FRASER, Simon (1726-82), of Lovat, Inverness.
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Family and Education
b. 19 Oct. 1726, 1st s. of Simon, 11th Lord Lovat [S], by his 1st w. Margaret, da. of Ludovick Grant of Grant, M.P. [S]. educ. St. Andrew’s Univ. 1743-5; Glasgow Univ. 1748; adv. July 1752; M. Temple 1752, called 1756. m. in Portugal, ?1765, Catherine, da of John Bristow, s.p.
Lt.-col. commandant 78 Ft. (Fraser’s Highlanders) Jan. 1757; col. 1762; brig.-gen. (local rank in Portugal) 1762; maj.-gen. Portuguese forces and gov. of a province 1763; maj.-gen. British army 1772; col. 71 Regt. (which he raised) 1775- d.; lt.-gen. 1777.
Deputed by Lord Lovat in 1745 to raise the clan in rebellion, Fraser, on discovering that he was a pawn in his father’s intrigues, decided to leave Scotland for Leyden, but, browbeaten into tearful submission, eventually accepted his role of scapegoat and joined the Highland army.1 A fugitive after Culloden, and attainted by Act of Parliament, Fraser surrendered in August 1746, and was imprisoned in Edinburgh castle. After his father’s execution Newcastle issued a warrant for his release on condition that he lived in Glasgow.2 Having rejected the Pretender’s offer of a regiment in the French service,3 Fraser began to study law at Glasgow University and in 1750 was granted a full pardon and an allowance of £300 p.a.4 He qualified as an advocate, and formed a lasting friendship with Alexander Wedderburn, who followed him to the English bar.
In September 1753 the ministry was dismayed to find that Fraser was standing for Inverness-shire. Norman Macleod wrote to Newcastle, 6 Oct.:5
Mr. Fraser has been some little time here and had a very kind reception from all of us ... I am most willing to yield in his favour, and really he has got it so much in his head that it will be a mean to make his fortune, that I shall be sorry if he’s baulked.
This ‘revival of Jacobite clanship’ was strongly opposed by Hardwicke, Pelham, Newcastle, and Argyll, who wrote to Pelham, 15 Oct.:6
I have lost no time in letting everybody know how much I abhor the measure, both for the sake of the young man and of the public; if he really intends to stand I think his head must be turned.
Argyll summoned Fraser to Inveraray and reported to Pelham, 28 Oct.:7
I instantly ... attacked him about his standing, he protests to me that ... he always declared it was subject to the opinion and direction of those to whom he owed the favours he has received; he then went on with the history of himself in such a manner as that I must have been void of common humanity not to be affected by it. I said what I could to comfort him but persisted in a positive negative to his standing, so that I take it for granted that affair is over.
After being called to the English bar in 1756 Fraser was ‘in very good business for his standing’,8 when by Argyll’s interest with Pitt9 he was offered the command of one of the two new battalions to be raised in the Highlands. Recruiting in record time, Fraser sailed with his regiment for America in April 1757, served with distinction at Louisbourg, under Wolfe and Murray in Canada where he was twice wounded, and returned home in the spring of 1761.
His friends meanwhile had been canvassing his candidature for Inverness-shire, which Argyll and the ministry again vetoed. After Argyll’s death the electors defied the ministry and unanimously chose Fraser on 2 May, the day after he arrived in London from America. On receiving the news, Fraser at once wrote to Bute, 12 May:10
I do upon my honour assure your Lordship I was totally ignorant when I arrived in London twelve days ago of everything they [his friends] had done ... I am persuaded their motives for choosing me were founded on no other attachment but personal friendship and the honour I have of commanding a regiment of the King’s troops raised in that county ... I have always avoided the least appearance of encouraging that attachment of clanship and for seven years avoided going to that part of the country till I had the sanction of Government for making use of that attachment to raise a thousand men for the King’s service ... You, my Lord, have too much humanity not to be sensible how distressing the being at this time objected to must [be] and will pardon my anxiety. If the affair should reach the King’s ear, you are too just to decline representing in the most favourable light the part I have acted and my dutiful readiness to obey his Majesty’s commands.
Bute, wrote Newcastle to Hardwicke on 14 May, ‘seems much offended’.11
He says the principal electors have wrote to him (Lord Bute) ... they say they are independent gentlemen, have no places, no employments and that nothing but Col. Fraser’s own request, which they had not had, could have prevented their choosing him. Nothing I think could be more insolent to the King or more renouncing his Majesty’s influence than this letter to his minister. His Lordship told me Mr. Pitt took part with Col. Fraser and wondered how the Duke of Newcastle could object to him who had acted meritoriously in North America ... Lord Bute said he should have no objection to Col. Fraser’s being in Parliament but not for the shire of Inverness.
Under this cloud of suspicion Fraser went to court. Many years later he wrote to Barrington:12
I can never forget that the first time I appeared at St. James’s after my return from America in 1761, your Lordship was pleased, in a circle of the great officers of state ... to say you thought it incumbent upon you to thank me in this public manner for the services I had done with my regiment to my King and country ... As I desired to leave Canada only because the war was at an end there, my only request when I returned was to be again employed wherever there was actual service, of which his Majesty was pleased to express his approbation in the most gracious terms and to name me to go to Portugal as brigadier.
After serving with the British forces in Portugal until the peace, Fraser, rather than retire on half-pay, transferred to the Portuguese army on the understanding that ‘it would be considered as British service’, and eventually attaining the chief command, spent most of the next ten years abroad.
