Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/139

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509
SIR GEORGE MACKENZIE.


long harangues. " About the close of his discourse, he was interrupted by the earl of Tweeddale, who said, that such long discourses were intolerable, espe- cially where they intended to persuade the parliament not to comply with his majesty's desires which interruption was generally looked upon as a breach of privilege and it was desired by duke Hamiltoun, that the earl of Tweeddale should go to the bar ; but the gentleman who was interrupted declared, that he had not been interrupted, but had finished his discourse ; and, thereupon, that motion took no further effect." Sir George sought distinction in his course through parliament by popular measures. In 1669, an act had been passed, compelling merchants to make oath as to their having paid duties on their mer- chandise. " The commissioner had that day said, that the stealing of the king's customs was a crime, which was to be provided against: whereupon, Sir George Mackenzie replied, that if it was a crime, no man could be forced to swear for it ; for by no law under heaven was it ever ordained that a man should swear in what was criminal. This, and all other passages of that day, joined with Sir George owning the burghs, in which it was alleged he had no proper interest, made his grace swear, in his return -from the parliament, that he would have that factious young man removed from the parliament : to effectuate which, he called a council of his favourites, and it was there contrived, that his election should be quarrelled, because he held only lands of the bishop of Ross, but not of his majesty, and so was not a free baron. But they were at last diverted from this resolution by the register, who assured them, that this would make the people jealous of some close design to overturn their liberties, which, as they be- lieved, that gentleman defended upon all occasions ; and that he would glory in his exclusion, because it would be believed that they could not effec- tuate their intentions, if he were allowed to keep his place in parlia- ment." Such is his own account of his parliamentary conduct, it may be correct in point of fact, and he has abstained from any mention of the mo- tives. He opposed the act of forfeiture against the western rebels, insist- ing that no man ought to be found or proved guilty in absence. His account of the opposition of the advocates on the subject of appeals, along with his somewhat suspicious conduct towards his rival Lockhart, have been already de- tailed. 2 Sir George Mackenzie would have gone to the grave with the charac- ter of a patriot, had he not been placed in a position where serving a king was more beneficial than serving the people. On the 23d of August, 1677, he was named king's advocate, on the dismission of Sir John Nisbet The object of the change was a subject of deep and well founded suspicion. Sir George states that his precursor, " a person of deep and universal learning, having dis- obliged my lord Hatton, he procured a letter to the lords of session, ordaining them to make inquiry into his having consulted pro et con. in the case of the lord chancellor and lord Melville, concerning the tailzie of the estate of Leven," and Sir George amiably represents himself as having persuaded Nisbet to stand to his defence. Wodrow observes that he was appointed, "some say upon a very sordid reason ;" and Burnet distinctly states, that it was for the purpose of prosecuting Mitchell, who had been pardoned four years before for the attempted murder of Sharpe : at all events this was his first duty in his high office it was one which on the whole required some address. Mackenzie had prepared him- self, by having been counsel for Mitchell when he was previously tried. " He was a very great instrument," says Wodrow, " in the hands of the presbyterians, and was scarce ever guilty of moderating any harsh proceedings against them, in the eyes of the prelates themselves." As the trial of the earl of Argyle in 1661, was the first important political case in which he had tried his powers as s In the Life of Sir George Lockhart.