MURRAY, William David, Visct. Stormont (1806-1898).

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



1830 - 1831
1831 - 1832
1832 - 1837
1837 - 18 Feb. 1840

Family and Education

b. 21 Feb. 1806, 1st s. of David William, 3rd Earl of Mansfield, Mdx., and Frederica, da. of Most Rev. William Markham, abp. of York. educ. Westminster 1816-22; Christ Church, Oxf. 1823. m. 8 Apr. 1829, Louisa, da. of Cuthbert Ellison*, 1s. d.v.p. 1da. suc. fa. as 4th earl of Mansfield, Mdx. 18 Feb. 1840; KT 13 June 1843; suc. grandmo. Louisa, s.j.; countess of Mansfield, Notts., as 3rd earl of Mansfield, Notts. 11 July 1843. d. 2 Aug. 1898.

Offices Held

Ld. of treasury Dec. 1834-Apr. 1835; ld. high commr. to gen. assembly of Church [S] 1852, 1858-9.

Ld. lt. Clackmannan 1852-d.


‘Silver-tongued’ William Murray (1705-93), the 1st duke of Newcastle’s political henchman, became lord chief justice in 1756 and was created Lord Mansfield. His marriage was childless and in 1776 he was promoted to the rank of earl with a special remainder (on the mistaken assumption that a Scottish peer could not take an English peerage other than by inheritance) to Louisa Cathcart (1758-1843), the wife of his nephew David Murray, 7th Viscount Stormont (1727-96), a Scottish representative peer who was lord president of the council in the Coalition and under Pitt from 1794 to his death. In 1792, after a ruling which removed this misapprehension, Mansfield received a new patent as earl of Mansfield, Middlesex, with remainder to Stormont, who duly succeeded to this peerage the following year, when his wife became countess of Mansfield under the 1776 creation.1 Their eldest son David William Murray (1777-1840), who was noted for his ‘sleepy manners’, never held political office, but he emerged during the 1820s as one of the leaders of the diehard Ultra Tories utterly opposed to Catholic emancipation. He was active in their attempts to thwart the formation of Canning’s ministry in 1827, when he incurred the king’s anger with his speech in the Lords, 2 May, in which he impugned the sincerity of George’s attachment to the Protestant constitution.2 He was unhappy with the duke of Wellington’s junction with Huskisson in January 1828, being ‘strongly for fixed principles, and a pure ministry of one sort or the other’.3 Catholic emancipation infuriated him but did not, as it did other Ultras, make him a supporter of parliamentary reform, against which he resolutely set his face. He continued to aim at the overthrow of the Wellington ministry, and in Sir Richard Vyvyan’s* approach to Lord Palmerston* in October 1829 he was named as the likely ‘head’ of an Ultra government. In June 1830, however, he resisted the blandishments of the 4th duke of Newcastle and Lord Winchilsea for him to take the lead of the revamped Ultra party. Mansfield, who thought the duke of Richmond should lead, welcomed the prospect of co-operation between Ultras in Lords and Commons, though he had ‘no expectations that it will prevail’.4

After leaving Oxford Stormont, Mansfield’s eldest son, toured Europe, and he attended the coronation of Nicholas I in Moscow in the summer of 1826. Three years later he consummated ‘an old and long attachment’ by marrying ‘that enticing looking female Miss Ellison’.5 At the general election of 1830 Newcastle, who expected him to ‘turn out to be something out of the common way’, returned him for Aldborough.6 Ministers of course numbered him among the ‘violent Ultras’ and he duly helped to vote them out of office on the civil list, 15 Nov. Stormont, whose father now thought that the Ultras might be able to hold the balance of power,7 was named to the select committee on the reduction of official salaries, 9 Dec. 1830. He joined in objections to the proposed tax on steamboat passengers, a threat to the economy of the Western Highlands, 17 Feb., and called for action to be taken over the forged signatures on the Carrickfergus election petition, 22 Feb. 1831. He aligned himself with that section of the Ultras, led in the Commons by Inglis and Wetherell, which was opposed to parliamentary reform in principle, and on 2 Mar. he condemned the Grey ministry’s reform bill outright: ‘reform appears to me to be revolution, concession [to be] spoliation, and, in time, religion must end in atheism’.8 He made much of the hostile petitions from Cambridge University, Edinburgh and London and voted against the second reading, 22 Mar. A week later he and Wetherell deputed John Herries* to seek a reconciliation with Peel, under whose leadership they wished to see opposition co-ordinated, but their approach was rebuffed.9 Stormont demanded that adequate returns be furnished to explain the statistical basis of the Scottish reform bill, 25 Mar., when he also threatened to join Hume in supporting a reduction in civil list salaries. He pressed ministers to clarify their intentions as to the enfranchisement of large towns, 13 Apr., and, attacking the ‘absurdity’ and ‘injustice’ of the disfranchising schedules, 15 Apr., accused them of political bias in the selection of doomed boroughs. He was consulted on the form of Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment and spoke in support of it, 18 Apr., when he voiced his fear that the bill would facilitate a large influx of Irish Catholic Members bent on repealing the Union. He was in the majority against the bill the next day. When the king arrived in the Lords to dissolve Parliament, 22 Apr. 1831, he found Stormont’s father on his feet delivering a furious denunciation of ministers.10

