Campbell, Ilay (DNB00)

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CAMPBELL, Sir ILAY (1734–1823), of Succoth, lord president, was born on 23 Aug. 1734. He was the eldest son of Archibald Campbell of Succoth, one of the principal clerks of session, by his wife, Helen, only daughter of John Wallace of Ellerslie, Renfrewshire, and was admitted an advocate 11 Jan. 1757. Early in his career he obtained an extensive practice at the bar, and was one of the counsel for the appellant in the great Douglas peerage case. This important case engrossed the public attention at the time, and so great was young Campbell's enthusiasm that he posted to Edinburgh immediately after the decision of the House of Lords, and was the first to announce the result to the crowds in the street, who, unharnessing the horses from his carriage, drew him in triumph to his father's house in St. James's Court. During his last fifteen years at the bar his practice had become so great that there were few causes in which he was not engaged. In 1783 he was appointed solicitor-general, in succession to Alexander Murray of Henderland, who was raised to the bench on 6 March in that year, but upon the accession of the coalition ministry he was dismissed, and Alexander Wight appointed in his place. Upon the fall of the coalition ministry he succeeded the Hon. Henry Erskine as lord advocate, and in the month of April 1784 was elected member for the Glasgow district of burghs. In parliament he never took a very prominent position, and but few of his speeches are recorded (Parliamentary History, xxiv–xxvii.) In 1785 he introduced a bill for the reform of the court of session, in which it was proposed to reduce the number of the judges from fifteen to ten, and at the same time to increase their salaries. The measure met with so much opposition that it was abandoned, and in the following year the salaries of the judges were increased, but their numbers were not diminished. After holding the office of lord advocate for nearly six years, he was appointed president of the court of session on the death of Sir Thomas Miller, bart. He took his seat on the bench for the first time on 14 Nov. 1789, and assumed the judicial title of Lord Succoth. In 1794 he presided over the commission of oyer and terminer which was opened at Edinburgh on 14 Aug. for the trial of those accused of high treason in Scotland. Both Watt and Downie were found guilty, and the former was executed (State Trials, xxiii. 1167–1404, xxiv. 1–200).

Campbell held the post of lord president for nineteen years, and upon his resignation was succeeded by Robert Blair of Avontoun. He sat for the last time on 11 July 1808, being the final occasion on which the old court of session, consisting of fifteen judges, sat together. After the vacation the court sat for the first time in two divisions. On 17 Sept. in the same year he was created a baronet. After his retirement from the bench he presided over two different commissions appointed to inquire into the state of the courts of law in Scotland. This work occupied him nearly fifteen years, during which he prepared a series of elaborate reports which to this day are most valuable as works of reference. During the later years of his life he chiefly resided at his estate of Garscube, Dumbartonshire, where he took a principal share in the transaction of county business, and amused himself in literary and agricultural pursuits. He died on 28 March 1823, in the eighty-ninth year of his age. He was an able and ingenious lawyer, but without any powers of forensic oratory. His written pleadings were models of clearness and brevity, but his speaking, though admirable in matter, was the reverse of attractive. As a judge he was respected, and in private he was popular. The university of Glasgow conferred on him the degree of doctor of laws in 1784, and from 1799 to 1801 he held the office of lord rector. In 1766 he married Susan Mary, the daughter of Archibald Murray of Murrayfield, by whom he had two sons and six daughters. His eldest son Archibald, who succeeded to the baronetcy, was admitted an advocate 11 June 1791. He was appointed an ordinary lord of session 17 May 1809, and took his seat on the bench as Lord Succoth. On the resignation of Lord Armadale he became a lord justiciary, 1 May 1813. He resigned both these offices at the end of 1824, and died on 23 July 1846. Sir Ilay's third daughter, Susan, married Craufurd Tait of Harviestown, Clackmannan county, whose youngest son, Archibald Campbell, afterwards became archbishop of Canterbury. The present baronet is Sir Ilay's great-grandson. His portrait, painted by John Partridge, was exhibited in the loan collection of 1867 (Catalogue, No. 786), and two etchings of him will be found in the second volume of Kay, Nos. 202 and 300. He wrote the following works: 1. ‘Decisions of the Court of Session, from the end of the year 1756 to the end of the year 1760.’ Collected by Mr. John Campbell, junr., and Mr. Ilay Campbell, advocates, Edinburgh, 1765, fol. 2. ‘An Explanation of the Bill proposed in the House of Commons, 1785, respecting the Judges in Scotland’ (anon. 1785?), 8vo. 3. ‘Hints upon the Question of Jury Trial as applicable to the Proceedings in the Court of Session’ (signed I. C.), Edinburgh, 1809, 8vo. 4. ‘The Acts of Sederunt of the Lords of Council and Session, from the Institution of the College of Justice in May 1532 to January 1553.’ Published under the direction of Sir Ilay Campbell, bart., LL.D., Edinburgh, 1811, fol. This contains a preface of forty-three pages written by Campbell.

[Brunton and Haig's Senators of the College of Justice (1832), pp. 539–40, 547; Kay's Original Portraits (1877), i. 103, 125, 260, 302, 314, 375; ii, 89–91, 380–4, 442; Omond's Lord Advocates of Scotland (1883), ii. 65, 174–7; Cockburn's Memorials of his Time (1856), 99–102, 125–130, 136, 246; Gent. Mag. xciii. pt. i. 569; Brit. Mus. Cat.

G. F. R. B.