Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/105

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SIR GEORGE LOCKHART. 475

hardships of a prison, the hopes of life, with other practices, might draw con- fessions from men, when they were perhaps drunk, or out of their senses. He brought upon this a measure of learning that amazed the audience, out of the lawyers of all civilized nations. And when it was opposed to this, that the coun- cil was a court of judicature, he showed that it was not the proper court for crimes of this nature, and that it had not proceeded in this as at a court of judi- cature. And he brought out likewise a great deal of learning upon those heads. But this was overruled by the court, and the confession was found to be judicial. The next thing pleaded for him was, that it was drawn from him upon the hope and promise of life : and on this Sharpe was examined. The person he had sent to Mitchell gave a full evidence of the promises he had made him ; but Sharpe denied them all. He also denied he ever heard any promise of life made him by the council ; so did the lords Lauderdale, Rothes, and Halton, to the astonishment of all that were present. Lockhart upon that produced a copy of the act of council, that made express mention of the promise given, and of his having confessed upon that. And the prisoner prayed that the books of council, which lay in a room over that in which the court sat, might be sent for. Lockhart pleaded, that since the court had judged that the council was a judicature, all people had a right to search into their registers ; and the prisoner, who was like to suffer by a confession made there, ought to have the benefit of those books. Duke Lauderdale, who was in the court only as a wit- ness, and so had no right to speak, stood up, and said he and those other noble persons were not brought thither to be accused of perjury ; and added, that the books of council were the king's secrets, and that no court should have the perusing of them. The court was terrified with this, and the judges were di- vided in opinion. Primrose and one other was for calling for the books, but three were of opinion that they were not to furnish the prisoner with evidence, but to judge of that which he brought, and here was only a bare copy, not at- tested upon oath, which ought not to have been read. So this defence being rejected, he was cast and condemned." 3 Perhaps the annals of crime scarcely produce another so perfect specimen of judicial villany.

The talents and courage of Lockhart were employed by the duke of Argyle at his memorable trial in 1681 ; three times the privy council denied him the sanction of their warrant unfortunately often necessary at that period for the safely of the lawyer who should defend a person accused of treason and it was at last granted, lest Argyle, on the ground that he was deprived of legal assis- tance, might interrupt the trial by refusing to plead. In the parliament of 1681, he was appointed one of the commissioners of the shire of Lanark, a seat which he held till his death, and in 1685, after the fall of his opponents in the ministry, we find him one of the committee appointed to answer the king's letter to the parliament, and a lord of the articles. 6 In 1685, on the death of Sir David Falconer of Newton, Lockhart was appointed president of the court of session, and was soon afterwards made a privy councillor, and a commissioner of the exchequer. Having in the year 1679, boldly undertaken the task of representing before the king the grievances against Lauderdale, he was considered one of the chief political opponents of that minister, and seems to have been gradually led to a participation with the proceedings of the duke of York. After having followed the actions of a high minded man through the path of honour, and seen him use his talents and influence in the protection of the weak, and resistance to the powerful, it is painful to arrive at transactions, in which the presence of his accustomed firmness, or integrity, may seem want- ing. He is said to have been at first opposed to a repeal of the penal laws

  • Burnet, i. 41. 6 Act. Parl., viii. 456,7.