Lanarkshire (Clydesdale)

Scottish County

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Number of voters:

63 in 1702, 44 in 17081


 James Carmichael, Ld. Carmichael8
31 Oct. 1710SIR JAMES HAMILTON, Bt. 
1 Oct. 1713SIR JAMES HAMILTON,  Bt. 
 Daniel Campbell 

Main Article

The 4th Duke of Hamilton and his mother, the dowager 3rd Duchess (who herself retained the office of hereditary sheriff), expected to be able to dictate parliamentary returns for Lanarkshire, but the endorsement of their recommendation could not be taken for granted. Although the Hamiltons were by far the greatest landed family in the county, there were other proprietors who might hope to wield influence: lesser peers like Lord Hyndford and the Earl of Glasgow, the latter bailiff of the regality of Glasgow, which greatly enhanced his interest; and some of the more considerable of the lairds, notably Lockhart of Carnwath and his namesake of Lee. The city of Glasgow was also afforded a right of entry into elections by its corporate freehold, besides the number of Glaswegians who qualified as individual landowners. But potentially the heaviest counterweight to the Hamilton ascendancy was the strength of Presbyterianism, especially among the populace and the smaller lairds. ‘The commons of this country are generally Whiggish’, reported the Jacobite agent Scot, ‘and consequently not well affected.’ Worse still, from an episcopalian point of view, was the persistence of radical or ‘covenanting’ principles, such as underlay the violent agitation in the county against the Union, which produced not merely addresses from the county, the burgh of Lanark, some 22 parishes and the two presbyteries (of Hamilton and Lanark), but a ‘tumultuous rising’ requiring to be suppressed by armed force. Thus, as the 4th Duke of Hamilton became more and more closely identified with a cavalier and Jacobite interest in national politics, there arose the possibility of a Presbyterian-inspired resistance to the family’s traditional authority. It should be borne in mind, however, that the dowager Duchess herself was a devout Presbyterian. Even in 1702, when an entire Country party slate was returned to the Scottish parliament, all four commissioners were Presbyterian countrymen rather than cavaliers.2

In 1708 Hamilton’s personal rapprochement with the Squadrone insured him against interference from some ‘Whiggish’ interests, but not adherents of the Court party headed by the Duke of Queensberry. The first of these to announce his candidacy appears to have been Sir William Stewart, 2nd Bt., of Castlemilk, a former commissioner to King William’s parliament and one of the defeated Court representatives in 1702. In due course, however, Stewart stood aside for James, Lord Carmichael, whose father, the former Scottish secretary of state Lord Hyndford, spared no pains to pursue the seat on his behalf. The Hamiltons’ nominee was the Duke’s younger brother, Lord Archibald Hamilton, who had already begun a canvass at the English borough of Great Marlow, with the help of another brother, Lord Orkney. Lord Archibald ‘heartily embraced’ the prospect of also standing in Lanarkshire once this was suggested by yet another brother, the Earl of Selkirk, reassuring him that a Scottish seat was ‘so much more honourable and agreeable to me upon all accounts’. The proposal seems to have originated with the Duke, who quickly involved himself, helping to arrange the purchase of ‘a 40s. land’ to provide his brother with the appropriate qualification, and undertaking the somewhat more delicate task of seeking the approval of his mother, a woman of powerful personality and effectively the head of the family interest in the county. A difficulty was that George Lockhart* of Carnwath had been eyeing Lanarkshire as a possible bolt-hole for himself, and the Duchess’s political sentiments might induce her to look favourably on such a tribune of anti-Unionism. Hamilton therefore phrased his request with care: ‘The Parliament being now dissolved’, he wrote,

my brother Archibald is very desirous to serve for the shire of Clydesdale; I spoke of it to my brother Selkirk long before I came from Scotland, but your grace’s condition was such when I left you that I did not think it proper to fatigue you with business of that kind then, though I had spoken fully both to my brother Selkirk and Pencaitland [James Hamilton] upon the subject. Your grace may easily believe I wish my brother may be elected, since he desires it. I am told Castlemilk is the person sets up. I should think [it] strange if the shire should prefer him to any of your grace’s sons, but by a letter I had from Carnwath I found he doubted of the success of his election in the shire of Edinburgh and therefore had thoughts of pretending there. He knows I was long ago of the opinion my brother should stand, for I spoke to himself to give his assistance. I know my brother is endeavouring to secure himself in another place, but I can’t help thinking it proper he should represent Clydesdale, but if your grace does not incline he should, or finds any difficulty and that Carnwath sets up, I hope you’ll give him your countenance.

