From the Book of Eminent Burgesses of Dundee 1513 to 1885.

John, Lord Balmerinoch - 8th February 1648

 

THE QUHILK. DAY LORD BALMERINOCH WES SWORE AND ADMITTED BURGESS AND BROTHER OF THE GUILD OF THIS BURGH


JOHN ELPHINSTONE, second LORD BALMERINOCH, was the son of the HON. SIR JAMES ELPHINSTONE, first LORD BALMERINOCH, by his first wife, SARAH, daughter of SIR JOHN MONTEITH of Carse. When his father died, in 1612, the title was then attainted, but in the following year the second LORD BALMERINOCH obtained its restoration, and received from KING JAMES a charter under the Great Seal granting him the paternal estate anew.


LORD BALMERINOCH was one of the most faithful leaders of the Covenanters, and suffered severely for his adherence to their cause. When CHARLES I. came to Scotland, in 1633, several of the Nobles and Members of Parliament had drawn up a petition asking the KING to annul some of those Acts by which it was thought that the civil and religious liberty of the country would be endangered. It was judged expedient to show this petition to the KING before formally presenting it, and the indignation with which HIS MAJESTY regarded it proved that it would be hopeless to expect him to receive it favourably. The document never was presented, but LORD BALMERINOCH, who was supposed to have drawn it up, retained a copy amongst his private papers. Shortly afterwards, whilst conversing with his legal adviser, a certain JOHN DENMURE, Solicitor in Dundee LORD BALMERINOCH showed this paper in strict confidence, and DENMURE by some means obtained possession of it. The dangerous document at last found its way into the hands of the ARCHBISHOP OF ST ANDREWS, and as it was regarded as libellous, LORD BALMERINOCH was apprehended on 9th June, 1634, and carried before the Privy Council for examination. He was kept in strict confinement in the Castle of Edinburgh until 30th March, 1635, and then brought to trial before a jury.


Some mystery has hitherto surrounded the proceedings of the KING and Council in this matter, but a recent examination of the documents at Traquair House, made by Dr WILLIAM FRASER, throws a flood of light upon the transaction. The first EARL OF TRAQUAIR was Lord High Treasurer to KING CHARLES, and many of the communications which passed betwixt that Monarch and himself are still in existence. Amongst these are the depositions of LORD BALMERINOCH before the Privy Council, from which it appears that the accused nobleman denied having drawn up the petition, or even given it more than a qualified assent. The determination of the KING to avenge what he considered as an interference with his prerogative, is proved by the fact that he wrote a holograph letter appointing the Judges who were to try this important case, and making arrangements for the trial. Before it was decided to commit the case to a jury, LORD BALMERINOCH desired to throw himself upon the clemency of the KING, and the very abject Submission which was drawn up for him to sign still bears several additions and corrections in the KING'S handwriting. The unfortunate nobleman refused to submit to the proposed conditions, and he was brought to trial, found guilty, and condemned to death by the casting vote of the EARL OF TRAQUAIR.


This high handed proceeding on the part of the KING and his counsellors provoked the resentment of the Covenanters; and the people threatened not only to rescue the victim, but to execute summary vengeance upon the Judges and jury who had condemned him, by putting them to death and destroying their houses. The KING at last saw that the impolicy of his action was likely to prove fatal to his cause in Scotland, and he was at length compelled to liberate LORD BALMERINOCH and to restore him to his estate and title, after an unjustifiable imprisonment of thirteen months. CHARLES never regained the confidence of the Scottish nation, and his ultimate downfall is often attributed to his treatment of the accused.


After his release, LORD BALMERINOCH became the foremost leader of the Covenanters in their opposition to the introduction of Episcopacy. He was chosen President of the Parliament in 1641, and retained his popularity during the remainder of his life. His admission as a Burgess of Dundee may be regarded as another proof of the strong Presbyterian feeling which then existed in the Burgh. He died of apoplexy, on 1st March, 1649 little over a year after the date of the inscription of his name on the Burgess Roll.


JOHN ELPHINSTONE, third LORD BALMERINOCH, who is entered on the Roll as "Master of Balmerinoch," was the son of the second LORD, and of ANNE, daughter of SIR THOMAS KER Of Ferniehirst. He was born on 18th February, 1623, and succeeded to the title on his father's death, in 1649. The estate had been seriously impaired by the liberality of the late Lord in aiding the Covenanters during their long struggle against CHARLES I, and he was compelled to sacrifice much of his property to supply his own necessities. It is stated that he received CHARLES II at his mansion in Leith when the KING landed there in 1650, but he was nevertheless fined in £6,000 Scots for non conformity to Episcopacy in 1662. He survived till 1704, when he had reached the extreme age of eighty two years, and was buried in the family vault at Restalrig. By his marriage with LADY ANNE CAMPBELL, daughter of the EARL OF LOUDOUN (vide page 155), he had three sons and one daughter, and was succeeded by his eldest son, JOHN, fourth LORD BALMERINOCH.