Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Jaffray, Alexander

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JAFFRAY, ALEXANDER (1614–1673), director of the chancellary of Scotland and a quaker, son of Alexander Jaffray (d. 10 Jan. 1645), provost of Aberdeen, by his wife Magdalen Erskine of Pittodrie, was born at Aberdeen in July 1614. His education, which began in 1623 at the Aberdeen High School, was desultory; he was at several country schools, and spent part of a session, 1631–2, at Marischal College, Aberdeen, leaving it at the age of eighteen to marry a girl of his parents' choice. Shortly after his marriage his father sent him to Edinburgh, where he stayed some time in the house of his relative Robert Burnet, father of Gilbert Burnet [q. v.] His father sent him in 1632 and 1633 to London, and in 1634 and 1635 to France. At Whitsuntide 1636 he set up housekeeping in Aberdeen, his wife having hitherto lived with his parents. He was made a bailie in 1642, and in this capacity committed a servant of Sir George Gordon of Haddo to prison for riot. On 1 July 1643 Gordon attacked Jaffray on the road near Kintore, Aberdeenshire, wounding him in the head, and his brother, John Jaffray, in the arm. For this outrage Gordon was fined twenty thousand merks, five thousand of which went as damages to the Jaffrays. On 19 March 1644 Gordon, who had joined the rising under George Gordon, second marquis of Huntly [q. v.], rode into Aberdeen with sixty horse, captured the Jaffrays and others, and confined them, first at Strathbogie, Aberdeenshire, afterwards at Auchendoun Castle, Banffshire. They were released in about seven weeks, but Jaffray's wife had died at Aberdeen, partly from the fright caused by the violence attending her husband's capture. Owing to the troubles of the times, Jaffray, who now represented Aberdeen in the Scottish parliament, and had been nominated (19 July 1644) a commissioner for suppressing the rebellion, took refuge in Dunnottar Castle, Kincardineshire; but, leaving it one day, he was taken prisoner with his brother Thomas, and committed for several weeks to the stronghold of Pitcaple, Aberdeenshire. Taking advantage of the laxity of the royalist garrison, the Jaffrays and another prisoner made themselves masters of the place (September 1645), holding it for twenty-four hours, till they were relieved by a party of their friends. Thereupon they burned the stronghold, an act which received the approbation of the Scottish parliament on 19 Feb. 1649.

Jaffray appears to have been the representative of Aberdeen in the Scottish parliament from 1644 to 1650. He sat on important committees, and exercised what he afterwards considered ‘unwarranted zeal’ in censuring delinquents. In 1649, and again in 1650, he was one of six commissioners deputed to treat with Charles II in Holland. On the second occasion he blames himself for procuring Charles's adhesion to the covenant, well knowing that he hated it in his heart. He took part in the battle of Dunbar (3 Sept. 1650); his horse was shot under him; and he was severely wounded and taken prisoner; his brother Thomas was killed. During the five or six months which elapsed before his exchange, Jaffray had many conversations with Cromwell and his chaplain, John Owen, D.D., with the result that his views on questions of religious liberty were widened, and his attachment to presbyterianism diminished. He was provost of Aberdeen (not for the first time) in 1651, and conducted the negotiations with Monck whereby the burgh escaped a heavy fine after its surrender on 7 Sept. In March 1652 he was appointed by the court of session keeper of the great seal and director of the chancellary. He accepted the latter office in June, and it was confirmed to him by Cromwell, with a salary of 200l., by letters of gift at Whitehall, 2 March 1657, and at Edinburgh, 20 Nov. 1657. In June 1653 he was summoned from Scotland, with four others, to sit in the Little parliament, which came to an end on 12 Jan. 1654. Jaffray was one of some thirty members who remained sitting till a file of musketeers expelled them, yet Cromwell gave him an order for 1,500l. on the commissioners at Leith, to reimburse him for his share in the outlay connected with the bringing over of Charles II from Breda in 1650. Returning to Scotland, Jaffray divided his time between Aberdeen and Edinburgh, where the duties of the chancellary compelled him to be in attendance for six months in the year. On 15 Nov. 1656 he removed his household from Aberdeen to Newbattle, near Edinburgh; and thence on 10 Nov. 1657 to Abbey Hill, Edinburgh. When the Restoration came, Jaffray was called upon for his bond to remain in Edinburgh till the parliament's further order, or forfeit 20,000l. Some delay in finding sureties led to his imprisonment in the Edinburgh Tolbooth, where he lay from 20 Sept. 1660 till 17 Jan. 1661, when, in consequence of the infirm state of his health, he was released on subscribing the bond.

Jaffray's public life was closed, and he appears henceforth as a religious leader. Although he did not actually secede from the presbyterian church, and permitted the baptism of his children, he had lost faith in its ordinances, in accordance with the views he had first adopted in 1650, and relied much on private meditation, which he recorded in his diary. On 24 May 1652, in conjunction with four others, three of them clergymen, he addressed a letter from Aberdeen to ‘some godly men in the south,’ advocating independency and separation from the national church. Samuel Rutherford and other divines held a conference with the signatories to this document. By 1661 he was in considerable sympathy with the quakers, and joined their body at Aberdeen towards the end of 1662, owing to the preaching of William Dewsbury [q. v.] He then removed to Inverury, Aberdeenshire, where he set up a quaker meeting. Returning about 1664 to Kingswells, near Aberdeen (an estate which had been in his family since 1587), he was summoned before the high commission court, at the instance of Patrick Scougal, bishop of Aberdeen, and ordered to remain in his own dwelling-house, and hold no meetings there, under a penalty of six hundred merks. His health was now very frail, and he suffered from quinsy. On 11 Sept. 1668 he was taken to Banff Tolbooth for holding a religious meeting at Kingswells, and kept in gaol for over nine months, till released by an order of the privy council. His infirm health disqualified him from rendering active service to the quaker cause in Scotland, but his accession gave impetus to the movement, which was taken up by George Keith (1640?–1716) [q. v.] in 1664 and by Robert Barclay (1648–1690) [q. v.] in 1667. Jaffray died at Kingswells on 7 May 1673, and was buried on 8 May, in a ground attached to his own house. He married, first, on 30 April 1632, Jane Downe or Dune, who died on 19 March 1644, and was mother of ten children, all of whom died young except Alexander (b. 17 Oct. 1641, d 1672); and secondly, on 4 May 1647, Sarah, daughter of Andrew Cant [q. v.], by whom he had five sons and three daughters, all dying young except Andrew (see below), Rachel, and John.

Jaffray published nothing except ‘A Word of Exhortation by way of Preface,’ &c., to George Keith's ‘Help in Time of Need,’ &c., 1665, 4to. His manuscript ‘Diary’ was discovered in the autumn of 1827 by John Barclay. Part of it was in the study of Robert Barclay, the apologist, at Ury House, Kincardineshire, the rest in the loft of a neighbouring farmhouse. It was admirably edited, with ‘Memoirs’ and notes, by John Barclay, 1833, 8vo; reprinted 1834 and 1856.

Andrew Jaffray (1650–1726), son of the above, was born on 8 Aug. 1650. He became an eminent minister among the quakers, and died on 1 Feb. 1726. He married Christian, daughter of Alexander Skene of Skene, by whom he had four sons and six daughters. He published ‘A Serious and Earnest Exhortation … to the … Inhabitants of Aberdeen,’ &c. [1677], 4to.

[Jaffray's Diary, 1833; Smith's Catalogue of Friends' Books, 1867, ii. 5 sq.]

A. G.