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Significant Scots
Henry Duncan

DUNCAN, REV. HENRY, D.D.—This excellent divine, whose life was so distinguished by active practical usefulness, was born at Lochrutton manse, on the 8th of October, 1774. His father, the Rev. George Duncan, was minister of the parish of Lochrutton, in the stewartry of Kirkcudbright, and his grandfather had also held the same parochial charge. Indeed, both by father and mother, Henry Duncan traced his descent from a line of ministers that almost reached to the days of the Covenant, so that he was wont to compare his family to the tribe of Levi. It was not wonderful, therefore, that not only himself, but his younger brother, Thomas, should direct their choice and their studies to the ministry. After a careful home education at the manse of Lochrutton, and subsequently a public one at the academy of Dumfries, Henry Duncan went to the university of St. Andrews in 1778. Two years after, a temporary interruption in his college studies occurred, in consequence of his near relation, Dr. Currie, the biographer of Burns, inviting him to enter a banking establishment in Liverpool, with a view to becoming a merchant. Henry, whose purposes were not as yet very definite, complied, and in 1790 exchanged the occupations of a student for those of a banker’s clerk. It was a happy interruption, however, when we take into account the knowledge of the world, financial experience, and practical habits by which he was afterwards so distinguished among his classical brethren, and so useful to the church—and especially in the establishment of savings banks, by which he was so great a benefactor to society at large.

During the three years which Henry Duncan thus spent in Liverpool, his time was not wholly employed in the details of business and banking calculations. From his natural bias, talents, and previous education, he could not be happy without the enjoyments of literary exercise, and therefore he not only sought every opportunity of frequenting intellectual society, but renewed his old studies, and wrote poetry; he even went so far as to publish a theological tract, which he wrote against Unitarianism, at that time the prevalent heresy of Liverpool. It was a new feature in religious controversy for a boy of sixteen to publish his lucubrations upon such a subject, and more surprising still that the pamphlet should have been generally admired; but our wonder ceases when we are told that its principal arguments were derived from his father’s letters, with whom he had corresponded on the subject. All these were significant tokens that he would not voluntarily become a banker: his choice was to be a parish minister rather than a millionaire; and this, too, not at the time from religious considerations, but the opportunities which he would enjoy for those literary pursuits which, in his eyes, formed the best occupation of life. After much reluctance his wishes were complied with, and he returned to Scotland in 1793, and continued his studies for five years, partly at the university of Edinburgh, and partly at that of Glasgow. Having completed the required courses, he was taken upon trial by the presbytery of Dumfries, and licensed as a preacher of the gospel in 1798, after which, like many other licentiates, he betook himself to the occupation of a family tutor, until a presentation should induct him into a settled charge. The place of his sojourn on this occasion was the Highlands; and as the whole heather was in a blaze of patriotic ardour at this period, from the threat of a French invasion, the young enthusiastic preacher caught the genial spirit, and carried it so far, that besides girding himself with the usual weapons of military exercise, he assumed the Highland garb, to the great astonishment and mirth of its legitimate wearers, who had never seen theology so habited. It was as well that all this should speedily terminate, and accordingly, in 1799, not less than two presentations and one popular call offered themselves at the same period to his acceptance: these were to the parishes of Lochmaben and Ruthwell, and to a congregation of Presbyterians in Ireland. Mr. Duncan made his election in favour of Ruthwell, although it was the least tempting of the two parishes. It presented, however, what he considered of chief account—the best opportunity of a life of clerical usefulness. His standard of such a life at this period must be taken into account, and it is thus announced by his biographer:--"If the eternal welfare of his flock occupied any considerable share in his thoughts, I fear it must be confessed that the hope of advancing these interests rested chiefly on the influence he might possess in cultivating their kind and benevolent affections, in promoting a social and friendly spirit among their families, harmonizing their differences, rousing their patriotism, and becoming their example in all that is amiable, worthy, and honourable. Such seems to have been his beau-ideal of a country minister’s life; and if he could live to promote these purposes, he does not seem to have questioned that he should amply fulfil all the purposes of a Christian ministry."

