Campbell, John, second Duke of Argyll and Duke of Greenwich 1678-1743, eldest son of Archibald, first duke [qv.], and Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Lionel Talmash, was born 10 Oct. 1678. It is stated that on the very day his grandfather was executed, 30 June 1685, he fell from a window in the upper floor of Lethington, near Haddington, without receiving any injury. He was educated by private tutors, studying the classics and philosophy under Mr. Walter Campbell, afterwards minister of Dunoon; but the fascination of a military career laid such hold on his fancy that in 1694 he prevailed on his father to introduce him to King William, who gave him command of the 10th regiment of foot (1702-3). In the campaign of 1702 he distinguished himself at the siege of Keyserswaert. He was colonel 4th horse guards 1703-15, 5th foot 1706-7, 1st horse guards 1715-17, 3rd horse guards 1726-33, and 1st horse guards again 1733-40. On succeeding his father as Duke of Argyll in 1703 he was sworn a privy councillor, invested with the order of the Thistle, and made colonel of the Scotch horse guards. The opinion formed at this time by Macky (Secret Memoirs) of his character and abilities was not belied by his after career. His family, says Macky, will not lose in his person the great figure they have made for so many ages in that kingdom, having all the free spirits and good sense natural to the family. Few of his years have a better understanding, nor a more manly behaviour. He hath seen most of the courts of Europe, is very handsome in appearance, fair complexioned, about 25 years old. His biographer also remarks that his want of application in his youth, when he came to riper years his grace soon retrieved by diligently reading the best authors; with which, and the knowledge of mankind he had acquired by being early engaged in affairs of the greatest importance, he was enabled to give that lustre to his natural parts which others could not acquire by ages of the most severe study (Campbell, Life of John, Duke of Argyll, p. 31). In 1705 he was nominated lord high commissioner to the Scottish parliament, which he opened on 25 June with a speech, strongly recommending the succession in the protestant line, and a union with England. In a great degree owing to his influence an act was passed on 1 Sept. for a treaty with England, by which the nomination of the Scottish commissioners to treat with the English commissioners regarding the union was placed in the hands of the queen. Though the Duke of Argyll had supported this arrangement, he declined to act as a commissioner, because the Duke of Hamilton, whom he had engaged to get appointed, was not among the number. For his services in promoting the union he was on his return to London created a peer, by the titles Baron Chatham and Earl of Greenwich. In the campaign of 1706 as brigadier-general with Marlborough he showed signal valour at the battle of Ramilies, commanded in the trenches at Ostend till its surrender, and took possession of Menin with a detachment when it capitulated. At Oudenarde, 11 July 1708, the battalions under his command were the first to engage the enemy, and the firmness with which they maintained their position against superior numbers had an important influence in determining the issue of the conflict. He took part in the siege of Lille, which surrendered on 8 Dec., and commanded as major-general at the siege of Ghent, taking possession of the town and citadel 3 Jan. 1709. In April following he was promoted lieutenant-general, and in this capacity he commanded in the attacks on Tournay, which surrendered on 10 July after an assault of three days. At the battle of Malplaquet, 11 Sept. 1709, he accomplished the critical enterprise of dislodging the enemy from the woods of Sart, displaying in the attack extraordinary valour and resolution. In the struggle he had various narrow escapes, several musket-balls having passed through his coat, hat, and perriwig. Marlborough having during the course of the campaign written to the queen, proposing his own appointment as captain-general for life, the question was referred to certain persons, including Argyll, who expressed his strong indignation at the proposal. According to Swift, Argyll, on being questioned by the queen as to whether any danger would be incurred by refusing to accede to Marlborough's request, replied that he would undertake to seize him at the head of his troops, and bring him away dead