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Erskine


ERSKINE, anciently spelled Areskin, and sometimes Irskyn, a surname of great antiquity, and one which has been much distinguished in all periods of Scottish history, was originally derived from the lands and barony of Erskine in Renfrewshire, situated on the south side of the Clyde, the most ancient possession of the noble family who afterwards became Lords Erskine and earls of Mar.

      An absurd tradition asserts that at the battle of Murthill fought with the Danes, in the reign of Malcolm the Second, a Scotsman having killed Enrique, a Danish chief, cut off his head, and with the bloody dagger in his hand, showed it to the king, saying in Gaelic, Eris Skene, alluding to the head and dagger; on which Malcolm gave him the name of Erskine. In those remote times, however, surnames were usually assumed from lands, and all such traditions referring to the origin of the names of illustrious families are seldom to be depended upon. The appearance of the land justifies the derivation of the name from the British word ir-isgyn, signifying the green rising ground. The earliest notice of the name is in a confirmation of the church of “Irschen” granted by the bishop of Glasgow in favour of the monastery of Paisley, betwixt the years 1202 and 1207 [Chartulary of Paisley, p. 113.] In 1703, the estate of Erskine was purchased from the Hamiltons of Orbinston by Walter, master of Blantyre, afterwards Lord Blantyre, in which family the property remains.

      Henry de Erskine was proprietor of the barony of Erskine so early as the reign of Alexander the Second. He was witness of a grant by Amelick, brother of Maldwin, earl of Lennox, of the patronage and tithes of the parish church of Roseneath to the abbey of Paisley in 1226.

      His grandson, ‘Johan de Irskyn,’ submitted to Edward the First in 1296.

      Johan’s son, Sir John de Erskine, had a son, Sir William, and three daughters, of whom the eldest, Mary, was married, first to Sir Thomas Bruce, brother of King Robert the First, who was taken prisoner and put to death by the English, and secondly to Sir Ingram Morville; and the second, Alice, became the wife of Walter, high steward of Scotland.

      Sir William de Erskine, the son, was a faithful adherent of Robert the Bruce, and accompanied the earl of Moray and Sir James Douglas in their expedition into England in 1322. For his valour he was knighted under the royal banner in the field. He died in 1329.

      Sir Robert de Erskine, knight, his eldest son, made an illustrious figure in his time, and for his patriotic services, was, by David the Second, appointed constable, keeper, and captain of Stirling castle. He was one of the ambassadors to England, to treat for the ransom of that monarch, after his capture in the battle of Durham in 1346. IN 1350 he was appointed by David, while still a prisoner, great chamberlain of Scotland, and in 1357 he was one of those who accomplished his sovereign’s deliverance, on which occasion his eldest son, Thomas, was one of the hostages for the payment of the king’s ransom. On his restoration, David, in addition to his former high office of chamberlain, appointed Sir Robert Justiciary north of the Forth, and constable and keeper of the castles of Edinburgh and Dumbarton. In 1358 he was ambassador to France, and between 1360 and 1366 he was five times ambassador to England. In 1367 he was warden of the marches, and heritable sheriff of Stirlingshire. In 1371 he was one of the great barons who ratified the succession to the crown of Robert the Second, grandson, by his daughter Marjory, of Robert the Bruce, and the first of the Stuart family. To his other property he added that of Alloa, which the king bestowed on him, in exchange for the hunting district of Strathgartney, in the Highlands. He died in 1385.

      His son, Sir Thomas Erskine, knight, succeeded his father, as governor of Stirling castle, and in 1392 was sent ambassador to England. By his marriage with Janet Keith, great-grand-daughter of Gratney, eleventh earl of Mar, he laid the foundation of the succession on the part of his descendants to the earldom of Mar and lordship of Garioch.

      Sir Robert Erskine, knight, his son, was one of the hostages for the ransom of James the First in 1424. On the death of Alexander, earl of Mar, in 1435, he claimed that title in right of his mother, and assumed the title of earl of Mar, but the king unjustly kept him out of possession. He died in 1453.

      Sir Thomas Erskine, his son, was dispossessed of the earldom of Mar by an assize of error, in 1457, but in 1467 he was created a peer under the title of Lord Erskine.

      This family were honoured for several generations with the duty of keeping, during their minority, the heirs apparent to the crown.

      Alexander, the second Lord Erskine, had the charge of James the Fourth, when prince of Scotland, and ever after continued in high favour with him. He died in 1510.

      John, the fourth Lord Erskine, had the keeping of James the Fifth during his minority. On his coming of age he was sent by James in 1534 ambassador to France, to negociate a marriage with a daughter of the French king, and afterwards he was sent ambassador to England. On the death of James, in conjunction with Lord Livingston, he had committed to him the charge of the infant queen Mary. He dept her for some time in Stirling castle, and afterwards removed her to the priory of Inchmahome, situated on an island in the lake of Monteith, in Perthshire; which priory had been bestowed upon him by James the Fifth, as commendatory abbot. Subsequently, for greater security, he conducted the youthful Mary to France. He died in 1552. Margaret Erskine, daughter of this nobleman, was the mother, by James the Fifth, of the regent Murray.

      His eldest son, the master of Erskine, was killed at the battle of Pinkie in 1547. He was the ancestor, by an illegitimate son, of the Erskines of Shielfield, near Dryburgh, of which family the famous Ebenezer and Ralph Erskine, the originators of the first secession from the Church of Scotland, were cadets. Memoirs of them are given below. The fourth son, the Hon. Sir Alexander Erskine of Gogar, was the ancestor of the earls of Kellie. [See KELLIE, earl of.]

      The second son, John, the fifth Lord Erskine, succeeded his father as governor of Edinburgh castle. Although a Protestant himself, he preserved a strict neutrality in the struggles between the Lords of the Congregation and the queen regent, Mary of Guise, while he upheld the authority of the latter, to whom, when hard pressed by her enemies, he gave protection in the castle of Edinburgh, where she died in June 1560. On the return of Queen Mary from France in 1561 he was appointed one of her privy council. In the following year he submitted his claim to the earldom of Mar to parliament, and was successful in establishing his right as the descendant, in the female line, from Gratney, eleventh earl of Mar. [See MAR, earl of.] In consequence of Lord Erskine being confirmed earl of Mar, the queen’s natural brother, afterwards regent, who then bore the title, was styled earl of Moray instead. On the birth of James the Sixth in 1566, the new earl of Mar was intrusted with the keeping of the young prince; and on the death of the earl of Lennox in 1571 he was chosen regent in his stead. He died in the following year, leaving a high reputation for integrity and honesty of purpose. From a portrait of the regent Mar in Pinkerton’s Scottish Gallery, the subjoined woodcut is taken:


[portrait of John Lord Erskine]

      The first of the family of Erskine, barons of Dun, as separated from that of Erskine of Erskine, the original stock, was John the son of Sir Thomas Erskine of that ilk, who had a charter from King Robert the Second of the barony of Dun, near the town of Montrose, in Forfarshire, dated November 8, 1376. The name of Dun is Gaelic, and signifies a hill or rising ground.

      This Sir Thomas was twice married; first to Janet Keith, by whom he had Sir Robert Erskine, and a daughter, married to Duncan Weems, younger of Lochar Weems; and secondly, to Jean Barclay, by whom he had John Erskine, already mentioned, who succeeded to the lands of Dun, as appears by a charter to him, from King Robert the Third, of these lands, dated October 25, 1393.

      The next in succession in the lands of Dun was Alexander Erskine, supposed to be the son of John. He resigned the lands of Dun, reserving his own liferent, to his son, John the second, who received from King James the Second a charter to the same, of date January 28, 1449. The vesting the fee of the property in the eldest son, while the father retained the liferent, became afterwards a practice in the family.

      John Erskine of Dun, the second of that name, had three sons: John, his heir, Thomas, and Alexander. He resigned his lands of Dun to his eldest son in 1473, retaining the liferent, and died March 15, 1508.

      John Erskine of Dun, the third of that name, had several sons, of whom Thomas Erskine of Brechin, the second son, was secretary to King James the Fifth. He fell on the fatal field of Flodden, September 9, 1513. This John Erskine, laird of Dun, treated the inhabitants of Montrose in the most tyrannical manner, and in consequence of his oppressive conduct and that of his family the town applied to the king for redress. A summons of spulzie was accordingly issued against him and four of his sons, 4th October, 1493.

      Sir John Erskine, the fourth of that name, married Margaret Ruthven, daughter of William first Lord Ruthven, widow of the earl of Buchan, by whom he had John Erskine of Dun, knight, one of the principal leaders of the Reformation in Scotland, and afterwards superintendent of Angus, of whom a memoir is afterwards given below.

      A succeeding proprietor of Dun, John by name, was poisoned on the 23d May, 1613, by his uncle Robert. The trial of the latter, as well as that of his three sisters, by whom he was instigated to the atrocious deed, will be found in Pitcairn’s Criminal Trials, vol. iii. pp. 261-266.

      Of the later lairds of Dun the only other personage of public note was David Erskine, Lord Dun, a judge of the court of session, of whom also a notice is afterwards given.

      The estate of Dun came into possession of the noble family of Kennedy, by the marriage, on June 1, 1793, of Archibald, 12th earl of Cassillis, and first marquis of Ailsa, with Margaret, 2d daughter of John Erskine, Esq. of Dun. Their 2d son, John, born June 4, 1802, on inheriting the property, assumed the additional surname of Erskine. He married, in 1827, Lady Augusta Fitzclarence, 4th daughter of William IV., and died at Pisa, March 6, 1831. His widow married again, in 1836, Lord John Frederick Gordon Hallyburton of Pitcur, 3d son of 9th marquis of Huntly. Mr. Kennedy Erskine, with two daughters, left one son, William Henry, born July 1, 1828, at one time a captain 17th lancers, unmarried. The elder daughter, Wilhelmina, married, in 1855, her cousin, 2d earl of Munster; the younger, Millicent Ann Mary, became the wife of J. Hay Wemyss, Esq. of Wemyss Castle, Fifeshire.

      Alexander Erskine, plenipotentiary for Sweden at the treaty of Munster, a distinguished officer in the army of Gustavus Adolphus, was of the family of Erskine of Kirkbuddo in Fife, sprung from the Erskines of Dun. Ennobled in Sweden, some of his descendants were settled at Bonne in Germany.

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      The Erskines of Alva (represented by the earl of Rosslyn) are sprung from a branch of the noble house of Mar, descended from Hon. Charles Erskine, 5th son of John, 7th earl of Mar. His eldest son, Charles Erskine of Alva, was created a baronet of Nova Scotia, 30th April 1666. Sir Charles had four sons and one daughter. Charles, Lord Tinwald, his third son, a lord of session, and afterwards lord justice clerk, was father of James Erskine, Lord Alva, also a lord of session.

      The grandson of the first baronet, Lieutenant-general Sir Henry Erskine, distinguished himself as a minor song writer. The second son of Sir John Erskine of Alva, second baronet, he succeeded to the baronetcy, on the death of his elder brother, in 1747. He was for many years M.P. for the Anstruther district of burghs. He early entered the army, but in 1756 he lost his rank, on account of his opposition to the importation of the Hanoverian and Hessian troops into this country. After the accession of George III. in November 1760, he was restored to his rank in the army, and appointed colonel of 67th foot. He married at Edinburgh, in 1761, Janet, only daughter of Peter Wedderburn, Esq. of Wedderburn, a lord of session, under the name of Lord Chesterhall. Sir Henry was deputy quarter-master-general, and succeeded his uncle, Hon. General St. Clair, in the command of the Royal Scots in 1762. He was the author of the song, ‘In the garb of old Gaul,’ the air of which was composed by the late General Reid. He died at York, 9th August 1765. His eldest son, Sir James Erskine, also in the army, assumed the surname of St. Clair, and on the death of his uncle, Alexander Wedderburn, earl of Rosslyn, in 1805, became 2d earl of Rosslyn, and died 8th June 1837. (Electric Scotland Note: We got in an email from Toni saying that this date is incorrect and gave us January 18th, 1837 as the correct date.) [See ROSSLYN, earl of.]

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      There is also the family of Erskine of Cambo in Fife, on which a baronetcy was conferred in 1821. Sir David, the first baronet, was the grandson of the tenth earl of Kellie. He died in 1841. His son, Sir Thomas, the 2d baronet, born in 1824, is an officer in the army, and married, with issue.

ERSKINE, JOHN, of Dun, knight, one of the principal promoters of the Reformation in Scotland, was born in 1508, at the family seat of Dun, near Montrose. His grandfather, father, uncle and granduncle, fell at Flodden, and he succeeded to the estate of Dun when scarcely five years old. By the care of his uncle, Sir Thomas Erskine of Brechin, secretary to King James the Fifth, he received a liberal education; but had scarcely attained to the years of majority, when he appears to have killed Sir William Forster, a priest of Montrose. The document which preserves the record of this fact, and of the assythment or manbote paid by him to the father of the deceased, dated 5th February 1530, is inserted among the Dun papers in the Miscellany of the Spalding Club, vol. fourth. None of the circumstances are given, except that the deed was committed in the Bell Tower of Montrose. He studied at a foreign university, and he has the merit of being the first to encourage the acquisition of the Greek language in Scotland, having, in 1534, on his return from abroad, brought with him a Frenchman capable of teaching it, whom he established in Montrose. He seems about this time to have married Lady Elizabeth Lindsay, daughter of the earl of Crawford. This lady died 29th July 1538, and he subsequently married Barbara de Beirle.

      On the 10th of May, 1537, he had a license from James V. for himself, his son John, and other relatives, permitting them “to pas to the partis of France, Italie, or any uthiris beyond se, and thair remane, for doing of thair pilgramagis, besynes, and uthir lefull erandis, for the space of thre yeiris.” His uncle, Sir Thomas Erskine of Brechin, had obtained from the same monarch a gift of the office of constabulary of Montrose, which he conveyed by a charter, dated 9th February 1541, to John Erskine of Dun, the subject of this notice, in liferent, and to his son and heir apparent, John Erskine, in fee. In April 1542 he and his cousin, Thomas Erskine of Brechin, and John Lambie of Duncarry, had a license to travel into France, Italy, and other places, for two years. [Dun Papers in Spalding Club Miscellany, vol. 4.]

      Having early become a convert to the Reformed doctrines, he was a zealous and liberal encourager of the Protestants, especially of those who were persecuted, to whom his house of Dun was always a sanctuary, as he was a man of too much power and influence for the popish bishops to interfere with. In his endeavours, however, to promote the Reformation, he did not neglect his other duties. During the years 1548 and 1549 he supported the queen dowager and the French party in opposing the English forces, and we learn from the histories of the time that in 1548, some English ships having landed about eighty men in the neighbourhood of Montrose, for the purposes of plunder, Erskine of Dun collected a small force from the inhabitants of that town, of which he was then provost, and had for some years been constable, and fell upon them with such fury, that not a third of them regained their ships. Among the Dun papers which have been published, are several letters to the laird of Dun from Mary, the queen dowager. These refer to the passing events of the period, and show the high estimation in which he was held by her. One of them, dated 29th August, 1549, relates to the coming to Montrose of the French Captain Beauschattel, and his company, regarding which Erskine seems to have remonstrated, dreading some attempts against his rights, as her majesty assures him that there was “na entent bot till kepe the fort, and nocht till hurt you in your heretage or ony othir thing.” It appears that a small hill, close to the river, was called the Fort, or Constable Hill [Bowick’s Life of Erskine, page 62, quoted in the Spalding Club Miscellany, vol. 4, preface, page xii, note], and it has been conjectured that Erskine may have thought the occupation of this fort by the French captain derogatory to his rights as constable, and so made it subject of complaint. He was considered not only by his own countrymen, but by foreigners, as one of the most eminent heroes which the Scottish nation had produced in that age, so fertile in great men, and M. Beauge, in his History of the Campaigns in Scotland of 1548 and 1549, makes frequent and honourable mention of him and his exploits at that time.

      At Stirling, March 10, 1556, the laird of Dun and some others, signed a “call” to John Knox, then at Geneva, to return to Scotland, and promote the Reformation. On Knox’s arrival, that year, Erskine, being in Edinburgh, was one of those who used to meet in private houses to hear him preach. It was at supper in the laird of Dun’s house, that all present there with Knox resolved, that, whatever might be the consequence, they would wholly discontinue their attendance at Mass. On his invitation, the Reformer followed him to Dun, where, on this, as well as on a subsequent visit, he preached almost daily, and made many converts. On the 3d December 1557 Erskine of Dun subscribed the first Covenant at Edinburgh, along with the earls of Argyle and Glencairn, and other noblemen and gentlemen, and thus became one of the lords of the congregation.

      In the parliament which met December 14, 1557, he was appointed, under the title of ‘john Erskine of Dun, knight, and provost of Montrose,” to go to the court of France, as one of the commissioners, to witness the young Queen Mary’s marriage with the dauphin. “Of which trust he acquitted himself with great fidelity and honour, and was approved by the parliament on his return.” On his return, he found the Reformation making great progress in Scotland; and when the Protestants, encouraged by their increase of numbers, and the accession of Queen Elizabeth to the English throne, petitioned the queen regent, more boldly than formerly, to be allowed the free exercise of their religion, the laird of Dun was one of those who joined in the prayer, but he seems to have used milder language, and been more moderate in his demands than the others. So far, however, from granting the toleration requested, the queen regent issued a proclamation requiring the Protestant ministers to appear at Stirling on May 10, 1559, to be tried as heretics and schismatics. The lords of the congregation, and other favourers of the Reformation, seeing the danger to which their preachers were exposed, resolved to accompany and protect them. Anxious to avoid bloodshed, Erskine of Dun left his party at Perth, and, with their consent, went forward to Stirling, to have a conference with the queen, who acceded to his advice, and agreed that the ministers should not be tried. He accordingly wrote to those who were assembled at Perth to stay where they were, as the queen regent had consented to their wishes. But while many of the people dispersed on receiving this intelligence, the barons and gentlemen, rightly distrusting the regent’s word, resolved to remain in arms till after the 10th of May. And well was it that they did so, for the queen had no sooner made the promise than she perfidiously broke it. The preachers not appearing on the day named, were denounced rebels, which so incensed and disgusted the laird of Dun that he withdrew from court, and joined the lords of the congregation at Perth, when he explained to them that in giving his advice to disperse he had himself been deceived by the regent. He therefore recommended them to provide against the worst, as they might expect no favour, and a civil war ensued, which lasted for some time, and ended at last, first in the deposition, October 23, 1559, and secondly on the death of the queen regent, June 10, 1560, in favour of the Protestants.

