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The Right Honourable Robert Dundas, Lord Chief Baron of the Court of Exchequer


The Right Hon. Robert Dundas of Arniston, Lord Chief Baron of the Court of Exchequer, was eldest son of the second Lord President Dundas, and was born on the 6th of June, 1758. He was educated for the legal profession, and became a member of the Faculty of Advocates in the year 1779; immediately after which, he was appointed Procurator for the Church of Scotland.\

On the promotion of Sir Hay Campbell to the office of Lord Advocate, Mr. Dundas, then a very young man, succeeded him as Solicitor-General ; and on the elevation of the former to the Presidency, the latter was appointed to supply his place as Lord Advocate, being then only in the 31st year of his age.
This office he held for twelve years, during which time he sat in Parliament as member for the county of Edinburgh. On the resignation of Chief Baron Montgomery, in the year 1801, he was appointed his successor. His lordship held this office till within a short time of his death, which happened at Arniston on the 17th June, 1819, in the sixty-second year of his age. At this period his lordship resided in St. John's Street, Canongate.

The excellencies which marked the character of his lordship were many, and all of the most amiable and endearing kind. In manner, he was mild and affable; in disposition, humane and generous ; and in principle, singularly tolerant and liberal—qualities which gained him universal esteem.

As presiding judge of the Court of Exchequer, he on every occasion evinced a desire to soften the rigour of the law when a legitimate opportunity presented itself for doing so. If it appeared to his lordship that an offender had erred unknowingly, or from inadvertency, he invariably interposed his good offices to mitigate the sentence. By the constitution of this court it was assumed that the king could not be subjected in expenses: thus when a party was acquitted—no unfrequent occurrence—he had to bear his own costs, which were always very considerable—but the Lord Chief Baron, whenever he thought that the party had been unjustly accused, invariably recommended to Government that he should be repaid what he had expended, and his recommendations were uniformly attended to.

"It was in private life, however," says his biographer, "and within the circle of his own family and friends, that the virtues of this excellent man were chiefly conspicuous, and that his loss was most severely felt. Of him it may be said, as was most emphatically said of one of his brethren on the bench, he died, leaving no good man his enemy, and attended with that sincere regret which only those can hope for who have occupied the like important stations, and acquitted themselves as well."


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