ERSKINE, John (1675-1732)

ERSKINE, John (1675–1732)

styled 1675-89 Ld. Erskine; suc. fa. 23 May 1689 (a minor) as 22nd (and de jure 6th) earl of MAR [S]

RP [S] 1707–15

First sat 23 Oct. 1707; last sat 25 Aug. 1714

bap. 21 Jan. 1675, 1st s. of Charles Erskine, 21st (and de jure 5th) earl of Mar [S], and Mary, da. of George Maule, 2nd earl of Panmure [S]; bro. of Hon. James Erskine, Ld. Grange, s.c.j. m. (1) 6 Apr. 1703, Margaret (d. 25 Apr. 1707), da. of Thomas Hay, 7th earl of Kinnoull [S], sis. of George Hay, styled Visct. Dupplin [S], later 8th earl of Kinnoull [S], 2s. (1 d.v.p.) 1da.; (2) 20 July 1714, Frances (d.1761), da. of Evelyn Pierrepont, marquess of Dorchester (later duke of Kingston), 1da. KT 10 Aug. 1706. d. May 1732.

Commr. justiciary Highlands [S] 1697– aft. 1702, exch. [S] 1698, auditing treasury accts. [S] 1698, trade [S] 1698, plantation of kirks [S] 1698, union with England 1706; PC [S] 1697–1708; jt. sec. of state [S] 1705–8; PC 1707–14; kpr. of signet [S] 1708–9; sec. of state 1713–14.1

Gov. and capt. coy. of ft. Stirling castle 1699–1714.2; col. regt. of ft. [S] 1702–6.3

Associated with: Alloa Tower, Alloa, Clackmannan; Braemar Castle, Aberdeen; Kildrummy Castle, Aberdeen; Corgaff Castle, Aberdeen; Privy Garden, Whitehall, Westminster.4

Likenesses: oil on canvas by Sir G. Kneller, National Trust for Scotland, Alloa Tower; oil on canvas (double portrait with son) by Sir G. Kneller, c.1715, National Trust for Scotland, Alloa Tower; oil on canvas, school of Sir G. Kneller, Historic Scotland, Edinburgh; oil on canvas, studio of Sir G. Kneller, Government. Art Coll.

Mar wished to present himself to posterity as a patriot. In the testament he wrote for his son, he stated that ‘to be of some use to my native country, and be assisting to the release of it from the low and declining condition in which I found it, has been my great passion, and much at my heart, ever almost since I can remember anything’.5 He did indeed show a profound interest in the material development of his own estates, and of the localities in which they sat. This was a natural response to the ‘disorder’ in which his father had left the family’s affairs, but he also developed a broader interest in architecture and gardening, and in fostering ‘improvements’ in agriculture, manufacture and commerce.6 It might be argued that his support for union in 1705–7 reflected this concern for economic progress. However, to an anti-unionist like George Lockhart, such explanations would have carried little weight. He saw Mar as driven by mercenary self-aggrandizement: ‘not a man of good coram vobis, and ... a very bad, though very frequent, speaker in parliament. But his great talent lay in the cunning management of his designs and projects, in which it was hard to find him out when he aimed to be incognito’.7

Mar was moved to enter politics because of his debts.8 After his appointment to the Scottish Privy Council in 1697 he became a loyal supporter of government, and by the end of William’s reign had tied himself to James Douglas, 2nd duke Queensberry [S], the head of the ‘court party’.9 In turn he was a valuable asset to Queensberry, not only because of his political skill and parliamentary ability, but because of his influence in the Highlands. Having secured command of a regiment at Queen Anne’s accession, he supported Queensberry in the Scottish parliamentary sessions of 1702 and 1703, and after Queensberry’s fall in 1704 followed instructions in leading the duke’s faction in opposition to the ministry of the ‘new party’ (later Squadrone Volante).10 This extended to voting against proposals for settling the succession that he had supported the previous year when Queensberry had put them forward. As the Squadrone were in turn replaced and Queensberry recovered his position in government, Mar, in Lockhart’s words, ‘returned as the dog to the vomit and promoted all the court of England’s measures with the greatest zeal imaginable’.11 In the 1705 parliamentary session he was given the task of proposing the consideration of a treaty of union, and introducing the requisite bill, though in the event his draft was snubbed by members in favour of an identical version proposed by William Kerr, 2nd marquess of Lothian [S].12 According to Lockhart, Mar bamboozled the ‘country party’ leader James Hamilton, 4th duke of Hamilton [S], to agree to leave the nomination of commissioners to the queen.13 James Ogilvy, earl of Seafield [S] (later 4th earl of Findlater [S]) sent the lord treasurer, Sidney Godolphin, Baron (later earl of) Godolphin, a glowing testimonial of Mar’s conduct in working ‘cheerfully and zealously’ for ‘the queen’s measures’ and recommended him to be one of the Scottish secretaries of state, an appointment which was made in September (after which he relinquished his regiment).14 Hugh Campbell, 3rd earl of Loudoun [S], who would prove to be a close colleague of Mar’s, wrote similarly. He commended Mar to Godolphin as being ‘of an old honourable family and [has] done the queen very good service’.15

