DALRYMPLE, Hon. Sir David, 1st Bt. (c.1665-1721), of Hailes, Haddington.
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Family and Education
b. c.1665, 5th s. of James Dalrymple, 1st Visct. of Stair [S], ld. president ct. of session 1671–81, 1689–95, by Margaret, da. and coh. of James Ross of Balneil, Wigtown., and wid. of Fergus Kennedy of Knockdaw, Ayr. educ. Edinburgh Univ. MA 1681; Leyden 1682; adv. 1688. m. 4 Apr. 1691, Janet, da. of Sir James Rochead of Inverleith, Edinburgh., and wid. of Alexander Murray of Melgund, Forfar., 3s. (1 d.v.p.) 4da. (3 d.v.p.). cr. Bt. 8 May 1701.1
MP [S] Culross 1698–1707.
Jt. solicitor-gen. [S] 1701–9; auditor of treasury [S] 1701; commr. union with England, 1702, 1706; ld. adv. 1709–11, 1714–20; auditor gen. of exchequer [S] 1720–d.
Burgess, Edinburgh 1702, Glasgow 1704, Dunbar 1708, Ayr 1709.2
Dean, faculty of advocates, 1712–d.3
Commr. visitation, Glasgow Univ. 1717, 1718, St. Andrews Univ. 1718.
The Dalrymples, by their conduct before and after the Revolution, acquired a reputation for political opportunism and duplicity. The principal targets of opprobrium were the Member’s father and eldest brother, who successfully straddled the political fence during the 1680s. Sir James Dalrymple of Stair, a wily survivor under the Commonwealth, transferred smoothly to high office under the Restoration regime and rose to the presidency of the court of session in 1671. Yet his role in ensuring that the Test Act of 1681 included safeguards against Catholicism lost him favour at Court, and (in conjunction with his unwillingness to subscribe to the act) prompted his removal from office. Taking stock of uncertain prospects, Stair chose the safety of exile, leaving his eldest son, Sir John, Master of Stair, in charge of the family estates. While the elder Stair consoled himself with those academic pursuits which earned him enduring fame, the younger suffered a period of vexatious persecution, until he made his peace with James II, being appointed lord advocate in 1687 because of his readiness to condone the crown’s dispensing power. His attitude towards conventiclers was nevertheless deemed insufficiently rigorous and he was transferred, the following year, to the post of justice clerk. In the prelude to the Revolution, therefore, the father was at the centre of Williamite planning in Holland, whereas his son held confidential office in Scotland. Sir James was a natural beneficiary of the events of 1688–9, resuming the presidency of the session and securing a peerage in 1690. But, to the outrage of many contemporaries, the King found it likewise expedient to include the Master of Stair in the Scottish administration, appointing him lord advocate in 1689. Such triumphs created an abiding impression that the family was always acting, as Lord Seafield expressed it, ‘upon double views’. Inevitably, Dalrymple’s own reputation was tarnished by association with his eldest brother, who was created Earl of Stair in 1703. George Lockhart* styled Stair ‘the Judas of his country’ and deemed Dalrymple as ‘equally willing, yet not equally capable of doing so much evil as his lordship’.4
Dalrymple had accompanied his father to Leyden in October 1682, an event which coincided with the completion of his legal training. At the Revolution he returned to Scotland and was immediately admitted advocate. The law was his first love, as he later explained when recommending it as a subject of study to his own son: ‘the language in which it is written elegantly, the varieties of subjects, the antiquities it partly opens and partly requires to be carried along with it, for company and understanding have in my mind much the preference to all other subjects of study’. His intelligence and application were considerable, but his acquisition of a lucrative private practice owed not a little to the influence of his father as president of the session, and that of his elder brother, Sir Hew, who held the same office from 1698. Dalrymple never allowed others to forget the extent of the financial sacrifice he made by devoting his attention to politics. Entering the Scottish parliament in 1698 as a member of the Stair–Queensberry alliance, he was rewarded with appointment as joint solicitor-general and with a baronetcy in 1701. He supported the Court over the handling of the Darien affair, voting for an address rather than an act of parliament (his political allegiance outweighing his personal loss as an investor of £400 in the Company of Scotland). He remained with the Court under Queen Anne, serving dutifully at the outset of the abortive negotiations for union with England in 1702. His experiences as a commissioner presaged, albeit fleetingly, later dissatisfaction with English attitudes towards Scotland, for he left the negotiations in disgust. During the ministerial changes of 1704, he held aloof, declining to join those of Queensberry’s followers who cynically voted in favour of the Duke of Hamilton’s motion for deferring a decision on the succession. In this he acted in accordance with his Hanoverian sympathies, while at the same time taking care not to give offence to the English court. He was sufficiently emboldened, however, to conduct a harrying campaign against the beleaguered Marquess of Tweeddale in the tail end of the 1704 session of the Scottish parliament. With the failure of the ‘New Party’ experiment and the re-establishment of Queensberry’s dominance, Dalrymple reverted to his former stance, being aptly described by the Jacobite agent Scot as ‘entirely courtier’.5
Appointed to the Union commission, Dalrymple played an active role in the negotiations, and his legal expertise was valuable in drawing up the treaty, to which he was a signatory. In August there were strong rumours that he would resign his post as solicitor-general. Dalrymple was concerned about the effects of a parliamentary career on his health and finances, the latter consideration being based on the dual blow of the increased costs of living in London during the session and the loss of profitable legal work in Scotland. He was persuaded to remain in office, however, and played his part in the Union debates in the last Scottish parliament, voting solidly with the Court with very few absences. The untimely death of his brother, the Earl of Stair, in January 1707 was a great personal and political blow. Thereafter, Dalrymple became the effective political head of the family because Sir Hew’s legal office prevented him from playing an active part in Westminster politics and the 2nd Earl had already embarked on what would prove a distinguished military and diplomatic career. Although the family remained one of the most important in Scotland, Dalrymple lacked that drive for dominance which had been so evident in the late Earl’s political conduct. He merely continued the political attachment to Queensberry, but lacked the desire to develop a personal following in his own right. After the final session of the Scottish parliament, he travelled to London as one of the half-dozen Scottish advisers to the English ministry, and upon returning home was one of those whom the Queen requested to remain in Edinburgh over the summer, both to confer on the legal changes consequent upon the Union and to dispel disaffection in the Scottish capital. Dalrymple reported to the Earl of Mar on 5 Aug. that ‘there is indeed great need for a watchful eye upon the people of this country. There arise every day new subjects of complaint.’ He lamented the lack of troops, and drew particular attention to the teething problems in assessing excise and customs, citing the hardships inflicted on Scottish brewers. ‘These things will be remedied in time’, he predicted, ‘but in the meantime ill men inflame these broils all they can.’6
