MONTGOMERIE, Hugh (c.1663-1735), of Busbie, Ayr. and Hartfield, Dunbarton.
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Family and Education
b. c.1663, 3rd s. of Sir Robert Montgomerie, 3rd Bt., of Skelmorlie, Ayr by Anna, da. and coh. of Sir James Scott of Rossie, Forfar. educ. ?Glasgow 1676. m. contract 26 Aug. 1687 (with 12,000 merks), Lilias (d. 1755), da. of Peter Gemmill, merchant and baillie of Glasgow, s.p. suc. nephew as 6th Bt. 1731.1
Burgess, Glasgow 1688, provost 1701–32; burgess, Edinburgh 1703; dep. lt., Ayrshire 1715; commr. visitation, Glasgow Univ. 1718, rector 1725–6.2
Dir. Co. of Scotland 1699.3
Commr. union with England 1702, 1706.4
MP [S] Glasgow 1702–7.
Collector of customs, Glasgow 1703.5
Montgomerie came of a family of resolute Covenanters, and was a younger brother of Sir James Montgomerie, 4th Bt., of Skelmorlie, the radical ‘Revolution Whig’ who was the moving spirit behind the ‘club’ opposition in the Scottish estates in 1689–90, and whose uncompromising adherence to Revolution principles, combined with bitterness at King William’s failure properly to reward his services, provoked him into adopting the extreme, and paradoxical, expedient of Jacobite conspiracy. Hugh Montgomerie himself had been put to trade, apprenticed to an Edinburgh merchant in 1681 and then provided by his father with a small initial capital of 8,000 merks. This he duly multiplied, and was able to set up in his own right in Glasgow, where by 1694 he was a partner in a sugar factory. Two years later he and his brother founded another sugar-making enterprise at the western end of the city which was incorporated by act of the Scottish parliament as the New Sugar Manufactory. He was soon investing some of the profits in land, acquiring, inter alia, the estates of Busbie, in his native Ayrshire, and Hartfield, near Port Glasgow, and eventually adopting the former as his principal designation.6
As befitted a staunch Presbyterian, who was several times elected as a ruling elder to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Montgomerie actively supported the Revolution. He was commissioned in 1689 to raise the fencibles in Glasgow, and was subsequently employed in organizing transport and supplies for actions on the west coast against the Jacobites. No evidence has been discovered of complicity in his brother Skelmorlie’s plots. Later, in his capacity as provost of Glasgow, he was nominated in 1702 to the ill-fated commission to negotiate a union with England. The same year he was also returned for the burgh to the Scottish parliament. There, despite his losses in the Company of Scotland, to which he had subscribed £1,000, he proved himself to be a reliable Court man, his loyalty reinforced by possession of the collectorship of customs at Glasgow. Originally there may have been some association with the Argylls, for in the 1702 election Montgomerie was said to be one of the 1st Duke’s candidates for Renfrewshire, but nothing survives to suggest that this specific connexion was maintained. In 1704 he voted with the Squadrone managers against the Duke of Hamilton’s motion on the succession, and the following year was one of the Court nominees to the commission on trade. As a Court man he was also nominated to the union commission of 1706, but surprisingly he declined to attend, and furthermore in the subsequent parliament he opposed the very principle of union, voting in November 1706 against the first article and in the following January against ratification. In between he voted fairly consistently with the opposition or kept away, except for occasional appearances for the Court on particular motions. One explanation for this stance, put forward by the most authoritative modern commentator on the politics of the Union, is that it ‘expressed some view of Glasgow’s economic interest’; that those merchants, including Montgomerie himself, who were ‘doing very nicely out of the illegal trade to the colonies, feared that union would bring competition and severely damage their role as middlemen in the trade between the Dutch and the English colonies’.7
