Archibald Maconochie (Lord Meadowbank) (1777-1861)

4] Archibald Maconochie (Lord Meadowbank) (1777-1861) was the son of the judge Lord Meadowbank and he too studied law becoming an advocate in 1799.  In 1810 he was appointed Sheriff-Depute of Haddington and in 1813 he became Solicitor–General.  In 1816 he succeeded Colquhoun as Lord Advocate and obtained the obligatory parliamentary seat, at first for Yarmouth in the Isle of Wight and thereafter for Pittenween.  

His period as Lord Advocate coincided with the time of intense political unrest which followed the end of the Napoleonic war.  Financial depression and unemployment caused distress and hardship among the working classes.  The movement for parliamentary reform gained increasing currency among the masses and was strongly resisted by the Tory dominated government, fearful of an uprising akin to the French ‘reign of terror’. A number of stringent measures were introduced; habeas corpus was suspended in 1817 and meetings in public places were forbidden.  Maconochie had to defend himself in the House of Commons against the charge of ‘oppression in the exercise of his duties’ made by two ardent Whigs – Lord Archibald Hamilton and Henry Brougham.  The charge concerned the case of Andrew McKinlay who met with 17 others in a public house in Glasgow to discuss the question ‘how far they were entitled by law to parochial relief.’  For this seditious conspiracy McKinlay had been put on trial three times without conviction.  At the first trial it transpired that the main witness for the prosecution had been persuaded by the Solicitor-General and the Advocate-Depute to give his evidence on the promise that he was to be given the means of enabling himself and his family to emigrate. Maconochie, who by virtue of his position as Lord Advocate was responsible for allowing the bungled prosecutions to proceed, defended himself at length in the House and survived with little credit.  He was promoted to the bench in 1819 where he adopted the same title as his father – Lord Meadowbank.