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Swinton, Alexander (DNB00)


SWINTON, ALEXANDER, Lord Mersington (1625?–1700), Scottish judge, second son of Sir Alexander Swinton of Swinton in Berwickshire, was born between 1621 and 1630. John Swinton (1621?–1679) [q. v.] was his elder brother. Alexander is first mentioned as fighting in the battle of Worcester on the side of the king, where he was taken prisoner (Douglas, Baronage; Defence of John S. before Parliament, 1661). He was admitted advocate on 27 July 1671.

Swinton was a zealous presbyterian, and his dissatisfaction with the government continued, and he relinquished his profession in 1681 rather than take the test. He was restored by the king's letter of dispensation on 16 Dec. 1686, and was admitted an ordinary lord on 23 June 1688, in place of John Wauchope of Edmonston, taking the title of Lord Mersington, after a place in the parish of Eccles. At the revolution which followed immediately, Mersington acted a conspicuous part in the attack on Holyrood House, and, according to a letter ‘to the late king in France’ from Lord Balcarres, who designated Mersington the ‘fanatique judge,’ Swinton joined the supporters of William III ‘with a halbert in his hand, and as drunk as ale or brandy could make him’ (Addit. MS. 33742). He was reappointed a judge in November 1689, he, Sir James Dalrymple of Stair, and Sir John Baird of Newblyth being the only judges who had previously sat on the bench, and Swinton having been the only one of James II's judges who was continued in office by William III. In July 1690 he was appointed a visitor in the act for the visitation of universities, colleges, and schools (Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol. vii.), and in June 1698 was elected to sit as president until a question as to the nomination of Sir Hew Dalrymple [q. v.] should be confirmed (Brunton and Haig, Senators of the College of Justice). He continued in office until his death, which took place suddenly in August 1700. Sir James Stewart, lord advocate, wrote of him at the time to Carstares, ‘He was a good man, and is much regretted’ (ib.) He married, first, a daughter of Sir Alexander Dalmahoy; and, secondly, Alison Skene, of the family of Hallyards, by whom he had many daughters (Douglas, Baronage). His wife is said to have joined a mob of women in petitioning parliament in 1674 against Lauderdale's scheme for new modelling the privy council. At the time it was deemed unsafe for men to avow opposition to the government. In the result the council banished Swinton's wife and those who acted with her from ‘the town of Edinburgh and the liberties thereof’ (Crookshank, History of the Church of Scotland, i. 357, ed. 1787).

[Authorities cited; Campbell Swinton's Swintons of that Ilk and their Cadets.]

R. B. S.