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

Background Information

Number of enrolled freeholders:

137 in 1820; 140 in 1826; 151 in 1830


27 Mar. 1820SIR ALEXANDER DON, bt. 
8 May 1826HENRY FRANCIS HEPBURNE SCOTT vice Don, deceased 
 Sir William Francis Eliott, bt.14

Main Article

In the Border county of Roxburghshire, which had last polled in 1812, the county town and only royal burgh Jedburgh, a contributory of the Haddington group, vied increasingly for local prominence with the growing textile towns of Hawick and Kelso.1 The leading interests were those of the largest landowners, the Whig dukes of Roxburghe of Floors Castle, near Kelso, and the Tory dukes of Buccleuch of Branxholme. Their rivalry and hegemony had recently been tested by the Elliots of Minto House, who, with the Eliotts of Stobbs, had influence at Hawick and became the principal focus of the Whigs, while the succession to the dukedom of Roxburghe was in dispute, 1805-12, and again, 1823-32, early in the minority of the 6th duke, James Henry Innes Ker (1816-79). The 1st earl of Minto’s son and heir Gilbert Elliot Murray Kynynmound had defeated the nominee of the 4th duke of Buccleuch, Alexander Don of Newton Don, Berwickshire in 1812, but forfeited the seat to him on succeeding to the earldom in 1814, much to the frustration of his kinsman, the politically maladroit dandy Sir William Francis Eliott of Stobbs and Wells,2 and the resident Tory contenders Sir John Riddell of Muselee and John James Douglas (afterwards Scott Douglas) of Springwood Park, Kelso, the son and heir of the former Member Sir George Douglas.3 Buccleuch’s death in 1819, when his eldest son was 12, gave control of their interest to his guardians, his uncle Lord Montagu and second cousin Charles Douglas*. Assisted by their kinsman the 6th marquess of Lothian, the lord lieutenant and president of the influential Union Agricultural Society, and by the former Member John Rutherfurd of Edgerstone, at the general election of 1820 they adhered to the 4th duke’s policy of vesting the representation in a respectable Tory squire who posed little threat to the future return of a Buccleuch family member.4 Lothian presided at the election meeting at Jedburgh, 27 Mar., when Don, who had tactically declared his preference to sit for Berwickshire, was returned unopposed, proposed by Rutherfurd and the former Berwickshire Member Hugh Scott of Harden, who praised Don’s independent support for Lord Liverpool’s ministry and the Six Acts.5

The distressed woollen manufacturers of Hawick petitioned the Commons for repeal of the tax on wool, 16 May, and the county’s landowners and occupiers did so for repeal of the additional malt duty and further protection and changes in calculating the corn averages, as recommended by the Union Agricultural Society of Kelso (two petitions), 6 July 1820.6 Opinion on the Queen Caroline affair was divided. Lothian protested formally in the Lords at the abandonment of the bill of pains and penalties in November 1820. Hawick was illuminated and Minto fêted for voting against it and rival addresses were adopted at Kelso, 23 Nov.7 On 22 Dec. 1820, 42 freeholders attended and a further 26, ‘representing all the leading interests’, sent declarations of support to the county meeting at Jedburgh, where, with Rutherfurd as praeses, a loyal address to the king, proposed by Sir George Douglas and Don, was unanimously adopted.8 The 1821 spring meeting was dominated by a bitter contest for the collectorship in which Charles Robson of Samieston defeated the younger William Scott of Raeburn, popularly known as ‘Maxpoffle’, by 47-41.9 Sir Walter Scott, a key supporter of his kinsman Maxpoffle, interpreted the result as the ‘act of an expiring government’ and, warning Lord Montagu that the Scotts would renew their challenge, complained of Don’s aloofness and the power of the ‘Buccleuch’ names of ‘Douglas and Scott’, which

have in some degree the quality of Jack the giant killer’s sword which cut before the point and did more than the owner calculated upon ... The Ogilvies went with us, Torwoodlees, Gala and many good friends from the [Jed] Forest. Against were Elliots, Rutherfords and all Liddesdale for aught I know ... Mr. Rutherford the sheriff and Harry Davidson conducted matters for Robson, Harden, Tom Bruce of Langlee and myself for Scott.10

Maxpoffle and Robson canvassed afresh in 1822, but Montagu and Lothian appealed successfully to Sir Walter Scott and Sir Charles Douglas and a contest was averted.11 Thanking them on behalf of Buccleuch, Montagu wrote, 30 Apr. 1822:

We consider the termination of the difference as not only most beneficial to the county in general, but as most material to the preservation of the Buccleuch interest. It was not to be expected that during a minority that interest could be maintained in all its vigour, formed as it was by my father and most of the respectable gentlemen of the county from a mutual personal regard ... Now the schism that threatened to break that union has been averted, I trust my nephew will in a few years be able himself to re-establish his interest in its former strength, by the same honourable means by which his predecessors originally created it.12

