Steuart, James (DNB00)

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STEUART or STEWART, Sir JAMES (1635–1715), lord advocate of Scotland, fourth son of Sir James Steuart of Kirkfield and Coltness, by Anne Hope, niece of Sir Thomas Hope (d. 1646) [q. v.], lord advocate, was born in 1635. His father, a banker in Edinburgh, born in 1608, was elected lord provost of Edinburgh in 1648, and also held office under Cromwell. He was in office at the time of the Restoration, but was dismissed, and arrested under a charge of having embezzled money while receiver-general for the army in Scotland, but finally obtained his liberty in 1670, on payment of 1,000l.

The son, who was called to the bar on 20 Nov. 1661, did his best on his father's behalf, but on that account lost almost all his practice. Having also in 1669, in reply to Bishop Honeyman's ‘Survey of Naphtali,’ published a political pamphlet, entitled ‘Jus Populi Vindicatum, or the People's Right to defend themselves, and their Covenanted Reign vindicated,’ he found it necessary to leave the country, and went to Rouen, where he became a merchant under the name of Graham. Some years afterwards he returned to Scotland, but being suspected of having had a hand in a political pamphlet, ‘An Account of Scotlands Grievances by reason of the Duke of Lauderdale's Ministry,’ 1675, an order was issued for his apprehension. He, however, escaped, and lived in different places in England under the name of Lawson. In 1678 he opened a small office in London, where he gave legal advice at half fees, his clerk meeting the clients and transmitting their statements to the invisible Steuart. Returning to Scotland in 1679, he again got into trouble in 1681, from the accidental discovery among the Argyll papers of a memorandum in his hand reflecting on the government, but, as usual, made his escape, and this time took refuge in The Hague. He was present at the meeting at Amsterdam in 1685, when the expedition of Argyll was resolved on, and, having prepared Argyll's declaration of war, was accused of treasonably consulting and contriving Argyll's rebellion, was found guilty in his absence, and was sentenced to be executed whenever he could be found. He, however, received a free pardon from the Prince of Orange, and, on account of his supposed influence with the presbyterian party, was received into favour, and employed to conduct the crown cases along with Mackenzie. In 1692 he was appointed lord advocate, and during his term of office he introduced many legal reforms. He resigned office in 1709, and, dying in 1715, was buried in the church of Old Grey Friars. His only son, Sir James Steuart of Goodtrees and Coltness, became solicitor-general and was father of Sir James Steuart-Denham the elder [see Denham].

[Coltness Collections; Wodrow's Analecta; Omond's Lord Advocates of Scotland.]

T. F. H.