KENNEDY, Thomas Francis (1788-1879), of Dalquharran Castle and Dunure, Ayr.

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



1818 - 4 Feb. 1834

Family and Education

b. 11 Nov. 1788, o.s. of Thomas Kennedy of Dunure and Dalquharran and Jean, da. of John Adam of Blair Adam, Kinross. educ. privately by James Pillans; Harrow 1801-5; Glasgow Univ. 1805; Edinburgh Univ. 1807; adv. 1811. m. 13 July 1820, Sophia, da. of Sir Samuel Romilly† of Tanhurst, Surr., 1s. suc. fa. 1819. d. 1 Apr. 1879.

Offices Held

Clerk of ordnance Feb.-Nov. 1832; ld. of treasury Nov. 1832-Apr. 1834; paymaster of civil service [I] 1837-50; PC [I] 1837; commr. of woods, forests, land revenues, works and buildings 1850-4.


In the spring of 1819 Kennedy, who had been admitted to Brooks’s on 27 Jan., succeeded his estranged father to encumbered Ayrshire estates. The principal properties were Dalquharran Castle (described by John Campbell II* in 1822 as a ‘very fine’ house set in ‘savage and desolate’ rain-swept countryside), near Dailly, and the coastal estate of Dunure, midway between Dalquharran and Ayr.1 At the general election of 1820 he was returned unopposed again for Ayr Burghs, where he had been elected in 1818 on the interest of the 6th duke of Argyll, having been recommended to him and other Whig aristocrats by his uncle William Adam†, the former party manager and now head of the Scottish jury court.2 Four months later he married the ‘not handsome’ but clever daughter of the late Whig legal reformer Romilly. This, as his close friend Henry Cockburn, the leading Edinburgh Whig lawyer, who admired his ‘great judgement, high principle and ... love of work’ for the benefit of Scotland, later wrote, ‘introduced him to important English connections’.3

Kennedy was a respected figure in the Whig party and of course voted with them on most major issues, when present, but he was a spasmodic attender. His health periodically let him down, and his inherited financial problems discouraged him from maintaining a permanent London establishment: on at least two occasions in this period he seriously considered retiring from Parliament, but he was talked out of it by Cockburn (his regular correspondent and prompter) and others.4 He was named to the revived select committees on reform of the Scottish royal burghs, 4 May 1820, 16 Feb. 1821. He backed Lord Archibald Hamilton’s demand for action on the reports of the Scottish judicial commissioners, 4 July, and spoke and was a minority teller for his motion condemning the additional Scottish malt duty next day.5 At the Ayrshire county meeting promoted by local Tories to send a loyal address to the king in the context of the Queen Caroline affair, 30 Dec. 1820, he was one of the dissentients, arguing that the Liverpool ministry, for whose dismissal he called, had infringed the constitution, and advocating a policy of ‘conciliation and correction, by which the thoughtless and misguided might be reclaimed, and the wicked satisfied that they were few in number’.6 Responding to the Whig leader George Tierney’s summons for an early attendance, and having been to the Edinburgh Fox birthday dinner, 12 Jan., he presented Scottish petitions for restoration of the queen’s name to the liturgy, 26 Jan., 1 Feb., and on 31 Jan. 1821 disputed the lord advocate Rae’s assertion that respectable Scottish opinion was hostile to her.7 He was in the minority of 22 against the malt duties bill, 14 Feb., and voted silently for Catholic relief, 28 Feb. (as he did again, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May 1825). No other votes by him have been found for that session, and he evidently gave up attendance, having obtained an initial month’s leave to deal with private business, 5 Mar. 1821. Before this he had got permission (14 Feb.) to introduce a bill to reform the ‘most palpable and crying evil’ of the manner in which juries were selected in Scottish criminal trials by the arbitrary choice of the presiding judge. His measure, chosen by himself and Cockburn as ‘his first parliamentary effort’, proposed a system of selection by ballot coupled with a right of peremptory challenge on behalf of the accused. He introduced it on 16 Feb. and had it formally read a second time and printed on the 22nd. Rae was opposed to it, and it made no further progress that session.8 Cockburn composed an Edinburgh Review article (xxxvi. 176-219) explaining and justifying the bill, which Kennedy reintroduced in March 1822. Moving its second reading, 20 June, he challenged Rae to substantiate his earlier charge that it was ‘uncalled for and unwise’. Rae remained hostile, but Peel, the home secretary, was willing to vote for the principle of the measure with a view to amending it in committee. There, 28 June, Kennedy explained that to ‘obviate objections’ he had acceded to Peel’s proposition that he should limit it to providing the right of peremptory challenge. The measure, thus amended, passed the Commons on 2 July, was approved by the Lords, subject to an alteration requiring the judge to replace challenged jurors immediately, and became law on 26 July 1822 (3 Geo. IV, c. 85). While Cockburn told Kennedy that the impact of this limited success in Edinburgh was ‘electrical’ and had ‘cheered the faithful’, he stressed ‘the necessity of carrying your whole scheme’.9

