MAULE, Hon. William Ramsay (1771-1852), of Panmure and Brechin Castle, Forfar

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



24 Apr. 1796 - 1796
24 June 1805 - 10 Sept. 1831

Family and Education

b. 27 Oct. 1771, 2nd. s. of George Ramsay, 8th earl of Dalhousie [S], and Elizabeth, da. of Andrew Glen; bro. of Hon. John Ramsay†. educ. Edinburgh h.s. 1780-4. m. (1) 1 Dec. 1794, Patricia Heron (d. 11 May 1821), da. of Gilbert Gordon of Hallseaths, Dumfries, 3s. 7da. (2 d.v.p.); (2) 4 June 1822, Elizabeth, da. of John William Barton of Hospitalfield, Forfar, s.p. suc. fa. under entail in 1787 to Panmure estates of his gt.-uncle William Maule†, 1st earl of Panmure [I] (d. 1782), having taken name of Maule in 1782; cr. Bar. Panmure 10 Sept. 1831. d. 13 Apr. 1852.

Offices Held

Cornet 11 Drag. 1788; capt. Ind. Co. Ft. 1791 (disbanded same year); half-pay 1791; ret. 1825.

Lt. W. Lowland fencibles 1793, capt.-lt. 1793, capt. 1794; maj. commdt. Forfar fencible cav. 1794.


Reviewing Maule’s Commons career in 1852, The Brechin Advertiser commented: ‘Mr. Maule’s displays to Parliament, where he but seldom took part in debates, were more useful than ostentatious, and it was chiefly in committees that his shrewd business talent and strong sagacity rendered him useful as a Member’.1 Renowned by 1820 for the wild excesses of his youth, his violent temper, lavish hospitality and Foxite politics, he had also succeeded in re-establishing the supremacy of the Panmure interest in Forfarshire and its influence in neighbouring counties, and Aberdeen and Perth Burghs; he was a formidable opponent at elections. Despite rumblings of discontent, no Melvillite Tory had been prepared to stand against him since he became Member for Forfarshire in 1805.2 The break-up of his marriage (his wife had left him in 1817 on account his debauchery and adultery) had highlighted his soured and dysfunctional family life, but he stewarded at the Edinburgh dinner to Lord Erskine as usual, 21 Feb. 1820, and was unopposed at the general election in March, when he also promoted the candidature of his political allies Sir Alexander Ramsay* in Kincardineshire and Joseph Hume* in Aberdeen Burghs.3

Maule’s spasmodic attendance in the 1820 Parliament was often attributable to his domestic difficulties: the defiance of his son-and-heir Fox Maule (1801-74) in siding with his mother, who died in May 1821; the elopement and marriage, 1820-4, of four of his daughters; his occasional ill health, and the demands of litigation brought by relations and tenants. He made no major speeches, generally voted with the main Whig opposition on major issues, aligning also occasionally with Hume and the ‘Mountain’ on retrenchment, taxation and certain radical causes, and, according to Guthrie of Craigie, his seconder in Forfarshire in 1826, with the liberal Tories on trade.4 He arrived late for the 1820 session, but divided with Hume for economies in revenue collection, 4 July, and voted against the aliens bill, 7 July 1820. Brechin, which he normally commanded, petitioned on behalf of Queen Caroline, 28 Feb. 1821, but the only record of Maule’s attendance that session is his vote for Catholic relief, 28 Feb. Attending more often in 1822, he voted for a gradual reduction in the salt duty, 28 Feb., and divided steadily with opposition for the next three months, when he was also listed in radical minorities on the estimates, 4, 12, 25 Mar., 1 Apr., and for large tax remissions, 8 May, and voted to receive a Newcastle petition for clemency for Henry Hunt*, which imputed corruption to the House, 22 Mar., and for remission of Hunt’s gaol sentence, 24 Apr. He presented petitions from Forfarshire and Kincardineshire complaining of agricultural distress and the export restrictions imposed on Scottish breweries and distilleries, 25 Apr., 6 May.5 He voted for parliamentary reform, 25 Apr., and Brougham’s motion condemning the influence of the crown, 24 June 1822. His marriage to Elizabeth Barton that month was clandestine. He sent ten ‘fat bucks’ for the king’s table during his Scottish visit and in September 1822 accompanied Hume to a party dinner at Montrose, where their parliamentary conduct was commended.6

