Rutherfurd, Andrew (DNB00)

RUTHERFURD, ANDREW, Lord Rutherfurd (1791–1854), Scottish judge, born on 13 Dec. 1791, was educated at the high school and university of Edinburgh. Through ‘his mother Mrs. Janet Bervie he was descended from the old Scottish house of Rutherfurd, and he and the other members of his family assumed this patronymic’ (Rogers, Monuments and Monumental Inscriptions in Scotland, 1871, i. 131). Rutherfurd passed advocate on 27 June 1812, and rapidly acquired a great junior practice. On 6 June 1833 he was appointed a member of the commission of inquiry into the state of the laws and judicatories of Scotland (see Parl. Papers, 1834 xxvi., 1835 xxxv., 1838 xxix., 1840 xx.). He was described by Cockburn in November 1834 as ‘beyond all comparison the most eminent person now in the profession’ (Journal, 1874, i. 77). He succeeded John Cunninghame as solicitor-general for Scotland in Lord Melbourne's second administration on 18 July 1837 (London Gazette, 1837, ii. 1833). He was promoted to the post of lord advocate in the room of Sir John Archibald Murray on 20 April 1839 (ib. 1839, i. 857), and in the same month was elected to the House of Commons as member for Leith Burghs, which he continued to represent until his elevation to the judicial bench. He made his maiden speech in the House of Commons during a debate on Scottish business on 3 July 1839 (Parl. Debates, 3rd ser. xlviii. 1158, 1168–70). On 7 Feb. 1840 he made an able reply to Sir Edward Sugden during the adjourned debate on the question of privilege arising out of the case of Stockdale v. Hansard (ib. 3rd ser. lii. 25–33). During this session he conducted the bill for the amendment of the Scottish law of evidence (3 & 4 Vict. cap. 59) through the House of Commons. He resigned office with the rest of his colleagues on the accession of Sir Robert Peel to power in September 1841. Cockburn, in a review of Rutherfurd's official career, records, under 27 Sept. of this year: ‘Rutherfurd has made an excellent Lord Advocate, but far less a speaker than in other respects. The whole business part of his office has been done admirably, but he has scarcely fulfilled the expectations which his reputation had excited as a parliamentary debater or manager. … Yet the House of Commons contains few more able or eloquent men’ (Journal, i. 307). In March 1843 he urged in vain the expediency of considering the petition of the general assembly of the church of Scotland, and warned the house that unless the petition was granted ‘a schism would almost inevitably be created in Scotland which would never be cured’ (Parl. Hist. 3rd ser. lxvii. 394–411). On 31 July 1843 he opposed the second reading of Sir James Graham's Scotch Benefices Bill, the only effect of which he declared ‘would be to deprive the Church of any small claim it might have on the affections of the people’ (ib. 3rd ser. lxxi. 32–44). In the following session he supported Fox-Maule's bill for the abolition of tests in Scottish universities (ib. 3rd ser. lxxiv. 480–6). He was chosen lord rector of Glasgow University on 15 Nov. 1844 by a majority of three nations, his opponent being Lord Eglinton. He was installed on 10 Jan. 1845, when he ‘made a judicious and pleasant address, in his style of pure and elevated thought and finished expression’ (Journal of Henry Cockburn, ii. 98). On 16 April 1845 he spoke in favour of the Maynooth grant, though ‘he knew that he was delivering an opinion against the sentiments of many of his constituents’ (Parl. Debates[, 3rd ser. lxxix. 831–3). On the 1st of the following month he brought in a bill for regulating admission to the secular chairs of the Scottish universities (ib. 3rd ser. lxxx. 11–16). So good was his speech on this occasion that ‘it had the rare effect of changing the previously announced resolution of government to refuse the leave’ (Cockburn, Journal, ii. 111). The bill was, however, subsequently defeated on the sesecond reading in spite of Macaulay's eloquent appeal on its behalf. On 2 Dec. 1845 Rutherfurd and Macaulay addressed a public meeting in Edinburgh in favour of the abolition of the corn laws (ib. ii. 133). Rutherfurd was reappointed lord advocate on the formation of Lord John Russell's first administration (6 July 1846). Owing to Rutherfurd's exertions, five acts dealing with Scottish law reform were passed during the following session. These were about services of heirs (10 & 11 Vict. cap. 47), the transference of heritages not held in burgage tenure (cap. 48), the transference of those held in burgage (cap. 49), the transference of heritable securities for debt (cap. 50), and about crown charters and precepts from chancery (cap. 51). He failed, however, to pass his Registration and Marriage bills (Parl. Debates, 3rd ser. xc. 386–7, xciii. 230–8). On 28 June 1847 he was nominated a member of the commission appointed to inquire into ‘the state and operation of the law of marriage as relating to the prohibited degrees of affinity and to marriages solemnized abroad or in the British colonies’ (see Parl. Papers, 1847–8 xxviii., 1850 xx.). On 24 Feb. 1848 he moved for leave to bring in a bill to amend the law of entail in Scotland, the object of which, he explained, was ‘to get rid of an absurd and preposterous system which had been the curse of the country for 160 years’ (ib. 3rd ser. xcvi. 1307–13). The credit of this important measure, which received the royal assent on 14 Aug. 1848 (11 & 12 Vict. cap. 36), belongs entirely to Rutherfurd. On 20 June 1849 he supported the second reading of Stuart-Wortley's bill to amend the law of marriage (Parl. Debates, 3rd ser. cvi. 613–16), and on 9 July he urged the house to pass the Scotch marriage bill which had received the sanction of the House of Lords no fewer than three times (ib. cvii. 3, 9–18, 37). During the following session he conducted the Scotch Police and Improvement of Towns Bill (13 & 14 Vict. cap. 33) through the commons. He spoke for the last time in the house on 16 May 1850 (Parl. Hist. 3rd ser. cxi. 146–7). At the commencement of 1851 Rutherfurd was seized with a severe attack of illness. On 7 April 1851 he was appointed an ordinary lord of session in the place of Sir James Wellwood Moncreiff [q. v.] He was sworn a member of the privy council on 5 May following (London Gazette, 1851, i. 981, 1196), and took his seat on the bench, with the title of Lord Rutherfurd, on the 23rd of the same month. He died at his residence in St. Colme Street, Edinburgh, after an illness of some months, on 13 Dec. 1854, and was buried on the 20th in the Dean cemetery, under a pyramid of red granite. He married, on 10 April 1822, Sophia Frances, youngest daughter of Sir James Stewart, bart., of Fort Stewart, Ramelton, co. Donegal; she died at Lauriston Castle, Kincardineshire, on 10 Oct. 1852. There were no children of the marriage. His nephew, Lord Rutherfurd Clark, was a judge of court of session from 1875 to 1896. The fine library which Rutherfurd formed at Lauriston was sold in Edinburgh by T. Nisbet on 22 March 1855 and the ‘ten following lawful days’ (Gent. Mag. 1855, i. 391, 502). His Glasgow speech will be found in ‘Inaugural Addresses delivered by Lords Rectors of the University of Glasgow,’ 1848, pp. 147–57.

