Ross, Arthur (DNB00)

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ROSS, ARTHUR (d. 1704), archbishop of St. Andrews, was son of John Ross or Rose, parson of Birse, Aberdeenshire, by Elizabeth Wood; his grandfather, one of the famous ‘Aberdeen doctors,’ was descended from the Roses of Kilravock, Nairnshire. Arthur Ross's brother, minister of Monymusk, was father of Alexander Ross [q. v.], bishop of Edinburgh. The future primate was educated at St. Andrews, licensed by the presbytery of Garioch in 1655, and ordained and admitted in the following year to the charge of Kinernie, a parish now annexed to Midmar and Cluny. At the Restoration Ross signed the declaration of the synod of Aberdeen in favour of the re-establishment of episcopacy. He was translated to Old Deer in 1663, and in 1664 to the high church of Glasgow. The petition sent by the synod of Glasgow to the king in October 1669, complaining of ‘the indulgence’ as illegal and likely to be fatal to the church, was penned by him. In 1675 he was promoted to the see of Argyll, and was consecrated by Archbishop Leighton, Bishop Young of Edinburgh, and another. He was allowed to hold the parsonage of Glasgow along with the bishopric. In September 1679 he was translated to the see of Galloway, and in October of the same year to the archbishopric of Glasgow in succession to Dr. Alexander Burnet [q. v.], to whom he was indebted for his promotion. In a letter to Archbishop Sancroft, dated 25 Aug. 1684, Ross laments Burnet's death, and contrasts the state of the Scottish church with ‘that regularity of order, and that harmony that is in the constitution and devotions of that famous church in which your grace doth possess the highest station.’

In October 1684 Ross was promoted to the archbishopric of St. Andrews, ‘not so much,’ writes Fountainhall, ‘for any respect our statesmen bore him, as to remove him from Glasgow, where his carriage had made him odious.’ Early in 1686 Ross and John Paterson (1632–1708) [q. v.], bishop of Edinburgh, went to London to confer with the king on his proposed repeal of the penal laws against Roman catholics. They were willing to support his views on condition that the protestant religion should be secured by the most effectual laws which parliament could devise, and that the act of 1669, which declared that the power to change the government of the church belonged to the sovereign as an inherent right of the crown, should be abrogated. When parliament met, Ross spoke in favour of the proposed toleration, but it was strenuously opposed by several of the bishops, three of whom were deprived of their sees in consequence. The primate incurred great odium by the part he acted in this matter, but in a letter to Sancroft he says that the conditions of his support made his concessions ‘not so very criminal as they had been represented.’

When news of the expedition of William of Orange reached Scotland, Ross and the other bishops assembled in Edinburgh, and on 3 Nov. 1688 sent up a loyal address to King James, in which they described him as ‘the darling of heaven,’ and declared that allegiance to him was ‘an essential part of their religion.’ After the landing of the prince they sent Bishop Ross of Edinburgh to London to advise with the English bishops, while early in 1689 the episcopal party in Scotland sent the dean of Glasgow to London to learn from the prince of Orange his intentions regarding the church. William declared that he would do all he could to preserve episcopacy if the bishops would accept the new settlement of the kingdom. They seem to have wavered for a time, and the offer was renewed a few days before the meeting of the Scottish estates in March by the Duke of Hamilton, who informed the archbishop of St. Andrews and Bishop Ross of Edinburgh ‘that he had it in special charge from King William that nothing should be done to the prejudice of episcopacy in case the bishops could be brought to befriend his interests,’ and the duke prayed them ‘to follow the example of England.’ Ross replied that ‘both by natural allegiance, the laws, and the most solemn oaths, they were engaged in King James's interest, and that they would stand to it in face of all dangers and losses.’ The die was cast; Graham of Claverhouse was about to take the field on behalf of King James, and they determined to risk all on the issue. The primate and other bishops were present at the opening of the convention, but soon ceased to attend. In April prelacy was declared an ‘insupportable grievance,’ and it was formally abolished by act of parliament, 22 July 1689. After leaving the convention the bishops disappeared from view. In a letter from Lochaber of date 27 June, Claverhouse writes that they were ‘the kirk invisible,’ and that he did not know where the primate was.

After his deprivation Ross appears to have lived in great seclusion in Edinburgh till his death on 13 June 1704, and to have been buried at Restalrig, near the city. Educated and ordained as a presbyterian, he firmly opposed all concessions to those who adhered to the covenants, and he was so resolute in his Jacobitism that he sacrificed not only his personal fortunes but the interests of episcopacy in the cause. Bishop Burnet describes him as a ‘poor, ignorant, worthless man,’ in whom ‘obedience and fury were so eminent that they supplied all other defects,’ and secured for him the primacy of the church, which, he adds, was ‘a sad omen as well as a step to its fall and ruin.’ He seems to have been a man of blameless life and of moderate attainments, who was unequal to the difficulties which he had to encounter, and made no adequate attempt to overcome them (Grub). He was esteemed a good preacher.

Ross married Barbara, daughter of A. Barclay, minister of Alford, and had two sons: John, who was taken prisoner at Sheriffmuir, 1715; and Alexander, who predeceased his father; also two daughters: Barbara, who married Colonel John Balfour; and Anne, who became the second wife of John, fourth lord Balmerino. Their son Arthur Elphinstone, sixth lord Balmerino [q. v.], was engaged in a biography of the archbishop, his grandfather, and had collected valuable materials for the purpose, including letters from King James and King William, the bishops of England and Ireland, and many other leading men of the time; but his death on Tower Hill in 1746 put an end to the undertaking.

Ross's publications were: 1. ‘The Certainty of Death and Judgment: a Funeral Sermon,’ Glasgow, 1673. 2. ‘A Sermon before the Privy Council,’ Glasgow, 1684. A number of his letters appear in ‘Letters of Scottish Prelates,’ edited by W. Nelson Clarke, Edinburgh, 1848.

[Burnet's Hist. of his own Time; Wodrow's History; Keith's Scottish Bishops; Lyon's St. Andrews; Grub's History; Scott's Fasti; Campbell's Balmerino; Macpherson's Monymusk.]

G. W. S.