Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Murray, James (1725-1794)

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MURRAY, JAMES (1725?–1794), general, governor of Quebec and of Minorca, born about 1725, was fifth son of Alexander, fourth lord Elibank, and his wife Elizabeth, daughter of George Stirling, surgeon, and M.P. for Edinburgh city. He was brother of Henry Murray, fifth lord Elibank, and of Alexander Murray (1723–1777) [q. v.] There is some ambiguity in the date of his first commission, as there are several officers of the name undistinguishable in the entry and commission books. Probably he was the James Murray who, on 2 Feb. 1740, was appointed second lieutenant in Wynyard's marines (Home Office Military Entry Book, xviii. 12). Henry Murray was lieutenant-colonel of that regiment. In a memorial to Ligonier in 1758 James Murray states that he had then served nearly twenty years as a commissioned officer, and had been present with the 15th foot throughout all its service in the West Indies, Flanders, and Brittany during the last war (Addit. MS. 21628, f. 302). These services included the Carthagena expedition and subsequent operations in the east of Cuba, the defence of Ostend in 1745 by a mixed force of British and Austrians under Count Chanclos, and the L'Orient expedition of 1748 (Cannon, Hist. Rec. 15th Foot). At L'Orient Murray was captain of the grenadier company of the 15th, which attacked the French with great gallantry when many of the other troops shamefully misbehaved. Murray became major in the 15th in Ireland in the following year, and on 5 Jan. 1751 purchased the lieutenant-colonelcy. He commanded the regiment in the Rochfort expedition of 1757, and was a witness for the defence at the ensuing trial of Sir John Mordaunt (1697–1780) [q. v.] He took the regiment out to America in 1757, and commanded a brigade at the siege of Louisburg, Cape Breton, in 1758. Wolfe wrote to Lord George Sackville. afterwards Germain, from Louisburg: 'Murray, my old antagonist, has acted with infinite spirit. The public is much indebted to him for great services in advancing . . . this siege' (Hist. MSS. Comm. 9th Rep. pt. iii. p. 76 a). Murray was one of the three brigadiers (Monckton and Townshend were the other two) under Wolfe in the expedition against Quebec. Wolfe appears to have had a high opinion of Murray, and singled him out for the most hazardous exploits of the campaign (Weight, Life of Wolfe, p. 501). Murray commanded the left wing of the army in the battle on the Plain of Abraham, 13 Sept. 1759, where Wolfe fell. The city surrendered on 18 Sept., when a council of war decided on its retention. Murray was left there with four thousand troops, while the rest of the army sailed away with the fleet, before the navigation of the St. Lawrence should be closed for the season. Murray spent the winter of 1759-1760 in active preparations for an expected siege, and his difficulties were numerous (cf. his manuscript journal from September 1759 to May 1760, printed by the Historical Society of Quebec in 1870). He was without funds, which had to be raised at 5 per cent, on the note of hand of the two senior officers ; drunkenness and thieving were rife among the soldiers, and had to be met by special measures ; sickness was very prevalent. Knox, who was one of the garrison, says that during the first nine months of the occupation they buried a thousand men, and had a daily average of an equal number sick, chiefly of scurvy (Knox, Hist. Account, vol. ii.) Murray established a number of outposts round the city, repaired the defences, and mounted 132 pieces of cannon of all sorts upon them. On 26 April 1760 the French commander, De Levis, landed in the vicinity with a very superior force, and was menacing the outposts at Lorette and St. Foix. On 28 April Murray marched out with two thousand men and twenty guns, and attacked the French at Sillery with great vigour, driving their first line in upon the second, and inflicting very heavy loss. The audacity of the attack with a force so inferior surprised the French ; but the British were outnumbered three to one, and after losing one-third of their number were driven back into the city, which was forthwith besieged by an army of fifteen thousand men. A plan of the battle, showing the country round about Quebec, is in the British Museum (Addit. MS. 21686, ff. 61, 81). Walpole repeats the version of the affair current in London that Murray 'got into a mistake and a morass, and was enclosed, embogged, and defeated' (Walpole, Letters, iii. 317). The French batteries did not open upon the city until 11 May, and on 15 May De Levis, disheartened by the arrival in the St. Lawrence of a naval squadron under Lord Colville, and the destruction of the French ships by some of the advanced frigates, raised the siege and retired precipitately to Montreal, where he joined the troops under De Vaudreuil. In accordance with orders from General Amherst [see Amherst, Jeffrey, Lord Amherst], Murray embarked on 10 June 1760 with all his remaining effective troops, 2,500 in all, for Montreal, the only place of importance in Canada remaining in the hands of the French, whither columns from New York under Amherst, and from Crown Point under Colonel William Haviland [q. v.], were converging. After a tedious voyage Murray landed on the island of Montreal on 7 Sept., Haviland arrived the same evening, and Amherst the next day. On 13 Sept. 1760 De Vaudreuil's troops, which included all the French troops remaining in the country, laid down their arms, and the dominion of Canada passed to the victors.

