FORBES, Sir Arthur, 4th Bt. (1709-73), of Craigievar, Aberdeen.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1715-1754, ed. R. Sedgwick, 1970
Available from Boydell and Brewer



13 July 1732 - 1747

Family and Education

b. 1709, 6th but 1st surv. s. of Sir William Forbes, 3rd Bt., of Craigievar by Margaret, da. of Hugh Rose of Kilravock, Nairn, sis.-in-law of Duncan Forbes. educ. Marischal Coll. Aberdeen c.1723-7. m.(1) 1729, Christian (d. 6 Oct. 1733), 1st da. of John Ross of Arnage, Aberdeen, provost of Aberdeen, 2da.; (2) Oct. 1749, Margaret, née Strachan, of Balgall, wid. of John Burnett of Elrick, Aberdeen, 5s. 4da. suc. fa. May 1722.

Offices Held

Rector of Marischal Coll. Aberdeen 1761-4.


Forbes, whose grandfather and great-grandfather had represented Aberdeenshire in the pre-Union Parliament of Scotland, succeeded at the age of 12 to an estate worth £728 a year, burdened with debts of £6,184 and annuities of £195.1 Returned unopposed for his county in 1732 at a by-election caused by the expulsion from the House of Sir Archibald Grant, he became a government supporter, though he was absent on the excise bill of 1733. Lord Ilay described him in August 1733 to James Erskine, as ‘a damned forward prattling boy [for repeating Ilay’s private offer of support at the next election]; but really ... Sir Arthur behaved very firmly to us in Parliament, and is not a bad man’. Erskine, who was then supporting the candidature of his nephew Thomas Erskine, Lord Erskine, wrote to a kinsman about the county election in 1734:

As to Sir Arthur ... consider: 1. That he promised at his last election to join for Lord Erskine if he should stand at the next, and yet sets up now against him. 2. That he has gone along in all the pernicious measures of last session, and, by these bad means, has recommended himself. 3. That, therefore, he must henceforth be the tool of a wicked party, that have oppressed ... us and the nation. 4. That he has insidiously joined Earl Ilay and become his slave. 5. That to continue him is to introduce Ilay’s power into the shire ... The breach with him is not on our part but his own.2

Re-elected after a contest, he was still ‘a friend’ of the Administration in January 1738, when he obtained a commission for his brother through Sir William Yonge, secretary at war;3 but, following the Duke of Argyll, he changed sides soon afterwards, voting against the Government on the Spanish convention in 1739 and the place bill of 1740. The Jacobite Lord Lovat wrote to a kinsman in September 1740 that the Duke of Argyll

has a vast friendship for Sir Arthur Forbes, and he desired me to write to any friends that I had in [Aberdeenshire] to do what service they could to Sir Arthur ... I earnestly entreat that you will not only give your vote for Sir Arthur, but that you will go about and solicit for him ... among your friends; I promised to the Duke of Argyll that you would do this upon my account.4

Returned unopposed in 1741, Forbes voted against Walpole’s candidate for the chairman of the elections committee in December. One of the group of opposition Members known as the Duke of Argyll’s gang,5 he voted against the Hanoverians in 1742 and 1744. In 1747 he retired in favour of his kinsman, Andrew Mitchell. He died 1 Jan. 1773.

Ref Volumes: 1715-1754

Author: R. S. Lea


  • 1. Cal. Treas. Pprs. 1720-8, p. 278.
  • 2. Spalding Club Misc. iii. 42-43, 48.
  • 3. More Culloden Pprs. iii. 129.
  • 4. Spalding Club Misc. ii. 8.
  • 5. John Drummond to Ld. Morton, 2 and 4 Dec. 1742, Morton mss, SRO.