During the winter of 1705–6 Mar stayed in London and was often in contact with the queen. He claimed credit for obtaining the post of commander-in-chief of the army in Scotland for another Queensberryite, David Leslie, 5th earl of Leven [S], telling Leven that he had spoken to the queen on the subject ‘often’, as well as to John Churchill, duke of Marlborough, and the treasurer.16 He also advised on the choice of the Scottish treaty commissioners, which enabled him to build up political capital with the various appointees.17 Heavily committed to the idea of union, he played a leading part in the negotiations, and ‘most of ... the private meetings of the Scotch commissioners ... were at his house’.18 As far as he was concerned, the negotiations produced a highly satisfactory outcome and when the business was concluded he wrote triumphantly to his brother, ‘you cannot imagine how agreeable it was to everybody here our concluding the treaty and delivering it to the queen, which was done very solemnly’.19 A first reward for his efforts came in August 1706, when he was admitted to the Order of the Thistle. Back in Edinburgh, he kept up a correspondence with Marlborough, Godolphin, and with the queen, reporting on Scottish opinion, and when the Parliament met he was at the forefront of the court party’s efforts to secure ratification of the treaty, receiving the personal thanks of the queen for his efforts.20 In the 1707 analysis of Patrick Hume, earl of Marchmont [S], he was described as ‘sicut’ [i.e., just as] Queensberry, and as able to influence Col. John Areskine (Erskine) in the Commons.

The first Parliaments of Great Britain, 1707-10

Mar was an obvious choice as one of the representative peers in the first Parliament of Great Britain.21 Having travelled south to witness the English Parliament ratify the treaty, he remained in London throughout the summer and autumn of 1707. At the beginning of May rumours circulated that both he and Loudoun were to be made marquesses along with various other appointments, though Mar’s informant, Harry Maule, confessed ‘What has given rise to these I do not know’. Shortly after, Mar learned of the death of his wife, which, although it had been long anticipated, clearly shook him and he professed to have been left ‘not very fit for business’. Within days, though, he was sworn a member of the Privy Council and was forced to return his attention to his duties. His administrative responsibilities were extremely burdensome and the preparations for the parliamentary session kept him and his fellow secretary ‘in a hurry.’22 He was quite open about his need for employment, his estates not being ‘yet in such a condition that I can live well without the queen’s favour and assistance’, and when the office of Scottish secretary ceased to exist in 1708, he was compensated by being appointed keeper of the signet (at the same salary), an office which in practice did much of the work of the secretary. On 23 Oct. 1707 he took his seat in the Lords, after which he was present on 84 per cent of all sitting days. He does not seem to have been particularly active, but with other Queensberryites opposed the Squadrone’s bill to abolish the Scottish Privy Council, signing the protest against it as a violation of the Union treaty (and privately expressing his concern at its likely impact on the heritable jurisdictions of magnates like himself).23

After the dissolution he hastened back to Scotland to engage with the elections both of Scottish Members of the Commons and of representative peers. A printed list of the time noted him as a Whig. At the end of May 1708 he wrote to Marlborough conveying news of the elections for the burghs and thanking him for sending up his proxy (Marlborough holding the Scottish peerage of Churchill of Eyemouth). Marlborough’s decision to entrust the proxy to Mar caused some consternation among Hamilton’s grouping and prompted Hamilton to appeal to secretary of state Charles Spencer, 3rd earl of Sunderland, for assistance. Hamilton also complained of Mar’s demeanour. He found Mar ‘to the greatest degree lofty and pretends to mighty favour’. For all Mar’s outward confidence, the outcome of the peers’ election was compromised by Sunderland’s intervention in support of the anti-court alliance of the Squadrone and Hamilton.24 Mar found himself blamed for the arrest of various cavalier lords in Scotland on suspicion of involvement in the planned Jacobite rising; Hamilton took the credit for obtaining their release, and thus secured their votes.25 After the election, which he attended, Mar informed Marlborough that, though ‘we have the greatest part … there has been such influence used against us by great folks at London, that a great many of our old friends, and who are in the queen’s service, were frightened from us, so that it is a wonder we carried so many.’ He then went so far as to complain directly to the queen about Sunderland’s behaviour.26 For the Commons, Mar’s nominee in Stirlingshire, his kinsman, Henry Cunningham, was eventually seated in January 1709 following a double return, but it is not clear to what extent Mar could claim much credit for Cunningham’s election. According to Daniel Defoe Mar and John Campbell, 2nd duke of Argyll [S] (earl of Greenwich in the English peerage), played ‘a game at elections in Kinross and Clackmannan’, which resulted in an indecorous contest between the candidates, Hon. Charles Rosse and Hon. William Dalrymple. Mar supported the latter, who was elected apparently on the strength of some spurious votes manufactured by his sponsor.27

