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Significant Scots
Sir Francis Grant

GRANT, SIR FRANCES, of Cullen, a judge and political writer, was the son of Archibald Grant of Bellinton, [Such is his paternity, as given in Haig and Brunton’s History of the College of Justice, on the authority of Milne’s genealogical MS. Wodrow, in one of his miscellaneous manuscripts, says, he understood him to be the son of a clergyman.] in the north of Scotland, a cadet of the family of Grant of Grant, the various branches of which, at that period, joined the same political party, which was supported by the subject of this memoir. He was born about the year 1660, and received the elementary part of his education at one of the universities of Aberdeen. He was destined for the profession of the law; and as at that period there were no regular institutions for the attainment of legal knowledge in Scotland, and the eminent schools of law on the continent furnished admirable instruction in the civil law of Rome, on which the principles of the greater part of the Scottish system are founded, - along with most of the aspirants at the Scottish bar, Mr Grant pursued his professional studies at Leyden, where he had the good fortune to be under the auspices of the illustrious commentator John Voet; an advantage by which he is said to have so far profited, that the great civilian retained and expressed for years afterwards a high opinion of his diligence and attainments, and recommended to his other students the example of his young Scottish pupil. He seems indeed to have borne through his whole life a character remarkable for docility, modesty, and unobtrusive firmness, which procured him the countenance and respect of his seniors, and brought him honours to which he did not apparently aspire. Immediately on his return to Scotland, and in consequence of the exhibition of his qualifications at the trial preparatory to his passing at the bar, we find him attracting the notice of Sir George M’Kenzie, then lord advocate, at the head of the Scottish bar, and in the full enjoyment of his wide-spread reputation; a circumstance creditable to the feelings of both, and which must have been peculiarly gratifying to the younger man, from the circumstance of his early displaying a determined opposition to the political measures of the lord advocate. Mr Grant was only twenty-eight years of age, when he took an active part in that memorable convention which sat in the earlier part of the year 1689, to decide on the claims of the prince of Orange; and when older politicians vacillated, and looked to accident for the direction of their future conduct, he boldly adopted his line of politics, and argued strongly, and it would appear not without effect, that the only fit course to pursue, was to bestow on the prince the full right of sovereignty, with those limitations only which a care for the integrity of the constitution might dictate, and without any insidious provisions which might afterwards distract the nation, by a recurrence of the claims of the house of Stuart. His zeal for the cause he had adopted prompted him at that juncture to publish a small controversial work, which he called, "The Loyalist’s Reasons for his giving obedience, and swearing allegiance to the present Government, as being obliged thereto, by (it being founded on) the Laws of God, Nature, and Nations, and Civil, by F. G." In the freedom of modern political discussion, the arguments which were produced as reasons for a change of government would appear a little singular; the whole is a point of law tightly argued, as if fitted to meet the eye of a cool and skilful judge, who has nothing to do but to discover its accordance or disagreement with the letter of the law. The ground, however, upon which he has met his adversaries is strictly of their own choosing, and the advocate for a revolution seems to have adhered with all due strictness to relevancy and sound law. He founds his arguments on certain postulates, from which, and the facts of the case, he deduces that king James had forfeited his superiority, by committing a grand feudal delict against his vassals; and the throne being thus vacated, he shows, in several theses, that the prince of Orange had made a conquest of the same, and had relinquished its disposal to the country, and the country having thus the choice of a ruler, ought to bestow the government on the generous conqueror. The whole is wound up by several corollaries, in a strictly syllogistic form. The reasonings are those of an acute lawyer, well interspersed with authorities from the civil and feudal law; and it may easily be presumed, that such reasoning, when applied judiciously and coolly to the subject, had more effect on the restricted intellect of the age, than the eloquence of Dalrymple, or the energy of Hamilton. Indeed the effect of the work in reconciling the feudalized minds of the Scottish gentry to the alteration, is said to have been practical and apparent; and while the author received honours and emoluments from the crown, his prudence and firmness made him respected by the party he had opposed.

