CAMPBELL, John (1695-1777), of Calder, Nairn, and Stackpole Court, Pemb.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754-1790, ed. L. Namier, J. Brooke., 1964
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1727 - 1747
1747 - 1754
1754 - 1761
6 Dec. 1762 - 1768

Family and Education

b. 1695, 2nd s. of Sir Alexander Campbell, M.P. [S], of Calder, by Elizabeth, da. of Sir John Lort, 2nd Bt. of Stackpole Court and sis. and h. of Sir Gilbert, 3rd Bt. educ. L. Inn 1708; Clare, Camb. 1711. m. 30 Apr. 1726, Mary, da. and coh. of Lewis Pryse, M.P., of Gogerddan, Card., 3s. 3da. suc. mother in her Pembrokeshire estates 1714, and gd.-fa. Sir Hugh Campbell, M.P. [S] in his estates in Nairnshire, Inverness-shire and Argyll 11 Mar. 1716.

Offices Held

Ld. of Admiralty 1736-42, of Treasury 1746-54.


Campbell was related through his maternal grandmother to the Pelhams, and on his father’s side to the Duke of Argyll. A year after his father’s death in 1697 his mother inherited the Lort estates in Wales which became the family home. Campbell received an English education and resided little in Scotland.1

His parliamentary creed is summed up in a letter he wrote to Newcastle on 29 Sept. 1765, almost at the end of his active political life:2

I have sat many years in Parliament during all which time it has been my opinion that though an honest man may often comply with things not quite agreeable to him, rather than give any advantage against an Administration which he approves, yet there are some things in which he must follow his own judgment such as he has, without regard to persons. In consequence of this opinion I did in some instances vote contrary to the inclinations of Sir Robert Walpole, of your Grace, and of your beloved brother, at the same time that I was firmly and warmly attached to those Administrations.

Nairnshire was not represented in the Parliament of 1754, and Campbell had not found a seat when Henry Pelham died. Newcastle, who wanted his place at the Treasury for Lord Dupplin, offered in exchange the place of Lyon King of Arms, worth £800 p.a. Campbell accepted on condition that the office was granted for the lives of his two younger sons; and Newcastle then recommended him for Inverness Burghs, where he was returned after a contest.3

Campbell was for many years a close friend of Henry Fox, and Newcastle, on joining Fox in October 1755, had him in mind for chancellor of the Exchequer. ‘What think you of Campbell of Pembrokeshire?’ he wrote to Hardwicke on 12 Oct.4 ‘He is an old corps man, but he is a Scotchman and a Campbell. The King will be uneasy.’ The idea was soon dropped, nor did Fox press for a place for his friend. Campbell supported the Administration, voting with them even on the unpopular plate bill.5

During the debates on the trial of Admiral Byng, after Fox and Newcastle had left office, Campbell tried at first to fasten the responsibility for Byng’s condemnation on the new Admiralty board, but, ‘a most humane and honest man’, unable to prefer ‘the wrong side to the tender one’ even for the sake of his friend Fox, he repudiated his former view and spoke for the bill to absolve members of the court martial from their oath of secrecy.6 On 2 May 1757 he voted with Fox on the Minorca inquiry.

According to Horace Walpole, Campbell ‘never forgave Pitt and the Grenvilles the share they had in overturning Sir Robert Walpole’. Certainly Campbell loathed Pitt, caustically referred to him as ‘my lord Protector’, and accused him of ‘prevarication, self contradiction, and disregard of truth’. ‘I have no very high opinion of his abilities as a minister’, he wrote to Fox on 21 Oct. 1757;7 and he blamed Pitt’s ‘mad ambition, mean popularity, pride, and the most intemperate passion’ for the unsuccessful attacks on the French coast in 1758.8

During the Pitt-Newcastle Administration he grew weary of Parliament, and was unwilling to stand at the general election of 1761. Sir Harry Erskine wrote to Bute on 17 Mar.:9

He is rather solicitous to retire to a corner in the country, than to sit in the House of Commons and see those who were mere children or at the university when he was in the Treasury, in high offices and making a figure in the House of Commons. But if your Lordship desire him he will accept of a seat for Inverness-shire, if it can be obtained. That is I presume he will accept of a seat, if he got a promise of somewhat lucrative. At least as that is the construction I put on those words ...