      The laird of Dun, previous to that event, had relinquished his armour, and become a preacher, for which he was, from his studies and disposition, peculiarly qualified. In the ensuing parliament, he was nominated one of the five ministers who were appointed to act as ecclesiastical superintendents, the district allotted to him being the counties of Angus and Mearns. This appointment took place in July 1560, and he was installed in 1562 by John Knox. The superintendents were elected for life, and though their authority was somewhat similar to that of a bishop, they were responsible for their conduct to the General Assembly. The other four superintendents were, Mr. John Spottiswood of Spottiswood, the father of Archbishop Spottiswood, of Lothian; John Willocks, formerly a Dominican friar, of Glasgow; John Winram, formerly subprior of St. Andrews, of Fife; and John Carsewell, of Argyle and the Isles. The laird of Dun not only superintended the proceedings of the inferior clergy, but performed himself the duties of a clergyman. He was appointed moderator of the ninth General Assembly at Edinburgh, December 25, 1564; also of the eleventh the same day and place, 1565; also of the twelfth at Edinburgh, June 25, 1566; and of the thirteenth at Edinburgh, December 25, 1566. In January 1572 he attended the convention held at Leith, where episcopacy was established. His gentleness of disposition recommended him to Queen Mary, who, on being requested to hear some of the Protestant preachers, answered, as Knox relates, “That above all others she would gladly hear the superintendent of Angus, Sir John Erskine, for he was a mild and sweet-natured man, and of true honesty and uprightness.”

      In 1569, by virtue of a special commission from the Assembly, he held a visitation of the university of Aberdeen, and suspended from their offices, for their adherence to popery, the principal, sub-principal, and three regents or professors of King’s college, Aberdeen. In 1571 he showed his zeal for the liberties of the church, in two letters which he wrote to his chief, the regent earl of Mar, the first of which will be found in Calderwood, vol. 3. They are written, says Dr. M’Crie, “in a clear, spirited, and forcible style, contain an accurate statement of the essential distinction between civil and ecclesiastical jurisdiction, and should be read by all who wish to know the early sentiments of the Church of Scotland on this subject.” In 1577 he assisted in compiling the ‘Second Book of Discipline.’ Besides the duties belonging to his spiritual charge, he was frequently called upon to execute those belonging to his military character as a knight; thus, on the 20th of September 1579, he was required, by a warrant from the king, to recover the house of Redcastle from James Gray, son of Patrick Lord Gray, and his accomplices, by whom it had been seized and retained, and deliver it to John Stewart, the brother of the Lord Innermeith. Notwithstanding that the reformation had, in his day, made so great progress in Scotland, and that he himself had been one of the principal promoters of it, he was it seems not altogether divested of some of the superstitious observances of popery. In the ‘Spalding Miscellany,’ vol. iv. mention is made of a license from the king, signed James R., with consent of his privy council, of date February 25, 1584, to John Erskine of Dun, to eat flesh all the time of Lent, and as oft as he pleases on the forbidden days of the week, to wit, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday; noted upon the back, with the same hand, a license to your L— to eat flesh; he being then past the age of seventy-six. In 1580, four years before this, he had received a license, wherein he, and three in company with h im, are allowed to eat flesh from February 13 to March 26.

      From the laird of Dun’s conciliatory disposition, as well as his high intelligence, his advice and assistance were valued by all parties, as appears by various letters in the ‘Spalding Miscellany,’ vol. iv. Perhaps one of the most important of these, in its bearing on the church, is one addressed to him by the earl of Montrose and the secretary Maitland on 18th November 1584, which seems to have been written with the view of obtaining Erskine’s assent to certain statutes, then recently passed in parliament, at the king’s instance, declaring his supremacy in all ecclesiastical matters, which were obnoxious to the leading clergy of the time. The ministers were required to subscribe an “obligation,” recognising his majesty’s supremacy, under pain of deprivation of their benefices; and the proceedings which ensued on the proclamation for the fulfilment of these enactments are minutely detailed in ‘Calderwood’s Church History,’ vol. iv. page 209, et seq.

      In consequence of the part taken by Erskine in prevailing on the ministers within his bounds to subscribe “the obligation,” he acquired some unpopularity among them; in the expressive words of Calderwood, “the laird of Dun was a pest then to the ministers in the north.” A letter from Patrick Adamson, titular archbishop of St. Andrews, to Erskine, dated 22d January 1585, inserted among the Dun papers in the ‘Spalding Miscellany,’ seems intended to give explanations about “the obligation,” as he says “the desyr of his Maiesties obligatioun extrendis no forthir bot to his hienes obedience, and of sik as bearis charge be lawfull commission in the cuntrie, quheirof his Maiestle hes maid ane speciall chose of your lordship: as for the diocese of Dunkeld, I think your lordship will understand his Maiesties meining at your cuming to Edinbrught, and as ffor sik pairtis as is of the diocese of Sanct Androwis in the Merns and Anguse, I pray your lordship to tak ordour thairin for thair obedience and conformitie, as your lordship hes done befoir, that they be nocht compellit to travell forthir, bot thair suspendis may be rathir helpit nor hinderit;” with more to the same purpose. It appears from a summons, at the instance of the laird of Dun, for payment of his stipend as superintendent of Angus and Mearns, dated 9th September 1585, that the whole amount of it in money and victual, did not much exceed £800. The portion paid in money was £337 11s. 6d. [Miscellany of Spalding Club, vol. iv, Editor’s preface.] He died March 12, 1591, in the 82d year of his age. Buchanan, Knox, Spottiswood, and others, unite in speaking highly of his learning, piety, moderation, and great zeal for the Protestant religion. Spottiswood says of him that he governed that portion of the country committed to his “superintendence with great authority, bill his death, giving no way to the novations introduced, nor suffering them to take place within the bounds of his charge, while he lived. A baron he was of good rank, wise, learned, liberal, and of singular courage; who, for diverse resemblances, may well be said to have been another Ambrose. He left behind him a numerous posterity, and of himself and of his virtues a memory that shall never be forgotten.” – Miscellany of the Spalding Club. – Scott’s Lives of Reformers. – M’Crie’s Lives of Knox and Melville. – Calderwood’s History.

ERSKINE, DAVID, LORD DUN, an eminent lawyer, of the same family as the superintendent, was born at Dun, in Forfarshire, in 1670. From the university of St. Andrews he removed to that of Paris, and having completed the study of general jurisprudence, he returned to Scotland, and was, in 1696, admitted advocate. He was the staunch friend of the nonjurant episcopal clergy, and in the last Scottish parliament zealously opposed the Union. In 1711 he was appointed one of the judges of the court of session, and in 1713 one of the lords of justiciary. In 1750 his age and infirmities induced him to retire from the bench. In 1754 he published a small volume of moral and political ‘Advices,’ which bears his name. He died in 1755, aged 85. By his wife, Magdalen Riddel, of the family of Riddel of Haining in Selkirkshire, he left a son, John, who succeeded him in the estate of Dun, and a daughter, Anne, married first to James, Lord Ogilvy, son of David, third earl of Airly, and secondly to Sir James Macdonald of Sleat. – Scots Mag. 1754.

ERSKINE, HENRY, REV., a divine of considerable eminence, the ninth of twelve children, – not thirty-three, as has been generally stated, – of Ralph Erskine of Shielfield, in Berwickshire, descended from the noble house of Mar, was born at Dryburgh, Berwickshire, in 1624. He studied at the university of Edinburgh, where he took the degree of M.A., and was soon after licensed to preach the gospel. In 1649 – as stated by Wodrow, but according to Dr. Harper, in his Life of Ebenezer Erskine, more probably ten years later, viz. in 1659, as stated by Calamy and Palmer – he was, by the English Presbyterians, ordained minister of Cornhill, in the county of Northumberland, where he continued till he was ejected by the act of Uniformity, August 24, 1662. He was thus minister of Cornhill for three years. [Calamy’s Continuation, Palmer’s Noncon. Memorial.] He now removed with his family to Dryburgh, where he appears to have resided for eighteen years, and where he occasionally exercised his sacred office. In the severe persecution to which the Presbyterians in Scotland were at that period subjected, this faithful minister could not of course expect to escape; and, accordingly, on Sabbath, April 23, 1682, a party of soldiers came to his house, and, seizing him while worshiping God with his family, carried him to Melrose a prisoner. Next day he was released on bond for his appearance when required, and soon after was summoned to appear before the council at Edinburgh, to answer charges of sedition and disobedience, because he presumed to exercise his ministry without conforming to the new order of things. On his refusal to swear that he had not altogether refrained from the duties of his ministry, and to “give bond that he would preach no more at conventicles,” he was ordered to pay a fine of 5,000 merks, and committed to the Tolbooth of Edinburgh, to be afterwards sent to the prison of the Bass till the fine was paid; but, on petition, he obtained a remission of his sentence on condition of leaving the kingdom. One account states, that he took refuge in Holland, whence the want of the necessaries of life induced him to return to Scotland, when he was imprisoned in the Bass for nearly three years, but this statement rests on questionable authority. It is certain that he resided for some time at Parkbridge, in Cumberland, and afterwards at Monilaws, about two miles from Cornhill, in Northumberland, whence he had been ejected. On July 2, 1685, he was again apprehended, and kept in prison till the 22d, when he was set at liberty, in terms of the act of Indemnity passed at the commencement of the reign of James II. In September 1687, after the toleration granted by King James’ proclamation of indulgence, Mr. Erskine became minister of Whitsome, on the Scots side of the Border; and it was under his ministry, at this place, that the celebrated Thomas Boston received his first religious impressions. He remained at Whitsome till after the Revolution, when he was appointed minister of Chirnside, in the county of Berwick. He continued minister of that place till his death, August 10, 1696, aged sixty-eight. He left several Latin manuscripts, among others, a Compend of Theology, explanatory of some difficult passages of Scripture, none of which were ever published. He was twice married. His first wife, who died in 1670, was the mother of eight children, one of whom, Philip, conformed to the Church of England, and, receiving episcopal orders, held a rectory in the county of Northumberland. Another child of the first marriage became afterwards well-known as Mrs. Balderstone of Edinburgh, a woman of superior intelligence and of devoted piety. By his second wife, Margaret Halcro, a native of Orkney, a descendant of Halcro, prince of Denmark, and whose great grandmother was the Lady Barbara Stuart, daughter of Robert, earl of Orkney, son of James V., he was the father of Ebenezer and Ralph Erskine, the founders of the Secession in Scotland.

      The death of Mr. Henry Erskine took place in the midst of his family; and the circumstances of it as related by Dr. Calamy [Continuation] are peculiarly interesting, from the impression which they appear to have made on the young hearts of his two celebrated sons, Ebenezer and Ralph. Long after, remarks Dr. Harper, the scene was referred to by them as one of their hallowed recollections. “The Lord helped me,” says Ebenezer on one occasion, “to speak of his goodness, and to declare the riches of his grace in some measure to my own soul. He made me tell how my father took engagements of me on his deathbed, and did cast me upon the providence of his God.” Ralph, in like manner, more than thirty years after the event, put on record, “I took special notice of the Lord’s drawing out my heart towards him at my father’s death.” – Memoir of Rev. H. Erskine. – Dr. Harper’s Life of Ebenezer Erskine.

ERSKINE, EBENEZER, the founder of the Secession church in Scotland, fourth son of the preceding, was born June 22, 1680. Some accounts say his birth-place was the prison of the Bass, but this is evidently erroneous. His biographer, the Rev. Dr. Fraser of Kennoway, thinks it probable that he was born at the village of Dryburgh, in Berwickshire, and in confirmation of this the Rev. Dr. Harper of Leith, in his Life of Ebenezer Erskine, gives the following extract from a small manuscript volume belonging to Mr. Henry Erskine, Ebenezer’s father, in possession of the Rev. Dr. Brown of Broughton Place church, Edinburgh: “Eben-ezer was borne June 22d, being Tuesday, at one o’clock in the morning, and was baptized by Mr. Gab: Semple July 24th, being Saturnday, in my dwelling house in Dryburgh 1680.” He appears to have received the elements of his education at home, under the superintendence of his father, and in his fourteenth year he was sent to the university of Edinburgh, where he held a bursary on the presentation of Pringle of Torwoodlee, and where he prosecuted his studies for a period of nine years, four of which were devoted to the classics and philosophy, and five to theology. IN June 1697, he took his degree of M.A., and on leaving college he became tutor and chaplain in the family of the earl of Rothes. He was licensed to preach by the presbytery of Kirkaldy on the 11th February 1703, and in the succeeding September was ordained minister of Portmoak, Kinross-shire. It was not till after his ordination that his heart appears to have received its first powerful impressions of evangelical and vital religion, and a corresponding change to the better of spirit and style took place in his public ministrations. Exemplary in the discharge of his ministerial duties, and devoted to his people, he soon became popular amongst them. “Nor,” says Dr. Harper, “was Mr. Erskine’s popularity and usefulness confined to Portmoak and its immediate vicinity. From all parts of the country, in every direction, sometimes at the distance of sixty miles, eager listeners flocked to his preaching. On sacramental occasions particularly, the gatherings were great. From all accounts of the sacred oratory of the man, there is no doubt that there was in it much to impress a promiscuous audience. His bodily presence was commanding, – his voice full and melodious, – his manner grave and majestic, – and after the fulness and fervour of his heart broke through the trammels of his earlier delivery, his bearing in the pulpit combined ease with dignity in an unwonted degree. But to whatever extent these external advantages commended him to the people, it is gratifying to remark the most unequivocal proofs that the great charm – the element of power which signalized Mr. Erskine as a preacher, – was the thoroughly evangelical matter and spirit of his discourses.” [Life of Ebenezer Erskine by Dr. Harper, pp. 10, 21.]

      In the various religious contests of the period he took an active part, particularly in the famous Marrow controversy, which commenced in 1719, and in which he came forward prominently in defence of the doctrines, which had been condemned by the General Assembly, contained in the work entitled ‘The Marrow of Modern Divinity.’ He revised and corrected the Representation and Petition presented to the Assembly on the subject, May 11, 1721, which was originally composed by Mr. Boston; and drew up the original draught of the answers to the twelve queries put to the twelve brethren; along with whom he was, for their participation in this matter, solemnly rebuked and admonished by the moderator. This took place in the Assembly of 1722. The twelve representers submitted to the authority of the supreme court, but accompanied their submission with a protest against the deed, and their claim of liberty “to profess, preach, and still bear testimony to the truths condemned.” In the cases, too, of Mr. Simson, professor of divinity at Glasgow, and Mr. Campbell, professor of church history at St. Andrews, who, though both had been proved to have taught heretical and unscriptural doctrines, were very leniently dealt with by the Assembly, as well as on the question of patronage, he distinguished himself by his opposition to the proceedings of the church judicatories.

      The high estimation in which Mr. Erskine was held procured him at different times the honour of a call from Burntisland, Tulliallan, Kirkcaldy, and Kinross, but the church courts, in full concurrence with his own views and inclinations, decided against his removal in all these cases, although party feeling, particularly as regards Kirkcaldy, had its influence in preventing his translation. In May 1731 he accepted of a call to the third charge, or West church, at Stirling, and, in September of that year, he was settled one of the ministers of that town. Having always opposed patronage, as contrary to the standards of the Church, and as a violation of the treaty of Union, he was one of those who remonstrated against the act of Assembly of 1732 regarding vacant parishes. As moderator of the Synod of Perth and Stirling, he opened their meeting at Perth, on October 10th of that year, with a sermon from Psalm cxviii. 24, in which he expressed himself with great freedom against several recent acts of the Assembly, and particularly against the rigorous enforcement of the law of patronage, and boldly asserted and vindicated the right of the people to the election of their minister. Several members of Synod immediately complained of the sermon, and, on the motion of Mr. Mercer of Aberdalgie, a committee was appointed to report as to some “unbecoming and offensive expressions,” alleged to have been used by the preacher on the occasion. Having heard Mr. Erskine in reply to the charges contained in the report of the committee, the Synod, after a keen debate of three days, by a majority of not more than six, “found that he was censurable for some indecorous expressions in his sermon, tending to disquiet the peace of the Church,” and appointed him to be rebuked and admonished. From this decision twelve ministers and two elders dissented. Mr. Erskine, on his part, protested and appealed to the next Assembly. To his protest, Messrs. William Wilson of Perth, Alexander Moncrieff of Abernethy, and James Fisher of Kinclaven, ministers, adhered.

      The Assembly, which met in May 1733, refused to hear the reasons of protest, but took up the cause as it stood between Mr. Erskine and the Synod; and, after hearing parties, “found the expressions vented by him, and contained in the minutes of Synod, and his answers thereto, to be offensive, and to tend to disturb the peace and good order of the Church; and therefore approved of the proceedings of the Synod, and appointed him to be rebuked and admonished by the moderator at their bar, in order to terminate the process.” Against this decision Mr. Erskine lodged a protest, vindicating his claim to the liberty of testifying against the corruptions and defections of the Church upon all proper occasions. To this claim and protestation the three ministers above named adhered, and along with Mr. Erskine, withdrew from the court. On citation they appeared next day, when a committee was appointed to confer with them; but, adhering to their protest, the farther proceedings were remitted to the Commission, which met in the ensuing August, when Mr. Erskine and the three ministers were suspended from the exercise of their office, and cited to appear again before the Commission in November. At this meeting the four brethren were, by the casting vote of the moderator, declared to be no longer ministers of the Church of Scotland, and their relationship with their congregations formally dissolved. When the sentence of the Commission was intimated to them, they laid on the table a paper declaring a secession from the prevailing party in the established church, and asserting their liberty to exercise the office of the Christian ministry, notwithstanding their being declared no longer ministers of the Church of Scotland.

      On the 5th day of the subsequent December, the four ejected ministers met together at the Bridge of Gairney, near Kinross, and after two days spend in prayer and pious conference, constituted themselves into a presbytery, under the designation of the “Associate Presbytery.” Mr. Erskine was elected the first moderator, and from this small beginning the Secession Church took its rise.

      The General Assembly of 1734, acting in a conciliatory spirit, rescinded several of the more obnoxious acts, and authorised the Synod of Perth to restore the four brethren to communion and to their respective charges, which was done accordingly by the Synod, at its next meeting, on the 2d July. The seceding ministers, however, refused to accept the boon, and published their reasons for this refusal. On forming themselves into the “Associate Presbytery,” they had published a ‘Testimony to the Doctrine, Worship, and Discipline of the Church of Scotland.’ In December 1736 they published a Second Testimony, in which they condemned what they considered the leading defections of both Church and State since 1650. In February 1737 Mr. Ralph Erskine, minister of Dunfermline, brother to Ebenezer, and Mr. Thomas Mair, minister of Orwell, joined the Associate Presbytery, and soon after two other ministers also acceded to it.

