DUNDAS, Hon. Lawrence (1766-1839), of Marske, nr. Redcar, Yorks.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1790 - 1802
1802 - 1807
13 July 1808 - Oct. 1811
14 Oct. 1811 - 14 June 1820

Family and Education

b. 10 Apr. 1766, 1st s. of Sir Thomas Dundas, 2nd Bt.*, 1st Baron Dundas, and bro. of Hons. Charles Lawrence Dundas*, George Heneage Lawrence Dundas*, and Robert Lawrence Dundas*. educ. Harrow 1775-80; Trinity Coll. Camb. 1784. m. 21 Apr. 1794, Harriot, da. of Gen. John Hale of Plantation, Tocketts, 4s. 3da. suc. fa. as 2nd Baron Dundas 14 June 1820; cr. Earl of Zetland 2 July 1838.

Offices Held

Capt. Yorks. (N. Riding) militia 1789, lt.-col. 1797, ret. 1803; col. Cleveland vols. 1803; col. commdt. 3 N. Riding militia 1808; ld. mayor, York 1811; ld. lt. and v.-adm. Orkney and Shetland 1831-d.


Dundas began his political career as the Whig candidate for Cambridge University at the general election of 1790. On 22 Mar. The Times had written:

After a very great expense Mr Lawrence Dundas will probably fail in his election views for Cambridge. What the opposition can mean by sending Mr Dundas to Cambridge, under the auspices of Lord John Townshend, to oppose the prime minister and the eldest son of the chancellor of the University, is beyond our comprehension. We cannot reconcile it to any principles either of common sense or common gambling.

The prediction was accurate: Dundas was heavily defeated and fell back on his father’s borough of Richmond. As a member of Brooks’s Club (26 Dec. 1788) and of the Whig Club (1 June 1790) he was considered a keen politician and, in Yorkshire at least, was thought to possess ‘the gift of speech’, but in the House he made little impression.1 Like his father he voted for the exemption of Scotland from the Test Act, 10 May 1791, and with the Whigs on Oczakov, 12 Apr. 1791 and 1 Mar. 1792, but cast no further recorded votes with opposition in the 1790 Parliament. It appears, however, that he was unhappy with his father’s acceptance of a peerage on the junction of the Portland Whigs with government in 1794. On 3 Nov. his mother wrote to his father:

I never talked to Lowry on his political opinions, but Lady Dundas [his grandmother] did. He said to her that he had never changed his political opinions since he was born, but that you and my brother [Fitzwilliam] etc. etc. had, that what had happened of late was not a junction of parties but a complete coalition with Mr Pitt, but that he should not take any part—meaning, as she understood that he would not vote in Parliament. Lady Dundas also talked to Harriot [his wife] on the subject and said Lowry was so very violent in politics that she dreaded his taking some rash step which would probably occasion family disagreements, but Harriot said she thought she might be quite easy on that score, that she was sure he would not. I hope however you will talk to him on the subject.2

The dismissal of his uncle Fitzwilliam from the lord lieutenancy of Ireland revived his enthusiasm for politics, and Lord Milton, who was supervising the organization of Fitzwilliam’s defence, wrote on 7 Apr. 1795: ‘Lowry who comes very constantly to us is as earnest as you could expect or as he ought to be and thinks of nothing but the speeches he is to make in the House’3—but not a single speech was reported, then or subsequently, except when he presented a petition or moved a new writ.

