LAURIE, Robert (c.1738-1804), of Maxwelton, Dumfries.
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Family and Education
b. c.1738, o.s. of Sir Robert Laurie, M.P., 4th Bt., by Christian, da. of Charles Erskine, Lord Tinwald, ld. justice clerk. m. (1) 18 July 1763, Elizabeth Maria (div. 2 Feb. 17741), da. of James, 5th Lord Ruthven [S], niece of John, 3rd Earl of Bute [S], 1s. 1da.; (2) 25 Apr. 1778, Judith, da. of Capt. Hatley, wid. of Robert Wollaston of Ipswich, Suff., s.p. suc. fa. as 5th Bt. 28 Apr. 1779.
Capt. 71 Ft. 1762; half-pay 1763; capt. 7 Drag. 1765, maj. 1771; lt.-col. 16 Lt. Drag. 1779; col. 1782; maj.-gen. 1793; col. 28 Lt. Drag. 1795-9; lt.-gen. 1798; col. 8 Drag. 1799- d.; gen. 1803.
Joint surveyor gen. of window and house tax in Scotland 1779-89; knight marischal of Scotland 1785- d.
Laurie’s patron was the Duke of Queensberry, a family friend, who in 1774 brought him into Parliament for Dumfriesshire as a Government supporter. A silent and ineffective Member, Laurie’s frequent absences may be attributed in part to military duty, although throughout the American war he never served abroad. Listed ‘pro, absent’ on the contractors bill, 12 Feb. 1779, he was also absent on 3 Mar. from the division on Keppel, whereupon Amherst, on the King’s instructions, wrote to him requesting his attendance for the Admiralty censure debate on 8 Mar.2
After Queensberry’s death in 1778 he retained the favour of the new Duke, succeeded his father as surveyor general of the window tax, and obtained a lieutenant colonelcy, but was still irregular in attendance in the House. Whenever he did vote it was with Government. He was particularly requested by Jenkinson on 21 Nov. 17813 to attend the House, ‘if it was not very inconvenient for him’, from the opening of the session until Christmas, to support Government in these ‘critical times’ and especially on the army supply vote. Laurie duly attended, voted 12 Dec. 1781 with Government on Lowther’s motion against the war, and thereafter in every recorded division until North’s fall in March 1782. He voted for Shelburne’s peace preliminaries, 18 Feb. 1783, but not on Fox’s East India bill. In December 1783, shortly before Pitt took office, Robinson wrote:4
Sir Robert Laurie will probably come in again. His conduct will in a good measure, though perhaps not entirely, depend on the Duke of Queensberry. His inclination is to be with Government. He may from the Duke be at present against [Pitt], but on any change or future Parliament it is apprehended would be both pro.
By January 1784 he had been won over to Pitt. At the general election he was returned as a Government supporter with the backing of Queensberry, who in 1785 ‘strongly seconded’ his successful application for the place of knight marischal.5 On 18 Apr. 1785 Laurie voted for parliamentary reform; but on the Regency question, following Queensberry’s lead, he voted with the Opposition. As a result he lost his place at the window tax office.
He died 10 Sept. 1804.