Hope, Thomas (d.1646) (DNB00)
HOPE, Sir THOMAS (d. 1646), lord advocate of Scotland, was son of Henry Hope, a merchant of Scotland with business connections in France, by his wife Jaqueline de Tott. His great grandfather, John de Hope, is said to have come from France to Scotland in the retinue of Magdalen, queen of James V, in 1537. His younger brother Henry seems to have settled in early life in Amsterdam, and was ancestor of the rich family of merchants long connected with that city (cf. Hope, John Williams, and Hope, Thomas 1770?–1831). Thomas was bred to the law in Scotland, and was admitted advocate on 7 Feb. 1605. He defended John Forbes (1568?–1634) [q. v.] and five other ministers tried at Linlithgow in 1606 upon a charge of having committed treason in declining to acknowledge the jurisdiction claimed by the privy council over the general assembly. He, like his leaders, Thomas Craig, William Oliphant, and Thomas Gray, counselled submission, but when the two former declined to appear at the trial on 10 Jan., Hope made so vigorous a defence that, although his clients were convicted, he speedily ranked among the foremost men at the bar. Two years afterwards Lord-advocate Hamilton spoke of him as ‘one of the most learned and best experienced’ of Scotch advocates, and the privy council desired his opinion on a point of law in the case of Margaret Hartsyde, one of the queen's chamberwomen, whom, however, he was retained to defend (Melros Papers, i. 50, 344; Balfour, Annals, ii. 26; Pitcairn, Criminal Trials, ii. 544–57). Till the end of the reign he had a lucrative practice. His public life began under Charles I. In 1625 he prepared the deed revoking James's grants of church property to laymen. On 29 May 1626 he was appointed lord advocate jointly with Oliphant, then an old man (Burnet, Hist. of his own Time, i. 30; Registrum Secreti Sigilli, xcviii. 444), and thereupon addressed the king in a long Latin poem, published in the same year. With regard to the resumption of ecclesiastical property his policy was to threaten boldly and act moderately to those who begged for terms. On his advice in August an action was commenced to have the various grants of church property declared null and void (see Connell on Tithes, Append. xxxix.) The action, however, was abandoned, and a commission, of which he was a member, was appointed to report upon the whole subject. In February 1628 his services to the crown on this commission were rewarded with a Nova Scotia baronetcy. On 19 Nov., in pursuance of an old claim and privilege of lord advocates, he was sworn to secrecy, and admitted to sit with the judges in cases in which he was not himself employed (Acts of Sederunt, 19 Nov. 1628). In parliament he was entrusted with the royal letters of prorogation on each occasion from 1629 to 1633. He prepared the summons for leasing-making served on John Elphinstone, lord Balmerino [q. v.], on 14 Nov. 1634, and conducted the trial on behalf of the crown. Though he exerted himself zealously against the prisoner he does not appear to have lost the favour of the presbyterians. He was a party to the act of the privy council commanding the use of the service-book on 20 Dec. 1636 (Baillie, Letters and Journals, vol. i. App. 440), but he probably absented himself from the first reading in St. Giles's, and is charged by Bishop Guthrie with having been privy to the rioting which then took place (Guthrie, Memoirs, p. 20). Delicate as his position was he contrived still to retain the favour of both sides. In the autumn, however, he became an open supporter of the supplicants, or popular party, and alone among the privy councillors refused to sign the approval of Lord High-treasurer Traquair's proclamation, 20 Feb. 1638, condemning the opposition to the service-book (Rothe, Relation of Affairs, p. 66). He avoided any prominent share in the preparation of the national covenant, and did not sign it, though he pronounced an opinion in favour of its legality; and, writing privately to the Earl of Morton, he called the covenanters ‘a number of the most loyal and faithful subjects that ever a prince had.’ Charles's royal commissioner, the Marquis of Hamilton, found him, according to Burnet, one of his greatest troubles, and yet dared not dismiss him. He could not induce him to declare the action of the covenanters to be illegal, or to defend episcopacy at the assembly in Glasgow in November (Burnet, Memoirs of the Dukes of Hamilton, p. 92). His son, Sir Thomas Hope of Kerse [q. v.], served with the army of the covenanters, and Hope's own position became more and more precarious till on 14 Jan. 1640 the king ordered him to remain at his country house, Craighall, Fifeshire, during pleasure. There he remained till the end of May, when he was summoned to Edinburgh to carry out the prorogation of parliament. When parliament rose on 11 June he returned to Craighall, but again appeared in parliament officially to prorogue it on 14 Jan. 1641. When the committee of estates required his official signature to writs of summons against the ‘incendiaries,’ or opponents of the covenant, he refused it without the king's authority, and declined also to prosecute them in spite of the direction of the estates (see Balfour, Annals, iii. 1–3; Acts Scots Parl. v. 307). Later in the session his right to appear in parliament as lord advocate without representing a constituency was contested, and in spite of his arguments he was only permitted to be present as an officer of state, and to speak if called upon by the house. In 1643 he opposed the proposal to summon parliament without any warrant from the king, and though unsuccessful he re-established himself by his efforts in the confidence of Charles's partisans (Burnet, Memoirs of the Dukes of Hamilton, p. 218), and he abstained from attending the convention when it sat. He was lord high commissioner at the meeting of the general assembly on 2 Aug., the only instance of the appointment of a commoner to that office, and maintained the king's policy—of which, however, he did not entirely approve—with much discretion. In spite of his requests for delay and communication with the king, the assembly adopted the solemn league and covenant. From this time he discharged only the formal duties of law officer, and even these were much limited by the jealousy of the estates. He appeared in parliament only if specially summoned. His health failed, and on 1 Oct. 1646 he died.
His success as a lawyer was very great, and with the profits of his practice he purchased estates in Fifeshire, Stirlingshire, Midlothian, Haddington, and Berwickshire. He wrote a legal treatise called ‘Minor Practicks,’ subsequently published by Bayne in 1726, and possibly wrote a manuscript treatise called ‘Major Practicks’ (see Fraser, Law of Parent and Child), and some reports of decisions of the court of session, 1610–19. Besides his ‘Carmen Sæculare’ in Charles I's honour, published at Edinburgh in 1626, he wrote a Latin translation of the Psalms and Song of Solomon. He married Elizabeth, daughter of John Binning or Bennet of Wallyford, co. Haddington, by whom he had four sons who survived infancy; of these three reached the bench: John, lord Craighall (1605?–1654) [q. v.], Thomas, lord Kerse (1606–1643) [q. v.], and Sir James Hope of Hopetoun (1614–1661) [q. v.]; Alexander was cupbearer to Charles I. Of his two daughters who survived infancy, Mary was wife of Sir Charles Erskine of Alva, and Anne married David, lord Cardross.
[G. W. T. Omond's Lord Advocates, i. 93–147; Diary of the Public Correspondence of Sir Thomas Hope of Craighall (Bannatyne Club), 1813; Gardiner's Hist. of England, viii. 323, ix. 93; Douglas's Peerage, ed. Wood, i. 741–2; Nisbet's Heraldry, i. 218, App. p. 91; Coltness Papers, p. 16; Cat. of Advocates' Library, Edinburgh.]