ALLAN, Alexander (?1764-1820), of Kingsgate, Kent and Baker Street, Marylebone, Mdx.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer



19 Apr. 1803 - 1806

Family and Education

b. ?1764. unm. cr. Bt. 31 July 1819.

Offices Held

Cadet, E.I. Co. (Madras) 1779, ensign 1780, lt. 1786, capt. of guides 1792-8, capt. 1796, town maj. Madras 1797, maj. 1803, res. 1804; lt.-col. at home.

Dir. E.I. Co. 1814-d.


Nothing is known of Allan’s family background. The only relations mentioned in his will are a widowed aunt Jane Smith of Beaumont Place, Shepherds Bush, and her two unmarried daughters Jane and Margaret.1 His standing and political connexions were established during 19 years’ service in India, whither he sailed in 1780, aged 16. He served for much of the time as a guide and surveyor. ‘At the time he quitted India’, he told the House in 1808, ‘no European had seen more of the Carnatic than himself.’ He held what he later termed ‘confidential’ situations under Robert Hobart (afterwards 4th Earl of Buckinghamshire) when governor of Madras, and Wellesley, when governor-general, both of whom were to influence his political career in England.2 Hobart’s brother-in-law, John Sullivan, warned him in May 1797 that there were complaints at India House that he had ‘loaded Allen [sic] with a number of appointments that are incompatible’.3 After Hobart’s departure he acted as deputy quartermaster general to the army campaigning against Tipu Sultan, and Wellesley reported to Hobart, 12 Aug. 1799:

During the whole of the late prosperous campaign in Mysore Major Allan’s conduct was such as to confirm his former distinguished reputation and to obtain the repeated applause of the commander in chief. But on the memorable day of the assault on Seringapatam his judgment, valour, and humanity were so conspicuous in his successful efforts to protect the family of Tippoo Sultan in the palace, and ultimately to induce them to surrender to the British troops, that I thought myself bound to mark my gratitude to Major Allan by appointing him to be one of my honorary aides de camp.4

Dissatisfied that he had not been appointed quartermaster general and feeling that ‘there was nothing that the service offered which would induce me to remain in the country, now that I could retire with propriety’, he returned to England immediately after the campaign.5

His friendship with Hobart, now a secretary of state in Addington’s government, brought Allan to the attention of administration in 1802. He is not known to have contested any borough at the general election, but was reported to be coming in for Aldborough on the Duke of Newcastle’s interest at the instigation of his friend Lord Harrington. Moreover, Charles Rashleigh wrote to Pole Carew on 2 July, in the course of a letter on Cornish elections, inquiring after Allan’s christian name.6 By August he had been selected by Addington to come in on Lord Mount Edgcumbe’s interest at Plympton Erle in place of Edward Golding, who had also been elected for Fowey. On the 7th, informed of unspecified difficulties on the part of Mount Edgcumbe, Addington replied: ‘I should not act fairly and honourably towards Major Allan if I did not endeavour to avert from him not a disappointment only, but a real humiliation’. On the 29th he informed both Pole Carew and Hobart that Allan was to stand instead for Winchelsea ‘upon the supposition that the seat at Winchelsea may be had on similar conditions, and no other are desired’. On 11 Sept. Addington confirmed: ‘Everything is satisfactorily settled respecting Plympton and Winchelsea’.7 Presumably Allan was to have been returned on the interest of Sir Christopher Hawkins, who was negotiating the purchase of both seats at Winchelsea from Richard Barwell. But Hawkins’s schemes fell through and it was not until the following April that Allan was successfully brought forward at a by-election at Berwick by John Fordyce, who had been elected there in 1802 but unseated on petition. Not placed in any of the groups likely to be hostile to Pitt in Rose’s list of May 1804, he was classed ‘Addington’ in September 1804 and ‘Sidmouth’ in July 1805. He supported the Grenville ministry and cast his first recorded vote in favour of the repeal of the Additional Force Act, 30 Apr. 1806. At that time he was a stockholder entitled to two votes for the East India Company directorate.

Soon after entering the House, Allan worked through Hobart to secure military employment. As there was no room for him in the quartermaster general’s department, he was attached to Sir James Craig, commander of the Eastern District, as a military surveyor. From Colchester he wrote to Hobart on 31 Oct. 1803:

as the motives which induced me to get employed at this particular period appear to be generally known, I have experienced great civility from all the military which I own, as a Company Officer, I did not expect ... as far as I can recollect from Colonel Gordon, Sir James Craig will be disposed to have me immediately about him, in case there should be any thing to do in this quarter. I am therefore perfectly satisfied with my present situation and should have been very unhappy to have been unemployed in the event of this country being invaded.8

The extent of Allan’s duties are obscure for he appears in none of the Army Lists of the period. It was the pressure of military commitments that he gave as the reason for his late arrival for the canvass at Berwick in 1806. Although promised government support, he stood only a token contest to make known his intention of maintaining his interest in the borough.9 Thereafter by careful cultivation of the constituency he ensured his popularity and survived contests in 1807, 1812 and 1818.

