Sinclair, James (d.1762) (DNB00)

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SINCLAIR, JAMES (d. 1762), general, was the second son of Henry (1660–1723), eighth lord Sinclair, by his wife Grizel, daughter of James Cockburn of Cockburn. John Sinclair, seventh lord Sinclair, was his great-grandfather. On account of the attainder of his elder brother, John (1683–1750) [q. v.], master of Sinclair, for his share in the rebellion of 1715, the family estates were settled on James by his father, who died in 1723; but when his elder brother received pardon in 1726, he delivered them up to him. At an early age he entered the army, serving for some years in the regiment of foot-guards. On 26 June 1722 he became colonel, and 17 June 1737 he was appointed colonel of the first or royal Scots regiment of foot. On 25 Aug. 1741 he was named major-general, and on 4 June 1745 lieutenant-general, with the command of the British forces in Flanders. In 1746 he was appointed to the command of a force of six thousand men intended to act against Quebec; but the expedition having been delayed too long to permit of its sailing that season, it was resolved instead to employ it in a descent on the coast of Brittany, the final intention being to surprise Port L'Orient, where the French East India Company had its depôt of stores and ships. David Hume the historian, who was Sinclair's secretary during the expedition, affirms that Sinclair neither ‘proposed’ the expedition, ‘nor planned it, nor approved it, nor answered for its success’ (fragment of a paper, in Hume's own handwriting, describing the descent on the coast of Brittany, 1746, printed in appendix to J. Hill Burton's Life and Correspondence of David Hume). With a reinforcement of two thousand men, bringing the number up to eight thousand, and a powerful detachment of artillery, the expedition set sail from Portsmouth 15 Sept. 1746. On the 24th Sinclair was able to lay siege to Port L'Orient, but large reinforcements having been thrown into the town, he resolved to abandon the siege, and, after destroying the forts in Quiberon Bay, he re-embarked for England on 17 Oct. The comparative failure of the expedition caused much disappointment in England, but Hume affirms that Sinclair acted with the greatest energy and determination so long as ‘there was the smallest prospect of success,’ and that prudence left him no other alternative than to abandon the enterprise ‘when it appeared altogether desperate’ (ib.) Sinclair afterwards acted as ambassador to the courts of Vienna and Turin. On 10 March 1761 he was promoted to the rank of general. Although a great part of his life was spent in military service, he nevertheless sat for many years in the House of Commons, being chosen in 1722 and again in 1727 for the Dysart burghs, in 1736 and 1741 for the county of Sutherland, in 1747 for the Dysart burghs, and in 1754 and also in 1761 for the county of Fife. He died at Dysart 30 Nov. 1762, being then governor of Cork and major-general on the staff in Ireland. By his wife Janet, youngest daughter of Sir David Dalrymple of Hailes, and widow of Sir John Baird of Newbyth, he left no issue.

[Douglas's Scottish Peerage (Wood), ii. 501; Hill Burton's Life and Correspondence of David Hume; Foster's Scottish Members of Parliament.]

T. F. H.