zeal on the question of his accepting or 
declining of the invitation to be the President in 

* Shakespeare Measure for Measure Act II. Scene II.. 


Carlisle College, which showed to him that I was 
greatly interested in him and his family. I suppose 
it was in some measure on account of the manifesta 
tion of this interest, that I was favoured with many 
lono- and very entertaining letters from America, as 

- t 

one of his friends, to whom he took pleasure in un- 
hosoming himself without restraint. His espistles 
were always highly grateful to me, and full of Nis- 
betiana. The greatest number of them I have pre 
served; and did delicacy and duty permit freedoms 
of this sort, which I think they do not. they would, 
from the press, furnish the public with a very enter 
taining collection. They are conversations, unpre 
meditated; one topic slides into another; sometimes, 
however, the transitions arc abrupt and unexpected. 
From his correspondence, though I had not known 
him in any other way, I should feel myself warranted 
in pronouncing Dr. Nisbet an excellent man; a sincere 
Christian; a true patriot; a warm friend; and strongly, 
very strongly attached to the interests of religion, and 
of mankind. His attachments to Great Britain seemed 
to increase with hi.s years and his experience. He 
held revolutionary, and especially Galilean princi" 
pies, in utter detestation. Me considered the strength 
and triumph of Great Britain, in her contest with 
France, as, under God, the hope of the world. The 
< Grand Republic was the object of his aversion and 
horror. The transition from outrageous Republican 
ism, to the abject servility of the slaves of an upstart 
Usurper, he considered as, at once, ridiculous, con 
temptible, and completely degrading. The doc 
trines of Deists, Socinians, and other innovators, 
were as much abhorred as the levelling doctrines of 


the infamous Paine, and of his disciples, whose blas>- 
phemies had deserved no notice or reply, but for the- 
unhinging spirit of democracy and impiety, which 
had crept forth at the time, under the specious ap 
pearances and names of Philosophy. the * Rights of 
Man, and general Philanthropy, and Illumina 
tion. " 

"By distance of time and place, Dr. Nisbet s in 
terest in his friends in Great Britain seemed to in 
crease. When I see, said he in one of his letters: 
When I see the sun, moon and stars passing over 
me, I am ready to envy them, and to ask them con 
cerning my Friends whom they have so lately visited 
and are so soon to see again. In the act of shutting 
his windows, he had happened to think of his friends 
at Monimail: Ever since, says he, I think of you, 
and pray for you when I shut my windows at night; 
and so I have connected the remembrance of my 
friends with particular objects and incidents; and 
thus I feel myself among them; though I do not just 
go the length of saying, Suncte Marline, ora pro 

Short and hurried as ray sketch is, and, there 
fore, imperfect, it is all that my knowledge and cir 
cumstances admit of; and perhaps all that the limits 
you can allot for a communication of this sort, can 
receive. Such as it is, you are welcome to it, and 
may dispose of it as you please. Others may furnish 
you with a more perfect account; but none with a 
more sincere regard for the character of Dr. Nisbet, 
than his friend and admirer, and your obedient hum-, 
hie servant," " SAMUEL 

The Rev. Dr. Miller, New York." 


The foregoing communications will satisfy every 
reader, if he were not before informed of the fact, 
that Dr. Nisbet s intellectual powers were of a very 
high order. That his memory was all but prodi 
gious, and his wit seldom equalled, all who knew 
him, with one voice conceded. His memory ex- 
extended to ivords as well as things, and seemed to 
serve him without effort, on all occasions. This be 
ing the case, some may be ready to doubt whether a 
mind so remarkable for the power of recalling past 
impressions, and of tracing unusual and striking as 
sociations of ideas, would be likely to be a sound or 
strong reasoner. But his power in the Judicatories 
of the Church, and many of his sermons, as well as 
several things which have appeared from his pen, 
especially his Review of the System of Mr. John 
Wesley, before referred to, clearly evinced that 
his reasoning powers, as well as those of retention 
and imagination, were remarkably clear and vigour- 
ous. The rapidity as well as the vigour of his men 
tal operations, was naticed as striking by all who 
conversed with him. If controversy had more 
strongly called his reasoning talents into exercise, 
there is every reason to believe there would have 
been a display of them of the most honourable kind. 
In love of knowledge, and in solid learning, this 
eminent man undoubtedly exceeded even most of 
those denominated the learned men of his age. He 
had been a devoted student from his boyhood. He 
read books, (as the writer of this Memoir has often 
had occasion to observe,) in half, if not one-third 
part of the time which it cost every other person he 
ever saw. And he seemed to forget nothing that ha 


ever read. Studies of this kind could not fail of 
leading to an accumulation of knowledge of the rar 
est extent and value. He seemed to have read 
every book, and to have studied every subject which 
the best informed person at any time in his com 
pany could ever mention. He, perhaps, more fully 
deserved the title that was given him before he left 
Scotland a walking library than any other man 
iff the United States. Often, very often, when convers 
ing in literary circles, after those around him had 
been listening, with instruction and delight, to the 
conversation of other remarkably well-informed in 
dividuals, the subject of this Memoir has surprised 
the company with an exhibition of learning on the 
same subjects of conversation so much more pro 
found and discriminating, as to preclude all compa 
rison with the attainments of any one else. 

