CAMPBELL, John (1695-1777), of Calder (Cawdor), Nairn, and Stackpole Court, Pemb.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1715-1754, ed. R. Sedgwick, 1970
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1727 - 1747
1747 - 1754
1754 - 1761
6 Dec. 1762 - 1768

Family and Education

b. 1695, 2nd s. of Sir Alexander Campbell, M.P. [S], yr. of Calder, by Elizabeth, da. of Sir John Lort, 2nd Bt., of Stackpole Court by Lady Susanna Holles, da. of John, 2nd Earl of Clare, sis. and h. of Sir Gilbert, 3rd and last Bt. educ. L. Inn 1708; Clare, Camb. 1711. m. 30 Apr. 1726, Mary, da. and coh. of Lewis Pryse, of Gogerddan, Card., 3s. 3da. suc. mother to Pemb. estates 1714; and gd.-fa. Sir Hugh Campbell, M.P. [S], to estates in Nairnshire, Inverness-shire, and Argyll 1716.

Offices Held

Ld. of Admiralty 1736-42, of Treasury 1746-54.


Campbell was related through his maternal grandmother to Henry Pelham and the Duke of Newcastle, and on his father’s side to the Duke of Argyll, and the Earls of Breadalbane and Moray. A year after his father’s death in 1697 his mother inherited the Lort estates in Wales which thereafter became the family home. He received an English education, studied law, but apparently never practised. On the death of his elder brother, c.1711, he became the heir of his grandfather, the thane of Cawdor, who during the 1715 rising sent a contingent to join the rebels, but contrived to escape the forfeiture of the Calder estates. The fact that his name was among those sent to the Pretender in 1721 as a probable supporter in the event of a rising confirms the statement made many years later by the 2nd Lord Hardwicke: ‘Old Campbell had been originally a Jacobite but after his conversion acted uniformly with the Whigs’.1

Having acquired by marriage additional estates in Wales, Campbell sold the islands of Islay and Jura to Daniel Campbell for £12,000. Returned for Pembrokeshire in 1727, he voted with the Opposition on the arrears of the civil list in 1729, but thereafter with the Government, attaching himself successively to Walpole and Pelham. In 1730 he spoke and voted for the Hessians; in January 1731 he was selected to move the Address. In 1732 he spoke in support of Walpole’s salt duty bill but voted with the Opposition for the bill requiring Members to swear to their qualifications at the Speaker’s table, though he strongly opposed Pulteney’s motion for a committee to inquire into all Members’ qualifications, declaring that it was

liable to very ill consequences in exposing the estates of 500 gentlemen to the narrow and critical examination of a few gentlemen who might possibly find some flaw, or fancy so, in their titles and disquiet them in their possessions. That this is an inquisition the like of which was never heard.

In 1733 he spoke against another qualification bill introduced by the Opposition, voted for the excise bill, and defended Sir Robert Sutton. Moving the Address in 1734 he was called on by the Opposition

to answer why he put in words to the Address which were not contained in the heads agreed to yesterday. Whereupon he said something to justify himself, but did not deny the liberty he had taken.

After some argument Walpole agreed that the offending phrase should be expunged. In the same session he was a government speaker against the place bill, also voting against the repeal of the Septennial Act.2

At the general election of 1734 Campbell stood for Nairnshire as well as for Pembrokeshire, where his re-election was uncertain. Returned for both seats, ‘the first instance of any one being chosen a Member of Parliament in Scotland and England’, he made his election for Pembrokeshire. He was chosen to second the Address at the opening of the new Parliament. Towards the end of the session his claims, along with those of Stephen Fox, were strongly pressed on Walpole by Lord Hervey, who pointed out that they had served Walpole for seven years with nothing to ‘reward them but that unpopularity which always attends serving power without the profit that should be annexed to it’. Walpole replied that ‘he had always declared Mr. Campbell and Mr. Fox should be the two first people he would provide for; that he thought them not only useful but creditable friends, as their integrity was not inferior to their understandings, nor their characters to their fortunes’.3 Next year Campbell was made a lord of the Admiralty.

In 1739 Campbell seconded the government motion on the Spanish convention, acquitting himself ‘very well’. At the general election of 1741 he was again returned for Pembrokeshire. He lost his post on Walpole’s fall, but as a member of the ‘old corps’ continued to support the Administration, becoming a lord of the Treasury in June 1746. This did not deter him from speaking next year against the bill abolishing hereditary jurisdictions in Scotland. As hereditary sheriff of Nairn he subsequently received £2,000 compensation for the loss of his jurisdiction.4

In 1747 Campbell, whose re-election for Pembrokeshire was unlikely, was returned for Nairnshire under a scheme prepared by Henry Pelham in consultation with the Duke of Argyll. In the new Parliament he reluctantly acquiesced in the Act for disarming the Highlands and restraining the use of Highland dress, writing to his factor at Cawdor:

I have thought that the poor Highlanders who are distressed by wearing breeches might be very agreeably accommodated by wearing wide trousers like seamen, made of canvas or the like. Nankeen might be for the more genteel. But I would have the cut as short as the philabeg, and then they would be almost as good and yet be lawful.5

He died 6 Sept. 1777.

Ref Volumes: 1715-1754

Authors: Edith Lady Haden-Guest / Romney R. Sedgwick


  • 1. HMC Egmont Diary, i. 300; Curiosities of a Scots Charta Chest. ed. Forbes, 189-92; Thanes of Cawdor, ed. Innes, 409-13; Stuart mss 65/16; Add. 35448, f. 116.
  • 2. HMC Egmont Diary, i. 31, 245, 346, 368; ii. 9; HMC Carlisle, 80, 89.
  • 3. Harley Diary, 14 Jan. 1735; Hervey, Mems. 453.
  • 4. HMC Polwarth, v. 236; Coxe, Walpole, iii. 516-17; Add. 35876, f. 250.