CARNEGIE, Sir David, 4th Bt. (1753-1805), of Kinnaird Castle, Southesk, Angus.

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



1784 - 1790
1796 - 25 May 1805

Family and Education

b. 22 Nov. 1753, 1st. s. of Sir James Carnegie, 3rd Bt., of Pittarrow, Kincardine by Christian, da. and coh. of David Doig of Cookston, Angus. educ. Eton 1765-9; St. Andrews 1770; Christ Church, Oxf. 1771, Grand Tour. m. 30 Apr. 1783, Agnes Murray, da. of Andrew Elliot of Greenwells, Roxburgh, lt. gov. of New York 1779-83, 2s. 10da. suc. fa. as 4th Bt. 30 Apr. 1765.

Offices Held

Hereditary cupbearer [S].

Capt. Angus yeomanry 1797.


Carnegie informed his wife’s cousin Sir Gilbert Elliot*, 21 Oct. 1789, that he had decided not to contest Forfarshire at the next general election against the ministerial candidate, David Scott I*, because

as I have no necessity to, I feel rather an aversion to dipping deep in politics: it hurts both one’s health and fortune and is attended with much trouble, irritation and disappointment, as I have experienced; I am speaking of election politics.

He also feared that if he surrendered his current seat for Aberdeen Burghs he risked losing it ‘irrecoverably’, for as the burghs ‘never before had an opposition Member they are very tired of me’. In the event, he was unseated in 1790 by a wealthy merchant backed by Scott and Henry Dundas, the former having allegedly violated, on ‘a shameful pretext’, an earlier promise of neutrality.1

Carnegie, who had joined Brooks’s in 1788, evidently approved the conduct of Elliot and the ‘third party’ in the political crisis of early 1793. Later in the year Elliot appears to have pressed his claims on Dundas, who replied that Carnegie

was once very much connected with me, but the moment which separated many other friends extended its effects to him, but I never had any reason to view him with any different eyes than I had always done. He was one of the martyrdoms I regret ... but the times admitted of no distinction.2

According to Scott, Carnegie solicited ecclesiastical patronage from Dundas in 1794 and disclaimed any ‘hostile intentions’ towards himself as sitting Member for Forfarshire, but in 1795 he announced his intention of standing for the county at the next election on an ‘independent’ platform. He had obviously been long preparing the ground for this move, in which his principal supporter was the Foxite William Maule. Although it proved necessary for Maule to come forward as his locum at the by-election of April 1796, in order to frustrate a manoeuvre by Scott, he was returned unopposed at the general election two months later.3

During his second period in the House Carnegie seems to have adopted a self-consciously ‘independent’ stance. In practice, he appears to have given general support to the government of the day, at least until 1804, possibly with a view to reviving his claim to the Southesk peerage. When a controversy which divided the county on party lines occurred in Forfarshire in 1797, Scott thought Carnegie would be glad to seize any excuse to keep clear of it, as his coming down firmly on either side of the question would offend Maule and the committed Foxites on the one hand, or the ‘independent’ gentry on the other. In 1798, Carnegie complained bitterly to Dundas at the refusal of his request for the disposal of a kirk, claiming to have supported government since 1796 ‘from principle and conviction’ and adding that he was ‘perhaps the single instance in Scotland of an individual who has raised, armed and accoutred a troop of yeomanry cavalry, entirely at his own expense’.4 He was one of the commissioners appointed to manage the conference with the Lords on the Union, 19 Feb. 1799.

Carnegie initially regarded the political upheaval of 1801 as ‘a most serious calamity’, wrote of ‘the opposition’ being ‘as much displeased and disappointed at the manner of the change, as I am’, and saw ‘no chance’ of Addington’s ministry surviving, ‘except by patching up a peace’.5 After the general election of 1802, when he retained his seat without opposition, Charles Innes reckoned him ‘decidedly hostile to Mr Dundas’, whose adherents described him as ‘opposition at heart’; but he is not known to have voted against Addington and, shortly before the climax of the combined attack on the ministry in 1804, it was reported that he was ‘certainly to vote with the Doctor’.6 He evidently did so and on 14 May he wrote to Addington:

you carry along with you the affection and the regrets of many, very many, good and independent men. Of the latter description I presume to reckon myself; and though I will not conceal from you that, if your administration had lasted, I might have solicited from you a dignity to which I have some hereditary claim, yet I congratulate myself that I did not obtrude it at a time when it might have raised a suspicion upon the motives of my support ... according to my views ... you have been extremely ill used by those who ought not to have behaved to you in the manner they have done. Notwithstanding these feelings ... I will not pledge myself to you or to any public man, because experience has taught me to be cautious how I put my political conscience in any man’s hands. But standing on the footing that I do, unconnected with other parties, and applauding your past conduct, I request ... you to let me know in due time, what line propose to pursue; and though others may be less cautious in professions, perhaps no one will be more firmly attached to your standard.7

For all this, Carnegie was placed under ‘Fox’ in the government list of May 1804. He opposed the additional force bill in June, was initially listed under ‘Fox and Grenville’ in September 1804, but was subsequently transferred to ‘persons in opposition not quite certain’. He is not known to have spoken in the House during this period.

Carnegie, described by Lady Malmesbury in 1792 as ‘the very best husband I ever saw and a very pleasant sensible man’, died suddenly, 25 May 1805.8

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: David R. Fisher


  • 1. NLS mss 11196, f. 42.
  • 2. Minto, ii. 102; NLS mss 11140, f. 30.
  • 4. Scott Corresp. (Cam. Soc. ser. 3, lxxv), i. 99-100; SRO GD51/6/1242.
  • 5. NLS mss 12865, Carnegie to J. Elliot, 9, 25 Feb. 1802.
  • 6. SRO GD51/1/79.
  • 7. Sidmouth mss.
  • 8. NLS mss 11108, f. 176.