DALRYMPLE, Sir Hew, 2nd Bt. (1712-90), of North Berwick, Haddington.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754-1790, ed. L. Namier, J. Brooke., 1964
Available from Boydell and Brewer



27 Jan. 1742 - 1747

Family and Education

b. 12 Mar. 1712, 1st s. of Sir Robert Dalrymple of Castleton, adv., by his 1st w. Johanna, da. and h. of Hon. John Hamilton, master of Bargany; bro. of John Dalrymple, afterwards Hamilton. educ. North Berwick g.s.; ?Edinburgh Univ.;1 Leyden 1731. m. (1) contract 5 July 1743, Margaret (d. 31 Dec. 1748), da. of Peter Sainthill of London, surgeon, 3s.; (2) 17 Aug. 1756, Martha, da. of Charles Edwin of London, barrister, s.p. suc. gd.-fa. as 2nd Bt. 1 Feb. 1737.

Offices Held

King’s remembrancer in the Scottish Exchequer 1768-70.


Unlike his brother, who inherited the Bargany fortune, Sir Hew possessed no great wealth, and was chiefly concerned to obtain preferment for himself and his family. He was returned for Haddingtonshire in 1754 under an agreement with Argyll and Lord Milton, by which Dalrymple was to represent the county and Milton’s son, Andrew Fletcher, the burghs. Having failed in 1754 to secure the office of Lord Lyon,2 he unsuccessfully applied to Newcastle on 11 June 1755 for a place on the board of police.3 Robert Dundas, commenting on the death of Sir Hew’s uncle Lord Drummore, S.C.J., warned Hardwicke against yielding to Dalrymple’s solicitations:4

[Drummore] was at the head of what I must call the clan of Dalrymple which was in many respects too similar to a Highland clan ... I hope this is the last in the low country, and if no new head is permitted to rise, the death of Lord Drummore will I hope break that cement.

Sir Hew’s applications were unsuccessful until 1756, when he obtained for himself the reversion of the office of King’s remembrancer,5 and in September, by Argyll’s interest, a judgeship for his cousin George Broun as Lord Coalston.6

Under the Pitt-Devonshire Administration, when his brother ‘had much to say with the Grenvilles’, Sir Hew apparently remained loyal to Newcastle on whose side he voted, 2 May 1757, in the Minorca debate. Although claiming that ‘he had sacrificed every other political connexion and private friendship in adhering firm to Argyll’,7Dalrymple, nevertheless, during the negotiations for a new Administration, was listed by Newcastle among the Scots who might desert ‘the viceroy’ if out of power. His loyalties were soon put to the test. From 1758 he was at feud with Milton who demanded that under their agreement Dalrymple should give up the county to Fletcher in 1761 and ‘take his turn’ of the burghs. Dalrymple, unwilling to admit the obligation, appealed for support to Newcastle who, when rallying his friends in March-April 1760 against the Scottish militia bill (of which Milton was a strong protagonist), counted Sir Hew among the Scots who might join Robert Dundas in opposing it.8 Although in the division of 15 Apr. Dalrymple did not vote against the bill, he managed, with the assistance of Hans Stanley, to placate Newcastle to whom he wrote, 9 May, asking him to intercede with Dundas (now lord president) for his interest in Haddingtonshire:9

When I solicited his Lordship he made no other objection than that your Grace had formerly complained of me ... I flatter myself that misrepresentation is now removed ... by Mr. Stanley. As the president must still look upon me as a person ungrateful to your Grace, I hope you will remove the prejudice by writing to him.

And Newcastle wrote to Dundas, 20 June 1760:10 ‘Sir Hew Dalrymple is not only very zealous for his Majesty and his Government but a very particular friend of mine.’ Dundas did not commit himself; but Argyll furiously protested against Newcastle’s intervention,11 and open conflict between the ‘English’ and ‘Scotch’ ministries was narrowly avoided by the arbitration of Bargany, Loudoun, Coalston, and other common friends. By the resulting compromise Dalrymple was obliged to surrender the county to Fletcher, and stood for the burghs on the united Argyll-Newcastle interest, with financial assistance from Milton and an anonymous subvention from Argyll. To his confidant, James Oswald, Sir Hew expressed resentment at the viceroy system, and ‘gratitude and warmest zeal’ for Newcastle.12 But Lauderdale, who had been left out of the negotiations, warned Newcastle against strengthening Dalrymple’s interest by the gift of Treasury places. ‘Don’t put the district out of your own power ... for Sir Hew may probably desert you.’13

In the new Parliament Dalrymple spoke in the budget debate of 15 Dec. 1761. Harris records:

Sir Hew ... got up and opposed the measure, particularly ... tax on windows ... talked in the old style of taxes on luxury, post chaises, sugar etc ... ’twas a dry debate.