      In the Assembly of 1739 the eight brethren were cited to appear, when they gave in a paper called ‘The Declinature,’ in which they denied the Assembly’s authority over them, or any of their members, and declared that the church judicatories “were not lawful nor right constituted courts of Jesus Christ.” In the Assembly of 1740 they were all formally deposed from the office of the ministry. In that year, a meeting-house was built for Mr. Erskine by his hearers at Stirling, where he continued to officiate to a very numerous congregation till his death. During the rebellion of 1745, Mr. Erskine’s ardent loyalty led him to take a very active part in support of the government. Animated by his example the Seceders of Stirling took arms, and were formed into a regiment for the defence of the town. Dr. Fraser, his biographer, relates that one night when the rebels were expected to make an attack on Stirling, Mr. Erskine presented himself in the guardroom fully accoutred in the military garb of the times. Dr. John Anderson, late professor of natural philosophy in the university of Glasgow, and Mr. John Burns, teacher, father of the Rev. Dr. Burns, Barony parish in that city, happened to be on guard the same night; and, surprised to see the venerable clergyman in this attire, they recommended him to go home to his prayers as more suitable to his vocation. “I am determined, was his reply, “to take the hazard of the night along with you, for the present crisis requires the arms as well as the prayers of all good subjects.” [Life by Fraser, p. 439.] When Stirling was taken possession of by the rebel forces, Mr. Erskine was obliged, for a short period, to retire from the town, and his congregation assembled for worship on Sundays, in the wood of Tullibody, a few miles to the north of Stirling. So great, indeed, was the zeal displayed by him in the service of the government that a letter of thanks was addressed to him by command of the duke of Cumberland.

      When the controversy concerning the lawfulness of swearing the religious clause contained in the Burgess oath led, in April 1747, to the division of the Secession church, Mr. Erskine was one of those who adhered to the Burgher portion of the synod. In consequence of Mr. Moncrieff of Abernethy, who held the office of professor of divinity to the associate presbytery, adhering to the Antiburgher portion of the Secession, the Burgher portion was left destitute of a professor; and Mr. Erskine consented, at the request of his brethren, to fill the office, but, at the end of two years, he resigned it on account of his health in 1749. He died June 2, 1754, aged 74. He had been twice married; first, in 1704, to Alison Turpie, daughter of a writer in Leven, by whom he had ten children, and who died in 1720; and, secondly, in 1724, to Mary, daughter of the Rev. James Webster, minister of the Tolbooth church, Edinburgh, by whom also he had several children. His eldest daughter, Jean, was married to the Rev. James Fisher of Glasgow. “During the night on which he finished his earthly career, Mrs. Fisher, having come from Glasgow to visit her dying father, was sitting in the apartment where he lay, and engaged in reading. Awakened from a slumber, he said, ‘What book is that, my dear, you are reading?’ ‘It is your sermon, father,’ she replied, ‘on that text, I am the Lord thy God.’ ‘O woman,’ said he then, ‘that is the best sermon ever I preached.’ The discourse had proved very refreshing to himself, as well as to many of his hearers. A few minutes after that expression had fallen from his lips, he requested his daughter to bring the table and candle near the bed; and having shut his eyes, and laid his hand under his cheek, he quietly breathed out his soul into the hands of his Redeemer, on the 2d of June, 1754. Had he lived twenty days longer, he would have finished the seventy-fourth year of his age; and had he been spared three months more, he would have completed the fifty-first of his ministry, having resided twenty-eight years at Portmoak, and nearly twenty-three at Stirling.” [Life, by Dr. Fraser.] He published at Edinburgh, in 1739, ‘The Sovereignty of Zion’s King,’ in some discourses upon Psalm ii. 6. 12mo. In 1755 appeared a collection of his Sermons, mostly preached upon Sacramental occasions, 8vo; and in 1757, three volumes of his Sermons were printed at Glasgow in 1762, and a fifth at Edinburgh in 1765. “Besides at least six volumes on ‘Catechetical Doctrine,’” says Dr. Fraser, “

written at Portmoak between 1717 and 1723, inclusive, he left in all forty-seven notebooks of evangelical, sacramental, and miscellaneous sermons; fifteen of which books were composed subsequently to his translation to Stirling. Most of them consist of 220 pages; and all of them, with the exception of a few words in common hand interspersed, are written in shorthand characters. Each may contain on an average about thirty-six sermons of an hour’s length. He left also several volumes of expository discourses, including a series of lectures on the Epistle to the Hebrews, studied and delivered immediately after his admission to his second charge.” [Life, page 341.] The following is a list of his printed discourses:

      The Sovereignty of Zion’s King; in some Discourses upon Psalm ii. 6. Edin. 1739, 12mo.

      A Collection of Sermons, mostly preached upon Sacramental Occasions. Edin. 1755, 8vo.

      Discourses. 1757, 3 vols. 8vo.

      Sermons, Glasgow, 1762, 4 vols, 8vo. A fifth vol. Edin. 1765.

ERSKINE, RALPH, one of the founders of the Secession Church, third son of the Rev. Henry Erskine, minister of Chirnside, by his second wife, Margaret Halcro, was born at the village of Monilaws, Northumberland, March 15, 1685. He was educated, with his brother, Ebenezer, in the university of Edinburgh, where he took the degree of M.A. in 1704. During his first session at college, in the winter of 1699-1700, a great fire took place in the Parliament-square, and the house in which he lodged being in that square he narrowly escaped being burned to death. He had to force his way through the flames, carrying a number of his books. Referring to this deliverance a number of years afterwards, he mentions, in his diary, that on a day set apart for private humiliation and prayer, he made it the subject of grateful acknowledgment to God. “I took special notice,” says he, “of what took place upon my first going to Edinburgh to the college, in the burning of the Parliament close; and how mercifully the Lord preserved me, when he might have taken me away in my sin, amidst the flames of that burning, which I can say my own sins helped to kindle.” While engaged prosecuting his theological studies, a considerable part of his time was spent in the family of Colonel Erskine of Cardross, in the capacity of tutor. In June 1709 he was licensed to preach by the presbytery of Dunfermline, and, in 1711, he received a unanimous call from the parish of Tulliallan to become their minister; and nearly at the same time he was unanimously called to become the second minister in the collegiate charge of Dunfermline. The latter he accepted. He was ordained on the 7th August of that year, and about four years and a half after his ordination, Mr. Thomas Buchanan his colleague died, and he was promoted to the first charge.

      In the controversy regarding the Marrow of Modern Divinity, Mr. Ralph Erskine took a deep interest. The synod of Fife, of which he was a member, were peculiarly strict in enforcing compliance with the act of Assembly, passed in 1720, prohibiting all ministers from recommending the Marrow. As Mr. Erskine did not choose to comply with this prohibition, he was formally arraigned before the synod for noncompliance, and strictly charged to be more obedient for the future, on pain of being subjected to censure. The synod farther required that he, as well as the other Marrow-men within their bounds, should subscribe anew the Confession of Faith, in a sense agreeably to the Assembly’s deed of 1720. Mr. Erskine refused to submit to this injunction; but professed his readiness to subscribe anew the Confession of Faith, as received by the Church of Scotland in 1647. [supplement to M’Kerrow’s History of the Secession Church, page 837.] In the famous controversy with the General Assembly, which led to the Secession, concerning the act of Assembly of 1732, with respect to the planting of vacant churches, as related in the life of Ebenezer Erskine, his brother Ralph Erskine adhered to all the protests that were entered in behalf of the four brethren, and was present at Gaiorney Bridge, in December 1733, when the latter formed themselves into the Associate Presbytery, although he took no part in their proceedings. On the 18th of February, 1737, he formally joined himself to the Seceders, and was accordingly deposed by the General Assembly, along with the other Seceding brethren, in 1740.

      Soon after entering on the ministry, he composed his ‘Gospel Sonnets,’ which have often been reprinted. About 1738 he published his poetical paraphrase of ‘The Song of Solomon.’ Having frequently been requested by the Associate Synod to employ some of his vacant hours in versifying all the Scripture songs, he published, in 1750, a new version of the Book of Lamentations. He had also prepared ‘Job’s Hymns’ for the press, but they did not appear till after his decease. When the rupture took place in the Associate Synod in 1747 on account of the Burgess oath, Mr. Erskine joined the Burgher section, while his son Mr. John Erskine, minister at Leslie, adhered to the Antiburghers. His son James became colleague and successor to his uncle, Ebenezer, at Stirling in January 1752.

      Mr. Erskine died of a nervous fever, November 6, 1752. He was twice married; first, to Margaret daughter of Mr. Dewar of Lassodie, by whom he had ten children; and, secondly, to Margaret, daughter of Mr. Simpson, writer to the signet, Edinburgh, by whom he had four children. It is related that the only amusement in which this celebrated divine indulged was playing on the violin. He was so great a proficient on this instrument, and so often beguiled his leisure hours with it, that the people of Dunfermline believed he composed his sermons to its tones.

      His son, Henry, in a letter addressed to a relative, giving an account of his father’s death, says: “He preached here last Sabbath save one with very remarkable life and fervency. He spoke but little all the time, that the disease did not evidently appear to be present death approaching; the physicians having ordered care to be taken to keep him quiet. But after he had taken the remarkable and sudden change to the worse, which was not till Sabbath, he then spoke a great deal, but could not be understood. Only among his last words he was heard to say, ‘I will be for ever a debtor to free grace,’” Mr. Whitefield, giving an account of the last expressions of several dying Christians, in a sermon preached from Isa. lx. 19, says, “Thus died Mr. Ralph Erskine. His last words were, ‘Victory, victory, victory!’” Mr. Erskine, as a preacher, is said to have had a “pleasant voice, an agreeable manner, a warm and pathetic address.” In his public appearances, he endeavoured to adapt himself to the capacity of his audience; and, instead of using the ‘enticing words of man’s wisdom,’ he addressed to them the truths of the gospel in their genuine purity and simplicity. His style was strictly evangelical and experimental.

      On the 27th of June, 1849, a monument to his memory was formally inaugurated at Dunfermline. The monument, which consists of a statue of the venerated Seceder, modelled and sculptured in Berrylaw stone by Mr. Handyside Ritchie, is placed on an appropriate pedestal in the area in front of the Queen Anne Street church, of the congregation attending which Mr. Ralph Erskine was minister. The figure is of a large monumental size, and represents Erskine in the dress of the period in which he lived – the full skirted coat, with large cuffs, breeches, and stockings, the clerical costume of the middle of the 18th century.

      The greater part of Ralph Erskine’s works were originally printed in single sermons and small tracts. The following is a list of them:

      Sermons: with a Preface by the Rev. Dr. Bradbury. London, 1738.

      Gospel Compulsion: a Sermon, preached at the Ordination of Mr. John Hunter. Edin. 1739, 12mo.

      Four Sermons of Sacramental Occasions, on Gal. ii. 20. Edin. 1740, 12mo.

      Chambers of Safety in Time of Danger; a Fast Sermon. Edin. 1740, 12mo.

      A Sermon. Glasg. 1747, 12mo.

      Clean Water; or, The Pure and Precious blood of Christ, for the Cleansing of Polluted Sinners; a Sermon on Ezekiel xxxvi. 25. Glasg. 1747, 12mo.

      A New Version of the Song of Solomon, into Common Metre. Glasg. 1752, 12mo.

      Job’s Hymns; or, a Book of Songs on the Book of Job. Glasg. 1753, 8vo.

      Scripture Songs, in 3 parts. Glasg. 1754, 12mo.

      Gospel Sonnets; or, Spiritual Songs, in six parts, 25th edition, in which the Holy Scriptures are fully extended. Edin. 1797. 8vo.

      Faith no Fancy, or, a Treatise of Mental Images.

      The Harmony of the Divine Attributes Displayed in the Redemption and Salvation of Sinners by Jesus Christ; a Sermon preached at Dunfermline, 1724, from Psalm lxxxv. 10. Falkirk, 1801, 12mo.

      A Short Paraphrase upon the Lamentations of Jeremiah, adapted to the common times. Glasg. 8vo.

      His Works; consisting principally of Sermons, Gospel Sonnets, and a Paraphrase in Verse of the Song of Solomon, were published at Glasgow, 1764-6, 2 vols. fol. Afterwards printed in 10 vols. 8vo.

ERSKINE, HENRY, third Lord Cardross, an eminent patriot, eldest son of David, second Lord Cardross, by his first wife, Anne, fifth daughter of Sir Thomas Hope, king’s advocate, was born in 1650, and succeeded to the title in 1671. He had been educated by his father in the principles of civil and religious liberty, and he early joined himself to the opposers of the earl of Lauderdale’s administration, in consequence of which he was exposed to much persecution. In 1674 he was fined £5,000 for the then serious offence of his lady’s hearing divine worship performed in his own house by her own chaplain. Of this fine he paid £1,000, and after sic months’ attendance at court, in the vain endeavour to procure a remission of the rest, he was, on August 5, 1675, imprisoned in the castle of Edinburgh, wherein he continued for four years. In May of that year, while his lordship was at Edinburgh, a party of soldiers went to his house of Cardross at midnight, and after using his lady with much rudeness and incivility, fixed a garrison there to his great loss. In 1677 his lady having had a child baptized by a non-conforming minister, he was again fined in £3,000, although it was done without his knowledge, he being then in prison. In June 1679, the king’s forces, on their march to the west, went two miles out of their road, in order that they might quarter on his estates of Kirkhill and Uphall, in West Lothian.

      On July 30, 1679, Lord Cardross was released, on giving bond for the amount of his fine, and, early in 1680, he repaired to London, to lay before the king a narrative of the sufferings which he had endured; but the Scottish privy council, in a letter to his majesty, accused him of misrepresentation, and he obtained no redress. His lordship now resolved upon quitting his native country, and accordingly proceeded to North America, and established a plantation on Charlestown Neck, in South Carolina. In a few years he and the other colonists were driven from this settlement by the Spaniards, when his lordship returned to Europe, and arriving at the Hague, attached himself to the friends of liberty and the Protestant religion, then assembled in Holland. He accompanied the prince of Orange to England in 1688; and having, in the following year, raised a regiment of dragoons for the public service, he was of great use under General Mackey in subduing the opposition to the new government. In the parliament of 1689 he obtained an act restoring him to his estates. He was also sworn a privy councillor, and constituted general of the mint. He died at Edinburgh May 21, 1693, in the 44th year of his age.

ERSKINE, JOHN, eleventh earl of Mar, or Marr, as it was originally spelt, eldest son of Charles, tenth earl of the name of Erskine, and Lady Mary Maule, daughter of the earl of Panmure, was born at Allow, in February 1675. He succeeded his father in 1689, and, on coming to the title, found the family estates much involved. Following the footsteps of his father, who joined the revolution party, merely because he considered it his interest so to do, the young earl, on entering into public life, attached himself to the party then in power, at the head of which was the duke of Queensberry, the leader of the Scottish Whigs. He took the oaths and his seat in parliament in Sept. 1696, was sworn in a privy councillor the following year, and was afterwards appointed to the command of a regiment of foot, and invested with the order of the Thistle. In 1704, when the whigs were superseded by the country party, the earl, pursuant to the line of conduct he intended to follow, of making his politics subservient to his interest, immediately paid court to the new administration, by placing himself at the head of such of the duke of Queensberry’s friends as opposed the marquis of Tweeddale and his party. In this situation he showed so much dexterity, and managed his opposition with so much art and address, that he was considered by the Tories as a man of probity, and well inclined to the exiled family. Afterwards, when the Whig party came again into power, he gave them his support, and became very zealous in promoting all the measures of the court, particularly the treaty of union, for which he presented the draught of an act in parliament, in 1705. To reward his exertions, he was, after the prorogation of the parliament, appointed secretary of state for Scotland, instead of the marquis of Annandale, who was displaced, because he was suspected of holding a correspondence with the squadron, who were inclined to support the succession to the crown without, rather than with, the proposed union. His lordship was chosen one of the sixteen representative peers in 1707, and re-elected at the general election the following year, and in 1710 and 1713. By the share he had taken in bringing about the union, Mar had rendered himself very unpopular in Scotland; but he endeavoured to regain the favour of his countrymen, by attending a deputation of Scottish members, consisting of the duke of Argyle, himself, Cockburn, younger of Ormiston, and Lockhart of Carnwath, which waited on Queen Anne in 1712, to inform her of their resolution to move for a repeal of the union with England. When the earl of Findlater brought forward a motion for repeal in the house of lords, Mar spoke strongly in favour of it, and pressed the dissolution of the union as the only means to preserve the peace of the island. He was made a privy-councillor in 1708, and on the death of the duke of Queensberry in 1713, the earl was again appointed secretary of state for Scotland, and thus for the second time joined the Tory party.

      On the death of Queen Anne, on the 1st of August 1714, the schemes of the Bolingbroke ministry having been baffled by the activity of the leaders of the whigs, his lordship, secretary of state, signed the proclamation of George I., and in a letter to the king, then on his way through Holland, dated Whitehall, August 30, made protestations of his loyalty, and reference to his past services to the government. He likewise procured a letter to be addressed to himself by some of the heads of the Jacobite clans, sais to be drawn up by Lord Grange, his brother, but evidently his own composition, declaring that as they had always been ready to follow his lordship’s directions in serving Queen Anne, they were equally ready to concur with him in serving his majesty. A loyal address of the clans to the king to the same effect was drawn up by his brother, Lord Grange, which, on his majesty’s arrival at Greenwich, he intended to present. But the king was too well aware that, in order to ingratiate himself with Queen Anne, he had procured from the same parties an address of a very opposite character only a few years previous. He was accordingly unnoticed on presenting himself to the king on his landing, and dismissed from office within eight days afterwards.

      Though not possessed of shining talents, he made ample amends for their deficiencies by artifice and an insinuating and courteous deportment, and managed his designs with such prudence and circumspection as to render it extremely difficult to ascertain his object when he desired concealment; by which conduct “he showed himself,” in the opinion of a contemporary, “to be a man of good sense, but bad morals.” [Lockhart, vol. i., p. 436.] The versatility of his politics was perhaps owing rather to the peculiar circumstances in which he was placed than to any innate viciousness of disposition. He was a Jacobite from principle, but as the fortunes of his house had been greatly impaired in the civil war by its attachment to the Stuarts, and, as upon his entrance into public life, he found the cause of the exiled family at a low ebb, he sought to retrieve the losses which his ancestors had sustained; while, at the same time, he gratified his ambition, by aspiring to power, which he could only hope to acquire by attaching himself to the existing government. The loss of a place of five thousand pounds a-year, without any chance of ever again enjoying the sweets of office, was gall and wormwood to such a man. This disappointment, and the studied insult he had received from the king, operating upon a selfish and ambitious spirit, drove him into open rebellion, with no other view than the gratification of his revenge. But whatever were his qualifications in the cabinet, he was without military experience, and consequently unfit to command an army, as the result showed.

