STEWART, Dougal (aft.1658-1712), of Blairhall, Longforgan, Perth.

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



1708 - 7 June 1709
1708 - 7 June 1709

Family and Education

b. aft. 1658, 2nd s. of Sir Dougal Stewart, 2nd Bt., MP [S], of Ardmaleish, Bute, by Elizabeth, da. of Sir John Ruthven of Dunglass, Haddington; bro. of James Stewart, 1st Earl of Bute [S].  educ. ?Glasgow Univ. c.1687–91; adv. 1694.  m. proclamation 10 Mar. 1700, Mary (d. 1759), da. and h. of John Bruce yr. of Blairhall, 2s.  styled Ld. Blairhall 7 June 1709–d.1

Offices Held

Commr. justiciary for Highlands [S] 1701, 1702; ld. of session and justiciary 1709–d.

MP [S] Rothesay 1702–7.

Burgess, Edinburgh 1703, Perth 1710; sheriff depute, Edinburghshire (Midlothian) 1704–9.2

Commr. of public accts. [S] 1704–5.3


Civil War sufferings in the royalist cause had left the Stewarts of Ardmaleish seriously in debt and thus vulnerable to the temptations of Court patronage. At the same time their local power, as hereditary sheriffs of Bute, remained unimpaired. It was the ultimate source of such political influence as they still possessed, and the foundation for Dougal Stewart’s short-lived official career.4

Although the family were episcopalian and had assisted Charles II’s Scottish administration in its pursuit of conventiclers, Stewart’s elder brother Sir James, 3rd Bt., and uncle Robert Stewart of Tillicoultry were both able to suppress their Jacobite sympathies sufficiently to accept election to the Convention of Estates in 1689. They attached themselves to the Dalrymple–Queensberry interest, and were thus among the victims of Secretary James Johnston’s* purge in 1693, when each lost his seat in the Scottish parliament for refusing to take the oath of allegiance to King William and sign the Assurance. The family made something of a political comeback at the end of King William’s reign, again as allies of Queensberry: indeed, they may be said to have formed the ‘episcopalian’ or Jacobite wing of the Duke’s party. Robert Stewart became a lord of session in 1701; Sir James Stewart was raised to the peerage two years later as Earl of Bute; and in between Dougal Stewart had entered the Scottish parliament for the first time on his brother’s interest at Rothesay.5

From the beginning, Stewart acted with the cavaliers. In 1704 he supported the Duke of Hamilton’s motion to postpone the settlement of the succession, and was subsequently picked as a member of the commission of accounts. The following year he and his family were reported by George Lockhart* to have ‘professed against the present measures’, and although Lockhart still numbered them among Queensberry’s ‘friends’, Stewart had extended his own range of political contacts, having been appointed sheriff depute of Midlothian under Lord Dalhousie. He was certainly involved in all the tactics of the Country opposition. Prominent in debate in the campaign to resist entering into negotiations for union, on the grounds that the English Parliament’s Aliens Act ought to have been repealed first, he joined Atholl’s protests to this effect on 1 Sept. 1705. Jacobite agents, who were very hopeful of Lord Bute, not surprisingly regarded Stewart in a similar light; one reported in 1706 that he was ‘loyal, active and bold, speaks well in parliament and . . . closely adheres to the Country party’. His voting record on the Union, however, was mixed. He started fiercely, with a vote against the second article, and a remarkably frank demand for the repeal of the English Act of Settlement, on the pretext that the stated principle of priority ‘in blood’ left too glaring a loophole – ‘if the Duke of Savoy offered his son and he turned Protestant, he had certainly the right to succeed’. On the last article he made another intervention, moving an amendment ‘for the ease of tender consciences: that persons in public office be not obliged to take the oath of abjuration’. But for much of the time he was absent or abstaining, which may have represented part of the family’s compromise with the Court. Lord Bute consented to be absent from all divisions, and their uncle voted in favour of the treaty.6

Stewart’s link with Queensberry was not strong enough to secure him a place on the Court slate chosen to the first Parliament of Great Britain, but his brother’s interest in Bute guaranteed that he would secure a seat at the next election. Meanwhile he suffered the embarrassment of arrest in March 1708 on suspicion of involvement in the Jacobite invasion attempt. What had happened was that letters had been intercepted from the Duke of Atholl to Stewart, among others, warning that a chamberlain in Atholl’s employ was not to be trusted and to act with the utmost care. Nothing in the letters was incriminatory, but Atholl’s furtive tone gave the government a pretext to issue warrants. Stewart protested his entire innocence; that he was perfectly loyal, having taken the oaths, and that he had never even corresponded with Atholl, who in turn disavowed any connexion with him other than an occasional professional consultation. Not only Stewart’s brother but various other peers associated with the Court interceded on his behalf, notably the Earls of Glasgow and Leven, and by May he had been released. In bowing to this pressure the ministers were expecting some political gain: Glasgow, in particular, had put the case bluntly to Lord Sunderland (Charles, Lord Spencer*) that Stewart was ‘one of our friends’, who could be expected to ‘concur heartily with us’ when chosen to the new Parliament, but that he would have no reason to do so ‘if we can’t serve him’. Duly returned both for the county of Bute and for Perthshire, where his wife’s estate lay and, more important, where the hereditary sheriff, Atholl, had determined in his favour, Stewart was soon giving Lord Ross, another Court peer, reason to believe ‘he will join us’. Ross was quick to see that some further advantage could be contrived for the ministry, by a promise to Stewart of a vacant place among the lords of session. Lord Bute, he assumed, would be prepared for his part to bring in a Court man for Buteshire, and in Perthshire Stewart’s defeated opponent, John Haldane*, a Squadrone supporter, would come in. The appointment would also ‘secure Mr Stewart still to act for your friends’. He added:

and tho’ Mr Stewart were to be in the session, I could wish his commission were either kept in your lordship’s hands or sent to me to show him, that he might appear in Parliament this winter, where I am satisfied he might be very useful and make some Members right who I am at present doubtful of.7

