ELIOTT, Sir Gilbert, 3rd Bt. (c.1680-1764), of Stobs, Roxburgh.
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Family and Education
b. c.1680, 1st s. of Sir William Eliott, 2nd Bt., MP [S], of Stobs by his 2nd wife Margaret, da. of Charles Murray of Hadden, Roxburgh. m. 23 Apr. 1702, Eleanora (d. 1728), da. of William Elliot, lace-maker of London and Wells, Roxburgh, 10s. 1da. suc. fa. as 3rd Bt. 19 Feb. 1699.1
The Eliotts of Stobs considered themselves natural political leaders in Roxburghshire, Sir Gilbert Eliott being the fourth generation of parliamentary representatives for the county. Although his grandfather had supported the Royalist cause in the Civil War and his father initially avoided taking the Williamite oath of allegiance, Eliott himself was staunch to the Revolution interest. He succeeded to the baronetcy and estate of Stobs in 1699, but never sat in the Scottish parliament, unlike his namesake and kinsman Sir Gilbert Eliott, 1st Bt., of Minto, with whom he is sometimes confused. Eliott first stood in the 1708 election and, with the support of the hereditary sheriff Alexander Douglas*, was able to defeat the Duke of Roxburghe’s brother, Hon. William Kerr*. At Westminster he acted as a Court Whig, even to the extent of deserting his countrymen. He was the only Scotsman who voted with the Court over the Westminster election case on 16 Dec. 1708, his fellow Scots joining with the Tories to victimize Sir Henry Dutton Colt, 1st Bt., for having formerly expressed anti-Scottish opinions. Perhaps unwilling to repeat this transgression, Eliott absented himself for the vote which finally determined the issue on the 18th. The Journals do not indicate that he was a particularly active Member. In January 1710 his return for Roxburghshire was belatedly considered by the committee of elections. During these proceedings, Eliott demonstrated something of the vindictive temperament which would later land him in serious trouble. On 20 Jan. he made insinuations that Kerr’s petition was ‘frivolous and vexatious’, an accusation which created ‘a hubbub’. Tempers were therefore already frayed by the 28th, when following the withdrawal of Kerr’s petition, ‘Sir Gilbert said he ought to have a vote of the House declaring that Mr Kerr had no just pretensions’. Kerr responded to this charge with such vehemence that Eliott initially apologized, claiming he meant
no affront to him by it, but afterwards, whether put on by some other [person] or thinking that he had given too much satisfaction . . . he followed Mr Kerr to the door and in the crowd asked him twice if he had anything to say to him, upon which Mr Kerr took him aside and asked him what he meant, he told him he had said what one gentleman ought to say to one another [sic]. Mr Kerr made him a bow and told him he knew his meaning very well.
Kerr’s friends assumed a duel must ensue, but were pleasantly surprised when no challenge materialized from Eliott. The latter was keen to keep the matter quiet and did not encourage discussion of the affair. The remainder of the session was uneventful, Eliott demonstrating his loyalty to the ministry by voting in favour of the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell and, on 3 Apr., carrying up the bill to explain the Act for better securing her Majesty’s person and government.2
Eliott was re-elected after a contest in 1710 and was classified as a Whig in an electoral analysis by Richard Dongworth, chaplain to the Duchess of Buccleuch. His subsequent voting bears out this assessment. He supported the Whigs over two controverted elections, those of Bewdley on 19 Dec. and Rutland on 18 Jan. 1711. He told on 18 Apr. against adjourning consideration of the bill to establish a post office in her Majesty’s dominions, and on 7 Feb. 1712 against the Scottish toleration bill. His ‘stiffness and obstinacy’ in consistently opposing the Court, were reported adversely to his electoral patron, Archibald Douglas. He was granted a two-month leave of absence on 9 Feb., but on returning to the House his opposition increased rather than abated. He joined in the abortive attempt to dissolve the Union in May 1713 and voted against the French commerce bill on 4 and 18 June.3