Montgomerie’s opposition was not held against him, however, and he was returned to the first Parliament of Great Britain, one of only two opponents of the Union to find a place in the Scottish contingent. His involvement in the business of the House is impossible to distinguish from that of Hon. Francis Montgomerie, except for the assistance which Hugh evidently provided, along with other Scots MPs, towards the passage of the bill for the navigation of the Tone, in Somerset, and for which the conservators of the river sent him their thanks. That he did not seek re-election in 1708 is perhaps surprising, considering the significant amount of unfinished personal business which membership of the Commons would have helped him to pursue, most notably a dispute over whether the New Sugar Manufactory’s statutory exemption from customs and excise duty continued under or was terminated by the Union, and a campaign he and other Scottish merchants were waging to secure drawbacks on salt-cured meat and fish imported before the Union and exported thereafter, payment of which eventually required an Act of Parliament.8
Montgomerie did not stand for Parliament again, though he remained active in local affairs. His installation as rector of Glasgow University in 1725 was the occasion of a protest by ‘an Irish pragmatic philosopher’ (possibly James Arbuckle) and a faction among the undergraduates, protesting against the autocratic behaviour of the principal in denying them a voice in the election. Montgomerie’s own position in the theological and philosophical controversies that underlay the constitutional conflict is unclear, though he was popularly considered to be ‘a vain and haughty man’, temperamentally sympathetic, at least, to the principal’s position. His last contribution to the civic life of his adopted burgh was to be nomination in 1732 to the directorate of the Glasgow poor-house.9
Having rescued the ‘encumbered and burdened’ lands of Skelmorlie by purchasing them in 1728 from his impoverished nephew, the 5th baronet, Montgomerie then found himself succeeding to the title in 1731. On his death, at Skelmorlie on 14 Jan. 1735, the estate was portioned between his great-nieces, the three surviving daughters of the 5th baronet, one of whom, Lilias, eventually succeeded. She then married a kinsman, Alexander Montgomerie of Coilsfield, Ayr. Their eldest son Hugh sat for Ayrshire (1780–96) before succeeding a distant cousin as 12th Earl of Eglintoun.10
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: D. W. Hayton
- 1. Hist. Scot. Parl. 505; W. Fraser, Memorials Earls of Eglinton, 162, 166; Recs. Glasgow Univ. (Maitland Club, lxxii), iii. 133.
- 2. Scot. Rec. Soc. lvi. 220; lxii. 145; Charters and Docs. Relating to Glasgow ed. Marwick and Renwick, ii. 634; Recs. Glasgow Univ. ii. 562; Hist. Scot. Parl. 505.
- 3. Annandale mss at Raehills, bdle. 397, list of directors.
- 4. Hist. Scot. Parl. 505.
- 5. CSP Dom. 1703–4, p. 409.
- 6. Fraser, 162–6; Hopkins thesis, 245–51, 269–74, 283–5; P. W. J. Riley, King Wm. and Scot. Politicians, 18, 30–31, 39–41; P. Monod, Jacobitism and Eng. People, 23–24; Extracts Edinburgh Recs. 1689–1701, p. 151; APS, x. 66; Charters and Docs. Relating to Glasgow, 273.
- 7. APS, ix. 21; Reg. PC Scotland, 1686–9, pp. lvi, 412–13; 1689, pp. 233, 352; info. from Dr P. W. J. Riley on members of Scot. parl.; Darien Pprs. (Bannatyne Club, xc), 411; NLS, ms 14498, f. 82; SRO, Hamilton mss GD406/1/4921, J. Brisbane to Duke of Hamilton, 6 July 1702; Boyer, Anne Annals, iii. app. 43; v. 13; EHR, lxxxiv. 521, 524; P. W. J. Riley, Union, 177, 274.
- 8. HMC Mar and Kellie, i. 377; info. from Dr P. A. Hopkins; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxi. 463–4; xxii. 120; xxiii. 175; CJ, xvii. 208; SRO, Eglinton mss GD3/5/861, conservators of Tone to Montgomerie, 24 Dec. 1707.
- 9. Fraser, 166; Wodrow, Analecta, iii. 185; Extracts Glasgow Burgh Recs. v. 370, 401.
- 10. Fraser, 167; Scot. Rec. Soc. xxxi. 40.