BOYLE, David (1666-1733)

BOYLE, David (1666–1733)

cr. 31 Mar. 1699 Ld. Boyle of Kelburn [S]; cr. 12 Apr. 1703 earl of GLASGOW [S]

RP [S] 1707–10

First sat 23 Oct. 1707; last sat 28 Mar. 1710

MP [S] Bute 1689-98

b. 1666, 1st s. of John Boyle of Kelburn, and 1st w. Marion, da. of Sir Walter Steuart of Allanton, Lanark. educ. Glasgow Univ. 1681. m. (1) 19 Apr. 1687 (tocher 9,000 merks), Margaret (d.1695), da. of Hon. Patrick Crawford (formerly Lindsay), of Kilbirnie, Ayr. (2nd s. of John Lindsay, 17th earl of Crawford [S]), 3s.; (2) 16 Jun. 1697, Jean (d.1724), da. and h. of William Mure of Rowallan, Ayr. 1s. d.v.p. 4da. (at least 2 d.v.p.). d. 31 Oct. 1733; will (Glasgow) 3 Nov. 1735.1

PC [S] 1697-1704, 1705-8; commr. exch. [S] 1697-1703, auditing treasury accts. [S] 1698, trade [S] 1698, union with England 1702-3, 1706, treasury [S] 1703-4, 1705-8; treas. depute [S] 1703-4, 1705-8; ld. clerk reg. [S] 1708-14.2

Ld. high commr. gen. assembly Church of Scotland 1706-10.

Commr. supply Ayr 1686, 1690, 1704; Bute 1689, 1696, 1704; sheriff, Bute 1689-92; burgess, Edinburgh 1704; baillie, regality of Glasgow 1706.3

Rector, Glasgow Univ. 1690-1.

Associated with: Kelburn Castle, Fairlie, Ayr.

Likenesses: mezzotint by J. Smith, aft. J. Richardson, 1711, NPG D11578.

Glasgow hitched his political star to that of his kinsman James Douglas, 2nd duke of Queensberry [S], under whose aegis he came into government in 1697, and whose close ally he remained. While Gilbert Burnet, bishop of Salisbury, considered Glasgow ‘a gentleman of application and character’, the Jacobite George Lockhart was scathing in his judgment of a man he considered a vulgar and grasping careerist.4 Glasgow, he wrote,

had nothing to recommend him ... being upon no account to be reckoned a man of more than ordinary sense. He was esteemed proud, arrogant, greedy, extremely false, and a great speaker at random; was so ridiculously vain, that he affected a great deal of respect and reverence as his due ... There was no man had such a sway with the duke of Queensberry, as he; and I look upon him as the chief of those evil counsellors that persuaded and engaged him [Queensberry] to follow, at least persevere in ... pernicious ways.

Lockhart also affected to despise Glasgow’s social origins: the earl, he wrote, liked to hear praise of

his illustrious and ancient family, tho’ he and all the world knew his predecessors were not long ago boatmen, and since married the heiress of Kelburn, a petty little family in the shire of Ayr, the representatives of which, until his father’s time, were never designed the laird, but always the goodman of Kelburn. However, having, by being concerned in farming the public revenues, scraped together a good estate, he wanted not ambition to be a man of quality, and concerned in the government ... Thus we see to what height ambition and impudence, without any merit will bring a man in this world.5

Lockhart was not the only observer to regard Glasgow as an upstart. One of Queensberry’s enemies listed it as a grievance against his administration of Scotland that he had recommended peerages for ‘the meanest and most despicable persons’, including Glasgow, whose earldom had ‘extremely irritate[d] the ancient nobility’.6 In fact, whatever Glasgow’s distant origins may have been, his immediate family background was far from humble: his father had achieved political prominence under Charles II, representing Buteshire in the Scottish parliament and serving as one of the lords of the articles in the Scottish parliament of 1685. This distinction came as a consequence of a strong commitment to the loyalist cause in the south-west of Scotland during the Covenanter disturbances after 1678, which extended to service in James II’s forces against the Argyll rebellion in 1685.7 However like his patron Queensberry, Glasgow himself quickly accepted the Revolution and refashioned himself as a strong Presbyterian and ‘Revolutioner’. As David Boyle, he sat in the convention parliament in Edinburgh, and advanced into office with Queensberry in 1697, acquiring his first peerage title in 1699 and being nominated as a court party representative on the union commission of 1702.8