Hawick petitioned against the leather tax, 21 May 1822, and joined Kelso and its hinterland in supporting the 1823, 1824 and 1826 petitioning campaigns against slavery.13 Petitions were forthcoming from the Union Agricultural Society and freeholders and heritors at their 1823 spring meeting for action to combat distress, and from the operatives, stocking-makers and tradesmen of Hawick for repeal of the combination laws, 5 Apr. 1824, and of the corn laws, 5 May 1825, 18 May 1826.14 The home secretary Peel and the ministry’s Scottish manager Lord Melville acquiesced in the transfer of the lord lieutenancy to Lord Ancram* when he succeeded his father as 7th marquess of Lothian in 1824, and he supported the landowners and occupiers’ petitions against corn law reform in 1825 and 1826.15 Opinions differed on the alterations to the Scottish banking system which the government contemplated in the wake of the 1825-6 crisis. Minto and Lothian welcomed them, and Roxburghshire was unusual in its failure to meet to support Lord Lauderdale’s hostile petitioning campaign.16 However, unfavourable petitions organized by bankers were adopted at Kelso, 22 Mar., and circulated among the farmers of the ‘upper district’.17 Writing on 5 Apr. to their intended recipient Lord Lansdowne, Minto explained:

In this small agricultural county, for example, with a population of about 40,000 and a rental of only between two and three hundred thousand pounds, we have no less than six branch banks, two being established in each of the small towns of Hawick, Jedburgh and Kelso, and from each of these places you of course have petitions. Yet it was proposed to call a meeting of the county to vote resolutions, and an intimation that I should attend the meeting and move counter-resolutions, and the certainty that I should carry them, was sufficient to keep the bankers and their friends quiet; and you will have no petition from the gentlemen of Roxburghshire.18

Minto and Lothian co-operated again when Don’s sudden death on 11 Apr. 1826 precipitated a by-election. Sir William Francis Eliott and Sir John James Scott Douglas applied to Melville for government backing and commenced canvassing, 12 Apr.19 Notwithstanding Lord Glasgow’s supplications on behalf of his nephew Scott Douglas, Melville preferred to humour Hugh Scott of Harden, who had recently acquiesced in his arrangements for Berwickshire. His proffered candidate, his son and heir Henry Francis Hepburne Scott, whose claims Sir Walter Scott pressed, would be disqualified and have to relinquish the seat should his father’s sound claim to the Polwarth Scottish peerage be granted, and was accordingly acceptable to Buccleuch’s guardians and Minto.20 On 16 Apr. Sir Walter Scott received a dispatch from Melville ‘desiring me to ride down and press Mr. Scott of Harden to let Henry stand, and this in Lord Montagu’s name as well as his own, so that the two propositions cross each other on the road, and Henry is as much desired by the Buccleuch interest as he desires their support’.21 Hugh Scott, meanwhile, had lost no time in sending his son William to London to canvass and in contacting Minto, who replied that Hepburne Scott would be ‘quite safe either with or without Buccleuch’s help’.22 Writing to her grandmother Lady Diana Scott, through whom their disputed claim to the Polwarth peerage derived, Hepburne Scott’s sister Henrietta explained:

Yesterday evening Mr. [Hugh] Scott received a letter from Sir Walter enclosing one from Lord Melville proposing to him to ride over to Mertoun and propose to Mr. Henry Scott to stand for the county of Roxburgh. This was called private as great men’s letters must always be. The same post, which arrived to Sir Walter by Selkirk in the evening, brought letters this morning to papa - one from Lord Montagu to the same purport saying Henry would have [the] duke of Buccleuch’s and his support, and one from Lord Lothian, as kind and friendly as possible, and a delightful little long letter from William [Scott], who has done a great deal and without any over fatigue to himself. He arrived in London on Friday at six in the morning and wrote to Lord Lothian and then went to bed and slept till 12. In the mean time Lord Lothian wrote to Lord Montagu and then came and went with William to Lord Melville at the admiralty, where they met Lord Montagu and the young duke [of Buccleuch, who] was quite decided for Henry. William Scott has also a letter from Mr. Haig in Edinburgh who had seen Mr. Rutherfurd there, who told him he was sure Henry would have the Buccleuch interest if he asked for it; and as Henry is in Edinburgh and had a letter from his father to Mr. Rutherfurd, that is all well and I expect Henry will be here this afternoon. Mr. Scott is just gone to Jedburgh and Mr. Riddell is gone with him. William writes also that he has seen [William Eliott Lockhart of] Borthwickbrae, who is to move for a new writ in Parliament immediately so no time will be lost and he will secure what votes are in London.23

From Hawick, 15 Apr., Minto informed Lothian:

Candidates sprout up every day, but none as yet that need give ... [Hepburne Scott] any uneasiness. Poor Don is still unburied and two baronets are already scouring the county as if it was to be carried by speed of foot. Little do they know the nature of a Scotch county if they suppose it is to be taken by a coup de main like a potwalloping borough: and as might be supposed no one will give them a promise.24

Sir Walter Scott wrote similarly to his son Charles, after sounding opinion at the spring assizes:

The two baronets dined with the judge yesterday and I was planted beside them, which I would have excused as they probably thought me (not without reason) accessory to thwarting their views. Sir John bore his disappointment well, but that most delicate of dandies Sir William looked like an ape which had scalded his chops. Truth is, they were both indelicate enough to begin almost the day poor Don died as if the county were a potwalloping borough to be carried by a run. Our friend Henry, better advised, waits till the funeral is over to begin his personal canvass.25

