HAMILTON, Lord Archibald (1673-1754), of Motherwell, Lanark., and Riccarton and Pardovan, Linlithgow.

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



23 Dec. 1718 - 1734
22 Feb. 1735 - 1741
27 Mar. 1742 - 1747

Family and Education

bap. 17 Feb. 1673, 7th s. of William Douglas Hamilton, 3rd Duke of Hamilton [S], by Anne, suo jure Duchess of Hamilton, da. and h. of James, 1st Duke of Hamilton [S], niece and h. of William, 2nd Duke of Hamilton [S].  educ. Glasgow Univ. 1684.  m. (1) Anne (d. 1709), da. of Charles, 2nd Baron Lucas of Shenfield, and wid. of Edward Carey of Caldecote, s.p.; (2) 17 Dec. 1718, Anne (d. 1719), da. and h. of Claude Hamilton and wid. of Sir Francis Hamilton, 3rd Bt. of Killough, co. Down, s.p.; (3) 26 Sept. 1719, Lady Jane (d. 1753), da. of James Hamilton, 6th Earl of Abercorn [S], 4s. (1 d.v.p) 4da. (2 d.v.p.).1

Offices Held

Lt. RN 1690, a.d.c. to gov. of Leeward Is. 1691, lt.-col. of marines 1691, capt. 1693, half-pay 1708; gov. of Jamaica 1710–16; ld. of Admiralty 1729–38, 1742–6; cofferer and surveyor-gen. to Prince of Wales 1738–47.2

Gov. Greenwich Hosp. 1746–d.


The youngest son of one of the leading Scottish noble families, Hamilton volunteered for naval service in about 1687. He accompanied James Kendall*, the recently appointed governor of Barbados, on his journey to the West Indies in 1690, swiftly obtaining a lieutenancy. Highly commended for his actions during an attack on Guadeloupe in 1691, he had served during the prelude as aide-de-camp to the governor of the Leeward Islands, Christopher Codrington, and was granted the temporary rank of lieutenant-colonel of marines for the assault itself. Both Codrington and Kendall were fulsome in their praise: the former reported that Hamilton had ‘shown great zeal and gained honour and esteem both in fleet and army’; the latter maintained that he had ‘shown more prudence and conduct than perhaps was ever seen in so young a gentleman, and as much bravery as any man living’. He was promoted rapidly thereafter, becoming a first lieutenant under Admiral Mitchell in 1693 and gaining his own command within the year. He remained on active service until the end of the war. In May 1697 Hamilton managed to thwart a malicious prosecution by disgruntled crew members over prize-goods. He was granted a pension of £200 p.a. in 1699, but this remained unpaid. Poised to return to active duty in 1701, he suffered a series of frustrations. His brother Lord Orkney reported in May that Hamilton ‘was in spleen to a great degree’, having been set to sail with Admiral Rooke (Sir George*), only to be stood down, thereby incurring a loss of some £400. Although he remained with the fleet over the summer, he did not regain his command until after the resumption of hostilities, being restored in March 1703. He commanded the 70-gun Eagle at the battle of Malaga in 1704, where he suffered the humiliation of being towed out of line for want of shot. He was court-martialled in January 1705, together with four other captains. All were duly exonerated. Notwithstanding complaints from friends and relatives about the grudging nature of his acquittal, Hamilton did not, as was initially rumoured, retire from the service. In fact, his career prospered to the extent that he was notified in January 1708 of forthcoming promotion to rear-admiral. The accompanying circumstances, however, caused him considerable disquiet.3

According to Hamilton’s version of events, as detailed in a petition to the Queen and a memorial to the Earl of Sunderland (Charles, Lord Spencer*), the initial commissions, relating to himself and three other officers, had been ranked in order of seniority. The Queen had been prevailed upon, however, to recall these commissions and reissue them in a different order, giving accelerated promotion to the most junior captain, Lord Dursley (James Berkeley*), ‘who was many years short of your petitioner’s service, and according to the rules of the navy not entitled to the said commission’. Hamilton claimed, therefore, to be ‘incapable of serving without doing very great dishonour to himself’. He also complained about the complete non-payment of his pension, despite King William’s grant having been confirmed by Anne and even raised to £300. Such treatment was poor recompense for one who had given ‘faithful service for so many years in two wars’. Hamilton’s preferred solution was to obtain ‘a dormant commission (with the pay of vice-admiral) bearing date before the commission . . . to Lord Dursley, so that your petitioner may not be injured in his rank, whenever your Majesty shall think fit to make use of his service at sea’. He was prepared to consider any acceptable alternative, appealing to Sunderland and the Duke of Marlborough (John Churchill†) but receiving no redress upon the principal issue because Lord Dursley’s promotion was strongly supported by the Junto. Although Hamilton’s petition was founded upon a matter of honour, financial considerations were equally important. In explaining the situation to Sunderland, he mentioned how various other officers injured by Dursley’s promotion had already been recompensed ‘by places of profit and trust ashore’. He nevertheless remained for the next two years on a captain’s half-pay.4