Murray was appointed governor of Quebec 27 Oct. 1760 (War Office, Privy Council, p. 21). He had been made colonel-commandant of a battalion of the 60th royal Americans 18 Oct. 1759, and was promoted to major-general 10 July 1762. He was accused of harshness in his government, and his severity was contrasted with the conduct of General Thomas Gage (1721-1787) [q. v.], in command at Montreal. A report of his government by Murray in 1762 is in the British Museum (Addit. MS. 21667). When Canada was finally ceded to Great Britain on the peace of 1763, Murray was appointed on 21 Nov. that year governor of Canada, a position he held till 1766. In September of the same year he suppressed, without resorting to extreme measures, a dangerous mutiny of the troops at Quebec, who, in consequence of a stoppage of supplies, threatened to march to New York and lay down their arms to General Amherst. During Murray's administration the forms of government and the laws to be observed in the new colony were promulgated ; but his efforts to alleviate the discontent of the conquered population met with only partial success. Representatives of the people were summoned to Quebec by the government in 1765 ; but the attempt to form a representative assembly failed, owing, it is said, to the objection of the Roman catholics to the test-oath imposed by statute. Murray's efforts to conciliate the French Canadians incensed the British settlers, who accused him of sacrificing their interests to French prejudices, and petitioned for his recall. An inquiry in the House of Lords after his return home in 1766 fully absolved Murray from these charges. His last years in Canada were troubled by the uprising of the Indian tribes in the west, known as the Conspiracy of Pontiac.

After his retirement from Canada in 1766, Murray was for a time on the Irish staff. He was transferred from the royal Americans to the colonelcy of the 13th foot in 1767, became a lieutenant-general 25 May 1772, and in 1774 was appointed governor of Minorca, in succession to Sir George Howard [q. v.] When war broke out with Spain, in 1779, a lieutenant-governor was added to the establishment of the island, in the person of Sir William Draper, K.B. [q. v.], between whom and Murray there was want of accord from the first, and afterwards open rupture. In 1781 Minorca was threatened with a siege. Murray sent off his wife and family to Leghorn, and, shutting himself up in Fort St. Philip, prepared for a vigorous defence. On 20 Aug. he was blockaded by a force of sixteen thousand French and Spaniards under the Duc de Crillon. Murray's garrison consisted of 2,016 regular troops, four hundred of them being invalids ('worn-out soldiers'), and all the troops more or less unhealthy, and two hundred seamen from the Minorca sloop of war, which had been scuttled and sunk at the mouth of the harbour to bar the entrance. Despairing of reducing the place, which had very extensive bomb-proof cover, De Crillon secretly offered Murray a bribe of a million sterling to surrender. Murray spurned the insult. 'When your brave ancestor,' he wrote back to De Crillon under date 16 Oct. 1781, 'was desired by his sovereign to assassinate the Duc de Guise, he returned the answer that you should have done when you were charged to assassinate the character of a man whose birth is as illustrious as your own or that of the Duc de Guise. I can have no further communication with you except in arms. If you have any humanity, pray send clothing for your unfortunate prisoners in my possession. Leave it at a distance to be taken for them, as I will admit of no contact for the future but such as is hostile to the most inveterate degree.' De Crillon replied: 'Your letter restores each of us to our place; it confirms the high opinion I always had of you. I accept your last proposal with pleasure.' On 5 Feb. 1782 Murray's garrison was so reduced by the ravages of scurvy that only six hundred men remained fit for duty, and of these five hundred were tainted with the disease. 'Such was the uncommon spirit of the king's troops that they concealed their disorder and inability rather than go into hospital; several men died on guard after having stood on sentry, their fate not being discovered till called upon for the relief (Murray's despatch, see Ann. Reg. 1782, chap, x.) A capitulation was arranged, and the remnant of the garrison, six hundred old and decrepit soldiers, two hundred seamen, a hundred and twenty artillerymen, and forty-five Corsicans, Greeks, Turks, Moors, and Jews marched out between two lines of fourteen thousand French and Spanish troops, and laid down their arms on the glacis of George Town, declaring 'they surrendered to God alone, as the victors could not plume themselves on taking a hospital' (ib.) After the return home of the troops Sir William Draper preferred a number of miscellaneous charges against Murray—twenty-nine in all—alleging waste of public money and stores, extortion, rapacity, cruelty, &c. Murray was tried by a general court-martial presided over by Sir George Howard, which sat at the Horse Guards in November-December 1782 and January 1783. Contemporary accounts of the trial describe Murray—'Old Minorca' he was nicknamed—as 'looking very broken, but with all the remains of a very stout man, and quite the old soldier.' The court fully and honourably acquitted Murray of all the charges preferred against him except two of trivial import—some interference with auction-dues in the island, and the issue of an order derogatory to his lieutenant-governor—for which it sentenced him to be reprimanded. On the proceedings being submitted to him, the king 'was pleased to approve of the zeal, courage, and firmness with which General Murray had conducted himself in the defence of Fort St. Philip, as well as of his former long and approved services.' The reprimand was dispensed with, and the king further expressed 'his concern that an officer like Sir William Draper should have allowed his judgment to become so perverted as to bring such charges against his superior. Lest some intemperate expressions of Draper should lead to a duel, the court dictated an apology to be signed by Draper, which, after some difficulty, was acquiesced in by Murray. Immediately afterwards a Mr. Sutherland brought an action against Murray for illegal suspension from the office of judge of the vice-admiralty court in Minorca. Murray had offered to reinstate Sutherland on his making a certain apology. The matter had been referred home, and the king had approved Murray's action; but a jury, the king's approval notwithstanding, found that Murray had acted arbitrarily and unreasonably, and gave damages against him to the amount of 5,000l. Baron Eyre declared that it never occurred to any lawyer to question the verdict (Term Reports, p. 538). On 6 May 1785, on a division by 57 ayes against 22 noes, the House of Commons decided that the damages and Murray's costs be paid out of the public money.

