Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009
Available from Cambridge University Press

Background Information

Number of enrolled freeholders:

64 in 1820; 114 in 1830


14 Mar. 1822WALTER FREDERICK CAMPBELL vice Campbell, vacated his seat
 Duncan Campbell

Main Article

Argyllshire, the second largest county in Scotland, north-west of Glasgow, consisted of the mainland peninsulas of Cowal, Kintyre and Morven, and most of the islands of the Inner Hebrides, of which the chief were Coll, Colonsay, Islay, Jura, Mull, Rum and Tyree. Fishing, sheep rearing and kelp processing, which was under threat from imports of foreign barilla, were its staples; and there were numerous whisky distilleries on Islay and at Campbeltown, Kintyre.1 The dominant electoral interest was that of the Whig lord lieutenant, George William Campbell†, 6th duke of Argyll, whose principal residence was Inverary Castle on the north-eastern coast of Kintyre. His younger brother (and eventual successor as 7th duke) Lord John Campbell had occupied the seat since 1799, and he came in again unopposed at the general election of 1820, when he was proposed by General Duncan Campbell of Lochnell, Whig Member for Ayr Burghs, 1809-18, the head of the last cadet branch of the duke’s family.2

Before the dissolution Argyll had sent to the premier Lord Liverpool a memorial from Argyllshire freeholders requesting relaxation of the malt duties as far as they affected Highland big (coarse barley); and in November 1820 he transmitted resolutions of a meeting of the commissioners of supply, 10 Oct., demanding repeal or modification of recent legislation on malt processing and distillation. County landowners, the council of Campbeltown and farmers, maltsters and distillers of Kintyre had petitioned the Commons on this, 5 July 1820.3 Lord John Campbell, always a lazy Member and now no longer able to comply with his brother’s opposition politics, which were ‘quite opposite’ to his own, decided to retire in the summer of 1821. He wanted Lochnell, ‘as the nearest male relation of the Argyll family’, to replace him, and thought he had obtained the duke’s blessing; but he subsequently discovered that his brother ‘had been led to run the matter differently and been impressed with the conviction that it was his duty as a party man to support only a Whig Member’. Argyll was persuaded to bring in his Whig nephew Walter Frederick Campbell, the son of a former Member for Ayr Burghs and his sister Lady Charlotte Campbell (later Bury); he duly replaced Lord John in March 1822. The episode created bad blood between Lord John and the duke.4 The freeholders petitioned the Commons for repeal of the 1822 Act reducing the barilla duty, which they complained had almost ruined the kelp trade, 26 Feb. 1823; the inhabitants of Islay petitioned to the same effect, 4 June. Argyllshire landowners petitioned for ‘immediate and decisive measures’ to relieve agricultural distress, 18 Mar. 1823.5 County proprietors petitioned the Commons for the free export of Scottish spirits to England, 31 May 1824.6 In 1826 the county participated in the petitioning campaign against interference with the Scottish banking system.7

In 1824 Walter Campbell, a consistent but idle opposition Member, failed in his attempt to secure from government the succession to the sheriff and justice clerkships for the son of the incumbent; and in September that year it was reported that the duke was ‘opposed by ministers in his county, and some of his oldest friends have declared against him, which much annoys him’.8 At the general election of 1826 Lochnell started against Walter Campbell, ignoring a plea to desist from Lord John, who warned him that a contest would jeopardize the Inverary interest, had already ‘been made a pretext for ruinous sales’ of superiorities and would lead to more, to the gratification of ‘many advisers of the duke and others’.9 The day before the election two steamboats landed supporters of the rival candidates at Inverary. Walter Campbell beat Lochnell, who was backed by the leading Glasgow merchant Kirkman Finlay*, by 21 votes in the contest for praeses of the election meeting, when some new claimants were admitted to the roll. In the parliamentary contest he had a majority of 22 over Lochnell, whose sponsors were Sir John Campbell of Ardnamurchan and General John Lamont, and who alleged that it consisted almost entirely of freeholders enrolled since he had entered the field.10 County freeholders petitioned the Commons against relaxation of the corn laws, 22 Feb. 1827, and both Houses for fair protection against foreign wool imports in May 1828.11 Walter Campbell was quietly returned at the general election of 1830.12

