GRANT, Alexander (aft.1673-1719), of Castle Grant, Elgin.
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Family and Education
b. aft. 1673, 2nd but 1st surv. s. of Ludovick Grant (d. 1716), MP [S], of Castle Grant (formerly Freuchie) by his 1st w. Janet, da. and h. of Alexander Brodie, MP [S], of Lethen, Auldearn, Nairn; bro. of Sir James Grant, 6th Bt.† m. (1) 3 Dec. 1698 (with £5,000), Elizabeth (d. 1708), da. of James Stuart, Ld. Doune (1st s. d.v.p. of Alexander, 5th Earl of Moray [S]), s.p.; (2) 31 May 1709 (with £8,000), Anne (d. 1717), da. of John Smith I*, and maid of honour to Queen Anne, s.p. suc. fa. in estates and as chief of Grant 1710.1
Burgess, Elgin, 1689, Edinburgh 1695, Glasgow 1715; bailie, regality of Grant 1700; sheriff, Inverness 1703–17; ld. lt. Banff, Elgin and Inverness 1715–17.2
Commr. justiciary for Highlands [S] 1701, 1702; col. of ft. 1706–13 (regt. disbanded), 1715–18 (regt. disbanded), half-pay 1713–15; commr. union with England 1706, exchequer [S] 1707–8; PC [S] 1707–8; brig.-gen. 1711; gov. and storekeeper, Sheerness 1715–17; acting lt.-gov. Edinburgh Castle Sept. 1715.3
MP [S] Inverness-shire 1702–7.
There was a surpassing irony in the fact that the chiefs of Grant, having avoided the pitfalls presented to zealous Presbyterian lairds under Charles I, Charles II and James II, should have incurred crushing financial liabilities through over-enthusiastic involvement in the Revolution. The Member’s grandfather had negotiated the shifting political realities of the 1640s and 1650s without sacrificing his covenanting principles, and had indeed come close to ennoblement at the Restoration. In doing so, he left his family considerably better off. His son had shown a similar sure-footedness in refusing to be compromised by Charles II’s policies: he had taken no part in the persecution of conventiclers, and in the 1681 parliament, though joining in the general disavowal of the Solemn League and Covenant, had registered a moderate protest against the imposition of the test, an achievement of which in later years he was inordinately proud. Even when the indiscretions of his wife and father-in-law, in employing deprived ministers as their chaplains, earned him a fine of £42,500 Scots at the hands of the privy council, he travelled to London and secured a pardon, exploiting the favourable impression he had previously made on James II during the King’s Scottish sojourn, and pleading in mitigation his (minimal) contribution to the defeat of Argyll’s rebellion through mobilizing a militia troop. At the Revolution, by contrast, there were no half-measures, as Ludovick Grant not only participated fully in the work of the Scottish convention of estates but also raised a regiment to fight for the Prince of Orange. In personal terms, however, the cost proved greater than the reward: the sheriffdom of Inverness-shire, a place on the privy council, and the raising of his estates into a regality did not compensate for the considerable expense of putting so many clansmen into the field, and the damage inflicted on his property by Jacobite enemies. Inclusion in the poll tax farm of 1693 seems ultimately to have proved more of a hindrance to him than a help. In 1695 the Scottish parliament estimated his losses in the Revolution at some £12,000, and recommended them to the King’s consideration. Nothing was done.4
Having been linked with Duncan Forbes of Culloden and Sir Patrick Hume, 2nd Bt. (later 1st Earl of Marchmont [S]), in the ‘Club’ opposition of 1689–90, Ludovick Grant was recruited to the ‘Presbyterian’ Court party in Scotland constructed by Secretary James Johnston* and Lord Tweeddale, from whose hands he received the few crusts of patronage that were to come his way. He continued as a supporter of the administration headed by Lord Tullibardine in 1696, in the hope of further benefits, but with Tullibardine’s resignation left the Court and thenceforth embarked on a determined and occasionally furious opposition, which lasted into Queen Anne’s reign. Johnston regarded him as ‘undoubtedly the gentleman in Scotland who has the best interest, both in the country and in the parliament’, and both Lord Seafield and the 1st Duke of Argyll took pains with him, but to no avail; nor was he softened by being retained as a privy councillor and sheriff of Inverness.5
According to a family memoir, Alexander Grant ‘inherited the manly features of his father’s character, and united to these the cultivated understanding of a polite gentleman’. In 1702 he accompanied Ludovick into the Scottish parliament, and into the ranks of the Country party. Appointment the following year to succeed his father in the sheriffdom had no conciliatory effect. Although Ludovick hinted to the ‘New Party’ that he might fall in with their management, both father and son voted in favour of the Duke of Hamilton’s motion in 1704 to postpone a settlement of the succession. Indeed, their reservations over proposals for the succession and for union were so explicit that Jacobite agents were encouraged to speculate about their loyalty. The intent, however, was to impress upon the Court the need to gratify young Alexander, an objective eventually accomplished in 1705 through a change in strategy, Ludovick remaining intransigent while his son now acted the part of a courtier, and well enough to persuade Seafield and Argyll to recommend him for a regiment.6
