FERGUSON, Robert (1769-1840), of Raith, Fife.

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



1806 - 1807
1831 - 1832
1832 - 1834
1835 - 1837
1837 - 3 Dec. 1840

Family and Education

b. Aug. 1769, 1st s. of William Ferguson (formerly Berry) of Raith by Jean, da. of Ronald Craufurd of Restalrig, Edinburgh; bro. of Ronald Craufurd Ferguson*. educ. Edinburgh 1786; Glasgow Univ. 1788; adv. 1791. m. 20 Apr. 1808, Mary, da. and h. of William Hamilton Nisbet* of Dirleton, Haddington, div. wife of Thomas, 7th Earl of Elgin [S], s.p. suc. fa. 1810.

Offices Held

Ld. lt. Fife 1837-d.


Ferguson’s father, heir to an uncle’s London mercantile fortune and described in 1788 as ‘opulent’ and ‘much attached to opposition’, was then candidate for Dysart Burghs, but withdrew before the general election. He remained a staunch Whig and his sons Ronald and Robert were to represent the burghs in turn. Robert was a détenu in France on the resumption of war in 1803 and wrote home: ‘I wish to God Fox was our minister as well for the sake of England as of all Europe. He is much respected here.’ The proof of this was Fox’s securing the release of two détenus and Ferguson hoped that ‘if not personal acquaintance, at least the greatest veneration for him as a public character might give me some plea’. Later that year he was given six months’ parole in Germany and in February 1806 he was able to return home on parole and offered for his county as a friend of the Whigs in office. His opponent William Wemyss made a strong bid to secure government support too. Lord Grenville opted for neutrality, but Ferguson, a member of the Whig Club and Brooks’s and protégé of Fox, was assisted by the Scottish Whig grandees. He secured victory at the poll, although he was embarrassed by the challenge of ineligibility on the ground of his being a prisoner of war on parole. He denied the former and said nothing of the latter allegation.1

Ferguson was evidently free to attend Parliament and, although he did not feature in debate, was among ‘staunch friends’ of the abolition of the slave trade and voted for Brand’s motion following the dismissal of his friends from power, 9 Apr. 1807. It was clear that his prospects were poor at the election of 1807 and he withdrew, contenting himself with opposing the loyal address moved by the other side.2 A year later he married a fellow detenue, Lady Elgin, soon after her divorce: their liaison had alienated his father.3 Ferguson was a member of the Hampden Club by 1814. He was in France in 1819 when there was some talk of his offering for the county again.4 He did not do so, but succeeded his brother as Member for Dysart Burghs in 1831. He again supported the Whigs in power. He died 3 Dec. 1840.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. Pol. State of Scotland 1788, p. 141; Blair Adam mss, Ferguson to Adam, 23 July, 27 Nov. 1803; Edinburgh Advertiser, 14-18 Feb., 5-9 Dec. 1806.
  • 2. Edinburgh Weekly Jnl., 10 June 1807.
  • 3. Blair Adam mss, Ferguson to Adam, 5 Dec. 1807.
  • 4. SRO GD51/1/198/10/75, 78.