Henry Erskine (lawyer)
The Hon Henry Erskine by Henry Raeburn
|Prime Minister||The Duke of Portland|
|Preceded by||Henry Dundas|
|Succeeded by||Ilay Campbell|
|Prime Minister||The Lord Grenville|
|Preceded by||Sir James Montgomery, Bt|
|Succeeded by||Archibald Colquhoun|
|Born||1 November 1746|
|Died||8 October 1817 (aged 70)|
(1) Christian Fullerton (d. 1804) |
(2) Erskine Munro
St Andrews University |
University of Edinburgh
University of Glasgow
Background and education
Erskine was the third but second surviving son of Henry Erskine, 10th Earl of Buchan, by Agnes, daughter of Sir James Steuart, 7th Baronet. He was the brother of David Erskine, 11th Earl of Buchan, and Lord Chancellor Thomas Erskine, 1st Baron Erskine. He was educated at St Andrews University, Edinburgh University and the University of Glasgow. He was described as "a tall and rather slender figure, a face sparkling with vivacity, a clear sweet voice, and general suffusion of elegance".
Legal and political career
Erskine is considered the lawyer who effectively created the modern adversarial. He was considered a legendary orator compared by his contemporaries to Cicero.
Erskine served as Lord Advocate from 1783 to 1784 in the Fox-North Coalition and again from 1806 to 1807 in the Ministry of All the Talents. He was advocate and state councillor to the Prince of Wales in Scotland from 1783. He was Dean of the Faculty of Advocates from 1785 to 1795, but was not re-elected in 1796, due to his opposition to the war. Lord Cockburn, commenting on his replacement, observed that "it was the Faculty of Advocates alone that suffered". Robert Burns wrote a ballad memorializing the vote entitled, "The Dean of Faculty". In 1788, Erskine had the unenviable task of defending the celebrated Edinburgh thief Deacon Brodie. Despite his best efforts, Brodie was sentenced to death.
Erskine sat as Member of Parliament for Haddington Burghs from April to November 1806, and for Dumfries Burghs from 1806 to 1807. He was appointed as a Commissioner to inquire into administration of justice in Scotland in 1808. In 1811 he gave up his practice at the bar and retired to his country residence of Almondell, in Linlithgowshire. It was said of him that "no poor man wanted a friend while Harry Erskine lived."  He published The Emigrant, an Eclogue, 1773 and other poems.
Erskine married firstly Christian, daughter of George Fullerton, in 1772. They lived at Shoemakers Close on the Canongate. They had two sons and two daughters. Their eldest son, Henry, succeeded as 12th Earl of Buchan on his uncle's death in 1829. After Christian's death in May 1804 Erskine married as his second wife Erskine, daughter of Alexander Munro and widow of Sir James Turnbull, in 1805. This marriage was childless. Henry Erskine died in October 1817, aged 70. A bust of Erskine by Peter Turnerelli stands in Parliament Hall in Edinburgh.
- thepeerage.com Hon. Henry Erskine
- Monuments and Statues of Edinburgh, Michael T. R. B. Turnbull, (Chambers) p. 54
- "Trial of Deacon Brodie", William Roughead, 1906
- Burns, Robert; Cunningham, Allan (1834). The Works of Robert Burns: With His Life. Hilliard, Gray and Company. p. 26. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
- McCue, Kirsteen; Brown, Rhona. "Centre for Robert Burns Studies at the University of Glasgow" (PDF). University of Glasgow. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
- Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs – Constituencies beginning with "H" (part 1)
- Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs – Constituencies beginning with "D" (part 4)
- "The Emigrant. An Eclogue". Weekly Magazine or Edinburgh Amusement. 31 (21 March 1776): 399–400. 2018-01-16.
- Edinburgh and Leith Post Office Directory 1775
- Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by Hon. Henry Erskine
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
Sir John Hamilton-Dalrymple, Bt
| Member of Parliament for Haddington Burghs
Hon. William Lamb
| Member of Parliament for Dumfries Burghs
Sir John Heron-Maxwell, Bt
| Lord Advocate
Sir James Montgomery, Bt
| Lord Advocate
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