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Re: St. Clair - Wedderburn connection

Starting a biography of Benjamin Franklin (The First American, by H.W. Brands),

I noticed on the second page this passage:

 ``Alexander Wedderburn was going to tell them.  The solicitor general
 possessed great rhetorical gifts and greater ambition.  The former had
 made him the most feared advocate in the realm; the latter lifted him
 to his present post when he abandoned his allies in the opposition
 and embraced the ministry of Lord North.  Wedderburn was known to
 consider the Boston tea riot treason, and if the law courts upheld
 his interpretation, those behind the riot would be liable to the most
 severe sanctions, potentially including death.  Wedderburn was expected
 to argue that the man in the Cockpit today was the prime mover behind
 the outburst in Boston.  The crowd quivered with anticipation.''

The man in the cockpit was Benjamin Franklin, famous scientist
(electricity), inventor (franklin stove), oceanographer (Gulf Stream),
member of the Royal Society and recipient of its highest prize,
postmater of America, etc., living in London for many years,
and considering himself a loyal British citizen.

Until that day in January 1774.

So who was this Alexander Wedderburn who made a revolutionary out
of the most famous man in the world?  None other than the man who
in 1801 would become the first Earl of Rosslyn.

Alexander Wedderburn was a very prominent individual, also becoming
Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain.  There are quite a few sources
about him.  For example, the Wedderburn family web pages list him:


They say his mother was Janet Ogilvy.

His papers are held by the University of Michigan.  Their overview says:

 ``Alexander Wedderburn came from a distinguished Scottish legal family;
 educated at Edinburgh, he practiced law there until he entered Parliament
 in 1761, sitting for Ayr Burghs. Initially Wedderburn supported the Bute
 and Grenville ministries and opposed both Rockingham and Chatham on their
 American policies, but he found it to his advantage to briefly change
 his political allegiance on the issue of Wilkes in 1769. An ambitious
 lawyer, Wedderburn viewed his parliamentary interests as subservient
 to his advancement in the legal profession. After defending Wilkes,
 Wedderburn returned to the North fold, serving as solicitor general
 and attorney general. Wedderburn supported North's conciliatory plans,
 but came to disapprove of his prosecution of the American war. After
 considerable badgering, Wedderburn wring from North a peerage and an
 appointment as chief justice of common pleas. he became lord chancellor
 under Pitt in 1801.''


The peerage mentioned was probably being created Baron Loughborough
in 1780.

There's a book about the Wedderburn family:


Jeremy Bentham even mentions him, in Introduction to the Principles of
Morals and Legislation, Chapter 1, Footnote #04, Utility contra utility?


Bentham notes that a government organized for the greatest good of
the greatest number would not be one in which Wedderburn would have
risen so high nor profited so much.

Brands (page 484) quotes Edmund Burke:

 ``Edmund Burke shook his head at the fatuity of the entire affair.
 And as it became clear that the mind-set of Wedderburn characterized
 that of the government, Burke observed, `A great empire and little minds
 go ill together.' ''

John S. Quarterman <jsq@quarterman.org>
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