MURRAY (afterwards PULTENEY), Sir James, 7th Bt. (c.1755-1811), of Park Lane and Marble Hall, Twickenham, Mdx.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1790 - 26 Apr. 1811

Family and Education

b. c.1755, o.s. of Sir Robert Murray, 6th Bt., of Clermont, Fife by 1st w. Hon. Janet Murray, da. of Alexander, 4th Baron Elibank [S]; half-bro. of John Murray*. educ. Westminster. m. 24 July 1794, Henrietta Laura, da. and h. of (Sir) William Pulteney*, 5th Bt. (cr. Baroness Bath 26 July 1792 and Countess of Bath 26 Oct. 1803), s.p. suc. fa. as 7th Bt. 21 Sept. 1771. Took name of Pulteney on his marriage 22 July 1794.

Offices Held

Lt. 19 Ft. 1770; capt. 57 Ft. 1771; maj. 4 Ft. 1778; lt.-col. 94 Ft. 1780, half-pay 1783, col. and a.d.c. to the King 1789; maj.-gen. 1793; adj.-gen. to Duke of York in Flanders 1793-4; col. 18 Ft. 1794; maj.-gen. in Ireland 1798, lt.-gen. 1799, gen. 1808.

Sec. at war Mar. 1807-June 1809; PC 30 Mar. 1807.


Murray entered the army and served in Ireland, in America and in the West Indies. He was subsequently a military spokesman in diplomatic missions and went in 1792 to Koblenz, to the allied headquarters: Lord Grenville informed Henry Dundas that ‘his zeal would induce him to be of service in any manner he could’. By then he was already in Parliament, having been returned unopposed for Weymouth on his father-in-law’s interest in 1790. He was, like his patron, in the minority which favoured the exemption of Scotland from the Test Act, 10 May 1791. He was a supporter of Pitt’s administration and on 31 Jan. 1792 seconded the vote of thanks for the address, expounding the necessity of continental alliances. On 9 Feb. he defended the conduct of General Abercromby, under whom he had served in America. On 29 Feb. he expressed concern at the Russian naval armament. On his return from Koblenz, he opposed Fox’s motion for negotiations with the new French regime and said that although war with France should only take place as a last resort, England would not want for respectable allies. In 1793-4 he proved a controversial adjutant-general to the Duke of York in the Flanders campaign: on his return to England he defended the conduct of the campaign in the House, 21 Jan., 3 Feb., 3 and 10 Apr. 1794.1

Murray, who assumed the name of Pulteney on making an advantageous marriage in 1794, was a keen advocate of Pitt’s defence measures, 31 Oct. and 2 Nov. 1796, but doubted whether they went far enough. Like his father-in-law, he voted against ministers on the advance of a loan to the Emperor, 14 Dec. 1796, but he defended continental alliances, 1 May 1797, and maintained that the deliverance of Europe was not philanthropy but a matter of British safety, 11 Dec. 1798. He had subscribed £7,000 to the loyalty loan for 1797. He went on to vote for Pitt’s assessed taxes, 4 Jan. 1798, and accepted the income tax bill as an emergency measure, 27 Dec., but wished to amend it, 31 Dec.; he was dissatisfied as to the secrecy of the returns, speaking and voting against ministers on this question, 11, 14 Mar. 1799. He maintained that the landed gentry should be as privileged in this respect as the commercial classes, 1 Jan. 1799. He advocated the recruitment of regular soldiers from the militia, 20 Feb. During the Helder campaign (1799) he was shot in the arm on landing and afterwards ‘chuckled at being shot through both arms and both legs’. He received the thanks of the House for his services, 26 Sept. General Abercromby said that Pulteney ‘surprised’ him: ‘he showed ardour and intelligence, and did himself honour’. On 25 Apr. 1800 he informed the House that he had only consented to the Irish union from necessity and thought an Irish contingent of 100 Members excessive. In August Pulteney, second in command to Abercromby in the Mediterranean area since April, was sent against Ferrol, but re-embarked his troops, thinking the place too strong to be taken: this caused great dissatisfaction at the time (though it was later vindicated by Sir John Moore) and Pulteney had to defend his conduct at length (which he did in a ‘very able and satisfactory manner’) against Charles Sturt’s censure motion in the House; the motion failed by 144 votes to 75, 19 Feb. 1801.2 On 18 May he paid a sincere tribute to Abercromby, who had fallen in Egypt. He defended private trading in India, 25 Nov. 1801. On 17 Feb. 1802 he was appointed to the select committee on the Prince of Wales’s financial claims.

Pulteney retained his seat after a contest in 1802 and headed the poll in 1806 and 1807. He defended the peace with France, 24 Nov. 1802, and Addington’s defence measures, 8 Dec. 1802, 18 July 1803: no vote of his against that administration is known. In 1803-4 he was in charge of the invasion alarm headquarters at Eastbourne. Lord Glenbervie’s comment typified the lingering prejudice against him: ‘It seems strange to many people that the command in this most vulnerable part of the whole coast of Great Britain should be entrusted to the two officers who conducted the expedition against Ferrol’.3 His contributions to debate henceforward were almost exclusively on military affairs. He defended the volunteer consolidation bill, 22 Mar. 1804, and on the army of reserve suspension bill, 25 Apr. expressed himself in favour of recruiting regulars from the militia. He did not oppose Pitt’s second administration, but was listed ‘doubtful’ in 1804. He voted against the censure of Melville, 8 Apr. 1805, and was listed on Pitt’s side in July. He thought the militia enlisting bill, 21 Mar. 1805, deserved support. He compared enlistment for life with enlistment for a limited period, 28 June, and thought the latter only suited to the reserves. At the end of July he caused a stir by siding with Lord Sidmouth in his quarrel with Pitt. If he did not enlist under Sidmouth’s banner, he certainly informed Pitt that much as he wished to support government against the present opposition, he could no longer receive favours, and accordingly withdrew his patronage applications.4