or alive. The cause of Argyll's implacable enmity against Marlborough is something of a mystery. There is no evidence that Marlborough had treated him unfairly, or that Argyll entertained any grudge against him on this account. That the whole estrangement grew out of the proposal regarding the captain-generalship generalship for life is not probable, although this possibly brought it to a head. It is not unlikely that its source was Argyll's personal ambition. After the battle of Malplaquet his reputation in the army ranked very high, and he had also the advantage of a strong personal ascendency over the troops, won by his headstrong valour and the bonhomie with which he shared their perils and hardships. It would seem that Argyll's vanity thus strongly flattered led him to regard Marlborough in the light of a rival. At any rate, from this time he set himself to work Marlborough's overthrow with a pertinacity which led Marlborough to write of him, in a letter of 25 March: I cannot have a worse opinion of anybody than of the Duke of Argyll. After the fall of the whig ministry Argyll did not fail to express even in the camp very strong sentiments regarding the efforts of Marlborough to prolong the war (Marlborough's letter to Godolphin, 12 June 1710), and when a vote of thanks was proposed to him in parliament started objections, which led to the abandonment of the motion. This procedure so commended Argyll to Harley and the tories that on 20 Dec. 1710 he was installed a knight of the Garter. An opportunity was also granted him for gratifying his military ambition by his appointment, 11 Jan. 1711, as ambassador extraordinary to Spain and commander-in-chief of the English forces in that kingdom. Circumstances were not, however, favourable for displaying his military capacities to advantage. Not obtaining the means of restoring his forces to a satisfactory condition, after the losses in previous campaigns, he was scarcely able to do more than hold his ground, and ventured on no enterprise of moment. After the peace of Utrecht in 1712 he was appointed commander-in-chief of the forces of Scotland and governor of Edinburgh castle. He was also named governor of Minorca, 1712-14 and 1714-16. For the treatment he had experienced from the government during the Spanish campaign he sought opportunity of manifesting his resentment. In the debate on the question as to whether the protestant succession was in danger under the present administration, he openly charged the ministry with remitting money to the highland chiefs, and with removing from the army officers merely on account of their known affection for the house of Hanover. Soon afterwards he adopted a course of procedure which might have laid him open to the charge of furthering the schemes of the Jacobites, although he was undoubtedly actuated by entirely opposite motives. When a malt tax was imposed on Scotland, he became one of the most marked supporters of the motion in June 1713 for the dissolution of the union, not only on the ground that the imposition of the tax was in violation of the union, but because he believed in his conscience that the dissolution of the union was as much for the interests of England as of Scotland. The motion was lost by a majority of only four votes. The agitation led Swift in his pamphlet on the Public Spirit of the Whigs to refer to the Scots in such contemptuous terms, that the whole Scottish peers, with the Duke of Argyll at their head, went in a body to petition the crown for redress. A proclamation was thereupon issued, offering a reward of 300l. for information as to the author. The matter caused an irrevocable breach in the relations between Swift and Argyll, who had for many years been on a footing of warm friendship. It also sufficiently explains the terms in which Swift expressed himself regarding Argyll in a manuscript note in Macky's Memoirs, as an ambitious, covetous, cunning Scot, who has no principle but his own interest and greatness. A true Scot in his whole conduct. His previous impressions of Argyll were entirely the opposite of this. In the Journal to Stella, 10 April 1710, he writes: I love that duke mightily, and in a congratulatory letter to him, 16 April 1711, on his appointment to Spain, he says: You have ruined the reputation of my pride, being the first great man for whose acquaintance I made any great advances, and you have need to be what you are, and what you will be, to make me easy after such a condescension.