Unopposed at his re-election in 1713, Eliott was classified as a Hanoverian, that is, a Whig, by Lord Polwarth, an assessment repeated in the Worsley list and borne out by his voting behaviour. He voted against the expulsion of Richard Steele on 18 Mar. 1714 and told on 12 May in favour of the Whig wrecking amendment to extend the provisions of the schism bill to cover Catholic education. On certain matters of Scottish interest he was prepared to co-operate with Tories such as George Lockhart*, drafting with him an additional clause to the bill discharging the Equivalent commissioners from liability for money already disbursed. Eliott told in favour of this clause on 24 June, which would have charged the commissioners with 4 per cent interest upon the £14,000 appropriated for the wool-producing shires, unless this money was entrusted to the magistrates of Edinburgh, until ‘the application was agreed upon’. His interest in Scottish economic affairs is also evident in his responsibility for carrying up, on 2 July, a bill to explain the Act regulating Scottish linen manufacture. Eliott’s willingness to co-operate with Scottish Tories did not extend to those affecting the interests of the Kirk: he told on 3 July against an initiative to appoint commissioners to investigate episcopal revenues in Scotland.4
Eliott did not stand in 1715, making way for the sheriff’s son William Douglas†, nor did he at the next election, giving his interest to Sir Gilbert Eliott of Minto, 2nd Bt.† But following Minto’s elevation to the court of session in 1726, he came in at a by-election. An unfortunate and fateful fracas, however, prevented him from taking his seat. Sometimes dignified with description as a duel, this drunken brawl was a direct consequence of the recent by-election. At a dinner following a meeting to validate the freeholders’ roll Eliott complained bitterly of Colonel John Stewart’s* failure to vote for him, and the latter responded by throwing a glass of wine in Eliott’s face. So incensed that he did not give Stewart the time to rise from his chair, Eliott ran him through with his sword. Though able to rise and strike Eliott twice before the ‘combatants’ were separated, Stewart’s wounds were fatal and his dying statement was that ‘he had been murdered sitting in his chair, and that his assailant was Sir Gilbert Eliott’. Under these circumstances a meeting of local magistrates, including Eliott’s friends Douglas of Cavers and Lord Minto, could reach no other verdict than to declare him an outlaw. Eliott was not prevented from escaping, however, and he made his way to Holland. Concern for his soul was expressed by the Presbyterian divine, Robert Wodrow, who lamented that such ‘a really religious person’ had failed to master his ‘passionate and violent temper’. But Wodrow was heartened that Eliott was ‘exonerated by the generality on account of the provocation he had received’. Lobbying by Lords Minto and Ilay during 1727 secured a royal pardon for Eliott, who returned to live peacefully on his estates, dying at a ‘great age’ on 27 May 1764.5
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: David Wilkinson
- 1. Hist. Scot. Parl. 224–6.
- 2. Ibid. 224–6; G. Tancred, Annals of a Border Club, 167–9; SRO, Ogilvy of Inverquharity mss GD205/34/4, John Pringle* to William Bennet*, 18 Dec. 1708; GD205/35/5/1/1, Robert Wood to Bennet, 21 Mar. 1709–10; Lockhart Pprs. i. 297, 531; NLS, ms 7021, f. 199.
- 3. SHR, lx. 66; NLS, Douglas of Cavers mss, Acc. 6991, William Douglas to fa. 14 Feb. 1711–12; SRO, Mar and Kellie ms GD124/15/1020/4, Hon. Sir James Dunbar, 1st Bt.*, to Ld. Grange (Hon. James Erskine†), 19 Dec. 1710; Aberdeen Univ. Lib. Duff House (Montcoffer) mss 3175/2380, ‘Resolution of the Commons to call a Meeting of the Lords’,  May 1713; Parlty. Hist. i. 69.
- 4. NLS, Advocates’ mss, Wodrow pprs. letters Quarto 7, f. 177; Lockhart Letters ed. Szechi, 106–8.
- 5. W. R. Carle, Border Memories, 147; Tancred, 27; Wodrow, Analecta, iii. 318; G. F. S. Elliot, Border Elliots, 310.