Dalrymple fell seriously ill prior to the first Parliament of Great Britain and was making ‘very small recovery’ in early October 1707. As the natural spokesman for the Scottish Court party, it was ‘doubted who will make the answer’ to the expected speech of welcome from the Speaker to the Scottish Members. Illness did indeed prevent Dalrymple from attending the opening of the session, though not his nomination to the committee on the Address. His absence continued during the early stages of the Squadrone attack on the Court that culminated in the bill to complete the Union. Dalrymple’s arrival from Scotland was eagerly anticipated by ministerial supporters, James Vernon I* reporting on 6 Dec. 1707 that this ‘eminent pleader’ would ‘open things clearer as to their constitution than we understand of it at present’. He arrived in time to participate on 11 Dec. in the debate upon the report from the committee of the whole on those aspects of the Queen’s Speech relating to the Union. Dalrymple proposed an amendment to the third of the five resolutions reported, moving that the unification of the powers of j.p.s should be rendered consistent with the articles of union preserving hereditary jurisdictions. Although his motion was defeated, the point of attack was well chosen and contributed to the alienation of the Duke of Argyll from the Squadrone’s agenda. Dalrymple maintained that that Scottish heritors would resent any infringement upon the 15-day period reserved under Scottish law to the heritable jurisdictions prior to the interference of any other authority, and also denied the validity of any parallels with the immediate power of intervention which had been exercised by the Scottish privy council. The privy council itself was earmarked for abolition in the first resolution reported from the committee, and the Squadrone argued that it was fitting to transfer that right of intervention to the justices. Dalrymple, however, maintained that the council’s ‘intermeddling was more de facto than de jure and the transmitting that power . . . to single and inferior persons would be of little use to preserving the peace’. William Bennet* reported that Dalrymple ‘showed much dexterity’ and influenced ‘some eminent lawyers’ (including Sir Thomas Parker, Sir Joseph Jekyll and Robert Eyre) into recanting their former declarations in committee. Dalrymple was appointed to the drafting committee for the bill to complete the Union, and was active in an abortive Court campaign to amend it during its passage. He was also critical of the Scottish militia bill, voicing his reservations on 15 Jan. 1708, when both this bill and that relating to the Union received their second reading:
He made some observations upon each of them to show that the bills would want larger explanations to make them intelligible or practicable. The bill for constituting justices of the peace says only in general [that] they shall have the same power in relation to the peace as they have in England, which he doubts will be easily understood in Scotland or practicable while the heritable jurisdictions subsist, as is provided for by the treaty and not altered by the bill. The same bill sets up assizes and circuits, which he says is a very odious name in Scotland, they having never seen any more of those courts for above 40 years past but to the grievance and oppression of the country and the destruction of many an honest man. As to the other bill of the militia, he observed [that] they were to be put in a new method more to their expense than their advantage. Though a month’s cess, which the militia would require, were not great matter, yet being added to the three month’s cess they were to pay this year to the land tax it would be felt in a poor country.
He continued his criticisms on the bill to complete the Union in a committee of the whole on 22 Jan., arguing against the Squadrone motion to precipitate abolition of the Scottish privy council. His counter-proposal was to preserve the council beyond the next election but abolish it ‘at the end of the next session of Parliament’. According to Vernon,
he gave many good reasons for it, particularly that nobody could have any prospect of their peace being preserved till they had some experience how the new methods of justices would take . . . Enemies to the Union among them desired the dissolution of the council and the friends to it feared it.
He also denied that preservation of the council was sought for the purpose of influencing the coming elections. Leading Scottish supporters of the Court, he argued,
could have no influence but by their personal interest which would be the same whether they were of the council or not, and they had more to fear of that kind from those who were like to be invested with their new powers of the militias and justiceship added to their superiority and heritable jurisdictions.
Defeated by 34 votes, Dalrymple attempted to reverse the decision the following day by subjecting all parts of the bill to a detailed examination and demonstrating that the provisions ‘for preserving the peace were neither of that sufficiency or certainty but that in prudence some trial ought to be made of them before the council be abolished’. He concluded his speech ‘with great earnestness’, forecasting that the bill would place the security of Scotland in ‘imminent danger’.7
Dalrymple’s prominent role in such important parliamentary proceedings demonstrated that he was the leading Scottish ministerialist in the Commons. One contemporary described him as Queensberry’s ‘mouth in that House, at least he is said to be wholly his creature and therefore speaks his mind’. In legislative work Dalrymple concentrated principally on matters of Scottish interest, being appointed to draft a recruiting bill (21 Jan. 1708) and two fishery bills (2, 5 Feb.). He spoke on 29 Jan. in the committee of ways and means against William Lowndes’s suggestion that the East India Company be given a new monopoly for 21 years, insisting that ‘a new grant . . . without a new subscription’ put Scotland ‘under an inequality as to trade, contrary to the sense of the treaty [of Union]’. He was appointed to the drafting committee on 23 Feb. for a bill directing the payment of the Equivalent and spoke effectively, three days later, against a Squadrone motion to instruct the committee to invert the classes of payment, taking particular exception to adverse reflections on the Scottish parliament, for which he was applauded by the House. He duly presented the bill on 10 Mar. During this period he had also been nominated to draft a harbour bill (13 Feb.). Dalrymple himself presented a petition on behalf of Scottish Quakers on 27 Feb. and was first-named to the drafting committee for a bill to extend the Quaker Affirmation Act to Scotland. This bill had two further objectives relevant to Quakers throughout Britain, namely to alter the official title of the Act (removing any implication that the affirmation was ‘an oath, though not in the usual form’) and to alter certain ‘expressions in the affirmation itself which are too much like an oath’. Also during February, having been lobbied by the bishop of Carlisle on the 24th, he was foremost among the Scots who ‘zealously and unanimously’ supported the controversial bill to clarify the statutes of cathedrals and collegiate churches, voting for its committal on the 28th. Intimations of the Jacobite descent on Scotland prompted Dalrymple into a further round of parliamentary activity: on 11 Mar. he seconded James Stanhope’s motion for a bill to deter disloyal clan chiefs, and was appointed to the drafting committee.8
