LINDSAY, James (1791-1855), of Balcarres and Leuchars, Fife and 14 Lower Berkeley Street, Mdx.

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



6 Apr. 1825 - 1831
1831 - 1832

Family and Education

bap. 22 Apr. 1791,1 1st s. of Hon. Robert Lindsay of Balcarres and Elizabeth, da. of Sir Alexander Dick, 3rd bt., of Prestonfield, Edinburgh. m. (1) 16 Feb. 1819, Mary Ann (d. 14 July 1820), da. of Francis Grant of Kilgraston, Perth, s.p.; (2) 2 Apr. 1823, Anne, da. and coh. of Sir Coutts Trotter, 1st bt., of Westville, Lincs., 2s. 2da. surv. suc. fa. 1836. d. 5 Dec. 1855.

Offices Held

Ensign 1 Ft. Gds. 1807, lt. and capt. 1812, capt. and lt.-col. 1823; half-pay 1830; col. army 1838; maj.-gen. 1851; lt.-gen. 1855.


Lindsay’s father, the second of the eight sons of the 5th earl of Balcarres, who died in 1768, recalled in his maturity that he had been ‘flung into the wide world at the age of 13 upon my father’s death before my education was well begun’, and that ‘pursuits of the most active nature, not sedentary ones, afterwards engrossed my attention’. His eldest sister later wrote that while he was ‘less handsome’ than his next brother Colin

his countenance had much of the bon ami in it. He possessed sound sense without quick abilities, kind attachments and benevolence without parade, bluntness and sweetness, with a natural mercantile genius.

His elder brother, the 6th earl of Balcarres, a professional soldier, whose modest and encumbered inheritance created severe financial problems, described him as ‘a lad sound and solid in his judgement, having in his line the quickness of a projector, with an excellent understanding, to limit his undertakings’.2 On his father’s death his uncle William Dalrymple, a merchant at Cadiz, took him into his business; and when Dalrymple’s affairs became temporarily embarrassed he was taken on by his cousin James Duff, who encouraged him to learn Spanish. In 1772 he obtained a writership in the East India Company’s Bengal civil service. He prospered in India, where he attained the position of superintendent of Sylhet, near the Burmese border: a local monopoly of the capture of elephants and trade in oranges to Calcutta enhanced his fortune. He was generous with it, and gave his mother an annuity of £250 a year and his brother money towards payment of the heavy debts on the family’s estate at Balcarres in southern Fifeshire.3 On his return from India in 1788 he married, acquired an estate at Leuchars, near Balcarres, and bought the latter from his brother, who needed capital to exploit the coal and mineral deposits on the Haigh estate at Wigan, which had come to him on his marriage. Robert Lindsay offered Balcarres back to him soon after his return from his spell as lieutenant-governor of Jamaica in 1801, but he declined to take it.4

James Lindsay, the eldest of Robert’s six sons, visited his uncle, the 3rd earl of Hardwicke, with his next brother Alexander in January 1807, when their father wrote:

You will find them lads of a good disposition with affable manners ... Take an opportunity of sounding them as to their progress in general learning ... You will find them greatly behind boys of their own age who have had all the advantages of a regular English education. Were I to begin again I certainly would either take up my residence in England or be satisfied with such education as Scotland affords ... James is ... a decided soldier. Between 17 and 18 I propose giving him a commission in the Guards, and in the meantime to improve his education, in such branches [as are] best suited to the line he has chosen.5

In the event Lindsay joined the Grenadiers in December that year, at the age of 16. He served on the Walcheren expedition in 1809 and contracted fever after his return. At one point his life was despaired of, but his aunt, Lady Anne Barnard, who ran a literary salon in London, nursed him back to health. He was at the siege of Cadiz in 1811, distinguished himself at the capture of Seville and went home after Salamanca. He returned to active service in Holland in 1813, but was invalided home after being badly wounded at Bergen-op-Zoom.6

