National Records of Scotland

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John Hamilton (1656-1708)

John Hamilton (1656-1708)

Politician

John Hamilton, second lord Belhaven and Stenton, was a virulent opponent of the parliamentary union of Scotland and England in 1707. His speeches continued to be printed throughout the eighteenth century. He was, along with Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun, one of the most eloquent and inflammatory of politicians. His opposition to James VII and II had resulted in imprisonment.

He was also a proponent of agricultural improvement, publishing a handbook, 'The Countryman's Rudiments', in 1699. He also invested heavily in the ill-fated scheme to set up a Scots colony on the Darien peninsula in Panama. These were all attempts to improve the lot of a country that was suffering from severe famine and economic decline.

At first the victim of his acerbic wit, John soon became a friend of the English secret agent Daniel Defoe. Defoe had been critical of his shaky grammar but described him as 'a person of extraordinary parts and capacity' in his 'History of the Union'.

Testament of John, lord Belhaven

(National Records of Scotland, CC8/8/84 pp617-618)

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