Kennedy spoke and was a minority teller for Hamilton’s motion to refer the reports of the royal burghs select committee to a committee of the whole House, 20 Feb. 1822, when he highlighted the nonsense whereby the Member for Edinburgh, with a population of about 120,000, was effectively returned by 19 men. He criticized the government’s palliative burghs accounts bill, 22 Mar.10 Encouraged by Cockburn, he presented petitions against the contentious Edinburgh police bill, 8 Mar., and condemned it as ‘an unwarrantable measure, introduced in defiance of the wishes of the inhabitants’, 12 Mar.11 He presented an Ayr trades’ petition for burgh reform, 17 Apr.,12 and divided for Lord John Russell’s general reform scheme, 25 Apr., and reception of the Greenhoe reform petition, 3 June. He voted for reform of the criminal code, 4 June 1822. When Campbell visited him at Dalquharran in September he described Kennedy as ‘a very clever and accomplished man’.13 On 21 Dec. 1822 Cockburn, again urging him to persevere with the juries reform ‘till the ballot be gained’, pressed him to agree to the request of the committee organizing the impending Edinburgh Fox dinner to ‘act as a steward’. Three days later Cockburn, who dismissed all his ‘objections ... [as] singularly feeble’, was horrified by Kennedy’s ‘intimation’ of his ‘intention of ceasing to be parliamentary’:

You seem to feel the step you are planning as a temporary one ... I trust it will prove so; but I have not the slightest expectation that it will. A man can neither dally with Parliament nor with his habits nor with time. You will become a mere Ayrshire gentleman before you know what you are about ... If you had been born and bred a clod of Dumbiedykes, it might have done very well. But any young man who has known higher things, and renounces them for the purpose of pacing over his own acres ... must either degenerate into a fool, or a tyrant, or both ... I daresay living with an establishment for half the year in London must be a severe addition to the calamities of the times ... But ... I am satisfied that by little occasional visits, not exceeding a month or six weeks in all, performed by yourself, you might do a deal of public good, without any private loss, and to your own ... satisfaction ... I don’t believe any friend you have can approve of ... this cursed and nonsensical project.

In the event Kennedy, to Cockburn’s delight, decided to give himself ‘a year’s probation’ in Parliament, though not attending before Easter, and to adopt ‘a system of severe retrenchment’.14 His first recorded vote in the 1823 session was against the government’s naval and military pensions bill, 14 Apr. He divided for Russell’s reform motion, 24 Apr. He endorsed the Edinburgh inhabitants’ petition for reform of the city’s electoral system, 5 May, and supported Hamilton’s motion for reform of the Scottish county representation, which as it stood ensured that most such Members were ‘always in adherence to the government of the day’, 2 June; he was a teller for the respectable minority of 117 (to 152). He spoke and was a minority teller for Abercromby’s motion condemning the lord advocate’s role in the Borthwick affair, 3 June, and was a teller for the minority against the government’s Scottish commissaries bill, 18 June. He introduced on 8 May a bill to make Scottish securities transferable from one creditor to another without penal duties. It passed the Commons on 12 June, but did not get to the Lords.15 After consultation with Cockburn, he brought in another Scottish juries bill, which encompassed selection by ballot, 24 Apr. He carried its second reading by 47-42, 20 June, and its third by 60-56, 30 June, but it was thrown out by the Lords on 11 July 1823. After the second reading Cockburn wrote to him:

I am sure you must be satisfied now of the good you have done by not deserting the public post ... Be assured that there is not a dissentient voice among liberal men here [Edinburgh], that if you can secure a permanent seat, and go on, a long vista of honourable usefulness is opened before you ... So persevere, and arrange your matters in such a way as to prevent all recurrence of the idea you once had.

After the failure in the Lords he consoled Kennedy with the reflection that ‘carrying the thing in the Commons twice has advanced it a prodigious step, and I have no doubt whatever of ultimate success’.16

Kennedy backed a call for equalization of the Irish and Scottish spirit duties, 25 Feb., and advocated an extension of free trade in distillation, 12 Mar. 1824. Next day he supported Abercromby’s motion for reform of Edinburgh’s representation and taunted the Member William Dundas, who was ‘not ... the representative of the people’, with his silence; he was a teller for the minority of 75 (to 99). Egged on by Cockburn, he reintroduced his juries bill, 1 Mar. When he brought up the report, 14 Apr., Rae urged him to postpone it until after Easter, but Kennedy refused and divided the House, which was counted out. On 4 May he agreed to Peel’s suggestion that the measure be recommitted. It was eventually passed on 28 May, but the Lords again threw it out, 16 June.17 Kennedy was a teller for the minority for Hamilton’s motion for further consideration of the Scottish judicial commissioners’ reports, 30 Mar. That day he secured the appointment of a select committee, which he chaired, on the regulations governing salmon fisheries. He presented anti-slavery petitions, 16 Mar., 5 Apr.18 He had revived his 1819 scheme for reform of the Scottish poor relief system, and concocted a measure in conjunction with Cockburn, Lord Minto and Dr. Thomas Chalmers. He got leave to introduce it on 6 Apr., after a spat with Rae, whom he accused of inciting ‘the ignorant’ to raise a misguided fuss about it, 7 May. Even Hamilton thought he ought to drop it, 24 May, and he did so, reluctantly, acknowledging the hostility which it had provoked but insisting that its object was not to introduce poor rates but to limit and subsequently abolish assessments. He vowed to try again. Cockburn, who urged him to promote ‘some calm and full discussion of the whole subject’, wrote an explanatory article for the Edinburgh (xli. 228-58).19 On 17 June 1824 Kennedy expressed disappointment at ministers’ withdrawal of their Scottish judicature bill in response to ill informed ‘clamour’. He obtained ten days’ leave on account of the illness of a near relation, 18 Feb. 1825. That session the government brought in a Scottish juries bill which conceded selection by ballot and became law as 6 Geo. IV, c. 22.20 On its second reading, 18 Apr., Kennedy gave it his ‘cordial support’, but twitted Rae for his volte face. Later that day he introduced a salmon fisheries regulation bill (having secured reappointment of the select committee, 7 Mar.), which he saw to the report stage but allowed to lapse in the face of the strong opposition which it excited outside the House.21 His only known votes that session, apart from those for Catholic claims, were against the Leith Docks bill and for Brougham’s motion to make puisne judges immovable, 20 May, and against the grants to the duke of Cumberland, 30 May, and for repairs to Lyme Regis cobb, 3 June. He was absent from Parliament for the whole of the 1826 session. He chaired the Ayrshire meeting which petitioned against interference with the Scottish banking system, 4 Mar. 1826, and sent the petition to John Smith for presentation.22