      As early as May 1715, a report was current among the Jacobites of Scotland, of the design of the Chevalier de St. George to make a descent on Great Britain, in order to recover the crown, in consequence of which they began to bestir themselves, by providing arms, horses, &c. These and other movements indicated to the government that an insurrection was intended. Bodies of armed men were seen marching towards the Highlands, and a party of Highlanders appeared in arms near Inverlochy, which was, however, soon dispersed. In this situation of matters, the lords-justices sent down to Scotland a considerable number of half-pay officers, to officer the militia of the country, under the direction of Major-General Whitham, then commander-in-chief in Scotland. These prompt measures alarmed the Jacobites, who, after several consultations, returned to their homes. As the lords-justices had received information that the chevalier intended to land in North Britain, they offered a reward of £100,000 sterling for his apprehension.

      On the eve of Mar’s departure from England, to place himself at the head of the intended insurrection in Scotland, he resolved to show himself at court; and, accordingly, he appeared in the presence of King George on the first of August, 1715, with all the complaisance of a courtier, and with that affability of demeanour for which he was so distinguished.

      Having matured his plans and apprised his confederates, he disguised himself by changing his usual dress, and on the following day embarked at Gravesend on board a collier bound for Newcastle. On arriving there he went on board another vessel bound for the Firth of Forth, and was landed at Elie, a small port on the Fife coast, near the mouth of the Firth. Visiting various Jacobite friends on his way, he reached his seat of Kildrummy in the Braes of May on the 18th, and on the following day summoned a meeting of the neighbouring noblemen and gentlemen to a grand hunting match at Aboyne on the 27th, which was numerously attended, and where he addressed them in a regular and well ordered speech. The result was an unanimous resolution to take up arms. According to arrangements at a subsequent meeting at the same place on 3d September, he on the 6th set up the standard of the Pretender at Castletown of Braemar, assuming the title of lieutenant-general of his majesty’s forces in Scotland. The Chevalier was about the same time proclaimed king, under the name of James VIII., at Aberdeen, and various other towns. The earl immediately marched to Dunkeld, and, after a few days’ rest, to Perth, where he established his headquarters. Finding his army increased to about 12,000 men, he resolved to attack Stirling, and accordingly left Perth on November 10; but encountered the royal army, under the command of the Duke of Argyle, at Sheriffmuir, near Dunblane, on the 13th, when the advantage was on the side of the king’s troops, the rebels being compelled to return to Perth.

      The unfortunate and ill-advised James having landed at Peterhead from France, December 22, 1715, the earl, now created by him duke of Mar, hastened to meet him at Fetteresso, and attended him to Scone, where he issued several proclamations, distinguished, like all his previous ones, by great ability, including one for his coronation of January 23; but soon after they removed to Perth, where it was resolved to abandon the enterprise. The Pretender, with the earl of Mar, Lord Drummond, and others, embarked at Montrose, February 4, in a French ship which had been kept off the coast, and were landed at Waldam, near Gravelines, February 11, 1716. For his share in this rebellion, the earl was attainted by act of parliament, and his estates forfeited.

      His lordship accompanied the Pretender to Rome, and remained in his service for some years, having the chief direction of his affairs. Having, soon after his return, been violently accused by Bolingbroke – his former superior in the English ministry – with regard to the conduct of the rebellion in 1715, he, in order to revenge himself on his rival, prevailed on the duke of Ormond to report, in presence of the Chevalier, certain abusive expressions which Bolingbroke, when in a state of intoxication, had uttered in disparagement of his master. Bolingbroke was, in consequence, deprived of the seals, then possessed by him. He thereupon proffered his services to King George, and some years afterwards obtained a pardon and had his estates restored to him. IN 1721 the earl of Mar left Rome, and, after a short residence in Geneva, where he was subjected to a brief confinement at the instance of the British government, he took up his residence at Paris as minister of James at the French court. During his residence in Geneve, he applied for and received a loan from the earl of Stair, the British ambassador at Paris, and soon thereafter accepted a pension of two thousand pounds from the British government, which, at the same time, allowed his countess and daughter one thousand five hundred pounds annually, of jointure and aliment, out of the produce of his estate.

      These relations with the British ministry, however, induced James gradually to withdraw his confidence from him, and being involved in disputes with parties connected with the household, and accused by Bishop Atterbury of having betrayed the secrets of his master to the English ministry, he was in 1724 dismissed from his post as minister at Paris, and finally broke with the Stuarts in 1725. He prepared a narrative in exculpation, and although his justification is far from complete, it is evident that there exist no sufficient data on which to found a charge of deliberate treachery. His negociations with the earl of Stair, the British ambassador in France, for a pardon, which, however, were unsuccessful, are printed in the Hardwicke Collection of State Papers. In 1729, on account of the bad state of his health, he went to Aix-la-Chapelle, where he died in May 1732. His lordship was twice married; first, to Lady Margaret Hay, daughter of the earl of Kinnoul, by whom he had two sons; and, secondly, to Lady Frances Pierrepont, daughter of Evelyn, duke of Kingston, by whom he had one daughter. His principal occupation in his exile was the drawing of architectural plans and designs. His forfeited estates were bought of government for his son Lord Erskine, by the uncle of the latter, Erskine of Grange.

ERSKINE, JOHN, of Carnock, an eminent lawyer, son of the Hon. Colonel John Erskine of Carnock, third son of Lord Cardross by his second wife Anne, eldest daughter of William Dundas of Kincavel, was born in 1695. His father, from his conscientious support of the presbyterian church, and the civil and religious liberties of the country, during the arbitrary reign of James the Second of England, was obliged to retire to Holland, where he obtained the command of a company in a regiment of foot, in the service of the price of Orange. He was one of the most zealous supporters of the revolution of 1688, and on the occurrence of that event he accompanied the prince to England. As a reward for his service and attachment, he was appointed lieutenant-governor of Stirling castle, and a lieutenant-colonel of a regiment of foot, and afterwards received the governorship of the castle of Dumbarton. In the last Scottish parliament, he was representative of the town of Stirling, and was a great promoter of the union. In 1707 he was nominated to a seat in the united parliament of Great Britain, and at the general election in the following year he was chosen member for the Stirling district of burghs. He died at Edinburgh, January 1743, in the 892d year of his age. His son John, the subject of this notice, became a member of the faculty of advocates in 1719; and, in 1737, on the death of Professor Bayne, succeeded him as professor of Scots law in the university of Edinburgh. In 1754 he published his ‘Principles of the Law of Scotland,’ which thenceforth became a manual for students. In 1765 he resigned the professorship, and retired from public life, occupying the next three years chiefly in preparing for publication his ‘Institute of the Law of Scotland,’ which, however, did not appear till 1773, five years after his death. The Institute continued to be regarded as the standard book of reference in the courts of law of Scotland.

      Mr. Erskine died March 1, 1768, at Cardross, the estate of his grandfather, Lord Cardross. He was twice married; first, to Margaret, daughter of the Hon. James Melville of Balgarvie, Fifeshire, of the noble family of Leven and Melville, by whom he had the celebrated Dr. John Erskine, one of the ministers of Edinburgh, the subject of the following notice; and secondly, to Anne, second daughter of Mr. Stirling of Kier, by whom he had four sons and two daughters.

      The following is a list of his works: –

The Principles of the Law of Scotland, in the order of Sir George Mackenzie’s Institutions of that Law. Edin. 1754, 1757, 1764, 8vo. With Notes and Corrections by Gillon. 1809, 8vo.

Institutes of the Laws of Scotland; in 4 books, in the order of Sir George Mackenzie’s Institutions of that Law, Edin. 1773, fol. 2d edition enlarged. Edin. 1773, 1785, fol. 4th edition enlarged. Edin. 1804, fol. Enlarged with additional Notes, and improved by Gillon. 1805, fol. New edition with Additional Notes by James Ivory, advocate, 1828, 2 vols. fol.

ERSKINE, JOHN, D.D., eldest son of the preceding, was born June 2, 1721. He received the rudiments of his classical education, assisted by a private tutor, at the school of Cupar in Fife, and at the high school of Edinburgh, and entered the university there in the winter of 1734-35. Among his contemporaries at college was Robertson the historian, afterwards principal of the university, with whom he formed an intimate friendship, which, notwithstanding their difference of opinion in matters of church polity in after years, continued to be cherished through life with unabated sincerity. At that period several of the chairs in the university of Edinburgh were occupied by men of considerable eminence. Sir John Pringle, who was afterwards president of the Royal Society of London, was professor of moral philosophy, while Mr. Stevenson ably filled the chair of logic, and Dr. Erskine derived considerable benefit from their lectures. He was originally destined for the bar, a profession in which his father had acquired distinguished reputation, and in which, had he applied himself to it, he had every reason to expect its emoluments and honours. With this view, after his course of philosophy was finished, he attended some of the law classes. His own inclination, however, led him to prefer the church. Possessed of an uncommon seriousness of temper, and a quiet meditative disposition, his attachment to the ministry of the gospel overcame the pride of family, the love of honour, and the temptation of riches. His resolution to study theology met with the most determined opposition from his family, but his path had been chosen, and at last, but with great difficulty, he obtained his father’s consent, and after attending the divinity classes, he was, in 1743, licensed to preach by the presbytery of Dunblane. He preached his first public sermon in the church of Torryburn, of which parish he was afterwards patron, from Psalm lxxxiv. 10, a passage remarkably suitable to his own circumstances. In 1741, before he was twenty years of age, Mr. Erskine had written, and published anonymously, a pamphlet, entitled ‘The Law of Nature sufficiently propagated to the Heathen World; or an Enquiry into the ability of the Heathens to discover the Being of a God, and the Immortality of Human Souls,’ being intended as an answer to the erroneous doctrines maintained by Dr. Campbell, professor of divinity in the university of St. Andrews, in his treatise on ‘The Necessity of Revelation.’ Having sent a copy of his pamphlet to Dr. Warburton and Dr. Doddridge, they both expressed their high approval of it, in a correspondence which it was the means of opening up between them.

      In May 1744 Mr. Erskine was ordained minister of Kirkintilloch, in the presbytery of Glasgow. In 1754 he was translated to the parish of Culross, in the presbytery of Dunfermline, and in June 1758 he was called to the New Greyfriars church, Edinburgh. His ‘Theological Dissertations’ appeared in 1765, and in November 1766, the university of Glasgow conferred on him the degree of D.D. In July 1767, he was united with his early friend Dr. Robertson in the collegiate charge of the Old Greyfriars parish of that city, a connexion which subsisted till the death of Dr. Robertson in 1793. It is not easy to conceive two individuals who differed more in spirit, preaching, and various parts of Christian character, than these two amen, both eminent, though in very different respects. Dr. Robertson, a man of the finest taste and talents, and of the most winning and courteous manners, was devoted to the pursuit of literary renown. He was the leader of the anti-evangelical or extreme moderate party in the church, and was more prominent as such than, with all his genius, distinguished as a preacher of the gospel. Dr. Erskine, on the other hand, was a man deeply versed in religious knowledge, devoted to his Master’s work, and alive to everything which involved his glory; who regarded Christianity as a revelation which chiefly relates to things invisible and eternal. Dead to the world, and ambitious only of the approbation of God, he was looked up to as the father of the orthodox clergy, and as the friend of all good men. In every point of view, it was a singular combination. That Dr. Erskine had some way of reconciling his mind to the propriety of a situation, the irksomeness of which he must have felt, in which he every Lord’s day listened to doctrines very different from his own, and had to co-operate where there could be no cordial agreement, we are bound to believe. But it often gave rise, it is said, to rather awkward collisions. The story is told that his colleague one morning had given his audience a very flattering picture of virtue, concluding with declaring his conviction, that if ever perfect virtue should appear on the face of the earth, the world would fall down and worship it. Dr. Erskine took an opportunity, as it is reported, of advertising to the same subject in the afternoon, and with equal confidence, and much greater truth, declared, that when the most perfect virtue that ever adorned humanity, descended to the earth, the world, instead of admiring it, cried, “Crucify it! Crucify it!”

      His great desire to obtain the most authentic information as to the state of religion in the provinces of North America, as well as one the continent of Europe, led him into an extensive correspondence with divines and eminent men in all parts of the world. With America, we are told, his intercourse began at a very early period; and there were few of its more celebrated writers or preachers with whom he did not exchange books and letters. This practice, we are told, added much to his labour, not only by an increased and voluminous epistolary intercourse, but in “being called upon, by the friends of deceased divines, to correct and superintend the publication of posthumous works.” The celebrated Jonathan Edwards was one of his earliest and most esteemed trans-Atlantic correspondents. To assist him in carrying on the Arminian controversy, Dr. Erskine sent him many useful books, and by his advice and exhortations powerfully contributed to the production of some of his most valuable publications. The greater part of the works of President Edwards, Dickenson, Stoddart, and Fraser of Alness, were edited by him at the request of the relatives of these distinguished men, which necessarily entailed upon him an amount of labour that, though very great, was cheerfully undertaken by him.

      For more than half a century Dr. Erskine was the centre of one of the most extensive religious circles in Great Britain, or perhaps anywhere else; and such was his anxiety to be informed of the state of religion, morality, and learning on the continent, that at an advanced period of his life he made himself master of the Dutch and German languages. In 1790 he published the first volume of his valuable ‘Sketches and Hints of Church History and Theological Controversy, chiefly translated or abridged from modern foreign writers,’ the second volume of which appeared in 1799. His zeal in the cause of religious truth led him to take a principal share in the business of the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge, of which, so long as his strength remained, he was an active and useful member. In the Church courts he was for many years the leader of the popular party, while his colleague, Dr. Robertson, with whom he always continued on terms of intimate friendship, was the head of the moderate side of the Church.

      In political matters Dr. Erskine entertained bold and independent opinions, which he did not scruple to express freely when occasion demanded. The breach with the American colonies he viewed with much concern, and considered the war which followed as on both sides unnatural, unchristian, and impolitic. He published several pamphlets on the subject, before its commencement, and during its progress, which are written with ability and candour. One of these, a discourse, entitled ‘Shall I go to War with my American Brethren?’ is said to have given so great offence to those in power, that no bookseller would run the risk of its publication, and it appeared at London in 1769, without any publisher’s imprint being attached to it. The discourse, however, was reprinted at Edinburgh in 1776, with the author’s name, and the addition of a preface and appendix, even more in opposition to the views of government than the discourse itself. He was opposed to the constitution given to Canada, conceiving that the Roman Catholic religion had been too much favoured. He dreaded the progress of popery, both at home and aborad, and thought it his duty to warn his countrymen against its dangerous doctrines, and insidious wiles. In 1778, when an attempt was made to repeal certain enactments against the Roman Catholics of Great Britain, he entered into a correspondence with Mr. Burke, on the subject, which was afterwards published. The bill of 1780, for relieving the Roman Catholics, was also opposed by him. However tolerant his sentiments, and anxious to admit all classes to equal liberty of worship, he could not but consider popery in its political as well as religious aspect, and as a system of persecution and superstition he utterly condemned it. On the subject of the Catholic controversy, Dr. Campbell of Aberdeen took the opposite side to Dr. Erskine, and published an ably written ‘Address to the People of Scotland, upon the alarms that have been raised in regard to Popery.’ The General Assembly, on the other hand, supported the views of Dr. Erskine, and deliberately decided against the Catholic claims.

      Hi had been from his infancy of a weak bodily constitution, and as old age approached his appearance was that of a man whose strength was gone. For several winters he had been unable to preach regularly, and for the last sixteen months of his life he had preached none at all, his voice having become so weak as to be incapable of making himself heard. His mental faculties, however, remained unimpaired to the last. Since 1801 he had commenced a periodical publication, five numbers of which were published, entitled ‘Religious Intelligence from Aborad;’ and, the week previous to his death, he sent his bookseller notice that he had materials collected for another number. On Tuesday, January 18, 1803, he was occupied till a late hour in his study. About four o’clock of the morning of the 19th he was taken suddenly ill, and almost immediately expired, in the eighty-second year of his age. Besides the works already mentioned, and various others of less general interest, Dr. Erskine was the author of two volumes of sermons, the one published by himself in 1798, and the other edited after his death by the late Rev. Sir Henry Moncrieff, and published in 1804. In Guy Mannering, Sir Walter Scott has taken occasion to introduce a graphic and interesting description of the person and manner of preaching of this celebrated divine. “His external appearance,” he says, “was not prepossessing. A remarkably fair complexion, strangely contrasted with a black wig, without a grain of powder; a narrow chest and a stooping posture; hands which, placed like props on either side of the pulpit, seemed necessary rather to support the person than to assist the gesticulation of the preacher; a gown (not even that of Geneva), a tumbled band, and a gesture, which seemed scarcely voluntary, were the first circumstances that struck a stranger.” The annexed woodcut is a faithful representation of his attitude in the pulpit on commencing his discourse.


[woodcut of John Erskine, D.D.]

      His body was interred in the Greyfriars churchyard. By his wife, the Hon. Christian Mackay, third daughter of George third Lord Reay, he had a family of fourteen children, but only four survived him, namely, David Erskine, Esq. of Carnock, and three daughters, one of whom was the mother of James Stuart, Esq. of Dunearn, who shot Sir Alexander Boswell in a duel in 1822.

      Dr. Erskine was remarkable for his simplicity of manners, unaffected humility, and kindly and benevolent disposition. His temper was ardent, his affections warm, and his attachments, like his piety, constant and sincere. Of his good nature the following anecdote is told. For several Sundays he had returned from church without his pocket handkerchief, and could not account for the loss. Mrs. Erskine, suspecting an elderly-looking poor woman who constantly occupied a seat on the stair leading to the pulpit, sewed a handkerchief to the pocket of Dr. Erskine’s Sunday coat. On the following Sunday, the doctor was proceeding in his usual manner towards the pulpit, when, on passing the suspected person, he felt a gentle tug from behind. The minister turned gently round, and, clapping her on the head, merely remarked, “No the day, honest woman; no the day.” [Kay’s Edinburgh Portraits.]

      During the disturbances in Edinburgh in 1778, occasioned by the bill for the repeal of the penal statutes against the Roman Catholics, a furious mob, incensed at the support which his colleague, Principal Robertson, had given to that obnoxious measure, assembled in the college yard, for the purpose of demolishing the house of the latter, which they would, in all probability, have done, in defiance of the military who had been called to the spot, had not Dr. Erskine appeared, and exhorted them to disperse quietly. So great was his influence and popularity that they immediately obeyed. On the death of the principal, Dr. Erskine preached his funeral sermon, and did amble justice to his great talents, and many estimable qualities.