Not only was Alexander given, in March 1706, the colonelcy formerly held by Lord Mar, he was allowed to fill several vacant commissions in the regiment with his kinsmen and friends, including his brother-in-law Hugh Rose II*. So safe a bargain was the ministry considered to have made that he was also named to the Union commission. Although a late arrival at its deliberations he attended regularly from 9 May onwards. He voted for the Union in the Scottish parliament, except for a brief period, which was probably absence (on military duty) rather than abstention. His father, however, kept away altogether, provoking anonymous accusations, hotly denied, that he was ‘ill-affected to the Revolution and the present government’.7
Included in the Scottish Court contingent to the first Parliament of Great Britain, Grant devoted himself chiefly to pursuing his father’s claim for compensation for his sufferings at the Revolution. This was embodied in a petition presented on 28 Feb. 1708 and reported on 4 Mar., and resulted in an instruction to the committee on the bill for further directing payment of the Equivalent, to make appropriate provision, but it seems unlikely that any payment was ever made. Later he presumably left Parliament to return to his regiment, which had been augmented and sent to garrison Stirling Castle in the wake of the Jacobite invasion scare.8
Despite having to suffer the ‘impudence’ of ‘disaffected’ burgh magistrates during the general election of 1708, Grant was returned for Inverness-shire, presumably on his family’s interest and with the endorsement of Forbes of Culloden. Seafield numbered him among the Members ‘who are my friends and who, I hope, will serve her Majesty faithfully in the Parliament’, but for much of the first session he was unavailable, since his regiment was ordered to join the continental army of the Duke of Marlborough (John Churchill†). He came back the following spring, to arrange and complete his second marriage, to Speaker Smith’s daughter, whose position as a maid of honour to Queen Anne brought an addition of £3,000 from the royal purse to her already substantial portion of £5,000. The alliance temporarily relieved Grant from difficulties over money which had already arisen with his father, and introduced him to a different circle of political acquaintances. While in London awaiting his wedding, he was able to act as a teller in three divisions on the bill for improving the Union: on 31 Mar. 1709 against committing the bill; on 8 Apr. to add two clauses concerning the laws of treason, which would protect from disinheritance the heirs of those convicted, and ensure that defendants be provided with copies of indictments and lists of jurors at least ten days before their trial; and on 18 Apr. against a subsequent Lords’ amendment to the first of the additional clauses, postponing its operation until after the death of the Pretender. A bout of ill-health, combining the symptoms of ague, fever and rheumatism, delayed his return to his regiment, though he went over in time to command his men in September at the siege of Mons. How long he remained there is unclear; he was certainly back in London by January 1710, exerting himself at the report of the Ross-shire election to reconcile the competing local interests represented by the families of Rose of Kilravock and Forbes of Culloden. He was listed as having voted in favour of the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell, and by June had rejoined his men at the siege of Tournai. His standing was sufficiently high with Marlborough to merit the captain-general’s endorsement of his ambitions to buy another regiment, in direct competition with Lord Ilay, but the proposed purchase fell through. On the positive side, he did achieve a temporary reconciliation with his father, which resulted in Ludovick settling the family estates upon Alexander, save only for an annuity of £300 to the elder Grant, and his second wife’s jointure, and introducing him to the clan Grant as its new chief.9
On his journey back to Britain for the 1710 election Grant suffered the indignity of being captured on board the Ostend packet by a French privateer. Although quickly released on parole, he did not receive an official discharge until December 1711, because of protracted negotiations between the two governments over the exchange of prisoners. Meanwhile he was able to make his way to Scotland and secure, with Seafield’s assistance, an unopposed return for Elginshire. Dyer’s Edinburgh correspondent included him among those ‘well affected to the Queen and episcopacy’, and Richard Dongworth, chaplain to the Duchess of Buccleuch, classified him as a Court Tory, but on the ‘Hanover list’ he was ‘doubtful’. Evidence of his actual voting in 1710–11 strongly suggests that his profession, his association with John Smith and with Marlborough, and perhaps too his Presbyterian upbringing, were decisive considerations. In December 1710 he divided with English Whigs over the controverted election for Bewdley, and in the following February added his voice in favour of Mungo Graham* in the election for Kinross-shire. Such behaviour contradicted his appearance on the list of ‘worthy patriots’ who had exposed the mismanagements of the old ministry.10
