GARDEN, Alexander (1714-85), of Troup, Banff.
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Family and Education
b. 1714, 1st s. of Alexander Garden of Troup, adv., by Jean, da. of Sir Francis Grant, S.C.J., 1st Bt., of Cullen, Banff. educ. Edinburgh; King’s Coll. Aberdeen. unm. suc. fa. 22 July 1740.
Garden inherited an ample fortune and great estates in Banff and Aberdeen. A staunch Hanoverian in the ’45, he acted as liaison between the King’s ships in the Moray Firth and Cumberland’s army on its march to Culloden, and thereafter was elected convener of the county of Banff.1 An astute business man, Garden bought up forfeited estates in Kincardine and Aberdeenshire, increased his fortune to £3,000-£4,000 p.a., but continued to live, without ostentation, at Troup, ‘a most amiable and respected country gentleman’,2 and a considerate landlord, sharing the interest of his brother Lord Gardenstone, S.C.J., in agricultural and social improvement. In 1768 the Aberdeenshire freeholders, many of whom were his kinsmen or intimate friends, returned him apparently unopposed, and continued, despite the rivalry of the Fife and Gordon interests, to support him to the end of his life.
An independent in politics, who is not known to have spoken in the House, he supported Administration on Wilkes and the Middlesex election in 1769, on Brass Crosby, 27 March 1771, and the royal marriage bill, March 1772, but voted against them on the naval captains’ petition, 9 Feb. 1773, on the Middlesex election, 26 Apr. 1773, and on Grenville’s Act, 25 Feb. 1774. Robinson nevertheless counted him ‘pro’ at the end of the Parliament and expected his re-election. Garden’s personal popularity overcame any opposition contemplated by Lord Fife or the Duke of Gordon. Lord Adam Gordon wrote to a Ross-shire friend, 20 July 1774:3 ‘Troup stands for this county and I think will have no opposer. He is a worthy respectable man and means well.’
In the Parliament of 1774-80 no vote by Garden is recorded. The English Chronicle wrote about him in 1781:
He possesses a very large fortune, and many of the very first connexions in the shire; but it was not to the influence of either of these that he has owed the successive compliment of these repeated representations. The freeholders have long been unanimous in this determination, to prefer honesty to talents, and an old acquaintance, though distinguished for no splendid endowments, to any stranger, however ingenious or popular ... He is very moderate in his political conduct—is, in general subjects, a friend to Government, but has uniformly opposed them in the particular and important question of the American war. He is very old and infirm, but nevertheless always makes it a point to execute the efficient duty of a Member of Parliament by staying to give his vote, unless the division takes place after eight o’clock, at which hour he generally leaves the House ... Amongst all his good qualities he is distinguished for nothing so much as this, that he is the only Scotch Member who never asked a favour.
Garden was listed ‘pro’ in Robinson’s survey of 1780, but as it was doubtful whether he would seek re-election, his friend Henry Dundas suggested either James Ferguson or Lord William Gordon as his successor. Garden, however, despite his infirmities, agreed to continue. He did not vote on Lowther’s motion against the war on 12 Dec. 1781, voted with Administration on 20 Feb. 1782 on the censure of the Admiralty, but against them two days later on Conway’s motion against the war. On 27 Feb., possibly at North’s request, he abstained,4 but in the final division on 15 Mar. voted for Rous’s no confidence motion.
He voted for Shelburne’s peace preliminaries, 18 Feb. 1783, and in March was listed by Robinson as connected with Shelburne and Dundas. He did not vote on Fox’s East India bill, 27 Nov. 1783, and in mid-December was counted as a follower of Pitt by Robinson, who wrote:5
If Mr. Garden wishes to come in again it is apprehended he may, but at his age it is a question; attached to Mr. Dundas who can best tell what would happen if Mr. Garden should decline.
Lord Fife’s supporters forecast a ‘hard-run battle’, but Garden again agreed to stand and was returned. He voted, 18 Apr. 1785, for Pitt’s parliamentary reform bill; but was absent from the budget debate. Lord Fife wrote to his factor, 10 May: ‘Troup was away yesterday, so you see how Aberdeen is represented and yet there is no complaints.’6
Before the end of the session he went home to Troup House where he died 21 Dec. 1785. Lord Gardenstone wrote of him in 1790:7
My eldest brother ... was always esteemed a truly independent country gentleman, and he was for ... pure motives of integrity and public duty, a firm friend to Mr. Pitt’s Administration, indeed his friends and family have ground to believe that Mr. Pitt has still a generous remembrance of his sincere attachment and honourable services.