Search just our sites by using our customised site search engine


Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

The Life of General The Hon. James Murray
Chapter XX. Conclusion


So far as events of historical importance or of public interest are concerned, I have done what remains to be recorded relates only to Murray's private life, when, after the episode related in the last chapter, he retired to his Sussex estate, there to reflect on the inconstancy of princes and the unwisdom of those that put trust in them. The King did not easily forgive what he deemed obstinacy on the part of a subject, who had refused to accept the royal advice in a matter which concerned his honour, and, without friends at Court to support his cause, and no inclination to push it himself, the gallant defence of Minorca and the insult that followed by way of reward were soon forgotten. On February 19, 1783, Murray was promoted to the rank of full General. This could scarcely be called a recognition of his services, for it was merely a promotion, following the custom of the time, of a batch of lieut.-generals of the same date of rank, of whom he was one, but at least it served as an indication that the court martial had not found him wanting. His ambition to command the Scots Greys was never fulfilled. The King had promised it, but when two years later the regiment became vacant it was given to Lieut.-General James Johnston. At the same time Murray was appointed Governor of Hull—one of those military governorships which at the time were numerous, and served as rewards for officers of meritorious service, without necessitating residence.  Possibly this appointment instead of the Greys was made with his concurrence; there is nothing to show, but in 1789 he obtained his desire to command a Scots regiment by being transferred to the 21st, then known as the Royal North British Fuzileers, now the Royal Scots Fusiliers, a famous regiment which had borne an honourable share in all the battles of Marlborough's campaigns and many that followed.

It is recorded of Lord Shelburne, when at about this period he was forced from office, that he found himself "immersed in idle business, intoxicated with liberty and happy in his family." In very similar mood Murray wrote to his friend Dr. Mabane in Quebec:

"I, at the age of sixty-six, enjoy perfect health and happiness, truly contented with my lot of independent mutton. I enjoy the comfortable reflection that I have ever zealously acquitted myself a faithful friend to my country and its Sovereign. Having laid aside every ambitious view, and as great a farmer as ever, I never think of St. James', and am only anxious for the prosperity of my two delightful children and the cultivation and increase of my fields and garden, all which objects are due to my heart's content."

Truly, I think, this unconscious picture of a mind undisturbed by a life, which had had a big share of stirring events, is a tribute to a loftiness of character which requires no better illustration.

On Beauport he expanded all his care and energy. To increase the beauty of that already beautiful home became to him a sufficient aim, which served to obliterate the disappointments of the past. From here he could revel in vistas of wide land and sea-scapes—the Bay of Rye, the Romney Marshes, Dungeness Point; on a fine clear day Cape Grisnez and the high ground surrounding Boulogne;

westwards the coastline as far as Beachy Head could be traced, with the long ridges of the South Downs; northward the horizon is bounded by that high upland known as the backbone of Kent, and, traditionally, occasional views as far off as Sevenoaks—a place for an artist to rejoice in, and, in fact, J. W. M. Turner in later years spent much time in the neighbourhood, and has left sketches of Battle Abbey, Asliburnham Place, Crowhtirst Place, and also one called "Beauport, near Bexhill," though certainly Turner's "Beauport" is not the Beauport of reality. The house itself he greatly enlarged. In this pleasant home Murray spent the remaining twelve years of his life, and here his many friends enjoyed his hospitality and talked over stirring times or discussed the prospect of the farms, for the owner of Beauport was always a keen farmer. Here several children were born to him, and altogether there were six children of the second marriage, of whom four survived him, the last having been born in 1793, when Murray was nearly seventy-four years old. It is interesting to note that among the visitors to Beauport, but after James Murray's time, was Isaac Disraeli, accompanied by his famous son Benjamin, Lord Beaconsfield. Sixty years later, meeting the present owner of Beauport, he remembered these visits at once, saying, " I used to visit the house with my father. It had a very pretty garden and a splendid view of the channel towards Dover."

Besides Beauport, he was Lord of the Manor of Ore, and the property of Ore Place was in his possession; but I believe he had only a life interest in it, through the first Mrs. Murray. In this old house he had resided in former years while Beauport was being rebuilt, and he retained a lasting affection for it. Tradition has it that the Manor House was built by John of Gaunt, and it may be that Murray's feelings towards it were prompted by his own descent from that old-time hero, whose record of battles and sieges would be sure to inspire his admiration. It was in the old church of Ore that he erected the family vault, and here he himself was buried.

In the New World, too, Murray had considerable possessions. The record is not very clear, but he certainly possessed a large estate situated on the shores of Lake Champlain, which he purchased in 1764 from M. Francois Foucault.

The other principal property was the estate of Lauzon or Point Levis, purchased from a M. Cherast in 1765. This would be a valuable property to-day, extending for six leagues along the St. Lawrence, and including the parishes of St. Joseph, St. Henry, St. Nicholas, and part of St. Charles, that is to say, the area from the old landing place at Point Levis up to and including the parish of St. Nicholas, which lies opposite St. Augustin beyond Cap Rouge. This is now a well-populated area, with many important mills, dockyards, and factories, and would be a princely possession; but in Murray's time the annual value of the property amounted to no more than £358 13s., and out of this had to be deducted all expenses attending collection of rents and the wear and tear of the mills.

