BOYLE, David (1772-1853), of Shewalton, nr. Irvine, Ayr.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1807 - 23 Feb. 1811

Family and Education

b. 26 July 1772, 4th s. of Rev. the Hon. Patrick Boyle of Shewalton, 2nd s. of John, 2nd Earl of Glasgow, by 2nd w. Elizabeth, da. of Alexander Dunlop, professor of Greek at Glasgow Univ. educ. St. Andrew’s Univ. 1787, Glasgow Univ. 1789; adv. 1793. m. (1) 24 Dec. 1804, Elizabeth (d. 14 Apr. 1822), da. of Alexander Montgomerie of Annick Lodge, Ayr, 6s. 5da.; (2) 17 July 1827, Catherine Campbell, da. of David Smythe of Methven, ld. of session and of justiciary, 3s. 1da. suc. e. bro. John to Shewalton and took title of Lord Shewalton in lieu of Lord Boyle 30 Jan. 1837.

Offices Held

Solicitor-gen. [S] May 1807-Feb. 1811; ld. of session and of justiciary Feb. 1811; ld. justice clerk Oct. 1811; PC 8 Apr. 1820; ld. justice general and pres. of ct. of session Oct. 1841-May 1852.

Capt. R. Edinburgh vols. 1797; lt.-col. 2 Edinburgh militia 1808.

Rector, Glasgow Univ. 1815-17.


Boyle’s father was described in 1788 as ‘indolent’ and ‘independent’ in his politics in Ayrshire, where his brother the Earl of Glasgow had a respectable interest. Boyle was bred an advocate and being ‘of an ardent and zealous temper, with professional acquirements above mediocrity’, reckoned of sufficient reputation to be named solicitor-general for Scotland in May 1807 by the Portland ministry. The appointment was disclosed in advance to give him the weight of ministerial influence in his candidature for Ayrshire, which was sponsored by Lord Melville, to whom he was ‘warmly attached’.1 Much was made by his opponent, the sitting Member Hamilton, of the fact that Boyle had not an acre of land, but as his wife’s uncle, Lord Eglintoun, whose powerful support he finally obtained, pointed out, his family had estates enough in the county. Eglintoun had not been expected to support Boyle, if only from personal resentment of the fact that Boyle had thwarted him at a county meeting, and had also attempted unsuccessfully to be chosen an elder of Irvine burgh, but his resentment against his former nominee Hamilton was still stronger and Boyle defeated him in the contest that ensued.2

In the House Boyle made himself useful to government in debate. On 30 June 1807 he turned the tables on the opposition in the finance committee debate by suggesting that some ‘jobs’ of theirs, which he specified, should be investigated as much as those of former governments. On 24 July he supported the Irish insurrection bill, as being nothing novel, against Sir Arthur Piggott, and a week later came to the defence of the Scottish volunteers and of Sir Home Popham* against Lord Henry Petty. He defended Scottish judicial arrangements, 4 May, 2 and 21 June 1808, having on 30 May objected to a clause restricting corporal punishment in the local militia bill. On 23 May 1808 he supported the prohibition of distillation from grain, claiming to be influenced more by the ‘state of the crop’ in Scotland than by sympathy for the West India sugar lobby. (In February 1810, he maintained the same view, adding that the exemption of Ireland from the prohibition deprived the west of Scotland of its imported grain supply.) On 17 Mar. 1809 he exonerated the Duke of York of all ‘criminal connivance’ in the abuse of army patronage and supported Perceval’s resolution on the subject. He rallied to Perceval’s ministry; he was on good terms with Robert Saunders Dundas* and in a letter of 17 Oct. 1809 deplored the split in the government and hinted that, while it was desirable to keep Grenville and Grey out of it, Moira might be won over. He spoke against opposition on the Scheldt expedition, 26 Jan., and on the case of Sir Francis Burdett, 5, 10 Apr. 1810.3 The Whigs listed him ‘against the Opposition’ in March 1810.

In the autumn of 1810, legal promotion for Boyle was anticipated and, although he asked his Ayrshire friends not to engage their votes prematurely, a canvass for the county began. Meanwhile he was summoned to London to support ministers on the Regency question, a procedure which Lord Melville assured him was infra dig. There was some uncertainty as to whether Boyle would become lord advocate, in which case he would seek re-election, or a judge, whereupon he would resign his seat. In February 1811 he became a judge; his interest in Ayrshire was given through Melville to Eglintoun’s brother.4 In October 1811, at Melville’s bidding, Boyle was promoted lord justice clerk, an appointment which Lord Rosslyn characterized as ‘disgusting and disgraceful’ proof of the Prince’s entire submission to ministers.5 Eventually he became lord president of the court of session. On retirement in 1852 he declined a baronetcy. Omnium consensu a noble apparition, he died 4 Feb. 1853.6

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. Pol. State of Scotland 1788, p. 73; Scottish Bar Sketches (1806); Edinburgh Advertiser, 28 Apr., 1 May, 15 May 1807.
  • 2. See AYRSHIRE: NLS mss 1055, f. 25.
  • 3. SRO GD51/1/149; Geo. III Corresp. v. 4126, 4133.
  • 4. See AYRSHIRE; SRP GD51/1/195/119.
  • 5. Grey mss, Rosslyn to Grey, 19 Oct. 1811.
  • 6. DNB; Gent. Mag. (1853), i. 310.