Douglas, James, fourth Duke of Hamilton 1658-1712, the eldest son of Lord William Douglas, created Earl of Selkirk and Duke of Hamilton for life [qv.], by his marriage with Anne, daughter of James, first duke of Hamilton, and Duchess of Hamilton in her own right (1643), was born 11 April 1658. He was educated at Glasgow University, and on leaving travelled on the continent for two years. On his return to England he was appointed by Charles II a gentleman of the bedchamber in January 1679. A residence of more than four years at court which now followed was diversified only by a duel between the Earl of Arran (the style borne by James Douglas) and Lord Mordaunt, afterwards Earl of Peterborough and Monmouth, in which both combatants were wounded. In December 1683 Arran was nominated by Charles as ambassador extraordinary to Louis XIV, to congratulate him on the birth of Philip, duke of Anjou. He remained in France till after the death of Charles, serving as aide-de-camp to Louis, and fighting two campaigns under him. He returned to England at the end of February 1685, and, strongly recommended by Louis, through Barillon, the French minister in London, was confirmed in his appointment as a gentleman of the bedchamber, and given the additional office of master of the wardrobe. In the July following he was given the command of a regiment of horse in the levy raised to meet Monmouth's rebellion, and two years later, on the revival of the order of the Thistle, he was created a knight companion. At the revolution in 1688 he accompanied James II to Salisbury as colonel of the Oxford regiment, and remained with him till the moment when he finally took ship. On the arrival of William of Orange at Whitehall Arran was among the first to attend on him, and, on being presented, informed William that he waited on him by the command of the king his master. The result of the interview was that he was sent to the Tower, on the advice, it is said (Swift, Memoirs of Captain Crichton, coll. works, xii. 75, ed. 1824), of his own father. In April 1689 he was brought up for trial, but was remanded owing to some informality in the writ, and was shortly afterwards released. But after a few weeks of liberty he was again imprisoned on suspicion of being in correspondence with the French court, and remained at the Tower for more than a year. He was released on bail and retired to Scotland, where he lived quietly, with the exception that in March 1696 he surrendered on a warrant being issued against him for conspiracy, and was acquitted without trial. The death of his father in 1694 had brought no accession of honour or estate to Arran, the title and property being both hereditary in his mother. In 1698, however, Anne, duchess of Hamilton, by permission of the king, resigned her honours in favour of her son, who was created Duke of Hamilton, Marquis of Clydesdale, &c., with the precedency of the original creation, to the natural surprise of those who remembered the relations between the new duke and the sovereign
On 21 May 1700 the Duke of Hamilton took his seat for the first time in the Scotch parliament, the immediate cause of his entry into public affairs being the promotion of the African company, in which he was largely interested, on the failure of the Darien expedition. His activity on behalf of the company, and the position he assumed as leader of the parliamentary party which vainly supported it, earned for him great popularity, and once his arrival in Edinburgh was made the occasion of a triumphal progress. On the accession of Anne, Hamilton took up a defined position as leader of the national party. In company with other nobles he went to London to urge on the queen the desirability of calling a new Scotch parliament. Notwithstanding this appeal the old parliament was convened, and on the first day of the session Hamilton opened the proceedings by a speech against the legality of their meeting, and, after entering a written protest on behalf of himself and his followers, withdrew with seventy-nine members, to be greeted outside by the acclamations of an infinite number of people of all degrees and ranks (Lockhart, Memoirs, p. 14, ed. 1799)
In the new parliament which met in May 1703, Hamilton moved the act for recognising the queen's authority and title to the crown, but was unable to prevent the addition of a clause which frustrated his intention of raising the question of the legality of the former parliament. In the ensuing session he moved a resolution providing for a treaty with England in relation to commerce before the parliament proceeded to the nomination of a successor to the throne, which was carried conjointly with another providing for prior consideration being given towards securing the independence of the kingdom. Though a day was named for the nomination of commissioners to treat in England, the project fell through, according to Lockhart (ib. p. 127), on account of the animosity of the Dukes of Hamilton and Atholl towards the Duke of Queensberry and the Earl of Seafield, whom they wished to exclude from the commission. The act for a commission to treat with England was passed in the July session, and, to the consternation of his party, Hamilton supported the vote that the nomination of commissioners should be left to the queen. He had virtually promised to insist that the choice should be left with parliament, and could only allege that since it was no use to struggle further against the majority he thought he might be allowed to pay the queen a compliment. But it afterwards appeared that the Duke of Argyll had promised he should be named one of the commissioners if he would support the vote. Argyll, however, was unable to