STEWART, Patrick Maxwell (1795-1846), of Ardgowan, Renfrew and 11 Upper Brook Street, Mdx.

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



14 Mar. 1831 - 1837
1841 - 20 Oct. 1846

Family and Education

b. 28 Feb. 1795,1 5th but 4th surv. s. of Michael Stewart (formerly Stewart Nicolson) (d. 1825) of Carnock, Stirling and his cos. Catherine, da. of Sir William Maxwell, 3rd bt., of Springkell, Dumfries; bro. of Sir Michael Shaw Stewart, 6th bt.* unm. d. 30 Oct. 1846.

Offices Held

Agent, Tobago 1826-d.

Chairman, London and Westminster Bank 1834-d., West India Colonial Bank 1837-d.


Unlike his older brothers, Sir Michael, Admiral Sir Houston Stewart (1791-1875) and the advocate John Shaw Stewart (1793-1840), little can be said with certainty about Stewart’s early life. He joined the London firm of P. Stewart trading at Winchester House, Great Winchester Street before October 1812, when, writing as a merchant, he advised his father, who had recently succeeded to the baronetcy and estates of Sir John Shaw Stewart of Blackhall and Ardgowan, so becoming the largest landowner in the Clydeside port of Greenock, to switch from the Baltic to the West India trade and develop the family’s Houston and Roxborough plantations in Tobago.2 He probably toured the continent with Michael in 1814 and 1815 and was certainly in Paris in 1819 to see Louis XVIII crowned.3 By July 1830, when he first canvassed Lancaster on the Whig interest of the 10th duke of Hamilton,4 he was trading independently in Great Winchester Street and Upper Brook Street, and was one of the founders and a director of Shaw’s Water Company, Greenock, and of the Inverkip Gas Company, both of them joint-stock ventures established after Michael succeeded their father in 1825. He had also (as the nominee and successor of William Robert Keith Douglas*) been a member since 8 Apr. 1829 of the standing committee of West India planters and merchants and an agent (since 1826) for Tobago.5 Though authorized, his agency was not fully ratified while the Tobago legislature and successive governors remained in dispute.6

A bold public speaker and persuasive negotiator, with a reputation for conviviality and wit, he was instrumental in securing support for Sir Michael when he successfully contested Lanarkshire at the 1827 by-election, and helped to effect his switch to Renfrewshire at the general election of 1830, when they failed in their attempt to bring in their kinsman John Maxwell* for Lanarkshire.7 Explaining that his candidature was ‘merely postponed’, Stewart declined a contest at Lancaster in 1830, when the outcome was uncertain and the sitting Tory Cawthorne in poor health; but he declared directly Cawthorne’s death was announced, 1 Mar. 1831, and came in unopposed on the 14th as a ‘decided reformer and ardent free trader’, committed to ending the monopolies of the East India Company and Bank of England. On the hustings and at the Lancaster reform meeting next day he praised Lord Grey’s administration and commended their reform bill as a means of restoring property based representation.8 The diplomat John Macpherson Grant of Ballindalloch, who met him in London afterwards, told his father that he expected Stewart to promote their campaign to raise the voting qualification in Scottish counties to £50 and commended him as ‘a very clever intelligent fellow ... likely to be of use on Scotch matters’.9

Brought in to strengthen the West India lobby, promote reform, and attend to Scottish and commercial issues affecting his relations and their political allies, Stewart was admitted to Brooks’s on Lord Lansdowne’s nomination, 27 Mar., and attended West India committee strategy meetings on 28 Mar. and 13 Apr. 1831.10 Generally, but not slavishly, he divided with his brother, becoming an imposing figure in the House in his own right. He testified to the overwhelming support for the reform bill on presenting the Lancaster petition, 19 Mar., and voted for its second reading, 22 Mar., and against Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. Opposing the appointment of a committee on slavery, 15 Apr., he criticized the colonial under-secretary Lord Howick for making the colonial legislatures the scapegoats for ineffective policy and, warning of the dangers of precipitate abolition, he pointed to the short-sightedness of the Dissenters who petitioned for it and demanded a ‘searching, uncompromising inquiry’ to establish a means of ending slavery ‘compatible with the well being of the slaves themselves, with the safety of the colonies and with a fair and equitable consideration of the interests of private property’. The Liverpool West India merchant Thomas Gladstone* remarked that he ‘spoke well and modestly, evidently prepared’, but many of his supporters in Lancaster, where the Herald printed his speech, were abolitionists and angry at being duped.11 Stewart made light of the issue and paid only a brief visit to Lancaster at the general election in May, when he and his colleague Thomas Greene came in unopposed as reformers.12 He assisted in Renfrewshire and Lanarkshire, where he was caught up in the tumult following Maxwell’s defeat.13 In the House, 29 June 1831, he endorsed his brother’s statement that the disturbance could have been quelled without troops, and attributed the blame to the sheriff’s decision to mount his horse, giving himself an ‘unruly horse as well as an unruly mob’ to manage.

