CHARTERIS, Francis (1749-1808), of Amisfield, Haddington and Hornby, Lancs.
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Family and Education
b. 31 Jan. 1749, o.s. Hon. Francis Wemyss Charteris of Amisfield and Hornby (2nd s. of James, 4th Earl of Wemyss [S]) by Lady Catherine Gordon, da. of Alexander, 2nd Duke of Gordon [S]; nephew of Lord Adam Gordon and James Wemyss of Wemyss. educ. St. Andrews Univ. 1762; Grand Tour 1766.1 m. 18 July 1771, Susan, da. of Anthony Tracy Keck of Great Tew, Oxon. and gd.-da. of James, 4th Duke of Hamilton [S], 1s. 4da.
Charteris’s father inherited from Colonel Charteris, a notorious usurer and gambler, a vast fortune and great estates in Haddington, Lancashire and Westmorland, and by family agreements consequent upon the attainder in 1746 of the Jacobite Lord Elcho, Lord Wemyss’s heir, obtained possession of the Elcho estates in Fife. He succeeded John Maitland in Haddington Burghs in February 1780 and consistently supported Administration to the end of the Parliament. He spoke, 11 Apr., in the debate on the grant for Scottish roads and bridges; on 24 Apr. against the motion to implement the vote of 6 Apr. on the influence of the Crown, and on 4 May in defence of Scotland’s exemption from the malt tax.2
Although Charteris voted with Administration on 12 Dec. 1781 on Lowther’s motion against the war, on 14 Dec. he expressed his satisfaction at their intention to limit American commitments. In the debate of 15 Mar. 1782 on Rous’s motion of no confidence, he deplored reckless Opposition comment on Irish and American affairs. ‘To the great latitude of speech ... on the injustice of the American war were to be ascribed ... many of those calamities which were now said to be the fruits of the present Administration.’3
He voted against Shelburne’s peace preliminaries, 18 Feb. 1783; did not vote on Fox’s East India bill; and in January 1784 was listed ‘doubtful’ by Robinson. On 23 Jan. 1784, when Pitt refused to state whether or not Parliament was to be dissolved,
Mr. Charteris asserted his own independence. He was connected with no party. The conduct however of ministers struck him at present as being so affrontive of the dignity of the House that he would support any measures which conveyed censure on their conduct or tended to extort from them those informations which they were bound to give.4
Thereafter he was counted against Pitt. At the general election of 1784 he was returned after a contest, and voted with the Opposition on Pitt’s Irish commercial propositions, 13 May 1785, and on Richmond’s fortifications plan, 27 Feb. 1786.
On the death on 29 Apr. 1787 of David, Lord Elcho, owing to whose attainder the honours of Wemyss had been forfeited in 1756, Charteris’s father as next heir assumed the title of 5th Earl of Wemyss, and Charteris himself that of Viscount Elcho. On 21 May, when Sir John Sinclair gave notice that he would move for a new writ for Haddington Burghs, Elcho declared he would oppose it as he had not vacated his seat. The question was fully debated on 23 May when Sinclair quoted precedents to prove that Elcho, having become the eldest son of a Scottish peer, was disqualified from representing a Scottish constituency. The Opposition disputed that interpretation of the Act of Union, and the discrimination between the eldest sons of Scottish and English peers, Elcho himself maintaining that he was at least entitled to retain his seat until the general election, when on his re-election a petition could be presented against him.5 Sinclair’s motion was carried without a division, Elcho had to vacate his seat, and did not accept Dundas’s challenge to contest the by-election. Although in the event his father’s title was not recognized, as being still under attainder, Elcho made no attempt to re-enter Parliament.
He died v.p. 20 Jan. 1808.