Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1715-1754, ed. R. Sedgwick, 1970
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the extraordinary council

Number of voters:



 John Campbell
18 Mar. 1721JOHN CAMPBELL vice Warrender, deceased
12 Sept. 1727JOHN CAMPBELL
 Alexander Nisbet
29 July 1747JAMES KER

Main Article

Edinburgh was the only single burgh constituency in Scotland. Before the Union it had returned two Members, one a merchant and the other a tradesman. The electoral council, consisting of the corporation plus seven extraordinary members, was under the influence of the dukes of Argyll. It usually returned the lord provost or a councillor as Member.

In 1715 the lord provost, George Warrender, proposed himself in a speech recorded in the council’s minutes. He was opposed by John Campbell, who pledged himself to pay a fine of £500 for the poor of the town in the event of his failure to attend Parliament. Warrender, who gave a similar pledge, was returned by a majority of 4.1 On his death in 1721 he was succeeded by Campbell, who held the seat, with Argyll’s support, till 1734 when, according to Lord Ilay, later 3rd Duke of Argyll, a number of citizens, including George Drummond, a future candidate for Edinburgh, and James Ker, a future Member,

raised a mutiny in the town by setting up for themselves and boasting that they had the superior favour with Sir Robert Walpole, which ended in my bringing in Patrick Lindsay, merely to preserve my credit and to prevent the common enemy [the Jacobites] getting a victory.

In 1741 Archibald Stewart, a merchant councillor, supported by Argyll, now in opposition, defeated Alexander Nisbet, convenor of the trades, who petitioned unsuccessfully on the ground, inter alia, of the pre-Union rule that merchants and tradesmen should share the representation and that it was now the turn of the latter to do so.

In 1747 George Drummond, lord provost of Edinburgh, stood as a government candidate, resigning his office of commissioner of the excise, which was inconsistent with a seat in the Commons, but expressing the hope that Pelham would provide for him by giving him some office compatible with Parliament. He was defeated by James Ker, representing the trades, who numbered 16 out of the 33 members of the council. The 16 unanimously supported Ker, Drummond told Pelham,

for the sake of getting a tradesman chose in opposition to a merchant, a point they have in vain struggled, ever since the Union, till now, in which 7 of the merchants joined them, which made me give it up.

Ilay, now Duke of Argyll, reported to Pelham that Drummond had only himself to blame for his defeat by pointedly refraining from asking for Argyll’s interest, ‘though we say its a poor whore who is not to be asked the question’. Instead he had

showed a letter he had had from you with this exotic commentary upon it, that his father Pelham would have him come into Parliament. This expression became a bye-word for some days in the town and immediately there was a general combination against him.

In the end Drummond had cast the first vote for his opponent, who had been elected unanimously.2

Author: J. M. Simpson


  • 1. W. K. Dickson, Warrender Letters (Sc. Hist. Soc. ser. 3, xxv), pp. xxiv-vi.
  • 2. Argyll to Pelham, 23, 26, 30 July 1747, Drummond to Pelham 6, 23 June and 16, 30 July 1747, Newcastle (Clumber) mss.