He was educated at Brechin Grammar School and afterwards at the University of Edinburgh and at King"s College London, although he graduated from neither.
In 1861, he was admitted to the Middle Temple, being called to the bar in 1864. In 1883 he was made Queen"s Counsel, and was made a Bencher of the Middle Temple in 1888. He was a strong supporter of William Ewart Gladstone, and resigned his seat on 5 February 1896 by taking the post of Steward of the Manor of Northstead so that John Morley could be re-elected after a defeat in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
23rd United Kingdom Parliament. 24th United Kingdom Parliament. 25th United Kingdom Parliament.
26th United Kingdom Parliament]
In 1885, he was elected as a Member of Parliament (Member of Parliament) for Montrose Burghs, a position he was re-elected to in 1886, 1892, and 1895.