Lockhart, George (1630?-1689) (DNB00)

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

LOCKHART, Sir GEORGE (1630?–1689), of Carnwath, lord president of the court of session, born about 1630, was younger brother of Sir William Lockhart [q. v.], and was second son of Sir James Lockhart of Lee [q. v.], by his second wife, Martha, daughter of Sir George Douglas of Mordington, Berwickshire. He was admitted advocate 5 June 1656, and on 14 May 1658 was named advocate to the Protector during life, ‘or so long as he demeaned himself well therein.’ In 1658–9 he was sheriff of Lanark, and represented Lanarkshire in the English parliament of 1658–1659. At the Restoration the loyalty of his father secured his pardon, but he had humbly on his knees to swear allegiance to Charles II, and to express contrition for having held office ‘under the usurper.’ In 1663 he was knighted by Charles.

Lockhart ultimately became the most skilful and eloquent pleader of his time, his only rival in forensic ability being Sir George Mackenzie. ‘He did so charm, and with his tongue,’ wrote Lauder of Fountainhall of his eloquence, ‘drew us all after him by the ears in a pleasant gaping amazement and constraint, that the wonderful effects of Orpheus' harp in moving the stones seems not impossible to an orator on the stupidest spirit’ (Hist. Notices, p. 80). In 1672 he was elected dean of the Faculty of Advocates. In February 1674 he was the occasion of one of the most notable occurrences connected with the Scottish bar. When the court was about to decide a case against his client Lord Almond, he advised an appeal from the court to parliament. The judges regarded the action as illegal and disrespectful, and their view was adopted by the government. Lockhart and others with him in the case were debarred from pursuing their profession at the pleasure of the king, whereupon fifty other advocates in token of their esteem of Lockhart voluntarily withdrew from practice. At the instance of Lauderdale, Lockhart and all his friends were banished from Edinburgh and twelve miles round. A day was fixed for their making their submission, but they still stood out, and legal business was virtually suspended for a year (Burnet, Own Time, ed. 1838, p. 246). At length, through the intervention of Sir George Mackenzie, they were induced to yield, and were permitted to return on acknowledging, somewhat ambiguously, that the judicial proceedings of the court were not suspended by appeals. Lockhart himself was not readmitted till 28 Jan. 1676.

During the covenanting persecutions Lockhart was in great request for the defence of political prisoners, but sometimes the government, as in the case of Baillie of Jerviswood, claimed his services. His defence of Michell, tried in 1678 for attempting to shoot Archbishop Sharp, was specially noteworthy for eloquence and boldness (see ib. p. 276). In 1679 he was one of the counsel employed by the Scottish lords to impeach the administration of Lauderdale before the king. Engaged as counsel by the Earl of Argyll on his trial for treason in 1681, he was three times deprived of the sanction of a warrant from the privy council, and it was only granted at last lest Argyll should refuse to plead. In 1681–1682 and in 1685–6 Lockhart represented the county of Lanark in the Scottish parliament. On 21 Dec. 1685 he succeeded Sir David Falconer of Newton as lord president of the court of session, and in 1686 became a member of the privy council and a commissioner of the exchequer. Lockhart and two other members of the Scottish privy council were summoned to London in 1686 to discuss James II's proposals for the removal of catholic disabilities. They agreed to the proposals on condition that similar indulgence were granted to presbyterians, and that the king should bind himself by an oath not to do anything prejudicial to the protestant religion. James merely promised some relaxation of severity in his treatment of the presbyterians. On his return from London Lockhart strongly opposed the king's proposals at the meeting of the committee of articles, but when he saw that resistance for the time was hopeless he ceased to offer opposition. His friends explained that he could better serve the interests of protestantism by retaining office than resigning, but his conduct laid him open to charges of insincerity. How far his sympathies were with the revolution cannot be accurately determined. Balcarres states that he opposed the address to the Prince of Orange (Memoirs, p. 17) but he died before the government was finally settled, being shot on Sunday, 31 March 1689, in the High Street of Edinburgh by John Chiesley of Dalry, in revenge for a decision given by Lockhart in favour of Chiesley's wife in her suit for aliment. After being tortured by the boots, Chiesley was executed on the following Wednesday, and his body hung in chains between Leith and Edinburgh.

By his wife, Philadelphia, daughter of the fourth Lord Wharton, Lockhart had one daughter and two sons: George [q. v.], author of ‘Memoirs of Scotland,’ and Philip [q. v.], shot as a rebel at Preston in 1715.

[Lauder of Fountainhall's Historical Notices and Historical Observes (Bannatyne Club); Sir George Mackenzie's Memoirs; Wodrow's Sufferings of the Kirk of Scotland; Burnet's Own Time; Macaulay's Hist. of England; Burton's Hist. of Scotland.]

T. F. H.