1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Erskine, Henry

ERSKINE, HENRY (1746–1817), lord advocate of Scotland, the second son of Henry David, 10th earl of Buchan and brother of the lord chancellor Erskine, was born in Edinburgh on the 1st of November 1746. He was educated at the universities of St Andrews, Glasgow and Edinburgh, and was admitted a member of the faculty of advocates in 1768. His reputation as a clever and fluent speaker was first made in the debates of the general assembly, of which he had been early elected an elder. In 1783 he was appointed to the office of lord advocate, which he held during the brief coalition ministry of Fox and North. In 1785 he was elected dean of the faculty of advocates, and was re-elected annually till 1796, when his conduct in moving a series of resolutions at a public meeting, condemning the government’s sedition and treason bills, brought on him the opposition of the ministerial party, and he was deposed in favour of Robert Dundas. On the formation of the Grenville ministry in 1806 he again became lord advocate and was returned to parliament for the Haddington burghs, which he exchanged at the general election of the same year for the Dumfries burghs. His tenure of the lord advocateship ended in March 1807 on the downfall of the ministry. In 1811 he gave up his practice at the bar and retired to his country residence of Almondel, in Linlithgowshire, where he died on the 8th of October 1817.

His eldest son, Henry David (1783–1857), succeeded as 12th earl of Buchan on his uncle’s death in 1829.

Erskine’s reputation will survive as the finest and most eloquent orator of his day at the Scottish bar; added to a charming forensic style was a most captivating wit, which, as Lord Jeffrey said, was “all argument, and each of his delightful illustrations a material step in his reasoning.” Erskine was also the author of some poems, of which the best known is “The Emigrant” (1783).

See Lieut.-Col. A. Fergusson’s Henry Erskine (1882).