CAMPBELL, Hon. James (aft. c.1660-?1713).

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



1708 - 1710

Family and Education

b. aft. c.1660, 4th s. of Archibald Campbell, 9th Earl of Argyll [S] by his 1st w. Lady Mary, da. of James Stewart, 4th Earl of Moray [S]; bro. of Archibald Campbell, 1st Duke of Argyll [S] and Hon. John Campbell*.  educ. Glasgow Univ. 1678.  m. 10 Nov. 1690, Mary (annulled by Act of Parl. 20 Dec. 1690), da. and h. of Philip Wharton (d. 1685) of Edlington, Yorks.; (2) 1694, Margaret (d. 1755), da. of David Leslie, 1st Ld. Newark [S], 2s. 3da. (1 d.v.p.).1

Offices Held

Capt. of ft. Earl of Argyll’s regt. 1689–bef. 1692; lt.-col. of ft. ?–c.1709.2

MP [S] Renfrew 1699–1702.

Dir. Bank of Scotland 1702.3

Burgess, Rothesay, Ayr, Edinburgh 1708.4


Preventive detention in Edinburgh Castle saved Campbell from the inevitable penalties which would have ensued had he been free to join his father’s rising in 1685, but although he did not undergo the ordeal of forfeiture and restoration his economic circumstances were not much less straitened than those of most younger sons of Scottish peers. This may help to account for the desperation of his actions in 1690 when he made the mistake of practising the Highland custom of forced marriage on an English heiress (worth allegedly some £1,500 p.a.), whom he and two other Scottish army officers abducted from her carriage in Great Queen Street, Westminster. Within two days she had been restored to her family, by order of the lord chief justice, and a little over a month later the marriage was annulled by Act of Parliament. (She was later to marry Robert Byerley*.) Campbell himself escaped scot-free, even though one of his accomplices, Sir John Johnston, went to the scaffold. Campbell’s subsequent marriage to the daughter of Lord Newark was socially advantageous but may not have been exceptionally profitable. His prospects were not furthered by the pall that descended upon relations with his brother, the 10th Earl (and later 1st Duke) of Argyll, when Campbell took the Countess’s side in their bitter matrimonial disputes, although as one of her creditors Campbell derived some material benefit, in that she ensured rapid settlement of her debts. He evidently possessed some disposable capital, for he was able to subscribe £500 to the Darien venture in 1696, and in 1702 was a director of the Bank of Scotland. By 1699 he had patched up relations with Argyll in order to secure a seat in the Scottish parliament for Renfrew and he followed Argyll, and the Court, in the session of 1700–1 and again in 1702, when he joined the ‘rump’ of courtiers in attendance. He was not, however, returned at the subsequent general election.5

By the time Campbell resumed his parliamentary career, in 1708, he had obtained and given up again (or been about to give up) another army commission, almost certainly a colonelcy of foot, though the details remain elusive. In December 1710, long after he had sold out, he wrote to his nephew’s wife, Margaret, Duchess of Argyll, to secure her assistance to recover his rank in a new commission, recalling her ‘favour’ in obtaining the original grant (though the responsibility may equally well have lain with her husband, the 2nd Duke, who as a boy had supposedly regarded Campbell as his favourite uncle, because of his loyalty to his mother). Campbell noted that ‘I did a small piece of service at the time of the Union parliament, when I went with the detachments to the west’, to quell the disturbances at Glasgow in 1706. But despite having himself disarmed the leader of the mob by running him through the shoulder, and having also been ‘at a considerable charge at that time for intelligence which I was never considered [i.e. reimbursed] for’, he had suffered the mortification of seeing ‘Colonel George Douglas*, though he was under my command . . . recommended by the Duke of Queensberry to her Majesty as having done good service upon that expedition, for which he got a col[onelcy] etc., and had 10s. a day added to his pay’. The poor return Campbell had received probably resulted from the relative weakness of his nephew’s position at Court rather than any unwillingness on Argyll’s part to serve him, for Campbell’s successful candidature in the Ayr burghs district in the 1708 election owed much to Argyll’s influence. For some unexplained reason (possibly connected with the earlier abduction episode), news of his return caused disquiet in royal circles. It was reported that the Queen ‘is much surprised at the election of Colonel James Campbell. She thinks it puts her on a hard [?tack] and . . . will make a cruel breach with somebody.’ Once in the House, he does not seem to have been particularly prominent in parliamentary business, though it is in any case impossible to distinguish his appearances in the Journals from those of his various kinsmen. He was subsequently blacklisted for having supported Dr Sacheverell’s impeachment, a vote which could be interpreted as a statement of loyalty to the Court, but which also probably represented a fundamental commitment to the ‘Revolution interest’: certainly Campbell’s comments later in the year over the disciplinary action taken against Thomas Meredyth* and other Whig officers for anti-ministerial toast-drinking make it clear that, while deprecating any impiety or lèse-majesté on their part, he still regarded himself as a Whig. His financial preoccupations would certainly have been such as to draw him over to the administration, and in 1709 he had made a tentative approach to the ministry for some renewed military preferment. As he told the Duchess of Argyll the following year,