The tide of Mr Grant’s fortune continued to flow with steadiness from the period of this successful attempt in the political world, and he was constantly in the eye of government as a trustworthy person, whose services might be useful for furthering its measures in those precarious times. With such views, a baronetcy was bestowed on him, unexpectedly and without solicitation, in the year 1705, preparatory to the general discussion of the union of the kingdoms; and after the consummation of that measure, he was raised to the bench, where he took his seat as lord Cullen, in the year 1709. He is said to have added to the numberless controversial pamphlets on the union; and if certain pamphlets called "Essays on removing the National prejudices against a union," to which some one has attached his name, be really from his pen, (which, from the circumstance under which they bear to have been written, is rather doubtful,) they show him to have entered into the subject with a liberality of judgment, and an extent of information seldom exhibited in such controversies, and to have possessed a peculiarly acute foresight of the advantages of an interchange of commerce and privileges. Lord Cullen was a warm friend to the church of Scotland, a maintainer of its pristine purity, and of what is more essential than the form, or even the doctrine of any church, the means of preserving its moral influence on the character and habits of the people. "He was," says Wodrow, "very useful for the executing of the laws against immorality." The power of the judicature of a nation over its morality, is a subject to which he seems to have long paid much attention. We find him, in the year 1700, publishing a tract entitled, "A brief account of the Rise, Nature, and Progress of the Societies for the Reformation of manners, &c. in England, with a preface exhorting the use of such Societies in Scotland." This pamphlet embodies an account of the institution and regulation of these societies, by the Rev. Josiah Woodward, which the publisher recommends should be imitated in Scotland. The subject is a delicate and difficult one to a person who looks forward to a strict and impartial administration of the law as a judge, a duty which it is dangerous to combine with that of a discretionary censor morum; but, as a private individual, he proposes, as a just and salutary restraint, that such societies should "pretend to no authority or judicatory power, but to consult and endeavour, in subserviency to the magistracy, to promote the execution of the law, by the respective magistrates;" a species of institution often followed by well-meaning men, but which is not without danger. This tract is curious from its having been published for gratis distribution, and as perhaps the earliest practically moral tract which was published for such a purpose in Scotland. The strict religious feeling of the author afterwards displays itself in a pamphlet, called "A short History of the Sabbath, containing some few grounds for its morality, and cases about its observance; with a brief answer to, or anticipation of, several objections against both;" published in 1705. This production aims its attacks at what the author says are improperly termed the innocent recreations of the Sabbath. It has all the qualifications which are necessary to make it be received within the strictest definition of a polemical pamphlet: authorities are gathered together from all quarters of the world; the sacred text is abundantly adduced; and laboured parallels are introduced, in some cases where there is little doubt of the application, in others where it is somewhat difficult to discover it. Controversial tracts are frequently the most interesting productions of any age: they are the ebullition of the feeling of the time. Called out, generally, by the excitement of a critical state of affairs, and unguarded by the thought and reflection bestowed on a lengthened work, they are, next to speeches accurately reported, the best evidence posterity possesses of the character of a public writer. Those which we have already referred to are anonymous; but we have every reason to believe they have been attributed to the proper quarter; and before we leave the subject, we shall take the liberty of referring to one more tract, which we happened to pick up in the same situation, on a subject which, some years ago, deeply occupied the attention of the public, in a position converse to that in which it was presented to the subject of our memoir. The pamphlet is directed against the restoration of church patronage; and it will be remarked that, from the date of its publication, 1703, it appeared several years previously to the passing of the dreaded measure; it is entitled. "Reasons in defence of the standing Laws about the right of Presentation in Patronages, to be offered against an Act (in case it be) presented, for the alteration thereof: by a member of Parliament." The same spirit of acute legal reasoning on rights and property, and the means by which they are affected, to be found in his arguments on the revolution, here, perhaps with better taste, characterize the author; and they are, at all events, merely the conventional colouring of sound and liberal views maintained with discretion and propriety.

