Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Hamilton, James (d.1666)

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HAMILTON, JAMES (d. 1666), divine, was second son of Gawen Hamilton, third son of Hans Hamilton, vicar of Dunlop. After receiving a liberal education at Glasgow he was appointed by his uncle, James Hamilton, lord Claneboye [q. v.], overseer and general manager of his estates in Ireland. Of a naturally serious disposition, he attracted the attention of Robert Blair (1593-1666) [q. v.], at that time minister of the church at Bangor in co. Down, who, after a private trial of his ability as a preacher, persuaded him to enter the ministry. Accordingly in 1626, notwithstanding his presbyterian proclivities and heterodox views, which resembled Blair's own in regard to episcopacy, he was ordained by Bishop Echlin, and presented by Lord Claneboye to the church at Ballywalter in co. Down. Here he laboured successfully for ten years 'until, by the rigidities of my Lord Wentworth and the then Bishop of Derry [John Bramhall, q. v.], new terms of church communion to be sworn to were imposed upon the whole church of Ireland, whereunto he could not submit.' His example was followed by several prominent ministers in the north of Ireland. Henry Leslie, Bishop Echlin's successor, was urged by Bishop Bramhall to proceed to their deposition. But, determined to convince them of the error of their ways, Leslie challenged them to a public disputation. His challenge was accepted, and Hamilton was chosen to conduct the defence on their behalf. The conference opened on 11 Aug. 1636, in the presence of a large assemblage, but after the debate had proceeded a little way Bishop Bramhall interfered, and, having obtained an adjournment, persuaded Leslie not to resume it, but to forthwith pass sentence on the recalcitrant ministers. On the following day they were deposed, and warrants being shortly afterwards issued for their arrest Hamilton consulted his safety by retiring to Scotland, and was appointed minister of the church at Dumfries. In September 1642 he revisited Ireland, in order to minister to the spiritual necessities of the colonists, but returning to Scotland he was in March 1644 appointed by the general assembly to superintend the administration of the covenant in Ulster (Reid, Presbyterian Church, ii. 27-42). On his return to Scotland the ship in which he and several others, including his father-in-law, had taken their passage, was captured by the Harp, a Wexford frigate, commanded by Alaster MacDonnell, who was bringing reinforcements to Montrose in the highlands. Alaster MacDonnell, who hoped by an exchange of prisoners to secure the release of his father, old Colkittagh, then in the hands of the Marquis of Argyll, landed his prisoners at Ardnamurchan, and confined them in Mingary Castle. There Hamilton remained for ten months, witnessing the release of several of his companions, and the death of his father-in-law, the Rev. David Watson, and another minister, Mr. Weir, until the exertions of the general assembly and Scottish parliament set him free on 2 May 1645 (Hamilton MSS. p. 78). He returned to his charge at Dumfries, and was afterwards removed to Edinburgh. Being appointed a chaplain to Charles II by the general assembly, he was taken prisoner at Alyth in Forfarshire by Colonels Alured and Morgan, and carried to London, where he was confined for a short time in the Tower. Released by Cromwell's order, he returned to Edinburgh, where he preached till the restoration of the episcopacy in Scotland drove him from his pulpit, and compelled him to retire to Inveresk. He died at Edinburgh on 10 March 1666. By his wife, Elizabeth Watson, daughter of David Watson, minister of Killeavy, near Newry, he had fifteen children, all of whom died in their infancy except one son, Archibald, who was a leading minister in the presbyterian church in Ireland, and three daughters, Jane, Mary, and Elizabeth. He was, according to Livingstone, 'a learned and diligent man,' his style of preaching being 'rather doctrinal than exhortatory.'

[Hamilton MSS. ed. by T. K. Lowry; Reid's Hist, of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland; Patrick Adair's True Narrative of the Rise and Progress of the Presbyterian Church; McBride's Sample of Jet-Black Prict-Calumny, Glasgow, 1713; and the Lives of the Revs. Robert Blair and John Livingstone.]

R. D.