The first act of Mr. Duncan after receiving the presentation was well fitted to endear him to the affections of his future parishioners. By law he was entitled to the crop upon the glebe, should his settlement take place before its removal, by merely paying the expenses for seed and labour. This right, however, he waived in favour of the widow and daughter of the late incumbent, allowing her in the meantime to put into the ground what crop she pleased; and, in order that she might reap it undisturbed by legal technicalities, he delayed his settlement till the 19th of September, when he was solemnly inducted into his parish at the age of twenty-five, with a pastoral charge delivered to him by the aged minister who presided, from the text, "Let no man despise thy youth." On being settled, he entered into his clerical duties, so far as he understood them, with all the warmth of his affectionate heart, and all the energy of his active spirit, visiting and catechising from house to house, in addition to his public labours on the Sabbath. But the deep ignorance, and somewhat lawless border character of his flock—for the parish lies on the shores of the Solway, and within the border district—were not the only difficulties with which he had to contend; for to these impediments were added the extreme poverty of the people, occasioned by a course of scanty harvests, while the landlords were at their wits’ end, and knew not what remedy to devise. Finding that something must be done, and that speedily, Mr. Duncan, at his own risk, and through his two brothers settled in Liverpool, procured a cargo of Indian corn, which was retailed by his orders at prime cost, and in several cases, where no money could be forthcoming, upon credit. But while comfort was thus introduced into the cottages of Ruthwell, and himself the only loser, and that, also, to a considerable amount, he rejoiced in the expense and trouble he had undergone, as his plan was adopted by many, not only on that but subsequent occasions, in several famine-visited districts over the extent of Scotland. Another public case equally urgent, although of a less clerical character, in which Mr. Duncan at this time was involved, arose from the threats of an invasion of Britain, which the French government still continued to hold out. Justly conceiving it to be his duty to set an example of Christian patriotism on this occasion, and still animated with youthful ardour, he roused his parishioners to resistance, and in consequence of this, a corps called the Ruthwell Volunteers, was soon embodied, with the minister for their captain. This office, indeed, whether willing or not, it was necessary that he should accept, otherwise his parishioners would scarcely have cared to come forward. Mr. Duncan, although perhaps the first clerical captain of this period, did not long stand alone, as many of the other parishes of Scotland followed the instance of Ruthwell, so that the same voice which uttered the military commands of to-day, was often employed in the public religious ministrations of to-morrow. It was the old spirit of Drumelog and Bothwell Bridge come back again, and no Protestant country but Scotland could perhaps have given such an example.

Thus far Mr. Duncan had gone on, beloved by his people, to whom he was a fair example of all that is dignified and amiable in the natural man, as well as zealous in the discharge of all those general duties with which his office was connected. Something more, however, was still necessary to bring him into vital contact with the spiritual life of his sacred calling, and show how much as yet was wanting in his endeavours to promote the eternal welfare of those committed to his charge. His example and his efforts, excellent though they were, had still fallen short of the mark. But in 1804 the time had come when those spiritual perceptions were to be vouchsafed to him, under which he would continue his ministerial career with new ardour and redoubled efficacy. This new light, too, under which such a happy change was to be accomplished, was neither to arise from the study of the works of the great masters of theology, nor yet from the reasonings or example of his learned co-presbyters; but from a despised people, as yet almost new in Scotland, and whose names were seldom mentioned except for purposes of ridicule and merriment. One man and two women of the society called Friends, or Quakers, had arrived at Annan, and announced their intention of holding a meeting in the evening for worship. Induced by curiosity, Mr. Duncan, who was in the town, attended the meeting, and was struck by the warmth and simplicity with which these strange preachers enunciated those Christian doctrines that had long been familiar to his mind, but to which the new style, whereby they were now embodied, imparted the charm and power of novelty. An interview with the Quakers followed, and the impression was deepened; the minister gradually began to perceive that he had something still to learn before he could become an effective Christian teacher. The lesson abode with him until, through a course of years, its fruits were ripened and matured; and ever after he was wont to revert with pleasure to this visit of the "Friends," and the benefits he had derived from them. On the same year which so powerfully influenced him for the future, he married Miss Agnes Craig, the only surviving daughter of his predecessor, in whose energy of character, refined taste, and active practical disposition, he found a mind congenial to his own in the work of life that still lay before him, and a counsellor to whom he could refer in every difficulty.

