Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/187

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We soon after find Sir Richard engaged in diplomatic transactions for the settlement of the borders. In 1552, he was appointed, along with others, to make a division of what was called the debatable land, which division was ratified in the following November ; 3 and in 1559, he was nominated in a com- mission of a similar nature. The result of the last was, the conclusion of the treaty of Upsetlington.

In 15(53, he was appointed one of the commissioners to decide on the appli- cation of the act of oblivion ; and in the month of December of the same year, to frame regulations for the commissaries then about to be established for the decision of consistorial causes.

While he was thus employed, he was also rising rapidly in the profession which he had more peculiarly adopted. He is mentioned on the 14th of March, 1551, as an extraordinary lord of session; and about the same period, or soon afterwards, he received the honour of knighthood. Ten years after- wards (12th November, 15G1) he was admitted an ordinary lord, in the room of Sir William Hamilton of Sanquhar ; and on the same day his son, William Maitland, was received as an extraordinary lord, in place of Mr Alexander Livingston of Dunipace. Sir Richard was soon afterwards made a member of the privy council; and upon the 20th of December, 1562, appointed lord privy seal, which office he resigned in 1567 in favour of his second son, John, then prior of Coldinghame, and better known by his subsequent title of lord Thirl- stane. When we consider that these appointments were bestowed on Sir Richard, in circumstances that seemed to oppose an almost insurmountable bar- rier to the performance of their duties, they will be considered as the most de- cided proof of the estimation in which he was held as a good man, and an able lawyer. It does not exactly appear whether his health had been impaired by the performance of the duties of his various and important offices, it is only certain that about this period he had become blind. This calamity must have overtaken him before October, 1560, and most probably after his last appoint- ment as a commissioner for the settlement of border disputes, in 1559. The allusion to it in his poem on " The Quenis Arryvale in Scotland," (\\hich must have been written in the latter part of 1561,) is clear and unquestionable.

And thoch that I to serve be nocht sa abill

As I wes wont, becaus I may not see ; Yet in my hairt I sail be firme and stabill To thy I liciirs with all tidelitie, Ay prayan God for thy prosperitie, &c.

The state of the administration of the laws at this period was sufficiently de- plorable. The nobles and barons, while they assembled in parliament for the purpose of making statutes, felt no scruple in breaking them, on the most trifling occasions, and then appearing, when called to the bar of justice, sur- rounded by armed followers. So common, indeed, did this practice become, and so little regulated by the goodness or badness of the cause, that when some of the reformers were cited before Mary of Lorraine, the queen dowager and regent of Scotland, a large body of their friends assembled to accompany them to Stirling, where the queen then was ; and it was not till a promise of pardon (which was in the most unprincipled manner immediately violated) had been given, that they could be prevailed on to disperse. In like manner, when tho borderers or Highlanders extended their depredations beyond their usual limits, it was necessary that an army should be assembled for their suppression ;

  • Keith's History, p. 53.