STEWART, John, Visct. Garlies (1736-1806).

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754-1790, ed. L. Namier, J. Brooke., 1964
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1761 - 1768
1768 - 24 Sept. 1773

Family and Education

b. 15 Mar. 1736, 1st surv. s. of Alexander, 6th Earl of Galloway [S], by his 2nd w. Lady Catherine Cochrane, da. of John, 4th Earl of Dundonald [S]; bro. of Hon. Keith Stewart.  educ. Glasgow Univ.  m. (1) 14 Aug. 1762, Lady Charlotte Mary Greville (d. 31 May 1763), da. of Francis, 1st Earl Brooke and 1st Earl of Warwick, 2s. d.v.p.; (2) 13 June 1764, Anne, da. of Sir James Dashwood, 2nd Bt., of Kirtlington, Oxon, 8s. 8da.  suc. fa. 24 Sept. 1773; K.T. 1 Nov. 1775; cr. Baron Stewart [GB] 6 June 1796.

Offices Held

Gentleman of police [S] 1768-73; ld. of Trade Aug. 1772-Sept. 1773; ld. of police 1774-82; Scottish rep. peer 1774-90; ld. of the bedchamber 1784-d.


Garlies was the heir of a doting father, notorious for his Jacobite sympathies and political intrigues. James Boswell wrote in 1762:1

Lord Garlies is a little man with a great flow of animal spirits. He has been indulged and even idolized by Lord Galloway which has given him a petulant forwardness that cannot fail to disgust people of sense and delicacy. He is also got into the political tract but as his parts are but inferior he will probably never equal his father.

In 1760, Galloway, while his son Keith was in the West Indies, gave his Wigtownshire interest to his nephew, James Murray; but when Garlies (as the son of a Scottish peer debarred from sitting for a Scottish constituency) proposed bartering Wigtown Burghs for an English seat for himself, Galloway thought it would be unfair to his younger son and decided to bring in a stop-gap. Garlies, therefore, ‘laid out £3,150 to get Morpeth’ against the Carlisle interest, and, ‘an absolute stranger, by mere dint of money’, was returned.2 The Galloway family, always hostile to Argyll, had attached themselves to the Pelhams, but were now obliged to placate Bute. In a compromise negotiated with Bute, Rockingham, and Newcastle, Garlies and his father, in order to secure Wigtownshire for Murray, were forced to ‘swallow a bitter pill’ and bring in John Hamilton of Bargany for the burghs.3

Garlies voted for the peace preliminaries, supported Bute until his resignation, but was soon at odds with James Stuart Mackenzie over patronage. He attached himself to Bedford and Gower, but received no preferment, and by October 1763 was in financial trouble and trying to borrow from John Calcraft. In December he had a dispute with Grenville over Wigtownshire patronage. He argued:

In the late Duke of Argyll’s time ... though he and my father were not on a friendly foot, we had then the filling up of all the vacancies ... For Mr. Pelham insisted that as we supported Government, Government must support our interest.4

Grenville reminded him that, ever since the compromise, Murray had ‘given every vote against the King’s measures’ while Hamilton had consistently supported them; but proposed an accommodation between the rival interests if Garlies would submit written proposals. Garlies, in an arrogant letter, reiterated his demand for all the vacancies, and when two more of his recommendations were refused wrote to Bedford, 23 Dec. 1763:

Can [Grenville] imagine this a method to make me wish to support Ministry? ... I am very much attached to the King and this Ministry but ... if my family interest is not supported by them, it is making a ridiculous figure to be of a party who do not use me as they ought ... I have been ill used by Mr. Mackenzie. ... I feel and know what I am. I do not choose to ask him or any other sous ministre for every trifling thing.

Bedford, in alarm, offered to intercede with Grenville: ‘I will endeavour to set this matter right ... and hope your Lordship will not hastily throw yourself into opposition.’ After an interview with Garlies, Grenville wrote to Bedford, 27 Dec.:

Your Grace has seen his letter to me ... by which he requires me to promise him that he shall recommend to all the vacancies ... and desires an immediate answer ... Lord Garlies came to me to-day and ... was much more reasonable. I told him that I would by no means suffer the law to be given me in such a manner, nor would I make any such promise, but that, if his conduct did not render it impossible, I was still desirous to settle things as I had wished to do in my former conversation ... with which he appeared well satisfied.

But Garlies wrote to Bedford the same day: ‘I never had any thoughts of going into opposition unless I am driven to it by bad treatment; I, in all events, will ... acquaint your Grace of the steps I take.’

In January 1764 he unsuccessfully applied for the promotion of his father to the presidency of the Board of Police, and although still counted a Government ‘friend’, was absent from the crucial division of 18 Feb. on general warrants. Shortly afterwards Bedford seems to have mediated in his dispute with Grenville; Garlies remained in the Government fold and in August applied for the place of vice-admiral of Scotland. He wrote to Bedford:

I wish very much to have it or, if you think proper, to let my father have it, that would be still more agreeable, as in that case I need not vacate my seat in Parliament, and so have it more in my power to shew my attachment to you.5

He was again disappointed, but remained faithful to Grenville’s Administration, and followed them into opposition. On 18 Dec. 1765 he voted for Rigby’s motion for American papers,6 and on 22 Feb. 1766 against the repeal of the Stamp Act.

