Edinburghshire (Midlothian)

Scottish County

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Number of voters:

56 in 1708, 68 in 1710


 Lord Charles Kerr17
 Sir William Baird121
 Sir James Stewart, 232

Main Article

It was a natural consequence of the pre-eminence of Edinburghshire among Scottish counties that its elections unfailingly attracted the interest of leading politicians. The size of its electorate and the absence of any dominant aristocratic interest, however, rendered it unamenable to control. There was no hereditary sheriff, the crown appointees in this period being the Earl of Dalhousie from 1703 until his death in 1710 and thereafter the Earl of Balmerino, a Tory whose suspected Jacobitism led to his dismissal after the Hanoverian succession. The electorate was large by Scottish standards: upwards of 90 potential voters even after making allowance for those who scrupled to vote on politico-religious grounds. At the last election to the Scottish parliament in 1702 there had been a keenly fought contest between Court and Country parties. Three of the sitting members had joined the opposition’s secession from the previous parliament, and the remaining courtier, Sir John Clerk, 1st Bt., of Penicuik, chose to retire at this election. Nevertheless, only one oppositionist succeeded in retaining his seat: Sir Robert Dundas, Lord Arniston SCJ. The other places were captured by candidates endorsed by the Court: Sir James Primrose, 3rd Bt., of Carrington (who was raised to the peerage in 1703, making way for Sir James Foulis of Colinton, whom Lord Chancellor Seafield had wished to see returned at the general election), Sir Robert Dickson, 1st Bt., of Inveresk, and George Lockhart of Carnwath. The last of these, a wealthy episcopalian laird with an electoral interest both in this county and Lanarkshire, had been sponsored by Seafield as part of a wider attempt to forge an alliance between the Court party and the cavaliers. This had been too much for the out-going commissioner Sir John Clerk, a stalwart courtier but devout Presbyterian, who refused to vote for Lockhart ‘because of his aversion to the Church government (though I did not express it)’. Indeed, in the ensuing parliament Lockhart emerged as a champion of episcopalianism and a leading opponent of union with England. He was excluded therefore from the contingent of Scottish representatives to the first Parliament of Great Britain. In fact none of those elected for Edinburghshire was accorded this honour. Only Dickson had any grounds for complaint, having faithfully supported the Court. Foulis, in contrast, had moved into outright opposition, whereas Arniston, who had supported the ‘New Party’ in 1704 and was appointed to the Union commission in 1706, later had second thoughts, and ended by abstaining from voting on the treaty when it came before parliament. In any case Arniston’s eligibility for a seat at Westminster was dubious in view of his status as a session judge. Neither he nor any of the other commissioners, apart from Lockhart, stood again.3

