GRAHAM, James, mq. of Graham (1799-1874).

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



4 Feb. 1825 - 1832

Family and Education

b. 16 July 1799, 2nd but 1st surv. s. of James Graham†, 3rd duke of Montrose [S], and 2nd w. Lady Caroline Maria Montagu, da. of George Montagu†, 4th duke of Manchester; bro. of Lord Montagu William Graham*. educ. Eton 1811; Trinity Coll. Camb. 1817. m. 15 Oct. 1836, Hon. Caroline Agnes Horsley Beresford, da. of John, 2nd Bar. Decies [I], 3s. (2 d.v.p.) 3da. (1 d.v.p.). suc. fa. as 4th duke of Montrose [S] and 4th Earl Graham [UK] 30 Dec. 1836; KT 12 Mar. 1845. d. 30 Dec. 1874.

Offices Held

Vice-chamberlain of household Feb. 1821-Apr. 1827; PC 23 Feb. 1821; commr. bd. of control Feb. 1828-Nov. 1830; ld. steward of household Feb.-Dec. 1852; chan. of duchy of Lancaster Feb. 1858-June 1859; postmaster-gen. July 1866-Dec. 1868.

Ld. lt. Stirling 1843-d.

Chan. Glasgow Univ. 1837-d; pres. Highland and Agric. Soc. [S] 1845-9.

Col. Stirling, Dunbarton, Kinross and Clackmannan militia 1827-d; maj.-gen. R. Co. of Archers [S].


Graham’s father was a man of some ability. His political career ended with Pitt’s death, but he was reappointed master of the horse, at £1,260 a year, in 1807, while continuing to draw £2,000 annually from his sinecure place as lord justice general of Scotland. He was a zealous protector of his electoral interests in Stirlingshire and Dunbartonshire, though perhaps inclined to overrate their strength.1 In February 1821 Graham, who had been conventionally educated, was made vice-chamberlain of the household, at £1,159 a year, and a privy councillor. Five months later, on the eve of the coronation, Lord Hertford offered his resignation as lord chamberlain; but the prospect of Graham having to perform his official duties at the ceremony was averted when Hertford was persuaded to attend. George IV wished to replace Hertford with Lord Conyngham, husband of his latest concubine, but the premier Lord Liverpool and his colleagues would not have it. Nor were they willing to acquiesce in the king’s alternative scheme of making Montrose lord chamberlain and giving the mastership of the horse to Conyngham.2 While this dispute remained in deadlock Montrose took umbrage at lack of government support for his interest in recent by-elections for Dunbartonshire and Stirlingshire. He threatened to resign his lord lieutenancy of both counties and to veto the future appointment of Graham; but he was evidently persuaded to change his mind, even though Lord Melville, the government’s Scottish overlord, did not think he had ‘the slightest cause of complaint’.3 Towards the end of the year Montrose was made lord chamberlain and replaced as master of the horse by the duke of Dorset, while Conyngham was accommodated as lord steward.4

Graham was mentioned as a possible candidate for the vacant Cambridge University seat in October 1822, but nothing came of this.5 In February 1825 he was brought forward on a vacancy for Cambridge on the controlling interest of his kinsman the 5th duke of Rutland. (The 2nd duke, whose daughter had married Graham’s grandfather, the 2nd duke of Montrose, was their common ancestor.) Graham was described by his proposer as a young man who, ‘despising the frivolities of fashionable life’, had ‘devoted himself to the attainment of that knowledge, which might be useful to him’. Although there was no opposition, he had to contend with much barracking from the unfranchised residents who made up the bulk of his audience. He declared:

I ... congratulate you on the present state of the nation. If we look around us we shall see a greater degree of prosperity than this country has ever before enjoyed. Our commerce and revenue are increasing, whilst our debt and taxes are decreased; and in the king’s speech ... His Majesty hopes there will be a still further reduction of taxation. After the great reductions which have already been made, when we see another reduction of taxation in contemplation, we have cause to congratulate ourselves ... I do not see why I should withhold my support from those persons under whose management the country has arrived at its present prosperity.6

He voted for the Irish unlawful societies bill, 25 Feb., and against Catholic relief, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May, and the Irish franchise bill, 26 Apr. 1825. He was in the ministerial majorities on the duke of Cumberland’s grant, 30 May, 2, 6, 10 June 1825. He presented a Cambridgeshire petition against alteration of the corn laws, 17 Feb.,7 and divided with government in defence of the Jamaican slave trials, 2 Mar. 1826.

