DAVIDSON, Duncan (?1800-1881), of Tulloch Castle, Dingwall, Ross.

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



1826 - 1830
1831 - 1832

Family and Education

b.?1800, 1st s. of Henry Davidson, West India merchant, of Tulloch and Fenchurch Buildings, London and Caroline Elizabeth, da. of John Diffell. educ. Harrow 1813-15; Edinburgh Univ.; L. Inn 29 Apr. 1820, ‘aged 20’. m. (1) 20 June 1825, Hon. Elizabeth Diana Bosville Macdonald (d. 9 June 1839), da. of Godfrey, 3rd Bar. Macdonald [I], 2s. 7da. (3 d.v.p.); (2) 29 June 1841, Eleanora Dalrymple (d. 24 Dec. 1845), da. of Sir James Fergusson, 4th bt., of Kilkerran, Ayr, 3da.; (3) 2 May 1846, Arabella (d. 1847), da. of Hugh Rose Ross of Cromarty, s.p.; (4) 5 Apr. 1849, Mary (d. 27 Oct. 1867), da. of John Mackenzie of Gairloch, Ross, 3s. (1 d.v.p.) 3da.; (5) 14 Apr. 1877, Sarah. da. of Col. Jasper Taylor Hall of Overbury, Worcs., s.p. suc. fa. 1827. d. 18 Sept. 1881.

Offices Held

Cornet (half-pay) 19 Drag. 1821; ensign and lt. 1 Ft. Gds. 1822; ensign and lt. (half-pay) 2 Ft. Gds. 1825-47.

Ld. lt. Ross 1879-d.


Davidson’s grandfather, Duncan Davidson (1733-99), a London West India merchant with premises at 14 Fenchurch Buildings and the owner of Tulloch Castle, Ross-shire following the death of his elder brother and business partner Henry in 1781, was Member for Cromartyshire in the 1790 Parliament.1 On his death the Scottish property and the business passed to his only child Henry Davidson (b. 1771), who was already a partner in the enterprise. By 1811 the firm, known as Davidsons, Graham and Company, had moved to 6 Lime Street Square. From about 1819 it was styled Davidsons, Barkly and Company, reflecting Davidson’s new partnership with Hugh and Aeneas Barkly, which was binding until 31 May 1833. In 1823 Davidson, who had a town house at 10 Cavendish Square, bought from Sir Moore Disney the country mansion of Rosslyn House, on the west side of Haverstock Hill, Hampstead, Middlesex. He died there on 7 Jan. 1827.2 By his will of 9 Feb. 1826, proved under £500,000, he left his wife £14,000 and an annuity of £3,000, and gave her use of Rosslyn House, which he devised to his second son, Henry, together with £10,000 and his plantation of Highbury in Berbice. His third son John (1805-98) received three Jamaican plantations and £30,000; and his youngest, William (b. 1811) the same sum and the plantations of L’Esperance in Surinam and Coley in Jamaica. He provided handsomely for his three daughters and left his plantation of Mount Craven, Grenada in trust to his grandson, Robert William Dallas. His eldest son, Duncan Davidson, who played no active part in the family business, which was carried on by Henry, inherited £30,000, Tulloch and all the entailed Scottish property, shares in the Forth and Clyde Navigation, Union Canal, Dingwall Canal and British Herring Companies, real estate at Inchicore, county Dublin and elsewhere in Ireland and the Grenada plantation of Mount Gay.3

By then Davidson, who had had a conventional education and bought a commission in the Guards, was a Member of Parliament. In September 1825 he had surprised Sir James Wemyss Mackenzie of Scatwell, Member for Ross-shire, by seeming to hint at an intention of standing for Inverness Burghs at the next opportunity.4 In the event he came in unopposed for Cromartyshire at the 1826 general election.5 He presented a Nairnshire landowners’ petition against interference with the corn laws, 9 Feb. 1827.6 He divided against Catholic relief, 6 Mar., and in May 1827 was described as one of the ‘sworn allies’ of the Melville interest and their Tory friends who had refused to serve under Canning.7 He again divided against relief, 12 May 1828, but, as predicted by Planta, the Wellington ministry’s patronage secretary, he stayed away when emancipation, which was unpopular in his constituency, was conceded in 1829.8 At this time Davidson was suspected of having impregnated one of his unmarried Macdonald sisters-in-law.9 Evidently an indifferent attender in this Parliament, he presented a Cromartyshire petition for inquiry into distress, 11 May, and voted for a restrictive amendment to the sale of beer bill, 21 June 1830. He went out at the dissolution that summer, when the return passed to Nairnshire.

