TAYLOR, William II (b.1782), of Ardmillan, Ayr.

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



1806 - 1812

Family and Education

b. 29 May 1782, 2nd s. of John Taylor, WS, of Edinburgh, and Blackhouse, Ayr by w. Joan. educ. Charterhouse 1794; Trinity Coll. Cambridge 1800, L. Inn 1800 called 1807. m. issue.

Offices Held


Taylor has often been confused with William Taylor I*. In his father’s will, dated 17 Jan. 1810, he was described as testator’s second son ‘William Taylor of Nethermains MP’ and was left his father’s quarter share in the Ayr Coal Company and in the co-partnership carried on jointly with testator’s eldest son John and third son George for raising and selling coal at Ayr.1 He was a London barrister in the making when he contested Barnstaple in 1806, through the agency of John Stanbury. At the expense of £3,000, he was returned in second place. He was in the minority against ministers on the Hampshire election petition, 13 Feb. 1807. Apart from being listed a staunch friend of the abolition of the slave trade, he did not otherwise draw attention to himself in that Parliament. It is possible that the Whigs had expected him to support them. William Adam* heard from James Loch, 5 Nov. 1806, ‘Taylor, that is our Taylor, John Taylor’s son has carried Barnstaple against Devaynes; there is to be a petition’.2 During the election of 1807, too, ‘little Taylor’ figured in Brougham’s correspondence as canvassing votes for the Whig candidate in Ayrshire and Brougham requested letters to be addressed to him care of ‘W. Taylor esq MP, Albany’. Yet he was characterized to Lord Grenville as hostile and perhaps prepared to coalesce against Lord Ebrington, the Whig candidate at Barnstaple, and on 9 May 1807 Lord Rolle assured Dacres Adams that he had not known that it was the Duke [of Portland’s] wish that Taylor should be assisted in his election.3 He again survived a contest.

It does not appear that Taylor could be relied on to support the Portland ministry. On 15 Feb. 1808 he moved for papers on the unsuccessful expedition to the Dardanelles of February 1807, which were conceded, with two amendments, by Canning. Meanwhile he appeared in the minority on the mutiny bill, 14 Mar., and objected to the Irish spirit drawback bill, 27 Apr. On 9 May he supported Wood’s motion for inquiry into the Dardanelles expedition and on 20 May moved resolutions in censure of it. Canning carried the orders of the day against him without a division. In August there was a report of his intending to vacate his seat when Parliament met and William Huskisson was anxious to start a friend of government in his place, but nothing came of it. Taylor voted with the minorities critical of the Duke of York, 15 and 17 Mar. 1809, and also with the more radical Whigs critical of Curwen’s reform bill, 12 June. It is possible that he was the ‘Mr Taylor’ who resisted Abercromby’s motion for information on the late Sir John Moore’s plight at Corunna, 27 Apr. 1809.

Taylor voted with ministers on the address, 23 Jan. 1810. On 25 Jan. Canning informed his wife:

My Edinburgh correspondent, Mr Taylor, was in the House, and renewed his vows—or rather explained the meaning of his letter to be a vow of allegiance. He was ready to vote as I pleased—and so he had told Huskisson before.

He voted with the government minority against the Scheldt inquiry, 26 Jan., but on 5 Mar. in the opposition majority on the subject. He was listed a friend of Canning’s by the Whigs. On 30 Mar. he voted with ministers on the first division, but against on the last.4 He was in the minorities against Burdett’s being sent to the Tower and for the release of Gale Jones, the radical, 5 and 16 Apr., and voted for Romilly’s privately stealing bill, 1 May. He voted for sinecure reform, 17 May, and spoke in support of it, 31 May, but voted against parliamentary reform, 21 May.

Taylor was still issued with Canning’s directives at the end of that year,5 but voted with opposition on the Regency, 29 Nov. 1810, 1 and 21 Jan. 1811. On 4 Apr. 1811 he supported investigation into army pay, which he described as inadequate. He spoke for the agricultural interest against the distillery bill, 9 Apr. (on 16 May he opposed an increase in the duties on spirits). On 9 May, on the report of the bullion committee, he called for an act to make bank-notes legal tender. A motion of his for investigation into the state of the London theatres was thwarted, 23 May. On 19 July he described the bank-note bill as ‘the best palliative’ for the ‘existing evil’, but appeared in the minority against its third reading.

