LIVINGSTON, William (1650-1733)

LIVINGSTON, William (1650–1733)

suc. bro. 1706 as 3rd Visct. KILSYTH [S]; attainted 1716

RP [S] 1710, 1713

First sat 27 Nov. 1710; last sat 25 Aug. 1714

MP [S] Stirlingshire 1685, 1702-3 Oct. 1706

b. 29 Mar. 1650, 2nd s. of James Livingston, Visct. Kilsyth [S] (d.1661), and Eupheme, da. of Sir David Cunningham, bt., of Robertland, Ayr. educ. Glasgow Univ. m. (1) c.1692, Jean (d. 16 Oct.1695), da. of William Cochrane, styled Ld. Cochrane (1st s. d.v.p. of William Cochrane, earl of Dundonald [S]), wid. of John Graham, Visct. Dundee [S], 1s. d.v.p., 2da. (1 d.v.p.); (2) Barbara, da. of Henry Macdougall of Makerstoun, Roxburgh, 1da. d.v.p. d. 12 Jan. 1733.

Lt.-col., Roy. Regt. of Scots Drag. 1688.1

Associated with: Colzium, Kilsyth, Lanark.

Livingston’s family had long been distinguished for their loyalty to the house of Stuart. His father had suffered heavy financial losses for his royalism in the civil wars and Interregnum, including the destruction of the family seat of Kilsyth Castle. In recognition of his services he was raised to the Scottish peerage as Viscount Kilsyth on 17 Aug. 1661. His second son William, an officer in James II’s Scottish army, was seized and imprisoned in Edinburgh Castle in 1688. Released in 1690, he was arrested again two years later on suspicion of treason and held until 1694, when he was again freed, this time on condition that he live abroad. He was in Holland in 1695, when his first wife, the widow of the Jacobite commander Viscount Dundee, and son were accidentally killed by the collapse of the house in which they were living. Eventually he was permitted to return to Scotland, though evidently without changing his allegiance, and was elected to the Scottish parliament in 1702, where he appears to have sat as a ‘cavalier’, and a follower of the ‘country’ opposition headed by James Hamilton, 4th duke of Hamilton [S]. He was connected to Hamilton through his brother-in-law William Cochrane, one of the duke’s principal political managers. On the death of his elder brother, unmarried, in 1706, Livingston became the 3rd Viscount and took his seat in the Union Parliament on 3 October. As a committed Jacobite, he was a vigorous opponent of the Union Treaty, protesting at one point that only one in a thousand of his countrymen supported it, and acting in concert with Hamilton, to disrupt proceedings in Parliament.2 When the Jacobite agent, Colonel Nathaniel Hooke, visited Scotland in 1707 to assess the feasibility of raising a rebellion, he reported that Kilsyth and his kinsman James Livingston, 5th earl of Linlithgow, were among those noblemen eager to take part.3

