LEMON, William (1748-1824), of Carclew, nr. Penryn, Cornw.
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Family and Education
b. 11 Oct. 1748, 1st s. of William Lemon by Anne, da. of John Williams of Carnanton, St. Columb, Cornw.; bro. of John Lemon. educ. Ch. Ch. Oxf. 1765. m. bef. 1774, Jane, da. of James Buller of Morval, 2s. 9da. His sis. m. John Buller jun. suc. gd.-fa. 1760; cr. Bt. 24 May 1774.
Lemon inherited a considerable fortune from his grandfather, who from 1748 to 1760 had from the duchy the lease of all their copper mines in Cornwall, and enormously developed the mining industry of the county. Sir Francis Basset told Farington, 12 Sept. 1810, that Lemon’s grandfather ‘was a miner without a shilling, but by industry and good luck acquired £200,000’.1 Lemon himself was a partner in the Truro Miners’ Bank, and in 1772 became a partner in the London bank of Lemon, Buller, Farley, Lubbock Co. of 11 Mansion House Street, with which he remained till 1785.
In 1770 he was returned unopposed for Penryn. In the winter of 1772 he resigned his seat to stand for Cornwall; was defeated and almost immediately returned again for Penryn. In 1774 he successfully contested the county, where he continued unopposed till 1790. He voted with Opposition on the Middlesex election, 26 Apr. 1773, and Grenville’s Act, 25 Feb. 1774, but in May was created a baronet, and in September was classed by Robinson as a Government supporter. He does not appear in the minority list on America, 26 Oct. 1775, and on 3 Nov. said he approved of the American measures, but ‘such was his high disapprobation’ of sending Hanoverian troops to garrison Gibraltar and Minorca that ‘he was compelled to withhold his approbation of measures, which in every other instance he approved, and consequently on that account alone, voted against the Address’.2 Between 1777 and 1779 he is known to have voted with the Opposition and not once with the court. Yet the Public Ledger wrote of him in 1779: ‘He wishes to support Government, but will not do it at the expense of his judgment, which directs him sometimes to give an honest vote in opposition’; and the English Chronicle in 1781 that he did not ‘come properly under the description of a partisan to either side of the House’. From 1780 till the fall of North he voted consistently with the Opposition.
Lemon voted for Shelburne’s peace preliminaries, 18 Feb. 1783, and parliamentary reform, 7 May 1783, but not on Fox’s East India bill, 27 Nov. 1783. He was a member of the St. Alban’s Tavern group, and ‘extremely earnest for union’ between Pitt and Fox. But when Fox demanded that Pitt should first resign, Lemon said that ‘the minister had made every concession which his personal honour and official situation could permit him to make’, and that ‘he wished not for any union on the principles now held forth’. He voted again for parliamentary reform, 18 Apr. 1785. His next recorded vote was with Opposition on Richmond’s fortifications plan, 27 Feb. 1786.
Were the proposed system of fortification adopted it should be considered as the fatal era from whence the decline and ruin of our navy might be dated. He ... meant not to impute any bad design to the present Administration in recommending the plan proposed ... but long experience had proved that when everything wore the appearance of security, and the country had a thorough confidence in the King and his servants, more than ordinary caution ought to be exercised by the people.
And he warned Pitt against ‘pursuing steps which would lead him astray from the favour, and strip him of the confidence of the people.’ On 21 Mar. 1787 Lemon seconded a motion proposing that a bill concerning customs and excise should be divided into two parts, because ‘Members ... ought not to be deprived of their constitutional right of giving a separate and distinct vote on each separate and distinct object of deliberation’. He voted with Pitt in the first division on the Regency, 16 Dec. 1788, but in the division of 11 Feb. 1789 with the Opposition, and appears with the Opposition in the list compiled by Stockdale at the end of the crisis.3
Richard Polwhele in his History of Cornwall4 wrote about Lemon: ‘In him we justly admire the old country gentleman, faithful to his King without servility, attached to the people without democracy.’ He died 11 Dec. 1824.