GRANT, Sir Alexander, 5th Bt. (1772), of Dalvey, Elgin.
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Family and Education
1st s. of Sir Patrick Grant, 4th Bt., by Lydia, da. of William Mackintosh of Borlum. m. (1) Elizabeth, da. of Robert Coote of Jamaica, s.p.; (2) 1764, Margaret, da. of Alexander Grant of Auchterblair, s.p. suc. fa. 10 Apr. 1755.
Like others of his family group, impoverished in the Jacobite cause, Grant sought his fortune abroad and as a young man seems to have settled in Jamaica. By the early 1740s he was a leading West India merchant in Billiter Lane, and proceeded to restore his family influence in Scotland, purchasing extensive estates in the shires of Elgin and Nairn, as well as property in the Inverness district of burghs,1 which he unsuccessfully contested in 1754.
On friendly terms with Lord Loudoun, Lord Home, and their regimental agent John Calcraft, Grant, during the war, held army contracts, his business interests extending from the Mediterranean to the West Indies, America, Africa, and India. As an authority on colonial commerce, he attended the Board of Trade on 29 Feb. 1760 to give his views on Jamaica currency,2 and acted as agent for his friends in America in their dealings with the Board.
In politics he attached himself to Bute and with a view to the next election strengthened his interest in Inverness Burghs and the neighbouring counties. On the accession of George III he wrote to Bute, 4 Nov. 1760:3
I have firmly secured my election into next Parliament for the boroughs of Inverness, Fortrose, etc. etc. As a Member of Parliament and a merchant of eminence and credit in London I most humbly offer myself to his Majesty’s service and to your Lordship’s direction. I hope I know the sphere I move in, out of which I aspire not to be elevated. In it I am a useful subject, as I annually pay many thousand pounds to his Majesty’s revenue and have for some years been (not an insignificant) supporter of and contributor to the public credit. I am to come up soon at the head of many hundreds of merchants of great opulency and zealous as myself to present our Address of duty and cordial obedience to our revered young King, whom your Lordship was pleased to honour me with an introduction to, some years ago, which has ever since procured me his gracious notice whenever I appear before him ... My rank and situation in life gives me all the honour and felicity I wish to have, except my Sovereign’s countenance.
Grant’s opponent was Captain D. Brodie, who applied for support to Newcastle, who referred him to Bute.4 After Bute also had refused to interfere, Brodie appealed again to Newcastle for his interest against Grant, a ‘purse-proud citizen too vain to be ever warmly attached to his Grace’. ‘I wish’, wrote Brodie, ‘there may not be too many of his stamp endeavouring to get into Parliament.’5
Receiving no encouragement, Brodie withdrew and Grant was unanimously elected. In Parliament he remained faithful to Bute and was among those classed by Fox as favourable to the peace. His claim in October 1763 that the Grenville Administration had no more ‘zealous supporter’ than himself,6 was justified by his division record. For his vote of 15 Nov. 1763 condemning the ‘North Briton’ he was attacked by the Wilkes mob assembled at the Royal Exchange who, recognizing him as a City merchant, shouted ‘He voted for it. Pelt him’, and, as Sir Alexander reported to the House, ‘he was pelted accordingly’.7
He supported the ministry throughout the Wilkes debates and the agitation for the repeal of the cider tax, and spoke strongly in favour of the ‘self denying ordinance’ introduced 8 Mar. 1764 to curtail the parliamentary privilege of merchant M.P.s by making them liable to bankruptcy proceedings.8
After Grenville’s fall Grant’s political affiliations were uncertain. Though classed by Rockingham in July 1765 as friendly to the new Administration, he voted against the repeal of the Stamp Act. During the Chatham Administration he continued his association with Bute, but in Townshend’s parliamentary list of January 1767 was counted as a ‘doubtful’ Government supporter. To his friend James Grant of Grant he sent on 3 Mar. 1767 an account of the Government’s defeat on the land tax.9 Although himself voting with Administration, he wrote approvingly of the ‘eloquence and spirit’ of George Grenville and Dowdeswell, and unsympathetically of Townshend and ‘the Dictator’ Chatham.
In his constituency Grant was faced with serious opposition. Provost of Fortrose from 1762-5, he lost control of the burgh in 1766 to the Munros; and in Nairn he was involved in a lawsuit with the magistracy over estate and burgh boundaries. At the general election of 1768 he was defeated.
He died 1 Aug. 1772.