Not surprisingly, Kilsyth was one of the Jacobite suspects taken into custody during the invasion scare in March 1708 and subsequently sent to London for trial.4 Hamilton, having made his tactical pact with the Squadrone and the English Whigs to effect his own release, met Kilsyth en route to London. He strongly urged the Junto secretary of state Charles Spencer, 3rd earl of Sunderland, to effect Kilsyth’s immediate release once he reached the English capital so he could return to Edinburgh to take part in the elections of the Scottish representative peers. Hamilton lamented that Kilsyth, ‘a man of honour and sense’, had been persuaded by the Scottish court party before his departure to give his proxy to the official who supervised his arrest and confinement, the commander-in-chief in Scotland and governor of Edinburgh Castle, David Melville, 5th earl of Leven [S]. ‘I can depend upon him’, Hamilton reassured Sunderland, ‘though he has given his proxy to Leven, if he can be dispatched to the election, he’ll be thoroughly with the Whigs and I will answer for him ... [he] is really a man of weight and merit with us and one who I can answer will adhere firm to what he promises’.5 The Squadrone leader James Graham, duke of Montrose [S], readily chimed in with Hamilton’s views, equally emphasizing to Sunderland that Kilsyth’s presence in Edinburgh was key to their electoral success.6 They were glad, just as John Erskine, 22nd earl of Mar [S], was irked, to hear in the week preceding the election of 17 June 1708 that Kilsyth had been admitted to bail and could be expected back in Scotland in time to take part in it. 7 Kilsyth was indeed present at the election and even brought with him the proxy of his fellow prisoner David Murray, 5th Viscount Stormont [S].8 After the election Hamilton wrote to Sunderland that ‘Lord Kilsyth did give us most considerable assistance by the good accounts he brought us of the good treatment he and the other prisoners had met with’ from the Whigs. He had duly revoked his proxy with Leven and had not held Hamilton to his initial promise that he, Kilsyth, would be one of the 16 peers on the Hamilton-Squadrone list, but voluntarily resigned his pretensions in order to avoid dissension. Furthermore, he had exercised Stormont’s proxy and ‘did not part with us in one vote, but applied all to the sixteen we appeared upon’.9

Perhaps in recompense for Kilsyth’s services in 1708, Hamilton was the principal agent driving forward Kilsyth’s inclusion in the list of court candidates in the peers’ election of 10 Nov. 1710.10 Mar wrote to Robert Harley, later earl of Oxford, a week before the election warning him that Hamilton ‘seems resolved to set up Lord Kilsyth … I apprehend he is not one who would be agreeable to you, and if so I wish you may fall on some way to let duke Hamilton know it’. Mar reported to Harley that he had told Hamilton that ‘I was afraid the noise some people above would make at his being chosen would do more hurt than anybody else whom he could propose, but he seemed still to persist, and I fear will do so unless he know the same to be your opinions above’. Harley does not appear to have intervened, for Kilsyth’s name was included in the list of peers sent to him by Mar on 9 November. Mar persisted in his objections but found Kilsyth’s election unavoidable since ‘he had all the Tories for him, is the duke of Hamilton’s particular friend and favourite who was extreme earnest for his being one, and that duke has acted so fair a part and been so easy in everything else that we could not get him refused’.11 So despite Mar’s opposition, Kilsyth was safely elected on 10 November.12 In an analysis of the Scottish representation in the new Parliament the Episcopalian chaplain to the duchess of Buccleuch, Richard Dongworth, classed Kilsyth as an ‘Episcopal Tory’ and estimated his annual income at about £1,500.13 To Daniel Defoe Kilsyth was one of several newly elected peers who were all ‘professed Jacobites ... known to aim in all they do at the Pretender and whose being now chosen has many ill effects here ... I mean as to increasing the insolence of Jacobitism in the north’.14 Another analysis of the representative peers drawn up shortly after the election similarly classed him as a Jacobite.

On 27 Nov. 1710 Kilsyth first took his seat, on the new Parliament’s second day of business, and was promptly named that day to the committee to draft the loyal address. He came to 72 per cent of the sittings of the first session of 1710-11 and was particularly diligent in its early weeks, missing only one sitting throughout December 1710. He was present on 2 Jan. 1711 to hear the queen’s message about the recent Allied defeat at Brihuega and continued to be present throughout the following enquiry into the conduct of the war. On 9 Jan. he voted, in committee of the whole House, on the question whether Charles Mordaunt, 3rd earl of Peterborough, had given a faithful account of the council of war held before the defeat at Almanza in 1707. A Whig attempt to defeat this resolution by a pre-emptive motion to resume was easily defeated, and according to the Scottish Member, the Squadrone leader George Baillie, ‘the Scots did the business’. On 12 Jan. when two resolutions were passed censuring the previous ministry for military defeats in Spain, Kilsyth was again present; Baillie noted that ‘all the Scots went one way’, in support of the resolutions.15 At the end of January the Scottish representative peer John Elphinstone, 4th Lord Balmerino [S], conveyed to his friend Henry Maule in Scotland the rumour that Kilsyth was to have a new infantry regiment, perhaps as a reward for services in the House, though this advancement never materialized.16

