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Scotland, the Caribbean and the Atlantic World 1750–1820$

Douglas Hamilton

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780719071829

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: July 2012

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719071829.001.0001

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Scots, the Caribbean and British imperial politics

Scots, the Caribbean and British imperial politics

(p.169) Chapter Seven Scots, the Caribbean and British imperial politics
Scotland, the Caribbean and the Atlantic World 1750–1820

Douglas J. Hamilton

Manchester University Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines the role of the Scots in the Caribbean and British imperial politics. The changing face of politics in Scotland from the 1760s impelled more and more Scots to look southwards in search of advancement and they found these opportunities in the West Indies. The frequency of political openings in the Caribbean coincided with the consolidation and greater integration of the home country which allowed Scots greater access to power in London. This chapter suggests that the Scots played an important role in preserving the bonds between the Caribbean colonies and Britain until the final quarter of the eighteenth century.

Keywords:   Scots, Caribbean politics, British imperial politics, West Indies, home country, Caribbean colonies

The expansion of Scottish involvement in politics in the Caribbean mirrored the Scots’ increasingly prominent position in the imperial polity in London. Significantly, as the number of Scots acquiring political influence with the national government increased, so too did the opportunities for political advancement in the islands. Moreover, as well as providing access to opportunities, well-placed Scots in London acted as vehicles for the articulation, in government circles, of the concerns of West India Scots.

The process of acquiring official positions in the West Indies by and for Scots was both a concomitant of, and a further contribution to, the integration of Britain. This, of course, did not pass unnoticed, nor was it uncriticised. Nonetheless, a remarkable number of Scots were able to enter high office in the colonies. The presence of these people in official positions, in the Caribbean and in Britain, provided the networks with access to the highest echelons of government, and thus made them effective lobby groups. The influence of the lobby groups was predicated, to a large extent, on the number of parliamentary votes they could muster. This relationship between the interests of the islands and political authority in Britain can be emphasised still further. Political decisions in Britain influenced affairs in the islands, just as wealth and prestige acquired by Caribbean involvement affected Scotland’s political landscape. The nature of the political relationship between metropolitan authority and colonial sphere was not simply a question of the London government imposing its will on the colonies. The layers of individual and network connections, and their patronage links, added to the shared beliefs in ‘British’ ideals like liberty, Protestantism and loyalty to the Crown that have been outlined in the previous chapter.1 As a result, political events in one part of the British Atlantic world could affect those in another, which, in turn, had implications for the government of the whole. These bonds between Scotland, (p.170) Britain and the Caribbean survived the rupture in the British Atlantic world in 1776, and provided an element of continuity in imperial relations in the area.

The network associations provided for both the generation and the freer flow of patronage, which was an integral part of eighteenth-century British society. While there were profoundly corrupt elements at work within the British polity, there was no automatic correlation between patronage and underhand activity. As one noted historian has pointed out: ‘Every eighteenth-century political actor was fully aware of the distinction between the justifiable and illegitimate uses of “influence”, just as they were familiar with the distinction between venality and patronage. Private connection and public duty were not necessarily incompatible.’2 While Scots’ access to patronage was occasionally derided at the time, it was, in an imperial context, of enormous benefit to policy makers. In a world where transatlantic communication involved a delay of at least three months between the sending of a dispatch and the receipt of the reply, even assuming fine weather and an absence of hostile ships, the ability to appoint someone to one’s bidding, without frequent consultation, was imperative. In short, patronage was essential to the operation of an extended imperial polity in which the modes of communication were at best extremely slow.3

Procuring political office

As Chapter One noted, Lord Bute was the target of a great deal anti-Scottish abuse, but as vitriolic as it may have been, the commentary on Bute’s disbursement of patronage was not without foundation. During his period in office, the islands of Dominica, Grenada, St Vincent and Tobago were ceded to Britain, along with East and West Florida and Quebec. In 1763, General Robert Melville was appointed governor of the Ceded Islands. His compatriot General James Grant of Ballindalloch, using his friendship with Sir Harry Erskine as a means of influencing Bute, became governor of East Florida, while West Florida went to George Johnstone on Bute’s recommendation. As George III wrote, ‘I wish to hear what my D. Friend has thought of decisively for Capt. Johnston. Florida was thought on.’4 In short, the three new governorships in the Caribbean region were all filled by Scots, at the same time as General James Murray, also a Scot with access to Lord Bute, was confirmed as Quebec’s first British civilian governor. In West Florida, Johnstone found among his staff James MacPherson, the author of Ossian, who acquired his post as a direct consequence of Bute’s intervention.5

(p.171) Bute’s brief tenure of office ended in 1763, although his manager in Scotland, his brother James Stuart MacKenzie, survived until 1765. Thereafter, the management of Scotland was entrusted to the lord advocate in Edinburgh. Although direct access to the leading figure in high office had been cut off, Scots still maintained avenues through which patronage could be directed. Bute himself still had parliamentary influence. During the debates over the repeal of the Stamp Act in February 1766, Bute’s parliamentary ‘interest’ included twenty-four of the thirty-nine Scottish MPs who voted, as well as another nineteen English MPs.6 Other connections, which could be used to gain (or seek to gain) offices in the Caribbean empire, were maintained with the ever-increasing number of Scots MPs.

People seeking assistance, either for themselves or for relatives, frequently approached James Duff, Second Earl of Fife. Lord Fife was MP for Banffshire from 1754 to 1784, and thereafter for Elginshire until 1790. He was something of a political maverick, but by the time of his successful re-election in 1774 he was, in general, a supporter of the government, particularly with regard to Lord North’s handling of the crisis in the American colonies.7 Around this time, his kinsman Patrick Duff of Banff became aware of a number of government vacancies in the West Indies and wrote to Fife asking him to use his influence to procure an office in one of the islands for his son. Fife replied that although competition was fierce, because Duff’s son had impressed him on the occasion when they had met, he would ask Lord Dartmouth ‘to appoint your son to some proper Office in the Customs when there is any vacancy in any of the West Indian islands.’8 Fife was also the recipient of requests for patronage from the West Indies themselves. Charles Baird was one the Scottish community in Antigua visited by Janet Schaw in December 1774. He was comptroller of customs at St John’s, and a particularly persistent seeker of Fife’s support. At least four times between December 1774 and March 1775, Baird wrote to Fife pointing out the current vacancies for collectors of customs in Caribbean islands. Unfortunately for Baird, Fife showed far less inclination to help him as he did his kinsman Duff.9

If Bute had been vilified as a focus for favours in the 1760s, and men like Lord Fife had often been recipients of requests for patronage, the key figure from the 1780s until the turn of the century was Henry Dundas. Dundas came from a well-established legal family in Scotland, and he qualified as an advocate in 1763. He entered Parliament in 1774, and a year later was appointed lord advocate. His influence over patronage in Scotland was cemented when, in 1779, he became sole keeper of the Signet in Scotland. His pragmatism enabled him to serve in Lord North’s government, and then to continue as lord advocate (p.172) under Rockingham and then Lord Shelburne in 1782. Spurned during the Fox–North coalition in 1783, he was restored with the accession of William Pitt the Younger later that year. Dundas provided Pitt with unstinting support during the first few troubled months of his administration, and became one of the prime minister’s most trusted colleagues. From the middle of the 1780s, Dundas’s hold over Scottish patronage, as well as his extraordinary influence in the running of the empire, allowed him to exert an ever-increasing degree of control over politics in Scotland. By 1790, he had the firm backing of thirty-two of the forty-five MPs in Scotland, and the general support of another seven.10

Dundas’s position in Scotland provided an important basis for his continuing imperial influence. It was remarked at the time, ‘Scotland and India Dundas ruled and fed the one with the other’.11 Historical emphasis on Dundas’s involvement with India, dating from his appointment to the Board of Control in 1784, has tended to overshadow his influence in the rest of the empire. By the time of his apogee in the early 1790s, his domination of Scottish politics, as overseen by his nephew Robert Dundas, was tied into his imperial influence at the Board of Control and, between 1791 and 1794, his tenure as Home Secretary. This latter post gave him control over the colonies, and gave him great leverage in the West Indies. Yet even before this time, so pervasive was his role in government, and so important was he to Pitt, that he influenced the direction of patronage.12 More than any other political figure of the century, Dundas represented the connections between Scotland, Britain and the empire. Although the older managers of Scotland had access to Indian patronage, their sphere of influence was never so extensive as that of Dundas. And Bute, although enormously powerful, lacked Dundas’s longevity.

