GRANT, Archibald (1696-1778), of Monymusk, Aberdeen.
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Family and Education
b. 25 Sept. 1696, 1st s. of Sir Francis Grant, 1st Bt., of Cullen of Buchan, Banff, Lord Cullen, S.C.J., by his 1st w. Jean, da. of Rev. William Meldrum of Meldrum, Aberdeen; bro. of William Grant. educ. adv. 1714; L. Inn 1725. m. (1) 17 Apr. 1717, Anne, da. of James Hamilton of Pencaitland, E. Lothian 2da.; (2) c.1731, Anne (d. bef. 1744), da. of Charles Potts of Castleton, Derbys., 1s.; (3) 18 Aug. 1751, Elizabeth Clark (d. 30 Apr. 1759), wid. of Dr. James Callander of Jamaica, s.p.; (4) 24 May 1770, Jane, wid. of Andrew Millar of Pall Mall, publisher and bookseller, s.p. suc. fa. as 2nd Bt. Mar. 1726.
Keeper of register of hornings 1749-d.
Soon after entering Parliament, Grant, who after 1727 voted with the Opposition, became heavily indebted to his stockbroker, George Robinson, for losses on dealings in the shares of the York Buildings Company. Being unable to pay his debts, he entered in 1727 into a partnership with Robinson and three others to speculate with the funds of the Charitable Corporation, founded ‘for relief of industrious poor by assisting them with small sums upon pledges at legal interest’, of which he was a director. By the end of 1731 they had lost the whole of the Corporation’s capital, leaving it insolvent with net liabilities of over £450,000.1
When exposure had become inevitable, Grant arranged for Robinson to abscond, together with the chief warehouse keeper, Thomson, who had been responsible for issuing the Corporation’s money to Robinson for his operations. Their disappearance, together with that of the Corporation’s books and accounts, having frustrated an inquiry by the Corporation, the House of Commons, on a petition from the shareholders, appointed a select committee to investigate the affair. On this Grant’s two remaining partners disappeared, he himself being taken into custody by the serjeant at arms to prevent him from following suit. On being examined by the committee he denied all knowledge of the defalcations, attempting to throw the blame on his associates. Nevertheless the committee uncovered enough evidence to indict him in the House of Commons on 20 charges of wilful fraud and neglect. When the case came before the Commons, 5 May 1732,
so many ladies said to be undone by the managers of the Charitable Corporation induced the Speaker to indulge ladies to be present in the gallery, and witnesses of the justice the Parliament are doing on those vile persons.
Speaking from his place, Grant pleaded guilty to
most intolerable neglect, but denied he was participant in any fraud, which he pretended was manifest by being himself undone by the bad management of others in the direction, who had stripped him of his fortune as well as the unhappy proprietors.
After a tedious but insufficient defence, he concluded with tears in his eyes that he cast himself on the compassion of the House, and calling God to witness that he had no corrupt intentions, declared his only comfort was that the time was coming when he should clear his innocency to all the world.
On his withdrawal a motion was carried without a dissentient declaring him to have been
guilty of having been concerned in co-partnerships in which the cash of the ... Corporation has been employed, and great sums lost and embezzled, and of having been principally concerned in promoting, abetting, and carrying on, many other indirect and fraudulent practices in the management of the affairs of the ... Corporation.
Expelled from the House, he was prohibited by legislation from leaving the country and from alienating his estates for a year, so that his property might be available to make a just satisfaction to his victims. Next year, further conclusive evidence of his guilt having been provided by the confession of Thomson, the House decided that he should be prosecuted by the attorney-general. A clause continuing the sequestration of his estates was added to a bill for the relief of the Corporation, but was deleted by the House of Lords after hearing counsel representing Grant.2
After protracted litigation Grant succeeded in preserving his property, the court holding that Thomson was not a competent witness against his partners.3 He spent the rest of his long life improving his estate at Monymusk, where he is said to have planted over fifty million trees,4 and mending his shattered fortune by marrying rich widows. In 1744 the 1st Lord Egmont met him at Buxton paying unsuccessful court to a lady who had gone there ‘to be cured of frenzy’.5 At the general election of 1747 he stood for Aberdeenshire but gave up on learning that the Duke of Argyll was supporting a Pelham candidate. Hearing that Newcastle was proposing to make Grant sheriff of Aberdeenshire as a consolation for not being returned for the county, Argyll wrote to Pelham: ‘This requires great consideration, for the blot in his reputation takes place here as well as in England’.6 He was not appointed sheriff, but in 1749 he obtained a sinecure, presumably by the influence of his brother, William Grant, lord advocate. Two years later he married his third wife, a widow with £30,000. Of his fourth marriage to another widow in 1770 David Hume wrote:
It will be a curious experiment, whether his sly flattery or her tenacious avarice will get the better ... I took occasion to mention to her Sir Archibald’s extensive and noble plantations; but she told me, that she thought planting was his folly, and that people ought to take care, lest their concern for posterity should hurt themselves. Thus she will check the poor man in the only laudable thing he has ever done.7
He died 17 Sept. 1778.
Ref Volumes: 1715-1754
Author: Romney R. Sedgwick
- 1. D. Murray, York Buildings Co. 69 seq.; Reports of Committee of the House of Commons on the Charitable Corporation, 1732 and 1733, passim.
- 2. CJ, xxi. 852, 915; HMC Egmont Diary, i. 268-9; LJ, xxiv. 307, 309.
- 3. Add. 35876, f. 210.
- 4. Boswell's Johnson, iii. 486-7.
- 5. HMC Egmont Diary, iii. 297.
- 6. 12 Aug., Newcastle (Clumber) mss.
- 7. Letters of David Hume, ed. Greig, ii. 225-6.