BONTINE, William Cunninghame (c.1772-1845), of Ardoch, nr. Cardross, Dunbarton.

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



1796 - May 1797

Family and Education

b. c.1772, 1st s. of Robert Graham* of Gartmore, Perth; Finlaystone, Renfrew, and Ardoch by 1st w. educ. Glasgow Univ. 1787. m. (1) 1798, Anna, da. of Ven. John Dickson, archdeacon of Down, 3s. 2da.; (2) Mrs Bogle, 1s. 2da. suc. fa. and took pat. surname of Cunninghame Graham 11 Dec. 1797.

Offices Held

Capt. Dunbarton fencibles 1795.


Bontine’s father opposed his return for Dunbartonshire in 1796, promulgated by the Duke of Montrose on the understanding that Bontine was ‘to act with his Majesty’s present ministers’, on which point the duke pledged himself ‘to very many gentlemen of the county’. It was an inauspicious debut and Bontine soon found it necessary to extricate himself from it. On 11 Mar. 1797 he informed Montrose that he had learnt that the duke was dissatisfied with his conduct in Parliament and, finding himself unable to keep to his agreement after ‘some experience in Parliament’, he wished to resign his seat rather than keep it ‘contrary to an implied obligation or an understanding of private confidence’. The duke, in reply, 17 Mar., counselled reflection and suggested that Bontine ‘need not attend Parliament or at least vote for the remainder of the session’, after which he might vacate. He added that, but for his pledge to others, he would have been happy to see Bontine retain his seat. Bontine, a defaulter from the House on 3 Apr., next wrote, 7 Apr., that his conscience and sense of public duty would not allow him to vote with ministers and he had learnt his lesson: not to place himself again in a situation where ‘obligations of private honour and of public duty are, or may become, incompatible’.

The duke applied for the Chiltern Hundreds for him, and on 1 May Bontine informed the freeholders of his plight and looked forward to being returned in future on principles opposite to those on which he had been expected to act. He had found that ministers, engaged in a war which was ‘the most prodigal waste of our national resources’, had brought the nation to the verge of ruin and bankruptcy ‘from which I believe in my conscience there is but one man in the kingdom who can save it’.1

Bontine hinted that his resignation was governed by the conduct of Montrose and it is clear that for a time he chose to resent the duke’s part in his resignation, but by 1802 he was concurring with the duke’s suggestions for Stirlingshire and Dunbartonshire and helping to implement them.2 He had succeeded in his father’s extensive estates in 1797 and changed his name according to the terms of the Ardoch entail. He was never again in Parliament, though on 8 Jan. 1798 he was admitted to the Whig Club, and he remained a force to be reckoned with in Dunbartonshire politics. On 20 Oct. 1806 he announced his candidature for the county, believing that the ‘change of circumstances’ he had alluded to in his address of May 1797 warranted it: he withdrew in high dudgeon before the election.3 He died 3 Nov. 1845.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. SRO GD22/1/318.
  • 2. SRO GD22/1/322, Montrose to Cunninghame Graham, 21 Jan., reply 26 Jan., Cunninghame Graham to Montrose, 10 Feb., reply 15 Feb., Montrose to Cunninghame Graham, 30 Mar. 1802.
  • 3. Edinburgh Advertiser, 17-21 Oct.; Fortescue mss, Adam to Grenville, 13 Nov. 1806.