Pulteney, while not acting ‘from a principle of opposition to ... ministers’, led the attack on the Grenville ministry’s repeal of Pitt’s Additional Force Act, 3, 30 Apr., 13 May 1806: he claimed that they had not found a viable substitute for it. As for limited service, he said that to be effective it should be limited as to space as well as to time, since recruits did not want to serve in the West Indies and should be confined to the reserve battalions. On the other hand, he defended the necessity for the training bill, 24 June 1806, to the disappointment of the Pittite opposition, proposing an amendment to make it more effective, 27 June. Nevertheless, the ministry were not interested in seeing him re-elected in 1806.5 On 23 Jan. 1807 he complained that sufficient recruitment was not taking place under the new measures and he deplored the discharge of men in the middle of war, 12 Mar. On 3 Mar. he had moved a set of finance resolutions, which he claimed would produce ‘a considerable saving’ to government, but nothing came of them. He was one of the last-ditch opponents of the abolition of the slave trade, 6 Mar. 1807.

In the Portland administration, Pulteney was given the office of secretary at war which, wrote Portland, he ‘accepted ... in the most dutiful and becoming manner’.6 This was an opportunity to implement some of his ideas on the reorganization of defence. On 3 Aug. 1807 he championed the militia transfer bill, designed to make up for inadequate recruiting which in his view the former administration had done nothing to remedy. On 7 Mar. 1808 he announced the reintroduction of enlistment for life in the regular army. In May and June 1808 he carried the local militia bill. In other respects, Pulteney was conservative; he defended the sale of commissions, 8 July 1807, and disciplinary measures in the army, 14 Mar., 30 June 1808, claiming that these were prerogative matters and not debatable; the same applied to courts martial, 3 June. He defended the expedition against Copenhagen, 8 Feb., 21 Mar. 1808. When the question of the Duke of York’s mismanagement of army patronage was raised, 27 Jan. 1809, Pulteney was all in favour of an inquiry, but confident that it could not but show that the duke had rendered sterling service to the army and would be completely exonerated; he repeated this view in the ensuing debates and sought to discredit the duke’s mistress Mrs Clarke, 13 Mar. 1809, and emphasize the officers’ confidence in the duke, 17, 20, 23 Mar. In the meantime, Pulteney had brought in a militia enlistment bill, 2 Feb. 1809, to make up the regular army by ballot conscription from the militia and, for the second time, presented the army estimates, 20 Feb., boasting that they were ‘nearly the same as those of last year’. In June 1809, not unexpectedly, for it was talked of in April,7 he resigned his office, but afterwards (26 Feb. 1810) he claimed that his schemes for maintaining the regular army were bearing fruit. He gave his vote to ministers on the Scheldt expedition, January-March 1810. He had given a reluctant support to Curwen’s bill for parliamentary reform: he saw no necessity for it, but the admission that seats were bought and sold did to some extent discredit the existing system (12 June 1809); on the other hand, when Brand’s motion on the same subject appeared, 21 May 1810, he was hostile and said that reform was not to be regarded as a panacea for all ills. He also voted against sinecure reform, 17 May 1810. He sided with ministers on the Regency, 1 Jan. 1811. His last major speech, 11 Mar. 1811, was against the reduction of the military establishment.

He died on 26 Apr. 1811 ‘from the unlucky discharge of a fowling piece’. Bunbury the military memoirist thought him ‘a very odd man’ with his ‘grotesque and rather repulsive exterior’:

In point of natural abilities he took high rank. He had seen a great deal of the world and of military service; he had read much and variously and possessed a great fund of knowledge and considerable science. Remarkably good-tempered and unpretending, he was utterly indifferent to danger and to hardship.

His wife’s fortune reverted to her family, but he left £600,000 to his brother John and £200,000 to his brother Rev. William Murray, each in turn succeeding to the baronetcy.8

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. DNB; HMC Fortescue, ii. 295; PRO 30/8/162, ff. 197-223; Malmesbury Diaries, iv. 9, 15, 18.
  • 2. T. Bunbury, Narrative of Passages in the late War with France (1854), 47; HMC Fortescue, v. 233; vi. 208-9.
  • 3. Glenbervie Diaries, i. 401. Yet this command was thought of for Pulteney as early as September 1801, Geo. III Corresp. iii. 2526.
  • 4. Sidmouth mss, Sidmouth to Bragge Bathurst, 10 Aug., to J. H. Addington, 23 Aug. 1805; Egerton 2137, f. 193.
  • 5. Harewood mss, Canning to his wife, 26 June 1806; HMC Fortescue, viii. 406.
  • 6. Geo. III Corresp. iv. 3418.
  • 7. NLI, Richmond mss 71/1390; HMC Fortescue, ix. 291.
  • 8. Prince of Wales Corresp. vii. 3011; Gent. Mag. (1811), i. 499; Bunbury, 46-47.