Murray, John Archibald (DNB00)

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MURRAY, Sir JOHN ARCHIBALD, Lord Murray (1779-1859), Scottish judge, was the second son of Alexander Murray, lord Henderland [q. v.], lord of session and justiciary. His mother was Katherine, daughter of Sir Alexander Lindsay of Evelick, Perthshire, and a niece of the first Lord Mansfield, Born in Midlothian in 1779, he was educated successively at the Edinburgh High School, at Westminster School, and at the university of Edinburgh. At Edinburgh he was a member of the Juvenile Literary Society, of which Henry Brougham and Francis Horner were the leading spirits, and of the Speculative Society. He constantly corresponded with Horner till the latter's death in 1817, and his letters form a chief part of the 'Memoirs of Horner,' 1843. In 1799 Murray passed to the Scottish bar. On the establishment of the 'Edinburgh Review,' Sydney Smith, F. Horner, Francis Jeffrey, Dr. Thomas Brown, and he, met for a time as joint editors in Jeffrey's house, and he long continued a frequent contributor. His early career at the bar was distinguished, but being in easy circumstances he latterly relaxed his efforts. In 1826 he married Mary, the eldest daughter of William Rigby of Oldfield Hall, Cheshire. An ardent liberal, Murray threw in his lot with the brilliant band of young Edinburgh whig lawyers, and took a prominent part in the agitation which led to the passing of the Reform Bill of 1832. In December of that year he was returned unopposed for Leith, which had been enfranchised under the bill, and was appointed recorder of the great roll and clerk of the pipe, a sinecure in the Scottish exchequer which he did not long hold. On the elevation of Jeffrey to the bench in 1835, Murray succeeded him as lord advocate. He introduced a large number of bills into the House of Commons, including measures for the reform of the universities, for giving popular magistracies to small towns, for enabling sheriffs to hold small debt circuits, for the reform of the court of session, and for amending the bankruptcy law, but only succeeded in carrying a few minor reforms. In 1839 he was savagely attacked in parliament by his old friend Brougham for his conduct in the case of five cotton-spinners who were tried on a charge of murder arising out of a trade-union dispute, but he answered the charges to the complete satisfaction of the house. Murray seemed to feel himself unfitted for political life, and in 1839 he left parliament for the court of session. He was knighted and took his seat on the bench as Lord Murray. He remained on the bench till his death at Edinburgh in March 1859. His only son died in boyhood.

Murray's early manhood was the most brilliant portion of his career, but, though he never occupied that position in public life which might have been predicted for him from his early distinction, his connection with the past, his generous patronage of art and letters, his geniality and interest in the welfare of his fellow-citizens, gave him in his later years a peculiar position in Edinburgh society. His hospitality was profuse and famous. Scott in his 'Diary' records many pleasant evenings spent at Murray's house, and Harriet Martineau celebrates his tea-parties at St. Stephen's when he was lord advocate. In Edinburgh and in his country residence at Strachur on Loch Fyne, and afterwards in Jura, he gathered his friends round him, while Lady Murray, an accomplished musician, ably helped him to entertain them.

[Memoirs and Correspondence of Francis Homer, M.P., London, 1843; Journal of Henry Cockburn, Edinburgh, 1874; Biographical Sketches by Harriet Martineau, London, 1869 ; Scotsman, 18 March 1859 ; Journal of Sir Walter Scott, Edinburgh, 1890.]

J. F.-y.