MURRAY, Lord James (1663-1719), of Dowally, Dunkeld, Perth.

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



1710 - 1715

Family and Education

b. 8 May 1663, 3rd s. of John Murray, 1st Mq. of Atholl [S] by Lady Amelia Anne Sophia, da. of James Stanley†, 7th Earl of Derby and sis. of Hon. Edward† and Hon. William Stanley†; bro. of Ld. Charles Murray†, Earl of Dunmore [S].  m. c.1684, Anne (d. 1726), da. and h. of Sir Robert Murray (formerly Crichton), of Castle Murray, co. Donegal and Glenmuir, Ayr, 2s. d.v.p. 4da. (1 d.v.p.).1

Offices Held

Capt. R. Regt. Ft. (1 Ft., later R. Scots), 1684–6, Ld. John Murray’s Ft. 1696.

Burgess, Glasgow 1694, Edinburgh 1696; commr. justiciary for Highlands [S] 1697; dep. bailie, regality of Atholl 1700.2


The slender provision made for his younger sons by the 1st Marquess of Atholl seems to have been satisfactorily augmented in Murray’s case by a marriage to a Scots–Irish heiress, herself descended from the Murrays of Cockpool, former earls of Annandale in the Scottish peerage. Unhappily, his wife’s inheritance was disputed, only coming into her hands in 1691 after a lawsuit in Ireland (towards the expenses of which Atholl contributed £1,000), and even then proving less valuable than had been expected. In Queen Anne’s reign Murray’s income was described as ‘very small’, or as the Jacobite agent Nathaniel Hooke put it, rather more colourfully, he had ‘not a groat of [his] own’. Not surprisingly, therefore, he remained dependent on his family’s influence and protection, and for the most part stayed within its political orbit, though lack of money, and perhaps also a mulish streak in his character, occasionally resulted in episodes of self-assertion.3

One such example seems to have occurred in 1689 when, after some dithering, he threw in his lot with the Jacobites. This decision not only made weak political sense, coming as it did after Killiecrankie, but was in direct conflict with the clear commitment to the Williamite cause shown by his elder brother Lord John Murray. It also threatened to compromise their father, who although he had once been a loyal supporter of James II’s government in Scotland, and had led out his clansmen against the Covenanters and the Argyll rebellion, was now going some lengths to avoid identifying himself with either side. Both Atholl and his heir seem to have been seriously displeased at the embarrassment Murray had caused them, and Lord John made strenuous efforts to persuade him to give himself up at the first opportunity. For his part, Murray claimed that his actions had been dictated solely by family loyalty, his objectives having been to preserve the Marquess’s influence over the ‘men of Atholl’, who were determined to rise, no matter what their chief might say, and to save the castle at Blair Atholl from being attacked by exasperated Highlanders. These tasks accomplished, he quickly made his submission to the government and took advantage of an indemnity that Lord John had secured for him, his personal involvement in the rebellion having lasted little over a month and having included only one taste of action, at Dunkeld, albeit an occasion on which he was nearly killed. One historian has interpreted the train of events as a manoeuvre skilfully orchestrated by Atholl, ‘yet another insurance policy’ on the Marquess’s estates. The aftermath, however, suggests that Murray possessed some independent judgment, even a propensity to awkwardness, on the subject of the Revolution. He eventually took the oaths in 1693, writing to Lord John in submissive terms, to express the hope that some way might be found to save ‘our religion and country’ and trusting his brother to find it:

that I might be plain with you as to my intentions, which is, as I have often said, that I would go the same way you did, therefore pray be assured of this, and that according to my poor will be ready [sic] to serve those that oppose the success of France, which I am persuaded those that love their country will, and do their best to oppose all invaders whatsoever.

