CAMPBELL, Archibald (1739-91), of Inverneil, Argyll.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754-1790, ed. L. Namier, J. Brooke., 1964
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1774 - 1780
21 Aug. 1789 - 31 Mar. 1791

Family and Education

b. 21 Aug. 1739, 2nd s. of James Campbell of Tuerechan, and bro. of James Campbell of Tuerechan. educ. Glasgow Univ. 1753. m. 7 July 1779, Amelia, da. of Allan Ramsay, portrait painter, s.p. Purchased Inverneil 1775.  K.B. 30 Sept. 1785.

Offices Held

Lt. 63 Ft. 1757, capt. 1760; sub-engineer and lt. Royal Engineers 1759; engineer extraordinary and capt.-lt. 1763; lt.-col. and chief engineer of Bengal 1768-72; lt.-col. 71 Ft. 1775; col. 1779; maj.-gen. 1782; col. 74 Ft. 1787- d.

Lt. gov. Jamaica 1781-2; gov. 1782-4; gov. Madras 1785-9; heritable usher of the white rod [S] 1790.


Campbell held commissions concurrently in the Royal Engineers and Fraser’s Highlanders, served in America and was wounded at Quebec. After the peace he gained great reputation as a military engineer and expert on fortifications,1 and in 1768, after declining an invitation ‘to be chief engineer to the Venetians’,2 was seconded from the British army for three years to enter the East India Company’s service as chief engineer in Bengal.3 After reporting on Bombay’s fortifications, he reorganized the Fort William defence system, and, as a private venture, initiated an ambitious scheme for obtaining a land grant and building extensive docks and shipyards at Raderpore. His proposal that, in return for a £500 annuity for life, he should apply for an extension of his three years’ secondment was warmly recommended by the Bengal Council to the court of directors;4 but later his ruthless expulsion of the native inhabitants from his dockyard area was strongly criticized.5 He returned home in 1773 with a large fortune,6 and a few years later sold his dockyard interest to his partner Colonel Henry Watson for a large sum.

In 1774, encouraged by his friend Robert Preston, the East India captain, he stood for Stirling Burghs against the Lawrence Dundas interest, and by lavish use of his Indian wealth out-manoeuvred his opponents and was returned. Sir William Mayne estimated that for less than a third of his expenditure ‘he might have secured an English borough, giving the highest price’.7 A firm supporter of Administration, Campbell was highly regarded by James Boswell, his legal adviser, for his ‘admirable parts, his activity, his application, his command of accurate expression’;8 but during his first year in the House, involved in numerous election lawsuits,9 and with a petition pending against him, he seems to have been less concerned with his parliamentary career than with legal and military affairs.

Appointed in November 1775 to command the 2nd battalion of Fraser’s new Highland regiment, he sailed for America in spring 1776, arrived in Boston harbour unaware of the British evacuation, was made prisoner, sent to Concord, and released on parole. When the British captured the American General Lee, Samuel Adams demanded that Campbell ‘be secured ... as one upon whom retaliation is to be made’. Campbell was then imprisoned in the common jail until released by Washington’s intervention, but remained captive until exchanged in May 1778.10

Immediately resuming his command, he was appointed by Clinton in October 1778 to lead the expedition against Savannah and unite with Prevost’s southern force.11 Ably seconded by John Maitland, Campbell accomplished his objectives, and after the capture of Savannah wrote to Lord Carlisle, 18 Jan. 1779:12

I am not without the hope of being the first officer to take a stripe and star from the rebel flag of Congress ... Your Lordship will see the necessity of sending out a governor immediately. I am merely a soldier and wish, when I can no longer render service to my Sovereign in that line, to retire from the bustle of public employ.

Leaving Prevost in command in Georgia, he sailed from Savannah in March and returned home a popular hero. While on leave in Scotland he proposed joining the Western Fencibles then raising. North wrote to the King, 30 Aug. 1779:13

Lt.-Col. Campbell wishes to serve without pay with the irregulars and the new armed peasants, but Lord Amherst objects to it because he belongs to the army in America. Lord North ... wishes as a public man that Mr. Campbell’s talents, as they cannot in this instant be employed in America, might be made as useful as possible in Great Britain.

The King, however, agreed with Amherst, and by early 1780 Campbell was again out of the kingdom. At the general election of 1780 he stood down in favour of his brother James; soon afterwards was appointed lieutenant governor of Jamaica; earned high praise for his reorganization of the island’s defence;14 and was commissioned governor on 10 July 1782.

On his return home he was knighted and appointed governor of Madras, through the friendship of Henry Dundas, who remained his constant correspondent and supporter to the end of his life.15 An able, popular and enlightened administrator and military chief,16 he was, however, strongly criticized by the East India Company board of directors, particularly for his agreement with the Nabob of Arcot on the settlement of his debts. Cornwallis wrote to Lord Sydney, 7 Jan. 1788:17

I am astonished to hear that the court of directors seize every opportunity of attacking Sir Archibald Campbell ... Nothing ... could be more fatal to the British interest in India than his removal. He has shown great ability and the most perfect uprightness and integrity and possesses the esteem and confidence of the civil as well as the military part of the settlement.

Deeply hurt by the Company’s ‘illiberal treatment’,18 Campbell resigned, and, in poor health, returned home in June 1789. His brother James promptly vacated Stirling Burghs in his favour, and he was returned apparently unopposed. There is no record of his having spoken in the House. An acknowledged expert on Indian affairs, he was frequently consulted by Dundas.19

He died 31 Mar. 1791.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: Edith Lady Haden-Guest


  • 1. H. Davison Love, Vestiges of Old Madras, iii. 19, 319.
  • 2. Campbell’s account of his career in conversation with James Boswell, 16 Oct. 1774, Boswell, Private Pprs. x. 29.
  • 3. Cal. Home Office Pprs. 1773-5, no. 587.
  • 4. Fort William—India House Corresp. 1767-9(India Rec. Ser.), 97, 127; Bengal Council to Court, 28 Mar., 25 Sept. 1769, pp. 537, 580.
  • 5. Mems. Wm. Hickey, ii. 121-2, 146-7.
  • 6. Sir D. Campbell, Recs. of Clan Campbell in E.I. Co. 27-8.
  • 7. Mayne to John Graham, 11 Jan. 1775, Kinross House mss, SRO.
  • 8. Boswell, Private Pprs. x. 24, 29.
  • 9. Ibid. 105; Boswell, Johnson, iii. 58-63.
  • 10. Warren-Adams Letters (N.Y. Hist Colls.), i. 292; HMC Royal Inst. i. 90, 136, 164, 179, 217.
  • 11. Clinton to Prevost, 8 Nov. 1778, ibid. 340.
  • 12. HMC Carlisle, 413-14.
  • 13. Fortescue, iv. 416-17.
  • 14. APC (Col.) 1766-83, p. 503; HMC Royal Inst. ii. 415, 431, 474, 525, 526; HMC Var. vi. 184.
  • 15. Holden Furber, Henry Dundas, 33, 42, 56-62.
  • 16. HMC Palk, 386, 402; Vestiges of Old Madras, iii. 320-4, 341, 346-7, 368, 391; Cornwallis Corresp. i. 225, 281. Campbell’s Regulations for the Company’s Troops on the Coast of Coromandel and his Horse Drill ... for the Native Cavalry, pub. in 1787.
  • 17. Cornwallis Corresp. i. 322.
  • 18. Dundas to Cornwallis, 13 July 1788, ibid. i. 406.
  • 19. HMC Fortescue, i. 481, 518, ii. 11.