Bishop John Douglas




John Douglas (July 14, 1721 – May 18, 1807) was a Scottish scholar and  bishop. As chaplain to the 3rd Regiment of Foot Guards, he was at the Battle of Fontenoy, 1745, where he was employed in carrying orders from General Campbell to a detachment of English troops.. He then returned to Balliol as a Snell exhibitioner; became Vicar of High Ercall, Shropshire in 1750; Canon of Windsor in 1762; Bishop of Carlisle in 1787 (and also Dean of Windsor in 1788); and Bishop of Salisbury in 1791. Other honours were the degree of DD (1758), and those of Fellow of the Royal Society and Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries.

John Douglas, D. D., bishop of Salisbury, and of Carlisle, was born at Pittenweem, Fifeshire, in the year 1721. His father was Mr Archibald Douglas, a respectable merchant of that town, a son of a younger brother of the ancient family of Tilliquilly.


Young Douglas commenced his education at the schools of Dunbar, whence in the year 1736, he was removed, and entered commoner of St Mary’s college, Oxford. In the year 1738, he was elected exhibitioner on bishop Warner’s foundation, in Baliol college; and in 1741, he took his bachelor’s degree. In order to acquire a facility in speaking the French language. He went abroad, and remained for some time at Montreal in Picardy, and afterwards at Ghent in Flanders. Having returned to college in 1743, he was ordained deacon, and in the following year he was appointed chaplain to the third foot guards, and joined the regiment in Flanders, where it was then serving with the allied army. During the period of his service abroad, Dr Douglas occupied himself chiefly in the study of modern languages; but at the same time he took a lively interest in the operations of the army, and, at the battle of Fontenoy, was employed in carrying orders from general Campbell to a detachment of English troops. He returned to England along with that body of troops, which was ordered home on the breaking out of the rebellion of 1745; and having gone back to college, he was elected one of the exhibitioners on Mr Snell’s foundation. In the year 1747, he was ordained priest, and became curate of Tilehurst, near Reading, and afterwards of Dunstew, in Oxfordshire.


On the recommendation of Sir Charles Stuart and lady Allen, he was selected by the earl of Bath to accompany his only son lord Pulteney, as tutor, in his travels on the continent. Dr Douglas has left a MS. account of this tour, which relates chiefly to the governments and political relations of the countries through which they passed. In the year 1749, he returned home; and although lord Pulteney was prematurely cut off,, yet the fidelity with which Dr Douglas had discharged his duty to his pupil, procured him the lasting friendship and valuable patrol age of the earl of Bath; by whom he was presented to the free chapel of Eaton-Constantine, and the donative of Uppington, in Shropshire. In the following year (1750), he published his first literary work, "The Vindication of Milton," from the charge of plagiarism, brought against him by the impostor Lauder. In the same year he was presented by the earl of Bath to the vicarage of High Ercal, in Shropshire, when he vacated Eaton-Constantine.


Dr Douglas resided only occasionally on his livings. At the desire of the earl of Bath, he took a house in town, near Bath-House, where he passed the winter months and in summer he generally accompanied lord Bath to the fashionable watering places, or in his visits among the nobility and gentry.


In the year 1752, he married Miss Dorothy Pershouse, who died within three months after her nuptials. He married, secondly, Elizabeth, who died ?15th April 1802. She was the daughter of Brudenell Rice Rooke.  There was a son, who died 19th March 1810, ??? of the Diocese of Salisbury, and a daughter, Mary.


In 1754, he published "The Criterion of Miracles." In 1755, he wrote a pamphlet against the Hutchinsonians, Methodists, and other religious sects, which he published under the title of "An Apology for the clergy," and soon after, he published an ironical defence of these sectarians, entitled "The Destruction of the French foretold by Ezekiel."


For many years Dr Douglas seems to have engaged in writing political pamphlets, an occupation most unbecoming a clergyman. In the year 1761, he was appointed one of his majesty’s chaplains, and in 1762, through the interest of the earl of Bath, he was made canon of Windsor. In 1762, he superintended the publication of "Henry the Earl of Clarendon’s Diary and Letters;"and wrote the preface which is pre-fixed to that work. In June, of that year, he accompanied the earl of Bath to Spa, where he became acquainted with the hereditary prince of Brunswick, who received him with marked attention, and afterwards honoured him with his correspondence. Of this correspondence, (although it is known that Dr Douglas kept a copy of all his own letters, and although it was valuable from its presenting a detailed account of the state of parties at the time,) no trace can now be discovered.