A staunch Jacobite, Lockhart reconciled his candidacy in 1708 to the requirements of the Pretender’s cause in the preparations for the intended invasion. Like other Scottish Jacobites, he stood ‘lest the government should judge they trusted to something else if they made no bustle at this juncture, and by that means discover what was intended’. Lockhart, according to one of the Earl of Mar’s correspondents, was ‘greatly beloved in the shire as an anti-unioner’, but was not trusted by many of the Presbyterians, who were suspending judgment ‘until it be known what their best friends incline for’. Sir William Baird, 1st Bt., of Newbyth, a Presbyterian laird and one of the defeated Country candidates from 1702, was the first Whig to come forward. He was supported by the former commissioner Dickson, but John Clerk* confided to his father, Sir John, that ‘I do not like him at all’. His objections focused on Baird’s connexion with those bigoted Presbyterians who had ‘ruined any reputation we ever had here, and, on a pretence of reformation, have carried private piques to an extravagant height, and will continue to vent their spleen so oft as it shall be in their power’. Clerk jnr., who rejected suggestions that he should stand himself, even went so far as to suggest that an episcopalian like Lockhart was less of a threat to the Kirk than Baird. Lockhart might well use his parliamentary career to promote ‘a toleration for episcopacy’, but this would ‘be a better thing for the Presbyterian interest than it appears at first sight’. His father did not share this view, having already informed Lockhart that he ‘would never vote for him whilst he was a high-flyer’, adding that he was already committed to the ‘honest Revolution party’. There was nevertheless a real danger, as the younger Clerk pointed out, that ‘the Whig lairds will divide and lose it’. A second Whig candidate had been put forward, Lord Charles Kerr, a younger brother of the Marquess of Lothian. The Clerks of Penicuik thoroughly endorsed this choice: Lothian had been firmly in the Unionist camp in the Scottish parliament. But James Dundas of Arniston (the son of the former member) deemed it ‘a dangerous preparative, to bring in noblemen’s sons, especially those that are dignified with the title of my lords, to represent the barons’. He was deaf to Sir John Clerk’s warning that a ‘split amongst ourselves’ would simply guarantee Lockhart’s success. Meanwhile, Baird, a distant relative of the Marquess of Tweeddale and who was consequently ‘looked upon to be a Squadrone man’, had been keen to dispel this image. He informed Mar’s brother, Lord Grange SCJ (Hon. James Erskine†) that ‘he was of no party, but that there was no man for whom he had more personal respect or would more readily serve than the Earl of Mar’. A remarkably similar protestation was made to Seafield: ‘I stand addicted to no party’, Baird asserted, ‘but shall be ready to go in to your lordship’s measures.’ Nor was Kerr himself immune from suspicion that he was in cahoots with the Squadrone: according to a report by the courtier Lord Philiphaugh SCJ, it was the backing given by the Squadrone to Kerr which had prompted Baird’s unexpected appeal to Mar. There is no corroborative evidence to support the notion that the consequent division in the Whig vote was a by-product of the Squadrone-Hamilton pact, but there was an allusion to this effect in a squib on the Scottish elections. At the electoral court, Lockhart gained 27 votes - reputedly those of the ‘minor barons’ - to Kerr’s 17 and Baird’s 12. ‘And these two splitting the election’, lamented Sir John Clerk, ‘made Carnwath, who is repute[d] a great Tory and high-flyer, to carry the election.’ Having declined on religious grounds to vote himself, Clerk simply prayed for Lockhart’s salvation and that he might be ‘turned from his present path’.4

Party feeling was at an even greater pitch in 1710. The election was a straightforward contest between Lockhart, an episcopalian Tory, and Sir James Stewart, 1st Bt.*, of Goodtrees, a Presbyterian Whig. Stewart was the Scottish solicitor-general and his father, Sir James, was lord advocate. The latter was a resolute, some said intolerant, defender of the privileges of the Kirk. Presbyterian ministers were ‘very active’ on Stewart’s behalf, according to the episcopalian chaplain Richard Dongworth, who complained that the presbyteries of Edinburgh and Dalkeith gave ‘public orders to all their members to use their utmost interest against Mr Lockhart’. Stewart was also supported by his father-in-law, the president of the court of session Sir Hugh Dalrymple, his brother Sir David*, and their nephew Lord Stair. The Whig interest was not entirely united, however. Kerr declined to stand again, but on the other hand refused ‘to bring in his friends for Sir James Stewart’. Lockhart, moreover, was a resourceful opponent. He had improved his standing within the shire by securing the nomination of himself and a few more of his friends to a new commission of the peace in 1709; and, since the accession of the new ministry, had cultivated a good relationship with Harley. He enjoyed strong support from leading Scottish peers such as Hamilton and Argyll, both of whom, according to one hostile witness, prostituted their ‘ancient nobility’ by ‘going through for votes, and making parties’. Lockhart also took care to cultivate Mar’s interest, which was now made available to him under the changed political circumstances. Certainly, Lockhart was confident of success, predicting that Stewart would withdraw from the contest and settle for persuading his supporters to absent themselves. In the event Stewart stood a poll, but his share of the vote was slightly lower than the combined Whig vote at the last election. Lockhart had made a substantial improvement, registering 18 more votes than previously.5

