URE, Masterton (1777-1863), of 8 Lower Grosvenor Street and 16 Lower Brook Street, Mdx.
Available from Cambridge University Press
Family and Educationb. 3 Apr. 1777,1 4th s. of Rev. Robert Ure (d. 1803), DD, minister of Airth, Stirling, and Anne, da. of James Laurie of Burngrange. educ. Glasgow Univ. 1790. unm. d. 10 Mar. 1863.
Writer to signet 1799.
Ure, an obscure Scottish attorney, was a younger son of a Stirlingshire minister, whose wife (d. 8 Aug. 1817, in Edinburgh) was the niece of James Masterton, ministerialist Member for Stirling Burghs, 1768-74.2 As the leading trustee of the estate of the late Sir John Lowther Johnstone† of Westerhall, Dumfriesshire, and guardian of his son George Frederic Johnstone†, Ure managed the turbulent borough of Weymouth, where he returned himself from 1813. At the general election of 1818 he came to terms with his principal opponents, allowing the ‘town’ interest to return two Members, while he was elected with Thomas Wallace, vice-president of the board of trade, on behalf of the ‘trustees’.3 This ‘union’ compromise was repeated at the general election two years later, when he issued an address professing his strong attachment to the constitution ‘in church and state’ and was returned unopposed.4 That year he again expressed his confidence in the prime minister, Lord Liverpool, who replied that he entertained ‘a just sense of your friendly support to government’, but declined to provide him with a sinecure compatible with a seat in Parliament or to promote his brother James, comptroller of customs at Leith.5
Ure, who was active in the political affairs of Weymouth, was entrusted with the corporation’s loyal addresses to George IV in early 1820 and oversaw the passage of the Weymouth bridge bill that year.6 Yet his influence was by no means secure, and his wayward handling of property acquisitions and local patronage increasingly lost him the confidence of Lady Johnstone, the young heir’s mother, and her friends.7 It may even have been at her behest that he was denied a clerkship in the court of session, to which her brother John Gordon*, who coveted his seat, had heard that Ure was to be appointed.8 An attempt was also made to select a collector of rents at Weymouth who would be independent of the Johnstone trustees, as it was said that this would ‘abridge Ure’s power’ and that ‘he will have no ground whatever of making a charge of remuneration for his trouble, so that the £1,000 a year he has been charging will be done away’.9 In July 1820 he rebutted Wallace’s accusation that he had begun to usurp the interest for his own ends, writing that
I will not here recapitulate all that passed at the last election. But I will assert without the hazard of contradiction that my conduct towards yourself, was as friendly and as honourable as that of any man on earth could be. It has ever been my anxious wish to do all in my power to promote Lady Johnstone’s wishes in the management of the affairs. And I opposed these in the cases I have mentioned because I felt it my duty to the family to do so.10
Whatever the extent of his influence, it was gradually eclipsed over the following decade, as the young baronet approached his majority, and Gordon and Lady Johnstone’s second husband Richard Weyland* played an increasingly assertive part in electoral matters.
Ure, who usually divided silently with ministers when present, voted against Lord John Russell’s parliamentary reform resolutions, 9 May, and reform of the Scottish representative system, 10 May 1821. He obtained leave to introduce the Irish and colonial securities bill, 28 Mar., and presented it, 2 Apr.; it became law on 24 June 1822.11 He voted against repeal of the Foreign Enlistment Act, 16 Apr., and inquiries into the legal proceedings against the Dublin Orange rioters, 22 Apr., and chancery administration, 5 June 1823. He accompanied Wallace on his visit to Weymouth in November 1823, and presumably oversaw his unopposed return at a by-election early the following year.12 No evidence of parliamentary activity has been found for the 1824 session, although in the following one he was reported to have ‘attended occasionally, and voted with ministers’.13 He divided for the Irish unlawful societies bill, 25 Feb., and (as he had on 28 Feb. 1821 and 30 Apr. 1822) against Catholic relief, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May 1825. He secured leave to introduce the Weymouth harbour bill, 17 Mar., and sponsored its passage through the Commons.14 Commenting on the West India Company bill, he deprecated attacks on slavery, 29 Mar. He attended the mayoral dinner in Weymouth, 21 Sept. 1825, when he praised the national economic recovery and various local improvements.15 He voted against condemning the Jamaican slave trials, 2 Mar., and against altering the representation of Edinburgh, 13 Apr. On 19 Apr. 1826 he told James Brougham*, whom he consulted on his affairs, that illness had forced him to leave the Commons the previous night.16