He voted for the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July 1831, and gave it steady support in committee, taking care to inform the press if his name was omitted from the division lists.14 He divided for its third reading, 19 Sept., and passage, 21 Sept., and the second reading of the Scottish bill, 23 Sept. Speaking on the latter, 3 Oct., as ‘one of the Scotchmen billeted on England’, he ridiculed the anti-reformers’ assertions that the tenantry of Scotland were ‘averse to their own enfranchisement’ and its people ‘indifferent’ to the bill’s fate. Citing current population totals, voting statistics and rateable values, he commended the measure as a means of establishing the franchise where it ‘scarcely now exists’ and curtailing the electoral power of the parchment voters and burgh councils. He voted for Lord Ebrington’s confidence motion, 10 Oct., and annoyed the corporation of Lancaster, where his speech on the Scottish bill had been circulated, by turning the civic feast on the 22nd into a celebration of reform.15 He divided for the revised English reform bill at its second reading, 17 Dec. 1831, steadily for its details and for its third reading, 22 Mar. 1832. He voted for the address calling on the king to appoint only ministers who would carry it unimpaired, 10 May, and for the second reading of the Irish reform bill, 25 May. Opposing a Conservative amendment to increase the Scottish county representation, which he dismissed as ‘a little bit of a gasconade’, 1 June, he spoke again of the likely benefits of the measure and pointed out that Scots like himself could still come in for English seats. Undeterred by ministers’ hostility, he joined Michael in promoting their local interests, 15 June, when they opposed Cutlar Fergusson’s amendment (defeated 73-47) to join Port Glasgow to the new Greenock constituency, and failed by 35-67 to have Kilmarnock transferred from the Renfrew to the Ayr district, and Inverary and Campbeltown moved from Ayr to Renfrew. He voted against the amendment to prevent the dismemberment of Perthshire that day, and on the 27th supported an unsuccessful motion to join Peeblesshire and Selkirkshire, in order to give Orkney and Shetland separate representation. On the Dublin election controversy, he voted in the minority for postponing the new writ, 8 Aug., but with government against censuring the Irish administration, 23 Aug. 1831. He also divided with them on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., 12, 16, 20 July, and relations with Portugal, 9 Feb. 1832.

Stewart was added to the planters and merchants’ subcommittee ‘for managing the question of the admission of molasses to use in breweries and distilleries’, 30 June,16 and presented the Liverpool merchants’ petition against renewing the Sugar Refinery Act, on which government faced possible defeat, 5 Sept., and divided against them, 12 Sept. 1831. He argued that day that the measure contravened the principles of free trade and was likely to boost sugar production where slavery was permitted, so impoverishing British West Indian planters and doing nothing to assist the slaves. He reaffirmed his opposition to the bill’s principle, 13 Oct. 1831, but refrained from further criticism, encouraging speculation by Robert Gordon and others of ‘a job’. Supporting Lord Chandos’s amendment for lowering the sugar duties, 7 Mar. 1832, he quoted extracts from Huskisson’s speech of 21 June 1830 (which he had heard) to try to boost the merchants’ case and demonstrate the anti-colonial temper of the House. He naturally pressed for concessions for the West Indies under the customs duties bill, 25 July 1832. An Act of 21 July 1831 passed by the Tobago legislature naming their former speaker Christopher Irvine as agent had compromised Stewart’s status and business as the colony’s banker, and between 10 July and 27 Nov. 1832, when matters were finally resolved in his favour, he engaged in acrimonious written exchanges with Howick and his principal Lord Goderich, during which he applied independently to the colonists for support, rallied the merchants and planters and threatened to raise the matter in the House.17

