BAILLIE, John (1772-1833), of Leys Castle, Inverness and Devonshire Place, Mdx.

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



1820 - 1830
1830 - 1831
1832 - 20 Apr. 1833

Family and Education

b. 10 May 1772, s. of George Baillie of Leys and w. Anne Baillie of Dunain. unm. 3s. (1 d.v.p.) 3da. illegit. d. 20 Apr. 1833.

Offices Held

Cadet, E.I. Co. (Bengal) 1790, ensign 1793, lt. 1794, capt. 1803, maj. 1811, lt.-col. 1814; lt.-col. 4th Native Inf. 1815, ret. 1818.

Prof. of Arabic and Persian, Fort William Coll. 1801-7; pol. agent, Bundelkhand 1803-7; resident, Lucknow 1807-15.

Dir. E.I. Co. 1823-d.


Baillie, who belonged to an old and well-connected Inverness-shire family, entered the military service of the East India Company in 1790, sponsored by the director William Astell*. He became so proficient in oriental languages that on the foundation of Fort William College in 1801 he was appointed professor of Arabic and Persian and of Mohammedan law. His publications included a Course of Lectures on Arabic Grammar (1801) and the partial text of The Five Books on the same subject (1802-3). On the outbreak of the second Mahratta war in 1803 he participated in the siege of Agra before being appointed to the demanding post of political agent at Bundelkhand, where he broke up threatening combinations among the local chieftains, re-established order and secured a lucrative territory for the Company; he was publicly thanked by the governor-general. He resigned his professorship for the Lucknow residency in 1807, became lieutenant-colonel of the 4th Native Infantry in 1815 and returned to Britain the following year.1 At the general election of 1818 he offered as a man ‘unconnected with any person or party’ for the venal borough of Hedon, which he had been cultivating for several months, but withdrew before the poll.2 He also tried his luck at Anstruther Easter Burghs, but made no headway against the lord advocate Maconochie. On Maconochie’s elevation to the bench a year later Baillie unsuccessfully contested the burghs against his successor Rae.3 He persisted at Hedon, secured the backing of the Tory corporation, bought the freedom for 200 guineas and at the general election of 1820 topped the poll.4

Baillie gave general but by no means slavish support to the Liverpool ministry when present, but he was not an assiduous attender.5 He divided against renewal of the Aliens Act, 1 June 1820 (and again, 5 June, 1, 19 July 1822, 2, 12 Apr. 1824), for restoration of Queen Caroline’s name to the liturgy, 23 Jan., 13 Feb. (but not the opposition censure motion, 6 Feb.), army reductions, 14 Mar., 2 May, and repeal of the additional malt duty, 3 Apr., and against Frankland Lewis’s* inclusion in the Irish revenue commission, 15 June; but he voted with government against parliamentary reform, 9 May, the omission of arrears from the duke of Clarence’s grant, 18 June, and economy and retrenchment, 27 June 1821. He divided for Catholic relief, 28 Feb. 1821, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May 1825. He voted for mitigation of the punishment for forgery, 23 May 1821, and criminal law reform, 4 June 1822. He was in the ministerial majority against more extensive tax reductions, 21 Feb., but voted for relaxation of the salt duty, 28 Feb., admiralty economies, 1 Mar., and abolition of one of the joint-postmasterships, 13 Mar. 1822. He voted in favour of investigating the Calcutta bankers’ grievances, 4 July, and to divide the Canada bill into two parts, 18 July 1822. In 1823, when he became a director of the East India Company, he voted with ministers against reform, 20 Feb., tax reductions, 3, 18 Mar., and repeal of the Foreign Enlistment Act, 16 Apr., but cast wayward votes in favour of revising the corn laws, 26 Feb., inquiry into the prosecution of the Dublin Orange rioters, 22 Apr., equalization of the East and West Indian sugar duties, 22 May, the introduction of jury trial to New South Wales, 7 July, and abandonment of the proceedings against chief baron O’Grady, 9 July. He was in small minorities against the subsidy for new church building, 12 Apr., 14 June, but sided with ministers against inquiry into the prosecution of the Methodist missionary John Smith in Demerara, 11 June, and for repressive legislation for Ireland, 14 June 1824, 25 Feb. 1825. He voted steadily against the grant to the duke of Cumberland in May and June 1825 and was in the minority for reduced judges’ salaries, 17 June. On 18 Mar. 1825 he defended the Indian military authorities against Hume’s strictures. He acquiesced in the bill to allow the Company to recruit writers from young men not educated at Haileybury, 28 Apr. 1826. He voted against giving the president of the board of trade a separate ministerial salary, 10 Apr., but with government against Russell’s condemnation of electoral bribery, 26 May 1826.

