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:

37 in 1761, 52 in 1788


2 May 1754James Stewart 
23 Apr. 1761John Hamilton20
 James Murray17
18 Mar. 1762James Murray vice Hamilton, vacated his seat 
22 Apr. 1768Keith Stewart 
27 Oct. 1774Keith Stewart 
5 Oct. 1780Keith Stewart 
1 May 1784Keith Stewart 
 Sir William Maxwell 
17 Sept. 1784ANDREW McDOUALL vice Stewart, appointed to office 

Main Article

About 1754 the Stewarts, earls of Galloway, and the Dalrymples, earls of Stair, had the leading interests in Wigtownshire. At the general election Galloway’s brother, James Stewart of Auchleand, received the support of the Dalrymples in the county, in return for Galloway’s interest in Wigtown Burghs being given to John Hamilton (formerly Dalrymple) of Bargany.1

In 1760 the Dalrymples and their allies the McDowalls gained control of the Michaelmas head court, rejected seven new Galloway votes, and agreed to support a joint candidate. Their choice fell on Hamilton of Bargany, who was supported by Bute and acceptable to Argyll; Galloway, with none of his own family able to stand, gave his interest to his nephew and son-in-law James Murray of Broughton. At the election meeting the Dalrymple-McDowall party were obliged by decision of the court of session to accept four of the rejected Galloway votes, but they refused a further three votes and Hamilton was returned by a majority of three. Murray petitioned, alleging that all the Galloway votes were valid, and through his friend Rockingham secured Newcastle’s support. A settlement was reached by which Hamilton vacated his seat for the county and was brought in for Wigtown Burghs.2

By 1768 the McDowall interest had gained a new recruit in William McDowall of Castle Semple, a wealthy West Indian merchant who had purchased the estate of Garthland. But apparently there was no opposition to the Galloway candidate: Murray, who voted with the Opposition, was dropped, and Keith Stewart, Galloway’s second son, took his place and was returned unopposed at the next two general elections. When John, 5th Earl of Stair, turned ‘patriot’ and pro-American, the Dalrymple interest began to decline, and the leadership of the opposition to the Galloway interest passed to McDowall. At the general election of 1784 Stewart was opposed by Sir William Maxwell of Monreith, and had a majority of eight on the poll.3 McDowall gave his interest to Stewart, on the understanding that if Stewart received the office of receiver of the land tax (recently vacated by Murray of Broughton) the Galloway interest should be given to Andrew McDouall of Logan; who was accordingly returned unopposed in September 1784.

Author: Edith Lady Haden-Guest


  • 1. Letter to Ld. Loudoun from John Dalrymple, Allan Whitefoord, Andrew Hunter, and Wm. Duff, Loudoun mss.
  • 2. Statement of Murray’s case, Rockingham mss; ‘State of the county of Wigtown’, Feb. 1762, Loudoun mss; Add. 32930, ff. 351-2; 32931, ff. 51-53, 248-9, 317-20; 32932, f. 306; 32934, ff. 72, 279-80; Hamilton to Bute, 30 Nov. 1761, Bute mss.
  • 3. Edinburgh Advertiser, 4 May 1784.