How soon Sunderland and his colleagues decided to follow this advice is not clear. Stewart, who took the title Blairhall, was appointed a lord of session and of justiciary the following year, in succession to his uncle, and although he did not take his place there until 7 June 1709, he had obviously been notified of the preferment some time earlier since his salary was being paid from 12 May. In the meantime his contributions to debate do not show him as paying particular deference to the feelings of the ministry, striking instead a sharply patriotic note. On 3 Dec 1708, on the question of whether to disqualify on a legal technicality Lord Haddo (William Gordon*) and the three other eldest sons of Scots peers who had been returned at the general election, Stewart

did urge, as one of the reasons for expelling them, that (besides that they could not be elected by the laws and usage of Scotland) the Scots commons did not think their liberty safe in the hands of those persons or their representatives, who to gratify their ambition had ruined the nation and sold their own birthrights and privileges.

Lord Bute gave the following explanation of Stewart’s conduct:

My brother made a speech against the peers’ sons, it being recommended to him by his constituents, and because the rest of the barons would have thought it odd if he had declined what they were so keen upon . . . He also fully represented to the House the innocence, and severe treatment that people met with upon account of the invasion, and he writes to me that when he had the honour to see the Queen, her Majesty was pleased to be so good as to make a kind of an apology for the trouble that he and several other persons she thought very innocent and honest men were put to.

He took part in the debate on 5 Apr. 1709 on the bill to bring the Scottish law of treason into line with the English, speaking ‘on the side of the dying laws of Scotland’, but in very mixed company, including Court, Squadrone and cavalier Members. Otherwise, his parliamentary activity is impossible to distinguish from that of several namesakes in the House. His one appearance by full name in the Journals occurred on 25 Jan. when, as deputy-sheriff of Midlothian, he was one of three Scottish Members called to attend the Lords in connexion with an inquiry over the election of Scottish representative peers. He also appeared before the Lords in December 1708, as counsel for the Duke of Hamilton in a private legal case.8

After taking his seat in the court of session Stewart seems to have played little further part in politics. His appearance on the published list of those who had opposed the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell was plainly a mistake, as Lockhart gleefully pointed out. That no by-election writ was ordered for either Buteshire or Perthshire indicates that by 1709 the Whig administration had lost confidence in both Lords Bute and Atholl, and this may in turn have reflected on Stewart’s position. In April 1710 Stewart informed Atholl that he had been ‘so ill of late with rheumatic pains that seized me so violently and continued so obstinate as made me almost lay aside the thoughts of the circuit altogether’. Having suffered a further bout of illness in 1712, which failed to respond to a ‘goat’s milk’ cure, Stewart died at Blairhall on 16 June 1712. The anonymous Memoirs Concerning the Affairs of Scotland (1714), a vigorously anti-unionist tract, was supposed by some contemporaries to have been based on a manuscript by Stewart. His alleged contribution is not supported by firm evidence, however, and Lockhart is generally recognized as the principal author.9

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: D. W. Hayton


  • 1. Hist. Scot. Parl. 662; Scots Peerage ed. Paul, ii. 297; Brunton and Haig, Senators Coll. of Justice, 487–8; Recs. Glasgow Univ. (Maitland Club, lxxii), iii. 144, 149; Scot. Rec. Soc. xxvii. 659; Scot. Hist. Soc. Misc. i. 479.
  • 2. Scot. Rec. Soc. lxii. 194; Carnegie Lib. Ayr, Ayr burgh recs. B6/18/8, council mins. 4 Oct. 1709; Sandeman Lib. Perth, Perth burgh recs. B59/24/1/17, p.18.
  • 3. CSP Dom. 1700–2, p. 338; 1702–3, p. 353; HMC Lords, n.s. viii. 4; APS, xi. 190, 285.
  • 4. Scots Peerage, 297.
  • 5. APS, ix. 250; info. from Dr P. W. J. Riley on members of Scot. parl.
  • 6. Info. from Dr Riley; Boyer, Anne Annals, iii. app. 42; iv. 53; Lockhart Letters ed. Szechi, 14; Crossrigg Diary, 167, 170, 195; APS, xi. 237, 404; Hooke Corresp. (Roxburghe Club), ii. 101, 135; Orig. Pprs. ed. Macpherson, ii. 13; P. W. J. Riley, Union, 334; HMC Mar and Kellie, i. 324.
  • 7. SRO, Breadalbane mss GD112/39/212/7, Breadalbane to Colin Campbell, 5 Feb. 1708; Add. 61631, ff. 54, 80, 166; 61628, f. 174; HMC Lords, 133–4, 150, 160–1, 165, 167; 7th Duke of Atholl, Chrons. Atholl and Tullibardine Fams. ii. 97; P. W. J. Riley, Eng. Ministers and Scotland, 106; HMC Mar and Kellie, 436–8, 443.
  • 8. Cal. Treas. Bks. xxiii. 265; Lockhart Pprs. i. 298–9; Breadalbane mss GD112/39/224/11, Bute to Breadalbane, 25 Jan. 1709; Nicolson Diaries ed. Jones and Holmes, 484, 493; HMC Lords, 12.
  • 9. Lockhart Mems. ed. Szechi, 287; Brunton and Haig, 487–8; Lockhart Letters, 112; Atholl mss, box 45, bdle. 9, no.78, Stewart to Atholl, 21 Apr. 1710; HMC Portland, v. 182; Hist. Scot. Parl. 662.