Lord Cullen had, as his companions on the bench, Cockburn of Ormiston, M’Kenzie of Royston, Erskine of Dun, and Pringle of Newhall, under the presidency of Sir Hew Dalrymple, son to the celebrated viscount Stair. In the course of seventeen years, during which he filled the responsible station of a judge, and the more than ordinarily responsible situation of a Scottish judge, he is asserted by his friends to have been impartial in the interpretation of the laws, vigilant in their application, and a protector of the poor and persecuted, and, what is more conducive to the credit of the assertion, no enemy has contradicted it. A character of his manner and qualifications is thus given in rather obscure terms by Wodrow:—"His style is dark and intricate, and so were his pleadings at the bar, and his discourses on the bench. One of his fellow senators tells me he was a living library, and the most ready in citation. When the lords wanted any thing in the civil or canon law to be cast up, or acts of parliament, he never failed them, but turned to the place. He seemed a little ambulatory in his judgment as to church government, but was a man of great piety and devotion, wonderfully serious in prayer, and learning the word." It is not improbable, that by the terms "dark and intricate," the historian means, what would now be expressed by "profound and subtle." The confidence which his friends, and the country in general, reposed in his generosity and justice, is said to have been so deeply felt, that on his intimating an intention to dispose of his paternal estate, and invest the proceeds, along with his professional gains, in some other manner, many decayed families offered their shattered estates for his purchase, in the hope that his legal skill, and undeviating equity, might be the means of securing to them some small remnant of the price—the condition of incumbrance to which they had been long subjected, and the improbability of their being enabled, by the intricate courses of the feudal law, to adjust the various securities, forbidding them to expect such a result by any other measure. On this occasion he purchased the estate of Monymusk, still the property of his descendants, and it is nobly recorded of him, that he used his legal acuteness in classing the various demands against the estate, and compromising with the creditors, so as to be enabled to secure a considerable surplus sum to the vender of a property which was burdened to an amount considerably above its value.

Although acute, however, in his management of the business of others, lord Cullen has borne the reputation of having been a most remiss and careless manager of his own affairs; a defect which seems to have been perceived and rectified by his more prudent and calculating spouse, who bore on her own shoulders the whole burden of the family matters. It is narrated that this sagacious lady, finding that the ordinary care which most men bestow on their own business was ineffectual in drawing her husband’s attention to the proper legal security of his property, was in the habit, in any case where her mind misgave her as to the probable effect of any measure she wished to adopt, of getting the matter represented to him in the form of a "case," on which his opinion was requested as a lawyer.

This excellent and useful man died at Edinburgh on the 23d of March, 1726, of an illness which lasted only two days, but which, from its commencement, was considered mortal, and thus prepared him to meet a speedy death. His friend, Wodrow, stating that the physician had given information of his mortal illness to lord Cullen’s brother-in law, Mr Fordyce, thus records the closing scene:—"Mr Fordyce went to him, and signified so much. My lord, after he had told him, smiled and put forth his hand and took my informer by the hand, and said, Brother, you have brought me the best news ever I heard, and signified he was desirous for death, and how welcome a message this was. He had no great pain, and spoke to the edification of all who came to see him, and that day, and till Wednesday at 12, when he died, was without a cloud, and in full assurance of faith."

Besides the works already mentioned, lord Cullen published "Law, Religion, and Education, considered in three Essays," and "A Key to the Plot, by reflections on the rebellion of 1715." He left behind him three sons and five daughters. His eldest son, Sir Archibald, for some time represented the shire of Aberdeen in parliament. The second, William, was a distinguished ornament of the Scottish bar. He was at one time procurator to the church, and principal clerk to the General Assembly. In 1737, he was appointed solicitor-general, and in 1738, lord advocate, an office which he held during the rebellion of 1745; a period which must have tried the virtue of the occupier of such a situation, but which has left him the credit of having, in the words of lord Woodhouselee, performed his duties, "regulated by a principle of equity, tempering the strictness of the law." He succeeded Grant of Elchies on the bench in 1754, taking his seat as lord Prestongrange, and afterwards became lord justice clerk. He was one of the commissioners for improving the fisheries and manufactures of Scotland, and afterwards one of the commissioners for the annexed estates. He died at Bath, in 1764.

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