Lockhart’s relationship with the Tory ministry in the 1710 Parliament was an uneasy one. He was frustrated by the unwillingness of Lord Treasurer Oxford (Robert Harley*) to bolster his electoral position by granting patronage requests. It took Lockhart an age to obtain two minor positions for local supporters, and he found great difficulty in obtaining further alterations to the commission of the peace. In January 1712 he explained to Oxford that

in May 1707 new commissions were given out for every county in Scotland, in framing whereof this rule was agreed . . . that no person should be named who had in [the Scottish] parliament voted, or out of parliament addressed against the Union. By which means a great number of the nobility and almost all of the considerable gentlemen were omitted and the power lodged solely in the hands of rigid Presbyterians, bitter republicans and the meanest of the gentry . . . and in this state they have continued ever since, save by my Lord Wharton’s interest . . . I got myself and a few more added, about three years ago to the county of Edinburgh . . . The people of Scotland are in very bad hands, when under the management of such people . . . They oppress every man who hath at elections . . . appeared for the interest of the Church or the crown. And this very much strengthens and encourages the Whigs . . . The want of new commissions of the peace being a general loss, it were improper to mention anything particularly prejudicial to my own interest . . . and yet I cannot altogether pass over in silence that Sir David Dalrymple’s agents in the county of Edinburgh urge as a reason for choosing him and laying me aside at the next elections that I have not been able to get one justice of the peace named since the change of the ministry.

Lockhart’s request was granted over the summer, but the new commission was not in place until after the election. Moreover, the malt tax crisis and the campaign to dissolve the Union, in which Lockhart played a conspicuous part, had adversely affected his already ambivalent relationship with the ministry. He was certainly unnerved by the threat from Dalrymple. An appointee of the Godolphin (Sidney†) ministry, Dalrymple had remained in office only to be dismissed by Oxford under farcical circumstances in 1711. Subsequent persecution aj827

t the hands of Lockhart and the public accounts commission had fuelled an existing rivalry. Dalrymple denied, however, that his candidacy had been suggested by English Whigs, rejecting a plea from the Scottish Tory Sir Alexander Cumming, 1st Bt.*, in March 1713 that he should not stand:

I assure you I did not set up to serve for the county without probable ground to think I shall succeed . . . I cannot see why Mr Lockhart should make the competition a cause of feud (as we say), he has no property in the case, he has served there, why may not another pretend to that honour?
There is no need to seek a cause as far as the Whigs at London, for my setting up. Indeed, they were nothing concerned in the matter, but Mr Lockhart himself set me up as a candidate when I thought nothing of it, which made many press me to be so in earnest.

Dalrymple made an impressive start to his canvass, despite having ‘a good many pre-engagements to overcome’. To Sir John Clerk he made it clear that his ‘chief motive was to serve the Revolution interest’ because, ‘this being the first election in Scotland, it is of no small consequence to the credit of the Revolutioners to carry it’. Jokingly, Clerk explained that

Sir Laurence Lazie, Doctor Dubitantium and sweet Mr Freebawn have hitherto checked my complying with the o[a]th: but I will be neither lazy, doubtful nor stiff in whittering up and down to serve you faithfully and using my utmost diligence with all my relations, ministers and neighbours to persuade them to choose you.

A canvassing list prepared for Lockhart later that month showed the Clerks of Penicuik as ‘sure votes for Sir David’, a category that included William Morison*, all the former Whig candidates for the seat since the Union, and the pre-Union member Lord Arniston. Lockhart calculated Dalrymple’s certain support at 20 votes, a total that might, however, rise as high as 36 if a number of doubtful votes were captured. This was close enough to his own ‘expected’ vote of 44 to give him pause for thought. The total number of potential voters was put at 93, including eight non-jurors and an additional five supporters of Lockhart who ‘it is feared will be absent’. An undated calculation for Dalrymple, however, put the electorate at the higher figure of 121, and his own sure voters at 34 as compared to only 20 for Lockhart. Of the overall total, however, 16 voters were not expected to attend and a further nine were otherwise ineligible. Thirty-two voters were classed as doubtful, of whom Dalrymple was thought to have gained seven. This would still have left him two votes short of Lockhart’s total at the last election, and there were certainly enough unattributed or doubtful votes from which Lockhart might still secure a majority. The fact that Dalrymple possessed a safe seat at Haddington Burghs, together with a strong aversion to failure (despite his protestations to the contrary), convinced him of the wisdom of withdrawing from the contest. At the outset he had privately admitted that his health was ‘very uncertain’ and that he was consequently unwilling ‘to push an affair of this kind in the irregular form, nor to fatigue about it’. An additional deterrent against trying to force the issue was the passage in the latter part of the 1713 session of Lockhart’s bill for regulating Scottish elections, the provisions of which Dalrymple believed had at least in part been directed towards the impending contest in Edinburghshire, particularly the clause stipulating that

to be elected or eligible one must be six months infeft before the teste of the writ . . . Mr Lockhart knows I have made a purchase to make up my valuation and . . . knows I cannot be infeft till the exchequer meets in June and thinks some other freeholders who have long enjoyed their estates have neglected to infeft holding of the crown and these will be cut off.

