STEUART, Robert (1806-1843), of Alderston, Haddington and 10 Upper Belgrave Street, Mdx.

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



1831 - 10 Aug. 1831

Family and Education

bap. 9 July 1806,1 1st s. of Robert Steuart of Alderston and Louisa Clementina, da. of John Drummond, of Logie Almond, Perth. educ. Braesnose, Oxf. 1824. m. 7 July 1827, Maria, da. of Col. Samuel Dalrymple of Nunraw and North Berwick, Haddington, 1s. 2da. suc. fa. 1827. d. 15 July 1843.

Offices Held

Ld. of treasury Apr. 1835-May 1840; chargé d’affaires and consul general to Colombia 1842-d.


Steuart’s father, who maintained in his will that he was one of the Grantully branch of that family (they relinquished trusteeship of his estate at probate) had business interests in Calcutta, administered for him in later life by his brother-in-law William Hastie (d. 1818) and the latter’s sons. He purchased a 315-acre estate and several holdings in Alderston and nearby Haddington and in 1805 married a granddaughter (d. 1823) of the 3rd earl of Dunmore, on whom property in Nicolson Street, Edinburgh, had been settled. Her brother William Drummond (d. 1828), a writer and diplomat, represented St. Mawes, 1795-6, and Lostwithiel, 1796-1802, on the treasury interest. Robert Steuart died 1 Feb. 1827, worth an estimated £18,000 at probate (including two original shares in East India Company stock), having willed his estates and the bulk of his fortune to Steuart, the eldest of his four children, then an Oxford undergraduate. With the consent of his trustees, his brother-in-law Norman Pringle and the minister of the episcopal chapel in Haddington, James Craill, in July 1827 at North Berwick he married Maria Dalrymple, the daughter of an East Indian army colonel who had died in Madras in 1821.2

Steuart became a commissioner of supply for Haddingtonshire, where he rallied support for the reformers and the Grey ministry at mass meetings and dinners in the winter of 1830-1. After successfully canvassing the councils of Jedburgh and Haddington (who appointed him their delegate), he declared for Haddington Burghs at the general election precipitated by the reform bill’s defeat and was returned by three votes to two after a riotous contest dominated by the kidnapping of the Lauder baillie.3 The ministry’s election managers perceived that this ‘abstraction’ was ‘a sad scrape for Alderston, for it involves him in a committee and may void the election’, and he did not contest the petition against his return.4 He voted for the second reading of the reintroduced English reform bill, 6 July, signed a declaration next day under the 1829 Controverted Election Act that he would not seek re-election for Haddington Burghs that Parliament and ceased attending directly it was presented, 8 July 1831. He had been granted leave that day to introduce a bill to regulate the appointment of solicitors as chief magistrates in the royal burghs. The Haddington return was amended in favour of the defeated candidate Sir Augustus John Dalrymple, 10 Aug. 1831.5

Advocating the ballot, civil registration and church reform, Steuart regularly addressed reform meetings in 1831-2, canvassed continuously and was returned unopposed for Haddington Burghs as a Liberal at the general election of 1832.6 A tall, dark, commanding figure, with ‘an abundant crop of hair’ and ‘partial to large whiskers’, by 1838 he was a well known politician ‘much respected by all parties’.7 He proved to be an effective parliamentarian and junior treasury minister under Lord Melbourne, but his tenure at Haddington became increasingly dependent on government support, and he was defeated there in 1841, seven months after resigning from office on being passed over for the Irish secretaryship.8 In August 1841 he accepted a diplomatic posting to Colombia, where he died of a fever in July 1843.9 His widow (d. 1886) later married William Henry Rainsford Hannay (d. 1856) of Kirkdale, Kirkudbright. His only son Robert Dalrymple Steuart (1836-64) took the additional names of Grossett and Muirhead by royal licence following his marriage in 1863 to the daughter and co-heiress of the late Henry Du Vernet Grossett Muirhead of Bredisholm, Lanarkshire.10

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Margaret Escott


Draws on E.I. Reg. 1800-57, and Steuart’s obituaries in Kelso Chron. 29 Sept. and The Times, 17 Oct. 1843

  • 1. IGI (E. Lothian), which also gives 9 Aug. 1806.
  • 2. Ibid.; MI in Haddington church; PROB 11/1652/13; 1726/325; IR26/897/82; 1144/315; Gent. Mag. (1821), ii. 474; Caledonian Mercury, 20 Nov. 1823, 17 Feb.; Edinburgh Weekly Jnl. 18 July 1827; HP Commons, 1790-1820, iii. 623-5.
  • 3. Berwick Advertiser, 12, 26 Feb., 12, 19 Mar.; Edinburgh Evening Courant, 28 Mar., 4, 9, 25, 30 Apr.; Caledonian Mercury, 28 May; Scotsman, 28 May 1831.
  • 4. Cockburn Letters, 320; CJ, lxxxvi. 551.
  • 5. CJ, lxxxvi. 741; The Times, 9 July, 11 Aug. 1831.
  • 6. Berwick Advertiser, 10 Sept., 19, 26 Nov. 1831, 19 May, 16 June, 22 Dec. 1832.
  • 7. [J. Grant] Random Recollections of Lords and Commons (1838), ii. 318-20.
  • 8. The Times, 9 Aug. 1836, 13, 14 May 1840; Scottish Electoral Politics, 221, 227, 242, 266-7.
  • 9. Gent. Mag. (1843), ii. 546.
  • 10. The Times, 10 Aug. 1863, 11 May 1886.