CLEPHANE, David (b.c.1760), of Kirkness, Kinross.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer



23 Aug. 1803 - 1806
17 Aug. 1807 - June 1811

Family and Education

b. c.1760, 2nd s. of George Clephane, 19th or 20th of Carslogie, Fife, by 2nd w. Anne Jean, da. and h. of Rev. Robert Douglas, minister of Portmoak, Kinross, by Helen, da. and h. of Sir Robert Douglas of Kirkness; bro. of William Douglas MacLean Clephane*. m. 9 Jan. 1806, Laetitia, da. of Jonas Bold of Liverpool, Lancs., 2s. 1da.

Offices Held

Ensign 65 Ft. 1777, lt. 1778; capt. 95 Ft. 1780; capt. 20 Ft. 1785, brevet maj. 1794, lt.-col. 1795, brevet col. 1803, brig.-gen. 1805, ret. 1808.

Commr. of excise [S] 1811-15.


Like his elder brother William, Clephane was a life-renter in Kinross, in right of his mother’s inheritance, in 1788. On William’s promotion to a colonial governorship in 1803, he succeeded him unopposed as county Member on the independent interest, though there were some reservations as to his fitness on their part. On 25 May 1803 his brother informed their patron William Adam* that ‘Davie’ wished for a Guards company to be filled up from the line, a request that he had transmitted to Sir Henry Clinton ‘and put ... upon the footing of his getting into Parliament and by that means not clashing with his military duty’. As the Duke of York considered Clephane’s remaining with the 20th Foot ‘indispensably necessary’, Clephane begged Adam on 13 Sept. 1803 to induce the duke to give him a home appointment which would prevent his proceeding to Malta with his regiment. Adam did not succeed. Clephane took his seat, but at the end of the year had to apply for leave of absence.1

On his return Clephane was listed a supporter of Pitt’s second ministry. He was named to the Middlesex election committee, 19 Feb. 1805, and gave, so he later alleged, ‘the most unremitting attendance’ during Melville’s ordeal, appearing in the government minority against the censure, 8 Apr. 1805. On the change of ministry in February 1806 he received a letter ‘saying no more than this, that Lord Moira is the soldier’s friend, and you cannot do better than stick to his lordship’.2 Listed pro-government, he took no obvious part that session—he seems never to have uttered in debate—and went out of Parliament at the dissolution having, according to Adam, been prepared to resign in his favour before that event was fixed.

In 1807 Adam was at first returned for Kinross, but chose to sit for Kincardine. Clephane replaced him with Adam’s conditional concurrence and with the approval of Melville, who counted him as a friend. To Melville he applied about April 1808 for a situation in the Treasury reported to be ‘on the eve of becoming vacant’.3 On 12 July 1810 Clephane informed Melville’s son that he wanted a seat at the board of excise. He had, as he had explained in a previous letter of 10 June, declined a brigadier’s post abroad two years before on Dundas’s own advice and, seeing that this was construed as a refusal of all preferment, he had left the army and devoted himself to parliamentary support of government. Despite this, several places promised him by Perceval and Dundas had not materialized. He was now hard up and ill.4 He had certainly been assiduous in attendance in 1810, appearing for government in the divisions on the address and the Scheldt inquiry, 23 Jan., 23 Feb., 5 and 30 Mar.; against radical agitation, 16 Apr., and against sinecure and parliamentary reform, 17 and 21 May. He was also in the government minority on the Regency question, 1 Jan. 1811. By March 1811 he was assured of a place at the Scotch board of excise, for which he vacated his seat.5 He was replaced in 1815 and was dead by 1828.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. Blair Adam mss, Moncreiff Wellwood to Adam, 10 May, MacLean Clephane to same, 25 May, Clephane to same, 13 Sept., 1 Oct., Sat. [1803].
  • 2. Horner mss 3, f. 17.
  • 3. SRO GD51/1/195/27; 51/6/1623.
  • 4. SRO GD51/5/364/17.
  • 5. Blair Adam mss, Sandilands to Adam, 10 Apr. 1811.