On the basis of this diligent performance at Westminster, Lord Coningsby (Thomas*) deemed Dalrymple ‘much the ablest’ of the Scottish Court Members, ‘indeed of the whole [Scottish] representation’. During the second half of the session, rumours had circulated of Dalrymple’s imminent promotion to higher office, and these speculations continued after the dissolution. He was variously tipped as Scottish secretary of state, lord clerk register, lord chief baron of the exchequer, and (accurately though prematurely) as lord advocate. In fact, the secretaryship devolved on Queensberry, the post of lord register fell to Lord Glasgow, and Dalrymple was denied the exchequer, on the grounds that it was inadvisable to place the judicatures of the courts of exchequer and session ‘in the hands of one family’. This obvious objection did not impress Dalrymple, who petulantly attributed Lord Seafield’s success to the partiality of the Squadrone and the Junto, a mistaken impression which the Duke of Roxburghe and George Baillie* were at pains to dispel. Although personally on good terms with Baillie, his hostility to the Squadrone was evident in his vote against John Cockburn* in the Haddingtonshire election, albeit that this involved voting for a lesser figure from the same party. Dalrymple’s own election was secured for Haddington Burghs by the weight of his own influence, bolstered by that of his elder brother. He suffered a life-threatening illness in July, but had recovered sufficiently by the autumn for the Court to express the earnest hope that he would soon arrive in London. On 5 Oct. Lord Mar relayed that ‘the Queen asks very often about you and of your coming up . . . and expects that you’ll come as soon as possible, and the sooner the better’. Dalrymple was informed that the session would not open until 16 Nov., but instructed that this ‘must not stop your coming’. He was also requested to ‘acquaint our friends of the adjournment that they may not come too soon, which would make them repine after they come’. Mar’s letter also conveyed assurances from Lord Treasurer Godolphin (Sidney†) that financial rewards would be forthcoming. This prompted a sullen reply on 12 Oct., in which Dalrymple expressed mock gratitude at the compliments paid to him, then wrote the following sentence which he crossed through but left legible: ‘I cannot forbear saying that I think the great man – to whom your lordship’s letter refers has proceeded coldly and backwardly.’ The remainder of the letter continued in the same vein:
I have no better assurances, neither for the past nor for the future, than I have always had, and, even supposing all effectual, I must forgo a way of living which yields me yearly more than ever was proposed for me, and to that must [be] add[ed] the difference of living here and at London and leaving the management of my own affairs . . . I have sometime since resolved that I ought to stay at home on a just reflection of what has happened to me in six years’ service, especially last year when at the desire of my friends I came up on the peril of my life and having done to my little capacity the best service I could, I was neglected with something more than ordinary contempt.
Dalrymple was subsequently recompensed for his earlier service as a Union commissioner, received back-pay on his official salary and was granted a lump sum for each of his journeys to London from 1707 to 1709. Such sweeteners, together with a recognition that only co-operation could ensure advancement, overcame his reluctance to attend at Westminster. His nephew, Lord Stair, reassured Mar that Dalrymple ‘did not seem averse to coming, though his family were of a very different opinion’.9
Dalrymple was appointed to two committees on the opening day of the session, which suggests that he arrived for the start of business, and he was certainly present in London by early December, featuring among those named to draft bills to encourage the fishery (16 Dec.), to prevent embezzlement of shipwrecked goods (20 Dec.), and to improve recruitment (23 Dec.). After the Christmas recess, he was active in presenting the objections of Edinburgh merchants to a harbour bill sponsored by William Morison*. On 17 Jan. 1709 he was first-named to the drafting committee for a bill to ease insolvent debtors, and on the 25th declared in the House that an address advising the Queen to remarry was ‘untimely’, nevertheless being nominated to the ensuing committee. He was appointed on the same day to search for precedents relevant to the message from the Lords requesting the attendance of three Scottish Members to give evidence in relation to the first-ever Scottish peerage election, and subsequently acted as counsel for the sitting Court peers over the election petitions. He assisted in the formulation of a bill to ascertain allowances for the export from Scotland of fish and flesh cured with foreign salt, being appointed to the drafting committee on 21 Feb., and also indicated his views in memorials on this topic to ministers. He argued against the niggardly English attitude towards the lower duties paid in Scotland on salt imported prior to the Union, which were held to invalidate the current payment of drawbacks. He forecast disaffection if the provisions of the Union were infringed even in such small details. ‘We are apt to think’, he lectured the lord treasurer, ‘that he who offends in one thing sinneth against the whole law.’ He acted as a lobbyist on behalf of the Scottish fishing industry and maintained that it was anomalous for these drawbacks to be paid in England but not in Scotland ‘which is not only uneasy to the merchants and fishers [as] exporters, but to the whole body of the people of Scotland, who have no better security for the articles of the treaty than the curers and exporters of these merchandises have for their encouragement’. He told on 28 Feb. against a motion to instruct the committee on the general naturalization bill to continue the provisions of former statutes, and was added on 12 Mar. to the drafting committee on the Scottish militia bill. On 13 Mar. he reported a bill to make two ships free.10
The issue of greatest significance for Dalrymple in this session was the passage of the Treason Act. This legislation was later viewed as the root cause of Dalrymple’s disillusionment, and he ‘frequently and publicly declared how much he was grieved, and repented having been so instrumental in promoting the Union’. He contributed to the debate of 28 Jan. 1709 in the committee of the whole on improving the Union, and was appointed the following day to the drafting committee for a bill to standardize treason law throughout Britain. This initiative originated in the recent failure of the lord advocate, Sir James Stewart, to convict several Stirlingshire lairds who were prematurely ‘out’ in the previous year’s invasion scare. Stewart was widely thought to have bungled proceedings (an opinion shared by Dalrymple), and in the previous December it had been in contemplation to remove Stewart and ‘send Sir David Dalrymple from this Parliament by making him advocate’. Yet, as Mar explained, he ‘would not have accepted on such an occasion’, so the idea was shelved. Dalrymple therefore viewed the crisis precipitated by the verdict of ‘not proven’ on