Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 52.djvu/312

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Sinclair
Sinclair
301

void by the sentence of death. On his return to Scotland, after receiving pardon, he continued to reside at Dysart, Fifeshire, until he was summoned to join the standard of rebellion under Mar in 1715. He obeyed the summons with reluctance, not because of lukewarmness as a Jacobite, but because he had little or no faith either in Mar's sincerity or ability. Still, to him belongs the credit of the one brilliant Jacobite achievement of the campaign. Learning that a vessel with arms and stores from the castle of Edinburgh, intended for the retainers of the Earl of Sutherland in the north of Scotland, had, from stress of weather, been brought to anchor near Burntisland, the master, setting out from Perth with four hundred horse, reached Burntisland at midnight. Without losing a moment, a detachment of his soldiers seized some boats in the harbour, boarded the vessel without resistance, and thus obtained 420 complete stand of arms. But at Sheriffmuir his action was not at all in keeping with this daring exploit. In command of the Fifeshire and Aberdeen horse, he was attached to the division which advanced towards Dunblane. This division met the left wing of Argyll's army and was victorious; but Sinclair, though he writes in high praise of the incredible vigour and rapidity of the highland attack, himself did nothing to turn it to account; and in the old song his doubtful attitude is thus satirised:

‘Huntly and Sinclair they baith played the tinkler
With consciences black as the snaw man.’

On the return of Mar's forces to Perth, Sinclair left the camp and went north to Strathbogie, and thence to Orkney, where he at last found a vessel to take him to the continent. Being attainted for his share in the rebellion, he remained abroad until 1726, when he received a pardon as regards his life, but without remission of the other consequences of the attainder. Returning to Scotland, he received back the estates at the hands of his younger brother, General James Sinclair, as had been privately arranged between them. The master of Sinclair died at Dysart on 20 Nov. 1750. He was married, first, to Lady Mary Stewart, eldest daughter of James, fifth earl of Galloway, and dowager of James, fifth earl of Southesk; and, secondly, to Amelia, eldest daughter of Lord George Murray, sister of John, third duke of Atholl, but left no issue by either marriage.

The master of Sinclair's ‘Memoirs of the Rebellion,’ published by the Roxburghe Club, 1858, are curiously cynical and sarcastic, but graphic and clever, and of great value for the light they throw on the inner history of the Jacobite rising. He has also been credited with the authorship of ‘A True Account of the Proceedings at Perth, the Debates in the Secret Council there, and the reasons and causes of the sudden finishing and breaking up of the Rebellion,’ London, 1716; but the fact is, he had left the camp before these debates commenced.

[Proceedings in the Court Martial, with preliminary notice of Sinclair by Sir Walter Scott; Memoirs ut supra; Histories of the Rebellion of 1715; Douglas's Scottish Peerage (Wood), ii. 501.]

T. F. H.

SINCLAIR, Sir JOHN (1754–1835), first president of the board of agriculture, was born on 10 May 1754 at Thurso Castle, Caithness. He was the third but eldest surviving son of George Sinclair of Ulbster, whose ancestors had held the earldoms of Caithness and Orkney (see Morrison's History of the Sinclair Family in Europe and America, 8vo, Boston, Mass., 1896). John's mother was Lady Janet Sutherland, sister of William, earl of Sutherland.

John was educated at the high school of Edinburgh, and at the universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Oxford, where he matriculated as a gentleman commoner at Trinity College on 26 Jan. 1775. He read for the law, though with no intention of practising, and in the same year became a member of the faculty of advocates at Edinburgh. In November 1774 he entered Lincoln's Inn, and in 1782 he was called to the English bar.

At the age of sixteen he inherited by his father's death extensive estates in Caithness, part of the domains of the old earldom of Caithness. He at once began improvements, the chief of which was the construction, in one day, of a road across the mountain of Ben Cheilt, hitherto supposed impassable. For a boy of eighteen this was ‘a striking example of courage and energy,’ but tinged with a love of empty display, characteristic of all his achievements. As he himself admits, ‘a road made so rapidly could not be durable’ (Corresp. i. xx).

On 26 March 1776 Sinclair married Sarah, daughter of Alexander Maitland; and in 1780 he became member of parliament for Caithness. Almost his first political action was to volunteer to second the address at the opening of the session of 1781, an offer politely refused by Lord North. Sinclair then made an abortive attempt to form a clique of his own. He devoted considerable attention to naval affairs, which formed the