SHAW STEWART, John (1739-1812), of Greenock, Renfrew.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1780 - July 1783
19 Oct. 1786 - 1796

Family and Education

b. 1739, 1st s. of Sir Michael Stewart, 3rd Bt., of Blackhall by Helen, da. of Sir John Houston, 3rd Bt., of Houston, niece of Sir John Shaw, 3rd Bt., of Greenock. m. 11 May 1786, Frances, da. of Robert Colhoun of St. Kitts, sis. of William MacDowall Colhoun*, wid. of Sir James Maxwell, 6th Bt., of Pollok, Renfrew, s.p. suc. gt.-uncle in the Greenock estates 1752 and took additional name of Shaw; fa. as 4th Bt. 20 Oct. 1796.

Offices Held


Described by Lawrence Hill as ‘a man of very independent principles, and ... sincerely attached to the Duke of Portland’, Shaw Stewart faced a ministerial bid to oust him at the general election of 1790.1 His success, though narrow, emphasized his powerful interest in Renfrewshire. He was in the opposition minorities against Pitt’s Russian policy, 12 Apr. 1791 and 1 Mar. 1792, and voted, as anticipated, for the exemption of Scotland from the Test Act, 10 May 1791, in which month he was also described as ‘a steady friend’ of Scottish burgh reform.2 He voted for Fox’s amendment to the address, 13 Dec. 1792. He was not listed among the Portland Whigs at that time, or among Windham’s ‘third party’ in February 1793, when he was in correspondence with William Adam about pairing; no further vote with opposition is known, however, in that or the following session. A letter to Adam of 23 Nov. 1794 was critical of the war with revolutionary France3 and perhaps it was he, rather than William Cunliffe Shawe, who voted against the further suspension of habeas corpus, 23 Jan. 1795; the Treasury, moreover, still regarded him as hostile. He was a defaulter on 24 Nov. 1795 and did not seek reelection in 1796. No speech is known in his last Parliament.

Shaw Stewart reasserted himself in Renfrewshire in 1806 when he supported Archibald Speirs* and in 1810 joined a Whig junto which returned the Member for Renfrewshire for the next 27 years. His nephew and heir Michael Stewart Nicolson, who shared his views, described him as ‘no less remarkable for decision than for thorough independence of political conduct’.4 He died 7 Aug. 1812.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: D. G. Henry


  • 1. Pol. State of Scotland 1788, p. 279; Ginter, Whig Organization, 198.
  • 2. SRO GD22/1/315, Semphill to Graham [May 1791].
  • 3. Blair Adam mss.
  • 4. See RENFREWSHIRE; SRO GD46/17/48, Nicolson to Richardson, 29 Nov. 1817.