      In the years 1741 and 1742, when Dr. Erskine was a student at college, Mr. Whitefield, the founder of the Calvinistic Methodists, visited Scotland, and excited unusual attention by his powerful eloquence, and the doctrines which he taught. Among the warmest admirers of this celebrated preacher was the subject of this notice, and his merits and character having become the subject of discussion in a literary society, of which Erskine and his friend and fellow-student Dr. Robertson were members, the debate was conducted with so much warmth and asperity on both sides that it is said to have led to the dissolution of the society, and Erskine and Robertson having taken opposite views, a temporary breach of their friendship and intercourse was the consequence. In 1748 when Whitefield again came to Scotland, and visited the west country, he was, as on the former occasions, admitted to the pulpits of many of the established clergy, and among the rest to that of Dr. Erskine, who was then minister of Kirkintilloch, as well as to the churches of some of his friends who held similar views to his in ecclesiastical matters. This liberality was not relished by some of his clerical brethren, and at a meeting of the synod at Glasgow in October 1748, a motion was made with special reference to Mr. Whitefield, who had just been in that district, “That no minister in their bounds should employ a stranger of doubtful character, till after consulting his presbytery.” This produced an animated and prolonged debate, in which Dr. Erskine took an active part, and of which he afterwards published a short account, without his name.

      Of Mr. Wesley’s doctrines he was not so great an admirer as he had been of those of Mr. Whitefield. Some time previous to his being translated to the Old Greyfriars parish of Edinburgh, he became engaged in a controversy with Mr. John Wesley. He published anonymously a small pamphlet entitled, ‘Mr. Wesley’s principles detected,’ ion which he endeavoured to expose the enthusiasm, the erroneous views, and religious management of that gentleman. Mr. Wesley was too prudent to enter the lists of theological warfare with Dr. Erskine; but endeavoured to smooth over the affair by a very flattering and complimentary letter to him.

      Dr. Erskine’s learning was extensive, various, and solid, though he never employed it, nor his natural talents, which were very great, for the purpose of display. As a public speaker he was too little attentive to those external recommendations, which give the great charm to many preachers. His pronunciation was uncommonly broad, and his gestures and action extremely awkward. Neither were his sermons distinguished by studied elegance of language, or by the higher graces of eloquence, but they possessed what was of far greater value, a native simplicity of style, an energy of sentiment, a richness in scriptural illustration, and a purity of doctrine, which were scarcely excelled by those of any minister of his day. The character of his pulpit oratory is well described by Sir Walter Scott in that passage of Guy Mannering, a small portion of which had been already quoted: “A lecture was delivered,” says the novelist, in this case depicting faithfully, “fraught with new, striking, and entertaining views of scripture history – a sermon in which the Calvinism of the kirk of Scotland was ably supported, yet made the basis of a sound system of practical morals, which should neither shelter the sinner under the cloak of speculative faith or of peculiarity of opinion, nor leave him loose to the waves of unbelief and schism. Something there was of an antiquated turn of argument and metaphor, but it only served to give zest and peculiarity to the style of elocution. The sermon was not read – a scrap of paper, containing the heads of the discourse, was occasionally referred to, and the enunciation, which at first seemed imperfect and embarrassed, became, as the preacher warmed in his progress, animated and distinct; and although the discourse could not be quoted as a correct specimen of pulpit eloquence, yet Mannering had seldom heard so much learning, metaphysical acuteness, and energy of argument brought into the service of Christianity.” An ‘Account of the Life and Writings of Dr. Erskine,’ by the late Rev. Sir Henry Moncrieff Wellwood, baronet, minister of St. Cuthberts, was published in 1818, 8vo, which presents much interesting and valuable information relative to the ecclesiastical state of Scotland during the eighteenth century.

      The following is a list of Dr. Erskine’s works, besides the various publications edited by him, or for which he wrote prefaces: –

      The Law of Nature sufficiently promulgated to the Heathen World; in some miscellaneous reflections occasioned by Dr. Campbell’s (professor of Divinity at St. Andrews) Treatise on the necessity of Revelation. Edinburgh, 1741. Republished in ‘Theological Dissertations.’ London, 1765.

      The Signs of the Times considered. Edinburgh, 1742. Anonymous.

      The People of God considered as all righteous; or, three Sermons, preached at Glasgow, April, 1745. Edinburgh, 1745. Republished in the first volume of Dr. Erskine’s Discourses.

      Meditations and Letters of a pious youth, lately deceased, (James Hall, Esq., son of the late Sir John Hall, Bart. of Dunglass), to which are prefixed, Reflections on his death and character, by a friend in the country. Edinburgh, 1746.

      An Account of the Debate in the Synod of Glasgow and Ayr, October 6, 1748; respecting the employment of Mr. Whitefield to preach in the pulpits of the Synod. Edinburgh, 1748, Anonymous.

      An humble attempt to promote frequent Communicating. Glasgow, 1749. Republished in ‘Theological Dissertations.’

      The Qualifications necessary for Teachers of Christianity; a Sermon preached before the Synod of Glasgow and Ayr, 2d October, 1750. Glasgow, 1750.

      The Influence of Religion on National Happiness; a sermon preached at the anniversary meeting of the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge, in the High Church of Edinburgh, January, 1756.

      Ministers of the Gospel cautioned against giving offence; a sermon preached before the Synod of Lothian and Tweeddale, November 3, 1763; to which is added, a charge at the Ordination of the late Mr. Robertson, minister of Ratho. Edinburgh, 1764.

      Mr. Wesley’s Principles detected; or, a defence of the Preface to the Edinburgh edition of ‘Aspasio Vindicated,’ written by Dr. Erskine in answer to Mr. Kershaw’s Appear – to which is prefixed the Preface itself. Edinburgh, 1765.

      Theological Dissertations, (1) On the Nature of the Sinai covenant, (2) On the Character and Privileges of the Apostolic churches, (3) On the Nature of Saving Faith. London, 1765.

      Shall I go to War with my American Brethren? A discourse on Judges xx. 28, addressed to all concerned in determining that important question. London, 1769. Anonymous. Reprinted in Edinburgh with a Preface and Appendix, and the author’s name, 1776.

      The Education of the poor children recommended; a sermon before the Managers of the Orphan Hospital, 1774.

      Reflections on the Rise, and Progress, and probable Consequences of the present contentions with the Colonies; by a Freeholder. Edinburgh, 1776.

      The Equity and Wisdom of the Administration, on measures that have unhappily occasioned the American Revolt – tried by the Sacred Oracles. Edinburgh, 1776.

      Considerations on the Spirit of Popery, and the intended Bill for the relief of the Papists in Scotland. Edinburgh, 1778.

      A Narrative of the Debate in the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, May 25, 1779. Occasioned by the apprehensions of an intended repeal of the penal statutes against Papists. With a dedication to Dr. George Campbell, principal of the Marischal College, Aberdeen. Edinburgh, 1780.

      Prayer for those in civil and military offices; a sermon preached before the election of the Magistrates of Edinburgh. October 5, 1779, and published at the request of the Magistrates and Town council.

      Sketches and Hints of Church History and Theological Controversy, chiefly translated and abridged from modern foreign writers, vol. i. Edinburgh, 1790.

      Letters, chiefly written for comforting those bereaved of Children and Friends. Edinburgh, 1790. 2d edition with additions. Edinburgh, 1800.

      The fatal Consequences and the General Sources of Anarchy; a discourse on Isaiah, xxiv. 1, 5. Edinburgh, 1793.

      A Supplement to Two Volumes, published in 1754, of Historical Collections, chiefly containing late remarkable instances of Faith working by Love; published from the Manuscript of the late Dr. John Gillies, one of the ministers of Glasgow. With an account of the pious Compiler, and other additions. Edinburgh, 1796.

      Sketches and Hints of Church History and Theological Controversy, chiefly translated and abridged from modern foreign writers, vol. ii. Edinburgh, 1797.

      Discourses preached on several occasions, vol. i. 2d edition, 1798. Volume ii. posthumous, prepared for the press and published by Sir H. Moncrieff Wellwood, 1804.

      Dr. Erskine’s Reply to a printed Letter, directed to him by A.C.; in which the gross misrepresentations in said Letter, of his Sketches of Church History, are considered. Edin. 1798.

      Religious Intelligence and seasonable Advice from Aborad, concerning lay preaching and exhortation, in four separate Pamphlets. Edinburgh, 1801.

      Discourses on the Christian temper, by J. Evans, D.D., with an account of the Life of the author, by Dr. Erskine. Edinburgh, 1802.

      New Religious Intelligence, chiefly from the American States. Edinburgh, 1802.

ERSKINE, DAVID STEUART, eleventh earl of Buchan, [counting from ‘Hearty James,’ the uterine brother of King James the Second, on whom the title was conferred in 1466,] a nobleman distinguished for his patronage of literature, was born June 1, 1742. He was educated in the university of Glasgow, where he applied himself ardently to study, and also devoted some time to the arts of designing, etching, and engraving, in the academy of Robert Foulis the printer. An etching by him of the abbey of Icolmkill, with an account of that island, is inserted in the first volume of the Transactions of the Society of Scottish Antiquaries, published in 1792. In the same volume also appeared the following papers from his pen, viz.: Memoirs of the Life of Sir James Steuart Denham; Account of the parish of Uphall; and a Life of Mr. James Short, Optician. On leaving college he entered the army, but never rose higher than a lieutenant. He afterwards entered the diplomatic department under the celebrated Lord Chatham, and in 1766 was appointed secretary to the British embassy in Spain.

      On the death of his father in 1767, he succeeded to the earldom, and, returning to Scotland, devoted the remainder of his life to the study of the history and antiquities of his native country. Although the impaired fortunes of his family led him to adopt a plan of the most rigid economy, it is highly honourable to his memory that he not only voluntarily took upon himself the payment of his father’s debts, but was at the principal charge of the education of his two younger brothers, the Hon. Henry Erskine, and Thomas, afterwards lord high chancellor of Great Britain. He also distinguished himself by patronising public works and institutions. He offered premiums for competition between the students of the high school of Edinburgh and those of the university of Aberdeen; and to his exertions the Society of Antiquaries at Edinburgh is indebted for its existence, having been originated by him on November 14, 1780. He was the friend and patron of Burns, the poet; Barry, the painter; Pinkerton, the historian, and other men of talent. In 1791 he instituted an annual festival in commemoration of Thomson, the author of ‘The Seasons,’ at Ednam, in Roxburghshire, the poet’s native place; and on his grounds at Dryburgh, he erected an Ionic temple, with a statue of Apollo in the inside, and a bust of the bard of ‘The Seasons’ surmounting the dome. He also raised a colossal statue of Sir William Wallace, on the summit of a steep and thickly planted hill, which was placed on its pedestal September 22, 1814, the anniversary of the victory at Stirling bridge in 1297. “It occupies so eminent a situation,” says Mr. Chambers, “that Wallace, frowning towards England, is visible even from Berwick, a distance of more than thirty miles.” Dryburgh abbey and the estate, which he had become possessed of in 1785, originally belonged to the Halyburtons of Merton.

      His lordship has given along account of the abbey in Grose’s Antiquities. Lord Buchan died at an advanced age, in April 1829, at his seat of Dryburgh abbey, Berwickshire. He had married in 1771 his cousin, Margaret, eldest daughter of William Fraser, Esq. of Fraserfield, Aberdeenshire, but by her, who died 12th May 1819, he had no issue. He was succeeded by his nephew, Henry David, eldest son of his brother the Hon. Henry Erskine. He had a natural son, Captain David Erskine, at one time a professor in the Military College at Sandhurst, who was knighted by William IV. soon after his accession to the throne. Sir David died at Dryburgh abbey in 1838. The earl of Buchan was an industrious contributor to ‘The Bee,’ ‘The Gentleman’s Magazine,’ and other publications; and, in 1812, published at Edinburgh his ‘Anonymous and Fugitive Essays, collected from various periodical works.’ His principal publications consist of a ‘Speech intended to have been Spoken at the Meeting of the Peers of Scotland in 1780;’ ‘An Account of the Life, Writings, and Inventions of Napier of Merchiston,’ written in conjunction with Dr. Walter Minto, 1787; and an ‘Essay on the Lives and Writings of Fletcher of Saltoun and the Poet Thomson,’ 1792. In this last year, his lordship had sent, by the hands of Mr. Archibald Robertson, a portrait painter, who then visited America, to the president of the United States an elegantly mounted snuff-box, made from the tree which sheltered Wallace. The box had been presented to Lord Buchan by the goldsmiths of Edinburgh in 1782, from whom he obtained leave to transfer it to ‘the only man in the world to whom he thought it justly due.’

      Lord Buchan’s residence was for many years in Edinburgh, but in 1787 he retired, on account of his health, to Dryburgh abbey, a property he had acquired by purchase. The most prominent feature of his character was vanity, of which many amusing anecdotes are told. A remarkable instance of it is narrated by Mr. Lockhart, in his Life of Sir Walter Scott. In 1819 when Scott was lying very ill, in his house in Castle Street, Edinburgh, the earl of Buchan, hearing that he was at the point of death, proceeded to the house of the great novelist, and found the knocker tied up. He then descended to the area door, and was there received by Peter Mathieson, the coachman of Scott, whose face confirmed the woful tidings of his master’s illness. “Peter told his lordship,” continues Mr. Lockhart, “that he had the strictest orders to admit no visitor; but the earl would take no denial, pushed the bashful coachman aside, and elbowed his way up stairs to the door of Scott’s bedchamber. He had his fingers on the handle before Peter could give warning to Miss Scott; and when she appeared, to remonstrate against such an intrusion, he patted her on the head like a child, and persisted in his purpose of entering the sick-room to strenuously, that the young lady found it necessary to bid Peter see the earl down stairs again, at whatever damage to his dignity. Peter accordingly, after trying all his eloquence in vain, gave the tottering, bustling, old meddlesome coxcomb a single shove, – as respectful, doubt not, as a shove can ever be, – and he accepted that hint, and made a rapid exit. Scott, meanwhile, had heard the confusion, and at length it was explained to him; when, fearing that Peter’s gripe might have injured Lord Buchan’s feeble person, he desired James Ballantyne, who had been sitting by his bed, to follow the old man home, make him comprehend, if he could, that the family were in such bewilderment of alarm that the ordinary rules of civility were out of the question; and, in fine, inquire what had been the object of his lordship’s intended visit. James proceeded forthwith to the earl’s house in George Street, and found him strutting about his library in a towering indignation. Ballantyne’s elaborate demonstrations of respect, however, by degrees softened him, and he condescended to explain himself. ‘I wished,’ said he, ‘to embrace Walter Scott before he died, and inform him that I had long considered it as a satisfactory circumstance that he and I were destined to rest together in the same place of sepulchre. The principal thing, however, was to relieve his m ind as to the arrangements of his funeral – to show h im a plan which I had prepared for the procession – and, in a word, to assure him that I took upon myself the whole conduct of the ceremonial at Dryburgh.’ He then exhibited to Ballantyne a formal programme, in which, as may be supposed, the predominant feature was not Walter Scott, but David earl of Buchan. It had been settled, inter alia, that the said earl was to pronounce an eulogium over the grave, after the fashion of the French Academicians in the Père la Chaise.” “And this silliest and vainest of busybodies,” adds Lockhart, ‘was the elder brother of Thomas and Henry Erskine! But the story is well-known of his boasting one day to the late duchess of Gordon of the extraordinary talents of his family – when her unscrupulous Grace asked him, very coolly, whether the wit had not come by the mother, and been all settled on the younger branches.” Scott outlived the earl, and formed one of the company at his lordship’s funeral ten years after the scene above described had taken place. Under date April 20, 1829, he has the following entry in his diary: “Lord Buchan is dead, a person whose immense vanity, bordering on insanity, obscured, or rather eclipsed, very considerable talents. His imagination was so fertile, that he seemed really to believe in the extraordinary fictions which he delighted in telling. His economy, most laudable in the early part of his life, when it enabled him, from a small income, to pay his father’s debts, became a miserable habit, and led him to do mean things. He had a desire to be a great man and a Mecaenas – a bon marché. The two celebrated lawyers, his brothers, were not more gifted by nature than I think he was, but the restraints of a profession kept the eccentricity of the family in order. Both Henry and Thomas were saving men, yet both died very poor. The latter at one time possessed £200,000; the other had a considerable fortune. The earl alone has died wealthy. It is saving, not getting, that is the mother of riches. They all had wit. The earl’s was crackbrained, and sometimes caustic; Henry’s was of the very kindest, best-humoured, and gayest sort that ever cheered society; that of Lord Erskine was moody and muddish; but I never say him in his best days.” Lord Buchan’s personal vanity was also exhibited in the numerous portraits and busts of him which were taken during his lifetime. An excellent painting, by Sir Joshua Reynolds, adorns the hall of the Scottish Antiquaries. Another, by Alexander Runiciman, is in the Museum of the Perth Antiquarian Society. He also presented to the faculty of Advocates a portrait in crayons, with an inscription written by, and highly complimentary to, himself. When Napoleon threatened to invade this country, Lord Buchan, with his pen, endeavoured to promote union among his countrymen, and like other patriotic noblemen and gentlemen of the time, he buckled on his sword, ready, should they have landed, to have repelled the invaders by force of arms. His political principles, however, were opposed to those of the government of that day, and when the influence of the ruling powers had destroyed all form of freedom in the election of the Scottish peers, he stood forward singly in defence of the privileges of his order, and after a long and unaided contest, at last succeeded in securing their independence. – Douglas’ Peerage, edited by Wood. – New Scots Mag. – Lockhart’s Life of Scott. – Kay’s Edinburgh Portraits.

ERSKINE, the Hon HENRY, a distinguished advocate and wit, second son of Henry David, tenth earl of Buchan, and brother of the preceding, was born at Edinburgh, November 1, 1746. He was educated at the universities of St. Andrews, Edinburgh, and Glasgow, and while prosecuting his legal studies, he attended the Forum debating society established at Edinburgh, where he cultivated with success those posers of extempore speaking which afterwards brought him into such high eminence as a pleader. He was in 1768 admitted a member of the faculty of advocates; and his transcendent talents and great legal knowledge, together with his quickness of perception, playfulness of fancy, and professional tact, soon placed him at the head of the Scottish bar. The forensic eloquence of Scotland was at that period by no means of a high order, and the then forms of court seemed contrived to prevent anything like oratory on the part of the pleaders. Young Erskine, however, rose above all the trammels that bore repressingly on his brethren at the bar, and introduced a style of pleading, animated and graceful beyond anything that had yet been witnessed in the court of session. He and Robert Blair, afterwards president of the court of session, were generally engaged as opposite counsel, as the two most eloquent and able members of the bar; and the clear reasoning and sound law of the latter were not always a match for the wit and felicity of remark of his opponent. The subjoined woodcut represents Erskine in the act of pleading.