At the general election that summer Ure was so strongly attacked that he was afterwards forced to publish his accounts in order to vindicate his financial rectitude as a trustee of the Johnstone interest.17 Not only was he accused of mismanagement, but one anonymous handbill condemned him for having ‘always been a mere aye and noe automaton in the House, innocently and immaculately nodding this way and that, just as the minister of the day directs’. He defended his conduct at a meeting in Weymouth, 22 May, issued explanatory addresses on 7 and 28 June 1826 and praised his supporters for rallying to him. But he was opposed first by Weyland and then by Gordon, who jointly threatened him with legal action on behalf of the family. Although he was returned in fourth place, with Wallace, his other nominee was defeated by Gordon after a bitter contest.18 On receiving a peerage in early 1828, Wallace recorded that he had tried to consult Ure, ‘but he is not come from Brighton; I wonder at this because it was so probable that if there was a change of government my seat would be in one way or other affected’.19 He presumably gave his support to Edward Sugden*, the ministerialist candidate, at the subsequent by-election, when Sugden’s opponent Weyland was assisted by Gordon, who soon became a trustee for the Johnstone family and considerably undermined Ure’s position.20 Ure divided against Catholic relief, 6 Mar. 1827, 12 May 1828, and repeal of the Test Acts, 26 Feb. He voted with the Wellington ministry against inquiry into chancery administration, 24 Apr., and reduction of the salary of the lieutenant-general of the ordnance, 4 July 1828. In February 1829 he was listed by Planta, the patronage secretary, as likely to vote ‘with government’ for Catholic emancipation, but in fact he cast no known votes that session. In June 1829 he applied to Wellington for assistance in securing Sugden’s return at a by-election, but seems to have played little part in it.21 He voted against transferring East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 11 Feb., and the enfranchisement of Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, 23 Feb. 1830. He divided against Jewish emancipation, 5 Apr., 17 May. He was returned unopposed for Weymouth at the general election in August 1830, when he declared that although he had opposed emancipation he believed that it had done no harm, and he expressed his approval of other ministerial measures.22
Ure’s name was omitted from ministers’ survey of the new Commons (unless he was the ‘M. Vere’ listed among their ‘friends’), but he divided in their minority on the civil list, 15 Nov. 1830. He presented the Weymouth anti-reform petition, 21 Mar., and voted against the second reading of the Grey ministry’s reform bill, 22 Mar., and for Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831. At the ensuing general election he was returned after a token contest, during which he said that he favoured disfranchising out-voters and enfranchising large towns, but opposed expanding the Irish Catholic representation and reducing the number of Weymouth seats from four to two.23 He was involved in the brief abortive attempt to return Michael George Prendergast* against Gordon’s candidate at the by-election which occurred later that summer, when he otherwise acquiesced in the return of Charles Baring Wall.24 He divided against the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, and for postponing consideration of the partial disfranchisement of Chippenham, 27 July. He stated that he objected to the bill ‘so far as it affects towns, where no decay has taken place in the population’ according to the 1831 census, 6 Aug., when he urged that Weymouth and Melcombe Regis be allowed to retain three Members. He voted against the passage of the bill, 21 Sept., and the second reading of the Scottish reform bill, 23 Sept. He divided against the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831, paired against going into committee on it, 20 Jan., and voted against the enfranchisement of Tower Hamlets, 28 Feb., and the third reading, 22 Mar. 1832. His only other known votes were against the third reading of the malt drawback bill, 2 Apr., and with opposition against the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., 12 July 1832. As Johnstone had come of age in January that year, Ure’s powers as trustee and guardian no doubt lapsed, and he exercised no further influence at Weymouth. It was announced in October that the ‘extremely precarious’ state of his health would deprive his constituents of his assiduous services at the dissolution, and there was no question of Johnstone inviting him to stand at the general election in December 1832.25 He is not known ever to have sought a seat elsewhere. He died in March 1863, at his then residence, 45 Park Street, Middlesex.26
Ref Volumes: 1820-1832
Author: Stephen Farrell
- 1. Soc. of Writers to Signet (1936), 351.
- 2. Burke LG (1846), ii. 1126; Gent. Mag. (1817), ii. 189.
- 3. HP Commons, 1790-1820, ii. 143-7; v. 428.
- 4. Western Flying Post, 28 Feb., 13 Mar. 1820.
- 5. Add. 38282, f. 329; 38283, ff. 95, 121; 38288, ff. 278, 280.
- 6. Western Flying Post, 27 Mar., 22 May 1820; Weymouth Mus. Weymouth and Melcombe Regis borough recs. 110.MB1, p. 293; CJ, lxxv. 128, 177, 290, 336, 353.
- 7. Northumb. RO, Middleton mss ZMI/S76/34/1; 40/3, 5-7, 9, 11, 13, 23.
- 8. Ibid. S76/40/8.
- 9. Ibid. S76/40/25.
- 10. Ibid. S76/30/23; 34/1-7.
- 11. The Times, 29 Mar. 1822.
- 12. Salisbury Jnl. 1 Dec. 1823.
- 13. Session of Parl. 1825, p. 488.
- 14. CJ, lxxx. 217, 225, 242, 460, 479.
- 15. Dorset Co. Chron. 29 Sept. 1825.
- 16. Brougham mss.
- 17. Dorset RO D705 L2, Extracts from the Accounts of Masterton Ure, Esq. Sworn by him on the 10th of May 1825.
- 18. Dorset Co. Chron. 6 Apr., 25 May, 1, 8, 15, 22, 29 June, 6, 20 July; The Times, 22, 24, 30 June 1826.
- 19. Middleton mss S76/49/25.
- 20. The Times, 5 Feb. 1828; [W. Carpenter], People’s Bk. (1831), 374.
- 21. Wellington mss WP1/1025/31.
- 22. Dorset Co. Chron. 5 Aug. 1830.
- 23. Ibid. 5 May 1831.
- 24. Brougham mss, Prendergast to Brougham, 8 June 1831.
- 25. Dorset Co. Chron. 18 Oct. 1832.
- 26. Gent. Mag. (1863), i. 532.