Murray, who was made a full general 19 Feb. 1783, and colonel of the 21st fusiliers 5 June 1789, and was governor of Hull, died at his residence, Beauport House, near Battle, Sussex, 18 June 1794. A portrait, engraved by J. S. Weele, is mentioned by Bromley.

A namesake predeceased him by a few weeks, Major-general James Murray, M.P., colonel 72nd foot and governor of Fort William, who died 19 April 1794 (see obituary notice in Gent. Mag. 1794, pt. i. p. 384, in which he is wrongly entitled the 'Honble.' James Murray).

Murray was twice married : first, to Miss Cullen (she died at Beauport House, in 1779, without issue); secondly, to Anne, daughter of Abraham Witham, consul-general of Majorca, by whom he had three daughters and one son, Major-general James Patrick Murray, C.B., sometime M.P. for Yarmouth. He was born in 1782, was disabled by a wound at the passage of the Douro in 1809, and died at Killineure, near Athlone, Ireland, 5 Dec. 1834 (see obituary notice in Nav. and Mil. Gaz. 13 Dec. 1834).

[Foster's Peerage under ‘Elibank;’ biographies in Douglas's Scots' Peerage (Wood), i. 528–30, and Appleton's Encycl. Amer. Biog. Also Cannon's Hist. Rec. 15th Cambridgeshire Reg., Beatson's Naval and Military Memoirs, Knox's Hist. Account of the Campaign in America (London, 1769), Wright's Life of Wolfe, Parkman's Montcalm and Wolfe (London, 1884), Parkman's Conspiracy of Pontiac (London, 1851), Ann. Registers under dates, Calendars of State Papers, Home Office, 1760–6 and 1766–9, Proceedings of Court-martial, printed from Gurney's shorthand notes, and Draper's reply, printed separately, Walpole's Letters, chiefly vol. viii. Many papers relating to Murray's administration of Canada and of Minorca are in the Public Record Office, London. Murray's general orders, instructions, correspondence with the ministers, &c., when in America, are among the British Museum Addit. MSS., chiefly in the Haldimand and Newcastle Papers; but the indexing under Murray's name in the Haldimand collection is somewhat misleading. His papers are bound up with those of other general officers, covering the period 1758–78, but do not extend beyond the period of his own American command, which ended in 1766. Later material must be sought in the Public Record Office. Numerous extracts from Murray's letters in the Marquis Townshend's MSS. are given in Hist. MSS. Comm. 11th Rep. pt. iv.; and the existence of a number of his letters among the Marquis of Landsdowne's MSS. is noted in the 5th Report.]

H. M. C.