In what may be strictly called erudition, he was 
truly great. By this is meant a profound acquain 
tance with the ancient Classics; with the Fathers of 
the Christian Church; with the earlier as well as the 
later Historians; with the principal Theological wri 
ters of all countries and systems; with the history of 
knowledge; with the leading writers on the Philoso 
phy of the Mind, Moral Philosophy, Political Eco 
nomy, &c. On these, and the allied subjects, he had 
few equals. In what are commonly termed the 
Physical Sciences, though well informed, he was 
not so profoundly versed, as in the branches of knowl 
edge just mentioned. He could, indeed, converse on 
almost all of them in an instructive and entertaining 
manner; showing that his mind was awake to every 
object of knowledge. But it was evident that he 



had not directed to them his early, continued and 
close attention. Indeed, when conversing on several 
of the natural sciences, he has been often heard to 
say < The case is, all we know on these subjects is 
just a few fac/a." 

Dr. Nisbet s familiarity with the Greek and Latin 
classics has been already more than once alluded to. 
Of this many striking proofs and examples were con 
tinually occurring. A single one will suffice. Once, 
not long after his settlement in Carlisle, when he was 


dining with a select literary circle, a Lawyer of con 
siderable eminence, who greatly prided himself on 
his acquaintance with the Latin and Greek langua 
ges, was of the company. In the course of conver 
sation this Gentleman quoted several lines in the ori 
ginal Greek from Homer s Iliad. When he had 
finished his quotation, Dr. Nisbet said to him Well, 
nion, go on; what you ve left is just as good as what 
you ve taken. The gentleman confessed that his 
memory did not serve him for repealing more. The 
Doctor then began where he had ended, and with the 
greatest ease repeated a considerable additional por 

But his knowledge of Languages was not confined 
to the Latin and Greek. He was an excellent critic 
in Hebrew literature. He also read Freneh, Ger 
man, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese; the two first 
named with perfect ease and familiarity; and all in 
such a manner as to understand the scope, and to 
relish the beauties of the principal writers in those 
respective tongues. Judge Brackenridge, late of the 
Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, in an eulogy on this 
eminent man, partaking in some degree of his char- 


acteristic eccenfricily, but abounding in just and ex 
cellent thoughts, remarks that " he was not only a 
master of the French language, so as to speak and 
write it with entire facility; but that he also had such 
an acquaintance with the Italian as enabled him to 
read some of the best compositions in that language 
with pleasure; and so much knowledge of Spanish 
and Portuguese, as to read Don Quixotic and Ca- 
moens in the original." Here were nine languages 
possessed and used by one man. And although, as 
is well known, there have been examples, in ancient 
as well as in modern times, of much larger attain 
ments in the department of language; yet it may be 
doubted whether there have been many examples in 
any age, of a man skilled in so many languages, who, 
at the same time, had acquired so large an amount of 
other and richer knowledge. To the acquisition of 
some of these dialects he did not apply his mind un 
til late in life; and in making his acquisitions in this 
field, he proceeded almost entirely by his own unas 
sisted efforts, without enjoying any of those facilities 
which much travel, large libraries, and the constant 
society and aid of great linguists, so richly afford. 
As a Preacher Dr. Nisbet s excellence was great 
and peculiar. In early life he was in the habit of 
preparing for the pulpit by writing a portion, and 
sometimes a considerable portion, of what he intend 
ed to deliver. But ii was only on special occasions 
that he wrote the whole. What he wrote, he com 
monly committed to memory, which, with him, was 
a very short and easy process. Two, or at most, 
three readings of that which had been recently writ 
ten, would enable him to repeat it verbatim. He 


was probably never known to carry a pnper, or any 
kind of help lo his memory into the pulpit. Such 
a mind needed no such aid. After became lo Ame 
rica, he wrote but two Sermons; one at. his inaugu 
ration as President of the College, which was print 
ed; and the other on the death of Washington, which, 
though solicited by many to be published, was never 
committed to the press. 

In the later periods of his life, when the writer of 
this sketch had an opportunity not only of hearing 
him, but also of being much with him in private, his 
preparation for the pulpit seemed to cost him very 
little labour. Indeed, there appeared to be no partic 
ular portion of time set apart for it. Even the mem 
bers of his own family never knew when it was clone. 
The truth is his mind was so richly furnished with 
knowledge; his memory so extraordinary; his ima 
gination so much under his command; and all his 
powers so prompt and obedient to his will, that it 
seemed almost as easy for him to preach as to breathe. 
Nor was his preaching by any means of that com 
mon place, declamatory character which too gene 
rally belongs to the extemporary speakers, in which 
words are more abundant than thoughts; in which a 
few grains only of wheat are to be found in bushels 
of chaff. On the contrary, his sermons abounded in 
thought, always instructive and weighty; often new, 
striking and deeply interesting. 

