LEWIS, Edward, of Downton, Rad.
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Family and Education
Edward Lewis stood in 1761 against Thomas Lewis, no relation of his. There was a double return and Thomas Lewis withdrew. In 1768, 1774, and 1780 Lewis stood against Thomas Lewis’s nephew, John Lewis; and each time was returned on petition. The point at issue was the right to vote of non-resident burgesses.
In 1760-1 Lewis’s candidature was bound up with the struggle between Lord Carnarvon, supported by Bute, Lord Oxford, Chase Price and other Radnorshire Tories, against Lord Powis, Howell Gwynne and Thomas Lewis, Newcastle’s old friends. Carnarvon, writing to Newcastle on 10 Dec. 1760, threatened Thomas Lewis with a rich man, unnamed, who would give him much trouble in the borough unless Thomas Lewis supported Carnarvon in the county.1 Even in a further letter of 3 Feb. Edward Lewis still appeared as an impersonal threat. After his candidature had been declared, Carnarvon pressed or discouraged it according to the turn taken by his own negotiations for a compromise. When this was concluded (2 Mar.), Carnarvon claimed that Edward Lewis’s canvass was begun absolutely against his advice, and doubted if he would be able to stop it.2
It was Chase Price who continued the fight against Thomas Lewis, his father’s old enemy. On 15 Sept. 1765 he wrote to the Duke of Portland:3
At the last general election I brought a foreigner, who never had seen the country or been seen by it, into Radnorshire; I picked him up upon the Exchange of London; I polled the borough against Tom Lewis; we succeeded by fifty voices; and my friend is the sitting Member.
Edward Lewis was seated on petition, after having sought Bute’s help.4 Shortly after his return he bought the estate of Downton.
By October 1767 Chase Price, embroiled with Lord Oxford, was trying to attach himself through John Walsh to Lord Clive and to draw him into Radnorshire politics. He wrote on 17 Oct. to Clive about Edward Lewis, who was similarly trying to gain Clive’s favour:5
Mr. Edward Lewis in his private capacity is so very inoffensive, and in his circumstances so desperate that he is not worth a moment’s consideration. As a Member of Parliament, and in his public character, he must be considered as Lord Oxford’s man.
Lewis was until 1782 a most regular follower of every Administration. In 1764 he was given a contract jointly with Anthony Bacon for remitting money to Grenada (which he resigned in November 1765), and in December 1767 was given another contract for remitting money to West Florida.6
In 1764 Lewis had obtained a contract for a packet service to the West Indies.7 Run at a loss during the seven years’ war, it was stopped for reasons of economy. Lewis offered to renew it; the Post Office was reluctant, but by order from the Treasury concluded a contract with him, 4 Jan. 1764, for three boats at a yearly payment of £1,210 each; and this was replaced, 3 Feb. 1766, once more against the advice of the Post Office, by a seven years’ contract for five larger boats at a rent of £1,573 each. Lewis’s profit was at least £1,200 a year, and in 1773, having met with repeated refusals from the joint postmasters general, Lord Le Despenser and H. F. Thynne, to renew it for a further seven years, he turned to Lord North.
I always imagined that Mr. Lewis would at last apply to Lord North [wrote Thynne to Despenser, 28 Nov. 1773]. It was for that reason I proposed giving him two years more in his contract. I think if we let Lord North know how inconvenient it is to continue any contract, and that we let Mr. Lewis go on till the general election to avoid giving trouble to the minister, he will find a method of putting him off till that time as well as many others that he is daily obliged to pay with excuses.
And this was North’s comment when forwarding Despenser a memorial from Lewis on 29 Jan. 1774:
Mr. Lewis is a very honest, worthy man, and an excellent Member of Parliament. Nobody has more zealously and uniformly supported his Majesty’s Government, from which he receives no advantage whatsoever except the contract which he holds with the Post Office ... I do assure you, that I think the King’s affairs in Parliament may suffer, unless such good and steady friends as Mr. Lewis have from Government all the countenance and favour that justice and the public service will permit.
Despenser replied the next day: he knew no ‘more civil well bred gentleman than Mr. Lewis’; but his memorial was ‘very erroneous’, and the contract detrimental to the public; still, Despenser knew that it was ‘necessary to show complaisancy and favour to those who are steady to Government’; and therefore, having stated his objections, would leave the matter to North’s ‘determination and discretion’. Consequently Lewis was still providing boats when the North Government fell in 1782. Moreover, further contracts followed with the Treasury: in 1774 to remit money to Gibraltar (jointly with Peregrine Cust), and in January 1782 for victualling troops in America.8
Lewis continued to support the North Administration to the very end. But in the division on Shelburne’s peace preliminaries, 18 Feb. 1783, he voted against the Government, knowing that it was doomed. He next followed his old friend North, attached himself to the Coalition, and voted for Fox’s East India bill. In John Robinson’s forecast of the next Parliament, drawn up before the general election of 1784, the remark placed against Radnor Boroughs reads: ‘Mr. Lewis or his son will most probably come in again; now against; thought with civility and conversation would in future be pro.’ But in Robinson’s list of January 1784 and in Stockdale’s of 19 Mar. Lewis was classed as an opponent of Pitt; and his one recorded vote in the Parliament of 1784 (11 Feb. 1789, on the Regency) was against Pitt.
It is not known when he died, nor is anything known of his parentage. According to Venn he was married and had one son.9
Ref Volumes: 1754-1790
Author: Sir Lewis Namier
- 1. Add. 32915, f. 382.
- 2. To Bute, [2 Mar. 1761], Bute, mss.
- 3. Portland mss.
- 4. Lewis to Bute, 12 June 1761, Add. 5726, f. 205.
- 5. Clive mss.
- 6. T29/35/397; T54/40/387; T54/41/480-2.
- 7. Betty Kemp, ‘Some Letters of Sir Francis Dashwood, Baron Le Despenser, as Joint Postmaster General, 1766-81’, Bulletin of the John Rylands Lib. Sept. 1954.
- 8. T29/43/366; T29/44/4; T29/48/447, 534; T54/43/315, 435.
- 9. Al. Cant. sub Lewis, Percival.