     The course which the Duke of Argyll had taken in regard to the union, and the pamphlet on the Public Spirit of the Whigs, was at least instrumental in completely restoring his character in Scotland as a patriotic statesman. That he had not been actuated in the course which he took by any hostility to the Hanoverian cause was also soon afterwards manifested, when Queen Anne was struck by her mortal illness. Suddenly presenting himself along with the Duke of Somerset at the privy council, previously summoned to meet that morning at Kensington Palace, he stated that, although not summoned thither, he had felt himself bound to hasten to the meeting to afford advice and assistance in the critical circumstances. Taking advantage of the perturbation caused by their arrival, Argyll and Somerset suggested that the Duke of Shrewsbury should be recommended to the queen as lord high treasurer, a proposition which the Jacobites were not in a position to resist. This prompt action practically annihilated the Stuart cause at the very moment when its prospects seemed most hopeful, and finding themselves checkmated on every point, the Jacobites acquiesced without even a murmur in the accession of George I. Argyll was made groom of the stole, nominated one of the members of the regency, and appointed general and commander-in-chief of the king's forces in Scotland. In this capacity he was entrusted with the difficult task of crushing the Jacobite rising in Scotland in the following year. In view of this event, the choice of him was a most fortunate one, for probably no one else could have dealt with the crisis so successfully. His military reputation was second only to that of Marlborough, but of as much importance as this was his general popularity in Scotland, and the large personal following from his own clans. In the measures which he took for coping with dangers threatening him on all sides, he displayed an energy which created confidence almost out of despair. Leaving London on 9 Sept., he reached Edinburgh on the 14th, and, having taken measures for its defence, set out for Stirling, where the government forces, numbering only about 1,800, had taken up their position under General Wightman. The rapid concentration of reinforcements from Glasgow and other towns at Stirling caused the Earl of Mar, with the Jacobite followers he had raised in the highlands, to hesitate in marching southwards, and in order to reinforce the body of insurgents who were gathering in the southern lowlands, he deemed it advisable to send a portion of his large force across the Forth from Fife. After concentrating at Haddington, they resolved to make a dash at Edinburgh, but an urgent messenger having informed Argyll, at Stirling, of the critical condition of affairs, he immediately set out with three hundred dragoons and two hundred foot soldiers mounted on horses, lent them for the occasion, and entered the West Port just as the insurgents were nearing the eastern gate. Foiled in their attempt on Edinburgh, the insurgents marched southwards to Leith, where they seized on the citadel, but recognising the desperate character of the enterprise, they evacuated it during the night, and, after various irresolute movements in the south of Scotland, crossed into England.
     Thus, so far as Scotland was concerned, the only result of Mar's stratagem was to weaken his own forces in the highlands. Scarcely had the insurgents taken their midnight flight from Leith, when news reached Argyll that Mar had broken up his camp at Perth, and was on the march to force the passage at Stirling. The movement proved, however, to be a mere feint, to attract Argyll away from the Jacobite movements in the south. Mar, after making a demonstration, retreated to Auchterarder, and finally again fell back on Perth. After remaining there for some months, seemingly awaiting the development of events in the south, he finally began a southward movement in earnest, whereupon Argyll, who had kept himself fully informed of all his procedure, crossed over Stirling bridge, and marching northwards anticipated him by arriving on the heights above Dunblane just as the insurgent army was nearing Sheriffmuir, an elevated plateau formed by a spur of the Ochils. The two armies remained on the opposite eminences under arms during the night, and in the grey dawn of Sunday morning, 13 Nov., the wild followers of Mar, numbering about twelve thousand to the four thousand under Argyll, swept down from the heights across the morass, in front of the moor, threatening to engulf the small army of Argyll, which now began to ascend the acclivity of the moor on the opposite side. The conformation of the ground concealed the two armies for a time from each other, and thus it happened that as they came to close quarters, it was found that they had partly missed each other, the left of each army being outflanked. Argyll's left, hopelessly outnumbered, fled in confusion to Dunblane, but the right and centre resisted the impetuous but partial attack of the highlanders with great steadiness, and as the highlanders recoiled from the first shock of resistance, Argyll, not giving them time to recover, charged them so opportunely with his cavalry that their hesitation was at once changed into headlong flight. Thus the right of both armies was completely victorious, but in neither case could they bring assistance to the left, so as to turn the fortune of the fight into decided victory. Mar's want of success could only be attributed to incompetent generalship, while Argyll was saved from overwhelming disaster rather by a happy accident than by special skill in his dispositions. As it was, he reaped from his partial defeat all the practical benefits of a brilliant victory. Technically he was indeed victorious, for Mar was present with the insurgents who were defeated, and those of the insurgents who were victorious having lost communication with their general, made no effort to prevent Argyll from enjoying the victor's privilege of occupying the field of battle. Notwithstanding his boastful proclamations, Mar also gradually realised that he had been completely checkmated, and ultimately sent a message to Argyll as to his power to grant terms. Desirous of ending the insurrection without further bloodshed, Argyll asked the government for powers to treat, but no notice was taken of his communication. The discourtesy probably tended to cool the zeal of Argyll in behalf of the government, and in any case he did not think it urgent to precipitate matters, especially as, although the Pretender had at last reached the camp at Perth, the highlanders were already beginning to desert their leader.
