Dunbar Douglas, 4th Earl of Selkirk

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Dunbar Hamilton Douglas, 4th Earl of Selkirk FRSE (1 December 1722 – 24 June 1799) was a Scottish peer.


Born Dunbar Douglas, he adopted the name Hamilton Douglas upon his 1744 marriage to Helen Hamilton (d.1802), the grand-daughter of Lord Basil Hamilton, younger brother to John Hamilton, 3rd Earl of Selkirk.[1]

He attended Glasgow University from 1739, being greatly influenced by Francis Hutcheson, Professor of Moral Philosophy. In 1745 he was granted the honorary Doctorate of Civil Law.

Selkirk was a supporter of the government during the Jacobite Rising of 1745. He was Rector of the University of Glasgow from 1766 to 1768. He served as Lord Lieutenant of Kirkcudbright and, from 1787, as a representative peer for Scotland.[2]

He succeeded to the title of 4th Earl of Selkirk (creation of 1646 in the Peerage of Scotland) and 4th Lord Daer and Shortcleuch (creation of 1646 in the Peerage of Scotland) on 3 December 1744.

John Paul Jones seizes Lady Selkirk's silver

In 1778, during the American Revolutionary War, Selkirk was the target of a raid by John Paul Jones, who was sailing in the service of the Continental Navy. Jones landed his ship, the Ranger on the shore of St Mary's Isle, intending to kidnap the Earl. Finding only the countess and her young family at home, his men made off instead with the silver of the household.[3]

In 1782, he became a member of the radical Society for Constitutional Information.[4]

In 1785 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. His proposers were Dugald Stewart, James Hutton, and Adam Smith.[5]

Lord Selkirk died on the 24 June 1799 at his residence on George Street, Edinburgh and was buried at Holyrood Abbey on the 31st of that month[6]


Lord Selkirk married Helen Hamilton, daughter of Hon. John Hamilton and Margaret Home, on 3 December 1758. He had seven sons, six of whom predeceased him. The youngest, Thomas, succeeded him as 5th Earl of Selkirk in 1799.

Marriage (m.1758 - 1799) Helen Hamilton (c.1738 - 28 November 1802)
  1. Sholto Basil Douglas (1759-1760) (3 Sep 1759 - 4 Jul 1760) died in infancy
  2. Basil William Douglas, Lord Daer (1760-1794) (16 Mar 1763 - 9 Nov 1794)
  3. John Douglas, Lord Daer (1794-1797) (24 May 1765 - 9 Jul 1797)
  4. Hon. Dunbar Douglas (9 Jul 1766 - 29 Oct 1796) Commander, Royal Navy.
  5. Hon. Alexander Douglas (12 Dec 1767 - 24 Jun 1794) Captain, 38th Regiment of Foot.
  6. Lady Helen Hamilton Douglas (c. 1768 - 12 Jul 1837)
  7. Hon. David Douglas (5 Sep 1769 - 7 May 1770)
  8. Thomas Douglas, Lord Daer (1797-1809), later 5th Earl of Selkirk (1799-1820) (20 Jun 1771 - 8 Apr 1820)
  9. Lady Elizabeth Douglas (c.1789 - 28 Oct 1814)
  10. Lady Katherine Douglas (c.1790 - 31 Mar 1848)


  1. ^ "Dunbar Hamilton, later Douglas, 4th Earl of Selkirk". The Douglas Archives. 
  2. ^ "Earl of Selkirk". Cracroft's Peerage. 
  3. ^ Evan Thomas (2004). John Paul Jones: Sailor, Hero, Father of the American Nav. pp. 125–128. 
  4. ^ The collected writings of Lord Selkirk 1799-1809 (PDF). Manitoba Record Society. p. 9. 
  5. ^ 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. 
  6. ^ Balfour Paul, Sir James, Scots Peerage Edinburgh 1904. vol vii, p521
Peerage of Scotland
Preceded by
John Hamilton
Earl of Selkirk
Succeeded by
Thomas Douglas