Campbell, John, first Earl of Loudoun 1598-1663, was the eldest son of Sir James Campbell of Lawers, by his wife, Jean, daughter of James, first lord Colvill of Culross. He was born in 1598, and on his return from travelling abroad was knighted by James VI. In 1620 he married Margaret, the eldest daughter of George Campbell, master of Loudoun. Upon the death of her grandfather, Hugh Campbell, first baron Loudoun, in December 1622, she became baroness Loudoun, and her husband took his seat in the Scotch parliament in her right. He was created earl of Loudoun, lord Farrinyeane and Mauchline by patent dated at Theobalds on 12 May 1633, but in consequence of his joining with the Earl of Rothes and others in parliament in their opposition to the court with regard to the act for empowering the king to prescribe the apparel of churchmen (Acts of the Parliaments of Scotland, v. 20-1), the patent was by a special order stopped at the chancery, and the title superseded. Soon after the passing of this act, the Scotch bishops resumed their episcopal costume, and in 1636 the Book of Canons Ecclesiastical and the order for using the new service-book were issued upon the sole authority of the king without consulting the general assembly. By his opposition to the policy of the court Loudoun became a favourite of the adherents of the popular cause; and on 21 Dec. 1637, at the meeting of the privy council at Dalkeith, in an eloquent speech, he detailed the grievances of the Supplicants, and presented a petition on their behalf. In 1638 the tables were formed and the covenant renewed. In these proceedings he took a very prominent part, and being elected elder for the burgh of Irvine in the general assembly, which met at Glasgow in November 1638, he was appointed one of the assessors to the moderator. In the following year, with the assistance of his friends, he seized the castles of Strathaven, Douglas, and Tantallon, and garrisoned them for the popular party. He marched with the Scotch army, under General Leslie, to the border, and acted as one of the Scotch commissioners at the short-lived pacification of Berwick, which was concluded on 18 June 1639. On 3 March 1640 Loudoun and the Earl of Dunfermline, as commissioners from the estates, had an interview with Charles I at Whitehall, and remonstrated against the prorogation of the Scotch parliament by the king's commissioner (the Earl of Traquair) before the business which had been brought before them had been disposed of. No answer was given to the remonstrance, but a few days after Loudoun was committed to the Tower upon acknowledging that a letter produced by the Earl of Traquair was in his own handwriting. This letter was addressed Au Roy, and requested assistance from the French king. It was signed by the Earls of Montrose, Rothes, and Mar, Lords Loudoun, Montgomery, and Forester, and General Leslie, but was not dated. Loudoun protested without avail that it had been written before the pacification of Berwick, that it had never been sent, and that if he had committed any offence, he ought to be questioned for it in Scotland and not in England. According to Dr. Birch, a warrant was made out for Loudoun's execution without trial, but this has not been sufficiently corroborated, and after some months' confinement in the Tower he was liberated upon the intercession of the Marquis of Hamilton, and returned to Scotland. On 21 Aug. in the same year the Scotch army entered England, and Loudoun with it. He took part in the battle of Newburn on the 28th, and was one of the Scotch commissioners at Ripon in the following October. Having come to an agreement for the cessation of hostilities on the 25th of the same month, the further discussion of the treaty was adjourned to London, where the Scotch commissioners were highly caressed by the parliament. In August 1641 the king opened the Scotch parliament in person, the treaty with England was ratified, and offices and titles of honour were conferred on the prime covenanters who were thought most capable to do him service. Accordingly Loudoun, the principal manager of the rebellion, as Clarendon calls him, was appointed lord chancellor of Scotland on 30 Sept. 1641, and on 2 Oct. took the oath of office, and received from the king the great seal, which, since the resignation of Spotiswood, the archbishop of St. Andrews, had been kept by the Marquis of Hamilton. A pension of 1,000l. a year was also granted him, and his title of Earl of Loudoun was allowed him, with precedency from the date of the original grant. When the king found that the estates would not give