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:

118 in 1820; 130 in 1826; 132 in 1831


24 May 1821HENRY HOME DRUMMOND vice Edmonstone, deceased47
 Sir Archibald Edmonstone, bt42
 Hon. Charles Elphinstone Fleeming37

Main Article

Stirlingshire comprised a ‘finely wooded [and] well cultivated’ lowland district in the east, which boasted ‘some of the finest land in Scotland’ for cereal crops, and a highland district in the west with ‘highly fertile loam’ on its lower slopes, suited for potatoes and turnips, and ‘some of the best grazing ground’ in the country. There were several whisky distilleries. Deposits of coal and ironstone were mined in the south-east, between Stenhousemuir and Falkirk, and in the vicinity of the latter town and at Denny iron founding was a major industry; coal and iron were exported from Grangemouth, a seaport connected to the Forth and Clyde canal. Woollen textiles, including carpets, blankets, tartans and tweeds, were manufactured in the north-eastern towns of Stirling, Alva and Bannockburn. Stirling was the only royal burgh.1 James Graham, 3rd duke of Montrose, a Tory, sought to control the parliamentary representation, but he was not powerful enough to act without support from other landowners; Sir Charles Edmonstone of Duntreath proved to be an acceptable candidate in 1812. The Whig opposition, centred on the family of the 13th Baron Elphinstone, a minor, brought forward Michael Stewart Nicholson (later Shaw Stewart*) of Carnock in 1818, but Edmonstone triumphed decisively. In 1820 he was ‘unanimously re-elected’ by a ‘numerous and respectable meeting of the freeholders’.2

In November 1820 Montrose informed Lord Melville, the Liverpool ministry’s Scottish manager, that the ailing Edmonstone intended to vacate ‘at the meeting of Parliament instead of the latter end of the session’, and that his son Archibald was canvassing the county, with Montrose’s approval. Shortly afterwards, Melville learned from his nephew George Abercromby* that Henry Home Drummond, the unsuccessful Tory candidate for the Haddington Burghs at the general election, was also canvassing. He had secured the support of William Murray of Touchadam, the vice-lieutenant, and the Elphinstones had indicated that the Whigs were willing to ‘make common cause in an effort to open the representation ... by overthrowing the system of the duke’. Abercromby thought this was ‘worth attempting’, for if ‘the respectable body of the freeholders allowed Mr. E. to walk quietly over the course, he would so have entrenched himself before the next Parliament that any effort to disturb him would [be] a work of more ... difficulty than at present’. He asserted that Montrose had ‘no solid or substantial influence in the county’ and that his ‘system of management is most unpopular and universally reprobated’. Melville, who feared that ‘in a scramble among political friends our opponents may find a means of benefiting their cause’, trusted that ‘our aristocratic feelings in the North are not so entirely extinguished’ as to make ‘a candidate of large landed property’ objectionable simply because he was ‘supported by ... the nobility’. He felt that Montrose was being unfairly maligned for having, in Sir Charles’s ‘general absence’, taken ‘more trouble than was necessary in regard to various county matters which in other quarters are usually left to be managed by the Member’. With Archibald Edmonstone rejecting a suggestion that he should offer for the vacant Dunbartonshire seat, allowing Home Drummond to contest Stirlingshire, Melville’s only hope was that the latter might agree to withdraw. However, the lord advocate Sir William Rae* reported that ‘a very large portion of the landed interest’ was behind Home Drummond and that he remained confident of obtaining Whig support. Rae calculated that Edmonstone still had ‘the best chance’ in a contest, as many of the Whigs felt ‘noways kindly’ towards Home Drummond and ‘several may ... not care to put themselves to the trouble of attending the election’. He strongly advised against the government publicly endorsing Edmonstone, which would prompt ‘the whole Whigs [to] declare for Drummond’ in order to score ’a victory over the duke’. An incomplete canvassing list compiled for Montrose in January 1821 gave Edmonstone 45 votes and Home Drummond 35, with eight ‘not declared’.3 In fact, the by-election was delayed when Sir Charles suffered a seizure, which left him ‘wholly non compos’ and unable to apply for the Chiltern Hundreds; electioneering only resumed after his death in April. The contest ‘excited ... general interest’ and the parties were said to be ‘nearly even’. Home Drummond and Captain Lowis of Plean nominated Admiral Charles Elphinstone Fleeming, a former Member and Lord Elphinstone’s great-uncle, as praeses, and John Blackburn of Killearn and Kincaid of Kincaid proposed Thomas Stirling of Airth; Elphinstone Fleeming was chosen by 47-46. Subsequent enrolments gave Home Drummond an additional ‘four votes’. Sir Thomas Livingstone of West Quarter and Stewart Nicolson introduced Home Drummond, Stirling and Alexander Stirling of Craigbarnet sponsored Edmonstone, and the former was declared elected by a majority of five; three on each side had paired off. A press report confirmed that the Whigs had ‘thrown their united weight into Home Drummond’s scale’ and ‘turned the balance against the Montrose interest’. It was noted that Edmonstone was ‘little known’ in the county, ‘owing to his being very young and the family not having resided for a length of time in Scotland’, whereas Home Drummond, ‘leaving his wealth’ aside, was certain as an advocate depute to enhance the ‘talent and respectability of the Scotch representation’. The campaign had been ‘extremely keen’, but the election proceedings were ‘conducted with the greatest moderation’; neither of the candidates voted.4 That autumn Montrose resigned the lord lieutenancy on the grounds, Melville supposed, of the recent opposition to him by ‘several of the principal gentlemen of the county who [had] hitherto acted’ with him, and his consequent inability to nominate the Member.5

