BAILLIE, Evan (?1741-1835), of Bristol, Glos. and Dochfour, Inverness.
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Family and Education
b. ?1741, 3rd s. of Hugh Baillie of Dochfour by Emilia, da. of Alexander Fraser of Reelick, Inverness; bro. of James Baillie*. m. Mary, da. of Peter Gurley of St. Vincent, W.I., 3s. (1 d.v.p.); 2s. 2da. (1 d.v.p.) all illegit.1 suc. bro. Alexander Baillie to Dochfour 1798.
Sheriff, Bristol 1786-7.
Lt.-col. R. Bristol vols. 1797, col. 1798, 1803-14.
Baillie’s early life is obscure, but the ‘misfortune’ of a ‘fatal neglect’ in his formal education proved to be no handicap. By the 1780s he was established as a West India merchant in Bristol, where he founded the successful mercantile house which was later known as Evan Baillie, Sons Co. Whether he had ever been to the West Indies is not known, but he owned plantations there. He became a common councilman of Bristol in 1785, served as sheriff the following year, was one of the committee of local merchants formed to defend the slave trade in 1789, declined the mayoralty in 1796 and was elected an alderman in 1802. He took a leading part in the raising of the Bristol volunteers in 1797.2 On the death of his eldest brother Alexander in 1798 he succeeded to the family property in Inverness-shire, and he subsequently purchased more land in northern Scotland. He became a partner in and one of the two principal creditors of a hemp manufacturing business in Inverness-shire known as Mackintosh, Grant and Company, and also had a stake in an associated thread factory.3
At the general election of 1802 Baillie came forward for Bristol ‘on the Whig interest’ supported by leading fellow merchants and forced an outsider, Sir Frederick Morton Eden, to give up his candidature. He was returned unopposed, as he was again in 1806 and 1807. He belonged neither to the Whig Club nor to Brooks’s and is not known to have opposed the Addington administration. As chairman of the committee appointed to investigate the claims of Grenada and St Vincent planters for financial relief, he reported its findings to the House, 9 Mar. 1803, presented the resulting bill extending the period for their repayment of loans, 17 Mar., and spoke briefly on its passage through the Commons, 30 Mar. and 1 Apr. 1803. On 9 June 1804 he wrote to his eldest son Peter, who was minding the shop in Bristol:
I am really a good deal fatigued today, having been out of bed two nights running to three o’clock in the morning. Last night I gave my first vote to Mr Pitt on his defence bill. It think it nevertheless but a weak measure, but no other was offered, and it is not consonant to my public opinions to embarrass the hands of government in time of war.
(His name was erroneously included in the list of the minority on this occasion and in the cumulative list of opponents of the bill in the Morning Chronicle of 18 June, but was omitted from the final cumulative list in the Chronicle of 21 June.) Lamenting ‘how very feeble our attempts have been to oppose’ the slave trade abolition bill currently before the House, he commented to Peter, 13 June:
The frenzy that has seized all parties on this subject is most unaccountable. I confess it alarms me most seriously, and it will induce me to think of abridging my West India business within very limited bounds ... abolition must prove a most fatal stab to West India credit, as it renders all security on estates highly precarious, having no promise or engagement to prevent any fanatical minister from sanctioning even a measure of emancipation.
His ‘attendance in the House for four or five nights in the week’ became ‘more and more unpleasant and fatiguing’ (15 June) and a sharp attack of jaundice laid him low and forced him to ‘give up the House of Commons for the rest of the session’, 4 July 1804.4
Baillie was listed under ‘Pitt’ in the ministerial analysis of September 1804, as he was again in July 1805, after voting against the censure of Melville, 8 Apr. He voted for the Grenville ministry’s repeal of the Additional Force Act, 30 Apr. 1806, but did not rally to them when they came to grief on the Catholic question in 1807. They did not consider him to be ‘adverse’ to the abolition of the slave trade and he was not among those who made a last stand against the measure in March 1807.
Baillie’s only known vote against the Portland ministry was on the Duke of York scandal, 15 Mar. 1809. Soon afterwards he fell ill, but he had recovered by July, when he went to Dochfour. He had recently failed in an attempt to procure a collectorship of customs for a supporter at Bristol. He had had little expectation of success, but was ‘hurt’ that the individual concerned and members of the Independent and Constitutional Club, formed after his election in 1802, ‘should be disappointed’ and accordingly instructed his son (to whom he wrote regularly with advice on the management of the family business) to tell Robert Claxton, chairman of the Club, that
I feel the circumstance of our disappointment, and if he and the Club approves of it, I shall for the present decline asking the ministry for any other appointment, or if they should require it, I shall with much pleasure apply for the Chiltern Hundreds.
‘I shall not intrude myself on the present ministry (with my own consent)’, he later wrote, ‘while I continue in Parliament.’5
Baillie returned to Bristol for the winter, went to London in February 1810 and voted against the Perceval ministry on the Scheldt inquiry, 23 Feb. and 5 Mar.6 The Whigs were ‘hopeful’ of and received his support in the crucial division on the Scheldt, 30 Mar. He was back in Bristol by May 1810 and on the 13th wrote to his son:
From the thin attendance of the House on such important questions as are now agitated, I think it would be idle for me to go to town at all this session, especially as I have so good a plea as indisposition, and therefore I have made up my mind to set off for Dochfour on the second day of next month.7
He returned to Bristol in October 1810 and was summoned to London by the Whigs for the division on the Regency bill, 21 Jan. 1811, but did not go up. He later admitted that he had not attended Parliament at all during 1811, because of his own poor health and concern for the welfare of Peter Baillie, who died in September, and in July he told his leading supporters at Bristol that he would retire at the dissolution. No trace of parliamentary activity by Baillie has been found for 1812 and on 27 May he was granted six weeks’ leave of absence because of illness.8
After his retirement from Parliament he lived mainly at Dochfour, leaving active management of the Bristol business to his two surviving legitimate sons who, like their late brother, also became partners in the Bristol Old Bank. He resigned as an alderman of Bristol in 1821, pleading ‘old age and infirmity’, but did not die until 28 June 1835, in his ‘95th year’. His estate, exclusive of his Scottish property, was valued at £80,000.