LINDSAY, Hon. Hugh Primrose (1765-1844), of Plaistow Lodge, Bromley, Kent and 22 Berkeley Square, Mdx.

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

Constituency

Dates

1820 - 1830

Family and Education

b. 31 Oct. 1765,1 8th but 5th surv. s. of James Lindsay, 5th earl of Balcarres [S] (d. 1768), and Hon. Anne Dalrymple, da. of Sir Robert Dalrymple of Castleton, Berwick. m. 14 Jan. 1799, Jane, da. of Hon. Alexander Gordon (Lord Rockville SCJ), 1s. 1da. d. 23 Apr. 1844.

Offices Held

Entered RN 1779, lt. 1782; E.I. Co.’s marine service by 1787, capt. 1793.2

Dir. E.I.Co. 1814-d., dep. chairman 1826-7, chairman 1827-8.

Marshall of admiralty ct. 1815-d.; metropolitan lunacy commr. 1827-d.

Biography

Lindsay was in his infancy when his father died and spent much of his childhood with his mother’s relations, the Dalrymples, at Bargany, Ayrshire. His chosen career in the royal navy was, he recalled in maturity, curtailed ‘by the entire stop to promotion which took place at the close of the American war in the year 1782’.3 His sister Lady Anne Lindsay, however, wrote that he left the navy in disgust after Lord Howe objected to his promotion by Lord Rodney, under whom he had served with distinction in the West Indies.4 He joined the East India Company’s marine service and in 1793, on the recommendation of the captain of the Melville Castle, Philip Dundas†, he was appointed captain of the Rockingham. The new-built Lady Jane Dundas trading to Bengal and Madras was entrusted to him (1799) and in 1811 he successfully escorted a valuable fleet home from Canton, where the Hoppo, to whom he headed a delegation, had threatened to bar their passage.5 After settling with his family at Plaistow Lodge, on the outskirts of London, he leased a house in Berkeley Square and in 1814 became a director of the East India Company, with responsibility for shipping. He received a £300 salary, but later maintained that ‘the general opinion of the day seems to have been that the worth of each directorship amounted to no less than £10,000 per annum in one form or another’.6 Assisted by his brother the 6th earl of Balcarres (whose heir Lord Lindsay now came in for Wigan) and the Liverpool ministry’s Scottish manager Lord Melville, Lindsay offered for the venal Perth district of burghs at the general election of 1820, with a view to promoting East Indian interests, and saw off his rivals Sir David Moncrieff† and George Simson† to come in unopposed.7 It was evident during the canvass that the conflicting patronage demands of Lindsay, whose constituency included the Fifeshire burghs of Cupar and St. Andrews, and the new Fifeshire Member James Wemyss could pose problems for ministers, and so it proved in the winter of 1824-5, when, in an acrimonious trial of strength, Lindsay failed to secure the appointment of Dr. Fleming as second minister of Cupar.8

Parliamentary reporters occasionally confused Lindsay, a pro-Catholic Tory, who divided fairly steadily with the ministry, with his anti-Catholic nephews Lord Lindsay (from 1825 7th earl of Balcarres) and Colonel James Lindsay. Petitions were regularly entrusted to him, and in the 1820 Parliament he represented his constituents’ interests in select committees on salmon fisheries (1824, 1825), the linen trade (1825) and local legislation. He voted for Catholic relief, 28 Feb. 1821, 30 Apr. 1822, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., but to outlaw the Catholic Association, 25 Feb. 1825. He divided consistently with government on the revenue and retrenchments, 1820-3. He declined to comment on a petition he presented from the mayor and council of Dundee countering one from the burgesses accusing them of malversation, 17 Apr. 1821, or on one against the lord advocate’s burghs regulation bill from the corporation of Perth, 30 May 1822.9 He presented a petition from Perth for continuation of the linen bounties, 16 June 1820.10 He brought up several from Perth and elsewhere for restoration of Queen Caroline’s name to the liturgy, 26 Jan., but divided against censuring ministers’ handling of the affair, 6 Feb. 1821.11 He presented petitions from the brewers of Dundee and Perth for amendment of the excise laws, 28 June 1821.12 In July, replying to a request from the duke of Gordon, he claimed that he had recently given up ‘the whole’ of his East India Company patronage to establish his son Hugh Hamilton Lindsay as a merchant in China.13 He presented a petition from the ship owners of Dundee against relaxation of the navigation laws, 14 May,14 and voted against inquiring into Irish tithes, 19 June, and the lord advocate’s treatment of the Scottish press, 25 June 1822.

