GORDON CUMMING, Sir William Gordon, 2nd bt. (1787-1854), of Altyre, Forres and Gordonstown, Elgin

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009
Available from Cambridge University Press

Constituency

Dates

1831 - 1832

Family and Education

b. 20 July 1787, 3rd but 1st surv. s. of Sir Alexander Penrose Cumming (afterwards Cumming Gordon†), 1st bt., of Altyre and Gordonstown and Helen, da. of Sir Ludovick Grant, 7th bt., of Castle Grant, Elgin; bro. of Charles Lennox Cumming Bruce*. m. (1) 11 Sept. 1815, in Zurich, Eliza Maria (d. 20 Apr. 1842),1 da. of John Campbell† of Shawfield and Islay, Argyll, 7s. (1 d.v.p.) 6da. (1 d.v.p.); (2) 19 Dec. 1846, Jane Eliza, da. of William Mackintosh of Geddes, Nairn, 1s. 2da. suc. fa. as 2nd bt. 10 Feb. 1806. d. 23 Nov. 1854.

Offices Held

Provost, Nairn 1820-1, 1830-1.

Biography

Gordon Cumming (who reversed the order of the surnames affected by his father in order to avoid obscuring his clan name) became heir to the family’s Elginshire estates on the death at sea in December 1800 of his elder brother George (b. 1774) on his way home from civil service with the East India Company in Bengal. (Another brother, Alexander Penrose, had died an infant in 1780.)2 He succeeded his father, who had received a baronetcy from Pitt, in 1806, at the age of 18. In early 1824 his first cousin Colonel Francis William Grant, Tory Member for Elginshire, strongly recommended him to the Liverpool ministry for the vacant lord lieutenancy of Nairnshire, as the possessor of ‘the political influence of the burgh of Nairn’ and ‘an old proprietor in the county’, but he was passed over because he had ‘no residence in the county’.3 He was reckoned to have sustained ‘ten thousand pounds worth of damage’ to his Altyre property in the destructive floods of 1829.4 At an Elginshire county meeting called to petition for reform of the Scottish representative system, 22 Dec. 1830, he seconded his younger brother Charles Cumming Bruce’s unsuccessful amendment calling for moderation. He helped to promote an Elginshire petition against the Grey ministry’s reform bills in April 1831.5 At the general election the following month he secured his brother’s return for Inverness Burghs and got the backing of Grant and his kinsman Lord Fife* to ensure his own unopposed return for the Elgin district.6

He voted against the second reading of the reintroduced English reform bill, 6 July, and at least three times for the adjournment, 12 July. Next day Lord Ellenborough ran across him at the Tory opposition’s Charles Street headquarters.7 He divided with them for use of the 1831 census to determine the borough disfranchisement schedules, 19 July, and against the inclusion of Chippenham in B, 27 July; but he was credited with a vote for the disfranchisement of St. Germans, 26 July.8 He was in Daniel O’Connell’s minority of ten for swearing the Dublin election committee, 29 July. He voted against the passage of the reform bill, 21 Sept., and the second reading of the Scottish measure, 23 Sept. In his only reported Commons speech, 3 Oct. 1831, he denounced the proposed electoral junction of Elginshire and Nairnshire. He was absent from the division on the second reading of the revised English reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831, and his only known votes in the 1832 session were against the enfranchisement of Tower Hamlets, 28 Feb., the third reading of the reform bill, 22 Mar., and the government’s navy civil departments bill, 2 Apr. He was given six weeks’ leave to deal with urgent private business, 3 July 1832. He stood down at the dissolution in December and ‘did not again aspire to senatorial honours’.9

Gordon Cumming, whose first wife was the daughter of the authoress Lady Charlotte Bury, died at Altyre in November 1854. He was succeeded by h