Page:EB1911 - Volume 25.djvu/784

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.

him and others of the exiles by Sir G. Mackenzie, the lord advocate. He was charged with accession to the rebellion of 1679, the Rye House plot, and the expedition of Argyll. With the first two he had no connexion; with Argyll's unfortunate attempt he had no doubt sympathized, but the only proof of his complicity was slight, and was obtained by torture. The proceedings against him were never brought to an issue, having been continued by successive adjournments until 1687, when they were dropped. The cause of their abandonment was the appointment of his son, the master of Stair, who had made his peace with James II., as lord advocate in room of Mac- kenzie, who was dismissed from office for refusing to relax the penal laws against the Roman Catholics. The master only held office as lord advocate for a year, when he was " degraded to be justice clerk " — the king and his advisers finding him not a fit tool for their purpose. Stair remained in Holland till the following year, when he returned under happier auspices in the suite of William of Orange. William, who had made his ac- quaintance through the pensionary Fagel, was ever afterwards the firm friend of Stair and his family. The master was made lord advocate; and, on the murder of Lockhart of Carnwath in the following year, Stair was again placed at the head of the court of session. An unscrupulous opposition, headed by Montgomery of Skelmorlie; who coveted the office of secretary for Scotland, and Lord Ross, who aimed at the presidency of the court, sprang up in the Scottish parliament; and an anony- mous pamphleteer, perhaps Montgomery himself or Ferguson the Plotter, attacked Stair in a pamphlet entitled The Late Proceedings of the Parliament of Scotland Stated and Vindicated. He defended himself by publishing an Apology, which, in the opinion of impartial judges, was a complete vindication.

Shortly after its issue he was created Viscount. Stair (1690). He had now reached the summit of his prosperity, and the few years which remained of his old age were saddened by private and public cares. In 1692 he lost his wife, the faithful partner of his good and evil fortune for nearly fifty years. The massacre of the Macdonalds of Glencoe (Feb. 13, 1692), which has marked his son, the master of Stair, with a stain which his great services to the state cannot efface — for he was undoubtedly the principal adviser of William in that treacherous and cruel deed, as a signal way of repressing rebellion in the Highlands — was used as an opportunity by his adversaries of renewing their attack on the old president. His own share in the crime was remote; it was alleged that he had as a privy councillor declined to receive Glencoe's oath of allegiance, though tendered, on the technical ground that it was emitted after the day fixed, but even this was not clearly proved. But some share of the odium which attached to his son was naturally reflected on him. Other grounds of complaint were not difficult to make up, which found willing supporters in the opposition members of parliament. A disappointed suitor brought in a bill in 1693 complaining of his partiality. He was also accused of domineering over the other judges and of favouring the clients of his sons. Two bills were introduced without naming him but really aimed at him — one to disqualify peers from being judges and the other to confer on the Crown a power to appoint temporary presidents of the court. The complaint against him was remitted to a committee, which, after full inquiry, completely exculpated him; and the two bills, whose incompetency he demonstrated in an able paper addressed to the commission and parliament, were allowed to drop. He was also one of a parliamentary commission which prepared a report on the regulation of the judicatures, afterwards made the basis of a statute in 1695 supplementary to that of 1672, and forming the foundation of the judicial procedure in the Scottish courts for many years. On the 29th of November 1695 Stair, who had been for some time in failing health, died in Edinburgh, and was buried in the church of St Giles.

In 1695 there was published in London a small volume with the title A Vindication of the Divine Perfections, Illustrating the Glory of God in them by Reason and Revelation, methodically digested — By a Person of Honour. It was edited by the two Nonconformist divines, William Bates and John Howe, who had been in exile in Holland along with Stair, and is undoubtedly his work. Perhaps it had been a sketch of the " Inquiry Concerning Natural Theology " which he had contemplated writing in 1681. It is of no value as a theological work, for Stair was no more a theologian than he was a man of science, but it is of interest as showing the serious bent of his thoughts and the genuine piety of his character.

Stair's great legal work, The Institutions of the Law of Scotland deduced from its Originals, and collated with the Civil, Canon and Feudal Laws and with the Customs of Neighbouring Nations, affords evidence of the advantage he had enjoyed from his philosophical training, his foreign travels and his intercourse with Continental jurists as well as English lawyers. Unfortunately for its permanent fame and use, much of the law elucidated in it has now become antiquated through the decay of the feudal part of Scottish law and the large introduction of English law, especially in the departments of commercial law and equity.

The Physiologia was favourably noticed by Boyle, and is inter- esting as showing the activity of mind of the exiled judge, who returned to the studies of his youth with fresh zest when physical science was approaching its new birth. But he was not able to emancipate himself from formulae which had cramped the education of his generation, and had not caught the light which Newton spread at this very time by the communication of his Principia to the Royal Society of London.

Stair was fortunate in his descendants. " The family of Dalrymple," observes Sir Walter Scott, " produced within two centuries as many men of talent, civil and military, of literary, political and professional eminence, as any house in Scotland." His five sons were all remarkable in their professions. John, master of Stair (1648-1707), who was created 1st earl of Stair in 1703, an able lawyer and politician, who is, however, principally remembered for his part in the massacre of Glencoe, is dealt with above. Sir James Dalrymple of Borthwick, created a baronet in 1698, was one of the principal clerks of session, and a very thorough and accurate historical anti- quary. Sir Hew Dalrymple of North Berwick (1652-1737) succeeded his father as president, and was reckoned one of the best lawyers and speakers of his time; he, too, was created a baronet in 1698. Thomas Dalrymple became physician to Queen Anne. Sir David Dalrymple of Hailes (d. 1721), who was created a baronet in 1700, was lord advocate under Anne and George I. ; and his grandson was the famous judge and historian, Lord Hailes (q.v.).

Stair's grandson, John, 2nd earl (1673-1747), who rose to be a field-marshal, gained equal credit in war and diplomacy. He was ambassador in Paris (1715-1720), and, besides seeing service under Marlborough, was commander-in-chief of the British forces on the Continent in 1742, showing great gallantry at the battle of Dettingen. He had no son, and in 1707 had selected his nephew John (1720-1789). as heir to the title; but through a decision of the House of Lords in 1748 he only became 5th earl, after his cousin James and James's son had succeeded as 3rd and 4th earls. John's son, the 6th earl, died without issue, and a cousin again succeeded as 7th earl, his two sons becoming 8th and 9th earls. The 8th earl (1771-1853) was a general in the army, and keeper of the great seal of Scotland. The 9th earl's son and grandson succeeded as 10th and nth earls.

For a fuller account of the life of Stair, see J. Murray Graham, Annals of the Viscount and First and Second Earls of Stair (1875); A. J. G. Mackay, Memoir of Sir James Dalrymple, First Viscount Stair (1875); and Sir R. Douglas, Peerage of Scotland, new ed., by Sir J. B. Paul.

STAIR (O. Eng. staeger, step, from stigan, to climb, cf. Ger. steigen; the root is also seen in " stile " and " stirrup "), in architecture, the term (Fr. escalier) given to a series of steps rising one above the other, either in one straight line or with returns, or round a newel, or open well-hole, either square, rectangular, circular or elliptical. A series of continuous steps is called a " flight." The ordinary staircase of two flights with landing between is known as a "pair"; "two pair back" therefore would be the room at the back on the second floor; in houses where the space occupied by the staircase is very limited there is no landing, but the stairs wind round the corner post or newel, and are known as " winders."

The steps of a stair consist of " tread " and "riser," the