ARBUTHNOTT, Hon. Hugh (?1780-1868), of Hatton, Kincardine

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



1826 - 1865

Family and Education

b. ?1780, 2nd s. of John, 7th Visct. Arbuthnott [I] (d. 1800), and Isabella, da. of William Graham of Morphie. unm. KCB 10 Nov. 1862. d. 11 July 1868.

Offices Held

Entered army (ensign) May 1796; lt. 49 Ft. Sept. 1796, capt. 1799; maj. army 1804; maj. 52 Ft. 1805, lt.-col. 1811; half-pay 1815; col. army 1821; maj.-gen. 1830; lt.-gen. 1841; col. 38 Ft. 1843; gen. 1854; col. 79 Ft. 1862-d.


Arbuthnnott’s paternal grandfather John, the first surviving son of John Arbuthnott of Fordoun, Kincardineshire, was a writer to the signet and worked as factor to his cousin John, 5th Viscount Arbuthnott, for nine years before he succeeded in 1756 to his peerage and Kincardineshire estates between Fordoun and Inverbervie. Eccentric in his later years, he made some peculiar arrangements for their management, which his son John (b. 1754), this Member’s father, had to unravel after succeeding him as 7th Viscount in 1791. He died, aged 45, in 1800 and was succeeded by his 22-year-old eldest son John, an army officer. A staunch Tory, he was appointed lord lieutenant of Kincardineshire in 1805 and elected as a Scottish representative peer in 1818.1 His brother Hugh Arbuthnott followed him into the army in 1796. He was on the Helder expedition in 1799, served in the Baltic and at Copenhagen in 1801 and 1807, with Moore in Spain and Portugal and later with Wellington in the Peninsula, where he commanded the 52nd Regiment at Busaco. He was on the Kincardineshire freeholders’ roll by 1811.2 When the ministerialist sitting Member stood down at the dissolution in early 1820, Arbuthnott’s brother put him forward, even though he was ‘detained’ in France ‘by a very severe illness’. His rivals were the ‘oppositionist’ Sir Alexander Ramsay and the ministerialist James Farquhar*. Lord Arbuthnott’s attempts to secure the backing of the Liverpool ministry, who initially stayed neutral, were unavailing, and he insisted that he would transfer their votes to Ramsay rather than give them to his bete noir Farquhar. He dismissed a treasury suggestion that Hugh might start for Aberdeen Burghs against Joseph Hume* as a means of resolving the impasse.3 At the end of the first week of March Lord Arbuthnott withdrew him, acknowledging that he had no chance, but persisted in backing Ramsay against Farquhar. This angered Lord Melville, the government’s Scottish manager, who perceived that Arbuthnott had probably been colluding with Ramsay from the outset.4 He was subsequently ousted from the representative peerage, but he was re-elected on a vacancy in August 1821, having apparently made his peace with Melville.5 When Hugh Arbuthnott belatedly arrived in Kincardineshire a week before the election he declared his intention of trying again ‘on the first favourable opportunity’.6 This occurred at the general election of 1826, when Arbuthnott, who had been in the field for 18 months since Ramsay had announced his decision to retire, came in unopposed. His proposer recommended him as ‘a landed proprietor’ of the county who would uphold its agricultural interest, which Arbuthnott, returning thanks, duly promised to do.7

He made no mark in the House in this period, not uttering a syllable in debate, but he adhered steadily to his brother’s Tory line. He voted against Catholic claims, 6 Mar. 1827, 12 May 1828, and repeal of the Test Acts, 26 Feb. 1828. He divided in the protectionist minority of 78 against the second reading of the corn bill, 2 Apr., and presented a county petition for enhanced protection, 9 Apr. 1827.8 In the absence on naval service of William Gordon, Member for Aberdeenshire, in 1828, Arbuthnott handled some of his constituency business: he presented Aberdeenshire petitions against the salmon fisheries regulation bill, 11 Mar., and imports of foreign corn, 25 Apr., and for amendment of the excise laws, 8 July. He was in the minority of 54 against the financial provision for Canning’s family, 13 May, and the Wellington ministry’s majority on the silk duties, 14 July. He presented a Montrose fish curers’ petition for the continuation of bounties, 10 July 1828. Planta, the patronage secretary, expected him, despite his earlier votes, to side ‘with government’ for the concession of Catholic emancipation in 1829. He duly did so, 6, 30 Mar., but he was one of the minority of 16 who wished to raise the Irish county franchise qualification to £20, 26 Mar. He divided with ministers against the transfer of East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 11 Feb., Lord Blandford’s reform scheme, 18 Feb., and the enfranchisement of Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, 23 Feb. 1830. He voted against Jewish emancipation, 5 Apr., 17 May. On 10 May 1830 he presented two Kincardineshire petitions against the proposed additional duty on corn spirits.

He was returned unopposed for his county at the general election of 1830, when he received a formal vote of thanks for his exemplary conduct in Parliament: ‘every public bill of the least importance to Scotland had been noticed ... copies sent to the county, and the most prompt attention given to all communications made to him on such matters’.9 Ministers of course listed him as one of their ‘friends’, and he was in their minority on the civil list, 15 Nov. 1830. He voted against the second reading of the Grey ministry’s English reform bill, 22 Mar., and for Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831. At his unopposed return at the ensuing general election he said he was ‘quite ready to give his ... unbiased consideration to any safe and constitutional measure ... for ameliorating the representation’.10 He divided against the second reading of the reintroduced English reform bill, 6 July, for use of the 1831 census to determine the disfranchisement schedules, 19 July, against the partial disfranchisement of Chippenham, 27 July, in a minority of 38 to preserve non-resident freemen’s votes for their lives, 30 Aug., and against the passage of the bill, 21 Sept., and the second reading of the Scottish measure, 23 Sept. He voted for inquiry into the effects of renewal of the Sugar Refinery Act on the West India interest, 12 Sept. He was given three weeks’ leave ‘on the public service’, 7 Oct. He voted against the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831, and against going into committee on it, 20 Jan., the enfranchisement of Tower Hamlets, 28 Feb., and the third reading, 22 Mar. 1832. He divided against government on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., and the malt drawback bill, 29 Feb., 2 Apr. His only other known vote in this period was against the second reading of the Irish reform bill, 25 May. He took a month’s leave to deal with urgent business, 11 July 1832.

At the general election of 1832 Arbuthnott narrowly defeated a Liberal, and he sat thereafter unopposed for Kincardineshire as a protectionist Conservative until he retired in 1865.11 He died a bachelor in July 1868, ‘aged 88’.12

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: David R. Fisher


  • 1. Scottish Peerage, i. 313-15.
  • 2. Pol. State of Scotland 1811, p. 87.
  • 3. Aberdeen Jnl. 9, 16, 23 Feb., 8 Mar. 1820; NLS mss 11, ff. 6, 11, 17, 22, 28.
  • 4. NLS mss 11, ff. 32-40, 55.
  • 5. The Times, 15 Apr. 1820.
  • 6. Aberdeen Jnl. 5 Apr. 1820.
  • 7. NAS GD51/1/198/12/38; Aberdeen Jnl. 14, 21 June, 5 July 1826.
  • 8. The Times, 10 Apr. 1827.
  • 9. Aberdeen Jnl. 4, 25 Aug. 1830.
  • 10. Ibid. 18 May 1831.
  • 11. Dod’s Parl. Companion (1855), 131.
  • 12. J. Foster, Members of Parliament, Scotland, 16.