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London to await the result, where it was at length communicated to him by his legal adviser in Edinburgh, in March, 1759, in a letter which thus concluded: -“We had a most creditable jury of the best gentlemen in town, who, with one voice, have found you nearest male-heir to the last deceased Earl of Stirling."
It had appeared in evidence before the jury, that Mr. Alexander was lineally descended from an uncle of the first Earl of Stirling, whose direct male line had failed on the death of his great-grandson in 1737. Under the Scottish laws, a patent of nobility, not confined to heirs male in the direct line, went to the nearest collateral branch. This was not the case in England ; but as the claim was to a Scottish peerage, which carried no right, except by election, to a seat in the House of Lords, Mr. Alexander's counsel were of opinion, that his title to the peerage resulted from his having established his claim to be considered the nearest heir male.
Subsequently to the finding of the jury in his favor, Mr. Alexander was addressed by his title of Earl of Stirling, which he continued ever after to use and to receive in his correspondence with the ministers of the crown and other officers of state. His able legal adviser in Scotland was of opinion that, having gone through all the forms which the Scottish laws required to put him in possession of his title, he should now assume it and rest satisfied, until objections should be made at an election of Scottish peers to represent the body in the Imperial Parliament. This opinion coincided with his own.But the Duke of Newcastle, then prime minister, and others of his friends in England, urged him to petition the House of Lords to acknowledge his claim to the peerage, as the most respectful course towards that body, and most likely therefore to conciliate its favor. This he accordingly did.
Whilst the matter was still pending, with several other contested peerages, before that body, the death of his mother in New York made it necessary for him to return home. He accordingly sailed from Portsmouth in the Alcide manof-war, on the 28th of July. This ship had to convoy a fleet of merchant-vessels for the West Indies, as well as for North America. The circuitous voyage which this involved, as well as the dull sailing of some of the vessels, and their
general dilatoriness and disobedience of signals, so prolonged the passage, that the Alcide did not arrive at New York until the 21st of October, after a passage of eighty-five days. Soon after his arrival, he wrote to Lord Bute, congratulating him on the recent fall of Martinico, and expressing the opinion, that the force which had accomplished this conquest might advantageously be employed in the reduction of Havana, whose great importance in the hands of England he strongly enforced, especially as a means of subsequently conquering Louisiana. He suggested, moreover, that " if the troops already in the West Indies were insufficient, they might be reinforced by eight or nine good battalions from New York.” Havana was, indeed, soon after taken, the
. expedition having sailed from England soon after Stirling's letter reached Lord Bute. It reinforced itself with the troops which had reduced Martinico, and was further aided in the siege, at a moment when failure seemed inevitable, by the timely arrival of a strong reinforcement from New York.
Stirling had intended returning in the following winter to England, to aid the favorable issue of his petition to the House of Lords. But his passage to New York had been so unexpectedly prolonged as to render this course incompatible with the necessary attention to his domestic affairs. His petition, which could only be entertained after several antecedent ones of a similar nature were disposed of, probably languished for the want of his personal attendance. He wrote to Lord Bute, explaining the circumstances which rendered his immediate return to England impossible, and asking the favor of his “ protection and interest, so far as to obtain that justice which every one in like circumstances bas enjoyed.”
“ I only ask,” he added, “ what the express terms of the patent give to me; what has constantly been the practice of succession in Scotland for a century or two before the union; what has not been altered by that treaty, but is confirmed by it; and this, my Lord, under your protection, I can make no doubt of obtaining; and therefore should be glad to have the proceedings in my case in Scotland brought before their lordships as soon as possible, that they may be satisfied that I hold my title agreeably to the prace tice of that country, in the most authentic manner.”
A change of ministry soon after followed, bringing in the Tories, and dispossessing the Whigs, who were personally
and politically Stirling's friends. The fall of Bute was especially unfortunate. Prime-minister at the time, a Scotchman himself, and according to popular reproach the favorer of his countrymen, his great influence with the king, whose tutor he had been, and by whom he was greatly beloved, could not but have enabled him to give effect to his friendship to Stirling, by procuring a favorable issue to his claim. With the change of ministry that followed, it was doomed to languish and die. The last that was heard of it was its being postponed for consideration to a succeeding session of Parliament. Another claimant of the peerage subsequently arose, in the person of Alexander Humphreys, who claimed as descended from a daughter of the last earl, and produced a patent, extending the entail to heirs female. But on the production of this document, he was indicted for forgery, and the patent, with other papers on which he relied to prove his title, was found to be spurious; and in a subsequent suit, so late as 1833, after the heirs male of Lord Stirling had failed, it was judicially decided that Humphreys was not the lawful heir to the earldom.
