George Campbell, 8th Duke of Argyll

George Campbell, 8th Duke of Argyll

George John Douglas Campbell, 8th and 1st Duke of Argyll (30 April, 182324 April, 1900) was a prominent United Kingdom Liberal politician as well as a writer on science, religion, and the politics of the 19th century.


He was born at Ardencaple Castle to John Campbell, 7th Duke of Argyll and Joan Glassel, the daughter of John Glassel, and succeeded his father in 1847. His talents and eloquence soon raised him to distinction in public life.

A close associate of Prince Albert, he served as Lord Privy Seal in the cabinet of Lord Aberdeen, and then as Postmaster General in Lord Palmerston's first cabinet. He was again Privy Seal in the second Palmerston administration, where he was notable as a strong advocate of the Northern cause in the American Civil War.

In Gladstone's first government, Argyll became Secretary of State for India, in which role his refusal to promise support against the Russians to the Emir of Afghanistan helped lead to the Second Afghan War. Argyll's wife, née Elizabeth Georgiana Leveson-Gower, also served as Mistress of the Robes in this government. In 1871, while actually serving in the Cabinet, his son and heir, Lord Lorne, married one of Queen Victoria's daughters, Princess Louise, enhancing his status as a leading Grandee.

In 1880 he again served under Gladstone, as Lord Privy Seal, but resigned a year later in opposition to the government's Irish policy. In 1886, he fully broke with Gladstone over the question of the Prime Minister's support for Irish Home Rule, although he did not join the Liberal Unionist Party, but pursued an independent course. He died in 1900, 6 days before his 77th birthday.


Argyll was not only a politician, but also an eminent scientist, or at least an eminent publicist on scientific matters, especially evolution and economics. He was a leader in the scholarly opposition against Darwinism (1869, 1884b) and an important reality-based (i.e., heterodox, non-classical) economist (1893) and institutionalist (1884a), in which latter capacity he was quite similar to his political opponent, Benjamin Disraeli, 1st Earl of Beaconsfield. While some of his works seemed quite strangely reactionary and obsolete at the times and for many decades, recent trends in scholarship - in evolutionary and institutional economics, as well as in ("post-genomic") biology - have led to some very positive reevaluation of his work. He was a man of the highest character, honest, courageous, and clear-sighted, and, though regarded by some professional scientists as to a certain extent an amateur, his ability, knowledge, and dialectic power made him a formidable antagonist, and enabled him to exercise a useful, generally conservative, influence on scientific thought and progress.

Key Works

* (1867) [ "The Reign of Law"] . London: Strahan. (5th Ed. in 1868).
* (1869) "Primeval Man: An Examination of some Recent Speculations". New York: Routledge.
* (1879) "The Eastern Question". London: Strahan.
* (1884) "The Unity of Nature". New York: Putnam.
* (1887) "Scotland As It Was and As It Is"
* (1893) "The Unseen Foundations of Society. An Examination of the Fallacies and Failures of Economic Science Due to Neglected Elements". London: John Murray.
* (1906) "Autobiography and Memoirs"

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