The Duchess was easily persuaded, which was just as well since Lord Orkney, in his enthusiasm for his brother’s election and the maintenance of his family’s reputation, had already told Selkirk that ‘you must declare to all her grace’s friends that she sets him up, and use all interest to have it him’. The Duchess’s recommendation he considered to be a trump card, but Lord Archibald already possessed a very full hand. For one thing, on this occasion the Hamiltons could rely on the support of the Earl of Glasgow. Being himself a Court Tory, the Earl had initially declared for Lord Carmichael, but when Selkirk arrived in Lanarkshire ‘to take care of my Lord Archibald’s election’ he promptly went back on his promise. ‘I cannot but say Lord Glasgow behaved as we would wish’, wrote Selkirk to the Duke, ‘and has promised to retrieve whatever he has done in favour of [Carmichael], which, he says, was done before he knew of any of the family’s pretensions.’ George Lockhart as well, far from resenting the closure of his electoral bolt-hole, promised to ‘have a good interest’ for Lord Archibald in the Upper Ward of the county (that is to say the southern half), where Carnwath itself lay and where the Hamiltons were weaker. One of the wealthiest of Glasgow’s merchants, Daniel Campbell* of Shawfield, had concluded a private bargain with the Duchess to assist her son in Lanarkshire in return for support in his own election for Glasgow Burghs. But Hyndford still had a card of his own to play: the last-minute admission of sufficient new electors to overturn the Hamilton majority, a ploy the Hamiltons unwittingly assisted by delaying the election in order to give themselves time to marshal their forces. The fact that Hyndford attempted to create only 11 ‘fictitious’ votes, when hindsight shows the number required to have been at least 27 (exactly the same as the margin of victory at the 1702 election) might indicate that he still hoped for support from the Earl of Glasgow or some other substantial proprietor, or it may simply represent the limit of his financial capacity. Even so, Hamilton was livid, writing to Secretary Sunderland (Charles, Lord Spencer*):

There are such violations and encroachments on our constitution as never were attempted before. To make votes in the county of Lanark they have been endeavouring the bringing in 11 new barons, several of them inferior servants and dragoons in the Lord Carmichael’s regiment, who were to be purchasers of land they knew nothing of nor had paid for, but their names used even without the knowledge of some of them, and if this trick had taken effect it was redeemable for less than 20s., the freeholds to be redelivered after the elections are over . . .

His first thought was that his mother should return Lord Archibald on the votes of the existing freeholders and then rely on his own parliamentary allies to dispose of any petition: ‘I desire my brother may carry it by the old barons and we shall have time to dispute the new.’ But an opportunity offered to avoid even this risk. With only three days remaining before the election, time was running out for Hyndford to pass the signatures for his 11 new charters, and with considerable effort Hamilton was able to delay nine of them by a day, which rendered them too late for the election. Meanwhile he, his brothers and their mother had been hard at work making sure that likely supporters made their way to the electoral court. The end result was a handsome victory for Lord Archibald, who reassured his mother that, far from costing him victory, the delay in holding the court had enabled him to obtain ‘a great many votes’. For his part, Hyndford had not only forfeited the election but seems also to have lost face among his peers. The Duke of Atholl, for one, told the Duchess that he had been ‘very vexed to think that [the] E[arl of] Hyndford should have opposed your son in that shire, which I think neither [the] D[uke of] Queensberry nor any other should have influenced him to’. What made Hyndford’s conduct more reprehensible in the eyes of his opponents was Lord Carmichael’s tactless protest at the court ‘that there could be no return made of the election’ since the Duchess was ‘not qualified’. As Lord Archibald commented,

this objection would have been unmannerly and of little use to him at any time; but to make it when the election was over (and he had owned the lawfulness of the meeting, by himself and his party’s sitting and voting in it for so many hours) was as weak as it was impertinent.3

