DOUGLAS, Archibald (1707-78), of Kirktoun, Dumfries and Witham, Essex
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Family and Education
b. 1707, 1st s. of William Douglas of Fingland, Kirkcudbright Stewartry by Elizabeth, da. and coh. of Capt. Alexander Clerk of Glendorch, Lanark, an Edinburgh merchant. m. 1746, Elizabeth, da. of Edmund Burchard of Witham, Essex, 6s. 5da.
Cornet 4 Drag. 1739, lt. 1742, capt. 1745, maj. 1746, lt.-col. 1746, col. 1756; col. 13 Drag. 1758- d.; maj.-gen. 1759; lt.-gen. 1761. Served at Dettingen and Minden.
When his father, a former Jacobite, was obliged to sell the family estate of Fingland in 1721, Douglas seems to have sought a military career abroad. His rapid promotion on entering the British army at the age of 32 suggests considerable previous military experience.1
His family had close connexions with Charles, 3rd Duke of Queensberry, for whom Douglas’s younger brother Charles acted as chamberlain. In 1754 Douglas was returned for Dumfries Burghs on the interest of Queensberry, who on 18 Aug. 1754 recommended him to Newcastle for appointment as aide-de-camp to the King:2
He served abroad during all the last war, and is now the only officer of that rank and service who has not in some shape or other received some mark of his Majesty’s favour since the peace. He wishes to owe that obligation to your Grace only, for he does not mean to apply through any other channel.
Douglas was not appointed aide-de-camp until June 1756. He voted against Newcastle on the Minorca inquiry, 2 May 1757.3
His politics were directed by Queensberry, who helped to get him his regiment in 1758.4 In 1761 he was returned for Dumfriesshire on Queensberry’s interest, apparently unopposed.
In the new reign Queensberry, an old friend of Bute, gained high office, and under his patronage Douglas became well known as a place hunter of considerable influence. In 1762 young James Boswell discussed with James Murray of Broughton his scheme for obtaining a commission in the Guards—
He told me [writes Boswell5] General Douglas was the most proper man that I could get to push the thing for me; for that he was indefatigable in business and being a man not much taken up with the gay world and enervated with scenes of dissipation, he could call upon a great man again and again and wait an hour in his parlour till he came down. Besides as he was a great military man, that a character from him as an officer might be very beneficial.
A loyal supporter of Bute’s Administration, Douglas was equally faithful to Grenville. On a letter to Grenville from Douglas in February 1764, asking for a commission in the Guards for his son, Jenkinson wrote: ‘This is the request of a very good friend.’6 He was constantly in attendance during the debates on Wilkes and general warrants, and even when ill declined to absent himself without Grenville’s permission.7 When, overcome by illness and the fatigue of late sittings, he was obliged to go home to Witham on 24 Mar., he wrote to Jenkinson, offering to return after a few days rest, if his presence was required.8
At the change of Administration Douglas followed Grenville into opposition, voting against the Government on the repeal of the Stamp Act, 22 Feb. 1766. He voted against the Chatham Administration on the land tax, 27 Feb. 1767.
Re-elected in 1768, his military duties in Ireland prevented his close attendance in Parliament, but he returned to vote with the Administration in the divisions on Wilkes and Middlesex, 3 Feb., 15 Apr., and 8 May 1769. He supported the North Administration over the Middlesex election and on the royal marriage bill of 1772, but seems to have been absent from the division of 25 Feb. 1774 on the Grenville Election Act.
Douglas does not appear to have sought reelection in 1774, and died in Dublin on 8 Nov. 1778.