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Oswald
Oswald
327

house. He is stated to have been apprenticed to a jeweller, and various accounts are given as to the method by which he obtained sufficient money to purchase a commission in the 42nd highlanders, with which he served as ensign in America. He had obtained the rank of lieutenant when, in 1780, he embarked with the second battalion of the regiment for the East Indies. On the way out he fought a duel with the officer commanding the two companies, but neither combatant was injured. His finances not permitting him to join the officers' mess, he was accustomed to content himself with the same rations as those served out to the common soldiers. While in India he sold his commission, and in 1783 he returned overland to England. On his way out he is said to have occupied himself in learning Greek and Latin, and while in the east he obtained a knowledge of Arabic. From intercourse with the Brahmins he imbibed certain curious beliefs. Although not accepting all their doctrines — for he was professedly an atheist — he shared their repugnance to flesh, from which he abstained on the professed ground of humanity, but was accustomed to drink wine plentifully. On his return to England he occupied much of his time in penning political pamphlets.

On the outbreak of the French revolution Oswald went to Paris, where he joined the Jacobin Club, and was appointed commandant of the first battalion of pikemen. It is stated that on one occasion he coolly suggested, at a party of some members of the convention, as the most effectual method of averting civil war, the putting to death of every suspected man in France; to which Thomas Paine replied, 'Oswald, you have lived so long without tasting flesh that you have a most ferocious appetite for blood' (Redhead Yokke, Letters from France, i. 162). His regiment having been ordered to La Vendée for the repression of the royalist insurrection, he was killed at the battle of Ponts-de-Cée, September 1793, by a cannon-ball, his two sons — whom, in practical exemplification of his belief in the doctrine of equality, he had appointed drummers in the regiment — being killed almost at the same instant by a discharge of grapeshot.

Oswald was author of 'Review of the Constitution of Great Britain,' London, 1784; 3rd edit., with considerable additions, 1792; translated into French under the title 'Le Gouvernement du Peuple ou Plan de Constitution pour la République Universelle,' Paris, 1792; 'Ranæ Comicæ Evangelizantes, or the Comic Frogs turned Methodists,' 1786; 'The Alarming Progress of French Politics: a Pamphlet on the Commercial Treaty,' 1787; 'The British Mercury' (a periodical publication), 1787; 'The Cry of Nature, or an Appeal to Mercy and Justice on behalf of persecuted Animals,' London, 1791; 'La Tactique du Peuple/Paris, 1793. Under the pseudonym of Sylvester Otway he wrote 'Euphrosyne, an Ode to Beauty,' London, 1788; and 'Poems, to which is added the Humours of John Bull: an Operatic Farce in two Acts,' London, 1789.

[Lives of Scottish Poets, 1821; Anderson's Scottish Nation; Watt's Bibl. Brit.; Redhead Yorke's Letters from France; 'Notes and Queries, 3rd ser. i. 434, 459, 516, ii. 14, 5th ser. ii. 364, 496; Alger's Englishmen in the French Revolution, pp. 76-7.]

T. F. H.

OSWALD, Sir JOHN (1771–1840), general, son of James Townsend Oswald, and grandson of James Oswald [q. v.], was born at Dunnikier, co. Fife, 2 Oct. 1771. For some years he was at the military school at Brienne, France, just after Napoleon Buonaparte had quitted it. With Napoleon's school companion and future secretary, Bourrienne, Oswald contracted a lifelong friendship. Some of his holidays were spent in Paris. His education thus gave Oswald a command of French, which proved of great service to him in his profession, and a sympathy with Frenchmen, which was then rare ; while detestation of revolutionary principles, intensified by the loss of personal friends whom he had known in Paris in his youth, gave bias to his political views. He was appointed a second lieutenant 23rd royal Welsh fusiliers on 23 Feb. 1788, and first lieutenant 7th royal fusiliers on 29 Jan. 1789. In June 1790 he embarked to join the royal fusiliers at Gibraltar. His name is not in the 'Army List' on 1 Jan. 1791, but on 24 Jan. he was appointed captain of an independent company, and on 23 March the same year he became a captain in the 35th foot. He was brigade-major to General Leland, but resigned when the grenadier company of the 35th, which he commanded, was ordered to the West Indies. He served with the 2nd provisional battalion of grenadiers at the reductions of Martinique, St. Lucia, and Guadeloupe in 1794; and was afterwards in garrison at Porto Prince, San Domingo, until his company was drafted and the officers and sergeants sent home to recruit. He became major in the 35th on 1 Sept. 1795, and lieutenant-colonel of the regiment on 30 March 1797 ; and commanded the regiment in North Holland in 1799, until severely wounded in the action at Crabbenham on 19 Sept. In 1800 he embarked with the two battalions of his regiment among the troops