Sylvester Douglas, 1st Baron Glenbervie

British politician

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The Lord Glenbervie
Chief Secretary for Ireland
In office
Monarch George III
Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger
Preceded by Lord Hobart
Succeeded by Viscount Milton
Personal details
Born (1743-05-24)24 May 1743
Died 2 May 1823(1823-05-02) (aged 79)
Nationality British
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(m. 1789; died 1817)​

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Sylvester Douglas, 1st Baron Glenbervie, PC, KC, FRS, FRSE, FSA (24 May 1743 – 2 May 1823) was a British lawyer and politician. He was Chief Secretary for Ireland between 1793 and 1794.

Background, education and legal career[edit]

He was the son of John Douglas, descended from James Douglas, minister of Glenbervie in Aberdeenshire, son of Sir Archibald Douglas and half-brother of William Douglas, 9th Earl of Angus. His mother was Margaret Gordon, daughter and co-heir of James Gordon, of Fechel.[1] His sister Katherine married James Mercer, army officer and poet.[2]

Douglas was educated at the University of Aberdeen, graduating MA in 1765 and then studied both Law and Medicine at the University of Leyden. He was admitted to Lincoln’s Inn in London in 1771, was called to the Bar in 1776 and became King’s Counsel in 1793.[3]

Political career[edit]

The same year he was appointed a King’s Counsel Douglas gave up his legal career on his appointment as Chief Secretary for Ireland under William Pitt the Younger.[4] In 1794 he was admitted to both the Irish[5] and English Privy Council[6] and returned to the Irish House of Commons for St Canice,[7] a seat he held until 1796. In 1795 he was elected to the British House of Commons for Fowey.[8] He later represented Midhurst between 1796 and 1800,[9] Plympton Erle between 1801 and 1802[10] and Hastings between 1802 and 1806.[11]

He was asked to accompany Earl Macartney to the Cape of Good Hope in 1796 and, after 18 months there, to succeed him as governor. His wife did not like the idea and he declined the offer, even though an Irish peerage had also been offered.[12] In 1797 Douglas was made a Lord of the Treasury by Pitt,[13] In 1800 Douglas was asked for a second time to go to the Cape as governor.[14] He finally agreed in October 1800, again for an Irish peerage and was so appointed Governor of the Cape of Good Hope,[15] Douglas changed his mind again and accepted a post as Joint Paymaster of HM Forces, subsequently receiving £2731. 10s. in salary, paid from the Cape Treasury, even though he never went there.[16] At the end of the year on 29 November 1800 he was created Baron Glenbervie, of Kincardine, in Scotland.[17]

After serving as joint Paymaster of the Forces between 1801 and 1803[18] and Vice-President of the Board of Trade between 1801 and 1804,[19] he was Surveyor General of Woods, Forests, Parks, and Chases between 1803 and 1806[20] and 1807 and 1810. On the office of the Surveyor General of the Land Revenues of the Crown being combined with the former in 1810, became the First Commissioner of Woods and Forests, the head of the new department. He held the office until 1814.

Personal life[edit]

In 1789 Lord Glenbervie married Lady Catherine Anne, eldest daughter of Frederick North, Lord North.[21] Their only son Frederick Douglas sat as Member of Parliament for Banbury between 1812 and his early death in 1819.[22] Lady Glenbervie died in February 1817, aged 56. Glenbervie survived her by six years and died in May 1823, aged 79. As he had no surviving male issue the barony became extinct on his death.[21] His library was sold by R. H. Evans in London in two parts, on 13 June 1823 (and seven following days) and 5 July 1823 (and six following days; copies of the catalogue are at Cambridge University Library (shelfmark Munby.c.126(11) and Munby.c.126(13)).

In 1795 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London[23] and in 1806 elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, when his proposers were Allan Maconochie, Lord Meadowbank, Gilbert Innes and John Playfair.[24]


