DOUGLAS, William Robert Keith (c.1783-1859), of The Albany, Mdx.
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Family and Education
b.c.1783, 4th s. of Sir William Douglas†, 4th Bt., of Kelhead, Dumfries by Grace, da. and coh. of William Johnstone of Lockerbie, Dumfries. m. 24 Nov. 1821, Elizabeth, da. of Walter Irvine of Tobago, and Luddington House, Surr., 4s. 3da. Granted patent of precedence as yr. bro. of a marquess 4 May 1837.
Ld. of Admiralty Feb.-Mar. 1822, Feb. 1824-May 1827, member of Admiralty council May 1827-Feb. 1828.
Douglas was returned unopposed for Dumfries Burghs. His eldest brother Charles, who in 1810 had become 5th Marquess of Queensberry, arranged it with the Duke of Buccleuch.1 He was listed a supporter of government and so proved, with occasional variations. He voted for Catholic relief on 2 Mar. but was absent on 24 May 1813, against it on 21 May 1816 and for it on 9 May 1817. His maiden speech was strongly in support of the Corn Laws, 5 May 1814. A report that he voted in the majority against Whitbread’s motion on the plight of the Spanish Liberals on 1 Mar. 1815 was afterwards contradicted,2 but he was in the ministerial majority of 31 May on the Regent’s expenditure, as also on the army estimates, 6 and 8 Mar. 1816. He was in the majority against the property tax, 18 Mar.: on this question he was goaded by Brougham, who stated in the debate that Douglas’s constituents had presented their petitions against the tax through him, because they supposed Douglas to be at odds with them. Douglas huffily denied this. On 24 Apr. he presented his constituents’ petition on behalf of the Spanish Liberals, one of whom was a native of Dumfries. He rallied to ministers on civil list questions, 6 and 24 May; on the Irish vice-treasurership, 20 June; on the composition of the finance committee, 7 Feb. 1817; and on the Admiralty questions of 17 and 25 Feb. He opposed the civil service pension bill, 19 May and 10 June, explaining that he preferred rewarding public services by sinecure. He voted for the suspension of habeas corpus and its operation, in Scotland and elsewhere, 23 June 1817, 10 and 11 Feb. 1818, but, resisting government overtures,3 supported the amendment against the Duke of Clarence’s marriage grant, 15 Apr. He also opposed the extension of the inquiry into bank-note forgeries proposed by the chancellor of the Exchequer, 14 May. On 3 July he was an advocate of the relief of the Newfoundland merchants.
Douglas’s tendency to follow an independent line was reinforced by the agitation for Scottish burgh reform in the Parliament of 1818. On 23 Mar. 1819 he was a spokesman for the overhaul of burgh financial administration and urged that the experiment at Montrose should be extended to Aberdeen. He supported the lord advocate’s bill on the subject, 26 Apr., and on 6 May he advocated and voted for a committee of inquiry into the burghs and was placed on it. As a member of the Camelford election committee, he was in the minority against the issue of a new writ until the committee’s report had been analysed, 8 Apr. On 18 May, however, he was in the government majority against Tierney’s censure motion. Then on 14 June he joined the minority on the cash payments bill. On 21 and 27 Dec. 1819 he favoured inquiry into distress in the manufacturing districts and in the trades both in Scotland and throughout the country. Douglas died 5 Dec. 1859.