His delivery in the pulpit was not remarkably 
graceful, or conformed to the rules of art. His voice 
was small, scarcely sufficient to fill a large house, 
without extraordinary effort. He made very little 
gesture. He seldom rose to much vehemence; but 


poured out a flood of precious truth, good sense, and 
unaffected piety with a uniformity, and solidity which 
never failed to fix and reward the attention of those 
who were more intent on richness of thought, and 
sound theological instruction, than on the ornaments 
of rhetoric, or the graces of a fascinating delivery. 
His style of speaking was remarkably clear, manly, 
unaffected, direct, and adapted to please all classes of 
intelligent and serious hearers. His powers of argu 
ment and of illustration seemed to be inexhaustible; 
and when the hour (to which his sermons were usual 
ly confined) was out, he closed, not from the least 
failure of matter, but rather from the unexpected and 
regretted failure of time. An example of the rich 
ness and variety of his resources in the pulpit was 
given in a former chapter, when speaking of his re 
covery from a severe illness, soon after his arrival in 
Carlisle. On another occasion, when visiting a friend 
in the ministry, that friend, having left the discus 
sion of an important subject unfinished in his morn 
ing s discourse, Dr. Nisbet, in the afternoon, took it 
up, at the point where it had been left, and brought 
it to a close in a manner equally instructive and in 
teresting: and all this without retiring a moment 
for study, or appearing to devote any time to prepa 

As a divine, Dr. Nisbet was a sound, old-school 
Calvinist. He was a devoted friend of the West 
minster Confession of Faith ; considering it as a most 
lucid and happy exhibition of the system of doctrine 
taught in the Holy Scriptures. The arrangement of 
his course of Theological Lectures was in conformity 
with the chapters of this Confession; and he constant* 


]y inculcated the maxim, that, on the one hand, all 
who professed to subscribe it only " for substance of 
doctrine," were guilty of criminal deception; and, 
on the other hand, that none could subscribe it sin 
cerely or consistently, but genuine Calvinists, or 
those who so far adopted the Calvinistic system, as 
to be decidedly opposed to ail those opinions, in em 
bracing which Arminians and Pelagians differ from 
Calvinists. All this was frequently evinced by the 
tenor of his preaching: and especially by his Review 
of the System of Mr. John Wesley; and also by man 
uscripts left among his papers, in which the subjects 
of " Moral Suasion," and the " Nature and impor 
tance of Creeds," are distinctly and strongly discuss 
ed. Nor was this soundness in the faith a mere 
frigid disposition to contend for a " form of sound 
words." Those who were honoured with his ac 
quaintance, or who frequently heard him in the pul 
pit, can bear witness with what pious fervour he 
often spoke on these subjects, and how much his sen 
timents in regard to ihein evidently appeared to re 
sult not from simple attachment to forms, but from 
a conscientious and cordial love of the truth, and a 
deep impression of the importance of sound doctrine 
in its bearing on vital religion. 

He also manifested as rooted and firm an opposi 
tion to "New Measures," as to "New Divinity." 
Several years before his death, when " new mea 
sures " were a novelty in the Presbyterian Church, 
the writer of this Memoir had occasion, in corres 
ponding with his venerable Friend, to advert to the 
remarkable revivals of religion which, about the 
years 1800 and 1801, took place in several of the 


Western States, particularly in Kentucky and Ten 
nessee, attended with outcries, bodily agitations, and 
various extraordinary characteristics. In the course 
of that correspondence, a favourable opinion was ex 
pressed, on the whole, of those revivals, by the pre 
sent writer, amidst all the drawbacks and blemishes 
with which they were attended. Dr. Nisbet, in re 
ply, gave a solemn warning of disasterous results; 
predicted that the issue of the whole would be to 
dishonour and depress real religion; and, while he 
admitted that some portion of good might possibly 
flow from them, expressed an earnest hope, that 
every friend of truth and order would frown upon 
them, as pregnant with mischief rather than benefit. 
He gave it as his opinion, at that early day, that, al 
though the means employed might result in the real 
conversion of a few souls, the ultimate effect would 
be to drive intelligent and sober people from the 
house of God, and to multiply infidels. 

As an Author, it has been already remarked, that 
Dr. Nisbet published little from the press. A num 
ber, indeed, of the productions of his pen appeared 
in the Magazines and Reviews of Britain, from 1756 
to 1783; some of them known at the time of their 
publication, and others not known until afterward, to 
be his. But the only detached publication which 
bears his name is the Sermon before alluded to, which 
he delivered when he was inaugurated as President 
of the College over which he presided. The ques 
tion has often been asked, why, in this publishing 
age, a gentleman of so much intellectual wealth 
should have had so little disposition to commit to 
the press the productions of his mind? The pri- 



inary reason, no doubt, was his unfeigned and pecu 
liar modesty. His acquaintance with the great 
works of learning and genius was so intimate; his 
standard of excellence in authorship was so high; 
and his impression of the difficulty of adding any 
thing worthy of perusal to the literary stock already 
possessed by the world, was so strong, that he was 
indisposed lo run the risk of obtruding any produc 
tion of questionable excellence on the already over 
burdened and glutted literary market. Accordingly, 
he resisted many solicitations to prepare for the 
press that which had afforded much gratification in 
the oral delivery. And when, in his last illness, he 
was requested to permit the publication, after his 
decease, of some of those Lectures which had been 
listened to by his pupils with equal instruction and 
pleasure, he received the proposal with manifest 
aversion, and refused his assent. 

