CAMPBELL, John, Lord Glenorchy (1796-1862), of Park Lane, Mdx.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009
Available from Cambridge University Press



16 June 1820 - 1826
1832 - 29 Mar. 1834

Family and Education

b. 26 Oct. 1796, o.s. of John, 4th earl of Breadalbane [S], and Mary Turner, da. and coh. of David Gavin of Langton House, Berwick. educ. Eton c. 1809; Glasgow Univ. 1813. m. 23 Nov. 1821, Eliza, da. of George Baillie† of Jerviswoode, Lanark, s.p. styled Lord Glenorchy 1796-1831, earl of Ormelie 1831-4; suc. fa. as 2nd mq. of Breadalbane [UK] 29 Mar. 1834; KT 21 Mar. 1838. d. 8 Nov. 1862.

Offices Held

Ld. chamberlain of household Sept. 1848-Feb. 1852, Jan. 1853-Feb. 1858; PC 4 Sept. 1848; spec. mission to Prussia 1861.

Ld. lt. Argyll 1839-d.; rect. Glasgow Univ. 1840-2, Marischall Coll. Aberdeen 1843-5; gov. Bank of Scotland 1861-d.

Col. commdt. Perth vols; col. Argyll and Bute militia 1854.


‘Lord Breadalbane may build a palace, but his soul bears no proportion to it’, wrote John Ramsay of Ochtertyre of Glenorchy’s father, one of the leading Whig partisans in Scotland, who lived in princely style at Taymouth Castle.1 Glenorchy studied at Glasgow, where he was remembered as

a remarkably solid looking, fair complexioned lad, athletic, companionable, and popular ... He was proud yet condescending, imperious yet affable, liberal yet close-fisted, shrewd yet liable to be deceived ... In youth ... [he] was a fair scholar as in after-life he became a fair politician, but ... aristocratic reticence remained his leading characteristic.

Parental disapproval was said to have ended his notorious love affair with an attractive Glaswegian, and he subsequently married a cousin of Lord Binning*.2 He joined Brooks’s Club, 5 Dec. 1819, and six months later was returned for Okehampton, presumably as a paying guest of the proprietor, Albany Savile*, who made way for him.

He was not the most dedicated of attenders, but he voted when present with the Whig opposition to Lord Liverpool’s ministry on all major issues, including parliamentary reform, 24 June 1822, 20 Feb., 24 Apr., 2 June 1823, 13, 27 Apr. 1826. He divided for Catholic relief, 28 Feb. 1821, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May 1825. He condemned the order in council to the Church of Scotland regarding the omission of Queen Caroline’s name from the liturgy, 15 Feb. 1821, describing it as a ‘breach of the fundamental principle’ of non-intervention which was motivated by a ‘desire to gratify an uncharitable and vindictive feeling towards an injured individual’. He made a plea for religious toleration in the debate on Catholic petitions, 28 Feb. He was granted six weeks’ leave for urgent private business, 9 May 1821. Henry Edward Fox*, who met him at Holyrood House in the summer of 1822, found him to be ‘manly and open’.3 He was one of the minority of 20 who voted against Stuart Wortley’s amendment approving British neutrality towards the French invasion of Spain, 30 Apr. 1823, when the bulk of opposition voted with ministers. He supported reform in Scotland, 2 June 1823, maintaining that there was widespread hostility to the ‘egregious absurdity and injustice’ of the existing system and that a ‘full, ample and equal representation’ was required. In opposing the Leith docks bill, 20 May 1825, he ‘protested against the manner in which these Scotch jobs were managed in a committee upstairs, which were, when a Scotch bill was the matter in question, generally composed altogether of Scotchmen’. He ‘strongly objected’ to granting an official salary to the president of the board of trade, 10 Apr. 1826, declaring that ‘ministerial influence in [the] House was more than sufficient’. He strongly supported Russell’s reform motion, 27 Apr. 1826, arguing that the object was merely to ‘preserve’ the constitution by ‘removing all that was prejudicial to it’. He retired at the dissolution that summer.

Glenorchy remained an active supporter of reform, and in the summer of 1831 Lord Grey’s ministry contemplated calling him to the Lords in his father’s barony as well as advancing Lord Breadalbane in the peerage. However, following the recent general election he had issued an address announcing his intention of offering for Perthshire as soon as the passage of the reform bill removed the ban on the eldest sons of Scottish peers representing Scottish constituencies. Breadalbane accordingly advised Lord Holland that his son’s ‘being called to the House of Peers under existing circumstances would not be in accordance with his own views, and certainly his friends would rather see him Member for Perthshire’. Lady Breadalbane, on the other hand, was confident that her son would come round to the idea of going to the Lords, and after a personal interview Holland gained the impression that he was ‘pleased at the prospect’. He subsequently emphasized that he was ‘ready to do anything that may conduce to the success of the reform bill’. In the event he was not called up, but his father was created a marquess in the coronation honours.4 Early in 1832 he reiterated his willingness to take whatever course the government desired, but added that if ‘left to my own choice’ he would prefer to contest Perthshire, as a seat in the Lords was ‘not a matter of much importance to me now that a political field will be open to me in my own county’.5 At the general election later that year, when he was said to be ‘the most zealous and active person in Scotland’, he won a celebrated victory in Perthshire over the hitherto dominant Atholl interest, although his father’s death removed him from the Commons after only 15 months.6 Soon afterwards John Cam Hobhouse* visited him at Taymouth and noted that

he is much annoyed at the will left by his father, depriving him of every shilling of which the late lord could dispose. He told me he had not the least reason to suppose his father intended such a deed. He believed the old gentleman was induced to it by the love of accumulation of what £300,000 untouched for 20 years would amount to ... His rent-roll is £30,000 a year, and after 20 years he will have the income of the accumulated sum, but in the meantime he has no ready money for improvements. He is a shy but a determined man ... I took a good deal of pains to persuade [him] to attend the dinner to be given at Edinburgh to Lord Grey. He said that he had done his duty in promoting reform of Parliament, and might fairly retire. ‘What!’ said I, ‘at 38 years of age?’ Lady Breadalbane agreed with me, and he made up his mind to go to Edinburgh the next day.7

In 1837 he claimed to have spent £30,000 in five years on Perthshire elections and registrations. He was the leading layman on the non-intrusion side in the Scottish church controversy and became a generous benefactor of the Free Church. In September 1842 he entertained Queen Victoria in lavish style during her visit to Scotland, ‘spending a muckle deal o’siller’ in the process, as a local schoolmaster observed. He later held household office and his London residence became the centre of a fashionable court circle, but he ‘made no great figure as a politician’.8 He died in November 1862, when his marquessate became extinct; his Scottish dignities passed to a distant cousin, John Alexander Gavin Campbell (1824-71).

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Authors: David R. Fisher / Terry Jenkins


  • 1. Letters of John Ramsay ed. B.L.H. Horn (Scottish Hist. Soc. ser. 4, iii), 255.
  • 2. P.R. Drummond, Perthshire in Bygone Days, 7-8.
  • 3. Fox Jnl. 140-1.
  • 4. Add 51593, Dalrymple to Holland, 22 June; 51836, to same from Breadalbane, 16 June, 7 Sept., Lady Breadalbane [July], Glenorchy, 1 Aug. 1831; Holland House Diaries, 5, 13.
  • 5. Add. 51836, Ormelie to Holland, 20 Feb. 1832.
  • 6. Add. 51644, Murray to Holland, 5, 17 June 1832.
  • 7. Broughton, Recollections, v. 9-10.
  • 8. Scottish Electoral Politics, 255; Parker, Peel, ii. 544-5; Drummond, 12.