31st March

Born: Prince Arthur, Duke of Brittany, 1187; Henry II of France, 1518, St. Germain; Rene Descartes, French philosopher, 1596, La Haye; Pope Benedict XIV, Bologna; Frederick V of Denmark, 1732; Francis Joseph Haydn, musical composer, 1732, Rohrau; Dr. Joseph Towers, 1737, Southwark; General Richard D. Guyon, commander in the Hungarian patriotic army, 1813, Walcot, Somerset.

Died: Francis I of France, 1547, Rambouillet; Philip III of Spain, 1621, Madrid; Dr. John Donne, poet, 1631; Peter Burman, law-writer and Leyden professor, 1741; George, Earl Macartney, Ambassador to China, 1806, Chiswick; Ludwig Beethoven, musical composer, 1827, Vienna; John Constable, R.A., landscape painter, 1837; John C. Calhoun, American statesman, 1850; Edward Riddle, mathematician, 1854; Charlotte Bronte (Mrs. Nicol), novelist, 1855; Lady Charlotte Bury, novelist, 1861, Sloane-street.

Feast Day: St. Acacias (or Achates), Bishop of Antioch, 3rd century. St. Benjamin, Deacon, martyr, 424. St. Guy (or Witen), Abbot at Ferrara, 1046.


George Macartney, a descendant of the Macartneys of Auchenleck, near Kirkcudbright, was born at his father's seat, Lissanoure, in the county of Antrim, Ireland, on the 14th of May 1737. So quick was he to learn, and so well instructed by a private tutor named Dennis, that, at the early age of thirteen, he was admitted a follow commoner of Trinity College, Dublin. His choice of profession inclined towards medicine, until accidentally reading 'certain curious old tracts on chronology' (the Book of Days of the period), his circle of ideas became enlarged, and an honourable spirit of ambition changed his first design. And long after, when he had it in his power to reward his tutor's care with two rich benefices, he emphatically acknowledged that the events, dates, and other facts ' gleaned up, when a boy, from those old chronological works, not only pointed out the way, but were of the greatest service to him as he travelled the arduous path which eventually led to wealth and distinction. Having obtained the degree of M.A., he spent some time in travel, during which he fortunately made the acquaintance of Stephen, son of Lord Holland, and elder brother of the renowned orator and statesman, Charles James Fox.

Here was the tide that led to fortune, nor was the ambitious youth, whose head was stored with 'facts, dates, and other events,' slow to take advantage of the flood. The abilities and personal advantages of the young Irishman were soon recognized at Holland House; and, after a short course of political training, he was brought into Parliament for the borough of Midhurst, then at the command of his influential patron. He did not disappoint the expectations of his friends. Just at that period, statesmen of all parties were puzzled by the attitude of Russia. Scarcely permitted, by the public opinion of Europe, to hold a place among civilized states, the empire of the Czars had, at one bound, stepped into the first class, under the clever guidance of an ambitious woman, whom romantically unexpected events had placed upon the throne. Macartney was the first to see the position and accept it, in the following oracular words:

Russia,' he said, 'is no longer to be gazed at as a distant glimmering star, but as a great planet, that has obtruded itself into our system, whose place is yet undetermined, but whose motions must powerfully affect those of every other orb.

It was necessary, for many important reasons, that England should stand well with the newly-born, semi-savage giant of the North. Yet three ambassadors from the Court of St. James's had failed in persuading the Empress Elizabeth to renew the treaty which expired in 1734. To all three she flatly refused to continue the close connection that had long existed between the two countries, on the simple and unanswerable grounds, that Russia would not enter into exclusive relations with any particular European power. In this emergency, Macartney was appointed Envoy Extraordinary to the Empress; and having received the honour of knighthood, departed on his delicate mission. He was eminently successful. His consummate tact enabled him to obviate the difficulty of access to the Empress, which had utterly discomfited the previous envoys; while his penetration and discretion enabled him to triumph over other obstacles.

At his first public audience with the Czarina, he completely gained her consideration by a piece of flattery. After ' assuring her of his master, George the Third's inviolable attachment to her person, he added:

And forgive me, Madam, if here I express my own particular satisfaction in having been chosen for so pleasing, so important an employment. By this means, I shall have the happiness of more nearly contemplating those extraordinary accomplishments, those heroic virtues, which make you the delight of that half of the globe over which you reign, and which render you the admiration of the other.