Kennedy, whom the chancellor of the exchequer Frederick Robinson* described as a ‘Whig M.P., but a gentleman’, was returned unopposed for Ayr Burghs at the 1826 general election; a ‘total change’ in the composition of the council of Ayr had made him invulnerable.23 On the eve of the meeting of the new Parliament Cockburn, exhorting him to co-operate with Abercromby ‘in doing something ... about Scottish tailzies’, gave him a list of ten topics which he could take on his ‘own two personal shoulders’.24 In the event he did not go up until February 1827, when he voted against the duke of Clarence’s grant on the 16th. He presented Ayrshire petitions for subsidized emigration, 21 Feb., and against the duty on coal imports to Ireland, 26 Feb.25 He voted for Catholic relief, 6 Mar., inquiry into alleged electoral interference by Leicester corporation, 15 Mar., information on the Lisburn Orange march, 29 Mar., to withhold supplies until the ministerial crisis was resolved, 30 Mar., and against the Irish miscellaneous estimates and for inquiry into chancery delays, 5 Apr. He presented a Perth inhabitants’ petition against the corn bill, 26 Mar.26 He reintroduced his salmon fisheries bill, 23 Mar., and had it referred to a committee upstairs, 14 May, but it foundered at the report stage, 11 June.27 After consultation with Cockburn, he brought in a measure to extend the period required to confer parochial settlements in Scotland, 5 Apr.; it lapsed on 11 June.28 He was a minority teller for the Edinburgh oil gas bill, 1 June, and a majority one for the Edinburgh bridewell bill, 11 June. After the formation of Canning’s ministry and the resignation of the Melvillite Tories, Cockburn advised him not to press the Lansdowne Whigs, who had joined Canning, to secure the removal of John Hope, the Scottish solicitor-general, but to let him ‘distinctly understand that he must work pleasantly under the new system, or cease to get his corn’.29 When it was reported that Canning’s friend Lord Binning*, son of the earl of Haddington, was to become ‘minister for Scotland’, Kennedy, through Lords Lansdowne and Carlisle, let Canning know that the support of the Scottish Foxite Whigs ‘depended on no such arrangement being made’. The plan was knocked on the head, but Cockburn, who told Kennedy that his and Abercromby’s ‘exertions in saving Scotland from Binning’ were ‘appreciated’ in Edinburgh, urged him to remain in the alert for any more of ‘that sort of mischief’.30 On the question of whether the Whigs should press for Rae’s replacement as lord advocate, Cockburn left it to Kennedy and other Scots on the spot in London, though he was keen that the office should be stripped in future of its political functions.31 Rae remained in place. Kennedy voted against government for the disfranchisement of Penryn and Lord Althorp’s election expenses bill, 28 May. On 12 June 1827 he gave notice that next session he would propose a remedial measure for Scottish entails.32 Yet in the autumn he decided that leaving Parliament for financial reasons was ‘indispensable’. Cockburn wrote to him:

Your leaving ... is a very great loss to yourself, to those who wish to improve Scotland, and to the public ... [but] no man ... is justifiable in ruining his private fortune for patriotism, or can be called upon to make himself inwardly unhappy for the good of his party ... You ought clearly not to embarrass yourself in your private affairs ... My recollection of Thomson’s views ... makes me suspect that he, and others, may be of opinion that you might manage in such a way as to give the House all the attendance your duty requires without much expense ... If you be positively determined to retire, there is nothing more to be said ... Whatever you do, avoid the dangerous habit of letting the situation of your affairs prey upon your mind.

