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Henry Erskine


1746 - 1817

Lord Advocate and politician. Born in Edinburgh, the son of Henry Erskine, 10th Earl of Buchan (1710-67), Erskine was educated at the University of St. Andrews (1760), University of Glasgow (1764) and finally the University of Edinburgh (1766), where he was taught by Adam Ferguson (1723 - 1816). He was admitted as an Advocate in 1768.

Said to be one of the most brilliant legal minds of his day, Erskine was the darling of the Scots Whigs, in favour of constitutional reform. He served twice as Lord Advocate for Scotland (1783-84 and 1806-07). He was also elected Dean of the Faculty of Advocates, serving from 1785 until 1795, but lost this post having incurred the wrath of the powerful Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville (1742 - 1811), having opposed the sedition and treason bills introduced by the government that year. He went on to serve as Member of Parliament for the Haddington Burghs briefly in 1806 and for the Dumfries Burghs (1806-07). Despite his outmanoeuvring in politics, Erskine was popular. Henry Cockburn (1779 - 1854) recalled, "Nothing was so sour as not to be sweetened by the glance, the voice, the gaiety, the beauty of Henry Erskine".

Erskine died at Amondell in West Lothian, the country house which he had designed himself in 1786. His son, another Henry, succeeded as 12th Earl of Buchan in 1829.


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