LIVINGSTON, William (b. c.1650), of Aberdeen and London

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



8 Feb. 1711 - 1713

Family and Education

(prob. yr.) s. of David Livingston (d. aft. 1682) of Dunlappie, Angus, by Agnes, da. of Alexander Carnegie of Cookston, Brechin, Forfar.  m. (1) 22 Apr. 1673, Bessie Goodall or Guidaill (d. aft. 1687), 8s. (1 d.v.p.) 4da.; (2) by 1691, Elizabeth, da. of John Skene of Skene, Aberdeen, 1s.1

Offices Held

Burgess, Aberdeen 1673, treasurer by 1679–aft. 1686.2

Sub-collector and surveyor of customs, Aberdeen by 1681.3


Descended from the Livingston family of Dunipace, Stirling, according to Nisbet’s System of Heraldry (1722), this Member had been apprenticed to an Aberdeen merchant in 1669 and made his way in business, assisted by his tenure of a local customs office. An episcopalian who found no difficulty in subscribing the test in 1681, Livingston made a charitable donation of £20 Scots to King’s College in 1688. The fact that his second wife came from the family of Burnett of Leys helped him surmount any political hurdles that the Revolution might have thrown in his path. A forage contractor for the army in Scotland in 1693, his commercial specialism was the importation of Spanish wines, some of which he stockpiled and re-exported to England after the Union, exploiting a loophole in the Act, for he was one of the signatories to the Scottish merchants’ petition who appeared before the Treasury in August 1707, in protest at the seizure of their goods by English customs officers. By this time he had established a base in London as well as in his home port and in Leith. In June 1708, he stood bail for Viscount Kilsyth, a prisoner suspected of involvement in the recent Jacobite invasion attempt.4

Regarded by High Tory interests in his locality as ‘a very honest man’, Livingston was one of the front-runners for Aberdeen Burghs in 1708; but withdrew under pressure from Lord Mar and his brother Lord Grange SCJ (Hon. James Erskine†), who favoured another candidate. He stood in 1710, however, and was seated on petition in February 1711, drawing support from English Tory interests as well as from business. He was classified as an episcopal Tory by Richard Dongworth, the Duchess of Buccleuch’s chaplain. One of the ‘worthy patriots’ who in this first session exposed the mismanagements of the previous ministry, Livingston joined the October Club, though he made little personal impact on the House. Although requested by Aberdeen magistrates to co-operate with Sir Alexander Cumming, 1st Bt.*, over the disputed apportionment of taxation in the royal convention of burghs, he is not known to have exerted himself in this cause (see GLASGOW BURGHS). Livingston voted on 7 Feb. 1712 in favour of the Scottish toleration bill, but almost certainly his prime concern was trade. Indeed, it may well be that the impulse behind his candidature had originated in the Union Parliament’s capacity for the regulation of Anglo-Scottish commerce. In January 1712 he signed a letter from Scottish Members to the attorney-general to demand the preservation of the Scots staple in the Low Countries, a matter of peculiar importance to his Aberdeen constituents, some of whom carried on a thriving trade with the Continent through the staple port. Later the same year, he presented loyal addresses on the peace from each of his constituent burghs, including the markedly different ones from the magistrates and the ‘free inhabitants’ of Aberdeen (the former vaunting its Hanoverianism, the latter shading from episcopalianism towards possible Jacobitism). The address from Inverbervie, moreover, was deemed overtly Jacobite by some commentators, and Livingston’s acquiescence therein may have marked him as a target for Scottish Whigs at the next election. The principal cause, however, of his declining credibility as a representative of Scottish interests was his wilful failure to attend the Commons in May 1713 to vote against the malt tax, in a division that his fellow countrymen lost by the narrowest margin; and subsequently by his consistent support for the treaty of commerce with France. These were both instances where he seems to have been more concerned to show loyalty to the ministry, and thereby protect himself, in the latter case even at some immediate cost to his Spanish business.5

Doubtless aware of the impression his conduct had created in Scotland, Livingston did not stand for re-election in 1713. Lord Ilay, somewhat disingenuously, portrayed the termination of his parliamentary career as a triumph of Argathelian Whiggery over Jacobitism. Nothing is known of Livingston after his retirement from the House, not even the date of his death, though he was probably buried in St. Nicholas church, Aberdeen. The Patrick Livingston dismissed as a tidewaiter at Aberdeen after the Hanoverian succession may well have been a relative. One of his sons certainly followed him into the wine trade, while two others emigrated to Virginia.6

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: D. W. Hayton


  • 1. E. B. Livingston, Livingstons of Callendar, 464–5; SRO Indexes, xxxix. 302; Scot. Rec. Soc. xxxi. 34; A. J. Warden, Angus, 16–17; Mems. Fam. Skene of Skene (New Spalding Club), 39.
  • 2. New Spalding Club, Misc. ii. 82; Aberdeen Council Letters ed. Taylor, vi. 164; SRO Indexes, xlviii. 127.
  • 3. Reg. PC Scotland, 1681–2, p. 732.
  • 4. Livingston, 464–5; Reg. PC Scotland, 732; Recs. Univ. and King’s Coll. Aberdeen (Spalding Club), 553; CJ, xvi. 96; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxi. 369–70; xxiii. 247; Cal. Treas. Pprs. 1702–7, p. 528; Add. 61621, ff. 47, 133, 206; 61622, ff. 74, 88, 118, 128, 184; Edinburgh Courant, 18–21 June 1708.
  • 5. HMC Portland, x. 340–1; SHR, lx. 61–75; SRO, Montrose mss GD220/5/808/16, Mungo Graham* to Montrose, 8 Feb. 1711; Aberdeen Univ. Lib. Duff House (Montcoffer) mss, 3175/F51/4, Aberdeen magistrates to Cumming, 3 Aug. 1711; Scots Courant, 19–22, 26–29 Sept., 6–8, 13–15 Oct., 12–14 Nov. 1712, Lockhart Letters ed. Szechi, 6–7; P. W. J. Riley, Eng. Ministers and Scotland, 242; Parlty. Hist. i. 69.
  • 6. Herts. RO, Panshanger mss D/EP F54, ff. 8–9; Boyer, Pol. State, iv. 333–5; Livingston, 465; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxx. 506.