On Newcastle’s going into opposition, Dalrymple deserted him for Bute. Under Grenville’s Administration he hoped for lucrative preferment. When his kinsman John Dalrymple proposed that Sir Hew be appointed a Scottish customs commissioner and transfer his burghs to him, James Stuart Mackenzie replied:14

Neither his Majesty nor Mr. Grenville would think Sir Hew’s conduct merited such a mark of favour as to give him who already had the reversion for life of one of the best offices in Scotland ... another good place ... which would put it out of his power to make any return to Government as a parliamentary man.

Although disappointed in his hopes, Dalrymple maintained his friendly relations with Grenville, followed him into opposition, and voted against the repeal of the Stamp Act, 22 Feb. 1766. Under the Chatham Administration he continued his connexion with Grenville, but made approaches to Government through the Bute connexion. In October 1766, ‘under age, infirmities and entanglements’,15 finding himself opposed in the burghs by Lauderdale, he decided to withdraw in favour of his friend Patrick Warrender and stand for the county; he appealed for help to Grenville who wrote to Temple:16‘Both Sir Hew and his brother Mr. Hamilton acted constantly with us last year and I believe are more inclined to do so than those who oppose him.’

He voted with the Opposition on the land tax, 27 Feb. 1767, but in March was counted by Newcastle as an Administration supporter. When in the summer of 1767 Grafton dashed his hopes of Government support in his county election, Dalrymple turned once more to Grenville,17 but also desperately tried to ingratiate himself with Bute’s ministerial friends and voted with Government on the nullum tempus bill, 17 Feb. 1768. By every shift and intrigue he sought to divide his county opponents; while Grenville, at his request, interceded with Andrew Fletcher,18 Dalrymple himself was preparing long statements for Loudoun, for submission to Bute and Grafton, placing himself at their disposal, apologizing for his Opposition connexion, and interpreting the Haddingtonshire contest in terms of the old political struggle between the Argyll part and the Squadrone as now represented by Lord President Dundas and his candidate.19

Twenty-seven years in Parliament has pretty well satisfied my curiosity, during which time ... I have been as little troublesome in solicitations and as constant in attendance as any man ... If therefore Lord Bute or the Duke of Grafton want to have any other man ... I am ready to ... support their friend, or if they will accept of my son ... I am willing to make him over to them ... Let Lord Bute name the candidate from among the old friends of the Argathelians, I shall be the agent of his commands.

When Grafton proved obdurate Sir Hew withdrew and gave his interest to Fletcher’s cousin, who was defeated.

In September 1768 he succeeded to the office of King’s remembrancer, which two years later he sold to Andrew Stuart.20 He lived partly in London but mainly in Scotland, improving his estates and rebuilding North Berwick House,21 and exercising considerable influence in Scottish politics. In a whimsical and much publicized letter to Sir Lawrence Dundas on 24 May 1775 he wrote:22 ‘Having spent a long life in pursuit of pleasure and health, I am now retired from the world in poverty and with the gout; so ... I go to church and say my prayers.’  He died 24 Nov. 1790.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: Edith Lady Haden-Guest


  • 1. The Scots Peerage, but not the records of the Faculty of Advocates, mentions him as adv. 1730.
  • 2. Add. 32852, f. 156.
  • 3. Add. 32855, f. 471.
  • 4. Dundas to Hardwicke, 19 June 1755, Add. 35448, f. 267.
  • 5. T17/16/470-1.
  • 6. Add. 32867, f. 247.
  • 7. Dalrymple to Argyll, c. Sept. 1760, Loudoun mss.
  • 8. Newcastle’s memorandum for the King, 3 Apr. 1760, Add. 32904, f. 176.
  • 9. Add. 32905, f. 374.
  • 10. Add. 32907, f. 316.
  • 11. Argyll to Newcastle, 5 July 1760, Add. 32908, f. 108.
  • 12. Dalrymple to Oswald, 30 July, 28 Aug., 18 Sept. 1760, Memorials of Jas. Oswald, 303-12.
  • 13. Lauderdale to Newcastle, 20 Oct. 1760, Add. 32913, f. 230.
  • 14. Mackenzie to G. Grenville, 27 Oct. 1763, Grenville mss (Bodl.).
  • 15. Dalrymple to W. Mure, 15 Oct. 1766, Caldwell Pprs. ii(2), p. 92.
  • 16. 24 Oct. 1766, Grenville mss (JM).
  • 17. Grenville to Dalrymple, 26 Nov. 1767, Grenville letter bk.
  • 18. Grenville to Fletcher, 16 Feb. 1768; Fletcher to Grenville, 9 Mar. 1768, Grenville mss (JM).
  • 19. Dalrymple to Loudoun, 24, 26, 27 Feb. 1768, Loudoun mss.
  • 20. T17/20/211; Col. Jas. Abercrombie to Loudoun, 9 June 1770, Loudoun mss.
  • 21. Boswell, Private Pprs. xvi. 3-4.
  • 22. Statistical Account, ii. 565-8.