Despite his tardy approach to Rutherfurd, Hepburne Scott’s canvass proceeded ‘like a moor burning’.26 By 1 May he had secured the support of Riddell, the Pringles of Stitchel and Torwoodlee, Thomas Bruce of Langlee, James Johnstone† of Alva, William Mein of Ormiston and over 40 ‘independent’ freeholders, in addition to votes ‘promised’ through Buccleuch and Melville.27 Congratulating him that day, Sir John Marjoribanks, who was about to relinquish the representation of Berwickshire, confirmed that he had written advising ‘his friend Sir John Douglas’ to retire in view of the overwhelming support for Hepburne Scott.28 Scott Douglas publicly postponed his bid without relinquishing his ‘claim or ambition’ and protested that he had

been anticipated in various quarters. That several of my friends, on whose suffrages I had calculated, were withheld by previous obligation, and that an unexpected union of hitherto conflicting interests in the county had taken place, which precluded any reasonable expectation of my being able at the present time, to bring the contest to a favourable conclusion.29

Scott Douglas chaired a dinner for 40. Eliott and his friends stayed away, and no opposition was raised to the return of Scott, who, with his father as praeses, was proposed at Jedburgh, 8 May, by Sir John Pringle of Stitchel and seconded by Sir Walter Scott.30 Despite the great pains taken, the election dinner at the Spread Eagle failed to match the lavishness of Don’s (who had employed Edinburgh chefs), and Minto’s presence, the tone of Hepburne Scott’s speech and erroneous newspaper reports that his proposer was Buccleuch’s Selkirk antagonist John Pringle† of Haining encouraged speculation that the county had returned a covert Whig instead of the intended Tory ministerialist.31 Exploiting this and with the following month’s general election in mind, Scott Douglas immediately renewed his canvass and vainly hurried to London to seek assistance.32 However, the alliance endured and Hepburne Scott, who remained untried, was unopposed at the general election, when Scottish banking, corn, and the depressed textile trades were the main issues.33 Lothian, Melville, Minto and his father and agents had endeavoured to reassure Rutherfurd of Hepburne Scott’s Tory credentials, and they ensured that the election was held on the earliest possible date to restrict canvassing time. Following their advice, Hepburne Scott declared on the hustings and at the Spread Eagle, where he dined 83 freeholders, that he would give the ministry ‘independent support’, provided their policies were satisfactory.34 Hostile manoeuvring persisted and on 25 Oct. 1826 the duchess of Roxburghe and a party from Floors attended the county ball, held under the patronage of Sir William Francis Eliott and Lady Scott Douglas.35

Divisions on corn law reform persisted. On 26 Jan. 1827 a meeting of the Union Agricultural Society chaired by Mein, who with Archibald Douglas of Old Melrose and James Elliot of Stewartfield corresponded with Hepburne Scott on the subject, resolved to oppose the sacrifice of their interest ‘to appease popular discontent’; and a committee (Mein, Bell of Swinton Hill and Dudgeon of Spylaw) drew up petitions for signature at the Spread Eagle, Kelso town hall and Hawick’s Tower Inn, which the Lords received, 23 Feb., and the Commons on the 26th. A Hawick meeting, 6 Feb., countered them by petitioning both Houses for concessions on corn.36 Buccleuch’s coming of age that year was celebrated at Hawick with ‘ an ox-roasting’.37 The sheep farmers and landowners submitted a protectionist petition to the Lords, 4 July 1828; and the Union Agriculture Society and their secretary George Jerdane organized petitions when prices slumped in 1830 and an increased duty on spirits was proposed.38 Hawick and the presbytery of Kelso forwarded anti-Catholic petitions for presentation by Lord Eldon and Hepburne Scott in 1829, but the latter voted with the Wellington ministry for emancipation.39 The petition of the freeholders, heritors and commissioners of supply at their spring meeting against the additional duty on corn spirits reached the Commons, 14 May 1830.40 They praised Hepburne Scott’s management of the 1828 Roxburghshire and Berwickshire roads bill and, to combat manoeuvring by Lord Lowther*, they appointed cross-party committees locally and in London to monitor the 1830 Northern Roads bill, which proposed rerouting the London-Edinburgh road through Kelso over Carter Fell. They petitioned in its favour, 24 June 1830.41 Testing the ground before the general election precipitated by George IV’s death, Sir William Francis Eliott, whose application for the Heathfield peerage had been rejected by Wellington, and Sir William Scott of Ancrum, a political weathercock with little prospect of a second return for Carlisle, whose recent overtures to Buccleuch had failed, attended a grand dinner at the Cross Keys, 17 July, to mark Roxburghe’s fourteenth birthday.42 Early replies to Hepburne Scott’s letters and notices of 2 July were favourable, and when his personal canvass stalled on account of his brother George’s death, the Pringles of Clifton and Yair and Elliot Lockhart rightly reassured him that there was no significance in the election of Eliott as praeses of the county meeting to address the new king, and that his return was not seriously threatened. They also ensured that the election was held on 18 Aug. 1830, after those in neighbouring counties, to accommodate the Buccleuch party.43 About 45 freeholders attended, Charles Riddell of Muselee was elected praeses and Hepburne Scott was proposed by his brother-in-law George Baillie† of Mellerstain and Sir Walter Scott. Before the return was signed, Sir William Francis Eliott referred to Scott Douglas’s declaration declining to stand and ‘said the same applied to him, but he only postponed his pretensions’, and criticized the Scottish representative system and eulogized jury trial. On a similar note, Archibald Douglas of Edderstone and the writer William Bell of Hunthill echoed Baillie’s praise for their Member’s constituency work, but called for representation by a candidate ‘unconnected with any other county’.44