Buckinghamshire reported to Sidmouth on 20 Feb. 1808 that he ‘had a very long and satisfactory conversation with Allan ... and I am convinced that my wishes will in future be conclusive upon his conduct’.10 He was classed as one of the eight followers of Sidmouth by the Whigs in 1810 and his voting record in the Parliament was similar to that of other members of the connexion: against administration on Petty’s motion on Cintra, 21 Feb. 1809; for them on the address, 23 Jan., but against on the Scheldt expedition, 26 Jan., 23 Feb., 5 and 30 Mar. 1810; against parliamentary reform, 21 May 1810; and thereafter in support of administration on the Regency, 1 Jan. 1811, and Stuart Wortley’s motion, 21 May 1812. He retained, however, a lingering affection for Wellesley, whose Indian policy he defended at length, quoting extensively from official documents, on 9 Mar. and 17 May 1808, in reply to the critical motions of Folkestone and Turton. On the second occasion he eventually broke down after recounting the death of one of his colleagues in India. Charles Williams Wynn included him among the friends of Wellesley who voted against Castlereagh on 25 Apr. 1809 in the hope of Wellesley’s succeeding to the War department.11 In September 1809, after an ‘unpleasant correspondence’ with Buckinghamshire, he was ready to accept an undersecretaryship to Wellesley at the Foreign Office and soon afterwards his ‘premature’ canvass of Berwick was interpreted as a ‘presage of Lord Wellesley’s not connecting himself with government’. On 26 July 1813 he wrote to Sidmouth with news of a final separation between Canning and Wellesley and concluded:

I cannot help flattering myself that the hope I have long cherished will now be realized, and that I shall see Lord Wellesley a member of the same cabinet with your lordship. You are united in friendship, and ought to be in politics.12

After his efforts in 1808 and a brief defence of the Peninsular campaign, 24 Feb. 1809, he spoke only once more, 31 May 1810, critically of the East India Company for breaking faith with the natives. The day before he had presented a Berwick petition for economy and reform.

In the Parliaments of 1812 and 1818, although a supporter of government and classed as such by the Treasury, he was capable of acting independently. A member of the select committee on East India Company affairs, he opposed Christian missions to India, 22 June 1813. In the next two sessions he steadily opposed any revision of the Corn Laws. He voted against continuation of the property tax, 18 Mar. 1816. His certain votes in support of government were on the civil list, 8 May 1815, the army estimates, 6 Mar. 1816, for the suspension of habeas corpus, 23 June 1817, and for the prosecution of radical booksellers, 21 May 1818; against Tierney’s censure motion, 18 May 1819, and for the foreign enlistment bill, 10 June 1819. He was close enough to government to be placed on Liverpool’s lists for dinner parties, and Liverpool referred to him as one of the few directors of the East India Company ‘with whom I am personally acquainted’.13 He opposed Catholic relief throughout in 1813 and again in 1817.

Allan did not contest Berwick in 1820 and died 14 Sept. 1820, aged 56. After making numerous small bequests he left the residue of his personal estate and effects to Fanny Franklyn, the wife of Henry Franklyn of Copthall House, near Luton, Bedfordshire, with remainder to her son Allen Franklyn.14 At the time of his death he was a member of the Company of Merchants of England trading to the East Indies.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: J. M. Collinge


  • 1. PCC 651 Kent.
  • 2. R. H. Phillimore, Hist. Recs. Survey of India, i. 308; Parl. Deb. x. 1024; xi. 373, 387.
  • 3. Bucks. RO, Hobart mss E79.
  • 4. Ibid. H79.
  • 5. Phillimore, i. 308; Add. 37282, f. 140.
  • 6. Nottingham Univ. Lib. Newcastle mss NeC 6059; The Times, 26 June 1802; Pole Carew mss CC/L/34.
  • 7. Sidmouth mss, Addington to Pole Carew, 7, 29 Aug., to J. H. Addington, 11 Sept. 1802; Hobart mss H9.
  • 8. Hobart mss J403, 450, 490.
  • 9. Morning Post, 13 Nov. 1806; Fortescue mss, Grenville to Douglas, 10 Nov. 1806.
  • 10. Sidmouth mss.
  • 11. Corresp. of Lady Williams Wynn, 147.
  • 12. Add. 37295, ff. 109, 110; Grey mss, Lauderdale to Grey, Sunday [15 Oct. 1809]; SRO GD51/5/364/16; Pellew, Sidmouth, iii. 107.
  • 13. Add. 38410, f. 391.
  • 14. Gent. Mag. (1820), ii. 286; PCC 651 Kent.