Lindsay was listed in the government majority against producing papers on the plot to murder the Irish viceroy, 24 Mar., and their minority against inquiring into the subsequent prosecutions, 22 Apr. 1823. He divided with them against repealing the Foreign Enlistment Act, 16 Apr., and on chancery arrears, 5 June, but against them on the Irish tithes composition bill, 16 June, and for equalizing the duties on East and West Indian sugars, 22 May. The 1823 Tay ferries amendment bill was entrusted to him, and he presented and endorsed numerous Fifeshire and Forfarshire petitions against proposed changes in the laws regulating the linen trade, 7, 15, 21, 23, 27 May 1823.15 He brought up petitions for trading concessions from certain flax spinners and linen manufactures, 15 Mar., and for the reintroduction of yarn inspectors, 25 Mar. 1824. He presented several against the Tay salmon fisheries regulation bill, 8, 12 Mar., for legislation to facilitate small debt recovery, 18 Mar., and against the notaries’ tax, 29 Mar., 1 Apr. 1824, 14 Feb. 1825. Dundee’s petition in favour of the London and Westminster oil-gas bill was entrusted to and presented by him, 12 Apr., as were their petitions for deregulation of the trade in hides and skins, 3, 28 May, and repeal of the beer retail bill, 12 May 1824.16 He also presented petitions for repeal of the duties on fire insurance policies (in which as a manager of the Sun Alliance Company he had a vested interest), 4 Mar., and of the assessed taxes, 7, 22 Mar. 1825. He called on ministers to postpone proposed tariff reductions affecting linen, which the trade viewed with alarm, 25 Mar., and presented petitions advocating this, 18, 25 Apr., 3, 19 May.17 In a rare intervention on the estimates, 7 Mar., he declared that the accommodation for conveying troops on East India Company ships, where men were allocated 18-inch berths and deck space, was better than that provided on naval vessels, and urged that the Kent East Indiaman be fully repaired. He presented petitions from the whale fishery of Dundee against the proposed tariff reduction on rapeseed oil, 18 Apr., from the corporations of Perth, 28 Apr., and Forfar, 5 May, for corn law revision, and from Perth against the salmon fisheries bill, 19 May 1825.18 He voted to kill the ‘jobbing’ Leith docks bill, 20 May, and steadily for the duke of Cumberland’s annuity bill, 30 May-10 June 1825.19 Adhering as usual to government policy when chairing meetings at East India House, he cautioned his fellow directors against dismissing Lord Amherst as governor of Bengal for allegedly mishandling the Burmese war and Barrackpoor mutiny, and was probably in the minority of nine (to 12) against sending out Lord Elphinstone to replace him.20 He voted in a minority of four against authorizing the return to India of George Lamb, a former partner in William Palmer and Company, 14 Dec. 1825.21

On 25 Feb. 1826 Lindsay, who divided against reform of the Scottish representation, 20 Feb., 18 Apr., strongly endorsed and urged ministers to heed the provost and council of Perth’s petition criticizing the changes in the Scottish banking system contemplated in the wake of the 1825-6 crisis. He presented petitions from Forfar for corn law revision, 28 Feb., from the ship owners of Dundee complaining of the high collection costs of the northern lighthouse dues, 17 Apr., and several against slavery, 13 Feb.-7 Apr.22 Contradicting Trant, he joined the president of the India board Charles Williams Wynn in praising the education offered to East India Company cadets at Haileybury College, 16 Mar.23 He voted to receive the report on Huskisson’s board of trade salary, 10 Apr. Lindsay’s relations looked to him for East India patronage and had considered making Wigan or the Anstruther Burghs available to him if his return for the Perth district was doubtful.24 However, boosted by his recent appointment as the East India Company’s deputy chairman, he came in there in absentia and unopposed at the general election in June 1826, notwithstanding his refusal to accede to a demand from the corporation of Dundee that he pledge himself to support corn law reform, which, as an advocate of the 80s. pivot price, he privately opposed.25 Before Parliament met, he submitted memorials to Williams Wynn and Huskisson explaining the Company’s decision to ‘suspend for the present season ... making any provision of goods and stores for sale at the several residencies of India’ on account of ‘the unexampled commercial distress of the past year’ and bullion losses of almost ‘two million sterling’.26 He was elected to the committee of Lloyd’s, 13 Dec. 1826.27

