GRANT, James (1738-1811), of Castle Grant, Elgin.

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



1790 - June 1795

Family and Education

b. 19 May 1738, o.s. of Sir Ludovick Grant, 7th Bt., by his 2nd w. Lady Margaret Ogilvie. educ. Westminster 1747-55; Christ’s, Camb. 1756-8; Grand Tour 1758-60. m. 4 Jan. 1763, his 2nd cos. Jean, da. and h. of Alexander Duff of Hatton, 7s. 7da. suc. fa. as 8th Bt. 18 Mar. 1773.

Offices Held

Gen. cashier of Excise in Scotland 1795- d.; ld. lt. Inverness 1794-1809.


At school and at Cambridge, Grant’s closest friend was Thomas Robinson, his companion for part of his European tour. After studying at Geneva, Grant travelled extensively in Italy, whence, in the summer of 1760, he was summoned home by his father to contest Elginshire. On his return journey he sent Robinson his reflections upon ‘the character most consistent with the man of honour as representative of his country in the House of Commons’:

He should have studied ... every form of government ... he should be master of the law of nations in general, as well as of ... particular treaties. He should be capable of distinguishing when ... to incline the balance towards the executive part of the government and when to the people ... He should consider any bill that is offered in Parliament in the most extensive light ... He should be a father to his family and tenants ... he should be as cool and unprejudiced in his determinations, as expeditious and resolute in executing them: to sum up ... he should be slave to his country, subject to his King, and friend to all mankind ... There are many who have these principles really at heart but few act up to them. We have a notion that one must attach themselves to one party, and vote always for them, which is the same thing as to say he must not make use of the liberty given him by the constitution.1

Grant entered public life under the wing of his mother’s cousins Lord Kinnoull and the archbishop of York,2 friends of Newcastle. On 1 Nov. 1762 Lord Findlater, in great concern over political divisions, wrote to Hardwicke recommending his grandson, Grant, to his protection:

He appears to me a young man of good principles and dispositions, zealous for our royal family and the constitution, and vastly desirous to promote industry and right sentiments in his father’s large Highland estate. Although he has been universally well beloved by all his contemporaries at Westminster, Cambridge, Geneva etc. yet he is not forward and needs to be encouraged ... I flatter myself his capacity and good sense may some time or other make him useful to this country and particularly to that part of it to which he belongs.

Newcastle, in view of Findlater’s attitude, could not count upon Grant’s following him into opposition, and on 13 Nov. 1762 listed him as ‘doubtful’; early in December Fox counted him among those favourable to the peace.3

Grant supported Bute on the cider tax,4 and was not mentioned by Stuart Mackenzie among the Scots ‘scabby sheep’ voting against Administration on Wilkes in November 1763; but in the divisions of 15 and 18 Feb. 1764, on general warrants, he voted with Opposition although normally counted a Government supporter. In May 1764 Newcastle again listed him as ‘doubtful’. A diligent but inconspicuous Member, he conscientiously carried out the instructions sent to him by his constituency on Scottish and local affairs.5

After his father had made over to him the family estates in 1763 his main interest lay in agricultural and social improvement, in settlement schemes for disbanded soldiers, and from 1765 in founding his new town of Granton.6 As a result he was absent from Parliament for most of the 1765 session.7 Listed ‘pro’ by Rockingham in the summer of 1765, he voted with Administration on the repeal of the Stamp Act.8 In April 1766 he sought, through Newcastle, a place for his father, as a friend of Administration.9 During the winter of 1766-7 he was listed by Rockingham ‘doubtful’, by Townshend ‘Government’, and by Newcastle ‘friend’. In fact he was absent in Scotland, and when in February 1767 a call of the House was ordered, asked his kinsman Sir Alexander Grant to make his excuses. Sir Alexander replied, 3 Mar. 1767:10

Attendance is now more strictly insisted on than you or I have heretofore known it to be—party and Opposition running very high indeed. [The Speaker] allowed the reasons for your absence to be cogent, but ... advised me to move for leave of the House, which I did for a month, and it is granted, so that your non-attendance [sic] is legally dispensed with.

It is doubtful whether he put in many more attendances in Parliament; he decided during the summer of 1767 to give up his seat at the next election to his uncle Francis Grant.

His costly projects of ‘peopling and planting’ had greatly increased the family debts, which after his father’s death in 1773 were estimated at £130,000. To extricate himself ‘from a most perilous situation’, Sir James was obliged to retrench and sell large parts of his estates. In 1781, with the assistance of his brother-in-law Henry Mackenzie (’the Man of Feeling’) and Thomas Robinson (now Lord Grantham), he petitioned the Treasury for repayment of debts incurred by his predecessors in Government service during the Revolution, the ’15 and the ’45, but got little encouragement. Warned by Grantham that ‘without parliamentary interest applications were not much attended to’, Sir James tried to obtain a seat after the death of Simon Fraser in February 1782, but was disappointed. In 1784 he stood for Inverness-shire, but, refusing to make use of fictitious votes as ‘illegal and no less ruinous to the title-deeds of families than hurtful to the Constitution’, was defeated by Lord William Gordon.11

He died 18 Feb. 1811.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: Edith Lady Haden-Guest


  • 1. Chiefs of Grant, ii. 432.
  • 2. Add. 32911, f. 117.
  • 3. Add. 35449, ff. 345, 346.
  • 4. Chiefs of Grant, ii. 434-5.
  • 5. HMC Laing, ii. 443.
  • 6. Scots Mag. 1763, p. 346; Chiefs of Grant, ii. 447.
  • 7. Ibid. ii. 446.
  • 8. Sir Alex. Gilmour to Newcastle, 18 Feb. 1766, Add. 32974, f. 24.
  • 9. Add. 32974, f. 286.
  • 10. Chiefs of Grant, ii. 447.
  • 11. Ibid. i. 450-2; ii. 474-7, 481-2.