FARQUHAR, James (1764-1833), of Johnston Lodge, Laurencekirk; Hallgreen, Inverbervie, Kincardine and 13 Duke Street, Westminster, Mdx.

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



5 Jan. 1802 - 1806
1807 - 1818
1 Mar. 1824 - 1830

Family and Education

b. 1 Aug. 1764, 2nd surv. s. of John Farquhar (d. 1768), merchant, of Aberdeen and Rachel, da. of James Young, merchant, of Aberdeen.1 educ. Aberdeen g.s.;2 Aberdeen Univ. 1777-81. m. 19 May 1795, Helen, da. of Alexander Innes of Cowie, Kincardine, s.p. d. 4 Sept. 1833.

Offices Held

Proctor, Doctors’ Commons 1788-d.; dep. registrar, diocese and archdeaconry of Rochester 1788-1805, admiralty ct. 1810-d.

Provost, Inverbervie; dir. Crown Life Assurance Co. c.1825-d.


Farquhar, who came from an Aberdeen mercantile family, was in successful practice as a proctor in Doctors’ Commons. He was in partnership with Joseph Sladen at 19 Bennett’s Hill until about 1820, when they were joined by John Irving Glennie. Since 1810, Farquhar had held the remunerative post of deputy registrar of the admiralty court, the duties of which were administered from his other office at 2 Paul’s Bakehouse Court. His elder brother William (1762-1838) was in partnership as a merchant at 12 St. Helens Place, Bishopsgate Street with their youngest half-brother John Morice until about 1828. (Their mother, widowed in 1768, had married David Morice, an Aberdeen advocate, in 1773.)

James Farquhar, a general supporter of Lord Liverpool’s Liverpool ministry, had surprisingly lost his seat for Aberdeen burghs, where he controlled Inverbervie, of which he was provost for many years, to the radical Joseph Hume in 1818. He never recovered his ground in the district. He sent a letter of apology and approval to be read at the Kincardineshire meeting called to vote a loyal address to the regent in the aftermath of Peterloo, 18 Nov. 1819.3 At the general election of 1820 he came forward for the county, where his two purchased estates lay, and where he had been building up his strength for several years. He was confronted by a Whig, Sir Alexander Ramsay* of Balmain, who was expected to beat him, while Lord Arbuthnott, the lord lieutenant, started his brother Hugh Arbuthnott* as a supporter of government. Lord Arbuthnott complained to one of the secretaries to the treasury that Farquhar, who was ‘much disliked’, had done ‘much mischief’, ‘having come down and declared that he has the support of government, while I have a letter declaring that it has been refused to him’. In fact Lord Melville, the ministry’s Scottish manager, had given Farquhar ‘no assurance’ when he personally requested ministerial endorsement; but he authorized the lord advocate Sir William Rae* to use his discretion from Edinburgh and informed Lord Arbuthnott that Farquhar’s ‘steady support in Parliament for a good many years gives him a reasonable claim upon us, and if he has the good wishes of yourself and other principal proprietors, I should hope he will succeed’.4 Lord Arbuthnott continued to insist that only his brother had any chance of beating Ramsay, but Farquhar, who tried to get Hugh Arbuthnott out of the way by raising the prospect of his standing for Aberdeen Burghs, where he had influence in Inverbervie, resisted all Rae’s efforts to get him to withdraw and transfer his votes to the Arbuthnotts. In the end Lord Arbuthnott withdrew his brother, but it turned out that he had made a secret agreement of mutual support with Ramsay. Melville, who blamed Lord Arbuthnott for what seemed almost certain to be the loss of a ministerial seat, instructed Rae to give full support to Farquhar, although after Ramsay assured Edinburgh ministerialists that he did not intend to go into systematic opposition, Melville let Farquhar know that if Ramsay won on this occasion and lived up to his promise, government ‘must be wholly at liberty hereafter’ to support him against Farquhar or any other man. Farquhar persisted, but was comfortably defeated by 12 votes in a poll of 52 freeholders.5