As well as promotion in the peerage, the new earl of Glasgow also acquired a significant appointment in the spring of 1703 as treasurer depute, part of a package of measures intended to buttress Queensberry’s ascendancy over Scottish government.9 Writing in November 1703 to William Carstares, the eminent Presbyterian minister and principal of Edinburgh University, Glasgow stated his belief in the necessity of maintaining in office the present ministry, and settling the Scottish succession in the house of Hanover, in order to defeat the schemes of the Jacobites. He was also opposed to enacting any limitations on the monarchy ‘for it is inevitably our own great loss and disadvantage, if the monarchy shall be incapacitated to support itself, and protect us who are subjects’.10 Yet, in spite of all these professions, he was cautiously manoeuvring himself into a position in which, should a crisis occur, he might be able to survive a mortal injury to the Queensberry interest. After being put out of office with the duke in 1704 he dutifully defended his patron against the attempts of the New Party and others to implicate Queensberry in the ‘Scotch Plot’, but, in the crucial parliamentary vote on the succession in the 1704 Parliament, Glasgow abstained while other Queensberryites joined the opposition.11 Glasgow returned to office on Queensberry’s resumption of power in 1705 and rejoined the duke’s inner circle as though nothing had happened: Queensberry entrusted him to take messages to James Graham, duke of Montrose, for example.12 Some of his friends were pushing for him to be made secretary of state, but the post of treasurer depute, to which he returned, provided opportunities to advance his own family and dependants.13 At the same time he was developing personal connections with other influential government figures, including James Ogilvy, earl of Seafield [S] (later 4th earl of Findlater [S]), and Sidney Godolphin, earl of Godolphin, with whom he opened a direct correspondence on the basis of his administrative role in the Scottish treasury, offering political advice and making requests for patronage. He urged Godolphin to remove the New Party entirely from office and make the Scottish administration ‘all of a piece, thoroughly upon the Revolution bottom’, that is to say the Queensberry faction; this would be the only way to settle the succession.14

Glasgow played a key role in the preparations for Union. In December 1705 he urged Queensberry to create a Scottish commission entirely composed of the ‘old party’ (that is to say the court), but when the duke wished to broaden the basis of support for his policy it was Glasgow whom he sent to try to detach John Leslie, 9th earl of Rothes [S], from the Squadrone Volante (as the former New Party were now called).15 As well as being named a Union commissioner, Glasgow was given a particular role in managing Presbyterian opinion. He had close links with ministers and with the church establishment in general, dating back to his election as rector of Glasgow University in 1690. He was appointed in 1706 as lord high commissioner to the general assembly of the Kirk (with an allowance of £700 per session), and completed business satisfactorily in April 1706 before rushing down to London for the joint meetings of the union commissioners.16 During the following summer it was reported that he had become estranged from Queensberry, and had been seen in the company of members of the Squadrone, but this may well have been a ploy to gain the trust of the Squadrone lords, for we have no other evidence of tensions within the court party, and in August 1706 Glasgow was again dispatched on Queensberry’s behalf with messages to Montrose.17 Once the Union treaty had been agreed, he resumed his role in managing Presbyterian opinion. As a representative elder in the commission of the general assembly (the executive body governing the Kirk between assembly sessions) he was chosen to assist in drafting an address to the Scottish parliament in October.18 Locally, he and other court party peers managed to suppress an anti-Union address in Ayrshire.19 But although he felt able to reassure Godolphin of the likely success of the treaty, his optimism about the clergy in particular proved misplaced, and he himself suffered rough handling by the Edinburgh mob.20

Predictably, Glasgow voted a solid pro-Union line in the parliamentary debates on the treaty.21 Outside Parliament, he continued to work to reassure the Presbyterian clergy of the security guaranteed to the Kirk, serving as high commissioner to the general assembly again in April 1707 (when he was described by one observer as ‘a modest, good man’). In his capacity as treasurer depute he also played a crucial role in mollifying potential grievances among the political classes in Scotland by distributing the £20,000 sent from England to the Scottish treasury to satisfy various demands for arrears.22 His reward was to be continued on the Scottish Privy Council, and to be included as one of the court party nominees in the first cohort of representative peers to sit in the united Parliament.23 On the 1707 analysis by Patrick Hume, earl of Marchmont [S], he was described as ‘for Revolution but influenced by Queensberry’.