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  1. ^ A Biographical Peerage of the Empire of Ireland. London, 1817.
  2. ^ .mw-parser-output cite.citation{font-style:inherit;word-wrap:break-word}.mw-parser-output .citation q{quotes:”””””””‘””‘”}.mw-parser-output .citation:target{background-color:rgba(0,127,255,0.133)}.mw-parser-output a{background:url(“//”)right 0.1em center/9px no-repeat}body:not(.skin-timeless):not(.skin-minerva) .mw-parser-output .id-lock-free a{background-size:contain}.mw-parser-output a,.mw-parser-output a{background:url(“//”)right 0.1em center/9px no-repeat}body:not(.skin-timeless):not(.skin-minerva) .mw-parser-output .id-lock-limited a,body:not(.skin-timeless):not(.skin-minerva) .mw-parser-output .id-lock-registration a{background-size:contain}.mw-parser-output a{background:url(“//”)right 0.1em center/9px no-repeat}body:not(.skin-timeless):not(.skin-minerva) .mw-parser-output .id-lock-subscription a{background-size:contain}.mw-parser-output .cs1-ws-icon a{background:url(“//”)right 0.1em center/12px no-repeat}body:not(.skin-timeless):not(.skin-minerva) .mw-parser-output .cs1-ws-icon a{background-size:contain}.mw-parser-output .cs1-code{color:inherit;background:inherit;border:none;padding:inherit}.mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error{display:none;color:#d33}.mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error{color:#d33}.mw-parser-output .cs1-maint{display:none;color:#2C882D;margin-left:0.3em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-format{font-size:95%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-left{padding-left:0.2em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-right{padding-right:0.2em}.mw-parser-output .citation .mw-selflink{font-weight:inherit} .mw-parser-output .cs1-maint{color:#18911F} .mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error, .mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error{color:#f8a397}@media(prefers-color-scheme:dark){ .mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error, .mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error{color:#f8a397} .mw-parser-output .cs1-maint{color:#18911F}}Robinson, Roger J. “Mercer, James (bap. 1734, d. 1804)”. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/18572. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  3. ^ “No. 13500”. The London Gazette. 5 February 1793. p. 107.
  4. ^ Peerage: Gage to Glendale[usurped]
  5. ^ Privy Counsellors – Ireland[usurped]
  6. ^ “No. 13652”. The London Gazette. 6 May 1794. p. 410.
  7. ^ Irish House of Commons 1692–1800[usurped]
  8. ^ House of Commons: Fairfield to Fylde South[usurped]
  9. ^ House of Commons: Mayo to Minehead[usurped]
  10. ^ House of Commons: Plymouth to Putney[usurped]
  11. ^ House of Commons: Haslemere to Herefordshire[usurped]
  12. ^ Thorpe, History of Parliament online, Sylvester Douglas
  13. ^ “No. 13974”. The London Gazette. 24 January 1797. p. 75.
  14. ^ George McCall Theal, Records of the Cape Colony, Vol. III, Cape Town: Gov’t of the Cape Colony, 1898, p. 408.
  15. ^ “No. 15332”. The London Gazette. 27 January 1801. p. 125.
  16. ^ Theal, Records Vol. III, p. 491
  17. ^ “No. 15326”. The London Gazette. 10 January 1801. pp. 39–40.
  18. ^ “No. 15346”. The London Gazette. 17 March 1801. p. 306.
  19. ^ “No. 15428”. The London Gazette. 17 November 1801. p. 1383.
  20. ^ “No. 15547”. The London Gazette. 4 January 1803. p. 34.
  21. ^ a b Sylvester Douglas, 1st and last Baron Glenbervie
  22. ^ Catalogue of the papers of Frederick Sylvester North Douglas at
  23. ^ “Fellows details”. Royal Society. Retrieved 23 May 2016.
  24. ^ Biographical Index of Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783–2002 (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh. July 2006. ISBN 0-902-198-84-X.

External links[edit]

Parliament of Ireland
Preceded by

Member of Parliament for St Canice
With: John Monck Mason
Succeeded by

Parliament of Great Britain
Preceded by

Member of Parliament for Fowey
1795 – 1796
With: Philip Rashleigh
Succeeded by

Preceded by

Member of Parliament for Midhurst
With: Charles Long
Succeeded by

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by

Member of Parliament for Plympton Erle
July 1801 – 1802
With: Richard Hankey
Succeeded by

Preceded by

Member of Parliament for Hastings
With: George Gunning
Succeeded by

Political offices
Preceded by

Chief Secretary for Ireland
Succeeded by

Preceded by

Paymaster of the Forces
With: Thomas Steele
Succeeded by

Preceded by

Vice-President of the Board of Trade
Succeeded by

Preceded by

Surveyor General of Woods, Forests, Parks, and Chases
Succeeded by

Preceded by

Surveyor General of Woods, Forests, Parks, and Chases
Office abolished
New office First Commissioner of Woods and Forests
Succeeded by

Academic offices
Unknown Rector of King’s College, Aberdeen
Peerage of Ireland
New creation
Baron Glenbervie