Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Maclean, James Mackenzie

1533419Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement, Volume 2 — Maclean, James Mackenzie1912Thomas Hudson Beare

MACLEAN, JAMES MACKENZIE (1835–1906), journalist and politician, was born on 13 Aug. 1835 at Liberton, near Edinburgh. His father, a native of Uist, an island in the Hebrides, spent some years in Jamaica before settling at Liberton, where he died in 1839. His mother belonged to the Biagrio family and was of French extraction. James was educated first at Circus Place school, Edinburgh, then at Dr. Bruce's grammar school, Newcastlc-on-Tyne, whither his mother removed with her two boys on her husband's death. In 1845, after a year at the preparatory school at Hertford, he entered Christ's Hospital as a foundationer and became a 'Grecian.' The necessity of earning his living compelled him to forgo his intention of proceeding to Cambridge. He was for a short time mathematical tutor at his old school at Newcastle. In 1854 he joined the editorial staff of the local 'Newcastle Chronicle,' then a weekly paper, and edited it from 1855 to the spring of 1858. On the recommendation of Alexander Russel [q. v.] of the 'Scotsman' he subsequently became a leader-writer for the 'Manchester Guardian,' and at the close of 1859 Russel's influence procured for him the editorship of the 'Bombay Gazette.' He held the office for more than a year when differences with the proprietor led him to resign early in 1861. Persuaded by friends to remain in Bombay, he thereupon started the 'Bombay Saturday Review,' which, while modelled on its London prototype, gave more prominence to commercial affairs. He gathered round him many eminent contributors, including Sir Alexander Grant [q. v.]. Sir George Birdwood, Thomas Chisholm Anstey [q. v.], and occasionally even the governor. Sir Bartle Frere [q. v.]. The advertisement revenue was greatly benefited by the share mania (1861-5) arising from the American civil war and the consequent expansion of the Bombay cotton trade.

Early in 1864 Maclean purchased the principal share in the 'Bombay Gazette,' of which he resumed the editorship, and before long became the sole proprietor. To the 'Gazette' he mainly devoted himself, writing largely for it, and discontinuing the 'Bombay Saturday Review.' His candour and independence imported new vigour into the discussion of public affairs in Western India, and while severely criticising native political aspirations, he was at times equally uncompromising in attack on the policy of government. His vituperative style, which extended the circulation of his paper, especially appealed to young Indians, and he set the model of licence which the native press in Western India subsequently adopted {Times of India Proclamation Supplement, 4 Nov. 1908). At the same time Maclean organised public opinion in Bombay to many beneficent ends. Sir George Birdwood pronouboed him to be 'the ablest publicist we ever had in India' (Roy. Soc. of Arts Journal, 14 June 1901).

Appointed in 1865 to the bench of justices, which had a general supervision of municipal affairs, Maclean initiated the agitation which resulted in the creation of a semi-elective municipal corporation (1872). A member of this body for many years, he read as its chairman in 1875 the address of welcome to the Prince of Wales (afterwords King Edward VII). On the occasion of this royal visit he compiled an historical and descriptive 'Guide to Bombay' (1875), which ranks among the best works of its kind and was re-issued annually till 1902. He was a fellow of Bombay University.

At the close of 1879 Maclean sold the 'Gazette' in order to take part in politics at home. An upholder of Lord Beaconsfield's motto, 'Imperium et Libertas,' he was an unsuccessful conservative candidate for the Elgin burghs at the general election of 1880. For a time he associated himself with Lord Randolph Churchill, and helped to secure his election to the chairmanship of the National Union of Conservative Associations (Feb. 1884). But an estrangement followed when it seemed to Maclean that Lord Randolph was seeking to supplant Lord Salisbury as party leader. A motion which Maclean submitted to the council (2 May 1884) with a view to restoring harmony in the party was carried and led Lord Randolph to resign the chairmanship and to withdraw for the time from the political arena (Winston Churchill's Life, i. chap vii.).

At the general election of 1885 Maclean won for his party the second seat at Oldham, and at the election of 1886 he headed the poll. Lord Randolph, now leader of the house, became reconciled to him, and he seconded the address in October 1886. He soon won a reputation as an effective speaker ; he also displayed antagonisms to his leaders on various questions. He notably offended trade unionists and bi-metallists, and at the election of 1892 lost his seat at Oldham, being at the bottom of the poll.

In 1882 Maclean had acquired a large interest in the 'Western Mail,' Cardiff, to which he contributed for many years a weekly political letter. He stood for the borough at the general election of 1895, and, defeating Sir Edward James Reed [q. v. Suppl. II], became the first conservative member for Cardiff after forty years. While maintaining his reputation as a parliamentary debater, he developed a distrust and dislike of Mr. Chamberlain, which mined his parliamentary career. He opposed the conservative government on many critical questions, of which the chief were the retention of Chitral, the negotiations leading up to the South African war, and the imposition in 1899 of countervailing sugar duties in India. In the matter of the sugar duties he seconded on 15 June 1899 a motion of want of confidence moved by the opposition, and owing to the angry interruptions on his own side he crossed the floor of the house to finish his speech. The Cardiff conservatives withdrew their support. He disposed of his interest in the 'Western Mail,' and retired from parliament at the dissolution of 1900.

An ardent free trader, Maclean spoke and wrote against tariff reform after its promulgation by Mr. Chamberlain. In a paper read before the Royal Society of Arts (10 Dec. 1903), he emphasised the objections from the Indian point of view (cf. his India's Place in an Imperial Federation, 1904). He now wrote for liberal journals, such as the 'Manchester Guardian' and the 'South Wales Daily News.' Some of these contributions were revised and collected as 'Recollections of Westminster and India' (Manchester, 1902).

An original member of the Institute of Journalists, he was president of the conference at Cardiff in 1899, when he deprecated; a growing spirit [in the press] of obsequiousness to personages in high social or political positions' (Proc. Inst. Journalists, No. 21, Sept. 1897). He revisited India at the end of 1898, and was received with enthusiasm in Bombay. He died at Southborne, Bournemouth, on 23 April 1906, and was buried at Chiswick.

He married (1) in 1867 Anna Maria (d. 1897), daughter of Philip Whitehead, of the 'Bombay Gazette'; and (2) on 23 July 1900 Mrs. Sarah Kennedy, third daughter of Dr. D. Hayle of Harrogate, who survives; there were no children. A pastel portrait was executed by his widow.

[Maclean's Recollections, Guide to Bombay, and other writings; Churchill, Life of Lord Randolph Churchill, 1906; The Times, and Manchester Guardian, 24 April 1906; Times of India, 25 April 1906; Cardiff Times, Stalybridge Standard, and Bombay Gazette Weekly Summary, 28 April 1906; Oldham Chronicle, 30 April 1906; Lucy's Diary of Salisbury Parliament, 1886-92, and of the Unionist Parliament, 1895-1900; personal knowledge; private papers, &c., kindly lent by Mrs. Maclean.]

T. H. B.