Ogilvy, James (1664-1730) (DNB00)

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OGILVY, JAMES, fourth Earl of Findlater and first Earl of Seafield (1664–1730), lord chancellor of Scotland, second son of James, third earl of Findlater, by Lady Anne Montgomery, relict of Robert Seton, eon of Sir George Seton of Hailes, Midlothian, was born in 1664. He was educated for the law, and was called to the bar on 16 Jan. 1685. He sat in the Scots parliament as member for Banffshire in 1681–2, and from 1689 to 1695. At the Conyention parliament of 1639 he made a speech in favour of King Jamesi and he was one of the five who dissented from the motion that the king had forfeited his right to the crown. Subsequently he took the oath to William and Mary, and in 1693 — according to Lockhart, by William duke of Hamilton's means (Papers, i. 52) — he was constituted solicitor-general, received the honour of knighthood, and was appointed sheriff of Banffshire. In January 1695-6 he succeeded James Johnston [q. v.] as secretary of state, and in the following year he, though secretary, sat and voted in parliament in accordance with the king's special directions. He supported the proceedings in the parliament of 1695 against Dalrymple and others responsible for the massacre of Glencoe, but on 23 July represented to Carstares that he had 'acted a moderate part in all this,' and in regard to it expressed his willingness 'to be ordered by his majesty as to the method of serving him as is my duty' (Carstares, State Papers, p. 258). On 28 June 1698 he was created Viscount Seafield, and appointed president of the parliament which met at Edinburgh on 16 July. On his arrival in Edinburgh on 9 July he 'met with a very great reception' (ib. p. 84). According to Murray of Philiphaugh, he presided 'very extraordinary well, both readily, boldly, and impartially' (ib. p. 383), and he did much to assist in carrying the policy of the king to a successful issue {ih. passim). From the beginning Seafield was opposed to the formation of the African company (letter to Carstares, ib. p. 314). His known antipathy to the enterprise aroused against him much hostile feeling in Scotland, and during the rejoicings in Minburgh, on the arrival of news regarding some advantage gained by the Scots against the Spaniards of Darien, his windows were broken by the mob (Marchmont Papers, iii. 210; Luttrell, Short Relation, iv. 660). Argyll, disgusted by Seafield's attitude, contemptuously affirmed that there was in him 'neither honour, honesty, friendship, nor courage,' and said that if it were not 'lessening' himself to 'say it to a man who dares not resent it,' he would 'send him as much signed' (Carstares, State Papers, p. 494). He was appointed commissioner to the general assembly of the kirk which met in 1700, and on 24 June 1701 he was created Earl of Seafield. He retained his political influence after the accession of Queen Anne, and on 12 May 1702 was continued secretary of state, along with the Duke of Queensberry. The same year he was appointed a commissioner to treat for the union, and on 1 Nov. he succeeded the Earl of Marchmont as lord high chancellor. In 1703 he was appointed commissioner to the general assembly which met on 10 March. According to Lockhart, he at this time did 'assure all such as he knew of loyal principles that the queen was resolved to take their cause by hand,' and 'with horrid asseverations and solemn vows protested he would join and stand firm to the interests of both' (Papers, p. 53), but soon afterwards 'left his old friends and worshipped the rising sun' (ib. p. 98). In 1704 he was superseded as chancellor by the Marquis of Tweeddale; but on 17 Oct. he was made joint secretary of state along with the Earl of Roxburghe. On 9 March 1704-5 he was again appointed lord high chancellor, the Marquis of Tweeddale having been dismissed. In the same year his life was for a time endangered by the mob in Edinburgh, who, after the conviction of Captain Green and his crew for the capture of a vessel belonging to the Darien company and the murder of its captain and crew, suspected that the government intended to avoid executing the sentence of death.

