Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/140

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510


SIR GEORGE MACKENZIE.


a defender, so was that of his son in 1681, the first which exercised his abilities as a state prosecutor. In the father's case he had to resist the oppressive fic- tions of the crown lawyers, but all he suffered was amply repaid on the son. After this celebrated trial, he appears to have obtained, as part of the spoil, a gift of the barony of Bute, ratified by the parliament of 16 8 1. 3 On the re- capture of the earl after his escape, Mackenzie was one of those who objected to a new trial, and he accordingly recommended his suffering on his former sentence ; he is alleged to have done so from the probability, that, owing to the extreme injustice of the sentence, his heirs might probably be restored to theif heritage. If such was indeed his motive, no man was ever more improvident of his own fame, or disinterested in sacrificing it for others ; but Mr Laing has shrewdly observed, " no doubt Sir George at the Revolution would assume that merit with Argyle's son, when they sat together in the convention parliament. But he was the man who procured, when king's advocate, that illegal sentence, on which he moved for Argyle's execution." 1 Meanwhile his professional inge- nuity had been employed in the case of the lawburrows, by which a legal form, useful in the defence of the subject against lawless aggression, was, by adding to its natural power the weight of the royal influence, made an engine of op- pression. It would be a vain task to enumerate the minor state prosecutions, which, in this eventful period, gave full employment to this active servant of government most of them are well known, and they were at any rate numer- ous enough to stamp him in the minds of his opponents with a character which must live with his name " The blood-thirsty advocate." In the year 1680, he tried the celebrated Cargill, who, among other acts of inefficacious spiritual authority, had pronounced sentence of excommunication on the lord advocate. When the indictment was read, bearing, in the ordinary terms, that the accused " having cast off all fear of God," &c., the clerk was interrupted by Cargill, who said, " The man who hath caused this paper to be drawn up, hath done it contrary to the light of his own conscience, for he knoweth that I have been a fearer of God from my infancy; but that man, I say, who took the holy Bible in his hand, and said it would never be well with the land till that book was destroyed, I say, he is the man who hath cast off all fear of God." In 1684, after the escape of Sir Hugh Campbell, it being felt necessary that Baillie of Jer- viswood should suffer, Mackenzie's energies were exercised on the occasion ; and he gained the gratitude of the court, by doing what was wanted. Fountainhall has a characteristic note about his proceedings at this period. " Sir William Scott, of Harden, fined in 1500 Ib. sterling, for his ladle's being at a conventicle, and being at one himself. It was said the king's advocate, Sir George Mackenzie, got a previous gift of this fine, for journeys to London." 5 Sir George found it neces- sary to attempt a vindication of his acts, under the title of " A Vindication of the Government of Charles II.," which, lord Woodhouselee calmly observes, " will fully justify his conduct in the breast of every man whose judgment is not perverted by the same prejudices, hostile to all government, which led those infatuated offenders to the doom they merited." 6 Sir George was a calm and thinking man, and his vindication bears the aspect of candour ; but it is de- ficient in conclusiveness. " No age," he says, " did see so many thousands pardoned, nor so many indemnities granted, as was in his time : which, as it must be principally ascribed to the extraordinary clemency of the kings he served, so it may be in some measure imputed to the bias which Sir George had to the merciful hand." Sir George leaves out of view, that it is possible for one lord advocate so far to exceed another in the number of his prosecutions,

8 Acts, viii. 679. * History, ii. 154. * Fountainhall's Notes, 70.

6 Life of Kames, i. Ap. 12.