Leslie, John (1679-1722) (DNB00)

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LESLIE, JOHN, eighth Earl of Rothes (1679–1722), the eldest son of Charles (Hamilton), fifth earl of Haddington, was born in August 1679, and baptised at Tynninghame on the 31st of that month. His mother, Lady Margaret Leslie, being the elder daughter of John Leslie, duke of Rothes [q. v.], succeeded her father as Countess of Rothes, and John, her eldest son, in terms of the marriage contract of his parents made in 1674, inherited her earldom of Rothes with the surname of Leslie, the title of Haddington passing to his next brother. He was brought up at Leslie, where his parents resided after the death of the Duke of Rothes, and, assuming the surname and arms of Leslie, he succeeded on the death of his mother (20 Aug. 1700) as eighth Earl of Rothes. Thereafter, the better to effect the separation of the two earldoms of Rothes and Haddington, he made formal resignation of the latter in favour of his younger brother (Fraser, Earl of Haddington, i. 221-41, ii. 315).

Having taken the oaths and his seat in parliament, Rothes proved a steady friend the revolution interest. He was, says Macky, the court spy, 'a warm asserter of the liberties of the people and in great esteem, also of vigilant application for the service of his country ' ('Memoirs, p. 229). The Jacobites thought him false to them, for they claimed that he promised them fair, but fell away at the first temptation (Lockhart Papers, i. 94). He was one of three commissioners chosen at a meeting of the Duke of Hamilton's party to proceed to the court of Queen Anne in February 1704, and to request that certain charges made against her Scottish subjects of being plotters against her government should be fully tried, and that Scottish troops should not be paid with English money (Fraser, Earls of Cromartie, i. 218). That year, on l7 Oct., he was appointed lord privy seal, with the annual pension of 1,000l. sterling, but he held the office only for a year.

Rothes zealously aided the union of 1707 (Marchmont Papers, iii. 320), and was chosen one of the sixteen representative peers of Scotland. He continued to serve in parliament until his death (Home Office Papers, 1760–5, p. 43). On the accession of George I in 1714 he received the appointment of vice-admiral of Scotland, and in the following year, and successively until 1721, was lord high commissioner for his majesty to the general assembly of the church of Scotland (Crichton, Life of Col. Blackadder, p. 457; Cal. of Treasury Papers, 1714–19, under date 14 April 1716).

Rothes also took an active part against the Pretender and his forces on the outbreak of the rebellion in 1715. He attempted to seize Perth in advance of the rebels, but by a sudden dash they forestalled him. On a party of Jacobites attempting to proclaim the Pretender at Kinross, he, sword in hand, and followed by a troop of the grey dragoons, entered the town, scattered the rebels, and carried Sir Thomas Bruce of Kinross prisoner to Stirling. At the battle of Sheriffmuir he led a body of sixty gentlemen volunteers, and rendered good service. He also raised the Fifeshire militia, and when Rob Roy garrisoned Falkland, and made the palace his headquarters for raiding the neighbourhood, Rothes turned his own house of Leslie into a royal garrison, and with some troops and a few Swiss kept the highlanders in check (Rae, History of the Rebellion, pp. 219, 232, 300, 329, 340). For the activity he thus displayed his lands suffered severely at the hands of the rebels, and as some acknowledgment the king conferred upon him in 1716 the governorship of the castle of Stirling, an appointment which he retained till his death. Through the good offices of Lord Townshend, then secretary of state, he also received a commission in that year as chamberlain of Fife and Strathearn, to which office attached a yearly salary of 320l. sterling (Hist. MSS. Comm. 11th Rep. pt. iv. pp. 183–6; Cal. of Treasury Papers, 1720–8, vol. ccxxxix. No. 3, vol. ccxlvii. No. 20). He was also lord-lieutenant of the counties of Fife, Kinross, and Aberdeen, and was heritable sheriff of Fife. He died on 9 May 1722 (Lindsay, Retours) at Leslie House, and the scene at his deathbed is described by Colonel Blackadder, his deputy at Stirling Castle, who was present (Crichton, Life of Col. Blackadder, pp. 523–6). He married, on 29 April 1697, Lady Jean Hay, daughter of John, second marquis of Tweeddale, who survived him until 4 Sept. 1731. They had issue eight sons and four daughters. He was succeeded in the earldom by his eldest son, John, ninth earl [q. v.]

[Douglas's Peerage of Scotland (Wood), ii. 433, 434.]

H. P.