Stirling Burghs

County

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1715-1754, ed. R. Sedgwick, 1970
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Culross (1715, '47), Perthshire; Queensferry (1722), Linlithgowshire; Stirling (1727); Inverkeithing (1734), Dunfermline (1741), Fife

Number of voters:

98

Elections

DateCandidate
18 Feb. 1715HENRY CUNNINGHAM
13 Apr. 1722HENRY CUNNINGHAM
9 Sept. 1727HENRY CUNNINGHAM
16 Mar. 1728THOMAS ERSKINE vice Cunningham, chose to sit for Stirlingshire
5 Aug. 1729ERSKINE re-elected after appointment to office
25 May 1734PETER HALKETT
 James Erskine
1 June 1741JAMES ERSKINE
25 July 1747GEORGE HALDANE

Main Article

Under George I Stirling Burghs, one of the most venal constituencies in Scotland, was represented by Henry Cunningham, a Walpole Whig, who inherited an interest in Stirling. He built up another interest in Inverkeithing by purchasing tenements there from the 1st Earl of Rosebery, whom he succeeded as provost in 1720.1 Re-elected unopposed in 1727, but choosing to sit for the county, he was replaced by Thomas Erskine, put up by his uncle, James Erskine, then attached to Ilay, Walpole’s electoral manager for Scotland. Just before the 1734 election, James Erskine went into opposition, standing for Stirling Burghs with the support of the Squadrone. Ilay immediately despatched Cunningham to put up Peter Halkett,2 an army officer, whose family had represented Dunfermline in the pre-Union Parliament of Scotland. Before the election Cunningham declared himself ‘sure of Stirling as well as of Inverkeithing’, having won over Lady Mary Cochrane, who controlled Culross.3 At the election Erskine received the votes of Stirling, Queensferry and Dunfermline, Halkett those of Culross and Inverkeithing. Cunningham, as the commissioner for the presiding burgh, Inverkeithing, rejected Erskine as commissioner for Dunfermline. Having thus created an equality of votes, he gave his casting vote for Halkett,4 who was returned ‘without so much as having applied or spoke to one of the burghs before the day of the election’. After petitioning repeatedly without success, Erskine was returned unopposed as an anti-government candidate in 1741.

In 1747 Halkett was recommended as the government candidate by Ilay, now Duke of Argyll, with the approbation of Henry Pelham. But Patrick Haldane put up his son George, for whom he had been making an interest in the burghs, with the support of the Cochranes. Excusing himself on the ground that he had not learned of Argyll’s recommendation till too late, he assured Pelham that Halkett’s chances were ‘hopeless’ because of the circumstances in which he had been returned in 1734, since when he had ‘never visited nor kept the least correspondence with’ any of the burghs.5 George Haldane was returned despite Pelham’s disapproval.

Author: Eveline Cruickshanks

Notes

  • 1. Ramsay of Ochtertyre, Scotland and Scotsmen in 18th Cent. ii. 120-1; W. Stephen, Hist. Inverkeit