Bruce, Alexander Hugh, sixth Baron Balfour of Burleigh in the Scottish peerage 1849-1921, statesman, born at Kennet, Alloa, 13 January 1849, was the only son of Robert Bruce, of Kennet (1795-1864), M.P. for Clackmannanshire, by his second wife, Jane Hamilton, daughter of Sir James Fergusson, of Kilkerran, fourth baronet. His ancestor, Robert Balfour, fifth Baron Balfour of Burleigh [qv.], was attainted in 1716, and the title was restored in 1869. He was educated at Loretto and Eton, and graduated in 1871 at Oriel College, Oxford. On attaining his majority he began a strenuous public career. In 1876 he became a representative peer for Scotland, and sat in the Lords in that capacity until his death. His shrewdness, business ability, and sound knowledge of local government were early recognized; and his biography is largely a record of his work on commissions, the reports of which became authoritative documents. He was chairman of the educational endowments commission (1882-1889), the metropolitan water-supply commission (1893-1894), the rating commission (1896), the royal commission on food supply in time of war (1903), the royal commission on closer trade relations between Canada and the West Indies (1909), and the committee on commercial and industrial policy after the War (1916-1917). In 1888-1889 he was lord-in-waiting to Queen Victoria, and from 1889 to 1892 parliamentary secretary to the Board of Trade. Entering the third Salisbury Cabinet in 1895 as secretary for Scotland, an office which he held for eight years, he showed himself one of the ablest administrators that country has ever produced; his unwearied efforts to further the welfare of Scotland by wise and beneficent legislation were universally recognized. During his term of office the Scottish Parish Councils Act became operative, while his legislative achievements included the codification and amendment of the Public Health Acts (Scotland) 1897; the establishment of the congested districts board (1898); and an Act (1899) simplifying and cheapening the promotion of private Scottish bills by municipalities and other corporate bodies. In 1903 the tariff reform controversy caused him to leave the government and to join the unionist free trade group. In 1904 he was appointed lord warden of the stannaries, in virtue of which he presided over the council of the duchy of Cornwall during the minority of the Prince of Wales
In his later years Balfour of Burleigh was perhaps the most outstanding figure in the public life of Scotland. In 1896 he became lord rector of Edinburgh University; in 1900 chancellor of St. Andrews University; and in 1917 chairman of the Carnegie trust for the universities of Scotland. In the affairs of the Church of Scotland he took a leading part. He organized the fund for aged and infirm ministers, and was at all times a stout defender of the connexion between church and state. But his most enduring work was done in connexion with the movement for union between the Church of Scotland and the United Free Church, a project which, largely owing to his advocacy and statesmanship, was brought within measurable distance of accomplishment before his death. He was the author of An Historical Account of the Rise and Development of Presbyterianism in Scotland (1911)
Balfour of Burleigh became a privy councillor in 1892, a knight of the Thistle in 1901; G.C.M.G. in 1911; and G.C.V.O. in 1917. He was Doctor of Civil Laws of the university of Oxford (1904) and an honorary Doctor of Law of the four Scottish universities. In 1876 he married Lady Katherine Eliza Hamilton-Gordon, youngest daughter of the fifth Earl of Aberdeen, by whom he had two sons and three daughters. He died 6 July 1921 at his residence, 47 Cadogan Square, London. Balfour of Burleigh had a commanding presence and much charm of manner. Without brilliance, he yet represented the best type of public servant—conscientious, purposeful, and with a gift for mastering complicated details and presenting them lucidly and cogently.
The Scotsman, 7 July 1921
British Monthly, December 1904
Lady Frances Balfour, A memoir of Lord Balfour of Burleigh, 1925
Contributor: W. F. G. [William Forbes Gray]