Newcastle settled that Stormont should ‘change places’ with Sadler, whose re-election for Newark was extremely doubtful; but at the last minute Stormont pulled out of the arrangement, to the intense annoyance of the duke, who blamed Mansfield’s ‘most selfish’ intervention. Aldborough went to Sadler and Stormont found a berth at Woodstock, where he came in on the Blenheim interest after a token contest.11 On 21 June 1831 he was given ‘a hard slap’ by Sir James Graham, a member of the cabinet, who, recalling his speech of 2 Mar. in which he had quoted Coriolanus to ‘prove that crows would sit in a reformed Parliament’, commented that ‘in an unreformed Parliament daws may peck at characters they cannot destroy’. Stormont retorted with a condemnation of the dissolution and an attack on pledged reformers as ‘fawners on the base multitude’; but an opponent dismissed this reply as ‘silly’.12 He was ‘amongst the most obstreperous of the minority’ when Russell unveiled the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July. He was one of the ‘principal actors’ in the obstructive all-night opposition to the bill, 12 July, when, disclaiming ‘factious motives’, he declared his determination ‘to teach a lesson to the other side’ and repeatedly divided the House for adjournment.13 He wanted to know ‘the fixed and precise rule we are to act upon’ concerning the inclusion of parishes within boroughs, 15 July, and voted for use of the 1831 census as a basis for disfranchisement, 19 July. He presented a Woodstock petition against the bill, 20 July, and pleaded for the borough, ‘a very rising and prosperous town’, to be allowed to keep one Member, 26 and 27 July, when he voted against the partial disfranchisement of Chippenham. Protesting against the proposal to use Saturdays to expedite the bill, 5 Aug., he claimed to be ‘nearly worn out’ by his ‘constant attendance’. Yet when Peel subsequently informed a party meeting that he was not prepared any longer to stay in London to fight the bill clause by clause, Stormont was one of those who were ‘dissatisfied with this and prepared to go on interminably on the present system’.14 He pressed for information on the French invasion of Belgium, 6, 9, 11, 12, 17 Aug. He claimed that improper government influence was being exercised at the Dublin by-election, 20 Aug., and voted in censure of ministers for their alleged interference there at the general election, 23 Aug. He was a teller for the minority against the disfranchisement of Downton, 14 Sept., when he called for additional county Members to be given to Scotland. He voted against the passage of the reform bill, 21 Sept. He divided against the second reading of the Scottish bill, 23 Sept., and on 27 Sept. defended superiorities, which were ‘as much legal property as land’. After the defeat of the reform bill in the Lords, where Mansfield was among its ‘most prominent opponents’, Lady Holland named Stormont as one of those who ‘may be gratified by seeing the blood of their countrymen’, having ‘expressed a wish to have a fight with the people’.15 In the House, 12 Oct. 1831, he denied that the bill’s opponents were ‘enemies to freedom’ and deprecated attempts to present them as such to the public.