Lindsay paired for Catholic relief, 6 Mar. 1827, 12 May 1828. Sir John Malcolm’s* plan for the government of India preoccupied him early in 1827, when the abortive Perth harbour bill was entrusted to him;28 but he presented petitions from the provost and council urging consideration of the corn laws, 12 Feb., and from certain Perth landowners recommending the admission of foreign corn on payment of a small protective tariff, 19 Mar.29 He also brought up the Dundee ship owners’ petition for inquiry into their distressed trade, 15 Mar. 1827.30 After being installed as East India Company chairman in April he adopted a higher public profile and (although some uncertainty remains) it was probably he and not his nephew James who announced in the House on 25 May that he was withholding his support from the Canning ministry, ‘the most extraordinary sort of alliance or coalition that could be imagined’, until he had ‘seen more of their measures’ and could ascertain ‘whether they did or did not mean to adhere to those principles which they had formerly professed’.31 Following a business meeting with Canning early in July, he chaired several turbulent ones at East India House before Lord William Cavendish Bentinck’s* departure to India as governor-general was approved and he presided at his farewell dinner on 17 Oct. 1827.32 In November he wrote to the Goderich ministry’s home secretary Lord Lansdowne offering to make bullion available to government notwithstanding the Company’s depleted stocks.33

Lindsay was one of 20 pro-Catholic Members who voted in the ministerial minority against considering repeal of the Test Acts, when the duke of Wellington as prime minister made it a government question, 26 Feb. 1828.34 He welcomed inquiry but disputed the claims in a petition presented by Sir James Mackintosh on the 18th from Captain Myles O’Reilly of Dublin, who blamed the Company’s directors for financial losses suffered by his family after depositing money with the Company’s treasurer at Madras, Samuel Ricketts. (He was appointed to the investigative committee, 5 May 1829.) Supporting increased naval expenditure, 19 May 1828, he referred to his experience on 12 Apr. 1782, under Lord Rodney’s command, when ‘we had not enough midshipmen in the whole fleet, which consisted of 36 ships of the line, qualified to fill the vacancies in the rank above them’. He presented a petition for lower duties on fire insurances from the Forfarshire chamber of commerce, 17 Apr., and was a majority teller, 23 May 1828, for the Scottish salmon fisheries bill enacted that session. The abilities of his nephews Charles and Colin Lindsay, promoted during his chairmanship, were widely praised, but Lindsay, who had also obtained a pension for the superintendent of the Bombay marine, Thomas Buchanan, and an increased trust fund for the marquess of Hastings, had difficulty countering charges of nepotism, made against him and his predecessor Sir George Robinson*, when he campaigned for re-election to the direction in April 1829.35 As the patronage secretary Planta had predicted, he divided ‘with government’ for Catholic emancipation, 6, 30 Mar., but he called for the provisions of the attendant bill disfranchising 40s. freeholders to be extended to Scotland, 24 Mar. 1829. He presented petitions from Dundee for and against emancipation, 9 Mar., but is unlikely to have presented those credited to him on 24, 30 Mar., which were almost certainly introduced by James Lindsay or the Perthshire Member Sir George Murray (24 Mar.). He voted to permit Daniel O’Connell to take his seat for county Clare without swearing the oath of supremacy, 16 May. He brought up petitions against the Fifeshire roads bill, 24 Mar., and the Scottish gaols bill, 11, 12 May. He had been removed from the select committee on the Perth waterworks bill at the request of Robert Dundas, 23 Mar. 1829.