Lindsay lost his first wife, who died at Clay Hall, near Windsor, in July 1820, after only 17 months of marriage.7 He was a spectator at the Lords debate on the second reading of the bill of pains and penalties against Queen Caroline, 4 Nov. 1820, when he detected ‘a direct division amongst ministers’.8 In 1823 he married one of the daughters of the wealthy London banker Sir Coutts Trotter, a native of Berwickshire, who settled £20,000 on the children of the marriage, while Robert Lindsay contributed the same amount.9 In June 1823 he was sounded about standing on the next vacancy for Anstruther Easter Burghs, which lay close to Balcarres. He gave it serious thought, but concluded that, leaving aside the potential cost, such a seat was not especially ‘desirable’, and directed his attention to Wigan, where his cousin Lord Lindsay, Balcarres’s heir, Member since 1820, was contemplating retirement.10 As it happened, Balcarres’s death in March 1825 created a vacancy, which was quietly filled by James Lindsay, who the previous year had paid £5,000 for the lease of a London house at 14 Lower Berkeley Street.11 On 21 Apr. 1825 he voted against Catholic relief, which his uncle, Hugh Lindsay, Member for Perth Burghs since 1820, supported. He voted against the Irish franchise bill, 26 Apr. He divided with the Liverpool ministry for the duke of Cumberland’s annuity, 2, 6 June 1825, and against reform of the representation of Edinburgh, 13 Apr. 1826.

Returned unopposed for Wigan at the 1826 general election,12 he divided against Catholic relief, 6 Mar. 1827. It was probably his uncle who on 25 May withheld his support from the Canning ministry until he had ‘seen more of their measures’.13 He condemned the sending of British troops to Portugal, which had ‘placed the peace of the country in a very precarious situation’, 8 June 1827. He presented a petition from Wigan for repeal of the Malt Act, 22 Feb. 1828. He voted against repeal of the Test Acts, 26 Feb. He argued for the retention of corporal punishment in the army, the ‘most uncontrollable body of men in the community’, 10 Mar. He voted against Catholic claims, 12 May. He defended the appointment of Sir George Murray*, a former soldier, as colonial secretary against Hume’s criticisms, 30 May. He opposed an amendment to the salmon fisheries bill intended to permit the Sinclairs of Ulbster to fish the River Thurso, and was a teller for the hostile majority, 23 June. He divided with the Wellington ministry on the ordnance estimates, 4 July 1828. In February 1829 Planta, the patronage secretary, predicted that Lindsay, who was considered as a possible mover or seconder of the address,14 would vote ‘with government’ for Catholic emancipation. Lindsay, having approved Wellington’s recall of Lord Anglesey from Ireland, and reassured by the ‘security’ offered by the proposal to disfranchise Irish 40s. freeholders, which would ‘effectively break down the power of the priesthood’, took a pragmatic view, as he explained to an initially dubious Balcarres:

We have the choice between two evils ... either a civil war fomented by religion immediately before us, or the granting these concessions with the hope of being able to adopt measures to avert the impending evil ... He who stems this current must be swept away ... [but] the able and skilful minister may cautiously direct the stream and prevent mischief.

He conceded that emancipation

will not quiet Ireland in the sudden manner which visionary enthusiasts have supposed, but it will strengthen the hands of government, it will remove the nominal cause of grievance, it will unite England, and gain over all the moderate and well disposed Catholics.

With Balcarres’s blessing, he voted for the motion to consider emancipation, 6 Mar., and on 23 Mar. declared in the House that it was ‘calculated to improve, and not to deteriorate the constitution’, for ‘if we are to contend with the Roman Catholics, it is much better that the contest should be carried on within the walls of Parliament, than without’. He presented a favourable petition from Wigan, 17 Mar. He thought that any discontent which his vote might excite there would evaporate in six months; but, unlike Hugh, he did not vote for the third reading of the relief bill, 30 Mar. 1829, after being informed that his support for emancipation had indeed roused angry feelings. He nevertheless canted to one correspondent that ‘had the loss of my seat ... been the immediate result, which may hereafter be the alternative, I would not for a moment have hesitated in following that course which I thought the best for the welfare of the country’.15

