Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1715-1754, ed. R. Sedgwick, 1970
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

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24 Feb. 1715JOHN FORBES
 Alexander Mackenzie
 John Forbes
 John Forbes
 John Forbes

Main Article

The chief interest in Inverness-shire was that of Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat, who had ‘the best estate in the shire’.1 In 1715 John Forbes was successful with the support of Lovat, whose claim to Fraserdale Forbes supported against that of the rival candidate, Alexander Mackenzie, a Jacobite who had gained possession of the estate. At each of the next three general elections Sir James Grant, a Whig, the chief of the Grants, supported by his brother-in-law, Lord Lovat, who had regained his estates as a result of Mackenzie’s forfeiture, defeated John Forbes. Before the 1734 election Lovat reported:

The Forbes brothers have hooked in Macleod to get the shire of Inverness by him ... and my lord advocate [Duncan Forbes] is gone express ... to assist him to make 12 or 20 barons [qualified electors], so that he will, according to their scheme, beat the shire and give it to Culloden [John Forbes] ... If Sir James does not bestir himself and make as many barons as will balance Macleod, he will lose Inverness-shire and what will the ministry think of his interest and mine in the shire.2

Grant replied to this move at the meeting of the head court of the shire in September 1733, held to settle the freeholders roll. All the 16 freeholders who had qualified themselves were present, including 11 Forbes supporters, but Grant declared that only 5 freeholders, including 3 Grant men, who had voted in the last parliamentary election, should be allowed to assist in the composition of the roll. Lovat, recently appointed sheriff, upheld Grant, whose faction made up a roll containing all their own 13 fictitious votes and excluding 9 of their opponents, though their names had been on the last roll.3 The Forbes brothers brought an unsuccessful action against Grant, who was returned. In 1741 Lovat, who had turned Jacobite, refused to support Grant. Resolved ‘that the Lord Lovat shall be always master of the shire of Inverness in time to come’, he set his lawyers about creating the necessary superiorities for distribution amongst the Frasers. Allying himself to the Duke of Argyll and the leaders of the Squadrone against Ilay, Walpole’s manager for Scotland, he ‘hoped to gain them the shire of Inverness by choosing my cousin the Laird of Macleod as Member’.4 On this Grant wrote to Duncan Forbes:

I have given over any design of standing candidate for the shire of Inverness and ... I have writ to my friends and begged the favour of them that they will wait on your lordship, attend the election and be directed by you in the choice of a member.

Macleod was returned unopposed. In 1747 Sir James Grant’s son, Ludovick, planned to put up against Macleod, who was supported by Duncan Forbes, the Duke of Argyll, and Henry Pelham. The election depended on Grant’s nephew, the Master of Lovat, a prisoner in Edinburgh castle, whose father, Lord Lovat, had been executed for his part in the rebellion. Grant with the assistance of his kinsman, William Grant, the lord advocate,

plied the unhappy lord, the Master of Lovat, so close, that he found it difficult to resist their importunities.5

Realising that ‘without the recommendation of the Master of Lovat the election is lost’, Duncan Forbes procured a letter from Henry Pelham supporting Macleod, and got Argyll to send one of the lords of session to Edinburgh castle to speak to the Master, ‘but with positive directions to give no sort of assurances of any kind’ as to a pardon or the restoration of his estates.

The Master of Lovat very readily agreed to recommend Macleod. This he did in so genteel a manner as not so much as to hint at the asking of any favours.

On this Grant withdrew, leaving Macleod to be returned unopposed, conscious, as Forbes told Pelham, ‘that he owes his seat to your goodwill and determined to show his gratitude’.6

Author: Paula Watson


  • 1. Spalding Club Misc. ii. 8.
  • 2. Sir W. Fraser, Chiefs of Grant, i. 377.
  • 3. Culloden Pprs. 132-3.
  • 4. Spalding Club Misc. ii. 18.
  • 5. Chiefs of Grant, i. 384, 385.
  • 6. Duncan Forbes to Hen. Pelham, 5 Aug. 1747 Argyll to Pelham, 23 July 1747, Newcastle (Clumber) mss.