Son of John McDouall and Elizabeth Dalrymple. In 1768 he inherited the Earldom of Dumfries from his maternal uncle, William Dalrymple-Crichton (1699-1768). On September 12, 1771, he married Margaret Craufurd, daughter of Ronald Crauford, with whom he had one child, Elizabeth Penelope.1
- 1Elizabeth (1772-1797) married John Stuart (1767-1794), Lord Mount Stuart, in 1792. They had two children, one of whom, John Patrick (1793-1848), succeeded his maternal grandfather to become the 7th Earl of Dumfries in 1803. The happiness of Lord and Lady Mount Stuart was short, however, both of them dying before any of their two sons reached the age of four.
The lands of Dumfries House, the home of the Earl of Dumfries, lay directly adjacent to the lands of Auchinleck House, and is actually slightly closer to the city of Auchinleck itself, than the Boswell home. Despite this, the Boswells seems to have had - in the 1770s at least - very limited contact with their neighbour the Earl, in part due to a dispute about an access road through the Auchinleck estate to Dumfries House.
In his journal of November 2, 1778, James Boswell wrote that at a dinner in Rosemount, “[The Earl of Dumfries] was exceedingly attentive to me [...] I was upon my guard, as I well knew that he and his Countess flattered themselves that they would get from me that road through our estate which my father had refused, and which in truth I was still more positive for refusing [etc.]” - he repeated in a later entry (September 1780) that the families were not on visiting terms, on account of the dispute about the road. He again described the Earl as “very attentive” at the funeral of Alexander Boswell, Lord Auchinleck, on September 4, 1782.
Shortly after Lord Auchinleck’s death, however, the Earl and Lady Dumfries paid a courtesy call to James at Auchinleck House, and he and his wife in turn visited Dumfries House on October 14, 1782, noting in his journal that“[o]ur visit was a little awkward, as there had been no communication between the families for several of the last years of my father’s life [...] I, however, wished to live on civil terms with such near neighbours [etc.]”.
On October 27, 1782, Boswell - then in the company of an acquaintance - wrote that “we looked at Lord Dumfries’s gate and the famous road. [...] I showed him that granting it would make the Auchinleck improvements appear part of the Earl of Dumfries’s domains. [...] If Lord Eglinton - if my Earl - were Earl of Dumfries and living at Dumfries House, he should have the road, but not to him and his heirs. [etc.]”
The Earl is mentioned a few more times in Boswell’s journals for the remainder of the 1780s, and they appear to have been quite civil to each other, Boswell even visiting the Earl a few times in London in 1787 and 1788.