Home » Newspaper Articles » 1832 General Election controversy

1832 General Election controversy


The 1832 Reform Act had introduced some notable changes to the UK electoral system to try and make it fairer, less prone to undue influence by wealthy individuals, and more representative (about one fifth of the adult male population were now enfranchised, an increase of about 50%). See Newspaper Articles > 1832 Reform Act for details of local celebrations of the passing of this Bill that were attended by Patrick Matthew.

Following the passing of this Bill, the 1832 UK general election was held in December 1932 and January 1833. The two main rival Parties were the Tories (later the Conservative Party) and the Whigs (later the Liberal Party). The Whigs under Earl Grey had been in power since November 1830. The incumbent local Member of Parliament for the Constituency of Perthshire was Sir George Murray, a Tory. Challenging him was the Earl of Ormelie, John Campbell, the Whig candidate, who would later become the 2nd Marquess of Breadalbane. Ormelie, the more pro-Reform candidate, would win the seat from Murray at this election.

A remarkable exchange of letters in the Perthshire Courier provides evidence of Matthew’s political activism. Matthew writes as “Preses [President] of the Carse of Gowrie Purity of Election Union”, and accuses unnamed landholders of “having last week attempted to intimidate several prospective electors in the Neighbourhood” in order to get them to vote for Murray over Ormelie. This elicits a furious response from a group of local landholders, protesting their innocence. Matthew stands his ground, and defends the anonymous source of his information.

The letters also imply that Matthew had an editorial role in a local newspaper (The Strathmore Journal), in that P. Murray Threipland Jr. (acting on behalf of the landholders) demands that Matthew “insert” their denial in the Strathmore Journal. However, later on Matthew makes clear that he is not the Editor of the Journal. Whether or not he had a close relationship with the Journal is unknown (I have not seen any copies of the Journal).

This exchange, and Matthew’s public advocacy on behalf of Ormelie’s candidature, may explain why, years later, Matthew carried out an amicable and familiar correspondence with the 2nd Marquess of Breadalbane (as Ormelie would later become) (see Matthew Family Records > Breadalbane Letters).

“Communications to the Editor”. Perthshire Courier, 2 August 1832, p.3 col.2-3 (pdf image)
An exchange between Patrick Matthew and local landholders over allegations of election interference. The full text of this exchange follows:



Sir,– Mr Patrick Matthew of Gourdie-hill having been called upon to RETRACT a false and unfounded statement made by him, (as Preses of the Carse of Gowrie PURITY of Election Union,) in the Strathmore Journal of 12th July: and having in his endeavours to qualify and explain that statement, brought forth other imputations and allegations EQUALLY FALSE and UNFOUNDED, I think it will serve the cause of TRUTH and JUSTICE to publish the original statement, and the correspondence to which it gave rise.
I am, Sir,
Your most obed[ien]t. serv[an]t. P. MURRAY THREIPLAND, Junr. Fingask Castle, Aug. 2, 1832.


CERTAIN LANDHOLDERS of this DISTRICT having last week attempted to INTIMIDATE several Prospective ELECTORS in the Neighbourhood, by Threatening that they will do all in their power to injure them in their Business, should they Vote for the Man of their Choice, LORD ORMELIE, to whom they were already Pledged, We, THE CARSE OF GOWRIE PURITY OF ELECTION UNION, thus publicly express our Indignation at this detestable conduct; and Resolve, should another instance occur of such Infamous Perversion of the power which wealth bestows, that we will Publish the Name of the Offending Party, and leave him to settle accounts, as best he may, with the neighbouring Political Unions; who, hearing of these and other similar practices, are vowing, in their high indignation against Corruption, that they will not cut an handful of the corns on the lands of all such would be Tyrants.
Some may think that they may go on to practice this System of Intimidation towards their Tenantry and Tradesmen in secret; but we reminded them, that the great body of the population are, at heart, supporters of the Good Cause; that they burn to detect and expose all unfairness – hating equally the dastard, the mercenary, and the oppressor; and we warn them, that not a movement can be made on the side of corruption but will be brought immediately under our notice, and held up to Public Execration.
Carse of Gowrie, July 10, 1832.


Perth, 27th July, 1832.
[To] Patrick Matthew, Esq. of Gourdie-hill.
SIR,– Having seen an advertisement in the Strathmore Journal, of the 12th inst. with your signature appended, in which it is asserted, that certain Landholders, of the Carse of Gowrie district, have attempted to intimidate several Prospective Electors, by threatening to do all in their power to injure them in their business, should they vote for Lord Ormelie.– We, the undersigned Landholders, resident in the Carse of Gowrie, hereby, individually and jointly, give this statement the most unqualified denial, and request you will give the same publicity to this our denial as you have given to your mis-statement, by the insertion of the same in the public newspaper.
JAS. BELL, acting for LORD GRAY.
JAS. CONDIE for JAMES HAY, Esq. of Seggieden.


