STEWART, Hon. Keith (1739-95), of Glasserton, Wigtown.
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Family and Education
b. 1739, 2nd surv. s. of Alexander, 6th Earl of Galloway [S], and bro. of John, Visct. Garlies. m. 13 May 1782, Georgina Isabella, da. of Simha D’Aguilar and gd.-da. of Baron D’Aguilar (a Portuguese Jew naturalized in England), 4s.
Entered R.N. c.1753; lt. 1759; cdr. 1761; capt. 1762; r.-adm. 1790; v.-adm. 1794.
Receiver of land tax in Scotland July 1784- d.
Stewart was intended to enter Parliament on coming of age, but during his absence in the West Indies his father at the general election of 1761 sponsored the candidature of his cousins James Murray and Archibald Montgomerie for Wigtown-shire and Wigtown Burghs. In February 1762 his father brought him in for Wigtown Burghs and then stipulated for his promotion to post captain as a condition for surrendering the seat in the settlement of the Galloway compromises.1
After further service in the West Indies and the Mediterranean, Stewart was returned for Wigtownshire in 1768, left the sea, and settled at Glasserton, the estate made over to him by his father in 1763. In Parliament he supported the Grafton and North Administrations; his only known vote against them was on the naval captains’ petition, 9 Feb. 1773. Directed in politics by his brother-in-law, Lord Gower, he was on excellent terms with Sandwich; secured the command of the Berwick in 1777 and served under Keppel in the action off Ushant on 27 July 1778. During the Palliser-Keppel controversy Sandwich, reporting to the King on Keppel’s subordinates, wrote in November 1778:2 ‘Captain Stewart behaved exceedingly well in the action, is a very good officer and has kept himself clear of disputes of every kind, and shown no particular attachments.’
He was absent from Parliament on naval duty for most of 1779. In April 1780 he sailed for the West Indies, where he served until November.3 With the backing of Lord Chancellor Thurlow, he obtained from Sandwich in January 1781 a North Sea command with the rank of commodore; served under Hyde Parker in the Dogger Bank engagement of August 1781, and in September was given the command of the squadron blockading the Dutch ports.4 Strongly criticized for failing to intercept a Dutch convoy,5 he resigned his command. He served under Howe on the expedition for the relief of Gibraltar, and in the debate of 5 Dec. 1782 strongly rebutted his friend George Johnstone’s criticism of Howe’s conduct. He voted on 18 Feb. 1783 for Shelburne’s peace preliminaries, and on 21 Feb. spoke warmly in their defence: ‘He thought himself well warranted in giving his tribute of approbation to ministers with whom he professed himself unconnected.’6
In 1773 Stewart had been given the salary attached to the office of receiver general of the land tax in Scotland, a place incompatible with a seat in Parliament, and held officially by another; he retained it under both the Rockingham and Shelburne Administrations. Listed by Robinson in March 1783 as connected with Shelburne, he spoke against the Coalition on 19 May on the Powell and Bembridge affair, and again on 26 May in the budget debate; and shortly afterwards lost his place to his brother-in-law James Murray, who wrote, 21 July 1783:
Be assured I never never asked your place ... The Duke of Portland wrote to me that it was a point fixed and decided upon that you was to be removed; I certainly then could have no scruples ... but thankfully accept the minister’s favour.
Stewart bore no animosity and even assisted Murray in obtaining the necessary financial guarantees. ‘The employment was to be given away’, he wrote to Murray, 28 July, ‘and most sincerely do I rejoice that you have got it.’7
Stewart voted against Fox’s East India bill and strongly supported Pitt’s Administration. On 14 Jan. 1784 he defended his brother Lord Galloway against General Charles Ross’s charges of exercising ‘secret influence’ in the Government interest—and was ridiculed, with his brother, in a number of lampoons. At the general election, anticipating his restoration to his former place, Stewart came to an agreement with his Wigtownshire opponent, Andrew MacDouall, whom accordingly he notified on 13 July that his appointment as receiver general ‘would take place as soon as the hurry of public business would admit of his vacating his seat’. He insisted, however, that if at any time he lost his place, he should resume his seat.8
A generous and loyal friend, beloved in the county, Stewart throughout his life was frequently at variance with his cantankerous brother Galloway. Exercising his office by deputy, he concerned himself mainly with his estates and his coal and iron mines; returned to the sea for a short period in 1790, but thereafter held no active command. He died 3 Mar. 1795.
Ref Volumes: 1754-1790
Author: Edith Lady Haden-Guest
- 1. Add. 32934, ff. 279-80.
- 2. Fortescue, iv. 227.
- 3. Walpole to Lady Upper Ossory, 27 Nov. 1780; Last Jnls. ii. 338.
- 4. Sandwich Pprs. (Navy Recs. Soc. lxxviii) 83-121, 418-23.
- 5. Wraxall, Mems. iii. 269.
- 6. Debrett, ix. 24, 303-5.
- 7. Ibid. x. 35, 85, 86; Seaforth mss 6.
- 8. Debrett, xii. 569; Wraxall, iii. 268-9; Seaforth mss 6.