The Provost

Author: John Galt

Chapter III—A Dirgie

In the course of the summer following the baptism, of which I have rehearsed the particulars in the foregoing chapter, Bailie Mucklehose happened to die, and as he was a man long and well respected, he had a great funeral. All the rooms in his house were filled with company; and it so fell out that, in the confusion, there was neither minister nor elder to give the blessing sent into that wherein I was, by which, when Mr Shavings the wright, with his men, came in with the service of bread and wine as usual, there was a demur, and one after another of those present was asked to say grace; but none of them being exercised in public prayer, all declined, when Mr Shavings said to me, "Mr Pawkie, I hope ye’ll no refuse."

I had seen in the process, that not a few of the declinations were more out of the awkward shame of blateness, than any inherent modesty of nature, or diffidence of talent; so, without making a phrase about the matter, I said the grace, and in such a manner that I could see it made an impression. Mr Shavings was at that time deacon of the wrights, and being well pleased with my conduct on this occasion, when he, the same night, met the craft, he spoke of it in a commendable manner; and as I understood thereafter, it was thought by them that the council could not do better than make choice of me to the vacancy. In short, not to spin out the thread of my narration beyond necessity, let it here suffice to be known, that I was chosen into the council, partly by the strong handling of Deacon Shavings, and the instrumentality of other friends and wellwishers, and not a little by the moderation and prudence with which I had been secretly ettling at the honour.

Having thus reached to a seat in the council, I discerned that it behoved me to act with circumspection, in order to gain a discreet dominion over the same, and to rule without being felt, which is the great mystery of policy. With this intent, I, for some time, took no active part in the deliberations, but listened, with the doors of my understanding set wide to the wall, and the windows of my foresight all open; so that, in process of time, I became acquainted with the inner man of the counsellors, and could make a guess, no far short of the probability, as to what they would be at, when they were jooking and wising in a round-about manner to accomplish their own several wills and purposes. I soon thereby discovered, that although it was the custom to deduce reasons from out the interests of the community, for the divers means and measures that they wanted to bring to a bearing for their own particular behoof, yet this was not often very cleverly done, and the cloven foot of self-interest was now and then to be seen aneath the robe of public principle. I had, therefore, but a straightforward course to pursue, in order to overcome all their wiles and devices, the which was to make the interests of the community, in truth and sincerity, the end and object of my study, and never to step aside from it for any immediate speciality of profit to myself. Upon this, I have endeavoured to walk with a constancy of sobriety; and although I have, to a certainty, reaped advantage both in my own person and that of my family, no man living can accuse me of having bent any single thing pertaining to the town and public, from the natural uprightness of its integrity, in order to serve my own private ends.

It was, however, sometime before an occasion came to pass, wherein I could bring my knowledge and observations to operate in any effectual manner towards a reformation in the management of the burgh; indeed, I saw that no good could be done until I had subdued the two great factions, into which it may be said the council was then divided; the one party being strong for those of the king’s government of ministers, and the other no less vehement on the side of their adversaries. I, therefore, without saying a syllable to any body anent the same, girded myself for the undertaking, and with an earnest spirit put my shoulder to the wheel, and never desisted in my endeavours, till I had got the cart up the brae, and the whole council reduced into a proper state of subjection to the will and pleasure of his majesty, whose deputies and agents I have ever considered all inferior magistrates to be, administering and exercising, as they do, their power and authority in his royal name.

The ways and means, however, by which this was brought to pass, supply matter for another chapter; and after this, it is not my intent to say any thing more concerning my principles and opinions, but only to show forth the course and current of things proceeding out of the affairs, in which I was so called to form a part requiring no small endeavour and diligence.


Related Resources

None available for this document.

Download Options

Title: The Provost

Select an option:

*Note: A download may not start for up to 60 seconds.

Email Options

Title: The Provost

Select an option:

Email addres:

*Note: It may take up to 60 seconds for for the email to be generated.

Chicago: John Galt, "Chapter III— A Dirgie," The Provost, trans. Garnett, Constance Black, 1862-1946 in The Provost (London: Effingham Wilson, Royal Exchange, 1831), Original Sources, accessed July 23, 2024,

MLA: Galt, John. "Chapter III— A Dirgie." The Provost, translted by Garnett, Constance Black, 1862-1946, in The Provost, London, Effingham Wilson, Royal Exchange, 1831, Original Sources. 23 Jul. 2024.

Harvard: Galt, J, 'Chapter III— A Dirgie' in The Provost, trans. . cited in 1831, The Provost, Effingham Wilson, Royal Exchange, London. Original Sources, retrieved 23 July 2024, from