Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Swinton, John (d.1799)

SWINTON, JOHN, Lord Swinton (d. 1799), Scottish judge, son of John Swinton of Swinton, Berwickshire, advocate, by his wife Mary, daughter of Samuel Semple, minister of Liberton. He was admitted advocate on 20 Dec. 1743, and appointed sheriff-depute of Perthshire in June 1754. In April 1766 he became solicitor for renewal of leases of the bishops' tithes, and solicitor and advocate to the commissioners for plantation of kirks in Scotland. He was elevated to the bench, with the title of Lord Swinton, on 21 Dec. 1782, and, on the promotion of Robert Macqueen of Braxfield in 1788, was also made a lord of justiciary. He retained both appointments till his death. He died at his residence, Dean House, Edinburgh, on 5 Jan. 1799. Swinton married Margaret, daughter of John Mitchelson of Middleton. By her he had six sons and seven daughters.

Swinton published:

  1. ‘Abridgment of the Public Statutes relative to Scotland, &c., from the Union to the 27th of George II,’ 2 vols. 1755; to the 29th of George III, 3 vols. 1788–90.
  2. ‘Free Disquisition concerning the Law of Entails in Scotland,’ 1765.
  3. ‘Proposal for Uniformity of Weights and Measures in Scotland,’ 1779.
  4. ‘Considerations concerning a Proposal for dividing the Court of Session into Classes or Chambers; and for limiting Litigation in Small Causes, and for the Revival of Jury-trial in certain Civil Actions,’ 1789.

Lord Cockburn, in his ‘Memorials of his Time,’ remarks: ‘These improvements have since taken place, but they were mere visions in his time; and his anticipation of them, in which, so far as I ever heard, he had no associate, is very honourable to his thoughtfulness and judgment.’

[Burke's Landed Gentry; Brunton and Haig's College of Justice.]

R. B. S.