Peeblesshire (Tweeddale)

Scottish County

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Number of voters:

about 30 in 17121


 William Morison
8 Jan. 1712ALEXANDER MURRAY re-elected after appointment to office
 Alexander Murray of Cringletie

Main Article

In 1686 the hereditary sheriffdom of Peeblesshire had been sold by the Earl of Tweeddale, together with Neidpath Castle and its estates, to the 1st Duke of Queensberry, and in 1693 Queensberry transferred these lands and the sheriffdom to his second son, William, created Earl of March. In the 1702 election to the Scottish parliament, the county returned two loyal followers of the 2nd Duke of Queensberry: Alexander Horsburgh of that ilk and William Morison of Prestongrange. Morison was the stronger courtier and, having served as a union commissioner in 1706, was favoured with inclusion in the Scottish representation at the first Parliament of Great Britain. He was the unanimous choice of his constituents at the first election after the Union. Meanwhile, the March interest had been undermined by the death of the 1st earl in 1705, leaving as his heir a young child, and the task of defending the family’s electoral predominance devolved on the dowager Countess of March.2

In 1710 Alexander Murray of Stanhope, an episcopalian and future Jacobite, defeated Morison by ‘a considerable majority’. The fact that Murray resided locally, whereas Morison was an absentee proprietor, may have been significant. Murray also enjoyed political influence through his kinship by marriage with the Squadrone leader George Baillie*. Morison petitioned unsuccessfully against the return, complaining that ‘several persons were permitted to vote for Murray . . . who had no right, and several good votes for the petitioner were refused’. At a by-election in 1712, necessitated by Murray’s acceptance of a minor office, the March interest endorsed the candidacy of Alexander Murray† of Cringletie. The sitting Member complained to the Court peer Lord Mar in November that an influential Jacobite laird, Sir Alexander Murray of Blackbarony, had been persuaded by Lady March

to carry up her tail, and though he . . . dare not in honour vote himself, yet he has influenced all his friends (who otherwise would have been mine) in the other’s favour . . . In spite of both I have good ground to hope for success, seeing your lordship will find by the enclosed list . . . I have still an equality of the whole and a majority of the last roll of electors which your lordship knows may be of use in case of necessity.

His calculations involved a total of 33 voters (including both candidates), divided into 17 supporters and 16 probable opponents. Of those listed, five were not yet enrolled, only one of whom had been included among Murray’s supporters. He also enclosed an additional list of four of ‘my Lady March’s and Blackbarony’s friends, to be managed’, including the former Member Morison:

I know [the Earl of] Glasgow has the great management of him, whom I shall get my Lord Polwarth [Baillie’s brother-in-law] to speak to, if your lordship thinks fit. I fancy likewise his young ally [Viscount] Arbuthnott [Morison’s son-in-law] may have weight, if he and his uncle the Baron Maitland [Alexander*] would take the right method with him, to make him sensible (if that were possible) of the slight my Lady March has put upon him at present and the hopes of bettering his haven for his standing by the Court at this occasion.

It was an astute suggestion to exploit Morison’s disappointment over a recent private bill for improving a harbour on his Haddingtonshire estate, but this was probably an inadequate lever to make him defect. Nevertheless, Murray had done enough in the way of management to defeat his opponent ‘by a considerable plurality of voices’ in a ‘full meeting of freeholders’.3

During the last session of the 1710 Parliament Murray was actively involved in the campaign to dissolve the Union and had made an overconfident prophecy that the 1713 election would see the return of Scots Members ‘loaded with instructions from their constituents’. To this end Murray himself drafted (though perhaps never delivered) an intemperate speech to be delivered to the freeholders of Peeblesshire:

Gentlemen . . . it may appear equally superfluous and needless to acquaint you . . . that this Union, carried on by a handful of designing men, men did I call ’em? Nay, rather monsters in human shape, predators, putrid, execrable traitors whose stigma will remain while the world subsists, and the son and moon endures. And therefore gent[lemen] let us pluck up true Scots hearts and fully consent to the subscription to this address. . . . There is one thing more that I would heartily recommend to you which is that you would take care when anything occurs in relation to the poor episcopal clergy to protect them from the cruelty, tyranny and oppression of their enemies.

No address seems to have materialized. Yet, Murray’s sentiments may have chimed with those of the lesser gentry, many of whom were Jacobite sympathizers. For personal and financial reasons, however, Murray decided against standing in 1713. He also realized that Morison would ‘have my Lord March’s interest and is like to be the man’. Significantly, Murray made no reference to Lady March, but deemed the interest to be under the control of the young Earl himself, who was now approaching his majority. Morison was elected without opposition, and the resurgence of the March interest was confirmed by the uncontested return of Murray of Cringletie in 1715. Murray of Stanhope did not attempt to recapture the seat until 1732.4

Author: David Wilkinson


  • 1. SRO, Mar and Kellie mss GD124/15/1045, Murray of Stanhope to Mar, n.d. [Nov. 1711].
  • 2. APS, vii. 354; Hist. Peeblesshire ed. Buchan, iii. 121; P. W. J. Riley, King Wm. and Scot. Politicians, 172-3; Riley, Union, 109; Hist. Scot. Parl. 361-2; Edinburgh Courant, 9-11 June 1708; SRO, Clerk of Penicuik mss GD18/3143, Lady March to Sir John Clerk, 7 Oct. 1710.
  • 3. Scots Courant, 3-6 Nov. 1710, 9-11 Jan. 1712; SRO, Hume of Marchmont mss GD158/1257/4, Baillie to [?Polwarth], 28 Oct. 1710; Mar and Kellie mss GD124/15/1045, Murray to Mar, n.d. [Nov. 1711]; Clerk of Penicuik mss GD18/3145, Lady March to Clerk, 30 Nov. 1711.
  • 4. NLS, Murray pprs. 2, ff. 34-35; NLS, Sutherland mss Dep. 313/572, Alexander Ross to Ld. Strathnaver (William Sutherland*), 17 Sept. 1713; Add. 70249, Murray to Ld. Oxford (Robert Harley*), 31 May 1713; 70322, draft speech [1713]; R. M. Sunter, Patronage and Pol. in Scotland, 148-61.