ABERCROMBY, Robert (1784-1855), of Birkenbog and Forglen, Banff.
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Family and Education
b. 4 Feb. 1784, 1st s. of Sir George Abercromby, 4th Bt., of Birkenbog by Hon. Jane Ogilvy, da. and h. of Alexander, 7th Lord Banff [S]. m. 22 Oct. 1816, Elizabeth Stephenson, da. of Samuel Douglas of Netherlaw, Kirkcudbright, 4s. 8da. suc. fa. as 5th Bt. 18 July 1831.
Abercromby stood heir to one of the oldest baronetcies in Scotland and to Banffshire estates which were augmented through his mother’s inheritance. His father, who was sheriff of Elginshire for almost 50 years, had emerged by 1806 as the most powerful electoral prop for the Banffshire sitting Member (Sir) William Grant*, whose tenure was under constant challenge from James Duff, 2nd Earl Fife.
In 1812 Abercromby, who was in Ireland at the time, was informed by Grant of his plan to retire at the dissolution and of Lord Melville’s wish that he should stand for the county to prevent it falling into hostile hands.1 He did so and was returned unopposed. The following year he apparently offered his own or his father’s services as lord lieutenant of Banffshire, a position which had been filled in an acting capacity by Sir George since Fife’s death in 1809. He was clearly disappointed at being passed over in favour of Fife’s nephew James Duff*, the 4th Earl, and wrote to Melville, 7 June:
My father has always been at a good deal of trouble and a very considerable expense in keeping the county right ... As his means are but small, having a pretty large debt on the property which does not exceed in gross rental £2,500, and at the same time a large family, he can but ill afford this expense, and with a view to lessen the burden to him I am very anxious to get some employment.2
He voted with government on the civil list, 8 May 1815 and 24 May 1816, the Regent’s expediture, 31 May 1815, the army estimates, 6 Mar. 1816, the composition of the finance committee, 7 Feb., Admiralty economies, 17 and 25 Feb. 1817, and the employment of spies, 5 Mar. 1818. His only known wayward votes were for Charles Williams Wynn as Speaker, 2 June 1817, and to reduce the Duke of Clarence’s allowance, 15 Apr. 1818, when he had already announced his intention of retiring from the House. He voted for Catholic relief, 2 Mar., 13 and 24 May 1813, though on 11 May he was in the minority in favour of safeguards. In his only reported speech, 18 Mar. 1816, he argued that the property tax was not unpopular in Scotland and he voted for its continuance in the subsequent division. He took periods of sick leave in 1814 and 1817.3
His marriage increased his financial problems. On 5 Mar. 1818 he asked Melville to secure the transfer to him, for life, of his father’s sinecure office of clerk for the admission of notaries in Scotland; but on being informed that it was among those to be made efficient on the first vacancy, under the terms of an Act of the previous year (57 Geo. III c. 64), he told Melville, 12 Mar.:
I must give up all hopes of it, and as I really cannot afford a longer continuance in Parliament upon such allowance as I have at present, I do not intend to be a candidate ... at the ensuing general election ... I have been supporting myself upon my little capital instead of the interest thereof for some time past ... with a wife and children to go on in the same course would be madness.4
Abercromby, who in 1820 unsuccessfully petitioned George IV to create his mother Baroness Banff with remainder to her heirs male, or to call him to the Lords in the same title, died 6 July 1855.5