Stormont voted against the revised reform bill in the divisions on its second reading, 17 Dec. 1831, going into committee, 20 Jan., and the enfranchisement of Tower Hamlets, 28 Feb. 1832. He voted for the Vestry Act amendment bill, 23 Jan., and against government on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan. He objected to the admission of a petition from the Political Union against making the payment of rates a qualification for the vote, 2, 6 Feb. He defended a Barnet petition condemning the reform bill against allegations of chicanery in its promotion, 10 Feb. Soon afterwards John Croker* noted that Stormont was one of the Ultras who were now ‘very cordial’ in their attitude towards Wellington and Peel, though he seemed by implication to set little store by his parliamentary talents.16 Stormont voted against the third reading of the reform bill, 22 Mar. He was in minorities against the malt drawback bill, 2 Apr., and for inquiry into smuggling in the glove trade, 3 Apr. On 16 Apr. he persuaded the House to take notice of a breach of privilege by a firm of solicitors, who had written and circulated a letter casting aspersions on the members of the Commons committee which had thrown out the Sunderland harbour bill. He initiated proceedings against them and the printer of their letter, 7 May, when they were let off with an admonishment. On 10 May Stormont made his London house in Jermyn Street available for an opposition meeting, attended by Peel, to decide how to meet Lord Ebrington’s motion of confidence in the outgoing ministers. In the House, 14 May, he had Burdett chastised by the Speaker for calling the bill’s opponents in the Lords ‘a violent and virulent faction’. After the ensuing debate, which effectively put paid to any hopes of a Tory ministry being formed to carry a moderate bill, he was one of Peel’s dinner guests. The following morning he was among the throng of opposition Members who gathered at the Carlton Club, where he made a last ditch attempt to rally support for such a government. He then went with Ellenborough to see Wellington, who assured him that the game was up. He was one of the committee of five appointed to manage the opposition general election campaign in Scotland.17 On 21 May he called on ministers to punish those ‘pests of society’ responsible for press attacks on the monarchy, but he got no satisfaction. He voted against the second reading of the Irish reform bill, 25 May, and the Russian-Dutch loan, 12 July 1832. After the general election in December, when he was successful at Norwich in a notoriously corrupt contest, he lamented that ‘nothing can be worse than the prospects of this country’.18

Stormont remained on reasonably cordial terms with Peel, who strongly urged him to take junior office in his first ministry in December 1834. Mansfield made some difficulties, but Peel sweetened him with a vacant green ribbon, and Stormont took a seat at the treasury board.19 Four months after his electoral triumph in Perthshire in 1837 he was devastated by the sudden death of his wife at the age of 28. After this blow he ‘virtually abandoned public life’ and ‘withdrew a great measure from social functions’, though he did not become entirely reclusive. He succeeded to the two earldoms in 1840 and 1843 and died at Scone Palace in August 1898.20

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: David R. Fisher


  • 1. Oxford DNB; HP Commons, 1754-90, iii. 189.
  • 2. Countess Granville Letters, i. 107; G.I.T. Machin, Catholic Question in English Politics, 96, 104; Colchester Diary, iii. 466, 472-5, 492, 497; Geo. IV Letters, iii. 1325-6; Canning’s Ministry, 288, 296.
  • 3. Colchester Diary, iii. 542.
  • 4. Machin, 175-6, 181, 184; Palmerston-Sulivan Letters, 232-3; Mansfield mss box 110/5, notes, 5, 6 June 1830 (NRA [S] 776).
  • 5. Mansfield mss ser. 2/2350, Stormont to Lady Mansfield, 9 Aug. 1826; Shelley Diary, ii. 192; Add. 52017, J. Townshend to H.E. Fox, 27 Dec. 1827.
  • 6. Nottingham Univ. Lib. Newcastle mss Ne2 F3/1, 245.
  • 7. Mansfield mss box 110/8, Mansfield to Knatchbull, 9 Dec. 1830.
  • 8. B.T. Bradfield, ‘Sir Richard Vyvyan’, EHR, lxxxiii (1968), 732; D.G.S. Simes, ‘Ultra Tories in British Politics’ (Oxf. Univ. D. Phil. thesis, 1975), 479, 481, 483-4.
  • 9. Arbuthnot Jnl. ii. 416.
  • 10. Greville Mems. ii. 138-40.
  • 11. Newcastle mss Ne2 F4/1, 17; Notts. Archives, Tallents mss, Newcastle to Tallents, 23 Apr. 1831; VCH Oxon. xii. 404-5.
  • 12. Baring Jnls. i. 88.
  • 13. Broughton, Recollections, iv. 117; Hatherton diary, 13 July [1831].
  • 14. Peel Letters, 134.
  • 15. Holland House Diaries, 64; Lady Holland to Son, 120.
  • 16. Croker Pprs. ii. 151.
  • 17. Ibid. ii. 154, 166; Three Diaries, 257-8, 266.
  • 18. N. Gash, Politics in Age of Peel, 169; Mansfield mss ser. 2/2350, Stormont to Lady Mansfield, 27 Dec. 1832.
  • 19. Three Diaries, 308, 340; Add. 40405, ff. 181, 310; 40406, ff. 78, 131; 40407, f. 32; Mansfield mss box 82, Stormont to Mansfield, 16 Dec.; ser. 2/1344, to Lady Mansfield, 16 Dec. 1834.
  • 20. Ann. Reg. (1898), Chron. pp. 185-6.