my Lord Leven did last summer write to the secretary-at-war, Mr Walpole [Robert II*] to recommend me to the Duke of Marlborough [John Churchill†], that I might have a brigadier’s commission of the same date with those of the last promotion, that thereby I might keep my rank in the army, in case I had the good fortune to get a post in the army again; and I see Mr Walpole’s return to my Lord Leven, which was, that he had writ to the Duke of Marlborough in my favour, and some other officers who were neglected to be advanced at the last promotion of general officers, and that his grace promised to do us justice when he came to England, but a recommendation now by his Grace in my favour is not now to be expected.

In fact, neither Marlborough’s influence, nor Argyll’s after 1710, was sufficient to secure his reinstatement. At about the same time he had begun what were to prove tortuous negotiations with a namesake, James Campbell, for the purchase of the estate of Burnbank in Perthshire. Burnbank, a dissolute character, had already acquired a reputation for foul dealing in business matters, and it was thus no surprise that the affair became protracted and difficult, involving considerable legal costs before its eventual conclusion in January 1712. (Confusingly, the vendor retained his designation ‘of Burnbank’ throughout a spectacular moral decline thereafter which culminated in a sentence to transportation in 1720 for his part in the notorious murder of Mrs Nichol Muschet.) Meanwhile Campbell himself had relinquished his seat in Parliament at the 1710 election.6

According to an unpublished pedigree of the Fletchers of Saltoun, cited by the 19th-century Scots antiquary James Maidment, Campbell died in January 1713. This would not be absolutely incompatible with the evidence that a younger son and daughter were served as heirs to their portions of his estate as late as 1738, but the two facts are not easy to square. What is indisputable, however, is that Campbell’s principal heir was his eldest son John.7

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: D. W. Hayton


  • 1. Scots Peerage ed. Paul, i. 367–8; Hist. Scot. Parl. 92; Recs. Glasgow Univ. (Maitland Club, lxxii), iii. 134; E. R. Wharton, Whartons of Wharton Hall, 31; LJ, xiv. 600; Scot. Hist. Soc. xxxiv. 439.
  • 2. CSP Dom. 1691–2, p. 175.
  • 3. C. A. Malcolm, Bank of Scotland, 294.
  • 4. Carnegie Lib. Ayr, Ayr burgh recs. B6/39/29, commn. 17 May 1708; B6/18/8, council mins. 27 May 1708; Scot. Rec. Soc. lxii. 31.
  • 5. Hist. Scot. Parl. 92; Douglas, 367–8; Wharton, 31–32; CSP Dom. 1690–1, pp. 64–65; A Brief Hist. of . . . the Unfortunate Sir John Johnston (1690); Argyle Pprs. 43–57, 61–62; Darien Pprs. (Bannatyne Club, xc), 372; P. W. J. Riley, King Wm. and Scot. Politicians, 175.
  • 6. Argyle Pprs. pp. xvii–xxii, xxv–xxxiii, 61–62, 160–5, 167, 171–5, 178, 180, 183, 198; Boyer, Anne Annals, v. 401; SRO, Mar and Kellie mss GD124/15/831/14, Sir David Nairne to Mar, 8 June 1708; SRO, Breadalbane mss GD112/39/254/7, James Campbell of Lawers to Breadalbane, 22 June 1711; The Confession of Nichol Muschet of Boghal (1818); Elegy on the Mournful Banishment of James Campbell of Burnbank to the West Indies, n.d.
  • 7. Argyle Pprs. p. xviii; Services of Heirs (ser. 1), i. 1730–9, p. 6; 1740–9, p. 6.