      In the General Assembly of the national church, then “the best theatre for deliverative eloquence to be found in Scotland,” and an arena where Henry Dundas, Lord Melville, trained himself for the debates of the senate, Mr. Erskine had opportunities of displaying his oratorical powers to great advantage. He advocated from principle and with great consistency the interests of the Evangelical or popular party, as it was called, in that court; and in the memorable struggle for the office of its clerk between Professor Dalzell and Dr. Carlisle of Inveresk in 1789, the successful issue in favour of the former gentleman, their candidate – the subject of several humorous caricatures by Kay – was due to his judicious precaution of having it provided, before proceeding to the election, that there should be a retrospective scrutiny of the votes. He had, about ten years previous (1779), nearly achieved for it an earlier triumph in his own person, in the election of procurator of the church of Scotland, when, after a keen contest, William (afterwards Lord ) Robertson, son of the eminent historian, his opponent, obtained it by a narrow majority.

      At the bar his talents were as much at the service of the poor gratuitously as they were at the command of the rich, who could amply remunerate him for his exertions. He was ever ready to rescue innocence from persecution, and to vindicate the cause of the oppressed. One remarkable instance of this, (but little known to the public,) was on behalf of Donald M’Arthur, a poor Baptist missionary preacher, the pastor of a small congregation at Port Bannatyne in Bute, who was violently seized, on the 20th October 1805, while celebrating divine service, by one of the local magistrates, and sent as an impressed seaman into his majesty’s navy. Mr. Erskine not only effected his release, after he had been conveyed with rapidity to Ireland, in order to defeat an interdict obtained in the Scotch courts, and thence to the Downs, in order to frustrate an application for a writ of habeas corpus in that kingdom, by an order from the admiralty served after he had passed from one to another of various ships of war, – but obtained a certificate that he should never again be impressed, and instituted a civil process of damages at his own risk, which resulted in a composition of, it is said, £500 to escape a heavier penalty. To his generous interference in this case, the friends of civil and religious liberty are greatly indebted, as since that time, no one has ventured in Scotland to interfere with the persons of those who are engaged in religious instruction, however humble of unprotected. [Buchanan’s Reports, pp. 60-72.] So well, indeed, was this generous trait in his character known, that a poor man, in a remote district of the country, when advised by his solicitor not to enter into a lawsuit with a wealthy neighbour, on account of the expense in which it would involve him, at once replied – “Ye dinna ken what ye say, maister; there’s nae a puir man in Scotland need to want a friend, or fear an enemy, while Harry Erskine lives!”

      Mr. Erskine, like his elder brother, had early embraced Whig principles, and, on the accession of the Coalition ministry in 1783, he succeeded Mr. Dundas, afterwards Lord Melville, as Lord advocate. On the morning of the appointment he had an interview with Dundas, in the Outer House; when, observing that the latter had already resumed the ordinary stuff gown which advocates are in the custom of wearing, he said gaily that he “must leave off talking, to go and order his silk gown,” the official robe of the lord advocate and solicitor-general. “It is hardly worth while,” said Dundas, drily, “for the time you will want in – you had better borrow mine.” Erskine’s reply was exceedingly happy 00 “From the readiness with which you make the offer, Mr. Dundas, I have no doubt that the gown is a gown made to fit any party; but, however short my time in office may be, it shall ne’er been said of Henry Erskine that he put on the abandoned habits of his predecessor.” The new administration, however, was soon broken up, when he resumed his station at the bar. Mr. Erskine was succeeded, as lord advocate, by Ilay Campbell, Esq., afterwards lord president, to whom he said, upon resigning his gown, “My lord, you must take nothing off it, for I’ll soon need it again.” Mr. Campbell replied, “It will be bare enough, Harry, before you get it.” In 1786 he was elected dean of the faculty of advocates, but on account of his liberal politics, was defeated in an election for the same office, some years afterwards.

      On the return of the liberal party to power in 1806, he once more became lord advocate, and was returned member for the Dumfries district of burghs, in the room of major general Dalrymple. On the dissolution of the Whig administration soon after, he again lost his office and his seat in parliament. In consequence of declining health, he retired, in 1812, from public life to his beautiful seat of Ammondell, in West Lothian, where he died October 8, 1817, in the 71st year of his age. In early life he had cultivated a taste for poetry and music, and was throughout his long and distinguished career celebrated for his witticisms. Sir Walter Scott said of him, “Henry Erskine was the best-natured man I ever knew, thoroughly a gentleman, and with but one fault – he could not say no, and thus sometimes misled those who trusted him.” IN person, Mr. Erskine is described as having been above the middle size, and eminently handsome. His voice was powerful, his manner of delivery peculiarly graceful, and his enunciation accurate and distinct. He was long a member of the Scottish Antiquarian Society, founded by his brother, the earl of Buchan, in 1780. One of the members remarked to him that he was a very bad attender of their meetings, adding, at the same time, that he never gave any donations to the Society. A short time afterwards he wrote a letter to the secretary apologising for not attending the meetings, and stating that he had “enclosed a donation, which, of you keep long enough, will be the greatest curiosity you have.” This was a guinea of George III. He was universally acknowledged to have been the wittiest man of his time, and his puns and bon mots were so numerous that almost every witticism of the day was sure to be attributed to him. Some of his points were very effective. On one occasion, his namesake, Mr. Erskine of Alva, advocate, afterwards a lord of session, under the title of Lord Barjarg, a man of small stature, was retained as counsel in a very interesting case, in which the Hon. Henry Erskine appeared for the opposite party. The crown in court being very great, in order to enable young Alva to be seen and heard to more advantage, a chair was brought for him to stand upon. On this Mr. Erskine quaintly remarked, “That is one way of rising at the bar,” The different modes of spelling the name of Erskine formerly used, Ereskin, Areskin, and sometimes Areseskin, seems to have puzzled Voltaire, for in his ‘Letters on the English Nation,’ he writes it Hareskins. A common pronunciation of the name in Scotland is Askin, which gave rise to one of the best repartees of Henry Erskine. During the time that he was dean of faculty, a silly fellow, an advocate, not liking a question put to him by the dean, testily said, “Harry, I never meet you but I find you Askin.” “And I,” replied the wit, “never meet you but I find an Anser,” (the Latin word for goose).

      Notwithstanding his liveliness of fancy and gaiety of spirit, his habits were eminently domestic, and he delighted in retirement and country employments. His feelings and desires in this respect are pleasingly depicted in the following lines, written by himself: –

“Let sparks and topers o’er their bottles sit.

Toss bumpers down, and fancy laughter wit;

Let cautions plodders o’er their ledger pore,

Note down each farthing gain’d, and wish it more;

Let lawyers dream of wigs, poets of fame,

Scholars look learn’d, and senators declaim;

Let soldiers stand, like targets in the fray,

Their lives just worth their thirteen pence a-day.

Give me a nook in some secluded spot,

      Which business shuns, and din approaches not, –

Some snug retreat, where I may never know

What monarch reigns, what ministers bestow;

A book – my slippers – and a field to stroll in –

My garden-seat – an elbow-chair to loll in –

  Sunshine when wanted – shade, when shade invites –

With pleasant country sounds, and smells, and sights,

And now and then a glass of generous wine,

  Shared with a chatty friend of ‘auld langsyne;’

     And one companion more, for ever nigh,

      To sympathise in all that passes by,

To journey with me in the path of life,

    And share its pleasures, and divide its strife.

   These simple joys, Eugenics, let me find,

And I’ll ne’er cast a lingering look behind.”

      “These lines,” says his relative, Mr. Henry David Inglis, who was allowed to copy them from the author’s scrap-book, “were written after Mr. Ersksine’s second marriage, and refer, no doubt, in the latter part, to his second wife, who proved a most valuable companion and a tender nurse in his declining years. What degree of happiness his first connexion yielded in his early days, I have no access to know; but the extreme nervous irritability, and somewhat eccentric ways of the first Mrs. Erskine, did not contribute greatly to his happiness in her later years. One of her peculiarities consisted in not retiring to rest at the usual hours. She would frequently employ half the night in examining the wardrobe of the family, to see that nothing was missing, and that everything was in its proper place. I recollect being told this, among other proofs of her oddities, that one morning, about two or three o’clock, having been unsuccessful in a search, she awoke Mr. Erskine, by putting to him this important interrogatory, ‘Harry, lovie, where’s your white waistcoat?’”

      In the very interesting account of Mr. Erskine, after his retirement from the bar, written by Mr. Inglis, and inserted in the Edinburgh Literary Journal, we have the following particulars, descriptive of the almost Arcadian simplicity, in which the latter years of the “old man eloquent” were passed: “The mail-coach,” says Mr. Inglis, “used to set me down at Ammondell gate, which is about three-quarters of a mile from the house; and yet I see, as vividly as I at this moment see the landscape from the window at which I am now writing, the features of that beautiful and secluded domain, – the antique stone bridge, – the rushing stream, the wooded banks, – and, above all, the owner, coming towards me with his own benevolent smile and sparkling eyes. I recollect the very grey hat he used to wear, with a bit of the rim torn, and the pepper-and-salt short coat, and the white neckcloth sprinkled with snuff. No one could, or ever did, tire in Mr. Erskine’s company, He was society equally for the child and for the grown man. He would first take me to see his garden, where, being one day surprised by a friend while digging potatoes, he made the now well-known remark, that he was enjoying otium cum diggin a tautie, (the Scottish word for potato). He would then take me to his melon bed, which we never left without a promise of having one after dinner; and then he would carry me to see the pony, and the great dog upon which his grandson used to ride. Like most men of elegant and cultivated minds, Mr. Erskine was an amateur in music, and himself no indifferent performer on the violin. I think I scarcely ever entered the hall along with him that he did not take down his Cremona – a real one, I believe, which hung on the wall, and, seating himself in one of the wooden chairs, play some snatches of old English or Scottish airs; – sometimes ‘Let’s have a dance upon the heath,’ an air from the music in Macbeth, which he used to say was by Purcel, and not by Locke, to whom it has usually been ascribed – sometimes, ‘The flowers of the forest,’ of ‘Auld Robin Gray’ – and sometimes the beautiful Pastoralé from the eighth concerto of Coreilli, for whose music he had an enthusiastic admiration. But the greatest treat to me was when, after dinner, he took down from the top of his bookcase, where it lay behind a bust, I thin, of Mr. Fox, his manuscript book full of jeux d’esprit, charades, bon mots, Uc., all his own composition. Few men have ever enjoyed a wider reputation for wit than the Hon. Henry Erskine; the epithet then, and even now, applied to him, par excellence, is that of the witty Harry Erskine; and I do believe that all the puns and bon mots which have been put into his mouth, – some of them, no doubt, having originally come out if it, – would eke out a handsome duodecimo. I well recollect that nothing used to distress me so much as not perceiving at once the point of any of Mr. Erskine’s witticisms. Sometimes, half an hour after the witticism had been spoken, I would begin to giggle, having only then discovered the gist of the saying. In this, however, I was not singular. While Mr. Erskine practised at the bar, it was his frequent custom to walk after the rising of the courts, in the Meadows; and he was often accompanied by Lord Balmuto, one of the judges, a very good kind of man, but not particularly quick in his perception of the ridiculous, His lordship never could discover at first the pint of Mr. Erskine’s wit; and, after walking a mile or two perhaps, and long after Mr. Erskine had forgotten the saying, Lord Balmuto would suddenly cry out, ‘I have you now, Harry – i have you now, Harry!’ – stopping, and bursting into an immoderate fit of laughter.”

      When Mr. John Wright, who had been bred a shoemaker, but afterwards became a lecturer on law, applied in 1781, to be admitted a member of the faculty of advocates, some opposition was shown to his admission by the vice-dean of faculty, Mr., afterwards Lord Swinton, and others, which was thought to have originated in their objections to Mr. Wright’s humble birth. Mr. Wright, however, was ably supported by Mr. Erskine, and was ultimately, in January 1783, admitted advocate. It was said that Mr. Erskine had entered the opposition so much that they at last yielded. After listening to their observations – “Well, well,” said he, “they say I am the son of the earl of Buchan, – and you (pointing to one) are the son of the laird of -----;” and thus going over the whole opposition in a strain of inimitable and biting sarcasm, he would up the enumeration in his usual forcible manner – “Therefore no thanks to us for being here; because the learning we have got has been hammered into our brains! – whereas, all Mr. Wright’s has been acquired by himself; therefore he has more merit than us all. However, if any of you can put a question to Mr. Wright that he cannot answer, I will hold that to be a good objection. But, otherwise, it would be disgraceful to our character as Scotsmen were such an act of exclusion recorded in the books of this Society. Were he the son of a beggar, did his talents entitle him, he has a right to the highest distinction in the land.” Mr. Wright was the author of a work on mathematics, which brought him a very considerable sum. This he entered in Stationers’ Hall; but as the law then only secured copyrights for seven years, at the end of that period he had the mortification to find his treatise inserted in the Encyclopedia Britannica, without permission sought or obtained. Mr. Wright was so much offended at this appropriation of his property that he seriously contemplated bringing the case before the court of session, but he was dissuaded from this step by his friend Mr. Erskine, who, in his usual strain of pleasantry, told him, ‘”just to wait the expiry of other seven years, and then, to retaliate, by printing the whole of the Encyclopedia along with his own work.” On the day after Wright’s death, which took place in 1813, Mr. Sheriff Anstruther, on meeting Mr. Erskine, said, “Well! Harry, poor Johnny Wright is dead.” “Is he?” exclaimed Henry. “He died very poor. They say he has left no effects.” “That is not surprising,” was the rejoinder, “as he had no causes, he could have no effects.

      “The character of Mr. Erskine’s eloquence,” says one who knew him long and intimately, “bore a strong resemblance to that of his noble brother, Lord Erskine, but being much less diffusive, it was better calculated to leave a forcible impression: he had the art of concentrating his ideas, and presenting them at once in so luminous and irresistible a form, as to render his hearers masters of the view he took of his subject; which, however dry or complex in its nature, never failed to become entertaining and instructive in his hands; for, to professional knowledge of the highest order, he united a most extensive acquaintance with history, literature, and science, and a thorough conversancy with human life and moral and political philosophy. In the most rapid of his flights, when his tongue could scarce keep pace with his thoughts, he never failed to seize the choicest words in the treasury of our language. The apt, beautiful, and varied images which constantly decorated his judicial addresses, suggested themselves instantaneously, and appeared, like the soldiers of Cadmus, in complete armour and array to support the cause of their creator, the most remarkable feature of whose eloquence was, that it never made him swerve by one hair-breadth from the minute details most befitting his purpose; for, with matchless skill, he rendered the most dazzling oratory subservient to the uses of consummate special pleading, so that his prudence and sagacity as an advocate were as decisive as his speeches were splendid. For many years of his life, Mr. Erskine had been the victim of ill health, but the native sweetness of his temper remained unclouded, and during the painfully protracted sufferings of his last illness, the language of complaint was never hears to escape his lips, nor the shadow of discontent seen to cloud his countenance! ‘Nothing in his life became him, like the leaving it.’ He looked patiently forward to the termination of his painful existence, and received with mild complacency the intelligence of his danger, while the ease and happiness of those, whose felicity through life had been his primary consideration, were never absent from his thoughts.”

      Mr. Erskine was twice married; first to Christina, only daughter of George Fullarton, Esq., collector of customs at Leith, by whom he had three daughters, and two sons, Henry, who succeeded as earl of Buchan, and George; and secondly, to Mrs. Turnbull, formerly Miss Munro, by whom he had no issue. – Kay’s Edinburgh Portraits. – Edinburgh Ann. Register. 1819.

ERSKINE, THOMAS, LORD ERSKINE, a distinguished pleader, was the third and youngest son of David Henry, tenth earl of Buchan, by, as already states, his countess Agnes, daughter of Sir James Steuart of Coltness, baronet, a woman of highly cultivated mind, the sister of Sir James Steuart, whose scientific writings, especially upon political philosophy, have rendered his name celebrated. He was born, according to ‘Douglas’ Peerage,’ on the 10th of January, 1749, old style; but Lord Campbell, in his ‘Lives of the Chancellors,’ makes the date a year later. He says: “On the 10th of January, 1750, in a small and ill-furnished room in an upper ‘flat’ of a very lofty house in the old town of Edinburgh first saw the light the Hon. Thomas Erskine, the future defender of Stockdale, and lord Chancellor of Great Britain.” The latter is correct, and the alteration of the style would make the date of his birth the 21st of January 1750. He received the rudiments of his education at the high school of Edinburgh. His father and mother having, for the sake of economy, removed, in the beginning of 1762, with their family to St. Andrews, he completed his studies at the university of that town. His father had a numerous family, with a reduced fortune, his income at one period not exceeding £200 a-year. A profession was in consequence the only resource for both him and his second brother, the Hon. Henry Erskine; and it is singular that each of them became the most eloquent and successful advocate at the bar to which he belonged.

      At first, Thomas was destined for the naval service, and, accordingly, embarking at Leith, went to sea, as a midshipman, with Sir John Lindsay, a nephew of the celebrated earl of Mansfield, and, from that period, did not revisit Scotland till a few years before his death. Though he acted for a short time as a lieutenant, through the friendship of his commanding officer, he never rose higher than a midshipman, and, after a service of four years, cruising about in the West Indies and on the coast of America, his ship was ordered home, and on its arrival at Portsmouth, it was paid off. On applying at the admiralty he was told that on account of the great number of midshipmen who had served longer than him, and whose friends were applying for their promotion, he could not yet obtain a lieutenant’s commission, and there was no saying when his turn might come. He indignantly resolved not to go to sea again as a midshipman, after having served as a lieutenant. He now determined to try the army, and through the recommendation of John Duke of Argyle, colonel of the Scots Royals, or first regiment of foot, he obtained an ensign’s commission in that corps at the regulation price, which absorbed the whole of his patrimony. On 29th May 1770 he married his first wife, Frances, daughter of Daniel Moore, Esq., M.P., with whom he received no fortune, and soon after he went with his regiment to Minorca, where he remained two years.

