HARCOURT, John (d.1825), of Lisson Green, Mdx. and Wall Hall, Kent.
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Family and Education
Had 2 s. by Mary ?Ainslie described in his will as his w.
2nd lt. Cumberland Place vols. 1799; capt. Marylebone vols. 1803.
Harcourt’s background is uncertain, though he was said to be ‘related to the noble family of the same name’ and christened one of his sons George Simon. He was a London banker, probably the partner of that name in the house of Sansom & Co. of Lombard Street, 1791-1801, which subscribed £20,000 to the loyalty loan for 1797. In association with Richard Troward, a London attorney, he challenged the Lockyer interest at Ilchester, unsuccessfully in 1784, successfully in 1785, only to be unseated on petition. Subsequently he offered his interest for sale, but Samuel Smith II*, the purchaser, found that Troward was able to defeat his intentions; so Harcourt was again returned in 1790. He proceeded to dispose of his interest to Troward by 1793 and had no say in the next election, though he did not resign from the corporation of Ilchester until 1797, after six years’ membership.1
Harcourt, then of Hanover Street, Hanover Square, joined the Whig Club on 7 Mar. 1785 and voted with the Foxite opposition in the Parliament of 1790. He opposed Pitt’s Russian policy, 12 Apr. 1791, 1 Mar. 1792, and was listed a supporter of repeal of the Test Act in Scotland in 1791. On 13 Dec. 1792 he voted for Fox’s amendment to the address. He was taken into custody as a defaulter, 13 Mar., appeared in the minority against war with revolutionary France on 17 June 1793 and was steady in opposition to it thereafter, also voting against the restriction of civil liberty at home, 5, 23 Jan. 1795. He did not seek re-election in 1796. In 1801 he and John Agnew* laid siege to the Poulett interest at Bridgwater, where Harcourt had a banking interest. Encouraged by Fox, they were narrowly defeated and could not make good their petition against the return. In April 1803 he contemplated offering at Ilchester again, but did not go to the poll. He wrote to Addington, 16 June 1803, as ‘lord of the manor of Lisson’ to ask him to appoint a commandant of the local volunteers, conceiving that it was now ‘the duty of every man to assist government’ and adding that ‘in, or out of Parliament, I never sought reward, nor ever shall’.2
In 1812 Harcourt was a successful candidate at Leominster, where a long purse was needed, though he managed to reduce his expenses on being sued for them.3 He again acted with the Whig opposition, though not a steady attender. He opposed the ministerial currency policy, 14 Dec. 1812, and the vice-chancellor bill, 11 Feb. 1813. He voted for Catholic relief throughout that session. He opposed the continuation of the militia in peacetime, 28 Feb. 1815, the Corn Law alteration, 3 and 10 Mar., and voted for a committee on the Bank, 2 Mar. 1815, as also on 1 May 1816. On 5 Mar. 1816 he took ten days’ sick leave. He opposed the renewal of the property tax, 18 Mar., and voted for retrenchment on 20 Mar., 25 Apr. 1816, 29 Apr. and 6 May 1817. He opposed a secret committee on sedition, 5 Feb., and the indemnity bill, 9 Mar. 1818.
Harcourt was defeated at the poll in 1818, but regained his seat on petition. He joined opposition on the Windsor establishment, 22 and 25 Feb. 1819, and seems to have spoken against it.4 He voted for Admiralty retrenchment, 18 Mar., in the minority on the sinking fund, 13 May, and for Tierney’s censure motion, 18 May. He favoured legal reform, 2 Mar., 20 May 1819, but no vote of his for parliamentary reform is known. He opposed the navy estimates, the budget proposals and the foreign enlistment bill in June 1819. He voted for Althorp’s motion on the plight of the country, 30 Nov., against the seditious meetings bill, 2 Dec., against the seizure of arms bill, 14 Dec., and against the newspaper stamp bill unless made temporary, 22 Dec. 1819. He lost his seat in 1820. He subsequently retreated to St. Omer where he made his will on 9 Dec. 1825.5 The Times reported his recent death there on 31 Dec. 1825. Both his sons had changed their surname from Ainslie to Harcourt by 1823.