In the year 1764, the earl of Bath died, and left his library to Dr Douglas, but as general Pulteney wished to preserve it in the family, it was redeemed for a thousand pounds. On the death of general Pulteney, however, it was again left to Dr Douglas, when it was a second time redeemed for the same sum.


In 1764, he exchanged his livings in Shropshire for that of St Austin and St Faith in Watling Street, London. In April 1765, Dr Douglas married Miss Elizabeth Brooke, the daughter of Henry Brudenell Brooke. In the year 1773, he assisted Sir John Dalrymple in the arrangement of his MSS. In 1776, he was removed from the chapter of Windsor to that of St Pauls. At the request of lord Sandwich, first lord of the admiralty, he prepared for publication the journal of Captain Cooke’s voyages. In the year 1777, he assisted Lord Hardwick in arranging and publishing his Miscellaneous Papers. In the following year he was elected member of the royal and the antiquarian societies. In 1781, at the request of lord Sandwich, he prepared for publication Captain Cooke’s third and last voyage; to which he supplied the introduction and notes. In the same year he was chosen president of Zion college, and preached the customary Latin sermon. In 1786, he was elected one of the vice-presidents of the antiquarian society, and in the month of March of the following year, he was elected one of the trustees of the British museum. In September, 1787, he was made bishop of Carlisle. In 1788, he succeeded to the Deanery of Windsor, for which he vacated his residentiaryship of St Pauls, and in 1791 he was translated to the See of Salisbury.


Having reached the 86th year of his age, he died on the 18th of May, 1807. He was buried in one of the vaults of St George’s chapel in Windsor Castle, and was attended to the grave by the duke of Sussex.

Mr Douglas had the honour to be a member of the club instituted by Dr Johnson, and is frequently mentioned in Boswell’s life of the lexicographer; he is also twice mentioned by Goldsmith in the "Retaliation." We are told by his son that his father was an indefatigable reader and writer, and that he was scarcely ever to be seen without a book or a pen; but the most extraordinary feature in the career of this reverend prelate is his uniform good fortune, which makes the history of his life little more than the chronicle of the honours and preferments which were heaped upon him.


[The following is a list of bishop Douglas’s works: "Vindication of Milton from the charge of Plagiarism, adduced by Lauder," 1750. "A letter on the criterion of miracles," 1754, principally intended as an antidote against the writings of Hume, Voltaire, and the philosophers." "An apology for the clergy against the Hutchinsonians, Methodists, &c." "The destruction of the French foretold by Ezekiel," 1759. This was an ironical defence of those he had attacked in the preceding pamphlet. "An attack on certain positions combined in Bower’s history of the Popes, &c." 1756. "A serious defence of the administration," 1756, - being an attack on the cabinet of that day for introducing foreign troops. "Bower and Tillemont compared," 1757. "A full confutation of Bower’s three defences." "The complete and final detection of Bower." "The conduct of the late noble commander (lord George Sackville, afterwards lord George Germain) candidly considered," 1759. This was the defence of a very unpopular character. "A letter to two great men on the appearance of peace," 1759. "A preface to the translation of Hooke’s Negotiations," 1760. "The sentiments of a Frenchman on the preliminaries of peace," 1762. "The introduction and notes to captain Cooke’s third voyage." "The anniversary sermon on the martyrdom of king Charles, preached before the house of Lords," 1788. "The anniversary sermon preached before the Society for the propagation of the Gospel," 1793. Besides these, bishop Douglas wrote several political papers in the public Advertiser in 1763, -66, -70, -71. He also superintended the publication of lord Clarendon’s Letter and Diary, and assisted lord Hardwick and Sir John Dalrymple in arranging their MSS. for publication, and he drew up Mr Hearne’s narrative, and finished the introduction.]




Douglas Island, in Alaska, was named after him.



• In a Hoppner portrait at Lambeth Palace, John Douglas is wearing the Register's badge and, half hidden beneath his hands, another badge.


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