Dundas’s power and ‘interest’ were perceived to be such that he attracted requests for patronage for offices at all levels of colonial government. In 1790, he received a letter from William Armstrong of Basseterre in St Kitts informing him that the collector of customs at Basseterre was seriously ill. Armstrong wrote, ‘would I be so fortunate as to interest you in my behalf for his Succession it would make me extremely happy and truely grateful.’ As predicted, the poor man passed away, but was replaced by a Mr Barkley, much to Armstrong’s disgust. He railed against the iniquities of gubernatorial patronage and against Barkley, ‘who from his understanding the Governor perfectly, generally succeeds to every vacancy when the temporary gift is in his power – this surprises many, as Mr. Barkley whose consequence and Abilitys are by no means above mediocrity should constantly be the first in every promotion.’13

(p.173) That a man of apparently inferior ability was engaged ahead of Armstrong does not mean that Dundas’s influence was less than that of the governor, although colonial governors did control the distribution of some patronage in the islands. The explanation lies in the problem of communication. A mere seventeen days had passed between Armstrong’s letter requesting assistance and the second one damning Barkley’s appointment. In these circumstances, it is unlikely that Dundas would even have known the job was likely to be vacant, before it had been filled again. This particular episode demonstrates clearly how widely patronage was sought and employed in the colonies. Armstrong was certainly undaunted by the experience and continued to seek patronage. By 1800 he planned to return home. Accordingly, he wrote to Thomas Coutts, an influential Scottish banker in the Strand, London, and a friend of the Erskine family into which Armstrong had married. Coutts, considering that he was not best placed to help, directed his request to Dundas in November 1800. Here the ways in which kinship connections provided access to high-level patronage can be seen in operation. Nor was this an isolated case. Earlier, in 1794, William Gloag of Edinburgh had asked Dundas to use what influence he had to provide his brother-in-law, Philip Wilson, with the secretaryship of Grenada or, failing that, a customs post in either Grenada or St Vincent.14

Dundas’s most significant interventions were in the appointment of governors in the islands, and here too the use of kinship connections is evident. What is also significant is the fact that some of the requests for assistance came before Dundas had responsibility for the colonies. In 1788, Governor James Seton of St Vincent wrote to Dundas asking him to bring about an increase in his pension, so as not to leave his family ‘without one farthing’. The two men had discussed this very matter the last time they had seen each other.15 Seton remained in St Vincent until after the insurrection in 1795, at which time he applied to the Duke of Portland for permission to return home. Portland had replaced Dundas as Home Secretary, but as Seton was unacquainted with him, he asked Dundas to intervene as the ‘letter will be more likely to have the desired effect when seconded by a friend with whom I have long had the pleasure of being acquainted.’16

Dundas’s influence also played a key part in furthering the careers of Scots resident in the West Indies, in addition to those appointed to go there. In October 1766, one of the thirteen Scots elected to the new assembly in Grenada was Ninian Home. He was also nominated the first speaker. Thereafter, Home’s political career in the island developed quickly. He became a member of the council before being appointed an assistant judge in 1784. This position was described by (p.174) the Home’s brother, George, as ‘rather honourable than profitable’, and he went on to say that ‘[t]here are always three or four of the Principal People in the Island named Assistant Judges who occasionally lend their aid to the Chief Judge.’17

Not content with being merely one of the ‘Principal People’, Ninian Home called on Henry Dundas for help to obtain an official position in government. He particularly had his eye on the governorship of Dominica, to succeed Governor Orde.18 That honour evaded him, which did not particularly surprise his brother. Indeed, George Home found this desire for office rather frivolous, especially as Ninian was £5,000 in debt to Joseph Smith, who was in turn bound to Sir James Cockburn, a West India merchant and former MP for the Linlithgow Burghs.

Although in 1786 George Home was not optimistic about Ninian’s chances of acquiring a more prestigious office, he sought nonetheless to encourage Dundas to bear his brother in mind. Dundas had already secured the Berwickshire constituency for Patrick Home, who held the seat between 1784 and 1796. As an ally of Dundas, Patrick Home was invited to partake of ‘burgundy and blasphemy’ at parties at Dundas’s house near Wimbledon Common. On one such occasion, in March 1787, Patrick Home hoped to speak with Dundas on the subject of Ninian’s promotion, but as it was to be a large party, he was uncertain whether an opportunity would present itself.19 The particular link between Dundas and the Homes is even more evident in letter in March 1792 in which George Home remarked to Dundas, ‘I had the pleasure of seeing you at Denira and renewed the application for my brother in case of a vacancy in the Government of Grenada.’ Indeed, George Home and Henry Dundas had been acquainted since at the least the middle of the 1770s. Both were lawyers by profession, and both became members of Edinburgh’s Poker Club, founded originally in 1762 by leading literati to stoke the flames of agitation for a Scottish militia, and later a meeting place for the Edinburgh elite.20

Ninian Home was appointed lieutenant-governor of Grenada to replace Edward Mathews in October 1792. Dundas had been impressed not just by him, however. George Home, a clerk of session, was approached by the lord advocate, Robert Dundas, in December 1792 with the offer of undertaking the internal management of Scottish politics. In this role, Home would have been required ‘to correspond with the friends of the Government in different quarters of the Country and with Mr. Dundas in London’. Home declined the offer to be sous ministre, citing age, ill health, other engagements and, most tellingly, a determination not to ‘risk the disgrace of undertaking what I cannot (p.175) be sure of executing well’.21 Whether Dundas expected George Home to accept as an exchange for the promotion of Ninian Home is a matter for speculation. Nevertheless, Ninian’s elevation to the lieutenant-governorship clearly took place within the context of a long-standing and intimately connected legal and political network centred in Enlightenment Edinburgh.

Appeals to Dundas’s better nature continued to come from individuals who had already reached the upper echelons of colonial government, even after Dundas became secretary of state for war and responsibility for the colonies had passed to the Duke of Portland in July 1794. Indeed, Dundas was still widely perceived as being able to influence decisions relating to the Caribbean: in the five months after this change, he received seven requests for appointments in the West Indies. Even some time later, the representations from well-connected individuals continued to flood in, despite Dundas telling some petitioners to direct their requests to Portland.22

In 1795, William Lindsay, lieutenant-governor of Tobago, appealed to Dundas for assistance. At the time of the correspondence between the two, the Revolutionary War with France was raging with a particular and subversive intensity in the West Indies. The great uncertainty engendered by France’s promotion of the revolution in the French islands, and the sponsorship of the insurrection then current in Grenada, had clearly affected Governor Lindsay. He believed that if his time were up in Tobago, even he, as a former colonial governor, would need some assistance in furthering his career. He wrote,

If … Tobago be restored to the French, I should be very much obliged to you if you would have the goodness to use your influence in preventing my being left unprovided for … I wish most ardently to continue exerting myself for the Public Service in however distant a region, & as you have been so kind as to protect me once in a manner I shall never forget, I cannot help but hoping & requesting that you will not allow me to be put by23

By May 1795, Lindsay’s panic appeared to have abated slightly, and, having returned to Tobago from Barbados, he sought to promote the rights of British inhabitants, many of whom were Scots, to over-run the estates owned by French planters. He also made a point of noting that he had found employment for a clergyman, with a four-fold increase in his salary, when it became clear that the clergyman had a connection with Dundas. It seems likely that Lindsay was trying to return the favour with Dundas, as well as ensuring that Dundas would be supportive of any future requests for patronage.24