Promotion to the rank of field officer in February 1711, as a brigadier-general, made no difference to Grant’s political position, especially since this was in effect no more than a partial compensation for the reduction of his regiment to half-pay on the Irish establishment, a humiliation against which he and his officers urgently petitioned. Given his personal and family debts, which were escalating sharply, any decrease in income was a blow. His precarious financial situation had already made for unpleasantness with his wife and had provoked another major quarrel with his father, leading to litigation and even to reports of physical assault. In a desperate attempt to save what they could of their own money, a number of creditors came together in October 1711 to take the family’s affairs in hand and to supervise sales of land to raise what was needed to pay off the many debts. The minutes of their proceedings, which continue until after Grant’s decease, reveal obligations extending to £34,000 Scots and more than 35,000 merks, against which could be set a rental income of little over £2,000 p.a. Some £40,000 Scots was realized from the disposal of lands, together with superiorities and other assets, and even then many creditors had to settle for only a portion of their full entitlement. Silver plate also found its way onto the market, and it was a matter of regret to Grant that he was unable to sell his coach as well, for, as he said, he no longer found any occasion to use it. In these dire circumstances, with money so hard to come by, it was natural that he should have pressed for the payment of his arrears and for a restoration to the full dignity of his command. But he did not seek to curry favour with the ministry by co-operation in the Commons, and on 7 Dec. 1711 was once more recorded as voting with the Whig opposition in support of the motion pledging ‘No Peace without Spain’. In all probability a regular attender during this and the next session, he told on 28 Mar. 1712 against the committal of the Scottish patronages bill, if for no other reason than that he would have been personally disadvantaged by the measure, but he seems in general to have maintained a Whiggish voting record even when no such vested interest was involved. He opposed the French commerce bill both at the second reading and the engrossment (4 and 18 June 1713). By this time Grant’s regiment had been disbanded altogether, so that he probably felt he had little to lose. Nevertheless the 1713 election, at which he was re-elected for Elginshire after a contest, may show a slight shifting of his position, at least in relation to Seafield, who had re-established himself in Court favour. Grant attended the Banffshire county election, probably to support (and at any rate not to oppose) Seafield’s nominee Alexander Abercromby, a former comrade-in-arms under Marlborough.11
In the House Grant’s one moment of prominence in the 1714 session was as a teller on 29 Apr. in favour of a Squadrone man, Sir John Anstruther, 1st Bt.*, on an election petition for Anstruther Easter Burghs. The accession of George I rescued Grant from the political and professional wilderness, though it did not restore him to personal solvency. Given a new regiment, and the governorship of Sheerness, he played an active part in the suppression of the Fifteen, after which he could not resist vaunting to one of his brothers his readiness to have made any sacrifice in defence of the Hanoverian regime – a boast that, if true, suggests one obvious reason for his financial discomfiture:
As for the expenses of this campaign, I hope you know me so well that I never valued money when my honour was concerned, and far less when not only that, but our religion, liberties and laws are all at stake; so that, as far as my rent goes, pray bestow it, and if that falls short, I will certainly pledge the one half rather than risk the whole of my estate.
Shared military experiences, and probably also a sensitivity on Grant’s part to shifts in the political winds in Scotland, brought him now into a close association with the Duke of Argyll. The marriage in 1716 between Grant’s sister and Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat, was said to have been arranged as a political alliance to satisfy the schemes of Argyll and his brother Ilay. Unfortunately for Grant, he was to participate in Argyll’s misfortunes as well, and in 1717 was brusquely dismissed from all his offices (though his regiment was not in fact disbanded until the following year) for having voted against administration in the division over Lord Cadogan (William*). A newsletter reported the alleged effect produced by this abrupt change of fortunes: ‘Brigadier Grant continues in his disorder, is . . . under the care of the physician of Bedlam, and in iron cuffs, governed by those who manage mad people. He is not furious, nor any ways malicious, only rails much against Cadogan.’12
In the spring of 1719 Grant fell victim to what was to prove a fatal illness. He recovered sufficiently from the first onset to be able to take ship from London for Scotland in August, but on his arrival at Leith underwent a relapse and died there ‘at the house of Mr Fenton’, on 19 Aug. 1719. He was buried alongside his father in the chapel royal at Holyrood, and was succeeded by his brother James, later heir to the Colquhoun baronetcy and himself a Member for Inverness-shire and Elgin Burghs.13
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: D. W. Hayton
- 1. Hist. Scot. Parl. 296–8; W. Fraser, Chiefs of Grant, i. 326–7, 337, 369–70; Scots Peerage ed. Paul, vi. 323; vii. 477, 480; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxiii. 161.
