Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Roberton, James

ROBERTON, JAMES, of Bedlay (1590?–1664), Scottish judge, born about 1590, was son of Archibald Roberton, and grandson of John Roberton of Earnock. He matriculated at Glasgow University in March 1605, and graduated M.A. in 1609. He was appointed professor of philosophy and humanity in that university in 1618. After leaving the university, Roberton went to France. On his return he passed as advocate, and in November 1626 was appointed a judge of the admiralty court and a justice-depute. In a petition which he presented to parliament in 1641, he stated that he served as justice-depute from 1626 till 1637 without fee; that at the latter date he had been granted an annual fee of 1,200l. Scots, ‘whairof I have gottin nor can gett no payment at all, but am still disapoynted of the samen.’ In November 1641 parliament ordered the payment of arrears for four and a half years, and directed that provision should be made for regular payment thereafter. This arrangement was not carried out, as on 23 July 1644 Roberton again petitioned for payment of ten years' arrears, which was ordered. His name appears frequently in 1641 and 1645 on the special commissions appointed for the trial of delinquents. On 3 April 1646 he was chosen rector of Glasgow University, being described as Judex, to distinguish him from a contemporary James Roberton, who matriculated at Glasgow in 1610, was laureated in 1613, and was apparently made ‘professor of physiologie’ in May 1621.

On 18 March 1647 parliament ordered the payment of 100l. sterling for Roberton's services as commissioner. His name appears on the committee of war for Lanarkshire from 1644 till 1648, and he is described as commissary of Hamilton from 1646 to 1650. During Cromwell's supremacy in Scotland he was urged to retain his judicial position, but he refused to take the oath of abjuration, and retired into private life. In 1659 he is described as heritor of the lands of Bedlay and Mollans, showing that his possessions had not been forfeited. After the Restoration in 1660 Roberton was one of the commission of judges appointed in Scotland, and on 5 April 1661 he was made one of the ordinary lords of session, when the college of justice was restored. From the acts of parliament it appears that Roberton took the oath; but Brunton and Haig (Senators of the College of Justice, p. 374), on the authority of the books of sederunt, state that he was absent when the declaration was subscribed by the court, and 19 Jan. 1664 was assigned as the date for his subscription, under penalty of deprivation of office. Roberton addressed a letter to the court, pleading his great age and sickness for his non-attendance at Edinburgh, and asserting that he had no scruple concerning the covenant. The court granted him the privilege of appearing at any time when his health would permit. He died in May 1664, and his son, Archibald Roberton, was ‘retoured’ as his heir on 17 June in that year. Bedlay remained in possession of the Robertons till 1786. The last of the family was James Roberton, advocate, who died at Edinburgh on 14 Nov. 1798.

[Munimenta Alme Universitatis Glasguensis, Fasti Universitatis Glasguensis (Maitland Club publications); Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, v. 422, 711, 714, vol. vi. pt. i. pp. 104, 113, 161, 198, 245, 278, 293, 761, pt. ii. p. 788, vol. vii. p. 124; Brunton and Haig's Senators of the College of Justice, p. 374; Retours of Service, vol. ii., Inquisitiones Generales, 4798.]

A. H. M.