Election to Parliament was an obvious means by which Hamilton might gain credit with the Court and improve his prospects. As early as the summer of 1707, he had set his sights on the English borough of Great Marlow, expending considerable sums to advance his prospects; but after being offered the family interest in Lanarkshire, he privately acknowledged that a Scottish seat was infinitely preferable. He was saved by his defeat at Marlow from any public embarrassment about choosing between the two options. In Lanarkshire he won a decisive victory, but only after a bitter contest, during which his opponent, Lord Carmichael, had utilized ‘all the malicious unfair dealing that ever was in any country’. This, at least, was how Hamilton’s brother, the Duke of Hamilton, portrayed the matter to Sunderland. The Duke was naturally concerned to emphasize the difficulties in order to prove the value of the electoral pact with the Junto lords that had resulted from their assistance in securing the Duke’s release from custody during the Jacobite invasion scare. On these grounds alone, Lord Archibald could be expected to follow the Junto line in supporting the Court. There was not a shadow of suspicion, however, that he shared his brother’s alleged Jacobite sympathies. Hamilton was a staunch Presbyterian, and religious conviction gave a Whiggish cast to his political outlook. It was later reported that some of the Jacobite gentry in Lanarkshire who were customarily loyal to the Duke had refused to qualify themselves in order to vote for Hamilton in 1708. The political nature of these scruples was exposed when they cheerfully took the Abjuration in 1710 so as to vote for Lord Archibald’s episcopalian Tory successor, Sir James Hamilton*.5

Unlike the vast majority of his fellow Scottish Members, Hamilton absented himself on 16 and 18 Dec. 1708 from divisions on the Westminster election case. Although John Pringle* offered no explanation for this failure to join the hue and cry against the petitioner, Sir Henry Dutton Colt, 1st Bt.*, for having made disparaging remarks about the Scots, Hamilton’s conduct may plausibly be attributed to a desire not to offend the Junto. He certainly supported the Whigs over the Whitchurch election on 21 Dec. To his mother, a formidable character renowned for her Presbyterian rigour, Hamilton felt compelled to explain his failure to oppose a motion of 12 Jan. 1709 demanding that an anonymous pamphlet which advocated the removal of the sacramental test should be publicly burnt as a libel:

I was not in the House, when that resolution passed . . . else it had not gone without a negative to it, though I cannot but own the printing of it was indiscreet, and very ill timed, and your Grace may see by what I said . . . before that paper came out, that saying anything on that subject at present would be no service to what was desired, but on the contrary, which has indeed fallen out; however, I hope there may be a more favourable opportunity before long to show that there is that good disposition in many that I mentioned before.

The fact that the Duchess had also been a strong opponent of the Union accounts for the tone of a subsequent letter, in which Hamilton related a favourable outcome to the controversy over the non-payment of drawbacks on fish cured with foreign salt imported before the Union, and expressed the ‘hope there is an end to that difficulty and discouragement we have lain under’. He was appointed to the drafting committee on 21 Feb. Hamilton had also told in favour of an adjournment during a late-night sitting on the Orford election on 29 Jan. As yet unrewarded by the Court, he complained at this time of being in

greater straits than ever I was in my life. I have now been a considerable time without any employment, and the best I ever had was but barely bread for that present, so that nothing being possible to be saved out of it. I am altogether at a loss how to support myself here without reparation from the government.

His desire for office did not outweigh his sense of outrage over the Treason Act of 1709. He opposed this measure, which altered Scottish law in direct contravention of the safeguards included in the Union, registering three tellerships against the Court. Hostility to the ministry, however, was short-lived, Hamilton’s reversion to the Court being marked by a hopeful petition on 29 Apr. for payment of arrears on his pension.6

In the second session Hamilton supported the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell. This earned him favour with the ministry, but without compromising his own views. He had no patience with ‘passive obedience men’, and condemned the conduct of the London mob, suspecting moreover that Sacheverell’s supporters were guilty of concerting disturbances in the capital and elsewhere. With Marlborough’s support, Hamilton was appointed governor of Jamaica in May. This office, ‘with a salary of £2,500 Jamaica money’, also provided scope for further enrichment by fees and perquisites, making it ‘the best the Queen has, excepting that of Ireland’. The favour shown Lord Archibald went some way towards assuaging the Duke of Hamilton’s sense of neglect at the continued deferral of the grant of his British peerage.7

In Jamaica Hamilton’s appointment was viewed with the customary mixture of anticipation and resentment. It was certainly hoped that he would be an improvement on his predecessor, who had repeatedly requested permission to resign. Hamilton arrived in July 1711, and was concerned to discover that the colony’s finances were in a lamentable state. Provision had been made to pay the outgoing governor, but Hamilton feared that ‘there is not any money to pay me’. Moreover, the recurrent problem of subsistence for the troops caused friction with the Jamaican assembly, exacerbated by suspicions about the influence upon the inexperienced governor of an unscrupulous triumvirate of officials. He suffered repeated challenges to his authority, and had difficulty obtaining supply. In December 1715 he was charged with having misapplied official funds. Hamilton countered in January 1716 by reprimanding the assembly for its ‘peevish and fruitless inquiries’. This rebuff was met by the assertion that ‘the island has been ill-treated by his Excellency’ and loyalty alone had induced its representatives not to vote ‘any further sum of money, while his lordship continued in the government’. After trading various insults with the assembly (on one occasion the governor refused to accept a message unless it was presented ‘with better manners’), Hamilton was forcibly superseded in July. A local planter was proclaimed governor and Hamilton sent home as prisoner to face a trumped-up charge of conniving at piracy. He published several pamphlets in his own defence, and was duly acquitted. Reinstatement, however, was neither desirable nor practicable.8