The 1710 election seems to have passed off without so much as a threat to the Duke and Duchess’s nomination of their distant kinsman Sir James Hamilton, 2nd Bt., of Rosehall, but two years later came the first stirrings of opposition to the family when the Duchess’s efforts to place a Presbyterian minister in a living in Glasgow met with a polite rebuff from the city and the synod, an instance of ‘ingratitude’ which gave serious offence. The tragic death of the Duke in a notorious duel with Lord Mohun in the following November, leaving a ten-year-old heir, encouraged local Presbyterian interests and other opponents of the Hamiltons to challenge Sir James’s re-election in 1713. At some point during the summer the Duchess reported to Lord Treasurer Oxford (Robert Harley*) that she had received from Scotland ‘an account that several are making interest to be chose[n] in the county of Clydesdale and to turn out Sir James Hamilton’. She had been asked ‘to write down in favour of Sir James’, and eventually did so, though not before she had assured herself that the treasurer had no recommendation of his own to make. The election then resolved itself into a contest between Sir James and Daniel Campbell of Shawfield, who had been obliged to abandon his pretensions in the burghs district and was now keen to compete against an interest with which he had previously been just as eager to co-operate. Campbell’s support came chiefly from Glasgow itself, where he was aided by the Earl of Glasgow, and from Presbyterian ministers, who seem to have regarded the election as part of a crusade to safeguard the Kirk and the Protestant succession, although one Presbyterian commentator felt that Campbell was not their ideal representative, since he was a person against whom the Hamiltons cherished a particular ‘spite’. On the other side, issues of religion and party politics were equally to the fore, the episcopalian Tory Lord Eglintoun promising to urge his friends to vote against the ‘upstart’ Campbell. Hamilton also benefited from the enthusiasm of a ‘prelatic party’ among the lairds. The Presbyterian minister of Lanark was ‘informed that some gentlemen who refused the Abjuration upon a Jacobite principle have offered now to take it rather than that election fail’. Like Lord Hyndford previously, Campbell sought to undermine the inbuilt Hamilton majority among the freeholders by creating votes for himself. This time there was no opportunity to delay the process of ratifying the new charters, so that counter-measures were focused on the electoral court. Proceedings there were marked by frequent objections and protests, and after ‘a long struggle till 10 o’clock’ at night Sir James Hamilton finally triumphed by the comparatively narrow margin, for Lanarkshire, of nine votes. The prevailing opinion among Presbyterians was that Campbell had been the victim of a palpable injustice. A Glasgow minister gave the following account of the court:

As for our election at Lanark, that party has given a full proof of their arbitrary power, and what they would do if they had power. Shawfield would certainly have carried it by a majority if fair play had been done him, for on their meeting they consulted the old roll, wherein Rosehall had the majority of votes, and so by this tried Shawfield’s new voters who were not enrolled, and particularly the town of Glasgow, who [they] voted . . . had no right . . . Calderwood . . . was admitted although Shawfield produced a certificate under a clerk’s hand [that he] was under age, and Shawfield [was] told he might bring up his children to vote. However, they [?swayed] all by one vote, and Sir Archibald Fleming broke prison and was protected by them . . . A great many protests by Shawfield and some say he’ll prosecute it.

