Linlithgowshire (West Lothian)

Single Member Scottish County

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754-1790, ed. L. Namier, J. Brooke., 1964
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Number of voters:

43 in 1788


26 Apr. 1754Charles Hope Weir 
3 Apr. 1761Charles Hope Weir11
 Sir David Cunynghame10
16 Apr. 1768John Hope20
 James Dundas15
 Dundas vice Hope, on petition, 27 Mar. 1770 
21 Oct. 1774Sir William Cunynghame 
16 July 1779Cunynghame re-elected after appointment to office 
14 Sept. 1780Sir William Cunynghame 
3 May 1784Sir William Cunynghame19
 George Dundas14

Main Article

The strongest interest in Linlithgowshire belonged to the family of Hope, earls of Hopetoun, but the Cunynghames of Livingstone and the Dundases of Dundas had powerful secondary interests. Charles Hope Weir, son of the Earl of Hopetoun, had represented the county since 1743, when he defeated George Dundas. In 1754 his return was unopposed, but in 1761 Sir David Cunynghame declared against him. Despite ministerial support, Hope Weir carried his election by only one vote. His chagrin can be gauged from the explanation he offered Andrew Mitchell, 6 April 1761:1

I should not have been so near run had I not been disappointed of two friends who were unluckily (but unavoidably) prevented from coming to Scotland in time, and a third who, though in the town of Lithgow, was not in a condition to come to the court. I had besides two friends to enrol, but having no use for them, and to avoid altercation ... we delayed their enrolment until Michaelmas next. ... I have been the more particular in this account because I know it has been industriously given out that we were in still greater danger of losing the county, whereas every enemy that could possibly be brought against me came, and I could not have all the friends with me that wished to support me.

The Hope interest was again challenged at the general election of 1768. The candidates were Charles Hope Weir’s son John, and James Dundas, whose father had represented the county 1722-7 and 1741-3. The campaign began long before the election, with both sides multiplying votes. Much depended on whether Sir William Cunynghame, a supporter of Dundas, who did not come of age until 19 April 1768, would be able to vote. The sheriff depute, in the Hope interest, named 16 April for the election. At the meeting, the usual altercations took place: Hope was returned by 20 to 15, but when Dundas petitioned he was able to establish Cunynghame’s vote and three others, and disqualified enough of Hope’s votes to force him to concede the election.

Before the 1774 election John Robinson wrote:2

Sir William Cunynghame, it is supposed, will have the support of the Earl of Hopetoun at next election, and whoever has his Lordship’s interest will carry this county against the present Member, Mr. Dundas, or anybody else.

There were rumours that Hopetoun would give his interest instead to his nephew, Thomas Graham of Balgowan, and James Dundas remained in the field, but in the event Cunynghame was returned unopposed.3 He was re-elected unanimously in 1780.

In 1784 Cunynghame was an enthusiastic supporter of the Coalition. Henry Dundas hoped at first to bring him over: ‘a word from Lord Hopetoun might set this right both now and in future’.4 But Cunynghame proved adamant, and Henry Dundas organized a powerful opposition to him, putting up George Dundas. The campaign was said to be ‘more warmly contested than in any county in Scotland’.5 A correspondent in the Caledonian Mercury, 5 Apr. 1784, asserted that more than half of the 57 votes on the roll were fictitious. 43 freeholders attended the election, but six of Cunynghame’s supporters refused to take the trust oath, two were paired off, and he had to be content with victory by 19 votes to 14. There was no petition.

Author: J. A. Cannon


  • 1. Add. 6861, f. 316.
  • 2. Laprade, 18.
  • 3. Caledonian Merc. 22 Oct. 1774.
  • 4. Laprade, 103.
  • 5. Edinburgh Evening Courant, 1 May 1784.