James Coutts - banker

James Coutts

Born Mar 10, 1733
Died 1778 at Gibraltar

Biography: 

A succesful London banker. Son of John Coutts (1699-1750), Lord Provost of Edinburgh (1742-44). Brother of Thomas Coutts. Married (1755) to Mary Peagrum. Member of Parliament (1762-1768). A third cousin of Boswell, both being great-great-grandsons of Sir John Cochrane of Ochiltree.

Originally a partner in Coutts Brothers & Co. (the other partners being his brothers Thomas, John and Patrick) , in 1755 James Coutts left the family firm and became a partner in Bankers of 59 Strand, which changed its name to Campbell & Coutts. In 1761 he invited his brother Thomas Coutts (d. 1822) to join him, and the company again changed name, this time to James & Thomas Coutts. It later became known as Coutts & Co., which exists to this day as a part of the NatWest group. Pottle mentions that James Coutts, by 1776, "had been virtually insane for some years and had been bought out by Thomas in 1775". (BOY, p. 309)

Sir William Forbes wrote of him that

"Mr. James Coutts gave as close application to business as his immediate elder brother [John Coutts]; but he was by no means of so amiable a character; and, never having been out of Edinburgh, he had not those polished manners which his two elder brothers [Patrick and John] had acquired by living abroad and mixing in the world. He was nearly as passionate as Mr. John Coutts; but he differed from him in retaining a longer resentment. [...] At last an unhappy difference arose between him and his youngest brother Thomas, whom he had assumed as a partner, which ended in their final separation. In consequence of that event, Mr James Coutts went abroad with his daughter, an only child, accompanied by a female relative as her companion. At Turin he was seized with the same malady as his eldest brother, of which he had previously shewn symptoms, but which attacked him in a different manner. It was thought expedient that he should go home by sea, and the vessel having touched at Gibraltar, he died there, early in the year 1778."1

  • 1. Forbes, W. (1860). Memoirs of a banking-house. p. 11.

Life with Boswell: 

Boswell visited James Coutts on Christmas day, 1762 and had dinner with him on January 11, 1763, referring to him as his banker. There were close family and business ties between J & T Coutts and Herries, Cochrane & Co (manager William Cochrane), which might explain (although not fully) why Boswell refers to both Cochrane and Coutts as his banker at various times.