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years were certainly the most useful, and probably the happiest, of his life. He enjoyed the position which he preferred to any other; he could, without scruple, take what part became him in public affairs. And the part from which he as a judge was debarred, he saw taken, with rare ability and energy, by his son. The attacks of numerous and bitter enemies had no effect on his fortunes, and were not, therefore, likely to disturb his cold and equable temper. Yet these attacks, both on the President and his son, were unexampled in persistency and malignancy. Politicians of every rank and every party were never weary of denouncing the Dalrymples as the cause of everything that was amiss in Scotland. Acts of Parliament were passed for the express purpose of driving them from office. But all was of no avail. William refused his assent to the Acts, and showed the value he put upon the denunciations by raising the President to the peerage. One pamphlet, however, probably the joint work of the plotter Ferguson and the traitor Montgomery, could not, it was thought, even in the interest of Government, be left unnoticed. Accordingly Stair published a short reply, entitled' An Apology for Sir James Dalrymple, Pre“sident of the Session, by himself.' The document may be read with interest, but does not materially affect our estimate of Stair. Some charges, mainly connected with legal matters, to which weight was no doubt attached at the time, but which are now utterly unimportant, he successfully refutes. To the graver charges of having supported the tyranny of Lauderdale, and of having been in public life “a Proteus and a changeling,' no defence was possible; and the endeavour to maintain one discovers more ingenuity than candour or truthfulness.
The career of Sir John Dalrymple, the President's eldest son, shorter than that of his father, is marked by bolder features, and presents a more varied interest. Born in 1648, he was called to the Scotch bar soon after his father became Lord President in 1670. The first ten years after his call afforded little to vary the monotony of professional life; but in 1682 there came a change. In the autumn of that year the father fled to Holland; ere the close of it the son was denounced by Claverhouse before the Privy Council. He was accused of « leasing-making, sedition, perjury;' of having laughed at a Proclamation; and of having offered Claverhouse a bribe of 1501. 'to connive at the irregularities of his mother the • Lady Stair.'* Dalrymple retorted with charges against Claverhouse of oppression in Galloway, and of interference with
* Irregularities, of course, in matters ecclesiastical.
the rights of heritable jurisdiction belonging to the Stair family. Fountainhall tells us there was • much transport, 'flame, and humour in this cause; and the cloud on the late • President's family was taken advantage of now, which shows
the world's instability.' * The issue, of course, was never doubtful. Sir John (he had been knighted early in life) was committed to the Castle of Edinburgh during pleasure' and fined 5001. He was soon afterwards liberated on payment of the fine, and acknowledgment of his errors.
But the Council was bent on his ruin. Perhaps they discerned that the astute Dalrymples had devised, and were following out, a dexterous policy for preserving family estates in troublous times. The father took one side of politics, the eldest son the other; so that, in any event, forfeiture was avoided. This policy, less in the spirit of chivalry than in the spirit of old Milnwood's dying injunction to “keep the gear together,' was, not to mention politicians of lesser rank, subsequently adopted by the noble houses of Hamilton, Queensberry, and Athole. But the Dalrymples are entitled to the credit of having invented it. So far back as Lord Stair's journey to London in 1681 he is said to have laid schemes for the succession of his son to the dignities which he saw he himself would be compelled to lay down—which of course implied the son's readiness to desert the politics of his father. Fountainhall distinctly says that this feeling was at the bottom of the proceedings now taken against Sir John: The High Treasurer was incensed that Sir John would give them no discoveries against the Earl of Aberdeen; and that, by his father's retreat, he had secured the estate from their gripe.' f In September 1664 he was seized in his own house at midnight, ' without any shadow of ground,' says Forbes, and brought before the Council sitting at Holyrood. No charge appears to have been preferred against him ; but notwithstanding, they caused bring him between a great guard of soldiers in open daylight, from the Abbey, on foot to the prison, like a 'malefactor.' They kept him there three months; then liberated him on bail for 5001., confining him, however, to Edinburgh, and eventually to a circuit of ten miles round the city.
For three years this cloud’hung over the House of Stair. But a change was at hand. Sir George Mackenzie, who had stuck at nothing else, could not brook the relaxation of the
* Decisions,' i. p. 201.
penal laws against the Catholics. In February 1687 Sir John Dalrymple succeeded him as Lord Advocate, receiving 1,2001. from the king—5001. being the fine enacted from him some years before, and 7001. for the charges of the journey to London which had resulted in these happy arrangements—and a free pardon for all past offences of his father, mother, and his whole family, including, oddly enough, .a pardon to his • little son, who had accidentally shot his brother.'* Wodrow leaves the springs of this change to the civil historian of the * period;' and the civil historian of the period has not made much of the bequest. The following explanation, offered by one of the Master's kinsmen, is curious :
To these (Perth and Melfort) was joined Sir John Dalrymple, son of Lord Stair. This last minister had seen his father ruined by the king when Duke of York; and had himself, on account of his lenity to Nonconformists, been confined for many months in a common jail by the same prince. Yet he was now appointed Lord Advocate and Lord Justice Clerk, offices at that time of great political power, and a Privy Councillor. These preferences were bestowed upon him by the advice of Sunderland, who suggested that by his means an union between the Presbyterian and Popish parties in Scotland might be effectuated. Capricious favours, aftcr capricious punishments, are insults. Sir John Dalrymple came into the king's service resolved to take vengeance if ever it should offer. Impenetrable in his designs, but open, prompt, and daring in execution, he acted in perfect confidence with Sunderland, to whom he was inferior in nothing and superior in eloquence.'t
In alluding to this matter, Mr. Story states, as a thing beyond doubt, that the Master's purpose in taking office 'em
braced revenge for the past injuries inflicted on himself and • his family, and the overthrow of the despotism under which
his country was ground down.' We cannot feel constrained to adopt such a view. That Sir John Dalrymple may have been offered office at the instance of Sunderland is very likely. His temperament was not that of a persecutor ; and for differences in religious persuasions he probably cared as little as Sunderland himself. To carry out the Government policy in relaxing the penal laws was in no way disagreeable to him ; and Sunderland must have known that in the accomplished
* Fountainhall, * Decisions,' i. 447.