No votes by Maule are recorded for the next two sessions. Fox, having come of age, had brought his refusal to grant him settled funds before the court of session, of which Sir Walter Scott gave the 5th duke of Buccleuch’s guardian Lord Montagu the following account, 14 Feb. 1823:

To amuse us within doors we have the cause of young Maule against his father praying for aliment which Cranstoun is just now pleading in my hearing. The liberality of his father has bestowed on him an ensign’s commission and one hundred pounds a year and having thus far discharged his duty to his son he denies the right of the court to take the matter farther into their consideration. The young man’s case is stated with much feeling and delicacy but I doubt, considering the dogged and obstinate temper of the Whiggish tyrant, he had not better have gone to the duke’s place for the necessary money for the unfortunate consequence will be that his father will make waste on the estate, cut down and dispark [disbark] and do twenty times the mischief which old Q. [Queensberry] made at Drumlanrig ... Is it not odd that so generous fine and honourable a character as Dalhousie [the 9th earl (1770-1838)] should have been brother to this he-wolf who would eat his own issue if law would not solemnize such a banquet of Theystes by a hanging match? So much for living with toad-eaters and parasites in the untempered exercise of every whim that comes uppermost till the slightest contradiction becomes an inexpiable crime in those around him.7

The court ruled in favour of Fox, 9 June, but Maule, who appealed to the Lords, 25 June 1823, had the verdict quashed, 1 June 1825. A separate case brought by William Maule of Edinburgh, heir to his father Thomas, the rival claimant by entail to Panmure in 1782, also failed.8 Maule had mixed success with requests to the home secretary Peel in 1824 and 1825 for church patronage for his partisans, an issue with overtones in his theological differences with Fox, who supported the ‘Free Kirk’.9 After receiving three weeks’ leave on account of ill health, 17 Feb., he was present to vote for Catholic relief, 21 Apr., 10 May, paired for repealing the window tax, 17 May, and almost certainly voted to kill the Leith docks bill, 20 May 1825. He divided steadily against the duke of Cumberland’s annuity bill, 30 May-10 June, and for inquiry into chancery delays, 7 June 1825, when he was also in Hume’s minority for information on an appointment to the committee of stationery in Bengal. In 1826 he voted to enforce payment in specie under the promissory notes bill, 27 Feb., presented and endorsed Forfarshire petitions against altering the Scottish banking system, 6, 13 Mar., 13 Apr.,10 paired for the abolition of military flogging, 10 Mar.,11 and voted to reform the representation of Edinburgh, 13 Apr. and in condemnation of electoral bribery, 26 May 1826. On the hustings at the general election, he stated that his political views had not changed for over 20 years and refused to guarantee his future conduct beyond supporting ‘the dignity of the crown, the independence of Parliament, and the rights of the people.12

Maule did not comment on the Forfarshire petitions against corn law revision he presented, 9, 13 Feb. 1827, and is not known to have he voted on the issue.13 He divided for Catholic relief, 6 Mar., information on the magistrates’ handling of the Lisburn Orange marchers, 29 Mar., and inquiries into chancery delays, 4 Apr., and the Irish miscellaneous estimates, 6 Apr. 1827. Realizing that the duke of Wellington’s appointment as premier in January 1828 made his own to the vacant lord lieutenancy of Forfarshire which he coveted impossible, he tactically waived his claim in favour of the Whig moderate Lord Duncan, but failed to prevent the appointment of the Tory 4th earl of Airlie.14 Airlie sounded Wellington about making Maule a deputy lieutenant, but nothing came of it.15 He ordered returns on warehoused spirits in Scotland, 13 Feb., and divided for Catholic relief 12 May 1828. In 1829 he referred fresh claims against him by William Maule and others to the Lords.16 He voted as expected for Catholic emancipation, 6, 30 Mar., and to permit Daniel O’Connell to sit for county Clare without swearing the oath of supremacy, 18 May. He had a petition against the Fifeshire roads bill referred to the select committee and counsel ordered, 25 Mar. His attendance remained lax and he received a month’s sick leave, 9 Mar. 1830. He voted to amend the libel law amendment bill, 6 July, in Hume’s minority of 11 to reduce judges’ salaries under the administration of justice bill, 7 July, and for the abolition of colonial slavery, 13 July 1830. He decided against backing Hume in Aberdeen Burghs at the general election, when Hume came in for Middlesex and his own return was a formality.17

