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The Scottish Nation

BELHAVEN AND STENTON, Baron, a title in the Scottish peerage, conferred by King Charles the First on Sir John Hamilton of Biel, eldest son of Sir James Hamilton of Broomhill, in consideration of his fidelity to his cause, by patent dated 15th December, 1647. The title was derived from the village of Belhaven in Haddingtonshire. In 1648 his lordship accompanied the duke of Hamilton in his unfortunate expedition into England to attempt the rescue of the king, and escaped from the rout at Preston. In 1675 he resigned his title into the hands of King Charles the Second, who, by patent, dated at Whitehall, 10th February 1675, conferred the peerage on him for life, with remainder, after his decease, to the husband of one of his grand-daughters, John Hamilton, eldest son of Robert Hamilton of Barncluith, one of the principal clerks of council and session, and after the Revolution one of the judges of the supreme court, under the title of Lord Pressmannan, and to the heirs male of his body; which failing, to his nearest heirs male whatever. The first Lord Belhaven married Margaret, natural daughter of James, second marquis of Hamilton, by whom he had three daughters. He died in 1679. Margaret, his eldest daughter, married Sir Samuel Baillie, younger of Lamington, and had issue; Anne, the second, became the wife of Sir Robert Hamilton of Silvertonhill, and had two sons and four daughters. Elizabeth, Lord Belhaven’s youngest daughter, was the third wife of Alexander, first Viscount Kingston, but had no issue.

      Of John Hamilton, the second Lord Belhaven, the most distinguished of those who have held the title, a notice follows.

      John, third Lord Belhaven, the eldest son of the second lord, succeeded his father in 1708, and at the general election in 1715 was chosen one of the sixteen representatives of the Scottish peerage. He was about the same time appointed one of the gentlemen of the bedchamber to George, Prince of Wales. At the battle of Sheriffmuir, 13th November 1715, he commanded the East Lothian troop of horse, on the side of the government. In 1721 he was appointed governor of Barbadoes, and sailed for that island on board the Royal Anne galley, which was unfortunately lost going down the Channel, on the Stag Rocks, near the Lizard point, about midnight, 17th November 1721, when his lordship was drowned, with the whole persons on board, two hundred and forty in number, with the exception of two men and a boy, who drifted on shore on pieces of the wreck. He had married Anne, daughter of Andrew Bruce, merchant in Edinburgh, a cadet of the family of Earlshall in Fife, by whom he had four sons and one daughter, namely, John, fourth Lord Belhaven; Andrew, an officer in the army, died unmarried in 1736; James, fifth Lord Belhaven; Robert, a major in the army in the expedition to Carthagena under Lord Catheart in 1741, who also died unmarried in 1743; and Margaret, married to Alexander Baird, son of Sir William Baird of Newbyth.

      John, fourth Lord Belhaven, succeeded his father in 1721. He was a general of the mint, and one of the trustees for the encouragement and improvement of trade, manufactures, and fisheries in Scotland. He died unmarried at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 28th August, 1764.

      James, fifth Lord Belhaven, succeed his brother. He was bred to the law, and in 1727 he became a member of the faculty of advocates. In 1733 he was appointed assistant-solicitor to the boards of excise and customs, and on the abolition of the heritable jurisdictions in 1747 he was appointed sheriff-depute of the county of Haddington. He died at Biel, 25th January 1777.

      The title remained some years subsequently dormant. By virtue of an entail executed by the second Lord Belhaven, 17th October 1701, confirmed by the fifth lord by another entail of 14th May 1765, the husbands of the heirs female being excluded from inheriting the property, and the whole make descendants of the second lord’s father, Lord Pressmannan, having entirely failed, the family estates, of great value, devolved upon Mrs. Mary Hamilton Nisbet of Pencaitland, Saltcoats, and Dechmont, wife of William Nisbet, Esq. of Dirleton. She was accordingly served heir to James, fifth Lord Belhaven 3d December, 1783. The whole male descendants of James Hamilton of Barncleuth, from whom the second lord sprang, having likewise failed, the title of Lord Belhaven and Stenton developed on Robert Hamilton of Wishaw, he being the nearest male heir existing in the collateral line of John, second Lord Belhaven, according to the usual course of descent established by the law of Scotland. By this course of descent, it is settled that in the case of three brothers, should the middle brother fail, the younger, and not the elder, is entitled to succeed as heir male.

      The title of Lord Belhaven was assumed by William Hamilton, captain of the 44th regiment of foot, lineal descendant and heir male of John Hamilton of Coltness, the eldest of the three brothers, and he voted at the general election in 1799 as Lord Belhaven. An objection was taken to his right, and evidence was given that there were male descendants of the body of William Hamilton of Wishaw, the youngest of the three brothers; consequently the character of heir male whatever of John, second Lord Belhaven, the patentee of 1765, could not belong to the gentleman who had assumed the title and voted at the election. This argument was supported by the Attorney-General, attending on behalf of the crown, and the Lords’ Committee of Privileges, on 5th June 1793, unanimously resolved that the votes given at the election by the said Captain Hamilton, under the title of Lord Belhaven, were not good, and this resolution was confirmed by the house of peers. Soon after, William Hamilton of Wishaw, eldest son and heir of Robert already mentioned as the nearest male heir, who had died in 1784, presented to the king a petition, claiming the title, honours, and dignity of Lord Belhaven; which petition was, as is customary, referred to the House of Peers and the Lords’ Committee of Privileges. The claim was decided in his favour in 1799.