And now that the stirring enterprising mind of the minister of Ruthwell had received a new impulse, as well as a fit companion and assistant, his career was to be traced in a series of benevolent parochial plans, from which he never desisted until they were realized. Ruthwell was not only a very poor parish, but subject to periodical visits of extreme destitution; and for such a population, amounting to 1100 souls, the fund for the poor, which was collected at the church door, amounted annually to only about 25. As this constitutional poverty threatened to grow with the changes of modern living, and as Mr. Duncan dreaded the establishment of that artificial and compulsory charity called a poor’s-rate, by which idleness would be encouraged and the honourable independent spirit of the poor broken down, he had set in earnest from the beginning to make them a self-supporting people. A friendly society, indeed, had been established among them so early as 1796; but from the imperfection of its plan, and the inexperience of its supporters, it had come to nothing. Undismayed by the evil omen of such a failure, and the despondency it had occasioned, Mr. Duncan brought the whole strength and experience of his mind to a revival of the plan under better arrangements; and the result was, that several friendly societies were originated in Ruthwell, having 300 members independent of the "parish box," and happy with each other in their public meetings and temperate soirees. Coincident with this was Mr. Duncan’s concern for the intellectual as well as physical and moral elevation of his people; and therefore he endeavoured, by conversational lectures which he held on the Sunday evenings, to illustrate the Divine attributes, as manifested in the sciences of astronomy, physics, and history. This, however, unfortunately staggered the people, who as yet were neither prepared for such Sabbath ministrations, nor to believe that the earth turns round, and that the stars are of such prodigious magnitude. With the same purpose of elevating the lower orders, and inspiring them with the capacities as well as right feelings of industrious manly independence, he next commenced, in 1808, a serial work, of great efficacy in its day, under the title of the "Scotch Cheap Repository." This periodical, consisting of short tracts and stories, was formed upon the plan of Mrs. Hannah More’s "Cheap Magazine;" and both were the precursors of penny magazines, Chambers’ journals, and the other economical popular literature of the present day. In supplying the materials for his "Repository," Mr. Duncan was assisted by five of his clerical brethren, and by Miss Hamilton, the justly-famed authoress of the "Cottagers of Glenburnie;" while his own principal contribution, entitled "The Cottage Fireside, or Parish Schoolmaster," afterwards published in a separate form, was thus eulogized by that Aristarchus of modern criticism, the "Quarterly Review:" "In point of genuine humour and pathos, we are inclined to think that it fairly merits a place by the side of the ‘Cottagers of Glenburnie,’ while the knowledge it displays of Scottish manners and character is more correct and more profound." Without going out of his way to seek it, Mr. Duncan’s talents as an author were now so highly appreciated, that his pen was in demand both from the "Edinburgh Encyclopaedia" and the "Christian Instructor"—to the former of which he supplied the articles "Blair" and "Blacklock," and to the latter several valuable contributions extending over many years. His next principal object was the establishment of a provincial newspaper, the "Weekly Journal" of Dumfries being but a poor production, while the important events of the day, and the growing wants of the public mind, if not supplied with adequate sustenance, would have only opened the way for the productions of political discontent, false philosophy, and infidelity. Aware of this danger and eager to avail himself of the opportunities of such a season for indoctrinating the public with substantial, healthy, and purified intelligence, Mr. Duncan had recourse to his brothers in Liverpool for the pecuniary means of action, and with their aid was enabled, at the close of 1809, to start the "Dumfries and Galloway Courier," a weekly newspaper, to which, without announcing the fact, he officiated as editor for the first seven years. In this way he originated the best and most influential of all our Scottish provincial journals, and happily its reputation did not deteriorate under the able management of Mr. M’Diarmid, who, in 1817, succeeded Mr. Duncan in the editorship. All this while, the wonderful activity which the minister of Ruthwell displayed, and the amount of versatile intelligence he brought to a great variety of action, cannot be too widely known. While he was careful in all his pulpit preparations, and enriching the columns of his journal with powerful and original articles, he was conducting, as secretary, the business of the "Dumfries Auxiliary Bible Society," which he had formed in 1810; and as president, that of the "Dumfries Missionary Society." But this was not all. He was surrounding the manse of Ruthwell with a rich picturesque garden, and so effectually cultivating his fifty acre glebe, that while a new scenery at length rose beneath his hand out of a bleak waste, his labours were the most instructive models that could have been presented to his own people and neighbourhood of what might be achieved in horticulture and agriculture, by one’s own taste and industry, independent of a plentiful capital. Within the manse, too, there was no elbow-chair repose after such out-door occupation; on the contrary, it was a fit beehive for such a scenery, and resounded from morning till night with the hum of happy, active industry—for a domestic school was there, composed of a few boarders whom Mr. Duncan taught in addition to his own family, and in whose training he was the most careful, as well as most affectionate of fathers and teachers. Even if we were to combine Pope’s "Man of Ross" and Goldsmith’s "Country Clergyman" into one, we would still have to search for a third person, learned and able in authorship, to complete a parallel picture.

