Bruce, Alexander (DNB00)
|←Broxholme, Noel||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 07
BRUCE, ALEXANDER, second Earl of Kincardine (d. 1681), was the second son of Sir George Bruce of Culross, and succeeded his brother Edward in the earldom in 1663. His grandfather, Sir George Bruce, settled at Culross early in the century, and there established extensive salt and coal works, the latter partly under sea, which became the sources of great wealth to the family (Douglas, Scottish Peerage). What part he took in the transactions of the years preceding 1657 is uncertain, but his attachment to presbyterianism is well known (though in 1665 he thinks 'a well ordered episcopacy the best of governments'), and his political principles at that time may be in part gathered from a sentence in one of Robert Moray's letters to him: 'By monarchy you understand tyranny, but I royal government.' He was obliged before 1657 to leave Scotland, and he settled at the White Swan inn at Bremen in that year. A remarkable correspondence, extant in manuscript, which was begun in that year between him and Moray, who, under similar circumstances, had settled at Maestricht, and which was carried on until the death of Moray in 1672, was left in the hands of Mr. David Douglas of Edinburgh in 1864 by Professor Cosmo Innes, and in 1879 handed by Mr. Douglas to the Earl of Elgin. It proves Bruce to have been a man of deep personal religion, of highly refined tastes, and of very wide attainments: medicine, chemistry, classics, mathematics, mechanical appliances of every kind, especially as adapted to his mining enterprises, divinity, heraldry, horticulture, forestry, pisciculture, mining, and the management of estates—these and other subjects of acquired knowledge are discussed with evident knowledge. He was engaged in the Greenland whale fishery, and he possessed quarries of superior stone and of marble, part of which was used at Greenwich, and part in the rebuilding of St. Paul's. After the Restoration he became, upon the introduction of Moray, its first president, one of the leading members of the Royal Society. During 1657 and 1658 Bruce was extremely ill with ague. In the latter year he left Bremen for Hamburg, where he stayed at the house of his countryman, William Grison. At this time, and for some years afterwards, he was engaged, in conjunction with the Dutch mathematician, Hugens de Zulichem, in perfecting and in pushing a new invention for making pendulum clocks more serviceable at sea (Correspondence with Moray). A little later he took up his residence at the Hague, where on 16 June 1659 he married the daughter of M. Somerdyck, who brought him a large fortune (ibid. and Douglas, Scottish Peerage). In January 1660 he was in London, 'at the stone-cutter's house next to Wallingford House, Charing Cross,' but immediately returned to the Hague, where he remained with his father-in-law until the Restoration. In June he was again in London at Devonshire House (Correspondence with Moray). All being now safe in Scotland he returned to Culross, and busied himself with his coal, salt, stone, and marble works. At the same time Burnet's statement that he neglected his private affairs for public work seems to be borne out by one of Robert Moray's letters, dated 22 Aug. 1668. According to Burnet, Bruce had been of great service to Charles while abroad by advancing money. It was only natural, therefore, that he should profit by the Restoration. He was at once admitted to the privy council, where he appears to have stood alone in his opposition to Glencairn and the dominant faction by urging delay, when in 1661 the king sent a letter to the Scotch privy council intimating his intention of reintroducing episcopacy (Douglas, Peerage). The correspondence with Moray continues, but is chiefly confined to purely private matters until August 1665, when James Sharp, who at that time was in opposition to Lauderdale (with whom, through Moray, Kincardine was closely connected), and who was doing his best to slander all connected with his party, informed the king that Kincardine had been present at an unauthorised communion at Tollialoun. Kincardine's pointed letters of remonstrance and Sharp's evasive replies are contained in the Lauderaale MSS. The report at first appears to have lost Kincardine favour at court, but so strongly did Lauderdale and Moray bestir themselves in his interest, that Sharp himself gained great disadvantage from the attempt, and in July 1666, by way of making peace, begged the king to grant Kincardine a large share of the fines (Correspondence with Moray). During the Pentland rebellion, November 1666, he had command of a troop of horse. In 1667, when the treasurership was taken from Rothes and put in commission, Kincardine was one of the commissioners, and was also appointed extraordinary lord of session. His business knowledge and acquaintance with home and foreign trade were of great advantage to his colleagues. Always anxious for good government, he actively assisted in the conciliatory measures upon which Lauderdale was at that time engaged with regard to the covenanters, though he often strongly urged that toleration should be 'given, not taken' (Lauderdale MSS.) In 1672, when Lauderdale began his career of persecution, Kincardine was almost the only one of his former adherents who stayed by him, relying upon his engagement to return to milder measures. One of the chief grievances brought against Lauderdale was that the right of pre-emption of various articles had been bestowed upon his friends to the public loss, and Kincardine helped his cause by abandoning that of salt, which he had held for a considerable time (Lauderdale MSS.) In January 1674 he was for a short while Lauderdale's deputy at Whitehall, during the absence of Lord Halton. During this year, however, he found it impossible to continue to support the duke; his last letter to him is dated 4 July. In compliance with Lauderdale's urgent request, Charles now ordered Kincardine to retire to Scotland. In 1675, according to Mackenzie, who, however, is the only evidence for this, he was expected to succeed Lauderdale as secretary, and came up to London; but through the intrigues of the duchess, who induced Lauderdale to believe that he was coming only to support the threatened impeachment by the House of Commons, and on account of his intimacy with Gilbert Burnet, then in disfavour, he was once more obliged to return to Scotland, where he exerted himself on behalf of the covenanters. For example, he did his best to obtain a just trial for Kirkton, one of the hill preachers, and, in consequence of a letter of complaint from Lauderdale's party, was, by an autograph letter of the king, dated 12 July 1676, dismissed from the Scotch privy council. He appears after this to have taken no further part in politics. In 1678, however, he exerted himself to save the life of Mitchell, who some years previously had made an attempt upon James Sharp, and who was now murdered through the perjury of Rothes, Sharp, and others, and he endeavoured in vain to save Lauderdale from sharing in the guilt of this crime, which was afterwards the chief cause of the duke's fall (Burnet). In May of that year, when in London, he was 'scrapt out of the English council' (Lauderdale MSS.) In February 1680 he is spoken of as being 'desperately sick,' and according to Burnet (i. 514) appears to have died in 1681.
[Burnet; Lauderdale MSS. in British Museum; Mackenzie's Memoirs; Wodrow's Church Hist.]