SWINTON, Sir John (bef. 1662-1723), of Swinton, Berwicks.
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Family and Education
b. bef. 1662, 2nd s. of John Swinton, MP [S], of Swinton, by his 1st w. Margaret, da. of William Stewart, 2nd Lord Blantyre [S]. m. (1) 1674, Sarah (d. c.1690), da. of William Welch of London, 1da.; (2) 17 Feb. 1698, Anne, da. of Sir Robert Sinclair, 1st Bt., of Longformacus, Berwicks., 4s. 3da. (1 d.v.p.). suc. bro. 1687 and to forfeited estates 1690; kntd. by Sept. 1696.1
MP [S], Berwickshire 1690–1707.
Dir. Co. of Scotland, 1695, Bank of Scotland 1695.2
Commr. Equivalent [S] 1707–19.3
Burgess, Edinburgh 1707.4
The Swintons of that ilk were a notable Berwickshire family, with a record of representing the county dating back to the Scottish reformation parliament of 1560. The Member’s father defected from the Scottish to the Cromwellian army in 1650 and later became, in Burnet’s estimation, ‘the man of all Scotland most trusted and employed by Cromwell’, serving inter alia on the council of state for Scotland in 1655. He was nominated to Barebone’s Parliament and sat for the Merse (Berwickshire) under both Protectorates. He became a Quaker in 1657 and was tried for high treason at the Restoration. By his sincere repentance he obtained a mitigation of his sentence to one of forfeiture and imprisonment rather than execution. After his release he adopted a nomadic lifestyle until his death in 1679. His son, the future MP, did not embrace Quakerism, remaining a Presbyterian. Having lived in Holland since his father’s incarceration, he became a wealthy merchant. His family supported the Revolution, with his uncle Lord Mersington playing a prominent part. Swinton returned to Scotland and was appointed a commissioner of supply for Berwickshire in 1689. The following year he obtained the rescission of his father’s forfeiture, succeeding to the estates as eldest surviving son. In consequence of a recent Scottish act for increasing the representation of larger counties, he was returned for one of the new Berwickshire seats on 19 Aug. 1690.5
Initially, Swinton allied himself with the Scottish Court party, but his losses in the Darien scheme made him sympathetic to the Country party agenda: he was a founding director of the Africa Company, personally investing £2,000. He subscribed to the demand for a meeting of Parliament in 1700, but subsequently accepted the Court’s compromise of an address rather than an act on the Caledonian issue, remaining with the Court rump after the secession of 1702. At the ensuing election Swinton was returned for Berwickshire, where there was a strong Country platform. A combination of constituency pressure and personal disillusionment may account for his conversion to a more thoroughgoing opposition stance, for he had received no joy in his request for office as a customs commissioner in November 1702. From 1703 he entered heartily into Country measures. He remained in opposition during the shortlived New Party ministry, voting tactically (rather than from Jacobite motives) in favour of the Duke of Hamilton’s motion for deferring a decision on the succession in 1704. His reputation as a closet courtier prompted the Jacobite agent Scot to report in 1706 that he ‘sometimes trims, but for the most part is with the Country party’. He supported the Union and thereby signalled his returning allegiance to the Court. In the absence of any evidence that this change of heart preceded the Union debates, Swinton should be classified as an opposition cross-voter. His solitary deviation from the Court line was over Scottish representation. It was as a Court supporter that he was included in both the Scottish contingent to the first Parliament of Great Britain and the Equivalent commission.6
Swinton is not known to have spoken in Parliament, though he was active in Equivalent business, being appointed on 23 Feb. 1708 to the drafting committee for a bill to direct its payment. In response to the threatened Jacobite invasion, he was nominated to prepare a bill to deter disloyal clan chiefs (11 Mar.), and later signed a loyal address to the crown from Berwickshire. He did not stand for the county in 1708 (though George Baillie* was briefly alarmed that resentment might lead Swinton to support a competitor for the seat), nor did he stand at any subsequent election. Continuing to serve on the Equivalent commission until its dissolution, he also signalled his loyalty to the new Hanoverian regime by participating in coronation celebrations at Kelso in October 1714. He died in 1723 and was succeeded by his eldest son, John.7
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: David Wilkinson
- 1. Hist. Scot. Parl. 688–90; Scot. Rec. Soc. xxvii. 671; A. C. Swinton, Swintons of that Ilk, 77–78.
- 2. APS, ix. 378–9, 495.
- 3. CJ, xv. 419; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxiii. 23; xxix. 342; xxxi. 579.
- 4. Scot. Rec. Soc. lxii. 198.
- 5. Swinton, 64–74; DNB (Swinton, John; Swinton, Alexander); Burnet, i. 194–5, 230; APS, ix. 69, 221.
- 6. Info. from Dr P. W. J. Riley on members of Scot. parl.; P. W. J. Riley, King Wm. and Scot. Politicians, 174; SHR, xxv. 249, 253; G. P. Insh, Co. of Scotland, 69; APS, ix. 378–9; x. 123, 247; xi. 72, 102, 236; SRO, Cromartie mss GD305 addit./bdle. 8, Swinton to [Tarbat], 30 Nov. 1702; Crossrigg Diary, 140; Boyer, Anne Annals, iii. app. 41; Orig. Pprs. ed. Macpherson, ii. 10; P. W. J. Riley, Union, 327, 334.
- 7. SRO, Hume of Marchmont mss GD158/950, Berwicks. address, 1708; Pringle mss at Torwoodlee, box 13, Baillie to Greenknow, 23 May 1708; Scots Courant, 20–22 Oct. 1714; Swinton, 91; Services of Heirs (ser. 1), i. 1730–9, p. 34.