(p.176) Nor was Lindsay the only man to seek Dundas’s help after 1794. As late as 1799, Dundas acted as a conduit between his Scottish correspondents and William Pitt. In 1798, Dundas informed Pitt that ‘Mr. Geo. Home is anxious that Mr. Byles be confirmed in the Office of Resident Commissary of Grenada’.25 Home was a friend of Dundas, while Mather Byles was Home’s attorney in Grenada. A few days after this, Dundas sent Pitt another memorandum, this time enclosing a letter from Mr Hepburn in St Vincent (via Mr Elder, lord provost of Edinburgh) ‘soliciting either the office of Comptroller or Searcher in that Island’. Clearly, Hepburn had been a persistent agitator for the position, as Dundas noted, ‘this application has been renewed, at different times, for these five years.’26

Requests also came from one of the most powerful governors in the empire. Alexander Lindsay, Sixth Earl of Balcarres, governor of Jamaica, wrote to Dundas in January 1798 asking that his tenure be extended. He remained in Jamaica until 1801. He wrote again in April 1799, this time ‘very warmly soliciting you for the Situation of a writer to Bengal for my second son Charles Lindsay.’ Three members of the Lindsay family were employed in the service of the East India Company in the late eighteenth century.27 Considerable as their presence was in India, the Lindsays were especially well represented in the Caribbean in the 1790s. As well as Alexander in Jamaica and William in Tobago, Balcarres’s brother, Colin Lindsay, suppressed the Grenada insurrection in 1795 before committing suicide.28

The promotion of Home to lieutenant-governor and the approaches by William Lindsay, Lord Balcarres and others are important indications of the role played by patronage in the governance of the empire, and of Dundas’s pivotal place within it. It is certainly the case that the patronage system favoured the well placed and well connected. Yet it does not necessarily follow that those who were promoted were unworthy. A number of those Scots who attempted to use connections with Dundas or Lord Fife found their efforts thwarted, sometimes by competition, sometimes by timing and sometimes by lack of ability. While George Home’s discussions over with Dundas at Dunira gave his brother an edge over other candidates for preferment in Grenada, Ninian Home’s years of experience in the island and his sound reputation there probably weighed heavily with Dundas. He was ultimately responsible for the colonies; it seems improbable that he would appoint someone to such a senior position in so important an island simply because a candidate’s brother had asked. The patronage connection was important for Dundas because it enabled him to appoint someone well known to him, and someone on whom he could rely, in order to circumvent the problems of transatlantic communication. (p.177) The need of legislators to employ patronage was mirrored by the desire of others to receive it. This was particularly the case for Scots, whose long-established patronage networks made available to the empire a store of young, able individuals who were willing to take a chance on life in the tropics in return for the prospect of advancement.

The metropolitan–colonial nexus

Despite the rupture in Greater Britain caused by American independence, the strength of the connections between Britain and its colonies in the Caribbean remained. As the preceding sections have shown, this nexus was maintained through individual connections and by common beliefs. Just as individuals acting through networks were the distributors and recipients of patronage, so too did they bind the empire. By holding land, wealth or status in both the metropole and the colonies, these people ensured that what took place in Scotland could influence events in the Caribbean. More significantly, perhaps, the fact that their West Indian enterprises could also influence the domestic political map in Scotland demonstrates a true symbiosis in the relationship.

One of the most blatant attempts to link a vote in Scotland with a Caribbean boon was made in 1795. Patrick Cruickshank of Stracathro, a landowner in St Vincent, had failed to secure the purchase of a tract of land in St George’s parish in the island, despite having offered to pay £2,000 directly to the Treasury in 1793. Cruickshank was plainly aggrieved by this. He believed that his voting in accordance with Dundas’s wishes at the previous three elections in the county of Forfarshire entitled him to succeed in his application. Consequently, he promised his vote to Sir David Carnegie rather than to Dundas’s candidate, the sitting MP, David Scott, who was an influential figure in the East India Company. Cruickshank commented that it was with the ‘greatest reluctance’ that he ‘went against [his] former friends’, and he offered a solution to the impasse. If he was sent to St Vincent as lieutenant-governor, or as commissioner of the sale of undisposed lands, he would ‘set out as soon as Necessary and will send home my Brother James Cruickshank of Langley Park to vote for Mr. Scott he is now in St. Vincent.’ If not, he warned, he would continue to vote for Carnegie. Moreover, he pointed out that, as he had just purchased Alexander Turnbull’s land, it was ‘in [his] power to strike him off the Roll or continue him as I please next Michaelmas head count’, meaning that he effectively controlled two votes. In the context of the pre-1832 Scottish electoral system, a four-vote swing could determine the outcome of a county election.29

(p.178) Although his remarkable piece of electoral blackmail failed ultimately to encourage Dundas to intervene on Cruickshank’s behalf, it demonstrates the perception that what did, or did not, happen in the Caribbean (in this instance a land deal and a piece of self-promotion) had ramifications for events in Scotland. The fact that Carnegie won the election in 1796 suggests that Cruickshank was true to his threat and voted against Dundas’s wishes.

One of the most striking examples of one family’s emergence in British politics, as a result of its interconnected Scottish and Caribbean interests, was that of the Baillie family of Dochfour, just south-west of Inverness. James Baillie was the first of the family to enter Parliament, as MP for Horsham in Surrey in 1792. At the time he was also a prominent West India merchant in London, and agent for the island of Grenada.30 His brother Evan also entered Westminster politics, as did two of Evan’s sons, Peter and James Evan. The engineered election of Peter for the Inverness Burghs in 1807 offers a glimpse of the intertwining of Scottish and Caribbean political interests.

Evan, like James, was born in Inverness, and ventured to the West Indies before settling in Bristol. From the 1780s, he became increasingly involved in the city’s mercantile and political elite, serving in turn as councilman in 1785, as sheriff in 1786 and 1787 and ultimately as the one of the city’s two MPs between 1802 and 1812. As he developed his standing in south-western England, using his wealth and status as a prominent West India merchant, he also consolidated his interests in the north of Scotland. In 1798, his eldest brother, Alexander, passed away, and with James Baillie having died in 1793, Evan inherited the family estate at Dochfour. During the first decade of the nineteenth century, Evan Baillie paid ever more attention to the affairs of the Scottish estate, and invested both in its expansion and in other ventures. A concomitant of this was the interest which Evan’s eldest son, Peter, took in the estate. While Evan had been born and raised in Inverness, Peter had been born in St Vincent and brought up in Bristol. Following his return from his grand tour, he became a partner in his father’s merchant house and moved easily among the elite in Bristol. In 1806 he was sent north, to oversee the Dochfour estate, and to prepare the ground for the forthcoming election. In 1807, he became the MP for the Inverness Burghs, while his father remained MP for Bristol.

His acquisition of the seat owed much to his family’s centuries-old residence in the burgh, and probably to its increased standing and wealth. But the actual process of election was carried through a local network. In securing the election in 1807, Baillie had to win over the (p.179) freeholders of the towns of Inverness, Fortrose, Forres and Nairn, which comprised the Inverness Burghs constituency. To do so, he used key figures in the four towns. Evan Baillie’s cousin, James Grant of Bught, was provost of Inverness, and had been a partner of both Peter and Evan Baillie in the Inverness Thread Factory since 1805. As a result of Grant’s influence, Inverness Council was brought into line. In Fortrose, the Baillies relied on Sir Alexander Munro, brother of the former MP. Like the Baillies, he had used imperial wealth (his was derived from India) to purchase land in England, where he lived at Novar House near Cheltenham. And like the Baillies, Munro had retained interests in the north of Scotland; he continued to be an influential member of the Fortrose Council until after the 1807 election. Henry Dundas, by this time Lord Melville, was not enthusiastic about Baillie’s candidature, and decreed that it was not to be encouraged. In the event, though, Melville’s opposition proved to be insufficient, as did the opposition of George Cumming, backed by the Nairn and Forres burghs, and Baillie was duly elected, on Fortrose’s casting vote, on 30 May 1807.31

