LASCELLES, Henry (1690-1753), of Harewood and Northallerton, Yorks.
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Family and Education
b. 20 Dec. 1690, 2nd surv. s. of Daniel Lascelles, M.P., of Stank and Northallerton by Margaret, da. of George Metcalfe of Northallerton. m. (1) 8 Apr. 1712, Mary, da. and coh. of Edward Carter of Barbados, 5s.; (2) 1731, Janet, da. of John Whetston of Barbados, s.p.
Collector of customs, Barbados 1715-30; director, E.I. Co. 1737-45.
Henry Lascelles came of an old Yorkshire family, who had recently become connected with Barbados. As a youth he went to Barbados, where from 1715 he combined the business of a merchant with the post of collector of customs. In 1730 he turned over his customs post to his brother, Edward, getting his accounts passed by the commissioners of customs in 1733. Soon afterwards he settled in England, buying the estate of Harewood in 1739 and founding the firm of Lascelles and Son, sugar factors, of Mark Lane, London. By 1740 he had secured a contract for supplying the forces in the Leeward Islands and was able, by speaking to Walpole, to obtain the privilege of transhipping some prize Spanish sugar, contrary to the customs regulations.1 He was included in the Treasury list of underwriters of a loan in 1744, taking £90,000.2
About this time Lascelles ran into trouble. As collector of customs he had been repeatedly accused of frauds in connexion with the administration of the 4½ per cent export duty on sugar, notably by Walpole’s brother, Horace, the auditor general for the plantations, in a memorial to the Treasury in 1730. All these attacks were warded off till Robert Dinwiddie, surveyor general of the customs for the southern part of America, reported to the commissioners of customs the results of investigations which they had ordered him to make into the conduct of the local collectors of customs. The substance of his report, so far as the Lascelles brothers were concerned, was that they had been systematically defrauding the Government, in Henry’s case by pocketing about one-third and in Edward’s over a half of the proceeds of the 4½ per cent duty. It also emerged that the commissioners of customs had been induced to pass Henry’s accounts on the recommendation of a surveyor general of customs, who was disclosed by Dinwiddie’s investigations to have been a party to the frauds. In these circumstances Dinwiddie himself dismissed Edward, while the commissioners, with the approval of the attorney general, filed a bill against Henry Lascelles in the court of Exchequer for surcharging his accounts.3 On 4 July 1744 Henry Lascelles’s partner, Maxwell, wrote to Edward Lascelles in Barbados:
This matter has been brewing ever since the fall of the Earl of Orford, and your brother became obnoxious to the new ministry, I believe from some public declarations in favour of the old to which he was obliged. Not only the Treasury was put into other hands, but some new commissioners of the customs were made ... Lord Wilmington who was at the head of the former was old and disregarded, and therefore the latter board exerted a greater power than belonged to them, especially in the instance of Mr. Dinwiddie, and although at the old man’s [Wilmington’s] death the Treasury underwent a second change and came again into the hands of those that had been of the old ministry, yet these did not care to intermeddle or discourage an inspection proposed and countenanced before their time for the great clamour of the necessity of it and for the same reason I fear the present lords of the Treasury will not now interpose in the matter.4
At the end of the year Henry Lascelles took an opportunity of bringing his eldest son, Edwin, into Parliament for Scarborough. He followed this up in May 1745 by entering the Commons himself for his native town, Northallerton, where he bought control of one seat from William Smelt, who vacated the seat by accepting a Barbados post, no doubt procured for him by Lascelles.5 On 19 Sept. he petitioned the Treasury for a discharge from the prosecution, on the ground that his accounts had been formally passed by the commissioners of customs in 1733. Before reaching a decision the Treasury ordered the commissioners ‘to report ... forthwith what new matter has been laid before them to induce them to open an account which has been for so many years closed and passed’. On receipt of the commissioners’ reply setting out the grounds for their action, the Treasury ordered process against Lascelles to be stayed, ‘it not appearing ... that the commissioners have laid before them any new matter’.6 Commenting on this transaction, the 2nd Lord Egmont wrote in his electoral survey, 1749-51:
Lascelles may be easily compelled by terror of an enquiry into his West Indian affairs. But query whether for the sake of a great example, and in particular on account of one very obnoxious man who may be come at by such an enquiry, it may not be necessary to waive the advantage of his vote and influence.
On which the Prince of Wales minuted: ‘This must be talked over’. No further action was in fact taken against Lascelles, who gave up his seat to his second son, Daniel, in 1752 by accepting the chief stewardship of the honour of Berkhampstead, the first M.P. to use a stewardship to get out of Parliament.7 He died 16 Oct. 1753, leaving a fortune of £284,000.8
Ref Volumes: 1715-1754
Author: Romney R. Sedgwick
- 1. R. Pares, 'A London West India Merchant House 1740-69', Essays presented to Sir Lewis Namier, ed. Pares and Taylor, 76-78; R. Pares, War and Trade in the West Indies, 492.
- 2. Gent. Mag. 1744, p. 225.
- 3. Pares, 'A London West India Merchant House', loc. cit.; Cal. Treas. Bks. and Pprs. 1720-28, pp. 97-98; 1742-5, pp. 269-71, 527-8; T1/318.
- 4. Pares, loc. cit.
- 5. J. H. Parry, 'The Patent Places in the British West Indies', EHR, lxix. 213.
- 6. Cal. Treas. Bks. and Pprs. 1742-5, pp. 716, 731, 784.
- 7. B. Kemp, 'The Stewardship of the Chiltern Hundreds', Essays presented to Sir Lewis Namier, 208.
- 8. Pares, 'A London West India Merchant House', 107.