Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Drummond, James (1648-1716)

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DRUMMOND, JAMES, fourth Earl and first titular Duke of Perth (1648–1716), was elder son of James, third earl, prisoner at the battle of Philiphaugh, 13 Sept. 1645, who died 2 June 1675. His mother, who died 9 Jan. 1656, was Lady Anne Gordon, eldest daughter of George, second marquis of Huntly. He was educated at St. Andrews, and visited France and possibly Russia. On 18 Jan. 1670 he married Lady Jane Douglas, fourth daughter of William, first marquis of Douglas, and he succeeded to the earldom at his father's death in 1675 (Douglas, Peerage of Scotland). The depressed condition of his family made him ready to take any measures for improving it, and at the end of 1677 he wrote to Lauderdale to offer his co-operation in the worst act of that governor's rule of Scotland—the letting loose of the highlanders upon the disaffected western shires (Lauderdale Papers, Camden Soc. iii. 93). At the suggestion of the bishops of Scotland he was added to the committee of council which accompanied the army (ib. p. 95), and was himself made a member of the privy council in 1678 (Douglas). Apparently dissatisfied with this reward he joined the ‘party,’ as it was called, the body of Scottish nobles who opposed Lauderdale in this year under the leadership of Hamilton, their chief ground of complaint being this very invasion of the west, in which Perth had eagerly assisted, and he was one of those who came to London in April 1678 and acted in concert with Shaftesbury and the Duke of Monmouth. In the reports made to Lauderdale he is spoken of as ‘busy and spiteful,’ and as one of the ‘chief incendiaries’ among the parliamentary opposition who were then engaged upon their last attack on Lauderdale (Lauderdale Papers, iii. 132). The efforts of the ‘party’ succeeded so far that to weaken their influence orders were sent to despatch the highlanders from the west, but failed as regarded Lauderdale himself. He then returned with the ‘party’ to Scotland, and took part in the opposition to Lauderdale in the convention of July 1678 (ib. p. 249). During 1681 he was in partnership with William Penn in the settlement of East New Jersey (Hist. MSS. Comm. 6th Rep. 700 b). In August 1682 he was one of the commissioners for the trial of the mint in Scotland (ib. p. 658 a), and as such took part in the prosecution of the treasurer-deputy, Charles Maitland of Haltoun, Lauderdale's brother, for peculation. During this year he was again at Whitehall. He was at this time in confidential communication with Archbishop Sancroft, expressing his love of ‘the church of England, of which I hope to live and die a member’ (Clarke, Letters of Scottish Prelates, p. 40). On 16 Nov. 1682 he was made justice-general and extraordinary lord of session; and he presided at the trial of Sir Hugh Campbell of Chesnock for treason. He did his best for the crown, since the estate, if confiscated, was promised to one of Charles's illegitimate children, but he was unable to force the jury to find a verdict of guilty. He was also, by the influence of the Duchess of Portsmouth, made one of the seven who formed the cabinet for the management of Scottish affairs (Omond, Lord Advocates of Scotland, i. 223). In 1684 Perth attached himself to the faction of his kinsman, the Duke of Queensberry, in opposition to that of Aberdeen, the lord chancellor. On the dismissal of Aberdeen, Perth succeeded to the chancellorship, and was also made, on 16 July 1684, sheriff principal of the county of Edinburgh and governor of the Bass. For ten years, Burnet says, he had seemed incapable of an immoral or cruel action, but was now deeply engaged in the foulest and blackest of crimes (Hist. own Time, i. 587). He is especially notorious as having added to the recognised instruments of torture that of the thumbscrew, and as having thereby extracted, especially from Spence, who was supposed to be in concert with Argyll, confessions which the boot could not extort. On the death of Charles II he was continued in office by James II. As late as July 1685 he was still in correspondence with Sancroft about ‘the best and most holy of churches;’ he mentioned an occasion on which he had preferred James's life to his own, and said significantly, ‘So now, whenever the occasion shall offer, life, fortune, reputation, all that should be dear to an honest man and a christian, shall go when my duty to God and his vicegerent calls for it.’ On 1 July he again wrote, lamenting that he was ‘least acceptable where I study most to please’ (Clarke, pp. 68, 71, 76, 82). This could refer to nobody but James. He speedily found the right method of making himself more acceptable. James had just published the celebrated papers in vindication of the catholic faith found in Charles's strong box. Perth declared himself convinced by their arguments, and prevailed on his brother, John Drummond [q. v.], Lord Melfort, to join him in his apostasy. He had meanwhile quarrelled with Queensberry, lord treasurer of Scotland, his former patron, and the quarrel was brought before James. Previous to the conversion James had determined to dismiss Perth, but after it Queensberry, a staunch protestant, was himself turned out, having merely a seat on the treasury commission, and Perth and Melfort became the chief depositaries of the royal confidence (Burnet, i. 653). After the death of his first wife, Perth married Lilias, daughter of Sir James Drummond of Machany, by whom he had four children. This lady dying about 1685, Perth within a few weeks married his first cousin, Lady Mary Gordon, daughter of Lewis, third marquis of Huntly, and widow of Adam Urquhart of Meldrum. With her, according to Burnet (i. 678), Perth had had an intrigue of several years' standing, without waiting for the necessary dispensation from Rome. The pope remarked that they were strange converts whose first step was to break the laws of the church, and was with difficulty prevailed upon to grant the dispensation. Perth now established a private chapel in his house at Edinburgh, and a cargo of popish trinkets and vestments arrived at Leith. The mob rose, attacked Perth's house and insulted his wife. The troops fired on the people. Several of the ringleaders were captured and hanged. Perth, believing that Queensberry was the author of the attack, in vain promised a pardon to one of them if he would accuse his rival (Fountainhall, 31 Jan., 1 Feb. 1685–6). He was now the chief agent in the catholic administration of Scotland, and when James announced to the privy council his intention of fitting up a chapel in Holyrood he carried through the council an answer couched in the most servile terms (Macaulay, i. 619). He succeeded, however, in inducing James to revoke the proclamation ordering all officials, civil and military, to give up their commissions and take out new ones without taking the test, and to receive remissions for this breach of the law at the price of 8l. each. He was entrusted also with the negotiations which James opened with the presbyterians (Balcarres, Memoirs Bannatyne Club). In 1687 he was the first to receive the revived order of the Thistle. In the same year he resigned the earldom of Perth and his heritable offices in favour of his son and his son's male heir (Douglas).

