Sir Robert Peel

Lanark a Life In Books

Sir Robert Peel,
page 4 of 7

distinguished Sir Daniel Sandford, who held the chair of Greek. The body of the hall was reserved for the gowns-men, one of the galleries for the senior students in all the faculties, whilst the other was reserved for the ladies. The utmost enthusiasm prevailed, and amongst the students it was so spontaneous and unfeigned that the display touched Sir Robert exceedingly, and it was seen that he was labouring under the deepest emotion when he signed the rectorial roll. After Principal Macfarlane had offered up prayer in Latin, and Sir Robert had taken in the same language the oath of allegiance to the university, the newly-installed Lord Rector, arrayed in his official robes, began his inaugural address to the students. It was one of the most eloquent academic discourses ever delivered on like occasions within those venerable walls, showing a philosophic grasp of the history of the world, and a full and felicitous knowledge of the poets of all times, and revealed the speaker, not only to be an illustrious statesman, but a scholar of the widest and richest culture. The address, which occupied one hour and ten minutes in delivery, was received in some of its most eloquent passages with tumultuous applause, and was closed with the following peroration: “By every motive which can influence a reflecting and responsible being — a being of large discourse, looking before and after — by the memory of the distinguished men who have shed a lustre on these walls — by regard for your own success and happiness in this life — by the fear of future discredit — by the hope of lasting fame — by all these considerations, I conjure you, while you have yet time, while your minds are yet flexible, to form them on the models which approach nearest to perfection. By motives yet more urgent — by higher and purer aspirations — by the duty of obedience to the will of God — by the awful account you will have to render not merely of moral actions but of faculties entrusted to you for improvement, by those high arguments do I conjure you so to number your days that you may apply your hearts unto wisdom’ — unto that wisdom which shall benefit mankind, and, in the hour of judgment, comfort you with the hope of deliverance.”

On the 13th of January, two days after his installation as Lord Rector of the University, the citizens of Glasgow entertained Peel at a banquet held in his honour, the like of which for magnitude and splendour had never taken place in Scotland before. As soon as the matter had been finally arranged for, John Gordon, Esq. of Aitkenhead, came forward and put his splendid Glasgow mansion house, together with his spacious garden near the foot of Buchanan Street, between Arcade and Exchange Place, at the disposal of the committee, as the site for the erection of the banqueting hall. Designs were shortly afterwards executed by Mr. David Hamilton, one of Glasgow’s worthy sons, and the architect of Hamilton Palace and the present Royal Exchange. A splendid hall, 127 feet long and 126 feet broad, was built of wood, and lined with cloth of crimson, blue, white and gold. The pillars and wood-carving were of the finest Greek designs, and altogether the magnificent hall was alike worthy of the citizens and of the great occasion for which it was built.

When the memorable evening arrived, more than four thousand sat down to a dinner of the most sumptuous character. Henry Monteith, Esq. of Carstairs, occupied the chair. The Earl of Eglinton, the Marquis of Tweed-dale, and nearly all the nobility and gentry of the west and south of Scotland were present, and the speeches, which included one by Gladstone, were of the highest order.


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