Humberston, Francis Mackenzie (DNB00)

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HUMBERSTON, FRANCIS MACKENZIE, or FRANCIS HUMBERSTON MACKENZIE, Lord Seaforth and Mackenzie (1754–1815), lieutenant - general, brother and heir of [[ Humberston, Thomas Frederick Mackenzie (DNB00)|kenzie Humberston]] [q. v.], was born in 1754. At twelve years of age a violent attack of scarlet fever permanently destroyed his hearing and for a time deprived him of speech. He nevertheless grew up distinguished by his extensive attainments and great intellectual activity. In 1782 he married Mary, daughter of the Rev. Baptist Proby, dean of Lichfield, and niece of the Earl of Carysfort, by whom he had four sons and six daughters. On the death of his brother in 1783 he succeeded to the Seaforth estates and chieftainship, becoming the twenty-first Caber Feidh (caberfae), or hereditary chief of the clan Mackenzie. In 1784 he was returned to parliament for Rossshire, which he represented until 1790. He was again returned in 1794. Humberston offered to raise a highland regiment for service in India in 1787. The offer was accepted, but the Seaforth recruits were taken to complete the 74th and 75th foot. He repeated the offer at the time of the Nootka Sound difficulty, but it was declined. It was repeated once more in 1793 and accepted.

Humberston then raised the 'Ross-shire Buffs,' which was enrolled as the 78th foot, the third highland regiment bearing that number, and the first regiment added to the army during the war with revolutionary France. The regiment is now the 2nd Seaforth (late 78th) highlanders. Humberston was appointed lieutenant-colonel commandant. He raised a second battalion for the regiment in 1794, which was amalgamated with the first battalion at the Cape in 1795. Humberston, who had never joined the regiment, resigned the command in that year, and was appointed lord-lieutenant of Ross-shire. On 26 Oct. 1797 he was created Lord Seaforth and Baron Mackenzie of Kintail in the peerage of Great Britain. On 23 April 1798 he was appointed colonel of the newly formed 2nd North British, or Caithness, Sutherland, Ross, and Cromarty militia, afterwards the highland rifle militia, and now the 3rd or militia battalion of Seaforth highlanders. He became colonel in the army in 1796, major-general in 1802, and lieutenant-general in 1808.

On 26 Nov. 1800 Lord Seaforth was appointed governor of Barbadoes, arriving there early in 1801 and, with the exception of a part of 1803, when he was on leave, remaining until 1806. He displayed much vigour and ability there. He vigorously took up the inquiry into the slave-trade, and in a letter addressed to Lord Camden on 13 Nov. 1804, gave, on the authority of unimpeachable witnesses, including the colonial attorney-general, details of atrocities committed on slaves in the island (Southey, Chron. West Indies, iii. 299 et seq). The letter gave great offence, and lame attempts were subsequently made to explain away the statements; but under Seaforth's influence the assembly of the island in the following year passed a law whereby any one wilfully and maliciously killing a slave, whether the owner or not of such slave, on being convicted on the evidence of white witnesses, was to suffer death. Previously the punishment had been a fine of 15l. currency, which was rarely imposed (ib. iii. 337). The change proved a genuine protection to slaves. When the French fleet under Villeneuve arrived in the West Indies the same year, Seaforth proclaimed martial law in the island, without consulting the assembly. The latter protested that his action was an 'invasion of the dearest rights of the people.' The home government supported him, and the assembly appears to have altered its tone (Schomburgk, Hist, of Barbadoes,pp.357-9). Seaforth was entertained at a grand dinner at Bridgetown before his departure from the island, which took place on 25 July 1806. In most biographical notices Seaforth is stated to have been afterwards governor of Berbice, but there is no official notice of the appointment in the colonial records.

Seaforth was a F.R.S. (26 June 1794; Thomson, Hist. Royal Soc.. 1812, p. lxiii), and F.L.S., and took a lively interest in science and art. Of the latter he was a most munificent patron. In 1796 he lent 1,000l. to Thomas Lawrence, then a struggling artist, who had applied to him for aid, and he commissioned Benjamin West to paint one of his huge canvases depicting the first chief of Seaforth saving King Alexander of Scotland from the attack of an infuriated stag. In after years West bought back the picture for exhibition at the price paid for it. —800l. A long list of West Indian plants sent home by Seaforth in 1804-1806 forms Brit. Mus. Add. MS. 28610 f. 20 et seq. Unhappily, Seaforth's closing years were darkened by calamities and personal suffering. Mismanagement of his estates and his own extravagance involved him in inextricable embarrassments. When he wanted to sell the estate of Lochalsh, his tenants offered to pay his debts if he would come and reside among them. But his improvidence rendered the expedient useless. Part of the barony of Kintail, the 'gift-land' of the house, was next put up for sale, a step the clansmen sought to avert by offering to buy it in, so that the lands might not pass away to strangers. In deference to this feeling, the intended sale was accordingly postponed for two years. Meanwhile, three of Seaforth's sons died. The fourth, William Frederick, a fine promising young man, M.P. for Ross, died, likewise unmarried, on 25 Oct. 1814. Seaforth himself died, heartbroken and paralysed in mind and body, near Edinburgh, 11 Jan. 1815. His widow died in Edinburgh 7 Feb. 1829. The Seaforth title became extinct; the chieftainship passed to Mackenzie of Allengrange; the estates went by act of entail to Seaforth's eldest daughter, Mary Elizabeth Frederica Mackenzie (1783-1862), who married, first, Admiral Sir Samuel Hood [q. v.]; secondly, the Right Hon. J. Stewart Mackenzie, M.P.,sometime governor of Ceylon, and lord high commissioner of the Ionian Islands. The lady lost her second husband in 1845; but she welcomed to the old home of the Seaforths her father's regiment, the 78th Ross-shire Buffs, on their return from the Indian mutiny, and died at Brahan Castle 28 Nov. 1862.

The history of the last Seaforth was believed to fulfil a prophecy that in the days of a deaf and dumb 'Caber Feidh' the 'giftland' of the house should be sold, and the male line of Seaforth come to an end. The prophecy, dating from the time of Charles II, was said to have been uttered by one Coinneach Odhar, a famous Brahan seer, who was reported to have been put to a cruel death by the Lady Seaforth of the time (Lockhart, Life of Scott, iii. 318-19).

[Taylor's Great Scottish Historic Families, i. 192-9; A. Mackenzie's Hist. of the Clan Mackenzie (Inverness, 1879); Anderson's Scottish Nation, iii. 428-9; Seaforth Papers in North British Rev. lxxviii (1863); Stewart's Scottish Highlanders, vol. ii. under '78th Rossshire Buffs;' Keltie's Hist. Scottish Highlands, ii. 617-18, 687 (with vignette portrait); Schomburgk's Hist. of Barbadoes (London, 1848); Thomas Southey's Chron. Hist. of the WestIndies (London, 1827), vol. iii.;A. Mackenzie's Prophecies of the Brahan Seer (Inverness, 1878), pp. 72-94, `Doom of Seaforth;' Burke's Vicissitudes of Families, i. 169-84, `Fate of Seaforth.']

H. M. C.