He voted against the enfranchisement of Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, 23 Feb. 1830. On the Scottish judicature proposals, 1 Apr., he said that judges’ salaries should be raised because ‘the remuneration to all public men in high office are, at this time, scarcely sufficient’. He divided against Jewish emancipation, 5 Apr., 17 May. He presented petitions from Wigan publicans against opening the retail beer trade, 7 Apr., and voted for an amendment to the beer bill to prohibit on-sales, 21 June. He presented a petition from Linlithgowshire farmers against any increase in the duty on spirits manufactured in Scotland, 7 Apr. Lindsay, who had solicited government patronage for constituents in February, agreed with Balcarres in May that Wellington’s refusal of his request for an army promotion was not ‘that return which you merit’, but pointed out that the duke ‘has a number of most urgent applications [and] has made promises which must be complied with’.16 He voted against abolition of the death penalty for forgery, 7 June. On 24 June he criticized the Medway Navigation Company for setting a high dividend and failing to maintain the waterway. In the debate on William IV’s message on his accession, 30 June 1830, he expressed his continued confidence in ministers.

On the eve of the general election the following month, when he stood again for Wigan, Lindsay received a declaration signed by 40 Wigan burgesses condemning the East India Company’s trade monopoly and a letter from the mayor urging him to denounce it. His reply, that he considered monopoly to be ‘injurious’ in principle and that, though reluctant to give a pledge as to his future conduct, he would support the opening of the trade, was deemed by some to be ‘evasive’. At the nomination, when two radical manufacturers who had been put up by local dissidents seeking to widen the franchise came forward, he was attacked as a neglectful Member and aristocratic nominee by his colleague Hodson’s cousin, John Kearsley*, a local brewer, who unexpectedly announced his own candidature. Lindsay defended himself, argued that the Wellington administration had ‘effected great reductions in the expenditure, and done more than any other ministry for the people’; proclaimed, to general derision, his ‘independence’, and petulantly agreed, under pressure, that he was pledged to oppose the East India Company’s monopoly. He was returned in second place behind Hodson.17

Lindsay, who retired from the army on half-pay in November 1830, was listed by ministers as one of their ‘friends’, and he voted with them on the civil list, 15 Nov. He presented a petition from the merchants and manufacturers of Wigan for repeal of the duty on calicos and cotton goods, 10 Feb. 1831. The following day he wrote to Balcarres:

These are momentous times and if the House of Commons does not show independence of their constituents and act openly and honestly in support of existing establishments and the maintenance of the constitution, I think we shall see some fearful changes ... My notion is that when the great question of reform comes before the House in the shape of alterations of existing laws, ministers will find that they have sadly miscalculated the opinion of the Commons.

Later in the month Lindsay, who was confirmed in his seat by the decision of the election committee on his opponents’ petition, flattered himself that the Grey ministry was ‘every day losing the confidence of the House’ and ‘losing ground more and more’.18 He attended meetings of the West India merchants and planters committee, 24 Feb., 13 Apr.19 He was ‘decidedly of opinion’ that the reform bill would be ‘thrown out [on] the second reading’, but feared that ‘much mischief must arise from it’ and was not ‘quite satisfied that the House will divide so decidedly as to stop further discussion on the subject’.20 He divided against the second reading, 22 Mar., and on the 25th declared that he would ‘most heartily and zealously’ resist the Scottish bill ‘in every one of its stages’ and that ‘four-fifths of the wealth and influence of Scotland are opposed to it’. Supporting a petition from Anstruther Easter Burghs against their proposed disfranchisement, 28 Mar., he said that

the general system of the whole bill, with regard to reform in Scotland, appears to me to be most objectionable ... I have no intention, whatever, to oppose a moderate reform in Scotland as respects the burghs - indeed I think some reform is justly necessary; but it appears to me that the present plan is so completely at variance with every principle of justice and expediency, that I cannot give my support to it.

