MURRAY, Sir Patrick, 6th Bt. (1771-1837), of Ochtertyre, Perth.

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



1806 - 27 Feb. 1812

Family and Education

b. 3 Feb. 1771, 1st s. of Sir William Murray, 5th Bt., by Lady Augusta Mackenzie, da. of George, 3rd Earl of Cromartie [S]. educ. Edinburgh h.s. 1780-4; Glasgow Univ. 1791; adv. 1793. m. 13 Dec. 1794, Lady Mary Anne Hope, da. of John, 2nd Earl of Hopetoun [S], 5s. 4da. suc. fa. as 6th Bt. 6 June 1800.

Offices Held

King’s remembrancer, ct. of Exchequer [S] 1799-1837; sec. to Board of Control 1810-12, baron of Exchequer [S] 1820-d.

Capt. R. Edinburgh vols. 1797-1803, Perthshire brigade 1800; lt.-col. commdt. Strathearn vol. inf. 1803, col. 1803; lt.-col. 2 R. Perth militia 1808.


‘Sir Peter’ Murray owed his return to Parliament to Lord Melville, who was his father’s cousin and his wife’s brother-in-law. When Murray was recommended to him as a replacement for George Abercromby, the sitting Member for Edinburgh, Melville, who knew Murray was ambitious to become a baron of the Exchequer as well as a Member of Parliament, alleged that ‘it is not a good thing for him’; but ‘no person more advisable’ materialized and Murray was returned unopposed. Opposition tried to unseat him on petition on the grounds of disqualification through his Exchequer office, but the attempt failed.1 He made no secret of his political allegiance, informing the electors that they were

expressing, in my person, your steady attachment and most honourable adherence to the interests of a statesman who has long and most deservedly possessed your gratitude and confidence, and whose wishes you possibly conceive you may gratify, by the election of one who is connected with him by ties the strongest and most indissoluble.2

In his maiden speech, 9 Apr. 1807, Murray vindicated the royal dismissal of the Grenville ministry and more particularly ‘in a very able and spirited manner’, as the King was informed, defended Melville against an attack of Romilly’s: Romilly, who admitted that his speech was a bad one, referred in his journal to ‘some very angry observations’ from Murray.3 On his re-election in May, he again emphasized his attachment to Melville.4 This time George Abercromby stood as well, but it was merely a device to frustrate any attempt to upset Murray on grounds of disqualification. He was a steady supporter of administration. On 30 Mar. 1808 he gave evidence on distillation to a select committee. He voted with ministers throughout the Scheldt debates, 23 Jan.-30 Mar. 1810, when the Whigs listed him ‘against the Opposition’; against the discharge of the radical Gale Jones, 16 Apr.; against sinecure and parliamentary reform, 17 and 21 May 1810, and on the Regency, 1 Jan. 1811. By then he was in office, having been appointed to the Board of Control under Robert Saunders Dundas. On 2 Apr. 1811 he seconded Binning’s motion for an inquiry into exempting mail coaches in Great Britain from toll and on 11 June defended the Perth road and bridge bill.

On 23 Sept. 1811 Murray informed Lord Melville that his hopes that the additional income from his place would enable him to bring his family to London with him had evaporated and that his private affairs were so much ‘embarrassed’ that he must curtail his attendance. He offered to resign his place at Melville’s convenience and meanwhile announced that, owing to his wife’s confinement, he would be absent until February. He informed the whip that he had paired with Lord John Campbell.5 While Melville was casting about for a replacement for him at the Board, Murray, who for the last five years had ‘taken the burden of the whole county’ of Perth and not merely ‘pour l’honneur du fait’, as Graham of Fintry put it, met with a major disappointment when on the vacancy in the county representation caused by Lord James Murray’s resignation, he was not adopted as candidate by the Duke of Atholl, who preferred his son-in-law Drummond. It was at this moment that Murray learnt, at second hand, so he complained, that the Melville junta had decided to discard him at Edinburgh next time in favour of William Dundas. He pointed out to Melville that this decision gave him nothing to fall back on. It was in vain that, after Murray had failed in the attempt, Melville remonstrated with the Duke of Atholl, who claimed that he would have supported Murray next to his son-in-law and invoked Melville’s late father’s views on the subject. Murray could get nowhere without an alliance with the duke’s enemies, Lord Breadalbane and Gen. Graham of Balgowan and, although he had hopes that this threat would frighten the duke, he had scruples about such a flirtation with opposition politics. In an address of 21 Feb. he announced that he would postpone his pretensions until the general election, but added in a postscript that he might stand, and after resigning his seat for Edinburgh on 27 Feb. confirmed his candidature. A proposal by Melville that he should retire with a barony of the Exchequer came too late. When the friends of the absent Gen. Graham put him up, however, Murray not only agreed to withdraw in his favour, but proposed him at the by-election, in which Graham was defeated. Murray had, however, unsuccessfully attempted through Melville to get the duke’s son-in-law to withdraw in his own favour, while at the same time pressing his claims to replace Graham if the latter’s friends thought fit to withdraw him at the last minute: his defence would be that Graham was a sure opponent of the government, whereas the duke would desert if the Whigs came to power. Melville rebuked him for his conduct. Murray was disappointed in his hope that he might be awarded William Dundas’s seat for Elgin Burghs free of expense now that Dundas occupied his seat for Edinburgh.6 On 23 Mar. 1812 in a high-spirited apologia for his conduct to Melville, he elaborated on his previously expressed scorn for the ‘superior political wisdom’ that led Melville to stand by the Duke of Atholl’s interest in Perthshire, which he himself opposed not out of disrespect for ‘high rank and great property’, but because it monopolized the county representation: ‘it is against the unfair, ungenerous and impolitic exercise of influence’. The letter breathed disenchantment with his past subjugation to the Melville system.7

Murray, still hankering after an independent line, did not return to the fold at the ensuing general election, when he was content to play second fiddle to Graham in Perthshire. On Graham’s obtaining a peerage he renewed his pretensions to Perthshire, but his relations with his allies were uneasy, because he was unable to combine his hostility to the Atholl interest with political opposition to the government, and he withdrew before the election in 1818.8 His venture into independent politics had failed. He died 1 June 1837.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: D. G. Henry


  • 1. NLS, Fettercairn mss, box 86(3), Sir J. B. Stuart’s memo, 27 Feb.; Buccleuch mss, Hope to Melville, 30 May, Melville to Dundas, 3 June; Blair Adam mss, Cunynghame to Adam, 29 Oct. 1806; CJ, lxii. 48, 336.
  • 2. Edinburgh Advertiser, 4-7 Nov. 1806.
  • 3. Geo. III Corresp. iv. 3435; Romilly, Mems. ii. 202.
  • 4. Edinburgh Advertiser, 8-12 May 1807.
  • 5. SRO GD51/9/365/1, 2; PRO T.64/260, Murray to Arbuthnot, 18 Dec. 1811.
  • 6. SRO GD51/1/198/21/41-49; 51/16/105/1, 3; NLS, Lynedoch mss, box 37(1), R. to T. Graham, 26 Feb. 1812; NLS 9370, ff. 141-6; Edinburgh Advertiser, 25, 28 Feb., 3, 24 Mar. 1812.
  • 7. NLS mss 2, f. 8.
  • 8. Edinburgh Advertiser, 9 June 1812, 5 June 1818; NLS mss 9, f. 197; 9370, ff. 151-2; SRO GD51/1/198/21/62; see PERTHSHIRE.