MURRAY, James (1727-99), of Broughton, Wigtown, and Cally, Stewartry of Kirkcudbright.

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



18 Mar. 1762 - 1768

Family and Education

b. 1727, o.s. of Alexander Murray, M.P., of Broughton and Cally by Lady Euphemia Stewart, da. of James, 5th Earl of Galloway [S].  educ. Glasgow Univ. 1741-5; Grand Tour.  m. 12 Apr. 1752, cos. Lady Catherine Stewart, da. of Alexander, 6th Earl of Galloway, s.p.; at least 1s. illegit.  suc. fa. 1 May 1750.

Offices Held

Receiver of land tax [S] July 1783-Mar. 1784.


Murray inherited considerable estates in Wigtownshire, Kirkcudbright, and Ireland. In 1761 he stood for Wigtownshire on the Galloway interest but was narrowly defeated by John Hamilton of Bargany. His petition was strongly supported by Rockingham, an old friend, who wrote to Devonshire, 28 Nov. 1761:1

Lord Bute wished him not to proceed but upon Murray’s seeming determined Lord Bute sent him word that he had no objection ... and should not interfere. Your Grace knows how far that goes and I believe Mr. Murray is prepared to find Mr. George Grenville and all those ... particularly connected with Lord Bute will ACCIDENTALLY be all against him.

A compromise was negotiated; Hamilton vacated the seat and Murray was returned.

James Boswell wrote of Murray in September 1762:2

He is a most amiable man, has very good sense, great knowledge of the world and easy politeness of manners. His lady is very beautiful ... They present a pleasing picture of matrimonial felicity ... evergreens in love.

His wife’s relations, however, were bitterly chagrined when Murray followed Rockingham into opposition and voted against the peace preliminaries. In the debate on Wilkes, 15 Nov. 1763, James Stuart Mackenzie noted that in the first division Murray voted with Opposition, but in the second joined all the other Scots present in voting with Administration.3 On general warrants he was absent from the division of 6 Feb. but voted with the Opposition on 15 and 18 Feb.; listed in May by Newcastle among his ‘sure friends’, Murray wrote from Cally to Thomas Pelham on 21 June 1764:4 ‘If there is any good news going pray write it to me ... for I am sincerely anxious to see a total ruin of this violent hotch potch Administration.’

On Grenville’s fall, Rockingham secured for Murray the salary of the receiver-general of the land tax in Scotland, a place incompatible with a seat in Parliament then held by Allan Whitefoord, who made his profit by the use of the balances in his hands.5 When on Whitefoord’s death in March 1766 Rockingham offered the place to Murray ‘in his own name and to go out of Parliament and make the most of it’, Murray refused ‘because it would have put it out of his power to serve him’,6 but continued to enjoy the salary. Still, Murray is not known to have spoken in the House, and was of little consequence in the Rockingham party.

Obliged in 1768 to surrender Wigtownshire to his brother-in-law Keith Stewart, Murray transferred to Kirkcudbright Stewartry and compelled the withdrawal of Bute’s friend, John Ross Mackye. In the new Parliament he remained constant to Rockingham in opposition, but lost his place in 1773.7 Without court influence to obtain ‘so much as an ensigncy’, and obliged to ‘scatter the greatest part of his income’ to keep up his interest,8 Murray, having lost heavily in the Ayr Bank catastrophe, found himself faced in 1772 by an active opponent. He consulted Rockingham, who replied, 20 Dec. 1772:9

You must be the best judge how far your re-election at the general election is practicable ... and also how far the expense may be agreeable or convenient ... Your principles and your kind friendship to me you have ever most fully shown and I cannot wonder that you and others should be tired out with the drudgery of Parliament and in continuing a system of politics which affords little prospect of success.

Murray decided to abandon the contest and retired to his estates. On North’s fall he applied to Rockingham for any good Scottish employment except that held by Keith Stewart.10 Rockingham’s death disappointed his hopes, but under the Coalition he accepted the receiver-generalship, having first assured himself that Stewart would in any case have been deprived of his emolument.11 He kept the office until shortly before the general election of 1784 when he ‘gave it up to take the chance of coming into Parliament to support the Duke of Portland’.12 Forced to accept an arrangement whereby after two sessions Peter Johnston should vacate in his favour, he refused to compromise his principles. He wrote to Stewart, 15 June 1785: ‘Galloway mutton and a pint of port I hope I shall always be able to have without becoming the cringing sycophant or bellowing trumpeter of any minister.’ Shortly before the expected by-election, Murray scandalized his friends by absconding abroad with Johnston’s sister, refused to desert her, and abandoned all further political ambitions.13 He returned home with his mistress in 1789, devoted himself to good works, and, though active in Kirkcudbright politics, never sought re-election. He died 30 Apr. 1799, leaving his estates to his illegitimate son.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: Edith Lady Haden-Guest


  • 1. Devonshire mss.
  • 2. Private Pprs. i. 73-74.
  • 3. Caldwell Pprs. ii (1) p. 199.
  • 4. Add. 32960, f. 13.
  • 5. W. R. Ward, ‘The Land Tax in Scotland’, John Rylands Lib. Bulletin, 1954-5, p. 303.
  • 6. Murray to Keith Stewart, 12 June 1784 (misdated 1782), Seaforth mss.
  • 7. W. Maxwell to Stewart, 8 Aug. 1773, Seaforth mss; Murray to Rockingham, 15 June 1782, Rockingham mss.
  • 8. Murray to Stewart, 28 Jan. 1784, 22 June 1785, Seaforth mss.
  • 9. Rockingham mss.
  • 10. 15 June 1782, ibid.
  • 11. Murray to Stewart, 21 July 1783, Seaforth mss.
  • 12. Murray to Stewart, 12 June 1784, ibid.
  • 13. Murray-Stewart corresp. 1785-6, ibid.