Stewart-Den Ham, Sir Jamks

, an eminent political writer, was born at Edinburgh, Oct. 10, 1713. His father was sir James Stewart of Goostrees, bart. solicitorgeneral for Scotland, and his mother was Anne, daughter of sir Hugh Dalrymple of North Berwick, bart. president of the college of justice in Scotland. After some classical education at the school of North Berwick, in East Lothian, he was removed to the university of Edinburgh, | where, in addition to the other sciences usually taught there, he made himself well acquainted with the Roman law and history, and the municipal law of Scotland. He then went to the bar as an advocate, and published an acute and ingenious thesis on that occasion, having before submitted himself, as is usual, to a public examination by the fac’ilty of advocates.

A few months after this introduction to the practice of his profession, he set out upon his travels, and made the tour of Holland, Germany, France, Spain, and Italy, which employed him for nearly five years after which, in 1740, he returned to Scotland, and two years after married lady Frances Wemyss, eldest daughter of the earl of Wemyss. One of his biographers observes, that his return to the bar was anxiously expected by his friends and countrymen, and his absence from it was imputed to the influence of certain connections of a political nature, which he had formed abroad, and particularly at Rome.

A few months after his marriage a vacancy took place in the representation in parliament fur the county of Edinburgh, when sir James took an active part in opposition to the interest of Robert Dunclas, esq. of Arniston, one of the senators of the college of justice, who happened to preside at the meeting of the electors for the county of Edinburgh, and omitted to call over sir James’s name, on the roll of the electors, on account of an alleged insufficiency of right to vote on that occasion. On ibis account Mr. Dunclas became the object of a legal prosecution by sir James, as having disobeyed the act of parliament relating to the rolls of electors of members of parliament for counties in Scotland. When, in the course of litigation, tliis cause came to be heard before the college of justice, sir J. mes pleaded his own cause with so much eloquence, and in so masterly a manner, that Mr. Dunclas (commonly called lord Arniston), though a judge, came down from the bench and defended himself at the bar; an appearance very uncommon, and demonstrative of the high sense he had of the abilities of his opponent. This extraordinary appearance of our author gave the greatest hopes of his professional abilities, and inspired all his friends with fresh zeal for his continuance at the bar; but the sentiments and engagements formerly mentioned in all probability prevented sir James from availing himself of so brilliant an introduction. | After this struggle he passed near two years at his seat in the country, surrounded at all times by the most learned and accomplished of his countrymen, and rendering himself continually the delight of all his guests and companions, by the charms and variety of his conversation, and the polite animation of his manners and address. Amoncr those were many of the illustrious persons who afterwards engaged in the attempt to piace the Pretender on the throne in 1745. As he was by far the ablest man of that party, the Jacobites engaged him to write prince CharlesEdward’s manifesto, and to assist in his councils. Information having been given of his share in these affairs, he thought it prudent, on the failure of the attempt, to leave Britain, and was excepted afterwards from the bill of indemnity, and thus rendered an exile from his country. He chose France for his residence during the first ten years of his banishment, and was chiefly at Angoule^me, where he applied himself to the study of those subjects which are treated in his works, particularly finance, and collected that vast magazine of facts relating to the revenue which laid the foundation for some of the most curious and interesting chapters of his “Principles of Political CEconomy.” From the information on these subjects which he obtained in France, he was enabled to compare the state of the two nations, as well as to give that very clear and succinct account of the then state of the French finances which composes the sixth chapter of the fourth part of the fourth book of his great work. In 1757, sir James published at Frankfort on the Maine, his “Apologiedu sentiment de Monsieur de chevalier Newton, sur Pancienne chronologie des Grecs, contenant des reponses a toutes les objections qui y ont ete faites jusqu’a present.” This apology was written in the beginning of 1755; but the printing of it was at that time prevented by his other engagements. It is said to be a work of great merit.

While sir James resided abroad, during the war between France and Great Britain, which terminated in 1763, he had the misfortune to have some letters addressed to him proceeding on the mistake of his person and character, by which he became innocently the object of suspicion, as furnishing intelligence to the enemy, which occasioned the imprisonment of his person until the mistake was discovered. Some time after the peace of Paris, he was permitted to come incognito to London, where a noli proseqm | aucl pardon was solicited for him, through different channels, and particularly through that of lord Chatham, by the interposition of sir James’s nephew, the present earl of Buchan, then lord Cardross; and although this was not then successful, yet in 1767 sir James was fully restored to his native country, and to his citizenship, with the gracious approbation of his discerning sovereign. He then retired to his paternal inheritance, and continued to exert his faculties for the benefit of his country. He repaired the mansion of his ancestors, improved his neglected acres, set forward the improvements of the province in which he resided, by promoting high-roads, bridges, agriculture, and manufactures; publishing at this time, for the use of the public, an anonymous plan for the construction of an act of parliament to regulate the application of the statute labour of the peasants and others upon the public roads; the greatest part of which treatise has been since adopted in the framing of acts for the different counties in Scotland.

In 1771, he was employed, on the generous offer of his gratuitous services, by the East India Company of Great Britain, to consider the most likely methods of regulating the coin in their settlements; and in the year 1772, at their request, he published the results of his labours on that subject; in a treatise entitled “The principles of money applied to the present state of the coin of Bengal.” In a letter to lord Buchan, he conveyed a plan for a general uniformity of weights and measures, a work of great ingenuity and learning, which was intended to have been laid before the congress, previous to the peace of 1763. It was written at Tubingen in Suabia, and finally corrected and enlarged at Coltness, his seat in Clydesdale in Scotland, in March 1778, and published at London in 1790. In the summer of 1779, he set himself to inquire minutely into the state of the distillery and brewery, and the revenue arising from it, which was suggested by the complaint which. had proceeded from an act of parliament, enlarging the lawful size of vessels for the distillation of malt spirits, and the imposition of a tax in Scotland, equal to that in England, on malt spirits; the general result of this inquiry he anonymously published in the Edinburgh Evening Courant of October 2, 1779; and the particular discussion, with the materials he had used, he transmitted to a friend in parliament. This publication had the effect to prevent the | counties in Scotland from entering into crude resolutions on a subject of so much importance. In 1780, in the beginning of October, sir James was attacked by an inflammation in his toe, in consequence of the too near cutting of a nail, which, from the ill habit of his body at that time, terminated, towards the beginning of November, in a mortification. The progress of this disorder was arrested by the copious use of the Jesuits bark; but on the 19th of that month, he was seized with a fever, which put an end to his useful and valuable life on the 26th. His biographer adds, “It is with uncommon satisfaction that we find it in our power to adorn the account of this celebrated author, by adding the just encomium of his domestic virtues, an accompaniment too often wanting, at least with truth, in the biography of illustrious characters. As a husband, father, master, companion, and friend, sir James’s life was distinguished; and to all these excellent qualities, that rare one of public spirit, and unwearied attention to the interest of the state, were eminently conjoined.

Sir James had, by the lady Frances Steuart, a daughter, who died soon after her birth; and the present sir James Steuart Denham, baronet.

His “Inquiry into the principles of Political Œconorny” was published in 1767, 2 vols. 4to. On this work there have been considerable differences of opinion, and the author certainly has never attracted so much attention as his great rival on the same subject, Dr. Adam Smith, who has been heard to observe that he understood sir James’s system better from his conversation than from his volumes. The work was republished in 1805, along with other pieces from his pen, in 6 vols. 8vo. 1


Life by lord Buchan in vol. I. of the Transactions of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland and another prefixed to his works.