Maule was listed among the Wellington ministry’s ‘foes’ but was absent from the division on the civil list which brought them down, 15 Nov. 1830. From Brechin Castle, 4 Dec., he wrote to the cabinet minister Lord Holland confirming his support for the Grey ministry and requesting a peerage:

I wonder how you could doubt for a moment my warmest support for a ministry of which you, Lord Grey and Lord Lansdowne form a part. To you and them I have invariable [sic] looked as the supporters of the principles of your immortal uncle [Fox], which alone can save the country at the present critical moment. With these principles I started, without fear of punishment, or hope of reward, and with them I shall die, trusting always that you and your friends will never compromise them ... In my grand-uncle’s (the late earl of Panmure) settlements, there is a clause which recommends to me my best endeavours to regain the family titles ... I had nearly asked this favour of the ministry of 1806, but I considered then that I had not given sufficient proof of my attachment to Whig principles to enable me to make such a proposal. This objection, I hope you will allow, is pretty well removed. At the same time, I can assure you, that (barring the clause in Lord Panmure’s settlement) I feel quite content with holding one of the most independent seats in the ... Commons.18

He divided for the government’s English reform bill at its second reading, 22 Mar., and against Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. At the ensuing general election he declared unreservedly ‘for the bill’, sponsored reform candidates, and scotched the anti-reformers’ bid to oppose his return.19 He insisted that the Forfar anti-reform petition presented on 27 June 1831 did not represent his constituents’ views. He voted for the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, and consistently for its details until 3 Sept. 1831, when Holland notified him that he would be a coronation peer.20 He had served briefly on the Glasgow Burghs election committee from which he contrived to be excused attendance on account of gout in his left foot, 25 July, and divided with government on the Dublin election controversy, 23 Aug. 1831.21

His elevation to the Lords, where Belhaven and Dover introduced him (not Holland, as he intended) as Baron Panmure, 13 Sept. 1831, attracted hostile comment on account of his bad character; and his ‘bulky form’ was caricatured being tossed up from a farm wagon by the king to Grey.22 Anti-reformers delighted in his nominee Douglas Gordon Hallyburton’s defeat at the ensuing Forfarshire by-election, but, encouraged by Panmure, Hallyburton succeeded on petition and retained the seat until 1841.23 His influence in Forfarshire and the Montrose Burghs endured and he regularly briefed the Whigs on Forfarshire politics and voted mainly by proxy.24 In a letter to Holland, the patronage secretary Ellice confirmed that Maule’s case for promotion in the peerage to safeguard his estates was genuine: ‘No friend of Mr. Pitt’s would have been allowed to lose an estate of £50,000 a year for want of promotion in the peerage, and Maule has been as steady an adherent of ours, as any of Mr. Pitt’s marquesses were, or those raised by the late king’.25 It was not granted, and he died at Brechin Castle in April 1852 after a long illness, possessed of Forfarshire estates worth an estimated £53,447, and recalled by the Liberal Dundee Advertiser and on the Panmure monument erected in his honour in 1839 as a generous sponsor of local causes.26 Hearing of his death Lord Cockburn, who was staying nearby, observed:

