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Mackenzie, Sir George

MACKENZIE, SIR GEORGE (1636-1691), of Rosehaugh, Scottish lawyer, was the grandson of Kenneth, first Lord Mackenzie of Kintail, and the nephew of Colin and George, first and second earls of Seaforth; his mother was a daughter of Andrew Bruce, principal of St Leonard's College, St Andrews. He was born at Dundee in 1636, educated at the grammar school there and at Aberdeen, and afterwards at St Andrews, graduating at sixteen. He then engaged for three years in the study of the civil law at Bourges; on his return to Scotland he was called to the bar in 1659, and before the Restoration had risen into considerable practice. Immediately after the Restoration he was appointed a " justice-depute," and it is recorded that he and his colleagues in that office were ordained by the parliament in 1661 " to repair, once in the week at least, to Musselburgh and Dalkeith, and to try and judge such persons as are there or thereabouts delate of witchcraft." In the same year he acted as counsel for the marquis of Argyll; soon afterwards he was knighted, and he represented the county of Ross during the four sessions of the parliament which was called in 1669. He succeeded Sir Johh Nisbet as king's advocate in August 1677, and in the discharge of this office became implicated in all the worst acts of the Scottish administration of Charles II., earning for himself an unenviable distinction as " the bloody Mackenzie." His refusal to concur in the measures for dispensing with the penal laws against Catholics led to his removal from office in 1686, but he was reinstated in February 1688. At the Revolution, being a member of convention, he was one of the minority of five in the division on the forfeiture of the crown. King William was urged to declare him incapacitated for holding any public office, but refused to accede to the proposal. When the death of Dundee (July 1689) had finally destroyed the hopes of his party in Scotland, Mackenzie betook himself to Oxford, where, admitted a student by a grace passed in 1690, he was allowed to spend the rest of his days in the enjoyment of the ample fortune he had acquired, and in the prosecution of his literary labours. One of his last acts before leaving Edinburgh had been to pronounce (March 15, 1689), as dean of the faculty of advocates, the inaugural oration at the foundation of the Advocates' library. He died at Westminster on the 8th of May 1691, and was buried in Greyfriars churchyard, Edinburgh.

While still a young man Sir George Mackenzie appears to have aspired to eminence in the domain of pure literature, his earliest publication having been Aretina, or a Serious Romance (anon., 1661) ; it was followed, also anonymously, by Religio Stoici, a Short Discourse upon Several Divine and Moral Subjects (1663); A Moral Essay, preferring Solitude to Public Employment (1665); and one or two other disquisitions of a similar nature. His most important legal works are entitled A Discourse upon the Laws and Customs of Scotland in Matters Criminal (1674); Observations upon the Laws and Customs of Nations as to Precedency, with the Science of Heraldry (1680); Institutions of the Law of Scotland (1684) ; and Observations upon the Acts of Parliament (1686); of these the last-named is the most important, the Institutions being completely overshadowed by the similar work of his great contemporary Stair. In his Jus Regium: or the Just and Solid Foundations of Monarchy in general, and more especially of the Monarchy of Scotland, maintained (1684), Mackenzie appears as an uncompromising advocate of the highest doctrines of prerogative. His Vindication of the Government of Scotland during the reign of Charles II. (1691) is valuable as a piece of contemporary history. The collected Works were published at Edinburgh (2 vols. fol.) in 17161722; and Memoirs of the Affairs of Scotland from the Restoration of King Charles II., from previously unpublished MSS., in 1821.

See A. Lang, Sir George Mackenzie of Rosehaugh (1909).

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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