CAMPBELL, Walter Frederick (1798-1855), of Islay House, Argyll and Woodhall, Lanark.

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



4 Mar. 1822 - 1832
1835 - 1841

Family and Education

b. 10 Apr. 1798, 1st s. of John Campbell† (d. 1809) of Islay and Lady Charlotte Susan Maria Campbell, da. of John Campbell†, 5th duke of Argyll [S]. educ. Eton 1811. m. (1) 14 Jan. 1820, Lady Eleanor Charteris (d. 16 Sept. 1832), da. of Francis, 7th earl of Wemyss [S], 1s. 1da. d.v.p.; (2) 16 Mar. 1837, Katherine Isabella, da. of Stephen Thomas Cole, 1s. 4da. suc. grandfa. Walter Campbell of Islay 1816. d. 8 Feb. 1855.

Offices Held


Campbell’s grandfather Walter Campbell, an advocate, succeeded his brother Daniel as heir of entail in 1777. He subsequently sold his Lanarkshire property at Shawfield and left the Argyllshire island of Islay and the Lanarkshire estate of Woodhall to his eldest son (with his first wife Eleanor Ker) John Campbell, a captain in the Scots Guards. In 1796 John Campbell married his kinswoman Lady Charlotte Campbell, younger daughter of the 5th duke of Argyll, the colonel of his regiment. He left the army, took up residence in Buckinghamshire and in 1807 was returned for Ayr Burghs on the interest of his Whig brother-in-law the 6th duke, whose political line he followed in the House. He predeceased his father in March 1809, leaving his widow ‘in uneasy circumstances’ with eight young children. The following year Lady Charlotte became a lady-in-waiting to Caroline, princess of Wales, in whose service she remained until 1815. In 1818 she married, against her brother’s wishes, the Rev. Edward Bury, rector of Lichfield, who had been tutor to her elder son Walter Frederick during travels in Italy after leaving Eton. A woman of beauty and charm, with literary pretensions, who had mixed in Sir Walter Scott’s circle, she published from 1822 a series of sentimental novels. Her Diary, which covered her time in the princess’s household, sold well, despite a critical mauling, when it was published anonymously in 1838. Her second husband died in 1832, but she survived until 1861.1

Walter Frederick Campbell succeeded his grandfather in 1816 and came of age three years later. In 1822 he replaced his uncle Lord John Campbell, Argyll’s brother, as Member for Argyllshire. Lord John would have preferred their kinsman Duncan Campbell of Lochnell, Member for Ayr Burghs, 1809-18, but the duke was persuaded by others to ‘support only a Whig’.2 This Walter Campbell, who joined Brooks’s, 19 Feb. 1825, certainly was, but he was a very lax attender in his first two Parliaments.3 He divided for parliamentary reform, 25 Apr., probably for inquiry into diplomatic expenditure, 15 May, and against the Irish constables bill, 7 June 1822. Presenting a petition from Argyllshire kelp manufacturers, 26 Feb., he said that unless the regulations governing barilla imports were altered the trade would be ruined. He secured an account of imports since 1810, 30 May, presented petitions against repeal of the duties from Islay and Skye, 4 June, and ‘strongly supported’ the government’s bill to increase them, 19 June, claiming that if it was not carried ‘2,000 people on his own estate ... would be thrown out of employ’.4 He presented an Argyllshire petition complaining of agricultural distress, 18 Mar., and questioned the chancellor of the exchequer on his proposed adjustment of the distillery laws, 16 Apr.5 He voted against the national debt reduction bill and for proper use of the Bardados defence fund, 7 Mar., against the deadweight pensions bill, 14 Apr., and for inquiry into chancery arrears, 5 June, repeal of the usury laws, 17 June, and the Scottish juries bill, 20 June 1823. No vote has been found for 1824, when he unsuccessfully sought from Peel, the home secretary, a piece of local patronage, and presented a county petition for free trade in spirits to England, 31 May.6 He defaulted on a call of the House, 28 Feb. 1825, but attended to vote for Catholic relief next day. He paired against the duke of Cumberland’s annuity bill, 10 June 1825, and was in the opposition minority against the president of the board of trade’s salary arrangement, 10 Apr. 1826.

At the general election in July 1826 he comfortably defeated Lochnell.7 He presented an Argyllshire petition against interference with the corn laws, 22 Feb. 1827.8 He voted for Catholic relief, 6 Mar. 1827, 12 May 1828. He divided for inquiry into electoral interference by Leicester corporation, 15 Mar. 1827. Next day he was given a month’s leave on account of a family illness. He may have voted for the disfranchisement of Penryn, 28 May 1827. He voted for repeal of the Test Acts, 26 Feb. 1828. He presented a county petition for protection against foreign wool imports, 7 May 1828, and on the 15th was examined by a Lords select committee on ‘the depreciation of wool in Islay, Jura, and the county of Argyll’.9 On 30 Mar. 1829, when he voted for Catholic emancipation, he endorsed the allegation that a hostile petition from Bothwell, Lanarkshire had been got up by the local minister’s appeal to his parishioners’ bigotry. He was granted a month’s sick leave, 1 Mar. 1830.

