Haddingtonshire (East Lothian)

Single Member Scottish County

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754-1790, ed. L. Namier, J. Brooke., 1964
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Number of voters:

about 55 in 1768, about 75 in 1789


14 May 1754Sir Hew Dalrymple 
16 Apr. 1761Andrew Fletcher 
31 Mar. 1768Sir George Suttie30
 David Kinloch23
29 Oct. 1774Sir George Suttie 
29 May 1777William Nisbet vice Suttie, vacated his seat 
28 Sept. 1780Hew Dalrymple 
10 Apr. 1784Hew Dalrymple 
24 July 1786John Hamilton vice Dalrymple, appointed to office 

Main Article

The principal interests in Haddingtonshire belonged to the Dalrymples of North Berwick and the Fletchers of Saltoun. In 1747 these two families combined their interests on the understanding that Sir Hew Dalrymple and Andrew Fletcher younger of Saltoun should represent the county and Haddington Burghs alternately. In 1754 Dalrymple, the sitting Member, contrived to retain the county, but when he again tried to avoid his obligations in 1761 he was forced by the intervention of the Duke of Argyll to give way to Fletcher.1

In 1766 Dalrymple, now attached to Grenville in Opposition, was preparing to contest the county against Fletcher, when a third candidate appeared, backed by Robert Dundas of Arniston, lord president of the court of session. This was Sir George Suttie, Dalrymple’s cousin, but related by marriage to the lord president. After unsuccessful attempts to persuade Suttie to unite with him against Fletcher, Dalrymple approached both Grenville in Opposition and the Bute connexion in Administration with divergent propositions. Grenville wrote to Fletcher on 16 Feb. 1768:

Sir Hew Dalrymple ... earnestly wishes the choice may fall either upon you or upon himself, which if you join your interest he thinks must be the case, but that otherwise the third candidate must succeed. ... I wish this as a public man from a persuasion that one of you two will be the properest person to represent that county.

Fletcher replied on 9 Mar. that he could not forgive Dalrymple’s previous conduct, and that he did not propose to stand himself or to ‘meddle’ in the contest.2

Meanwhile Dalrymple had written to Lord Loudoun, one of the mediators in his dispute with the Fletchers in 1761, enclosing long statements which he asked Loudoun to submit to Bute and Grafton.3 Apologizing for his connexion with Grenville, he placed himself entirely under the direction of Administration; and professed that his overriding purpose was to ensure that the old Argyll interest as represented by himself and Fletcher should not be defeated by the former ‘Squadrone’, as represented by Dundas and Suttie. In view of his previous approach to Suttie, his argument was audaciously disingenuous.

Twenty-seven years in Parliament has pretty well satisfied my curiosity. ... It is not going out of Parliament, but the interest of the county going out of the old Argathelian interest makes me regret my change ... If therefore Lord Bute or the Duke of Grafton want to have any other man from our county, I am very ready to join my interest in support of their friend, or if they will accept of my son ... I am willing to make him over to them ... If the Duke of Grafton would show his countenance or only say that he would be equally agreeable to the King’s ministers, and no turning out such as vote for him, I am persuaded he might succeed.

He enclosed a list of voters and their connexions, listing 23 for the ‘Argathelian’ interest, 22 for Lord President Dundas, and 10 who either held office or were personally attached to Fletcher.

It is plain that the election may be carried by whoever has the assistance of the King’s servants. I am ready to take any part I am directed, and have influence with my family and friends to carry most of them with me. Let Lord Bute name the candidate from among the old friends of the Argathelians. I shall be the agent of his commands.

The candidate ultimately selected was Fletcher’s cousin, David Kinloch younger of Gilmerton, but despite Dalrymple’s support Kinloch was defeated. Sir John Hall, a supporter of Suttie, commented on the election: ‘If Mr. Fletcher had stood we should have been very near run. There were four of our voters much attached to him. Had they all gone over we [had] lost by one, as we had only seven majority.’4

Suttie’s seat was therefore precarious, and in 1773 two new candidates declared themselves against the forthcoming general election: James Stewart, brother of Lord Blantyre; and John Nisbet younger of Dirleton.5 But there was no poll in 1774: Stewart withdrew, and Suttie and Nisbet agreed to share the Parliament between them. Accordingly Suttie vacated his seat in 1777 to make way for Nisbet.6

Sir Hew Dalrymple, however, had not given up the struggle for the county. At the general election of 1780 he put up his son Hew as a candidate, who was returned unopposed.7 Dalrymple was also returned unopposed in 1784, and when his appointment to office in 1786 vacated his seat he was replaced by Nisbet’s brother John Hamilton of Pencaitland, son-in-law of Lord President Dundas. The Dundas-Dalrymple alliance now dominated the county.

Author: Edith Lady Haden-Guest


  • 2. Caldwell Pprs. ii (2), p. 92; Grenville mss (JM); Grenville letter bk.
  • 3. 24, 26, 27 Feb. 1768, Loudoun mss.
  • 4. Sir John Hall to W. Hall, 5 Apr. 1768, Dunglass mss, SRO.
  • 5. Alex. Stewart to Sir John Hall, 8 Apr. 1773, Dunglass mss; Jas. Abercrombie to Loudoun, 17 Apr. 1773, Loudoun mss; Laprade, 8, 10.
  • 6. Hew Dalrymple to Loudoun, 7 Sept. 1774, Loudoun mss.
  • 7. Robinson’s survey for the general election of 1780; Edinburgh Advertiser, 26 Sept. 1780.