CAMPBELL, Sir James, 5th Bt. (c.1679-1756), of Auchinbreck, Argyll.

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



1707 - 1708

Family and Education

b. c.1679, 1st s. of Sir Duncan Campbell, MP [S], 4th Bt., of Auchinbreck by Lady Henrietta, da. of Alexander Crawford, 1st Earl of Balcarres [S] (whose wid. married Archibald Campbell, 9th Earl of Argyll [S]).  educ. Glasgow Univ. 1695.  m. (1) by 1696 (with 20,000 merks), Janet, da. of John (Ian Breac) Macleod of Dunvegan Castle, Skye, Inverness, 16th chief of clan Macleod, MP [S], 2s. (1 d.v.p.) 1da.; (2) c.1718, his ‘cousin’ Susanna, da. of Sir Alexander Campbell of Cawdor (Calder), Nairn, MP [S], 4s. 4da.; (3) Margaret, da. of Donald Campbell of Carradale or Glencarradale, Argyll, 2s. 2da.  suc. fa. as 5th Bt. bef. 28 Nov. 1700.1

Offices Held

Commr. justiciary for Highlands [S] 1701, 1702; capt. 25 Ft. 1707–11.

MP [S] Argyllshire 1703–7.

Burgess, Edinburgh 1704, Inveraray 1716.2


The lairds of Auchinbreck, once among the most ‘considerable branches’ of clan Campbell, had been brought low by a combination of their own indiscretions and what they came to consider the base ingratitude of successive earls and dukes of Argyll, who allegedly rewarded exemplary loyalty with careless exploitation. During the civil wars the 2nd baronet commanded the Marquess (and 8th Earl) of Argyll’s regiment in Ireland and in Scotland, dying at Inverlochy in 1645. His son, who had also been in arms for the Covenant, received compensation for losses in Montrose’s rebellion of 1649, but at the Restoration was obliged

to pay near £3,000 sterling on his entry into his estate, though he was forced to sell part to pay £8,000 sterling of the Marquess his debts for which he had been engaged with him, without any relief from the [9th] Earl, he not being obliged to it in law, being restored by the King’s donative.

The next baronet, the Member’s father, ‘being young and giddy’, was ‘the only considerable man of the family who joined’ the 9th Earl of Argyll in 1685. During the rising his castle at Carnassary in west Argyll was burnt by his local enemies the Macleans, and he suffered forfeiture as a rebel, though obtaining a remission in 1687 and eventual rescindment of the sentence in 1690 after he had taken an active part in the Revolution. The Argylls’ enemies claimed that otherwise Auchinbreck snr. was ‘ill rewarded’ for these strenuous efforts: although he was given a captaincy in Argyll’s regiment in 1689, and the following year participated in the commission appointed to carry out the functions of the lord clerk register, he was denied his real ambition of a peerage. The scraps of patronage that came his way did nothing to rescue his shaky finances, and he was only able to settle a debt of £40,000 Scots to a Campbell kinsman in the early 1690s by pressing a claim to the estates of the Macleods of Dunvegan, which he promptly sold off to his creditor. Relations with Argyll had broken down as early as August 1689, and there is no indication that they were subsequently repaired. Steadily declining health eventually induced Sir Duncan Campbell to demit his commission to the Scottish estates in 1700, and on a petition from various freeholders, supported by the evidence of the local minister and apothecary, the seat was declared vacant. It would seem that Sir Duncan’s troubles were as much mental as physiological, for there was also testimony that he had publicly declared himself a papist, a curious twist to a long career of apparent devotion to the Presbyterian interest, and sufficient proof for some that he had gone mad. Conversion would certainly have been at odds with his subscription to the association only two years before, and his son’s subsequent appearance as a Presbyterian elder in 1705.3

The 5th baronet himself seems to have repaired relations sufficiently to have begun his parliamentary career in 1703 in the retinue of the house of Argyll: in that year he joined the 1st Duke in protesting against the passage of the Scottish act of security; in 1704 he toed the Court line, as Argathelians were obliged to do, in opposing Hamilton’s motion to postpone settlement of the succession; and a year later he was one of a covey of Campbells and other dependants who were admitted as burgesses of Edinburgh in the train of the 2nd Duke. In the Union parliament he again followed the Court voting pattern, supporting the treaty in the critical divisions on the 1st article and on ratification, and indeed consistently throughout the debates, with one important exception: the division on shire and burgh representation. This show of independence provoked Argyll’s wrath. ‘As to the Duke of Argyll’s present business’, reported Auchinbreck to the Earl of Breadalbane in February 1707,

I know nothing but that he is much disobliged at Ardkinglass [James Campbell*] and my voting for the barons. He sent a message to us both that if we did not come to the house and vote against the barons and vote with himself [he] would never see our faces, and accordingly I have not seen his grace.