As provost of Inverbervie, he transmitted to the home secretary Peel an address of loyalty from the council for presentation to the king on his visit to Scotland, 12 Aug. 1822.6 He found his way back into the House as a paying guest of the impoverished 2nd earl of Portarlington in March 1824. The contrast between himself and his late predecessor in the seat, the assiduous, talented and voluble radical political economist David Ricardo, could hardly have been more marked. Farquhar voted with government for the Irish insurrection bill, 14 June 1824. In December 1824 he sent on to Peel a letter from an unknown correspondent on the state of Ireland.7 As previously, he was hostile to Catholic claims: he paired against them, 1 Mar., and voted against the relief bill, 21 Apr., 10 May 1825. He voted against the Irish franchise bill, 26 Apr. He was in the majority against the Leith docks bill, 20 May. He divided for the duke of Cumberland’s annuity, 6, 10 June 1825, and with ministers on the Jamaican slave trials, 2 Mar., and against reform of Edinburgh’s representation, 13 Apr. 1826. He renewed his contract with Lord Portarlington at the general election of 1826 and voted against Catholic relief, 6 Mar. 1827. He was in the minority, with Canning, the premier, against the disfranchisement of Penryn, 28 May, but was credited with a vote with the reformers against throwing the corrupt borough of East Retford into the neighbouring hundred, 21 Mar. 1828. Somewhat belatedly, he presented two Dunfermline petitions for repeal of the Test Acts, 2 Apr., and again divided against Catholic relief, 10 May 1828. The prediction of Planta, the Wellington ministry’s patronage secretary, in February 1829 that Farquhar would vote ‘with government’ for their concession of emancipation proved to be wide of the mark, for he was in the hostile minorities of 6, 18, 30 Mar. He was one of the Members representing Irish constituencies who voted against Daniel O’Connell being allowed to take his seat without swearing the oath of supremacy, 18 May. He is not known to have contributed to debate in this period, but he presented a petition from the corporation of Aberdeen in support of the local improvement bill, 31 Mar. 1829. He was now listed among those who voted against the transfer of East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 11 Feb. 1830. He voted against the enfranchisement of Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, 23 Feb.; but, in his last known vote before his retirement at the dissolution of 1830, he divided against the ministry for abolition of the Bathurst and Dundas pensions, 26 Mar. As delegate for Inverbervie at the 1830 general election, when it was reported that he had declined an invitation to stand for the burghs, he backed the successful ministerial candidate.8

Farquhar died at his London home in Duke Street in September 1833. By his will, dated 19 July 1833, he left his wife a life annuity of £1,500, and other legacies amounting to £11,000. He provided generously for a host of Farquhar, Morice, Young and Hadden relatives, as well as servants and employees, to the tune of over £64,000. He left £1,000 to be distributed among Aberdeen charities and £500 for the benefit of the poor of each of the two parishes in which his Mearns property was situated. His personalty was sworn under £140,000 within the province of Canterbury. He had previously devised the Hallgreen estate to his nephew (and partner since 1829) James Farquhar (1805-75), his brother’s elder son; and the Johnston property to his nephew Alexander Gibbon (1793-1877), an advocate, the son of his sister Rachel Susan. He left his brother’s younger son, Thomas Newman Farquhar (1808-66), a solicitor, £15,000 ‘to compensate in some degree for the Scotch estate left to his brother’.9

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: David R. Fisher


  • 1. W. Johnston, Descendants of James Young (1894), 1, 4-5.
  • 2. Ibid. 92.
  • 3. Aberdeen Jnl. 24 Nov. 1819.
  • 4. TNA T64, Arbuthnott to Lushington, 24 Feb. 1820; NLS mss 11, f. 6; 1054, f. 177, 179.
  • 5. NLS mss 11, ff. 6-19, 22, 28-40, 44, 55, 59, 62, 75; Edinburgh Evening Courant, 10, 17 Feb., 6 Apr.; Caledonian Mercury, 18 Mar., 6 Apr. 1820; Johnston, 93.
  • 6. Add. 40349, f. 141.
  • 7. Add. 40371, f. 125.
  • 8. Aberdeen Jnl. 11, 18, 25 Aug. 1830.
  • 9. Gent. Mag. (1833), ii. 552; PROB 11/1821/572; IR26/1321/566; Johnston, 88, 95.