He insisted that the Scottish people did not want reform, which might damage their ‘flourishing’ economy, 14 Apr., and voted for Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment to the English bill, 19 Apr. 1831. At the ensuing general election he abandoned Wigan, where popular support for reform was very strong, and stood for Fifeshire against the incumbent, Wemyss, a reformer. At the election meeting, he admitted under interrogation that he was opposed to the reform bill, which sought to establish ‘a new constitution’, but claimed to be a supporter of ‘moderate’ reform: ‘the man who stands on the quicksands of expediency must take the consequences’. He defeated Wemyss by 85-68.21

He presented and supported a petition from the council of Cupar asking for the burgh to be joined with St. Andrews, Crail, Kilrenny, the Anstruthers and Pittenweem to return a Member, 30 June 1831, observing that the existing Anstruther district had over 6,000 inhabitants and that in the proposed new arrangement the Fife district would be dominated by the urban and manufacturing interests. He voted against the second reading of the re-introduced reform bill, 6 July, and for the first adjournment motion of 12 July. Next day he accused ministers of reneging on pledges to reduce expenditure and of fostering the delusion that reform would lead to lower taxation. Claiming again to be ‘a moderate reformer’, he praised the existing constitution, which conferred ‘liberty without licentiousness, and power without despotism’, and predicted that if the bill became law ‘anarchy and confusion’ would result. On the 14th he denied having defended pocket boroughs, as reported in The Times, but endorsed the way in which the ‘democratic principle’ was ‘checked by the aristocratic influence that enters into this House, through the close boroughs and the corporate towns’. He voted to postpone consideration of the partial disfranchisement of Chippenham, 27 July. On 6 Aug. he presented Fifeshire and Linlithgowshire petitions against the use of molasses in breweries and distilleries, and one from Anstruther Easter against the disfranchisement of its group, supporting it on the grounds of the district’s population and the injustice of grouping Cupar and St. Andrews with Perth, which deserved separate representation. He told Balcarres that ‘we got up a very lusty attack, and debate, against ministers on the disfranchisement of the Fife Eastern Burghs’, which had been of ‘great service to my cause there’ should an opportunity arise.22 He joined in calls on Tom Duncombe to retract his allegation that Lord Durham’s influence had secured preferential treatment for that county’s representation, 9 Aug. He divided in the minority of ten for Hunt’s amendment to make proven payment of rent a qualification for voting, 25 Aug. The following day he claimed that as the occupiers of £10 houses ‘neither represent the feelings nor intelligence of the people of this country’, the new franchise would ‘lead to the grossest corruption’ and fraud and would create ‘almost universal suffrage’ in the large towns, while ‘in the small boroughs, you will exclude hundreds who formerly enjoyed the franchise’. He gave notice that in the committee on the Scottish bill he would move that ‘the eastern district of Fife burghs shall continue to return a Member’, 31 Aug. He voted against the passage of the English reform bill, 21 Sept. He presented a petition from Kilrenny against the disfranchisement of the Anstruther district, 23 Sept. when he spoke and voted against the second reading of the Scottish bill, contrasting the solid achievements of Wellington’s administration with the incompetence of Grey’s, who used reform to mask their inadequacies. He argued that the ‘preposterous and unjust’ measure, quite apart from giving Scotland inadequate representation, would deprive Scots of the chance to come in for English seats, turn the sheriffs into partisans and give the manufacturing interest the preponderance. He alleged that the bill would ‘lead to universal suffrage’, 1 Oct. As a vestryman of Marylebone, he repudiated Hume’s charge that they had set an illegal rate, 30 Sept. 1831, and contended that while Hobhouse’s bill to open vestry elections was sound in principle, some of its details were ‘inappropriate to metropolitan parishes’. He supported Lord Althorp’s amendment to increase the proportion of ratepayers required to sanction the local adoption of the measure and Hume’s to increase the quorate figure.