Both Houses received petitions for the abolition of West Indian slavery from the inhabitants and presbytery of Kelso, 16 Nov.-21 Dec. 1830.45 Hepburne Scott aligned with the anti-reformers in opposition following the Wellington ministry’s defeat on the civil list, 15 Nov., and to Sir Walter Scott’s delight he took the lead that session in organizing opposition to the Scottish reform bill among the younger Scottish Members.46 The operatives of Hawick had long clamoured for reform, and on 28 Dec., the provost James Millar, author of the magistrates’ and town council’s petition to the Commons for Scottish reform, 18 Dec. 1830, chaired a burgh meeting to petition in support of Lord Grey’s ministry and to advocate ‘the enfranchisement of the greater part of the productive classes’ and the ballot.47 The ‘importance [and] ... novelty’ of the county reform meeting of 25 Jan. 1831, requisitioned by 154 heritors led by Scott of Ancrum and chaired by Sir Thomas Mackdougall Brisbane of Makerston, caused a ‘great sensation’, as did their resolution to ‘test’ the absent Lothian and Hepburne Scott by asking them to present and endorse their petition for reform of the Scottish representation. If they refused, it was to be entrusted to lord chancellor Brougham and the lord advocate, Francis Jeffrey.48 After discussing the meeting’s dubious legality and his response with Lothian and at a private dinner with Mackdougall Brisbane, 27 Jan., Hepburne Scott formally declined to present what he had ‘yet to see’. His official correspondence with Mackdougall Brisbane, printed in the Kelso Mail, 7 Feb., formed the basis of his open letters of 17 and 18 Mar. to the county reform meetings of the following week.49 Meanwhile the town councils, trade guilds and inhabitants of Hawick, Kelso and Melrose joined Jedburgh in petitioning both Houses in favour of the ministry’s English and Scottish reform bills.50 The inhabitants of Hawick were disappointed that their town was not enfranchised by the Scottish measure, which left Roxburghshire’s representation unchanged, while the drop to £10 in the county voting qualification and the projected increase and urbanization of the electorate dismayed the gentry. Exploiting this, the anti-reformers pre-empted the reformers, who, after some deliberate prevarication by the sheriff, William Oliver of Knowsouth, had been conceded a meeting of the heritors, freeholders, justices and commissioners of supply (those most likely to benefit by the bill), 22 Mar., and convened another for the 21st, from which heritors were excluded. With Sir John Pringle of Stitchel as praeses and Sir Walter Scott, who compared the bill to a ‘watch placed in the hands of an unskilled person’, as the main speaker, on 21 Mar. a hostile petition was carried based on resolutions submitted on behalf of the absent Hepburne Scott, its presenter, 29 Mar. Sir William Francis Eliott failed by 50-22 to have the meeting on the 21st declared ‘illegal’, and an amendment in favour of the English bill, proposed by Robert Bell and Scott of Ancrum, was rejected by 47-23.51 Mackdougall Brisbane chaired the county meeting, 22 Mar., when Sir William Francis Eliott and Douglas of Edderstone carried a petition endorsing the Scottish bill’s provisions. As Elliot of Woolflie proposed, a reform committee (Mackdougall Brisbane, Eliott of Stobbs, Scott of Ancrum, Sir David Erskine and Pringle of Clifton) was appointed immediately the sheriff left the hustings and they signed the petition on behalf of those present.52 Lothian, who to Hepburne Scott’s dismay had refused to attend either meeting, complained that the anti-reformers’ boycott of the second had weakened their cause: ‘I firmly believe the Whigs and Whig heritors would have been outvoted. At least our side would have been in a respectable minority’.53 Hawick, Kelso and Melrose celebrated the English bill’s successful second reading, but the planned illuminations were ‘patchy’ and from Paris, 3 Apr. 1821, Minto warned Thomas Kennedy* that ‘we cannot carry Roxburghshire unreformed’.54

Hepburne Scott, standing as a ‘moderate reformer’, and the ‘reformer’ Scott of Ancrum, with whom he corresponded throughout the canvass, issued notices directly the English bill’s defeat precipitated a dissolution.55 Returning especially after setting out for the continent, Sir William Francis Eliott followed suit, 30 Apr. 1831.56 Writing on 23 Apr. to Brougham, he had given preference to his claim to a peerage over his quest for a Commons seat, yet the next day he had started for Scarborough, where he was not wanted.57 Complicating matters, the Caledonian Mercury wrongly assumed that it was Eliott, not Minto’s brother the admiralty secretary George Elliot (who remained in London throughout), who had government backing; and the patronage secretary Edward Ellice* directed Minto to call on Brougham ‘about our mess with Sir W. Eliott’.58 Eliott privately acknowledged on 3 May that success was unlikely. Notwithstanding his avowed deference to ministers, he ensured that Scott, whom with Minto he blamed for denying him the seat, made way for him, 11 May.59 Recent letters to Buccleuch expressed confidence in Hepburne Scott’s success despite the endeavours of ‘the two baronets’ and the rabble.60 Fear of mob violence became a major issue,61 and special constables were sworn in, warnings issued and troops summoned.62 Hepburne Scott, who only narrowly avoided being lynched during his personal canvass, had appealed to Buccleuch

to send some good newspapers to the Haw[ick] reading room such as the Standard, Albion, John Bull, etc. Do not let them know they come from you at present, but it will do much good. We have many friends there, but, being outnumbered by the radicals [they] only take government papers, thus giving fresh arguments every day to one party while the other has only its brains to depend on. I will also beg you to send a good many of the best pamphlets in a parcel to J. Grieve of Branxholm Park, who will undertake to get them smuggled into Hawick or give them to those who are doubtful. They ought to be of the better class such as the New Constitution, remarks on the English Bill for a Barrister, Walsh, Stuart, etc. I have seen none that I like for the common people ... I am certain much may be done by circulating anything that will aid anti-reform ideas, and the sooner the better. 63

