LOCKHART ROSS, Sir Charles, 7th Bt. (1763-1814), of Balnagown, Ross.
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Family and Education
b. 15 Aug. 1763,1 1st s. of Sir John Lockhart Ross†, 6th Bt., of Balnagown by Elizabeth Baillie, da. of Robert Dundas† of Arniston, Edinburgh, and h. to her mother Henrietta Baillie Carmichael of Lamington and Bonnington, Lanark. m. (1) 1788,2 Matilda Theresa (d. 1 Feb. 1791), da. and h. of James Lockhart Wishart of Carnwath, Lanark, count of Holy Roman Empire and lt.-gen. in Austrian service, 1s. 1da.; (2) 15 Apr. 1799, Lady Mary Rebecca Fitzgerald, da. of William Robert, 2nd Duke of Leinster [I], 2s. 5da. suc. fa. as 7th Bt. 9 June 1790.
Cornet, 7 Drag. 1780, lt. 1783; capt. 3 Horse 1784; maj. 37 Ft. 1787, lt.-col. 1791; brevet col. 1795; lt.-col. 116 Ft. 1795; half-pay 1798; maj.-gen. 1798, col. commdt. 85 Ft. 1800, half-pay 1802-6, col. 1806; lt.-gen. 1805; col. 86 Ft. 1806-10, 37 Ft. 1810-d.
Lockhart Ross, nephew of the lord advocate Robert Dundas*, succeeded his father a month before the general election of 1790, when he retained the seat for Tain Burghs which he had won with government backing in 1786, having in the interim frustrated the persistent efforts of the local Whigs, led by Francis Mackenzie* of Seaforth, to overthrow him. He controlled the burgh of Tain and had a substantial stake in Ross-shire and an estate in Lanarkshire, derived from his mother’s inheritance. It was said in 1806 that he, together with his mother and brother, possessed ‘landed property to the amount of £20,000 per annum’.3
Lockhart Ross continued to support government but was an infrequent attender and is not known to have spoken in debate. He was absent, supposed hostile, on the Test Act division of 10 May 1791. He voted against abolition of the slave trade, 15 Mar. 1796. In March 1793 he was officially ‘under orders for foreign service’, but he did not go to the Continent and was placed on the staff in Scotland in 1794.4 He later transferred to Ireland where he spent far more time than at Westminster during the next few years. In 1794 Mackenzie, who was now supporting government and had concluded an electoral pact with the Sutherlands which gave him control of Tain Burghs at the next election, thought that Lockhart Ross would stand for a county in southern Scotland, although it had been rumoured earlier that he intended to ‘try his luck’ at Ross-shire. As it happened he returned Lockhart Ross’s uncle William Dundas for the burghs and obliged Henry Dundas, who had promised him a peerage, by bringing in Sir Charles for the county. In October 1797 William Dundas told Mackenzie, now Lord Seaforth, that he had ‘written to Sir C. Ross, that we expect him to attend his duty in Parlt.’. He was present to vote for the triple assessment, 4 Jan. 1798, but he admitted four years later that ‘the discharge of my military duty’ had seriously curtailed his parliamentary attendance.5
His quiet retention of the county seat in 1802 was guaranteed by a prior arrangement between Seaforth and Henry Dundas, from whom he received a stiff rebuke for trying to disrupt the Seaforth-Sutherland alliance in Tain Burghs.6 Charles Innes believed that Lockhart Ross, whom he thought to be politically attached to his new father-in-law the Duke of Leinster, would probably support Addington even if Dundas went into opposition, but in a list in the Melville papers he was numbered among the ‘partisans’ of Pitt and Dundas. He voted for inquiry into the Prince of Wales’s debts, 4 Mar. 1803, but there is no other indication that he opposed Addington’s ministry. He was classed under ‘Pitt’ in the ministerial lists of September 1804 and July 1805, but did not vote against the censure of Melville, 8 Apr. 1805.
By this time he knew that he would be opposed at the next election by Seaforth’s brother-in-law. He continued to canvass Ross-shire to the last minute, even though he had no hope of success and had already been provided with an excellent prospect of a seat for Linlithgow Burghs by Melville’s intercession with the Duke of Buccleuch. In September 1805 Charles Hope, the lord justice clerk, agreed to help him secure a pension for his family, but attached no political strings to the promise. Soon afterwards Lockhart Ross pressed government, evidently with success, to grant the reversion of the clerkship of the peace for Lanarkshire to the provost of Lanark, ostensibly to bolster the ministerial interest against the Whig Hamilton family in both county and burghs. To justify requesting a deviation from the general rule concerning reversions he pleaded to Lord Hawkesbury his ‘having supported the present administration for 18 years in Parliament without ever soliciting any favour in the civil department’.7
The accession to power of the ‘Talents’ made his position awkward. In March 1806 he wrote in alarm to Lords Grenville and Spencer of a report that the reversion was to be revoked and warned that this would compel him to alter his intention of giving ‘cordial support’ to the new government. William Dundas mediated, but found him determined to stand his ground. He seems to have got his way, but he did not vote with government for the repeal of the Additional Force Act, 30 Apr. 1806. When he later asked Grenville to appoint his brother sheriff of Cromarty if it was decided to separate the jurisdiction from that of Ross-shire, the premier consulted the lord advocate, Henry Erskine, who, as an old adversary of Melville, viewed the matter with a jaundiced eye:
I have no doubt of Sir Charles meaning to give your lordship a fair and steady support, and ... I know that, though the nephew of Lord Melville, he has for some time been so situated with regard to that noble lord, as not to be embarrassed so much at taking a line of politics opposite to his wishes, as he would have been from family connection; especially as Lord Melville’s interest procured him a regiment just before the late change of administration ... Should your lordship incline to listen to Sir Charles’s application, I would suggest the propriety of securing Sir Charles’s interest in every quarter where he has any, as otherwise I fear it will all go with Lord Melville ... In the county of Lanark, it is understood that he will vote against Lord Archibald Hamilton ... And in the burgh of Lanark ... Sir Charles Ross and his friends are giving Lord Melville the most warm and open support. An explanation ... on these important points I submit ... as proper before you give him assurance ... as Sir Charles’s support ... which he can at any time withdraw, would but ill compensate the permanent mischief that might be done in these two elections ... At all events it will be most important to place Sir Charles’s having detached himself from Lord Melville in the most conspicuous point of view, in order to defeat the endeavours of Lord Melville’s friends who would not fail to hold out the favour ... as a concession to Lord Melville who, they persist in maintaining will ultimately be connected with your lordship.