He admitted that the revised reform bill contained some improvements, notably its regulation of the £10 franchise and preservation of resident freemen’s voting rights, 17 Dec. 1831; but he complained that by it ‘the agricultural interest will be completely crushed’ and drew a parallel between contemporary Britain and France on the eve of the Revolution. He voted against the second reading that day. He supported Inglis’s attempt to have a reference to Providence inserted in the preamble to the Scottish cholera prevention bill, 16 Feb. 1832. He voted against the enfranchisement of Tower Hamlets, 28 Feb. On 2 Mar. he reprimanded Adam for his ‘obsequious’ and misguided assurance that majority opinion in Scotland was satisfied with the number of Members now proposed for that country. He divided against the third reading of the English bill, 22 Mar. He disagreed with Boldero’s plan to embody veterans on half-pay in order to save money, 28 Mar. He said that the malt drawback bill would drive Scottish distillers out of the market, 30 Mar., and voted against its third reading, 2 Apr. He presented and endorsed a petition from the synod of Fife against the use of public money to educate Irish Catholics, but denied that he wished to promote intolerance, 7 May; and on 21 May alleged that the scheme would lead to ‘the exclusion of Protestant children’. He objected to the threatened creation of peers to carry the reform bill, 17 May. He condemned the Scottish bill as ‘nothing more than a new constitution’, of which most Scots remained ignorant, 21 May. On 25 May he presented a petition from Auchtermuchty for the burgh to be added to the revised district composed of St. Andrews, Cupar, the Anstruthers, Kilrenny and Pittenweem (Perth having been given its own Member) and voted against the second reading of the Irish reform bill. On 1 June he urged Lord Milton not to put off his proposed motion on the corn laws. Later that day, notwithstanding the changes made in the Scottish reform bill, he insisted that Scotland was entitled to at least 11 more Members than the 53 proposed. He begged Johnston to drop his amendment to debar Scottish clergymen from voting, 6 June. He was granted a month’s leave to attend to urgent business, 10 July. On 25 July 1832 he asked Althorp if ministers intended to introduce a bill to establish a provincial police force.

Lindsay offered himself again for Fifeshire in June 1832 as the opponent of ‘those speculative theories, which, advocating change for the sake of trial, unsettle men’s minds, diminish public and private confidence, and may lead into those fearful results we have so lately witnessed in other countries’. A week before the election in December, however, he withdrew, ‘finding my chance of success quite hopeless’. He told Peel that Fifeshire had been particularly affected by the Reform Act, as a result of which ‘the £10 constituency has entirely swamped the agricultural interests in Scotland’, and that ‘possibly I might have been returned for Wigan, but after three successive contests which I have had, I require to recruit a little for a future occasion, and consequently determined not to attempt it’.23 Congratulating Peel on his accession to office in December 1834, he wrote:

In ... [Scotland] the name of the duke [of Wellington] is still unpopular ... connecting it with the cry of no reform; but they readily accept of you and some of the Whigs consider you as belonging to them; and this will be the general feeling amongst them ... if any declaration of reform is made by you. The people in the burghs are still very radical. The agricultural population are now all Conservative. If you decide on a dissolution of Parliament you will have a better return from Scotland than last time, but the change of opinion in favour of Conservative measures is certainly not so great as it is in England.

He stood for Fifeshire against Wemyss at the general election the following month, when he professed his ‘Tory’s creed’ of opposition to the ballot and unwavering support for church establishments. He explained his humiliating defeat, by 467 votes in a poll of 1,635, to Peel:

Nine tenths of the landed interest ... supported me and nearly all the tenantry, but all our exertions could not avail. Above one half of our constituency in Fife are manufacturers, £10 voters. These and the Dissenters coalesced and with the assistance of the mob, the character of which was the most brutal I ever saw, they carried on ... [a] system of intimidation ... Our prophecies when debating the reform bill have proved too true in the alteration it would make in the character of the people in Scotland. Instead of that quiet and contented spirit which existed at least in our rural population, and also to a certain extent amongst our manufacturing, at present all are discontented and restless, occupied exclusively on politics and anxious for further changes but not knowing what these should be.24

On his father’s death, aged 82, in May 1836, Lindsay inherited Balcarres, which he turned into a social and intellectual centre of ‘refinement and high tone’, Leuchars and other property in the vicinity.25 He could not be persuaded to stand for Wigan in 1837 and in Fifeshire stepped aside for Lord Bruce, who fared even worse against Wemyss than he had. In 1841, he considered any Conservative attempt on the county to be ‘hopeless’.26 Between 1839 and 1843 he travelled extensively with his family in France and Italy. On his return he placed his services in Fifeshire, where he was now convener and believed that he possessed ‘more influence ... than any other individual’, at the disposal of Peel and his party, and applied unsuccessfully for a share of county patronage. He subsequently kept Peel informed of local opinion on proposed alterations to the Scottish banking system and the 1845 budget.27 In his last years, he took great interest and pride in the military career of his younger son Robert James (1832-1901), whose valour at Alma and Inkerman earned him the Victoria Cross.28 In the last year of his life Lindsay wrote to his wife from London:

I did not know till this morning that I was troubled with tender feelings, or delicate sympathies, or liable to make a fool of myself from such causes. But I went today to see the panorama of the Alma, and as I first looked upon the representation of that bloody field, the Guards in the foreground, and so many of them lying prostrate ... and our gallant boy the prominent figure in the foreground, raising the standard of England in the midst of the fight, looking boldly aloft in contempt of the danger surrounding him, I began to see indistinctly, and walked away to the other side of the room.