the Stirlingshire lairds as a consequence of human error rather than fundamental flaws in Scottish treason law. Indeed, so great was his reverence for Scottish law and his father’s memory as author of the famous Institutions that it would have been unthinkable for him to have concluded otherwise. It must be assumed that Dalrymple played a major part in killing off the treason bill in committee; but the determination of the ministry, especially the Junto, to prosecute this initiative resulted in a similar bill being reintroduced via the Lords. Dalrymple spoke against this second treason bill on 5 Apr. on the same side as his erstwhile Squadrone opponents Cockburn and Baillie. The disdain with which Dalrymple’s lengthy disquisitions against the treason bill were treated by his English audience was noted by the contemporary historian Cunningham, who recalled that after one speech of some two hours’ duration, ‘full of many cases collected out of the grounds of the laws and ancient histories’, he was answered by an unnamed Member with a few lines from Samuel Butler’s mock-heroic poem Hudibras, to the great amusement of the back-benchers. Frustration on this issue did not drive Dalrymple into the opposition camp, and it was with him in mind that Lockhart referred dismissively to those Scots who ‘pretended to regret the measures they had followed’ but ‘were in such a state of dependence or so corrupted in their principles . . . that they could not or would not fly heartily in the face of the Court’. Certainly, Dalrymple was eager for a permanent solution to his financial worries. He had set out his case at length to Lord Loudoun on 13 Feb.:
My attendance here and in Scotland for many years has been extremely prejudicial to my private affairs. I have changed the living cheap to living dear, left the management of my estate to others and have been so much diverted from the pursuit of my employment that out of six or seven years I can scarcely be said to have enjoyed one usefully . . . [Neither] the expenses allowed for attending the treaty, nor the other sums which have been given me upon extraordinary occasions, [have] any proportion to that loss, which I cannot compute to be less than £6,000 spending and losing over and above what I have got. These things I mention because that affords me a very good reason to propose that either I may retire without offence . . . [and] without the least desire or thought of mutiny, or that I may be provided . . . with a sizeable post in such a way as I may be secure during my life at home, equal to my employment, and if my services be thought of any use here . . . there may be an allowance for the expenses and charges of attending . . . I ask no more than not to be a loser . . . The most natural thing for me is to be chief baron, and not inconsistent with being a Member . . . It was last year upon the matter agreed in my favours . . . If it be not thought proper for me, I submit and desire your lordship to consider . . . the office of auditor to the exchequer in Scotland.
Dalrymple then entered into a lengthy explanation of the different auditors in England, Wales and Ireland, citing relevant reference works and concluding with an analysis of the former functioning of the Scottish exchequer. The crown, he maintained, possessed an undoubted right to create this post, which would ‘be of the greatest use and service’, and that in financial emergencies requiring speedy intervention ‘the administration would be lame without it’. He demurred at suggesting the actual salary, but was apparently expecting about £1,500 p.a. Dalrymple’s proposal was taken sufficiently seriously for Lord Yester to report back to Scotland on 19 Feb. that a new auditor’s place was to be ‘coined’ for Dalrymple. Instead of placing a new burden on the Scottish civil list, the ministry reverted to the earlier plan of appointing Dalrymple lord advocate, but with an increased salary and an allowance for London expenses during the session.11
The abolition of the privy council had removed the predominant branch of the Scottish executive, but it was felt that the lord advocate would naturally assume some of its former politico-legal functions. There were obvious advantages in associating the post with parliamentary service, not least that this was a logical continuation of the ex officio presence of the advocate in the Scottish parliament. The first post-Union advocate, however, had remained out of the House and resided exclusively in Scotland. The appointment of Dalrymple (with a salary of £1,000 p.a., plus a Westminster allowance of £500 per session) apparently augured a change for the better. The high Presbyterians did not view matters in this light, however, and expressed resentment at the replacement of Stewart by one who would not ‘be so friendly to the Kirk’. Dalrymple had taken care not to appear too eager, giving out to Baillie that he was only prepared to accept the post ‘if the advocate consents to it’. Stewart, somewhat reluctantly, gave way to Dalrymple, but expressed particular concern about the security of the Kirk and portrayed Scottish episcopalians as ‘a club of Jacobites’, who merited discouragement to the full extent permissible under Scottish law. To this diatribe, Dalrymple replied that he ‘was not a jure divino Presbyterian’, and although a supporter of the Kirk and opponent of Jacobitism, he believed it an injustice that ‘some have suffered who had owned and prayed for the Queen’. Privately he reported his dislike of the Presbyterians of Edinburgh and their ‘too great passion for persecution’. His early days in office were not made easier by a fallacious press report that the royal chapel at Holyrood House was to be refitted for episcopalian worship. Dalrymple instructed the printer of the newspaper not only to make a formal retraction but to go in person to the principal Edinburgh coffee-house and score through the offensive section in the current issue. There are no grounds for doubting that Dalrymple was, as he put it, ‘an honest Presbyterian’. His sympathy for the sufferings of episcopalians did not extend to legal toleration. Upon learning of the controversy in Edinburgh over the minister James Greenshields, Dalrymple did not write to England solely on account of Greenshields’ use of the English service, but principally concerning Greenshields’ earlier ordination by a non-juring bishop in Ireland. In October 1709 Dalrymple informed the Presbyterian divine Robert Wodrow that, on the Queen’s orders, he had instructed Greenshields to desist from his ‘encroachment on the privileges of the established church in Scotland’. Dalrymple condoned the imprisonment of Greenshields by the Edinburgh magistracy and remained opposed to the gathering momentum in favour of episcopalian toleration which this case precipitated. Dalrymple’s correspondence with the ministry also embraced the continuing problems of Scottish customs and excise. He consistently advocated English leniency as a prerequisite of Anglo-Scottish harmony. On the question of smuggling, he favoured some moderate proposals emanating from the mercantile community, which, if implemented, would
beget in the minds of the people a better opinion still of the Union and a greater confidence in those that are entrusted in the dispensing of justice . . . The complaints of the populace are not always to be regarded but neither are they to be contemned and in my humble opinion the giving some ease in this matter will be of better use to the government than the profits of these foolish people’s goods can be.