On 21 Mar. Campbell placed himself and his family at Bute’s disposal—‘however unwilling I am to come again into Parliament’, he wrote,10‘... I am much more unwilling to do anything displeasing to your Lordship.’ His son Pryse was returned for Nairnshire, while he himself retired to Wales. But toward the end of 1762 Fox, anxious to have so good a friend in Parliament, arranged for his return at Corfe Castle.

When on 11 Feb. 1763 Sir John Philipps moved for a commission on public accounts, even the friends of Newcastle and Fox dared not oppose it: Campbell alone objected; and his was the ‘single negative’.11

Mr. Campbell of Pembrokeshire [reported West to Newcastle12] declared himself absolutely against the motion; that there had never been one of the kind that had not been made a job, first to obtain popularity and then preferments, and was against the question. Believed everything had been done honestly but that it was the nature of the war, the being principals in Germany, which he trusted we never should be again.

Campbell supported the Grenville Administration over general warrants—‘I must confess’, he wrote in retrospect on 3 Nov. 1765,13 ‘I have never yet been convinced by anything but authority ... that general warrants, in the case of treasonable and seditious libels, are either illegal or inexpedient.’ In December 1764 he sent through George Rice a message assuring Grenville of his support and offering to attend when ‘any business of importance was expected to come on’.14

In July 1765 Rockingham listed Campbell as ‘doubtful’. But on 29 Sept. 1765 he wrote to Newcastle:15

If I was now able to attend the House of Commons, your Grace should find me ... heartily and cheerfully supporting the King’s Government conducted by your Grace and your friends, yet voting with those for whom I have far less esteem if questions were moved on which I have already declared my opinion, and not been convinced that it was mistaken.

Moreover he left his son Pryse free to choose his own line.

Incapacitated by a complaint which prevented his travelling, he remained at Stackpole Court. To Holland he wrote on 28 Jan. 1766:16 ‘I am glad Pitt has been too extravagant even for those who were grovelling in the dirt at his feet; glad I am of anything that may keep him from power.’ And on 29 Apr.:17

I do not wish a change, because I think frequent changes increase the weakness and confusion of this Government and country: and in truth I know not who to wish in their places. The appearance is very bad, but I resolve to make myself easy ... I have wished myself in the House every time they have been overhauling what was done in former sessions, but I think that work is now pretty well finished.

Campbell does not seem to have attended the House again, and at the dissolution in 1768 withdrew from Parliament.

He died 6 Sept. 1777.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: Edith Lady Haden-Guest


  • 1. G. Bain, Hist. Nairnshire, 289-90.
  • 2. Add. 32970, f. 103.
  • 3. Leven to Chas. Mackie, 12, 23, 28, 30 Mar. 1754, Leven and Melville mss. SRO.
  • 4. Add. 32860, f. 20.
  • 5. West to Newcastle, 17 Mar. 1756, Add. 32863, f. 332.
  • 6. Walpole, Mems. Geo. II, ii. 322-30.
  • 7. Ilchester, Letters to H. Fox, 125.
  • 8. Ibid. 135-6.
  • 9. Bute mss.
  • 10. Ibid.
  • 11. Harris’s ‘Debates’.
  • 12. Add. 32946, ff. 381-4.
  • 13. Letters to H. Fox, 254-5.
  • 14. Grenville’s reply, 15 Dec. 1764, Grenville letter bk.
  • 15. Add. 32970, f. 103.
  • 16. Letters of H. Fox, 255-6.
  • 17. Ibid. 257-8.