ABERCROMBY, Ralph (1734-1801), of Tullibody, Clackmannan.

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



1774 - 1780
1796 - Feb. 1798

Family and Education

b. 7 Oct. 1734,1 1st s. of George Abercromby of Tullibody by Mary, da. of Ralph Dundas of Manour, Perth; bro. of Burnet and nephew of James Abercromby.  educ. Alloa; Rugby 1748-52; Edinburgh Univ. 1752-3; Holland and Leipzig 1754-5.  m. 17 Nov. 1767, Mary Anne, da. and coh. of John Menzies of Ferntower, Crieff, Perth, 4s. 3da.  cr. K.B. 22 July 1795;  suc. fa. 1800.

Offices Held

Cornet 3 Drag. Gds. 1756; capt. 3 Horse 1762, maj. 1770, lt.-col. 1773; col. 103 Ft. 1781-3; maj.-gen. 1787; col. 69 Ft. 1790-2, 6 Ft. 1792-5, 7 Drag. Gds. 1795-6, 2 Drag. 1796-d.; lt.-gen. 1797.

Lt.-gov. I.o.W. 1795-9; gov. Inverness 1798-d.


Intended for the bar, Abercromby2 studied civil law at Edinburgh and Leipzig but in 1756, overcoming his father’s objections, joined the army. Mentioned in 1760 as a candidate alternative to his uncle James Abercromby, he stood in 1774, with the support of Sir Lawrence Dundas, a connexion by marriage, against James Francis Erskine and the Mar interest. After a violent contest (during which the candidates fought a duel), Abercromby, contrary to Robinson’s expectations,3 was returned, and Erskine’s petition was dismissed by the House.

Although he owed his election to Dundas, Abercromby was unwilling to submit to his dictation in parliamentary affairs and eventually broke with him. According to his son, Abercromby, in his private opinions known only to his family and a few friends, sympathized with the Americans, admired Washington, and was only restrained from resigning his seat by a sense of obligation to his Clackmannan supporters, but ‘was able to avoid a conflict between his duty as a soldier and his principles as a citizen’ by remaining in Ireland, and not seeking military service in America until France entered the war. On the contractors bill, 12 Feb. 1779, he was listed ‘pro, abroad’, and his only recorded vote throughout the Parliament was on the motion against the prorogation, 24 Apr. 1780, when he divided with Administration. Clackmannan was not represented in the Parliament of 1780, and Abercromby did not stand elsewhere.

On the disbandment of his regiment in 1783, Abercromby retired to the Tullibody estates, unsuccessfully contested Clackmannan in 1784, and thereafter devoted himself to the agricultural and social improvement of the district. Differing in politics with the Orkney Dundasses, the Abercromby family were now close friends of Henry Dundas who supported their interest in the 1788 by-election; but Ralph, who genuinely disliked parliamentary life, again declined the nomination in favour of his brother Burnet.

He died 28 Mar. 1801 in Aboukir Bay, from wounds received at the battle of Alexandria. On 28 May his widow was created Baroness Abercromby.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: Edith Lady Haden-Guest


  • 1. CP gives 25 Oct. Other sources, e.g. Anderson, Scottish Nation, give 7 Oct. and bap. 27 Oct.
  • 2. The following outline is based on Mems. of Sir Ralph Abercromby by his s. James, cr. Lord Dunfermline.
  • 3. Laprade, 7, 20.