Stewart was returned unopposed for Lancaster as a Liberal in 1832 and 1835, despite mounting concern over his stance on slavery and joint-stock enterprises. Defeated there in 1837, at the 1841 general election he recaptured the Renfrewshire seat lost to the Conservatives following his brother’s death in 1836.18 A leading opponent of the Bank’s London monopoly and financier of utility and transport companies, he died unmarried at Carnock House, October 1846, a fortnight after contracting a cholera-like illness.19 By his will, dated 14 Oct. 1840 and proved under £30,000 in the province of Canterbury, 16 Nov. 1846, he ordered the sale of Charlottesville, his Tobago estate, bequeathing the proceeds to his brother Houston, to whom, with his brother-in-law John Osborne and partner George Smith Cundell, he left his heritable property in Scotland and English assets, less £8,000 placed in trust for the children of his late brother John.20

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Margaret Escott


  • 1. J.F. Mitchell, ‘Renfrew M.I.’ [BL J/X705/84].
  • 2. Glasgow Central Lib. Shaw Stewart of Ardgowan mss (NRA 14672), T-ARD1/6354; T-ARD9/3, 4; Ardgowan estate mss (NRA 14672), bdle. 98, Stewart to fa. Oct. 1812; H.I. Woodcock, Hist. Tobago (1867), app.
  • 3. Ardgowan estate mss, bdle. 69, Stewart to fa. 25 Apr. 1819; bdle. 98, same to same, Feb. 1814; bdle. 100/9/1 (Sir Michael Shaw Stewart’s journal of his continental tour, 1814-15).
  • 4. Lancaster Gazette, 24 July 1830.
  • 5. R. Thom, Shaw’s Water Scheme (1829) [BL C.T. 226.]; Inst. of Commonwealth Stud. M915/4/3, 20, 26, 43, 49, 72, 77, 82, 90, 92, 95.
  • 6. TNA CO285/30/104; 31/140; 32/106, 249, 319, 358; H. Craig, Legislative Council of Trinidad and Tobago, 18.
  • 7. Derby mss 920 Der (14) box 62, Huskisson to Smith Stanley, 12 Sept., Stewart to J. Maxwell, 21 Sept. 1827; Greenock Advertiser, 13, 17 Aug. 1830.
  • 8. Lancaster Gazette, 7 Aug. 1830; Lancaster Herald, 5, 12, 19, 26 Mar. 1831.
  • 9. Macpherson Grant mss 361, J.M. to G. Macpherson Grant, 2-4 Apr. 1831.
  • 10. Inst. of Commonwealth Stud. M915/4/167, 169.
  • 11. St. Deiniol’s Lib. Glynne-Gladstone mss 198, T. to J. Gladstone, 16 Apr.; Lancaster Herald, 23 Apr. 1831.
  • 12. Lancaster Herald, 30 Apr., 7 May 1831.
  • 13. Glasgow Herald, 9, 16 May 1831.
  • 14. The Times, 18 July, 10 Aug. 1831.
  • 15. Lancaster Herald, 15 Oct., 5 Nov.; Lancaster Gazette, 22 Oct. 1831.
  • 16. Inst. of Commonwealth Stud. M915/4/181, 191.
  • 17. TNA CO285/38/82-88; 39/356-9; 286/7/72-78; Add. 40880, f. 337.
  • 18. Lancaster Herald, 15 Dec. 1832; N. Gash, Politics in Age of Peel, 363; Scottish Electoral Politics, 256, 266.
  • 19. L. Ragatz, Fall of Planter Class in British Caribbean, 95; Renfrewshire Advertiser, 7 Nov. 1846; Gent. Mag. (1847), i. 85-86.
  • 20. PROB 11/2045/840; IR26/1755/848; The Times, 27 Nov. 1846.