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‘Attaque and Break Through a Phalanx of Corruption . . . the Court Party!’ The Scottish Representative Peers' Election and the Opposition, 1733–5: Three New Division Lists of the House of Lords of 1735


  • Hamilton Papers (the duke of Hamilton, Lennoxlove, Lothian) [hereafter cited as Hamilton Papers], bundle 894: marquess of Tweeddale to [duke of Hamilton], 20 Mar. 1733[/4]. I am very grateful to the duke of Hamilton for permitting me to peruse invaluable records in his possession. I also wish to thank the staff of the Parliamentary Archives, Westminster for providing me with photocopies of the manuscript minutes of the house of lords. The William Andrew Clark Memorial Library and the Henry E. Huntington Library gave me opportunities to consult historical records as a short-term fellow, which has made a significant contribution to this article. I am very grateful to Professors Harry Dickinson and W.A. Speck and Dr Clyve Jones for reading and commenting on a draft of this article.


In the early 1730s, Archibald Campbell, the earl of Ilay, gained a dominant position in Scotland, and Sir Robert Walpole, the prime minister, entrusted him with the distribution of patronage there. Ilay took full advantage of this power, and controlled the votes of the financially weak Scottish peers in the election of 16 representative peers. The excise crisis of 1733–4, however, changed the political scene in Scotland. Although they had been chosen as supporters of the court party, some of the Squadrone Volante members (the duke of Montrose and the marquess of Tweeddale) and two courtiers (the earls of Marchmont and Stair) raised a standard of revolt against Walpole and Ilay. The Scottish opposition co-operated with the English country party (‘the Patriots’) and such Scottish tories as the duke of Hamilton. In the 1734 peers' election they launched a challenge to the ministry, but the opposition was crushed by a bankrolled election campaign organised by the court party. Although the English and Scottish opposition petitioned in the house of lords to criticize the ‘undue practices’ of Walpole and Ilay at the election, the ministry was backed up by English and Scottish courtiers and bishops, and overwhelmed the opposition. Three new division lists related to the aftermath of the Scottish election shed much light upon the party alignment of the upper House in the middle of the 1730s.