DICKSON, John (c.1707-67), of Kilbucho, Peebles.
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Family and Education
b. c.1707, 1st s. of William Dickson of Kilbucho by Jean, da. of Sir William Menzies of St. Germains, E. Lothian. educ. Glasgow Univ. 1722; adv. 1728; Leyden 1729. unm. suc. fa. 6 Mar. 1762.
Burgess of Edinburgh 3 July 1765.
Dickson was returned for Peeblesshire in 1754 on the interest of the Earl of March, and was listed by Dupplin among the Scots friends of the Administration, ‘of various connexions’ (i.e. not specifically attached to the Duke of Argyll).1 But during the negotiations on the change of ministry in the spring of 1757, Newcastle counted him among those ‘not to be relied on at present but to be treated with’.2 In the debates on the Minorca inquiry when, on the last day of the committee stage, 2 May 1757, the ‘old ministry’s triumphant majority’ was seriously reduced, Henry Fox, enclosing a division list, wrote to the Duke of Devonshire, 3 May: ‘You will see that some very unexpectedly left us.’3 Among these was Dickson.
He supported the plan for a Scots militia and was nominated by the committee to prepare the abortive bill, 12 Mar. 1760. There is no record of his having spoken in the House.
In a ‘Note of the Elections in Scotland’, prepared for Newcastle on 26 Apr. 1760, there is the following about Peeblesshire:4
Mr. Dickson, the present Member, is extremely desirous of leaving Parliament if any (even small) office was bestowed upon him. Perhaps Lord March may think it hard to turn him out on any other condition, as the circumstances of his estate are very indifferent.
If Lord March supported by Government were desirous to have me chosen in Dickson’s place, there would be no difficulty in accomplishing it ... Dickson, I am certain, will be very glad to retire and his pretensions I apprehend will not be very great, his fortune is so narrow that he will not refuse a moderate place, and after serving two Parliaments he really has some sort of right to retire upon a decent provision.
Bute agreed to recommend Wedderburn to March, who on Bute’s authority offered Dickson a place. But Dickson unaccountably would not accept, and declined to release the county freeholders from their promises to him. March wrote to Bute, 2 May 1761:
Mr. Dickson being unwilling to give up his seat in Parliament, which our assistance had alone secured, he was yesterday chose by those persons ... who would otherwise have been better pleased at my request to have seconded your Lordship’s recommendation ... Even the gentlemen who were inclined to have given opposition to this proposal from a delicacy that the honour of the county would suffer from the representation of a stranger, could not have effected it at this time but by the extraordinary and ill-timed obstinacy of Mr. Dickson himself, to whom I had fairly stated the generous offer you had made to me for him. What may have been his secret motive for this conduct I cannot pretend to say, it being very certain he once seemed extremely desirous of having such an offer, which perhaps may still be the case, but that he thinks it will be more for his advantage to negotiate the point after his election and trust to his own ideas rather than to your Lordship’s or mine for the execution of it.
In Parliament Dickson supported the Bute Administration, and in December 1762 Fox counted him as favourable to the peace preliminaries. After he succeeded as laird of Kilbucho he still desired a place but his pretensions rose, and when James Stuart Mackenzie did not support his claims, he transferred his allegiance to Grenville at a time when relations between Mackenzie and Grenville on the question of Scottish patronage were severely strained. He even aspired to succeed Lord Belhaven as general of the Scottish mint. Stuart Mackenzie wrote to Bute, 5 Sept. 1764:
I am a little apprehensive of Mr. Grenville’s inclining that it should be given to Mr. Dickson, the Member, as he has paid a great deal of court to him of late, and has quarrelled with me because I did not obtain for him the office of conservator or that of solicitor to the customs; now I think I could cut out a place for Dickson that might serve him very well, whereas were he (from his character and turn and the idea people here have of him) to be made general of the mint, it would raise the laugh everywhere against me, for it would be placed to my account let who will have brought it about.5
The post was given to Mackenzie’s stepfather, Lord Strichen, and Dickson was disappointed even of the minor place that Mackenzie might have ‘cut out’ for him. On the fall of the Grenville ministry Dickson followed him into opposition and voted against the repeal of the Stamp Act. On 2 Dec. 1766 he wrote to Grenville asking whether his attendance was required in the House. On 27 Feb. 1767 he voted against the Chatham Administration over the land tax. He died 2 Dec. 1767.