CAMPBELL, John, Lord Glenorchy (1696-1782).

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



1727 - 1741
1741 - May 1745

Family and Education

bap. 10 Mar. 1696, o.s. of John Campbell, 2nd Earl of Breadalbane [S], by Henrietta, da. of Sir Edward Villiers, knight marshal, sis. of Edward Villiers, 1st Earl of Jersey. educ. Ch. Ch. Oxf. 1711. m. (1) 20 Feb. 1718, Lady Amabel Grey (d. 2 Mar. 1727), da. and coh. of Henry, 1st Duke of Kent, 1s. d.v.p. 1da.; (2) 23 Jan. 1730, Arabella, da. and coh. of John Peshall, M.P. (s. of Sir Thomas Peshall, 3rd Bt., of Sugnall, Staffs.), 2s. d.v.p. K.B. 27 May 1725; suc. fa. as 3rd Earl 23 Feb. 1752.

Offices Held

Master of the horse to Princess of Wales 1718; minister to Copenhagen 1720-30, to St. Petersburg Dec. 1731; ld. of Admiralty May 1741-Mar. 1742; master of the jewel office May 1745-56, rep. peer [S] 1752-68, 1774-80; c.j. in eyre South of Trent 1756-65; keeper of the privy seal [S] Oct. 1765-Aug. 1766; P.C. 12 May 1766; v.-adm. of Scotland 1776-82.


Owning vast estates in Perthshire and Argyllshire, Glenorchy’s family possessed great power in Scotland. His grandfather was implicated in the 1715 rebellion,1 but he himself took the other side, was given an office in the Princess’s household, appointed envoy to Copenhagen in 1720, and brought in by the Government for Saltash in 1727. He spent little time at his post, leaving the conduct of business to his secretary,2 and after receiving a severe reprimand from George I in 17263 was dismissed by George II in 1730. After his dismissal he wrote to Walpole, 12 Dec. 1730:

My behaviour, while I was in the King’s service abroad, as well as since I came into Parliament at the expense of one thousand pounds, may I think justly applied for a compensation for the loss of a place of near £1,100 a year which his Majesty has thought fit to deprive me of, without my having any ways merited his displeasure. But however just my pretensions may be I ground them chiefly upon the assurances you was pleased to give me of your friendship which I shall be always proud to deserve and the promise you so obligingly made me of interesting yourself for me.4

He was given a pension of £1,200 a year. After his return to England he became a fairly frequent speaker in Parliament, on 3 Apr. 1732 defending the agreement with Denmark concluded during his mission to Copenhagen, on 16 Mar. 1733 supporting the excise bill, and on 13 Feb. 1734 opposing an opposition motion for a bill preventing the dismissal of army officers not above the rank of colonel except by court martial or on address of either House. In a debate on the army on 18 Feb. 1737 he complained ‘that the insolence of pamphleteers was gone so far as to assert that the subject might on some occasions resist the legislature itself’. When the question of the Prince of Wales’s allowance came up in 1737 he is said to have ‘first promised to be for the Prince, and afterwards resolving to vote against him, sent a resignation of his ... pension to Sir Robert Walpole that it might not be thought he had been prevailed on by reason of that pension to break his word’. On 16 May of the same year, in a debate on the Porteous riots, he opposed a bill against the lord provost of Edinburgh, which Walpole supported. He spoke for the Spanish convention on 9 Mar. 1739.5

The marriage of Glenorchy’s only daughter with Philip Yorke, Lord Chancellor Hardwicke’s son, in 1740 strengthened his ties with the Administration. Returned by the Government for Orford, in 1741, he was made a lord of the Admiralty, but lost his place after Walpole’s fall, causing Hardwicke to write to Newcastle: ‘For God’s sake don’t forget poor Glenorchy’. His correspondence with Hardwicke at this time consists of pleas to be excused attendance in Parliament, accompanied by requests for places for his Campbell kinsmen. In October 1744 he asked Hardwicke to get him the place of master of the jewel office, which

would suit me very well, and I hope will not be thought too good for one of my family to expect after serving the Crown almost ten years abroad and being turned out of the Admiralty nine months after I came into it at no small expense.