At the election meeting, Hepburne Scott, as the late Member, took the chair, Sir Charles Ker of Gateshaw and Innes of Stow proposed as praeses Sir John Pringle of Stitchel, and as election clerk the Rev. William Rutherfoord. Sir William Francis Eliott, seconded by Mein, nominated Scott of Ancrum as praeses and Rutherfoord as clerk, but, before the vote was put William Bell, seconded by Murray of Uplaw, moved to have Hepburne Scott removed from the freeholders’ list as the eldest son of a peer (Lord Polwarth) and his candidature and chairmanship of the meeting declared illegal. A counter-amendment proposed by Pringle of Whytebank and William Ogilvie was secured by ‘by a large majority’, and Sir John Pringle was elected praeses by 54-14. Seven were added to the freeholders’ roll. Hepburne Scott was nominated as previously by Baillie, with Ogilvie of Chesters seconding, and Eliott by Scott of Ancrum and Douglas of Edderstone. Bell entered a protest that all votes for Hepburne Scott were void. Eliott attributed his late start to his decision to defer to George Elliot and to Scott. As soon as his defeat by 57-14 was announced, he sought to have his name entered on the return as the only eligible candidate. Hepburne Scott entered a formal protest against that made by Eliott ‘as a matter of form’, ridiculed his opponent’s defence of ‘the bill, the whole bill and nothing but the bill’, stated his objections to the English, Scottish and Irish measures and expressed his determination to represent the ‘country at large’ of all classes. Eliott replied, Sir Walter Scott and Buccleuch’s brother Lord John Scott carried a vote of thanks to the sheriff, and while ‘Eliott and the 14’ were fêted by the populace, constables escorted the freeholders to the Spread Eagle.64 Hepburne Scott informed his mother and Buccleuch that his return was ‘quiet’.65 According to Sir Walter Scott’s journal

the mob were exceedingly vociferous and brutal ... but the sheriff had two troops of dragoons at Ancrum bridge, and all went off quietly. The populace gathered in formidable numbers - a thousand from Hawick alone. They were most blackguard and abusive; the day passed with much clamour and no mischief. Henry Scott was re-elected - for the last time, I suppose. Troja fuit. I left the burgh in the midst of abuse and the gentle hint of Burke Sir Walter. Much obliged to the bra’ lads of Jedart. Upwards of 40 freeholders voted for Henry Scott, and only 14 [for] the puppy that opposed him. Even of this party he gained far the greater number by the very awkward coalition with Sir William Scott of Ancrum.66

William Scott of Harden deputized at the Spread Eagle as his brother ‘very prudently left the town almost immediately’ after making his speech. He observed:

Fortunately Sir W. Elliot had the front room in the same inn and he kept all the mob till they were tired by getting out of the window and making speeches to them and like O’Connell telling them to be quiet that he might have the credit of keeping them so after he had done everything in his power to excite them’.67

Eliott, who used his ‘costly defeat’ to bolster his abortive bid for a peerage,68 explained to Brougham, 27 May 1831:

Owing to [the] sudden manner of Sir William Scott’s retreat and the near approach of the election, I was not enabled to bring any voters from a distance, and consequently those who supported me were resident in the county. Otherwise, I should have had a good muster. Indeed, under the present imperfect system, a favourable result was hardly to be expected. Mr. H. Scott, my opponent, launched out in the most violent manner against the government, called the bill revolutionary, and often engaging in the same such invectives, he was obliged to get himself smuggled out of the town hall under the wing of a seceding minister.69

A petition adopted afterwards by the householders and burgesses of Hawick called for abolition of the entire Scottish system of representation and was received by the Lords, 23 June 1831.70 Eliott petitioned against Hepburne Scott’s return as the eldest son of a Scottish peer, 5 July; but the Commons ruled in favour of Hepburne Scott, 22 July, before his father’s revived claim to the Polwarth peerage was heard.71 Anticipating its confirmation, Buccleuch sought Ogilvie of Chester’s advice on the merits as likely opponents of George Elliot of Sir John Pringle of Stitchel and William Scott of Harden, who, with his father’s approval, was already manoeuvring.72 Ogilvie replied, 14 July:

It will never do to take another Scott of Harden - they are by no means popular!!! Allan Lockhart has pretensions but he has neither the capacity nor knowledge of business, and these defects cannot be overlooked in so young a man. George Baillie has popular manners enough, but is not what I call a steady enough man. Sir Thomas [Mackdougall] Brisbane is not known, and in my opinion has spoilt his prospects to such an honour by presiding at the Jedburgh meeting. Sir William Scott is a turncoat, not to be trusted, though I have no doubt to be purchased by flattery. Sir W. Elliot is a ... [sic] character, Sir John [Scott] Douglas quite out of the question. Sir John Pringle is undoubtedly the man if he will take it, but I should doubt his activity in a canvass ... I must, however, be permitted to say that I think it is a pity your brother Lord John has not come forward at this time (I know the old Tory party have always hoped that sooner or later he could have represented us) as I am confident he would have given the greatest satisfaction, to all your ... old friends, which I am certain are yet not a few. I saw enough of him at Selkirk lately to convince me that he would be a most popular man in this county.73

Lord John Scott was then abroad and Buccleuch, acting with Rutherfurd and Charles Riddell, sounded support for Pringle as his locum. Pringle categorically refused to contest a Roxburghshire by-election, so in mid-August Buccleuch made it known that Lord John Scott would stand personally in the event of Hepburne Scott’s retirement.74 Sir William Francis Eliott had declared directly his petition failed, and with three candidates, excluding the Scotts of Ancrum and Harden, in the field and George Elliot’s personal canvass under way, on 19 Aug. Lothian and sheriff Ogilvie cautioned Buccleuch against pressing for a county meeting to requisition Lord John:

Anything that would lead to discussion on our side had better be avoided and a public invitation of nature suggested by Pringle and Charles Douglas would certainly lead to a good deal of division of sentiment among the Tories not as to the propriety of John coming forward, but on account of such invitation being very unusual in Scotland.75

Hepburne Scott rallied to Lord John, but his influence in the House and the county had waned and it did not revive when his father’s peerage claim was unexpectedly postponed sine die, 1 Sept. 1831, a week after Lord John Scott commenced his personal canvass.76 Sir William Francis Eliott failed in his attempt to have Hepburne Scott and his father’s names taken off the Roxburghshire roll at the Michaelmas head court.77

Melrose and the magistrates, town councils and incorporated trades of Hawick and Kelso petitioned the Lords urging the English reform bill’s passage, 3, 4 Oct. 1831, and addressed the king following its defeat. A petition received by the Lords, 15 Oct., suggested adding Hawick, Jedburgh and Kelso to Selkirk to form a new burghs constituency.78 The Hawick address adopted on 24 Oct. prompted an 80-signataure counter-declaration, so fuelling speculation that reaction had set in and of collusion between Minto and the political unions.79 Minto headed a numerously signed requisition for a county meeting to address the king and his ministers, and he was the praeses and the main speaker, with Bell, Sir William Eliott, Douglas of Edderstone, Scott of Ancrum, John Waldie of Henderside Park and Mackdougal Brisbane at Jedburgh, 6 Dec. 1831, and the sole signatory of their address, which was widely printed, alongside supportive letters from Charles Wood* and Lord Grey.80 He informed Lansdowne:

We had today the greatest county meeting ever brought together in this quiet county. We had been told that the duke of Buccleuch intended to face us, but none of the enemy ventured to make their appearance, and the resolutions, for reform, and of confidence in ministers, were carried unanimously ... Our sheriff, who is unpopular, says he is more than ever satisfied there is a great reaction in the county notwithstanding the appearance of the meeting ... for ... when he officiated at the general election he was hissed whenever he appeared, and ... today no one noticed him as he passed along the street.81

Their petition was delayed, and despite his confidence in the continued popularity of reform, Minto was surprised at the failure of the Conservatives to muster publicly to counter it, notwithstanding their ‘exertions to influence and intimidate the farmers’ and the success of their anti-reform meeting in neighbouring Berwickshire.82 Copies of the Berwickshire anti-reform address ‘sent round like the fiery cross over hill and dale’ (Minto) and left for signature in Galashiels, Hawick, Jedburgh, Kelso and Melrose attracted too few signatures to warrant presentation, and Hepburne Scott, desperate that the county should meet, hurried vainly from London with his friends to rally support, only to become convinced that the Roxburghe interest were ‘working underhand’ for George Elliot.83 Offering Lansdowne a different explanation, Minto surmised that the Roxburghshire gentry ‘would prefer anything, even "the bill, the whole bill and nothing but the bill", to a further protraction of the contest’.84 The noblemen, gentry, freeholders, justices, commissioners of supply and heritors petitioned the Lords for ‘an early and full reform’, 10 Apr., and joined the magistrates, burgesses and inhabitants of Hawick and Kelso (11 May) in petitioning in protest and confirming their support for the proposed disfranchisements, enfranchisements and £10 voting qualification, 21 May 1832, when a further Lords’ defeat and the prospect of a ministry headed by Wellington put its enactment in jeopardy.85 A ‘county meeting to thank the king for his firmness’ in refusing to create peers to carry the bill was also broached.86 Fearing rent-day repercussions, Buccleuch’s tenants had withdrawn their names from the Hawick reformers’ requisition, prompting a public spat between Minto and Buccleuch, who ‘would ultimately have great influence over the Hawick voters’.87 The bill’s passage in June 1832 was publicly celebrated at rallies and dinners in Galashiels, Hawick, Jedburgh and Kelso.88

At the general election of 1832, when the county had a registered electorate of 1,313 polling at Hawick, Kelso, Melrose and the election town of Jedburgh, Scott of Ancrum and the Conservative Hepburne Scott started but desisted, the latter reluctantly in favour of the Conservative Lord John Scott, who was defeated by the Liberal George Elliot, standing on the Roxburghe interest. Sir William Francis Eliott, the second Liberal, polled only 13 votes.89 The representation was restored to the Conservatives through Lord John Scott in 1835, and they retained the seat, which was closely contested seven times between 1832 and 1885, until 1847 when, and until 1874, the Liberals prevailed through the interests of Ancrum and Stobbs Castle.90

