DOUGLAS, Archibald (c.1667-1741), of Cavers, Roxburgh.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1707 - 1708
1727 - 1734

Family and Education

b. c.1667, 2nd s. of Sir William Douglas of Cavers (d. 1676) by Catherine, da. of William Rigg of Aithernie, Fife.  m. Anna, da. of Francis Scott of Gorrenberry, Roxburgh, 4s.  suc. bro. Sir William Douglas, MP [S], 1698.1

Offices Held

Hereditary sheriff, Roxburghshire 1698–d.; commr. union with England 1702; exchequer [S] 1703; Equivalent [S] 1707–9; PC [S] 1703–8; receiver-gen. [S] 1704–18; postmaster-gen. [S] 1725–d.2

MP [S] Roxburghshire 1700–7.


Douglas of Cavers came from an ancient Roxburghshire family with a strong Covenanting tradition. His father had been deprived of the hereditary sheriffdom on account of his opposition to the court, and his mother, the reputed ‘good Lady Cavers’, was imprisoned in Stirling Castle in November 1682. She was only released permanently in December 1684, when, upon being given the choice of conforming or leaving the country, she took up residence in England. The family’s status naturally revived with the Revolution, whereupon the heritable jurisdiction of Roxburghshire was restored, Douglas succeeding his elder brother to the sheriffdom and the estate of Cavers in 1698. In his electoral capacity, he consistently opposed the Roxburghe interest both in the Scottish and British Parliaments. Repeated successes prompted his son William† to remark with pardonable exaggeration in 1712 that ‘you have it in your hands to make the Member for the county’. Prior to the Union Douglas had been able to return himself as one of Roxburghshire’s four representatives to the Scottish parliament. He supported the Court interest of Queensberry, it being asserted by some that he was ‘entirely managed’ by the Duke, whereas others stressed his indispensability to the Court. He was rewarded in 1703 with appointment to the privy council, supplemented the following year by the lucrative office of receiver general. His predilection in favour of union with England was borne of deep conviction that a strong bulwark was necessary to ensure the Protestant succession. Having served on the abortive commission of 1702, he voted consistently in support of the Union in 1706–7. Acknowledgment of his contribution was made via appointment to the Equivalent commission and selection as a representative to the first Parliament of Great Britain.3

At Westminster Douglas was a loyal adherent of the ministry, but little record survives of his parliamentary activities. Grey Neville*, however, later alluded to his propensity for long speeches, so he may not have been a parliamentary mute. Douglas did not stand in 1708 and was dropped from the Equivalent commission the following year. He continued to be active in local politics and successively ensured the defeat of Roxburghe’s candidates. Douglas did not exercise a tight rein over his own nominees, but was understandably wary of any conduct which might have repercussions for his own status as an office-holder. His son expressed some alarm in February 1712 that the political ‘stiffness and obstinacy’ of Sir Gilbert Eliott, 3rd Bt.*, ‘in not coming over to the measures of the Court’ might ‘be of prejudice as to your place’. Douglas retained his office, despite occasional rumours of dismissal, up to and beyond the Hanoverian succession, also taking a lead in the suppression of the Jacobite rebellion of 1715.4

Disaster struck three years later at the hands of the Duke of Roxburghe and the Squadrone, when Douglas was removed as receiver-general. Douglas denied that he had given any cause for his dismissal, and this assertion was entirely justified, for his arrears were never exceptional. The nearest he came to parliamentary censure was on 16 Apr. 1713, when the report from the public accounts commission had criticized Lord Godolphin’s (Sidney†) system for maintaining invalids in Scotland by depositing nearly £10,000 with Douglas, since ‘no interest has been received for it and they are subsisted out of the capital stock, which will in a short time reduce it to nothing’. The accusation was that the receiver-general pocketed the interest, rather than investing the money and using the interest to fund the pensions. he was not a selfless servant of the public, but an astute manipulator of the perquisites of his office, profiting from the large balances which he held. Moreover, he benefited from the revenue reforms of 1709, by which court salaries in Scotland were also channelled through him. He received no immediate compensation for dismissal, but was awarded a pension of £400 p.a. in 1721, obtained the office of postmaster-general in Scotland in 1725 and returned to the Commons in 1727. Douglas retired at the end of this Parliament and died on 3 July 1741, the estate of Cavers passing to each of his four sons in succession.5

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: David Wilkinson


  • 1. G. Tancred, Annals of a Border Club, 119; Hist. Scot. Parl. 190–1.
  • 2. HMC 7th Rep. 732; APS, xi. app. 145.
  • 3. HMC 7th Rep. 727, 732; Reg. PC Scotland, 1678–80, p. 377; Hist. Scot. Parl. 190–1; Tancred, 119; NLS, Douglas of Cavers mss, Acc. 7570, ‘Cavers Barony and Family’, pp. 197–213; Acc. 6991, William Douglas to fa., 14 Feb. 1711/12; info. from Dr P. W. J. Riley on members of Scot. parl.; Crossrigg Diary, 122, 154; APS, x. 247; Orig. Pprs. ed. Macpherson, ii. 10; P. W. J. Riley, Union, 331.
  • 4. SRO, Ogilvy of Inverquharity mss GD205/36/6, Neville to William Bennet*, 11 July 1708; Douglas mss, Acc. 6991, William Douglas to fa. 14 Feb. 1711/12; Glasgow mss at Kelburn Castle, 3/C11/31, William Boyle to Ld. Glasgow, 30 Aug. 1715; Boyer, Pol. State, viii. 124–5; P. Rae, Hist. Late Rebellion (1718), 232, 273.
  • 5. Douglas mss, Acc. 7488/1, memorial of Douglas [n.d.]; HMC 7th Rep. 732; Cobbett, Parlty. Hist. vi. 1190; P. W. J. Riley, Eng. Ministers and Scotland, 85, 267; SRO, Montrose mss GD220/5/205/4, Robert Pringle to Montrose, 7 July [1709]; CJ, xvi. 636; Services of Heirs (ser. 1), i. 1740–9, p. 10; ii. 1770–9, p. 11; 1780–9, p. 13.