     The arrival of General Cadogan with six thousand Dutch auxiliaries removed, however, all further excuse for delay, and on 21 Jan. he began his march northwards. To render it more difficult the enemy had desolated all the villages between them and Perth. Provisions for twelve days had, therefore, to be carried along with them, in addition to which the country was enveloped in a deep coating of snow, which had to be cleared by gangs of labourers as they proceeded. On the approach of Argyll the Pretender abandoned Perth, throwing his artillery into the Tay, which he crossed on the ice. The dispersion of the insurgents had, in fact, already begun, and the pursuit of Argyll was scarcely necessary to persuade the leaders of the movement to evacuate the country with all possible speed. Though still accompanied by a large body of troops who began to make preparations for defending Montrose, the Chevalier, Mar, and the principal leaders suddenly embarked at Montrose for France, leaving the troops under the command of General Gordon, who with about a thousand men reached Aberdeen, whence they dispersed in various directions. Argyll shortly afterwards proceeded to Edinburgh, where he was entertained at a public banquet. On arriving in London he was also graciously received by the king, but although he spoke in parliament in defence of the Septennial Act, he was in June 1716 suddenly, without any known cause, deprived of all his offices. (He had been lord-lieutenant of Surrey 1715-16.) The event caused much dissatisfaction in Scotland, and led Lockhart of Carnwath, as he records in his ‘Memoirs,’ to make an effort to win him over to the Jacobite cause. There is no evidence that Argyll gave him any substantial encouragement, and his efforts were discontinued as soon as Argyll was again (6 Feb. 1718-19) restored to favour and made lord-steward of the household. Soon after this the great services of Argyll during the rebellion were tardily recognised by his being advanced to the dignity of Duke of Greenwich. His subsequent political career was so strikingly and glaringly inconsistent as to suggest that, so far at least as England was concerned, it was regulated solely by his relation to the parties in power. The one merit he however possessed, as admitted even by his political opponents, that ‘what he aimed and designed, he owned and promoted above board, being altogether free of the least share of dissimulation, and his word so sacred that one might assuredly depend on it’ (Lockhart Papers, ii. 10). Pride and passion, rather than cold ambition, were the motives by which he was chiefly controlled, and he never could set himself persistently to the pursuit of one purpose. He therefore never won a position commensurate with his seeming abilities, or with the great oratorical gifts which he wielded with such disastrous effect against those who had wounded directly or indirectly his self-esteem. Regarding the extraordinary power of his oratory, we have the testimony of Pope in well-known lines, of Thomson and other poets, and the verdict seems to have been unanimous. At the same time much of this effect was momentary, and in the opinion of Glover was traceable to his ‘happy and imposing manner,’ where ‘a certain dignity and vivacity, joined to a most captivating air of openness and sincerity, generally gave his arguments a weight which in themselves they frequently wanted’ (Glover, Memoirs, p. 9). Lockhart writes in similar terms: ‘He was not, strictly speaking, a man of understanding and judgment; for all his natural endowments were sullied with too much impetuosity, passion, and positiveness; and his sense rather lay in a sudden flash of wit than in a solid conception and reflection’ (Lockhart Papers, ii. 10).
