Montgomery, James William (DNB00)

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search

MONTGOMERY, Sir JAMES WILLIAM (1721–1803), Scottish judge, second son of William Montgomery, advocate, of Coldcoat or Magbie Hill, Peeblesshire, was born at Magbie Hill in October 1721. His mother was Barbara, daughter of Robert Rutherford of Bowland, Midlothian. After some schooling at the parish school at Linton, he studied law in Edinburgh, and was called to the Scottish barton 19 Feb. 1743. In 1748, after heritable jurisdictions had been abolished, he was appointed the first sheriff of Peeblesshire under the new system, and on 30 April 1760, thanks to the influence of his friend Robert Dundas, then newly appointed lord president, he succeeded Sir Thomas Miller (1717-1789) [q. v.] as solicitor-general jointly with Francis Garden (1721-1793) [q. v.] In 1764 he became sole solicitor-general, and in 1766 lord advocate in succession to Miller, to whose parliamentary seat for the Dumfries Burghs he succeeded also. But at the general election of 1768 he was returned for Peeblesshire, a seat which he retained till he was raised to the bench. A learned lawyer and an improving landlord, he was peculiarly fitted to deal with the question of entails, which had now become pressing, owing to the extent to which details fettered the practical management of land. The existing statute was Sir George Mackenzie's Act of 1685, and since it passed 485 deeds of entail had been registered under it. The public demanded a reform ; the Faculty of Advocates had passed resolutions approving it. Montgomery accordingly introduced a measure in March 1770, which passed into law (10 Geo. Ill, c. 51) and considerably enlarged the powers of the heir of an entail in respect of leasing and improving the entailed lands, and even provided for the exchange of land in spite of an entail.

Though he remained in parliament, Montgomery took little further interest in its proceedings after the passage of his bill. In June 1775 he was created lord chief baron of the Scottish exchequer, and in 1781 he was elected fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland; he resigned his judgeship in April 1801. In July of the same year he was created a baronet.

Montgomery was, like his father, skilled in farming, and in 1763 bought a half-reclaimed estate of Lord Islay's in Peeblesshire, originally called Blair Bog, but afterwards 'The Whim,' which eventually became his favourite residence. In 1767 he bought for 40,000l. Stanhope and Stobo in Peeblesshire, part of the estates of Sir David Murray, which had been confiscated for their owner's complicity in the rebellion of 1745. He thenceforward chiefly resided in the country, where his good methods of farming and the improvements which he promoted, notably the Peebles and Edinburgh road in 1770, gained for him the title of 'The Father of the County.' He died on 2 April 1803. He married Margaret, daughter and heiress of Robert Scott of Killearn, Stirlingshire, and was succeeded in the title by Sir James, his second son, afterwards lord advocate, his eldest son, William, a lieutenant-colonel in the 43rd foot, having predeceased him. Cockburn (Memorials of his own Time, p. 183) speaks of him as an 'excellent and venerable man,' and says that he was exceedingly benevolent. Two portraits of Montgomery were painted by Raeburn, and another by John Brown ; an engraving from the last is given in Chambers's 'Peeblesshire,' p. 437.

[Omond's Lord Advocates; Omond's Arniston Memoirs; Scots Magazine, 1803; Chambers's Hist. of Peeblesshire; Kay's Edinb. Portraits, i. 136-8; Anderson's Scottish Nation, iii. 182: Burke's Baronetage.]

J. A. H.