The council of Oban petitioned the Commons, 4 Feb., and the Lords, 4 Mar. 1831, for reform of the Scottish representative system. In March 1831 they petitioned both Houses in support of the Grey ministry’s reform scheme, for which Campbell voted.13 He was returned unopposed at the 1831 general election.14 Moving the second reading of the Scottish reform bill, 23 Sept. 1831, the lord advocate cited the 31 ‘real’ and 82 parchment voters enrolled in Argyllshire in 1821 as an example of the absurdities of the old order. That day the Tory Sir George Murray, Member for Perthshire, attacked the proposed transfer of Cowal to Buteshire, which abutted its southern extremity, as an act of ‘caprice’, and argued that Argyllshire, with a population of over 100,000, deserved two Members. Campbell initially approved the Cowal annexation, but it provoked an outcry in the county and on 3 Feb. 1832, presenting a petition from the inhabitants of Campbeltown and the county freeholders against it (and for the creation of a new district of burghs comprising Bowmore, Campbeltown, Dunoon, Inverary, Lochgilphead, Tarbert and Tobermory), he recanted. He presented other county petitions in favour of the Scottish reform plan. The freeholders petitioned the Lords against the transfer of Cowal, the disfranchisement of Rothesay and the enfranchisement of £10 householders, and for an additional county Member, 15 Mar.15 The inhabitants of Oban petitioned the Commons for supplies to be withheld until reform was secured, 21 May 1832.16 That day the lord advocate announced the decision to abandon the annexation of Cowal to Buteshire. Oban joined Campbeltown and Inverary in the new Ayr district of burghs in place of Rothesay, which was thrown into Buteshire.

At the 1832 general election, when Argyllshire had 985 registered electors, Walter Campbell, who had recently lost his wife and stepfather, stepped aside for his fellow Liberal, James Henry Callendar of Ardkinglass. Campbell came in again in 1837, but a Conservative sat from 1841 until 1857 under the aegis of the 7th duke of Argyll.17

Author: David R. Fisher


  • 1. Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland (1895), i. 69-73.
  • 2. Glasgow Herald, 7 Apr. 1820.
  • 3. Add. 38282, f. 381; 38283, f. 97; 38288, ff. 116, 118; CJ, lxxv. 403.
  • 4. Intimate Society Letters of 18th Cent. ed. duke of Argyll, ii. 662; Inverary Castle mss (History of Parliament Aspinall transcripts), Lord J. to R. Campbell, 30 Dec. 1820, to Lochnell, May 1826.
  • 5. CJ, lxxviii. 72, 131, 132, 364.
  • 6. Ibid. lxxix. 437.
  • 7. Glasgow Herald, 17 Mar. 1826; CJ, lxxxii. 211, 230; LJ, lviii. 72, 108, 166.
  • 8. Add. 40363, ff. 196, 197; 51668, Bedford to Lady Holland, 26 Sept. [1824].
  • 9. Inverary Castle mss, Lord J. Campbell to Lochnell, May 1826.
  • 10. Glasgow Herald, 19, 30 June, 14 July 1826.
  • 11. CJ, lxxxii. 215; lxxxiii. 327; LJ, lx. 428.
  • 12. Glasgow Herald, 30 Aug. 1830.
  • 13. CJ, lxxxvi. 212, 406; LJ, liii. 289, 354.
  • 14. Caledonian Mercury, 2 June 1831.
  • 15. CJ, lxxxvii. 69, 70; LJ, lxiv. 98.
  • 16. CJ, lxxxvii. 326.
  • 17. Glasgow Herald, 7, 28 Dec. 1832; Scottish Electoral Politics, 222, 233, 247, 248.