DRUMMOND, William (?1770-1828), of Logie Almond, Perth.

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



10 Nov. 1795 - 1796
1796 - 1802

Family and Education

b.?1770, 1st s. of John Drummond, 4th laird of Logie Almond by Lady Catherine Murray, da. of William, 3rd Earl of Dunmore [S]. educ. St. Andrews Univ. 1784; ?Christ Church, Oxf. 24 Jan. 1788, aged 18. m. 12 Dec. 1794, Harriet Anne, da. of Charles Boone*, s.p. suc. fa. 1781; Kt. of the Crescent 8 Sept. 1803.

Offices Held

Chargé d’affaires, Copenhagen Oct. 1800-Mar. 1801; envoy extraordinary to Sicily Aug. 1801-Feb. 1803; ambassador extraordinary to Turkey Feb.-Nov. 1803; PC 27 June 1804; envoy to Sicily Oct. 1806-Sept. 1808.

Ensign, 1 batt. Perth fencibles 1793.


Drummond, an orphan at eleven, was descended from a cadet of John, 2nd Earl of Perth, through whom he claimed, unsuccessfully, to be heir male of the 4th Duke of Roxburghe, when the competition for his estates was adjudicated in 1808; and this was but one example of a failure to convince that dogged his public career. After attending a course of philosophy at St. Andrews, he became first and foremost ‘an author, and a profound and elegant scholar’. His Philosophical Sketches on the Principles of Society and Government appeared in 1793 and his Review of the Government of Sparta and Athens in 1795, to be followed in due course by several essays on the ancient world and translations of the classics.1

Having made his literary reputation, Drummond aspired to a seat in Parliament; he was a friend of Pitt’s administration and, he later claimed, ‘always met with great notice and general civility’ from Pitt to whom he ‘looked up’ as his ‘guide in political opinions’.2 He came in on a vacancy for St. Mawes, on the interest of the Marquess of Buckingham, and at the ensuing general election for Lostwithiel, on the Mount Edgcumbe interest. For this he gave credit to Henry Dundas*. On 2 Nov. 1797 he seconded the address, rhetorically attacking the consequences of the French revolution and defending the struggle against France as ‘the most interesting and serious contest’ this country had ever been engaged in. After this studied performance, no further contribution to debate is known, but on 28 Nov. 1797 he applied to Dundas for a situation in the government.3 He voted for Pitt’s assessed taxes, 4 Jan. 1798. In 1800, being on good terms with Lord Grenville, he was sent to treat with Denmark, the commencement of an undistinguished diplomatic career. At the time of the dissolution in 1802 he was envoy to Sicily, with a promise of Constantinople, and did not again sit in Parliament.

As ambassador to the Porte, the zenith of his career, he did not altogether impress and soon grew weary of Constantinople. On his return, considering that he had acted ‘with zeal and generally with success’, he was confident that Lord Hawkesbury at the Foreign Office would secure him a pension of £1,500 a year, fixed at £500 lower than the sum usually offered to ministers who had borne his rank, on the understanding that further diplomatic employment would be available for him. He offered his services at St. Petersburg to Pitt in May and again in July 1804. On 17 Feb. 1805 he complained to Lord Sidmouth, of whose administration he claimed to have approved, that he had thus far received neither pension nor employment, his friend Hawkesbury having left the Foreign Office. He had expressed a wish to buy a seat in Parliament, but no notice had been taken of this either. In May 1805 he begged Lord Aberdeen to remonstrate with Pitt on his behalf as ‘all his solicitations had been useless’: he would be content if necessary to go abroad as a mere envoy. In this letter he implied that he might have gone to St. Petersburg, had he paid court to Addington. His disgruntlement developed into hostility to Pitt’s second ministry, despite his having been compensated with a seat on the Privy Council, as appears from a letter to Charles Williams Wynn*, 12 Aug. 1805, intended for Lord Grenville’s eyes. The letter was written in what Drummond himself called ‘enigmatical style’ and deviously hinted at the possibility of a coalition of all opposition parties against Pitt, in which Drummond hoped Grenville would take the lead. On 31 Jan. 1806, however, he wrote to Sidmouth in a similar way, expressing at the same time intense curiosity as to whether Sidmouth would join Grenville’s administration and scepticism as to whether Sidmouth could support those who had been his bitter enemies.4