Hamilton stood at a Lanarkshire by-election in December 1718. Lord Selkirk emphasized that his brother’s success was critical for the family’s local status, maintaining that ‘if we lose, we ought never to pretend to have any interest in Clydesdale’. Lord Archibald’s victory marked a revival of the family’s electoral dominance. Also in December, he married again, choosing a wealthy widow many years his senior. This advantageous match, described by Swift as the best in Ireland, was curious in that the lady’s jointure was conditional upon ‘her not marrying except one of the name of Hamilton’. She died within three months of the wedding, and Hamilton remarried within six months of her death. He retained his seat in 1722, despite resentment at his recent failure to support Scottish linen interests in Parliament. His success was aided by his 19-year-old nephew, the 5th Duke of Hamilton, who endorsed his candidacy even though they were not in political agreement. The Duke was a Tory who later intrigued with the Jacobite court, whereas Lord Archibald continued a Hanoverian Whig. Rewarded by appointment as a lord of the Admiralty in 1729, he was removed in 1737 for failing to support the government over the allowance for the Prince of Wales. For the previous two years, his wife had been the Prince’s mistress, and Hamilton was compensated for the loss of government office with a place in Frederick’s household. As a supporter of the Prince, he returned to the Admiralty board after Walpole’s fall, but was shunted to a sinecure in 1746, also forfeiting his place under the Prince for refusing to join the opposition the following year. He died on 5 Apr. 1754.9

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: David Wilkinson


  • 1. F. Cundall, Govs. Jamaica 18th Cent. 64; Recs. Glasgow Univ. iii. 143; Scots Peerage ed. Paul, iv. 382; G. Hamilton, Hist. House of Hamilton, 26; R. K. Marshall, The Days of Duchess Anne, 145–6.
  • 2. CSP Col. 1689–92, p. 478; Cundall, 51; Hamilton, 26; CJ, xvi. 225.
  • 3. Marshall, 136–7; CSP Col. 1689–92, pp. 462–3, 491, 497–8; Cundall, 51; CSP Dom. 1695, p. 125; 1697, pp. 86–87, 159, 167, 213; 1699, p. 204; 1702–3, p. 24; SRO, Hamilton mss GD406/1/6507–8, Orkney to Duke of Hamilton, 1, 14 May 1701; PRO 31/3189, ff. 30, 44; HMC Portland, x. 38; Add. 17677 AAA, f. 52; 61614, ff. 1–6; Post Boy, 8–10 Jan. 1708; Atholl mss at Blair Atholl, box 45, bdle. 5, no. 4, Anne Hay to Duchess of Atholl, 18 Jan. 1705.
  • 4. Add. 61614, ff. 1–6; Marlborough–Godolphin Corresp. 1292; CJ, xvi. 225.
  • 5. NLS, ms 1032, ff. 63, 66; 1033, f. 41; Add. 61628, f. 100; NLS, Advocates’ mss, Wodrow pprs. letters Quarto 7, f. 180.
  • 6. NLS, ms 1033, f. 61; 1032, f. 68; SRO, Ogilvy of Inverquharity mss GD205/34/4, Pringle to William Bennet*, 18 Dec. 1708; Hamilton mss GD406/1/8002, Hamilton to mother, 20 Jan. 1709; Cal. Treas. Pprs. 1708–14, pp. 112, 114.
  • 7. Hamilton mss GD406/1/8042, Hamilton to mother, 2 Mar. 1709–10; Add. 61136, ff. 143–7; 70421, newsletter 4 May 1710; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxiv. 523, 600; xxv. 126, 450.
  • 8. Boyer, Anne Annals, ix. 414, 422; CSP Col. 1711–12, p. 80; 1716–17, pp. 77–90; 1717–18, pp. 47–48, 81–82; Hamilton mss at Lennoxlove, C3/921, Orkney to 4th Duchess of Hamilton, 17 Jan. 1712–13; G. W. Bridges, Annals of Jamaica, 339–45; Cundall, 51–65.
  • 9. SRO, Sir William Fraser mss GD397/box 4/folder 2, [Selkirk] to Ruglen, 9 Dec. 1718; Swift Corresp. ed. Williams, iii. 303; Hamilton mss at Lennoxlove, C3/2037, Hamilton to 5th Duke of Hamilton, 3 Mar. 1722; C3/157, Sir James Hamilton* to same, 23 Apr. 1722; Scots Peerage, 382.