Seafield, in March 1706, was appointed a commissioner for the union with England, and he was one of the most active promoters of the measure. According to Lockhart, 'when he, as chancellor, signed the engrossed exemplification of the Act of Union, he returned it to the clerk, in the face of parliament, with this despising and contemning remark, "Now there's ane end of ane old sang"' (Papers, i. 223). He was one of the sixteen Scottish representative peers chosen at the succeeding election in 1707, and was re-chosen at each subsequent election up to 1727 inclusive. He was also in 1707 chosen a member of the English privy council, and on his return to Edinburgh he produced to the lords of session a new commission appointing him chancellor of Scotland. Doubts having, however, arisen as to the validity of the office after the union, he was instead appointed lord chief baron in the court of exchequer, being admitted on 28 May. Seafield received only 100l. as compensation money at the time of the union, but in 1708 his great services in connection with the passing of the measure were acknowledged by the grant of a pension of 3,000l. per annum. On succeeding to his father, the third Karl of Findlater, in 1711, he adopted the title of Earl of Findlater and Seafield.

After the extension of the malt tax to Scotland in 1713, Findlater was induced, at the instance of Lockhart, to move for leave to bring in a bill for the repeal of the union. According to Lockhart, he was 'both well and ill pleased' with the task assigned him — 'well pleased because he hoped he might thereby take off part of the odium he lay under for being so instrumental in promoting the Union, and ill pleased because he would be obliged to unsay many things he had formerly advanced, and might perhaps offend the ministry. On the other hand, other people were diverted by seeing his lordship brought to this dilemma' (Papers, p. 434). In moving for repeal, the grievances on which Findlater dwelt were that the Scottish privy council was abolished, that the treason laws of England were extended to Scotland, that the Scottish peers were incapacitated from being peers of Great Britain, and that the Scots had been subjected to the malt tax. The motion was lost, by the small majority of four. Shortly afterwards Findlater was appointed keeper of the great seal of Scotland, he also presided as chancellor in the court of session, where his accomplishments as a lawyer and his practical tact were of great service in the smooth despatch of business. Although indicating occasionally a certain sympathy with the Jacobites, he kept aloof from Jacobite intrigues. He died on 15 Aug. 1730, at the age of sixty-six. A portrait of Seafield, by Kneller, has been engraved by Smith; another, by Sir John B. de Medina, belongs to the College of Surgeons, Edinburgh.

By his wife Anne, daughter of Sir William Dunbar of Durn, Banffshire, bart., Findlater had three sons and two daughters. The sons were James, lord Deskford, who succeeded as fifth earl of Findlater and second of Seafield, and was father of James, sixth earl of Findlater [q. v.]; William; and George, who passed advocate at the Scottish bar in 1723, and died unmarried in 1732. The daughters were Elizabeth, married to Charles, sixth earl of Lauderdale; and Janet, married first to Hugh Forbes, eldest son and heir-apparent of Sir William Forbes of Craigievar, bart., and secondly to William Duff of Braco, afterwards Earl of Fife.

'Seafield was,' says Lockhart, 'finely accomplished, a learned lawyer, a just judge, courteous, and good natured, but withal so intirely abandon'd to serve thecourt measures, be they what they will, that he seldom or never consulted his own inclinations, but was a blank sheet of paper which the court might fill up with what they pleas'd. As he thus sacrificed his honour and principles, so he likewise easily deserted his friend when his interest (which he was only firm to) did not stand in competition. He made a good figure, and proceeded extremely well in the Parliament and Session, where he despatched business to the general satisfaction of the Judges' (Papers, i. 53). This estimate may be accepted so far at least as it indicates wherein lay his special strength and weakness, but allowance must be made for the strong Jacobite bias of Lockhart. Macky wrote of him, 'He affects plainness and familiarity in his conversation, but is not sincere; is very beautiful in his person, with a graceful behaviour, smiling countenance, and a soft tongue' (Memoirs of Secret Services, 18l-2).

[Carstares's State Papers; Lockhart Papers; Marchmont Papers, ed. Rose; Luttrell's Short Relation; Macky's Memoirs of Secret Services; Burnet's Own Time; Crawford's Officers of State, pp. 246-9; Brunton and Haig's Senators of the College of Justice, pp. 472-3; Douglas's Scottish Peerage (Wood), i. 686-7.]

T. F. H.