To Hon. James Brydges*, on 22 Sept., he outlined his general policy:
We do what we can to make people here have a good opinion of the Union . . . We have always said and everywhere that the Union will be improven [sic] by doing us good, raising trade that will employ the poor, ascertain the rents, increase the numbers, strength and wealth of the whole island; and that in making laws that concern us, regard shall be had to our own desires, alterations shall be avoided but where they are necessary. In a word that we shall be used kindly and as becomes freemen. These things would do more real service to Great Britain than 20 new laws with gilded titles.12
Dalrymple’s appointment having taken place during the prorogation, a new writ was moved and he remained in Scotland until after his unanimous re-election for Haddington Burghs on 15 Dec. He travelled to London in time for the second half of the session, voted for the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell and was made an additional manager of the impeachment on 10 Feb. 1710. However, he never acted in this capacity due to ill-health, a turn of events which provided scope for Tory wits to propose a vote of thanks to Dalrymple and his fellow invalid Hon. Harry Mordaunt on 21 Mar. ‘for their faithful management in never appearing’. Understandably, Dalrymple’s parliamentary activity in this session was minimal, but he remained in London after the prorogation, giving information and advice to the Treasury on Scottish affairs, during April and May. He was not pleased with the manner in which his suggestions were treated, for Godolphin reported to Seafield in June that Dalrymple ‘went down from hence, not very well satisfied . . . and some words have been dropped here as if he would be willing to demit’. Mar also sent word to Edinburgh that he wished to be informed of ‘how Sir David Dalrymple behaves and talks of affairs since he came down’. Shortly before departing, Dalrymple had apparently persuaded one of his political associates (probably Queensberry) to present a petition on his behalf to the Queen. This argued that he had accepted the post of lord advocate against his inclinations, on the understanding that the additional emoluments and his continuing legal work in Scotland would at least cover his increased expenses:
By the experiment he has made he finds that he cannot pursue his private practice to any advantage if he serves the public thoroughly, and that if he should throw up his private employment he cannot return to it again: and therefore being now about to go home to Scotland he has entreated me to represent to your Majesty with the greatest respect and in the most humble manner that . . . he finds himself obliged to retire unless . . . for the future his establishment be made up [to] £2,000.
This outrageous demand for a doubling of his salary was partially softened by the explanation that he only expected to have full pay while in office, and that he would content himself on retirement with a pension of only £1,000 p.a. He was also prepared to relinquish the £500 for expenses in London, further arguing that prior to the Union the advocate enjoyed considerable perquisites, and that the net increased charge to government was only £300 p.a. It is by no means certain that Dalrymple’s petition was ever formally submitted. No response to it is known, nor was it renewed after the fall of Godolphin.13
In the election of 1710 Dalrymple denied hostility towards the new ministry of Robert Harley*, maintaining, for example, that his support for Baillie in Berwickshire did not amount to ‘caballing with the Squadrone’, but was simply support for a friend from boyhood, whose competitor was a suspected Jacobite. While this was indeed an honest version of events, it did not amount to the whole truth, for the Dalrymples departed from custom to support Cockburn in Haddingtonshire. Sir David also supported his nephew by marriage, Sir James Stewart, 1st Bt.*, against Lockhart in Edinburghshire. Harley’s son-in-law Lord Dupplin (George Hay*) had already reported that ‘my Lord Stair, president of the session, Sir David and all the Dalrymples, with all the interest they can make are against you’; and Lord Ilay asserted in November that Dalrymple had attempted to suborn the vote of Lord Blantyre in the peerage elections in return for averting a capital conviction upon his nephew for murder. Such intimations damaged Dalrymple’s reputation with the English ministry. He himself was returned for Haddington Burghs, once more without a contest, but the description of him as a Court Tory in Richard Dongworth’s analysis of the election results was to prove wide of the mark. His hostility to episcopalian toleration was undiminished and his pro-ministerial sympathies, which had been waning under Godolphin, continued to decline. Ill-health further disinclined him towards attendance, and he did not come to Westminster at any point during the first session of the 1710 Parliament. This loss was keenly felt by Baillie, who regarded Dalrymple as the most effective guardian of Scottish interests in the Commons. Before Dalrymple next attended, he had been dismissed from office, and thereafter drew closer to his former Squadrone rivals. Initially, this was in opposition to the emergent Scottish Tory pressure group within the Commons, but increasingly Dalrymple became associated with the broader Whig agenda of supporting the Hanoverian succession and countering the Jacobite threat.14
Ironically, it was leniency towards an essentially trivial act of Jacobite propaganda that prompted Dalrymple’s dismissal. The Duchess of Gordon sent a Jacobite medal to the faculty of advocates, which was accepted on 30 June 1711, nominally as a curio of future historical interest. The faculty’s proceedings were notable for some inflammatory speeches by several lawyers, led by James Dundas of Arniston. Dalrymple’s initial reaction, as conveyed to Queensberry on 3 July, was to treat it as a ‘foolish incident’ in what he described as a talking-shop for rash and indiscreet young men. He was aware that Jacobites might ‘possibly make observations upon it, as if so considerable a body of the lawyers were disaffected’, but believed that such assertions would lack all credibility. The death of Queensberry on 6 July created problems for Dalrymple, not simply because he lost an influential supporter at Court, but also because the Dundas case fell into an administrative limbo. Meanwhile the significance of the affair escalated with the publication of Dundas’ self-justification, together with misleading reports in the press and diplomatic pressure from Hanover. Dalrymple, who had been aware of rumours of his dismissal prior to this burgeoning crisis, was shocked to discover that Lord Dartmouth (who had assumed responsibility for the correspondence following Queensberry’s death) directed his first inquiries to Sir James Stewart, wrongly entitling him lord advocate. Dalrymple put a brave face on this ‘oversight’, but his friends did not like ‘such jests that have so much the appearance of turning to earnest’. Dalrymple’s attempt to salvage his reputation foundered because ministers had mistakenly come to believe that they were being subjected to an elaborate subterfuge. Henry St. John II* explained on 4 Sept. that it was now thought that Dundas was playing a role akin to that of Defoe in the publication of the pseudo-High Church pamphlet The Shortest Way with Dissenters:
Many circumstances induce us to this opinion. Among others . . . nothing weighs more with me than the behaviour of Sir David Dalrymple. The Queen’s advocate he ought to be, and [yet] he proves rather the advocate of the Duchess of Gordon, of Dundas, and of whoever else may appear to have had a hand in sending, receiving, or defending the medal. His excuses are grounded on the weakness of the guilty persons, on the ill-temper of Scotland, and on mistakes in law, which I cannot persuade myself are real; but sure it is, that if the administration should be influenced by that coolness which he endeavours to inspire, he would himself hereafter prove one of the most forward to convert it into a crime . . . The Queen is determined to turn his artifice upon his own head, and to remove him from his post, after which the most strict inquiry into this whole matter, and the most vigorous prosecution of it, will be directed.
Such a convoluted scenario was entirely out of character for Dalrymple, but the lingering reputation of his family may explain its credibility. The reasons behind Stewart’s reappointment as lord advocate were obvious, and Dalrymple’s subsequent alienation from the ministry explains why he failed to regain the post after Stewart’s death in 1713. Speculation continued for some time over the true cause of Dalrymple’s dismissal, the balance of opinion favouring the view that ministers had predetermined upon this course of action, but then made convenient use of the affair to placate the Hanoverian court. Dalrymple’s attempts at self-justification fell on deaf ears, and, after travelling briefly to London, he learnt upon his return to Edinburgh that he was to be accused of malversation in the report by the commissioners of public accounts. It was gleefully reported in certain quarters that when Dalrymple arrived in London he would shortly follow Robert Walpole II* to the Tower.15
The report was presented to the Commons on 21 Dec. 1711 by Lockhart, whose role in attacking Dalrymple was far from incidental. The accusation proved identical to the rumours which had been reported to Dalrymple in November, namely that he had obtained £200 as part of ‘the bargain for the forage in Scotland’.
Sir Samuel MacClellan* had proposed Sir Alexander Murray [Dalrymple’s son-in-law] to be a sharer in the contract, which the other partners rejected as being too young or not a man of business, but Sir Samuel having gone a great length . . . could not come handsomely off without giving him some acknowledgement and that it was agreed to give him £200, which sum for his behalf was given in Scotland to you or your lady; now it seems that there was no transaction relating to that contract or if you had not such a sum . . . Mr Walpole is just so concerned but for a greater sum . . . he is much concerned about it, and indeed if the commissioners make any report like the town talk [of] nobody knows what sudden vote may pass to a man’s prejudice.
Dalrymple’s reaction was sanguine. ‘I hear at a distance’, he wrote to Brydges, that
little arts are used to wound me, in my reputation, but I will wait patiently till I see what shape the malice of my undeserved enemies takes. I am sure if they charge me with anything that is not very clear, they do it falsely, and I shall be acquitted by such as know me, and especially by my own conscience.
He had no intention of resuming active political life, but contented himself with wishing well to the peace, if it were ‘safe and honourable to the Queen’, while doubting whether political stability were possible when ‘what is done by the authority of the Queen, the government and Parliament today is treated with the utmost disrespect . . . the next. No state can flourish where neither maxims nor ministers have no[t] some established force.’ In particular, he viewed English opposition to the Duke of Hamilton’s right to a seat in the Lords as destructive to the Union. This stance as a remote commentator on the political fray was shattered by the warnings that he would have to answer the commissioners’ charges in person. One friend informed Dalrymple that they ‘cannot bring any part relating to you before the House till you are ordered to attend in your place, that being a privilege and form due to every Member’, adding that this stigma might be avoided by someone ‘making an excuse of the bad weather hindering you’; but he was unsure ‘how far one dare venture upon that, considering how resolute you seem to be in not coming’. Another wrote directly to Dalrymple’s wife, informing her bluntly that ‘all his friends here reflect very much upon him for his not coming up all this time and throw it entirely upon you’. In response to this pressure Dalrymple travelled south, and was heard in his place on 19 Feb. 1712, immediately after the expulsion of Adam de Cardonnel from the House. No details of Dalrymple’s speech are known but his defence can be reconstructed from his deposition and supporting evidence. The latter was not entirely convincing, consisting primarily of retrospectives testifying to the existence of a lost note by Murray authorizing Dalrymple to receive £200 on his behalf. The crux of the accusation that Dalrymple himself benefited from the transaction was apparently confirmed by his own deposition that he could not swear that ‘the very sum or specie received was paid to the said Sir Alexander’, but that he had subsequently given about £150 to Murray, who furthermore was ‘debtor to this deponent in about . . . £670’. In other words, Dalrymple had used his influence to obtain an interest in the forage contract for his son-in-law, and then accepted the money himself to help finance loans to him. Dalrymple’s conduct was technically legal, however, and he ‘did so satisfy the House of his innocency, that no question was put upon him’. It also proved impossible to connect him with another set of accusations against William Cochrane*, despite the fact that Dalrymple had been promised 300 guineas as part of the money authorized under the 1709 Act enforcing payment of the drawbacks on salt-cured fish and meat. Fortunately for Dalrymple, his share of the money had not become available until November 1711, by which time it was apparent how unwise it would have been to accept such a reward while the public accounts commission was making inquiries. Despite pressure from the commissioners, the principal witness (although prepared to admit the original bargain) stuck fast to his story that Dalrymple had refused the money and pretended that he did not remember what Dalrymple’s attitude had been when the original warrant for payment had been issued earlier in the year. That Dalrymple expected to profit from his legislative expertise and influence seems clear, but the extent to which this should be viewed as corrupt is a matter of perspective. Certainly, at the time of the agitation over the malt tax, he was legitimately retained by the Scottish brewers as a legal and parliamentary adviser.16
Persecution at the hands of the Tories drove Dalrymple into closer co-operation with the Whigs. The virulence with which he opposed the Scottish toleration and patronage bills in 1712 was not just a matter of Presbyterian principle, but amounted to early indications of his personal crusade to expose the latent Jacobitism in Scottish Tories. In his speech on the third reading of the toleration bill on 7 Feb., he declared that since no alterations were to be made ‘in the body of the bill, he acquiesced; and only desired that the title might be changed thus: a bill for establishing Jacobitism and immorality in Scotland’. When the Lords’ amendments were debated on 21 Feb., Dalrymple joined with Baillie in support of Presbyterian scruples over the wording of the abjuration oath, arguing that the regular clergy should be indulged, and tried to ‘explain as far as was fit’ the theological basis of the objection. He opposed on 13 Mar. the bill for restoring lay patronages and wrote a pamphlet on this topic, which became one of the standard authorities for 19th-century Presbyterians. In addition to historical and theological analysis, this contained a contemporary political message:
Providence has delivered us from [lay patronage] . . . and we are as much secured against it, as our own particular laws, founded on the Claim of Right, and the treaty of Union can secure us . . . Many of the patrons in Scotland are neither well affected to the establishment of the church, nor to the civil government; and no doubt such patrons will present men to whom the church cannot agree; and then a division must arise betwixt the church and the patrons upon every occasion of a vacancy . . . the churches will be kept vacant to the great discouragement of religion and piety . . . to the great encouragement of trafficking popish priests.
Dalrymple also opposed, on 12 Mar., the bill for the restoration of the Yule Vacance in the court of session, which was likewise an episcopalian attack upon a sacred cow of Presbyterianism. He made similar objections to those on preceding issues, namely that Scottish rights under the Union were being infringed.17
On 27 Mar. 1712 he wrote to the Squadrone peer, Montrose, upon the ‘melancholic scene’ of Anglo-Scottish affairs:
What can one think, or conclude? The nobility trampled on, the clergy of all sides set on edge . . . the administration before the Union, and the very circumstances of the Union treaty, exposed by the report of a favourite commission of accounts. The matter of passing of signatures made more strict, and in a view to improve it to be a revenue. No Scotsman that I know of trusted in direction of Scots affairs, nay the troops of our country are withdrawn, and while the sourness of our unhappy country increases towards our southern brethren, who do too visibly despise us, they are sent in greater numbers among us . . . But our last and uncurable [sic] misfortune is that our countrymen lead and encourage all men to hate and condemn us. If they are honoured with a whisper and a smile when a party measure is to be wrought, they are transported to forget themselves. When they are once in, on they dance, and to keep them in countenance they can whip one another and never want assistance. They have interest to set Church against Kirk till both bleed . . . For my part I shut my eyes like one on the brink of a precipice.
After returning home, Dalrymple remained in Scotland until after the malt tax crisis of 1713. His departure from Edinburgh in early June was noted by several observers, one of whom blamed him for having stayed away from Parliament during the preceding crisis, while another believed that he was now intent on bringing in a bill to dissolve the Union. By the time he arrived, this crisis had also passed and he was only able to participate in its after-effects by joining the Scottish opposition to the French commercial treaty, speaking and voting on 18 June against the bill confirming the 8th and 9th articles. In conversation a few days later with Lord Balmerino, who was sympathetic to Jacobitism, Dalrymple flatly denied Balmerino’s contention that Scotland’s ruin was a natural consequence of the Union irrespective of the malt tax. His campaign against Jacobitism was further evidenced in the general election, when he campaigned against Lockhart in Edinburghshire, eventually standing down prior to the poll. He was returned unopposed for Haddington Burghs.18
In the first session of 1714 Dalrymple continued to avoid nomination to select committees, being appointed only to draft two bills relating to the Equivalent (1 May, 14 June). He contributed to debate on major issues, speaking and voting on 18 Mar. against the expulsion of Richard Steele, and against the ministry on 15 Apr. on the question of the danger to the Hanoverian succession. The latter speech, according to Lockhart, was full of alarmist notions about the ‘great increase in popery and the power of the Highland clans’. He voted on 12 May for extending the schism bill to cover Catholic education, and after the failure of this wrecking amendment later denounced the bill (presumably on the 24th at its second reading) as ‘contrary to the law of nature by which parents had an absolute right to educate their children after what manner and with whom they pleased’. On 24 June he deserted Lockhart over a proposal to add a punitive clause to the bill for discharging the Equivalent commissioners, despite having co-operated with him in its formulation. On the 29th Lockhart reported in alarm that Dalrymple had come into possession of a pirated copy of his manuscript memoirs. Dark threats were made by Dalrymple that Lockhart faced compound actions for scandalum magnatum, which might reach a total of £30,000. Dalrymple arranged for the publication of the memoirs, writing an explanatory preface castigating the author’s Jacobitism and offering translations of its terminology for a Hanoverian readership: ‘When the reader finds the terms cavalier, royal family, prince, king, episcopal, dispersed through these memoirs, he cannot be at a loss for the meaning of them . . . in Revolution dialect [they] go for no more than Jacobite, a spurious issue, Pretender, mock-monarch, and popish persuasion.’ Dalrymple was one of the Scottish Members ‘expected in town’ for the brief parliamentary session following the Queen’s death, and was certainly in London during September and October, when he presented loyal addresses to George I from Edinburghshire and four of his constituency burghs. On 9 Oct. he was restored to his post as lord advocate and granted the same salary as previously. Listed as a Whig in the Worsley list and other comparative analyses of the Parliaments of 1713 and 1715, he continued to represent Haddington Burghs until his death. He now abandoned his earlier flirtation with abolishing the Union. His fears about Jacobitism were confirmed by the rising in 1715, which he described in September as having ‘gone far enough to confound the impudence of the Tories, who have said and sworn so lately that our fears were imaginary or fictitious, and the silly scruples of the whimsical who fall in with them in a great measure’. He urged the government ‘to act with vigour in quenching the flame that may spread and increase by very small accidents’. After the rebellion, however, he favoured clemency towards the rebels, and therefore avoided taking any part in the prosecutions at Carlisle by travelling to the Continent, ostensibly for his health. During his progress from Aix-la-Chapelle to Hanover, which included visits to Paris and Brussels, he met various Jacobites in exile. It was reported that he ‘still complains of the measures that are taking, but continues still otherways in his former way of thinking . . . he seems not to be trusted by the present managers nor in any of their measures’. Although he remained in high office, Dalrymple was on indifferent terms with ministers, and at odds with them over major issues of Scottish policy. He opposed the forfeited estates bill in 1718, even publishing a pamphlet against it; privately, he dubbed it ‘the damned bill of sale’. He retired from office in 1720, as part of the ministerial reconstruction after the reunion of the Whig party, receiving a sinecure of £1,200 p.a. with a reversion to his eldest son. He died on 3 Dec. 1721 and was buried at Morham in Haddingtonshire, leaving his entire property to his eldest son, James†, but making provision for his wife’s annuities and giving her discretionary powers to apportion some money to his second son.19
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: David Wilkinson
- 1. Scots Peerage ed. Paul, viii. 143; Edinburgh Graduates, 117; Hist. Scot. Parl. 174.