Author: Margaret Escott


  • 1. Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland (1895), v. 281, 282, 284.
  • 2. Scott Jnl. i. 154.
  • 3. HP Commons, 1790-1820, ii. 576-81; iii. 604, 605.
  • 4. Ibid. ii. 576-81; Edinburgh Advertiser, 26 Nov. 1819.
  • 5. Kelso Mail, 21 Feb., 9 Mar., 3 Apr. 1820.
  • 6. CJ, lxxv. 216, 410; Dumfries and Galloway Courier, 30 May 1820.
  • 7. Kelso Mail, 16, 20, 27 Nov., 18 Dec. 1820.
  • 8. Caledonian Mercury, 14, 25 Dec.; Kelso Mail, 14, 25 Dec. 1820.
  • 9. Kelso Mail, 26 Apr., 3 May 1821; Scott Letters, vi. 421, 422.
  • 10. Scott Letters, vi. 428, 429.
  • 11. Kelso Mail, 15 Mar., 22 Apr., 6 May 1822; NAS GD224/580/3/1/6.
  • 12. NAS GD224/32/6.
  • 13. CJ, lxxvii. 285; lxxviii. 447; lxxix. 253; lxxxi. 241; Kelso Mail, 16 Mar. 1826.
  • 14. LJ, lv. 710; CJ, lxxviii. 420; lxxx. 379; lxxxi. 362; Kelso Mail, 18, 21, 28 Apr. 1825.
  • 15. NAS GD40/9/237/6; GD51/5/134/1, 2; GD157/2494/1; 2967/6; Add. 40359, f. 135; Kelso Mail, 18, 21 28 Apr. 1825, 6 Apr., 1 June 1826.
  • 16. Kelso Mail, 20 Feb., 9 Mar. 1826; NAS GD40/9/322/1, 2.
  • 17. Kelso Mail, 23 Mar. 1826; CJ, lxxxi. 223, 337; LJ, lviii. 144, 319.
  • 18. Lansdowne mss.
  • 19. NAS GD40/9/307/3; GD51/1/198/24/22, 23; GD157/2961/6, 9, 10; Kelso Mail, 13 Apr. 1826.
  • 20. NAS GD51/1/198/24/24-28; Scott Jnl. i. 154; Scott Letters, ix. 502, 503, 510.
  • 21. Scott Jnl. i. 156.
  • 22. NAS GD157/2964/4; 2968/1, 3, 12.
  • 23. NAS GD157/2294/6.
  • 24. NAS GD40/9/322/5.
  • 25. NAS GD 157/2968/8; Scott Letters, x. 7.
  • 26. Scott Jnl. i. 159.
  • 27. NAS GD157/2957-9; GD224/580/3/2/12.
  • 28. NAS GD157/2963/4.
  • 29. NAS GD157/2968/7; Caledonian Mercury, 29 Apr. 1826.
  • 30. NAS GD157/2968/6; Kelso Mail, 11 May 1826.
  • 31. Scott Jnl. i. 166; NAS GD40/9/322/6/1, 2; 327/1, 4; GD157/2964/1; 2965/3; 2968/9.
  • 32. NAS GD157/2967/9; 2968/10.
  • 33. NAS GD157/2967/8; Kelso Mail, 1, 8, 19, 22 June 1826.
  • 34. NAS GD157/2965/4; 2967/7, 10; 2970; Kelso Mail, 3 July; Caledonian Mercury, 3 July 1826.
  • 35. Kelso Mail, 30 Oct. 1826.
  • 36. Ibid. 1, 19 Feb. 1827; NAS GD157/2494/2, 3; 2498-2500; LJ, lix. 97, 98; CJ, lxxxii. 230, 301.
  • 37. J. Rutherford Oliver, Upper Teviotdale and the Scotts of Buccleuch (1887 edn.), 409.
  • 38. LJ, lx. 603; Kelso Mail, 25 Jan., 1, 4 Feb., 22 Mar. 1830; CJ, lxxxv. 404.
  • 39. Kelso Mail, 9, 23 Mar. 1829; CJ, lxxxiv. 128; LJ, lxi. 146.
  • 40. Kelso Mail, 4 Feb. 1830; CJ, lxxxv. 423.
  • 41. CJ, lxxxiii. 43, 167, 180, 335, 449; lxxxv. 580; Kelso Mail, 1 Feb., 10 June; Berwick Advertiser, 20 Mar., 30 Apr. 1830; NAS GD157/2976/1.
  • 42. Wellington mss WP1/1031/18; NAS GD224/580/3/1/3-5; Kelso Mail, 5, 19, 30 July; Berwick Advertiser, 10 July 1830.
  • 43. NAS GD157/2971/1; 2973/1-7; 2975/1-9; 2976/2-7.
  • 44. Berwick Advertiser, 21 Aug.; Kelso Mail, 23 Aug. 1830.
  • 45. CJ, lxxxvi. 160, 191; LJ, lxiii. 99, 177, 186.
  • 46. Scott Jnl. ii. 134, 135, 139; Scott Letters, xi. 456, 483, 484, 488.
  • 47. Kelso Mail, 3 Jan. 1831; CJ, lxxxvi. 188, 221.
