BLAIR, William (-d.1841), of Blair, nr. Dalry, Ayr and 18 Downing Street, Westminster, Mdx.
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Family and Educationo.s. of Maj. Hamilton Blair of Blair and Jane, da. of Sydenham Williams of Herringston, Dorset. m. 13 Apr. 1789,1 Madelene, da. of John Fordyce of Ayton, Berwick, commr. of woods and forests, 5s. (3 d.v.p.), 7da. (2 d.v.p.). suc. fa. 1782. d. 21 Oct. 1841.
Lt.-col. Ayr. fencible cav. 1795.
Blair’s family had been prominent in Ayrshire for over 600 years and boasted a long tradition of military service. At the county meeting in April 1821 he seconded the petition against any change to the Scottish jury system.2 He was returned unopposed at a by-election in May 1829, following the death of the sitting Member, and declared that ‘from his earliest years he had imbibed what are generally called Tory principles’, which he believed were ‘best suited to the government of the country’. He therefore ‘considered it his duty’ to support the duke of Wellington’s ministry ‘while such principles regulated their conduct’, but emphasized that ‘he went into Parliament without the influence of the administration ... as a free and independent country gentleman’.3 He gave no recorded votes in the 1829 and 1830 sessions of Parliament. He is not known to have spoken in debate, but he presented a Kilmarnock council petition against renewal of the East India Company’s charter, 5 Apr. He presented petitions from Glasgow in favour of, and Irvine and Saltcoats against, the Glasgow harbour bill, 27 Apr., and from Dumbarton council against, and Irvine and Saltcoats for, the Clyde navigation bill, 29 Apr. 1830. He was returned unopposed at the general election that summer.4
The ministry regarded him as one of their ‘friends’, and he voted with them in the crucial civil list division, 15 Nov. 1830. He presented a synod of Glasgow and Ayr anti-slavery petition, 8 Nov. 1830. He divided against the second reading of the Grey ministry’s reform bill, 22 Mar., and for Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831. At the ensuing general election he offered for Ayrshire, maintaining that he was willing to ‘support a moderate and constitutional plan of reform, which would tend to the benefit of the nation and the security of property’, and added opaquely that ‘so far as the present ... bill shall go to assist the manufacturing labourer of this country, I declare to God it shall have my best support’. His return ahead of a local reformer, Richard Oswald, sparked a riot.5 He was absent from the division on the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, but voted to use the 1831 census for the purpose of scheduling boroughs, 19 July, and against the bill’s passage, 21 Sept., and the second reading of the Scottish bill, 23 Sept. 1831. He divided for inquiry into the effects on the West India interest of renewing the Sugar Refinery Act, 12 Sept., and against the Maynooth grant, 26 Sept. He paired against the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831, and voted against the enfranchisement of Tower Hamlets, 28 Feb., and the third reading, 22 Mar. 1832. He divided against government on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., 12 July. He voted against the malt drawback bill, 2 Apr. 1832.
At the general election of 1832 Blair stood again for Ayrshire, promising to pursue the same ‘independent’ course, and claimed that he had ‘never separated a regard for [the county’s] agricultural interests from those of its commerce and manufactures, which ... ought ever to be united’. However, he was heavily defeated by Oswald.6 He died in Edinburgh in October 1841 and left his landed estate to his eldest surviving son, William Fordyce Blair (1805-88), a naval captain.7