      While in that island he devoted himself to obtaining a thorough acquaintance with English literature, and made himself familiar with Milton, Shakspeare, Dryden, Pope, and other eminent British poets. “He likewise,” says his biographer, Lord Campbell, “showed the versatility of his powers by acting as chaplain to the regiment, the real chaplain being at home on furlough by reason of ill health. At first he contented himself with reading the service from the Liturgy, but he found that this was not altogether relished by the men, who were chiefly Presbyterians. Thereupon, his mind being imbued with the religious notions implanted in it by his mother and the godly divines whom she patronised, he would favour them with an extempore prayer, and he composed sermons, which he delivered to them with great solemnity and unction from the drumhead. He used always to remember and to talk of this portion of his life with peculiar satisfaction.” In after-life it was his boast that he had been a sailor and a soldier, a parson and a lawyer.

      On the return of the regiment from Minorca in 1772, Erskine obtained leave of absence for nearly six months. This space he spent chiefly in London, where he became acquainted with Dr. Johnson, Sir Joshua Reynolds, the bishop of St. Asaph, Dr. Burney, and other celebrated wits of the day; and acquired considerable reputation for the acuteness and versatility of his conversational powers. In Boswell’s Life of Johnson it is recorded of him that he even ventured to controvert some of the opinions of the literary giant, particularly in conversing on the merits of Fielding and Richardson, when Erskine defended the former, whom Johnson, in his characteristic manner, styled a “blockhead: and a “barren rascal.” During this year (1772) he published a pamphlet on the Abuses of the Army, without his name, which created no small sensation at the time. On the 21st April 1773, he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant, but having no money to purchase higher commissions, he became discontented with his position and prospects, and in August 1774 he formed the resolution to study for the bar. Lord Campbell relates that he was led to this determination by the following circumstance: ‘It so happened,” says his lordship, “that the assizes were held in the town in which he was quartered. The longing lieutenant entered the court in his regimentals. Lord Mansfield, the presiding judge, inquired who he was, and finding that this was the youngest son of the late earl of Buchan, who had sailed with his nephew, invited him to sit on the bench by his side, explained to h im the nature of the proceedings that were going forward, and showed him the utmost civility. Erskine heard a cause of considerable interest tried, in which the counsel were supposed to display great eloquence. Never undervaluing his own powers he thought within himself that he could have made a better speech than any of them, on whichever side he had been retained. Yet these gentlemen were the leaders of the circuit, each making a larger income than the pay of all the officers of the Royals put together, – with the chance of being raised by their own abilities to the Woolsack. The thought then suddenly struck him that it might not even now be too late for him to study the law, and be called to the bar. Lord Mansfield invited him to dinner, and being greatly struck with his conversation, and pleased with his manners, detained him till late in the evening. When the rest of the company had withdrawn, the lieutenant, who ever showed great moral courage, in consideration of the connection between the Murrays and the Erskines, and the venerable earl’s great condescension and kindness, disclosed to him his plan of a change of profession, with a modest statement of his reasons. Lord Mansfield by no means discouraged him; but advised him before he took a step so serious to consult his near relations. He accordingly wrote to his mother, and she, justly appreciating the energy and perseverance as well as the enthusiasm belonging to his nature, strongly advised him to quit the army for the law. His brothers did not oppose, – although Henry warned him of the thorny and uphill path on which he was entering. His resolution was now firmly taken, and he came up to London to carry it into effect. It was not till the spring of the following year that financial difficulties were so far removed as to render it possible for him to make the experiment. The period of five years was then required by all the inns of court for a student to be on the books of the society, before he could be called, – with this proviso, that it was reduced to three years for those who had the degree of M.A. from either of the universities of Oxford or Cambridge. It was resolved that Erskine should immediately be entered of an inn of court; that he should likewise be matriculated at Cambridge, and take a degree there; that he should keep his academical and law terms concurrently, and that as soon as it could be managed, he should become a pupil to some eminent special pleader, so as to be well grounded in the technicalities of his new craft. Accordingly, on the 26th day of April 1775, he was admitted a student of Lincoln’s Inn, and on the 13th of January 1776, he was matriculated at Cambridge, and entered on the books of Trinity college as a gentleman commoner, with the privilege of wearing a hat. He had rooms in college, in which he resided the requisite periods to keep his terms, but being entitled to a degree without examination, he paid no attention to the peculiar studies of the place. But he still assiduously applied to belles lettres, and practised English composition both in verse and prose. He gained some applause by a burlesque parody of Gray’s Bard. The ode is not very remarkable for poetical excellence; but he gained the prize given by the college for English declamation. The subject which he chose was the revolution of 1688. He took the honorary degree of A.M. in June 1778. While still a student at Cambridge he contrived to keep his terms at Lincoln’s Inn. He had not yet actually quitted the army, having obtained sic months’ leave of absence. It is said that during Easter and Trinity terms he excited a great sensation in the dining hall by appearing with a student’s black gown over the scarlet regimentals of the Royals, probably not having a decent suit of plain clothes to put on. He obtained a supply of cash by the sale of his lieutenancy on the 19th September 1775.

      In order to acquire the requisite knowledge of the technical part of his new profession, he became a pupil of Judge Buller, then an eminent special pleader. On the promotion of Mr. Buller to the bench, he went into the office of Mr., afterwards Baron Wood, where he continued for a year after he had obtained considerable business at the bar, to which he was called on the 3d of July, in the end of Trinity term 1778.

      At this period, and for three years after his retirement from the army, he was in great pecuniary straits. With an increasing family, and the necessary expenses he incurred in preparing for the bar, notwithstanding the strictest economy, and the kind assistance of some of his friends, he was often put to his shifts for a dinner. He dressed shabbily, resided in small lodgings near Hampstead, and lived chiefly on cow-beef and tripe, because he could not afford anything better. Reynolds, the comic writer, who in his ‘Life and Times’ mentions these particulars, states, that he expressed the greatest gratitude to Mr. Harris, the manager of Covent Garden theatre, for occasional free admissions to that place of entertainment. He was in the habit of taking part in the debates at the Robin Hood, coachmaker’s Hall, and other spouting clubs, which were attended by all sorts of people, where each person paid sixpence, and over the glass of porter or gin and water which was received in return, political, legal, and literary subjects were publicly discussed.

      In the succeeding Michaelmas term, an opportunity was afforded him of distinguishing himself in Westminster Hall. He had been accidentally introduced, at the table of a friend, to Captain Baillie, who had been suspended from the superintendence of Greenwich Hospital, by the earl of Sandwich, then first lord of the admiralty; and the attorney-general having been instructed to move for leave to file a criminal information against that gentleman for an alleged libel on the noble earl, having stated that, for electioneering purposes, his lordship had placed in the hospital a great number of landsmen, Mr. Erskine was retained to oppose the motion. There were four other counsel on the same side, and he bring the junior was apprehensive that he would not have an opportunity to speak. Fortunately for him, however, the court adjourned before the case was finished, and next morning he made that display of his powers which at once established his reputation. In the course of his speech, the young advocate hesitated not to attack the noble earl in very indignant terms: “The defendant,” he said, “is not a disappointed malicious informer, prying into official abuses because without office himself, but himself a man in office; not troublesomely inquisitive into other men’s departments, but conscientiously correcting his own; – doing it pursuant to the rules of law, and what heightens the character, doing it at the risk of his office, from which the effrontery of power has already suspended him without proof of his guilt: – a conduct not only unjust and illiberal, but highly disrespectful to this court, whose judges sit in the double capacity of ministers of the law, and governors of this sacred and abused institution. Indeed, Lord Sandwich has, in my mind, acted such a part” . . . Here Lord Mansfield, observing Mr. Erskine heated with his subject, and growing personal on the first lord of the admiralty, told him that Lord Sandwich was not before the court. “I know that he is not formally before the court,” said the bold and indignant counsel, “but for that very reason I shall bring him before the court. He has placed these men in front of the battle, in hopes to escape under their shelter; but I will not join in battle with them; their vices, though screwed up to the highest pitch of human depravity, are not of dignity enough to vindicate the combat with me. I will drag him to light who is the dark mover behind this scene of iniquity. I assert that the earl of Sandwich has but one road to escape out of this business without pollution and disgrace; and that is, by publicly disavowing the acts of the prosecutors, and restoring Captain Baillie to his command. If he does this, then his offence will be no more than the too common one of having suffered his own personal interest to prevail over his public duty, in placing his voters in the hospital. But if, on the contrary, he continues to protect the prosecutors, in spite of the evidence of their guilt, which has excited the abhorrence of the numerous audience that crown this court; if he keeps this injured man suspended, or dares to turn that suspension into a removal, I shall then not scruple to declare him an accomplice in their guilt, – a shameless oppressor, a disgrace to his rank, and a traitor to his trust.” The rule was discharged with costs, and such was the impression made by Captain Baillie’s counsel, Mr. Erskine, on this his first appearance as an advocate, that, on leaving the court, he received no less than thirty retainers from attorneys who happened to be present on the occasion.

      In January 1779 he was engaged as counsel in the famous court-martial held at Portsmouth, on Admiral Keppel, to try the charges brought against him by Sir Hugh Palliser, of incapacity and misconduct in the battle of Ushant, with the French fleet under the command of Count d’Orvilliers. Mr. Erskine was engaged for the defence on the recommendation of Mr. Dunning, as in addition to his abilities, he had the advantage of understanding naval language and naval manoeuvres. The trial lasted thirteen days, during all which time Erskine exerted himself for his client with unabated zeal and consummate discretion. He was not allowed to examine the witnesses, nor to address the court, but he suggested questions which were put in writing; and he composed the speech which Admiral Keppel delivered on the merits of his case. The admiral was unanimously and honourable acquitted, and he immediately enclosed to his counsel, Mr. Erskine, the munificent present of a thousand pounds.

      In the following May he appeared at the bar of the House of Commons as counsel for Mr. Carnan, the bookseller, against a bill introduced by Lord North, then prime minister, to re-vest in the two English universities the monopoly in almanacs, which Mr. Carnan had succeeded in abolishing by legal judgments; and by his eloquence he prevailed on the House to reject the bill. His reputation was now so much established, that he was henceforth engaged in all the most important causes that took place during a period of twenty-five years. His defence of Lord George Gordon, whose trial for high treason came on in the court of King’s Bench, before Lord Mansfield and his brethren, February 5, 1771, placed him immeasurably above all the law orators of the day. In it he completely overthrew the doctrine of constructive treason, and its effect on the audience who heard it, and the tribunal to which it was addressed, was overwhelming. A singular passage, to be found in his speech on this occasion, says the Reviewer of Erskine’s speeches in the 16th volume of the ‘Edinburgh Review,’ “affords a great contrast to the calm and even mild tone of its peroration. It is indeed, as far as we know, the only instance of the kind in the history of modern eloquence; and we might justly have doubted, if even Mr. Erskine’s skill, and well-known discretion as a public speaker, had not forsaken him, and allowed his heat and fancy to hurry him somewhat too far, had we not, in the traditional account of the perfect success which attended this passage, the most unequivocal evidence in his favour. After reciting a variety of circumstances in Lord George’s conduct, and quoting the language which he used, the orator suddenly, abruptly, and violently breaks out with this exclamation – ‘I say, by God, that man is a ruffian, who shall, after this, presume to build upon such honest, artless conduct, as an evidence of guilt!’ The sensation produced by these words, and by the magic of the voice, the eye, the face, the figure, and all we call the manner, with which they were uttered, is related, by those present on this great occasion, to have been quite electrical, and to baffle all power of description. The feeling of the moment alone, – that sort of sympathy which subsists between an observant speaker and his audience, – which communicates to him, as he goes on, their feelings under what he is saying, – deciphers the language of their looks, – and even teaches him, without regarding what he sees, to adapt his words to the state of their minds, by merely attending to his own, – this intuitive and momentary impulse could alone have prompted a flight, which it alone could sustain; and, as its failure would indeed have been fatal, so its eminent success must be allowed to rank it among the most famous feats of oratory,” The jury acquitted Lord George, and all reasonable men rejoiced at the verdict.

      In May 1783 Mr. Erskine received a silk gown, when he had scarcely been five years at the bar. He usually practised in the court of King’s Bench, and in the early part of his professional career he belonged to the Home Circuit, but soon ceased to attend it, or any other, except on special retainers, of which it is said that he received more than any man in his time. His fee for a special retainer was not less than £300. The same year (1783) he was elected M.P. for Portsmouth, and unanimously rechosen for the same borough on every succeeding election, until raised to the peerage. The rights of juries he firmly maintained on all occasions, but particularly in the trial of the dean of St. Asaph, who was indicted in 1783, for a seditious libel, in having caused to be republished a tract, written by Sir William Jones, recommending parliamentary reform. The trial was postponed till the summer assizes at Salop in 1784, when Mr. Justice Buller refused to receive the verdict of “Guilty of publishing only.” Mr. Erskine insisted on the word “only” being recorded, when the judge said, “Sit down, Sir; remember your duty, or I shall be obliged to proceed in another manner.” On which Mr. Erskine replied, “Your lordship may proceed in what manner you think fit. I know my duty as well as your lordship knows yours. I shall not alter my conduct.” In allusion to the threat of the judge, he thus concluded his argument; – “It was the first command and counsel of my youth, always to do what my conscience told me to be my duty, and to leave the consequences to God. I shall carry with me the memory, and, I trust, the practice, of this parental lesson to my grave. I have hitherto followed it, and have no reason to complain that my obedience to it has been even a temporal sacrifice. I have found it, on the contrary, the road to prosperity and wealth; and I shall point it out as such to my children.” In the ensuing Michaelmas, on the ground of misdirection, Mr. Erskine moved for a new trial. On this occasion he went into an elaborate argument to prove that it was the office of the jury, not of the judges, to pronounce upon the intention and tendency of an alleged libel; and to him is ascribed the honour of having prepared the way for the libel bill, introduced by Mr. Fox in 1792, and seconded by himself, in which the rights and province of the jury are clearly defined, and the position established, for which he, in a small minority of his professional brethren, had contended. This, as has been well remarked, was a triumph of which the oldest and most practised lawyer might well have been proud.

      His most celebrated argument on the law of libel was that delivered in Percival Stockdale’s case in 1789. Mr. Stockdale, a respectable bookseller in London, had published a pamphlet written by Mr. John Logan the poet, in defence of Warren Hastings, in the course of which he had ventured to animadvert very unguardedly on the conduct of the managers of the impeachment then carrying on against the ex-governor of India. The managers complained of this, and the publisher was tried before Lord Kenyon and a special jury, in the court of king’s bench at Westminster, on an information filed by the attorney-general. On this occasion, Mr. Erskine, as counsel for Mr. Stockdale, delivered what the Edinburgh reviewer has pronounced to be “the finest of all his orations, – whether we regard the wonderful skill with which the argument is conducted, – the soundness of the principles laid down, and their happy application to the case, – or the exquisite fancy with which they are embellished and illustrated, – and the powerful and touching language in which they are conveyed. It is justly regarded, by all English lawyers, as a consummate specimen of the art of addressing a jury; – as a standard, a sort of precedent for treating cases of libel, by keeping which in his eye, a man may hope to succeed in special pleading his client’s case within its principle, who is destitute of the talent required even to comprehend the other and higher merits of his original. By those merits it is recommended to lovers of pure diction, – of copious and animated description, – of lively, picturesque, and fanciful illustration, – of all that constitutes, if we may so speak, the poetry of eloquence, – all for which we admire it, when prevented from enjoying its music and its statuary.”

      The fact of the publication being admitted, Mr. Erskine proceeded to address the jury, and after some introductory observations he burst out with the following eloquent passage: “Gentlemen, the question you have therefore to try upon all this matter is extremely simple. – It is neither more nor less than this. – At a time when the charges against Mr. Hastings were, by the implied consent of the commons, in every hand, and on every table; – when, by their managers, the lightning of eloquence was incessantly consuming him, and flashing in the eyes of the public; – when every man was with perfect impunity saying, and writing, and publishing just what he pleased of the supposed plunderer and devastator of nations – would it have been criminal in Mr. Hastings himself to have reminded the public that he was a native of this free land, entitled to the common protection of her justice, and that he had a defence in his turn to offer to them, the outlines of which he implored them in the mean time to receive, as an antidote to the unlimited and unpunished poison in circulation against him? – This is, without colour or exaggeration, the true question you are to decide. Because I assert, without the hazard of contradiction, that if Mr. Hastings himself could have stood justified or excused in your eyes for publishing this volume in his own defence, the author, if he wrote it bona fide to defend him, must stand equally excused and justified; and if the author be justified, the publisher cannot be criminal, unless you had evidence that it was published by him with a different spirit and intention from those in which it was written. The question therefore is correctly what I just now stated it to be: could Mr. Hastings have been condemned to infamy for writing this book? Gentlemen, I tremble with indignation to be driven to put such a question in England. Shall it be endured, that a subject of this country (instead of being arraigned and tried for some single act in her ordinary courts, where the accusation, as soon at least as it is made public, is followed within a few hours by the decision) may be impeached by the commons for the transactions of twenty years, – that the accusation shall spread as wide as the region of letters, – that the accused shall stand, day after day, and year after year, as a spectacle before the public, which shall be kept in a perpetual state of inflammation against h im; yet that he shall not, without the severest penalties, be permitted to submit anything to the judgment of mankind in his defence? If this be law (which it is for you to-day to decide), such a man has no trial: that great hall, built by our fathers for English justice, is no longer a court but an altar; – and an Englishman, instead of being judged in it by God and his country, is a victim and a sacrifice.”

