ALEXANDER, Boyd (1758-1825), of South Barr, nr. Paisley, Renfrew.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1796 - 1802
30 Mar. 1803 - 1806

Family and Education

b. Jan. 1758, 4th s. of Claud Alexander of Newtoune by Joanna, da. of Alexander Cuninghame of Craigends. educ. Glasgow Univ. 1770. m. Apr. 1785, his cos. Camilla, da. of Boyd Porterfield of that ilk, s.p.

Offices Held

Lt.-col. commdt., Greenock vols. 1803.


Alexander joined the East India Company service about 1771 with his elder brother Claud, who became paymaster of the forces there.1 He returned with the proverbial fortune about 1783. In 1788 he was described as an independent freeholder of Renfrewshire who, like his father-in-law, supported William McDowall in the contest for the county, though his brother Claud was by now married to a niece of John Shaw Stewart, the other contender.2 Alexander was first cousin to the candidate put up by McDowall in 1790, Cuninghame of Craigends, and in 1796 McDowall encouraged Alexander, ‘who had long been intimately acquainted with the resources of both parties’, to stand. He ‘was returned unanimously, the opposite interest found it in vain to stand the contest’.3

Alexander was expected to be a friend of Pitt’s administration, which he supported in silence. He subscribed £10,000 to the loyalty loan for 1797. He and McDowall were publicly thanked at Greenock in January 1802 for their promotion of the Greenock harbour and police bill.4 At the election of 1802 he exchanged places with McDowall, who backed his candidature for Glasgow Burghs.5 He was defeated by the casting vote of the returning burgh, Dumbarton, but protested that the election of the Dumbarton delegate was void and was seated on petition, 30 Mar. 1803.6 He was reckoned a supporter of Addington’s administration and on 6 May 1803 spoke with ministers for the adjournment.7 When Addington’s ministry was tottering, Sir Hew Hamilton informed Melville, 19 Apr. 1804: ‘I find Alexander and Sir David are certainly to vote with the Doctor; everything is doing to bring over the former’.8

Alexander was subsequently listed as a friend of Pitt’s ministry and voted with the government minority against the censure of Melville, 8 Apr. 1805. He voted for the repeal of Pitt’s Additional Force Act, 30 Apr., and was reported by Lord Grenville in October 1806 to have ‘undoubtedly supported government through the whole of the last session’.9 He had then applied to Grenville for government support for his candidature for Glasgow Burghs, being sure of Glasgow alone; he had sought it before, but the prime minister had been unable to grant him an interview. It was his belief that the solicitor-general would not persist in his candidature and he wished to be given preference over the two other candidates.10 With this request Grenville complied and the contest ended as a straight fight between Alexander and Archibald Campbell of Blythswood. He was defeated and abandoned a petition.

There was subsequently bad blood between him and Campbell, despite an attempted reconciliation,11 but he gave up the burghs and, on the death of his friend McDowall in 1810, offered again for Renfrewshire. Defeated by a Whig combination and by Campbell’s competition he aimed to overcome these obstacles;12 but he was defeated again in 1812, and although at his own expense he tried to nullify new votes created by the Whig party, his efforts met with no success at the court of session or by appeal to the Lords. Having campaigned for five years, from 1813, when claiming to have ‘uniformly supported government during a period of 11 years when I had a seat in Parliament’, he sought to enlist the support of Liverpool’s administration for his efforts,13 he gave up the contest on the eve of the election in 1818, promising however to resume it at the next opportunity. Another attempt was made to secure government backing, but the Whig junto was too strong for Alexander and he gave up the struggle. He died without issue, 15 July 1825, whereupon South Bar and Boghall passed to the family of his brother Claud of Ballochmyle, Ayr.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Authors: J. W. Anderson / R. G. Thorne


  • 1. Burke PB under Alexander of Ballochmyle, Ayr.
  • 2. Pol. State of Scotland 1788, p. 289.
  • 3. NLS mss 2, f. 21.
  • 4. Edinburgh Advertiser, 12-15 Jan. 1802.
  • 5. Argyll mss, McDowall to Argyll, 21 June 1802.
  • 6. Edinburgh Advertiser, 30 July-3 Aug. 1802; CJ, lviii. 303.
  • 7. The Times, 7 May 1803.
  • 8. SRO GD51/1/79.
  • 9. Blair Adam mss, Grenville to Adam, 31 Oct. 1806.
  • 10. Fortescue mss, Alexander to Grenville, 25 Oct., 8 Nov. 1806.
  • 11. SRO GD51/198/22/7-9; NLS mss 1, ff. 117-35.
  • 12. NLS mss 2, f. 21.
  • 13. Add. 38253, ff. 47, 161.