BALDWYN, Charles (1729-1801), of Bockleton, Salop.
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Family and Education
bap. 29 Sept. 1729, 1st s. of Charles Baldwyn of Bockleton by Elizabeth, da. of John Allgood of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, wid. of Sir Patrick Strachan of Aberdeen. educ. St. Mary Hall, Oxf. 1747. m. 14 May 1752, Catherine, da. and h. of William Lacon Childe, M.P. for Shropshire 1727-34, 2s. 1da. suc. fa. April 1751.
The Baldwyns were old Shropshire gentry;1 and Charles Baldwyn’s uncle, Acton Baldwyn, and before him three generations of the family, had sat for Ludlow.
In 1779, at the end of Charles Baldwyn’s parliamentary career, the Public Ledger published a character sketch of him which, though adverse, comes near the truth: ‘A puzzle-headed country gentleman, of Tory principles. Votes constantly with the minister, and avers that Kings and Governments, let their actions be what they will, must and ought to be supported.’ Puzzle-headed he certainly appears in his autobiographical account in 1782; at the outset he was the choice of the Shropshire Tories and of Lord Powis, a ministerialist by preference under George III no less than under George II (and after having been threatened with a Whig opposition in 1766, Baldwyn was each time returned without a contest); but the degree of his compliance with Governments is somewhat exaggerated. On matters about which the country gentlemen felt strongly, Baldwyn would go against the Government—thus over the land tax, 27 Feb. 1767, and the motion for an account of pensions, 21 Feb. 1780. Otherwise his recorded votes, nine in all, were given on the Government side, and in Robinson’s parliamentary surveys he is invariably classed as ‘pro’.
Less than a dozen speeches by him are recorded during his 14 years in Parliament: the first in defence of Clive, against Burgoyne’s motion of 19 May 1773.2 ‘He spoke (as well as he could)’, wrote Lloyd Kenyon, ‘and voted as stoutly as anybody for Lord Clive’; ‘in hopes, I fancy’, wrote Kenyon in another letter, ‘to have his interest at the next general election’.3 Voicing the views of the less intelligent country gentlemen, Baldwyn spoke on 2 and 8 Mar. 1774 against a bill to prevent vexatious removals of the poor; he considered existing safeguards sufficient.4 Over America Baldwyn opposed any weakening in Government policy. On 8 Nov. 1775, he said:5
he had always understood the dispute with America was for a revenue to be raised there to relieve the country gentlemen; but having since heard that the idea of taxation was given up ... he thought ... it was improper to expend any more money in the contest ...
Being told by North ‘that taxation is not nor ever was’ out of the Government’s view, Baldwyn ‘was satisfied with this explanation’. But next, when North brought in his conciliatory propositions, 17 Feb. 1778, Baldwyn
declared he had been deceived by the minister; that three years ago he asked him whether a revenue was meant by the claim? That he was answered, it was; and upon that ground alone he had hitherto voted with the ministry.6
A rather different line was adopted by him on 17 June 1779 when, alone on the Government side, he spoke in favour of Lord John Cavendish’s motion for employing all forces against the House of Bourbon, i.e. for withdrawing them from America.7
Robinson in his electoral survey of 1780 wrote against Shropshire: ‘Mr. Baldwyn will not come in here again.’ By that time his financial position was well-nigh desperate. He was in receipt of a secret service pension (which gives a curious twist to his vote for an account of pensions—presumably not secret ones); how long he had it is uncertain: in Robinson’s accounts for 1779-80 three payments ‘by order’ are mentioned: 8 Mar. 1779, £800; 11 June 1779, £800; and 4 May 1780, £300; and under 15 July 1780 two quarters of an annual pension of £600 p.a.8 This is also mentioned in April 1782 in the ‘Account of pensions extinguished and not returned’:9 ‘Mr. Baldwyn, on being out of Parliament, £600.’ And on 27 Aug. 1782 Baldwyn wrote to Shelburne, then first lord of the Treasury:10
I little thought I should be under the necessity of ever becoming so humble a petitioner ... being disappointed of assistance where I had the greatest reason to expect it, I have no prospect of being able to extricate myself from my difficulties, or even preserve my liberty, unless I ... obtain some relief from Government ... though an advocate for public economy, I am persuaded you wish to encourage such acts of royal benevolence, as are unmixed with corruption. ...
He enclosed a printed leaflet of three pages, ‘Case of Charles Baldwyn, Esq’. The gravamen of that ‘case’ is primarily against his eldest son, for whose sake he claimed to have ruined himself, and who now refused to come to his financial rescue. The story is hardly convincing: it is one of bad bargains with every member of the family he had to deal with; and while denying that he had gambled, he admits having speculated: he purchased ‘estates when land sold very dear’; borrowed money ‘the interest whereof is since raised’; and afterwards was ‘under a necessity of selling estates very cheap’. Still, he claims that, while he ‘impaired his finances ... he has served his son to whose welfare indeed he had in a great measure sacrificed his own fortune, his liberty, all the comforts of life, and perhaps his life itself, for as he finds his health much injured, he doubts not but his existence will be shortened by his uneasiness of mind.’ He died nearly 20 years later, 28 Sept. 1801.
Ref Volumes: 1754-1790
Author: Sir Lewis Namier
- 1. E. H. Martin, ‘The Baldwins’, Trans. Salop Arch. Soc. (ser. 4), ii. 299-385.
- 2. Cavendish’s ‘Debates’, Egerton 247, ff. 45-46; 248, f. 87; Brickdale’s ‘Debates’; Fortescue, ii. 486.
- 3. 25 May and 8 June 1773, HMC Kenyon, 504, 505.
- 4. Cavendish’s ‘Debates’, Egerton 253, ff. 97-100; 254, 4-6, 19; Brickdale’s ‘Debates’.
- 5. Almon, ii. 159, 160.
- 6. Ibid. viii. 387.
- 7. See list of speakers sent by North to the King, Fortescue, iv. 360. Baldwyn’s speech is not mentioned in Almon, xiii. 446-7.
- 8. Add. 37836, ff. 58, 64, 76, 79.
- 9. Laprade, 49-50.
- 10. Lansdowne mss.