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:

31 in 1757, 51 in 1774, 40 in 1788


26 Apr. 1754Gilbert Elliot
23 Dec. 1756Elliot re-elected after appointment to office
9 Apr. 1761Gilbert Elliot
17 June 1762Elliot re-elected after appointment to office
13 June 1765John Pringle vice Elliot, vacated his seat
22 Apr. 1768John Pringle
21 Oct. 1774John Pringle
29 Sept. 1780John Pringle
5 May 1784John Pringle
14 Apr. 1786Mark Pringle vice John Pringle, vacated his seat

Main Article

The principal aristocratic interest in Selkirkshire was that of the Duke of Buccleuch, which during the minority of the 3rd Duke was managed, until 1761, by Archibald, Duke of Argyll, and then by Charles Townshend, Buccleuch’s step-father. The other leading interests belonged to: Walter Scott of Harden; the Murrays of Philiphaugh; and the Pringles of Haining. The Elliots of Minto had their principal estates in Roxburghshire but possessed considerable influence in Selkirkshire.

In 1753 John Murray of Philiphaugh, M.P. for Selkirkshire since 1734, announced his intention to retire at the forthcoming general election, and sought Newcastle’s support for his son John, who, on his father’s death in July was bitterly chagrined when Argyll arranged the return of Gilbert Elliot.1 At the general election of 1754 Murray was returned for Linlithgow Burghs but Elliot had to face his continued hostility in the county. By 1759, with Argyll at feud with Bute, Elliot’s position was by no means safe.2 On 9 July 1760 he wrote to Charles Townshend:3

The Buccleuch interest is not so much to be estimated by the votes it can at present command as by the credit ... it bestows upon any candidate it adopts. ... With your assistance I believe I shall have no great reason to apprehend the assault of my antagonist.

At the general election of 1761 Elliot was again supported by Argyll, the Pringles, and the Buccleuch interest, and Murray withdrew.

In 1762 when Elliot stood for re-election, the Pringles, independent since Argyll’s death, set up John Pringle as candidate. Murray also declared himself, and informed Bute that he was resolved to oppose Elliot even if it meant ‘throwing his interest into Mr. Pringle’s scale’. But Elliot wrote to his father, 8 June 1762: ‘I think Murray has no mind to join Pringle ... and only wants to get something directly for himself’; and when both Pringle and Murray withdrew, Elliot wrote to Bute:4

Had either of them continued in it ... it could only have confirmed my interest in that county. I have letters ... both from my friends in Selkirkshire and at Edinburgh, and I find ... that I stood with them all on much stronger ground than at the general election. ... What has happened will, I hope, for the future prevent that teasing opposition which Mr. Murray has always held out without ever venturing to stand the trial of his strength.

In May 1765 Elliot vacated his seat to stand for Roxburghshire, and John Pringle was returned unopposed for Selkirkshire. Although Murray did not oppose Pringle he would ‘by no means engage for him’ at the general election, and in 1766 was threatening to stand himself, create votes, and ‘raise a flame in the county’. But Murray was in financial difficulties, and once again his threats came to nothing.5In 1769 he went to America and abandoned his interest in Selkirkshire. Pringle was returned unopposed until he left Parliament in 1786, when he was succeeded by his great-nephew and heir.

Author: Edith Lady Haden-Guest


  • 1. Add. 32732, f. 599; Argyll to Pelham, 5 Nov. 1753, Newcastle (Clumber) mss.
  • 2. Add. 32854, f. 351; G. Stuart to Elliot, 2 Dec. 1756, 21 Sept. 1759, Ld. Minto to Elliot, 16 Dec. 1756, Minto mss; John Dalrymple to Townshend, 5 Oct. 1759, Buccleuch mss.
  • 3. Buccleuch mss.
  • 4. Elliot to his father, 3, 8, 10 June 1762, Minto mss; Elliot to Bute, 9 June 1762, Bute mss.
  • 5. Pringle to Elliot, 17 May, 23 June 1766, Minto mss.