Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Number of voters:

92 in 1790 rising to 116 in 1811


2 July 1790DAVID SCOTT I
25 Apr. 1796 HON. WILLIAM MAULE vice Scott, vacated his seat
24 June 1805 HON. WILLIAM MAULE vice Carnegie, deceased

Main Article

The half century of supremacy enjoyed by William Maule of Kellie, 1st Earl of Panmure, ended with his death in 1782, when the seat was captured by Archibald Douglas of Douglas, who proved to be a steady supporter of Pitt. Panmure’s extensive estates passed under entail in 1787 to his 16-year-old great-nephew William Maule, younger son of the 8th Earl of Dalhousie. The theoretical command of 14 voters which Lawrence Hill accorded to the Panmure interest in 1788 was qualified by the observation that a number of them considered themselves independent of young Maule, while ‘others will not take the oath, and several are supposed to have given back their votes’. The 10th Earl of Strathmore, due to come of age in 1790, and Sir David Carnegie of Southesk, sitting Member for Aberdeen Burghs and Douglas’s defeated rival for the Forfarshire seat in 1782 and 1784, whose connexions and sympathies were with opposition, possessed significant ‘natural’ interests. Apart from the Panmure interest, no individual was credited by Hill with certain control of more than four votes.1

It was known in 1789 that David Scott of Dunninald, the wealthy East India director and close friend of Henry Dundas, was to be the ministerial candidate at the next general election; and on 21 Oct. Carnegie wrote to his wife’s cousin Sir Gilbert Elliot, a leading Whig, who had a stake in the county:

I ... am much obliged to you for making me the antidote to East Indian poison ... I am afraid however that ... Scott must come in without opposition. I wished as much as you that a party could have been formed to keep disengaged, and even at the last rather to acquiesce than give their sanction to such a representation; but such is the way of thinking of very few indeed in this county, and the hurry with which several of my friends pressed me to declare my intentions was only that they themselves might not be the last to give their votes to the court candidate.

Carnegie added that he had decided against standing himself, partly for fear of losing Aberdeen Burghs permanently if he vacated them and partly because he had calculated that, with Maule and Strathmore ‘just about to emerge from minorities’, he could not hope to enjoy quiet tenure of the county seat. He had, however, resolved to ‘keep my party together and wait events’ and boasted that he could count on 30 votes:

this will make an overpowering weight in whichever scale it may be thrown hereafter, and I wish with all my heart that our friends could get hold of one of the young men I allude to, as I think I could ensure him of the seat ... against another election.2

Douglas was given a British peerage in 1790. Scott came in for Forfarshire without opposition and Carnegie was ousted from his burghs through the intervention of Scott and Dundas.

Carnegie sought revenge and in the summer of 1795 declared himself a candidate for the county at the next election with the support of the ‘independent’ interest, many of whom were ‘displeased with the sort of transfer of the county at the last election’. His principal abettors were Maule, who had emerged as a staunch Foxite, and two leading members of the resident gentry, Alexander Fotheringham of Pourie and Alexander Duncan of Lundie. Scott went north to meet the threat and Dundas wrote personally to several prominent freeholders on his behalf, but with scant success. Scott complained that his position had been treacherously undermined by people who were in his debt for patronage, Maule being the main offender in this respect. When Duncan attributed his own change of allegiance to a desire to prevent the county falling under the control of an exclusive clique, Scott protested in vain that all his correspondence on county business had been carried on through Carnegie, to the apparent satisfaction of a majority of the freeholders. Scott wished to expose Carnegie by drawing public attention to his ‘unequivocal’ declaration to Dundas, made when soliciting ecclesiastical patronage in 1794, that he ‘had no hostile intentions against Mr Scott’, but Dundas emphatically vetoed the notion of ‘mixing personalities’ with politics. The minister clearly concluded that the game was not worth the candle and in mid August ordered Scott back to London to attend to Indian business, assuring him that there would be no trouble about seating him elsewhere. Scott returned south but, deeply angry and ‘inclined to fight the battle fairly through’, continued to devote the little time he could spare from business to his electoral concerns, and on 11 Sept. 1795 authorized his agent to make whatever promises of Indian patronage were necessary to win over votes.3

