DUNDAS, Thomas (1750-94), of Fingask and Carronhall, Stirling.
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Family and Education
b. 30 June 1750, 1st s. of Thomas Dundas of Fingask, bro. of Charles and nephew of Sir Lawrence Dundas. educ. Edinburgh h.s. m. 9 Jan. 1784, Lady Eleonora Elizabeth Home, da. of Alexander, 9th Earl of Home [S], 1s. 6da. suc. fa. 16 Apr. 1786.
Cornet 1 Drag. Gds. 1766; capt. 63 Ft. 1769, maj. 1776; lt.-col. 80 Ft. 1777; col. 1782; half pay 1783-93; commr. for loyalist claims 1783-90; dep. gov. Guernsey Jan. 1793, gov. May 1793; maj.-gen. 1793; col. 68 Ft. 1794; gov. Guadeloupe May 1794.
Thomas Dundas owed his first commission to his uncle Sir Lawrence. He was a captain in the 63rd Ft. stationed in Ireland when on 31 Jan. 1771, a few months before he was of age, he replaced his father as Member for Orkney and Shetland. In Parliament he joined his uncle’s group in support of North’s Administration. He is not known to have spoken in the House.
He obtained his lieutenant-colonelcy in a new regiment raised by the city of Edinburgh, and in April 1779 sailed with his regiment for South Carolina. His reputation as an officer stood high. The mother of one of his ensigns wrote to her son:
Always take Col. Dundas’s advice. He has seen much of the world ... everybody speaks well of him and whatever character he gives of the officers of his regiment will be believed before anybody.
He was present at the siege and capture of Charleston in 1780, served with Tarleton and Cornwallis in Virginia and the Carolinas, and in October 1781 was one of the commissioners appointed to arrange the surrender at Yorktown. As an absentee, who in any case had little contact with his constituency, he was replaced by his brother at the general election of 1780.
In June 1783, shortly after his return, he accepted from Lord John Cavendish a place on the board to examine the claims of the American loyalists. At the general election of 1784 he was again returned for his former constituency.
On 18 Apr. 1785 he voted with his brother and Sir Thomas in support of Pitt’s motion for parliamentary reform, but all three voted against the Irish propositions in the following month. In September 1785 he sailed for Nova Scotia to examine the claims of loyalists settled there. He wrote from Halifax on 29 Nov. 1785 to his man of business, John Dundas, of his ‘cruel situation ... forced by conviction and a sense of duty to leave my father in the state he was, and my mother and wife who both required my assistance; but my coming here was unavoidable, my future prospects and character depended upon it.’ Joined by his wife in 1786, he spent the next two years in Nova Scotia (on whose constitution he prepared elaborate notes), New Brunswick, and Canada.
His return to England in 1788 coincided with the political crisis over the King’s insanity. Resuming his seat in Parliament, he voted on 16 Dec. 1788 and 16 Feb. 1789 with the Opposition on the Regency question. On 28 Jan. 1789 Sir Thomas Dundas wrote to Col. Dundas a secret and confidential letter, informing him that as soon as the Regency was settled the office of commander-in-chief would be given to the Duke of York, who planned to appoint ‘a military man as confidential secretary’ and would offer the post to Col. Dundas. But Dundas was unwilling to accept. Sir Thomas, exasperated at his cousin’s ‘diffidence’, wrote to Charles, 3 Feb. 1789: ‘It is but a bad compliment to the understanding of the Duke of Portland, Lord Fitzwilliam, William Adam and myself, that he puts his own opinion in competition with ours.’
Col. Dundas was essentially a soldier, not greatly interested in a parliamentary career. At the general election of 1790 he was defeated for Orkney and Shetland and did not seek to re-enter Parliament.
He died of yellow fever on the expedition to Guadeloupe, 3 June 1794.1
Ref Volumes: 1754-1790
Author: Edith Lady Haden-Guest
- 1. M. I. Dundas, Dundas of Fingask, 61, 63, 64, 69-70, 93-94. For an account of Dundas’s life and death in the West Indies, see Gent. Mag. 1843, ii. 155-160, 249-256.