In the event Kennedy apparently reached a solution by placing his estates in trust.33

On 19 Feb. 1828 he joined in calls for the provision of ‘slight relief’ for western Scotland from the problems caused by casual Irish immigration. He reintroduced his parochial settlements bill, 28 Feb., had it read a second time, 10 Mar., and on the 24th denied that it aimed to exclude the Irish, but acquiesced in the home secretary Peel’s suggestion that he postpone it until more information was to hand. It passed the Commons, 16 May, but foundered in the Lords on 17 June. Kennedy voted for repeal of the Test Acts, 26 Feb., and presented favourable petitions, 21, 25, 27 Mar., 29 Apr. He divided for Catholic relief, 12 May. On 6 Mar. he got leave to introduce his entails bill, which sought to lift the ‘tyranny’ of the existing law (under which he was himself a sufferer) while leaving existing arrangements untouched. He brought it in, 10 Mar., and after its second reading next day had it referred to a committee of 27. He produced their report on 9 June.34 He welcomed the Wellington ministry’s bill to establish an additional circuit judge in Glasgow, 11 Mar., but at the same time drew attention to the fearful state of Scottish gaols, where remand prisoners experienced ‘such contamination that no punishment ... could be attended with any moral effect’. He spoke and voted for Whitmore’s unsuccessful salmon fisheries bill, 20 Mar., explaining that he had given up the measure ‘because I found my own time, as well as that of the committee, went for nothing’. He voted with opposition for information on civil list pensions, 20 May, and against the Irish and Scottish small bank notes bill, 5, 16 June, and the grant for Buckingham House, 23 June. He disputed a statement that the entire agricultural interest of Scotland wanted protection against foreign wool imports, 13 June 1828.

Kennedy divided for Catholic emancipation, 6, 30 Mar. 1829, and on the 24th said that majority intelligent opinion in his part of Scotland favoured it. On 27 Feb. he secured the renewal of his select committee on Scottish entails, in which he went ‘into the whole case’, with encouraging results. He presented the report on 23 Mar., and on the 27th got leave to introduce two bills in line with its recommendations: a tailzies regulation bill, which ‘enacted the conditions on which lands now unentailed may be entailed hereafter’; and a relief bill, which relieved heirs of tailzie from statutory burdens and debts incurred in the improvement of the property. Abercromby asked Lord Holland to request lord chancellor Lyndhurst to give Kennedy and his coadjutor James Loch* ‘an hour’ of his time to discuss the measures, which Lyndhurst ‘caught at ... with eagerness’. Neither bill reached the Lords, and Kennedy postponed them to next session, 2 June. Cockburn nevertheless thought that merely by broaching the subject in detail he had ‘given the old tailzie system an irrecoverable blow’.35 Kennedy voted to transfer East Retford’s seat to Birmingham, 5 May, to allow Daniel O’Connell to take his seat unhindered, 18 May, against the grant for the marble arch, 25 May, and to reduce the hemp duties, 1 June 1829. He was absent from Parliament for half the 1830 session, detained in Ayrshire by unspecified personal problems; he was given a nominal ten days’ leave on urgent private business, 3 Mar.36 He presented Ayr petitions against renewal of the East India Company’s trade monopoly, 26 Apr., and next day divided with O’Connell for reform of Irish vestries. Thereafter he voted regularly with the revived Whig opposition, including for Russell’s reform motion, 28 May. He voted for Jewish emancipation, 17 May. On the 14th he introduced a bill to facilitate the transfer of heritable securities in Scotland, which lapsed on 8 June. He approved the principle of the government’s court of session bill, 27 May 1830, but wanted changes to details.

