MURRAY, James (1734-94), of Strowan, Perth.

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



11 June 1773 - 19 Mar. 1794

Family and Education

b. 19 Mar. 1734, 2nd s. of Lord George Murray (s. of John, 1st Duke of Atholl [S]), by Amelia, da. and h. of James Murray, surgeon, of Strowan; bro. of John Murray.  educ. Utrecht 1749-51; Besançon 1754-5.  unm.

Offices Held

Capt. 42 Ft. 1757; capt.-lt. 3 Ft. Gds. 1769, capt. and lt.-col. 1770; gov. Upnor 1775-8; col. army 1777; col. 77 Ft. 1777-83; col. 78 Ft. 1783- d.; gov. Fort William 1780- d.; maj.-gen. 1782; lt.-gen. 1793.


James Murray was brought up in Perthshire until 1749 when he went to Utrecht to join his father (attainted and exiled for his part in the ‘45), who had obtained for him a commission in the Saxon army, with leave of absence for two years to complete his education. In July 1751 James joined his regiment at Dresden, accompanied by his father with letters of introduction from the Jacobite court.1 He saw service during the seven years’ war; was taken prisoner by the Prussians; but through Andrew Mitchell obtained his release, and in March 1757 returned home.2 With Argyll’s approval he was nominated captain in Lord John Murray’s regiment; sailed for New York; was wounded at Ticonderoga in 1758; served in Canada, and in 1761 was posted to the West Indies, where at Martinique in January 1762 he received wounds which seriously disabled him for the rest of his life.3 During the next few years he spent much time abroad.

Having qualified as a freeholder, he stood for Perthshire at the 1773 by-election and was returned after a close contest. He made his first reported speech on 6 June 1774 on the boundary clause of the Quebec bill, approving the line from personal knowledge of the area.4 He regularly supported North’s Administration. At the outbreak of the American war his offer to raise a new Highland regiment was refused,5 and in March 1777 he was ordered to join the Guards in America. During the Philadelphia campaign he was again wounded, and returned in July 1778 to take over the colonelcy of the Atholl Highlanders, which his nephew the Duke had received permission to raise. When on 10 Dec. 1778 Barré complained of preference given to Scottish regiments—no answer had been given to the Duke of Richmond’s application to raise a corps but Colonel Murray ‘had found grace with Administration’—Murray denied ‘partiality’ and strongly defended his regiment.6 On 2 June 1780, when the mob besieged the House of Commons in support of Lord George Gordon, Murray castigated his kinsman’s behaviour as a disgrace to his family.7 Wraxall describes the scene:8

General Murray ... a man ... who when incensed was capable of executing the most desperate resolution, held his sword ready to pass it through Lord George’s body on the first irruption of the mob.

Returned unopposed at the general election of 1780, Murray supported North until his fall, and thereafter transferred his allegiance to successive Administrations. He spoke, 7 May 1782, in favour of Pitt’s motion on parliamentary reform, although declaring himself averse to altering the constitution. ‘If there were any errors ... they were owing to Members themselves. If Members were honest, the constitution was not at fault.’9 Murray voted for Shelburne’s peace preliminaries, 18 Feb. 1783; for Fox’s East India bill, 27 Nov. 1783, and supported Pitt. He voted for Pitt’s parliamentary reform proposals, 18 Apr. 1785, and remained faithful to him during the Regency crisis.

Murray died 19 Mar. 1794.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: Edith Lady Haden-Guest


  • 1. Atholl Chrons. iii. 396, 400-1.
  • 2. Add. 6861, f. 112; John, Duke of Atholl, to Granby, 28 Aug. 1766, Rutland mss.
  • 3. Atholl Chrons. iii. 435, 437, 447, 461.
  • 4. Cavendish’s ‘Debates’, Egerton 259, ff. 183-4.
  • 5. Atholl Chrons. iv. 64.
  • 6. Almon. xi. 125-6.
  • 7. Walpole to Lady Ossory, to Mason, to Mann, 3, 4, 5 June 1780.
  • 8. Mems. i. 252-3; a similar story is told in the Ann. Reg. of Wm. Gordon of Fyvie.
  • 9. Debrett, vii. 139.