fulfil his promise, the Duke of Roxburghe successfully urging his belief that if Hamilton were appointed, though England should yield all that's reasonable, yet he would find out something to propose as would never be granted, and so popular in Scotland as would break it for ever (Jerviswoode Correspondence, p. 44). When the treaty of union came up for discussion in the last session of the last parliament of Scotland, Hamilton spoke and voted against every article. His speech on the first article is said to have moved to tears many of those who heard it, including some who were resolved to vote, and did actually vote, against the speaker (Lockhart, p. 253). His opposition, however, was confined to constitutional methods. A plan by which eight thousand men from the west of Scotland were to meet under arms in Edinburgh, the details of which were arranged and carried out by Cunninghame of Eckatt, was foiled by Hamilton sending expresses throughout the country two days before the appointed time, announcing the postponement of the design. By this step he undoubtedly was the means of preventing serious bloodshed, but he also lost in a great measure the confidence of his party. The scheme for a rising having broken down, the opponents of the union, with the approval of Hamilton and other leaders, summoned to Edinburgh some hundreds of country gentlemen, with the object that they should wait in a body on the commissioners with an address to the queen praying for a new parliament. On the day before that fixed for carrying out this measure Hamilton insisted that unless a clause were added to the address expressing the desire of the memorialists that the succession to the throne should be settled in the house of Hanover, he would have no more to do with the affair. The dissension provoked by this proposal was not conciliated when a proclamation was issued forbidding the assembling of country gentlemen in Edinburgh, and put an end to the scheme. It was renewed, however, when the twenty-second article of the treaty dealing with the number of Scotch representatives in the united parliament came up for discussion. Hamilton summoned a meeting of his party, and proposed that the Marquis of Annandale should move for the settlement of the Hanoverian succession, and that on the certain rejection of the measure they should enter a protest and immediately leave the house in a body never to return, and then proceed with the national address to the queen. Hamilton's programme received the support of his party, and the address was drawn up. But on the day on which the protest was to be made in parliament he at first declined to go to the house, alleging that he was suffering from toothache. His friends, however, prevailed on him to appear in his place, and then learned from him that he utterly refused to present the counter-resolution. He would support it, but could not take the initiative. While he argued the house had passed to other points. Various explanations have been assigned of his motives. Lockhart asserts that he was threatened by the Duke of Queensberry. Hamilton's quite untrustworthy son, Colonel Hamilton, says that he had been dissuaded, in a letter from Lord Middleton, the Pretender's secretary of state (Transactions during the Reign of Queen Anne, p. 41). It is suggested by Hill Burton (Hist. of Scotland from 1689 to 1745, i. 477) that a vision of kingship may have influenced the duke. But the same writer probably more nearly hits the mark in attributing the duke's strange behaviour to his nervous reluctance to commit himself. The same tendency was exhibited in his practice of never answering a letter with his own hand, and when Colonel Hooke visited Scotland to report on the Jacobites he was quite unable to extract anything definite from the duke. He was equally irresolute on the occasion of the futile French expedition to Scotland in January 1708. He set out to his Staffordshire estate and remained there waiting for an express to summon him to lead his countrymen to battle. He had, however, on his arrival been placed under surveillance, and when the news came of the failure of the expedition he was taken prisoner with other Scotch nobles to London. Here he entered into a compact with the whigs, and on engaging to support their party in the election of Scotch peers for parliament, he was admitted to bail, which was very soon discharged, and obtained the like privilege for most of his fellow-prisoners. This certainly was, as Lockhart remarks (Memoirs, p. 367), one of the nicest steps the Duke of Hamilton ever made. At the election in July of the same year Hamilton was chosen one of the sixteen Scotch representative peers. At first attached to the whigs he threw them over on the impeachment of Dr. Sacheverell, for whom, after much wavering, he both spoke and voted, and was rewarded on the incoming of the tory administration by his appointment to the office of lord-lieutenant and custos rotulorum of the county palatine of Lancaster. Two months later (December 1710) he was sworn of the privy council. In September of the following year he was created by patent a peer of Great Britain, under the title of Baron of Dutton and Duke of Brandon. The patent was challenged by the House of Lords, and after several debates it was resolved by a majority of five that no patent of honour granted to any peer of Great Britain who was a peer of Scotland at the time of the union can entitle such peer to sit and vote in parliament, or to sit upon the trial of peers. The Scotch peers thereupon, headed by Hamilton, discontinued their attendance at the house, and only returned when the rule was amended, to the effect that a Scotch peer might enjoy full