Baillie had declared himself a candidate for Inverness-shire, where the government minister Charles Grant was the incumbent, in the autumn of 1824, but he withdrew shortly before the general election of 1826, when he stood again for Hedon and was returned at the head of the poll.6 He voted for Catholic relief, 6 Mar. 1827, 12 May 1828. He was in the opposition minority for information on chancery delays, 5 Apr. 1827. He voted for repeal of the Test Acts, 26 Feb. 1828. As a member of the Marylebone select vestry he asserted that the complaints levelled against it by parishioners were unjustified, 31 Mar., 6 June 1828. He absolved the Company from responsibility for the defalcation of the registrar of Madras, 29 Apr. He was in the Wellington ministry’s majority on the ordnance estimates, 4 July 1828. He divided with them for Catholic emancipation, 6, 30 Mar., and presented and endorsed favourable petitions, 12 Feb., 12 Mar. 1829. In December he postponed his turn to nominate to a Company cadetship in order to oblige Lord Ellenborough, president of the board of control.7 He was named to the select committee on the Company’s affairs, 9 Feb. 1830 (and again, 4 Feb. 1831). He divided against the enfranchisement of Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, 23 Feb. 1830. He clashed with Hume over Indian army pay, 8 Mar. He voted for Jewish emancipation, 5 Apr., 17 May, and to abolish the death penalty for forgery, 24 May and (as a pair) 7 June. At the behest of constituency landowners he unsuccessfully opposed the Hull and Hedon road bill, 26, 27 Apr., 10 May. He divided for the grant for South American missions, 7 June 1830. At the ensuing general election he abandoned Hedon and secured his unopposed return for Inverness Burghs, where his kinsmen had influence, at the expense of Charles Grant’s brother Robert, whom ministers had targeted as one of the hostile Huskisson party. Returning thanks, he said that he was

a friend to rational freedom of every kind and in every country ... [but] too partial to ... [existing] institutions ... to subject them to the hazard of subversion for the chance of speculative improvement ... I think well of the present government, especially [Wellington and Peel] ... While they follow the same course ... they shall generally have my cordial support; but I am not one of those who can be led by even the strongest partiality for a minister to lend my support to any measure which either my conscience or my judgement ... disapproves.8

A ‘misunderstanding’ led Lord Melville, the government’s Scottish manager, to suppose that he would ‘personally support’ the man whom they were backing against Charles Grant in the county, but Baillie refused to go beyond neutrality, while assuring Melville of his attachment.9

Ministers counted him as one of their ‘friends’ and he was in their minority on the civil list, 15 Nov. 1830. On 28 Feb. 1831 he commended the Inverness petitioners for reform of the Scottish representative system for ‘properly ... not offering any opinion on the general question’; but on 19 Mar. he complained that by the Grey ministry’s reform scheme the Scottish burghs would be ‘virtually disfranchised’. He voted against the second reading of the English bill, 22 Mar. On 14 Apr., however, he conceded that ‘the feeling in favour of reform has become very general in Scotland’ and explained that while he was hostile to the principle of the English measure, he approved that of the Scottish, which ‘proposes to take away but a little and to confer a great deal’; he cited as an example of the current ‘gross absurdity’ his own case, in that he owned an Inverness-shire estate ‘yielding nearly £1,000 a year’, but voted there by virtue of ‘a sort of nominal right over the lands of others which yields me an income of but a few shillings’. He accordingly abstained from the division on Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment to the English bill, 19 Apr. 1831. At the ensuing general election he was turned out of the burghs in favour of a decided anti-reformer and offered for Inverness-shire as ‘a friend of moderate reform’ against Grant, now a cabinet minister, but, after a discouraging canvass, interrupted by the death of one of his illegitimate children, he withdrew.10

Baillie, whom Elizabeth Grant of Rothiemurchus recalled for his ‘pomposity’, successfully contested Inverness Burghs as a Conservative at the general election of 1832.11 He died in London four months later.12 By his will, dated 19 Oct. 1827, with codicils written after the deaths of some of his bastards, he provided handsomely for the survivors. His personalty was sworn under £20,000 in the province of Canterbury. His entailed Inverness-shire estates passed to his daughter Ann and her husband John Frederick Baillie of Dochfour.13

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Martin Casey


  • 1. Oxford DNB; V.C.P. Hodson, Officers of Bengal Army, i. 73.
  • 2. Hull Advertiser, 20 Sept. 1817, 23 May 1818; HP Commons, 1790-1820, ii. 446.
  • 3. HP Commons, 1790-1820, ii. 593.
  • 4. J. Markham, 1820 Election at Hedon, 12-14; Hull Advertiser, 3, 10 Mar. 1820.
  • 5. Black Bk. (1823), 137; Session of Parl. 1825, p. 449.
  • 6. Inverness Courier, 28 Oct. 1824, 12 July 1826; Hull Advertiser, 2, 9 June 1826.
  • 7. Ellenborough Diary, ii. 144.
  • 8. NAS GD23/6/573/10; Inverness Courier, 18, 25 Aug. 1830.
  • 9. NLS mss 2, ff. 156, 161.
  • 10. Inverness Courier, 27 Apr., 4, 11 May 1831; NAS GD23/6/614/8/11.
  • 11. Highland Lady, 95; Inverness Courier, 12, 19 Dec. 1832.
  • 12. Inverness Courier, 24 Apr. 1833.
  • 13. PROB 11/1818/422; IR26/1313/820.