FERGUSON, Ronald Craufurd (1773-1841), of Muirtown, Fife.

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



1806 - 1830
1830 - 10 Apr. 1841

Family and Education

b. 8 Feb. 1773, 2nd s. of William Ferguson of Raith, and bro. of Robert Ferguson*. educ. Edinburgh h.s. 1787-8; Berlin mil. acad. 1791-3. m. 4 Jan. 1798, Jean, illegit. da. of Gen. Sir Hector Munro*, 1s. surv. KCB 2 Jan. 1815; GCB 13 Sept. 1831; suc. bro. Robert to Raith 1840.

Offices Held

Ensign 53 Ft. 1790, lt. 1791, capt. 1793; maj. 84 Ft. 1794, lt.-col. 1794; lt.-col. 37 Ft. 1799, brevet col. 1800, maj.-gen. 1808; col. Sicilian regt. 1809, lt.-gen. 1813, col. 79 Ft. 1828; gen. 1830.


Ferguson served in Flanders, India, the Cape, Belle Isle and Ferrol. He proceeded for a second time to the Cape with the Highland brigade in 1805, but was invalided home: hot climates aggravated a liverish complaint of his. This facilitated his return to Parliament on Lord Rosslyn’s interest at the election in 1806, in which his elder brother was returned for the county of Fife. Like him he could be counted on to support Lord Grenville’s administration, as well as to support the abolition of the slave trade; though as his object remained professional employment, with every prospect of going abroad, the premier wondered at his seeking a seat in Parliament. Nor would he have objected to making way for Lord Howick in 1807 if his constituents would have stomached it, though it was intended that he should be compensated with another seat.1

Ferguson, who joined Brooks’s Club on 23 Feb. 1807, had paired in favour of Brand’s motion against the Portland ministry. He remained staunch in opposition. He voted with them on 26 June and 6 July 1807 and against the Copenhagen expedition, 3 and 8 Feb. 1808; supported Whitbread’s bid for peace mediation, 29 Feb.; voted against the orders in council, 3 Mar., and the mutiny bill, 14 Mar.; in favour of the larger grant to the Irish Catholic seminary, 5 May, and against Duigenan’s appointment to the Irish privy council, 11 May 1808. He then commanded a brigade at Roliça and Vimeiro with such distinction as to receive the thanks of the House when he came home ill, 6 Feb. 1809. His acknowledgment of this seems to have been his maiden speech. He felt obliged to swallow publicly the words of his next three; against the convention of Cintra and Sir Arthur Wellesley’s handling of it, 21 Feb. 1809 (swallowed on 26 Apr. 1811); against the Duke of York’s misconduct of army patronage, 17 Mar. 1809 (swallowed on 4 July 1815); and against aid to Portugal, 9 Mar. 1810 (swallowed on 28 Mar. 1811). His open censure of the Duke of York had earned him public addresses and his friend Whitbread was freely accused of wishing to make him the people’s general. Sir Arthur Wellesley warned him against another ‘trip’ to Spain. He voted with opposition throughout on the Scheldt inquiry (he was a member of the committee of inquiry). He was made second in command at Cadiz in the summer of 1810, but was soon driven home by his liver.2

Ferguson voted against the castration of Curwen’s reform bill, 13 June 1809, and for Brand’s reform motion of 21 May 1810, but could not be rallied to an extra-parliamentary meeting to promote constitutional reform in 1811. He was a friend of Catholic relief and an opponent of corruption and sinecures, on which account Creevey, speaking for the Whig ‘Mountain’, found him ‘a most admirable man’. Yet opposition now found him steady in vote rather than in voice. When he did speak, it was usually on military matters: against the recruiting of convicts or against a conscript army. Although he presented a petition from constituents against the prolonged war, 10 May 1813, he was by now so devoted to the war effort that he would not hear ‘the slightest word’ against it from fellow oppositionists.3 He was second in command in Holland in 1814 and was knighted in January 1815. He nevertheless voted with Whitbread against the resumption of war in April 1815 and steadily for retrenchment on the restoration of peace, being particularly critical of the property tax, against which he presented a Fife petition. He more than once reminded the House of the distress in Scotland that motivated his opposition. On 10 Feb. 1817 he presented the first of several Scottish burghs petitions for parliamentary reform to which, universal suffrage excepted, he described himself as ‘a firm friend’; he was confident that nine-tenths of the Scottish nation wished for it. On 13 Feb. 1818 he defended Lord Archibald Hamilton’s motion for burgh reform and on 7 May 1819 he was placed on the select committee of inquiry. He objected to the extension of the suspension of habeas corpus to Scotland, 26 June 1817, and in December 1819 protested ‘in the name of his country’ against government’s coercive measures. His sarcastic humour crushed the London gas light bill, 17 May 1819.

Ferguson, who had signed the requisition to Tierney to lead them in 1818, remained a Whig partisan, though disposed to give an independent support to the Duke of Wellington in 1827, for which he obtained a crack regiment. He died 10 Apr. 1841.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. Jnl. of Lady Holland, ii. 259; Fortescue mss, Grenville to Lauderdale, 7 Nov. 1806, Rosslyn to Grenville, 26 May [1807].
  • 2. Romilly, Mems. ii. 280; HMC Fortescue, ix. 289; Creevey Pprs. ed. Maxwell, i. 105.
  • 3. Creevey Pprs. i. 109; Add. 51545, Holland to Grey, 18 Dec. 1813.