After his unopposed return at the 1830 general election ministers of course listed him among their ‘foes’. In the autumn he began to draw up with Cockburn a plan for reform of the Scottish electoral system, and obtained the blessing of the leading Whig Sir James Robert George Graham*, who promised his ‘most cordial co-operation’. Not the least of their motives for making an early start on this project was their wish (especially Cockburn’s) to keep it out of the hands of Henry Brougham*, who they felt would do more harm than good. The rumour in Edinburgh was that Kennedy would ‘move some kind of reform’ when Parliament met, ‘with the sanction of ministers’: this would propose two Members for Edinburgh and Glasgow and one for Aberdeen.37 When Kennedy went to London he duly got the permission of Althorp, the new Whig Commons leader, to take the initiative on the issue, and he gave notice accordingly, 3 Nov. 1830.38 He was in the minority of 39 for reduction of the duty on wheat imported to the West Indies, 12 Nov. On the 15th he stated that there was ‘anxious and deep feeling’ for reform in Scotland, personally rejected adoption of the secret ballot, derided Dundas’s claim that his elections for Edinburgh were ‘popular’ and secured a return of the number of £10-£20 householders in Scottish cities and royal burghs and of the number of their councillors. Later that day he helped to vote the government out of office on the civil list. On the change of ministry, which saw Francis Jeffrey* replace Rae as lord advocate and Cockburn become Scottish solicitor-general, Kennedy obtained an assurance from Graham, first lord of the admiralty, that he would impress on the premier Lord Grey the ‘paramount importance of a good arrangement’ in Scotland. He evidently sought for nothing for himself.39 On 2 Dec. 1830 he welcomed Rae’s bill to reform Scottish enfeoffments in heritable property. On the 8th he reintroduced his two 1829 tailzies bills, together with one to empower an unborn heir to make a settlement of estates; they did not receive a second reading, and lapsed on 15 Apr. 1831, Kennedy having decided that the subject was best set aside until reform was out of the way.40 When ministers announced their intention of producing a comprehensive reform scheme, he waived his pretensions to propose a Scottish measure and at Russell’s request sent him the details of the plan which he had concocted with Cockburn. This aimed to ‘associate the middle with the higher orders of society in the love and support of the institutions and government of the country’ by extending the franchise to men ‘who possess property and knowledge’. It suggested a county qualification of £10 for residents in possession of land in perpetual fee and one of £20 for residents of non-parliamentary burghs. In the royal burghs, the franchise was to be conferred on £10 resident householders. Other notions were registration by parish, removal of the bar on the eldest sons of Scottish peers and some redistribution of seats, notably the disfranchisement of Anstruther Easter Burghs, joining the alternating counties of Buteshire and Caithness to Renfrewshire and Sutherland respectively, uniting Cromartyshire with Ross-shire, Nairnshire with Elginshire and Clackmannanshire with Kinross-shire, and giving the surplus seats to Glasgow, Edinburgh (which was to be united with Leith) and Dundee. Cockburn, who exhorted Kennedy to work with and guide the indecisive and often exasperating Jeffrey, continued to discuss difficulties and details of the plan with him, and in late December went to London to consult with Kennedy and Russell, Graham, and Lords Durham and Duncannon*, the committee of four charged with drawing up the ministerial scheme. Once they had settled on the £10 franchise, ‘everything else resolved into mere detail and machinery’.41 In the House, 13 Dec., Kennedy drew attention to the volume of Scottish petitions for burgh and parliamentary reform; he presented four himself, and several more, 20, 23 Dec. He had been named to the select committee on the reduction of public salaries, 8 Dec. (he was also appointed to the public accounts committee, 17 Feb. 1831), and on 13 Dec. he claimed that official returns underestimated Dundas’s annual income from Scottish sinecures by £3,700. He conceded that few savings could be made in respect of efficient offices, but called for ‘a sensible retrenchment’ on ‘inefficient and sinecure offices’. When Dundas complained that he had been traduced, 15 Dec. 1830, Kennedy retorted that his income for doing nothing was excessive. He sought privately to clarify the select committee’s remit with his fellow member Alexander Baring.42

He presented petitions for repeal of the duty on candles and against truck payments, 3 Feb. 1831, having been summoned to attend that day by Althorp, leader of the House.43 He brought up more Scottish reform petitions, 4, 10 Feb., and on the 26th, in the absence of Abercromby, presented and endorsed the 21,700-signature Edinburgh petition. Cockburn had assured him that he would ‘instruct’ Jeffrey ‘to make you one of his chief councillors’; but in late February he was ‘sorry and surprised’ to learn that Jeffrey was to be ‘deprived’ of Kennedy’s assistance with the Scottish reform bill. He urged Kennedy not to ‘forget burgh reform’, which was the ‘next great Scottish subject’, and to keep it on the political agenda.44 Edward Ellice*, the patronage secretary, and Duncannon, the chief whip, picked his brains about his ‘northern colleagues’ as they scrutinized the list of Members before the reform scheme was introduced; and he was one of the delegation of Members for various ports who put their case against the proposed tax on steamboat passengers to Althorp.45 On 9 Mar. he asserted that the government’s reform plan had ‘given unmixed and unbounded satisfaction in Scotland’ and ‘obtained the support of many hitherto opposed to all reform’. He presented favourable petitions, 11, 19, 21 Mar., and on the 19th denied an allegation that he was sure of his seat in perpetuity, as his influence at Ayr depended solely on ‘goodwill’ and the number of electors would increase from 85 to 1,026 after reform. He voted silently for the second reading of the English reform bill, 22 Mar. Meanwhile, Cockburn continued to bombard him with letters expressing his concern about some details of the Scottish measure, exhorting him to disregard Jeffrey and try, with Abercromby, to keep Russell and Duncannon straight and stop them making concessions to ‘the local lies, which will be called knowledge, and the local intolerance, which will be held to be caution’. Kennedy, who defended the proposed disfranchisement of the Anstruther Burghs, 28 Mar., and said that support for reform was ‘strong’ even among the lower orders of Lanark and Paisley who would not be enfranchised, 14 Apr., was eventually able, on an assurance from Durham, to relieve Cockburn’s anxieties about ‘horrid plots’ to raise the county franchise qualification to £15 or more, in which Jeffrey seemed at one point to be implicated. Cockburn agreed that Jeffrey was a liability, but urged Kennedy to uphold him in public whatever his private ‘regrets’.46 He divided against Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment to the reform bill, 19 Apr. 1831. On the 21st he was a ministerial minority teller against adjourning the debate on electoral bribery at Liverpool. At the ensuing general election he proposed the reformer Richard Oswald† for Ayrshire and commended the reform scheme, but said that ‘universal suffrage ... would prove the greatest curse imaginable’. He appealed in vain for calm when the mob rioted after Oswald’s defeat. His own return for the Burghs was uneventful.47