As the President of a College, Dr. Nisbet had 
many peculiar difficulties to contend with; but, 
amidst them all, he maintained an honourable stand 
ing in the estimation of all sober and competent 
judges. The learned Melchior Jidam, who had 
some experience on the subject, long ago observed: 
" Seep t rum illud Scholasticum, phis habet solici- 
tudinis quam pulchritudinis, plus curse quam 
auri, plus impediment quam argenti." So this 
great and good man found it. He was calledto pre 
side over a College in its feeble infancy; the funds 
of which were never adequate to the support of its 
officers; a large part of the Guardians of which were 
by no means qualified to direct its affairs with wis 
dom or efficiency, or to second him in his efforts to 


promote sound learning; and most of the pupils of 
which were altogether indisposed either to study, or 
to fall in with the plans which he laid for their im 
provement. He was really required to " make 
brick without straw." No wonder that such a Col 
lege, however learned and able its Head, found in 
superable obstacles standing in the way of its pros 
perity. The Board of Trustees was by much too 
numerous. It wasromposed of most heterogeneous 
materials. Some of them were persons of such 
views and habits as rendered them a dead weight on 
the whole establishment. Some of them took little 
or no interest in its affairs. Others were disposed to 
interfere with its management unreasonably and mis 
chievously. Indeed, their interferences with the 
course of instruction, and between the Faculty and 
students, were so frequent and serious as essentially 
to invade the best interests of the College. Thus 
they weakened the hands of the President and Pro 
fessors, and paved the way for vital mischiefs, in 
regard both to instruction and discipline. 

With respect to one branch of discipline, that is, 
inflicting the penalties prescribed by the laws on in 
dividual students, the tendency of Dr. Nisbet s mind 
was to err on the side of undue lenity, rather than 
that of over strictness. His peculiar benevolence 
often led him as some thought too often to over 
look irregularities and disorders, or to arrest the 
stroke of justice, when the interests of the College 
demanded that it should fall on the head of the of 
fender. But, in regard to the discipline of his wit 
and sarcasm, he was the terror of disorderly students. 
Frequently, when the lash of the law either could 


not be inflicted, or failed of making the proper im 
pression, he could, by a single sentence of caustic 
wit, cover the delinquent with mortification and 
shame. Indeed, there is reason to believe, that, in 
more than one instance, young men were so deeply 
and painfully stung by an unexpected stroke of sa 
tire, or sarcasm, that they had no other refuge from 
the ridicule which it brought upon them, than to 
leave the College. 

Dr. Nisbet, after he came to America, sel 
dom attended the General Assembly of the 
Church to which he belonged; and, when he did 
attend, seldom took an active part in its proceed 
ings. The reasons of this were various. The 
journey from Carlisle to Philadelphia, where the 
Assembly usually held its sessions, was neither easy 
nor convenient. He was generally obliged to per 
form it on horseback, which to one so corpulent as 
he was in advanced life, was by no means comforta 
ble. But besides this, the great difference between 
the supreme Judicatory of the Church of Scotland, 
and that of the Presbyterian Church in the United 
States, could not fail of diminishing his interest in the 
latter. The General Assembly of the Church of Scot 
land, of which he was often a member, and in which, 
when present, he commonly acted a conspicuous 
part, at its great Session in May, attended only to 
the great and leading portions of the business; leav 
ing the minor points, and the details of order to be 
arranged by the Commission of the Assembly, which 
sat at least four times in the year. The consequence 
was, that the meeting of the Assembly in May, was 
a great occasion, when the leading men of the Church 


were brought together to discuss points of thrilling 
interest; when the great questions which divided 
the Church, were, from year to year, decided; and 
when eloquence of the highest order was annually 
displayed. From such a body, and from such scenes, 
it might be presumed that no one who could fairly 
obtain a seat, would allow himself to be absent. 
When the subject of this Memoir, in taking his seat 
in that body, found himself associated with such 
men as Robertson, and Blair, and Witherspoon, and 
Ersk me, and Moncrieff, and others, both clergymen 
and laymen, well known to fame as masters of the 
noblest ecclesiastical eloquence, no wonder that he 
regarded the opportunity as, in every point of view, 
deeply interesting, both as a feast of talent, and as a 
contest for principle. 

When he came to America, he found no such par 
ties in the General Assembly of our Church as he had 
left in that of Scotland; such parties among us being 
of far more recent origin. He found, too, that ques 
tions of great and general interest seldom arose in 
our Assembly; and that by far the larger portion of 
its time was generally occupied in details of routine 
business, which, though very important to the order, 
union, purity and prosperity of a church, were not 
calculated to arrest the attention, and excite the high 
est efforts of the minds of its members. In these he 
felt little inclined, or even prepared to take an active 
part, and therefore, seldom put himself in the way of 
it. And even when he did take a seat in the Assem 
bly, he found such a contrast, between the intensely 
interesting questions, and the constant succession of 
great speeches, which he had witnessed in his native 
land., and the general character of those which he 


found in our supreme Juclicatory, that it would have 
been strange indeed if he had attended on them with 
as much earnestness as in Scotland. Had he lived 
thirty years longer, he would have seen in our Gene 
ral Assembly as many stimulants to ardent zeal, and 
great efforts as he had left in his own country. 