Balmerino was probably able to relay this information because from the winter of 1710-11 both he and Kilsyth associated regularly with each other and with William Johnstone, marquess of Annandale [S], and William Keith, 8th Earl Marischal [S], in convivial gatherings recorded in the diary of the English peer Charles Bennet, 2nd Baron Ossulston (later earl of Tankerville).17 On 5 Feb. 1711 Kilsyth, Annandale, Marischal, and Balmerino, along with Alexander Montgomerie, 9th earl of Eglinton [S], were the five Scottish representative peers (out of 13 recorded as present that day) who registered their dissent from the rejection of the Tory bill to repeal the General Naturalization Act. Baillie reported to his wife that when the House on 1 Mar. considered the appeal of the Episcopal minister James Greenshields against the judgment of the Edinburgh magistrates, 12 of the 16 Scottish representative peers present that day, including Kilsyth and the other protesters of 5 Feb., voted to defeat a motion to delay proceedings through an adjournment.18 Kilsyth did not attend between 26 Mar. and 9 May, and does not appear to have registered his proxy, despite his closeness to his Episcopal Tory colleagues. After his return he attended on most days until the prorogation on 12 June.

At some point in 1711 Kilsyth received a grant of royal bounty of £500, which cemented his loyalty to the court.19 He seems to have been entrusted by the court with the management of a part of the representative peers, almost as a regional ‘whip’. Certainly in early November 1711 Hamilton could inform the lord treasurer, the earl of Oxford (as Harley had become), that he expected Kilsyth’s imminent arrival in London, soon after which Hamilton would ‘be capable of giving you a fuller account of our side’s affairs’. Kilsyth was in the capital by 13 Nov. and about this time was seeking a meeting with Oxford. As George Hay, styled Viscount Dupplin [S] (later Baron Hay), warned the lord treasurer, ‘my Lord Kilsyth is very earnest to wait upon your Lordship; he must be pleased soon, otherwise will turn very uneasy’.20 In the days preceding the start of the new session, Kilsyth received the proxies of Annandale (3 Dec.) and Walter Stuart, 6th Lord Blantyre [S] (6 Dec.). Armed with these proxies, he was one of only five Scots present when the 1711-12 session, (of whose sittings he attended 77 per cent), opened for business on 7 December. By the time the matter of Hamilton’s right to sit under his British title of duke of Brandon came before the House on 20 Dec. the number of Scots there had increased to only nine, including Kilsyth’s two proxy donors Annandale and Blantyre, the latter of whom had arrived that very day. Kilsyth joined his compatriots in voting in the minority in favour of Hamilton’s right to sit.21 He also signed the protest against the majority decision and on 1 Jan. 1712 further subscribed to the memorial submitted to the queen imploring her to find some remedy for this perceived injustice to her Scottish subjects.22

Kilsyth attended on 2 Jan. 1712 at the critical moment of the introduction of the twelve new British peers. He supported the motion to comply with the queen’s message to adjourn, one of nine representative peers who decided that, despite disappointment over the Hamilton case, they were still prepared to assist Oxford’s ministry. Had they voted differently the question would have been lost. According to Baillie the Scottish peers were with the majority for the moment, but were planning to desert the ministry unless their complaints in the Hamilton matter were addressed.23 The possibility that an attempt would be made at conciliation seemed likely when on 17 Jan. the queen sent a message to the House lamenting what she saw as a limitation of her prerogative and urging the House to devise some method to resolve the matter. Kilsyth was present the following day when the House went into a committee of the whole to consider this message. He also attended further debates on 21 and 25 Jan., when it was resolved that the House could, without violating the Act of Union, permit ‘peers of Great Britain, who were peers of Scotland before the Union’ to sit by virtue of their British titles, but only at the request of the entire Scottish peerage. However, by the time the subject came to be discussed again, on 4 Feb., Kilsyth and the rest of the Scots peers were, in the words of Balmerino, resolved to ‘desert and abandon the House … for our present condition is intolerable’.24 At the next sitting, on 7 Feb., all the Scottish peers were absent.