Rose classed him ‘doubtful’ in the list he drew up for the general election in 1796 and this assessment was proved accurate when Dundas supported Fox’s motion of censure on the imperial loan, 14 Dec. 1796, his motion on the state of Ireland, 23 Mar., and Grey’s motion on parliamentary reform, 26 May 1797. He cast further votes against government on the Irish union, 7 Feb. 1799, for the call of the House, 27 June 1800, on Grey’s motion for inquiry into the state of the nation, 25 Mar. 1801, the suspension of habeas corpus and the seditious meetings bill, 14 and 20 Apr. 1801, on the civil list arrears and on the Prince’s claims, 29 and 31 Mar. 1802. Although Canning noted in 1803 that he had voted against the peace of Amiens, he did not vote for Windham’s motion against the definitive treaty, 14 May 1802. By that date he had probably left London for York, where he was returned unopposed as Fitzwilliam’s candidate and at Fitzwilliam’s expense.4 He voted for Calcraft’s motion on the Prince’s financial claims, 4 Mar. 1803; Grey’s amendment to the King’s message on the discussions with France, 24 May, and Patten’s motion of censure on 3 June 1803, when he was classed by Canning as a member of Fitzwilliam’s group. He voted against Addington in the three divisions immediately before his resignation, 16, 23 and 25 Apr. 1804, went on to oppose Pitt’s second administration, was classed ‘Fox’ in Rose’s lists in 1804 and ‘Opposition’ in the government list of July 1805. He supported the Grenville ministry, voting for the repeal of the Additional Force Act, 30 Apr. 1806, and Brand’s motion, 9 Apr. 1807. He was listed ‘friendly’ to the abolition of the slave trade.

He was defeated at York in 1807 where ‘the cry of No Popery and an inactive and unpopular committee’ were said to have ‘operated strongly against’ him;5 his chances too were clearly weakened by the Yorkshire Whigs’ absorption in the county contest. He was found a seat once again for Richmond, where Arthur Shakespeare vacated for him, and meanwhile set about re-establishing himself at York, where he became an alderman in 1808. During his mayoralty in 1811 he was returned unopposed in a by-election. He held the seat until his father’s death, Fitzwilliam again providing the necessary financial support.

Dundas’s attendance varied. In 1809 he was in only two minorities, on Cintra, 21 Feb., and on ministerial corruption, 25 Apr., having been absent from the divisions on the Duke of York’s conduct. He was the only Member of his family present to oppose the address, 23 Jan. 1810, and apart from being absent, bereaved, on 26 Jan., went on to vote against ministers on the Scheldt inquiry. He was then classed ‘present Opposition’ by the Whigs. He voted against Burdett’s committal to the Tower and for the discharge of Gale Jones, 5 and 16 Apr. 1810. He joined opposition on the Regency divisions, but no vote is known for the remainder of the session of 1811 and he arranged a pair with his colleague in January 1812—he voted on 27 Jan. but was absent on 4 Feb. By 3 Mar. he had resumed his attendance and had to be granted indemnity for taking the oaths before a void deputation, there being no lord steward.6 He was a staunch supporter of Catholic relief.

After 1812 he voted fairly regularly with opposition, though there was a gap in his attendance in the session of 1818. He was in one minority against the revision of the Corn Laws, 23 Feb. 1815. His votes for Whitbread’s motion and against the Regent’s address on the resumption of hostilities, 7 Apr., 25 May 1815, against the suspension of habeas corpus, February and June 1817, and for Burdett’s motion on parliamentary reform, 20 May 1817, indicated that he belonged to the more advanced wing of the party. He signed the circular letter offering the leadership of the opposition in the House to Tierney in July 1818. After Peterloo he spoke out strongly in favour of inquiry at a mass meeting at York on 20 Sept. declaring that ‘he was now, and had been from his earliest youth upwards, a friend to the liberty of the people; he trusted that he should be so to the day of his death, and that, dying, he might bequeath that sentiment to his son’. Although Thomas Grenville believed that ‘the violent politics of York elections’ had forced his hand on this occasion, he was again prominent at the Yorkshire county meeting on 14 Oct. and opposed government’s repressive legislation, at least until 13 Dec. 1819.7 He died 19 Feb. 1839.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: J. M. Collinge


  • 1. Lonsdale mss, Armytage to Lowther, 17 Sept. 1810.
  • 2. Blair Adam mss, Dundas to Adam, 31 Dec. 1793; N. Riding RO, Dundas mss ZNK X2/1/1237.
  • 3. Fitzwilliam mss, box 48.
  • 4. See YORK.
  • 5. Wentworth Woodhouse mun. E, Croft to Fitzwilliam, 4 May 1807.
  • 6. Colchester, ii. 372, 373.
  • 7. The Times, 23 Sept., 16 Oct.; NLW, Coedymaen mss 1/37, Grenville to Williams Wynn, 1 Oct. 1819.