James Douglas, 14th Earl of Morton

James Douglas, 14th Earl of Morton, KT, PRS (1702 – 12 October 1768) was a Scottish astronomer and representative peer who was President of the Philosophical Society of Edinburgh from its foundation in 1737 until his death.[1] He also became President of the Royal Society (24 March 1764), and was a distinguished patron of science, and particularly of astronomy.

He was born in Edinburgh as the son of George Douglas, 13th Earl of Morton and his second wife Frances Adderley. He graduated MA from King's College, Cambridge in 1722.[2][3] In 1746 he visited France, and was imprisoned in the Bastille, probably as a Jacobite.[4] He had a long lasting tendency to protest the actions of the British government.


He was twice married: first to Agatha, daughter of James Halyburton of Pitcur, Forfarshire, by whom he was the father of three sons, two of whom died young, while the second, Sholto Charles Douglas, 15th Earl of Morton, succeeded him; and secondly to Bridget, daughter of Sir John Heathcote, bart., of Normanton, who bore him a son and daughter, and who outlived him thirty-seven years.


Moreton Bay in Queensland, Australia was named after Lord Morton by Lieutenant James Cook (the spelling being an error in the published account of Cook's voyage in HMS Endeavour). Lord Morton had been influential in obtaining a grant of £4,000 to finance the voyage.[5] Cook had been instructed by the earl to regard the native populations of the places he might visit as "human creatures, the work of the same omnipotent Author, equally under his care with the most polished European ... No European nation has the right to occupy any part of their country ... without their voluntary consent“.[6]


  1. Emerson, Roger L. (1985). "The Philosophical Society of Edinburgh 1768–1783". The British Journal for the History of Science. Cambridge University Press. 18 (3): 255. doi:10.1017/s0007087400022391.
  2. Anita Guerrini, 'Douglas, James, fourteenth earl of Morton (1702–1768)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, Oct 2005. Retrieved 26 August 2008. So also the original DNB
  3. "Douglas, James (DGLS720J)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  4. "Douglas, James (1702-1768)" . Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
  5. "Moreton Bay (entry 22810)". Queensland Place Names. Queensland Government. Retrieved 12 December 2016.
  6. King, Michael: The Penguin History of New Zealand, location 1237/6839 Kindle edition, Penguin Books 2003.
Masonic offices
Preceded by
The Earl of Kintore
Grand Master of the
Grand Lodge of Scotland

Succeeded by
The Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne
Grand Master of the
Premier Grand Lodge of England

Succeeded by
The Lord Ward
Political offices
Preceded by
Alexander Hume Campbell
Lord Clerk Register
Succeeded by
Lord Frederick Campbell
Peerage of Scotland
Preceded by
George Douglas

Earl of Morton

Succeeded by
Sholto Douglas

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