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Kay's Originals Vol. 1


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. 191 James was one of the first sheriffs appointed by the crown. He obtained the sheriffdom of Tweeddale, his native county ; and it may be noticed that he was the last survivor of all those appointed at the same period. His conduct as a judgd in this situation-the more irksome from its being the first of a new order of things-proved so highly satisfactory, that in 1764 he was promoted to the office of Solicitor-General for Scotland, and elected to represent his native county in the British Parliament. A few years after he was still farther honoured by the appointment of Lord Advocate; and in 1777, on the death of Lord Chief-Baron Ord, he was appointed Lord Chief-Baron of his Majesty's Court of Exchequer.' This situation he held until 1801, when he found it necessary to retire from public business. The title of Baronet was then conferred upon him (July 16, lSOl), as a mark of royal esteem for his long and faithful services. Sir James, like his father, had early formed a just estimate of the importance of agriculture as a study; and, even amid the laborious duties of his official appointments, was enthusiastic in its pursuits. On his farm of Wester-Deans, in the parish of Newlands, he had turnips in drills, dressed by a regular process of horse-hoeing, so early as 1757 ; and he was among the first, if not the very first, in Scotland who introduced the light horse-plough, instead of the old cumbrous machine which, on the most favourable soil, required four horses and a driver to manage them. For the purpose of enlarging his practical knowledge, Sir James travelled over the most fertile counties of England, and embraced every opportunity which could possibly tend to aid him in promoting his patriotic design of improving the agriculture of his native country. The means of reclaiming waste lands in particular occupied a large share of his attention. His first purchase was a portion of land, remarkable for its unimprovable appearance, lying upon the upper extremities of the parishes of Newlands and Eddleston. This small estate, selected apparently for the purpose of demonstrating the practicability of a favourite theory, dbtained the designation of the ' I Whim," a name which it has since retained. He also rented, under a long lease, a considerable range' of contiguous ground from Lord Portmore. Upon these rude lands, which consisted chiefly of a deep moss soil, Sir James set to work, and speedily proved what could be accomplished by capital, ingenuity, and industry. In a few years the '' Whim" became one of the most fertile spots in that part of the country. His next purchase was the extensive estate of Stanhope? lying in the parishes of Stobo, Drummellier, and Tweedsmuir, and consisting principally of mountainous sheep-walks. Here, too, he effected great improvements, by erecting enclosures where serviceable-planting numerous belts of young trees-and building com- 1 He was the first Scotsman who held this office since the establishment of the Court in 1707. * These lands belonged to Sir Alexander Murray of Stanhope, Baronet-the husband of that Lady Murray, whose beautiful memoirs of her father and mother were, for the first time, printed under the superintendence of Thomas Thomson, Esquire, from the original MS., in 1822, 8vo. Her husband ruined himself by his. wild speculations, and his paternal estate passed to other hands.
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192 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. fortable farm-houses and other premises for his tenantry, to whom he afforded every inducement to lay out capital, by granting long leases, and otherwise securing to them the prospect of reaping the reward of their industq-. To such management as this the extraordinary agricultural advancement of Scotland, during the last half-century, is mainly owing-an advancement which the present tenant-at-will system (extensively prevalent in certain districts of the country), threatens seriously to impede, if not thoroughly to counteract. Sir James also possessed the estate of Killeen, in Stirlingshire, which he obtained by marriage. On attaining the dignity of Chief-Baron, Sir James found himself in possession of more leisure than he could previously command ; but this relaxation from official duties only tended to increase his labours in the cause of public improvement. He was one of the most useful members of the Board of Trustees for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce in Scotland ; and it may be observed with truth that a great portion of the business of the Board latterly devolved upon him. His extreme kindliness of disposition, readiness of access, and the universal estimation in which he was held, led him into a multiplicity of gratuitous, but not the less salutary or important labour. In the arrangement of private affairs among his neighbours, and in becoming the honoured arbiter in matters of dispute, he was so frequently engaged as materially to interfere with his own convenience ; but whether to persons of his own rank, or to the poor, his opinions were equally and always open. He married Margaret, daughter and heiress of Robert Scott of Killeen, county Stirling, who survived him, and lived till the 17th of February 1806. His eldest son, Colonel William Montgomery, died. a few years before him. His second son, Sir James, inherited the title and estates, and was some time Lord Advocate and Member for the county of Tweeddale. His third son, Archibald, went to the East-Indies ; and his fourth son, Robert, was an English barrister. His eldest daughter was married to Robert Nutter, Esquire of Kailzie-the youngest to Major Hart of the East India Service. The seEond daughter remained unmarried. “ Sir Jamqs,” says a biographical notice written immediately after his death, “was in stature a little taller than the middle size, of a remarkably slender make ; his air, though not undignified, had more in it of winning grace than of overawing command. His appearance in his old age was particularly interesting ; his complexion clear and cloudless; his manner serene and cheerful. Two pictures of him are preserved, for which he sat when above eighty years old ; one at Stobbs House, the other at Kailzie.” Sir Jamea at one time lived in the third flat of the Bishop’s Land, formerly occupied by Lord President Dundas. He subsequently removed to Queensbeq House, situated near the foot of the Canongate, the use of which he gratuitously obtained from Duke William. Sir James died in April 1803.
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