     Chiefly owing to faults of temper, he played in politics a part not only comparatively subordinate, but glaringly mean and contemptible. Although he had moved the dissolution of the Union on account of the proposal to impose the malt-tax on Scotland, he in 1725, in order to oust the Squadrone party from power in Scotland, came under obligations, along with his brother Lord Islay, to carry it through. In the debate on the Mutiny Bill in February 1717-18, he argued that ‘a standing army in the time of peace was ever fatal either to the prince or the nation;’ but in 1733 he made a vigorous speech against any reduction of the army. His course was equally eccentric over the Peerage Bills, in connection with which he in 1721 entered into communication with Lockhart of Carnwath and the Jacobites. He was master-general of ordnance 1725-30, and governor of Portsmouth 1730-7. He was made field-marshal January 1735-6. His defence of the city of Edinburgh in 1737 from the Porteous mob did much to strengthen his reputation in Scotland as an independent patriot, although his conduct was no doubt in a great degree regulated by personal dissatisfaction with the government. When the nation in 1738 was excited into frenzy by the story of ‘Jenkins' ears,’ he won temporary popularity by his speeches in opposition to the ministry against Spain; and during the discontent prevailing in the country in 1740 on account of the failure of the harvest, he attacked the ministry with such virulence, as chiefly responsible for the wretched condition of things, that he was immediately deprived of all his offices. General Keith, brother of the Earl Marischal and a zealous Jacobite, was with him when he received his dismission. ‘Mr. Keith,’ exclaimed the duke, ‘fall flat, fall edge, we must get rid of those people.’ ‘Which,’ says Keith, ‘might imply both man and master, or only the man’ (Letter of the Earl Marischal, 15 June 1740, in Stuart Papers). The factious and persistent opposition which from this time he continued to manifest against Walpole's administration contributed in no small degree to hasten its fall. On the accession of the new ministry he was again made master-general of the ordnance, colonel of the royal regiment of horse guards, and commander-in-chief of all the forces, but in a few weeks he resigned all his offices, the cause being probably that he was not satisfied with the honours he had received. It was said that his ambition was to have the sole command of the army. In reference to this Orford is said to have exclaimed, ‘Two men wish to have the command of the army, the king and Argyll, but by God neither of them shall have it.’ From this time Argyll ceased to take an active part in politics. The Pretender, supposing that probably he might not be disinclined at last to favour his cause, sent him a letter written with his own hand, but he immediately communicated it to the government. Already a paralytic disorder had begun to incapacitate him for public duties, and he died on 4 Oct. 1743. An elaborate monument in marble was erected to his memory in Westminster Abbey. He was twice married. By his first wife, Mary, daughter of John Brown, and niece of Sir Charles Duncombe, lord mayor of London, he had no issue. By his second wife, Jane, daughter of Thomas Warburton of Winnington, Cheshire, one of the maids of honour of Queen Anne, he had five daughters, the eldest of whom was in 1767 created baroness of Greenwich, but the title became extinct with her death in 1794. To his fifth daughter, Lady Mary Campbell, widow of Edward, viscount Coke, Lord Orford dedicated his romance of the ‘Castle of Otranto.’ The duke having died without male issue, his English titles of duke and earl of Greenwich and viscount Chatham became extinct, while his Scottish titles devolved on his brother, Archibald Campbell, third duke [q.v.].

     Robert Campbell's Life of the Most Illustrious Prince, John, Duke of Argyll and Greenwich, 1745;
     Coxe's Life of Walpole;
     Lockhart Papers;
     Marchmont Papers;
     Marlborough's Letters;
     Swift's Works;
     Macky's Secret Memoirs;
     Glover's Memoirs;
     Stuart Papers;
     Sinclair Memoirs;
     Douglas's Scottish Peerage, i. 107-13;
     Biog. Brit. (Kippis);
     Tindal's History of England;
     Add. MSS. 22253 ff. 96-105, 22267 ff. 172-9, 28055;
     there is a very flattering description of the Duke of Argyll in Scott's Heart of Midlothian.

Contributor: T. F. H. [Thomas Finlayson Henderson]

Published:     1886