Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/104

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474 SIR GEORGE LOCKHART.

petition was viewed by the privy council and the king, as a daring and seditious piece of pleading ; and Sir John Cunningham proceeding to London to endea- vour by his personal influence to alleviate the threatened effects, was quickly followed by Sir George Lockhart and Sir Robert Sinclair ; " but upon express promise," says Mackenzie, " that if Sir George Mackenzie and those who had signed the address, should be pursu'd for it, they should return and concur with him in the defence. Notwithstanding whereof," he continues, " they having been pursu'd in a process before the privy council, Sir George Lockhart and Sir Robert Sinclair retir'd, and lurk't near to North Allerton, without acquaint- ing even their wives of their residence, lest thereby they might have been advertis'd. Whereupon Sir George Mackenzie gave in his defence," &c. The defence deserted the constitutional origin of the struggle, and assumed the aspect of a mere vindication of the motives of presenting the petition. Macken- zie at length yielded : as a motive for so doing, he says but we are aware of no document that confirms the assertion that he " intercepted at last a letter, wherein they (Lockhart and Sinclair) told their confidents that they had re-solved to \vait the event of that process ; in which, if Sir George Mackenzie was absolved, they would be secure by the preparative ; but if he was found guilty, the malice of the pursuers would be blunted before it reacht them." Accordingly, on the plausible ground that " it was no dishonour to submit to their prince, ceding being only dishonourable amongst equals, and never being so, when the contest was rais'd by such as design'd to make them knaves and fools," prevailed on the greater number of his brethren to submit Sir George Lockhart, left to maintain the struggle almost alone, fully aware that unanimity and number only can give effect to political resistance, presented a tardy submis- sion in December, 1675, and was re-admitted to the privileges of his profession on the 28th of January, 1676. 4 We have dwelt thus long on this incident, be- cause it is one of the very few constitutional struggles connected with the his- tory of Scotland, and the curious details lately brought to light in the Memoirs of Sir George Mackenzie, are not very generally perused.

The next political transaction in which we find Lockhart professionally en- gaged, is the trial of Mitchell in 1678, for having four years previously at- tempted the murder of archbishop Sharpe. He was tried on his own confes- sion, and there is no point of history more surely ascertained, or less liable to doubt, than that the confession was obtained on a promise of pardon. " But," as Burnet expressively says, " Sharpe would have his life." For the purpose of facilitating the prosecution, Nisbet, the lord advocate, was superseded by Mac- kenzie ; and Primrose, from being clerk register, was appointed justice general " He fancied," says Burnet, " orders had been given to raze the act that the coun- cil had made (the act offering the conditional pardon), so he turned the books, and he found the act still on record. He took a copy of it and sent it to Mitchell's counsel." Thus armed, Lockhart appeared, to meet the confession. Burnet, who says, " he was the most learned lawyer and the best pleader I have ever yet known in any nation," states that " he did plead to the admiration of all, to show that no extrajudicial confession could be allowed in a court. The

quotations, compare the following published character of the professional abilities of his great rival, by Sir George Mackenzie, in his Eloquence of the Bar it would be difficult to-conceive a more perfect picture of a great forensic orator. ' Lockartius corpus alterum juris civilis, alterque Cicero dici poterat. llli etiam peculiare erat arguinenta sua eo ordine disponere, ut tanquam lapides in fornice alter alterum sustineret ; quse ex improvise, dum oraret, ei sug- gerebantur, prompta solertia indicabat, aptisque loris disponebat. .Nihil ab eo absconclil jurisprudentia, et quamprimum casus illi a cliente aperiretur, sua omnia, omniaque adver- sarii argumenta retexebat. Iracundia, quae alios oratores turbabat, eum tautum excitare solebat ; vocem tameii latratu,vultumque rugis deformabat.' 4 Mackenzie's Memoirs, 267 to 310.