Although Rutherfurd's manner was affected and artificial, he was an admirable speaker and a powerful advocate. ‘In legal acuteness and argument, for which his peculiar powers gave him a great predilection, he was superior to both his friends, Cockburn and Jeffrey’ (Sir Archibald Alison, Life and Writings, 1883, i. 280). He was a profound lawyer, a successful law-reformer, and an accomplished scholar. He could read Greek with ease, and he possessed an extraordinary knowledge of Italian. According to Sir James Lacaita, Rutherfurd ‘and Mr. Gladstone were the only two Englishmen he had ever known who could conquer the difficulty of obsolete Italian dialects’ (Recollections of Dean Boyle, 1895, p. 27). In private life he was a delightful companion, but as a public man he incurred unpopularity owing to his unconciliatory and somewhat haughty demeanour.

There is a portrait of Rutherfurd, by Colvin Smith, in Parliament House, Edinburgh, where there is also a bust, by Brodie. A portrait, by Sir John Watson Gordon, is in the National Gallery of Scotland. Another portrait, by the last-named artist, belongs to the Leith town council.

[Besides the authorities quoted in the text the following have been consulted: Mrs. Gordon's Memoir of Christopher North, 1862, i. 185, ii. 248–9, 357–6, 367; Anderson's Scottish Nation, 1863, iii. 392–3; Grant's Old and New Edinburgh, ii. 98, 156, 174, iii. 68, 111; Scotsman, 16 Dec. 1854; Times, 16 Dec. 1854; Illustrated London News, 23 Dec. 1854; Gent. Mag. 1852 ii. 656, 1855 i. 194–5; Annual Register, 1854, App. to Chron. p. 373; Scots Mag. 1822, i. 694; Irving's Book of Scotsmen, 1881, p. 455; Foster's Members of Parliament, Scotland, 1882, p. 301; Official Return of Lists of Members of Parliament, ii. 374, 392, 409; Notes and Queries, 8th ser. vii. 367; Haydn's Book of Dignities, 1890.]

G. F. R. B.