He stood again for Cambridge at the 1826 general election, when he admitted on the hustings that the country was less prosperous than at the time of his first return:

He doubted not it would shortly rise from its depression with redoubled vigour. The stagnation which now prevails has arisen from overtrading and speculation; but still trade is the bulwark and support of the kingdom; and as the floods which overspread the land bring mischief in the first instance, although they ultimately fertilize the soil, so we may hope that what causes evil today will tomorrow produce riches and abundance.

He was returned with another ministerialist after a token contest.8 He voted against Catholic relief, 6 Mar., and was in the minority against the spring guns bill, 30 Mar. 1827. He and his father resigned their household posts on the formation of Canning’s ministry the following month, feeling it ‘absolutely impossible’, as Graham told the king, to give him ‘firm and decided support’.9 He was granted a week’s leave, 14 May 1827, having served on an election committee. He was in Italy when he was appointed to a place at the India board in the duke of Wellington’s administration in February 1828, and his younger brother represented him at the formalities of his quiet re-election for Cambridge.10 His father was reinstated as lord chamberlain, but at the end of April was rapped on the knuckles by Wellington for giving a proxy vote against repeal of the Test Acts and defending his action in a blustering letter.11 Graham did not take his seat until 29 Mar. 1828. He voted against Catholic relief, 12 May (his father abstained in the Lords). He presented the Cambridge petition for the abolition of slavery, 17 June, and voted with his colleagues on the ordnance estimates, 4 July 1828. Although he presented Cambridge parish petitions against the Catholic claims, 2 Mar., he declared his support for the Irish franchise bill, 20 Mar. 1829: it would put an end to the ‘system of gross deceit and evasion’ manipulated by the priests, and was the necessary price to be paid for the ‘great boon’ of emancipation, for which he cast silent votes, 6, 30 Mar. (His father sent proxy votes for it, 4, 10 Apr., giving the lie to an earlier rumour that, influenced by the king and his son-in-law, the 10th earl of Winchilsea, he ‘had changed back’.12) Graham was appointed to the select committee on the East India Company, 9 Feb. 1830. He was in the government majorities against various schemes of parliamentary reform, 11, 18, 23 Feb. The previous month Lord Ellenborough, his chief at the India board, had noted that Wellington had told him that he

had had some conversation last year at Belvoir with Lord Graham upon Indian affairs, and had been quite surprised to find how much he knew. He had thought he only knew how to comb his hair.

Ellenborough harboured a notion of promoting him to ‘first commissioner’, which would ‘force him to come forward’ and demonstrate these hitherto unsuspected talents. Nothing came of it, but Graham spoke in defence of Sir John Malcolm* against an opposition attack on his conduct as governor of Bombay, 4 Mar., and Ellenborough was assured that he ‘was unembarrassed and did well’.13 His only other known votes in this session were against Jewish emancipation, 5 Apr., 17 May 1830. On the accession of William IV, when Montrose resigned his household place, Ellenborough recorded that ‘Peel seems to think that Lord Graham is dissatisfied and unfriendly. It seems he has been heard complaining of vacillation, etc., on the part of the government, and does not attend well’.14