(In fact Campbell was deterred from petitioning, either by an apprehension of the weakness of his own case, or by the size and disposition of the prospective Tory majority in the House of Commons.) Naturally, the view of the victorious party had been somewhat different. One Scottish newspaper noted that Hamilton had been re-elected ‘notwithstanding of the threats and other illegal practices of the magistrates of Glasgow and the clergy, who pretend to govern the gentlemen of the shire’. Post-electoral celebrations revealed the fully partisan character that the Hamilton interest had now assumed: ‘the loyal gentlemen went to our cross with drums and music, where they drank her Majesty’s health, to the dissolution of the Union, and to all true Scotsmen’. Rumours reaching Robert Wodrow, the Presbyterian divine, suggested that the toasting had been even more explicit: ‘among other things, the confusion of presbytery, and the damnation of the ministers’.4

The precise attitude of the Hamilton family itself to the Hanoverian succession is difficult to assess: the Duchess certainly provided a handsome entertainment at Hamilton to celebrate the proclamation of the new dynasty; and her remaining sons, the earls of Orkney, Ruglen and Selkirk, and Lord Archibald Hamilton, all stayed loyal to King George. The same could not be said, however, of the family’s political supporters in Lanarkshire, notably George Lockhart, and it may well have been the effects of the political embarrassments caused by Lockhart, Sir James Hamilton and other Jacobite sympathizers as much as the increasing frailty of the old Duchess and the Anglicization of her surviving sons that kept the Hamilton interest passive during the 1715 election, which was fought out between two Whigs, Campbell of Shawfield and James Lockhart of Lee. George Lockhart, having failed to rouse the Hamiltons to support Sir James’s re-election, somewhat surprisingly threw in his lot with Daniel Campbell, only to find that his namesake thoroughly outgunned them both, in view of which Campbell rapidly withdrew. Three years later, after James Lockhart’s unexpected death, Lord Archibald Hamilton recaptured the seat for the ducal house in a contest with the Whig lawyer Sir James Stewart, 1st Bt.*, though not without various tribulations brought about by the desertion of ‘Sir James Hamilton and that set’, and the ‘unaccountable behaviour’ of other ‘friends of the family’.5

Author: D. W. Hayton


  • 1. NLS, ms 14498, f. 82; Add. 61628, f. 100 (‘not above eight good votes’ in 1708, according to the Duke of Hamilton).
  • 2. Lockhart Letters ed. Szechi, 85; Orig. Pprs. ed. Macpherson, ii. 11; Christ Church, Oxf. Wake mss 5, f. 13; Lockhart Mems. ed. Szechi, 177; APS, xi. 322, 341-3; Boyer, Anne Annals, v. 368, 376, 403; Hist. Scot. Parl. 32, 314, 644; P. W. J. Riley, Union, 332-3.
  • 3. SRO, Montrose mss GD220/6/1778/1-3, ‘Brief Acct. Elections in N. Britain’, [1708]; NLS, ms 1032, ff. 63, 66; 1033, f. 41; SRO, Hamilton mss GD406/1/6521, 8052, 8067, Hamilton to his mother, 27 Apr., 7 May, 10 June 1708; GD406/1/7255, [Selkirk] to Hamilton, 5 May 1708; GD406/1/8041, Ld. Archibald to 3rd Duchess of Hamilton, 19 June 1708; GD406/1/7926, Atholl to same, 18 June 1708; Add. 61628, ff. 98, 100.
  • 4. Hamilton mss GD406/1/5607, [Sir] Andrew Kennedy to Hamilton, 15 Aug. 1710; GD406/1/8392, Hamilton to his mother, 23 Oct. 1712; Add. 70223, 4th Duchess of Hamilton to [Oxford], ‘Thursday night’ [1713]; Lockhart Letters, 85; NLS, Advocates’ mss, Wodrow pprs. letters Quarto 7, ff. 181, 188-9; Wodrow Corresp. ed. McCrie, i. 492, 523; Hamilton mss at Lennoxlove, C3/1631, Eglintoun to 4th Duchess of Hamilton, 12 Sept. 1713; Scots Courant, 2-5 Oct. 1713.
  • 5. Scots Courant, 29 Sept.-1 Oct. 1714; Advocates’ mss, Wodrow letters Quarto 8, f. 179; SRO, Kennedy of Dalquharran mss GD27/3/24/5, Mungo Graham* to Cornelius Kennedy, 1 Mar. 1715; SRO, Sir William Fraser mss GD397, box 4, folder 2, [Selkirk] to Ruglen, 9 Dec. 1718.