In the autumn of 1855 he defied sickness to set out for Florence. After falling ill at Avignon he managed to reach Genoa, where he died in early December 1855.29 By his will, dated 28 Sept. 1853, he left his wife their London house and the lands of her family, which came in 1894 to their elder son Sir Coutts Lindsay (1824-1913), a soldier, who had succeeded to the Trotter baronetcy under a special remainder in 1837. Lindsay devised to him Balcarres and Leuchars, along with £20,000 in cash, £3,106 worth of shares in the Newcastle Railway Company and personal effects worth an estimated £2,000. He bequeathed an annuity of £300 to his elder daughter Margaret, who in 1846 had married her second cousin, the future 25th earl of Crawford. Her son, the 26th earl, restored the Balcarres estate to the senior branch of the Lindsays by buying it from Sir Coutts in 1886 for £150,000. Robert James Lindsay, who received an annuity of £300 and a legacy of £6,000, was Conservative Member for Berkshire, 1865-85, and was created Lord Wantage in 1885.30

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Authors: Stephen Bairstow / David R. Fisher


  • 1. IGI (Fifeshire). He was presumably b. 17 Apr. 1791, not 1793, as stated in Burke PB.
  • 2. Lord Lindsay, Lives of the Lindsays(1858), ii. 309, 353.
  • 3. Ibid. ii. 340, 354-5; iii. 149-226; C.A. Bayley, Indian Society and Making of British Empire, 53.
  • 4. Lindsay, ii. 354-5, 364-5.
  • 5. Add. 35648, f. 115.
  • 6. Gent. Mag. (1856), i. 83; Lady Wantage, Lord Wantage, 2-5.
  • 7. Gent. Mag. (1820), ii. 281.
  • 8. NLS, Crawford mss 25/1/410.
  • 9. Ibid. 25/1/414.
  • 10. Ibid. 25/1/415, 416.
  • 11. Ibid. 25/13/11; 40/7/27; 40/8/7.
  • 12. Liverpool Mercury, 16 June 1826.
  • 13. The Times, 26 May 1827.
  • 14. Add. 40389, f. 85.
  • 15. Crawford mss 25/1/430, 432-5; 40/7/12, 13.
  • 16. Ibid. 25/1/440, 443.
  • 17. Ibid. 40/7/1; Manchester Guardian, 31 July, 7 Aug. 1830; Account of Wigan Election (1830), 33-35, 50-52, 53-59.
  • 18. Crawford mss 25/1/448, 449, 453.
  • 19. Inst. of Commonwealth Stud. M915/4/2.
  • 20. Crawford mss 25/1/456-8.
  • 21. Ibid. 40/7/32; Caledonian Mercury, 23, 30 Apr., 7, 28 May; Manchester Guardian, 30 Apr. 1831.
  • 22. Crawford mss 25/1/460.
  • 23. Caledonian Mercury, 30 June, 15 Dec. 1832; Add. 40403, f. 140.
  • 24. Scottish Electoral Politics, 224; Add. 40404, ff. 312, 314; 40412, f. 13; The Times, 1, 27, 31 Jan. 1835.
  • 25. Gent. Mag. (1836), i. 678; PROB 11/1864/434; IR26/1426/729; Wantage, 6-8.
  • 26. Crawford mss 40/7/14; Add. 40423, f. 342; 40487, f. 389.
  • 27. Wantage, 9, 88; Add. 40553, ff. 15, 17, 195-203; 40561, ff. 70-76.
  • 28. Oxford DNB.
  • 29. Wantage, 111, 125-6; Gent. Mag. (1856), i. 83.
  • 30. PROB 11/2229/217; IR26/2073/317; Oxford DNB.