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Kay's Originals Vol. 1


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. 313 Sir Archibald died at Pinkie House on the 1st of June 1794. He was succeeded by his second son of the first marriage j on whose death, in 1801, without issue, John, eldest son of the second marriage, became the eleventh baronet. No. CXXVII. BOBERT BLAIR, ESQ., SOLICITOR-GENERAL, AND AFTERWARDS LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COURT OF SESSION. AMONGST the many eminent persons who have attained celebrity as Senators of the College of Justice, the late LORDP RESIDENBTL AIRo~c cupies a distinguished place. His father was the Rev. Robert Blair, minister of Atholstaneford, in East Lothian, author of " The Grave," and male representative of the ancient family of Blair in Ayrshire. He married Isabella Law, daughter of William Law, Esq. of Elvingston, East Lothian.' The third son-the subject of our sketch-was born in 1741. His elder brothers were destined to mercantile pursuits, but Robert was educated for the legal profession. He commenced his studies at the High School of Edinburgh, and from thence was transferred to the University, where he formed friendships which subsequently materially aided him in his progress through life. In particular he commenced an intimacy with Henry Dundas, afterwards Lord Melville, which only terminated with their lives. Mr. Blab was a year younger than his friend Lord Melville. The latter was admitted a member of the Faculty of Advocates in 1763, and the former the following year. This adoption of a profession in which so many fail of success was considered at least a bold if not an inconsiderate choice, by a young man without fortune ; but the extended practice, which his talents almost instantaneously commanded, dispelled the apprehensions of his friends. Blair rapidly rose to eminence as a lawyer; and in most cases of importance was retained as a leading counsel. The celebrated Henry Erskine and he were generally pitted against each other, as the two most eloquent as well as able members of the bar. However much Erskine might surpass his opponent in witty observation or ingenious remark, Blair was infinitely his superior as a clear reasoner and sound lawyer. Mr. Blair was for several years one of the Assessors of the city of Edinburgh, The prefixed full-length portrait, done in 1793, represents the Solicitor-General a few years after his appointment. ' This lady was sister of Mr. Law of Elviogston, who was Sheriff of Haddmgton for fifty years ; and, during that long period, was never known to be absent on a court day, either from aickneas or any other cause. 2 s
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,314 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. and an Advocate-depute. In 1789 he was appointed Solicitor-General for Scotland; and in 1801 was unanimously elected Dean of the Faculty of Advocates.' No. CXXVIII. ROBERT BLAIR, ESQ., SOLICITOR-GENERAL THIS Print of MR. BLAIR was done in 1799, and represents him nearly in a similar position to the former. It seems to have been executed with the view of completing a series of Portraits of those gentlemen who filled the bench at the close of last century. On the change of ministry which took place in 1806, Mr. Blair was removed from the solicitorship ; on which event he received a polite apology from the new minister, stating the necessity he was under of promoting his own party. This communication-no doubt dictated by good feeling-was perfectly unnecessary, in so far as the feelings of the ex-solicitor were concerned. Then, as now, a change in the crown officers invariably succeeded a change in the cabinet. The friends of either party were therefore prepared to rise or fall as the scale preponderated. Far from being out of temper with this turn of the political wheel, Mr. Blair showed his magnanimity by proffering to his successor-John Clerk, afterwards Lord Eldin-the use of his gown, until the latter should get one prepared for himself. On the return of his friends to power next year, Mr. Blair was offered the restoration of his former honour ; but he declined not only this, but also the higher office of Lord Advocate. In 1808, on the resignation of Sir Ilay Campbell, he was raised to the Presidency of the College of Justice-a choice which gave satisfaction to all parties. During the short period that his lordship discharged the duties of this high trust, his conduct as a judge realised the expectations formed from a knowledge of his abilities at the bar. In his character were not only blended those native qualities of mind which, aided by the acquirements of studyl combine to constitute superior talent, but he brought with him to the bench that " innate love of justice and abhorrence of iniquity, without which, as he himself emphati- , cally declared, when he took the chair of the Court, all other qualities avail nothing, or rather are worse than nothing." ' His election of Dean was without a single dissentient voice, save that of Mr. Wilde, who cried out-"Hav Enkine for ever ! " When the intelligence was communicated to Mr. Blair, his own words were-"Nothing gives me more pleasure than the fact that thove opposed to me in politics were the first to vote in my favour. '
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