CAMPBELL, Lord John Douglas Edward Henry (1777-1847), of Ardencaple, Dunbarton.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer



3 Oct. 1799 - Feb. 1822

Family and Education

b. 24 Dec. 1777,1 3rd but 2nd surv. s. of John Campbell, 5th Duke of Argyll [S], and bro. of George William Campbell, Mq. of Lorne*. educ. privately, Christ Church, Oxf. 1795. m. (1) 3 Aug. 1802, Elizabeth (div. 1808),2 da. of William Campbell of Fairfield, Ayr s.p.; (2) 17 Apr. 1820, Joan (d. 22 Jan. 1828), da. and h. of John Glassel of Longniddry, Haddington, 2s. 2da.; (3) 8 Jan. 1831, Anne Colquhoun, da. of John Cuninghame of Craigends, Renfrew, wid. of Dr George Cunningham Monteath of Glasgow, s.p. suc. bro. as 7th Duke of Argyll [S] 22 Oct. 1839.

Offices Held

Ensign 3 Ft. Gds. 1797, lt. and capt. 1799, ret. 1801; Lt.-col. commdt. Argyll vols. 1803; col. Argyll and Bute militia 1809.

Keeper of the great seal [S] Sept. 1841-Aug. 1846.


Campbell, who developed in his sheltered boyhood a lifelong interest in the physical sciences, was unhappy at Oxford and persuaded his father to obtain him a commission in his regiment. He served in Ireland in 1798 and in the attack on Holland the following year, but bad health forced him to leave the army in 1801.3

In 1799, he replaced his uncle in the family seat for Argyllshire, which he retained without opposition until his retirement. He evidently gave silent support to Pitt and Addington in turn, his uncle having advised his father on the change of administration to make known to the new regime ‘any point’ he had in mind for his sons, ‘who both for the King’s sake and their own must think the weight of your family, if properly applied, of very material consequence’. The duke’s unremitting vigilance over his doings was well-meant but fussy. In March 1801 he was directed not to neglect his parliamentary duties, to return to Inveraray as soon as possible, to show his face at royal functions, to break into the library at Argyll House to rescue some books from damp and to issue medical bulletins on an army of relatives.4

After the election of 1802, when Campbell was also unsuccessfully put up by his father for Dunbartonshire, Charles Innes reckoned him completely independent of Dundas, but the Melvillites classed him among those supporters of Addington who would, at the crunch, support Pitt’s return to the head of affairs. He made a bad marriage, which his father, it was later reported, tried to prevent by offering to buy off the young lady with £10,000. The liaison was short-lived, and Campbell, low in health and spirits, decided early in 1803 to go abroad with a medical friend in attendance. When Argyll enjoined him to return by the summer and not to exceed his allowance, he gave submissive assurances on both counts, but his excursion proved more protracted and expensive than his father liked. In Paris he was presented to Talleyrand and Buonaparte. He formed a close friendship with Madame de Staël, but even the warmth of her affection had difficulty in penetrating his introspective gloom. At Baden in July, on the resumption of hostilities, he was almost taken by the French, but escaped disguised as a woman and eventually returned home in September.5

On 7 Nov. 1803 he was requested by Addington to attend for the opening of the new session, but it was not until 6 Apr. 1804 that he took his seat.6 He supported Pitt’s second ministry and voted against the censure of Melville, 8 Apr. 1805. On the formation of the ‘Talents’, Adam grouped him with the ‘Dundas etc. interest’, but when his brother, after succeeding as 6th Duke of Argyll in May 1806, declared his support for the ministry, Campbell followed his lead and early in 1807 he was numbered among ‘friends of government unconnected with Lord Melville’. On 2 Mar. 1807 he was a defaulter ordered to attend on the 17th, when he was granted a month’s sick leave, but he turned up to vote for Brand’s motion condemning the Portland ministry’s pledge on Catholic relief, 9 Apr.7 He mustered with the Whigs after the general election, voted against government on the address, 26 June, the state of the nation, 6 July 1807, the Copenhagen expedition, 3 Feb., and the mutiny bill, 14 Mar. 1808, and became a member of Brooks’s on 23 Feb. 1808. He was in the minorities in the divisions on Folkestone’s attack on Lord Wellesley, 15 Mar. and the Irish Catholic petition, 25 May 1808.

Campbell voted consistently with opposition for the rest of this period, but his record of attendance was abysmal and he showed hardly any active interest in economical and none in parliamentary reform. His only recorded votes during the life of the Perceval ministry were on the Scheldt inquiry, 5 and 30 Mar. 1810, the Regency bill, 21 Jan. 1811, and for Catholic relief, 24 Apr. 1812. He paired for the division on the orders in council, 3 Mar. 1812. He voted for Catholic relief, 2 Mar., 13 and 24 May 1813, 21 May 1816 and 9 May 1817, but his name appears in only 11 of the other surviving division lists between 1812 and 1820, including those on the blockade of Norway, 12 May 1814, the Duke of Cumberland’s grant, 29 June and 3 July 1815, the property tax, 18 Mar. 1816, Canning’s embassy to Lisbon, 6 May, the renewed suspension of habeas corpus, 23 June 1817, and Tierney’s censure motion, 18 May 1819. He had signed the requisition calling on Tierney to take the Whig leadership in the Commons the previous year. His only known interventions in debate were brief speeches on behalf of General Clavering, 23 Mar. 1809. It is obvious that he had little interest in politics. On 2 Mar. 1813, after a late sitting on the Catholic question, he told a friend that ‘I have as little pleasure in London as can well be imagined, and shall be most happy to find myself in the mail coach with the horses heads to the North’.8 He died 26 Apr. 1847.9

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: David R. Fisher


  • 1. Scots Mag. (1777), 679.
  • 2. See Letters of John Ramsay (Scottish Hist. Soc. ser. 4, iii), 220.
  • 3. Duke of Argyll, Autobiog. i. 31; Intimate Society Letters of 18th Cent. ed. Duke of Argyll, ii. 477-8, 494-501.
  • 4. Intimate Society Letters, ii. 443-7.
  • 5. Ibid. ii. 451, 456, 514-21, 557-630; Farington, vii. 210; Argyll, Autobiog. i. 33-44.
  • 6. Argyll mss; Parl. Deb. ii. 20.
  • 7. CJ, lxii. 194, 247.
  • 8. Argyll mss.
  • 9. The Times, 29 Apr. 1847. CP gives 25 Apr.