STEWART, Archibald (1697-1780), of Edinburgh and Mitcham, Surr.

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



1741 - 1747

Family and Education

b. 1697, yr. s. of Sir Robert Stewart, 1st Bt., M.P. [S], of Allanbank, Berwick, being o.s. by his 2nd w. Helen, da. of Sir Archibald Cockburn of Langton, Berwick. m. bef. 1728, Grizel, da. of John Gordon of Edinburgh, wine merchant, 4s. 5da.

Offices Held

Lord provost, Edinburgh 1744-5.


In February 1718 Archibald Stewart was admitted a burgess of Edinburgh, where he became a prosperous wine merchant. Returned as an opposition Whig for the city in 1741, he voted against Walpole’s nominee for the chairman of the elections committee in December. After Walpole’s fall he continued in opposition, voting with the group known as the Duke of Argyll’s gang1 against the Hanoverians in 1742 and 1744. For the ‘faithful and diligent discharge of his duty in Parliament and promoting the interest of the country and particularly that of the Royal Burghs’, he received the thanks of the convention of Royal Burghs, of which he was then praeses, on 3 July 1745.2 Two months later he failed, as lord provost, to organize an effective defence of Edinburgh against Prince Charles Edward, who entered the city without opposition on 17 Sept. According to Alexander Carlyle, who was present as a volunteer,

there was not a Whig in the town who did not suspect that [Stewart] favoured the Pretender’s cause; and however cautiously he acted in his capacity as chief magistrate, there were not a few who suspected that his backwardness and coldness in the measure of arming the people, was part of a plan to admit the Pretender into the city ... if that part of the town council who were Whigs had found good ground to have put Stewart under arrest, the city would have held out.3

However, Murray of Broughton, the Young Pretender’s secretary, considered him to be

the only man in the city who ... appears to have exerted himself the most to bar the enemy’s entry ... [to] a place not only open almost on all hands, but ... that in forty-eight hours time might have been starved.4

Stewart was afterwards arrested and taken before the Privy Council in London on 7 Dec. The consent of the House of Commons to his detention having been obtained on 10 Dec., he was imprisoned in the Tower from 13 Dec. 1745 till 23 Jan. 1747, when he was released on bail of £15,000. Charged with neglect of duty and misbehaviour in the execution of his office, he was found ‘not guilty’ on 2 Nov. 1747 after a protracted trial in Edinburgh, the lord chief justice clerk, Andrew Fletcher (Lord Milton) commenting to Newcastle that ‘the behaviour of the Jacobites ... on this occasion has been most insolent and does not abate’.5 After his acquittal he transferred his business to London, where he had acquired premises at 11 Buckingham Street, Strand, in 1743. For himself he leased a large country villa at Mitcham, equipped, according to his cousin, with ‘the nicest water-closet [and] a cold bath’.6 He died at Bath, 24 Jan. 1780.

Ref Volumes: 1715-1754

Author: R. S. Lea


  • 1. John Drummond to Ld. Morton, 2 and 11 Dec. 1742, Morton mss, SRO.
  • 2. T. Hunter, Recs. of the Convention of Royal Burghs, 1738-59, p. 179.
  • 3. Alex. Carlyle, Autobiog., 122-3.
  • 4. Murray of Broughton, Memorials (Sc. Hist. Soc. xxvii), 195.
  • 5. Williamson’s Diary (Cam. Soc. ser. 3. xxii), 120; Howell’s State Trials, xviii. 863-1068; Albemarle Pprs. (new Spalding Club xxv), ii. 468-9.
  • 6. Survey of London, xviii. 69; Coltness Coll. 123-4.