BAILLIE, Peter (1771-1811), of Berkeley Square, Bristol, Glos.
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Family and Education
Ensign R. Bristol vols. 1797, capt. 1803.
Baillie was sent to France to complete his education in July 1788. His father wrote to him, 22 Feb. 1789:
it would mortify me ... if you came back in any shape ignorant of what you are pursuing, or unacquainted with anything worth seeing ... In short, so far as I can afford it, I wish to give you every advantage of education, and then the fault and censure will be your own if you do not do well.
On 24 May 1789 Evan Baillie vetoed a ‘projected excursion to Switzerland’:
I by no means object to the expense, nor to twice the sum you mention, was the object of any importance or could ... be accomplished with character and propriety. The fact is that you was sent to France to acquire a facility in the language of that country and to follow up your other studies, and I ... shall be much disappointed if after your twelve months residence there, which ... I do not wish you to exceed, you returned in any respect deficient. When you return, as you will then be near eighteen years of age, it will be necessary that you adopt some profession, by which to acquire a maintenance and a respectable rank in life. You shall be left a free agent in your choice, but whatever may be the object, there will be a necessity of your following it up with industry, attention and perseverance. If the mercantile line should be your object, I should hope that after three years close application you would be able to take much trouble and responsibility off my shoulders ... I mention these matters now that you may be prepared to form your resolution when you return to us in July.2
He opted to join his father in his Bristol West India mercantile house, ran the business during Evan Baillie’s periods of absence and in 1806 became a partner in the Bristol Old Bank (Elton, Edwards, Baillie, Tyndall, Skinner and Company).3
Baillie visited the family properties in northern Scotland in 1806 and at the general election the following year came forward for Inverness Burghs, where his father had recently gained a somewhat precarious control of Fortrose and his cousin James Grant of Bught, provost of Inverness, secured him the support of the latter burgh. There were other candidates in the field and on 1 May Lord Melville told his son, a member of the Portland ministry, that Baillie’s candidature was not to be encouraged.4 Grant advised Baillie, 3 May, that ‘we are all staunch friends to the present ministry, which it may be prudent to hint at in your correspondence as possessing principles congenial to your own’. He was opposed, but was returned by the casting vote of Fortrose. On 1 June 1807 he informed Melville that it was his ‘fixed intention’ to give ‘warm independent support’ to the Portland ministry, ‘under a firm conviction that all their measures will be directed to the public good and that the country in its present circumstances cannot be governed by men of greater talents or integrity’. Five days later his attendance for the opening of Parliament was requested by government.5
Baillie is not known to have opposed the Portland ministry. He reported from the committee appointed to consider the petition from Inverness council for a bridge and improvement bill, 10 Feb. 1808, helped to prepare such a measure and again reported from a committee on it, 29 Apr. On 9 Mar. 1808 Grant, blaming the opposition for late sittings of the House, was not surprised that Baillie was ‘perfectly tired with the present fatigue of a parliamentary life’. Two days earlier he had secured a fortnight’s leave of absence because of ill health and he obtained further periods of grace, to attend to ‘urgent private business’, 4 Apr. and 18 May 1808.6 On 14 May 1809 he evidently sent a ‘political dissertation’ to Grant, who replied: ‘you don’t seem to allow any merit to men who only vote according to their conscience, because in this they only do their duty’. In the same letter he declared his opinion that there was ‘room for some parliamentary reform’.7 He was unwell in the autumn of 1809, but when Perceval requested his attendance for the opening of the next session, he replied that he would go up either then ‘or soon after’, though the following day he evidently expressed to Grant doubts about the capacity of the new ministry and a disposition not to commit himself politically ‘one way or the other’.8
In the event, Baillie, like his father, voted against government on the Scheldt inquiry, 5 Mar. 1810. The Whigs listed him as ‘hopeful’ later in the month, and although he was shut out of the first division in the major clash on the question, 30 Mar., he voted with them in the three subsequent ones. He had evidently made inquiries as to the impression created by his vote of 5 Mar. in his constituency, where his hold on Fortrose was under serious threat, and on 27 Mar. Thomas Gilzean of Inverness reassured him:
I am persuaded your constituents here wish you to exercise your own judgement and to act entirely on independent principles. They have the most implicit confidence in your doing what is proper; and though they cannot suppose you would join in any systematic opposition to the necessary measures of government, they would not approve of your joining ministers in matters of national importance where you disapproved of their conduct. The case you allude to is certainly one that has deservedly met with the reprehension of Parliament.9
His only other recorded vote of the 1810 session was for Brand’s parliamentary reform motion, 21 May. Grant, who pressed him strongly to go to Scotland in order to arrest the continued decline of his interest in Fortrose, told him that the vote had ‘made a strong impression’ on some of his friends in Inverness, who regarded ‘a poll election as a great curse wherever it exists’. Baillie, who was unable to make the journey north, evidently clung to his view that a measure of reform was necessary and was unimpressed by Grant’s contention that his own return in 1807 was ‘a strong argument against the idea that the influence of government and the weight of great families invariably sway borough elections in Scotland’.