Nevertheless, three years later he had still not entirely reconciled himself to the Williamite regime. A family friend wrote in February 1696, at the time of the announcement of the discovery of the Assassination Plot, that he expected Murray should be taken into preventive custody, ‘which I shall be sorry for, yet should be more so to have him engage himself in any ill thing’. The writer’s opinion was that ‘if on this occasion James were put to give his word of honour it might bring him off, and the King formerly would have been satisfied with that from him. I confess he does not deserve favour from the King but for his father’s sake.’4

The reconstruction of the Scottish ministry in 1695–6, in the interest of magnates like Atholl who had hitherto been excluded from power, occasioned Murray’s reintegration into government service. Lord John Murray had been a principal beneficiary of the ministerial changes, having been brought in first as secretary and then as lord high commissioner to the parliament (for which purpose he was raised to the peerage as Earl of Tullibardine), and regarded himself not only as the effective head of the family but as the leader of the new administration. In May 1696 Lord James was commissioned as captain in his brother’s regiment, taking precedence because of the date of his earlier commission in 1684; and in due course he was named a commissioner of supply for Perthshire. He served as his brother’s pursebearer when the parliament met, was a trustee for the payment of a government pension to his family’s chief Highland agent, Macdonald of Glengarry, and in 1697 was added to the commission of justiciary, principally in order to carry out some family business in the Highlands, namely the punishment planned against Simon Fraser of Beaufort for abducting and forcing into marriage the dowager Lady Lovat, who happened to be Tullibardine’s and Murray’s sister. The Murrays’ quarrel with Fraser was essentially personal, centred on the barony of Lovat, to which both Fraser and Lady Lovat had a claim, although for political purposes Tullibardine hoped that it would appear a crusade against Highland disaffection. Murray made two forays against Fraser, in the winter of 1697–8 and again the following summer, raising the Atholl men under royal commission, but distinguished himself only by the degree of his embarrassment, when on his second expedition he and his brother Lord Mungo were captured, along with a detachment of their troops, and imprisoned by Fraser for a short time.5

Tullibardine’s abrupt loss of power in 1698 was followed by a family quarrel over control of the regality of Atholl, one of the largest of the heritable jurisdictions. An attempt by Tullibardine to obtain a grant for himself infuriated his father and brothers, and Atholl named Lord James as his own deputy. It is improbable that Murray was for long at daggers drawn with Tullibardine (who succeeded to the marquessate in 1703 and was promptly raised to a dukedom), although the fragmentary evidence suggests that a certain distance may have remained between them. Little is known of Murray in the period before his election to Westminster on Atholl’s interest in 1710, except for an abortive attempt to enter the Scottish parliament for Perth in 1702 and a brief imprisonment in 1708 as a suspected Jacobite.6

Predictably enough, Murray was described as an episcopal Tory in the analysis of the new Scottish representation compiled by the Duchess of Buccleuch’s chaplain, Richard Dongworth. He was listed in April 1711 among the ‘Tory patriots’ who opposed the continuance of the war, and among the ‘worthy patriots’ who had exposed the mismanagements of the old ministry. Aside from his vote on 10 Feb. against Mungo Graham* in the disputed election for Kinross, little has been discovered concerning his conduct in his first session. Although he was one of the signatories to a letter sent by Scots Members to the attorney-general in January 1712 on the occasion of the renewal of the Scottish staple contract, in order to draw to the attention of the ministry the importance of broadening the opportunities available for merchants in Scotland wishing to trade in continental markets, his chief national concern in the Commons seems to have been the promotion of episcopalianism. He voted for the toleration bill on 7 Feb. 1712, and early in 1713 signed another round robin letter, this time from Scottish peers and MPs to Lord Dun, to urge that non-juring episcopalian ministers in Scotland be prevailed upon to take the oaths, so as to give the lie to the innuendoes of their Presbyterian enemies. He was himself accused in that year of assisting in the establishment of an episcopalian meeting-house in Dunkeld, staffed by a non-juring minister who had allegedly amended the prayers for the Queen and the royal family so that they read, ‘for our dread sovereign and all the dutiful branches of the royal family’.7

As early as May 1712 Murray had indicated his willingness to serve the ministry in some minor but remunerative capacity, ‘putting in for’ the post of general of the mint at Edinburgh. In commenting on this request, Lord Mar reminded Lord Treasurer Oxford (Robert Harley*) that the previous year Harley had ‘marked him down for quarter-master general there’, and further offered him the opinion that although ‘a very worthy man and deserves it well’ Murray was more suited to this other post than the office at the mint. In fact Murray obtained nothing. Although he had joined the united Scottish campaign against the malt tax and supported the proposed dissolution of the Union, he swiftly reverted to the Court, voting on 4 and 18 June in favour of the French commerce bill. Afterwards Murray wrote to the Treasurer to put his own case:

I undertook to be Parliament-man for Perthshire from a sincere intention to serve my Queen and country, and a view to prevent the coming in of another person [John Haldane*] who would have preferred the interest of a party [the Squadrone] before anything else, and in consideration of my services the shire is positively resolved to choose me at the next election . . . I have a numerous family at home and a very small fortune to maintain them.

