STEWART, George, Visct. Garlies (1768-1834).

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



1790 - Feb. 1795
22 July 1805 - 1806
1806 - 13 Nov. 11806

Family and Education

b. 24 Mar. 1768, 4th but 1st surv. s. of John Stewart, 7th Earl of Galloway [S], and bro. of Hons. Edward Richard Stewart*, James Henry Keith Stewart*, Montgomery Granville John Stewart* and William Stewart*. educ. Westminster 1780. m. 18 Apr. 1797, Lady Jane Paget, da. of Henry, 1st Earl of Uxbridge, 4s. 4da. suc. fa. as 8th Earl of Galloway [S] 13 Nov. 1806; KT 30 May 1814.

Offices Held

Midshipman RN 1780, lt. 1789, cdr. 1790, capt. 1793, r.-adm. 1810, v.-adm. 1819, adm. 1830.

Ld. of Admiralty May 1805-Feb. 1806.

Ld. lt. Kirkcudbright 1794-1807, 1820-8, Wigtown 1807-28.

Vice-pres. board of agriculture 1815.


Garlies entered the navy under the aegis of his uncle Admiral Keith Stewart Lady Sutherland, who met him in France in December 1790, described him as ‘remarkably agreeable and clever and talks like a native of that country’. There was ‘little cordiality’ in his relations with his father, and as he informed his uncle in 1791, ‘My struggle has long been for an independent way of thinking, an independent way of acting; it is my nature, it is the determined result of my reflection, habits of life’. He had been at odds with his father in encouraging his friend Lord Daer to contest Wigtown Burghs in 1790 as a test case of the right of a Scottish peer’s heir to sit for a Scottish seat. He himself was returned for Saltash on the Buller interest at that election. He was listed ‘doubtful’ on the question of repeal of the Test Act in Scotland in April 1791. His ambitions were professional and on 18 Oct. 1791 he obtained an interview with Pitt about his prospects of obtaining post rank. In 1792 a friend of the family who admired his ‘discrimination’ and ‘manly independence’ urged him to make himself ‘acquainted with parliamentary proceedings’. But after lobbying Lord Chatham and Henry Dundas to no avail for naval promotion, 7 and 8 Feb. 1792, he had concluded (10 Mar.), ‘I need not be very solicitous about Parliament since so little fruit is to be reaped from attendance’. Soon afterwards he returned to Paris and noted the anti-French feeling in the Low Countries on his way home. His father had wished Lord Grenville to substitute Garlies for Lord Robert Fitzgerald as attaché at Paris in May 1792, but Grenville pointed out that he had no diplomatic training. Garlies seems to have attended the House that month, but it was not long before he contemplated a jaunt to Canada, as he ‘must always have some plan or scheme or something to do’. In 1793 he obtained post rank and sailed with Sir John Jervis to the West Indies in October. He was wounded in the face, but not disfigured, at the taking of Guadeloupe, April 1794. Soon after his return Canning described him (24 Dec. 1794) as ‘a sailor—and who has behaved very gallantly in his profession ... rattling but sensible and good-humoured’.1

On 30 Dec. 1794 Garlies voted with the minority in favour of Wilberforce’s amendment to the address. He wrote to Pitt soon afterwards:

As I fear every man who differs now from government is supposed to desert good political principles and to be a decided democrat, I must from my vote the other night make my mind up to the appellation and bear the stigma ... wishing well to government ... I did hope to have been enabled to agree with you, but feel incapable to deceive.

In conclusion, he declared that he meant ‘to act consistently with the ... opinions I have long formed and privately maintained’. Pitt tried to placate him, but on 7 Jan. 1795 he asked for leave to vacate his seat:

It is well known to those with whom I am in habits of intimacy that principle alone upon a question the essential importance of which I am happy, Sir, you admit, dictated the opinion I have already manifested thereon. I am equally ready to declare my aversion to most of the motives and acts which apparently stimulate the conduct of opposition, with whom I neither feel desirous or inclined to associate. Perhaps these sentiments delivered in public would have done more credit to my cause, but if from diffidence of ability and dislike to attempt a conduct which from seeming want of connexion with others might appear unusual has operated to prevent it, I hope, sir, it may not operate in your mind to fix me there, or against the interest of a father who has been invariable in his conduct and who I fear on the present occasion may have to bear some of the mortifications proceeding from an act of which he was completely ignorant. [Lord Galloway was pressing Pitt for an English peerage on the strength of his support.] Allow me in addition to add that the omission of any information of difference of sentiment, which I understand is usual in Parliament before a division, was prevented by my determination not to have acceded to any intemperate amendment which from opposition I looked for, therefore until Mr Wilberforce’s unexpected motion appeared, I did not feel the probability of any manifest deviation.

