Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009
Available from Cambridge University Press

Background Information

Alternated with Clackmannanshire

Number of enrolled freeholders:

21 in 1820; 24 in 1826; 21 in 1830



Main Article

Kinross, on the western shore of Loch Leven, was the second smallest county in Scotland and united for judical purposes and as a sheriffdom with its neighbour Clackmannanshire. It had no royal burgh and Kinross and Milnathort were the only towns. It was affected between 1820 and 1832 by the enactment of the locally controversial 1827 and 1831 Leven (Fifeshire and Kinross) drainage bills and legislation for new roads and ferries linking North Queensferry with Perth and Dundee.1 The leading interests were those of the Whig lord lieutenant, the lord chief commissioner of the Scottish jury court William Adam† of Blair Adam, who had hitherto failed to reserve the representation for his sons; and of Kinross House, whose Tory proprietor Thomas Graham† (1752-1819), had had himself returned in 1811 and 1818. His nephew George Edward Graham, a former soldier married to an English heiress, had defeated Adam’s son Charles at the 1819 by-election. Graham had the support of the Liverpool ministry’s Scottish manager Lord Melville, but no direct claim to Kinross House, which passed to Graham’s younger daughter Helen (d. 1828), the second wife of Sir James Montgomery*, and their heirs. A silent supporter of government, Graham had made no impression in Parliament before the death of George III precipitated a dissolution and the representation transferred to Clackmannanshire in 1820.2

Michaelmas head courts continued, but no meetings or petitions from Kinross-shire to the 1820 Parliament were reported before 1826, when, under a new convener, the Whig Charles Stein of Hatton Burn, the county petitioned against interference with the Scottish banking system, 5 Apr. An anti-slavery petition was forwarded to the Whig Henry Brougham for presentation, 21 Apr., and the Kinross statute labour bill received royal assent, 5 May.3 Graham, who quietly resumed the representation at the general election in June 1826, made no recorded speeches and was conspicuous only as heir in 1827 (with his wife) to the Cambridgeshire estate of Abington Pigotts, where, having taken the names Foster and Piggot, he settled, and as a diehard opponent of Catholic emancipation. The heritors and kirk sessions of Fossonway and Tulliebole on the Kinross-Perthshire border petitioned the Lords against the measure, 23 Mar. 1829.4 A vacancy that year in the lucrative joint-sheriffdom, to which the advocate John Tait was appointed, was fought over and the Queensferry (14 May) and Kinross-Alloa (22 May) road bills enacted. The county joined in the petitioning against the proposed increases in spirit duties, 6 May 1830.5 At the dissolution that summer the representation transferred to Clackmannanshire.

Petitions calling for slaves in the colonies to be freed as soon as they had been converted to Christianity and manumission effected were received by the Lords from the United Associate Synod and congregations in Kinross and Milnathort, 10, 16 Dec. 1830.6 Anticipating a dissolution following the Wellington ministry’s defeat, 15 Nov. 1830, William Adam, Stein and their ‘independent’ allies encouraged the clamour for reform and revived the campaign to secure the representation for Charles Adam. A reform scheme for Scotland submitted to Lord John Russell* that month by Adam’s nephew, the Ayrshire Member Thomas Francis Kennedy, proposed:

The counties of Kinross and Clackmannan, being near to each other, with the addition of a portion of Perth which adjoins them, and is disjoined from the remainder of the county of Perth, might for the purposes of election (as Kinross and Clackmannan already do for the purposes of legal jurisdiction) constitute a county and have a permanent representative, thereby avoiding the absurdity of alternate representation.7

A resolution criticizing ‘alternate representation’ was adopted by the householders of Milnathort and Kinross and their vicinities, 18 Jan. 1831, and incorporated in their petition ‘to extend and equalize the existing franchise in the royal burghs’ so that ‘real property, wealth, industry and intelligence’ were represented. On 18 Feb. it was presented to the Lords by the prime minister Lord Grey, and to the Commons by the lord advocate Jeffrey.8 The Lords also received a petition for reform and a broader franchise from the heritors and commissioners of supply, 22 Mar.9 Russell’s speech introducing the English reform bill, 1 Mar., alluded to Kinross-shire’s small electorate of 27, of whom only 18 had land in the county, and the Scottish measure proposed a single Clackmannan and Kinross constituency, 9 Mar. Objecting, the Scottish anti-reformers, led by Sir William Rae, asked why Kinross-shire had not been added to Fifeshire and Clackmannanshire joined to Stirlingshire, but his suggestion attracted little attention.10 When Kinross-shire resumed the representation at the dissolution precipitated by the bill’s defeat in April 1831, Graham, who could no longer rely on Montgomery’s support, desisted and Charles Adam came in unopposed, proposed by the Rev. George Coventry of Shanwell, with John Henderson of Turfhills seconding.11

