1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Breadalbane, John Campbell

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BREADALBANE, JOHN CAMPBELL, 1st Earl of (c. 1636–1717), son of Sir John Campbell of Glenorchy, Bart., and of the Lady Mary Graham, daughter of William, earl of Airth and Menteith, was born about 1636. He took part in the abortive royalist rising under Glencairn in 1654, and was one of those who urged Monk to declare a free parliament in England to facilitate the restoration. He sat in the Scottish parliament as member for Argyllshire from 1669 to 1674. As principal creditor he obtained in October 1672, from George, 6th earl of Caithness, a conveyance of his dignities, lands and heritable jurisdictions; and after the latter’s death he was created on the 28th of June 1677 earl of Caithness and viscount of Breadalbane. In 1678 he married the widowed countess of Caithness, an economical step which saved him the alimentary provision of 12,000 merks a year he had covenanted to pay. In 1680 he invaded Caithness with a band of 700 men and defeated and dispossessed the earl’s heir male. The latter, however, was subsequently confirmed in his lands and titles, and Campbell on the 13th of August 1681 obtained a new patent with the precedency of the former one, creating him earl of Breadalbane and Holland, viscount of Tay and Paintland, Lord Glenorchy, Benederaloch, Ormelie and Weick in the peerage of Scotland, with special power to nominate his successor from among the sons of his first wife. In 1685 he was a member of the Scottish privy council. Though nominally a Presbyterian he had assisted the intolerant and despotic government of Lauderdale in 1678 with 1700 men. He is described as having “neither honour nor religion but where they are mixed with interest,” as of “fair complexion, of the gravity of the Spaniard, cunning as a Fox, wise as a Serpent and supple as an Eel.”[1] He was reputed the best headpiece in Scotland.[2] His influence, owing to his position and abilities, was greater than that of any man in Scotland after Argyll, and it was of high moment to King William to gain him and obtain his services in conciliating the Highlanders. Breadalbane at first carried on communications with Dundee and was implicated in the royalist intrigue called the “Montgomery plot,” but after the battle of Killiecrankie in July 1689 he made overtures to the government, subsequently took the oath of allegiance, and was entrusted with a large sum of money by the government to secure the submission of the clans. On the 30th of June 1691 he met the Jacobite chiefs and concluded with them secret articles by which they undertook to refrain from acts of hostility till October, gaining their consent by threats and promises rather than by the distribution of the money entrusted to him, the greater part of which, it was believed, he retained himself. When asked to give an account of the expenditure he replied: “The money is spent, the Highlands are quiet, and this is the only way of accounting between friends.”[3]

On the 27th of August a proclamation was issued offering indemnity to all those who should submit and take the oath of allegiance before the 1st of January 1692, and threatening all those who should refuse with a military execution and the penalties of treason. All the chiefs took the oath except MacIan, the chief of the MacDonalds of Glencoe, who postponed his submission till the 31st of December, and was then prevented from taking the oath till the 6th of January 1692 through the absence of a magistrate at Fort William, whither he had repaired for the purpose. This irregularity gave Breadalbane an immediate opportunity of destroying the clan of thieves which had for generations lived by plundering his lands and those of his neighbours. Accordingly, together with Argyll and Sir John Dalrymple (afterwards Lord Stair), Breadalbane organized the atrocious crime known as the “Massacre of Glencoe,” when the unfortunate MacDonalds, deceived by assurances of friendship, and at the moment when they were lavishing their hospitality upon their murderers, were butchered in cold blood on the 13th of February 1692. Breadalbane’s astuteness, however, prevented the disclosure of any evidence against him in the inquiry afterwards instituted in 1695, beyond the deposition of a person who professed to have been sent on Breadalbane’s behalf to obtain a declaration of his innocence from MacIan’s sons, who had escaped. The discovery of his former negotiations with the Jacobite chiefs caused his imprisonment in Edinburgh Castle in September, but he was released when it was known that he had been acting with William’s knowledge.

Breadalbane did not vote for the Union in 1707, but was chosen a representative peer in the parliament of Great Britain of 1713–1715. His co-operation with the English government in securing the temporary submission of the Highlands was inspired by no real loyalty or allegiance, and he encouraged the attempted French descent in 1708, refusing, however, to commit himself to paper. On the occasion of the Jacobite rising in 1715 he excused himself on the 19th of September from obeying the summons to appear at Edinburgh on the ground of his age and infirmities; but nevertheless the next day visited Mar’s camp at Logierait and afterwards the camp at Perth, his real business being, according to the Master of Sinclair, “to trick others, not to be trickt,” and to obtain a share of the French subsidies. He had taken money for the whole 1200 men he had promised and only sent 300. His 300 men were withdrawn after the battle of Sheriffmuir, and his death, which took place on the 19th of March 1717, rendered unnecessary any inquiry into his conduct. He married (1) Mary, daughter of Henry Rich, 1st earl of Holland, by whom he had two sons, Duncan, styled Lord Ormelie, who was passed over in the succession, and John, and earl of Breadalbane; (2) Mary, daughter of Archibald, marquis of Argyll, and widow of George, 6th earl of Caithness, by whom he had one son, Colin. By Mrs Mildred Littler, who has sometimes but probably in error been named as his third wife, he had a daughter, Mary.

John Campbell, 2nd earl of Breadalbane (1662–1752), an eccentric nobleman, who was known as “Old Rag,” was succeeded by his only son, John (c. 1696–1782). This earl was a diplomatist, being British ambassador to Denmark and to Russia, and a politician, being for a long time a member of the House of Commons and a supporter of Sir Robert Walpole, in addition to holding several official positions. All his sons having predeceased their father, the title passed on his death, on the 26th of January 1782, to a cousin, John (1762–1834), who became 4th earl and was created a British peer as marquess of Breadalbane in 1831. His son John, the 2nd marquess (1796–1862), a prominent leader of the Free Church during the ecclesiastical disputes in Scotland, died without sons in November 1862. The marquessate now became extinct, but the Scottish earldom passed to a cousin John Alexander (1824–1871), whose son and successor, Gavin (b. 1851), was created marquess of Breadalbane in 1885.

  1. Memoirs of John Macky (Roxburghe Club, 1895), 121.
  2. Corr. of Col. N. Hooke (Roxburghe, Club, 1870), i. 49.
  3. Note by Sir W. Scott in Sinclair’s Mem. of Insurrection in Scotland (Abbotsford Club, 1858), 185.