Forfarshire (Angus)

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:

42-70 in 1715-54


 James Scott
26 Sept. 1713JOHN CARNEGIE
15 Apr. 1714JOHN CARNEGIE, re-elected after appointment to office

Main Article

‘This shire is so entirely loyal’, reported the Jacobite agent Scot in 1706, ‘that there is scarce any in it of birth, breeding or estate, but what is so, and so are all the commons, some few Whigs excepted.’ Macky, from a different perspective, received the same impression: ‘the gentry of Angus’, he noted, ‘are very numerous, and universal enemies to the Union’. Indeed, during the Fifteen nearly all the nobility in the county joined the Pretender. The Earls of Panmure, Southesk and Strathmore took the field in person; the Earl of Airlie, too old himself to fight, was represented in arms by his heir. These Jacobite sympathies were of long standing: Panmure was a non-juror, the previous Lord Strathmore had been interned at the time of the 1708 invasion attempt, and Airlie and Southesk, although they had taken the oaths to William, were cavaliers in their politics and on these grounds strongly opposed the Union. The 4th Earl of Northesk was the only major landowner in Forfarshire not to be described as ‘malignant’ in a ministerialist’s analysis of political opinion in 1705, and Scot too was doubtful about him, but for all his ‘varied’ voting in the Scottish parliament Northesk was a staunch episcopalian and for that reason no less of a Tory than his fellow peers. Thus, although he replaced Strathmore as sheriff in 1702, the substitution did not enhance Whig prospects of electoral success in the shire. As for the heritors, the combination of a magnate influence and the powerful episcopalian tradition of the north-east lowlands determined their political preferences in the same way. In the early 1690s a number had refused both the oath of allegiance and the Assurance, and their collective opposition to the Union in 1706, as expressed in an address to the Scottish parliament, provoked one Court peer to comment sourly that the county ‘has ever been disaffected to this government, both in church and state’.1

At the last election to the Scottish parliament in 1702 the Duke of Hamilton, the parliamentary chieftain of the cavaliers, had asserted that ‘nothing can make the elections in Angus go wrong if people qualify themselves, and if they don’t they ought to be esteemed the ruiners of their country’. Of the four commissioners returned, two were described by Scot as ‘most remarkably’ loyal, and only one voted in favour of the Union: James Halyburton, the son of a Jacobite laird killed at Killiecrankie, who had presumably been elected on a cavalier interest but who had subsequently defected to the Squadrone. Halyburton was, needless to say, the single Forfarshire representative selected for the first Parliament of Great Britain, but the voters promptly rejected him at the general election of 1708 in favour of a young Tory lawyer, James Carnegie, a distant cousin of Northesk. Carnegie defeated a challenge from a fellow Tory, James Scott I*, in 1710 by a ‘considerable majority’. This was the last contest he faced in this period, being returned ‘unanimously’ both in 1713 and (after taking office as Scottish solicitor-general) at a by-election in 1714. The impregnability of Carnegie’s position was reinforced by an upsurge in episcopalian sentiment in the county. No sooner had the Tory ministry established itself in 1710 than local episcopalians become bolder in their defiance of the Kirk, introducing liturgical ‘innovations’ into their meeting-houses. Then in 1712, in the wake of the passage of the Scottish Toleration Act, the justices in Forfarshire initiated a campaign against the local Presbyterian establishment, condemning to the torch a proclamation of a fast by the synod of Angus, summoning Presbyterian ministers to account for their conduct, and in some cases enforcing the closure of churches. At the 1715 election, in contrast to the tribulations of Scottish Tories elsewhere, Carnegie retained his seat without a whisper of opposition. But he was expelled from the House the following year for his part in the Jacobite rebellion.2

Author: D. W. Hayton


  • 1. Orig. Pprs. ed. Macpherson, ii. 15-16; J. Macky, Journey through GB, iii. 102; A. J. Warden, Angus, ii. 252, 277; Hooke Corresp. (Roxburghe Club), ii. 353; HMC Portland, x. 372, 398; APS, ix. 282; Boyer, Anne Annals, v. 354.
  • 2. Atholl mss at Blair Atholl, box 45, bdle. II, no.169, Hamilton to [Ld. Tullibardine], 20 Aug. 1702; Hist. Scot. Parl. 110-11, 308, 441-2; Orig. Pprs. 15-16; P. W. J. Riley, Union, 333-4; C219/110, 114; Edinburgh Courant, 26-28 May 1708; Scots Courant, 25-27 Oct. 1710; Clarke thesis, 66, 283, 354, 423; Christ Church, Oxf. Wake mss 5, f. 13; 17, f. 330; HMC Mar and Kellie, i. 311; Wodrow, Analecta, ii. 74, 98-99; Wodrow Corresp. ed. McCrie, i. 432-4; Flying Post, 7-9 Oct. 1712; SRO, Kennedy of Dalquharran mss GD27/3/24/4, Mungo Graham* to Cornelius Kennedy, 12 Feb. 1715.