He succeeded in persuading the Court of St. Petersburg to agree to a treaty as nearly as possible in accordance with his instructions; and many distinguished testimonials were conferred upon him, for this important service. From being a simple envoy, he was elevated to the position of ambassador and plenipotentiary; the Empress gave him a magnificent gold snuff-box, inlaid with diamonds; and the king of Poland sent him the insignia of the White Eagle.

On his return, he was appointed Chief Secretary for Ireland, and soon after made a Knight Companion of the Bath. For several stormy sessions, he sat in the Irish House of Commons, and on one occasion, being taunted with his red ribbon and White Eagle, he gave a reply which effectually prevented any other attacks of that kind; observing in conclusion:

Thus, Sir, I was employed at a very early age, whilst some of my opponents were engaged in the weighing of syllables, the measurement of words, and the construction of new phrases. If, in my embassies, I have received testimonies never before granted but to my superiors; if my person is adorned with extra-ordinary proofs of distinction, let me tell these gentlemen that they are badges of honour, not of shame and disgrace. Let me tell them that, if, from my public situation, my name should ever pass to posterity, it will be transmitted as a testimony of my services and integrity, not as a record of infamy and crimes.

We next find Sir George in the British parliament, representing the burghs of Ayr, Irvine, Rothesay, &c., most probably by the influence of Lord Bute, whose daughter, Lady Jane Stewart, he had lately married. In 1775 he was appointed Governor of Grenada, and in the following year advanced to the Irish peerage, under the title of Lord Macartney, Baron of Lissanoure.

A more important field for his public services soon after presented itself in the governorship of the Madras Presidency. He entered upon this office with all the zeal and discretion by which he was so eminently distinguished. His arrival in India was hailed with joy as an event presaging some hopes of relief from the difficulties and degradations into which the Presidency had sunk. There was disunion in the council, and danger without, The country was overrun by Hyder Ali; while famine relentlessly swept away the wretched natives; but, worse than all, there existed a shameless system of gross and complicated corruption, in every branch of the Company's service. In reforming these abuses, the Governor was subjected to the grossest calumnies, and actual personal danger. Yet, in the short space of four years, by indomitable, unceasing effort, he introduced better arrangements. His wisdom was as beneficial to his country, as his unsullied integrity was honourable to himself. Nor were his services unrecognised. In approbation of his conduct, he was appointed to the high office of Governor-General, which after due consideration he declined. The Company, however, in acknowledgment of his eminent services, bestowed on him an unsolicited life-pension of £1500 per annum.

For six years after his return from Madras, Lord Macartney lived on his paternal estate at Lissanoure; finding full scope for his active mind in building houses for his tenantry, draining bogs, and planting trees. But the services he could render his country were much too valuable to be absorbed in the simple affairs of private life. In 1792, he was appointed ambassador to China. A detailed account of this embassy, prepared by Sir George Staunton from Lord Macartney's own papers, was, till a very late period, the standard authority on all matters relating to the Chinese empire. On his return, he was sent on a peculiar mission to Italy, the precise objects of which have never transpired; but the service was evidently conducted to the entire satisfaction of the Government, as we find him about this time created a British peer, under the title of Baron Macartney of Parkhurst. He was subsequently appointed Governor of the Cape Colony, an office he was compelled by ill health to resign shortly afterwards.

On leaving the Cape, he deemed it right to place on record a declaration, similar to one he previously had made when resigning the governorship of Madras. This declaration consisted simply of a solemn form of oath, to the effect that he had lived exclusively on his salary, never received bribes, nor engaged in trafficking speculations for his own benefit. In speaking of this public act, he says:

I trust that it will not be imputed to me as proceeding from any motive of vanity, ostentation, or parade, but from a sense of that propriety and consistency, which I wish to preserve through the whole course of my political life, now drawing near to its conclusion. If it be a gratification to my private feelings, it is equally the discharge of a debt, which the public has a right to demand from every public man.

After his return from the Cape, Lord Macartney engaged no more in public affairs. During the latter part of his life, he resided at Chiswick, enjoying the society of the loading literary and scientific men of the day.


