GRANT, William (1701-64), of Prestongrange, Haddington.
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Family and Education
bap. 4 May 1701, 2nd s. of Sir Francis Grant, 1st Bt., of Cullen of Buchan, Banff, and bro. of Archibald Grant of Monymusk. educ. Edinburgh Univ., M. Temple 1721; adv. 1722. m. Grizell, da. and h. of Rev. John Miller of Neilston, Renfrew, 4da.
Procurator for Church of Scotland and principal clerk of assembly 1731-46; solicitor-gen. [S] 1737-42; commr. for fisheries and manufactures [S] 1738; ld. adv. Feb. 1746-Aug. 1754; ld. of session, Lord Prestongrange, 1754-d.; commr. for annexed estates 1754.
William Grant, ‘a lawyer in great practice’1 was appointed solicitor-general for Scotland in succession to Charles Areskine, promoted lord advocate in 1737. Dismissed with Areskine when Lord Ilay, Walpole’s minister for Scotland, was replaced by Lord Tweeddale in 1742, he was made lord advocate vice Robert Craigie on the return of Ilay, now Duke of Argyll, to power in February 1746. Taking his seat a year later for Elgin Burghs, vacated by the death of his kinsman, Sir James Grant, he came to London for consultations on the bill to abolish hereditary jurisdictions in March 1747. He made his first important speech on the introduction of the bill, 7 Apr. 1747, when the Duke of Argyll, with whom the ministry ‘had concerted every clause of the bill, ... left them in the lurch, all his friends being either absent or voting against the bill’. Grant’s speech was described as ‘like his situation, every other sentence against the bill, and you will easily imagine how clear he was;’ but on the second reading, presumably after Argyll had made it clear that he was not against the bill, he is described as speaking extremely well for it. At a later stage he proposed that the new sheriff provided for by the bill should be appointed by
the great seal, saying it would cost only £30 a piece more, a job of about a thousand pounds to [the Duke of Argyll as keeper of the great seal]. This raised a universal murmur and calling out, ‘why that’. Sir W. Yonge got up and spoke against it and so the job was lost.2
During the general election of 1747 Grant is said to have used his office to bring pressure on the master of Lovat, then a prisoner in Edinburgh castle for his part in the Forty-five, to give the Fraser interest in Inverness-shire to a Grant candidate, but was foiled by Argyll at the instance of Henry Pelham (see Inverness-shire). Argyll also intervened against Grant’s attempt to bring his disreputable brother, Sir Archibald Grant, into Parliament for Aberdeenshire against Andrew Mitchell, a Pelham candidate. ‘He was so much out of humour’, Argyll wrote to Pelham, Aug, 1747,
at my opposing his brother ... that he used this expression to a relation of mine: ‘I cannot imagine what the Duke of Argyll means by declaring for Mr. Mitchell,’ upon which I bid my friend tell him that I did it at the desire of those who made him King’s advocate [the Pelhams].3
In the next Parliament Grant defended, 21 Apr. 1749, a payment of £19,000 to Glasgow in compensation for losses incurred in the late rebellion by that city, of whose corporation Argyll was the patron. On 28 Feb. 1752 he introduced a bill for annexing to the Crown estates forfeited in the late rebellion, paying off the encumbrances and devoting the rents to the welfare of the Highlands. Soon after the passing of the Act the murder of one of the crown factors appointed to manage the forfeited estates led to the well-known Appin murder trial, in which Grant acted as prosecutor.4
In 1753 Robert Dundas, lord president of the court of session, writing to Lord Hardwicke about the shortcomings of the law officers for Scotland, referred to Grant as one who, being ‘well employed in private business, loves his money better than public business’.5 Raised to the bench next year, he died 23 May 1764.
Ref Volumes: 1715-1754
Author: Romney R. Sedgwick
- 1. Ramsay of Ochtertyre, Scotland and Scotsmen in 18th Cent. i. 121.
- 2. HMC Laing, ii. 386-8; Culloden Pprs. 476; HMC Polwarth, v. 235, 243; Walpole to Conway, 16 Apr. 1747.
- 3. Duncan Forbes and Argyll to Pelham, 5, 12 Aug. 1747, Newcastle (Clumber) mss.
- 4. Sir J. Fergusson, White Hind, 133 et seq.
- 5. Yorke, Hardwicke, i. 621-2.