Accordingly, though he sometimes came to Phila 
delphia during the Sessions of the General Assem 
bly, it was more frequently for the purpose of relax 
ing himself during a collegiate vacation, or of meet 
ing clerical friends, than for taking a seat in the Body 
as a member. This was once humourously recog 
nized by himself in a conversation with the late Dr. 
Mason, of New York, with whom he happened to 
meet on one of these visits. Dr. Mason said to him, 
in that free and jocular manner for which he was re 
markable " Well, Doctor, I find you sometimes 
come to Philadelphia during the Sessions of the Gen 
eral Assembly." Yes," said he, " I am not a mem 
ber, but I liko to meet my friends, and see a little of 
what is going on? Mason " But do you not some 
times go in to the Assembly, and listen to its pro 
ceedings." Nisbet . " Yes, I sometimes go in for 
the benefit of hearing, and then I come out for the 
benefit of not hearing." Mason. " Well, Doctor, 
which is the greater benefit?" Nisbet. " Indeed, 
inon, its hard to strike the balance." 

And even when he was a member of the Assem 
bly, and felt it to be his duty to occupy his seat, he 
seldom took any part in the debates, except on spe 
cial occasions, when something occurred in his opin 
ion seriously wrong, against which he thought it his 
duty to bear testimony; or something ridiculous, 


which tempted him to call into exercise his satirical 
vein. On such occasions his speeches were always 
short and pointed; and though not always successful 
in the accomplishment of his purpose, yet never fail 
ed to make a sensible impression. This impression 
was sometimes made by brief, dense argument com 
pressed into a few sentences; but much more fre 
quently, by an irresistibly ludicrous turn of thought, 
or by a single sentence, conveying a thought more 
powerful, if possible, than even direct argument 

On one occasion, when he was a member of the 
Assembly, the Records of the Synod of New York 
were under review. They were put, as usual, into 
the hands of a Committee, to be examined and re 
ported on to the Assembly. The chairman of this 
Committee was the Rev. Dr. Green, who was always 
a great favourite with Doctor Nisbet. Dr. Green, in 
the name of the Committee, reported, that, among 
other subjects of remark, they found on the records 
of the Synod, a resolution adopted by that body, re 
quiring candidates for the ministry to study three, 
full years, after closing their Collegiate course, before 
receiving license to preach. The Committee did not 
undertake to pronounce this resolution wrong in it 
self; but brought it before the Assembly as an act cen 
surable as directly militating against a distinct clause 
of the Constitution of the Church . When the report 
of the Committee was under consideration, several 
speakers took part in the discussion. Among the 
rest, Dr. Green, the drafter of the report, spoke ably, 
and at considerable length, in its favour. When Dr. 
Green sat down, Dr. Nisbet arose, and said, with an 


air and tone respectful, but intensely sarcastic, "Mr. 
Moderator, I congratulate the friends of this report 
in having found in Dr. Green so able and eloquent 
an advocate of the precious rights of ignorance." 

On another occasion, several years before, when 
the " Directory for the Worship of God " was under 
consideration, a Committee had reported a chapter on 
the "Solemnization of Marriage." In the formula 
ry proposed by the Committee the following lan 
guage occurred " You, Sir, take the woman whom 
you hold by the hand, to be your lawful and married 
wife &c. ;" and, " You, Madam, take the man whom 
you hold by the hand, to be your lawful and married 
husband, &c." When this was read, Dr. Nisbet rose 
and -spoke thus " Mr. Moderator, I do not like the 
complimentary terms, Sir, and Madam, which oc 
cur in this form. If I were to address such language 
to many plain people in the part of the country 
where I live, thev would either stare with astonish 
ment, or laugh in my face. This puts me in mind 
of a new translation of the Bible which I once saw. 
That passage in one of the Evangelists which says, 
a certain man had two sons, the polite translator 
rendered thus A certain opulent gentleman had 
two sons; just as if none but opulent gentlemen 
ever had sons! This created a burst of laughter in 
the Assembly, and the words to which he had object 
ed were expunged. 

To the ivit of Dr Nisbrt repeated reference has 
been made in the foregoing pages. Of this Judge 
Brackenridge, in a eulogy already referred to, speaks 

"The wit of Dr. Nisbet was of the most genuine 


quality. It showed itself chiefly in anecdote and 
moral observation. His anecdote of men and things 
was inexhaustible. The talent of relating briefly 
facts that illustrate a principle of human nature, or 
the character of an individual, or the history of a 
transaction, is a rare and most pleasing talent. Not 
less is that of repeating what has been said or writ 
ten. It is not one in many thousands, even of the 
literati, that has the judgment to use the proper 
words, to use no more than are sufficient, and to 
present the fact or thought simply to the mind. It 
is a talent that is in a great degree the gift of nature, 
though it may be improved by art. But illiterate 
person?, in common life, are observed to possess it, 
in a great degree, when the most improved of the 
Academies are without it. An anecdote or saying 
may be ruined by the addition or the omission of a 
single word, and the most delicate taste, from nature, 
or from art, or both, is necessary to that terseness in 
which the excellence consists. Brevity is the soul 
of wit. In this Dr. Nisbet excelled." 

