LESLIE, Hon. Thomas (c.1701-72), of Stenton, Fife.
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Family and Education
b. c. 1701, 3rd s. of John, 9th Earl of Rothes [S], by Jean, da. of John Hay, 2nd Mq. of Tweeddale [S]. m. ?1753, 1da.
Entered army 1717; lt. Royal North British Drag. 1726; half-pay 1729; capt. 46 Ft. 1741; equerry to Prince of Wales Oct. 1742; barrackmaster for Scotland (with rank of col.) 1748-68.
Leslie was a former follower of Tweeddale and an opponent of the Duke of Argyll, who subsequently attached himself to the Pelhams. By 1753 he was in financial difficulties, increased by an improvident secret marriage. Opposed in his burghs by George Haldane, he was unable to maintain the contest without help; Pelham gave him £500 from secret service funds, and promised he ‘would be no loser’. By March 1754, when his opponent gave up, Leslie had spent over £1,500, and on Pelham’s death applied to Newcastle for reimbursement.1 Newcastle paid him £300,2 but when, by February 1755, no further action had been taken, Leslie protested:3
If a negative is put on my demand it will fall very heavily on a younger brother who has no estate, no fund but what arises from an employment without any view of advancement ... An entire stop is put to my credit ... Although I am not of great consequence, yet I should be sorry not to be thought as steady and grateful as the best.
When nothing was done Leslie, now desperate, appealed again to Newcastle, 30 Mar. 1756:
I beg and beseech you no longer to delay what I am in justice and by your Grace’s promise entitled to. My credit is at stake and if your Grace don’t do for me I shall be undone ... My creditors won’t have no longer patience with me.
And on 8 Apr.:
The money I laid out was the only stock I had to carry on my affairs ... There is bills upon me ... for upwards of £1,000. If they are protested ... I shall be ruined ... it is in your Grace’s power to save me.4
This plea was effective: on 15 Apr. he was given £500 from secret service funds,5 and remained Newcastle’s faithful adherent throughout the political changes and negotiations of 1756-7, voting in his support in the division on Minorca on 2 May 1757.6
In 1758, again in a ‘deplorable situation’ over his barrackmaster’s accounts, he wrote to Newcastle, 28 Feb.:
As Lady Day approaches, in the utmost anguish ... I presume to throw myself at your feet ... My good Lord you are my only resource, on no other I depend; leave not my poor wife [and child] to want and ruin. I tenderly love them, for God’s sake pity them ... let not an old servant who has been in five Parliaments be left to destruction.
When Newcastle refused to help, Leslie, faced with bankruptcy, requested on 14 Mar. a personal interview:
Your Grace’s resolution ... has plunged me into the greatest misery and despair ... this sinks me to the earth. I come not now to trouble your Grace with further applications but to acknowledge past favours, as I must soon be in a condition of being no longer serviceable to your Grace or be able to attend my duty in Parliament after so long a series of years. I can scarce bear those misfortunes that a small sum would have prevented.7
Newcastle apparently relented, for Leslie weathered the storm, remained in Parliament, and within a few months was again soliciting pensions and preferment for his relations.8
Having obtained as barrackmaster a more profitable contract in 1759,9 Leslie, unwilling to offend the court, took no part in the Scottish militia agitation and, although a member of the parliamentary committee on the bill, probably abstained from the division of 15 Apr. 1760.10 He is not known to have spoken in the House.
In June 1760 he sought Newcastle’s aid in his forthcoming election contest and suggested an advance of £800 or £1000. When Newcastle proposed to consult Argyll, Leslie protested:
I never had any connexion with that noble Duke; from the first Mr. Pelham was my patron, he desired me to apply to himself whenever I wanted anything, but keep fair with that minister ... After being so long in Parliament I should not incline to change my patron. I can carry my election with your Grace’s support solely.11
Throughout the summer Leslie importuned Newcastle for a decision, reduced his demand to £500, to which Newcastle with the King’s approval eventually agreed, and on receiving the money, in September left for Scotland.12 Having exhausted his funds at the Michaelmas burgh elections against two opponents, he returned to London after the accession of George III and asked Newcastle for a further subvention. When Robert Haldane gave up and joined him against George Dempster, Leslie suggested that the contest was now in effect between the Newcastle and Argyll interests, and, unable to ‘raise one farthing’ on his own credit, begged Newcastle for £300 to ‘finish the job’. He wrote to Newcastle, 3 Feb. 1761:13
I would gladly hope that for such a small sum your Grace would not allow an old servant to be affronted and an old family who have served the Crown faithfully, beat out of their interest by an upstart.
Although Newcastle apparently refused a further secret service payment, he assisted his protégé by some means to continue his campaign. Nevertheless Leslie lost his seat, and his proposal for a petition came to nothing.14
He did not attempt to re-enter Parliament, and died 17 Mar. 1772.
Ref Volumes: 1754-1790
Author: Edith Lady Haden-Guest
- 1. Add. 32734, f. 334.
- 2. Namier, Structure, 200, 427.
- 3. Add. 32852, f. 479.
- 4. Add. 32864, ff. 97, 182.
- 5. Namier, 441.
- 6. Add. 33034, f. 232.
- 7. Add. 32878, ff. 58, 212.
- 8. Add. 32881, f. 113; Bedford mss 37, f. 26; Add. 32899, ff. 217, 381.
- 9. T54/37/246-50.
- 10. Add. 32904, f. 176; 32905, f. 12.
- 11. Add. 32907, ff. 68, 155; Add. 32911, ff. 60, 170, 343.
- 12. Add. 32908, ff. 27, 272; 32909, ff. 94, 318; Namier, 465; Add. 32911, ff. 275-7.
- 13. Add. 32916, f. 259; 32917, ff. 189, 441; 32918, f. 240.
- 14. Add. 32919, f. 278; 32921, f. 321; 32924, f. 130.