Kennedy evidently carried around ‘a list of disposable offices’ in Scotland, and it was probably he whom Abercromby had in mind when on 6 June 1831 he suggested to Grey placing a Scottish Member ‘of real character and honour’ at the treasury ‘or some other office’ to advise objectively on the merits of patronage applications and relieve Jeffrey from ‘labour not necessarily connected with his office, such as taking charge of bills connected with Scotland’.48 Nothing immediately came of this, but Kennedy, who was implored by the neurotic Cockburn to bend over backwards to ‘uphold’ Jeffrey, in spite of everything, was summoned by Graham on 24 June to dine at the admiralty to ‘discuss the Scottish reform bill’ as ‘an affair of life or death’ with himself, Althorp, Russell, Durham and Jeffrey.49 He admitted in the House, 27 June, that the Ayrshire rioters had behaved ‘in an unjustifiable manner’, but insisted that most ‘respectable’ Scots were well disposed to the government and the law. Prompted by Cockburn, he ascertained that there was no truth in the rumour that ministers intended to put off the Scottish reform bill until next session. His letter conveying this and other reassuring news was ‘given to the flames’ by Cockburn, who thought that ‘so [long] as they carry us through this session, and leave us our £10 qualification, seven year leases, our proposed arrangement of towns and shires, and our 50 Members, all the details are comparatively immaterial’.50 Kennedy voted for the second reading of the reintroduced English reform bill, 6 July, and on the 11th got Althorp formally to confirm ministers’ intention of carrying the Scottish and Irish measures that session.51 Next day he denounced the Tory opposition’s factious adjournment proceedings; he was a government teller in the seventh division of the night. He divided steadily for the details of the English reform bill (and at Ellice’s request recorded the votes of Scottish Members on them) until 5 Aug., after which his attendance fell away for three weeks, though he paired at least twice. His health was apparently giving him trouble. He deplored the Glasgow Protestants’ petition against the Maynooth grant, 19 July, observing that the ignorant were encouraged in their bigotry by ‘individuals occupying a high station in society’, a charge which he levelled against James Edward Gordon*, 9 Aug. He was in the minority for swearing the Dublin election committee, 29 July, but was absent from the divisions on government interference, 23 Aug. He voted to receive the Waterford petition for disarming the Irish yeomanry, 11 Aug., and to issue a new writ for Liverpool, 5 Sept. He was a teller for the government majorities for the third reading, 19 Sept., and passage of the reform bill, 21 Sept. During the summer he had been in constant contact with Cockburn on the details of the Scottish measure.52 He dismissed the Edinburgh University petition for a seat to be given to the Scottish universities, 23 Sept., when he was a government teller for the second reading of the Scottish reform bill. He approved the changes made to the measure, 26 Sept., and next day argued that it did not ‘deteriorate actual property’ but removed ‘the power of jobbing in political rights from the owners of superiorities’. Moving to go into committee on it, 3 Oct., he said that a Scottish gentleman had very little chance of representing a Scottish county, if ‘he be not a supporter of the government of the day’. He defended the contentious decision to remove Peebles and Selkirk from their burgh districts and throw them into their respective counties, though he preferred the original plan to unite the latter for electoral purposes. In the absence of the unwell Jeffrey, he moved the second reading of the Scottish exchequer court bill, 6 Oct., admitting when he was interrupted by coughing that the subject was ‘dry’; he was a majority teller in the division. He was named that day to the select committee on the West Indian colonies (and again, 15 Dec. 1831). He voted for the motion of confidence in the ministry, 10 Oct. 1831, and on the 19th claimed that on the whole the people had reacted with patience and determination to the Lords’ rejection of the English reform bill.

In response to his transmission of addresses of support from Irvine and Maybole and information on the ‘state of public feeling’ in western Scotland, Grey assured Kennedy in early November 1831 that ‘the public expectation will not be disappointed’ by the revised reform scheme being prepared. A month later Cockburn urged him openly to condemn the contemplated reversion to the alternating system of county representation, which Althorp did not wish to be made generally known. In response to disorder in his locality, he evidently suggested to the home office the raising of ‘a force of armed constables’, but he was told that the only feasible option was ‘a volunteer corps’ with reliable officers.53 He stayed in Ayrshire at the end of the year and paired for the second reading of the revised English reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831. He was present to refute Hunt’s assertion that the people of Scotland were hostile to reform, 19 Jan. 1832, and next day voted to go into committee on the English bill. He was in the majorities for schedule A, 23 Jan., and the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan. A few days later he was offered and accepted the office of clerk of the ordnance in the room of Charles Tennyson*, whose health had collapsed. The duke of Bedford thought he was ‘worthy of his hire’, and Cockburn wrote to him:

You are not yet in the position I should have liked; because my scheme was that the lord advocate should be allowed to restrict himself to his proper professional or official duties, and that you should have been secretary for Scotland. But, thank God you are in office, and double thank God that the office is not a sinecure. Occupation will do infinite good to your body and soul; and office, especially with occupation, will add immensely to your weight in Scotland ... Go on, and work, and devise, and speak; and in all your proceedings and cogitations remember Scotland. And keep a horse, and keep up your heart, and be gay, and attend to the viscera, and become sagacious and potent. Devil take your anxieties, and your fears, and blue devils, and bad stomachs.54

