Maconochie, Alexander (DNB00)

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MACONOCHIE, afterwards MACONOCHIE-WELWOOD, ALEXANDER, Lord Meadowbank (1777–1861), Scottish judge, eldest son of Allan Maconochie [q. v.], by his wife Elizabeth, third daughter of Robert Welwood of Garvock and Pitliver, Fifeshire, was born on 2 March 1777. He was admitted an advocate on 2 March 1799, and in 1807 was appointed one of the lord advocate's deputes (Cockburn, Memorials of his Time, 1866, p. 228). Maconochie became sheriff of Haddingtonshire on 28 April 1810. On 13 Feb. 1813 he was appointed solicitor-general in Lord Liverpool's administration, and in July 1816 succeeded Archibald Colquhoun as lord advocate. Maconochie entered upon the duties of his office at a critical time. A number of secret despatches which passed between him and the home secretary (Lord Sidmouth) relating to the supposed plot at Glasgow are preserved in the Record Office.

At a by-election in February 1817 he was returned for the borough of Yarmouth in the Isle of Wight, and spoke for the first time in the House of Commons on the 26th of the same month, in support of the first reading of the Habeas Corpus Suspension Bill, when he created a great sensation by reading the secret oath, which he stated had been administered at Glasgow (Parl. Debates, 1st ser. xxxv. 728–80, 733). Lord Cockburn states that on doubts being expressed of the accuracy of his information he was 'cheered by his party into the rashness of pledging himself to prove its accuracy by speedy convictions,' and that the pledge injuriously affected his methods of conducting the subsequent trials for sedition (Memorials, p. 829). Returning to Edinburgh he conducted the proceedings against Alexander McLaren and Thomas Baird for sedition, and against William Edgar for administering unlawful oaths (Howell, State Trials, 1826, xxxiii. 1–274). During the debate on the third reading of the Habeas Corpus Suspension Bill in June 1817, he made a spirited reply to the attacks which had been made upon him in the house during his absence (Parl. Debates, 1st ser. xxxvi. 1250–2). In his conduct of the proceedings against Andrew McKinley for administering unlawful oaths (Howell, xxxiii. 275–628), he was guilty of several grave errors of judgment. Lord Archibald Hamilton's motion for the production of the papers in that case was, however, defeated on 10 Feb. 1818, after an elaborate speech by Maconochie in his own defence, by 136 to 71 (Parl. Debates, 1st ser. xxxvii. 288–97, 323, 824, 829). In March 1818 Maconochie accepted the Chiltern hundreds, and was returned for the Kilkenny district of burghs, for which he continued to sit until his elevation to the judicial bench. Though he opposed Lord Archibald Hamilton's motion respecting the burgh of Montrose (ib. xxxvii. 431–3), he brought in a bill on 10 April 1818 for controlling the expenditure of the corporations of the royal burghs (ib. xxxvii. 1291–2, 1293–4, 1295). The bill was, however, considered inadequate, and, in consequence of the numerous petitions against it, it was finally withdrawn. On 1 April 1819 Maconochie opposed at great length Lord Archibald Hamilton's motion relating to the burgh of Aberdeen, which narrowly escaped being carried (ib. xxxix. 1287–1333, 1351), and a few days afterwards he again introduced, without success, a Royal Burghs Accounts Bill (ib. xxxix. 1483).

Maconochie was appointed an ordinary lord of session and a lord of justiciary in the place of David Douglas, lord Reston, and took is seat on the bench as Lord Meadowbank on 1 July 1819. As a judge Maconochie suffered by comparison with his father. According to an old Parliament House story he once asked a counsel, who was pleading before him, to explain the distinction between the words 'also' and 'likewise' which he had used in his argument. 'Your lordship's father,' was the reply, 'was Lord Meadowbank; your lordship is Lord Meadowbank also, but not likewise' (Omond, ii. 255). In proposing Sir Walter Scott's health at the first dinner of the Edinburgh Theatrical Fund on 23 Feb. 1827, Maconochie taxed him with the authorship of the 'Waverley Novels,' whereupon Scott, 'to end that farce at once,' for the first time in public 'pleaded guilty' (Lockhart, Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott, 1845, pp. 653–4). He was one of the judges who presided at the trial of William and Helen McDougal in the high court of justiciary at Edinburgh in December 1828 (Annual Register, 1828, App. to Chron. pp. 365–85). Maconochie resigned his seat on the judicial bench in November 1843.