It was rumoured in December 1821 that Home Drummond would be appointed lord advocate and would have to seek re-election, in which case ‘his former supporters will not vote for him’; nothing came of this.6 A petition from the spring county meeting for the removal of restrictions on the sale of Scottish whisky in England was presented to the Commons, 21 May 1822.7 Anti-slavery petitions were sent up to the Commons from Denny and Falkirk in 1824 and 1826, when the parish of Campsie also forwarded one.8 On 10 Mar. a county meeting ‘unanimously passed’ resolutions condemning the ‘proposed interference with the currency of Scotland’, and petitions to this effect were presented to Parliament, 23 Mar. 1826.9 At the general election that summer Elphinstone Fleeming was chosen as praeses and Livingstone and Charles Cumming Bruce* of Kinnaird nominated Home Drummond, who was ‘instantly and unanimously’ elected. He remarked on the ‘peculiar situation in which he was placed, left entirely by the candour and liberality of both the great political parties in the county to the free exercise of his own judgement’, and promised to pursue an ‘independent course’. He argued that the ‘present prohibitory’ corn laws would soon have to be replaced by ‘a system of protecting duties’ while, in an oblique reference to the Catholic question, he advised that ‘we should not strive to live in times that had gone by but seek to accommodate ourselves, painful as the effort may occasionally be, to the changes that are constantly passing around us’.10 In January 1827 a meeting was held to organize measures to relieve the prevailing economic distress.11 Home Drummond supported the Wellington ministry’s Catholic emancipation bill in 1829. The county was silent on this issue, but hostile petitions were presented to Parliament from the presbytery of Falkirk, the inhabitants of Alva and Denny, and the parish of Kippen, signed by ‘nearly 500 men out of a population of only 2,000’.12 The spring meeting forwarded petitions to both Houses, 10, 11 May 1830, warning of the ‘ruinous’ consequences for the whisky distilleries, ‘at present one of our greatest staple manufactures’, if an additional duty on corn spirits was imposed without a corresponding increase in the duty on rum.13 At the dissolution that summer there was reportedly ‘no doubt whatever’ of Home Drummond’s unanimous return. Elphinstone Fleeming was chosen as praeses and ‘several new names’ were added to the freeholders’ roll. Thomas Stirling and Charles Moir of Leckie nominated Home Drummond, who observed that his ‘anticipations’ about Catholic emancipation at the last election had been ‘well founded’, and pointed to the revolution in France as a warning to those who wanted to resist all innovation and ‘disregard entirely the public voice’. He praised Wellington’s government for its ‘disposition to keep pace with the improvements of the age’ and said he regarded the duke as ‘the fittest person to be prime minister’, although he would give no ‘indiscriminate approbation of the measures of any man’. He was duly declared elected. Elphinstone Fleeming acknowledged that recent government measures were among ‘the most important that had engaged Parliament since the Union’. That evening Home Drummond gave a ‘sumptuous dinner’ to his friends at the Saracen’s Head and provided a ‘handsome sum’ to feed all the inmates of the gaol.14