No votes on national issues can safely be attributed to Lindsay in 1830. His constituents now made no secret of their opposition to the East India Company’s trading monopoly and forwarded hostile petitions for presentation to Archibald Campbell and Lord Kinnoull.36 Local legislation was also largely entrusted to others, but on 28 May, acting for the corporation, Lindsay failed, by 59-76, to prevent Hume carrying the amendment which ensured the appointment of three ship owners as commissioners under the 1830 Perth harbour bill. Declaring the measure ‘completely changed’, the Perthshire Courier added: ‘The London papers, presuming that the usual fate attended this as Hume’s other motions, reported the majority of 17 to be against his amendment, but the fact is as we have stated it’.37 He presented a petition from the lord provost, magistrates and town council of Perth against taxing Scottish probate inventories, 5 July 1830. Citing ill health, he reluctantly relinquished the representation of the Perth Burghs at the dissolution that month and did not stand for Parliament again.38

Lindsay, who gave his name to a steam ship, remained a lifelong director of the East India Company and an active member of their shipping, finance and home committees. He died at his home in Berkley Square in April 1844, shortly after his re-election to the direction had been confirmed.39 By his will, dated 28 Mar. 1839, he left his daughter, the wife of Sir Edmund Antrobus†, his ‘kindest love and blessing’ and everything else to his wife (d. 1862). His son Hugh Hamilton Lindsay (1800-81), Conservative Member for Sandwich, 1841-7, and founder of Lindsay and Company of Hong Kong, the banking and shipping concern bankrupted in 1865, was the ‘default legatee’.40

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Margaret Escott

Notes

  • 1. Burke PB; Farrington’s Biog. Index of EI Co. Maritime Service Officers, 1660-1834, IGI (Fife) and Scottish Peerage give 1763. Lindsay’s reported age at death was 78.
  • 2. Farrington, 476.
  • 3. Lord Lindsay, Lives of the Lindsays (1858 edn.), iii. 479.
  • 4. Ibid. ii. 340-1.
  • 5. Ibid. ii. 479-86; Farrington, 370, 447-8, 563, 570, 708.
  • 6. C.H. Philips, E.I. Co. 336; C. Northcote Parkinson, Trade in Eastern Seas, 13.
  • 7. NAS GD51/1/198/10/82; 198/21/65-68; GD51/5/749/1, f. 182; NLS mss 1054, f. 177; Perth Courier, 17 Feb., 2 Mar.; The Times, 24 Feb. Dundee, Perth and Cupar Advertiser, 24, 31 Mar., 7 Apr. 1820.
  • 8. NAS GD51/5/749/1, ff. 199-202; Add. 40370, ff. 235-8; 40371, ff. 53, 59, 294; 40372, ff. 43, 45, 140, 170-84, 208-9; 40373, ff. 3-5.
  • 9. The Times, 18 Apr. 1821, 31 May 1822.
  • 10. Ibid. 17 June 1820.
  • 11. Ibid. 27 Jan. 1821.
  • 12. Ibid. 29 June 1821
  • 13. NAS GD44/43/355.
  • 14. The Times, 15 May 1822.
  • 15. Ibid. 25 Apr., 8, 16, 22, 24, 28 May 1823.
  • 16. Ibid. 9, 13, 16, 19, 26, 30 Mar., 2, 13 Apr., 4, 13, 29 May 1824.
  • 17. Ibid. 15 Feb., 5, 8, 23 Mar., 19, 26 Apr., 4, 20 May 1825.
  • 18. Ibid. 19, 29 Apr., 6, 20 May. 1825.
  • 19. Ibid. 20 May 1825.
  • 20. Philips, 252; The Times, 23 July 1826.
  • 21. BL OIOC mss Eur D960.
  • 22. The Times, 14, 25 Feb., 1, 15, 17, 21 Mar., 8 Apr. 1826.
  • 23. Ibid. 17 Mar. 1826.
  • 24. NLS, Crawford mss 25/1/363-4, 417-19.
  • 25. Add. 35652, f. 328; Perthshire Courier, 25 May, 8, 15 June, 6 July 1826.
  • 26. Add. 38748, ff. 175-82.