The network had not yet completed its work, however, for the next councils had to be voted by the existing members. In the summer of 1807, shortly after Baillie’s successful election, the key figures who had assisted in the campaign made arrangements to consolidate his still slightly precarious position. Sir Alexander Munro assured Baillie that following his departure ‘for the North’ from London in June 1807, ‘I will use all my endeavours to strengthen and promote your Interest in the Boroughs of Inverness and Fortrose’. More particularly, he counselled that if in Fortrose ‘there are any inimical to your interest you must turn them out of the Council … and subscribe such of your own friends as you can depend on.’ Munro’s concern was fuelled by his impending departure from the council and by the need to ensure Baillie’s election to it as his replacement. In order to do this he advised Baillie (who had returned to Bristol) to contact his factor, George Munro, who would be better placed to offer advice.32

On his arrival in Fortrose, Munro went about winning over the doubters by entertaining all the magistrates and council of the town: ‘I made them happy and merry as far as the help of Sherry Wine, Madeira, Port, Claret, Hock, Burgandy Champagne, Constancia, and other sweet wines could make me: to wash down Turtle & Venison &.c. &.c. in short they confirmed their attachment to me, and I believe they will do everything in the Compass of their power, that I can wish or desire.’ Just as he recounted this tale of electoral hospitality to Peter Baillie’s cousin James in London, he implied that the (p.180) situation had been prepared in Fortrose; all that remained was the arrival of the candidate. At Michaelmas 1807 Baillie was duly appointed to the Fortrose Council, the control of which was delivered to him by Munro.33

On the same day as Munro corresponded with James Baillie, James Grant wrote to Peter Baillie in Bristol, confirming that the situation in Inverness was also being secured. He wrote, ‘I think I have arranged our Town Politicks for the coming year. Mr. Gilzean has agreed to second me and there will be other changes which will strengthen our Interest.’ It is also apparent from Grant’s letter that there was collusion not only between Baillie and his friends in the north, but also among his friends, as Grant made reference to the plan being fixed by Munro and the Fortrose Council.34

The efforts of these men were not in vain. While such shameless vote-rigging was not at all uncommon in their political world, it has a particular resonance here. For these events, in one of the constituencies furthest from Westminster, secured, using local and kinship ties, the election of a Bristol merchant, with strong West Indian mercantile and proprietorial connections, to a House of Commons that had just overseen the abolition of the slave trade. Battle was still to be joined over the abolition of enslavement itself, however, and these votes secured the election of another member of the West India interest, from a family which clearly supported its retention.

Influencing the imperial polity

The West India lobby in London became increasingly well organised during the later eighteenth century, largely as a response to the challenges facing the West Indies in the era of the American Revolution.35 Within this group were those influential planters and merchants resident in Britain who comprised the West India Committee. Many of these individuals were MPs and some were the agents for colonial territories. The colonial agents were representatives of the islands and acted as conduits for the flow of information between metropole and colony, and furthered the ambitions of the islands at Westminster, either jointly or severally. For example, in 1792 James Baillie, as agent for Grenada, along with Alexander Campbell (himself a former agent and Baillie’s neighbour in Grenada), visited Henry Dundas and was informed that the government planned to withdraw one of the regiments from the garrison. As a result, a meeting of sixteen prominent Grenadians chaired by Campbell was convened at the London Tavern. The minutes recorded that ‘Mr Baillie … be requested to draw up a (p.181) Memorial to be presented to the Rt. Honble. Henry Dundas’.36 Dundas thus acted not only as a kind of imperial employment agency. He was also an access point to the highest levels of government for people with specific concerns.

A few months before the Grenadians discovered the proposed troop cuts, Dundas found himself at the centre of a battle over the Caribbean islands’ monopoly on sugar production. On one side were those seeking a reduction in sugar prices and the right to produce sugar outside the West Indies. On the other side were the West Indians, who lobbied hard for the maintenance of the ‘implied compact’ between the islands and the British government for ‘a natural monopoly’. The committee formed to press for an end to the monopoly railed against the ‘present extravagant and oppressively high price of sugar’; it was, they believed, ‘very injurious, and a very extensive public grievance’.37 The planters and merchants responded vigorously. They not only cited the ‘compact’ between Britain and the colonies, but also conflated this dispute with that against the abolition of enslavement, and argued that those campaigning against them sought to dictate to the colonists and ‘to excite a spirit of insurrection among their labourers’. This, they asserted, would ‘produce an injury to the Colonies, which must necessarily react upon the Mother Country’38

The dispute drew in the directors of the East India Company, who wanted to export sugar from India, and sugar brokers. It was the colonial agents, however, who launched the most powerful salvo of the dispute. Their memorial outlined the long relationship between the islands and Britain, as the planters and merchants had done, but they went further. They implied that to breach the compact in this way would undermine the whole fabric of the imperial relationship: ‘this measure, if carried into effect, cannot fail to excite the greatest alarms in the minds of His Majesty’s Subjects resident in the West India Colonies, as it directly militates against a long succession of Acts of Parliament for near a century and a half past; and must entirely destroy the Confidence which the West India Colonies have hitherto reposed on the Faith and Protection of Great Britain.’39

That the sugar monopoly remained intact does not necessarily mean that the agents were able to scare the government into compliance with their wishes, but their implied threat of independence must have caused some concern in London. Once more James Baillie was involved, along with the agents Stephen Fuller (Jamaica), John Brathwaite (Barbados), Charles Thomson (St Kitts), William Hutchinson (Antigua) and Mr Knox. The influence of the agents was allied to that of the MPs and those attached to them in two other key areas of campaigning.

(p.182) The Exchequer loans

By the 1790s, merchants had granted enormous levels of credit to the planters and traders in the Caribbean islands. There was a bubble of confidence surrounding these large-scale investments that was burst spectacularly by the convulsions occasioned by the outbreak of war with revolutionary France. The insurrections in the Windward Islands, as petitioners to the House of Commons were swift to point out, were inspired by their French enemies, and had caused devastation to parts of the islands. This had profound implications for the export of crops and the remittance of debts. The razing of estates not only destroyed the planters’ assets, but also adversely affected mercantile companies, which lost their trade goods and found their debtors destitute.40

Scottish-owned firms like Alexander Houstoun & Co. of Glasgow and George Baillie & Co. of London had invested heavily in the Windward Islands. Houstoun & Co., for example, were owed £324,118 from Grenada alone.41 George Baillie & Co. (formerly James Baillie & Co.) carried similarly huge debts. The crisis in West Indian credit left these and other firms in such dire straits after 1795 that the acquisition of public money appeared to be the only solution. Through Henry Dundas, George Baillie was introduced to William Pitt, who was initially unprepared to grant Exchequer bills. Baillie, however, was able to generate considerable support for his application on behalf of the West India merchants from Liverpool and Bristol, where his cousin Evan was a prominent merchant and politician. He was also able to draw on the considerable legacy of his deceased cousin, James Baillie, whose company he had taken over.

On 11 June 1795, a petition from the merchants trading to St Vincent and Grenada was presented to Parliament and was referred to a House of Commons committee and to Henry Dundas. The committee found that the problems caused by the loss of crop in 1795 and the investment required to rebuild the plantations necessitated financial assistance from the government. On 16 June, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and Dundas were instructed to prepare a bill to allow the disposal of not more the £1.5 million to the Grenada and St Vincent merchants. The bill received its royal assent on 27 June 1795. Of the £1.5 million, George Baillie & Co. received £250,000 and Alexander Houstoun & Co. collected £170,000 as a result of this first Act, and a further £70,000 in 1797.42 Allocations on this scale indicate the importance of these firms, and also the influence their principal shareholders could wield. Dundas certainly played a role in introducing the merchants to Pitt, as Baillie acknowledged: ‘I take the liberty of inclosing for your perusal copy of a letter I had this day the Honor of adressing (p.183) to Mr. Pitt on the subject of the Exchequer Loan, and altho’ the business lay principally in the department of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, we consider ourselves indebted to you as being the promoter and supporter of it, and to your friendly interference we all attribute, entirely, our success.’43

There case was strengthened by the presence of William Johnstone Pulteney as a commissioner in the Exchequer Loan Office. Through a judicious marriage into the Pulteney family in 1760, William Johnstone had become one of the richest commoners in Britain. By the time of the loans he was MP for Shrewsbury, having been MP for Cromartyshire in northern Scotland between 1768 and 1774.44 Pulteney’s family, the Johnstones, originated in south-west Scotland, and had a number of West Indian interests: Pulteney owned the Port Royal estate in Grenada and, after 1799, the Bon Accord estate in Tobago.45 His elder brother, Alexander, had purchased the Baccaye estate in Grenada in 1766, which he renamed Westerhall. By 1794, Pulteney was a trustee of the estate, which was also indebted to him. In August 1795, in the wake of the insurrection which had caused considerable damage to Westerhall, Pulteney was of the opinion that Lady Johnstone would be able to raise ‘the sum she wants’, because the commissioners were ‘authorised by the Act of Parliament to Lend on Landed property’. Pulteney’s faith in his fellow commissioners was not misplaced: £10,000 was laid out in government loans for the reestablishment of Westerhall.46

Nor was this the only occasion that Scots MPs with West Indian interests found themselves on important British committees considering Caribbean business, and in particular the concerns of the planters of Grenada and St Vincent. In 1803, the chairman of the parliamentary committee investigating the claims of those planters for financial relief was Evan Baillie, himself a St Vincent planter, trustee of a Grenadian estate and cousin of one of the principal lobbyists for the 1795 Exchequer loans.

