John Murray, Lord Murray

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The Murray monument to, St Cuthberts, Edinburgh

Sir John Archibald Murray, Lord Murray FRSE (1778–1859) was a Scottish judge.

Life[edit]

He was born in Midlothian on 8 June 1778.[1] He was the second son of Alexander Murray, Lord Henderland, Lord of Session and Justiciary. His mother was Katherine Lindsay, daughter of Sir Alexander Lindsay of Evelick, Perthshire, and a niece of the first Lord Mansfield. His brother was William Murray of Henderland FRSE.

He was educated successively at the Edinburgh High School, at Westminster School, and at the University of Edinburgh. At Edinburgh he was a member of the Juvenile Literary Society, of which Henry Brougham and Francis Horner were the leading spirits, and of the Speculative Society.

He constantly corresponded with Horner till the latter's death in 1817, and his letters form a chief part of the Memoirs of Horner, 1843. [2]

In 1799, Murray passed to the Scottish bar. On the establishment of the Edinburgh Review, Sydney Smith, F. Horner, Francis Jeffrey, Dr. Thomas Brown, and he, met for a time as joint editors in Jeffrey's house, and he long continued a frequent contributor. His early career at the bar was distinguished, but being in easy circumstances he latterly relaxed his efforts. [2]

In 1826, he married Mary, the eldest daughter of William Rigby of Oldfield Hall, Cheshire. An ardent liberal, Murray threw in his lot with the brilliant band of young Edinburgh whig lawyers, and took a prominent part in the agitation which led to the passing of the Reform Bill of 1832. In December 1832, he was returned unopposed for Leith Burghs, which had been enfranchised under the bill, and was appointed recorder of the great roll and clerk of the pipe, a sinecure in the Scottish exchequer which he did not long hold. [2]

On the elevation of Jeffrey to the bench in 1835, Murray succeeded him as Lord Advocate. He introduced a large number of bills into the House of Commons, including measures for the reform of the universities, for giving popular magistracies to small towns, for enabling sheriffs to hold small debt circuits, for the reform of the court of session, and for amending the bankruptcy law, but only succeeded in carrying a few minor reforms. In 1839, he was savagely attacked in parliament by his old friend Brougham for his conduct in the case of five cotton-spinners who were tried on a charge of murder arising out of a trade-union dispute, but he answered the charges to the complete satisfaction of the house. Murray seemed to feel himself unfitted for political life, and in 1839 he left parliament for the court of session.

He was knighted in 1839 adopting the name Lord Murray.

In 1844 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh his proposer being Thomas Stewart Traill. He served as the Society's Vice President from 1849 to 1857.[3]

He remained on the bench till his death in Edinburgh on 7 March 1859. He was buried in his parents grave (marked by a large and elaborate monument) in St Cuthbert's churchyard in central Edinburgh.

His only son died in boyhood. [2]

Character[edit]

Murray's early manhood was the most brilliant portion of his career, but, though he never occupied that position in public life which might have been predicted for him from his early distinction, his connection with the past, his generous patronage of art and letters, his geniality and interest in the welfare of his fellow-citizens, gave him in his later years a peculiar position in Edinburgh society. His hospitality was profuse and famous.

Scott in his Diary records many pleasant evenings spent at Murray's house, and Harriet Martineau celebrates his tea-parties at St. Stephen's when he was Lord Advocate.

In Edinburgh and in his country residence at Strachur on Loch Fyne, and afterwards in Jura, he gathered his friends round him, while Lady Murray, an accomplished musician, ably helped him to entertain them. [2]

References[edit]

Attribution

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
New constituency Member of Parliament for Leith Burghs
1832 – 1839
Succeeded by
Andrew Rutherfurd
Legal offices
Preceded by
Francis Jeffrey
Lord Advocate
May-Nov 1834
Succeeded by
William Rae
Preceded by
William Rae
Lord Advocate
1835-1839
Succeeded by
Andrew Rutherfurd