Alexander Forbes

(1678—1762) philosopher and Jacobite army officer

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Alexander, the fourth and last Lord Forbes of Pitsligo, was born on 22 May 1678 and died at his son's home in Auchiries on 21 December 1762. As a youth he travelled in France, meeting Fénelon and Madame Guyon, and later described himself as a ‘mystic’. He took his seat in the Scottish Parliament in 1705. Opposing the Act of Union, he left for the Continent and was active in the Jacobite Risings of 1715. In 1719–20 he was in Rome with King James III and VIII, from which court he wrote a ‘secret history of the Court of King James in Italy’. He returned to Pitsligo in 1720 and corresponded with the Quietists. At the age of 67 and suffering from asthma, Forbes raised 100 horsemen and some 950 tenants for the Rising of 1745. After defeat he saved the lives of four young clergymen, one of whom, John Witherspoon, later became a signatory of the Declaration of Independence. After Culloden, Forbes returned to Pitsligo. He was attainted in 1748 and hunted in 1756 but successfully hidden by neighbours. He was married twice: to Rebecca Norton of London (one son, John Forbes) and later to Elizabeth Allen. Said William Hamilton of Bangour, when Lord Forbes arrived to join Prince Charles, ‘it seemed as if Religion, Virtue and Justice were entering the camp under the appearance of this venerable old man’.


From The Continuum Encyclopedia of British Philosophy in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Philosophy.

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