- 2. Recs. of Elgin (New Spalding Club), ii. 464; Scot. Rec. Soc. lix. 216; lvi. 314; Spalding Club, Misc. iii. 175.
- 3. Cal. Treas. Bks. xxvii. 477; xxix. 600; Fraser, 355; HMC Townshend, 161.
- 4. Fraser, 246, 259–67, 275–9, 298–9, 301–2, 304–7, 311–23; Reg. PC Scotland, 1681–2, pp. 506, 706; 1684–5, pp. 373, 387, 400, 404, 413, 544; 1685–6, pp. xxxvi, 19–20, 44, 81; Lauder of Fountainhall, Hist. Notices (Bannatyne Club, lxxxvii), 619, 636, 678; Diary of Brodie of Brodie (Spalding Club), 458–9, 461, 485; APS, ix. 9, 20, 22, 50–51, 62, 188; ix. 42, 93; CSP Dom. 1689–90, p. 109; Scot. Hist. Soc. ser. 3, xlvi. 19, 47, 62; xlvii. 243; Seafield Corresp. 78; HMC Portland, x. 372.
- 5. Info. from Dr P. W. J. Riley on members of Scot. parl.; HMC Hope-Johnstone, 82, 119; P. W. J. Riley, King Wm. and Scot. Politicians, 118; Carstares, State Pprs. 172, 412, 442, 650, 698; APS, x. 246, 251, 269, 294; xi. 102, 134; Crossrigg Diary, 52, 71, 81, 157; Fraser, 323.
- 6. Fraser, 321, 331, 369; Crossrigg Diary, 157; APS, xi. 102, 134, 236; info. from Dr Riley; Boyer, Anne Annals, ii. 46; iii. app. 42; Add. 34180, f. 40; HMC Portland, viii. 207; Hooke Corresp. (Roxburghe Club), ii. 392; Orig. Pprs. ed. Macpherson, ii. 17; Seafield Letters, 92; Baillie Corresp. 129; HMC Mar and Kellie, i. 244.
- 7. Fraser, 331–2, 334–5; info. from Dr Riley; P. W. J. Riley, Union, 217, 327; SRO, Seafield mss GD248/571/6/10, Ludovick Grant to [Seafield], 30 Oct. 1707.
- 8. R. Walcott, Pol. Early 18th Cent. 234; Add. 70466, list of creditors of Equivalent, [?1710–14]; Fraser, Melvilles, 66; Seafield Corresp. 466–7.
- 9. Fraser, Chiefs of Grant, i. 326–7, 335–9; ii. 92–93; Seafield Letters, 109; Marlborough–Godolphin Corresp. 1123, 1137, 1164, 1166; iii. 1434, 1446; Add. 61288, ff. 135–8; P. W. J. Riley, Eng. Ministers and Scotland, 110; More Culloden Pprs. ed. Warrand, ii. 22–24; Scots Peerage, vii. 477.
- 10. Fraser, Chiefs of Grant, i. 339–44; Marlborough–Godolphin Corresp. 1446, 1627; Add. 70421, Dyer’s newsletters 1, 26 Oct. 1710; HMC 14th Rep. III, 211; SHR, lx. 64; G. Holmes, Pol. in Age of Anne, 357; SRO, Mar and Kellie mss GD124/15/1020/4, Sir James Dunbar, 1st Bt.*, to Ld. Grange (Hon. James Erskine†), 19 Dec. 1710; SRO, Montrose mss GD220/5/808/18a–b, Mungo Graham to Duke of Montrose, 13 Feb. 1711.
- 11. Fraser, Chiefs of Grant, i. 328, 346; ii. 93–94; Wentworth Pprs. 208; HMC Mar and Kellie, 493; Seafield mss GD248/37/1/29, min. bk. 1711–20; GD248/46/7/24–25, Grant to John Steuart, 3, 17 Apr. 1714; NLS, ms 1285, ff. 18, 25, 30, 33–52, 58–66, 90, 127, 129–32; Cal. Treas. Pprs. 1708–14, p. 618; Wodrow, Analecta, ii. 35; Parlty. Hist. i. 69; SRO, Banff sheriff ct. recs. SC2/69/1, 9 Oct. 1713.
- 12. Fraser, Chiefs of Grant, i. 328, 348–54, 356–64, 366–7; ii. 287; Culloden Pprs. 33; More Culloden Pprs. ii. 47, 65–67, 199; Riley, Eng. Ministers, 266–7; HMC Portland, v. 538.
- 13. Fraser, Chiefs of Grant, i. 368–9.