A month later Lockhart Ross, claiming to have supported the government ‘on every occasion’ since March, complained to Grenville that he was being opposed in Linlithgow Burghs by William Maxwell II* of Carriden, who was backed by the Hamiltons and boasted of having ministerial support. For his part, Lord Archibald Hamilton* protested bitterly to Erskine that Lockhart Ross, who ‘votes with government for his own purposes’, was attacking his family interest in burghs and county. While Adam Erskine and the Scottish Whigs sided with the Hamiltons, Grenville, who observed that the baronet had ‘always supported administration since its formation’, refused to give his personal sanction to the opposition to him. As Grenville had given Sir Charles no written pledge of support, the Scottish Whigs were able to oppose him; but he was returned by the casting vote of Lanark and survived Maxwell’s subsequent petition.8
He was nettled by these events and, when offering to direct Tain to vote as Grenville wished, told him that
my conduct entirely results from my personal respect for you; as the hostility which I have experienced from branches of the present administration in my political views in this country must make me decline communication with any person but your lordship.
Although Grenville expressed a wish that Seaforth’s candidate should be supported, Lockhart Ross, who bore a grudge against Seaforth for turning him out of the county, secretly abetted the unavailing opposition of Sir John Sinclair*. Lady Stafford exposed his devious conduct to Grenville, and Seaforth complained to Melville that the baronet’s friends had invoked his authority for their actions in both county and burghs. Melville denied any personal involvement in either business and stated that since the negotiations for the Linlithgow seat he had ‘scarcely seen Sir Ch. Ross’ and ‘far less’ had ‘political intercourse with him as to the county of Ross’.9
In his list of early 1807 Adam placed Lockhart Ross, who continued to badger Grenville on the subject of the shrievalty of Cromarty, among those who ‘profess to support government’. On the fall of the ‘Talents’ he immediately transferred his support to the Portland ministry, with whose backing he contested Linlithgow Burghs at the 1807 election. He lost to Maxwell by the casting vote of Peebles, but the Dundases apportioned much of the blame to his own ‘scandalous’ neglect of the constituency. He also canvassed Ross-shire, but did not go to a poll.10
His subsequent attempts to re-enter the House confirmed his enemies’ poor opinion of him and exhausted his relatives’ patience. When a vacancy occurred for Ross-shire in 1809 he claimed Melville’s support and rejected Seaforth’s generous offer of a compromise. Melville felt unable to oppose Seaforth, but tried to conclude an arrangement which would have given Lockhart Ross the seat until the first election after Seaforth’s son came of age in 1812. Seaforth refused to treat a second time and Sir Charles was narrowly beaten by his stopgap candidate. In November 1810 Seaforth warned Adam that if the Whigs came to power they would be well advised not to support the baronet’s pretensions in the county:
if he could succeed you will find him not a very desirable chap. He is so confederated with the second and third order of Dundases, that you would never be sure of him for a week. This I know experimentally.11
In 1812, Lockhart Ross, who intended to stand again for Ross-shire, also demanded government support in Linlithgow Burghs. The 2nd Viscount Melville and William Dundas told him bluntly that his scheme was out of the question, not least because ‘no set of boroughs will be kept as a pis aller’. Buccleuch went out of his way to meet his desire to reenter Parliament at the next election by offering terms which Robert Dundas thought over-generous, although he gave his nephew every chance to accept them; but Lockhart Ross, who was suspected by his relatives of being reluctant to spend money and of bargaining with opposition, havered so long that Buccleuch had to look elsewhere. His uncle was sharply critical of his overweening and purblind attitude:
What in God’s name would Sir Charles have? What proposal would he make? What contre-projet has he to offer? ... I have done with the business, and lamenting as I truly do, Sir Charles’s infatuation, am glad to be free of the affair altogether.
Although he eventually gave his interest in Lanark to Buccleuch’s candidate, in return for a promise of support at the next election, it emerged that he had failed to prepare the ground adequately and attempts were made, apparently without success, to force him to meet the costs of a canvass needlessly occasioned by his ‘mismanagement’ and ‘mischief’.12 He was defeated by Seaforth’s son in Ross-shire and by his nominee in Tain Burghs. He died 8 Feb. 1814.