In the event he fell ill almost immediately, and, while he was re-elected without difficulty, he was hors de combat for Parliament for over three months: he was forced to miss the division on the third reading of the English reform bill, 22 Mar.55 In early April he informed Cockburn of some irritating points of detail of the Scottish bill on which ministers seemed inclined to make concessions. By early May he was optimistic about the prospects of its success; but Cockburn advised him not to make ‘a newspaper topic’ of ‘the absolute necessity of a Scottish secretary’, on which they were agreed.56 He voted for the address calling on the king to appoint only ministers who would carry reform unimpaired, 10 May. He presented Scottish petitions for supplies to be withheld until reform was secured, 21 May. When Jeffrey presented the Edinburgh reform petition, 23 May, Kennedy denied Conservative allegations that the mass meeting which had produced it had constituted a union-dominated threat to public order, and described it as a ‘vent’ for strong feelings, though he did admit that the wording of some of the placards on view had gone too far.57 He voted for the second reading of the Irish reform bill, 25 May, and was a teller for the majority against a Conservative attempt to increase the Scottish county representation, 1 June. He denounced as ‘monstrous’ the notion of compensating holders of superiorities for their loss, and opposed an amendment to the Scottish registration machinery, 4 June. On 15 June he presented a number of petitions for the bill and opposed and was a majority teller against four amendments to its details, including one to remove Kilmarnock from Renfrew to Ayr Burghs and move Campbeltown and Inverary in the opposite direction. On the third reading, 27 June, he defended the government’s decision to abandon the proposed property qualification for Scottish burgh Members and dismissed a suggestion that Dalkeith should replace Edinburgh as the polling place for Midlothian. He denied an allegation that mass treating was already going on in the burghs, 13 July. On 2 July he presented and explained the ordnance estimates and was a majority teller for the barracks grant. On the 17th he gave notice that in the next session he would again propose reform of Scottish entails law.58 He was a ministerial teller against reception of a petition for the abolition of Irish tithes, 2 Aug., and for a clause of the Irish party processions bill, 9 Aug. 1832.

In mid-July 1832 Althorp asked Kennedy if he would transfer from the ordnance to a seat at the treasury board, ‘with an understanding that he was to be consulted by government with regard to Scotch affairs, there being a want, in the present administration, of such an adviser’. Althorp did not tell him that behind this proposal lay the wish of his cabinet colleague Holland and his wife to obtain the clerkship of the ordnance for their son Charles Richard Fox*. According to John Whishaw, who spoke to Kennedy a few days later, his ‘answer was that, having now settled and had some experience at the ordnance, he was unwilling to quit his present situation, but that he should be inclined to do so if the proposal respecting Scotland could be put on a practicable footing and form part of the arrangement’. After consulting Grey, Althorp told Kennedy that

there seemed to be some difficulty with regard to that part of the proposal which related to Scotland; and, upon being asked by Kennedy what were the duties and attendance expected from a lord of the treasury ... [Althorp] gave such an account of the attendance as induced Kennedy to decline the appointment, intimating that a vacation of two or three months in the summer was quite necessary to him, and that he would not accept or retain any office ... upon other terms.59

Lady Holland wanted Whishaw to press Kennedy to change his mind, but he refused:

The situation of a lord of the treasury is certainly very inferior to the one he now holds, because he is now chief of a department in the House of Commons and his place also does not require a residence in London all year which will be required from our lords of the treasury. With respect to the salary there is not much difference ... I should be behaving ill to him if I pressed him upon the subject ... as he is a man who for many years has acted entirely with me and for whom I have the highest respect.

Lady Holland got Jeffrey to speak to Kennedy and tell him of her personal interest in the matter; but Jeffrey had to inform her that while Kennedy ‘expressed himself most anxious to do anything to promote Colonel Fox’s views, I rather fear that, unless the conditions can be modified ... he will still adhere to his resolution of remaining where he is’. Nor would Abercromby put further pressure on Kennedy, as Holland wished: even though he considered him to be the ideal man to take responsibility for Scottish patronage, he felt bound to respect Kennedy’s ‘private reasons which I know to be true and substantial’.60 Althorp and Lansdowne (the latter at the behest of the Hollands) sought to relieve Kennedy from his uneasiness over thwarting the plan for Fox, and Althorp assured him that ‘there may not be so much difficulty about your absence from town as I had apprehended’ and that ‘I should like to have you to work with here, instead of anyone else whom I do not know so well’.61 In the event the arrangement was modified so that Kennedy replaced Lord Nugent*, who had been sent to govern the Ionian Islands, at the treasury, while William Leader Maberly* was promoted from surveyor-general to clerk of the ordnance and Fox took Maberly’s place, which suited him better than Kennedy’s. The reshuffle was implemented in November 1832 to coincide with the dissolution.62

Kennedy was returned for Ayr Burghs after a contest at the 1832 general election, but continued financial problems forced him to retire from Parliament and political office in 1834. In 1837 the second Melbourne ministry made him paymaster of the Irish civil service, charged with the task of introducing a new system of finance to Ireland. In August 1850 Russell appointed him a commissioner of woods and forests, but he was turned out without a pension in March 1854 after a dispute with a subordinate. He publicized his grievance in a Letter to Lord John Russell (1854). He devoted the rest of his life to scientific farming, stock breeding and estate improvement. He died at Dalquharran in 1879 and was succeeded by his only child, Francis Thomas Romilly Kennedy (1842-92).63

