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:

29-32 in 17221


15 June 1708SIR JOHN SCHAW, Bt.

Main Article

Neither the hereditary sheriff the Earl of Eglintoun (who was also hereditary bailie of the regality of Paisley), nor the other principal magnates who were thought to exercise influence in the county, the dukes of Hamilton and Montrose, played much of a role in elections in Renfrewshire after the Union. Instead, the electoral court in this period was the province of the lesser barons. According to a local historian writing in 1710, ‘the gentry’ of Renfrewshire ‘live in good friendship among themselves, being all of them related to one another by frequent intermarriages’; and while this pious generalization did not take into account the persistence of some traditional political and religious divisions among the lairds and in the populace, it was nevertheless the case that in elections a determining interest seemed to reside in a circle of (substantially interrelated) Presbyterian or ‘Whig’ families, comprising the Maxwells, Pollocks and Schaws. In 1702 the Country party aimed at capturing all three seats in the Scottish parliament. Two cavaliers of the kind favoured by Hamilton, Sir John Houstoun of Houstoun and John Stewart of Blackhall, were successful, but a third, James Hamilton of Orbiston, was unseated after being doubly returned with (Sir) Robert Pollock (1st Bt.) of that ilk. A strongly Presbyterian Whig and Court party man, Pollock had been supported by his kinsman and neighbour Sir John Maxwell, the ‘strict Presbyterian’ lord justice clerk: a sign that even in unfavourable circumstances confessional alignments would be reflected in patterns of voting.2

The first election to the British Parliament seemed initially to be marked by apathy. Presbyterians were anxious lest another of Hamilton’s clients, William Cochrane* of Kilmaronock, put up, and regarded the only declared rival, Sir John Schaw, 3rd Bt., of Greenock, as an unpromising candidate. ‘I am afraid Kilmaronock may have more friends in Renfrewshire than Sir John Schaw’, wrote Eglintoun’s uncle, Hon. Francis Montgomerie* to another kinsman, Hugh Montgomerie*; ‘I wish Sir John would join with you in favour of a third person of your choice, as Sir Robert Pollock, or some other who may have friends in the shire, which I conceive is the only way to hinder Kilmaronock’s being elected.’ In fact Cochrane seems not to have been particularly confident of his own chances, for in February 1708 he suggested that if Schaw ‘would stand for him in Renfrew[shire], he would stand for him in Dunbarton[shire]’, receiving an answer from Schaw that if Cochrane ‘would stand for him [Schaw] in Renfrew, he would stand for him in Dunbarton’. At this time Sir Robert Pollock was also ‘in the field’, and declarations had been made for Sir John Maxwell, both of whom were thought to be more powerful candidates than either Cochrane or Schaw. But since both represented the Presbyterian and ‘Revolution’ interest there was also the danger that they would cancel each other out. In the event, Cochrane retired to Wigtown Burghs, and neither Pollock nor Maxwell challenged Schaw’s return. In 1710 Pollock rather than Schaw was the ‘Whig’ candidate. He was elected ‘unanimously’ in ‘a full meeting of the barons and freeholders’. Despite some talk of a canvass in 1713 by Eglintoun’s kinsman Sir Robert Montgomerie, 5th Bt., of Skelmorlie (son of the radical Whig and former Jacobite conspirator Sir James), there was another ‘unanimous’ return of the outgoing Member.3

Author: D. W. Hayton


  • 1. 29 were enrolled and voted on this occasion, while three more refused to be enrolled but none the less registered a vote: NLS, Advocates’ mss, Dundas of Dundas pprs. 80.7.1, ff. 15-16, Renfrewshire poll 1722.
  • 2. G. Crawfurd, Hist. Shire of Renfrew (1772), 5-6, 228; Orig. Pprs. ed. Macpherson, ii. 13; NLS, ms 14498, f. 82; HMC Hamilton, ii. 156; Macky, Mems. 226; Wodrow Corresp. ed. McCrie, i. 531; SRO, Hamilton mss GD406/1/4921, John Brisbane to Hamilton, 6 July 1702; Atholl mss at Blair Atholl, box 45, bdle. II, no. 248, John Haldane* to [Tullibardine], 26 Oct. 1702; Hist. Scot. Parl. 362, 482, 662; P. W. J. Riley, Union, 329, 331, 333; Christ Church, Oxf. Wake mss 5, f. 13.
  • 3. W. Fraser, Memorials Earls of Eglinton, 328; SRO, Montrose mss GD220/5/250/3, John Grahame to Montrose, 28 Feb. 1708; W. Hector, Selections from Judicial Recs. of Renfrewshire (ser. 2), 16; Scots Courant, 23-25 Oct. 1710, 2-5 Oct. 1713; Hamilton mss at Lennoxlove, C3/1631, Eglintoun to [4th Duchess of Hamilton], 12 Sept. 1713; Wodrow Corresp. 492.