Scottish County

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Number of voters:




Main Article

Despite the fact that Argyllshire possessed over a score of freeholders at the time of the Union, its representation was held in an iron grip by the Duke of Argyll. As chieftain of the Campbells of Argyll the Duke could claim the clan loyalty of about half the electorate, and as the principal landed magnate in the county he could expect to command his tenants and dependants. In the last resort, as hereditary sheriff, he was at liberty to make whatever return he saw fit. There was no temptation, however, to exercise his power corruptly. After some minor rebellions and family unpleasantness in the Union parliament, clan Campbell fell into line once more behind its chief, and James Campbell, heir to the laird and baronet of Ardkinglass, enjoyed Argyll’s full support in his unopposed return in 1708. Young Ardkinglass held a commission in the Duke’s own regiment, and although his father had earlier angered Argyll by going the wrong way on some Union votes, the family had since come round to their historic allegiance. Not only was Campbell re-elected without opposition in 1710 and 1713, there was only one contest for the place of praeses in the electoral court (in 1710 when Murdoch Maclean of Lochbuie was chosen ‘by plurality’).1

In this period there were no alterations to the electoral roll, which comprised 23 individuals in 1708. On only one occasion did the number of voters exceed half this total, but electoral participation was marginally greater than later in the century: 11 freeholders voted in 1708 (of whom six were Campbells); nine in 1710 (seven of whom had compeared in the previous election, and five of them Campbells); and 14 in 1713 (including all those who had compeared in 1710, and this time six Campbells), at which time Argyll’s brother Lord Ilay reported Ardkinglass’ return with the comment that the shire had chosen ‘a person we recommended’. By contrast, in 1722 and 1727 only half a dozen freeholders bothered to turn up to make the ritual unopposed return.2

Author: D. W. Hayton


  • 1. Orig. Pprs. ed. Macpherson, ii. 18; SRO, Breadalbane mss GD112/39/204/8-9, Sir James Campbell of Auchinbreck to [Breadalbane], 10, 14 Feb. 1707; GD112/39/208/3, [-] McNachtan to [same], 8 Aug. 1707; GD112/39/210/13, Hon. John Campbell* to [same], 1707; Edinburgh Courant, 23-25 June 1708; Scots Courant, 19-21 Oct. 1713.
  • 2. SRO, Inveraray sheriff ct. recs. SC54/21/1, pp. 1-14, Argyll. electoral ct. mins. 1708-27; Herts. RO, Panshanger mss D/EP F54, ff. 8-9.