But the greatest and most important of Mr. Duncan’s public labours remains still to be mentioned: this was the establishment of savings banks, by which his name will be best remembered by posterity. Mention has already been made of his desire to foster a spirit of independence among the lower orders, by cherishing the principles of provident economy through the establishment of friendly societies. In his researches, to which this attempt led, he found a paper, written by Mr. John Bone, of London, containing a plan for the abolition of poor’s-rates in England; and among its complicated devices, which, for the most part, were too ingenious to be practical, the idea was thrown out of the erection of an economical bank for the savings of the working-classes. Upon this suggestion Mr. Duncan fastened; although occurring as a pendicle, it contained the real pith and marrow of the whole subject, and might be easily reduced to working operation. He drew up a plan for the establishment of savings banks throughout the country, which he published in his Dumfries journal; and, knowing that this would be regarded as a mere theory until it was verified by at least one substantial illustrative fact, he proceeded to the establishment of one of these banks in his own parish. Its working was soon sufficient to convince the most sceptical. The Ruthwell Savings Bank commenced its existence in May, 1810; and although the poverty of this parish was beyond that of most in Scotland, the deposits during a course of four years were 151; 176, 241, and 922. This success was announced, and the plan of action he had drawn up in the "Dumfries Courier" was republished in several of the leading journals of Scotland; and the natural consequence was, that savings banks, established upon the model of that of Ruthwell, were opened not only in Edinburgh, but the principal towns throughout the kingdom. It was well for such a provident scheme that it had found Scotland for its birthplace and first field of action. From Scotland the example passed into England, and afterwards into Ireland; and with what happy results, the superior economy of the industrious poor throughout the three kingdoms, and the immense amount of capital that has now accumulated, can bear full testimony. During this course of operation the honoured founder of the scheme was not forgot, chiefly, however, that he might lend his gratuitous labours to the furtherance of the good work; and for this purpose applications for counsel and suggestion poured in upon him from every quarter, the answers to which would have tasked a state-secretary and whole staff of assistants, instead of an already overladen country minister. But, cheered with this evidence of the success of his benevolent mission, Mr. Duncan confronted the epistolary torrent, and had an answer for every inquirer. "Happily for himself and his cause," thus writes his amiable biographer, "his readiness as a letter-writer was one of his most remarkable characteristics. Whole days, indeed, were frequently consumed in this laborious occupation; but the amount of work accomplished, while thus engaged, was indeed astonishing. This may be understood when it is remembered that, among his correspondents in a scheme so entirely new, there must have been, as there were, many desirous of minute information and special explanations; many suggesting difficulties, and demanding their solution; many persevering and insatiable letter-writers, making small allowance, for the overburdened and weary individual on whom had thus at once devolved the care of a thousand infant institutions. Add to this, that the soundness of some of the principles on which he was most decided was disputed by a few of the warmest friends of the measure, and that he had to maintain on these topics a tedious controversy, not the less necessary because those with whom it was carried on were among his best friends and coadjutors." While thus engaged he also published, at the beginning of 1815, an essay "On the Nature and Advantages of Parish Banks; together with a Corrected Copy of the Rules and Regulations of the Parent Institution in Ruthwell," for which production a new and enlarged edition was in demand in the following year. Thus it will be seen that Mr. Duncan was no mere benevolent dreamer, even as a savings bank was no mere "devout imagination." He was a man of fearless daring and incessant labour, and therefore, in his hands, the theory became a great, substantial, and national reality. And well was his benevolent disinterested heart rewarded in its own best fashion. To few of those who would teach truths "to save a sinking land "is the happy lot accorded to witness these truths in full operation, and producing their happiest results.

