MS: Letter from Robert Burns to Robert Graham, dated Dumfries, 5 January 1793

Robert Burns, Author 
Object Number:


In this seven page letter Burns writes to Graham in defence of the disloyalty charges which have been brought against him. He gives a detailed response to refute each charge and feels he has accounted well enough for himself to ask Graham to support his next scheme for advancement.

Graham has replied to Burns's letter of 31st December, where Burns initially told him the detail of the disloyalty charges. In this first page of Burns's reply, he expresses relief beyond words for Graham's goodness. He denies all knowledge of the first charge, which claimed he was the head of a disaffected party in Dumfries. He speculates that if there was such an outfit, it must be so obscure as to preclude the chance of him knowing them.

Page two discusses the charge that Burns did not show the correct deference of standing up and removing his hat when the National Anthem was played at a performance of As You Like It at the Theatre Royal in Dumfries. Burns refers to this as the 'Çà ira' situation, as this French revolutionary song was also called to be sung in the theatre. He denies having sung the republican song rather than the loyalist royal anthem and goes on to deny other charges of speaking against the King, claiming he would be too respectable a citizen to 'yell in the howlings of a rabble'. His denial on this score was considered to be a little weak.

Page three is devoted by Burns to explaining his position in respect to the Reform Principles charge. He explains his concerns relate solely to the deviation from the original principles which he believes has led to corruption. He acknowledges having 'unguardedly sported with' some Reform opinions in the past but declares that from now on his lips are sealed. He also claims that he has behaved as a dutiful subject and citizen when asked to sign up to the constitutional creed.

On this fourth page Burns clarifies his relationship with the reforming politician from Edinburgh, Captain William Johnston, who has recently published the Gazetteer newspaper. Burns had submitted some verses of his for publication in the Gazetteer and enclosed copies of them with this letter to Graham. He claims these lines have nothing to do with politics and offers to withdraw his subscription to the newspaper if this has been considered to be an improper act from the point of view of his Excise masters.

In page six Burns expresses the hope that he has successfully answered the charges laid against him to the extent that he has the confidence to press Graham for further support. He has observed that the Supervisor of a neighbouring district has been unwell. Burns sees this as an opportunity to have his name put forward as a replacement, arguing that it could be some time before he was likely to recover. He argues that patrolling the district requires is hard physical work but requires only a modicum of experience.

On the last page Burns's concludes his proposal he put forward on the previous page and states that he has both the physical characteristics and sufficient experience to make an ideal replacement for the ailing Supervisor.

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