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Duncan Forbes

(1685—1747) politician and judge


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Duncan Forbes was born on 10 November 1685, the second son of Duncan Forbes of Culloden, and died on 10 December 1747. He was educated at Inverness Grammar School, where he and his brother became known as ‘the greatest boozers in the North’. On his father's death in 1704 he went to study law at Edinburgh but, finding the teaching inadequate, he proceeded to Leyden, returning to Scotland in 1707. He was admitted advocate in 1709 and shortly afterwards, through the patronage of the Duke of Argyll, was appointed Sheriff of Midlothian. He took an active part in Whig politics and supported the government in the 1715 rebellion. He was appointed Advocate Deputy in 1716, accepting with some reluctance since he thought the pro-cedures for prosecution unfair. He became MP for Ayr Burgh in 1721 and was appointed Lord Advocate in 1725, which also entailed taking over many of the functions of Secretary of State for Scotland, suspended for the period 1725–31. He drank freely until 1725, when delicate health brought about enforced, if temporary, abstinence. He was appointed Lord President of the Court of Session in 1737, in which capacity he found himself the sole representative of government in the north of Scotland in 1745. He protested about the cruelties of the Duke of Cumberland after Culloden, much to the latter's disgust. This experience broke his health.

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From The Continuum Encyclopedia of British Philosophy in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Philosophy.


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