Dalrymple had withdrawn by the end of August, for it was confidently reported that ‘in Midlothian Carnwath will carry it because none sets up to compete with him’. But Dalrymple was able to exact sweet revenge upon his opponent: in 1714 he published a pirated edition of Lockhart’s treasonable Memoirs, and at the 1715 election engineered his defeat in the county. Despite ‘using all his efforts’, the sitting Member was forced to concede defeat before the poll, leaving the way clear for Sir William Baird’s eldest son, John, to carry the election. Baird, in Lockhart’s opinion, was a mere ‘creature of the Dalrymples’.6

Author: David Wilkinson


  • 1. SRO, Clerk of Penicuik mss GD18/2092/2, Sir John Clerk, ‘Moral Jnls.’, 1 June 1708.
  • 2. Scots Courant, 8-10 Nov. 1710.
  • 3. SRO, Edinburghshire sheriff ct. recs. SC39/100/2, min. bk. 1702-6; Lockhart Letters ed. Szechi, 68-70; Lauderdale mss 2/19, ‘List of Freeholders of Midlothian, 1713’; Hist. Scot. Parl. 186, 215, 572; P. W. J. Riley, Union, 329, 331, 335; Clerk of Penicuik mss GD18/2092/2, Sir John Clerk, ‘Moral Jnls.’, 21-26, 30 Sept. 1702; SRO, Hamilton mss GD406/1/72/3, [Ld. Archibald Hamilton*] to [Duke of Hamilton], 11 Aug. 1702; Roxburghe mss at Floors Castle, bdle. 707, [?Alexander Hay] to [Countess of Roxburghe], 10 Oct. 1702; Buccleuch mss at Drumlanrig Castle, bdle. 1155, Seafield to Queensberry, 17 Sept. 1702; 1152, no. 36, [-] to [same], n.d. [1702].
  • 4. Lockhart Pprs. i. 292, 294-5; Clerk of Penicuik mss GD18/3140/22, 25, 27, John to Sir John Clerk, 17, 28 Feb., 2, 4 Mar. 1708; GD18/4030, Sir John Clerk to James Dundas, 1 Mar. 1708, Dundas to Clerk, 2 Mar. 1708; GD18/2092/2, Sir John Clerk, ‘Moral Jnls.’, 1 June 1708; SRO, Mar and Kellie mss GD125/15/768/5, Grange to Mar, 28 Feb. 1708; Seafield Corresp. 441-2; Scots Peerage ed. Paul, viii. 447; Edinburgh Courant, 31 May-2 June 1708.
  • 5. Lockhart Pprs. 319; Christ Church Oxf. Wake mss 17, f. 267; Clerk of Penicuik mss GD18/3144, Stair to John Clerk, 1 Nov. 1710; GD18/5269/18, Sir John to John Clerk, 6 Sept. 1710; Hamilton mss GD406/1/5548, John Hamilton to Duke of Hamilton, 27 Aug. 1709; Lockhart Letters, 39-40, 42-43; Wodrow, Analecta, i. 308; Mar and Kellie mss GD124/15/975/11, Mar to Grange, 29 July 1710; Scots Courant, 8-10 Nov. 1710.
  • 6. Lockhart Letters, 43-44, 59-60, 65-71; HMC Portland, x. 306; NLS, Newhailes mss 25276/43, Dalrymple to Cumming, 9 Apr. 1713; Clerk of Penicuik mss GD18/3149/2, Dalrymple to Sir John Clerk, 2 Mar. 1713 and draft reply n.d.; GD18/5274/80, John to Sir John Clerk, 15 May [1713]; Lauderdale mss 2/19, ‘List of Freeholders of Midlothian, 1713’; NLS, Advocates’ mss, Wodrow pprs. letters Quarto 7, f. 177; Lockhart Pprs. ii. 88.