After the general adoption of the principle of savings banks throughout the three kingdoms, from which it gradually diffused itself throughout the different countries of Europe, where it was adopted as the true "cheap defence of nations," it would have been contrary to all past experience, since the days of Triptolemus, if Mr. Duncan had been allowed to sit down as a public benefactor, and no angry wind had blown to shake the laurels that grew around him. Carping questions rose as to the fitness of his scheme either in whole or in part; and when these were satisfactorily answered, attempts were made to bereave him of the honour of its paternity. A more difficult as well as more important step was to obtain for it the advantages of legislative protection, and for this purpose he repaired to London in the spring of 1819. After much negotiation with some of the leading financiers and statesmen, whom he converted to his views, the measure was introduced, and successfully carried through parliament. "You may carry with you," said a friend to him on that occasion, "the satisfaction of knowing that the Savings Bank Bill would not have been carried except by your visit to London." During the same year, and while the political discontent of the lower orders was daily threatening to merge into French infidelity and republicanism, Mr. Duncan published his "Young South Country Weaver," a tale admirably suited to the times, as well as the classes for which it was especially written, being full of Scottish humour, and vigorous descriptions of such popular meetings and noisy demagogues as were in vogue among the rabble during this stormy period. In 1823, the degree of D.D. was conferred upon him by the university of St. Andrews. In 1826, stimulated by the example of Sir Walter Scott’s novels, as well as offended with the tone of the tale of "Old Mortality," in which our Presbyterian ancestors are held up to ridicule, Dr. Duncan attempted a work in the same style, but of an opposite tendency, in which he resolved to place the characters of the Covenanters in their proper light. For this purpose he wrote "William Douglas, or the Scottish Exiles," a three-volume tale, which, however excellent in its way, was by no means a match for the powerful antagonist which it attempted to confront. But non omnia possumus omnes; and perhaps it was not altogether fitting or desirable that the minister of Ruthwell and founder of savings banks should be as able and popular a novelist as the "author of Waverly."

In a life so active and so full of incidents as that of Dr. Duncan, it would be impossible, within our narrow limits, to give even a brief detail of his many occupations and their results. We are therefore obliged to dismiss the labours of years, filled as they were with his plans for the better instruction of the lower classes—with his attempts to avert, or at least retard, the imposition of a poor’s-rate in Ruthwell, and over the country at large—and the active exertions he made in favour of the Roman Catholic Relief Bill, and afterwards in behalf of negro emancipation. We must even pass over his researches among the footprints of animals, which he was the first to detect in the strata of old red sandstone; by which, according to Dr. Buckland, his discovery was "one of the most curious and most important that has been ever made in geology." In all these there was abundance of literary correspondence and authorship, in which he bestirred himself with his wonted activity and success. But events were now occurring in the church of sufficient import to absorb the attention and task the utmost energies of every zealous minister, let him be of what party he might; and, under the influence of these, Dr. Duncan was summoned to abandon his favourite pursuits, and throw his whole heart into a conflict in which the very existence of the national church itself appeared to be at stake.