There appear to have been other properties in Canada, but the record on this head is very obscure. By his will, dated September 6, 1793, he left these properties to his son James Patrick Murray, who was born at Leghorn on January '25, 1782, subject to a life interest in Beauport to his wife, and a charge of £5000 each to his three surviving daughters, the executors having power to raise any defect of these sums by mortgage on the American estates, the widow to receive an allowance of £400 a year besides an allowance for each child. There are, unfortunately, no details available in the will or elsewhere as to the property, and practically no information as to why or when it was sold; but the probability is that the executors, of whom there were three—his two nephews, Sir James Murray and William Young, being two of them—were obliged to sell the lands in order to provide the daughters' portions.

James Murray died at Beauport on June 18, 1794, in his seventy-fifth year, and was buried, in accordance with his desire, in the old church at Cre. In the foregoing chapters I have endeavoured faithfully to portray the achievements and character of one who was a maker of history at a time when the foundations of the British empire were being laid. If I have been successful I have given the impression of a man who was generous to an extraordinary degree, even perhaps to an extent which savoured a little of ostentation. He undertook, with a readiness which rather outran his means, the education of his nephews and provision for relatives not well endowed. It was customary for men of his position to affect a magnificence which many could not afford, and he was certainly no whit behind them. It cannot be denied that he was autocratic and hot-tempered—he quarrelled with many; but if he found himself in the wrong he made the best amends he could think of, and it must be admitted that in the majority of cases the enemies he made were of persons of little worth, with whom his ultra strict notions of honour permitted no friendship. With those of his opponents in war, who proved themselves worthy, he was on terms of friendship when circumstances permitted. For De Levis, for instance, whom he regarded as preux chevalier, he had the greatest regard and frequently corresponded with him. For Vaudreuil, on the other hand, he expressed the bitterest contempt as of a man who had betrayed his trust. Of political acumen I have given proof that he possessed a singular gift; but as a politician, that is, one capable of securing his desires by opportunism, he was defective—he was too blunt and downright, too honest, in fact, to please minds accustomed to reach their goal by roundabout methods. Thus he often failed to secure a successful issue where he had pointed the way, and others of less merit secured the applause and the honours which were his due. He lived in a corrupt age, and one which, according to our standard, was immoral. When he sent his brother George's natural son to Amherst, the latter had replied: "I shall be very glad to see Mr. Patrick Murray, and do anything for him that you desire, and if you will send me one or two of your own I will convince you what a regard I have to Marshal Saxe's scheme!" Yet in all the papers 1 have been through there is nothing to show that he had occasion to take advantage of Amherst's offer. He had, however, been elected a Knight of the Ancient Order of the Beggar's Benison,* a society of wits whose foundation was on much the same lines as the famous club at Medmenham Abbey, and whose morals were on about that level. He lived long enough to see an immense improvement in public life, the reform of parliamentary representation, and the abolition of that worst form of mis-government, the sale of offices to the highest bidder. In this great reform, Lord Shelburne, to his honour, led the way, but before he had enunciated his principles Murray had, so far as his opportunities admitted, taken action in the practical application of them.

There was a certain genius, almost of eccentricity, in all the children of Alexander Lord Elibank and his wife, Elizabeth Stirling, and none showed it more than the eldest, Patrick, Lord Elibank, of whom even Dr. Johnson could speak with admiration, and James, the youngest, who should be better known as one of the makers of the Dominion of Canada, if not as the chief builder. His greatest glory was that he sacrificed himself to befriend the Canadians, oppressed by a Government too short-sighted to see the immense part which Canada could play as an integral part of the empire—a part, which the event of 1914 to 1918 has demonstrated to the full. If James Murray lived his life as an aristocrat, he was ever the friend of the people, without indulging in that excess of championship which,

*The Order of the Beggar's Benison was established at Anstruther in Scotland about the year 1739, and included in its membership eminent men of all classes, even some members of the royal family. Its motto—"Be fruitful and multiply"—serves to indicate the hedonic nature of its orgies. Apparently the "Hell-Fire Club," installed at Medmenham Abbey in 1742, with the motto, "Fay cc que voudras," was a foundation following the same lines, where a group of brilliant wits, among whom, by the way, was John Wilkes— Murray's bitter detractor—carried on a secret ritual of blasphemous revelry. Both orders were, no doubt, an attempt to put In practice the Rabelaisian conceptions of the Abbey of Theldme. As Murray's biographer, I must add that I do not think he ever had opportunity of taking up his membership.

in many cases at this period, was not without a suspicion of selfish motives. It was never his method to belittle others, or to harass the men in power that he might gain credit for himself. He lived as a gentleman should, and acted up to the motto of his family, "Virtute Fideque."


Return to our Book Index Page

This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus