MACKENZIE, Alexander (c.1683-1755), of Fraserdale, Inverness.
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Family and Education
b. c.1683, o. s. of Roderick Mackenzie, MP [S], of Prestonhall, Fife, Ld. Prestonhall SCJ, ld. justice clerk 1702–4, by his 1st w. Margaret, da. of Alexander Burnet, abp. of St. Andrews 1679–84. m. 1702, Amelia (d. 1763), suo jure Baroness Lovat [S], da. and h. of Hugh Fraser 9th Ld. Lovat [S] (d. 1696), 1s. suc. mother 1699, fa. 1712.1
Commr. justiciary for Highlands [S] 1702.2
Mackenzie’s father, a younger brother of the 1st Earl of Cromarty, followed closely the tortuous path that Cromarty wound through post-Revolution Scottish politics, culminating in a vote for the Treaty of Union against what had previously appeared to be his Cavalier principles. Alexander, either through temperament or circumstances, adopted a course of action in public life that was less inhibited. His marriage in 1702 to the heiress of Lord Lovat (who at about the same time secured judicial confirmation of her own assumption of the barony) marked his career even before he came of age, the seeming comfort of the life-rent of £500 p.a. with which he had thus been invested tempting him into expenditure and indiscretions he could not afford.3
Though he was named a commissioner of supply for Cromartyshire as early as 1704, Mackenzie did not stand for Parliament, so far as we know, until the election of 1710, when he was returned for Inverness-shire. In the meantime he had given some clue to his political opinions by subscribing a clan petition to the Queen to permit the return from exile of the Earl of Seaforth. The label of episcopal Tory, applied to him by the Duchess of Buccleuch’s chaplain, Richard Dongworth, in an analysis of the Scots Members elected to this Parliament, was soon justified as he voted in February 1711 against Mungo Graham* in the disputed election for Kinross-shire. Mackenzie was listed both as a ‘worthy patriot’ who had helped expose the mismanagements of the former ministry, and as a ‘Tory patriot’ who opposed the continuation of the war. Although it is difficult to distinguish his appearances in the Journals from those of his namesake George Mackenzie*, it seems clear that the laird of Fraserdale was by far the less active of the two. Indeed, on 14 Mar. 1711 he had been given six weeks’ leave of absence.4
In the following session Mackenzie voted in favour of the Scottish toleration bill on 7 Feb. 1712, but left London in April to take the waters at Bath for the sake of his health. A call of the House forced his return early the following month, but he secured leave of absence on 14 May. In November 1712 he was supported by one of the leading Scottish Tories, Sir Alexander Areskine, 2nd Bt.*, in recommending a kinsman to a minor customs place; and in March 1713 he subscribed the round robin despatched by the Scots episcopalian lobby at Westminster to Lord Dun to urge non-juring ministers in Scotland to take the oaths in order to avail themselves of the benefits of toleration. In the 1713 session he failed to register a vote on the French commerce bill, on either 4 or 18 June. His political conduct may have been affected by anxiety over a current petition to the Treasury for a new warrant to discharge the ‘bygone casualties’ of the lands and lordship of Lovat.5
Re-elected in 1713, Mackenzie was put down as a ‘Jacobite’ in the list of the Scottish Members sent by Lord Polwarth to the Hanoverian court. Although Polwarth probably meant nothing more than that Mackenzie was a Tory, as indeed he was classified on the Worsley list, the description has been taken literally by one modern historian, on the basis of Mackenzie’s episcopalian loyalties and his connexion with Scottish Tories of the hotter variety. For direct evidence of Jacobitism we must wait until the Fifteen, when Mackenzie, forswearing earlier professions of loyalty to King George, brought some 400 men of clan Fraser into the Pretender’s camp, in the train of his own clan chieftain, Lord Seaforth. When he was eventually put on trial at Carlisle in 1716 he argued that he had never willingly borne arms in the Jacobite cause; that he had been ‘carried prisoner into Perth’. This could not be believed, and is contradicted by the testimony of his comrades-in-arms. An alternative explanation of his behaviour, put forward by his friends, was that ‘upon a family disgust’ he ‘did freakishly join the rebels at first, but saw his error pretty early and stole off to the Duke of Atholl’. Whether or not he left the Jacobite army, and Atholl does seem to have been able to make a case for him on this basis, the reason given for his taking up arms in the first place has a plausible ring. By early 1715 he had been driven into a corner by an overwhelming accumulation of debts, and by the threat of legal action from a rival claimant to the Lovat title and estates, Simon Fraser of Beaufort, a man who enjoyed far better political connexions with the new regime than Mackenzie himself. Having failed to secure a seat in Parliament at the 1715 election, Mackenzie could have enjoyed little or no leverage with ministers. Even before the rebellion Beaufort was undermining his position as effective chief of the Frasers, and in a short time the clansmen had repudiated his authority and followed his rival over to the Hanoverian side. The defeat of the Pretender completed his destruction. He was not condemned to death, but his life-rent in the Lovat estate was declared forfeit and granted instead to Beaufort.6
For at least the next 30 years Mackenzie continued his feud with Beaufort, created Lord Lovat in his own right in 1740. He recovered his financial position sufficiently to be able to lend money to Beaufort, who was even less competent in money matters than he was himself, and who in a fit of anger once described him as ‘a false, inconstant, greedy fool’. Eventually, in return for a settlement of debts, he dropped his claim to the Lovat lands. He died at Leith on 3 June 1755, aged 72. On the death of his widow their only son assumed the title of Lord Lovat, but died in 1770 without a male heir.7
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: D. W. Hayton
- 1. A. Mackenzie, Hist. Mackenzies, 551; J. D. Mackenzie, Gen. Tables of Clan Mackenzie, sheet 1; Brunton and Haig, Senators Coll. Justice, 474–5; Scots Peerage ed. Paul, v. 535–6; Services of Heirs (ser. 1), i. 1700–9, p. 19.
- 2. CSP Dom. 1702–3, p. 355.
- 3. P. W. J. Riley, King Wm. and Scot. Politicians, 67, 173; P. W. J. Riley, Union, 41, 46, 55, 334.
- 4. APS, xi. 147; Add. 61624, f. 61; SHR, lx. 6; NLS, Advocates’ mss, Wodrow pprs. letters Quarto 5, f. 128; SRO, Montrose mss GD220/5/808/18a-b, Graham to Montrose, 13 Feb. 1711.
- 5. More Culloden Pprs. ed. Warrand, ii. 30; HMC Portland, x. 167; Spalding Club, Misc. iv. 84–87; Parlty. Hist. i. 69; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxvii. 189.
- 6. D. Szechi, Jacobitism and Tory Pol. 201; Szechi thesis, App.; Culloden Pprs. 33–34, 57, 339; More Culloden Pprs. ii. 47, 52, 55, 57, 59, 64; C. S. Terry, Chevalier de St. George, 308–9, 311; HMC Stuart, v. 196–8; Master of Sinclair, Mems. of Insurrection in Scotland (Abbotsford Club), 195, 200; Scot. Hist. Soc. Misc. i. 529, 532; Case of the Creditors of Alexander Mackenzie ; Simon Fraser . . . Appellant, the Creditors of Alexander Mackenzie . . . Respondents’ Case .
- 7. More Culloden Pprs. iii. 42, 72, 84, 122; HMC Laing, ii. 259, 266, 278, 281–2, 297, 318, 321, 323; Scot. Hist. Soc. lvii. 10, 16; Scots Peerage, 535–6; Services of Heirs (ser. 1), ii. 1750–9, p. 16.