Amongst the statesmen of powerful intellect who arose in America in the age succeeding Independence, a prominent place is clue to Mr. Calhoun, who occupied the position of Secretary of War during the whole presidency of Mr. Monroe (1817-25), and was himself Vice-President of the States during the ensuing six years. The name (identical with Colquhoun) indicates a Scottish extraction; but the father of Mr. Calhoun was an Irishman, who emigrated to Pennsylvania. At New Haven College, at the bar in South Carolina, as representative of that State in Congress, and in all his administrative capacities, the massive talents of Mr. Calhoun were conspicuous, nor was the grandeur of his moral nature held in less esteem.

It was in 1831, during Jackson's presidency, and while Mr. Calhoun was senator for South Carolina, that that state and others threatened to secede from the Union, on account of the system of protection adopted in the interest of the manufacturers of the Northern States. Mr. Calhoun was the earnest and powerful advocate of Free Trade and of State Rights and State Sovereignty. South Carolina actually passed an Act of Nullification, or a refusal to pay the duties of a highly protective tariff, and the dissolution of the Union and war were imminent, when a compromise, proposed by Mr. Clay, was agreed to, a lower tariff adopted, and the danger for the time averted. A speech pronounced by Mr. Calhoun at this period, contained the following passage:

We are told that the Union must be preserved. And how is it proposed to preserve the Union? By force! Does any man in his senses believe that this beautiful structure, -this harmonious aggregate of States, produced by the joint consent of all,-can be preserved by force? Its very introduction will be certain destruction to the Federal Union. No, no! You cannot keep the States united in their constitutional and federal bonds by force. Force may, indeed, hold the parts together; but such union would be the bond between the master and slave-a union of exaction on one side, and of unqualified obedience on the other. It is madness to suppose that the Union can be preserved by force. Disguise it as you may, the contest is one between power and liberty.

In 1843, Mr. Calhoun became Secretary of State under the administration of Mr. Tyler, who, by the death of General Harrison, had become President. In 1845 he returned to the Senate, of which he remained a member until his death.

Mr. Calhoun is considered by many as the greatest of American statesmen. Loved, admired, trusted, and almost idolized in South Carolina and throughout the Southern States, he was necessarily less popular in the north. His free-trade principles were opposed to northern interests; his defense of State rights, and the right of nullification and secession, were opposed to the territorial passion of the north; while his opinions on the necessity, and even philanthropy of negro slavery, were such as only local feelings have ever been able to sanction. But while Mr. Calhoun's political opinions found little favour, except in his own section, his commanding talents, and the purity of his public and private character, made him everywhere respected. His influence in his native state was unbounded, and he, more than any other man, moulded the public opinion of the Southern States, and prepared them for the steps which they took at the election of Mr. Lincoln.


The era of Francis I in France was that of revived learning and skill in the arts. Up to his time, not-withstanding that the use of the vernacular language had been introduced in the legal proceedings of Germany, England, and other countries, they continued in France to employ a barbarous Latin, to the great bewilderment of all sorts of people. Francis ordered a change in this respect, in order that those who had the unhappiness to go to law might at least have the satisfaction of reading their ruin in their own tongue. He likewise introduced the fashion of long hair and short beards, after Pope Julius H. As soon as it was observed that the courtiers allowed their beards to grow, it became an object with magistrates and grave elderly men generally to get themselves well-shaven. The courtiers and petit-maitres by and by grew disgusted with their long beards, and took once more to close shaving. Then the grave men, determined to be unlike those people, immediately began to allow their beards to grow.

Francis was cut off at fifty-three in consequence of his immoralities. The bishop of Macon, preaching his funeral sermon, had the hardiesse to assure his auditors that the king's soul had gone straight to paradise, without passing through purgatory. To the credit, however, of the Sorbonne, it rebuked the bishop for this piece of courtliness, and forbade his sermon to be printed.


This eminent composer was the son of a tenor-singer, who in his turn was the son of a bass-singer, both being of course obscure men. It is remarkable how often the genealogy of brilliant musical power is of this nature. Bach came of a tribe of humble musicians, commencing, it is said, with a miller. Haydn's father was an amateur harpist in humble life. Mozart was the son of an ordinary kapell-meister and teacher of the violin. The father of Rossini was a horn-blower in the orchestra of a strolling company. It seems as if, for the production of the musical genius, the antecedence of musical temperament and a moderate ability were necessary; or as if the family musical gift, in that case, only became somewhat intensified-screwed up an octave higher, as it were.