  • 48. Kelso Mail, 17, 27 Jan., 21 Feb.; NAS GD40/9/327/2; CJ, lxxvi. 269; Brougham mss, Eliott to J. Brougham, 25 Feb. 1831.
  • 49. NAS GD40/9/327/5.
  • 50. Kelso Mail, 10, 14, 17 Mar. 1831; CJ, lxxxvi. 406; LJ, lxiii. 347, 493.
  • 51. NAS GD40/9/318/5-7; 328/9/2; GD157/2981/6, 9; Caledonian Mercury, 12, 19 Mar.; Kelso Mail, 17, 24 Mar., 11 Apr. 1831; Scott Jnl. ii. 153-4; CJ, lxxxvi. 461.
  • 52. Kelso Mail, 24 Mar.; Caledonian Mercury, 24 Mar.; The Times, 28 Mar. 1831; CJ, lxxxvi. 446; NAS GD157/2981/6.
  • 53. GD157/2981/4, 5.
  • 54. Kelso Mail, 28 Mar. 1831; Cockburn Letters, 307.
  • 55. Kelso Mail, 28 Apr. 1831; GD157/2412; 2978/2-8, 11-13.
  • 56. Kelso Mail, 2, 5 May 1831.
  • 57. Brougham mss, Eliott to Brougham, 23, 24 Apr., 3 May 1831; NAS GD224/581/4.
  • 58. Caledonian Mercury, 2, 9 May; Brougham mss, Ellice to Brougham [2 May] 1831.
  • 59. Brougham mss, Eliott to Brougham, 3 May; Caledonian Mercury, 12 May 1831; NAS GD40/9/327/6.
  • 60. NAS GD224/580/3/1/7, 8.
  • 61. NAS GD40/9/318/8-12; GD 157/2981/1-5, 11.
  • 62. NAS GD40/9/327/6; GD157/2981/10, 12-14; Kelso Mail, 16 May 1831.
  • 63. NAS GD224/580/3/1/3/9.
  • 64. Caledonian Mercury, 23 May 1831.
  • 65. NAS GD157/2411/19; 224/580/3/1/11.
  • 66. Scott Jnl. ii. 170.
  • 67. NAS GD157/2412, W.H. Scott to mother, 19 May 1831.
  • 68. Brougham mss, Eliott to Brougham, 16 July, 10, 11 Sept. 1831, 8, 9 Jan., 17, 31 May, 1 Dec. 1832.
  • 69. Ibid.
  • 70. LJ, lxiii. 733.
  • 71. CJ, lxxxvi. 619, 650, 680, 682, 684; LJ, lxiii. 735; NAS GD224/580/3/1/19.
  • 72. NAS GD224/580/3/1/13-16, 20, 24.
  • 73. NAS GD224/580/3/1/17.
  • 74. NAS GD224/328/9/4, 5; 580/3/1/21, 22, 26, 27, 33, 37, 38.
  • 75. Kelso Mail, 25 July 1831; NAS GD40/9/345/1; GD224/580/3/1/43-50.
  • 76. NAS GD40/9/327/7-10; GD224/580/3/1/54, 55; LJ, lxiii. 839, 897, 902, 953; Kelso Mail, 29 Aug., 1 Sept. 1831.
  • 77. GD224/580/3/1/19; Kelso Mail, 6, 13 Oct. 1831.
  • 78. LJ, lxiii. 1034-6, 1045, 1048, 1095; Kelso Mail, 13, 20 Oct. 1831; NAS GD40/9/328/9/6; 347/1.
  • 79. Kelso Mail, 27 Oct., 7 Nov. 1831; NAS GD40/9/328/9/6; 347/1.
  • 80. Kelso Mail, 38 Nov., 8 Dec.; The Times, 12 Dec. 1831; NAS GD40/9/318/4/1; GD224/505/1/25, 44.
  • 81. Lansdowne mss, Minto to Lansdowne, 6 Dec. 1831.
  • 82. Cockburn Letters, 368, 370; Lansdowne mss, Minto to Lansdowne, 11, 19 Jan. 1832.
  • 83. Kelso Mail, 19, 22 Dec. 1831; NAS GD40/327/11; GD224/508/3/2-5; Cockburn Letters, 377, 378, 382.
  • 84. Lansdowne mss, Minto to Lansdowne, 19 Jan. 1832.
  • 85. LJ, lxiv. 161, 198, 199; CJ, lxxxvii. 326, 488; Kelso Chron. 11, 18 May 1832.
  • 86. NAS GD40/9/345/2.
  • 87. NAS GD157/3002/2; GD224/507/6/1-3; 507/11, 12.
  • 88. Kelso Chron. 8, 15 June 1832.
  • 89. NAS GD40/9/327/12-17; 347/2; GD157/2989-3010; GD224/580/3/2/7, 10-49; Kelso Chron. 29 June, 7, 14, 21, 28 Dec.; The Times, 31 Dec. 1832.
  • 90. Scottish Electoral Politics, pp. xxvii-xxix, xxxix, xliii, xlxi, lvi, lvii, lix-lxii, 51, 52, 115, 124, 139, 146, 221, 229, 230, 247, 256, 257, 273, 275, 277.