their consent to the nomination either of the Earl of Morton or of Lord Almond, as lord high treasurer, the treasury was put into commission, and Loudoun appointed the first commissioner. In 1642 Loudoun was sent by the conservators of the peace to offer mediation between the king and the English parliament. He had several conferences with Charles at York, but, failing in the object of his mission, returned to Scotland. After the outbreak of the civil war, Loudoun was sent to Oxford as one of the commission to mediate for peace. Charles, however, would not admit that the act of pacification gave the Scotch council any authority to mediate, and refused to allow the commissioners to proceed to London for that purpose. In 1643 Loudoun was again chosen elder for the burgh of Irvine to the general assembly, but this time declined the nomination. In the same year he was with the other Scotch commissioners invited to attend the discussions of the assembly of divines at Westminster. In 1645 he was appointed one of the Scotch commissioners to the treaty of Uxbridge, and though he did his best to convince the king of the impolicy of holding out any further against the parliamentary demands, his efforts were unavailing. At Newcastle he again unsuccessfully attempted to persuade the king, then virtually a prisoner of the Scotch army. In 1647 Loudoun, with the Earls of Lauderdale and Lanerick, was sent to treat with Charles at Carisbrook. On his return from England he was chosen president of the parliament which met on 2 March 1648. Persuaded by the more violent party of the covenanters, who denounced the engagement as an unlawful confederacy with the enemies of God, he changed sides and opposed the measure. He was, however, obliged to do public penance in the high church of Edinburgh for the part which he had originally taken. When Montrose was brought to the bar to receive sentence, Loudoun commented with severity upon his conduct. As lord chancellor he assisted at the coronation of Charles II at Scone on 1 Jan. 1650, and was present at the battle of Dunbar, where some of his letters to the king fell into Cromwell's hands. These letters were afterwards published by the order of parliament.
After the battle of Worcester Loudoun retired into the highlands, and in 1653 joined the Earl of Glencairn and other royalists who had risen in the king's favour. Divisions arising among the leaders, Loudoun left them and retired further north. He at length surrendered to Monck, whose brilliant success had demonstrated the uselessness of further resistance on the part of the royalists. Loudoun and his eldest son, Lord Mauchline, were both excepted out of Cromwell's act of indemnity, by which 400l. was settled on the Countess Loudoun and her heirs out of her husband's estates. Upon the Restoration, notwithstanding all that Loudoun had suffered for the royal cause, he was deprived of the chancellorship, which had been granted to him ad vitam aut culpam; his pension, however, was still continued to him.
In the first session of parliament in 1661 he spoke strongly in defence of his friend, the Marquis of Argyll, who was then under an impeachment for high treason. Argyll was executed, and Loudoun became apprehensive lest he too might share the same fate. In the following year, by an act containing some exceptions from the Act of Indemnite, he was fined 12,000l. Scots. He died at Edinburgh on 15 March 1663, and was buried in the church of Loudoun, Ayrshire. Several of his speeches were printed in the form of pamphlets, and will be found among the political tracts in the British Museum. By his wife, Margaret, who survived him, he had two sons and two daughters. His eldest son, James, succeeded to the title, and died at Leyden. On the death of James, the fifth earl (a grandson of the second earl), the title descended to his only daughter, Flora, who married Francis, second earl of Moira, afterwards first marquis of Hastings. Upon the death of Henry, fourth marquis of Hastings, in 1868, his eldest sister became the Countess of Loudoun, and the title is now held by her son Charles, eleventh earl of Loudoun.
George Crawfurd's Lives and Characters of the Officers of the Crown and State in Scotland (1726), i. 195-216
Sir R. Douglas's Peerage of Scotland (1813), ii. 148-9
Brunton and Haig's Senators of the College of Justice (1832), pp. 300-5
Clarendon's History (1826)
Sir James Balfour's Historical Works (1825), vols. ii. iii. iv.
Letters and Journals of Robert Baillie (Bannatyne Club Publications, No. 71), 3 vols.
Contributor: G. F. R. B. [George Fisher Russell Barker]