HUME CAMPBELL, Hon. Alexander (1708-60), of Birghamsheil, Berwick.

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



1734 - 1741
19 Jan. 1742 - 19 July 1760

Family and Education

b. 15 Feb. 1708, 2nd surv. s. of Alexander, 2nd Earl of Marchmont [S], lord clerk register, by Margaret, da. and h. of Sir George Campbell of Cessnock, lord justice clerk; twin bro. of Hugh, 3rd Earl.  educ. private sch. London 1716-?21; Holland (Utrecht and Francker) 1721-?5; Edinburgh Univ.; adv. 1729; I. Temple, called 1731.  m. 16 July 1737, Elizabeth Pettis of Savile Row, London, s.p.

Offices Held

Solicitor-gen. to Prince of Wales Dec. 1741-Jan. 1746; lord clerk register Jan. 1756- d.


Hume Campbell’s politics were influenced by three considerations: jealousy of Argyll (Islay) as ‘viceroy’ of Scotland, family pride, and devotion to his brother. For most of the period 1734-1754 he was in opposition, during which time he also built up a considerable practice at the English bar.

In the 1754 Parliament Hume Campbell almost at once ‘took a very active part ... in support of the King’s measures’,1 and was prepared to connect himself with Newcastle. In return for assistance against Pitt over the subsidy treaties, the brothers demanded full support for their Berwickshire interest at the expense of Lord Home, Argyll’s protégé.2 Employed by Newcastle in the autumn of 1755 to win over Gilbert Elliot and Sir George Lee,3 Hume Campbell formulated proposals for his own advancement. Newcastle wrote to Hardwicke, 18 Oct. 1755:4

Hume Campbell ... made me an absolute offer of himself, to quit his profession entirely ... to apply himself singly to the House of Commons, to take an active part in everything and to have difficulties in nothing. His condition was to be made chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster with the salary ... made up to £2000 a year ... It is certain he will be of vast use in the House of Commons. His manner of talking is what we want at present.

With the King, however, ‘Hume Campbell would not go down at all’.5 While alternative offices were under consideration Campbell supported the Address on 13 Nov., but almost spoilt his chances by offending Hardwicke, who wrote to Newcastle, 5 Dec.:6

Unless Mr. Hume Campbell shall come to me and ask my pardon ... I shall think myself obliged to oppose this promotion to the utmost of my power, for though I can connive at many things I cannot submit to be insulted.

Hardwicke having been placated, Hume Campbell on 9 Dec. was offered the place of lord clerk register with a salary made up to £2,000 p.a.;7 the following day he led for the Government in defence of the Russian and Hessian treaties. Walpole records:8

The Duke of Newcastle ... had selected another champion who was equal to any philippic and whom he would for that purpose have made paymaster if Fox had not withstood it. This was Hume Campbell, who for some time had deserted Opposition and almost Parliament and applied himself entirely to his profession of the law, which he was at once formed to adorn and suit, for he was eloquent, acute, abusive, corrupt, and insatiable.

Hume Campbell’s ‘masterly speech’ provoked Pitt to a savage personal attack upon the ‘servile lawyer’, once his intimate friend.9 ‘Hume Campbell was annihilated,’ wrote Walpole,10 and made no reply. His ‘want of manhood’11 was not redeemed by his belated explanation on 12 Dec. of his personal and political conduct.12 The ministry did not consider their champion ‘annihilated’, and proceeded to implement their promises. ‘Notwithstanding any objections his Majesty may have’, wrote Newcastle to Fox on 12 Dec., ‘his abilities make him a useful and necessary man in these circumstances’.13

According to Walpole,14 Campbell, after his preferment ‘never provoked Pitt’s wrath, and repaid this munificence with one only scrap of an ignorant speech on the plate tax’ on 3 Mar. 1756.

On Fox’s resignation the brothers were ‘disconcerted with the change of ministry’15 which brought in Pitt, and were ‘deadly angry’16 when in April 1757 Argyll obtained through Devonshire the lord lieutenancy of Berwickshire for Lord Home. Hume Campbell sought to act as peacemaker between Fox and Newcastle,17 and took a leading part in the Minorca inquiry in defence of his friends.18 During the negotiations for a new Administration, ‘Hume Campbell modestly asked the treasurership of the navy ... in addition to his office of lord register’, and when it was denied, the duchy of Lancaster for life.19 Hardwicke wrote to Newcastle, 1 June 1757:20

The difficulty still rests ... in finding proper persons to carry on ... the business of the House of Commons ... I thought Sir George Lee and Mr. Hume Campbell had been more sanguine upon that essential point ... though ... I doubted their forces for it ... I perceive now that both these gentlemen draw back as to undertaking [it] independently of Mr. Fox.