On 22 Sept. Robert Dundas of Arniston, the lord advocate, predicted Scott’s certain defeat in a straight fight with Carnegie at the next general election; but suggested that if Scott vacated before the dissolution and allowed Carnegie to come in, he might recover the seat at the general election, provided enough freeholders could be persuaded that their engagement to Carnegie extended only to the first election and that they would be at liberty to support Scott at the second. Scott went to Forfar for the Michaelmas head court and on his return forecast that at a second election thus contrived he could expect a majority of about seven. Carnegie, on the other hand, claimed a potential majority of over 20 and maintained that only Dundas’s halfhearted support, which Scott, who ‘may exhaust the £30,000 he means to pay for the county’, was using as a pretext for the employment of ‘every means of corruption and influence’ to ‘debauch those who are already declared’, made it worth his opponent’s while to persevere.4

Late in the year allegedly ‘spontaneous’ offers of support to Scott from the venal Perth district of burghs, a seat currently at the disposal of the Dundases, provided an opportunity for trying the manoeuvre of precipitating two county elections in quick succession. Dundas had already approved the candidature of another man for Perth Burghs, but Scott agreed to pay the expenses of seating him elsewhere and in March 1796 vacated the county. Dundas at one stage favoured Scott’s standing for both burghs and county at the by-elections, but in the event he did so only for the former, where he was returned. His opponents, alive to the ministerial stratagem, substituted Maule for Carnegie at the ‘mock vacancy’ and emphasized that, as Carnegie had originally canvassed in genuine anticipation of a general election, engagements to him would still be regarded as binding whenever it occurred. Maule was returned and at the dissolution handed over to Carnegie. A ‘warm contest’ was expected, but Scott eventually acknowledged defeat and fell back on the burghs.5

The support which Carnegie gave to government once he was returned evidently excited some discontent in the county, but he encountered no opposition in 1802.6 On his death in 1805 Maule took over the seat, which he retained without challenge in 1806 when his Whig friends were in power. In 1807 Lord Melville tried to engineer an attack on Maule with the aid of Strathmore, Douglas and the 5th Earl of Aboyne:

If a respectable person is now brought forward he may succeed at another time if he does not now. If government gets strong and Mr Maule is deprived of all the patronage and protection of government he will soon find it uphill work; for the meantime he ought not to be allowed to sit at his ease.

The scheme collapsed when their prospective candidate, Aboyne’s half-brother Douglas Gordon Hallyburton of Pitcur, responded to their feelers by publicly declaring his support for the late government and Catholic relief. Although Maule was elected unopposed, there was an unseemly incident at his election dinner when he and his cronies, the worse for drink, responded to the removal by a Mr Nicoll of a prominently displayed handbill lampooning Portland, by destroying a portrait of Melville which had been presented to Forfar council by the late David Scott. Ministerialists thought the episode had further loosened Maule’s supposedly weakening hold over the freeholders at large, and Whig party managers expressed some alarm as to the possible repercussions. Maule apologized and his opponents were evidently unable to make much useful capital out of the incident.7

Although an anonymous correspondent assured Melville, 21 Mar. 1808, that Forfarshire was ‘very ripe to rebel against Mr Maule’, given the advent of ‘a stranger of character and money’, and the Melvillites believed in 1810 that the Panmure interest had been ‘much hurt by the present occupier’, Maule held the seat without difficulty for the rest of the period.8

Author: David R. Fisher


  • 1. Pol. State of Scotland 1788, pp. 147-59.
  • 2. NLS mss 11196, f. 42.
  • 3. NLS mss 11151, f. 63; SRO GD51/1/198/2/1-13; Scott Corresp. (Cam. Soc. ser. 3, lxxv), i. 38-40.
  • 4. NLS mss 1, ff. 51-57; 7, ff. 33, 42; 11151, f. 67; SRO GD51/1/198/2/3, 4, 18-20.
  • 5. Scott Corresp. i. 65, 73-74; SRO GD51/1/198/2/17; Morning Chron. 4 Apr.; Edinburgh Advertiser, 20-24, 27-31 May 1796.
  • 6. Scott Corresp. i. 99-100; SRO GD51/6/1242.
  • 7. NLS, Melville mss, Melville to Saunders Dundas, 28 Apr.; NLS mss 1053, ff. 132-6; SRO GD51/1/198/2/22; Caledonian Mercury, 4, 28 May; Blair Adam mss, Maule to Orr, 8 May, to Adam, 2 June, Adam to Maule, 26 May, Orr to Adam, 1 June; Add. 51585, Tierney to Ld. Holland [3 June] 1807.
  • 8. SRO GD51/1/198/2/25; NLS mss 1, f. 206.