Scottish Tories were careful to ensure that the boycott did not extend to measures affecting their own priorities. On 11 Feb. 1712 Kilsyth and ten other representative peers, including Blantyre and Balmerino, broke the boycott to be in the House for the second reading of the Episcopal communion bill, which in the event was postponed for two days to allow the commissioners of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland to make representations. Kilsyth and his colleagues were present again for the second reading, and Kilsyth further attended on 15 Feb. to hear the committee of the whole’s amendments and the third reading of the bill. The following day he resumed the boycott and he absented himself until 26 Feb., when the Episcopal communion bill came back from the Commons with amendments. Baillie and another commentator reported that that day Kilsyth and the four other Scottish peers present voted with the majority to agree with the Commons in their amendments which favoured Scottish Episcopalians and successfully saw the bill through.25

By the end of February 1712 all the Scots except for Hamilton and Annandale had returned to the House, ‘it’s said upon promise of redress’.26 Kilsyth was one of the 12 representative peers present on 8 Apr. when the Commons brought up the bill to restore the presentation rights of lay patrons in Scotland. He attended throughout the bill’s progress and on 12 Apr. voted with the majority in favour of the bill’s passage.27 Kilsyth received Balmerino’s proxy on 12 May, which he held for the remainder of the session, and Marischal’s on the 17 May, which was vacated by that earl’s early death only ten days later. With these proxies, Kilsyth was present on 20 May, when he voted for the bill to appoint commissioners to examine all royal grants of land made since 1689, with a view towards their resumption by Parliament.28 On 28 May he and the other nine Scots peers present helped defeat a Whig motion to address the queen against the ‘restraining orders’ given to the captain-general Thomas Butler, 2nd duke of Ormond, ordering him to desist from taking offensive action against the French.29 On 12 June he accepted the proxy of Thomas Hay, 7th earl of Kinnoull [S], to replace that of the deceased Marischal. This was longer-lasting and was not vacated until the prorogation on 8 July, on which day Kilsyth was again present in the House.

Throughout his first two sessions in the House Kilsyth had been watched closely by Mar. In a revision of his earlier opinion, Mar conceded that he could find little to fault with Kilsyth’s recent conduct. Towards the end of the 1711-12 session Mar noted to Oxford that ‘if being firm and steady in business these two sessions deserve any consideration, sure the Viscount of Kilsyth’s behaviour does’, especially as he had been solicited to desert the ministry by ‘no small temptation, even above what he can probably expect any other way’. Thus Mar thought it was imperative to reward him. Kilsyth, Mar continued:

was the first of them who came up here this sessions and when others declined it; he will now stay as long as there is occasion for him, but if he go home, and nothing done for him, others will not be forward in following the ways he has done. He trusts entirely to your Lordship.30