Houstoun & Co., which also benefited enormously from the loans, were equally well represented in Parliament. William McDowall, one of the principal shareholders in Houstoun & Co., was MP for the Glasgow Burghs at the time of the credit crisis. Furthermore, McDowall’s brother, his brother-in-law and a number of influential friends were also MPs at the time. As a result, not only was McDowall extremely wealthy; he was also one of the most important figures in Scottish politics, perhaps second only to Dundas himself and, significantly, a loyal supporter of Pitt.47 Almost inevitably, he had maintained links with Dundas over a number of years. In the run-up to the 1790 election, so closely aligned were they that Dundas consulted (p.184) McDowall over the suitability of candidates. On one occasion, Dundas was prepared to allow McDowall to select the candidate, noting only that his choice, Mr Blair, would be ‘a proper person’ because he was ‘entirely attached to our Political Principles’.48 At the time of the loan there were thirteen or fourteen other Scots MPs, in addition to Henry Dundas, William McDowall and William Pulteney, not all of whom represented Scottish constituencies, with West Indian connections of one kind or another.

The successful lobbying of Parliament for the original Exchequer loans proved to be insufficient to solve the long-term problems of the islands. It soon became apparent that the crisis was considerably deeper than was first thought. Mather Byles wrote to George Home in November 1796 to inform him that it would take £5,000 sterling to re-establish Waltham, £2,000 more than originally planned. Around the same time, on 16 December, the planters and merchants of both St Vincent and Grenada petitioned the Commons for more time to repay the loans. A committee of the whole House recommended that an additional £600,000 be made available to the petitioners. Of this sum, the stricken estate of Waltham received £6,000, which was used to repay its debt to the merchants Simond & Hankey.49 Nevertheless, in December 1798 and 1799, the petitioners again made it clear that they would be unable to fulfil their obligations to pay on 5 January the following year. Again and again payments were deferred. The loan to George Home for Waltham estate was finally repaid in 1804.50 By the end of 1799, Houstoun & Co. had managed to repay less than half of the interest on their loans and only a fraction of the capital sum. Having been granted an initial loan of £170,000, the firm now owed the government £265,008. In February 1800, William McDowall sought recourse in yet another petition, in which he outlined the calamitous situation in the islands that had led to the present crisis, which had been deepened by the slump in the market for West Indian produce, and he asked for more time to repay the loan.51 In making his case, McDowall produced letters from the treasurer of the Bank of Scotland (the governor of which was Henry Dundas), the cashier of the Royal Bank of Scotland, and the chairman and secretary of the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, all of whom attested to the respectability of Houstoun & Co. and pointed out the deleterious consequences of the failure of the House: ‘the Directors are humbly of the Opinion, that any Embarrassment in the Affairs of a Company of such respectability would be attended with Consequences prejudicial to the Commercial Credit of the Country; and that, therefore, the Intervention of the Government for its Support … appears to them to be a Measure of Public Utility.’52

(p.185) The support from the Edinburgh banks represented not only recognition of the importance of the firm. Key partners in Houstoun & Co. also maintained personal connections with the banks: Alexander Houstoun was a director of the Bank of Scotland, while William McDowall was deputy-governor of the British Linen Bank in Edinburgh.53 The select committee which reviewed the request also dealt with the joint pleas of the executors of Charles Ashwell and William Johnston, who owed respectively £16,000 and £10,000. All three petitions were considered minutely by the committee, then twice by a committee of the whole House, before a bill was moved and finally enacted on 28 July 1800.54

The anti-abolition campaign

If the acquisition of Exchequer loans and the continual deferment of repayments were cases of prominent lobbying of Parliament by West India Scots, during the controversy surrounding the abolition of the slave trade Scots acted rather less publicly in support of their West India colleagues. The great wealth of the West Indies had been generated by the export of agricultural commodities whose production was particularly labour-intensive. Towards the end of the eighteenth century this seemingly inexhaustible labour supply was threatened, as the planters saw it, by misguided and malevolent interests in Britain bent on the destruction of the West Indies, and ultimately on the undermining of the basis of British wealth. As the campaign for the abolition of the trade gathered pace in Britain, Parliament was inundated with petitions advocating abolition. Within this campaign, a number of Scots were prominent figures. Across Scotland, petitions calling for abolition were drawn up, indicating widespread popular opposition to the institution of enslavement, even in areas where West Indian opportunities had provided employment and wealth.55 But those Scots who benefited from enslavement were swift to respond in kind. Whether these petitions came from the mayor, burgess and commonality of Bristol, the Birmingham manufacturers or one of the island agents like Stephen Fuller of Jamaica, they conformed to a standard template. They all outlined the devastating effects of abolition for their way of life (whatever form it took), as well as stating that the trade was vital for the very survival of the islands and, indeed, for British trade and manufacturing. The petitions frequently remarked on the consequences for domestic British employment if the trade were abolished. They argued that abolition ‘would not only be ruinous … to the Petitioners … but the mischief would extend most widely, throwing many Hundreds of Common Labouring People … wholly (p.186) out of Employment, and of course reducing them to the Necessity of emigrating to Foreign Countries.’56

The anti-abolition campaign forged an unholy alliance between the sugar producers of the West Indies and the sugar refiners in Britain. Previously those groups had been diametrically opposed to each other, as the one tried to maintain the monopoly and price of the sugar supply, while the other sought to open the trade and lower costs. Yet when faced with the prospect of a serious decline in sugar supplies, if not their complete cessation, the two groups were able to put aside their differences and co-operate against what they perceived to be a common enemy.57

Liverpool, as Britain’s principal slave trade port, presented numerous petitions to Parliament, and again the petitioners represented a number of trades. In May 1789, for example, petitions were received from merchants trading to Africa, from manufacturers of iron, copper, brass and lead, from the sailmakers, joiners, shipwrights, ropemakers, coopers, gunmakers, blockmakers and bakers of Liverpool.58 Bristol, too, showered the Palace of Westminster with petitions, demonstrating the importance of the slave trade as the general underpinning of the entire Atlantic mercantile community. What is slightly surprising, then, is the relative infrequency of petitions from Scotland. Scots in the islands, and those with strong links there, were quite open about opposing abolition, and did not attempt to hide their practices from those at home. Indeed, Alexander Rose of Jamaica wrote to John MacIntosh in Inverness in 1792 saying, ‘we hope this Bill will be lost in the middle passage & never come safe into port’. Despite concerns about abolition, though, Rose continued in his unpleasantly sarcastic style, ‘we are as yet in a state of tranquility respecting our Black Planters – the word slave being abolished, as obnoxious to the nice feelings of the modern votaries of transatlantic humanity’.59

