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:

about 35


 Double return. CUNNINGHAM declared elected 11 Jan. 1709 
17 Oct. 1710SIR HUGH PATERSON, Bt.24
 Henry Cunningham9
27 Dec. 1711PATERSON re-elected after appointment to office 
10 Sept. 1713SIR HUGH PATERSON, Bt. 

Main Article

That the Stirlingshire freeholders neither subsided into obedience to a single magnate nor found themselves swamped by ‘fictitious voters’ was owing to a combination of circumstances: the presence of several substantial lairds with independent influence; the persistence of party spirit; and, most important, the balance of aristocratic power between the Earl of Linlithgow and the Duke of Montrose, ‘cousins’ who, had they acted together, would have been able to ‘carry what man we please’, as Montrose himself put it, but who were kept apart by political jealousy. While Linlithgow, the hereditary sheriff, was of a cavalier turn, Montrose, despite his formidable loyalist pedigree, had become one of the leaders of the Squadrone, and thus a pillar of Scottish Whiggery.1

The Jacobite agent Scot considered ‘most part of the gentry and many of the commons’ of Stirlingshire to be ‘well affected’, a judgment borne out by the choice of commissioners to the Union parliament: two Country cavaliers, James Graham of Buchlyvie and Robert Rollo of Powhouse, together with Montrose’s chamberlain, John Graham of Killearn. Lady Tullibardine described them as ‘such violent Jacobites that they have never been at church since the Revolution’, complaining darkly that ‘what was concerted was not stood to’. John Haldane*, a member of the Country opposition, reported that these commissioners had ‘never appeared much in the world’ and were ‘of very indifferent fortunes’. Their success was attributed to the efforts of Linlithgow’s mother, a staunch Jacobite, who refused to endorse Montrose’s preferred Country slate and called a snap election before this alternative was properly concerted. Haldane hoped that ‘with good advice’ the commissioners would ‘do well enough’. But they remained in opposition when the Country party split in 1704 and did not follow Montrose and the Squadrone over the Union. By voting against the treaty in 1706-7, they disqualified themselves politically from selection to the first Parliament of Great Britain, and all held back at the general election of 1708. Instead, the first candidate to offer himself was an enthusiastic young cavalier, Sir Hugh Paterson, 3rd Bt., whose estate at Bannockburn, just outside the county town, gave him some personal interest, but who relied chiefly on the favour of Lord Linlithgow, having been recommended to Linlithgow by his own ‘cousin’, the Duke of Hamilton. Montrose, unaware of Hamilton’s interference, and expecting the young and penurious Linlithgow to look no further than himself for a patron and guide, was slow to get a candidate into the field, and before he had settled on his nominee there was already a Whiggish alternative, in the person of Henry Cunningham of Boquhan, offspring of a covenanting and ‘Revolution’ line. Since Cunningham was also in this instance the nominee of Lord Mar, his party-political credentials made little initial impression on Montrose. In spite of the fact that Mar was not himself one of the major landowners in Stirlingshire, he was set on extending his influence into the county, and presumably saw Cunningham as the lever by which he would prise his way into election business. Success for Cunningham would enhance the reputation of his patron, however little it may actually have derived from Mar’s interest. Evidence that Cunningham carried out his own canvassing suggests that Mar’s endorsement was indeed of limited practical value, set alongside Cunningham’s own connexions and his family’s identification with Presbyterianism and ‘Revolution principles’. These alone seem to have been sufficient to make his challenge a serious proposition, especially as he had begun work early. By the time Montrose settled on a candidate of his own, Sir John Erskine, 3rd Bt.*, Cunningham had stolen sufficient ground to make the task of defeating Paterson appear almost impossible. Even after enlisting the help of the Earl of Hopetoun, Montrose still found that Erskine’s canvass was going badly; too many freeholders were pre-engaged. By this time the Squadrone had agreed a ‘devil’s compact’ with Hamilton, to co-operate nationally in both the peers’ and commoners’ elections, but at local level, faced with the unwelcome necessity of negotiation to save face, Montrose opted for a deal with Cunningham rather than with Paterson. The latter was too ‘high’ a Tory for his taste, while Cunningham’s ‘education and principles’ offered some hope that he might vote with the Squadrone when he finally arrived in Parliament, however closely he might for the present appear to be attached to Mar. Erskine was thus instructed to begin talks, the upshot of which was that he agreed to withdraw in Cunningham’s favour, a concession authorized by Montrose in advance but only as a last resort to avoid humiliation at the poll. Erskine’s account of the meeting attended by the two parties suggests that some members of Cunningham’s entourage were as ‘hot’ in their politics as the candidate himself was reputed to be:

According to your Grace’s desire Boquhan’s people and we met, and though I cannot positively say there was majority on his side, yet he chanced to have more fools on his side who would have made much difficulty to yield, and some would not at all. So I even pretended the majority was with him and yielded most frankly, which if we had not done we had been severely defeated.2