Taylor was still regarded by Canning as acting under his directions in December 1811. On 3 Mar. 1812, encouraged by Canning, he voted against the orders in council.6 The bank-note bill again dissatisfied him: he voted against it 10 Apr. and on 20 Apr. tried in vain to carry a clause compelling the Bank to devote some of its surplus to the purchase of bullion. He was in the minorities against the barrack estimates, 13 Apr., and next day against McMahon’s appointment as secretary to the Regent. He voted for Catholic relief, 24 Apr., and in the majority for the sinecures regulation bill, 4 May. He was in the majority for a stronger administration, 21 May 1812.

Taylor had been publicly criticized at Barnstaple in July 1811 for not honouring promises made before his last election. He did not offer there in 1812 and Canning described him as ‘out by choice’. He had given up the bar and returned to Scotland to investigate his inheritance. He was in debt when he wrote to his friend James Brougham from Newcastle, 18 Feb. 1817, alleging that he would receive a steady income from a trust ‘as there is very little question that my collieries will produce £10,000 a year’, and that this would enable him to regain solvency in two years’ time. He added:

I hope my political friends will see the propriety of doing something for me, in which case if anything is offered consistent with my past life and future views, I shall accept of it. If they do not, then they do me wrong—and I shall consider myself at liberty, in that event, should I after getting my debts paid, resume a seat in the House of Commons, to vote as I like.

Should I receive no offer, then I shall probably spend the two years mostly here, and abroad. I have been here for six months for the purpose of making myself thoroughly acquainted with the mining of this country.

He was living in ‘deplorable poverty’ and wished ‘for a while to be withdrawn from observation’, rather than show himself ‘to disadvantage’.7

Taylor’s intermediary with Canning was William Huskisson, who on 18 May 1816 informed him that he had ‘a very old letter’ from ‘little fat Taylor’ to show him. At the dissolution of 1818, Canning was not surprised when Taylor surfaced again, on the look-out for a seat in Parliament and for a place. Huskisson wrote, 30 June 1818:

I am now afraid from his own story, that he is quite ruined and that any office which would give him bread would prove acceptable. If any fagging situation and rather out of the country (for both these reasons likely to be little in request) could be found for him, I should be very glad.

Canning promised to inquire ‘whether such a thing is to be had’: it was not.8

Only pathetic glimpses of his subsequent fate occur. By 1827 his estates had been sequestrated and on 5 Oct. 1830 he wrote to James Brougham from Edinburgh, where he had been thrown into prison for an alleged debt of £60, adding, ‘it is the only thing of the kind I have been troubled about in Scotland for 15 years’. He hoped to recover the Fairlie colliery by litigation. He concluded, ‘now that Huskisson is gone, I have but few friends’. On 8 Dec. 1834, writing to Lord Brougham from 44 rue de Rivoli, Paris, where he had been for some weeks with his family, he referred to the ‘brightening prospects of my affairs’.9

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Authors: J. M. Collinge / R. G. Thorne


  • 1. PCC 201 Crickitt.
  • 2. Blair Adam mss.
  • 3. Add. 52178, Brougham to Allen, 9 June, Tues. [16 June]; Fortescue mss, Buckingham to Grenville, Sat. [May 1807]; PRO, Dacres Adams mss 10/19.
  • 4. Perceval (Holland) mss C11; Harewood mss, Canning to his wife, 25, 27 Jan., 6, 24 Mar., 1 Apr. 1810.
  • 5. PRO 30/29/8/5, ff. 539, 545.
  • 6. Haddington mss, Canning to Binning, 21 Dec. 1811; PRO 30/29/8/5, f. 596.
  • 7. Hants, RO, Blackford mss 186; Bankes mss, Canning to Bankes, 19 Oct. 1812; Brougham mss J. 861.
  • 8. Add. 38741, f. 229; Harewood mss.
  • 9. Brougham mss JW 13; J. 862; 25577.