On securing the post, which vacated his seat, he consulted Hardwicke about standing for re-election (25 July 1745), explaining that Lord Breadalbane’s death seemed imminent, on which event he hoped to succeed him as a representative peer.

Under these circumstances I am very unwilling to lay out £700, for I reckon my journey and treating etc. will amount to at least £200 besides the £500. I make this computation because when I was told at the beginning of the Parliament that my election would cost me £1,000, the other expenses which Mr. Legge and I paid together came to near £200 each, and I apprehend they will be greater in proportion now as I am the only candidate.

After suggesting that it was doubtful whether the office itself was consistent with a seat in Parliament, he concluded

Upon the whole my inclination is not to be re-chosen, but if your Lordship thinks the argument of the inconsistency with the House of Commons will not go well down in a certain place [i.e. the King], or if my being in it can be the least service to your Lordship, I sincerely assure you that no expense whatsoever shall hinder me from attempting it.

His request was granted.6

During the Forty-five, Hardwicke wrote to Glenorchy in Scotland:

Your Lordship’s zeal and attachment to his Majesty, his family and Government are so cordial and well known that the Lords Justices fully rely upon your vigorous exertion of it on the present occasion ... It is a very fortunate circumstance that, in my Lord Breadalbane’s weak state, you are on the spot to make use of the powerful influence which you have in that country on the side of the Government, which cannot fail to give a right direction to your numerous clan which, you know, took a wrong turn on a former occasion ... Your Lordship has now, in my apprehension, an opportunity of doing great service to his Majesty and your country and of acquiring great merit to yourself.

But he remained mainly passive, claiming that the most he could do was to restrain his clan from joining the rebels, though he finally sent 400 of his men to join the royal forces, who fought at Culloden. George II, to whom Hardwicke showed Glenorchy’s letters, observed: ‘My Lord Glenorchy is very well-intentioned, but he can’t influence or govern ... his clan.’ At the close of the rebellion he asked for an English peerage, as

the only real and substantial mark of favour his Majesty can give me, if ’tis thought advisable for him to encourage people to stand by him, by distinguishing those who did it on the late occasion when others ran away from danger.

When the King refused his request, he considered returning to the Commons, but in the end he did not stand. In 1752 he applied to the King through Newcastle to be made a representative peer. George II at first objected, ‘with very hard expressions against Lord Breadalbane, that he thought him a Jacobite’, but Newcastle pointed out that Breadalbane was known to be ‘zealous for his Majesty’s Government’ and

was very considerable in Scotland, had a great estate in Staffordshire [Sugnall] where friends were wanting, had great alliances in England and ... not one Scotchman thought anybody could stand in competition with him upon this occasion on account of his consequence,

obtaining the King’s consent ‘with great difficulty’.7

He died 26 Jan. 1782.

Ref Volumes: 1715-1754

Author: Eveline Cruickshanks


  • 1. Glenorcy to Hardwicke [1746], Add. 35450, f. 122.
  • 2. Diplomatic Instructions 1689-1789, Denmark (Cam. Soc. ser. 3, xxxvi), 12.
  • 3. J. F. Chance, Alliance of Hanover, 486.
  • 4. Cholmondeley (Houghton) mss.
  • 5. HMC Egmont Diary, i. 252-3; ii. 351, 360; HMC Carlisle, 105; Coxe, Walpole, iii. 517.
  • 6. E. Hughes to Walpole 7 Aug. 1740, Cholmondeley (Houghton) mss; Add. 32699, f. 305; 35450, ff. 6-12, 25, 29-30.
  • 7. Yorke, Hardwicke, i. 437-8, 445, 553; Add. 35450, ff. 48, 121-2, 128-9.