Turning his attention to what was attainable, and of more immediate interest, Stirling now devoted himself with renewed zeal to the concerns of his native country. He became surveyor-general of New Jersey, which office had been held by his father, and busied himself in collecting materials for a new map of North America, having detected many inaccuracies in the maps already published. He announced to Lord Bute his intention to make a journey of exploration around all the great lakes, in furtherance of this project, and also to measure a degree of latitude on the Hudson, for which he was then making preparation. An evidence of his scientific pursuits at this period is preserved in the library of the New York Historical Society, in a manuscript account of an observation made by him of the transit of Venus, for the purpose of verifying the longitude of New York. He was at this time one of the governors of King's, now Columbia, College, in his native city, which was languishing for want of means to render it as useful as its friends desired. The governors determined to send an agent to England, to solicit aid from the benevolent patrons of education in that country. Dr. James Jay, a brother of John Jay, was selected for that purpose, and bore from Stirling urgent letters to Lord
Romney, Lord Bute, and other influential friends, in furtherance of his mission.*
On the return of Stirling to America, he had resumed his residence in New York. Soon after, he commenced building at Baskenridge in New Jersey, on an extensive estate which he possessed there, his father having been one of the proprietaries of East Jersey. On the completion of his house, he made it his summer residence, and eventually his permanent abode. Soon after his removal to New Jersey, he was chosen a member of the governor's council, and continued to hold the office without interruption until the period of the Revolution. In the political duties thus devolved upon him, in those of his station of surveyor-general, and in others which he appears to have assumed with the higher object of adding to what was then known of the geography of the country, for which purpose he had the aid of detachments from the king's troops in New York, his time was usefully employed; and any leisure that remained must have been occupied by the exertions required of him as a large landed proprietor, solicitous at once to raise the value of his estates and to promote the prosperity of his tenants, by the exercise of an extensive hospitality, and by the correspondence which he continued to maintain at home and abroad. A letter which he wrote at this period to Lord Shelburne, afterwards Marquis of Lansdown, possesses no little interest from the account that it gives of his occupations, and his enlightened views respecting the measures to be pursued for promoting the welfare of the Colonies, both for their own sake, and as the best means of advancing the prosperity of the mother country.
"New York, August 6, 1763. "My dear Lord,- Nothing could have given me greater satisfaction, than hearing of your Lordship's appointment to preside
* Columbia College, thus fostered in its infancy by Stirling, has since become one of the most flourishing and efficient institutions, as far as its course of instruction extends, in this or in any country. For many years, and until the shattered state of his health occasioned his retirement, it was presided over with the greatest ability and entire success by the grandson of its early benefactor, to whom we are indebted for this volume. The discipline of Columbia College, which, from the independent character of our youth, is ever the chief difficulty in our institutions of learning, was perfect under the presidency of Mr. Duer, whose dignified yet courteous bearing, and happy union of suavity and force, always restrained even the approach of insubordination.
at the board which must have so great a share in the government of a country in which it is my lot to reside. Your Lordship's early inquiries, and strong desire of acquiring knowledge of this new world, must now be of great use to your country ; for on a proper management of the colonies on this continent much of Great Britain's future greatness depends. The wants of its increasing population must at all events greatly increase the manufactures of the mother country. The suppression of such branches of trade as interfere with the importation of them from Great Britain, and the encouragement of such a cultivation of *these colonies as will supply her with raw materials, for which she is now obliged to pay millions to foreign nations, is a work that must render the value of this continent to Great Britain inestimable. These things have, no doubt, occurred to your Lordship, as well as the proper mode of carrying them into execution. But if you can indulge me, I will, from time to time, send you such
I hints as occur to me, of measures suitable to this part of the continent; you may perhaps find something among them that has escaped your notice.
“ The making of pig and bar iron, and the cultivation of hemp, are two articles that want encouragement greatly. We are capable of supplying Great Britain with both to a great extent; but the first requiring a large stock to begin with, people of moderate fortunes cannot engage in it; and those of large ones are yet very few, and their attention is generally given to the pursuit of other objects. Some few, indeed, in this province and in New Jersey, have lately erected excellent works, the success of which, I hope, will encourage others to follow their example, As to hemp, our farmers have got into a beaten track of raising grain and grazing cattle, and there is no persuading them out of it, unless by exam. ples and premiums; and these it would be well for government to try. A few thousand pounds expended in that way might have a good effect.
" The making of wine, also, is worth the attention of govern. ment. Without its aid, the cultivation of the vine will be very slow ; for of all the variety of vines in Europe, we do not yet know which will suit this climate ; and until that is ascertained by experiment, our people will not plant vineyards. Few of us are able, and a much less number willing, to make the experiment. I have lately imported about twenty different sorts, and have planted two vineyards, one in this province, and one in New Jersey; but I find the experiment tedious, expensive, and uncertain ; for after eight or ten years' cultivation, I shall perhaps be obliged to reject nine tenths of them as unfit for the climate, and then begin new vineyards from the remainder. But however tedious, I am