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Wallace, Robert (1831-1899) (DNB01)

WALLACE, ROBERT (1831–1899), divine and member of parliament, second son of Jasper Wallace, master gardener, was born near Cupar, Fife, on 24 June 1831. He was educated at the Geddes Institution, Culross, the High School, Edinburgh, and at St. Andrews University, where he won special distinction and graduated M.A. in 1853. After teaching for some time in private families, and attending the 1853-4 session at the Divinity Hall, Edinburgh, he was appointed on 22 April 1854 classical master at the Madras Academy, Cupar, Fife. In October 1855 he resumed his theological studies at Edinburgh University. He was licensed to preach in 1857, and shortly afterwards appointed to the charge of Newton-on-Ayr, whence he removed in 1860 to Trinity College Church, Edinburgh. In 1866 he was appointed examiner in philosophy in the university of St. Andrews, and two years later the Edinburgh corporation presented him with the charge of Old Greyfriars. In 1869 the university of Glasgow conferred upon him the degree of D.D.

Wallace as a churchman was noted for the support he gave both in the Edinburgh presbytery and in the general assembly of the church of Scotland to broad views on theology and to the reform of worship, of which Dr. Robert Lee (1804-1868) [q. v.] was the chief champion. To the latter controversy he contributed ‘Reform of the Church of Scotland in Worship, Government, and Doctrine;’ and to the former an essay on ‘Church Tendencies in Scotland,’ published in ‘Recess Studies’ (Edinburgh, 1870), which led to much controversy, and ultimately to his impeachment for heresy. In 1872 he was appointed by the crown to the chair of church history in Edinburgh University, and his ecclesiastical and political opponents protested. The controversy which followed was one of the most exciting in the recent annals of the church of Scotland. Wallace won mainly owing to his own remarkable powers as a debater, but in 1876 he determined to leave the church, and became editor of the ‘Scotsman’ newspaper.

For some years previously he had been contributing to that newspaper, but his editorship was not a success, and he resigned in 1880. In 1881 he entered the Middle Temple, and in 1883 was called to the bar. In 1886 he was elected to parliament as a radical to represent East Edinburgh, and his connection with the constituency lasted until his death. In parliament he maintained an unusual independence, and though he took only an occasional part in the debates, he kept up the reputation he had won in the ecclesiastical courts. While about to address the House of Commons on 5 June 1899 he fell down in a fit, and died in Westminster hospital on the following day. He was buried in Kensal Green cemetery.

He was married in 1858 to Margaret, daughter of James Robertson of Cupar, who predeceased him; by her he had four sons and a daughter.

Wallace wrote frequently for the magazines, but in addition to fugitive controversial matter he published little. His inaugural address as professor of church history, ‘The Study of ecclesiastical History in its Relations to Church Theology,’ was published in Edinburgh, 1873. At the time of his death he was engaged on a biography of George Buchanan, since completed (Edinburgh, 1899), and on his own reminiscences, which will be included in his ‘Life.’

[Hew Scott, Fasti Ecclesiæ, i. i. 156, ii. i. 151, &c.; Lawson's Reminiscences (private circulation); Scotsman, 7 June 1899; Biography by Sheriff Campbell Smith and Mr. Wallace is in preparation.]

J. R. M.