When James retreated from Salisbury before William, the people, in the absence of the troops, whom Perth had unwisely disbanded, rose in Edinburgh. Perth, who was detested equally for his apostasy and his cruelty, departed under a strong escort to his seat of Castle Drummond. Finding himself unsafe there, he fled in disguise over the Ochil mountains to Burntisland, where he gained a vessel about to sail to France. He had, however, been recognised, and a boatful of watermen from Kirkcaldy pursued the vessel, which, as it was almost a dead calm, was overtaken at the mouth of the Forth. Perth was dragged from the hold in woman's clothes, stripped of all he had, and thrown into the common prison of Kirkcaldy. Thence he was taken to Stirling Castle, and lay there until he was released in June or August 1693 on a bond to leave the kingdom under a penalty of 5,000l. He went at once to Rome, where he resided for two years, when he joined James's court at St. Germain. He received from James the order of the Garter, was made first lord of the bedchamber, chamberlain to the queen, and governor to the Prince of Wales. On the death of James II he was, in conformity with the terms of the king's will, created Duke of Perth. He died at St. Germain on 11 May 1716, and was buried in the chapel of the Scotch College at Paris. He is described as very proud, of middle stature, with a quick look and a brown complexion, and as telling a story ‘very prettily.’ By his third wife, who died in 1726, he had three children.

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