Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Marshall, William (1807-1880)

MARSHALL, WILLIAM, D.D. (1807–1880), Scottish divine, born in the hamlet of Meadowmore, Perthshire, early in 1807, of poor parents, was educated at a small village school at Tulliebelton, and afterwards at one of the minor schools in Perth. At the age of thirteen he matriculated at Glasgow University, where he spent two years, completing his arts course at Edinburgh in 1824. Like many other distinguished Scottish scholars, he supported himself at college by teaching during the recess, both at his original school at Tulliebelton, and at a similar establishment at Cottartown of Moneydie in Perthshire. On finishing his college studies he entered the Divinity Hall in connection with the united secession church in 1824, and studied under Professor John Dick [q. v.] of Greyfriars, Glasgow, one of the leaders of theology among the Scottish dissenters. In 1829 he was licensed as a preacher of the united secession church, and in the following year was called to the charge of the congregation in that communion at Coupar-Angus, Perthshire, to which office he was ordained on 28 Dec. 1830. In 'the ten years' conflict' Marshall's combative nature, powerful pen, and robust style of oratory gave him a leading position as a champion of 'the voluntary principle,' In 1833 he edited a monthly magazine called ' The Dissenter,' which had a brief existence, and became secretary of the Voluntary Church Association. He contended, with the secession church, that the church should be supported by voluntary contributions, and should be entirely free from state control. In this respect he differed both from the established church of Scotland and from those who ultimately formed the free church. The leaders of the secession church also took an active part in political affairs, and Marshall and Dr. David King [q. v.] roused public opinion in favour of the repeal of the corn laws and the emancipation of British slaves. So outspoken was Marshall in support of the former question that in 1842 the 'Times' called attention to one of his speeches, and insisted that the lord advocate (Rae) should prosecute him for sedition.

In 1847 Marshall was energetic in bringing about the union of the relief and secession churches, whose junction formed the united presbyterian church. The semi- jubilee of his ordination Was celebrated in 1855. Ten years later he was chosen moderator of the united presbyterian synod, the highest dignity that his co-religionists could confer upon him. In June 1865 the degree of D.D. was conferred upon Marshall by the university of New York, and in the following month the same honour was awarded him by the university of Hamilton, Canada. On 20 Oct. 1872 he was presented with 1,500l., contributed by members of his own and other denominations. Severe illness prostrated him during this year, and in 1873 he consented to the appointment of a colleague, devoting his leisure to literary pursuits. He continued in the pastorate of the united presbyterian church at Coupar-Angus, his first charge, till his death, which took place suddenly on 22 Aug. 1880.

Marshall's historic works preserve his fame, but his brilliance as a controversialist constitutes his main title to remembrance. His publications were:

  1. 'The Dissenter,' twelve monthly numbers, January-December 1833, published in Perth.
  2. 'The Old Testament Argument for Ecclesiastical Establishments considered,' Perth, 1834.
  3. 'The Principles of the Westminster Standards Persecuting,' Edinburgh, 1873.
  4. 'Men of Mark in British Church History,' 1875, Edinburgh.
  5. 'Historic Scenes in Forfarshire,' 1875, Edinburgh.
  6. 'The Story of Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury,' 1876, Edinburgh.
  7. 'Historic Scenes in Perthshire,' 1880, Edinburgh. Articles on 'Historic Scenes in Fifeshire' were in course of publication in the 'Dundee Weekly News' at the time of Marshall's death. Marshall wrote the 'Memoir of Dr. Young of Perth' (his father-in-law), prefixed to a volume of Young's sermons (1858).

[Brit. Mus. Cat.; Dundee Advertiser, 25 Aug. 1880; McKelvie's Annals of the United Presbyterian Church, p. 609; private information.]

A. H. M.