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He seems to have taken this decision as investing him with authority to act, though it lacked any confirmation from the burghs, and indeed he found himself in 1708 the object of the convention’s censure for exacting fines ‘unwarrantably’. and being aboard the same ship with his highness, from Ostend to Zeeland, his highness was pleased to give the said Sir Alexander an invitation to Hanover and to assure him at the same time that if his highness should happen to live to have power in England the said Sir Alexander should be distinguished by the first honours of this kingdom.7At this point in his career Cumming’s association with Argyll may still have been strong enough to determine his political conduct.The fact that the complainant in this case was the Duke of Hamilton’s baillie may well have had some political significance, given Cumming’s association with Argyll. from being drowned in his highness’s returning to Germany . His son went over to Flanders in 1709 to attend the Duke, and fought at Malplaquet, where several members of Lady Cumming’s family fell.Yet at the same time Cumming maintained his connexions with members of the old Court party in Scotland, and his more moderate approach to the issue of toleration gave Lockhart reason to suspect him of being a Court stooge.When the proposal was made to press for a Scottish toleration bill, Cumming and some other members of the informal committee endorsed the idea in principle but produced the same ‘scruples and objections’ to implementation that Mar had brought forward.The impeachment of Dr Sacheverell may have been a watershed.
In March 1711 Cumming received a memorial from some ‘gentlemen’ in his constituency complaining of the ‘tediousness’ of Scottish legal procedure in relation to insolvency and urging him to move for the extension of the English bankruptcy laws to North Britain: his response is unknown, but nothing came of the initiative.
He was also active on behalf of Aberdeen in soliciting the Treasury for the council’s claim to the property of one James Douglas, a bastard who had died intestate, and in assisting Scottish merchants in general in their requests for convoys for their coastal shipping.9To begin with, Cumming voted with the ministry, dividing in 1709 in favour of the naturalization of the Palatines.
But the following year his party-political allegiance was transformed, and he subsequently claimed that he had been ‘the first, if not the only, Commoner of my country that expressed my sentiments to her Majesty in relation to the late administration’, that is to say his revulsion from it.
It may well have been with these instructions in mind that he obtained appointment to draft bills to discharge Scottish freeholders from attendance on the lords of judiciary on circuit (18 Jan.
1710), and to explain the Act for better securing the Queen’s person and government (16 Feb.).
1702–4; conservator, Scottish staple at Campvere 1707–11.2Burgess, Edinburgh 1704, Arbroath 1708, Old Aberdeen 1710, Anstruther Easter 1720.3Cumming, whose grandfather had been penalized by the Scottish parliament in 1645 as a ‘malignant’, held to the episcopalian principles of his forebears (his library included, among other theological works, a copy of the ) and when excitement over ecclesiastical issues reached a peak he took on many of the characteristics of a Scottish Tory, except for any perceptible Jacobite sentiment.