STEWART, John (d. 1726), of Livingstone, Kirkcudbright. and Stewartfield (Hartrigge), Roxburgh.
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Family and Education
s. of ?William Stewart of Livingstone. m. by 1704, Elizabeth. (d. aft. 1726), da. and h. of Sir Francis Scott of Mangerton, Roxburgh, 1s.1
?Capt. Royal Scots Greys by 1701, ?maj. by 1706; lt.-col. Col. Alexander Grant’s* Regt. of Ft. 1707–13; half-pay 1713.2
Burgess, Edinburgh 1708, ?Glasgow 1716.3
Stewart was a professional soldier, who began his career at the Revolution and rose, after much ‘drudging’ and ‘little favour’, to the rank of lieutenant-colonel. His early career is difficult to trace, but it seems probable that he served with the Scots Greys, a regiment with local connexions, attaining the rank of captain by 1701 and meriting inclusion on the Blenheim bounty roll. But he may have been the Captain John Stewart ‘of Galloway’ appointed in 1695 to Brigadier-General William Stewart’s regiment. Stewart certainly joined Alexander Grant’s newly raised regiment in 1707. His later misfortune in being captured by the French establishes his identity and also serves to distinguish him from other colonels named Stewart, including John of Sorbie*, John of Invernytie (an active Jacobite) and James Stewart, deputy-governor of Edinburgh Castle. The Member’s parentage remains obscure, but his designation as Stewart of Livingstone points strongly to his father being the William Stewart of Livingstone who was appointed commissioner of supply for Kirkcudbright Stewartry in 1685, an office held by Stewart himself in 1706. He was, by this point, designated as ‘of Stewartfield’, in consequence of his acquisition by marriage of a Roxburghshire estate. With property in two counties Stewart was known by either designation or sometimes both.4
During preparations for the expected Jacobite invasion in 1708, Stewart was in Scotland. On 15 Mar. he was ordered by the Earl of Leven to ascertain details from Admiral Sir George Byng* in Edinburgh about the recent naval engagement and in particular about the prisoners captured from the Salisbury, among whom were numbered two sons of the Earl of Middleton (Charles†). By a strange twist of fate, two years later the government’s reluctance to exchange these very prisoners created serious difficulties for Stewart when he himself had been captured. At the end of March Stewart’s regiment was ordered to Stirling, nominally for garrison duty, but in fact to assemble prior to service abroad. In the intervening period he probably returned home to attend to his election. With the support of the Duke of Queensberry, he was returned after a contest, during which his opponent laboured under the disadvantage of detention as a suspected Jacobite. That autumn all absent officers from Grant’s regiment were ordered to Stirling, from whence this force was sent, via a circuitous route, to join the Duke of Marlborough (John Churchill†) in Flanders. It is not certain whether Stewart’s parliamentary duties were considered sufficient excuse to delay his departure. If present at Westminster, he made little mark. His absence from the House on 16 Dec. was noted by John Pringle*, who was paying particular attention to the behaviour of the Scots Members on the controverted election for Westminster. Unfortunately, Pringle’s comments on a division two days later are ambiguous, but it remains probable that Stewart’s earlier absence was due to his departure for the Continent. He attended the second session of this Parliament and voted for the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell.5
After returning to his regiment abroad, Stewart was granted leave to travel to Scotland for the elections. On 24 Oct. 1710 he set sail in the Ostend packet, in company with Colonel Grant, only to be captured by a French privateer. Swiftly released on parole, he did not obtain an official discharge without protracted negotiation. With the added incentive that a seat in Parliament would increase his value to ministers, Stewart secured his re-election in November. He later claimed to have attended ‘all this winter’, but again his activities have left little trace. Shortly after his election, he wrote to Secretary Dartmouth, complaining of news that ‘the French court insist on exchange of my Lord Middleton’s sons’. Having previously viewed this as nothing more than an opening bid, Stewart had expected an alternative exchange of ‘a limited number of seamen’. He was horrified at last-minute French intransigence and prepared reluctantly to head straight for Calais. This proved unnecessary because his parole was extended until the following June, and under this reprieve he hastened to London to press his case with ministers. In April 1711 he requested a further extension of parole, which was granted and then forgotten by the French, who threatened to view him as a defaulter. Dissatisfied with Dartmouth’s efforts on his behalf, Stewart wrote to Lord Oxford (Robert Harley*) on 18 Sept.:
If your lordship thinks I am more importunate and troublesome than Mr Grant, I beg your lordship would consider that he has a very plentiful estate and came to the head of a regiment without any trouble or labour . . . [I am] still in a hard enough way of living by my own employment . . . besides a share of chances in the war to my person, and particularly last year, when taken was wounded and lost all my equipage.
