Linlithgowshire (West Lothian)


Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009
Available from Cambridge University Press

Background Information

Number of enrolled freeholders:

65 in 1820 and 1826; 68 in 1830



Main Article

Linlithgowshire was the third smallest Scottish county in area (120 square miles). Its agriculture had flourished under improving techniques since the 1770s. There was small-scale coal mining at Bo’ness on the coast. Besides the royal burghs of Linlithgow and Queensferry, the other sizeable settlements were Bathgate and Broxburn.1 In this period the electoral interest of the Hopes, earls of Hopetoun, of Hopetoun House, near Queensferry, was unchallenged; and the veteran Melvillite Tory and military administrator Sir Alexander Hope, the half-brother of the 4th earl, the lord lieutenant, continued to occupy the seat which he had first taken in 1800. Even though he was abroad, 1821-3, subsequently resided in England as governor of Sandhurst and lieutenant-governor of Chelsea Hospital and was an indifferent attender, there was no opposition to him before 1832.2 In January 1828, however, Henry David Erskine of Amondale told the 2nd Viscount Melville that when he became 12th earl of Buchan on the death of his aged uncle (this occurred in April 1829) he would bolster the status quo in the county against the ‘rapidly increasing’ influence of the 4th earl of Rosebery of Dalmeny Park.3 Hopetoun died in August 1823, leaving his eldest son fifteen months short of his majority, and the Liverpool ministry, prompted by Hope, put the lord lieutenancy into commission until he came of age.4

A county meeting chaired by Hopetoun and attended by Hope unanimously voted a loyal address to George IV in the context of the Queen Caroline affair, 5 Jan. 1821.5 A petition from Bo’ness ship owners for reduction of the duty on Scottish coal reached the Commons, 15 Feb. 1821.6 The county petitioned the Commons for relief from agricultural distress, 30 May 1821, 1 Apr. 1822, and against relaxation of the corn laws, 29 Apr. 1825, 14 May 1828.7 The freeholders and agriculturists petitioned the Commons for the free export of Scottish spirits to England, 6 May 1824, and both Houses against alteration of the Scottish banking system in 1826.8 The inhabitants of Bo’ness petitioned the Commons for the abolition of slavery, 17 June 1824, 21 Apr. 1826, 16 Feb. 1831.9 Petitions against Catholic emancipation, to which Hope gave token opposition, were sent up from Bathgate, Bo’ness and Whitburn in 1829, when a favourable one was also promoted in Bathgate.10 In 1830 both Houses were petitioned by the freeholders and others for adequate protection for the growers of corn used in distillation.11 Heritors and proprietors of Bo’ness petitioned the Commons, 14 Dec., and the Lords, 15 Dec. 1830, for parliamentary reform in Scotland, as did the council and inhabitants of Bathgate, 18 Feb. 1831.12 A county meeting chaired by James Johnston, Member for Stirling Burghs, 29 Jan., petitioned both Houses for an extension of the Scottish franchise.13 The council and inhabitants of Bathgate petitioned in support of the Grey ministry’s reform scheme, which Hope opposed, in March 1831.14 The freeholders and West Lothian Agricultural Society petitioned against the use of molasses in brewing and distilling in August 1831.15 The council and inhabitants of Bathgate petitioned the Lords in support of the reform bills, 4 Oct. 1831, and the Commons for supplies to be withheld until reform was secured, 21 May 1832.16

At the general election of 1832, when Linlithgowshire had a reformed registered electorate of 730, the Liberals were confident of turning out Hope, but he defeated his distant kinsman James Joseph Hope Vere* by 14 votes in a poll of 520. He retired in 1834 and was replaced by his nephew James Hope. The county remained in Conservative hands until 1865.17

Author: David R. Fisher


  • 1. Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland (1895), iv. 521-5.
  • 2. Caledonian Mercury, 19, 26 Feb., 2, 27 Mar. 1820, 8, 22 June 1826, 31 July, 12 Aug. 1830, 30 Apr., 19 May 1831.
  • 3. NLS mss 2, f. 109.
  • 4. Add. 40358, f. 359; 40370, f. 92.
  • 5. Caledonian Mercury, 8 Jan. 1821.
  • 6. CJ, lxxvi. 75.
  • 7. Ibid. 394; lxxvii. 162; lxxx. 354; lxxxiii. 349.
  • 8. Ibid. lxxix. 332; lxxxi. 130, 270; LJ, lviii. 144, 166.
  • 9. CJ, lxxix. 507; lxxxi. 270; lxxxvi. 255.
  • 10. Ibid. lxxxiv. 160; LJ, lxi. 255, 330, 365, 367.
  • 11. CJ, lxxxv. 410; LJ, lxii. 138, 383.
  • 12. CJ, lxxxvi. 175, 269; LJ, lxiii. 175, 240.
  • 13. Caledonian Mercury, 3 Feb. 1831; LJ, lxiii. 315; CJ, lxxxvi. 371.
  • 14. CJ, lxxxvi. 372; LJ, lxiii. 325.
  • 15. CJ, lxxxvi. 733; LJ, lxiii. 907.
  • 16. LJ, lxiii. 1053; CJ, lxxxvii. 326.
  • 17. Cockburn Letters, 425; Caledonian Mercury, 20, 22 Dec. 1832; Scottish Electoral Politics, 220, 238, 254-5.