William Alexander Mackinnon (politician, born 1784)

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William Alexander Mackinnon

William Alexander Mackinnon (2 August 1789 – 30 April 1870) was a British politician.


He was born in Broadstairs, Kent in 1789 and educated at St John's College, Cambridge.[1][2]

A Whig, he was Member of Parliament (MP) for Dunwich from 1819 to 1820, for Lymington from 1831 to 1832 and from 1835 to 1852, and for Rye from 1853 to 1865.[3]

At the 1852 general election he was defeated in Lymington,[4] but his son William had been elected in Rye. However, a petition was lodged against the younger Mackinnon's election, and in May 1853 it was declared void. The elder Mackinnon successfully contested the resulting by-election on 23 May 1853.[5][6] On his retirement in 1865 the seat was taken by his son, Lauchlan Bellingham. Again, treating was alleged.[7]

He was a J.P. and Deputy Lieutenant of Middlesex.[8] Some of his parliamentary work concerned animal welfare and in 1858 he chaired the AGM of the RSPCA,[9] having been appointed vice chair in 1837.[10]

He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1827, submitting a paper on the absorption of atmospheric moisture by the state of chalk and limestone. [1] He was also invested as a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. He was chairman of the Furness Iron and Steel Co at its inauguration in 1866. His three sons were also shareholders. He was a director of the Elan Valley Railway[11] He wrote three books, "Thoughts on the currency question", Public Opinion" and "The history of civilisation"[12]

He succeeded in 1809 as the 33rd Chief of the Clan Mackinnon.[8]

Marriage and children[edit]

He married Emma Mary Palmer, daughter of Joseph Palmer, of Palmerstown, Co Mayo and Rush House, co Dublin; they had three sons and three daughters. Emma Mary died in November 1835 and W A Mackinnon inherited Joseph Palmer's estates on his death.[13] The inheritance included the estates of Greenscoe and Greenhaume near Dalton in Furness.[14]

The eldest son, William Alexander, was also an M.P.,.[15]

The daughter Louisa Harriet married Thomas Cochrane, 11th Earl of Dundonald.

Another daughter Emma Mary Mackinnon (15 August 1811 – Paris, 15 November 1891), married Antoine Alfred Agénor Duc de Gramont: Foreign minister for the French Second Empire, and who instigated contact with Wilhelm I leading to the Ems Telegram.

The second son, Lauchlan Bellingham 1814 - 1877 was a Royal Navy captain and wrote three books.[16][16]

The third son was Major General Daniel Henry Mackinnon 1814 - 1884. He wrote "Military Service and Adventures in the Far East; Including Sketches of the Campaigns Against the Afghans in 1839 and the Sikhs in 1845-6[17]

Mackinnon and the RSPCA[edit]

Mackinnon’s religious and ‘gentlemanly’ morals drove his enthusiasm for animal welfare. During the late eighteenth century, a new type of humanitarianism was developed through evangelical piety and romanticised ideology, which advertised the plight of animals. In Britain, animals had generally been regarded ‘as man’s property, to be treated as he pleased’, however, according to Arthur W. Moss, during the nineteenth century, various organisations progressed in daring ‘to take as their objectives the prevention of cruelty to animals’.[18]

Founded in London as the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals by Reverend Arthur Broome and Richard Martin in 1824, the charity was granted Royal status by Queen Victoria in 1840 and became the RSPCA as it is known today. From 1824, the RSPCA began concentrating on cruelty in London’s meat markets, but its ambitions were not restricted to Britain’s borders. Humanitarians such as William Alexander Mackinnon were eager to reduce Britain’s national association with cruel sports as well as tackling cruelty overseas. Brian Harrison notes that during the 1836 annual meeting of the Society, Mackinnon took pride in the fact that ‘to Englishmen alone is the credit due, of having been the first to take up the cause of the suffering dumb creation’. [19]

Mackinnon’s role in the RSPCA was invaluable. The Society could not promote legislation of Acts of Parliament to protect animals and birds, so instead relied on the prerogative of individual MPs and governments. Mackinnon was able to present a Parliamentary Bill ‘for consolidating and amending the laws relating to the cruel and improper treatment of animals’. This initial Bill was initially unsuccessful, however, it paved the way for a partnership with Joseph Pease, MP for South Durham, who, like Mackinnon, was a member of the Society of Friends, and on the RSPCA Committee.[20] The two worked in conjuncture, creating another Bill – the Cruelty to Animals Act 1835 – which was passed. This was a momentous step forward as it illegalised the use of public and private spheres for running, baiting or fighting bulls, bears, badgers, dogs and other animals, whether wild or domestic. [21]


  1. ^ a b "Library and Archive Catalogue". Royal Society. Retrieved 2 August 2011. 
  2. ^ "Mackinnon, William Alexander (MKNN799WA)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge. 
  3. ^ Liverpool Mercury 6 September 1864
  4. ^ Craig, F. W. S. (1989) [1977]. British parliamentary election results 1832–1885 (2nd ed.). Chichester: Parliamentary Research Services. p. 196. ISBN 0-900178-26-4. 
  5. ^ Craig, op cit., page 260
  6. ^ "No. 6285". The London Gazette. 27 May 1853. p. 417. 
  7. ^ Glasgow Herald 12 Apr 1866
  8. ^ a b "The Peerage". Retrieved 2 August 2011. 
  9. ^ Morning Post 27 May 1858
  10. ^ Stamford Mercury – Friday 5 May 1837
  11. ^ Morning Post 29 May 1868
  12. ^ Obituary in The Examiner 7 May 1870
  13. ^ Obituary, Bury and Norwich Post - Tuesday 03 May 1870
  14. ^ Cumbria Records office, Barrow Box BDKF7
  15. ^ "Clan Mackinnon". Retrieved 2 August 2011. 
  16. ^ a b "Atlantic and transatlantic: sketches afloat and ashore *EBOOK* by Mackinnon, Lauchlan Bellingham: - E-Books Delivery Service". www.abebooks.co.uk. 
  17. ^ "Daniel Henry Mackinnon - AbeBooks". www.abebooks.co.uk. 
  18. ^ Brian Harrison, Peaceable Kingdom: Stability and Change in Modern Britain (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982), p. 85.
  19. ^ William Mackinnon, 1836 quoted in Harrison, p. 102.
  20. ^ 2 & 3 Victoria, c. 47.
  21. ^ Arthur W. Moss, Valiant Crusade: The History of the R.S.P.C.A (London: Cassell, 1961), p. 49.


External links[edit]

Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by William Alexander Mackinnon

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Michael Barne
The Lord Huntingfield
Member of Parliament for Dunwich
With: Michael Barne
Succeeded by
Michael Barne
George Henry Cherry
Preceded by
George Burrard
William Egerton
Member of Parliament for Lymington
With: George Burrard
Succeeded by
Sir Harry Burrard-Neale
John Stewart
Preceded by
Sir Harry Burrard-Neale
John Stewart
Member of Parliament for Lymington
With: John Stewart 1835–1847
Hon. George Keppel 1847–1850
Edward John Hutchins 1850–1857
Succeeded by
Edward John Hutchins
Sir John Rivett-Carnac
Preceded by
William Alexander Mackinnon (younger)
Member of Parliament for Rye
Succeeded by
Lauchlan Mackinnon