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Significant Scots
Patrick Murray


MURRAY, PATRICK, fifth lord Elibank, a nobleman distinguished by erudition and literary taste, was the eldest son of Alexander, the preceding lord, by Elizabeth, daughter of George Stirling, surgeon in Edinburgh. He was born in February, 1703. For reasons with which we are unacquainted, he studied for the Scottish bar, at which he entered in 1723, but in the same year adopted the military profession, and soon rose to a considerable rank in the army. He was, in 1740, a lieutenant-colonel under lord Cathcart, in the expedition to Carthagena, of which he wrote an account, that remains in manuscript in the library of the Board of Trade. He had now succeeded to the family title, and was distinguished for his wit and general ability. His miscellaneous reading was extensive and we have the authority of Dr Johnson, that it was improved by his own observations of the world. He lived for many years at a curious old house, belonging to the family of North, at Catage in Cambridgeshire; and it has been recently ascertained that he kept up a correspondence with the exiled house of Stuart. In the latter part of his life, he appears to have chiefly resided in Edinburgh, mingling with the distinguished literati of the city, who were his contemporaries, and fully qualified by his talents and knowledge, to adorn even that society.

In 1758, he published at Edinburgh, "Thoughts on Money, Circulation, and Paper Currency;" and an "Inquiry into the Origin and Consequence of the Public Debts" appeared afterwards. In 1765, he issued "Queries relating to the proposed Plan for altering Entails in Scotland," and, in 1773, a "Letter to lord Hailes on his Remarks on the History of Scotland." His lordship’s political life was entirely that of an opposition lord, and, among other subjects which attracted his indignant attention, was the servile condition of his native peerage. In the year 1774, he published a work under the title of "Considerations on the Present State of the Peerage of Scotland," which attracted a considerable degree of attention. "Never," says he "was there so humbling a degradation as what the Scots peers of the first rank and pretensions suffer, by the present mode of their admittance to the house of lords. For the truth of this, one needs but to appeal to their own feelings, or to the common estimation of mankind. A Scots peer of the first rank is considered as an instrument singled out, and posted in the house of lords by the appointment of the minister at the time, for the end of supporting his measures, whatever they are or may be; and who, in case of failure, must expect to be turned out at the expiration of his term of seven years. He is supposed to be composed of such pliant materials, that in the event of a change of administration, the next minister makes no doubt of finding him equally obsequious, and ready to renounce his former connexions." When Dr Johnson visited Scotland in 1773, lord Elibank addressed to him a courteous letter, which is to be found in Boswell’s Tour to the Hebrides, where are also the records of various conversations in which both men flourished. The English philosopher declared that he never met his lordship, without going away a " wiser man." Lord Elibank in early life married the dowager lady North and Grey, who was by birth a Dutch-woman, and of illustrious extraction. He died, without issue, August 3, 1778, in the seventy-sixth year of his age.

Two younger brothers of this nobleman attracted considerable notice in their lifetime. The elder, Mr Alexander Murray, was so enthusiastic a Jacobite, as to propose leading an insurrection even after the close of all the just hopes of the house of Stuart in 1746. He was confined for more than a year subsequent to May 1750, by order of the house of commons, for violent interference with a Westminster election; and, as he refused to express contrition on his knees, according to the order of the house, he might have been confined for a much longer period, if the prorogation of parliament had not brought about his enlargement. James Murray, the fourth and youngest brother of lord Elibank, distinguished himself as an officer in high command during the Canadian war. Being in the next war constituted governor of Minorca, he defended that important station in 1781, against a greatly disproportioned force of the French; and, what was more to his credit, withstood the secret offer of a million for its surrender. After a protracted siege, during which general Murray lost three-fourths of his men, he was obliged by the scurvy to give up Fort St Philip, to which he had retired, but rather in the condition of an hospital than a fortress. His conduct was warmly applauded by the British government and nation.


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