In the final settlement of the Pitt-Newcastle coalition Hume Campbell received no office; deeply chagrined, the brothers returned to Scotland and began ‘an extraordinary correspondence’ with Newcastle, ‘full of professions outwardly, but really most severe reproaches, not unmixed with threats’,21 demanding as the ‘touchstone’ of his friendship the removal of Home as lord lieutenant. Dupplin, after consulting John White suggested an explanation:22

Mr. White fears ... that Lord Halifax will be set at the head of a connection of weight and ability in which ... Lord Marchmont will join as well as his brother, upon the plan of opposing Pitt as distinguished from your Grace.

When the ministry reached a settlement with Halifax, Dupplin thought the brothers would now ‘change their language’:23

Their chief apprehension is of a defeat (and what they will think a disgrace) in the county election ... Mr. White says that Lord Register will never forgive Pitt’s personal abuse and all that can be expected is to keep them quiet, which they may possibly be when they see no standard set up to which they can resort.

Hume Campbell, perforce, renewed his attachment to Newcastle,24 supporting him in any controversy with Pitt or Argyll, subject always to the overriding claims of his family and Scottish interests.25 On the Scottish militia question the brothers’ attitude was equivocal; they were ready to sponsor a county defence force but not one commanded by Home and his deputy lieutenants. When requested by Lord Milton, chairman of the Edinburgh committee, to co-operate in furthering a bill similar to the English Militia Act, Hume Campbell privately suggested to Newcastle that regiments of light horse and foot ‘would do better than any militia whatever’.26 In the debate of 4 Mar. 1760 he hedged,27 but was appointed to the committee to prepare the bill. Afraid of offending either the King or Scottish opinion,28 in the final vote on 15 Apr. 1760 ‘Lord Register was not in the House’.29

He died 19 July 1760. Hardwicke commented to Newcastle, 22 July:30

I rejoice in no man’s death but I hope your Grace has not suffered great loss in Mr. Hume Campbell. He certainly had abilities of a certain sort, but I fear he had no principles or courage. You have tried him in this united Administration and had tried him before ... Have you found any real use for him in either?

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: Edith Lady Haden-Guest


  • 1. Newcastle to Holdernesse, 27 June 1755, Add. 32856, f. 302.
  • 2. Add. 32855, f. 526; 32448, f. 269; 32856, ff. 223, 484; 35548, f. 277; 32860, f. 56.
  • 3. Add. 32858, f. 299; 32859, ff. 237, 242; 32860, ff. 86-88.
  • 4. Add. 32860, ff. 88-89.
  • 5. Newcastle to Hardwicke, 7 Nov. 1755, Add. 32860, f. 269.
  • 6. Add. 32861, f. 200.
  • 7. See the Minute approved by Campbell, Add. 35448, f. 317.
  • 8. Mems. Geo. II, ii. 107.
  • 9. Ibid. 114.
  • 10. Walpole to R. Bentley, 17 Dec. 1755.
  • 11. Alex. Carlyle, Autobiog. 276.
  • 12. Mems. Geo. II, ii. 141.
  • 13. Add. 32861, f. 284; see also Fox to Newcastle [16 Dec.], ibid. 339.
  • 14. Mems. Geo. II, ii. 143, 179.
  • 15. Ridpath’s Diary (Sc. Hist. Soc.), 103.
  • 16. John Calcraft to Loudoun, 9 Apr. 1757, Add. 17493, f. 58.
  • 17. Yorke, Hardwicke, ii. 380, 382; Mems. Geo. II, ii. 377; iii. 6.
  • 18. Mems. Geo. II, iii. 7, 9, 23; Add. 35877, f. 359.
  • 19. Mems. Geo. II, iii. 23.
  • 20. Hardwicke, ii. 397.
  • 21. Marchmont to Newcastle, 20 Sept. 1757; Newcastle to Dupplin, 28 Sept., Add 32874, ff. 183, 253.
  • 22. Dupplin to Newcastle, 24 Sept. 1757, ibid. f. 264.
  • 23. 8 Oct. 1757, ibid. 479.
  • 24. Marchmont to Newcastle, 27 June 1758, Add. 32881, f. 88.
  • 25. Add. 32879, f. 276; John Dalrymple to Chas. Townshend, 20 Jan. 1760, Buccleuch mss; Add. 32903, f. 497.
  • 26. Memo. to the King, 27 Feb. 1760, Add. 32902, f. 431.
  • 27. John Yorke to Hardwicke, 4 Mar. 1760, Add. 32903, f. 75.
  • 28. Marchmont to Hardwicke, 1 Apr. 1760, Add. 35449, f. 220.
  • 29. Add. 32904, f. 392.
  • 30. Add. 32908, f. 439; for another assessment of him see Carlyle, Autobiog. 275-7.