The Glasgow merchants and planters petitioned Parliament in 1789, but otherwise appear to have left that job to their counterparts in Liverpool or Bristol in the 1790s.60 There were a number of reasons for this. Firstly, and perhaps most obviously, the slave trade was never as essential a feature of the economy in Glasgow as it was in Bristol and, particularly, in Liverpool. So while there were Caribbean planters and merchants in Glasgow who feared the consequences of abolition, there was not a widespread fear of ruin for a series of ship manufacturers and suppliers, or for manufacturers of goods for Africa in the city. The second explanation is organisational. West India merchants and planters in Glasgow had no formal organisation until 1807, when the West India Association was founded in the city.61 That is not to say that they had no communication with each other, but their meetings (p.187) were on a more ad hoc basis through a series of fora. One of the meetings resulted in the petition to Parliament, while James McDowall chaired at least one other meeting in February 1795.62 Most of the merchants were acquainted with each other through membership of either the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, which was founded in 1783, or one of the many clubs in the city.63

In the later part of the eighteenth century there was a proliferation of gentlemen’s clubs in Glasgow that, as well as providing a social distraction, fostered contacts between merchants, politicians and city notables. Most of the leading West India merchants in Glasgow were members of the Gaelic Society of Glasgow, which was less concerned with the promotion of Gaelic than in securing the interests of its influential members.64 Some of the clubs had been founded in the heyday of the tobacco ascendency, but after the collapse of the Chesapeake trade after American independence, and as merchants diversified their operations into the Caribbean, the clubs increasingly became bastions of the sugar aristocracy. Among the members of the Hodge Podge Club were the merchants William Mure, William McDowall, Robert Houstoun Rae, Henry Glassford, Andrew Buchanan, the Grenadian planter John Graham of Dougalston and the Jamaica merchant and planter Charles Stirling. Stirling and his business partner, John Gordon, were central figures in the Tory party. Leading Tories would gather to meet in their offices, where they would decide upon the suitability of parliamentary candidates. As a result of their patronage of Alexander Campbell of Blythswood, the merchants ‘derived through the great Parliamentary influence of that gentleman, a reciprocal power in matters connected with the Government and its patronage.’65 Thus, men in Glasgow with mercantile and planting concerns in the Caribbean established social and political networks in Glasgow in ways that allowed them to advance their specific interests in London.

Although these clubs, and contacts created in them, were not ostensibly political, nor were they wholly concerned with the West Indies, they promoted patronage connections between individuals. And these patronage connections, tied into broader networks in Britain and the West Indies, created more conduits through which Scots with Caribbean links could articulate their concerns, and largely obviated the need for a specific Glaswegian, or Scottish, group.

Most Scots seem to have raised their concerns through the media of island agents or lobby groups in the key English cities. They were certainly present in the commercial and political elites of slaving ports like Liverpool and Bristol, and were involved in lobbying there. In Liverpool, Scots agitated against the abolition of the slave trade: in June 1788 Archibald Dalzel (whose brother Andrew was professor of (p.188) classics at the University of Edinburgh and a prominent abolitionist) was one of five men deputed to petition Parliament by the Committee of the Liverpool African Merchants. He went on to become governor of Cape Coast Castle and author of the avowedly pro-slavery The history of Dahomey (1793).66 In Bristol, a group of merchants including the prominent Anglo-Scots Evan Baillie and John Gordon met in April 1789 and voted to defend the trade ‘on which the welfare of the West India islands and the commerce and revenue of the kingdom so essentially depend’, and, consequently, sent petitions to Parliament.67 A few weeks later, the merchants met again and determined to establish a fund ‘for the expences which will attend the opposition to the Abolition of the Slave Trade.’ The levy was set at 6d per hogshead and puncheon on ‘our imports with this port from the Sugar Islands from the 24 April 1789 to the 24 April 1790.’ In this year, probably somewhere over 20,000 hogsheads of sugar were imported to Bristol by seventy-six merchants.68

Some years later, while the battle over abolition still raged, Evan Baillie expressed surprise at the ‘phrenzy that has seized all parties on the subject’, and then proceeded to add to it by commenting ‘how feeble our attempts have been to oppose the abolition of the Slave Trade’ and articulating his fear for ‘a most fatal stab to the West India credit as it renders all security on Estates highly precarious, having no promise of engagement to prevent any fanatical Minister from Sanctioning even a measure of emancipation.’69

Similarly, a number of Scottish-based West India concerns maintained tied to figures in London. Donald Malcolm of Poltalloch, whose family had amassed a considerable fortune from its plantations in Jamaica, paid subscriptions to the ‘Merchants of London’ for the specific purpose of opposing the Slave Bill in 1790. Although the money came through Malcolm’s Glasgow agent, the actual lobbying was done through a London organisation.70

Sir Alexander Grant of Dalvey, an important London merchant, acted as an agent for the various branches of the extended Grant family, including Grant of Monymusk and Grant of Grant. These families continued to exploit enslaved labour, and, although Grant of Dalvey had been dead for many years, his former company’s campaigning against abolition redounded to their benefit. The new proprietors of the Bance Island factory, John and Alexander Anderson, were the nephews of Grant’s partner, Richard Oswald. In May 1798, they petitioned Parliament against the bills before the House of Commons for the abolition of the African trade. Their particular concern was with Bance Island, a slave fort in the mouth of the Sierra Leone River. It had been purchased by Grant, Oswald & Co. in 1748, (p.189) and, according to the petitions, had required not only a substantial initial investment but also another £20,000 injected in 1794 to repair the damage caused by a Franco-American attack. They argued, furthermore, that the right of the company to trade in slaves as recompense for its initial expense was enshrined in an Act of Parliament that allowed the original owners and their heirs to ‘be at Liberty to continue in the quiet possession of the said Island, Fort and Buildings thereon.’71

Even a decade after full emancipation, the merchants of Glasgow were sufficiently interested in the West Indies to petition Parliament for a preferential duty in favour of British West Indian sugar. The terms in which they did so paid little attention to a moral imperative but made much of the ‘sacrifices’ they had made for abolition. These sacrifices, they argued, were ‘useless so long as the Planters of sugar by means of free labour are not enabled successfully to compete with Planters in States where slavery continues.’72 So while there was active Scottish participation in the anti-abolition campaign, the majority view in Scotland tended to support the end of the trade, despite Scottish involvement in it, and despite the profits and opportunities accruing to Scots from the institution of enslavement. There were very few anti-abolition petitions from Scotland, compared with a flurry from Scottish churches and burghs advocating it. Slavery had been regarded as illegal in Scotland since 1778, after the Court of Session in Edinburgh had found in favour of the black servant Joseph Knight in the Knight v. Wedderburn case. This ruling went further in declaring slavery illegal than the ruling on the Somerset case in England in 1772. Popular abolitionism curtailed an especially vocal anti-abolition campaign north of the border.

In Parliament itself, a similar picture of relatively low-profile but keenly felt anti-abolitionism was evident among some Scots MPs. Only six Scottish MPs participated in the debates on the various slave trade bills after 1789, and three of them represented English constituencies. Sir William Young, MP for St Mawes in Cornwall and agent for St Vincent between 1795 and 1802, was one of Wilberforce’s most frequent and measured critics as well as being one of the few, if not the only one, to mention the effect of abolition on Glasgow as well as the English ports.73 Rather less restrained was James Baillie, then MP for Horsham and agent for Grenada. Shortly before his death, he accused the abolitionists on being bent on the destruction of the British West Indies, and dismissed some of the witnesses they produced as ‘ill-informed, ignorant and low men’. Perhaps one of the seemingly least rational statements in the debates came from another Scotsman, John Petrie, who had extensive connections with Tobago, (p.190) where his brother, Gilbert, was Speaker of the assembly. In 1799 he informed the Honourable Members that ‘The abolition of the slave trade would be the scourge of Africa; as a planter he wished it to take place; but as a cosmopolite, he desired its continuance out of humanity to the inhabitants of the coast of Africa.’74 This kind of contradiction was evident in much of the anti-abolitionist rhetoric. It was present in the Anderson brothers’ concern with their liberty to run the Bance Island slave fort, and in the words in General James Grant of Ballindalloch, former governor-general of East Florida, who opined to Lord Cornwallis in 1792 that abolition would be ‘contrary to the rights of men’.75


The changing face of politics in Scotland from the 1760s, as the result of the emergence of a younger generation of Scots with an eye for London’s political opportunities, and an empathy towards its values, coupled to the culmination of a successful ‘British’ war, impelled more and more Scots to look southwards in search of advancement. Many of these opportunities appeared overseas in the West Indies, where the aftermath of the Seven Years War had resulted in the expansion of British territory. The frequency of these openings grew, not only as the empire expanded, but also with the consolidation and greater integration of the home country. This allowed Scots greater access to power in London, increasingly through English constituencies, and provided conduits for the disbursement of political patronage to other Scots. These were the circumstances which ensured that between 1763 and 1784 there was always at least one Scottish governor in the West Indies. In 1795, each of the Ceded Islands, as well as Jamaica and St Lucia, had a Scottish governor.76 Additionally, the influence of governors and of powerful figures in London provided employment for Scots in other offices. At this level, kinship and local networks operated: the first avenue of approach for assistance or preferment in London might be the local MP, who, as in the case of the Duffs, might also be a relative.