Glasgow took his place in the Lords on 23 Oct. 1707. He attended on 88 days of the session, 82 per cent of the total, and was named to 18 committees. He was present on 18 Dec. 1707 when the queen urged Parliament to consider ways of improving the Union. By this time the Commons were already debating the future of the Scottish Privy Council, which the Squadrone were determined should be abolished. When news of this reached Scotland, complaints were raised by the Presbyterian clergy, whose concerns were transmitted to Glasgow by Carstares. This presented an opportunity to stir up opposition to abolition, and Glasgow advised Carstares that, while it would be unwise for the general assembly to object openly, there would be no objection to protests from individual ministers. He added the information that the queen herself entertained reservations about the proposal.24 Glasgow attended the House regularly during January and early February 1708, when the bill ‘for rendering the Union ... more entire and complete’ was under consideration. When it was considered by a committee of the whole on 5 Feb., he was present and must have supported an unsuccessful attempt to keep the Privy Council in being until October 1708, as he was not named by James Vernon as one of the three ‘Scotch Lords’ for continuing it.25 Two days later, when the bill passed its third reading, he signed the protest against it as a violation of the treaty of Union. He also attended regularly during the proceedings on bills to establish the method of electing Scottish peers to sit in the Lords and to settle the militia in Scotland. He last attended on 25 Mar., whereupon he went to Edinburgh in order to preside again over the general assembly in April.26

Glasgow himself was still owed considerable sums in arrears of salary: £1,500 for his part in the union negotiations in 1702-3, and £1,000 as treasurer depute. Moreover, as a result of the Union his office in the Scottish treasury was extinguished. These losses would have tested his loyalty, both to his patron Queensberry and to the Union, but he was paid his allowance as commissioner to the general assembly, and his treasurer’s salary for a year from May 1707, and in May 1708 he was compensated for the loss of his other offices by appointment as lord clerk register, a post he had personally solicited from Godolphin. 27 Although he subsequently complained that the exchange of offices cost him £400 a year he was not sufficiently discommoded to abandon the ministry.28 He was also able to secure posts in the Scottish customs service for his brother and other members of his family.29

Glasgow was at the centre of Queensberry’s election strategy in 1708, seeking to be all things to all men in Scotland. On the one hand, he expressed his sympathy with the Presbyterian clergy in their anxieties over the reported Jacobite invasion; on the other, he made contacts with those cavaliers who had been taken into custody on suspicion of Jacobitism, and recommended to Queensberry their release in order to enable them to assist court party candidates in the elections for Commons and Lords.30 In Lanarkshire, where his appointment as baillie of the regality of Glasgow had afforded him electoral influence, he sought to reassure James Hamilton, 4th duke of Hamilton [S], of his goodwill, telling Hamilton’s brother Charles Douglas, 2nd earl of Selkirk [S], that he would support the family interest, and informing another brother, Lord John Hamilton, that Queensberry and Godolphin were ready to extend their favour to the duke.31 At the same time he was working in various constituencies against Hamilton’s allies the Squadrone.32 He reported the reaction of the Squadrone almost with glee: ‘my dear pupils, the duke of Montrose, earl of Rothes and [Thomas Hamilton, 6th] earl of Haddington, are mightily enraged’.33 He himself was included on Queensberry’s court list for the election of representative peers and secured his election with ease, having attended in person.34 On a printed list of the first Parliament of Great Britain compiled about May 1708, he was classed as a Whig.

Glasgow returned to the Lords for the opening of the new Parliament on 16 Nov. 1708. On 18 Nov. a petition was presented against his election and that of three other court party men. The petitioners also claimed that Glasgow, as lord register, had denied them access to the papers necessary to sustain the appeal.35 It was only after the arrival of the relevant papers from Scotland that the Lords were able to consider the petition and Glasgow was named to the relevant committee on 10 Jan. 1709 (one of only two committee appointments). 36 A week later the report was made, and in the ensuing debate Queensberry’s enemies raised the question of whether, as the holder of a British peerage (the dukedom of Dover), Queensberry had been eligible to participate in the peers’ election. When this question was put, on 21 Jan., Glasgow voted in the minority in support of his chief. On 29 Jan. the committee was ordered to recalculate the votes cast, reporting on 1 Feb. amongst other things that although Glasgow’s total had gone down by six, he had retained his seat.37 On 18 Mar. he was probably one of the Scots who joined in an unsuccessful attempt in the committee of the whole House to prevent the inclusion in the bill for improving the Union of a clause to extend the English treason laws to Scotland.38 He last attended on 22 Mar., a month before the end of the session, having been present on 43 days, 47 per cent of the total.

