MAXWELL, William II (1768-1833), of Carriden, Linlithgow.

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



Family and Education

b. 3 Jan. 1768, 1st s. of William Maxwell of Carriden by Grizel, da. of John Stewart of Castle Stewart, Wigtown. educ. by a pastor in Switzerland; Westminster 1782; Edinburgh 1786; Christ Church, Oxf. 1787-91; L. Inn 1787. m. 21 Mar. 1799, Mary Charlotte, da. of Hon. Edward Bouverie I* of Delapré Abbey, Northants., 3s. 2da. suc. fa. 1771.

Offices Held


Maxwell, a friend and supporter of John Horne Tooke* at the Westminster election of 1796, joined the Whig Club on 11 Apr. 1797, being then resident in Piccadilly. He supported parliamentary reform at the Crown and Anchor, 18 May 1797, subsequently married the daughter of a prominent Foxite, and on 7 May 1799 joined Brooks’s Club. After the death of the 8th Duke of Hamilton in 1799, his became the foremost interest in Linlithgow Burghs. He contested the district unsuccessfully in 1802. His brother Patrick urged him to contest a vacancy for Coventry in 1803, but he demurred. He was again defeated, despite Fox’s anxiety to see him in Parliament and his gaining the burgh of Peebles, in 1806.1 Handicapped by illness and let down by his friends (then in power), he lost by a casting vote. He petitioned in vain against the return. In 1807, Peebles being the returning burgh, he was returned by its casting vote.

Maxwell was a staunch supporter of opposition in Parliament. On 11 June 1807 he sent Viscount Howick a list of Scottish opposition Members to circularize for attendance.2 He voted with them on the address, 26 June 1807, on Whitbread’s censure motion, 6 July, for the exposure of placeholders and pensioners, 7 July, and on the state of Ireland, 7 and 13 Aug. On 24 Feb. 1808 he took six weeks’ leave because of illness in his family. He next appeared in the minority against the convention of Cintra, 21 Feb. 1809, thrice against the Duke of York’s conduct of army patronage 15-17 Mar., in favour of Folkestone’s motion for a general inquiry into abuses, 17 Apr., according to the Speaker’s list, and in favour of the censure of Castlereagh for corruption, 25 Apr. On 20 Apr. he made his second reported speech (the first was a bid to thwart a Glasgow bill on 21 July 1807), complaining that he was denied admission to Chelsea Hospital in pursuit of government extravagance. On 27 Apr. he seconded Folkestone’s amendment to extend the sale of offices prevention bill to the whole empire. He was in the minority on the Dutch commissioners’ conduct, 1 May, against the title of Curwen’s reform bill, 12 June, and in favour of Burdett’s reform motion, 15 June. His attraction to the Whig ‘Mountain’ was apparent and on 8 Nov. 1809 Creevey listed him among the dissidents critical of the leadership of Lords Grenville and Grey, for the benefit of Whitbread.3

In January 1810 he was summoned from Brighton to muster for opposition on the address and on 17 Feb. dined at the Whig leader George Ponsonby’s.4 He voted against government on the address and on the Scheldt question, 23, 26 Jan. and, after pairing on 23 Feb., on 5 and 30 Mar. 1810, as also on the questions of Burdett and Gale Jones, 12 Mar., 5 and 16 Apr. He was in the minority for Irish tithe reform, 13 Apr., and for Williams Wynn’s motion on the privileges of the House, 8 June. He was in the opposition divisions on the Regency, 15 Nov. 1810, 1 and 21 Jan. 1811. In March 1811 he was courted by the Friends of Constitutional Reform; the Morning Chronicle reported that he would, but for illness, have voted for Brand’s motion of 21 May 1810. Subsequently he was absent from the minority lists, except on 13 Feb. 1812, when he voted for Whitbread’s critical motion on relations with the USA. He was reported as having paired in favour or left before the division of 4 Feb. on Morpeth’s Irish motion.5

Sure only of Linlithgow, Maxwell declined a contest in 1812; in 1818, after failing to regain Peebles, he was defeated. His friends thought he should have avoided the contest: ‘he is not rich and is rather embarrassed, and ... he is no public speaker, though he is a very faithful and zealous adherent of the opposition’.6 In 1819 he transferred his interest to John Pringle and did not again aspire to the seat. He had sold Carriden in 1814 and, his West Indian properties also failing, lived latterly in London, in reduced circumstances. He died at 3 Burwood Place and was buried on 7 Sept. 1833 at St. Mary’s, Paddington.7

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. See COVENTRY; Add. 47564, f. 254.
  • 2. Grey mss.
  • 3. Whitbread mss W1/373/15.
  • 4. Creevey Pprs. ed. Maxwell, i. 122, 128.
  • 5. Morning Chron. 6 Feb. 1812.
  • 6. NLS mss 13434, Clerk to Minto [Mar. 1818].
  • 7. Information from W. R. M. Maxwell.