DEVERELL, Robert (1760-1841), of Richmond, Surr.
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Family and Education
b. May or June 1760, 2nd s. of Simon Pedley of St. Stephen’s, Bristol, Glos. by a da. of Robert Deverell, merchant, of Bristol; bro. of John Pedley*. educ. Lee’s sch., Bristol; Brasenose, Oxf. 29 Apr. 1777, aged 16; St. John’s, Camb. 27 June 1777, aged 17; fellow 1784-91; L. Inn 1784, called 1788; continental tour 1784-5. unm. Took name of Deverell after mat. gdfa. by royal lic. 25 June 1793.
Deverell was the brother of John Pedley, manager of William Beckford’s* Jamaican estates, who probably brought him to Beckford’s notice while he was still practising as a barrister. In 1802 Beckford brought him in for Saltash, as part of his campaign for a peerage.1 In November 1803 he was his brother’s spokesman in the House when the latter applied in vain for leave of absence, and on 2 Feb. 1804 he declared his reasons for believing the Middlesex election petition to be unique.
The maintenance of the slave trade was one of his patron’s chief interests and in a debate on the abolition bill, 7 June 1804, Deverell confessed he had once been ‘as sanguine an advocate’ as Wilberforce himself, but ‘an entire revisal of all the arguments had made him a convert to the contrary opinion’. Four days later, in an ingenious attempt to delay the bill for a session, he moved for an account of the import duty paid on negroes, pointing out that as the bill affected the revenue it should originate with ministers. On 13 June he attacked the bill as infringing the rights of colonial legislatures.
Deverell, like Beckford’s other nominees habitually a supporter of administration, voted against the second reading of Pitt’s additional force bill, 8 June 1804. He may not have done so in later stages of the bill, but his allegiance to Pitt was questioned in September. On 10 June 1805 he voted against compensation for the Duke of Atholl and on 12 June for criminal proceedings against Melville (he had not voted on 8 Apr.). He opposed the stipendiary curates bill, 30 May, on the grounds that it would merely increase the patronage of the bishops: he favoured ‘throwing Church property into a mass’ and appointing a vicar-general to administer the revenues. Though classed a doubtful supporter of Pitt in July 1805, he published two letters to him that year on the virtues of the ancient battering ram.
He was out of Parliament after 1806, but mooted other ingenious schemes, such as setting up a kind of savings bank for the poor, paying high rates of interest. His ingenuity extended to literature, in which he discovered esoteric meanings in all he read. Sir Robert Heron*, whose tutor he had been on vacation tours and to whom he lent nearly £3,000 about 1805, recalled that ‘he had some learning and much ignorance’ and ‘he wrote works which decidedly proved insanity, and his conduct was also, sometimes, such as to admit of no other excuse’.2 He died 29 Nov. 1841.