Stirling Burghs

Single Member Scottish burgh

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754-1790, ed. L. Namier, J. Brooke., 1964
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Queensferry (1754, ’84), Linlithgow; Stirling (1761); Inverkeithing (1768), Dunfermline (1774), Fife; Culross (1780), Perth


9 May 1754George Haldane 
3 Mar. 1758Robert Haldane vice George Haldane, appointed to office 
20 Apr. 1761Francis Holburne2
 Alexander Wedderburn2
11 Apr. 1768James Masterton 
9 June 1769Masterton re-elected after appointment to office 
1 Nov. 1774Archibald Campbell3
 Sir Alexander Gilmour2
3 Oct. 1780James Campbell 
26 Apr. 1784James Campbell 
21 Aug. 1789Sir Archibald Campbell vice James Campbell, vacated his seat 

Main Article

This constituency was one of the most venal in Scotland, and no one family secured a lasting interest. The sitting Member at the dissolution in 1754, George Haldane, was in bitter conflict with the Duke of Argyll; and Argyll sponsored the candidature of Robert Cuninghame against him. Soon after Henry Pelham’s death Cuninghame withdrew in favour of Colonel Arthur Forbes, and in a list drawn up for Newcastle on 5 Apr. it was still considered doubtful which would carry it. But Haldane spent heavily and forced Forbes also to withdraw.1 On Haldane’s appointment to office in 1758 he was succeeded by his uncle Robert Haldane, according to a subsequent account ‘owing to a mere chance, as nobody was prepared to offer their service in opposition to him’.2

At the general election of 1761 there were three candidates: Robert Haldane, the sitting Member; Admiral Francis Holburne, supported by the Duke of Argyll; and Sir Peter Halkett. In the notes on Scottish elections prepared for Newcastle in April 1760 there is the following about Stirling Burghs:3 ‘Each of the three [candidates] has a burgh. A fourth (Inverkeithing) is venal. Mr. Campbell, Member for the county of Stirling, believes he has the fifth (Stirling). So that there will be hot work in this district.’ Holburne brought in bands of armed sailors and press gangs to overawe Inverkeithing; and so flagrant was the corruption that the council of Inverkeithing was ‘reduced’ by order of the court of session and declared incapable of choosing a delegate for the parliamentary election. Haldane secured Culross and Dunfermline but was not hopeful of success, and shortly before the election stood down in favour of Alexander Wedderburn, a kinsman of the Halkett family. Stirling and Queensferry voted for Holburne, and Stirling, as the returning burgh, gave the casting vote to Holburne.4

Haldane continued to cultivate the burghs in close association with Sir Lawrence Dundas, who after Haldane’s death in 1767 became dominant in the constituency; and at the general election of 1768 Dundas’s nominee James Masterton was returned unopposed. In 1774 Dundas was strongly challenged by Archibald Campbell, in a contest notorious for violence and lavish expenditure. Campbell secured Culross and Dundas Stirling, and in the other three burghs there were rival delegates, each claiming to be lawfully elected. Shortly before the poll Dundas dropped Masterton, and replaced him by Sir Alexander Gilmour who, according to the Scots Magazine, ‘was not known to be a candidate till he was voted for’. Culross, Inverkeithing, and Dunfermline voted for Campbell; and as the result of a lawsuit Stirling was disfranchised until 1781. The election was said to have cost Campbell over £17,000.5

The Campbell family retained the seat for the remainder of this period. James Francis Erskine was a candidate in 1784 but failed to secure the vote of any burgh.

Author: Edith Lady Haden-Guest


  • 1. Cuninghame to Loudoun, 14 Jan., 4 Oct. 1753, Loudoun mss; Argyll to Pelham, 4 Sept. 1754, Newcastle (Clumber) mss; Stirling Guildry Recs. 104; Add. 32995, ff. 130, 190.
  • 2. Add. 36166, f. 319.
  • 3. Add. 33049, f. 308.
  • 4. E. Henderson, Annals of Dunfermline, 460-73; corresp. in Loudoun mss; W. Stephen, Hist. Inverkeithing Rosyth, 224; corresp. in Bute mss.
  • 5. Scots Mag. 1774, pp. 556-8, 620-2; Boswell, Private Pprs. x. 23-32, 37-41, 44-46; Sir Wm. Mayne to John Graham, 11 Jan. 1775, Kinross House mss.