Graham was returned unopposed for Cambridge at the general election, though his platitudinous speech of thanks was shouted down.15 According to Ellenborough, he did not think the ministry irrevocably doomed by Wellington’s declaration against parliamentary reform.16 He was in their minority on the civil list, 15 Nov. 1830, and went out of office with them. He did not object to an extension of time for the petitioner against his brother’s return for Dunbartonshire to enter into recognizances, 30 Nov., and presented the Cambridge anti-slavery petition, 8 Dec. 1830. He was named to the renewed East India committee, 4 Feb. 1831. Five weeks later, he gave ‘a bad account of the spirit of the House of Commons’ in the debates on the Grey ministry’s reform bill: he ‘feared the second reading would be carried, nor did he expect much would be done in committee’.17 He voted against the second reading, 22 Mar., and for Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831. The enthusiasm for reform in Cambridge posed no electoral threat to Graham, who declared his ‘insuperable objections’ to the bill, which was ‘revolutionary and republican in its principles, subversive of vested interests and the rights of corporations, and destructive in the end of the monarchy itself’. While he claimed that he would have supported ‘a moderate and rational system of reform’ to enfranchise large manufacturing towns and reduce bribery, he promised ‘constant ... determined and uncompromising opposition’ to the ‘wild and dangerous bill’.18 In fact, he did little more than go through the motions of resistance to the reintroduced bill, voting silently against its second reading, 6 July, for use of the 1831 census as a basis for disfranchisement, 19 July, and against its passage, 21 Sept. Graham, who voted against the second reading of the Scottish bill, 23 Sept., claimed (wrongly) to know that ministers ‘expect and hope’ to be beaten in the Lords on a ‘preliminary point before the second reading’ and had the king’s blessing for a creation of peers.19 He divided against the final bill on the second reading, 17 Dec. 1831, going into committee, 20 Jan., the enfranchisement of Tower Hamlets, 28 Feb., and the third reading, 22 Mar. 1832. His only other known votes were against government on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., 12 July 1832. He did not seek re-election at the 1832 general election.

He succeeded to the peerage in 1836. When Peel formed his second ministry in September 1841 Graham sent him a whining letter expressing his ‘mortification’ at his ‘utter neglect’ in being passed over for office. Peel was unmoved, but later propitiated him with the lord lieutenancy of Stirlingshire and a green ribbon.20 For all this, he broke with Peel over repeal of the corn laws, and subsequently held office in all Lord Derby’s administrations. As postmaster-general he concluded postal conventions with America, China and India, and effected improvements in mail contracts with the East.21 ‘Rather a practical man of business than an orator’, he died at Cannes, where he had gone ‘for the benefit of his health’, 30 Dec. 1874, 38 years to the day after his father.22 As his first two sons had predeceased him, he was succeeded as 5th duke of Montrose by the only surviving one, Douglas Beresford Malise Ronald Graham (1852-1925). His widow, who was 19 years his junior, twice remarried, the second time in 1888 at the age of 70. She died in 1894.

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: David R. Fisher


  • 1. Oxford DNB.
  • 2. Geo. IV Letters, ii. 940-2; HMC Bathurst, 502-3; Arbuthnot Jnl. i. 110; Hobhouse Diary, 68-69.
  • 3. Devon RO, Sidmouth mss, Melville to Sidmouth, 7 Sept. 1821.
  • 4. Arbuthnot Jnl. i. 125, 126; Hobhouse Diary, 81.
  • 5. Hants RO, Calthorpe mss 26M62/F/C127.
  • 6. Cambridge Chron. 14, 21, 28 Jan., 11 Feb. 1825.
  • 7. The Times, 18 Feb. 1826.
  • 8. Cambridge Chron. 2, 16 June 1826.
  • 9. Geo. IV Letters, iii. 1312, 1313; Canning’s Ministry, 153, 260; Colchester Diary, iii. 485.
  • 10. Wellington mss WP1/914/38; 915/56;Cambridge Chron. 8, 15 Feb. 1828.
  • 11. Geo. IV Letters, iii. 1492; Wellington Despatches, iv. 410-12.
  • 12. Arbuthnot Jnl. ii. 259.
  • 13. Ellenborough Diary, ii. 158, 205.
  • 14. Arbuthnot Jnl. ii. 367; Greville Mems.ii. 2; Ellenborough Diary, ii. 300.
  • 15. Cambridge Chron. 16, 30 July, 6 Aug.; Cambridge and Hertford Independent Press, 7 Aug. 1830.
  • 16. Ellenborough Diary, ii. 416.
  • 17. Three Diaries, 67.
  • 18. Cambridge Chron. 29 Apr. 1831.
  • 19. Arbuthnot Corresp. 149.
  • 20. Add. 40487, ff. 339, 341; 40525, ff. 114, 116; 40530, ff. 377-84.
  • 21. Oxford DNB.
  • 22. The Times, 1 Jan., 13 Aug. 1875.