JOHN CHISLIE OF DALRY
Hanged 3rd of April, 1689, for the Murder of the Right Hon. Sir George Lockhart, of Cornwath, Lord President of the Court of Sessions, after being tortured under a Special Act
JOHN CHISLIE of Dalry was brought before the Lord Provost on the 1st of April, 1689, to be examined concerning the murder of Sir George Lockhart, committed on the day preceding. Sir John Lockhart of Castlehill, brother, and Cromwell Lockhart of Lee, nephew, of the deceased, appeared in court; and in their own name, and in that of the children of the deceased, gave an Act of the meeting of Estates of Parliament, passed that day, of the following purport: -- That the Estates having considered the supplication of the friends of the deceased Sir George Lockhart, for granting warrant to the magistrates of Edinburgh to torture John Chislie of Dalry, perpetrator of the murder, and William Calderwood, writer in Edinburgh, an accomplice; therefore, in respect of the notoriety of the murder, and of the extraordinary circumstances attending it, the Estates appoint and authorise the Provost, and two of the bailies of Edinburgh, and likewise the Earl of Errol, Lord High Constable, and his deputies, not only to judge of the murder, but to proceed to torture Chislie, to discover if he had any accomplices in the crime. [Note: By the Act and declaration which the Estates of Parliament passed, just ten days after this trial, declaring King James to have forfaulted the crown, by illegal assumption and exercise of power, they declared, "That the use of torture, without evidence, and in ordinary crimes, is contrary to law."-Act of Estates, 11th of April, 1684.] The Estates at the same time declare that this extraordinary case shall be no precedent to warrant torture in time coming, nor argument to ratify it as to the time past.
The prisoner was then put to the torture, and declared that he was not advised to the assassination of Sir George Lockhart by any person whatever. That when at London he told James Stewart, advocate, that if he got no satisfaction from the President, he would assassinate him; and told the same to a person there of the name of Callender, and to Mr William Chislie, his uncle. He confessed that he charged his pistol on Sunday morning, and went to the new kirk, and having seen the President coming from the church, he went to the close where the President lodged, followed him, and when just behind his back shot him. That he was satisfied when he heard of the President's being dead; and on hearing it he said he was not used to doing things by halves. He also confessed that when at London he walked up and down Pall Mall with a pistol beneath his coat, lying in wait for the President.
The prisoner judicially confessed the crime libelled, and declared that he committed the murder because he thought the deceased had given an unjust sentence against him. Being asked if it was not a sentence pronounced in favour of his wife and children for their aliment, he declared he would not answer to that point, nor give any account thereof. Among other witnesses, Mr William Chislie, Writer to the Signet, deposed that he had not seen the prisoner since April, 1688, who then expressed his resentment against Sir George Lockhart, threatening to assassinate him for having decreed an aliment of seventeen hundred merks [about L.93 sterling] yearly to the prisoner's wife and ten children. The witness told the President of it, but he despised the threat. The jury all in one voice, by the mouth of Sir John Foulis of Ravelston, their chancellor (i.e. foreman), found, by the prisoner's judicial confession, that he was guilty of the murder of Sir George Lockhart, etc.; and by the deposition of witnesses, that he was guilty of "murder, out of forethought felony."
The verdict was subscribed by the whole jury. The Lord Provost and bailies of Edinburgh sentenced the prisoner as follows:- "That he be carried on a hurdle from the Tolbooth of Edinburgh to the Market Cross on Wednesday, the 3rd of April, inst.; and there, between the hours of two and four of the afternoon, to have his right hand cut off alive, and then to be hanged upon a gibbet, with the pistol about his neck with which he committed the murder. His body to be hung in chains between Leith and Edinburgh; his right hand fixed on the West Port; and his movable goods to be confiscated."