CALLANDER, John (1739-1812), of Westerton, Stirling and Preston Hall, Edinburgh.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer



28 Sept. 1795 - 1802

Family and Education

b. Sept. 1739, 1st surv. s. of Alexander Callander of Westerton, and bro. of Alexander Callander*. m. 2 Feb. 1786 (and previously at Lille), Margaret, da. of John Romer of Cherwick, Northumb., wid. of Bridges Kearney, s.p.s. suc. fa. 1742; bro. Alexander 1792; cr. Bt. 1 Aug. 1798.

Offices Held

Cornet 4 Drag. 1766, lt. 1771, capt. 1775; maj. 19 Drag. 1782, half-pay 1783-96, brevet lt.-col. 1793; maj. 18 Drag. 1796, brevet col. 1797; lt.-col. 29 Drag. 1797, half-pay 1798-d.


Callander, whose army career had come to a halt at the end of the American war, was of little political or social standing until he succeeded his rich merchant brother Alexander in 1792. On a vacancy in 1795 he was elected without opposition for the open borough of Berwick and maintained his interest there in the general election of 1796. On 27 Nov. 1795 Robert Dundas informed Henry Dundas that Callander had not yet taken his seat and proposed remaining in Scotland until Christmas, unless summoned to Westminster. He added: ‘He is decidedly with us at present; and I hope will remain so’.1 Callander had already been disappointed of his wish to be governor of Berwick. After taking his seat, he opposed the abolition of the slave trade, 15 Mar. 1796. His only known speech was on the importation of salt into Scotland, 15 June 1798.

Soon after his election he began a long and persistent campaign for social and professional advancement. In a letter to Dundas, 29 Oct. 1797, he recalled the first naive attempt he had made to gain preferment:

About a year and a half ago, when I was so much harassed and my house infested by the creditors of a person, unfortunately for me bearing the same name, I applied to you to prevent such mistakes in future, to get me made a Baronet; this you promised should be immediately done ... and when I told this to Mr Pitt about six months afterwards, he declared he never had heard of it before, nor had you mentioned it to him.

On 21 Feb. that year, claiming to be ‘the lineal male heir and descendant of George the last Earl of Callander’, he applied directly to Pitt ‘to be made an Irish baron instead of a British baronet’ and on 20 May and 8 July enlarged on his pretensions:

Besides my election to secure the town of Berwick for your interest (which I have now completely in my power to bring in whom I please) cost me twixt five and six thousand pounds—I am likewise a proprietor of landed estates in six different counties in Scotland, and one in England; and in most of them not a very inconsiderable one; my votes and interest in all of which I have constantly given to the ministerial candidates—And at the late election for the county of Mearns, at the particular request of Mr Dundas I gave two votes to Sir John Belsches, which had I at first given to his opponent, would in all probability turned the election [sic] and brought in an opposition Member to Parliament.

When Pitt denied him his wish, Callander poured out his woe to Dundas. He and his late brother, he claimed, had been ‘constant friends and strenuous supporters of the present administration both in and out of the House; and last year, at their request, I travelled back and forward sixteen hundred miles post, to support their measures in the House of Commons; in which I am not a nominal Member, but a constant attendant’. In addition he complained that his applications for military promotion had not been gratified: he had ‘after 32 years service, and having purchased every commission, the honour of being second major in the eighteenth dragoons, a piece of injustice not to be paralleled in the army’; he was one of the first officers in 1793 to offer to raise a regiment of light dragoons and was the first to suggest ‘the idea of fencible cavalry’, yet he had not been given command of a regiment of either; his application for the governorship of Edinburgh Castle had been refused.2

Later in 1797 the Duke of York was able to take ‘a good opportunity to get rid of’ Callander by appointing him to a lieutenant-colonelcy in a regiment under orders for the East Indies. Again disaster befell him. His ‘impaired state of health from the effects of a violent disorder (contracted during his station at Romney Marsh in the year 1798 when the greater part of the men under his command died)’ prevented his sailing and he was again placed on half-pay.3 In August 1798 he received the one reward of his exertions, a baronetcy.

Despite his earlier confidence his political career came to grief in 1802 when he was defeated at Berwick. He succeeded in getting the election declared void, but was again defeated in the re-election in 1803. In October 1803 his promotion to lieutenant-general was gazetted and then cancelled. On 1 July 1806 Lord Lauderdale forwarded to Lord Grenville a memorial from Callander addressed to the Duke of York praying to be promoted major-general, and that year he won back his seat at Berwick. But the ministry did nothing for him. On 26 Mar. 1807 he wrote to Grenville requesting the return of his memorial and claiming to be ‘one of those few independent Members in the House of Commons, who never asked for, nor would he accept of any place or pension under government (except in his professional line as a soldier)’.4 He did not support Brand’s motion and his unpopularity with the electors forced him to withdraw from Berwick in 1807. He subsequently appeared in the Duke of Portland’s list of aspirants to the peerage.5

He died, still unpromoted and on half-pay, 2 Apr. 1812.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: J. M. Collinge


  • 1. NLS mss 7, f. 78.
  • 2. PRO 30/8/119, ff. 98-104; 195, f. 172; SRO GD51/1/45.
  • 3. Geo. III Corresp. ii. 1657.
  • 4. Fortescue mss.
  • 5. Portland mss PwV114.