On 15 Jan. 1795 Garlies wrote again, thanking Pitt for his ‘delicate’ behaviour and asking for an interview, ‘in order to prevent any misunderstanding’. He freed himself from any ‘further embarrassment’ by vacating his seat in favour of his brother William; but there were awkward repercussions. He himself was in hot water, being blamed for the delay in the issue of the writ for Kirkcudbright: on tendering his apologies, he was excused attendance at the bar of the House, 24 Mar. 1795. Moreover Pitt toyed with the idea of seizing Saltash for government and Garlies’s father met with Henry Dundas’s hostility in Kirkcudbright and a temporary set-back to his bid for a peerage.2

Garlies resumed his naval career, capturing a valuable prize and bringing home the news of the victory at Cape St. Vincent in 1797. In January 1805 he was captain of the Ajax, but in poor health. His father had made him a catch to ministers, meanwhile, by handing over his electoral interest in Scotland to him and in April 1805 he accepted a place on the Admiralty board. Lord Melville arranged his return for Cockermouth on the Lowther interest on condition of his brother William’s vacating Wigtown Burghs for the benefit of the Lowther nominee thereby displaced. Garlies was in office less than a year: Sir John Barrow recalled that he was ‘an excellent man, but of a warm and sanguine temperament’ (witness an outburst against Admiral Gambier for which Pitt made him apologize). He nevertheless liked his office and worked ‘pretty hard’.3

Although he was eligible for a Scottish county seat since his father had become a British peer, Garlies declined offering for Wigtownshire on the family interest: had he been an independent candidate supported by the sense of the county, he would have willingly offered, but in his view there was no such thing in Scotland. So at the election of 1806 he came in for another Lowther borough by exchange. His father died before Parliament met, rendering the arrangement superfluous. He had opposed the Grenville ministry, voting with Pitt’s former friends against Ellenborough’s being of the cabinet, 3 Mar. 1806, against the repeal of Pitt’s Additional Force Act, 30 Apr., and against the American intercourse bill, 17 June. His speeches were likewise critical. He complained that there had been no vote of thanks for the conquest of the Cape, 26 Mar., 16 Apr. 1806. He found Vansittart’s proposals for increases in naval pay inadequate to prevent first lieutenants and warrant and petty officers, ‘the flower and strength of the navy’, from being lured into the merchant service by better prospects. He had previously advised Melville and Pitt of his ideas on the subject.4 In the summer of 1806 he lectured Lord Grenville on the opportunity he had lost by proscribing the Pittites and driving them into opposition, when he might have been their natural leader. To prevent his father’s courtierly support of the Grenville ministry from damaging the family electoral interest, as it placed him at loggerheads with his brothers William and Montgomery, Garlies concerted with Melville. He viewed the new Parliament of 1806 with distaste: ‘for I really think my Lord Grenville’s new Parliament promises to comprehend all the jacobins and democrats in the kingdom in both Houses of Lords and Commons’.5

As a peer he remained a zealous guardian of his family’s electoral interest, but claimed, as early as 1808, to be ‘disgusted with politics and their adherents’.6 He died 27 Mar. 1834.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. Leveson Gower, i. 27-32, 91; SRO GD46/17/6, Garlies to Stewart, 18 Oct. [1791], Johnston to same [8] Mar., 20 May, Garlies to same, 8, 21 Feb. 10 Mar., 25 Apr., 10 May 1792, 23 Oct. 1793; Harewood mss, Canning jnl.
  • 2. PRO 30/8/138, ff. 153-6; SRO GD51/1/31; Rose Diaries, i. 200.
  • 3. PRO 30/8/138, f. 44; Dacres Adams mss 6/56; Paget Brothers, 38; Sir J. Barrow, Autobiog. Mem. (1847), p. 227.
  • 4. SRO GD46/17/17, Garlies to Stewart of Glasserton, 16 Jan., 17 Mar. 1806; PRO 30/8/138, ff. 150-2.
  • 5. SRO GD51/1/198/28/4, 5, 7, 9.
  • 6. SRO GD46/17/17, Galloway to Stewart, 7 May 1808.