MACKILLOP, James (1786-1870), of 4 Montagu Square, Mdx.

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



1830 - 1832

Family and Education

bap. 17 July 1786,1 1st s. of John Mackillop and Mary, da. of Robert Downie of Kilmadock, Perth. unm. d. 27 Jan. 1870.

Offices Held


Little is known of Mackillop’s family background, other than that his parents were married at Kilmadock in 1781.2 His baptismal record and the matriculation record of George Mackillop, almost certainly his younger brother, at Glasgow University in 1807, indicate that their father was a farmer at St. Ninians, Stirling. By then James Mackillop was in Calcutta, working in the agency house in which his uncle Robert Downie* was a partner. When Downie left India in 1811, Mackillop became a partner with George Cruttenden, and the agency of Cruttenden, Mackillop and Company was one of the half-dozen firms which dominated the economy of Bengal in the early nineteenth century. By 1824 Mackillop’s active partners were his brother George, their uncle James Cullen, and David Bryce.3 He returned to Britain at about this time and joined the London mercantile house and East India agency of Palmer’s, Mackillop and Company (formerly Palmer, Wilson and Company) of 11 King’s Arms Yard, Coleman Street. His chief partners were the brothers John Horsley Palmer, a director of the Bank of England, and George Palmer, later Member for Essex South. At the general election of 1826 he joined James Adam Gordon in a bid to overturn the Whig 3rd earl of Darlington’s interest at Tregony. After a three-day contest, rival returning officers each sent in returns, but the House declared the indenture naming Gordon and Mackillop invalid, 29 Nov. 1826; their subsequent petition was unsuccessful.4 However, Gordon later purchased Darlington’s property and in 1830 he returned himself and Mackillop, after a contest; they survived a petition.5

The Wellington ministry listed Mackillop as one of their ‘friends’, and he voted with them in the crucial division on the civil list, 15 Nov. 1830. He divided against the second reading of the Grey ministry’s reform bill, which proposed to disfranchise Tregony, 22 Mar., and for Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831. At the ensuing general election he was again returned for Tregony, after a contest. He divided against the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July. He voted for use of the 1831 census in determining the disfranchisement schedules, 19 July, against the inclusion of Chippenham in schedule B, 27 July, and making proven payment of rent a prerequisite for voting, 25 Aug., and to preserve the freeholder franchise of the four sluiced boroughs, 2 Sept. He divided against the bill’s passage, 21 Sept. He voted for inquiry into the state of the West India interest, 12 Sept. He divided against the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831, going into committee, 20 Jan., the enfranchisement of Tower Hamlets, 28 Feb., and the third reading, 22 Mar. 1832. He voted for inquiry into the glove trade, 3 Apr., and an Irish absentee tax, 19 June. He divided against government on the Russian-Dutch loan, 12 July 1832. He is not known to have spoken in debate. Having been a member of the committee appointed by the London East India merchants in 1830 to consider the impending renewal of the Company’s charter, he had returned written answers to questions on Indian trade from the board of control the following year, and was added to the select committee on the Company’s affairs, 22 Feb. 1832.6

At the general election of 1832 Mackillop made a late entry into the field at Southampton, where another Conservative was challenging two reformers. He stressed his credentials as a commercial man, whose expertise would enable him to ‘fill your port with shipping, and your town with trade’. He claimed that he ‘belonged to no political party’ and ‘had always been independent’, but promised to ‘oppose rash innovations’ and support ‘the most rigid economy’ and the elimination of abuses. He finished a very distant fourth.7 The Calcutta agency, which in 1831 was being run by Cullen, Thomas Hutton and Robert Browne, was the last of the major houses to fail, going under in January 1834.8 Mackillop appears to have returned briefly to Bengal, perhaps to set up the new mercantile business of Mackillop, Stewart and Company, of which he was listed as a partner, with Cullen, John Carrington Palmer and J. Stewart in 1838. By 1840 his place had been taken by John Storm, and he had presumably returned home. Mackillop, Stewart and Company were still in operation at 13 Old Court House Street, Calcutta in 1862. The extent of Mackillop’s continued involvement in the London agency is not clear: it was styled Palmer’s, Mackillop, Dent and Company by 1838, and remained as such until the early 1860s, when it became Dent, Palmer and Company. Mackillop died at Nice in January 1870, aged ‘83’. Unaccountably, he was described on his death certificate, issued in the British consulate, as a retired lieutenant-colonel (full pay) of the 17th regiment; but no trace of him has been found in the army lists. He left his London house and the residue of his estate to his nephew, Charles William Mackillop, an Indian civil servant; his personalty was sworn under £250,000.

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: David R. Fisher


  • 1. IGI (Stirlingshire).
  • 2. IGI (Perthshire).
  • 3. Scots Abroad ed. R.A. Cage, 199; S.B. Singh, European Agency Houses in Bengal, 12, 33, 123-4; A. Tripathi, Trade and Finance in Bengal, 143.
  • 4. West Briton, 26 May, 2, 9, 16 June 1826.
  • 5. Ibid. 6 Aug. 1830.
  • 6. PP (1831-2), vi. 506, 516, 518, 520, 531, 541, 567, 572, 574, 576.
  • 7. Hants Advertiser, 24 Nov., 1, 8, 15 Dec. 1832.
  • 8. Singh, 293; Tripathi, 238, 240.