Robert McQueen was from the small estate of Braxfield, near Lanark. He was called to the Bar in 1744 and in 1776 became a judge and was created Lord Braxfield. He was often referred to as the 'hanging judge'. Braxfield's statement "Let them bring me prisoners, and I will find them law", was his legal theory. Henry Cockburn claimed that this 'used to be openly stated as his suggestion, when an intended political prosecution was marred by anticipated difficulties'. He adjudicated at the trial of the revolutionary advocate, Thomas Muir, in 1793. Muir was one of the founders of the Society of the Friends of the People. His sentence was transportation to Australia, which, at the time, was tantamount to capital punishment because of the hazardous conditions.
In 1788 McQueen was promoted to the office of Lord Justice Clerk. He has been viewed as the inspiration for the character of Lord Weir in Robert Louis Stevenson's unfinished novel 'Weir of Hermiston' (1896). He also sentenced the notorious thief Deacon Brodie to be hanged on the gallows Brodie himself had designed. Brodie was the inspiration for Stevenson's 'Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde', because of his double life.
Henry Cockburn vividly described Braxfield, his contemporary, as 'strong built and dark, with rough eyebrows, powerful eyes, threatening lips, and a low growling voice, he was like a formidable blacksmith. His accent and his dialect were exaggerated Scotch; his language, like his thoughts, short, strong, and conclusive.' McQueen also enjoyed a drink and the Jolly Judge pub off Edinburgh's high street is ironically named in his memory.
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