Nobody, however, was more powerful in this political world than Henry Dundas, whose influence over the Caribbean has tended to be obfuscated by his role in Indian affairs. Dundas, of course, distributed patronage to people all over the empire, and was often approached by long-standing political allies. In the Scottish context, the bartering nature of patronage allowed a pay-off between electoral stability in Scotland and parliamentary votes for Dundas, and imperial advantage for the recipient of his patronage. This political dynamic between (p.191) events in the West Indies and those in Scotland is amply demonstrated by the attempts by Patrick Cruickshank to force Dundas into providing employment in the Caribbean in exchange for a vote in Scotland. Anglo-Scots were also in a position to intervene in Scottish affairs, wedding their colonial power-base to local, pre-existing kinship connections. The layers of interconnection between those Scots who were clearly a part of the West India lobby and those who were not also softens the distinction between the two.

The final sphere, founded on the same kind of influence that drove the second, saw the articulation of West Indian interests and grievances in the most powerful circles in London. As a result, the needs of the largest networks were attended to by the careful cultivation of key groups and individuals to produce legislation favourable to the network. On other occasions the networks were used to act in opposition to a broader theme affecting the islands more generally.

All this indicates that the bonds holding the Caribbean colonies and Britain held fast into the final quarter of the eighteenth century. Despite the threats of the West Indian colonial agents, and the riots outlined in Chapter Six, it is clear that rumours of the death of the ‘first empire’ in 1783 have been exaggerated. To this enduring imperial unity Scots made a fundamental contribution. As the involvement of Scots in the politics of both the West Indies and Britain extended concurrently, a cyclical pattern of influence and power emerged. As the political role of Scots in the empire increased, and as the importance of the empire to Britain grew, so the importance of Scots for Britain increased. At the same time, as Scots gained prominence in Britain, they were in a position to dispense patronage through the networks, and to raise still further the status of Scots in the West Indies. The symbiotic nature of this transatlantic political dynamic meant that Scottish politics could be altered by Caribbean influence. As the next chapter argues, so too was much of Scottish society.



(1) See also L. Colley, Britons: Forging the nation, 1707–1837 (London: Pimlico, 1994); S. J. Connolly, ‘Varieties of Britishness: Ireland, Scotland and Wales in the Hanoverian State’, and P. J. Marshall, ‘A nation defined by empire’, in A. Grant and K. J. Stringer (eds), Uniting the kingdom? The making of British history (London: Routledge, 1995), pp. 193–207, 208–22.

(2) J. Brewer, The sinews of power: War, money and the English state, 1688–1783 (London: Unwin Hyman, 1989), p. 74.

(3) On the problem of communication see I. K. Steele, The English Atlantic 1675–1740: An exploration of communication and community (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986); D. Sobel, Longitude (London: Fourth Estate, 1996).

(4) R. Sedgwick (ed.), Letters of George III to Lord Bute, 1756–1766 (London: Macmillan, 1939), p. 203.

(p.192) (5) L. Namier and J. Brooke (eds), The History of Parliament: The House of Commons, 1754–1790 (London: History of Parliament Trust, 1964), vol. 2, pp. 95–6.

(6) R. C. Simmons and P. D. G. Thomas (eds), Proceedings and debates of the British parliaments respecting North America, 1754–1783 (Millwood, NY: Kraus International Publications, 1983), vol. 2, pp. 289–92.

(7) Namier and Brooke (eds), House of Commons, 1754–1790, vol. 2, pp. 346–54; L. Namier, ‘Lord Fife and his factor’, in L. Namier, Crossroads of power: Essays on eighteenth-century England (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1962), pp. 23–6. Fife held an Irish peerage and was entitled to sit in the Commons.

(8) UASCA, MS3175, bundle 56/2, Duff House papers, Patrick Duff to the Earl of Fife, 24 February 1775; Fife to Duff, 14 March 1775.

(9) UASCA, MS3175, bundles 56/1 and 56/2, Duff House papers, Charles Baird to the Earl of Fife; J. Schaw, Journal of a lady of quality, being the narrative of a journey from Scotland to the West Indies, North Carolina and Portugal in the years 1774 to 1776, ed. E. W. Andrews and C. M. Andrews (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1923), p. 81.

(10) M. Fry, The Dundas despotism (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1992), p. 150.

(11) Quoted in R. G. Thorne (ed.), The History of Parliament: The House of Commons, 1790–1820 (London: History of Parliament Trust, 1986), vol. 3, p. 636.

(12) Fry, The Dundas despotism; J. Dwyer and A. Murdoch, ‘Paradigms and politics: Manners, morals and the rise of Henry Dundas, 1770–1784’, in J. Dwyer et al. (eds), New perspectives on the politics and culture of early modern Scotland (Edinburgh: John Donald, 1982), pp. 210–48.

(13) NLS, MS6524(166), Melville papers, William Armstrong to Henry Dundas, 13 January 1790; MS6524(170), Armstrong to Dundas, 30 January 1790.

(14) NLS, MS17(25), Melville papers, Thomas Coutts to Henry Dundas, 27 November 1800; MS6524(162), William Gloag to Henry Dundas, 12 July 1794.

(15) NLS, MS 6524(164), Governor Seton to Henry Dundas, 26 May 1788.

(16) PRO, CO260/13(100), St Vincent, original correspondence: Secretary of State, Governor Seton to Henry Dundas, 25 September 1795.

(17) NAS, GD267/3/11(19), Home of Wedderburn manuscripts, George Home to Patrick Home, 3 August 1784.

(18) NAS, GD267/1/6(5), Home of Wedderburn Manuscripts, Ninian Home to George Home, n.d.

(19) NAS, GD267/1/12(7), Home of Wedderburn Manuscripts, Patrick Home to George Home, 24 March 1787. See also Fry, The Dundas despotism, p. 107.

(20) PRO, CO101/32 (no fol.), Grenada, original correspondence: Secretary of State, George Home to Henry Dundas, March 1792; J. Robertson, The Scottish Enlightenment and the militia issue (Edinburgh: John Donald, 1985), pp. 118, 189–91. Dunira was the Dundas family residence in Midlothian.

(21) NAS, MS267/1/5(12), Home of Wedderburn Manuscripts, George Home to Patrick Home, 15 December 1792.

(22) NLS, MS21(19, 25, 53, 62, 64, 66, 71), Melville papers, secretary’s minute book, August 1794 – January 1795; MS1075(9), Melville papers, John Brathwaite to Henry Dundas, 13 March 1795. Brathwaite was agent for Barbados between 1792 and 1805, and a member of the West India Committee.

(23) NLS, MS3844(1), Melville papers, William Lindsay, Barbados, to Henry Dundas, 31 March 1795.

(24) NLS, MS3844(3–4), William Lindsay, Tobago, to Henry Dundas, 6 May 1795.

(25) NLS, MS9370(69), Melville papers, Mr Secretary Dundas to Mr Pitt, 30 December 1798.

(26) NLS, MS9370(28), Mr Dundas to Mr Pitt, 4 January 1799.

(27) NLS, MS3844(5, 7), Lord Balcarres to Henry Dundas, 2 January 1798, 12 April 1799; G J. Bryant, ‘Scots in India in the eighteenth century’, Scottish Historical Review, 64, 1 (1985), 22–41.

