Elginshire (Morayshire)

Scottish County

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Number of voters:

16 in 1713


 Sir Harry Innes, Bt. 
24 Sept. 1713ALEXANDER GRANT13
 Robert Dunbar31

Main Article

Elginshire, according to Macky, compared favourably with the vale of Evesham for ‘fertility’ and ‘evenness of ground’: the seaboard was ‘all a bowling green’ and the county town itself was ‘the Richmond of Scotland’, where lay the winter habitations of some of the wealthiest commoners in the northern kingdom. As in the neighbouring counties, there was a sizable episcopalian element in Elginshire, and the presence of some gentry and clergy sympathetic to the Stuart cause led the Jacobite agent Scot, with his customary optimism, to deem the region ‘well affected’. The post-Union electorate, however, invariably returned Members loyal to the Protestant succession. Lacking a resident magnate, and with the sheriffdom in the hands of a relatively unimportant family, the Dunbars of Westfield, the county had formerly looked for political leadership to the wealthier gentry: Innes of that ilk, and the various branches of Brodies and Dunbars. In 1707 Elginshire’s commissioners to the last Scottish parliament were the aged James Brodie of Brodie, a Squadrone supporter excused by infirmity from attending, and Sir Harry Innes, 4th Bt., a moderate Presbyterian but none the less an opponent of Union. Brodie’s death in 1707 removed one of the most experienced and influential figures among the gentry, and ultimately left the way clear for the Grants of Castle Grant (traditionally a Highland power but a family staunch to the Kirk and to Hanover) to achieve control. Before the Grant ascendancy was established, however, the lack of clarity in the configurations of local politics seems to have tempted the curiosity of outsiders, John Forbes* of Culloden, for example, and Lord Seafield. Forbes’s presence behind the scenes is detectable in the election of 1708, which was contested between two of his brothers-in-law, the former commissioner Sir Harry Innes, and an army officer, Robert Urquhart of Burdsyards. Little is known of the election other than that the sheriff (presumably doubling as praeses) permitted several voters to poll whose charters were dated after the teste of the writ; or so at least ran Innes’ petition, which was appointed to be judged at the bar but did not in fact receive a hearing. A political difference between the candidates can be inferred from Urquhart’s Court allegiance and his opponent’s record of voting against Union. Innes, moreover, had made a bid for Squadrone support in early 1708 by congratulating William Bennet* on his party’s successful campaign to abolish the Scottish privy council: ‘It was never as an enemy to the government that I differed from my friends’, he wrote, ‘for you know to you I did communicate my opinion [on the Union], and to the Duke of Roxburghe as well . . . and there is none in the world whose interest I will so soon serve.’2

Innes may have considered putting up again in 1710, but in the event left the representation to Alexander Grant, a professional colleague of Urquhart and a man whose connexions were with the Scottish Court party and the English Whigs. By 1713 Grant had become an out-and-out Whig and was opposed at the general election by Robert Dunbar of Grangehill, whose father and grandfather had represented the county as cavaliers in the Scottish parliament. Dunbar polled only three votes (including his own) to Grant’s 13. But, according to one of Lord Findlater’s electoral agents, the defeated candidate had nevertheless insisted upon detaining the electoral court for some eight hours with tiresome objections. The story of this election amused the Presbyterian minister Robert Wodrow:

I have a diverting account of the election . . . for the shire of Moray. The competition was between the laird of Grant and a Tory, one Grangehill . . . The latter vexed the gentlemen electors with protestations against every voter for Grant. At length he protested against one bold, brisk gentleman . . . who rose up and countered him with another protestation . . . that primo, the said Grangehill had been at his house, some eight or ten days before the election, craving his vote; secundo that he had said to him that Grant was ‘a damned Whig’; tertio, that, if he desired, he would procure him a letter in his favour, either from my lord treasurer [Oxford (Robert Harley*)], my Lord Bolingbroke [Henry St. John II*], [or] Secretary Bromley [William II*]; quarto, that when he was last at London, he had the honour to be with my lord treasurer in his closet, and that he was studying the Arabian politics. All this the clerk wrote down; and this effectually stopped Grangehill. Upon this he protested that Grangehill neither could be elected, nor be an elector. It’s thought this will mar the spark’s producing anything in this affair before the House.

No petition materialized, and Grant found no difficulty in retaining the seat in 1715.3

Author: D. W. Hayton


  • 1. SRO, Seafield mss GD248/561/49/30, William Lorimer to Findlater, 26 Sept. 1713.
  • 2. J. Macky, Journey through GB, 122-3; Defoe, Tour ed. Cole, 816; Orig. Pprs. ed. Macpherson, ii. 19; Shaw and Gordon, Hist. Province of Moray (1882), ii. 103; iii. 51, 338-9, 391; Christ Church, Oxf. Wake mss 5, f. 13; Clarke thesis, 423; More Culloden Pprs. ed. Warrand, i. 278-9; ii. 49; P. W. J. Riley, Union, 110, 329, 333; Fam. of Innes (Spalding Club), 189-91; Survey of Province of Moray (1798), 30, 34; SRO, Ogilvy of Inverquharity mss GD205/36/6, Innes to Bennet, 24 Jan. 1708.
  • 3. Richmond mss at Goodwood, Gordon fam. letters 1710-20, H. Huntley to Mq. of Huntly, [1710]; Hist. Scot. Parl. 211; Seafield mss GD248/561/49/30, William Lorimer to Findlater, 26 Sept. 1713; Wodrow, Analecta, ii. 257-8.