Copy of Mr Threipland’s first Letter to Mr Matthew.
Fingask Castle, July 28, 1832.
SIR,– At the desire of the gentleman signing the inclosed, I have to request you will favor me with an answer by the bearer, saying, whether or not you intend to insert the same in the Strathmore Journal of Thursday next.– I am, Sir, Your obed[ien]t humble serv[an]t. P. MURRAY THREIPLAND, Junr.
To Pat. Matthew, Esq. of Gourdie-hill, &c. &c.


Gourdie-hill, July 28, 1823 [clearly a typographical error – should be 1832].
Sir,– I have received your letter of 27th inst. with inclosed. Last week I had notice that the Proprietors of the Carse district felt indignant regarding the statement in the Strathmore Journal of the 12th inst. I immediately called upon the individual who had lodged the complaint, and questioned him regarding the truth of his statement, telling him, that an apology should be immediately made, were the facts not as he gave them at first.– His answer was “There is no need of apology, make no apology. The fact was as stated in the Journal.” Of course I shall immediately proceed to get this person’s denial or affirmation in writing and forward it to you, or to the Editor of the Strathmore Journal.– I am,
Your most ob[e]d[ien]t. serv[an]t.
To P. Murray Threipland, Esq. Fingask.


Copy of Mr Threipland’s 2d. Letter to Mr Matthew..
Fingask Castle, July 10, 1832.
SIR,– I received your letter of Saturday the 28th inst. in reply to my letter to you of that morning.
I have again to request to be informed by you, in distinct terms, whether or not you are to insert in the Strathmore Journal of Thursday next, the “Denial” of the Landholders of the Carse of Gowrie, as enclosed by me to you on the 28th inst. verbatim, and with every signature thereto attached.
It is quite immaterial to the gentlemen whose statement I sent you, from what source the information was obtained on which you say the paragraph in the Strathmore Journal, of the 12th inst. was written.
You have thought proper to give your name and publicity to an allegation which we protest to be utterly false; and we hold you bound to contradict that mis-statement, by the publication of our “unqualified Denial” of it, in the manner, and through the channel above pointed out.
My servant waits an answer; or should you be from home when this is delivered, I trust to be favored by one tonight, or before nine o’clock tomorrow morning.
And I am, Sir,
Your obed[ien]t humble serv[an]t.
To Pat. Matthew, Esq. of Gourdie-hill, &c. &c.


Gourdie-hill, July 30, 1832.
Sir,– Your letter was received this evening. Our Purity of Election Union had already been making arrangements for the publication of your memorial, which they consider ought to come before the public without any delay. You need not fear that it will appear otherwise than as handed to me. I am glad that you consider any communication from the person who made the complaint of intimidation to me unnecessary, as I should be sorry to bring a quiet unoffensive man before the public eye.– Yours, &c.
To P. Murray Threipland, Esq. Fingask.
P.S. It is in the Strathmore Journal that the document containing your signatures appended to the denial is to be inserted. P.M.


Sir,– I observe from the speeches and writings of the Earl of Ormelie that he says he is opposed to all monopolies. Now, I am, in general, no friend to monopolies, and, therefore, agreeing in so far with his Lordship, I am sorry, however, to remark what appears to be a grievous inconsistency in his conduct and that of his friends: If a country gentlemen canvases tenants, or the feuars on his estate, in behalf of Sir George Murray, all shew himself anxious to support that gentlemen,– he is immediately set down as using “undue influence,” and as a dangerous oppressor of the rights of his countrymen. Without delay, anonymous letters are dispatched in all directions; the heather is on fire,– all the discontented people in the neighbourhood form themselves into political associations, and manifestoes are issued, giving dark hints of the interference of the legislature – the ballot – and Heaven knows what else besides. But if any of Lord Ormelie’s agents repeat ever so often their visits and solicitations to the tenantry of Sir George’s friends, and try to create differences between them and their landlords – that is all fair and proper and a highly commendable exercise of the right of canvassing the electors. Now, this somewhat illiberal view of matters, taken by Lord Ormelie and his friends, looks very like a monopoly of the right of canvassing.

Again, I observe that there is nothing which seems more to excite the indignation of these gentlemen than the very idea of Sir G. Murray having been at all friendly to reform. That is poaching upon my Lord Ormelie’s manor, of which he is not a little jealous. They argue as if every kind and degree of reform had been embodied in the Reform Bill; as if Sir George had been averse to every sort of reform, because he thought a measure in some respects different might have been better, and was not one of Mr Joseph Hume’s “black and white” supporters of “the Bill, the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill.” As they cannot well get over his speech in favour of Reform, when he was a member of the Duke of Wellington’s administration, they console themselves with saying that it was not specific, although they must know very well that he had then no opportunity of being so. Now, unless I am much mistaken, this is another instance of the monopolizing spirit of the Earl of Ormelie and his friends.
I am, Sir,
Your obed[ien]t. serv[an]t.,
July 31, 1832.

Page created: 26 January 2019
Last modified: 27 January 2019

%d bloggers like this: