FLETCHER, Andrew (1722-79), of Saltoun, Haddington.
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Family and Education
b. 1722, 1st s. of Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun, S.C.J. (Lord Milton), by Elizabeth, da. of Sir Francis Kinloch, 2nd Bt., of Gilmerton. educ. Glasgow Univ. 1735; Ch. Ch. Oxf. 1739. m. 1764, Jeanie, da. of Sir Robert Myreton, 2nd Bt., of Gogar, Edinburgh., s.p. suc. fa. 1766.
Clerk of the pipe in the Scottish Exchequer 1746-1751; sec. to Duke of Argyll as keeper of the great seal, 1748-61; auditor gen. of the Scottish Exchequer 1751- d.
From his youth, Fletcher was trained in political discretion by his father, Lord Milton, ‘confidential friend and deputy’ to Archibald, Duke of Argyll in the management of Scotland.1 Fletcher became Argyll’s secretary and constant companion, living with him in London, and attending him on his annual visits to Edinburgh and Inveraray. ‘Though not a man who produced himself in public life’, wrote Alexander Carlyle,2 he was ‘sufficiently knowing and accomplished to be a very amiable member of society’. In politics a loyal and self-effacing subordinate, he relied on his father and Argyll to fight his battles. Thus when Milton in 1754 demanded that Sir Hew Dalrymple should resign Haddingtonshire in Fletcher’s favour, and ‘take his turn’ of representing the Burghs, Fletcher himself declined to press the matter; and when in 1760 the quarrel over representation came to a head, it was Argyll and Milton who were the principals in the complicated negotiations with Dalrymple, resulting in Fletcher’s transfer to the county in the Parliament of 1761.
Over the Scottish militia bill of 1760, on which Argyll’s attitude was equivocal, Fletcher, under his father’s direction, took an active part, being one of the inner group nominated by the Edinburgh committee (under Milton’s presidency), to concert how the bill should be brought into Parliament.3
Owing to Argyll’s dislike of letter-writing Fletcher was entrusted with much confidential business. In 1760 he was employed by Argyll in an attempt to patch up his quarrel with Bute. Newcastle wrote to Hardwicke, 6 Sept. 1760:4
[Argyll] told me ... that he had sent Fletcher to my Lord Bute, his Lordship having objected extremely to Mr. [Samuel] Martin. That Fletcher had not succeeded better, that he complained to him of sending Mr. Martin and letting the English into their dispute.
After Argyll’s death, although Bute proffered friendship,5 Milton’s control of Scottish affairs rapidly declined, and his withdrawal from public life, followed by his physical and mental breakdown, left his son without a political mentor.
Fletcher supported the Bute Administration on the peace, and the Grenville Administration on general warrants, but after 1765 practically ceased to attend Parliament. He was absent in Scotland from the divisions on the repeal of the Stamp Act in February 1766, and does not appear in any subsequent division list. In January 1767 Townshend classed him as absent. He maintained a connexion with Grenville, to whom he explained on 9 Mar. 17686 that ‘a sad variety of distress’ had greatly impaired his health, rendering him ‘unable to attend to his own affairs, much less the House’. His father’s mental collapse and his death in December 1766 were the primary causes of this distress, which was aggravated by the opposition raised in his constituency by Sir Hew Dalrymple and Sir George Suttie. When Grenville, at Dalrymple’s instigation, urged him on 16 Feb. 17687 to agree to a junction of the Fletcher and Dalrymple interests to defeat Suttie, Fletcher replied8 that owing to ill-health ‘he thought it honest to decline coming into Parliament’, but could not forgive Dalrymple for his unfriendly conduct in 1766, ‘at the time of his greatest distress’. Despite pressure from Grenville, and probably also from Bute and Loudoun, Fletcher decided neither to stand nor to ‘meddle’.
Fletcher retired to his Saltoun estate, devoting himself to agricultural improvement and the cultivation of his nurseries of exotic trees and shrubs, which had long been famous. He died 24 May 1779.