parliamentary rights at the request of the peers of Great Britain. But no such request was preferred on behalf of Hamilton, who continued to sit as a representative peer. On the death of Earl Rivers in August 1712, he was appointed to his post of master-general of the ordnance, and shortly afterwards was given the order of the Garter in addition to that of the Thistle bestowed on him by James II, an unprecedented honour for a subject. Before the conclusion of the peace of Utrecht, Hamilton was appointed ambassador extraordinary to France, but amid preparations for his mission he was killed in a duel with Charles Mohun, fifth Lord Mohun [qv.], in Hyde Park on 15 Nov. 1712. He and Lord Mohun had married nieces of the Earl of Macclesfield, who on his death constituted Lord Mohun his sole heir. Hamilton instituted a suit in chancery, which dragged on for eleven years. At a hearing before a master in chancery on 13 Nov. Hamilton reflected on one of the defendant's witnesses, and Lord Mohun retorted that the witness had as much truth as his grace. Hamilton made no reply, and the incident apparently ended there, but next day he received a visit from General George Maccartney [qv.] on behalf of Lord Mohun, the upshot of which was the meeting in Hyde Park. The duke's second was Colonel John Hamilton, who exchanged thrusts with General Maccartney while the principals, both of whom received mortal wounds, were engaged. The affair created the greatest excitement. At an examination before the privy council Colonel Hamilton swore that when, having disarmed General Maccartney, he ran to assist the duke, who had fallen, he saw the general make a push at his grace. On the strength of this evidence, and of the fact that though the duke was the aggrieved party the challenge came from Lord Mohun, the tory party took the matter up and asserted that the duel was a whig plot. The Examiner in a most virulent paper (20 Nov. 1712) supported this view, and Swift drew up a paragraph as malicious as possible to the same effect for the Post Boy (Journal to Stella, coll. works, iii. 66, ed. 1824). Large rewards were offered for the apprehension of General Maccartney, who escaped to the continent. He surrendered himself in 1716, was tried and found guilty of manslaughter. Colonel Hamilton at this trial deviated from his former evidence, and would only swear that he saw Maccartney's sword raised above the duke's shoulder. He was discredited. On George I's accession he had lost his commission and died (rumour said by God's vengeance) 17 Oct. 1716 (Boyer, xii. 472). Thackeray introduced the duel into Esmond
The character of Hamilton was variously read by his contemporaries. Lockhart speaks highly of his courage and understanding, ascribing his lukewarmness to his too great concern for his estate in England (Memoirs, p. 29). Macky describes him as brave in person, with a rough air of boldness; of good sense, very forward and hot for what he undertakes; ambitious and haughty; a violent enemy; supposed to have thoughts towards the crown of England; he is of middle stature, well made, of a black coarse complexion, a brisk look; on which opinion Swift's annotation is a worthy good-natured person, very generous but of a middle understanding (Characters of the Reign of Queen Anne, coll. works, xvii. 252). Burnet (History of his own Time, vi. 130, ed. 1833), who had been his governor, says: I will add no character of him: I am sorry I cannot say so much good of him as I could wish, and I had too much kindness for him to say any evil without necessity
Hamilton was twice married: first to Lady Anne Spencer, eldest daughter of Robert, earl of Sunderland, by whom he had two daughters, who both died young; and secondly, on 17 July 1698, to Elizabeth, only child and heiress of Digby, lord Gerard, who brought large estates in Staffordshire and Lancashire into the Douglas family. With this lady, who outlived her husband thirty-two years, Swift was very intimate, though his first impression of her was that she talked too much and was a plaguy detractor. Further acquaintance proved to him that she had too a diabolical temper (Journal to Stella, ii. 482, iii. 97). She never grieved, he wrote, for her husband, but raged and stormed and railed. Swift had, however, some kindness for her. She has, he declared, abundance of wit and spirit; - handsome and airy and seldom spared anybody that gave her the least provocation; by which she had many enemies and few friends. By her Hamilton had seven children, four daughters and three sons, of whom James (1702-1743), the eldest, succeeded to his honours, married thrice and left issue; Lord William was elected M.P. for Lanark in 1734, but died the same year; and Lord Anne (so named after the queen, his godmother), once held a commission in the 2nd foot guards. In the interval between his marriages Hamilton, then Earl of Arran, had a son by Lady Barbara Fitzroy, third daughter of Charles II and the Duchess of Cleveland. This son was Charles Hamilton (1695-1754) who is noticed separately.
Douglas and Wood's Peerage of Scotland, i. 710-21
Boyer's Annals of Queen Anne, vii. 45, ix. 244, 279, x. 215, 295, xi. 289, 296-304
Lockhart's Memoirs of Scotland, passim
Hamilton's Transactions during the Reign of Queen Anne, passim
Luttrell's Diary, iv. 404, v. 185, 187, vi. 300, 558, ed. 1857
Memoirs of the Life and Family of the most illustrious James, Duke of Hamilton, p. 96 ¼ 1717. After the death of the Duke of Hamilton a large number of pamphlets professing to give the true story of the duel in which he lost his life were published
also an excellent ballad on the subject preserved in the Roxburghe collection.
Contributor: A. V. [Alsager Vian]