Biography of Sir James Dalrymple 1st Viscount Stair
James Dalrymple, Viscount Stair
James Dalrymple (1619-1695), 1st Viscount Stair, was a graduate of the University and taught as a regent there from 1641 to 1647. He went on to become Scotland's greatest jurist and his treatise The Institutions of the Law of Scotland provided the foundation for Scots law.
Born in Ayrshire, Stair graduated MA from the University in 1637. He served in the army raised to oppose King Charles I during the Bishops' Wars before returning to the University to teach as a regent in 1641. At his induction he swore an oath to resign should he marry. He had to tender his resignation shortly before his marriage two years later, but was promptly reappointed and took a new oath which made no reference to marriage.
Stair was called to the Bar in 1648 and practiced as an advocate until 1657, when he was appointed a judge. He became Lord President of the Session in 1671 but resigned in 1681, the year in which the Institutions was published.
Stair's resignation was due to his reluctance to take the Test, an oath that asserted the supremacy of the King over the Church. He went into exile in the Netherlands until 1688, when he returned in the entourage of William, Prince of Orange. He was restored to the post of Lord President and raised to the peerage as Viscount Stair in 1690.