Mar took his seat at the opening of the new Parliament on 16 Nov. 1708, after which he was present on 83 per cent of all sitting days. He was very uneasy over the increasing influence in the ministry of the Junto, and the Squadrone, who made their hostility to the court party clear by the vigour with which they pursued petitions against Queensberryites chosen in the Scottish peers’ election.28 On 21 Jan. 1709 he supported Queensberry’s unsuccessful attempt to retain his right to vote for representative peers after having been granted a British title as duke of Dover. As with the abolition of the Scottish Privy Council the previous year, when the Lords received the bill to extend the English treason laws to Scotland Mar made some ‘faint opposition’ to the Commons’ amendments presented in April but otherwise did little but sign a protest that it violated the Union.29 The alliance between Hamilton and the Squadrone had forced him to reconsider his position. This process was accelerated when the Scottish secretaryship was revived for Queensberry in February 1709. Although Mar received a pension of £3,000 p.a. for life in compensation for losing his salary as keeper of the signet, he was not compensated for the loss of power and influence that went with it.30 By June there were reports of tensions within Queensberry’s grouping and that, if the duke were to be laid aside and Robert Harley, later earl of Oxford, allowed to have his way, Mar would be the most likely to succeed.31 When Mar went to the continent in August 1709, ostensibly to take the waters at Aix-La-Chapelle, but also with the intention of waiting on Marlborough, Godolphin wrote to warn the captain-general (correctly) that Mar was now closely associated with Harley. Godolphin considered that although Mar was superficially ‘a man of honour’ who could prove a useful ally, ‘he is likely enough to make you a great many professions, and if they were sincere I should think them as valuable as from most men of his country’. Surprisingly, Marlborough did not agree: ‘I must own to you that his temper has always pleased me’. He was, he wrote, assured by John Dalrymple, 2nd earl of Stair [S], that Mar was a faithful friend to Godolphin and himself. Having waited on Marlborough, and been encouraged by him to pursue a request to remain abroad over the following winter in order to travel to Italy, Mar was disappointed at Godolphin’s refusal to sanction his absence. When he returned to England he moved even closer to Harley.32

Having failed to secure leave to miss the new session, Mar took his seat once more on 16 Nov. 1709, after which he was present on 71 per cent of sitting days. Discontented with the progress of affairs, he and Queensberry were reported to be in talks with Hamilton. In February 1710 Mar reported back to his brother on the progress of the Greenshields affair, outlining the reasons for putting the matter off for the time being. The following month he proved a prominent contributor to the debates during the Sacheverell trial. According to one report he was one of a handful of Scottish peers responsible for hindering the Junto in some of their designs.33 On 14 Mar. he was one of those to register his dissent from the resolution not to insist on the inclusion of the particular words deemed criminal in the phrasing of the impeachment. On 16 Mar. he insisted that he did not believe that Sacheverell ‘had said anything of passive obedience which was not the doctrine of the Church of England’ and divided with the minority in rejecting the motion that the Commons had made good their charge in the first article. Two days later, in the debate over whether or not the Lords might cast their votes article by article, Mar was one of those to the fore in arguing for this manner of proceeding on the grounds that to do otherwise was ‘inconsistent with the usual method of justice in that House’. He subsequently found Sacheverell not guilty and registered his protest at the guilty verdict.34 With the Sacheverell trial completed, Mar featured once more in the session, acting as a teller on the division whether to adjourn the House during discussion of the Eddystone lighthouse bill.

The 1710 Parliament

According to several reports, in the aftermath of the Sacheverell trial Mar was increasingly looked to by the Tories as their preferred candidate to succeed Queensberry as secretary of state.35 Throughout July he was engaged in canvassing for the forthcoming elections and by August his involvement with Harley was close and undeniable. Mar’s brother-in-law (and Harley’s son-in-law), Viscount Dupplin may have been a significant factor in helping draw the two together.36 At the same time, Mar was at pains to reassure his Presbyterian contacts in Scotland, on Harley’s behalf, that the fall of Godolphin presaged no alteration in Scottish affairs, and that the Kirk would be entirely safe under the new ministry.37 In tacking towards the Tories he had moved in advance of his chief, Queensberry, whose failing health rendered him for once ineffectual. This did not mean a renunciation of his allegiance to Queensberry (whose death in 1711 he genuinely mourned), although he did consciously separate himself from other colleagues in the ‘old court party’ in Scotland whose political predilections were Whiggish. He returned to Scotland in October 1710 for the general election. On Harley’s behalf he organized the election of the representative peers, breaking the alliance between Hamilton and the Squadrone and brokering a deal with, Argyll, Hamilton and John Murray, duke of Atholl [S], which left the Squadrone out in the cold and reduced to boycotting the poll.38

On one analysis of the Scottish representative peers drawn up shortly after the election Mar was said to be ‘against the succession, but for the Union’. In a list of the new representative peers drawn up by the duchess of Buccleuch’s episcopalian chaplain, Mar was described as a ‘Court Tory’, with an annual income of less than £3,000 (the amount of his annual pension, which the new administration had confirmed).39 Even though he held no office, his informal role in government meant that ‘the eyes of all’ in Scotland were upon him. With Queensberry’s health in fatal decline he pushed himself forward as Harley’s Scottish minister, which brought about a rupture with Hamilton and Argyll.40 He was certainly regarded as the most likely successor to Queensberry and there were even rumours that, having been widowed in 1707, he was planning to marry Mrs Masham’s sister.41 But at the same time he had made himself dependent on Harley’s favour, since his personal following was less substantial than Queensberry’s party had been.

