BRUCE, Patrick Craufurd (1748-1820), of Taplow Lodge, Bucks.
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Family and Education
b. 24 Jan. 1748, 5th s. of Sir Michael Bruce, 6th Bt., of Stenhouse, Stirling by Mary, da. of Sir Andrew Agnew, 5th Bt., of Lochnaw, Wigtown. m. 22 Jan. 1785 at Gretna Green, Jane, da. of Edmund Smith of Spotland, Rochdale, Lancs. 4s. (2 d.v.p.) 2da.
Writer, E.I. Co. (Bombay) 1766; factor 1771, jun. merchant 1774, sen. merchant 1780; land paymaster and mayor, Bombay by 1792.
Maj. S. Bucks. vols. 1803.
Bruce prospered in Bombay, where he set up the mercantile house of Bruce, Fawcett & Company, in partnership with Henry Fawcett*. He left India worth about £80,000 in 1794, bought a country residence at Taplow, which cost him £14,000, and a town house in Fitzroy Square and developed the London agency of the Bombay firm, in partnership with Fawcett, John De Ponthieu* and George Simson*. This concern, known initially as Law, Bruce & Company, moved from Lawrence Lane to 7 Tokenhouse Yard in about 1799. By 1803 it was styled Bruce, De Ponthieu & Company and it later became Bruce, De Ponthieu, Bazett & Company, with premises at 71 Old Broad Street. In 1802, he and Simson joined Messrs. Were, Reed and Taylor in establishing a London bank in Bartholomew Lane.1 He was also an East India Company stockholder.
In the autumn of 1801, Bruce was thought of as a possible candidate for Stirlingshire on the Elphinstone interest at the next general election, but he was eventually discarded and instead contested Evesham, where wealthy strangers were popular. He came second in the poll and survived a petition, a success which cost him, so he later claimed, over £7,000.2 He is not known to have opposed the Addington ministry until 1804, when he voted with the combined opposition on 23 and 25 Apr. Listed as a supporter of Pitt’s second administration in September 1804 and July 1805, he voted with them against the censure of Melville, 8 Apr. 1805. Through his residence at Taplow, Bruce made the acquaintance of his neighbour Lord Grenville, to whom he attached himself after Pitt’s death. He voted for the Grenville ministry’s repeal of the Additional Force Act, 30 Apr. 1806, and at the general election was provided with a seat for the Treasury borough of Rye, at a cost of £4,800.3 He supported the ministry to the end and voted for Brand’s motion condemning their successors’ pledge on Catholic relief, 9 Apr. 1807.
At the dissolution, Grenville offered him a seat for an Irish borough at a cost of £5,000, without conditions, but as Bruce told his son Michael, who later gained notoriety as the lover of Lady Hester Stanhope and one of the rescuers of Lavallette:
I told Lord Grenville that as my personal pursuit by being in Parliament was only amusement and gratification, and not ambition, I could not in justice to my family pay so dear, that my seats for less than five years had cost me upwards of £12,000, that had his lordship continued in the administration or was to return to it, I should certainly then wish to be in Parliament, but as matters stood at present I had little inclination for the situation.
Other constituencies, including East Grinstead and Taunton, were mentioned, but Bruce was not prepared to engage in a contest. After the general election, Grenville arranged his return for Dundalk in place of Josias Porcher, who opted to sit for Old Sarum. Bruce contracted to pay Porcher the £25,000 owed to him by the late Lord Camelford and to take over the debt, which was to be repaid to him when he vacated the seat. He and Grenville initially understood that this would be after two years, but the patron of Dundalk, Lord Roden, who had sold the return to Lord Stair for a six-year term in 1802, made difficulties and stipulated that Bruce ‘must vacate his seat on the 1st August 1808, and in the event of Parliament being prorogued before that day, on the last day of the next session’.4
Michael Bruce was a censorious eye-witness of the bombardment of Copenhagen, but his father initially gave credit to the ministry for their ‘prompt and very energetic exertions in forwarding so extensive an expedition’.5 He may have been influenced by his son’s execration of the incident, for he voted with opposition on the issue, 3 and 8 Feb. 1808. No further votes are recorded in his name before he vacated his seat at the end of June 1808. He is not known to have spoken in the House and later admitted that only vanity had induced him to enter Parliament, whose proceedings bored him.6
In 1808 Bruce bought a town house in Upper Grosvenor Street, which cost him overall £22,000. He invested heavily in land, buying property in Berkshire, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Hampshire and Dorset, where he planted three million trees to be used for pit props. Plans for a marine villa between Poole and Christchurch were not put into effect. He paid £100,000 for the Inverness-shire estate of Glenelg and laid out a further £25,000 in improvements. By 1815 he faced serious financial problems as a result of the depression in the funds, the fall in the value of landed property and the failure of provincial banks which drew on his London house. In 1816, he sold his share in the East India agency in an effort to save the bank, but it closed its doors on 2 July. Although its debts of £507,506 were liquidated within six months, the failure left Bruce a broken man. He spent most of the last 18 months of his life in Scotland and Ireland and died 30 Mar. 1820. His affairs were found to be in disarray and Michael Bruce, now a radical in politics, saw little of the handsome inheritance he had been led to expect. Glenelg was eventually sold for £82,000, Taplow for only £6,000, and Bruce’s widow and unmarried daughter died in poverty.7