Glasgow missed the opening month of the 1709-10 session, first attending on 15 Dec. 1709. He voted with the Whigs on 20 Mar. 1710 that Sacheverell was guilty of the charges brought against him by the Commons, and the following day (along with the Squadrone) that Sacheverell should not be eligible for preferment during the three years in which he was banned from preaching. He last attended on 28 Mar. having sat on 50 days, 54 per cent of the total.

In the 1710 election of representative peers Glasgow was dropped from the court list which had been agreed in advance by Queensberry’s lieutenant, John Erskine, 22nd earl of Mar [S], with John Campbell, 2nd duke of Argyll [S] (and earl of Greenwich), and Hamilton. The Tories’ aversion to ‘what they call the duke of Queensberry’s creatures’ was given as the reason. Glasgow did not take this well and threatened to oppose Argyll’s interest in the election until warned off.39 Nonetheless, he attended the election and voted a court line.40 Mar privately advised Robert Harley, the future earl of Oxford, that no action should be taken against Glasgow other than to ‘drop him at this election’, so that, ‘when he is once rid of his old master, the queen may have him when she pleases’.41 After Queensberry’s unexpected death in July 1711, Glasgow was appointed one of the tutors (guardians) to the 14-year-old heir.42 Politically, he now pledged his allegiance to Mar and to Harley, who had by now become lord treasurer and earl of Oxford, expressing his devotion through a succession of obsequious letters. He was thus able to retain the place of lord clerk register.43 In one letter to Mar in October 1711 he made a particular appeal to keep his office, asserting that ‘I never had the least favour or countenance from the Junto ministry, having opposed them in every measure wherein the interest of the monarchy was concerned, for which they mortally hate me.’ On another occasion he even claimed that he had supported the Union solely out of ‘duty and personal affection’ to the queen, despite ‘scruples’.44 He was spoken of as a possible commissioner to the general assembly in 1712 but was not appointed, and, despite continued professions of support for the ministry, and bitter denunciations of the Squadrone, was not included in the court list in the peers’ election in 1713.45 In Lanarkshire he used his influence as baillie of Glasgow in 1713 to support the Glasgow merchant Daniel Campbell who was standing for election with the backing of local Presbyterian interests against the Hamiltons.46

After the accession of George I, Glasgow warned William Cowper, Baron Cowper, that the Scots would rally to the Jacobite cause in large numbers if the Pretender set foot in Scotland.47 He himself raised and equipped 500 fencibles to oppose the rebellion.48 A member of the Scottish SPCK, he strongly endorsed the society’s work in the Highlands as advancing the cause of political as well as religious enlightenment: ignorance, he wrote, was what made the inhabitants ‘slavishly subject to the will and command of their popish and disaffected chieftains and landlords’.49 Otherwise little is known of his politics after 1714, but like many ex-Queensberryites he seems to have been alienated from government in Scotland by the loss of office: he signed a petition to the Lords against the peerage bill in 1719, and in 1722 gave his backing to Tory candidates in the peers’ election.50

Glasgow died at Kelburn on 31 Oct. 1733.