- 2. Scot. Rec. Soc. lxii. 51; lvi. 257; SRO, Dunbar burgh recs. B18/13/2 f. 245; Carnegie Lib. Ayr, Ayr burgh recs. B6/18/8, council mins. 4 Oct. 1709.
- 3. Scot. Rec. Soc. lxxvi. 49.
- 4. Hist. Scot. Parl. 174–6; Stair Annals, i. 351–2; DNB (Dalrymple, Sir James; Dalrymple, Sir John); P. W. J. Riley, King Wm. and Scot. Politicians, 16–18; Anglo-Dutch Moment ed. Israel, 168–70; HMC Laing, ii. 63; Lockhart Mems. ed. Szechi, 59.
- 5. Stair Annals, 65–66; NLS, ms 25276/1, Dalrymple to son, 28 Mar. 1712; info. from Dr P. W. J. Riley on members of Scot. parl.; Riley, King Wm. 78, 175; Darien Pprs. (Bannatyne Club, xc), 377; Boyer, Anne Annals, iii. app. 44; Orig. Pprs. ed. Macpherson, ii. 15.
- 6. P. W. J. Riley, Union, 176, 182–9; Boyer, v. 65; HMC Mar and Kellie, i. 272, 408, 410; Crossrigg Diary, 184; info. from Dr Riley; P. W. J. Riley, Eng. Ministers and Scotland, 36; SRO, Clerk of Penicuik mss GD18/3134, p. 2, ‘Mems. of Affairs of Scot. aft. Adjournment of Parl.’; GD18/3135/12, John Clerk* to fa. 24 Apr. 1707.
- 7. SRO, Ogilvy of Inverquharity mss GD205/32/2, Robert to [William Bennet], 1 Oct. 1707; Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, iii. 285, 290, 358; Roxburghe mss at Floors Castle, bdle. 739, Bennet to Countess of Roxburghe, 16 Dec. 1707; Cunningham, Hist. GB, ii. 138; Northants. RO, Montagu (Boughton) mss 48/177, Vernon to Shrewsbury, 15 Jan. 1707–8; Speck thesis, 168–9.
- 8. Atholl mss at Blair Atholl, box 45, bdle. 8, no. 7, [–] to [–], 9 Feb. 1708; HMC Mar and Kellie, 429; Montagu (Boughton) mss 48/183, Vernon to Shrewsbury, 29 Jan. 1707–8; HMC Portland, iv. 478; Nicolson Diaries ed. Jones and Holmes, 455; Boyer, vi. 339.
- 9. Add. 28055, f. 426; SRO, Mar and Kellie mss GD124/768/2, 3, Ld. Grange (Hon. James Erskine†) to Mar, 24 Jan. 1708, David Erskine to same, 20 Jan. 1708; GD124/831/32, 34, Sir David Nairne to same, 3, 6 July 1708; GD124/15/897/1, 2, Mar to Dalrymple, 5 Oct. 1708, Dalrymple to Mar, 12 Oct. 1708; Ogilvy of Inverquharity mss GD205/36/6, Grey Neville* to Bennet, 11 July 1708; Clerk of Penicuik mss GD18/3140/14, Clerk to fa. 13 Apr. 1708; GD18/2092/2, ‘Moral Journals’, 1 Mar. 1708; Folger Shakespeare Lib. Newdigate newsletter 4 May 1708; NLS, Advocates’ mss, Wodrow pprs. letters Quarto, 5, f. 8; Baillie Corresp. 192; SRO, Haddington sheriff ct. recs. SC40/68/3, pp. 5–6, Haddington poll, 24 May 1708; HMC Portland, x. 455; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxii. 113, 120; Stair Annals, 239.
- 10. HMC Mar and Kellie, 477–8; NLS, ms 14415, ff. 170–1; 7021, f. 161; DZA, Bonet despatch 25 Jan./5 Feb. 1709; HMC Lords, n.s. viii. 3.
- 11. NLS, ms 16502, ff. 232–3; 17498, ff. 94–101; Lockhart Mems. ed. Szechi, 276; Lockhart Pprs. i. 300–1, 532–3; Nicolson Diaries, 493; Huntington Lib. Loudoun mss 8319, Dalrymple to [Loudoun], 13 Feb. 1709; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxiv. 128.
- 12. Riley, Eng. Ministers, 97; G. W. T. Omond, Ld. Advocates of Scotland. i. 282–6; Wodrow Corresp. ed. McCrie, i. 18, 20, 69, 79; SRO, Hume of Marchmont mss GD158/1117/2, Baillie to Marchmont, 1 June 1709; Loudoun mss 8343, [Dalrymple] to [Loudoun], 2 June 1709; Douglas-Home mss at the Hirsel, Box 21, folder 4, same to Hume, 22 Oct. 1705; SRO, Stair mss GD135/140 f. 1, same to Godolphin, 4 July 1709; Huntington Lib. Stowe mss 58(4), pp. 196–7.
- 13. Add. 70421, newsletter 2 Mar. 1709–10; G. Holmes, Trial of Sacheverell, 118; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxiv. 21, 32, 382; NLS, ms 25276/20–23, ‘Some Particulars Humbly Offered to Ld. Treasurer’, 26 Apr. 1710; 25276/37–8, ‘Petition on behalf of Dalrymple’, [c. June 1710