This controversy, which ended with the Disruption, commenced with the popular hostility towards patronage. In a mere political point of view, indeed, patronage had fully lasted its day. The people of Scotland had now become so divested of their old feudal veneration for rank and place, and withal so intelligent and inquiring, that they were no longer in the mood of implicitly submitting their spiritual guidance to any earthly patron whatever. This palpable fact, however, it was not the interest of the aristocracy to recognize, and therefore they could not see it; so that, instead of gracefully conceding a privilege which in a few years more would have been worn out and worthless, they preferred to cling to it until it should be torn from their grasp. On the subject of patronage Dr. Duncan had meditated long and anxiously; and, being convinced that it was an evil, he joined in the great popular movement that sought its suppression. From the head-quarters of the state, also, applications were made to him for information upon the merits of the question; and this he fully transmitted successively to Lords Brougham, Melbourne, and Lansdowne. It was not, however, the entire suppression, but the modification of patronage which he sought; and, therefore, when the Veto-law was passed by the General Assembly in 1834, he hoped, in common with many of our best and wisest, that the golden mean was now attained, and a happy compromise effected between the political rights of patrons and the spiritual interests of the people.

But, like many other such flattering combinations, the Veto satisfied neither party, and a few years of trial sufficed to show that this balancing of two antagonistic claims could only aggravate as well as protract the conflict. But, whatever may have been the diversity of opinions among the evangelical portion of the Church of Scotland upon the subject of patronage, the case became very different when the civil courts interposed their authority, and thrust obnoxious presentees into the cure of souls, in defiance not only of the deprecations of the parishes thus encumbered, but the authority of ecclesiastical tribunals, to whom alone the sacred right of induction belonged. It was no longer the rights of patronage, but the existence of the Church itself that was at stake, in which every question about the fitness or unfitness of the Veto utterly disappeared. Here was a result upon which there could be no divided opinion, a common ground upon which all could take their stand; and the sentiments of Dr. Duncan upon the subject, as well as the energy of his character in such a crisis, were so well understood, that at one of the most trying periods of the controversy (the year 1839) he was elected to the important office of moderator of the General Assembly. It was there that the cases of Auchterarder and Strathbogie were brought forward, while that of Lethendy was impending, in which a presbytery, for its obedience to the highest ecclesiastical court in a case of ordination, was threatened by the civil authorities with an interdict. His duties of moderator during this trying period were discharged with that dignity, firmness, and discretion which the occasion so urgently demanded. In the following year he was subjected to a still more critical test, in consequence of his being sent, at the head of a deputation, to London, by the commission of the General Assembly, to congratulate the Queen on the occasion of her Majesty’s marriage. It was thus that the Church of Scotland had been wont on former occasions to express its loyalty, and as the representatives of a national church, its deputations had always been hitherto received with royal courtesy and regard. But late events had made it be regarded in the high places of the state with dislike, and it was now suspected as tending to radicalism at least, if not to downright rebellion. To punish, therefore, if not to reclaim the offending church, it was announced to the deputation by the minister of the crown, that their address could not be received on the throne, as had hitherto been the custom, but at a private audience. To have yielded to this would have been to degrade the church which they represented; and Dr. Duncan therefore frankly stated to the crown minister, that the address could not be presented unless it was received with the usual tokens of respect. This firm resolution, which he expressed both in personal interviews and by written statement, prevailed, and the deputation was at last received according to the wonted ceremonial.