" To make the talent of wit a particular, and espe 
cially an ornament in a great man, may seem incon 
gruous, were we not to understand the wit of a Sage, 
such as might become the banquet of Plato, or the 
conversations of Socrates. In that point of view, it 
detracts not from dignity, but rather adds to it. It 
is the feast of reason, and the flow of soul. His 
combinations of ideas were quick and surprizing, to 
illustrate a truth, or to answer an argument, and ex 
pressed with, perhaps, a smile, but the laugh was left 
to others. I have never heard of his giving offence 
to any one by his wit, or wounding the tenderest 


mind. It was evident that there was no vanity or 
ill nature at bottom; but a sincere desire to unite 
pleasantry and instruction. It was not a sparkling 
fire, but a playing light; and brilliancy rather repress 
ed than encouraged. I do not know that ha thought 
he had wit, or ever meant to use it; but his own 
mind presenting the incongruities of things, he seem 
ed to give way to an expression of the assemblages 
which were upon his fancy, unconscious of the view 
in which he placed the errors which gave rise to 

In the Christian s Magazine, * which the late Dr. 
Mason of New York, edited for several years, with 
so much honour to himself and instruction to the reli 
gious public, the following passage occurs. "The 
late Rev. Dr. Nisbet, celebrated for his profound 
erudition, and ready wit, being asked, How he would 
define modern philosophy? replied It consists in 
believing every thing but the truth, and exactly in 
proportion to the want of evidence; or to use the 
words of a poet, in making windows which shut out 
the light, and passages that lead to nothing. 

Though the chief time and attention of this emi 
nent man were bestowed on Theology, and the aux 
iliary branches of knowledge, he found abundant 
leisure to keep pace with the current literature of 
the age, and commonly appeared more at home in 
this department of reading than almost any of his 
associates. In Poetry, he had a remarkably fine 
taste. He not only admired, read, and had deposit 
ed, to a wonderful extent, in his memory, the best of 

Vol. I, p. 284. 


the older English poets; but he was also equally at 
home in the writings of the purest and most respect 
able poets who figured in his own time. He was, 
in particular, a great admirer of Cowper, and could 
repeat, by memory, a large part of his "Task," and 
other poems. 

As the wit of Dr. Nisbet was exuberant and inex 
haustible; and as, on some occasions, adapted to call 
it forth, he could wield with power the weapons of 
ridicule and sarcasm, it might be supposed, by such as 
did not know him, that he was wanting in tenderness 
and sympathy. This, however, was far from being the 
case. On the contrary, few men were ever more re 
markable than he for their feeling and benevolent 
hearts. Of this, the writer of the present Memoir 
has witnessed many striking examples. He will ad 
vert to only one. In the winter of 1791, the melan 
choly defeat of General St. Clair, I y the Miami In 
dians, occurred, to the distress of the nation. A 
large part of the American army which was engaged 
in that expedition, had, on its way Westward, en 
camped, fora number of weeks, in the neighborhood 
of Carlisle, and became considerably acquainted with 
the inhabitants of the Borough. The present writer 
was in Carlisle when the disasterous event occurred, 
and had, for weeks before, heard the Doctor indulg 
ing his wit at the expense of the government of the 
United States, and of that army and its prospects in 
particular. When the news of its sanguinary de 
feat arrived, instead of receiving it, as those who did 
not know him might have expected, with more than 
his usual sarcasm, he was affected, melted, nay almost 
overwhelmed by the sad intelligence. If he had 


lost any of his nearest and most beloved relatives, on 
that field of national disaster, he could not have mani 
fested more deep and heart-felt grief than he express 
ed, not merely in a single short paroxysm of feeling, 
but for a number of days together. In short, it 
opened a view of his character as highly honourable 
to himself, as it was unexpected to those who were 
but slightly acquainted with him. Indeed his whole 
history exhibited him as kind hearted and sympa 
thetic to a degree greatly beyond what is common 
in those who are popularly called benevolent men. 
The Patriotism of Dr. Nisbet was ardent and 
unquestionable. That he was a sincere and warm 
friend of free government, none who knew him 
will deny. It is true, indeed, he saw, or thought 
he saw, much in the political disorders and excesses 
of our country, for a number of years after he came 
to it, which filled him with many fears for the sta 
bility of its government. On all that he saw he was 
wont to express his opinions with a frankness which 
became a consciousness of perfect integrity. These 
opinions were not always palatable to those around 
him; and sometimes, indeed, were incorrect in (hem- 
selves, arising from that want of entire comprehen 
sion of the character and habits of the American 
people, which was natural and almost unavoidable in 
a stranger. In regard to these opinions, an able 
eulogy of this venerable man, published many years 
ago, and ascribed to a layman of the highest respec 
tability in Pennsylvania, thus speaks: "They gave 
rise to rumours as unfounded in fact, as they were 
disastrous in their results to the interests of the 
College, that he inculcated political doctrines which 


were hostile to republican government. On this 
subject the writer of this notice can pronounce with 
candour and accuracy, as he belongs to the party to 
which Doctor Nisbet is supposed to have been inimi 
cal, and was not only educated at Dickinson College 
during the period in question, but was also intimate 
in that gentleman s family; and he can assert with 
perfect truth, no man was a more sincere friend to 
rational liberty."* 