Anti-slavery petitions were sent up to Parliament from the United Congregations of Denny and Falkirk, 6 Dec. 1830, 18, 25 Feb., and Falkirk’s inhabitants, 28 Mar. 1831.15 On 15 Feb. the inhabitants of Bannockburn agreed a petition in favour of manhood suffrage, the ballot and triennial parliaments, which received ‘700 signatures’; it was only presented to the Lords, 28 Feb. Resolutions were carried at a meeting of the inhabitants of Denny, 26 Feb., noting that in a parish of 4,000 people ‘not a single individual’ was entitled to vote, blaming the ‘unrepresented state of the people’ for the ‘alarming amount of our national debt’ and the ‘enormous pension list’, and calling for a ‘full, free and equal representation’ with the ballot and triennial parliaments; the resulting petitions apparently did not reach Westminster.16 The Grey ministry’s reform bill proposed to add Falkirk to the Linlithgow Burghs. Petitions in its favour were forwarded to both Houses from Bannockburn (with 1,150 signatures), Denny (649), Falkirk (1,165) and Grangemouth, 18, 19, 21 Mar.17 Home Drummond voted against the bill. At the ensuing dissolution he was visited in London by Elphinstone Fleeming, a prominent reformer, who announced his intention of offering, and Home Drummond ‘immediately resolved not to oppose an individual’ to whom he had been ‘so much indebted’ for his seat since 1821. Elphinstone Fleeming declared that his principles were unchanged since he had last represented the county, being those of ‘loyalty to our gracious sovereign’ and ‘attachment to the genuine principles of the British constitution’. Thomas Stirling, the convenor, took the lead in finding a Tory candidate and, with Montrose’s approval, brought forward Cumming Bruce, for whom he claimed to have secured the votes of those living in Glasgow and in the east of the county. However, Cumming Bruce chose to contest Inverness Burghs and William Ramsay of Sauchie, a young and very wealthy landowner, was substituted for him. Stirling told Wellington that he needed to enlist the support of Edmonstone, who controlled five votes, and of Thomas Dunmore (presumably a relative of the earl of Dunmore), in order to carry the election, but there remained a possibility that the Tories might be overwhelmed by the influence of the 2nd Baron Dundas’s family. Shortly before polling Henry Cockburn, the Scottish solicitor-general, heard that Elphinstone Fleeming was likely to be ‘beaten ... by three or four’.18 A ‘large placard’ was displayed all over the county urging the inhabitants to go to Stirling to demand Elphinstone Fleeming’s election, and Cockburn ‘trembled’ for the result when the sheriff issued a proclamation banning any procession. In the event, an agreement was reached to allow a march, and the election passed off peacefully. The procession, whose participants came mainly from ‘the manufacturing villages and public works’, entered Stirling with their blue and pink colours flying, accompanied by bands and pipers in a ‘great variety of costumes’. They marched as arranged through the streets, passing the court house (the election venue) ‘like troops to give effect to their intimidation’, so a Tory observer claimed, and assembled in King’s Park; it was estimated that ‘upwards of 10,000’ people were present. Lord Montagu Graham* and William Forbes† of Callander nominated Cumming Bruce as praeses, and Thomas Dundas of Carronhall and Charles Murray proposed Livingstone; the choice of Cumming Bruce by 45-38 was ‘considered decisive of the election in favour of Ramsay’. Five names were added to the roll. Ramsay, who was introduced by Moir and James Johnstone† of Alva, declared his opposition to the government’s ‘sweeping and irrevocable plans’, although he claimed he was ‘by no means an enemy to temperate reform’. Elphinstone Fleeming, who was sponsored by Abercromby and Sir Michael Bruce of Scotstown, said he was ‘perfectly aware that reform was not generally looked upon with favourable eyes by the country gentlemen’, but was ‘determined to give his friends an opportunity of testifying that all the freeholders of Scotland were not bound by the system to which the country had so long been subjected’. He rejoiced that ‘the middle classes would soon possess the elective franchise’ and maintained that if elected he would be ‘under no pledge or promise and at perfect liberty to exercise his own judgement on every question’. Home Drummond announced that he would abstain, despite his opposition to reform, out of personal regard for Elphinstone Fleeming. When the majority of eight for Ramsay was announced (two had paired off on each side), the ‘uproar in the gallery was for some minutes quite deafening’. Only then were petitions from the marchers in favour of Elphinstone Fleeming received. The demonstrators in the park, on hearing the result, ‘instantly rolled up their flags and ... left the field in profound silence’. One of Ramsay’s supporters was ‘pelted with mud’, but this was ‘the only symptom of rioting’. Although it had been agreed that no formal dinners should be given, private ones with the candidates took place that evening.19