The prospect of a contest at the freeholders’ court brought in a number of new voters, many of them doubtless recruited by the principals. At the 1702 election there had been only 14 voters, but now over 30 were present, no fewer than 12 enrolled on the day itself, including both the candidates, while two further claimants were refused by the court. Of the 12, at least nine polled for Cunningham. Few votes seem to have been manufactured for the occasion: half the new men were admitted as heirs, and the only charter of recent date belonged to Cunningham himself. None the less, without these additional numbers the outcome would have been much closer, so that the opening exchanges between the parties, at which the enrolments were claimed and challenged, proved to be of critical significance. They took place while Paterson’s chief canvassing agent, James Graham of Buchlyvie, occupied the chair in his capacity as a former commissioner. A vote was forced on the very first petition, from Paterson himself. Although he was admitted, two of his supporters, William Bell and John Forrester, were subsequently refused after further voting, and the overall outcome of the admissions process was seen in the election of a praeses, which Graham of Buchlyvie lost by 17 to 13, almost the same margin as the poll itself would have. The lack of any existing electoral roll had complicated matters, and a second round of objections and protests ensued, in each case without a decision from the court. For example, Sir Harie Rollo of Woodside was permitted to vote despite a challenge from Cunningham, but warned that this was at his own risk in terms of later legal process, and that ‘he may be liable for certification’. Paterson’s party, clearly perceiving that they were in the minority, tried some delaying tactics, which they also intended should lay the basis for an election petition if the poll went ahead. In particular they concentrated on two issues: the questionable legal status of Cunningham’s charter, so late that the signature had passed the exchequer after the issue of the election writ; and the exclusion of Bell and Forrester, who protested their votes. It was argued that no return should be made until the two protesters were heard. To this Cunningham replied that such decisions on the right of election could only be made by the Parliament at Westminster. He was joined in his replication by more than eight of his supporters, including, most significantly, the praeses, Sir Alexander Hope of Kers. The poll was then taken, and Cunningham declared elected by a majority of five, Bell and Forrester giving in their votes, which were not counted. A number of followers of Montrose can be identified among Cunningham’s voters, though some had reasons of their own for being there: John Haldane* of Gleneagles and his son Mungo†, for example, were hoping by this gesture to secure votes in return from Mar’s ‘folks’ in Perthshire. Erskine’s report to the Duke observed that, ‘what with fair play, joined with a little jockeying, Boquhan carried it 18 to 13. The whole 18 were good without doubt, save one, and three or four of theirs were not only objected against but really should be cassen [i.e. annulled] by law and justice.’3

Linlithgow’s response to his reverse was to try to ‘make it appear as if [it] were not so’, by sending in a double return, on the grounds of the lateness of Cunningham’s charter, although, as Cunningham himself pointed out, there was no legal requirement for a signature to pass before the issue of the writ. Linlithgow stuck to his guns, despite the predictably indignant letter to which Montrose subjected him. However, the overall complexion of the new House of Commons effectively determined that the result of the hearing would go Cunningham’s way, especially after Montrose had confirmed to Lord Sunderland (Charles, Lord Spencer*) that Cunningham was a young man who could be relied on to do right in Parliament. Hamilton, it would seem, was unwilling to support his protégé at Westminster, where opposition to Montrose’s interest would be more public and thus more awkward than it had been behind the scenes in Stirlingshire. Paterson and Cunningham petitioned the Commons against the other’s return. The petitions were ordered to be heard at the bar on 11 Jan. 1709, and on this date both the double return and the merits of the election were judged in Cunningham’s favour.4

As much as anything else, the 1708 election had been a tactical victory for Mar, who had outwitted both Linlithgow and Montrose. As Cunningham’s patron, he could claim to have secured the seat for his candidate, however slim his contribution had been in reality. The weakness of Mar’s interest, in a purely proprietorial sense, was demonstrated at the next election, when he shifted his ground to support Paterson in order once again to be seen to have backed the winner. From an early stage Mar was convinced that Cunningham would not be able to defeat Paterson again. In small measure the collapse of Cunningham’s position may have reflected some change in the popularity of the ‘Whig’ interest in Stirlingshire, related to weariness with the war or disappointment with the Union, but the key to the changed situation in the county was almost certainly Montrose’s decision to take no part in the election, thus leaving Cunningham bereft of magnate support. Having obtained an important favour from government for one of Sir John Erskine’s friends, Mar had also transformed Erskine from enemy to client, and could therefore draw him away from Cunningham if he wished. On the other side, Linlithgow was unlikely to prove difficult, once he had been pacified by pledges of assistance in his ambition to confirm a hereditary right to the governorship of Blackness castle, though care was still necessary in handling him, since his ready co-operation was also required in the representative peers’ election. With this in mind, and believing Paterson in any case to be the best prospect, certainly over Cunningham or Erskine, Mar needed only to reassure himself that Paterson would return his goodwill, and be prepared to acknowledge him as a patron rather than, or even as well as, Hamilton. In the event, Mar gave Paterson his backing without any formal understanding having been established. He was also careful to give Cunningham no cause to complain of ill treatment, with the result that Cunningham carried on to a poll undeterred, optimistic to the last that his kinsman might still help him or that his own reputation would carry him through. The margin of Paterson’s victory showed a remarkable transformation in voting in only two years, the principal reason seeming to be a high turnover in the electorate, amounting to about a quarter of the whole. Seven of those who had voted in 1708 did not reappear in 1710, while there were nine newcomers, of whom only four were actually added to the roll. All seven of the absentees were on Cunningham’s side, and it is tempting to assume that this represents the abstention of the Montrose interest. Erskine, who was elected praeses, voted for Paterson.5