At the Ross-shire county reform meeting, 24 Dec. 1830, Davidson unsuccessfully proposed its adjournment on a technicality. At the anti-reformers’ meeting, 24 Mar. 1831, he stated his objections to the Grey ministry’s reform scheme, notably its proposed £10 householder franchise, and by request moved the resolution condemning the measure as ‘too sweeping’ and ‘partial’. He elaborated these views at a Dingwall meeting, 5 Apr., when he complained of the Scottish bill’s ‘unjust and unsafe propositions’, suggesting that it contravened the Act of Union, but professed willingness to support ‘a safe, salutary and just measure of reform’.10 At the general election precipitated by the defeat of the bill he stood for Cromartyshire on this platform against an uncompromising reformer. As parliamentary praeses he had the satisfaction of giving his casting vote for his own nomination as praeses of the election meeting, from which he emerged victorious by one vote. In his speech of thanks, which was barracked by the unfranchised spectators, he said that he had been ‘falsely represented as an anti-reforming crusader, who went about the country blindly opposing every change and improvement’. He approved the plan to give Glasgow a Member to itself but condemned the proposed merger of Cromarty with Ross-shire.11

He voted against the second reading of the reintroduced English reform bill, 6 July, twice for the adjournment, 12 July, for use of the 1831 census in defining the disfranchisement schedules, 19 July, to postpone consideration of Chippenham’s inclusion in B, 27 July, in a minority of 38 to preserve the voting rights of non-resident freemen, 30 Aug., and against the passage of the bill, 21 Sept. 1831. He voted to censure the Irish administration’s interference in the Dublin election, 23 Aug., for inquiry into the effect of renewal of the Sugar Refinery Act on the West India interest, 12 Sept., and against the second reading of the Scottish reform bill, 23 Sept. He was absent from the division on the second reading of the revised English bill, 17 Dec. 1831, but divided against the enfranchisement of Tower Hamlets, 28 Feb., and the third reading, 22 Mar. 1832. He voted against the malt drawback bill, 2 Apr., and the second reading of the Irish reform bill, 25 May. On the Scottish bill, 15 June, he divided the House against the annexation of Cromarty to Ross-shire, but was defeated by 50-26. He obtained a month’s leave on account of illness in his family, 10 July 1832.

Davidson retired from Parliament at the dissolution in December 1832. At the election for the new constituency of Ross and Cromarty he seconded the nomination of the unsuccessful Conservative candidate, attacked the government and asked, ‘Because the party with whom he usually acted were out of favour, was he basely to desert them?’12 In April 1835 he informed Sir Robert Peel, whose first ministry was on its last legs, that ‘the great proportion of the proprietors and tenants’ of Ross-shire were ‘Conservative, but much bad spirit exists in the small towns and villages, chiefly arising from the disappointment of exaggerated hopes of benefit held out by the reformers’.13 His boast of ‘steady, undeviating (and sometimes I flatter myself a useful) support’ of the Conservative party and possession of ‘one of the largest properties’ in Ross-shire failed to secure him the lord lieutenancy in 1843, when Hugh Duncan Baillie* was preferred.14 In 1848 he endorsed Sir James Randoll Mackenzie of Scatwell’s ‘disgust at the ingratitude of the lower classes’ of the county, who ‘used to look up to and respect their superiors’, but had ‘learnt their lesson from mischievous politicians and ecclesiastics too well’.15 Davidson received the lord lieutenancy from Lord Beaconsfield in 1879, two years after marrying for the fifth time, at the age of 77. He died in Edinburgh ‘after a short illness’ in September 1881, ‘in the 82nd year of his age’.16 He was succeeded at Tulloch by his eldest son, Duncan Henry Caithness Reay Davidson (1836-89).

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: David R. Fisher


  • 1. HP Commons, 1790-1820, iii. 572-3.
  • 2. VCH Mdx. ix. 97; Gent. Mag. (1827), i. 92.
  • 3. PROB 11/1722/127; IR26/1118/137.
  • 4. Add. 39193, f. 68.
  • 5. Inverness Courier, 7, 14 June, 5 July 1826.
  • 6. The Times, 10 Feb. 1827.
  • 7. Arniston Mems. 333.
  • 8. Inverness Courier, 25 Mar. 1829.
  • 9. NLS mss 2270, f. 267.
  • 10. Inverness Courier, 26 Dec. 1830, 30 Mar., 13 Apr. 1831.
  • 11. Ibid. 27 Apr., 4, 25 May 1831.
  • 12. Ibid. 26 Dec. 1832.
  • 13. Add. 40419, f. 184.
  • 14. Add. 40525, ff. 286, 290; 40526, ff. 153, 157.
  • 15. Add. 39194, ff. 8, 18.
  • 16. The Times, 19 Sept. 1881.