William Alexander Mackinnon

MP (Conservative)


1819: Mackinnon returned for Dunwich as a Tory with support of the Barne family; did not stand in 1820.

1831: elected for Lymington in 1831; lost the seat in 1833 because of his Tory speech on the Reform Bill on 20 March 1832 (speech published).

1835: Re-elected for Lymington in 1835; retained the seat until 1852.

1853: His son William Alexander Mackinnon (1832–1903) unseated on petition for Rye; Mackinnon returned for the borough without opposition

1857: Re-elected for Rye

1859: Re-elected again

1865: Retired.

"During the many years that he sat in parliament he proved himself a hard-working and useful member. Though classed as a Conservative, he was from the mid-1830s at the least a liberal conservative, and a free-trader."

Brought in bills for amendment of the patent laws, to prevent intramural interments in populous cities and towns (1842)*, and to abate the smoke nuisance; also obtained Sel Cmtees on removal of Smithfield market; later promoted measures relating to turnpike trusts and the establishment of a rural police (1855).

Source: Oxford DNB (H. C. G. Matthew)

  • For an attack on Mackinnon's bill concerning cemeteries see "Health of towns" : an examination of the report and evidence of the Select Committee of Mr. MacKinnon’s bill, and of the acts for establishing cemeteries around the metropolis (London, 1843; in Goldsmiths' Library collection).

1868: writes to Disraeli [at least, assuming it is the same Mackinnon] asking for a peerage: 'Dear Sir - In the course of my life I have entertained a great respect and kind feeling towards you. I have been desired by Lord Derby to address you when any object was desired by me. I am very desirous to have a Peerage conferred on me. My income is upwards of twenty thousand a year. The conferring of such an honour will bind me to you for life.' 3 months he wrote again saying that 'I can command fifty votes in Kent and a good many in Lancashire.' However, his pleas were unsuccessful and he remained a commoner. Robert Blake, Disraeli (1966), p. 689, citing Hughenden Papers, Box 148, C/I/A/54a, 22 April 1868 & C/I/A/68, 31 July 1868.

Rye listed as a corrupt borough (1 of 64) by H. J. Hanham, Elections and Party Management (1959), p. 263 n.1, though not 'extensively corrupt'.

Elections / Constituences

Dunwich Suffolk
1819 - 1820 
Lymington Hampshire
1831 - 1832 
Lymington Hampshire
1835 - 1852 
Rye Sussex
1853 - 1865 

Parliamentary Notes

Parliamentary Reform - Bill for England - Third Reading - Adjourned Debate - Third Day House of Commons 22/03/1832

Final Commons vote on the Reform Bill 3rd reading

Parliamentary Reform - Bill for England - Third Reading - Adjourned Debate House of Commons 20/03/1832

Mackinnon opposed to the Reform Bill. Argued that the power of the crown had diminished, mainly as a consequence of the rise of the middle classes: 'The only power, therefore, at present that remains, or is possessed by the Crown, in either House of Parliament, particularly in this House, arises from the influence of the Crown, or Sovereign, over those whose property, or whose rights of corporate or other franchises, enable them in the boroughs to return Members to this House.' (c. 523) Pass the bill; and the power and influence of the corwn, but also of the Lords and the Church will disappear: 'All the counterbalancing powers now existing in the King and upper House will vanish in a reformed Parliament; and, consequently, the Constitution, which, if I mistake not, consists in a proper equipoise of the three great powers in the State, will be destroyed. It seems to me impossible to elect a Parliament, such as must be elected if this Reform Bill passes, that will not, within a very few years, absorb the entire power in the State, and entirely control, if not dispense with, the authority of the other branches of the Legislature.' (c. 524)

And it is wrong and dangerous to suppose that unless Reform is passed fearful consequences will flow: but while public opinion must be attended to what it is: 'I think, and I assert, that it is the first duty of a legislature, in any civilized state, to attend to public opinion: but I cannot imagine that this sentiment in any country can be mistaken for popular clamour by any reasonable person who has not lost the faculty of judgment. Public opinion emanates from the most upright and well-informed individuals in the community, it is based on intelligence and is supported by the middle class: popular clamour arises chiefly from drunken or infuriated mobs, and is confined to the lower classes.' (c. 526)

The speech is interesting as an example of a form of class analysis. Cf Mackinnon's On the Rise, Progress, and Present State of Public Opinion... (1828)