MIDDLETON, John II (1678-1739), of Old Aberdeen

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



1713 - 1715
22 July 1715 - 1722
25 Oct. 1722 - 4 May 1739

Family and Education

bap. 27 Sept. 1678, 4th but 1st surv. s. of George Middleton, DD, principal of King’s Coll. Aberdeen 1684–1717, by Jane, da. of James Gordon of Seaton, Aberdeen.  m. by 1711, Elizabeth (d. 1734), da. of William Cunningham of Enterkine, Ayr, 2s. (1 d.v.p.) 2da. (1 d.v.p.).  suc. fa. 1726.1

Offices Held

Capt. 3 Ft. (the Buffs) 1709–Mar. 1711, lt.-col. 25 Ft. Mar. 1711–17 (brevet col. Nov. 1711), col. 1721–May 1732, 13 Ft. May 1732–d.; lt.-gov. Tynemouth castle 1715–17, gov. Holy Is. 1721–d.; brig.-gen. 1735; purveyor of coal and candles for Edinburgh garrison by 1739.

Burgess, Old Aberdeen 1712, councillor 1729.2


Middleton’s background was oddly inappropriate for a professional soldier and a protégé of the Duke of Argyll. Admittedly his great-uncle, the 1st Earl of Middleton, had begun an eventful military career in the army of the Covenant. Subsequently, however, he had served Charles II, and after the Restoration had shown himself a keen supporter of episcopacy. The 2nd Earl was, moreover, a Jacobite loyalist and a leading minister of the exiled court. Middleton’s own grandfather and father were successively principals of King’s College, Aberdeen, his father being ‘a great humanist and philosopher’ who seems to have been a pillar of the episcopalian party in the university and who was purged along with other supposedly disaffected elements by royal commission in 1717.3

None the less, Middleton was firmly attached to the house of Argyll from at least 1709, when he was commissioned into the Duke’s regiment in time to fight at Malplaquet, and in the summer of 1710 he carried confidential messages from Argyll to Robert Harley* and other English politicians. On the Duke’s appointment as commander-in-chief in Spain in 1711 Middleton transferred to another regiment, commanded by a fellow beneficiary of Argyll’s patronage. The brevet he received for a colonel’s rank, and the £1,000 granted him out of the civil list as ‘royal bounty’, both in the winter of 1711–12, were doubtless intended by the ministry as sops to the Argathelian interest. At the same time his episcopalian contacts made Middleton a useful intermediary in Argyll’s tentative dealings with Scottish Jacobite MPs. George Lockhart* was later to claim that in 1712 there had been a ‘very intimate correspondence’ between himself and Middleton, one ‘who depended absolutely on the Duke, being as it were of his own family and his constant companion’, but whose ‘principles and inclinations’, more accurately his upbringing and connexions, encouraged optimism that at bottom he might wish well to the Pretender.4

Stationed in the Highlands with his new regiment, Middleton made early preparations for entry into Parliament. It was reported that the Provost of Aberdeen was ‘pretty clear for Colonel Middleton’ in April 1713. Rumours shortly before the general election that Middleton had ‘given over his pretensions’ proved wide of the mark, and his return was achieved in the teeth of formidable pressure from local magnates of a Tory or Jacobite stamp. Although his election was hailed by Argyll’s brother, Lord Ilay, as a triumph over Jacobitism, it clearly owed a great deal to Middleton’s own position in the city (where he was beginning to acquire some proprietorial influence through sub-letting from the university). In strictly religious terms, as one observer noted, Middleton was ‘no Scots Whig’ but rather ‘an Argathelian, which some think is the same thing in a Member of Parliament’. Classified as a ‘Hanoverian’ in an analysis of the Scottish election results, he followed Argyll in joining with the Whigs in this Parliament, having also a personal grievance against the ministry to bolster his political opposition, in that he had been kept in the dark about minor alterations in the personnel of his own regiment. He voted on 18 Mar. 1714 against the expulsion of Richard Steele, and was marked as a Whig in the Worsley list, though he did not, as far as is known, contribute to debate. As one of the Scottish Members in London at the time of the Queen’s death he joined in signing the proclamation of George I.5

Middleton retained his seat in 1715 and 1722 only on petition, despite the fact that since 1715 he had been steadily accumulating land in the county, starting with the purchase of his mother’s ancestral estate at Seaton. He may even have cherished an ambition to revive the Middleton peerage, forfeit with the attainder of the 2nd Earl, since in 1738 he took out a charter to himself in fee of the former Middleton lands of Fettercairn, which he had bought from Lord Strathmore. He remained a particular favourite of Argyll, on whose staff he served during the Fifteen. Losing his appointments in 1717, in company with ‘all the Campbells and everything that smells that way’, he was again used as a channel of communication between Argyll and the Jacobites, to whom his comments were at best delphic. He returned to employment on Argyll’s rehabilitation in 1721, and thereafter voted faithfully for the administration. Middleton died on 4 May 1739, ‘of a mortification in the bowels’.6

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: D. W. Hayton


  • 1. A. C. Biscoe, Earls of Middleton and Middleton Fam. 380–2; Officers and Graduates of King’s Coll. Aberdeen 1495–1860 ed. Anderson (New Spalding Club), 27; Recs. Old Aberdeen (New Spalding Club), ii. 168.
  • 2. Cal. Treas. Pprs. 1720–8, p. 74; Recs. Old Aberdeen, i. 30, 280.
  • 3. W. Orem, ‘Description of . . . Old Aberdeen . . .’, Bibliotheca Topographica Britannica ed. Nichols (1782), v(3), 133, 165–6; Clarke thesis, 59.
  • 4. HMC Portland, iv. 568–9; Bolingbroke Corresp. i. 241; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxvi. 99, 104; Lockhart Pprs. i. 395, 397.
  • 5. SRO, Seafield mss GD248/561/49/4, James Allardice to [–], 10 Apr. 1713; SRO, Mar and Kellie mss GD124/15/1099/4, Thomas Erskyne to Ld. Grange (Hon. James Erskine†), 8 Sept. 1713; Herts. RO, Panshanger mss D/EP F54, ff. 8–9; Powis Pprs. (3rd Spalding Club), 207–8; NLS, Advocates’ mss, Wodrow pprs. letters Quarto 8, f. 65; Nottingham Univ. Lib. Portland (Harley) mss Pw2 Hy 927, Ld. Balmerino to Earl of Mar, 28 Jan. 1713–14; Boyer, Pol. State, viii. 118.
  • 6. Biscoe, 381–3; Powis Pprs. 62; Recs. Old Aberdeen, ii. 261, 263; Orem, 36; More Culloden Pprs. ed. Warrand, ii. 52, 182; HMC 5th Rep. 618–19; HMC Stuart, vi. 422–3, 535–7, 554; Lockhart Letters ed. Szechi, 132–3; J. S. Shaw, Management of Scot. Soc. 107–10; Gent. Mag. 1739, p. 272.