He was almost continuously absent from Parliament from early in 1762 to February 1766. Though listed by Sir Alexander Gilmour ‘absent in Portugal’ in the division of 17 Feb.,13 he voted against the repeal of the Stamp Act on 22 Feb. Closely associated with Wedderburn, he became an intimate friend of Grenville, to whom he wrote, 10 June 1766,14 asking for an assurance that Lord Temple was not responsible for The History of the Late Minority which had ‘nettled’ Bute and his friends and might militate against a Grenville-Bute alliance. Uneasy about his re-election, which was ‘more likely to be disputed on account of the change of ministry’, Fraser in July 1766 consulted Grenville and Whately on purchasing for £2,000 an English borough seat.15 From Scotland, when ‘hardly sober’ after his welcome home by the clan, he pursued the question, but in October, having secured Inverness-shire by an agreement with the Gordon interest, returned to London, thanked Grenville ‘for the kindness intended him’,16 and by November was again attempting to negotiate an alliance between Bute, Grenville and Temple.17 At the end of the year he went back to Portugal.
Fraser returned home in 1771, when war seemed imminent; voted with Administration on Brass Crosby, 27 Mar.; but presumably returned to Portugal before the royal marriage bill of March 1772 when he was listed ‘pro, absent’. Back in England about the end of 1772 he decided to resign his Portuguese command, applied without success for a vacant colonelcy in February 1773, and was considered for a command in India, but in June, ‘very handsomely and without the least hesitation relinquished his pretensions’ when North informed him of the difficulties which had arisen with other generals.18 Having taken a house in Downing Street, he became an intimate friend of North, who supported his memorial of 177319 for the recovery of the forfeited Lovat estates and obtained the King’s recommendation for his successful petition to Parliament in 1774.20 Nevertheless, his re-election was uncertain, in view of his 1766 agreement to stand down in favour of the Gordon family,21 who in 1772 had already announced the candidature of Lord George Gordon. But, by agreement with North, Fraser purchased a seat at Ludgershall for Lord George,22 and was returned apparently unopposed.
Through North’s favour Fraser, in 1775, secured approval of his proposal to raise a new Highland regiment of two battalions,23 and made his first recorded speech in the House on 22 Nov. 1775 in explanation of his choice of officers.24 He himself remained in London where he was deeply involved in the intrigues of Philip Francis against Warren Hastings. The appointment by Francis in 1775 of Fraser’s brother-in-law, John Bristow, as resident at Oude, in preference to Frederick Stuart, Bute’s son, aroused considerable controversy.25 Fraser, having presented Bristow’s case to North and Suffolk, disarmed the Bute family’s opposition by nominating Charles Stuart as major in his new regiment. Corresponding with Francis on Bengal affairs, Fraser worked behind the scenes to further his and Bristow’s interests with the ministry, and in 1779 evolved a ‘delicate and dangerous’ plan to replace Hastings by Francis as governor general.26 In these affairs he frequently consulted his friend Wedderburn, for whom he acted in May-June 1778 as agent in his negotiations with North and the King for high office and a peerage.27
Fraser is not known to have spoken on Indian affairs, but confined himself to America and the army. On 24 Feb. 1778, ‘in a long and animated speech’ on the conciliation bills,28 he ‘reviewed the whole subject of the American dispute’, maintained that, as the repeal of the Stamp Act was a ‘virtual renunciation of the exercise of the right of taxation ... it should not have been again taken up’, and, ‘lamenting the despondency of the ministry’, urged that, if the concessions were rejected, the rebellion must be rigorously subdued. Although he continued to support North, according to a notice of him in the English Chronicle in 1781 he voted for Fox at the Westminster election of 1780.
He died 8 Feb. 1782.
Ref Volumes: 1754-1790
Author: Edith Lady Haden-Guest
- 1. Alex. Mackenzie, Hist. Frasers of Lovat, 377-490; Trial of Lord Lovat, ed. D. N. Mackay; Chiefs of Grant, ii; More Culloden Pprs. iv, v.
- 2. Argyll to Pelham, 11 Aug. 1747, Newcastle (Clumber) mss; Chiefs of Grant, ii. 269.
- 3. Fraser’s memorial of 1773, Forfeited Estates Pprs. 104.
- 4. T52/45/278.
- 5. Add. 32733, f. 28.
- 6. Newcastle (Clumber) mss.
- 7. Ibid.
- 8. Forfeited Estates Pprs. 104.
- 9. J. Calcraft to Alex. Mackay, 31 Dec. 1756, Add. Ad. 17493, f. 24b.
- 10. Bute mss.
- 11. Add. 32923, f. 70.
- 12. 15 Feb. 1773, Fortescue, ii. 454.
- 13. Add. 32974, f. 24.
- 14. Grenville Pprs. iii. 244.
- 15. Whately to Grenville, 30 July, Grenville mss (JM).
- 16. Same to same, 16 Sept., 13 Oct. 1766, ibid.
- 17. Grenville Pprs. iii. 280.
- 18. Fortescue, ii. 454-5, 496-7.
- 19. Forfeited Estates Pprs. 103-5.
- 20. Fortescue, iii. 77-78.
- 21. Laprade, 5.
- 22. A. H. Tayler, Ld Fife his Factor, 108.
- 23. Fortescue, iii. 249, 268, 287; HMC Laing, ii. 480, 482-4; HMC Royal Institution, i. 24, 66.
- 24. Almon, iii. 206-7.
- 25. Parkes Merivale, Mems. of Francis, ii. 21.
- 26. Ibid. 166-7, 179; S. Weitzman, Warren Hastings Philip Francis, 285-6, 309.
- 27. Fortescue, iv. 163.
- 28. Almon, vii. 399.