HAMILTON, Sir James, 2nd Bt. (1682-1750), of Rosehall, Lanark.

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



7 Mar. 1735 - 15 Mar. 1750

Family and Education

bap. 24 Nov. 1682, 3rd but 1st surv. s. of Sir Archibald Hamilton, 1st Bt., of Rosehall by his 2nd w. Bethia, da. of Sir Patrick Murray of Deuchar, Forfar.  m. 2 Mar. 1707, Frances, da. of Alexander Stuart, 5th Ld. Blantyre [S], s.psuc. fa. as 2nd Bt. Nov. 1709.1

Offices Held

Burgess, Glasgow 1702.2


Hamilton was the son of a prosperous Edinburgh merchant and a cousin of the 2nd Lord Belhaven, inter-marriage between the Udston and Broomhill branches of the Hamilton family in Lanarkshire being responsible for the latter connexion. Archibald Hamilton, the Member’s father, was a younger son of James Hamilton of Barncleuch (who in turn was a younger son of the Udston line). He was apprenticed to an Edinburgh merchant in 1647 and duly became a burgess in 1660. Financial security was ensured the following year by his marriage to the daughter of a fellow merchant, which brought a reputed fortune of some £100,000 (presumably Scots). After becoming a councillor in 1666, Archibald Hamilton served variously as bailie, dean of guild, and commissioner to the convention of royal burghs. In 1691 he purchased from Sir Archibald Hamilton, 1st Bt., the Lanarkshire estate of Haggs, subsequently renaming it Rosehall (contemporaries often favouring the spelling ‘Rosehaugh’).3

James Hamilton was made a Lanarkshire j.p. in September 1707. Although he took the necessary oaths, he was a frequent absentee thereafter. Some notice was taken of his non-appearance at the time of the Jacobite invasion scare in 1708, but he duly presented himself in May and once more swore loyalty. Having succeeded his father in November 1709, he was returned without a contest for Lanarkshire in 1710 with the support of the Duke and dowager Duchess of Hamilton. Richard Dongworth, the Duchess of Buccleuch’s chaplain, classified him as a Court Tory rather than an episcopal Tory, but the latter description would have been closer to the mark. Although he was an inactive Member, Hamilton’s political connexions were Jacobite. He was listed both as a ‘worthy patriot’ who helped to detect the mismanagements of the previous administration and as a ‘Tory patriot’ who opposed the continuance of the war. Although absent in Scotland during the passage of the controversial Toleration Act in February 1712, his approval of the measure was clear from his subsequent (and unaccustomed) willingness to stand forward as a j.p. in order to administer the requisite oaths. On 21 Apr. and 6 May, Hamilton voted for the tack of the land grants resumption bill, but was granted a leave of absence, due to ill-health, from 14 May. During secretive discussions in the summer between the Duke of Hamilton and George Lockhart* about the possible consequences of the former’s appointment as plenipotentiary in France, Sir James was suggested by Lockhart as a trustworthy substitute who could take his own place in any confidential (and presumably Jacobite) mission that might be required. The Duke’s death, prior to taking up the appointment, precluded any such demand being made. In the 1713 session Hamilton voted for the engrossment of the French commerce bill on 18 June. In company with Lockhart and several other Scottish Jacobites, he had previously abstained at the second reading on the 4th. One modern historian has attributed this change of heart (in the wake of the malt tax crisis and the campaign to dissolve the Union) to the presumed receipt in the interim of instructions from the Stuart Court enjoining wholehearted support for the ministry.4

Hamilton was re-elected in 1713, securing a narrow victory after a partisan contest. His opponents had emphasized their Whig principles and decried the fact that some of Hamilton’s supporters were former non-juring Jacobites who had cynically taken the oaths in order to qualify. In Lord Polwarth’s analysis of Scottish election results, Hamilton was noted as a ‘Jacobite’ (in this instance some validity adheres to what was otherwise a catch-all description for Scottish Tories). At Westminster, Hamilton sided with Lockhart over the division within Scottish Tory ranks over the attitude to be adopted towards the ministry, and was unwilling to place much faith in the vague promises of Lord Bolingbroke (Henry St John II*). On 12 May 1714 he voted against extending the provisions of the schism bill to cover Catholics, and was appointed on the 22nd to draft the Scottish militia bill. Otherwise his conduct remains obscure, apart from his retrospective classification as a Tory on the Worsley list.5

Hamilton did not stand for re-election in 1715, his patrons having decided to remain passive. Indeed, he did not return to Parliament until 1735. Although he had not scrupled, in September 1714, to swear allegiance to George I, his sympathies remained Jacobite. According to Lockhart, he was ready to appear in arms during the Fifteen. No suitable opportunity arose in the locality, however, and Hamilton avoided making any premature move to join Lord Mar’s forces. Subsequent involvement in Jacobite intrigues gave rise to hopes that he would come out in the Forty-Five, but he remained inactive during the rebellion. He died childless on 15 Mar. 1750 and the estate and baronetcy passed to his brother Hugh, who died unmarried in 1755. The title became extinct and Rosehall passed first to Hamilton’s half-sister, Margaret, and thereafter to her eldest son, Archibald Hamilton of Dalzell.6

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: David Wilkinson


  • 1. Scots Peerage ed. Paul, ii. 42; G. Hamilton, Hist. House of Hamilton, 112–14.
  • 2. Scot. Rec. Soc. lvi. 243.
  • 3. Scots Peerage, 39–46; Scot. Rec. Soc. lix. 228–9; Extracts Edinburgh Recs. 1665–80, pp. 21, 35, 49; 1681–8, pp. 46, 55; 1689–1701, p. 126; Hamilton, 112–14.
  • 4. Scot. Hist. Soc. ser. 3, xvii. 9, 12, 15, 29, 136; SHR, lx. 64; Lockhart Pprs. i. 366, 409; Parlty. Hist. i. 69; D. Szechi, Jacobitism and Tory Pol. 138.
  • 5. NLS, Advocates’ mss, Wodrow pprs. letters Quarto 7, f. 180; Lockhart Pprs. 444, 489, 493.
  • 6. Scot. Hist. Soc. 152; Gent. Mag. 1750, p. 139; Hamilton, 114.