Mar took his seat in the new Parliament on 25 Nov. 1710 after which he was present on 71 per cent of all sitting days. In the new Parliament he achieved a greater prominence. Towards the end of December he again recommended to Harley postponing consideration of the Greenshields appeal to the next session.42 In January 1711, he enthusiastically joined the attack on the conduct of the war in Spain under the old ministry. On the 11th petitions were delivered into the House on behalf of two of the generals who had presided over the disasters in 1707, Henri de Massue de Ruvigny, earl of Galway [I], and Charles O’Hara, Baron Tyrawley [I]. Mar spoke against reading their petitions, which were then rejected on a division. On the other hand, on 5 Feb. he voted against the Tory-inspired bill to repeal the 1709 General Naturalization Act.43 Just as he was unwilling to deal with the Greenshields case, he was equally nervous of any attempt by Scottish Tories to bring in a bill to restore lay patronages.44 Mar was absent for just under a month mid-session from late April to the beginning of the last week of May, apparently to take the cure at Bath.45 His last significant intervention this session came on 1 June, a week after his return, on the bill to prevent the export of Scottish flax to Ireland. Concern had been expressed that Irish linen manufacture should take precedence over that of Scotland, when Sunderland observed provocatively that he would always ‘prefer the interest of Ireland to that of any one county in England’, to which Mar replied that: ‘it was true we had a legal union but it were fit that we had an union of interests and of affection, that this did not seem the way to it for he believed the account of this day’s proceedings would appear very strange to the people of Scotland’.46

Shortly before the close of the session, Mar was one of four Scottish peers rumoured to be granted British peerages, though nothing came of it.47 In spite of this, the vote over the linen bill, rumours of English opposition to Hamilton’s claim to sit in the Lords by virtue of a newly acquired British title, and discontent at the delays in dealing with Scottish business, made Mar very uneasy about the state of Anglo-Scottish relations.48 In June he wrote to Harley (now earl of Oxford and lord treasurer) to put the case for action to meet Scottish grievances:

If that affair of the peerage then go against us, I dread the consequence it will infallibly have. The Union depends on it, and on the Union, with submission, depends the peace of the Queen’s reign, and that really gives me more concern in it than any private hardship it would be to me, tho’ I value that a great deal.

He was himself not weary of the Union, as befitted a man who had done all in his power to bring it about, because ‘it is the only thing which can preserve Scotland, and England too, from blood and confusion; so I do not at all repent any hand I had in it, tho’ I’m afraid I have few of either side of my opinion’. But if Hamilton was not allowed to take his seat as a British peer and Scottish trade continued to be neglected, ‘how is it possible that flesh and blood can bear it? and what Scotsman will not be weary of the Union, and do all he can to get quit of it’.49 From a personal perspective, he was also frustrated at Oxford’s failure to nominate a successor to Queensberry, and was pressing his own claims to a British peerage, reminding Oxford of ‘the promise her Majesty was pleased to give me that I should be made at the same time with any she made after the duke of Queensberry, was three days after I came from Scotland from the Union parliament before the Union commenced’. Mar had no objection to Hamilton’s grant, but thought it would look very strange if Hamilton received a British title while:

I, who have had the honour to serve the queen ever since she came to the crown, and I hope to her satisfaction, and who had her promise three years before him and when he has been mostly against her measures, shall be postponed or indeed I may say left out.50

Mar knew that whatever the outcome of Hamilton’s appeal either the English or Scots would claim a violation of the Union. He may even have believed that pressing his own claim to a British title would give him an opportunity to play the role of Scottish patriot.