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: David R. Fisher


  • 1. Life of Campbell, i. 413.
  • 2. NLS mss 11, ff. 14, 24, 41.
  • 3. Edgeworth Letters, 368; Life of Campbell, i. 413; Cockburn Mems. 361.
  • 4. Cockburn Letters, 72-76, 181-2.
  • 5. The Times, 5 July 1820.
  • 6. Glasgow Herald, 5 Jan. 1821.
  • 7. Cockburn Letters, 14-15; The Times, 17, 27 Jan., 2 Feb. 1821.
  • 8. Cockburn Mems. 361-2; Cockburn Letters, 16-17; The Times, 23 Feb. 1821; CJ, lxxvi. 101, 318, 358.
  • 9. The Times, 29 June 1822; CJ, lxxvii. 360, 385, 394, 442, 447, 467; Cockburn Letters, 26-34, 38, 41-45, 46, 58-59, 60-62.
  • 10. The Times, 23 Mar. 1823.
  • 11. Cockburn Letters, 41, 49; The Times, 9, 13 Mar. 1822.
  • 12. The Times, 18 Apr. 1822.
  • 13. Life of Campbell, i. 413.
  • 14. Cockburn Letters, 70-77; NLS mss 24749, f. 28; The Times, 18 Jan. 1823.
  • 15. The Times, 9 May, 7, 13 June 1823.
  • 16. Cockburn Letters, 81, 88-90, 92; The Times, 25 Apr., 21 June, 1 July 1823; CJ, lxxviii. 251, 413, 440; LJ, lv. 869.
  • 17. Cockburn Letters, 99-100, 106-7, 115; The Times, 2 Mar., 15 Apr., 5, 29 May 1824; LJ, lxi. 416.
  • 18. The Times, 17 Mar., 6 Apr. 1824.
  • 19. Cockburn Letters, 94-98, 100-6, 108-10, 116-19, 125-7; The Times, 7 Apr., 15, 27 May 1824.
  • 20. Cockburn Letters, 128-30.
  • 21. The Times, 19 Apr., 20 May 1825; CJ, lxxx. 318, 440.
  • 22. Glasgow Herald, 6 Mar. 1826; Cockburn Letters, 138, 140-1.
  • 23. Add. 57402, f. 16; NAS GD51/1/198/3/83.
  • 24. Cockburn Letters, 145, 147.
  • 25. The Times, 22, 27 Feb. 1827.
  • 26. Ibid. 27 Mar. 1827.
  • 27. Ibid. 24 Mar., 15 May, 12 June; CJ, lxxxii. 349, 457, 544.
  • 28. Cockburn Letters, 149; The Times, 6 Apr. 1827; CJ, lxxxii. 391, 543.
  • 29. Cockburn Letters, 156-7.
  • 30. Ibid. 158-9, 161-4; Canning’s Ministry, 278.
  • 31. Cockburn Letters, 166-7.
  • 32. The Times, 13 June 1827; Cockburn Letters, 173-4.
  • 33. Cockburn Letters, 181-2, 186-7.
  • 34. Ibid. 191-2.
  • 35. Ibid. 206, 215-18; Add. 51574, Abercromby to Holland [Apr. 1829]
  • 36. Cockburn Letters, 225-7.
  • 37. NAS GD23/6/662.
  • 38. Cockburn Letters, 239-41, 243-7, 248-51.
  • 39. Ibid. 253-8, 267, 270.
  • 40. Ibid. 294.
  • 41. Ibid. 258-66, 270-9; Cockburn Jnl. i. 1; N. Gash, Politics in Age of Peel, 38-40.
  • 42. Cockburn Letters, 280-4.
  • 43. Ibid. 290-1.
  • 44. Ibid. 287, 293-5.
  • 45. Ibid. 299; Glasgow Herald, 11 Mar. 1831.
  • 46. Cockburn Letters, 299-306, 309-14, 318-19.
  • 47. Glasgow Herald, 20, 30 May 1831.
  • 48. Grey mss.
  • 49. Cockburn Letters, 324-6.
  • 50. Ibid. 327-9.
  • 51. Ibid. 331.
  • 52. Ibid. 334-8, 346-8.
  • 53. Ibid. 356-62.
  • 54. Lincs. AO, Tennyson d’Eyncourt mss Td’E H111/3; Add. 51671, Bedford to Lady Holland [7 Feb.]; 75941, Althorp to Spencer, 31 Jan. 1832; Cockburn Letters, 384-6, 387.
  • 55. The Times, 2, 26 Mar. 1832; Cockburn Letters, 392-4.
  • 56. Cockburn Letters, 394-405.
  • 57. Ibid. 406-8.
  • 58. Ibid. 417.
  • 59. Add. 51659, Whishaw to Lady Holland, 22 July [1832].
  • 60. Add. 51575, Abercromby to Holland, 21 July [1832].
  • 61. Cockburn Letters, 412-14.
  • 62. Add. 51575, Abercromby to Holland, 27 [Nov.]; 51659, Whishaw to same, 31 Aug; 51786, Holland to Fox [?22 July] 1832; Cockburn Letters, 423.
  • 63. Oxford DNB.