(p.193) (28) W. I. Addison (ed.), The matriculation albums of the University of Glasgow, from 1728 to 1858 (Glasgow: James Maclehose & Sons, 1913).

(29) NAS, GD51/5/16, Melville Castle muniments, Patrick Cruickshank to Henry Dundas, 30 August 1795.

(30) Thorne (ed.), House of Commons, 1790–1820, vol. 3, p. 110.

(31) Ibid., vol. 2, p. 607; vol. 3, pp. 111–12; BUL, Pinney papers, box 30 bundle 2, letter and agreement from James Grant to Peter Baillie, 10 June 1805.

(32) BUL, Pinney papers, box 30 bundle 1, Alexander Munro to Peter Baillie, 6 June 1807.

(33) BUL, Pinney papers, box 30, papers of Peter Baillie, Alexander Munro to James Baillie, 25 August 1807; Thorne (ed.), House of Commons, 1790–1820, vol. 2, p. 608.

(34) BUL, Pinney papers, box 30, James Grant to Peter Baillie, 25 August 1807.

(35) A. J. O’Shaughnessy, ‘The formation of a commercial lobby: The West India interest, British colonial policy and the American Revolution’, Historical Journal, 40, 1 (1997), 71–95.

(36) PRO, CO101/32 (no fol.), Minutes of a meeting of the gentlemen connected with the island of Grenada, 7 September 1792.

(37) NAS, GD51/1/361(2), Melville Castle muniments, memorial from the Committee … for Lower Sugar Prices, 12 January 1792.

(38) NAS, GD51/1/361(8), memorial from the West India planters and merchants, 28 February 1792.

(39) NAS, GD51/1/361(13), memorial of the agents of the West India sugar colonies, 20 March 1792.

(40) Journals of the House of Commons, 50 (1794–95), 591, ‘Petition of the merchants trading to Grenada and St Vincent’, 11 June 1795.

(41) S. G Checkland, ‘Two Scottish West India liquidations after 1793’, Scottish Journal of Political Economy, 4 (1957), 132; Journals of the House of Commons, 55 (1799–1800), p. 426, ‘List of Annual Balance due to Alexander Houstoun & Co.’

(42) Journals of the House of Commons, 55 (1799–1800), 424, ‘Report on Mr McDowall’s petition, 28 April 1800’; Checkland, ‘Two Scottish West India liquidations’, 133.

(43) NAS, GD51/1/499(1), Melville Castle muniments, George Baillie to Henry Dundas, 17 September 1795.

(44) Thorne (ed.), House of Commons, 1790–1820, vol. 4, pp. 902–4.

(45) BUL, DM41/59/10, West Indies Mss, Westerhall papers, list of negroes belonging to Port Royal estate, 16 March 1798; V. L. Oliver (ed.), Caribbeana, being miscellaneous papers relating to the history, generalogy, topography and antiquities of the British West Indies (London: Mitchell Hughes and Clarke, 1909–19), vol. 3, pp. 294–5.

(46) BUL, DM41/32/1, West Indies MSS, Westerhall papers, ‘Inventory and valuation of the plantation commonly called Baccaye’, 1 December 1770; DM41/53/2, case history, 12 March 1790–8 April 1799; DM41/62/1, letter from Sir William Pulteney, 26 August 1795; DM41/62/2, Petrie, Campbell & Co. to Robert Keith Esq., 25 September 1795.

(47) Thorne (ed.), House of Commons, 1790–1820, vol. 3, pp. 108–9.

(48) NAS, GD237/12/46(7), Macdouall of Garthland papers, Henry Dundas to William McDowall, 22 June 1790.

(49) Journals of the House of Commons, 52 (1796–97), 210–11, 228, 235; NAS, GD267/5/4(2), Home of Wedderburn Manuscripts, George Home’s current account with Simond & Hankey, 14 November 1795 to 30 June 1798.

(50) NAS, GD267/5/4(10), account, March 1804.

(51) Journals of the House of Commons, 55 (1799–1800), 424–5, ‘Report on Mr McDowall’s petition’; pp. 170–1, ‘petition of Mr William McDowall Esq.’

(52) Journals of the House of Commons, 55 (1799–1800), 437, ‘Report on Mr McDowall’s petition’, appendix B, resolution of the directors of the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce and Manufactures; Fry, The Dundas despotism, p. 134.

(53) Edinburgh Almanack and Scots Register (1773), 130; (1786), 65–6; (1790), 53.

(p.194) (54) Journals of the House of Commons, 55 (1799–1800), 206, 543–4, 616, 668, 744, 759, 784.

(55) For this, and other, imperial ambiguities, see P. J. Marshall, ‘Britain and the world in the eighteenth century, iv: The turning outwards of Britain’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 6th series, 11 (2001), 2–3.

(56) Journals of the House of Commons, 44 (1788–89), 353, ‘Petition of the West India planters, West India merchants and others residing in the city of Bristol’, 20 May 1789. See also ‘The manufacturers of African goods of Birmingham’, 20 May 1789, Ibid., p. 380.

(57) Ibid., p. 353.

(58) Ibid., pp. 381–3.

(59) NAS, GD128/44/6b, Fraser–MacIntosh papers, Alexander Rose to John MacIntosh, 1 July 1792.

(60) Ibid., p. 294, ‘Petition of the proprietors of estates in the West India islands, and merchants trading to the West Indies, residing in the city of Glasgow and its neighbourhood’, 25 April 1789.

(61) T. M. Devine, ‘An eighteenth-century business elite: Glasgow–West India merchants, c. 1750–1815’, Scottish Historical Review, 57 (1978), 41.

(62) Edinburgh Evening Courant, 7 March 1795, 1.

(63) H. Hamilton, ‘The founding of the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, 1783’, Scottish Journal of Political Economy, 1 (1954), 33–48.

(64) J. Strang, Glasgow and its clubs, or glimpses of the condition, manners, characters and oddities of the city, during the past and present century (London & Glasgow: R. Griffen & Co., 1856), pp. 128–51.

(65) Ibid., pp. 52, 264.

(66) Liverpool Public Libraries Record Office, minutes of the common council, 4 May 1788. I am grateful to Roy C. Bridges for drawing this reference to my attention. See also A. Dalzel, The history of Dahomey: An inland kingdom of Africa (1793; London: Frank Cass, 1967), introduction by J. D. Fage, pp. 5–22.

(67) J. Latimer, The history of the Society of Merchant Venturers of the city of Bristol (1903; New York: Burt Franklin, 1970), pp. 185–6; Journals of the House of Commons, 44 (1788–89), 352–3, ‘Petitions from the Corporation of Bristol, the Merchant Venturers of Bristol, the African Merchants of Bristol, and the West India Planters and Merchants of Bristol against the abolition of the slave trade’, 12 May 1789.

(68) L. M. Penson, The colonial agents of the British West Indies: A study in colonial administration, mainly in the eighteenth century (1924; London: Frank Cass, 1971), p. 289; K. Morgan, Bristol and the Atlantic trade in the eighteenth century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), pp. 191–2.

(69) BUL, Pinney papers, Evan Baillie to Peter Baillie, 13 June 1804.

(70) A. I. Macinnes, ‘A strategy for history: Inaugural lecture’, Aberdeen University Review, 192 (1994), 356.

(71) D. Hancock, Citizens of the world: London merchants and the integration of the British Atlantic community, 1735–1785 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), pp. 52, 64; Journals of the House of Commons, 53 (1797–98), 624, ‘Petition from the proprietors of Bance Island’, 25 May 1798.

(72) Anon., A view of the Merchants House of Glasgow (Glasgow: Bell and Bain, 1866), pp. 460–2.

(73) Hansard, vol. 32, 3 March 1796, col. 868.

(74) Hansard, vol. 29, 2 April 1792, col. 1,078; vol. 34, 1 March 1799, cols. 528–9.

(75) Marshall, ‘Britain and the world, iv’, 2.

(76) D. P. Henige (ed.), Colonial governors from the fifteenth century to the present (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1970), pp. 112, 114, 128, 168–9, 180.