By October 1711 Mar was being looked to by some Scottish peers as a clear successor to Queensberry.51 He was concerned that the Scottish representatives had not been given earlier notice of the new session and that Oxford expected them to take their seats in quick order. Despite this, Mar did what he could to organize Scottish attendance at the start of the session in December 1711, and the gathering of proxies. He waited on the queen on 27 Nov. who was, he reported, ‘very anxious, as all her servants are, to have all our peers of the Parliament up here immediately’, largely to tackle the issue of Hamilton’s British dukedom.52 He took his own place on the opening day (7 Dec.) and was thereafter present on 78 per cent of all sitting days. During the debate on Hamilton’s case in the Lords in December he made a spirited defence of the royal prerogative, and the queen’s right to bestow a British title on a Scottish peer, and voted in the minority in favour of allowing Hamilton to sit as the British duke of Brandon. He also, along with Hamilton and Archibald Campbell, earl of Ilay [S] (later 3rd duke of Argyll [S]), helped draft and then subscribed the Scottish memorial delivered to the queen on New Year’s Day 1712, complaining that the Lords’ decision constituted ‘a breach of the Union, and a mark of disgrace put on the whole peers of Scotland’.53 According to John Elphinstone, 4th Lord Balmerinoch [S], Mar seemed to favour the extreme response of recalling the Scottish estates, but this came to nothing. On 13 Jan. he and other Scottish peers met ministers in a fruitless attempt to discuss a way out.54 In reality, as he confided to his brother in letters written at the end of December 1711 and in mid-January 1712, he despaired of breaking the Union ‘in a parliamentary way’, which he thought the English would not permit. He was, though, heartened by the decision to make Dupplin a peer, which he considered ‘makes a jest of the argument against us’. Left to himself, he would have accepted a compromise, but with Scottish feelings running so high he was well aware that he could not afford to.55 At the end of January, during the debates on the issue, he responded to Sunderland’s proposal that the Scots should ‘propose some remedy for themselves’ that ‘they were suffering patients and it was not proper for patients to prescribe remedies for themselves’.56 He joined the other representative peers in their parliamentary boycott the following month, but broke this to attend the queen when she gave her assent to a selection of bills.57 Rather than avoid the House entirely, Mar’s attitude appears to have been to attend on carefully selected occasions, such that in all he was present on nine days during the month. He returned to the House at the end of February when the toleration (Episcopal communion) bill arrived from the Commons, and voted for it, even though he was concerned for the effect its passage would have on Presbyterian opinion in Scotland.58 But it was important for him to maintain the support of Scottish Tories, and he was also trying to ingratiate himself with St Germain, possibly as a means of bringing the Scottish Jacobite element in Lords and Commons under his wing.59 The various events of the session had undermined his position. Beyond the immediate difficulties over the Hamilton peerage case was the long-term problem that Scottish business remained at a standstill. (This affected him personally, since in 1712 only £750 of his annual pension was issued.) The best way forward, he thought, would be to recreate the post of Scottish secretary, for himself. It may have been an expression of his frustration that on 28 May he voted with the opposition in favour of overturning the ‘restraining orders’ preventing James Butler, 2nd duke of Ormond, from engaging in an active campaign against the French.60

The death of William Keith, 8th Earl Marischal [S], in late May 1712, creating a vacancy for a representative peer, put Mar in an awkward position. At first he recommended his client David Wemyss, 4th earl of Wemyss [S], a strong Episcopalian who had previously sat in the Lords but had lost his seat in 1710.61 Then it became clear that the ministry wanted to bring back Seafield (now 4th earl of Findlater). Mar was suspicious of Findlater and fearful of him as an alternative Scottish secretary, but had no option but to support his election. This also had the advantage of discommoding his other great rival, Argyll’s brother, Ilay, who supported another candidate against Findlater, and marked an important stage in the Campbell brothers’ alienation from the ministry.62

Mar was in Scotland over the summer of 1712 for Findlater’s election (one of only a handful of peers to make the journey from London). In September he riled members of the Kirk by attending a Church of England service. It was said he intended to establish the practice in his own locality.63 Hamilton’s death in a duel in November took one grievance off the political agenda, but Oxford’s willingness to let Scottish problems slide intensified discontent. Mar reminded the treasurer in December that two years before he had been empowered to make promises to Scottish peers in advance of the new Parliament, which had still not been performed. By February 1713 nothing had been done and disaster was looming. Mar also complained bitterly of his own condition. He had given up all hopes of employment as secretary of state, and asked instead for the post of master-general of the ordnance, granted to Hamilton shortly before his death.64 Neither he nor other Scots received anything. For all his disgruntlement, Mar was still assessed as a likely supporter of the ministry in an assessment compiled in mid-March.

Mar took his seat at the opening of the new session on 9 Apr. 1713, after which he was present on 88 per cent of all sitting days. The introduction into the Commons in the spring of 1713 of a bill to extend the malt tax to Scotland, another apparent violation of the Union treaty, provided the spark to this tinder. On 26 May Mar attended a meeting of Scottish representative peers and Members of the House of Commons, which (counting on a promise of Whig support) resolved on requesting leave for a bill to dissolve the Union, an initiative Mar himself declared was ‘absolutely necessary’. He was then made part of a delegation sent to inform the queen of the decision. In a subsequent meeting he was careful to oppose Argyll’s suggestion that the Scots as a body should join the Whigs in opposition.65 On 1 June, following a meeting convened at Mar’s lodgings to settle the wording, the motion for dissolving the Union was introduced into the Lords by Findlater and seconded by Mar.66 In the debate that followed, the Junto lord Charles Montagu, Baron (later earl of) Halifax, declared that he would not be averse to dissolving the Union, so long as the succession was secured, and desired a further day be appointed to consider the matter. This unexpected intervention caught Mar off balance. He had not anticipated having to provide for the succession in the event of dissolving the Union, and rather than face this prospect ‘stood up and said, that no man was more sincere and hearty than he was for the dissolution, and that he thought the question ... very proper, yet since he found it was misconstrued he retracted and was for a delay’.67 This retreat, following his earlier opposition to breaking with the court, encouraged some to suspect that he had been ‘taken off by the treasurer and ... only makes an outward show to keep his interest in Scotland’. Indeed, he was forecast in June as likely to support the ministry over the French commercial treaty. 68 But behind the scenes he kept up pressure, warning Oxford that:

If you do not now contrive some relief as to the malt tax in Scotland and some redress for that of the peerage, it will not be in the power of man to prevent addresses from all in Scotland who are able to hold a pen, against the Union by the meeting of the new Parliament.69

In the subsequent debates of 6 June over giving the malt tax bill a second reading, Mar was again for delay so that a broader debate on the state of the nation could be held. Although this was defeated, in the committee of the whole of 8 June concerning the malt tax Mar was once more one of those to speak alongside his compatriots Findlater, Ilay and Argyll.70

From secretary of state to the ’Fifteen

In September 1713 Oxford finally took action. Mar was appointed as a secretary of state with special responsibility for Scottish business (Findlater returning to the lord chancellorship alongside him) as part of the ministerial reconstruction by which Oxford re-established his ascendancy over the ministry. Oxford also announced the formation of a commission of chamberlainry and trade in Scotland, which offered a raft of new places. Mar managed the 1713 peers’ election for the Court: with the Squadrone again boycotting, his list was chosen unanimously. He made plain his aversion to Ilay being one of the 16, insisting during the summer that he would not sit in the Lords if Ilay was elected. Ilay was accordingly one of those omitted.71

In the winter of 1713–14 Mar renewed his contacts with Jacobite agents.72 This was reflected in an assessment of the Scottish peers returned at the election which noted Mar as a Jacobite. As the 1714 Parliament approached he complained to Oxford that Scottish appointments, though announced, had not been confirmed, and payments of salaries and pensions had not been made, connecting this directly with the delay in the arrival of Scottish representatives at Westminster. He also took the opportunity to rehearse grievances of his own: his pension had not been paid; he had not been provided with accommodation as secretary of state; and the other secretaries, especially Henry St John, Viscount Bolingbroke, were snubbing him.73 Presumably in consequence, a treasury warrant was ordered in January 1714 for him to be paid £3,000 for ‘secret service’.74

Mar took his seat in the new session on 16 Feb. 1714 and was thereafter present on over 90 per cent of all sitting days. In his capacity as secretary, he informed the Lords on 6 Mar. that he had ordered the prosecution of John Barber for publishing Swift’s anonymously authored pamphlet The Public Spirit of the Whigs. The Scots were said to be ‘highly incensed at some paragraphs’ in it, but from a ministerial point of view, Mar had no desire to see too extensive an investigation. His intervention ‘put a sudden stop to all further enquiries about that matter, in a parliamentary way’.75 In the debate on 5 Apr. on the motion that the succession was not in danger, Mar successfully moved to add the words, ‘under the queen’s administration’.76 He was forecast as likely to support the schism bill, but when Scottish Tory members of the Commons proposed the introduction of a bill for the resumption of alienated bishops’ revenues in Scotland, and their application for the benefit of Episcopal clergy, he vacillated. At first he encouraged the belief that he supported the idea, but criticized the draft bill as too wide-ranging, since it included revenues appropriated by universities. Lockhart attributed this concern to the fact that one of Mar’s brothers held a chair at St Andrews, which might have been affected. On his way to the Commons to introduce the bill Lockhart was summoned to a meeting at which Mar, while reasserting his own support for the measure, communicated the queen’s desire that it be dropped. Lockhart was disgusted, and attributed what he saw as double-dealing to a variety of motives, including fear of setting a precedent for a resumption of grants in England.77

In July 1714 Mar took as his second wife the daughter of the marquess of Dorchester (‘a notorious Whig’ according to Lockhart), with a portion reputed to be £8,000. At the same time he was still pursuing unpaid arrears of pension and salary.78 Mar attended just five days of the brief session that met in August in the wake of the queen’s death. Following Anne’s demise Mar, facing financial ruin and unable to secure office from the new regime, ‘entered into measures’ with the Jacobites (he may have been secretly in touch as early as 1710). At first he encouraged the Scots to press for the dissolution of the Union, which involved himself in some awkward explanation to friends and family, and after the general election of 1715 he raised the Pretender’s standard in the Highlands at the head of an armed force. The rebellion initially met with some success. Mar was able to play on fears of further encroachments on Scots’ finances such as the malt tax to secure backing for the rising. Some Scots peers were also susceptible on account of fears that the system of representative peers was to be scrapped and replaced with a small hereditary Scots contingent at Westminster. Despite being able to draw on these areas of discontent the rebellion gradually lost momentum.79 After the indecisive engagement at Sheriffmuir on 13 Nov. the Pretender landed in Scotland, at Mar’s urging, but although ‘he was amused for some days by Mar and his friends’, he quickly recognized the danger he was in and embarked again for France, with Mar in his train. Observing these events, Sir John Clerk, 2nd bt., who counted Mar not only as ‘my acquaintance but my particular friend’, wrote suspiciously that:

it was much admired that the Pretender did not leave Lord Mar in Scotland to take his fortune with the rest of his friends whom he had spirited up to their ruin and the manifest hazard of their master, for since … Sheriffmuir … there was nothing to be expected for the poor unfortunate prince, yet Mar and his party brought him to Scotland when his affairs were in a most desperate condition.80

Mar was attainted in 1716 and his estates and honours declared forfeit. Enduring frustration and poverty, he remained in the Pretender’s service for most of the rest of his life and never returned to Britain, being created duke of Mar [S] and earl of Mar [E] in the Jacobite peerage. 81 He died in May 1732 at Aix-la-Chapelle.


  • 1 CSP Dom. 1697, pp. 79, 132; 1698, pp. 66, 322, 405, 407, 431–32; 1702–3, pp. 353, 571; 1704–5, p. 339; HMC Hamilton, ii. 147; CTB 1708, pp. 175, 237, 369; xxvii. 366.
  • 2 CSP Dom. 1699-1700, p. 38.
  • 3 CSP Dom. 1702-3, p. 463.
  • 4 HMC Mar and Kellie, i. 222; London Jnl. xviii. 27; CTB 1713, p. 195; HMC Portland, x. 389.
  • 5 Wariston’s Diary (Scot. Hist. Soc. ser. 1, xxvi), 162.
  • 6 Macky Mems. 218; HMC Portland, vi. 120–21, 188; x. 287–88.
  • 7 Lockhart Pprs. i. 114.
  • 8 P. W. J. Riley, Eng. Ministers and Scot. 25.
  • 9 P. W. J. Riley, K. Wm. and Scot. Politicians, 135, 152–3; Seafield Letters, 132; HMC Mar and Kellie, i. 227.
  • 10 Crossrig Diary, 103.
  • 11 HMC Mar and Kellie, i. 228–30; HMC Laing, ii. 71; P. W. J. Riley, Union, 93; Lockhart Pprs. i. 114.
  • 12 HMC Portland, iv. 202; Crossrig Diary,163, 166; Seafield Letters, 56; APS, xi. 216.
  • 13 Lockhart Pprs. i. 134.
  • 14 HMC Mar and Kellie, i. 236; Edinburgh UL, Laing mss, La.I. 180. 29e; Seafield Letters, 92.
  • 15 NLS, ms 3420, ff. 191-2.
  • 16 W. Fraser, Melvilles and Leslies, ii. 192–93.
  • 17 NAS, GD 124/15/341/9, 14; HMC Mar and Kellie, i. 255.
  • 18 Clerk Mems. 87.
  • 19 Carstares SP, 752–3; HMC Mar and Kellie, i. 271.
  • 20 Add. 61136, ff. 59-60; NAS GD 124/15/462/1, 4–7; HMC Mar and Kellie, i. 287–88, 312–14, 321–29, 331–38, 341–4, 348–50, 356–59, 365–66; Crossrig Diary, 190; Riley, Union, 330; C. A. Whatley, Scots and Union, 266, 295; Q. Anne Letters ed. Brown, 218–19.
  • 21 HMC Mar and Kellie, i. 371.
  • 22 Bodl. ms Eng. lett. d. 180, ff. 184-85; Add. 61124, ff. 185-86; HMC Mar and Kellie, i. 389-90; HMC Laing, i. 144.
  • 23 HMC Mar and Kellie, i. 390, 420, 427–28; CTB 1708, pp. 112, 241; Riley, Eng. Ministers and Scot. 100.
  • 24 Add. 61136, ff. 109-10, 111; Add. 61628, ff. 92, 98, 135-37; HMC Mar and Kellie, i. 445.
  • 25 HMC Laing, ii. 147; Q. Anne Letters, 251.
  • 26 NLS, ms 1026, ff. 23, 28; Priv. Corr. D M, ii. 282; HMC Mar and Kellie, i. 445–7.
  • 27 Lincs. AO, Yarborough mss, 16/7/1.
  • 28 HEHL, LO 8859, 8862–5, 8868.
  • 29 Nicolson, London Diaries, 499.
  • 30 CTB 1709, p. 208; Riley, Eng. Ministers and Scot. 118.
  • 31 NLS, ms 7021, f. 182.
  • 32 HMC Portland, x. 326; Marlborough-Godolphin Corresp. 1338, 1347, 1367–68, 1386, 1401; Priv. Corr. D. M. i. 219.
