EDMONSTONE, Archibald (1717-1807), of Duntreath, Stirling.
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Family and Education
b. 10 Oct. 1717, 1st s. of Archibald Edmonstone, M.P. [I], of Duntreath, Stirling, and Red Hall, co. Antrim, by his 2nd w. Anne, da. of Hon. John Campbell of Mamore, sis. of John, 4th Duke of Argyll. educ. Glasgow Univ. 1732; M. Temple 1737, called 1745. m. (1) 4 Oct. 1753, Susanna Mary (d. 1776), da. of Roger Harenc, London merchant (b. Paris, naturalized 1725) of Foot’s Cray Place, Kent, 5s. 3da.; (2) Apr. 1778, Hester, da. of Sir John Heathcote, 2nd Bt., of Normanton, Rutland, s.p. suc. fa. 1768; cr. Bt. 20 May 1774.
Gent. usher of the black rod [I] 1763-5.
Edmonstone came of an ancient and strongly Presbyterian family which, during the plantation of Ulster, purchased the estate of Broad Island, co. Antrim, and thereafter divided their interests between Ireland and Scotland.1 His father acquired additional property in Dunbartonshire, but resided mostly in Ireland.
Lord Chesterfield wrote to Solomon Dayrolles, 21 Sept. 1753:
Your friend Mademoiselle Harenc is to be married ... to one Mr. Edmonstone, a Scotch gentleman, whose father has an estate in Scotland and Ireland of about £1500 a year. He is ... under the protection of the Duke of Argyll, by whom he expects to be brought into Parliament. He is strong, well set, and promises to make a considerable husband. Harenc gives £10,000 down with his daughter.
Edmonstone’s hopes of a seat at the 1754 election were disappointed. He seems to have entered business with his father-in-law,2 and was not mentioned as a candidate in 1761 until, by the death of Argyll during the general election, Edmonstone’s uncle succeeded as 4th Duke, and Dunbartonshire thereby became vacant. Bute hoped for ‘time ... to look about us’,3 but the Campbells’ hands were forced by the appearance of Robert Haldane as a candidate. The new Duke wrote to Bute, 6 May 1761:4
I am in hopes of hearing soon from you on the subject of the plan I proposed towards bringing my nephew Mr. Edmonstone into Parliament for the county of Dumbarton, meantime—as Mr. Haldane has been in the county with a view to offering his service I thought no time was to be lost by taking some measures to secure it for the interest of our families ... I have accordingly recommended my nephew which I am hopeful will be agreeable to your Lordship. He is a man of considerable property both in Dumbarton and Stirlingshire and I have good reason to believe will follow my advice and consequently your Lordship’s.
Haldane having withdrawn, Edmonstone was returned unopposed. Bute now took the Duntreath Edmonstones into favour and obtained for Archibald’s brother Campbell the lieutenant-governorship of Dumbarton castle.
Edmonstone loyally supported the Bute and Grenville Administrations, and in the summer of 1763, having been appointed gentleman usher of the black rod, accompanied Northumberland, the new lord lieutenant, to Ireland. In anticipation of the Wilkes debates, Grenville asked Northumberland, 22 Sept. 1763,5 to send Edmonstone, ‘whom I have reason to believe as well inclined as possible’, over to England. He returned and voted with Administration in the division of 15 Nov. Listed as ‘doubtful’ by Rockingham in the summer of 1765, he lost his place, and went into opposition. Albemarle wrote to Rockingham, 16 Feb. 1766:6 ‘Mr. Edmonstone will vote against you and go with the young Campbells, if the Duke of Argyll, who chooses him, does not lay his commands upon him.’ Edmonstone voted with his cousins Lord Lorne and Lord Frederick Campbell against the repeal of the Stamp Act on 22 Feb. He voted with the Chatham Administration on the land tax, 27 Feb. 1767, and on nullum tempus, 17 Feb. 1768.
Edmonstone was a conscientious Member, frequently appointed to committees, particularly on road bills; piloted the Glasgow roads bill through the House in 1766; and from 1762 was actively concerned in the transactions for paving Westminster streets.
In the new Parliament he continued to support Administration. He intervened in the debate of 15 Apr. 1769 on the Middlesex election;7 and in March 1771 on the printers’ case.8 In September 1771 the Argyll interest obtained from North the place of receiver general of Scottish customs, worth £1500 p.a. A London newsletter records:9 ‘It is to be divided between Mr. Edmonstone of Duntreath and Colonel Campbell of Finab who is to go out of Parliament.’ At the general election of 1774 he was returned after a contest with George Keith Elphinstone, who brought a petition, subsequently dropped, claiming that Edmonstone was ineligible ‘because he enjoyed part of the profits of the office of receiver general of customs in Scotland held in the name of another person’.
At the 1780 election the Elphinstone opposition, backed by the Duke of Montrose’s interest, constituted a dangerous threat. The Argyll family set up Lord Frederick Campbell as a stronger candidate for Dunbartonshire and moved Edmonstone to Ayr Burghs.
Edmonstone transferred his allegiance to successive Administrations. He voted, 18 Feb. 1783, for Shelburne’s peace preliminaries, and, 27 Nov. 1783, for Fox’s East India bill. Robinson, in his survey prepared shortly before Pitt took office, wrote of Ayr Burghs:10
Sir Archibald Edmonstone will probably come in for these boroughs again unless there happens to be some agreement with the Bute family for the next turn. Sir Archibald very properly votes now with the present Government but would undoubtedly [do] so, as properly, with the next in a future Administration.
Counted ‘hopeful’ in early January 1784, Edmonstone was among the first to transfer his allegiance to Pitt. Returned apparently unopposed, he spoke against the coal tax (2 July) and the window tax (10 Aug.) as adversely affecting Scotland. Both speeches were uttered in so low a tone as to be inaudible.11
He had sold his Irish property by 1783 when he purchased for £41,000 the Kilsyth estates in Stirlingshire;12 he also had interests in the East India Company,13 in which his son Neil Benjamin subsequently had a distinguished career.
He died 20 July 1807.