GRANT, James (1720-1806), of Ballindalloch, Banff.

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



26 Apr. 1773 - 1780
1 Aug. 1787 - 1802

Family and Education

b. 1720, 2nd s. of Lt.-Col. William Grant of Ballindalloch by Anne, da. of Ludovick Grant, MP [S], of Castle Grant, Elgin. educ. Edinburgh Univ. 1736-40. unm. suc. nephew Maj. William Grant as laird of Ballindalloch 1770.

Offices Held

Ensign 1 R. Regt. 1741, capt. 1744; maj. 77 Ft. 1757; lt.-col. 40 Ft. 1760, brevet col. 1772; col. 55 Ft. 1775; maj.-gen. (in America) 1776, maj.-gen. 1777, lt.-gen. 1782; col. 11 Ft. 1791-d.; gen. 1796.

Gov. East Florida 1763-73, Stirling Castle 1798-d.


Grant, with a distinguished though controversial military career in America behind him, took with relish to the gaming tables and salons of London. Through his friendship with Henry Dundas he secured the governorship of Stirling Castle in 1789. After his unopposed return for Sutherland on the interest of Lady Sutherland two years earlier he had written, ‘I dare say, if that will do me any good, that I may be in Parliament as long as I live without having the trouble of riding a mile or writing a letter’,1 but he faced a contest in 1790. He topped the poll and survived the subsequent litigation. He was unopposed in 1796.

He continued to support government, but is not known to have spoken in the House in this period. He voted against the abolition of the slave trade, 19 Apr.,2 and, as predicted, against the relief of Scotsmen from the Test Act, 10 May 1791. On the outbreak of war with France he was appointed to the staff command in Yorkshire, Durham and Northumberland.3 While his allegiance to Dundas remained unbroken, there were at least two occasions when harmony was temporarily disturbed. In 1795, unhappy at ‘the idea of differing with you for the first time in my life about politics’, he reproached Dundas for supporting James Brodie* in Elginshire ‘in the teeth of the Grant interest’, but the minister was unrepentant.4 Five years later he complained of Dundas’s inattention to his requests for government assistance in the rebuilding of the Avon bridge over the Spey—one project in his extensive work of Highland improvement—but Dundas seems to have mollified him.5 He retired from Parliament in 1802 at the age of 82, making way for Dundas’s nephew.

In 1794 George Canning, his fellow guest at the Sutherlands’ Wimbledon house, described him as

a great fat laughing old man ... a sort of Falstaff, in one part of the character at least—for if not ‘witty himself’ he is the cause of wit in others—and affords infinite room for all sorts of bad jokes, which are lavished on him unsparingly.

To illustrate his point, he related an episode in which Grant fell victim to his hostess’s talent for writing ‘sham letters’, one of which she had sent to him

as from Mr Dundas, offering him the govt. of Corsica and a red ribband, and desiring him to prepare to set out immediately—the hand and style precisely like Dundas’s—and the poor old genl. for a time in a great quandary what to think of the offer, and what answer to return to it.6

Grant died 13 Apr. 1806.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Authors: D. G. Henry / David R. Fisher


See A. M. Grant, Gen. James Grant.

  • 1. PRO NI, Hart mss D/1/7.
  • 2. Ibid. D/1/22.
  • 3. Ibid. D/1/25.
  • 4. SRO GD51/1/198/4/5; Macpherson Grant mss 461, Dundas to Grant, 9 Sept. 1795 (NRA (S) 711).
  • 5. Macpherson Grant mss 435.
  • 6. Harewood mss, Canning jnl. 28-30 Nov. 1794.