+ Dalrymple Memoirs,' pt. i. bk. 4, p. 72. In a note by the editor of the Oxford edition of 'Burnet' (vol. iv. p. 42), it is stated that Sir John used subsequently to boast that he had advised James to repeal the Test Act in order to ruin him. No authority is given for the statement--in itself highly improbable.
discharge nature I could helping the clay beli ana
and was inerests of invit
Scotsman he had a supporter on whom he could rely. Sir John could, with more propriety than most statesmen of the time, profess the motive averred by President Lockhart for the same line of conduct—that he had all his days fought against intolerance, and would not now resist a policy of tolerance because of dark designs suspected to be concealed under the offer of such a blessing. Nothing, therefore, forces on us the belief that he took office with the treacherous purpose imputed to him. Evidence in support of the charge there is none. All the probabilities are against its truth. The mildness with which he discharged the duties of his office may in fairness be ascribed to good-nature rather than to slackness; and was indeed the wisest policy that could have been pursued in the interests of James. He had no part in the counsels of the Whigs who invited William over; and we may believe with certainty that the perfect confidence' between him and Sunderland did not include a knowledge of the Treasurer's intrigues, through his wife's gallant, with the Hague.
Strangely enough, the author of the Dalrymple Memoirs seems quite unconscious of the infamy which his theory, if accepted, would attach to the memory of his kinsman. A statesman who, seeing a prince whom he has long served bent on courses fraught with ruin to himself and his adherents, blind to the plainest consequences, deaf to all advice, stoops to treason in order to secure his own fortune or his neck, is bad enough. But to the baseness of seeking office with the set purpose of playing the traitor's part, and making destruction sure, and that from no deeper motive than a desire of revenge for a three months' imprisonment, few, even of the English or Scottish politicians of that time, would have been equal. Unscrupulous as Dalrymple was, nothing in his character justifies us, without the clearest evidence, in holding him capable of such pre-eminence in treachery, surpassing even the treachery of Sunderland.
In truth, Dalrymple's reasons are not hard to find. They were not lofty, though they fell far short of the iniquity ascribed to him. The Government desired the services of the ablest man in Scotland. To gain this end they were prepared to take any means, fair or foul. Both were at their disposal. Dalrymple had, indeed, committed no legal offence; but he had done worse—he had endeavoured to uphold the law against a prince determined to govern in defiance of all law. For this he had suffered already: he might expect suffering yet more severe. He was in the gripe of Perth and Melfort; and in them was no mercy. On the other hand, honours, wealth, a
pardon for all the offences of his House, were within his reach. His case was not singular. Government were at this very time in quest of a lawyer equal to the duties of SolicitorGeneral for England. Sir William Williams was constrained to accept that office by the same combination of influences which triumphed over the integrity of Dalrymple.
The Revolution came; and Sir John Dalrymple, although he had not stooped to be a traitor, had little hesitation in being a turn-coat. He displayed all the energy of the class. He prepared and carried the resolution which declared that James had . forfeited' his throne ; he was one of the three commissioners appointed by the Estates to offer the crown to William and Mary; and he was immediately thereafter restored to his former post of Lord Advocate. It is not, therefore, matter for surprise that, in 1690, he had the honour of being one of the six Scotchmen exempted from the Act of Indemnity then proposed to be granted by James. On the other hand, it is as little matter for surprise that his appointment was received by the Presbyterian leaders with even greater indignation than the appointment of his father to the office of President some months later. They resented it not less bitterly than the English Whigs resented the accession to office of Halifax and Danby, and, at a later date, of Sunderland, and much for the same reasons. Sir Patrick Hume wrote to Melville stating that there was great disgust against Sir John Dalrymple be'cause he is brought in office.' The disgust was very natural. Men who had been outlawed and proscribed; who had groaned under the boot and thumbscrew; who had been driven to hide in caves and vaults, and been half-starved in the garrets of Amsterdam or Leyden, could hardly, with equanimity, see the prosperity and advancement of men who had suffered nothing for the good cause, nay, who had held office during the killing • days,' and had themselves taken part in those persecutions which cried aloud for vengeance. There can, however, be no doubt that William acted wisely. He took as ministers those who could serve him best-careless whether they had been Malignants in Scotland or Tories in England. His single aim was how the Government might be steered most skilfully through the difficulties which surrounded it; and, certainly, no man in Scotland was so fit to take the helm as Sir John Dalrymple.
He held office as Lord Advocate for about a year and a half. He had to encounter no feeble opposition. The enmity of the Jacobites was a thing of course; the sullen discontent of extreme Covenanters might have been expected. But there