A truce of some kind must have been patched up to enable Auchinbreck to obtain a place in the Court contingent returned to the first Parliament of Great Britain. At some point in 1708 he was also granted a captaincy of foot, presumably at Argyll’s recommendation.4

One of the Scottish Members welcomed to Westminster with appointment on 10 Nov. 1707 to the committee on the Address, Campbell proved surprisingly active in what was to be his only parliamentary session. He took charge of two bills, the earlier and more important to repeal the Scottish act of security, a measure he proposed on 4 Dec. and presented on the 9th. He told on 12 Dec. against a Squadrone motion to commit the bill to the whole House, and shepherded it through its remaining stages in the Commons. He was involved in various schemes of electoral reform, being nominated on 22 Dec. 1707 to the drafting committee for the bill to prevent corruption in parliamentary elections. Otherwise his more significant appearances in the Journals tended to be concerned with specifically Scottish business: drafting committees on the bill to regulate the linen manufacture (21 Jan. 1708), the salmon fishery (2 Feb.) and to direct payment of the Equivalent (23 Feb.). His opposition to the bill to complete the Union (which provided for the abolition of the Scottish privy council and of the heritable jurisdictions) at first incurred yet another rupture with Argyll, who had misguidedly declared himself in favour, but by the time of the division of 23 Jan., in which Campbell told for agreeing with a committee amendment, Argyll had come to realize that the attack on the jurisdictions was an ill-concealed plot against himself. Campbell’s subsequent adoption of responsibility for the East Tarbert harbour bill, which he managed through the House, would seem to indicate that he was back in the Duke’s good graces.5

Campbell’s presence at the Argyllshire election of 1708, when he served as praeses for the unopposed election of James Campbell of Ardkinglass, marks the last point at which he can be said to have co-operated with the Argathelian interest. He did not attend the two subsequent elections, and at one or the other was even rumoured to be planning to stand against Ardkinglass, Argyll’s brother Lord Ilay commenting that Auchinbreck ‘is playing the devil and all against us’. At about this time it was reported that Auchinbreck had suffered ‘great hardships’ at Argyll’s hands, in particular being passed over for a colonelcy in favour of John Middleton II*.6

The estrangement proved irrevocable. Auchinbreck reaped no benefit from the return to power of Argyll after the Hanoverian succession, and although he did not participate in the Fifteen, he was in contact with the Pretender within two years, expressing ‘warm intentions’ and even agreeing to attempt some liaison with Argyll. His new-found Jacobite loyalty drew him further on to ruin. By 1740 he was described by the Murray of Broughton as a man ‘of desperate fortune and little interest’. So ‘low’ was his ‘situation’ that, although an old man, he determined to go to Jamaica to repair his finances when his house was destroyed by fire and he and his family thus ‘reduced to the utmost straits’. Then the Jacobite ‘association’, into which he was drawn by his son-in-law Cameron of Lochiel, offered a renewed opportunity to solicit a subvention from the Pretender. Promised a pension of £300 in return for his so-called ‘influence’ in the western Highlands, he was a constant correspondent of the Jacobites until 1745, when, considering himself too old to fight, he was arrested and imprisoned. After the suppression of the rising, he found himself specifically excluded from the indemnity, and condemned to exist thereafter on the sparse remittances of Jacobite agents. He died at Lochgair in Argyll on 14 Oct. 1756, aged 77.7

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: D. W. Hayton


  • 1. Hist. Scot. Parl. 92; Recs. Glasgow Univ. (Maitland Club, lxxii), iii. 157, 204; SRO Indexes, iii. 155; ix. 220–1, 275; R. C. Macleod, Macleods of Dunvegan, 168; HMC Stuart, v. 521; APS, xi. 147; Services of Heirs (ser. 1), i. 1710–19, pp. 4–5.
  • 2. CSP Dom. 1702–3, p. 354; Scot. Rec. Soc. lxii. 31; n.s. xiv. 15.
  • 3. Hist. Scot. Parl. 91–92; APS, vi(2), 275, 499, 713; ix. 9, 20, 28, 166; ix. app. 10, 17, 53, 68; x. 209; Harley mss at Brampton Bryan, ‘The Present State of the Family of Campbell’, [?c.1713]; Lauder of Fountainhall, Hist. Notices (Bannatyne Club, lxxxvii), 642, 683, 692; Reg. PC Scotland, 1686–9, pp. 382, 402; 1690, p. 61; HMC Stuart, iv. 44, 46–48; HMC Mar and Kellie, i. 320; Leven and Melville Pprs. (Bannatyne Club, lxxvii), 252, 323; Bk. of Dunvegan (3rd Spalding Club), i. 97–98; Crossrigg Diary, 14; Acts of Gen. Assembly of Church of Scotland, 388.
  • 4. Lockhart Mems. ed. Szechi, 78; Boyer, Anne Annals, iii. app. 43; P. Dickson, Red John of the Battles, 64; info. from Dr P. W. J. Riley on members of Scot. parl.; P. W. J. Riley, Union, 331; SRO, Breadalbane mss GD112/39/204/ 8–9, Campbell to [Breadalbane], 10, 14 Feb. 1707.
  • 5. HMC Mar and Kellie, 424; SRO, GD112/39/210/13, Hon. John Campbell* to [Breadalbane], 1707; GD112/39/211/27, same to [same], 27 Jan. 1708.
  • 6. SRO, Inveraray sheriff ct. recs. SC54/21/1, pp. 1–8, Argyll. electoral ct. mins. 1708–13; NRA [S], Rep. 631, p. 706; Harley mss, ‘State of the family of Campbell’.
  • 7. HMC Stuart, iv. 187; v. 520–1, 529; vi. 385; vii. 164–8; Scot. Hist. Soc. xxvii. 8–9, 22, 33–34, 137, 377–8, 441; (ser. 3), vii. 168; xiv. 94–95; More Culloden Pprs. ed. Warrand, v. 161–2; Hist. Scot. Parl. 92.