As Henry Cockburn and Kennedy recommended, the ‘part of Perthshire which we put into Kinross, and which was put out in London’ was included in the Clackmannan and Kinross constituency proposed in the reintroduced and revised reform bills, which had Adam’s steadfast support.12 The heritors and inhabitants of Kinross, 29 Sept., and the inhabitants and others of the county, 5 Oct. 1831, petitioned urging the Lords to carry it, and they petitioned the Commons to withhold supplies until reform was secured, 21 May 1832.13 The Kinross road bill was enacted, 6 Sept., and the landowners and heritors petitioned the Commons against the use of molasses in brewing and distilling, 17 Aug. 1831.14 The Perthshire Member Sir George Murray and the Conservatives exploited and resisted the proposed ‘dismemberment’ of his county at every opportunity (3, 4 Oct. 1831, 19 Jan., 21 May 1832), citing it as proof that ministers were inconsistent and intent on creating constituencies to reward their supporters and return reformers - in this instance Adam and George Ralph Abercromby*. Murray, supported by Sir George Clerk and Rae, forced a division on an amendment opposing Perthshire’s dismemberment to enlarge the Clackmannan and Kinross constituency, which they lost by 54-24, 15 June. Countering similar objections raised by Lord Mansfield in the Lords, 9 July 1832, Lord Rosebery insisted that the scheme was necessary because of the small combined size and population of Clackmannanshire and Kinross-shire (23,799 in 1831) and was geographically the ‘best that could be devised’.15

The Perthshire townships in the parishes of Logie and Fossway, the entire parishes of Tulliallan, Culross and Muchart and the Stirlingshire parish of Alva were included in the reformed constituency, for which Dollar was the election town and the sheriff of Clackmannan the returning officer. At the general election of 1832, when there was a registered electorate of 878, Adam, standing as a Liberal, secured majorities in both counties and defeated the former Member for Clackmannanshire, the Conservative Robert Bruce.16 Outright opposition or partisan changes were predicted at most elections and the constituency was contested a further four times before 1885; but the Liberal hegemony and Blair Adam-Abercromby influence endured. Following Bruce’s second defeat in 1835 the seat became a ‘hopeless’ one for the Conservatives, and the challengers were mainly second Liberals hostile to Blair Adam.17

Author: Margaret Escott


  • 1. Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland (1895), iv. 409, 410; LJ, lix. 431 lxi. 451; lxiii. 963.
  • 2. HP Commons, 1790-1820, ii. 449-52; iv. 48, 58; Kelso Mail, 21 Feb. 1820.
  • 3. CJ, lxxxi. 263; LJ, lviii. 155, 291-4.
  • 4. LJ, lxi. 249.
  • 5. NAS GD224/581/4; The Times, 27 June 1829; LJ, lxi. 451, 493; lxii. 366; CJ, lxxxv, 382.
  • 6. LJ, lxiii. 164, 177.
  • 7. Cockburn Letters, 265.
  • 8. The Times, 28 Jan., 18 Feb. 1831; LJ, lxiii. 240; CJ, lxxxvi. 269.
  • 9. LJ, lxiii. 365.
  • 10. The Times, 2, 10, 17, 19 Mar. 1831; M. Dyer, ‘"Mere detail and machinery"’, SHR, lxii (1983), 20, 21.
  • 11. Caledonian Mercury, 28 Apr., 2 May; The Times, 4, 6 May; NAS GD224/581/4; Stirling Advertiser, 27 May 1831.
  • 12. Cockburn Letters, 303, 345; Dyer, 22-24.
  • 13. LJ, lxiii. 1019, 1061; CJ, lxxxvii. 326.
  • 14. CJ, lxxxvi. 762; LJ, lxiii. 962, 963.
  • 15. The Times, 16 June, 10 July 1832.
  • 16. Scotsman, 15, 22, 28 Dec.; Perthshire Courier, 20 Dec. 1832.
  • 17. Scottish Electoral Politics, pp. lxii, 223, 234, 238, 247, 250, 274, 275, 277.