CAMPBELL, Pryse (1727-68), of Calder, Nairn; Stackpole Court, Pemb. and Llanvread, Card.
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Family and Education
b. 1727, 1st s. of John Campbell of Calder (d. 1777). educ. Clare, Camb. 1745. m. 20 Sept. 1752, Sarah, da. and coh. of Sir Edmund Bacon, M.P., 6th Bt. of Garboldisham, Norf., 4s. 3da.
Ld. of Treasury Aug. 1766- d.
Intended from youth for a parliamentary career, Pryse Campbell was mentioned as a possible candidate for Inverness-shire as early as December 1746.1 When he came of age, large estates in Nairnshire and Inverness-shire were transferred to him by his father, who retained a life-rent interest.2 In 1753 Argyll, anxious to secure seats for Pryse and his father, proposed that one of them should replace Lord Hyndford’s brother James Carmichael in Linlithgow Burghs.3 But the prospect of a costly contest with Lawrence Dundas deterred Campbell from accepting; eventually, after considerable negotiation, Pryse Campbell was returned unopposed for Inverness-shire.
In Parliament Pryse was at first regarded merely as an appendage of his father. But he soon showed his independence. While friendly with Fox, Pryse did not share his father’s dislike of Pitt, and voted with him on the Minorca inquiry, 2 May 1757.4 During the negotiations of 1757 Newcastle, while counting John Campbell among his personal supporters, listed Pryse among the Scots attached to the ‘last ministry or Mr. Pitt’.5
Under the Newcastle-Pitt Coalition Pryse Campbell maintained his independence. In February and March 1759 he voted for allowing the free importation of Irish cattle, despite the petitions of his Inverness-shire constituents: on this he differed from his father and the majority of Scots Members, and incurred the displeasure of Argyll. Isolated from his friends, he sought to recommend himself to his kinsman Newcastle, to whom he wrote, 24 June 1759:6
A young man is not allowed to think for himself and your Grace may have been told that I am attached to a faction and will blindly follow wherever that leads, and though I have a better opinion of my own sense and honesty it is from my actions your Grace should form yours.
He returned to the Scottish fold over the militia, was a member of the committee nominated to prepare the bill, but is not mentioned as having spoken in the debates.
His cattle bill vote was not, however, forgotten. In February 1761 he learned from his friend Sir Harry Erskine that Argyll had ‘put an absolute negative’ upon him as candidate for Inverness-shire.7 When George Ross suggested to Pryse that the ‘offence’ of his cattle bill vote would be ‘got over’ if he and his father procured for Simon Fraser a seat in Parliament or a colonial governorship,8 Pryse categorically refused to make any such bargain.9 When Argyll proved adamant and Newcastle did not intervene, Pryse and his father placed themselves unreservedly under Bute’s direction,10 but neither was acceptable to the Inverness-shire electors; and Pryse, replacing his brother Alexander as candidate, was returned for Nairnshire. He supported the Bute Administration, and was listed by Fox as favourable to the peace preliminaries.
He voted with the Opposition on general warrants (6, 15 and 18 Feb. 1764), but was counted by Administration as a friend, and voted with them against the repeal of the cider tax.11 A vehement critic of the Regency bill, he proposed provisos disqualifying any Regent who should marry a Catholic, or marry without the consent of Parliament; on 10 May 1765 he spoke in support of re-committing the bill, and was a teller in the subsequent division.12
Listed ‘pro’ by Rockingham in July 1765, he supported the repeal of the Stamp Act; but on 18 April 1766 voted against Dowdeswell’s proposal for a new window tax.13 In the militia debate of 22 Apr. Campbell intervened on behalf of a Scottish militia ‘which he threatened to move next year’.14 In the Chatham Administration he was appointed a lord of the Treasury; even so he did not vote on the land tax on 27 Feb. 1767.
As Nairnshire would not be represented in the next Parliament, Campbell thought at first of contesting Inverness-shire;15 but in the event his Welsh interest secured his return for Cardi