As Mar expected, Kilsyth loyally continued to attend the House, even coming to the prorogation of 31 July 1712. In August he joined Mar in presenting the Stirlingshire address thanking the queen for relieving them of ‘a long, bloody and expensive war, under which they have so long groaned’.31 Having sedulously attended six prorogation days throughout the winter and spring of 1713, he was again present for the start of the long-delayed session on 9 Apr. 1713, when the terms of the Treaty of Utrecht were to be discussed. He attended 85 per cent of its sitting days and was now considered a reliable supporter of the ministry. This extended to his conduct during the crisis over the attempt to repeal the Union. In early May a bill was introduced in the Commons to extend the malt tax to Scotland. Scottish representatives from both Houses met together on 25 May and decided that after this and so many other violations of the Treaty of Union—such as the abolition of the Scottish privy council, the extension to Scotland of the Treason Act and the Hamilton peerage case—they had no alternative but to seek its dissolution.32 Kilsyth and his kinsman Linlithgow did not agree, however, and at a further meeting of representative peers ‘declared against opposing the Court’.33 Kilsyth was present in the House on 1 June when James Ogilvy, 4th earl of Findlater [S], moved to bring in a bill to dissolve the Union. Most of the Scots peers who spoke in the debate mentioned that although they had originally supported the Union they now considered it to be too burdensome upon Scotland; all that is, as Balmerino caustically noted, ‘except honest Kilsyth’. The House divided on whether to put the question for an adjournment on discussion of this bill and the court narrowly defeated the motion after proxies were called. Following the failure of this attempt by the Scots and their temporary allies the Whigs to muster strength by delaying consideration of the bill, Findlater’s original motion to introduce it was thrown out of the House without a division. 34

Kilsyth missed the first reading of the malt tax bill on 3 June 1713, but was present two days later for the second reading when the Scots, together with the Whigs, tried unsuccessfully to delay further proceedings. Kilsyth spoke on 8 June in a very full committee of the whole House of 120 lords on Balmerino’s motion that words setting the tax at 6d. a bushel for malt produced in Scotland should be removed from the bill, as it was a violation of the 14th article of the Treaty of Union. According to Balmerino this was the first time Kilsyth had ever spoken in the House, despite his assiduous attendance. Kilsyth guardedly admitted, ‘My Lords I do approve this motion because it is most reasonable, and it would free us of a great burden, and yet it is with regret I do it because the laying on this tax will tend to the dissolution of the Union’. Balmerino was impressed—‘All the fine speeches that I heard did not please me so well as the honesty and good sense of this’.35 Unfortunately for the Scots, the motion to retain the words setting the rate of tax was upheld by the government. The bill was passed at its third reading that day in the House and Kilsyth was one of the 15 Scots peers who signed the protest against it.

Despite his opposition to the malt tax Kilsyth maintained his support of the ministry, presumably in hope of preferment. His financial position cannot have been other than strained by the need to attend Parliament, and there is evidence that he was selling land at this time.36 He continued to attend regularly until the prorogation of Parliament on 16 July 1713 and was forecast as likely to support the bill confirming the eighth and ninth articles of the French Commercial Treaty. At the end of the session, Baron Hay (as Dupplin had been created on 1 Jan. 1712) drew up for Oxford a list of the pretensions of the representative peers that should be addressed before the forthcoming election. Next to Kilsyth’s name he wrote: ‘he proposes no particular thing for himself, so [the] lord treasurer is best judge how to satisfy him for his past services, and how to provide him in time coming; might not he be of the commission of chamberlainrie?’37

Kilsyth did not receive this preferment, or any other, at this time, but was again elected as a representative peer at the elections of October 1713.38 With the blessing of the widowed duchess of Hamilton, who recommended Kilsyth to Oxford as ‘a very worthy man’, he continued to support the Tory ministry, in the hope, it was said, of becoming governor of Edinburgh Castle.39 He was not present at the beginning of the Parliament on 16 Feb. 1714, as he was still in the country, but resumed his seat on 6 Mar. and attended 73 per cent of the sitting days of the spring session.40 On 5 Apr. a resolution was moved that the Protestant succession in the House of Hanover was not in danger, to which it was proposed to add the words ‘under her majesty’s government’. After this addition had been carried it was observed that ‘our 15 Scots Lords went plumb into the affirmative’.41 Kilsyth was also forecast to support the schism bill and his name does not appear on the protest against its passage. On 14 July, five days after the prorogation, Mar wrote to Oxford that Kilsyth was eager to leave for Scotland.42 Nevertheless, he was present in the House for the session convened on 1 Aug. upon the death of the queen. He attended eight meetings of this session—53 per cent—and was last present in the House on 25 Aug. 1714 when Parliament was prorogued. The Hanoverian succession effectively ended Kilsyth’s parliamentary career. After taking part in the 1715 Jacobite rebellion he fled to the continent before capture and was subsequently attainted. He died in exile in Rome on 12 Jan. 1733, his estates and title having been forfeited.