The domestic character of Doctor Nisbet was emi 
nently amiable and exemplary. In the relations of 
husband, parent and master he exhibited a bright 
example of the most vigilant fidelity, affection and 
benevolence. No one could enter the door of his 
dwelling without perceiving that his family was the 
abode, not merely of order and harmony, but of the 
most endearing attention and love. 

Such was Doctor CHARLES NISBET a truly great 
and good man; endowed with various intellectual 
talents of ih& highest order; in rich and solid learn 
ing excelled by few if any of the age in which he 
lived; as a man, peculiarly amiable and beloved; 
as a friend and companion, interesting and attrac 
tive beyond all rivalry; as a Christian, truly pious 
and devoted, an Israelite indeed, in whom was no 
guile; as a Divine, profoundly learned, orthodox, 
and in every respect eminently furnished; as a 
Preacher, not what the multitude call an orator, but 
solidly and inexhaustibly instructive, and deeply in- 
to all intelligent and pious hearers; as the 
of a College, fond of instructing ingenuous 

* Port Folio for January, 1824. 



youth, large in his views, indefatigably diligent, and 
ever recognized as the Hither of his pupils; as a Citi 
zen, truly and zealously patriotic; and in all the 
relations of domestic and social life, gentle, disin 
terested, sympathetic, amiable and beloved. 

Dr. Nisbet, however, with all these accomplish 
ments, was not so well qualified as many inferior 
men, to meet the exigencies, and encounter the diffi 
culties which attended his transfer of residence to 
America. The Countess of Leven was undoubtedly 
correct, when she intimated to him, in one of her 
letters, that he was not fitted to engage in scenes of 
hardy endurance and conflict. lie laboured under a 
nervous timidity which rendered it difficult for him 
to meet physical danger with composure. He had 
no taste nor fitness for resisting injuries, or contend 
ing with the unfeeling or unjust. His wit too, not 
being always under the government of cautious re 
serve, sometimes led him to attack popular prejudi 
ces, or iniquitous actions in a style which many who 
did not know his sterling honesty and benevolence, 
were not always ready to excuse. To which may 
be added, that the first fifty years of his life having 
been spent amid European scenes and habits, he 
never acquired a facility in making such allowance for 
American scenes and habits, as the situation of our 
country really required. 

The period at which he came to our country, was, 
perhaps, the most unfortunate that could have been 
selected for transferring the residence of such a man 
from the Old to the New world. It was a period, as 
we have seen, of immaturity, of disorder, of com 
mercial derangement, of infant and struggling insti- 


tutions, when few were prepared adequately to esti 
mate literary worth, and fewer still qualified to pat 
ronise and sustain it. Of consequence, great as the 
subject of this memoir was, and was admitted to be, 
by all who knew him, both his reputation and his 
services would have been still more highly apprecia 
ted, and still more extensively useful, had he come 
a few years later; or had he found on this side of the 
Atlantic, as he would have found at a later period, a 
larger number of congenial spirits, and a more faith 
ful fulfilment of the pledges which drew him from 
his native land. 


Page 184, /. 15. 

Dr. Nisbet was, at no period of his life, inimical 
to the character or ministry of Mr. Wliitefield. On 
the contrary, he was a warm friend to the doctrines 
preached by that eminent evangelist, and considered 
his ministry as greatly useful. lie did indeed re 
gard some of the measures of that excellent man, es 
pecially in the earlier part of his course, as impru 
dent anil disorderly; hut these had all passed from 
public view long before Dr. Nisbet came to America. 
When the Countess of Leven spoke of his having a 
" bad idea of the Methodists since he went abroad," 
she evidently meant to use the term Methodist in 
the comprehensive sense in which it has long passed 
current in Great Britain, as including the adherents 
of Mr. JVhilefield, as well as those of Mr. Wesley. 
Dr. Nisbet was, indeed, warmly opposed to the Ar- 
minianism of the latter gentleman and of his disci 
ples; and he also greatly disapproved of the shouting, 
falling doivn, groaning, &c., so common in their 
public worship forty or fifty years ago, and no less of 
their decrying learning in the gospel ministry, as 
they habitually did at that time. The great change 
which has taken place in the Methodist body in re 
gard to outcries and disorders in worship, and also in 


