RODGER (ROGER), Robert (c.1650-aft.1715), of Glasgow

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. c. 1650, s. of ?William Rodger, skinner of Glasgow.  m. bef. July 1680, Margaret, da. of John Caldwell, merchant of Glasgow, 1da.1

Offices Held

Burgess, Glasgow 1680, treasurer 1693, bailie 1695–6, 1699–1700, 1702–3, 1705–6, dean of guild 1697–9; provost 1707–8, 1711–13.2


‘This man’, asserted the Duke of Montrose in June 1708 shortly after Rodger’s election to Parliament, ‘was born and bred a Whig’, a characterization which typified leading members of Glasgow’s mercantile community. Rodger himself considered it to be ‘very well known that the town of Glasgow stands upon the Revolution foot, and will appear for the Protestant succession and government as established by law’. Little is known, however, of Rodger’s upbringing: he was probably the grandson of William Rodger, a merchant burgess admitted in 1610 whose first and second sons were themselves made burgesses in 1633 and 1647 (the younger son, John, preceding the elder, William, who was removed from the roll in 1655 after settling in Ireland). Robert Rodger’s own nomination as burgess, in July 1680, would customarily have been by right of his father, but in this instance he entered by virtue of his marriage to the daughter of another Glasgow merchant. This evidence points to his being the son of William, rather than John Rodger. Beyond this, nothing is known, except for an unsubstantiated tradition that this branch of the family was somehow connected with their namesakes of Coupar-Grange in Angus.3

Listed by the contemporary Glasgow historian John MacUre as a member of the ‘great company’ trading to America and the West Indies, Rodger was a warm supporter of the Union, recognizing its advantages for Glasgow’s trade. He was not deterred by popular opposition in November 1706, but wisely kept a low profile until order was restored. His discretion was shared by the mob’s principal target, Provost John Aird, whom Rodger succeeded in office the following year. Rodger later assured the Court peer Lord Leven that Presbyterian opposition to the Union (inspired by the Covenanting traditions of western Scotland) would not have the undesirable consequence of inclining this region to the Pretender. In anticipation of the first general election after the Union, Rodger paid close attention to new procedures, ensuring that all council members swore the Abjuration as required by English law. Prior to the election he attended the convention of royal burghs, and was particularly concerned with discussions on the parliamentary representation of the burghs. Confident of his mastery of the regulations, he surmounted the embarrassing non-appearance of Dumbarton’s delegate at the outset of the election for Glasgow Burghs on 26 May 1708. As commissioner for Glasgow, the presiding burgh, Rodger asserted his privilege of determining the hour of election, and overrode Daniel Campbell’s* self-serving demand for an immediate poll, returning himself after the belated arrival of the commissioner for Dumbarton. Campbell petitioned the House, but withdrew on 9 Jan. 1710. Rodger’s tenure of the seat was underwritten by the Squadrone–Junto pact: the Duke of Montrose had informed the Earl of Sunderland (Charles, Lord Spencer*) immediately after the election that Rodger possessed ‘the best right to sit in the House’, adding also that he would ‘take advice’ and ‘be much more ours’ than Campbell. It would be going too far, however, to describe Rodger as a Squadrone Member.4

Rodger himself, despite the contrary evidence of an active canvass, declared that he had ‘accepted this commission at the desire of the town – without any view of serving my own ends by it’, being ‘resolved to stand to the true interest of government . . . as God shall give me light without regard to threats or promises’. These fine words were followed by a muted parliamentary performance. Rodger made little impression at Westminster. His council paid expenses for his attendance and entrusted him with the communication of at least one loyal address, but was disappointed in its expectation that he might persuade the government to establish a new postal service between Edinburgh and Glasgow. It may be assumed that he presented petitions from Glasgow against the Royal African Company (4 Mar. 1709) and drawbacks on fish (19 Feb. 1709), yet the only contemporary record of his party-political affiliation was a misattribution. Rodger appears in the Tory ‘white list’ of supporters of Dr Sacheverell, but almost certainly voted the other way. George Lockhart* maintained that he ‘was of quite opposite principles, and voted on all occasions directly contrary’ to the Tories.5

Rodger did not seek re-election in 1710, giving way to a fellow Glasgow merchant, Thomas Smith II*, with whom he subsequently co-operated over Glasgow’s disputed assessment in the tax roll of the royal burghs (see GLASGOW BURGHS). He stood against Smith for the provostship in 1711, carrying the election with the assistance of Aird and his partisans. Aird and Rodger alternated in office throughout this period, and one historian of Glasgow’s municipal politics has attributed the absence of information on Rodger’s activities as a tacit indication that he was ‘rather overshadowed by Provost Aird’. The contemporary verdict of Rodger’s would-be patron, Montrose, was that he was ‘not a man of great parts’.6

The date of Rodger’s death has not been ascertained. Still living in 1715, he owned a burial place in Blackfriars churchyard; but only his possession of this, not his death, is there recorded. His daughter reportedly married a Glasgow merchant, but no service of heir is known, and no will is registered in the commissariats of Glasgow or Hamilton and Campsie.7

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: David Wilkinson


  • 1. Provosts of Glasgow ed. J. Gourlay, 49; J. C. Roger, Rogers in Coupar-Grange, 10; J. C. Roger, Hist. Summary Roger Tenants, 33; J. MacUre, View of Glasgow, 122; J. Foster, Scot. MPs, 297; Scot. Rec. Soc. lvi. 216, 240.
  • 2. Scot. Rec. Soc. 216, 240; Extracts Glasgow Burgh Recs. 93, 175, 257, 275, 290, 392, 415, 433, 461, 486.
  • 3. Add. 9102, ff. 72–74; SRO, Montrose mss GD220/5/266/8, Rodger to Montrose, n.d. [aft. 26 May 1708]; MacUre, 100–3; Provosts of Glasgow, 49; Scot. Rec. Soc. 216, 240; Roger, Rogers in Coupar-Grange, 10.
  • 4. MacUre, 207; G. Eyre-Todd, Hist. Glasgow, 66–71, 73; SRO, Leven and Melville mss GD26/13/143, Rodger to Leven, 14 Mar. 1708; Glasgow Recs. 423, 425, 428; Add. 9102, ff. 72–74.
  • 5. Glasgow Recs. 446; Lockhart Mems. ed. Szechi, 287.
  • 6. Wodrow, Analecta, i. 356–7; Add. 9102, ff. 72–74.
  • 7. MacUre, 122; Provosts of Glasgow, 49; Glasgow Recs. 531.