[Panmure was] popular with those who chose to be submissive and to such was never close in the fist. But the virtues were a different matter. To his unfriends - and he made many - he was insanely brutal. His wife, his daughters, and at least two of his three sons, he compelled to fly from his house, his daughters at midnight, and ever after shut his door and heart against them; neither time nor their worth ever abating his mad and savage hatred. And so it was with everyone who incurred the ineffaceable guilt of daring to resist the capricious and intolerant despotism of his will. He would have roasted every soul of them, and their bodies too. A spoiled beast from his infancy. His oldest son, who presumed to save his sisters by helping them out of the house, was the object of his particular hatred: a hatred which the public eminence of the son rather aggravated than lessened.27

Fox, then Liberal Member for Perth and lord lieutenant of Forfarshire, succeeded him as 2nd (and last) Baron Panmure, but was barred from inheriting the estates and ‘all moveables’, which passed, as second son, to Colonel Lauderdale Maule Ramsay† (1807-54). He was killed in the Crimea, having willed his estates to his brother Fox, who in 1860 succeeded their cousin, the Indian viceroy James Andrew Broun Ramsay†, as 11th earl of Dalhousie.28

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Margaret Escott


  • 1. Brechin Advertiser, 20 Apr. 1852.
  • 2. HP Commons, 1790-1820, ii. 539-41; iv. 571-2; R.P. Gillies, Mems. of a Literary Veteran, i. 72.
  • 3. NLS mss 11, f. 7; Caledonian Mercury, 19, 26 Feb., 3 Apr. 1820.
  • 4. The Times, 5 July 1826.
  • 5. Ibid. 26 Apr., 7 May 1822.
  • 6. Ibid. 7 Aug., 25 Sept. 1822.
  • 7. Scott Letters, vii. 331-2.
  • 8. Panmure Pprs. ed. G. Douglas and G.D. Ramsay (1908), i. 5-9; LJ, lvi. 1113; lxvii. 15, 18, 30, 32, 949, 962, 1035, 1199.
  • 9. Add. 40360, ff. 185-72; 40363, f. 24; 40374, ff. 33, 34; I.F. Maciver, ‘Cockburn and the Church’, in Cockburn, a Bicentenary Celebration ed. A. Bell (1979), 75.
  • 10. The Times, 7, 14 Mar., 14 Apr. 1826.
  • 11. Ibid. 15 Mar. 1826.
  • 12. Ibid. 5 July; Kelso Mail, 6 July 1826.
  • 13. The Times, 10, 14 Feb. 1827.
  • 14. Bucks. RO, Buckinghamshire mss O.33, Lansdowne to Goderich, 1 Jan.; O.24, Maule to Duncan, 3 Jan.; Add. 51637, Lansdowne to Holland, 4 Jan. 1828.
  • 15. NLS mss 2, f. 123.
  • 16. LJ, lxi. 9, 97, 205, 216, 475, 481.
  • 17. Stirling Advertiser, 13 Aug.; Scotsman, 14 Aug. 1830.
  • 18. Add. 51835.
  • 19. NAS GD224/525/18/2; Perthshire Courier, 2 June 1831.
  • 20. Add. 51836, Maule to Holland, 3 Sept. 1831.
  • 21. CJ, lxxxvi. 681, 689.
  • 22. Add. 51836, Maule to Holland, 13 Sept.; 69364, Sneyd to Fortescue, 12 Sept. 1831; LJ, lxiii. 920, 972; Arbuthnot Jnl. ii. 429; M.D. George, Cat. of Pol. and Personal Satires, xi. 16979.
  • 23. NLW, Coedymaen mss 1014; Dundee City Archives, Camperdown mss GD/Ca/Tin Box EC/12/11.
  • 24. Add. 51836, Panmure to Holland, 30 Nov. 1831, 22 Dec. 1832; Brougham mss, Panmure to Brougham, 13 July 1837, 12 Jan. 1838.
  • 25. Add. 51587.
  • 26. Brechin Advertiser, 20 Apr. 1852.
  • 27. Cockburn, Circuit Journeys (1983 edn.), 236. For a similar view see Ann. Reg. (1852), App. pp. 272-3.
  • 28. PROB 8/245; 11/2156/582; IR26/1943/614; Oxford DNB sub Maule, William Ramsay and Maule, Fox.