Petitions to the Lords for the speedy passage of the reintroduced reform bill were forwarded from Alva, Denny, Falkirk (with 2,067 signatures) and the Bannockburn Political Union, 3, 4 Oct. 1831.20 The inhabitants of Denny and the Bannockburn Political Union petitioned the Commons to withhold supplies until the revised bill was carried, 13 June, 13 July 1832.21 Following the Scottish bill’s enactment the registered electorate was 1,787, of whom many were ‘radical weavers’. At the 1832 general election Ramsay retired and Elphinstone Fleeming was comfortably returned ahead of the Conservative Forbes. However, the result was reversed in 1835 and the Conservatives usually held the seat until 1865.22

Author: Terry Jenkins


  • 1. Ordnance Gazetter of Scotland (1895), i. 46, 125-8; ii. 351, 352; iii. 2-5, 211, 212; vi. 379-96.
  • 2. HP Commons, 1790-1820, ii. 581-5; Glasgow Herald, 18 Feb., 24 Mar. 1820.
  • 3. NAS GD51/1/198/8/6, 8; 198/26/47-54; NLI, Melville mss 55A, f. 379.
  • 4. NAS GD51/5/522; Glasgow Herald, 13 Apr., 25, 28 May 1821.
  • 5. Devon RO, Sidmouth mss, Melville to Sidmouth, 7 Sept. 1821.
  • 6. Macleod of Macleod mss 1056/4, Macleod to wife, 28 Dec. 1821.
  • 7. CJ, lxxviii. 285.
  • 8. Ibid. lxxix. 253, 507; lxxxi. 114, 253, 372.
  • 9. Glasgow Herald, 13 Mar. 1826; CJ, lxxxi. 203; LJ, lviii. 144.
  • 10. Glasgow Herald, 9, 19 June; Greenock Advertiser, 4 July 1826.
  • 11. Glasgow Herald, 29 Jan. 1827.
  • 12. Ibid. 9 Mar.; Stirling Jnl. 13 Mar. 1829; CJ, lxxxiv. 41, 140-1, 146; LJ, lxi. 183, 210, 234.
  • 13. Stirling Jnl. 7 May 1830; CJ, lxxxv. 404; LJ, lxii. 343.
  • 14. Stirling Jnl. 30 July, 20, 27 Aug. 1830.
  • 15. CJ, lxxxvi. 147, 269, 443; LJ, lxiii. 177, 255.
  • 16. Stirling Jnl. 18 Feb., 4 Mar. 1831; LJ, lxiii. 267.
  • 17. Stirling Jnl. 18, 25 Mar. 1831; CJ, lxxxvi. 406, 407, 416; LJ, lxiii. 336, 340.
  • 18. Macpherson Grant mss 118, Macpherson Grant to son, 24 Apr.; Wellington mss WP1/1184/7; Stirling Jnl. 29 Apr. 1831; Cockburn Letters, 319, 320.
  • 19. Stirling Jnl. 13 May; Glasgow Herald, 13 May 1831; Cockburn Letters, 319, 320; Wellington mss WP1/1184/18, 32.
  • 20. Stirling Jnl. 30 Sept. 1831; LJ, lxiii. 1034, 1047, 1050.
  • 21. CJ, lxxxvii. 396, 488.
  • 22. Stirling Jnl. 6, 20, 27 July, 28 Dec. 1832; Scottish Electoral Politics, 225, 240, 257, 258.