STUART, Andrew (1725-1801), of Craigthorn, Lanark.

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



1774 - 1784
1790 - 18 May 1801

Family and Education

b. 1725, 2nd s. of Archibald Stuart of Torrance, Lanark by Elizabeth, da. of Sir Andrew Myreton, 1st Bt., of Gogar, Edinburgh.  educ.Edinburgh h.s.; writer to the signet 1759.  m. Oct. 1790, Margaret, da. of Sir William Stirling, 4th Bt. of Ardoch, Perth, 3da. She m. 2ndly William Pulteney.  suc. bro. in the Torrance estate 23 Mar. 1796, and his kinsman, Sir John Stuart, 5th Bt. in the Castlemilk estate, Lanark, 18 Jan. 1797.

Offices Held

King’s remembrancer in Exchequer [S] May 1770-Jan. 1771; jt. remembrancer 1771-86; jt. keeper of the signet [S] March 1777-June 1779; ld. of Trade June 1779-82; keeper of the register of sasines [S] July 1781-99, and thereafter jt. keeper.


Stuart belonged to an old Lanarkshire family closely connected with the Duke of Hamilton. He entered the Edinburgh office of his father, a prominent writer to the signet, and became his partner and successor as law agent to the Hamilton family. He was a member of the Select Society, and a close friend of David Hume, George Dempster, Sir Adam Fergusson, William Pulteney, and Alexander Wedderburn. After Hamilton’s death in 1758 Stuart, as one of the guardians of his children, devoted himself to furthering the claims of the young Duke to succeed to the vast Douglas estates. When the Duke of Douglas, shortly before his death in 1761 recognized Archibald Steuart Douglas as his nephew and heir, Stuart undertook the management of the Hamilton case. In 1762, after the court of session had put Steuart Douglas in possession of the estates, Stuart went to France to ascertain the circumstances of the boy’s birth, and amassed a body of evidence to show that the claimant was a ‘suppositious child’. After prolonged litigation his efforts were crowned with success when, in July 1767, the court of session, by the casting vote of Lord President Dundas, decided in Hamilton’s favour.

In 1768 Stuart stood on the Hamilton interest for Lanarkshire, but was defeated. In January 1769 Steuart Douglas’s appeal against the decision of the court of session came before the House of Lords. So violent and personal was the controversy that Stuart challenged Thurlow, one of the opposing counsel, and a bloodless duel was fought. On 27 Feb. 1769 the Lords reversed the decision of the court of session, only Bedford and Sandwich speaking in favour of the Hamilton claimant. Camden, the lord chancellor, viciously attacked Stuart’s professional integrity, and was followed by Mansfield, lord chief justice, who excoriated Stuart’s ‘proofs’ as gross perjury. ‘His heart crushed by this cruel usage’, Stuart was in part consoled by the loyal indignation of his friends and testimonies to his high moral character from members of the bar, including Thurlow, and, in 1771, by a handsome apology from Camden. William Pulteney bestowed on him an annuity of £400 p.a.; the Hamiltons, for whom he had sacrificed practically all other professional connexions, eventually paid him some £6,000, and sought to provide him with a place. In May 1770 his friends purchased for him the resignation of Sir Hew Dalrymple’s office of King’s remembrancer. In January 1771 Stuart, by arrangement, divided his office with Patrick Warrender, and was made a joint remembrancer for life.1

Stuart had influential friends in various political groups; in addition to the Hamilton-Argyll family, he was connected with the Bedfords and Lord Gower; with Conway and the Hertfords; and Wedderburn and Dempster remained his intimate friends. He concerned himself in East India Company affairs and from 1770 was on close terms with Sir George Colebrooke who, through Stuart and William Mure, purchased large estates in Lanarkshire whose votes he placed at the disposal of the Hamiltons. When Linlithgow Burghs fell vacant in 1771 Stuart declined to stand, having ‘a decided aversion to such contests’, but gave the Hamilton interest to Colebrooke’s nominee, Sir James Cockburn. In 1772 Stuart was Colebrooke’s nominee for the commission of inquiry to be sent out by the East India Company to India. George Dempster commended him to Burke, 4 Aug. 1772:

We have been in habits of friendship and intimacy these many years and I will venture to pronounce him a man of real worth, well grounded in his principles, gentle and practicable in his disposition, with great powers of application, and possessed of a proper share of firmness of mind.

