1845 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Millar

William Anderson, in Scottish Biographical Dictionary (1845) 568.



JOHN MILLAR, an eminent lecturer on law, was born June 22, 1735, at the manse of Shotts, Lanarkshire, of which parish his father, who was afterwards translated to Hamilton, was minister. He studied at the University of Glasgow, and was at first intended for the Church, but subsequently preferred the bar. On leaving college he was for two years tutor to the eldest son of Lord Kames, during which time he became acquainted with David Hume, whose metaphysical opinions he adopted. He was admitted advocate in 1760, and, in the following year, was appointed to the vacant Chair of Civil Law in the University of Glasgow, which he filled for nearly forty years with signal success. His lectures on the different branches of government, excited much interest at the period; they were attended by many who afterwards distinguished themselves in public life, and from him Lord Brougham, Lord Jeffrey, Lord Chief Commissioner Adam, the Earl of Lauderdale, and some other eminent Whigs, received their first lessons in political science. In 1771 he published Observations concerning the Distinction of Ranks in Society, which passed through several editions, and was translated into French. In 1787 appeared his more elaborate work, entitled An Historical View of the English Government, from the Settlement of the Saxons in Britain to the Accession of the House of Stuart, in which he follows the path of philosophical speculation, as to the origin of the laws and institutions of nations, which had been previously traced out by Lord Kames and Dr. Adam Smith. He afterwards brought the History of the Constitution to the Revolution, and the work, with this addition, was published in 4 vols. 8vo. in 1803. Professor Millar died May 30, 1801, leaving four sons and six daughters. A fourth edition of his Origin of the Distinction of Ranks appeared in 1808 [1806], with a memoir by his nephew, Mr. John Craig.