Aberdeen Burghs

Scottish burgh

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1715-1754, ed. R. Sedgwick, 1970
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Arbroath (1715, '47), Forfarshire; Inverbervie (1722), Kincardineshire; Aberdeen (1727); Montrose (1734), Brechin (1741), Forfarshire

Number of voters:



 John Middleton
 MIDDLETON vice Erskine, on petition, 22 July 1715
13 Apr. 1722WILLIAM KERR
 John Middleton
 MIDDLETON vice Kerr, on petition, 25 Oct. 1722
8 June 1739JOHN MAULE vice Middleton, deceased
29 May 1741JOHN MAULE
 Alexander Udny
22 July 1747JOHN MAULE
20 June 1748CHARLES MAITLAND vice Maule, appointed to office
 David Scott
27 Mar. 1751DAVID SCOTT vice Maitland, deceased

Main Article

In 1715 James Erskine, a Tory, was returned against John Middleton, a Whig, attached to the Duke of Argyll. Middleton petitioned successfully, on the ground that two of the delegates voting for Erskine had been illegally elected. In 1722 Middleton was defeated by William Kerr, brother of the Duke of Roxburghe, the head of the anti-Argyll faction known as the Squadrone. Middleton again petitioned, this time on the ground that he had been returned by the clerk of the presiding burgh, who was the legal returning officer, notwithstanding which the sheriff had wrongfully returned Erskine. When the petition was heard at the bar of the House of Commons, Robert Dundas on behalf of Kerr suggested that the magistrates of the presiding burgh had gone into the rebellion of 1715 ‘and so there could be no magistracy because they had forfeited their ... charter’; to which Duncan Forbes, on behalf of Middleton, replied that ‘there had been no prosecution and many Acts of Grace since, and all other acts as usual done by them since and approved by the Government, and therefore it was plain the King and the Government approved the magistracy, and consequently their common clerk being the presiding burgh was the right officer’.1 The proceedings are described by Lord Finch:

We have these last two or three days been plagued with settling the Scotch nation about their elections, in which battle the friends of the Duke of Roxburghe and the Duke of Argyll contended each other and are of both sides mighty positive and strong in facts ... Such was the number of friends Kerr personally had that he came within one vote ... All the Duke of Argyll’s friends were zealous to support Middleton and yet, if Dundas had not stood up at last, and made it a Scotch case and pretended to justify Kerr’s election by the Scotch law, which gave an opportunity for a very ingenious lawyer, one Duncan Forbes to scent a battle and to oppose pretty strongly, Kerr would have carried it.2

After this Middleton was unopposed until his death in 1739, when he was succeeded by John Maule, whose half-brother William, Lord Panmure, had a strong natural interest in Brechin and usually controlled Arbroath and Montrose. Maule was secretary to Lord Ilay, Walpole’s manager in Scotland, whom the Aberdeen council used to consult on the choice of a Member.3 When Maule vacated the seat on appointment to a judgeship in 1748, the Panmure-Argyll candidate, David Scott, was defeated by Charles Maitland, whose first cousin, Lord Arbuthnott, controlled Inverbervie.4 On Maitland’s death in 1751, Scott was returned unopposed, holding the seat without a contest till his death in 1766.

Author: Eveline Cruickshanks


  • 1. CJ, xx. 32, 46.
  • 2. Knatchbull Diary, 24 Apr. 1722 app. B.
  • 3. Argyll to Pelham, 28 Oct. 1753, Newcastle (Clumber) mss.
  • 4. Same to same, 23 July 1747, ibid.