But objections were made to Stuart as a Scotsman; the court of directors over-ruled Colebrooke; and in December 1772 Parliament intervened and vetoed the scheme.2

Stuart, meanwhile, had been supervising the Hamilton electoral affairs and the education of the young Duke, and also, still bitterly resentful of the imputations on his reputation, wrote his celebrated Letters to Lord Mansfield, which, printed in January 1773 for private distribution, created a sensation. ‘They will inform you’, wrote Walpole to Mason, 1 Feb. 1773, ‘how abominable abuse is, and how you may tear a man limb from limb with the greatest good breeding.’ And to Lady Ossory, 25 Jan. 1773: ‘It is admirable ... A Scot dissects a Scot with ten times more address than Churchill and Junius.’ Having ‘eased his mind’, regardless of consequences, Stuart expected attacks either in Parliament or in the courts of law; but Mansfield made no public reply. When North brought in the regulating bill in May 1773 Stuart was among those mentioned for a seat on the supreme council of Bengal. On 8 June North wrote to the King:

Lord North has just received [a letter] from Mr. [Thomas] Grosvenor that he intends to move the House tomorrow to name Mr. Andrew Stuart. Many gentlemen will certainly support that nomination. Lord North’s only objection to Mr. Andrew Stuart is that he wrote a little while ago those four celebrated letters to Lord Mansfield. In other respects he is, I believe, in point of knowledge, abilities, integrity, and resolution as fit for the office as can be desired.

The King, however, objected: ‘I should think it wrong to take him into the council when Monckton very properly is refused ... The Scotch may make a party for Andrew Stuart.’ Stuart wrote to the Duchess of Hamilton and Argyll, 11 June, describing the debate of 8 June:

I am thoroughly convinced ... that Lord North had the best dispositions towards me ... The nomination of the councillors was kept open as long as possible ... to take every chance of Lord N. having it in his power to name me without giving offence in a certain quarter ... At length when the list ... was settled without my being of that number, the resolution was taken by a number of very respectable persons to take the sense of the House of Commons whether my name should not be inserted in place of one ... and they were to have been supported by some of the most considerable Members in the House, composed partly of the friends to Administration as well as of the opposition Members.

While the House was debating Monckton’s inclusion, John Craufurd informed Stuart of an interview he had had with North, who ‘reckoned himself bound to make a point of carrying his list, by which means it became a deep political question ... which might draw to very serious consequences’. Stuart, therefore, decided to withdraw from the contest, asked Grosvenor not to ‘push the matter to a division’, and through Craufurd sent a message to North:

It was far from my intention to push any measure that might have the appearance of being hostile to him ... or of so many of his particular friends being against him in this question, and that therefore I had taken the resolution to prevent the motion in my favour.

North professed himself ‘vastly obliged’; Grosvenor informed the House that he had withdrawn his motion at Stuart’s request, and both he and Cornwall gave ‘warm testimony’ in his favour. Stuart wrote:

Everybody perceives or guesses at the true cause why I have not been named ... though I acknowledge that my heart was very much bent on being employed in the distinguished situation of one of the parliamentary councillors to India, yet there was another object, much nearer to my heart, I mean the vindication of my honour ... which gave rise to those letters which have proved the obstacle to my success at present ... Were it to do over again, I should certainly do the same thing.