  • 33 NLS, ms 7021, ff. 195, 207-8; NAS, GD124/15/975/1.
  • 34 State trial of Sacheverell ed. B. Cowan, 73, 75, 85, 94, 95-96, 203; Longleat, Bath mss, Thynne pprs. 46, ff. 259-60.
  • 35 NLS, ms 7021, ff. 219, 223.
  • 36 NAS, GD124/15/975/4, 5, 7, 8, 10; HMC Portland, iv. 557; Add. 70241, Dupplin to Harley, 11 Feb. 1710.
  • 37 Carstares SP, 787–89.
  • 38 HMC Mar and Kellie, i. 491; HMC Portland, iv. 559, 600, 622; x. 329–34, 364-65; NLS, ms 1026, f. 62.
  • 39 SHR, xl. 62; CTB 1710, p. 513.
  • 40 HMC Portland , iv. 645; x. 409; Lockhart Pprs. i. 344.
  • 41 Scot. Hist. Soc. Misc. xii. 132–33.
  • 42 HMC Portland, x. 352.
  • 43 W. Pittis, History of the Present Parl. (1711), 38; Jones, Party and Management, 145.
  • 44 NAS, GD 124/15/1024/3.
  • 45 Add. 70244, Annandale to ?Dartmouth, 19 May 1711.
  • 46 Scot. Hist. Soc. Misc. xii. 136.
  • 47 Add. 61461, ff. 120-21.
  • 48 NAS, GD 124/15/1024/11.
  • 49 HMC Mar and Kellie, i. 489–91.
  • 50 HMC Portland, x. 355–56.
  • 51 Add. 70028, f. 225.
  • 52 HMC Portland, v. 115; Add. 70241, Dupplin to Oxford, n.d.; NAS, GD 124/15/1024/27, 28.
  • 53 Wentworth Pprs. 226; HMC Laing, ii. 164–7; HMC Polwarth, i. 5.
  • 54 Scot. Hist. Soc. Misc. xii. 140–41; G. Holmes, Pols. Relig. and Soc. in Eng. 98.
  • 55 HMC Mar and Kellie, i. 492, 495; NAS, GD124/15/1047/3.
  • 56 NLS, Advocates’ mss, Wodrow Pprs. letters Quarto, 6, f. 94.
  • 57 NAS, GD248/561/47/3.
  • 58 NLS, Advocates’ mss, Wodrow Pprs. letters Quarto, 6, ff.125–26; HMC Mar and Kellie, i. 497–98.
  • 59 D. Szechi, Jacobitism and Tory Pols. 100–1.
  • 60 HMC Portland, x. 264–68; Party and Management in Parl. 165; Riley, Eng. Ministers and Scot. 242; PH, xxvi. 2, pp. 177-81.
  • 61 HMC Portland, x. 271.
  • 62 Riley, Eng. Ministers and Scot. 236–37, 239; Party and Management in Parl. 149.
  • 63 NLS, Advocates’ mss, Wodrow pprs. letters Quarto, 6, f. 203; Bodl. Ballard 36, f. 136.
  • 64 HMC Portland, x. 285, 286–88.
  • 65 Lockhart Letters, 76, 80; HMC Laing, ii. 169–70; Scot. Hist. Soc. Misc. xii. 153; Macpherson, Orig. Pprs. ii. 414; W. Pittis, History of the 3rd Sess. of the Present Parl. (1713), 114.
  • 66 Scot. Hist. Soc. Misc. xii. 155; Pittis, Hist. 3rd Sess. 115; Bodl. Carte 211, f. 128; NAS, GD248/561/48/40.
  • 67 Timberland, ii. 394-97; Scot. Hist. Soc. Misc. xii. 155–56.
  • 68 Lockhart Letters, 80–81.
  • 69 HMC Portland, x. 296.
  • 70 NAS, GD45/14/352/22, 24.
  • 71 HMC Portland, x. 303; Herts. ALS, DE/P/F54, Ilay to Cowper, 31 Aug. 1713.
  • 72 Macpherson Orig. Pprs. ii. 436.
  • 73 HMC Portland, x. 307, 310–12.
  • 74 CTB 1714, p. 93.
  • 75 Timberland, ii. 406; Add. 72501, ff. 103-4; HMC Portland, v. 389.
  • 76 Lockhart Letters, 93.
  • 77 Lockhart Pprs. i. 445–52.
  • 78 Lockhart Letters, 104; HMC Portland, x. 319.
  • 79 D. Szechi, 1715: The Great Jacobite Rebellion, 15, 40, 41, 52; Add. 72502, f. 91.
  • 80 Clerk Mems. 87, 92, 94–95.
  • 81 Ideology and Conspiracy ed. Cruickshanks, 179–200; Westminster Abbey Muniments, Atterbury mss 64964.