The proceedings of Dr. Duncan in the subsequent measures of the church, which ended in the disruption, maybe easily surmised. In the most important of these he bore an active part; and when the convocation was assembled in Edinburgh, in 1842, he attended as one of the fathers of the church, and gave the benefit of his experience to its deliberations. Up to this period, when so important a change was at hand, his position was a happy one, beyond the lot of most country ministers. "His manifold blessings," his biographer writes, "had been alloyed with few painful ingredients, and his sorrows had all been singularly mingled with merciful alleviations. His family had grown up without accident or serious evil of any kind, and without a breach. His two sons had voluntarily embraced his own profession, and were settled tranquilly, with their families, in parishes to which they had not only been presented by the lawful patrons, but been called by the unanimous voice of their people; and his only daughter had just been united to a minister of the Church of Scotland, long and intimately known to him, and whose views entirely corresponded with his own. And though thus his children were withdrawn from under his roof, to spheres in every respect so eligible, his home still exhibited its former aspect of affection and of enjoyment; while comforts and blessings seemed destined to follow him to the latest period of old age." In such a state of things, who that could avoid it would seek for a change? And what a motive must that be which could persuade a wise and good man, in the decline of life, and when a happy home is best enjoyed, to sacrifice all and begin life anew? But to this he steadily addressed himself, and accordingly, after the convocation, he began to look out for a new home, as well as a new sphere of ministerial duty. At length the season for action arrived. On the 18th of May, 1843, the General Assembly met, and on that occasion 474 ministers abandoned their livings, and departed, that they might constitute a church in conformity with those principles for which they had made the sacrifice. Dr. Duncan, who had been present on the occasion, and joined the solemn exodus, returned to Ruthwell, to gather together that portion of his flock which still adhered to him. They constituted nearly the half, though the least wealthy part of the church-going population of the parish; but their exertions, as well as their sacrifices, in behalf of the cause which they had embraced, even already consoled him for the loss both of church and manse. A new place of worship was soon erected, and as for a place of residence, this also was found in one end of a cottage, which the tenant resigned, for the occupation of himself and family. It was, indeed, a different habitation from that beautiful manse which he had so amplified, and the gardens of which he had so tastefully laid out and planted, during a residence of forty years, but the change was made in the name of Him who "had not where to lay his head."

The remainder of Dr. Duncan’s career, after he left the Established Church, may be briefly told. It was that long-confirmed spirit of activity, which had become the chief element of his being, struggling as bravely as ever against new obstacles, and surmounting them, but struggling under the growing frailties of years, through which the trial must be all the more quickly ended. To such a man there could be but one resting-place, and to this his failing footsteps were rapidly hastening. It was also in harmony with his character, that the summons calling him to enter into his rest should find him in the midst of active duty, with his loins girt, and his lamp burning. After a journey into England, chiefly connected with the interests of the church and his own flock, he resumed, at his return home, the work of clerical visitation, and for this purpose had repaired to Cockpool, about two miles from Ruthwell, to preside at an evening prayer-meeting. In the course of the religious services on this occasion he read a text of Scripture, and was employed in illustrating it, when he was suddenly struck with paralysis, and after a short illness, died on the evening of the 11th of February, 1846, in the seventy-second year of his age.

Dr. Duncan was twice married; his second wife, who still survives him, having been the widow of the Rev. Mr. Lundie, of Kelso, to whom he was united in 1836. In mentioning the varied authorship of Dr. Duncan, we omitted the work on which his literary reputation will chiefly depend. This was "The Sacred Philosophy of the Seasons," in four volumes, written upon the plan of the well-known work of Sturm, and furnishing a paper for every day in the year. Of this work several editions have already been published, and it is still in extensive demand. But the savings banks will constitute Dr. Duncan’s most abiding monument, and will continue, throughout the world at large, to be connected with his name as their founder, when the best literary productions of the present day have ceased to be remembered.

Memoir of the Rev. Henry Duncan D.D.
Minister of Ruthwell, Founder of Savings Banks, author of "Sacred Philosophy of the Seasons", &c. &c. By His Son, The Rev. George John C. Duncan (1848) (pdf)

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