MACLEAN CLEPHANE, William Douglas (1759-1803), of Kirkness, Kinross.

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



1802 - July 1803

Family and Education

b. 20 Apr. 1759, 1st s. of George Clephane of Carslogie, Fife by 2nd w. Anne Jean, da. and h. of Rev. Robert Douglas, minister of Portmoak, Kinross; bro. of David Clephane*. m. 14 Sept. 1790, Marianne, da. and h. of Lauchlan MacLean, seventh of Torloisk, Isle of Mull, Argyll, 3da. Took additional name of MacLean 6 Nov. 1790; suc. fa. 1790.

Offices Held

Ensign, 3 Ft. 1777, lt. and capt. 1780, capt. and lt.-col. 1792, col. 1796, maj.-gen. 1801.

Lt.-gov. Grenada 1803.


In 1788 Clephane was a liferenter in Kinross-shire in the right of his mother’s inheritance. On the death of the former Member George Graham in December 1801, he was on active service at Port Mahon, but his family put him forward by prearrangement as champion of the ‘independent interest of the county’ under the aegis of William Adam*. Although an opposition was at first threatened by Graham’s heir, Clephane, who arrived home in time for the election, was chosen unanimously. He was listed a supporter of Addington’s ministry and independent of Henry Dundas. Some of his friends had wished for him to be George Graham’s successor as lord lieutenant, but he was prepared to cede it to William Adam.1

Nevertheless, his success was reported to have gone to his head. On 4 Mar. 1803 he voted in the minority for the inquiry into the Prince of Wales’s debts, ‘paying his adorations to the rising sun’, as Andrew Clephane put it. The latter added, ‘Conceive our General refusing the station of Ceylon as comdr. in chief. What does he expect? To be made peer of the blood, I suppose.’ Andrew also professed to be astonished ‘after the speech he made at Kinross’, that Clephane should be ‘so long silent’ in the House: but no speech by him is reported.2

On 27 Apr. 1803 Clephane informed Adam that he had accepted the place of commissioner at Trinidad, which vacated his seat. On 19 May, however, Lord Hobart recommended him to the King as lieutenant governor of Grenada, where he proceeded. As he hoped, his brother David succeeded as county Member.3

He died at Grenada, 4 Nov. 1803, ‘a bad subject for a warm climate’. His funeral was ‘the most sumptuous one ever seen on that island’.4 Sir Walter Scott was his children’s guardian.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. See KINROSS-SHIRE; Add. 33049, f. 350; NLS mss 9370, f. 197; Blair Adam mss, Clephane to Adam, 17 Feb., Syme to same, 10 Mar. 1802.
  • 2. Brougham and his Early Friends, ii. 41, 54-5.
  • 3. Blair Adam mss, Clephane to Adam, Wed. [27 Apr.], 25 May 1803; Geo. III Corresp. iv. 2740.
  • 4. Gent. Mag. (1803), ii. 1256; Blair Adam mss, Clephane to Adam, 2 Jan., Ferguson to same, 8 Jan. 1804.