On the formation of Chatham’s Administration, Garlies remained closely connected with the Bedford group, and particularly with the Duke of Marlborough. During the Bedford-Chatham negotiations of November-December 1766 he pressed his friends to ‘mention him’ for a British peerage. He wrote to Bedford, 1 Dec. 1766:

By my family interest in making two members certain, besides weight in other counties, it would always be in my power to shew my gratitude ... It is my omnium, the only thing in life I wish for.

Bedford, however, in his interview with Chatham, stipulated for a peerage for Lord Lorne, but not for Garlies. After the negotiation had failed and Lorne had obtained his peerage by direct application to Chatham, Marlborough wrote to Bedford, 29 Dec. 1766:

I have just received a melancholy letter from Lord Garlies; he says he is told ‘that the Bedford family do not think themselves obliged to do anything for him and that therefore he desires I will tell him fairly whether I will make a point of his having the peerage whenever we may come in again’. He is very angry at Lord Lorne’s having got the peerage; and says that being in a constant opposition will weaken the interest of his family ... in short he will be thoroughly attached to me if I promise to make a point of his having a peerage; if not, that he must try elsewhere for it.

Bedford replied, 31 Dec.:

I was very much surprised to find ... that Lord Garlies should think he had any right to call upon your Grace to make his promotion to a peerage a sine qua non of your entering again into the King’s service ... I can by no means advise your embarrassing yourself in any such engagement ... If your Grace should ... give Lord Garlies leave to make his application directly in the same manner as Lord Lorne did, I believe it would disengage you.7

Convinced that the Bedfords would never ‘make a point’ of his peerage,8 Garlies went to Bath to solicit Chatham, but was again disappointed, as Grenville in a friendly letter had forecast.9

Listed ‘doubtful’ by Townshend in January 1767, he probably voted with Government on the land tax, 27 Feb. At the general election of 1768 he placed his burghs at the Government’s disposal in return for an English seat. By arrangement with Grafton, George Selwyn brought him in for Ludgershall, while Garlies secured Wigtown Burghs for Selwyn in case of his defeat at Gloucester.10

By his sister’s marriage to Gower in May 1768, Garlies became still more intimate with the Bedfords, but they did little for him. He owed his appointment in June as commissioner of police to his father who resigned in his favour. Consistently voting with Administration, Garlies by October 1769 was again dissatisfied, and jealous of the political interest of Marchmont, Queensberry, and Sir Lawrence Dundas. Under North his chances improved. In January 1771 he just missed the office of vice-chamberlain of the Household in competition with Lord Hinchingbrooke; and in August 1772 by Gower’s interest was appointed to the Board of Trade. Assiduous in attendance, and a supporter of Dartmouth’s American expansionist policy, he contrived to feather his own nest. At a meeting on 27 May 1773, attended only by Dartmouth, Soame Jenyns, and Garlies, the Board approved the grant of all mines in Newfoundland and Labrador to John Agnew, Alex Dun, and Garlies himself—all three friends and neighbours in Galloway.11

In September 1773, Garlies, on succeeding to his father’s peerage, lost both his places but was appointed a lord of police in January 1774. He was chosen a representative peer at the general election. In the Lords his attempt at oratory on 5 Dec. 1777 revealed the ineptitude which had kept him silent in the Commons.12

An ambitious, self-seeking opportunist, almost fanatical in his zeal to exalt his family interest, yet jealous of his brother’s popularity, ‘the worthless Garlies’ was hated by his opponents,13 and distrusted even by his friends. He had few merits except a certain facile charm (‘partly mechanical’),14 to offset his ill-temper, arrogance, insincerity, and avarice. His own heir was ashamed of his father’s reputation, his lack of ‘consistency and dignity of character ... the surest cause of his failure in many things’.15

He died 13 Nov. 1806.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: Edith Lady Haden-Guest


  • 1. Private Pprs. i. 69, 75, 77.
  • 2. Galloway to J. Bushby, 10 Apr. 1788, Seaforth mss 6; Add. 35449, f. 279.
  • 3. J. Hamilton to Bute, 30 Nov. 1761, Bute mss; Add. 32934, ff. 279-80.
  • 4. Add. 38200, f. 328; 38201, f. 9; 17496, f. 20; Bedford mss 48, ff. 214, 218, 226, 230.
  • 5. Bedford mss 49, f. 22; 50, f. 28.
  • 6. Fortescue, i. 205.
  • 7. Bedford mss 54, ff. 140, 192.
  • 8. Garlies to Bedford, 5 Jan. 1767 (enclosed in Marlborough’s letter to Bedford of 8 Jan.), ibid. 55, ff. 4, 12.
  • 9. Grenville to Garlies, 14 Jan. 1767, Grenville letter bk.
  • 10. Jesse, Selwyn, ii. 382-3.
  • 11. Cal. Home Office Pprs. 1765-9, pp. 44, 506-7; Fortescue, ii. 213; A. H. Basye, Board of Trade 1748-82, pp. 186-7, 227; Add. 35631, f. 110; Bd. Trade Jnl. 1768-73, p. 360; 1776-82, pp. 154, 166, 172; T29/47/160.
  • 12. Walpole, Last Jnls. ii. 82; Jesse, Selwyn, iii. 257.
  • 13. Ld. Dumfries to Loudoun, 21 Mar. 1772, Loudoun mss.
  • 14. Boswell, Private Pprs. iii. 307-8.
  • 15. George, Ld. Garlies to his uncle Keith Stewart, 18 Oct. 1788, Seaforth mss 6.