At the general election that summer he voted for the unsuccessful Whig in Lanarkshire and was himself returned unopposed for Argyllshire.10 The Wellington ministry listed him as ‘doubtful favourable’. He was an absentee from the decisive division on the civil list, 15 Nov. 1830. On 16 Mar. 1831 he presented several petitions for relief from distressed Western Isles kelp producers, who, he said, had ‘starvation staring them in the face’. He urged the Grey ministry to remove the duty on glass to assist them. He also presented a Dunoon petition against the proposed tax on steamboat passengers, the abandonment of which he welcomed, though he deplored the decision to tax the vessels instead. He voted for the second reading of the ministry’s English reform bill, 22 Mar., and against Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831. At the ensuing general election he was active on behalf of the beaten reformer in Lanarkshire and came in again unopposed.11 In the House, 27 June 1831, he criticized the Lanarkshire magistracy for having sent in troops to quell minor disturbances at the election. He voted for the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, and generally for its details until mid-August; but he was in the majority for the Chandos amendment to enfranchise £50 tenants-at-will on the 18th. He voted for the passage of the measure, 21 Sept. On 23 Sept. he divided for the second reading of the Scottish reform bill, of which he voiced his approval, 3 Oct. He voted for the motion of confidence in ministers, 10 Oct. He was in O’Connell’s minority for swearing in the Dublin election committee, 29 July, but voted with government against censure of the Irish administration, 23 Aug. He secured returns of spirit distillation and malt consumption, 2 Sept., and was named to the select committees on malt drawback, 5 Sept., and steam navigation, 6 Sept. He divided for the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831. On 3 Feb. 1832 he presented and endorsed an Argyllshire petition against the plan to transfer the peninsula of Cowal to Buteshire for electoral purposes, admitting that his earlier approval of the proposal, which had ‘created the greatest dissatisfaction’, had been ‘a very great error in judgement’. He also brought up a petition for the creation of an exclusively Argyllshire district of burghs. He voted for the £10 householder franchise in England and Wales, 3 Feb., to go into committee on the bill, 20 Feb., for the disfranchisement of Appleby, 21 Feb., the enfranchisement of Tower Hamlets, 28 Feb., and Gateshead, 5 Mar., and for the third reading, 22 Mar. He voted with government on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., but he objected to the proposed reduction of malt drawback on distilled spirits, 17 Feb., and divided in the minority of 17 against the bill, 29 Feb., having stated that ‘the unfortunate Highlander has a strong claim upon the sympathy of this House’. He abstained from the division on the third reading, 2 Apr.12 No further votes have been found for this period.

Campbell, whose first wife died in September 1832, did not stand for Argyllshire at the general election in December, but he was returned unopposed in 1835, defeated a Conservative in 1837 and retired from Parliament in 1841. On 22 Sept. 1847 he made a will leaving all his property to his elder son John Francis (1822-84), confirming the terms of his second marriage settlement and directing that his five-year-old younger son Walter should be trained as a merchant and be sent abroad for this purpose, in order to remove him from ‘the temptations of home’.13 Soon afterwards he went to Italy with his ailing sister Lady Charleville. After her death in Naples in February 1848 he settled at Avranches in Normandy. There he composed ‘for pastime’ some ‘Sketches of French Fishing, Farming, Cooking, Natural History and Politics’, in the belief, according to his elder son, who published them in Edinburgh as Life in Normandy in 1863, that ‘ingenious foreign devices and engines for ensnaring, growing and gathering food, and for making it eatable, might be so described as to benefit the poor at home, whose single dish of potatoes might easily be varied at small cost’. Campbell’s son reckoned that his comments on the 1848 French Revolution revealed the mind of an ‘experienced, liberal, clear-sighted politician, who knew the meaning of political gratitude; who tolerated all forms of religious worship ... [and] could foresee that communism, disorder and a French republic would lead to well-defined rights of property, stricter order and something like despotism’.14 Campbell died at Avranches in February 1855. His personalty was sworn under a paltry £300 and there was no residue.15

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: David R. Fisher


  • 1. Farington Diary, ii. 535; HP Commons, 1790-1820, iii. 374; Lady C. Bury, Diary of a Lady-in-Waiting (1908 edn.), i. pp. v-xi; Oxford DNB sub Bury, Lady Charlotte.
  • 2. Inverary Castle mss (History of Parliament Aspinall transcripts), Lord J. to D. Campbell [May 1826].
  • 3. Black Bk. (1823), 144; Session of Parl. 1825, p. 454.
  • 4. The Times, 27 Feb., 31 May, 5 June 1823.
  • 5. Ibid. 19 Mar., 17 Apr. 1823.
  • 6. Add. 40363, ff. 196, 197; The Times, 1 June 1824.
  • 7. Inverary Castle mss, Lord J. to D. Campbell; Glasgow Herald, 19, 30 June, 14 July 1826.
  • 8. The Times, 23 Feb. 1827.
  • 9. Colchester Diary, iii. 561.
  • 10. Glasgow Herald, 16, 30 Aug. 1830.
  • 11. Ibid. 16, 30 May 1831.
  • 12. The Times, 3 Apr. 1832.
  • 13. PROB 11/2211/395.
  • 14. Life in Normandy, i. pp. v-vii, l.
  • 15. IR26/2025/391.