      On the merits of the work, it was his argument that the tenor of the whole, and the intentions of the writer were to be regarded, and that if these should be found praiseworthy, or innocent, the introduction of a few detached passages, which, taken separately, might seem calculated to bring the House of Commons into contempt, were altogether insufficient to justify conviction. Among other things urged in defence of Mr. Hastings in the pamphlet was the nature of his instructions from his constituents. Commenting on this, he proceeded as follows: “If this be a wilfully false account of the instructions given to Mr. Hastings for his government, and of his conduct under them, the author and publisher of this defence deserve the severest punishment, for a mercenary imposition on the public. But, if it be true, that he was directed to make the safety and prosperity of Bengal the first object of his attention, and that under his administration it has been safe and prosperous; if it be true that the security and preservation of our possessions and revenues in Asia were marked out to him as the great leading principle of his government, and that those possessions and revenues, amidst unexampled dangers, have been secured and preserved; then a question may be unaccountably mixed with your consideration, much beyond the consequences of the present prosecution, involving perhaps the merit of the impeachment itself which gave it birth; a question which the Commons, as prosecutors of Mr. Hastings, should, in common prudence, have avoided; unless, regretting the unwieldy length of their prosecution against them, they wished to afford him the opportunity of this strange anomalous defence. For although I am neither his counsel, nor desire to have anything to do with his guilt or innocence, yet in the collateral defence of my client I am driven to state matter which may be considered my many as hostile to the impeachment. For if our dependencies have been secured, and their interests promoted, I am driven in the defence of my client to remark that it is man and preposterous to bring to the standard of justice and humanity, the exercise of a dominion founded upon violence and terror. It may, and must be true that Mr. Hastings has repeatedly offended against the rights and privileges of Asiatic government, if he was the faithful deputy of a power which could not maintain itself for an hour without trampling upon both; he may and must have offended against the laws of God and nature, if he was the faithful viceroy of an empire wrested in blood from the people to whom God and nature had given it; he may and must have preserved that unjust dominion over timorous and abject nations by a terrifying, overbearing, insulting superiority, if he was the faithful administrator of your government, which, having no root in consent or affection, no foundation in similarity of interests, nor support from any one principle which cements men together in society, could only be upheld by alternate stratagem and force. The unhappy people of India, feeble and effeminate as they are from the softness of their climate, and subdued and broken as they have been by the knavery and strength of civilization, still occasionally start up in all the vigour and intelligence of insulted nature. When governed at all, they must be governed with a rod of iron; and our empire in the East would long since have been lost to Great Britain, if civil skill and military prowess had not united their efforts, to support an authority which Heaven never gave, by means which it can never sanction.

      “Gentlemen, I think I can observe that you are touched with this way of considering the subject, and I can account for it. I have not been considering it through the cold medium of books, but have been speaking of man and his nature, and of human dominion, from what I have seen of them myself among reluctant nations submitting to our authority. I know what they feel, and how such feelings can alone be repressed. I have heard them in my youth, from a naked savage, in the indignant character of a prince surrounded by his subjects, addressing the governor of a British colony, holding a bundle of sticks in his hand, as the notes of his unlettered eloquence. ‘Who is it,’ said the jealous ruler over the desert, encroached upon by the restless foot of English adventure; ‘who is it that causes this river to rise in the high mountains, and to empty itself into the ocean? Who is it that causes to blow the loud winds of winter, and that clams them again in the summer? Who it is that rears up the shade of these lofty forests, and blasts them with the quick lightning at his pleasure? The same Being who gave to you a country on the other side of the waters, and gave our to us; and by this title we will defend it,’ said the warrior, throwing down his tomahawk on the ground, and raising the war-cry of his nation. These are the feelings of subjugated man all round the globe; and depend upon it, nothing but fear will control, where it is vain to look for affection. These reflections are the only antidotes to those anathemas of superhuman eloquence which have lately shaken these walls that surround us; but which it unaccountably falls to my province, whether I will or no, a little to stem the torrent of, by reminding you, that you have a mighty sway in Asia which cannot be maintained by the finer sympathies of life, or the practice of its charities and affections. What will they do for you when surrounded by two hundred thousand men with artillery, cavalry, and elephants, calling upon you for their dominions which you have robbed them of? Justice may, no doubt, in such a case forbid the levying of a fine to pay a revolting soldiery; a treaty may stand in the way of increasing a tribute to keep up the very existence of the government; and delicacy for women may forbid all entrance into a zenana for money; whatever may be the necessity for taking it. All these things must ever be occurring. But under the pressure of such constant difficulties, so dangerous to national honour, it might be better perhaps to think of effectually securing it altogether, by recalling our troops and merchants, and abandoning our oriental empire. Until this be done, neither religion nor philosophy can be pressed very far into the aid of reformation and punishment. If England, from a lust of ambition and dominion, will insist on maintaining despotic rule over distant and hostile nations, beyond all comparison more numerous and extended than herself, and gives commission to her viceroys to govern them, with no other instructions than to preserve them, and to secure permanently their revenues; with what colour of consistency or reason can she place herself in the moral chair, and affect to be shocked at the execution of her own orders; adverting to the exact measure of wickedness and injustice necessary to their execution, and complaining only of the excess as the immorality; considering her authority as a dispensation for breaking the commands of God, and the breach of them only punishable when contrary to the ordinances of man. Such a proceeding, gentlemen, begets serious reflections. It would be better perhaps for the masters and the servants of all such governments to join in supplication, that the great Author of violated humanity may not confound them together in one common judgment.” The jury in Stockdale’s case, after two hours’ deliberation, returned a verdict of not guilty.

      The spirit and independence exhibited by him on every occasion led to his being employed in defence of most of the parties who were prosecuted for sedition or libel by the government. In 1792, being retained in behalf of Thomas Paine, when proceeded against for the publication of the second part of his ‘Rights of Man,’ he declared that, waiving all personal considerations, he deemed it incumbent on him, as an English advocate, to obey the call; in consequence of which he was suddenly dismissed from his office of attorney-general to the prince of Wales. Five years afterwards he conducted the prosecution of the ‘Age of Reason,’ when Williams the publisher was found guilty and condemned to a year’s imprisonment.

      One of the most brilliant, as well as most arduous, events in Mr. Erskine’s professional life, arose out of the part cast upon him, in conjunction with Mr., afterwards Sir Vicary Gibbs, on the trials of Hardy, Horne Tooke, and others, for high treason in 1794. The prisoners were tried separately, Hardy being the first. They were charged with compassing the death of the king, the evidence of this intention being a conspiracy to subvert by force the constitution of the country, under pretence of procuring, by legal means, a reform of the house of commons. Mr. Erskine was their counsel, and as in the case of Lord George Gordon, he completely overthrew the doctrine of constructive treason attempted to be established, and showed that their ostensible object, so far from necessarily involving any evil designs, was one which had been advocated by the earl of Chatham, Mr. Burke, and Mr. Pitt himself; and that the very measures of reform which it was sought to introduce had been openly avowed and inculcated by the duke of Richmond, then holding office in the ministry of which Mr. Pitt was chief. The prisoners were successively acquitted, and the other state prosecutions were then abandoned. On the conclusion of these trials the public gratitude to Mr. Erskine showed itself in the strongest manifestations of popularity. “On the last night of the trials,” says Lord Campbell, “his horses were taken from his chariot – amidst bonfires and blazing flambeaux, he was drawn home by the huzzaing populace to his house in Serjeant’s Inn, – and they obeyed his injunction, when addressing them from a window, with Gibbs by his side, he said, – ‘Injured innocence still obtains protection from a British jury, and I am sure, in the honest effusion of your hearts, you will retire in peace and bless God.’ The freedom of many corporations was voted to him, and his portraits and busts were sold in thousands all over Great Britain. What was more gratifying, his speeches for the prisoners were read and applauded by all men of taste, and his political consequence was much enhanced with his party. He now occupied a position as an advocate which no man before had reached, and which no man hereafter is ever likely to reach at the English bar.” These trials lasted for several weeks, and the ability and energy displayed by Mr. Erskine on this eventful occasion were readily acknowledged by all parties.

      He was a warm supporter of Mr. Fox, and a strenuous opposer of the war with France, on which subject he embodied his sentiments in a pamphlet, entitled a ‘View of the Causes and Consequences of the War with France;’ and such was the attraction of his name, that it ran through forty-eight editions. In 1802, the prince of Wales not only restored him to his office of attorney-general, but appointed him chancellor of the duchy of Cornwall. In 1803, on the formation of the volunteer body in the metropolis, he was appointed lieutenant-colonel of the Temple corps of lawyers, generally called “The Devil’s own.”

      On the death of Mr. Pitt in 1806, when a new administration was formed by Lord Grenville, Mr. Erskine was raised to the dignity of lord high chancellor of Great Britain, and created a peer by the title of Lord Erskine of Restormel castle, in Cornwall. On this occasion he took for his motto “Trial by Jury.” His father’s motto was “Judge Nought.” On the dissolution of the ministry in the following March, he retired with the usual pension of £4,000 a-year. The short period during which he presided in the court of chancery makes it difficult to estimate how far his extraordinary powers of mind, and in particular the eminently legal understanding which he possessed, would have enabled him to overcome the difficulties of so new a situation. But none of his judgments were appealed against, except one, and it was affirmed. Over the proceedings in the impeachment of Lord Melville, in 1806, he presided as lord steward, and united the greatest acuteness and readiness with singular firmness of purpose, and all that urbanity which neither in public nor in private life ever quitted him for an instant. In reference to this case it may be said, that to Lord Erskine belongs the merit of showing that this mode of trial may still be so conducted as to prove an efficient safeguard to the constitution, though discredited by the vexations procrastination which had characterized the last instance of its use, in the case of Warren Hastings.

      On quitting the woolsack Lord Erskine retired in a great degree from public life. In 1807 he was one of the principal opposers of the famous ‘Orders in Council’ respecting neutral navigation, which he truly foretold would lead to a war with America; and in the following year he made a speech against the bill for prohibiting the exportation of Jesuit’s bark to the continent of Europe, designed as an act of hostility against France, which both for argument and eloquence is said to have been worthy his most celebrated efforts. In 1809 he introduced into the House of Lords a bill for the prevention of cruelty to animals, which passed that branch of the legislature, but was thrown out by the Commons. In 1815 he was made a knight of the Thistle. In the memorable proceedings of 1820, relative to the Queen’s trial, he took a prominent part against the bill of pains and penalties, and was mainly instrumental in causing it ultimately to be abandoned. Soon after the close of these proceedings he visited Scotland, for the first time since he had left it a midshipman in 1764, and was entertained at a public dinner at Edinburgh, by the principal gentlemen of liberal politics of that city. To this dinner, as a mark of high esteem and respect, he had been specially invited.

      Owing to an unfortunate purchase of land, and other circumstances, his lordship, in the latter years of his life, laboured under considerable pecuniary difficulties; while his former fame was obscured by an unhappy second marriage with a Miss Sarah Buck, and certain eccentricities of conduct which were very incompatible with his age and station. By his first wife, who died 22d December, 1805, he had four sons and four daughters. He had also issue by his second marriage.

      In his leisure hours he occupied himself with editing several of the State Trials. He was the author of the Preface to Mr. Fox’s Collected Speeches, as well as of a political romance, in 2 vols., entitled ‘Armata,’ and some pamphlets in support of the Greek cause. His speeches, on constructive treason, and on subjects relating to the liberty of the press, fill four octavo volumes. A fifth contains his speeches on miscellaneous subjects; among which those of behalf of Hadfield, for shooting at the king, and Mr. Bingham, defendant in a crim. con. case, are especially worthy of attention.

      In the autumn of 1823 he resolved to revisit Scotland, and to pass the ensuing winter there. Accordingly, accompanied by two of his sons, he embarked at Wapping, in a smack, for Leith, there being neither railways nor London steamers in those days. When the ship was opposite Harwich, a violent gale arose, and Lord Erskine was severely attacked with inflammation in the chest. On the ship reaching Scarborough, he was so seriously ill that it was deemed necessary to put him ashore. He rallied to a certain degree, and was able, by easy stages on l and, to reach Almondale (now called Amondell) House, the seat of his nephew near Edinburgh, where, experiencing a relapse, he expired, on the 17th November, 1823, in the 73d year of his age. He was buried in the family burying-place at Uphall, in the county of Linlithgow. Immediately after his decease the members of that profession of which he had been the ornament and the favourite, caused a marble statue of him to be executed, which was placed in the hall of Lincoln’s Inn, where he had presided as chancellor, and where it now stands.

      The consummate talents of this advocate shone in their full lustre in the defence of Hardy and the other parties indicted of high treason in the course of 1794, already alluded to; on which occasion his pleadings were unmatched at the bar. His exertions and his success in these trials have thus been comprehensively described: “His indefatigable patience – his eternal watchfulness – his unceasing labour of body and of mind – the strength of an Herculean constitution – his untameable spirit – a subtlety which the merest pleader might envy – a quickness of intellect which made up for the host he was opposed to; – these were the great powers of the man; and the wonderful eloquence of his speeches is only to be spoken of as second to these. Amidst all the struggles of the constitution, in parliament, in council, and in the field, – there is no one man, certainly, to whose individual exertions it owes so much, as to this celebrated advocate; and if ever a single patriot saved his country from the horrors of a proscription, this man did this deed for us, in stemming the tide of state prosecutions.”

      The most remarkable features of Lord Erskine’s personal character were his egotism and vanity, which increased upon him in the later years of his life, and of which many amusing anecdotes are told. He was fond of pet birds, monkeys, and dogs, and believed in ghosts, apparitions, and the second sight. “Tom Erskine,” says Sir Walter Scott, in his diary, “was positively mad. I have heard him tell a cock and a bull story of having seen the ghost of his father’s servant, John Burnet, with as much gravity as if he believed every word he was saying.”

      He was not ignorant of the little artifices which tend to give effect to a person’s appearance, nor did he deem it undignified to take advantage of them to aid his eloquence. When he went on circuit he examined the court the night before the proceedings, in order to select the most advantageous place for addressing the jury. On the cause being called, the crowded audience were, perhaps, kept waiting a few minutes before the celebrated advocate made his appearance; and when at length he gratified their impatient curiosity, a particularly nice wig and a pair of new yellow gloves distinguished and embellished his person, beyond the ordinary costume of the barristers of the circuit. [Annual Obituary, vol. ix. p. 57.]

      Like his brother Henry, he was much addicted to punning, and Westminster Hall rang with his jokes as much as ever the parliament house of Edinburgh did with the wit of his brother. When at the bar, he was retained as counsel for the proprietors of a stage coach, against whom Polito, the keeper of the wild beasts in Exeter Change, had brought an action for negligence, his portmanteau having been stolen from the boot of the coach behind, he himself having been riding on the box. “Why did he not,” said Erskine, “take a lesson from his own sagacious elephant, and travel with his trunk before him?” The joke produced a verdict for the defendant. Once, on being consulted by the duke of Queensberry, as to whether he could sue a tradesman for a breach of contract about the painting of his house, he wrote his opinion in the following words: “I am of opinion that this action will not lie, unless the witnesses do.”


[portrait of Thomas Lord Erskine]

      In person Lord Erskine possessed many advantages: his features were regular, intelligent, and animated, and his action is said to have been exceedingly graceful. His constitution was remarkably strong; and it was mentioned by himself in the House of Lords as a singular fact, that during the twenty-seven years of his practice he had not been for a dingle day prevented in his attendance on the courts by any indisposition.

      Lord Erskine was, perhaps, the most powerful advocate that ever pleaded at the bar of England; and some leading, but, till his appearance, disputed constitutional doctrines, have been firmly established by his exertions, especially on the two great subjects of constructive treason and the liberty of the press. While, however, as a forensic orator, he had no equal, he was only entitled to a secondary rank as a parliamentary speaker. He was succeeded by his eldest son, David Montagu, at one period minister plenipotentiary at the court of Bavaria.

      The following is a list of his publications:

      Arguments on the Right of Juries, in the Cause of the Dean of St. Asaph, in the Court of King’s Bench. London, 1791, 8vo.

      The whole Proceedings on a Trial of an Information ex officio, by the Attorney-general, against John Stockdale, for a supposed Libel on the House of Commons, in the Court of King’s Bench, before Lord Kenyon. To which is subjoined, an Argument in support of the Right of Juries. 1791, 8vo.

      His speech on the Liberty of the Press. Lond. 1793, 8vo.

      His Speech in Defence of Thomas Hardy and John Horne Tooke, Esq. tried on a Charge of High Treason. London, 1795, 8vo.

      Speeches of the Hon. T. Erskine, and S. Kyd, Esq. on the Trial of T. Williams, for publishing Paine’s Age of Reason; with Lord Kenyon’s Charge to the Jury. Lond. 1797, 8vo.

      A View of the Causes and Consequences of the present War with France. Lond. 1797, 8vo.

      Substance of his Speech in the House of Commons, on a Motion for an Address to the Throne, approving of the Refusal of Ministers to treat with the French Republic. London, 1800, 8vo.

      An Explanation of all the Acts of Parliament relative to the Volunteer Corps. Lond. 1803.

      Speech on Malicious and Wanton Cruelty to Animals. 1809, 8vo.

      The speeches of the Hon. T. Erskine, when at the Bar, on Subjects connected with the Liberty of the Press, and against Constructive Treason. Collected by James Ridgway. Lond. 1810, 3 vols. 8vo.

      Armata, a political romance. 2 vols. 8vo, 1811.

      Speeches of Lord Erskine, when at the Bar, on Miscellaneous Subjects. Lond. 1812, 8vo.

      Letter to Lord Liverpool, a pamphlet in support of the Greeks, 1822.

      Agricultural Distress, a pamphlet, 1823.

ERSKINE, THOMAS ALEXANDER, sixth earl of Kellie, an eminent musical genius, eldest son of Alexander, fifth earl, by his second wife, Janet, daughter of Dr. Archibald Pitcairn, the celebrated physician and poet, was born September 1, 1732, and succeeded his father in 1756. He possessed a considerable share of wit and humour, with abilities that would have distinguished him in any public employment; but he devoted himself almost exclusively to musical science, in which he attained an uncommon degree of proficiency. After receiving his education, he travelled into Germany. Previous to this, we are told, he could scarcely tune his fiddle, but during his residence at Manheim he studied composition with the elder Stamitz, and “practised the violin with such serious application,” says Dr. Burney, in his History of Music, “that, at his return to England, there was no part of theoretical or practical music in which he was not equally well versed with the greatest professors of his time. Indeed, he had a strength of hand on the violin, and a genius for composition, with which few professors are gifted.” Unfortunately, however, led away by the pernicious fashion of the times, his convivial habits were as remarkable as his musical taste, and his almost constant intemperance and dissipation tended seriously to impair his constitution.

      Robertson of Dalmeny, in his ‘Enquiry into the Fine Arts,’ styles the earl of Kellie the greatest secular musician in his line in Britain. “In his works,” he says, “the fervidum ingenium of his country bursts forth, and elegance is mingled with fire. From the singular ardour and impetuosity of his temperament, joined to his German education, under the celebrated Stamitz, and at a time when the German overture or symphony, consisting of a grand chorus of violins and wind instruments, was in its highest vogue, this great composer has employed himself chiefly in symphonies, but in a style peculiar to himself. While others please and amuse, it is his province to rouse and almost overset his hearer. Loudness, rapidity, enthusiasm, announced the earl of Kellie. His harmonies are acknowledged to be accurate and ingenious, admirably calculated for the effect in view, and discovering a thorough knowledge of music. From some specimens, it appears that his talents were not confined to a single style, which had made his admirers regret that he did not apply himself to a greater variety of subjects. He is said to have composed only one song, but that an excellent one. What appears singularly peculiar in this musician is what may be called the velocity of his talents, by which he composed whole pieces of the most excellent music in one night.” His lordship died at Brussels, unmarried, October 9, 1781.


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