Edinburgh Bookshelf

Kay's Originals Vol. 2


432 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. ALEXANDER MACONOCHIE (the figure to the right) was the eldest son of the late Allan Maconochie, Lord Meadowbank. He passed advocate in 1799. In 1810 he was appointed Sheriff-Depute of the county of Haddington j Solicitor-General in 1813 ; and succeeded Mr. Colquhoun as Lord Advocate in 1816. He sat in Parliament for Yarmouth, in the Isle of Wight, but was shortly afterwards returned member for the Pittenweem district of burghs, The duties of Lord Advocate, during the few years Mr. Maconochie held the office, were of a peculiarly formidable and harassing description. Great political excitement prevailed throughout the country, amounting in several instances to open insurrection. In 1817, shortly after the commencement of the " Radical er%" as it has been termed, he had occasion to defend himself in the House of Commons against a charge preferred by Lord Archibald Hamilton, and reiterated by Henry (afterwards Lord) Brougham, of " oppression in the exercise of his duties." The accusation originated in the course of a warm discussion on the further suspension of the Habeas Corps Act, and had reference to the case of a prisoner [Andrew M'Kinlay, of whom a portrait and notice has already appeared], who, it was alleged, had been "three times put on his defence : "- " The Lord Advocate rose to vindicate himself from the attack that had been made on him. He complained that, though he had been attacked in his absence, no one had said a word that evening, though he had sat there seven hours ; and he therefore feared that an attack was to be made again when it would he too late for him to reply. By the law of Scotland, sixty days may elapse after a party is indicted, and before he is tried. The prisoner, M'Kinlay, WBS charged with treason and felony ; and therefore, if separate indictments were framed, the prisoner might have been delayed above a hundred days; but he (the Lord Advocate) had joined the two offences in one indictment for the ease and advantage of the prisoner. So far from the friends of the parties being refused admission to the prison, the greatest facilities were afforded, and the Lord Advocate himself, though pressed with business, attended to their situation minutely. They were placed in a particular prison, because it was the most healthy in Edinburgh, and the district prison was extremely unwholesome. It was not the law of Scotland that an individual could be tried a thousand times for the same crime ; but the public prosecutor can abandon an indictment before trial. The indictment is laid before the Court before trial, and the judges first consider the law, and whether the facts bear out the indictment ; at that period the Court may, if they think fit, refuse to grant the motion for the prisoner's trial. A prisoner, therefore, could not be brought to trial twice. The administration of justice in Scotland had been falsely arraigned, and that during a trial. As to oppression, he could not have been guilty of it, unless the Court had been in a conspiracy with him. So far from two indictments having been quashed, not one was quashed. " Mr. P. Jfethuenl here called to order. Paul Methuen, Esq., for many years member for Wilts, where he has large estates. He has recently been created Lord Methuen. Before his elevation to the Peerage, he was the subject of keveral pasquinade5 by his political opponents-one of which, ascribed to Lord Viscount Palinerston, is extremely clever ; and though somewhat severe, no one acknowledged its merits more readily than the subject of the jeu-d'esp~it. It is a parody on Tom Moore's celebrated ballad of " Believe me, . when all those endearing young charms : "- " Believe me, when all those ridiculous aim, Which you practise so pretty to-day, Like my own, be both scanty and grey ; (Though a fop and a fribble no more) ; Shall vanish by age, and thy well-twisted hain, " Thou wilt still be a goose, as a goose thou hast been,
Volume 9 Page 578
  Enlarge Enlarge  
Volume 9 Page 579
  Enlarge Enlarge     Pictures Pictures