  • 1 Douglas, Scots Peerage, v. 193.
  • 2 P.W.J. Riley, Union, 288, 332; C.A. Whatley, Scots and Union, 297.
  • 3 E.B. Livingston, Livingstons of Callendar, 129.
  • 4 Seafield Corresp. (Scot. Hist. Soc. ser. 2, iii), 467, 473, 474.
  • 5 Add. 61628, ff. 80-85, 86-89, 92; NAS, GD 124/15/831/19.
  • 6 Add. 61698, ff. 135-7.
  • 7 NAS, GD124/15/802/5; Edinburgh Courant, 18-21 June 1708; Add. 61698, f. 98.
  • 8 NLS, ms 1026, ff. 8, 23, 24, 31v, 39-40, 114-17.
  • 9 Add. 61628, ff. 102-7; Add. 61629, ff. 120-21.
  • 10 D. Szechi, Jacobitism and Tory Pols. 204.
  • 11 HMC Portland, x. 348, 350, 351.
  • 12 NLS, ms 1026, ff. 62-65.
  • 13 SHR, lx. 62.
  • 14 HMC Portland, iv. 630-1.
  • 15 Haddington mss, Mellerstain Letters, 3, George Baillie to his wife, 11 and 13 Jan. 1711.
  • 16 Scot. Hist. Soc. Misc. xii. 125.
  • 17 SHR, lxxi. 114-15, 124-8; TNA, C 104/113 pt 2 (Ossulston’s Diary), 24 Jan. 1711 et seq.
  • 18 Haddington mss, Mellerstain Letters, 3, Baillie to his wife, 3 Mar. 1711.
  • 19 Jones, Party and Management, 165, 167.
  • 20 HMC Portland, v. 107, 109, 115.
  • 21 NAS, GD 220/5/256/24.
  • 22 Add. 70269, ‘Memorial presented to her Majesty in Duke Hamilton’s case, 1711’.
  • 23 Haddington mss, Mellerstain Letters, 4, Baillie to his wife, 3 Jan. 1712.
  • 24 Scot. Hist. Soc. Misc. xii. 143.
  • 25 Haddington mss, Mellerstain Letters, 5, Baillie to Montrose, 28 Feb. 1712; NLS, Advocates’ mss, Wodrow pprs. letters Quarto, 6, ff. 125, 126.
  • 26 Haddington mss, Mellerstain Letters, 5, Baillie to his wife, 28 Feb. 1712.
  • 27 NLS, Wodrow letters Quarto, 6, f. 160.
  • 28 Haddington mss, Mellerstain Letters, 5, Baillie to his wife, 20 May 1712.
  • 29 Ibid. Baillie to duke of Roxburghe [S], 29 May 1712.
  • 30 HMC Portland, x. 265.
  • 31 London Gazette, 2-5 Aug. 1712; Scots Courant, 13-15 Aug. 1712.
  • 32 Wentworth Pprs, 337.
  • 33 Lockhart Letters, 80; NLS, ms 25276, f. 65.
  • 34 Scot. Hist. Soc. Misc. xii. 155-6, 163.
  • 35 Ibid. 159-61.
  • 36 NAS, GD 220/1/H/8/4.
  • 37 HMC Portland, v. 314.
  • 38 NLS, Wodrow letters Quarto, 7, f. 182.
  • 39 Add. 70223, Elizabeth, dowager duchess of Hamilton, to Oxford, n.d.; NLS, Wodrow letters Quarto, 8, f. 70.
  • 40 NAS, GD 248/561/50/26.
  • 41 NLS, Wodrow letters Quarto, 8, f. 82.
  • 42 HMC Portland, x. 322.