respect to the increasing provision made for the lite 
rary training of their candidates for the ministry, is 
known to every one. Their preachers are now very 
seldom heard to declaim against a " hook learned 1 
ministry. But in regard to doctrine, had the ven 
erable subject of this Memoir lived to this hour, he 
would have had undiminished reason to express 
strong dissent from that body. Were he now alive, 
and to go into a Methodist Episcopal Church, in many 
parts of our country, he would still hear Calvinism 
denounced by name in the most reproachful and vio 
lent language, as a " hateful abominable system," as 
a "doctrine of devils," &c.; and our Confession of 
Faith quoted in a garbled manner, and loaded with 
the coarsest abuse as the doctrine of Presbyterians. 
Is it any wonder that a gentleman of Dr. Nisbet s 
principles and character regarded all such things 
with the strongest disapprobation; and that in wri 
ting to the Countess of Leven after his arrival in this 
country, he should express that disapprobation in 
very decided terms? She evidently mistook his 
meaning, and considered him as having an unfavoura 
ble opinion of all Methodists, understanding the term 
in the British sense, as including all professors of a 
strict and serious religion. 

Page 328, /. la. 

" This electrified the .Assembly," It is well 
known that, in the General Assembly of the Church 
of Scotland, more liberty is frequently taken in em 
ploying the weapons of ridicule, sarcasm, &c., and io 

NOTES. 355 

exciting and indulging bursts of laughter, than is 
usual in the General Assembly of the Presbyterian 
Church in the United States. This arises from vari 
ous causes. The Assembly in Scotland is a more 
numerous body than that in the United States, and 
of course harder to keep in order. In the American 
Assembly, professional counsel are never admitted 
to plead causes; but in that of Scotland, they are 
freely and constantly allowed to appear on behalf of 
implicated parties; and they often, in spite of every 
thing that can be done to prevent it, take unwarrant 
able liberties. Their very professions of respect are 
often mingled with sneer and sarcasm; and they have 
no hesitation in exciting, whenever it can serve 
their turn, roars of laughter. This is not only un 
desirable, but it is also in a high degree incongruous 
and unseemly. The author of this volume would 
leave it as the suggestion (he will not presume to say 
the counsel of old age, and of some experience, that 
every thing of this kind ought to be avoided in ec 
clesiastical judiciatories. When the ministers of re 
ligion conic together to transact the business of the 
Church of Christ, the very least that ought to be ex 
pected of them is, that perfect gravity, seriousness, mu 
tual respectfulness, and brotherly kindness reign in 
all their proceedings. How revolting the levity, the 
unbridled merriment, the keen retort, the unkind 
turning a brother into ridicule, which are sometimes 
indulged! Such scenes have frequently been exhib 
ited in Presbyterian judicatories, not only in Scot 
land, but in our own country, as would not have 
been tolerated in the better clays of the Church. 
Our fathers, Knox and Melville, in their day, or 


Henderson, Rutherford and Gillespie in theirs, 
would have "groaned in spirit," and poured forth 
the majesty of Apostolic rebuke, if they had been 
witnesses of many a debate, which, within the last 
half century, has passed without reproof. that 
our sons may be, in this respect at least, wiser and 
more examplary than some of their fathers have 
been! What comfort, what dignity, what impress- 
iveness would truly Christian habits in regard to this 
matter impart to our ecclesiastical Assemblies! 

Page 341, /. 10. 

On the page above mentioned, Dr. Nisbet is repre 
sented as " seldom attending the General Assembly." 
This may seem, at first view, to militate with a state 
ment of Dr. Green in page 307. But the truth is, 
that from the time when the acquaintance of the 
author of this memoir with Dr. Nisbet commenced, 
until his decease, he seldom appeared as a member 
of the Assembly, and it is not recollected that he 
was in Philadelphia, during that period more than 
two or three times in the course of its annual ses 
sions. In preceding years, with the recollection of 
which Dr. Green was more familiar, he had been in 
the habit of visiting Philadelphia more frequently at 
that season * 

Page 342, I. 10. 

When Dr. BLAIR is mentioned, among a number 
of others, as " master of the noblest ecclesiastical 

NOTES. 357 

eloquence," it is not meant that he was himself a dis 
tinguished speaker in the General Assembly. It is 
well known that he seldom opened his lips in that 
body, excepting to give a vote. But the character 
of a gentleman of so much rhetorical taste and skill 
could not fail of being highly exciting in its influence 
on all who engaged in debate in his presence. 

Page 345, I. 4. 

The reader will do great injustice to the Rev. Dr. 
Green, if he supposes, from the statement concerning 
that venerable Father in the page above referred to, 
that he is now, or ever was, a friend to a short and 
hurried course of theological study. On the contra 
ry, perhaps no minister of the Presbyterian church 
has been more uniformly zealous and indefatigable in 
his endeavours to induce every candidate for the 
ministry under our care to avoid all haste in his 
professional training. On the occasion to which the 
above mentioned anecdote relates, he only meant as 
a member of a Committee, to present for animadver 
sion the act of a Synod which was in conflict with 
the Constitution of the Church, and which, while that 
Constitution remained unaltered, he regarded as dis 
respectful and disorderly.