He continued to take an active part in public matters connected with the county and with Edinburgh, was a member of the Board of Manufactures and a vice-president of the Royal Institution. He devoted much attention to the improvement of Meadowbank, where, as lord advocate, he had entertained the Archduke Nicholas, afterwards emperor of Russia, and the Archduke Maximilian of Austria. On the death of his cousin, Robert Scott Welwood, in June 1854, he succeeded to the entailed estates of Garvock and Pitliver, and assumed the additional surname of Welwood.

He died on 30 Nov. 1861 at Meadowbank House, aged 84, and was buried in the private burial-ground on the Meadowbank estate in the parish of Kirknewton. Maconochie married, on 29 April 1805, Anne, the eldest daughter of Robert Blair of Avontoun (1741–1811) [q. v.], 'the finest woman' Scott saw at Holyrood when the king was there (Journal of Sir Walter Scott, 1890, ii. 266). By her Maconochie had five sons and five daughters, viz. (1) Allan Alexander, who became regius professor of laws in Glasgow University, and died on 29 May 1885; (2) Robert Blair, admitted a writer to the signet on 23 Nov. 1837, and died on 4 Oct. 1883; (3) William Maximilian George, formerly a captain in the Bengal light cavalry; (4) Henry Dundas; (5) Charles; (6) Isabella Cornelia Halket; (7) Elizabeth Browne; (8) Mary Anne, the wife of Steward Baillie Hare of Calder Hall; (9) Anne Boswell, who died on 9 April 1882; and (10) Harriet. His widow died on 28 Jan. 1866. A portrait of Maconochie, painted by Sir Henry Raeburn in 1816, was exhibited at the Raeburn Exhibition at Edinburgh in 1876 (Catalogue, No. 69).

Two etchings of Maconochie appear in the second volume of Kay's ' Series of Original Portraits' (Nos. 317 and 320). The 'substance' of his speech 'in the House of Commons on Thursday, 1 April 1819, on the motion of the Right Hon. Lord Archibald Hamilton for an Address to his Majesty, for production of the proceedings before His Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council respecting the Burgh of Aberdeen,' was published m 1819 (Edinburgh, 8vo). He reprinted Lord Brougham's 'Memoir of the late Hon. Allan Maconochie of Meadowbank,' &c. (Edinburgh, 1815, 8vo, privately printed), which originally appeared in the third number of the 'Law Review' (art. v.)

[Kay's Series of Original Portraits, &c, 1877, i. 316, 351, ii. 21, 353, 432-4, 444, 450, 451; Brunton and Haig's Senators of the College of Justice, 1832, p. 550; Omond's Lord Advocates of Scotland, 1883, ii. 225, 231-55; Cockburn's Circuit Journeys, 1889; Anderson's Scottish Nation, 1863, iii. 60, 634; Grant's Old and New Edinburgh, i. 350, ii. 199, 227; Burke's Landed Gentry, 1886, ii. 1203; History of the Society of Writers to the Signet, 1890, p. 138; Ann. Reg. 1861, pp. 467-8; Scots Mag. 1805 p. 406, 1862 pp. 228-30; Gent. Mag. 1813 pt. i. p. 281, 1816 pt. ii. p. 79, 1843 pt. ii. p. 645; Return of Members of Parliament, pt. ii. pp. 264, 269, 281.]

G. F. R. B.