Lamenting that he had ‘few friends’ and ‘never much justice’, he added by way of final recommendation that ‘I was presented to the Queen last year when I came from France and her Majesty desired to be put in mind to do something for me’. The subsequent release of Middleton’s sons seems to have resolved this problem, and Stewart was at full liberty by the end of the year.6
Stewart did not demonstrate particular gratitude to the ministry, nor did his level of parliamentary activity noticeably increase. Listed as absent though in town for the vote on the Scottish toleration bill on 7 Feb. 1712, he opposed the ministry during the crisis of 1713, voting on 4 and 18 June against the French commerce bill. One printed list gave the additional classification of Stewart as a Whig. After successfully contesting Kirkcudbright Stewartry at the 1713 election, he continued to act with the Whigs, voting on 18 Mar. 1714 against the expulsion of Richard Steele, and on 12 May in favour of extending the schism bill to cover Catholic education. Lord Polwarth’s classification of Stewart as a ‘Jacobite’ was an error that may have been caused by confusing him with a Jacobite namesake not in Parliament. In August he attended the brief session after the Queen’s death, and was classified as a Whig in the Worsley list. Stewart did not stand in 1715. He continued to participate in Roxburghshire politics, where his failure to vote for Sir Gilbert Elliot, 3rd Bt.*, in a by-election of 1726 led directly to his death. Sometimes misleadingly described as a duel, this was more a drunken brawl. According to an eye-witness, at a dinner on 9 Aug., after a meeting of the head court to validate the freeholders roll, Elliot and Stewart ‘began to talk politics and the result of the recent elections, when the former expressed himself as being hurt at the colonel not giving him his vote on that occasion’. Despite Stewart’s explanation,
Sir Gilbert still carried on the same disagreeable remarks, when Colonel Stewart losing patience said – ‘Pray Sir Gilbert, you have said a good deal to provoke me, don’t provoke me further’. The laird of Timpendean now became very noisy and Stewart took the opportunity of throwing a glass [of wine] at him which struck Sir Gilbert in the face’.
Whereupon Elliot ran at Stewart with his sword, fatally wounding him before he even had time to rise from his chair. This evidence was presented to local magistrates; and, significantly, two soldiers, who had spent the day in company with Stewart and gave hostile testimony against Elliot, were from the Scots Greys: circumstantial evidence that Stewart himself may previously have served in that regiment. An alternative interpretation of the conflict was given by Robert Wodrow, the Scots divine, who detected spiritual potential in Elliot and bemoaned his transgression, while consoling himself that it was ‘generally said Colonel Stewart gave very great provocation; that he was a huffing, hectoring person’.7
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: David Wilkinson
- 1. APS. viii. 469; Services of Heirs (ser. 1), 1700–9, p. 23; 1730–9, p. 33; Retours, Roxburgh. ii. 326; SRO, Gen. Reg. Sasines, 794.
- 2. Gen. Reg. Sasines, 800; APS, xi. 319; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxvii. 477; xxix. 402.
- 3. Scot. Rec. Soc. lxii. 195; lvi. 319.
- 4. SP 54/4, f. 28; Add. 70050, Stewart to Oxford, 18 Sept. 1711; P. H. McKerlie, Hist. Lands and Owners in Galloway, iii. 158, 160–1; v. 227; C 219/110; APS, viii. 469; xi. 319.
- 5. HMC Lords, n.s. viii. 144, 149; W. Fraser, Chiefs of Grant, i. 335–6; Annandale mss at Raehills, bdle. 826, Ld. Galloway to [Annandale], 26 June 1708; SRO, Ogilvy of Inverquharity mss GD205/34/4, Pringle to William Bennet*, 18 Dec. 1708.
- 6. Fraser, 339–44; Marlborough Letters and Despatches ed. Murray, v. 142, 146, 170, 200; v. 613; SP 54/3, f. 61; SP 54/4, f. 28; Add. 70050, Stewart to Oxford, 18 Sept. 1711.
- 7. Parlty. Hist. i. 70; Flying Post, 12–14 Aug. 1714; Hist. Reg. Chron. 1726, p. 32; W.R. Carle, Border Memories, 147; G. Tancred, Rulewater and its People, 27; Wodrow, Analecta, iii. 318.