STEUART DENHAM, Sir James, 8th Bt. (1744-1839), of Coltness and Westshield, Lanark.

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



1784 - 1802

Family and Education

b. Aug. 1744, o.s. of Sir James Steuart, 2nd Bt. of Goodtrees, Edinburghshire and 7th of Coltness, Lanark, by Lady Frances Wemyss, da. of James, 4th Earl of Wemyss [S].  educ. Angoulême 1749-55; Tübingen Univ. 1757-61.  m. 30 Sept. 1772, Alicia, da. William Blacker of Carrick, co. Armagh, s.p.  suc. fa. 26 Nov. 1780, who on inheriting Westshield 1776, had taken the add. name of Denham.

Offices Held

Cornet 1 Drag. 1761; capt. 105 Ft. 1763; half pay 1764; capt. 5 Drag. 1766; a.d.c. to ld. lt. [I] 1769; maj. 13 Drag. 1772; lt.-col. 1776; col. army 1782; col. 12 Lt. Drag. 1791-1815; maj.-gen. 1793; lt.-gen. 1798; gen. 1803; col. 2 Drag. 1815- d.


Steuart Denham’s father, an Opposition Whig closely connected with the Duke of Hamilton, dismayed his friends when, in 1745, influenced by his brother-in-law Lord Elcho, he attended Prince Charles Edward Stuart at Holyrood. However, he soon repented and retired to France, where his wife later joined him, leaving their infant son in the care of the family of William Mure of Caldwell. Although not attainted, Sir James was excepted from the Act of Indemnity, and despite the efforts of his relations was obliged to remain in exile.1

Young James and his parents lived at Angoulême until, on the eve of war with France, they removed to Flanders, and eventually settled at Tübingen for the boy’s education. Here Sir James by his high character, scholarship, and reputation as an economist, attracted many British visitors and sympathisers, among them Lord Barrington, who in 1761 obtained for young James a commission in General Conway’s regiment. The young man served in Germany from 1762 until the peace, when his father, who had been imprisoned by the French as a British spy, was at last allowed to return home, although not formally pardoned.

As a half pay officer James travelled in France and Germany from 1764 to 1766, studying cavalry tactics and organization,2 until appointed to a regiment stationed in Ireland where most of his active military life was to be spent. Meanwhile his father improved his Lanarkshire estates, published his Political Economy in 1767, and pressed for his rehabilitation with a full pardon. Through his friends Barrington and the Duchess of Hamilton, Conway was persuaded to present his petition to the King in December 1766, but the pardon was not granted until 1771.3

After his father’s death in 1780 Steuart Denham retained the warm friendship of the Hamilton family, who in 1784 brought him into Parliament for Lanarkshire. Although from Steuart Denham’s connexion with his cousins Henry and Thomas Erskine and Francis Charteris, William Adam counted him ‘doubtful’, he was in effect pledged through Hamilton to support Government.4 He consistently voted with Pitt throughout the Parliament, and also, 18 Apr. 1785, for parliamentary reform. In 1788 he was appointed to reorganize the Irish cavalry. He is not known to have spoken in the House, possibly because of a ‘nervous complaint’ which some ten years later seems to have cut short an otherwise successful military career.5

He died 5 Aug. 1839.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: Edith Lady Haden-Guest


  • 1. Caldwell Pprs. ii (1) pp. 42, 71, 85-88; Coltness Colls. Pt. III, Mem. of Sir James Steuart Denham by his widow.
  • 2. Caldwell Pprs. ii (1), p. 264.
  • 3. Ibid. ii (2), pp. 97-100; Coltness Colls. 376-82.
  • 4. Laprade, 102; Adam, Pol. State Scotland, 223-4.
  • 5. J. F. Maurice, Diary of Sir John Moore, i. 275-6.