DICKSON, James (c.1715-71), of Broughton, Peebles and Ednam and Sydenham, Roxburgh.

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



29 Dec. 1768 - 14 Nov. 1771

Family and Education

b. c.1715, in the parish of Stitchell, Roxburgh; bro. of Archibald Dickson of Pontefract.

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Of Dickson’s parentage nothing has been ascertained except that the family had close ties with the Kelso district of Roxburghshire. On 24 Jan. 1760 George Ridpath, minister of Stitchell, recorded a visit from George Coventry, minister of the Secession Church1

[He] had come to talk to me about distributing amongst the poor £5 that one Dickson, a native of this parish, and now a merchant in London where he is grown very rich, sent down to Smith of Jedburgh who is a relation of his. Smith wrote me about it, desiring me to distribute it in conjunction with Coventry.

Dickson had been established as a merchant in London from the early 1750s and apparently made his fortune in the West Indies during the seven years’ war.2

In 1764 ‘Mr. Dickson of Havana’ purchased the barony of Broughton, Peebles, from John (‘Evidence’) Murray for £16,000 sterling.3 By further purchases he acquired practically the whole of the parish of Broughton adjoining the estates of John Dickson of Kilbucho.4 He was active in agricultural improvements, rebuilt the village of Broughton ‘after the English fashion’, and interested himself in local antiquities.5

He also acquired the estates of Ednam and Sydenham in Roxburghshire, where he carried out even more elaborate ‘improvements’. The Rev. David Dickson, minister of Ednam, wrote c.1790:6

When the late James Dickson Esq., M.P., became proprietor of Edenham, being a person of public spirit, he enclosed all his lands, planned and built a neat village, the houses being all of brick covered with pantile or slates; brought manufactures from England, and established woollen manufacturers for cloth, particularly for English blankets. He also erected a waulk mill to promote this useful undertaking, but his death marred the progress of these public-spirited schemes. He built also an extensive brewery ... and great quantities of the ale and porter brewed in it are exported to England.

His wealth and enterprise commended him as a candidate for Parliament. In 1768 John Lockhart Ross was returned both for Lanarkshire and Linlithgow Burghs, and after considerable delay chose to sit for the county. In the burghs he had been opposed both by John Murray of Philiphaugh and the Hamilton interest. At the by-election the Hamilton interest was offered to Murray,7 but he was in financial difficulties and does not seem to have contested the seat. On 29 Dec. James Dickson was elected apparently unopposed.

He supported Administration in the Wilkes debates, voting 3 Feb. 1769 for the expulsion of Wilkes, and on 15 Apr. and 8 May with the majority in the divisions on the Middlesex election.

He died 14 Nov. 1771.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: Edith Lady Haden-Guest


  • 1. Geo. Ridpath’s Diary (Sc. Hist. Soc.), 297-8.
  • 2. Adam, Pol. State of Scotland in 1788, p. 309.
  • 3. Murray of Broughton’s Memorials (Sc. Hist. Soc.), p. xiii n.
  • 4. Buchan and Paton, Peeblesshire, iii. 256, 266, 272.
  • 5. Ibid. 258; Stat. Acct. vii. 156, 159.
  • 6. Stat. Acct. xi. 305-6.
  • 7. Caldwell Pprs. ii(2), pp. 147-8.