      Robert Hamilton of Wishaw, who, as above explained, on the death of James, fifth Lord Belhaven, in 1777, became, in the legal course of succession, entitled to the honours, was of right the sixth Lord Belhaven, but he did not assume the title He married at Edinburgh, 1st February 1764, Susan, second daughter of Sir Michael Balfour of Denmiln, in Fife, Baronet, and by her, who died 9th January 1789, he had three sons and five daughters; the younger children taking the style of Honourable, as their father was legally entitled to the peerage of Belhaven.

      The eldest son, William, seventh Lord Belhaven, was born 13th January 1765, and succeeded his father in 1784, but did not assume the title till the decision of the house of peers in his favour in 1799. His lordship was an officer in the third, or king’s own regiment of dragoons, afterwards colonel of the Lanarkshire and Dumbartonshire Fencible cavalry, and lieutenant-colonel of the Royal Lanarkshire Militia. He married at Edinburgh, 3d March 1789, Penelope, youngest daughter of Ronald Macdonald of Clanronald in Inverness-shire, and had issue two sons and five daughters, namely, Robert Montgomery, eighth Lord Belhaven; Hon. William, East India Company’s service, born in 1797, married Mrs. M.A. Mendes, widow of J.P Mendes, Esq., and died in 1838; Hon. Penelope; Hon. Susan-Mary married 16th November, 1820, to Peter Ramsay, Esq., Banker, Edinburgh; Hon. Flora; Hon. Jean, and Hon. Bethia.

      Robert Montgomery Hamilton, eighth Lord Belhaven, was born in 1793, and succeeded his father, on his death, in 1814. He was one of the sixteen representatives of the Scottish peerage, and in 1831 was created Baron Hamilton of Wishaw, in the peerage of the United Kingdom. For many successive years Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, and always reappointed under the Whig administration; Vice-lieutenant and Convener of the county of Lanark. He married, in 1815, Hamilton, second daughter of Walter Campbell, Esq. of Shawfield, and Mrs. Mary Hamilton of Pencaitland, Saltcoats, &c.; without issue. Heir presumptive to the title believed to be James Hamilton, son of the Hon. William Hamilton, who, as already stated, died in 1838.

BELHAVEN, second Lord, whose own name was John Hamilton, a distinguished patriot, was born July 5, 1656. He was the eldest son of Robert Hamilton of Barncluith, one of the senators of the college of justice, under the name of Lord Pressmannan, as stated above; and he married Margaret, grand-daughter of the first Lord Belhaven, who died in 1679. After his accession to the title he took a prominent part in public affairs, and soon became conspicuous for his opposition to the tyrannical measures of Charles the Second’s government in Scotland. In the Scots parliament of 1681, when the act for the test was brought forward, Lord Belhaven declared “that he saw a very good act for securing our religion from one another among the subjects themselves; but he did not see an act for securing our religion against a popish or fanatical successor to the Crown.” For these words, he was committed prisoner to the Castle of Edinburgh, and the King’s Advocate declared that there was matter for an accusation of treason against him. But a few days thereafter his lordship was, on his submission, restored to liberty.

      After the Revolution, he attended the meeting of the Scottish nobility in London, held in January 1689, and concurred in the address to the Prince of Orange to assume the government. He was present in the subsequent Convention of Estates, and contributed much to the settling of the Crown upon William and Mary. He was chosen one of the new king’s privy councillors for Scotland, and appointed a Commissioner for executing the office of lord register. At the battle of Killiecrankie, July 27, 1689, he commanded a troop of horse. On the accession of Queen Anne he was continued a privy councillor, and in 1704 was nominated one of the commissioners of the treasury, which office he only held a year.

      When the treaty of union with England was under discussion, Lord Belhaven was one of those who principally distinguished themselves by their determined opposition to the measure: and his nervous and eloquent speeches on the occasion are preserved in various publications. In 1708, when the Pretender, assisted by the French, attempted to make a descent on Scotland, Lord Belhaven was apprehended on suspicion of favouring the invasion, and conveyed to London. His high spirit burst at the disgrace, and he died of inflammation of the brain, June 21, 1708, immediately after his release from imprisonment. A contemporary writer says that he was of a good stature, well set, of a healthy constitution, a graceful and manly presence; had a quick conception, with a ready and masculine expression, and was steady in his principles, both in politics and religion. The following is a portrait of his lordship from one in Pinkerton’s Scottish Gallery:

      The following are Lord Belhaven’s publications, in virtue of which he has been admitted into Walpole’s Royal and Noble Authors:

      An Advice to the Farmers of East Lothian to Cultivate and Improve their Grounds.

      His speech in the Scots Parliament concerning the union, published in 1706.

      Memorable Speeches in the Last Parliament of Scotland, 1706, reprinted in 1733.

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