At the beginning of 1772 William Laird was said to have been "seized with a violent disorder which affected his head." According to Hary Robertson and George, James, and Alexander Oswalds, since then Laird had been incapable of conducting his own affairs and had been intermittently confined to his room for months at a time. At the beginning of 1777, upon returning from Mr Paxton's in Edinburgh, where he had been "riding, fencing, and learning the manual-exercise of a soldier," Laird assaulted James Dennistoun of Colgrain at the Cross of Glasgow. Laird was then seized and about to be committed to the tolbooth, when Robertson and the Oswalds persuaded the Glasgow Magistrates to allow his confinement at the Town Hospital instead. Robertson and the Oswalds then petitioned the Court of Session to appoint Harry Robertson "or any other proper person" as Laird's legal representative with the power to oversee his affairs. They explained that Laird had earlier granted a commission in favour of them to manage his business affairs, but that they also required the legal power to manage his private affairs as well.

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