Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009
Available from Cambridge University Press

Background Information

Alternated with Cromartyshire

Number of enrolled freeholders:

19 in 1826; 17 in 1830


21 Mar. 1831HON. GEORGE PRYSE CAMPBELL re-elected after appointment to office

Main Article

Nairnshire was a small agricultural county (193 square miles).1 Its only significant settlement was Nairn, one of the Inverness district of burghs. Neglect had made the dominant interest of the Campbells of Cawdor, which had been temporarily defeated in 1785, potentially vulnerable to attack at the general elections of 1796, 1806 and 1812, but no contest had occurred, and the Whig John Campbell†, 1st Baron Cawdor, had eventually acted to consolidate the interest, which was impregnable in this period.2 At the general election of 1820 his younger son George Campbell, who was also a Whig, was returned in his absence on his duties as a serving naval officer.3 Nairnshire agriculturists petitioned the Commons against the additional malt duty, 26 May, as did the county’s Agricultural Society, 2 June 1820, when Campbell’s elder brother John, Member for Carmarthen, presented it.4 The freeholders and farmers petitioned both Houses in the same sense in March 1821.5 John Campbell succeeded his father as 2nd Baron Cawdor two months later. (He was promoted to an earldom in 1827.) In February 1824 Francis Grant, Member for Elginshire, endorsed to Peel, the Liverpool ministry’s home secretary, the claim of Sir William Gordon Cumming* of Altyre, Elginshire, to the vacant lord lieutenancy; but it was given to William Brodie of Brodie, Elginshire, grandson of the late incumbent.6 On 13 Mar. 1826 a meeting chaired by Sir James Dunbar of Boath, convener of the county, and attended by, among others, Colonel Hugh Rose of Kilravock, a former Member, petitioned both Houses against interference with the Scottish banking system. That to the Commons was entrusted to Campbell, but in his absence it was presented by William Gordon, Member for Aberdeenshire, 21 Mar. Cawdor presented the petition to the Lords, 6 Apr. 1826.7 Nairnshire freeholders petitioned both Houses against relaxation of the corn laws in February 1827.8 It was alleged in an action for recovery of debt in 1831 that John Gordon of Cluny, Aberdeenshire, Tory Member for Weymouth, 1826-32, had been intriguing from about 1828 with the 4th Earl Fife* and Lachlan Mackintosh of Raigmore to secure the return of a friend for Nairnshire, where he had property.9 Nothing of this was reflected at the general election of 1830, when George Campbell was returned unopposed.10 Protestant Dissenters of the county petitioned the Commons for the abolition of slavery, 28 Mar. 1831. A week earlier Campbell had been quietly re-elected after his appointment to the household under the aegis of the Grey ministry, whose reform bill he supported. The dissolution which followed its defeat in April 1831 marked the end of Nairnshire’s separate existence as a parliamentary constituency. The proposal in the Scottish reform bill to annex it to Elginshire provoked considerable local opposition, and the freeholders petitioned the Lords for the county to be allowed to return a Member of its own or to be united with Cromartyshire.11 Ministers would not give way, and in the Commons, 15 June 1832 they defeated a Conservative attempt to implement a union with Cromartyshire.12 Elginshire landowners monopolized the representation of the new constituency for over 40 years.

Author: David R. Fisher


  • 1. Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland (1895), v. 93-94.
  • 2. HP Commons, 1790-1820, ii. 559-60.
  • 3. Inverness Courier, 6 Apr. 1820.
  • 4. CJ, lxxv. 241, 269; The Times, 3 June 1820.
  • 5. CJ, lxxvi. 188; LJ, liv. 135.
  • 6. Add. 40361, f. 9.
  • 7. Inverness Courier, 8, 22, 29 Mar. 1826; CJ, lxxxi. 193; LJ, lviii. 158.
  • 8. CJ, lxxxii. 142; LJ, lix. 51.
  • 9. The Times, 12 Apr. 1831.
  • 10. Inverness Courier, 18, 25 Aug. 1830.
  • 11. LJ, lxiii. 1099.
  • 12. NAS GD46/4/135/5; Cockburn Letters, 264, 358-9.