James Douglas papers  1738-1850 (bulk 1738-1787)
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British naval officer James Douglas (1703-1787) was born to George Douglas of Friarshaw, Roxburghshire, and Elizabeth Scott. He entered the Royal Navy in 1715 and by 1738 was an officer stationed in the West Indies. He sailed with Admiral Vernon in the expedition against Cartagena (1741) and served with Commodore Peter Warren, as captain of the Mermaid , at the Siege of Louisburg. He sat in Parliament for Orkney and Shetland, 1754-1768, during which time he served as a member of the court martial that tried and convicted Admiral Byng, in 1757. He was absent from Parliament on active service during the Seven Years War, during which he participated in the Rochefort expedition (1756) and the British victory at Québec (1759), and serving as commander of the squadron which captured Dominica (Martinique) in 1761. In 1762, he served with George Brydges Rodney at Martinique and with Sir George Pocock at the Siege of Havana. Douglas was promoted to rear admiral and served as commander in chief of the West Indies, 1763-1765. He returned as commander in chief at Portsmouth and Spithead, 1773-1776 where he relayed news about the war in America to the Secretary of the Admiralty Sir Philip Stephens. Douglas was made admiral in 1782 but retired from active service shortly after the appointment (see Additional Descriptive Data for a timeline of Douglas' service career).

Douglas married Helen Brisbane, daughter of Thomas Brisbane in 1753. They had 4 sons and 2 daughters. Helen died in 1766 at age 38. Douglas married again in 1768 to Lady Helen Boyle, daughter of John Earl of Glasgow.