CARNEGIE, Sir David, 4th Bt. (1753-1805), of Southesk.

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



1784 - 1790
1796 - 25 May 1805

Family and Education

b. 22 Nov. 1753, 1st s. of Sir James Carnegie, 3rd Bt.  educ. Eton 1765-9; St. Andrews; Ch. Ch. Oxf. 1771; Grand Tour. m. 30 Apr. 1783, Agnes Murray, da. of Andrew Elliot of Greenwells, Roxburgh, lt. gov. of N.Y. 1779-83 (bro. of Sir Gilbert Elliot, 3rd Bt.), 2s. 10da. suc. fa. 30 Apr. 1765.

Offices Held


A boy of twelve when his father died, Carnegie was brought up under the guardianship of his mother and a number of trustees, including Sir Alexander Ramsay Irvine, who completed the legal and financial business connected with the purchase of the Southesk forfeited estates, sold Pittarrow to his uncle George, a returned Jacobite, and by further land transactions paid off the entire debt.1

Ambitious from boyhood of ‘restoring his family’, he bought up former Southesk properties, selling some at a high profit,2 and, having consolidated the estates of the ancient earldom, laid claim to the forfeited title, but dropped his case in 1782, when his English counsel advised that, although descended from a collateral branch, not attainted, he had no right to the forfeited honour.3

Active in Forfar and Kincardineshire affairs, and determined to increase his family prestige by entering Parliament, he unsuccessfully opposed Adam Drummond in Aberdeen Burghs in 1780 when Robinson counted both candidates ‘friends’. ‘A very pretty young man’, according to Boswell, he was on friendly terms with Sir Lawrence Dundas, Lord Eglintoun, and other opponents of Henry Dundas.4 Closely connected from 1783 with his wife’s cousin Sir Gilbert Elliot and her sister’s husband Lord Cathcart, he stood in 1784 for both Forfarshire and Aberdeen Burghs as Opposition candidate, although Robinson had previously expected him to support Pitt’s Administration.5Defeated in Forfarshire but returned for Aberdeen Burghs, he voted against Pitt over the Irish commercial propositions, May 1785, and on the Regency, December 1788. Although no speech of his is reported in this Parliament, his attempt to speak on one occasion made him the butt of Dempster’s ridicule. ‘Mr. Speaker’, began Sir David, ‘I conceive, I conceive, I conceive’, and could get no further. Dempster interposed: ‘The honourable gentleman has conceived three times and has brought forth nothing. I therefore conceive we ought to be troubled no more with his abortive conceptions.’6

Carnegie died 25 May 1805.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: Edith Lady Haden-Guest


  • 1. Sir W. Fraser, Carnegies of Southesk, i. 210 et seq., 215.
  • 2. Ibid. 223.
  • 3. Ibid. 224. Cf. Geo. Stewart’s letter of Jan. 1772, p. 215.
  • 4. Boswell, Private Pprs. xiv. 31, 222.
  • 5. Laprade, 98.
  • 6. J. Fergusson, Letters of G. Dempster to Sir Adam Fergusson, xix-xx, quoting A. Lowson, Portrait Gallery of Forfar Notables.