And according to Walpole, Mansfield, ‘with ungenerous rancour, threatened to oppose the bill if Andrew Stuart was to be benefited by it’.3

Stuart’s relations with North now became extremely cordial. He was active in the East India Company, where he sought the command in Bombay for his brother James, his close ally throughout his career. Stuart was also immersed in electoral negotiations in Lanarkshire, where he was returned after a contest at the general election of 1774. He made no impression in Parliament, and is not known to have spoken. His skill lay in negotiation behind the scenes, and by March 1776 he was counted among the close friends of Henry Dundas who were called ‘the Scotch ministry’. He approved of strong measures against America, promoted the address from Lanarkshire in October 1775, and consistently voted with Administration. But he remained chiefly concerned with Hamilton family affairs and the advancement of his brother James, who in 1775 was appointed second in command of the East India Company forces in Madras. On the death of Sir Gilbert Elliot in January 1777 Stuart was appointed keeper of the signet jointly with Henry Dundas, and was absent in Scotland for his re-election when news arrived that Lord Pigot, governor of Madras, had been arrested by Colonel James Stuart. On his return to London in April Andrew rushed into print with a Letter to the Chairman of the East India Company urging them to cancel his brother’s suspension pending full investigation, and offering to produce all James’s despatches in his defence. For the next five years he was chiefly concerned in securing the rehabilitation and promotion of his brother through negotiations and published letters, but is not known to have taken part in the Commons debates on the question. In May 1779 North, anxious to secure Dundas’s wholehearted support, offered to make him sole keeper of the signet. Dundas however stipulated that his colleague Stuart should receive adequate compensation, and in June obtained for him a place at the Board of Trade, with the promise of the succession to the place of keeper of the register of sasines. Stuart was regular in his attendance at the Board, and made himself thoroughly acquainted with mercantile and colonial affairs.4

After the resignation of North, Stuart seems for a time to have kept himself uncommitted. On close terms with Shelburne, who supported his brother’s Indian affairs, he remained friendly with North, Eden and Loughborough; and, on Rockingham’s death, sympathetic to some form of coalition between North and Shelburne, acted as intermediary. He also helped to secure Dundas for the new Administration. Stuart himself accepted nothing, despite ‘flattering offers’; but voted for Shelburne’s peace preliminaries, 18 Feb. 1783.5

On Shelburne’s resignation Stuart was again faced with a conflict of loyalties. For a time he remained attached to Dundas, but on his dismissal did not follow him into opposition, and joined his former friends of North’s party in the Coalition. Although he did not vote in the division of 27 Nov. 1783 on Fox’s East India bill, he was certainly active on Fox’s behalf, reporting to him in December rumours concerning Temple’s interview with the King.6 He opposed Pitt’s Administration, but under the influence of Dundas and Hamilton was expected to swing over to Administration in a new Parliament. Robinson wrote in his survey for the general election: ‘Mr. Andrew Stuart it is apprehended will be returned again and be pro as the Duke of Hamilton wishes.’ But Dundas commented: ‘Probably not Mr. Stuart, but another friend’.7 At the general election Stuart withdrew from Lanarkshire and did not seek another seat. Essentially an administrator and negotiator, he was never a party man and his politics were directed by personal loyalties, to his friends, to the Hamilton family, and to his irascible brother. In retirement he spent much of his time in historical research, consulted Scottish archives in Paris and in Rome, and eventually published in 1798 his Genealogical History of the Stewarts.

He died 18 May 1801.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: Edith Lady Haden-Guest


  • 1. Letters of David Hume, ii. 200; Caldwell Pprs. ii (2), pp. 152, 181, 184-8; T17/20/259-61.
  • 2. Argyll, Intimate Society Letters, i. 180; Caldwell Pprs. ii (2), pp. 188, 206, 207; Letters of David Hume, ii. 260, 266; Letters of Dempster, 75, 78; Sutherland, E.I. Co. in 18th Cent. Politics, 235; More Letters of David Hume, 196.
  • 3. Caldwell Pprs. ii (2), p. 213; Fortescue, ii. 496, 497; Argyll, Intimate Society Letters, 140-5; Walpole, Last Jnls. i. 165.
  • 4. Argyll, Intimate Society Letters, i. 159; Letters of David Hume, ii. 283; Boswell, Private Pprs. xi. 163; Fortescue, iv. 352, 361.
  • 5. Add. 34418, f. 480; Auckland Corresp. i. 5, 30; Fortescue, vi. 56, 81.
  • 6. Windham Pprs. i. 56.
  • 7. Laprade, 102.