DUNDAS, Lawrence (c.1710-81), of Kerse, Stirling, and Aske, nr. Richmond, Yorks.
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Family and Education
b. ?1710, 2nd s. of Thomas Dundas of Fingask, Stirling, and Edinburgh by Bethia, da. of John Baillie of Castlecary, Stirling. educ. ?Edinburgh h.s. m. 9 Apr. 1738, Margaret, da. of Brig.-Gen. Alexander Bruce of Kennet, Clackmannan, 1s. cr. Bt. 20 Oct. 1762.
Burgess of Edinburgh 1739; commissary for bread and forage in Scotland 1746-8, for stores and provisions in Flanders 1747-9, for stores in Scotland 1748-57; keeper of magazines of forage 1757-8; commissary for bread for foreign troops in Germany 1759; contractor for horses and wagons for the Hanoverians 1760-1; further contracts 1761-2; gov. R. Bank of Scotland 1764-77; P.C. 9 Oct. 1771.
Lawrence Dundas, the younger son of an impoverished branch of the Dundas family, set up in business as a merchant-contractor.1 During the Forty-five he obtained contracts for supplying the army of the Duke of Cumberland, by whose favour he was appointed commissary for bread and forage in Scotland,2 and subsequently commissary for provisions in Flanders, amassing a large fortune. ‘Naturally vain and intoxicated with the consciousness of opulence suddenly acquired’,3 he determined to enter Parliament. At the general election of 1747 he made a bid for Stirling Burghs, with the support of his kinsman and uncle by marriage, George Dundas of Dundas, whose son was a candidate for Linlithgow Burghs. When Pelham and Argyll gave their support to James Carmichael, Lord Hyndford’s brother, at Linlithgow Burghs, George Dundas withdrew his son’s name; but Lawrence went to London to ask Pelham’s support for himself in Linlithgow Burghs, which was refused. Returning to Scotland, he suddenly transferred his interest in Stirling Burghs to George Haldane, securing his own return for Linlithgow Burghs by wholesale bribery.4 His attempts to vindicate his conduct did not placate Argyll,5 who wrote to Pelham, 6 Aug. 1747:
Mr. Dundas’s account of himself is very extraordinary. A man who before the year 1745 had no fortune and was a reputed Jacobite, who at the beginning of the rebellion declared that it was indifferent to him which side should prevail, in 1747 after breaking his word with you and laying out the greatest sum to purchase an election that was ever known in this country, now pretends to have been obliged to stand for fear of losing his interest, and allows hardly anybody to be well affected who does not favour him.
Personally collecting evidence of bribery, Argyll took steps to check the schemes of Dundas and his connexion, Lord Lauderdale, writing to Pelham, 11 Aug. 1747:
I am told ... Mr. Dundas is carrying on a project of being barrack master in another name and has employed a noble Lord for that purpose. I could wish you would be slow in settling that matter or anything relating to his accounts, for I believe it will appear that he has greatly imposed upon the public.6
Pelham replied, 29 Aug. 1747:
I shall not easily forget or forgive Mr. Dundas. I am heartily glad they have such clear evidence against him ... I am pretty sure he depends on some friends he has about the Duke, but I doubt not when I see H.R.H. I shall be able to convince him that such a behaviour is not to be protected in my Government.7
Although, by Cumberland’s protection, Dundas retained his commissariat appointments, he was not appointed barrack master; final settlement of his accounts was held up until 1754;8 and on strong evidence of corruption he was unseated, 16 Mar. 1748.9 While Argyll lived, Dundas did not succeed in re-entering Parliament. His subsequent career was largely devoted to building up a political ‘empire’ in Scotland, with a view to securing a peerage which he never obtained.
He died 21 Sept. 1781, leaving an estate worth £16,000 p.a. and a fortune of £900,000 in personal and landed property.
Ref Volumes: 1715-1754
Author: Edith Lady Haden-Guest
- 1. Cf. Edinburgh handbills, Reply to 'A Citizen' by an Old Magistrate, 28 Sept. 1776; A Dramatic Interlude: The Humour of the Town, 1 Oct. 1776.
- 2. Cf. Boswell, Private Pprs. xiv. 126.
- 3. Edinburgh pamphlet, 9 Sept. 1777, A Rhapsody, by 'A Freeman', 4.
- 4. Ld. Hopetoun to Ld. Findlater, 13 June 1747; G. Dundas to Pelham, 15 June; Lawrence Dundas to Pelham, 11 and 25 July; G. Dundas to Pelham, 1 Aug. 1747, Newcastle (Clumber) mss.
- 5. Pelham to Argyll, 1 Aug. 1747, Add. 9186, f. 130.
- 6. Newcastle (Clumber) mss.
- 7. Add. 9186, f. 152.
- 8. Add. 33038, f. 328.
- 9. CJ, xxv. 427, 579-80.