Paterson’s marriage to Mar’s sister in 1711 cemented the connexion between the two men, and with Mar’s access to Court patronage under Robert Harley’s* ministry making him an even more formidable figure, opposition wilted. Cunningham, who had been returned for the burghs district in 1710 after his disappointment in the county, did not attend another freeholders’ court in this period, nor did Montrose attempt to interfere. Both the by-election in December 1711 (arising from Paterson’s appointment to an office of profit under the crown) and the general election in 1713 were uncontested. Fewer freeholders attended in 1711: 19 in all, only four of whom had voted for Cunningham in 1710. The following year Mar and Lord Kilsyth presented to the Queen an address from the Stirlingshire gentry thanking her for communicating the peace terms, the tenor of which was markedly Tory and pro-ministerial, referring as it did to the ‘long, bloody and expensive war’ and to the malign efforts of ‘faction at home, and enemies abroad’. At the same time the survival of Whiggish sentiment in the shire, not to mention in the county town itself (see STIRLING BURGHS), was demonstrated by the address sent up in March 1713 on the conclusion of the peace, which Lord Ilay presented. Describing the war as having been necessary to restore the ‘balance of power’ in Europe and to give ‘satisfaction’ to the allies, it pointedly welcomed the Queen’s assurances of her care and concern for the Hanoverian Succession. But once Linlithgow’s festering impatience with the ministry had been lanced by the completion of the long-promised grant of the Blackness castle governorship, any likelihood of opposition in the general election vanished. In 1713 more freeholders attended, including the Haldanes, which may indicate that Montrose was at least considering an intervention, and the electoral roll was made up, according to the provisions of the recent statute, with 41 names in all. But with Erskine once more praeses, Paterson was re-elected again ‘unanimously’.6

Author: D. W. Hayton


Unless otherwise stated, this article draws on the account of elections given in Sunter thesis, 1-22.

  • 1. Add. 61628, f. 149; Orig. Pprs. ed. Macpherson, ii. 13.
  • 2. Orig. Pprs. 13-14; Hist. Scot. Parl. 290-1, 293, 594; P. W. J. Riley, Union, 333; Atholl mss at Blair Atholl, box 45, bdle. II, nos. 223, 248, Lady Tullibardine to [Ld. Tullibardine], 13 Oct. 1702, Haldane to [same], 26 Oct. 1702; Add. 61628, f. 149.
  • 3. SRO, Stirling sheriff’s ct. recs. SC67/60/10, list of voters, 1702, list of enrollments, 1708; SC67/60/1, freeholders’ ct. bk. 1708-35, pp. 1-8; SRO, Montrose mss GD220/5/154/2, Linlithgow to Montrose, 1708; GD220/5/175, Erskine to same, 2 June 1708; SRO, Mar and Kellie mss GD124/10/831/12, Mar to Sir David Nairne, 8 June 1708.
  • 4. Add. 61628, f. 49; 9102, f. 74; Montrose mss GD220/?5/154/2, Linlithgow to Montrose, 1708.
  • 5. Mar and Kellie mss GD124/10/985/2, John Erskine* to Ld. Grange (Hon. James Erskine†), 27 July 1710; GD124/10/975/2, 10, 11, Mar to same, 6 June, 27, 29 July 1710; Stirling sheriff ct. recs. SC67/60/1, pp. 11-14; SC67/60/10, list of enrolments, 1710.
  • 6. Mar and Kellie mss GD124/10/989/2, Sir John Erskine, 3rd Bt., to Grange, [17 Aug. 1710]; Stirling sheriff ct. recs. SC67/60/1, pp. 15, 20; Scots Courant, 2-4 Jan. 1711, 21-23 Sept. 1713; London Gazette, 2-5 Aug. 1712, 14-17 Mar. 1712[-13].