MAXWELL, Sir Alexander, 2nd Bt. (d. 1730), of Monreith, Wigtown.
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Family and Education
2nd but 1st surv. s. of Sir William Maxwell, 1st Bt., of Monreith by his 2nd w. Elizabeth, da. of Sir Thomas Hay, 1st Bt., of Park, Wigtown. educ. Glasgow Univ. 1697; adv. 1705. m. 29 Dec. 1711, Lady Jean (d. 1726), da. of Alexander Montgomerie, 9th Earl of Eglintoun, 3s. 4da. suc. fa. as 2nd Bt. 1709.1
Burgess, Ayr 1709.2
The Maxwells of Monreith were originally clients of the earls of Nithsdale. In 1655 John Maxwell, the Member’s uncle, was granted the superiority of Monreith by the 4th Earl, and these lands were made a barony. In 1666, however, he ‘was forfeit in his estate for going to Pentland’ and forced ‘to turn his back on all he had, and flee to Ireland for the preservation of his life from bloody persecutors and died there’. Monreith passed initially to his son, who died young, and from him to John Maxwell’s brother William. When the latter was rewarded with a baronetcy in 1681, the patent specifically noted the family’s good services ‘to us and our deceased father of blessed memory’. Sir William devoted his life to acquiring more land in Wigtownshire. Having already purchased a large part of the barony of Mochrum, he bought up the financially embarrassed estates of Sir Godfrey McCulloch in 1683 and four years later attempted to acquire by subterfuge a portion of those estates which had become forfeit after Bothwell Bridge. Not all of these schemes came to fruition, but he was by and large successful. This rise to local eminence was resented by some of the older families. The laird of Mochrum, for example, took pains to assert his social precedence, despite having been constrained into selling land to Maxwell. Even the ancient and formerly powerful family of Vans of Barnbarroch became indebted to Sir William.3
One result of this financial success was that his son Alexander was afforded a university education and professional training as a lawyer. He was also granted sufficient property to participate in county elections, being registered as a voter in 1708, when he supported the 5th Earl of Galloway’s brother, Hon. John Stewart*. He set his own sights on Wigtown Burghs. On 30 Nov. he complained to Sir Charles Hay, 2nd Bt., of Park about Galloway’s choice of William Cochrane* as a by-election candidate for Wigtown Burghs: ‘I hope, if friends stand by me, to make the Earl sensible that I could have done as much service to our country as . . . any stranger.’ In 1712 he complained to Lord Treasurer Oxford (Robert Harley*) about the presence of ‘persons not well affected to the Queen’s government’ in the Wigtownshire commission of the peace. He also expressed astonishment at the lord chancellor’s reluctance to remove j.p.s and at the charge of ‘20 or 30 guineas’ which would be levied for making even a small addition of members, predicting that this would ‘make new commissions difficult to be had, seeing private gentlemen will not be at such a charge for the public service’.4
Maxwell was returned for Wigtown Burghs in 1713, having in the interim succeeded to the baronetcy and married a daughter of the 9th Earl of Eglintoun, an alliance which also strengthened his connexion with Galloway. He also acted as praeses in the re-election of John Stewart for the shire. At Westminster Maxwell does not seem to have been particularly active. He spoke on 15 Apr. 1714 on a motion of (Sir) Edward Knatchbull (4th Bt.) that the Protestant succession was not in danger under the Queen’s government, but no further details have survived. On 29 Apr. he was teller with Charles Aldworth, an English Tory, against the Squadrone Whig Sir John Anstruther, 1st Bt., in the disputed election for Anstruther Easter Burghs, and voted on 12 May against extending the schism bill to cover Catholic education. These votes accord with the classification of him as a Tory in the Worsley list; and his subsequent participation in the celebrations at the proclamation of George I confirms Lord Polwarth’s assessment of him as a Hanoverian. Maxwell did not stand again and there were rumours that his performance at Westminster was deemed unsatisfactory by his constituents. He died on 23 May 1730 and was succeeded by his eldest son, William. No direct descendant served in Parliament until his great-grandson represented Wigtownshire in the early 19th century.5
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: David Wilkinson
- 1. Hist. Scot. Parl. 479; Scot. Rec. Soc. lxxvi. 144; xxxi. 38; Recs. Glasgow Univ. iii. 162; Scot. Peerage ed. Paul, iii. 457; P. H. M’Kerlie, Hist. Lands and Owners in Galloway, i. 283; G. Seton, Hist. Fam. Seton, ii. 687; W. Fraser, Bk. of Carlaverock, i. 588.
- 2. Carnegie Lib. Ayr, Ayr burgh recs. B6/18/8.
- 3. A. Agnew, Hereditary Sheriffs of Galloway (1893), ii. 67, 100, 125; Hist. Scot. Parl. 479; Fraser, 588; M’Kerlie, i. 283; v. 174.
- 4. SRO, Wigtown sheriff ct. recs. SC19/63/6, electoral ct. mins. 16 June 1708; SRO, Hay of Park mss GD72/650, Maxwell to Hay, 30 Nov. 1708; HMC Portland, x. 440.
- 5. Wigtown sheriff ct. recs. SC19/63/10, electoral ct. mins. 29 Oct. 1713; Douglas Diary (Hist. of Parl. trans.), 15 Apr. 1714; Scots Courant, 20–23 Aug. 1714; SRO, Stair mss GD135/141/1, Robert Dalrymple to Stair, 17 Aug. 1714; Hist. Reg. Chron. 1730, p. 41.