Baxter, William Edward (DNB01)

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BAXTER, WILLIAM EDWARD (1825–1890), traveller and author, born on 24 June 1825 at Dundee, was the eldest son of Edward Baxter of Kincaldrum in Forfar, a Dundee merchant, by his first wife, Euphemia, daughter of William Wilson, a wool merchant of Dundee. Sir David Baxter [q. v.] was his uncle. He was educated at the high school of Dundee and at Edinburgh University. On leaving the university he entered his father's counting-house, and some years afterwards became partner in the firm of Edward Baxter & Co. In 1870 that firm was dissolved, and he became senior partner of the new firm of W. E. Baxter & Co. He found time for much foreign travel and interested himself in politics. In March 1855 he was returned to parliament for the Montrose burghs in the liberal interest, in succession to Joseph Hume [q. v.], retaining his seat until 1885. After refusing office several times he became secretary to the admiralty in December 1868, in Gladstone's first administration, and distinguished himself by his reforms and retrenchments. In 1871 he resigned this office, on becoming joint secretary of the treasury, a post which he resigned in August 1873, in consequence of differences between him and the chancellor of the exchequer, Robert Lowe. He was sworn of the privy council on 24 March 1873. Baxter continued to carry on business as a foreign merchant in Dundee till his death. He died on 10 Aug. 1890 at Kincaldrum.

In November 1847 he married Janet, eldest daughter of J. Home Scott, a solicitor of Dundee. By her he had two sons and five daughters.

Besides many lectures Baxter published:

  1. 'Impressions of Central and Southern Europe,' London, 1850, 8vo.
  2. 'The Tagus and the Tiber, or Notes of Travel in Portugal, Spain, and Italy, London, 1852, 2 vols. 8vo.
  3. 'America and the Americans,' London, 1855, 8vo.
  4. 'Hints to Thinkers, or Lectures for the Times,' London, 1860, 8vo.

[Dublin Univ. Mag. 1876, lxxxviii. 652-64 (with portrait); Dundee Advertiser, 11 Aug. 1890; Official Return of Members of Parl.; Foster's Scottish M.P.'s; Allibone's Dict. of Engl. Lit.; Burke's Landed Gentry.]

E. I. C.