When Lord Grenville came to power in 1806, Drummond was considered for a mission to Berlin, but again became envoy to Sicily, which was ‘always his object’. His only diplomatic machination, a scheme to have Prince Leopold of Sicily made Regent of Spain, failed. Nor was he promoted ambassador as he had expected, and on his return to England in 1809, failing to obtain a further posting abroad, he retired from public life and devoted himself to Edinburgh literary life.5

Drummond had contributed at least five articles to the Edinburgh Review, but Sydney Smith warned Jeffrey, the editor, 29 Oct. 1805, to ‘beware of Drummond your auxiliary: he is dull, wrongheaded, malignant and indiscreet’. John William Ward*, reporting Drummond’s return to Brougham, said: ‘He is, as usual in a state of rampant atheism, teeming with publications, and completely satisfied with the wisdom and energy of his own diplomatic conduct’. Francis Horner reported, 23 Nov. 1811, that ‘Dry Drummond’ had ‘circulated a book of blasphemy under the title of Oedipus Judaicus: a hash of Voltaire and Dupuy. There could not be a more unfavourable time for such a folly, than in the present religious fervour which rages over England.’ He added, 20 Jan. 1812:

I do not know a human carcass more completely destitute of manly principles ... it is to the indiscretion and impertinence of such sophists as Drummond, and to the abuse they made of their liberty while they were in vogue, that we owe that tide of fanaticism and hypocrisy which deluges England at present.

In February 1812 he encouraged Canning to believe that he was about to assume the reins of government: Canning informed his wife, ‘depend upon it Dry would never have written so but with the prospect of the Foreign Office before his imagination’. In August 1812 Francis James Jackson visited Drummond on his tour of Scotland and described Logie Almond, though ‘very delightfully situated’, as

a kind of papered barn. Three old spinster sisters—fit occupants of such a tenement—live there with him. He passes day and night in his bookroom, where his musty volumes are half destroyed by damp, and eaten away by some sort of vermin, assisted by a parrot that perches in the room.

On 16 Apr. 1813 he wrote to Sidmouth, expressing a fear that he had offended the prime minister by an article of his in the Edinburgh Review. At the same time Thomas Barrett Lennard, who met Drummond at Edinburgh, called him ‘one of the cleverest men in Scotland and one of the most elegant in England, but he is an infidel and a libertine to the greatest possible degree’. His ‘hardihood of speculation’ involved him in the ensuing years in considerable literary controversy and latterly he lived abroad, dying at Rome, ‘a martyr to gout’, 29 Mar. 1828.6

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. Douglas, Scots Peerage, vii. 353; D. Malcolm, Mem. of House of Drummond (1808), 132; DNB; Gent. Mag. (1828), ii. 90; Essex RO, Barrett Lennard mss C63, Barrett Lennard to his father, 17 Feb. 1813; BL cat.
  • 2. PRO 30/8/130, ff. 229-33; Sidmouth mss, Drummond to Sidmouth, 17 Feb. 1805.
  • 3. SRO GD51/6/1217.
  • 4. Add. 48247, f. 72; Nelson Dispatches, v. 374; Parl. Deb. xxi. 722; Sidmouth mss; PRO 30/8/130, ff. 229, 231, 233; Fortescue mss.
  • 5. Grey mss, Howick to Holland, 23 Sept., Grenville to Howick, 24 Sept. 1806; Add. 38323, f. 20.
  • 6. Sydney Smith Letters ed. N. C. Smith, i. 110; Brougham, Life and Times, i. 263, 457; Horner mss 5, ff. 134, 155; Harewood mss, Canning to his wife, 20 Feb. 1812; Bath Archives ed. Lady Jackson, i. 417; Barrett Lennard mss, 17 Feb. 1813; Gent. Mag. loc. cit.