His re-election in 1713 was at the cost of another family quarrel, when he refused to make way for his nephew and namesake, the Duke’s son, and proved able to hold the seat in a contest. Since the younger Lord James was an army officer, who was to be returned in the general election of 1715 as a Whig, there may have appeared some point in the application to Murray of the designation ‘Jacobite’ in Lord Polwarth’s analysis of the Scottish returns, although the fact that this list was prepared for the Hanoverian court undermines its value as an objective assessment. In practice it meant no more than that Murray was a Tory, as the Worsley list described him. He voted with the Tories on 12 May 1714 against the proposal to extend the schism bill to cover Catholic education. The belated issue, on 26 July 1714, of a warrant for his appointment as receiver-general and cashier of the customs for Scotland (at a salary of £300 p.a.) was almost certainly at the behest of Lord Bolingbroke (Henry St. John II*). Sadly, it came too late. The patent could not be passed before Queen Anne’s death, and Murray’s friends quite correctly predicted that he would find it very difficult to secure the appointment from the new dynasty. It was never confirmed.8

Murray did not seek to withstand his nephew’s claims to the county representation in the 1715 general election, and even declined nomination as a j.p. for the county, ostensibly on the grounds of poverty. He seems to have played little or no role in the Jacobite rebellion later that year, in which his family maintained the tradition of dividing themselves between the two sides. Atholl, who stuck by the Hanoverians, summoned his brother’s men to rendezvous, but excused Murray’s own attendance. If nothing else, ill-health may have dissuaded him from taking up arms. By April 1717 he was reported to be ‘dangerously ill’, and, although he recovered on that occasion, he died on 30 Dec. 1719. His estate was divided between his three surviving daughters, one of whom married the 5th Lord Rollo in 1727.9

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: D. W. Hayton


  • 1. Scots Peerage ed. Paul, i. 475; 7th Duke of Atholl, Chrons. Atholl and Tullibardine Fams. i. 115, 154, 198.
  • 2. Atholl, 198, 326, 476; CSP Dom. 1696, p. 173; 1697, p. 79; Scot. Rec. Soc. lvi. 232; lix. 370.
  • 3. Atholl, 198, 275–6; HMC Lords, n.s. viii. 199; Hooke Corresp. (Roxburghe Club), i. 131.
  • 4. Atholl, 302–4, 320–3, 326, 337–8, 373; HMC 12th Rep. VII, 43–44; B. Lenman, Jacobite Risings in Britain, 38, 50; P. Hopkins, Glencoe, 181, 189–90, 193, 369; Reg. PC Scotland, 1689, p. 7.
  • 5. Atholl, 400–1, 406–7, 410–12, 422–4, 428, 440–5, 449–50; APS, x. 131; CSP Dom. 1696, p. 469; 1697, p. 1; Carstares, State Pprs. 466–7; Hopkins, 451, 453, 461–2; B. Lenman, Jacobite Clans of the Great Glen, 66.
  • 6. Atholl, 467, 476; Atholl mss at Blair Atholl, box 45, bdle. 2, nos. 195, 200, Lady to Ld. Tullibardine, 24 Sept. 1702, John Flemyng to [same], 25 Sept. 1702; HMC Lords, n.s. viii. 130, 187, 199; Boyer, Anne Annals, vii. 44.
  • 7. SHR, lx. 65; SRO, Montrose mss GD220/5/808/18a–b, Graham to Montrose, 13 Feb. 1711; Lockhart Letters ed. Szechi, 57; Spalding Club, Misc. iv. 84–87; HMC Portland, x. 254–5.
  • 8. HMC Portland, 265–6, 297–8; Aberdeen Univ. Lib. Duff House (Montcoffer) mss 3175/2380, ‘Resolution of the Commons to Call a Meeting of the Lords’, [23] May 1713; Parlty. Hist. i. 69; D. Szechi, Jacobitism and Tory Pol. 151; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxviii. 391; Atholl, ii. 165, 170, 172.
  • 9. Atholl mss, box 45, bdle. 12, no. 26, Murray to Atholl, 10 May 1715; Atholl, ii. 192, 264, 303–4; Parlty. Hist. xv. 94.