  • 1 Douglas, Scots Peerage, iv. 201-6; Young, Parls. of Scot. i. 66; Scot. Rec. Soc. vii. 195.
  • 2 CSP Dom. 1697, p. 84; 1698, pp. 406-7, 431-2; 1702-3, p. 572-3; 1703-4, p. 399.
  • 3 Douglas, iv. 201; Scot. Rec. Soc. lxii. 79.
  • 4 Macky Mems. 235.
  • 5 Lockhart Pprs. i. 90-91.
  • 6 HMC Laing, ii. 48-49.
  • 7 Douglas, iv. 199-200.
  • 8 P.W.J. Riley, K. Wm. and Scot. Politicians, 123, 128, 152.
  • 9 Seafield Corresp. 355; CSP Dom. 1703-4, p. 399; Lockhart Mems. 40.
  • 10 Carstares SP, 723-4.
  • 11 Glasgow mss at Kelburn, box 3, Glasgow to Queensberry, 12 Feb. 1704; Riley, Union, 94-95, 98.
  • 12 HMC Portland, iv. 230–1; Seafield Corresp. 420; Riley, Union, 136.
  • 13 Seafield Letters, 23; CTB, xxiii. 171; CTP, 1702-7, p. 521.
  • 14 Seafield Letters, 178-84.
  • 15 Riley, Union, 136; HMC Mar and Kellie, i. 240; NLS, ms 14415, f. 123.
  • 16 HMC Hamilton, ii. 166; HMC Mar and Kellie, i. 257–8; C.A. Whatley, Scots and Union, 246.
  • 17 HMC Mar and Kellie, i. 270, 274.
  • 18 Whatley, 264; A.I. Macinnes, Union and Empire, 286; K. Bowie, Scottish Public Opinion and the Anglo-Scottish Union, 118.
  • 19 Lockhart Mems. 148.
  • 20 Seafield Letters, 183; HMC Mar and Kellie, i. 299.
  • 21 Riley, Union, 330.
  • 22 HMC Portland, iv. 399; viii. 283; Whatley, 313; HMC Mar and Kellie, i. 386, 388, 391; Lockhart Mems. 252.
  • 23 HMC Mar and Kellie, i. 371, 393–4; Douglas, iv. 202; NLS, ms 1026, f. 4.
  • 24 Edinburgh UL, Laing mss La.II.577.1; PH, xxviii. 96.
  • 25 Vernon-Shrewsbury Letters, iii. 341.
  • 26 HMC Mar and Kellie, i. 437.
  • 27 CTB, xxii. 29, 112, 119, 175, 241, 265, 285, 369; Seafield Letters, 183-4.
  • 28 CTB, xxiv. 215.
  • 29 CTP, 1708-14, p. 121; Luttrell, Brief Relation, vi. 173; Riley, Eng. Ministers and Scot. 53.
  • 30 Carstares SP, 763-4; HMC Mar and Kellie, i. 437–8.
  • 31 Seafield Letters, 85; NAS, GD 406/1/8083, GD 406/1/5554.
  • 32 NAS, GD 112/39/216/1; GD 124/15/859/1; Add. 61631, f. 54; Lincs. Archs. Yarborough mss, 16/7/1.
  • 33 HMC Mar and Kellie, i. 438–9.
  • 34 NLS, ms 1026, ff. 23, 31, 39; Add. 28055, ff. 410-11.
  • 35 NAS, GD 158/1174/33-34; Leicester and Rutland RO, Finch mss DG 7 box 4950 bdle. 23 Letter A38, Guernsey to [Nottingham], 2 Dec. 1708.
  • 36 Finch mss, DG 7 box 4950, bdle. 23, A38; NAS, GD 124/15/933.
  • 37 NLS, ms 1026, f. 5.
  • 38 Haddington mss at Mellerstain, 3, George Baillie to wife, 19 Mar. 1709.
  • 39 HMC Portland, iv. 622, 625-6, 630; x. 349-50.
  • 40 Riley, Eng. Ministers and Scot. 154, 156; NLS, ms 1026, ff. 62-63; Christ Church, Oxf. Wake mss 17, ff. 268-9.
  • 41 HMC Portland, x. 365.
  • 42 Glasgow mss, box 3, Glasgow to William Douglas, 7 July 1711.
  • 43 HMC Portland, x. 184-5, 191, 201-2; Add. 70212, Glasgow to Oxford, 20 June 1712.
  • 44 HMC Portland, v. 100, 114-15.
  • 45 Wodrow Corresp. i. 307-8; HMC Portland, v. 298.
  • 46 Add. 70292, Lockhart to Oxford, 30 July 1713; HP Commons, 1690-1715, ii. 864-5.
  • 47 Herts. ALS, Cowper (Panshanger) mss DE/P/F53, Glasgow to Cowper, 9 Aug. 1714.
  • 48 Douglas, iv. 203; Whatley, 355.
  • 49 Acct. of the Rise, Constitution and Management of SPCK (1714), 32; Herts. ALS, DE/P/F140.
  • 50 Add. 70269, 17 Mar. 1719; Scot. Hist. Soc. Misc. xii. 168.