MARRYAT, Joseph (1757-1824), of Sydenham, Kent and Wimbledon House, Surr.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer



26 Feb. 1808 - 1812
1812 - 12 Jan. 1824

Family and Education

b. 8 Oct. 1757, 1st s. of Thomas Marryat by Sarah, da. of John Davy of Southwold, Suff. m. 17 Dec. 1788 at Boston, Mass., Charlotte, da. of Frederick von Geyer of Boston, 6s. 4da. and other issued. v.p.

Offices Held

Agent for Trinidad by 1807-?1815, Grenada 1815-d.; chairman of Lloyd’s 1811-d.


Marryat’s father, who was descended from a Huguenot family which produced its full share of eccentrics, was educated for the presbyterian church and ordained minister at Southwold, Suffolk (where Joseph was born) in 1754, but in I760 he gave up the ministry and turned to medicine. After studying at Edinburgh, touring the continental medical schools and visiting America he lived and practised for several years in Northern Ireland, later moved to Shrewsbury, and finally settled in Bristol, where he died in straitened circumstances in 1792.1

Joseph Marryat trained for a mercantile career in London and in 1782 went to Grenada. He met and married the daughter of an American loyalist on a visit to the United States in 1788 and returned to England in 1791. He went into business in London as a West India merchant, initially at 4 Catherine Court, Tower Hill, which was still his address when he invested £1,000 in the 1797 loyalty loan. Shortly afterwards he moved to an address in Blackfriars and by 1811 was trading from 2 Great Bush Lane, Cannon Street. By 1814 the business, now styled Joseph Marryat and Son, was based at 2 Laurence Pountney Lane, where it was to remain until after his death. Marryat was very much a self-made man who, although he inherited virtually nothing from his father and was said to have lost the first £500 capital he invested in business, eventually prospered handsomely as a merchant and ship-owner, with interests in Grenada, Jamaica, Trinidad and America. He became an underwriter at Lloyd’s and a well-known figure at the Stock Exchange. On 19 Feb. 1807 he petitioned the Commons, as agent for Trinidad, against the abolition of the slave trade and later in the year he published Concessions to America the Bane of Britain, in which he attributed the distress of the West India planters and merchants to the maritime concessions made to America by the ‘Talents’. He gave evidence to this effect to the select committee on the West Indian colonies, 13 July 1807. He had a country residence at Sydenham until 1815, when he bought the imposing property of Wimbledon House.2

At the general election of 1807 Marryat and Henry Goulburn* stood for Horsham on the Irwin interest. They were defeated at the poll by two Whigs, but seated on petition in February 1808. Marryat soon established himself as a clear and forceful speaker on colonial, maritime and commercial questions. He spoke briefly on the orders in council, 10 Mar., 1 and 4 Apr., opposed John Palmer’s* claims on the Post Office, 16 and 20 May, and, on behalf of the West Indian sugar producers, supported the bill to prohibit corn distillation, 19 May and 3 June. Like Perceval, he opposed further consideration of the reports on the West Indian colonies, 24 June 1808. In 1809, he again put the West Indian case on distillation, 6 Feb.; supported extension of the ban to Ireland, 23 Feb. and 9 June, and the Irish spirits duties bill, 21 Mar., but was at variance with most of the West Indian interest in opposing the bill imposing import duties on the produce of Martinique, 26 Apr. and 15 May, when he admitted that while the bulk of his fortune was invested in securities in the British West Indies, he had lesser interests in Martinique and Guadeloupe. He voted against Perceval’s exculpatory resolution on the Duke of York scandal, 17 Mar., and for Hamilton’s motion charging Castlereagh with electoral corruption, 25 Apr., but, speaking from the government side of the House, opposed Ord’s motion of censure on them and the Dutch commissioners, 1 May, and was not afraid to defend ‘that arch Anti-Jacobin, Mr John Bowles’, the villain of the piece.

Marryat voted with the Perceval ministry on the address, 23 Jan., the Scheldt expedition, 26 Jan., and Lord Chatham’s narrative, 23 Feb., but reversed his vote on the latter issue, 5 Mar. 1810. The Whigs listed him under ‘Government’ shortly afterwards and he defended the Scheldt expedition, 27 Mar., and voted with ministers in the crucial division of 30 Mar. The committal of Burdett, 5 Apr., and the release of Gale Jones, 16 Apr., found him voting in opposition minorities. On 1 Feb. he blamed the high price of bullion on the government’s ‘indiscriminate use’ of trade licences and the consequent unfavourable exchange rate. He objected to the exemption of Ireland from the distillery prohibition, 13 Feb., voted for Romilly’s privately stealing bill and supported Brougham’s motion for measures to end the foreign slave trade, 15 June 1810.

In 1810 Marryat became the parliamentary spokesman for Lloyd’s against the attack on its virtual monopoly of underwriting which was launched by a group of wealthy London merchants. On 14 Feb. when William Manning, a Bank director, moved for inquiry into the exclusive privileges in marine insurance of the Royal Exchange and London Assurance Companies, with a view to establishing a new company, Marryat replied at length in defence of Lloyd’s and private underwriters. The motion was carried by 20 votes to 7, insufficient to constitute a quorum, and when Manning revived it on 20 Feb. Marryat went over the same ground, but was unable to prevent the appointment of a select committee, on which he sat. His speech was printed and circulated by Lloyd’s and he replied to the hostile report of the committee in his Observations upon the Report, to which he added a counter-report. A bill to repeal the chartered companies’ privileges foundered in 1810, was revived in 1811, but defeated by one vote on 28 Feb., when Marryat spoke against it. He emerged as the leader of the reform party in the internal row which broke out at Lloyd’s in 1811, became chairman and initiated administrative changes which placed the institution on a sound footing for the future.3

He sided with government on the Regency, 1 and 18 Jan. 1811, sat on the committee of inquiry into commercial credit and, after some hesitation, supported the resultant bill, 18 and 22 Mar. He was again prominent in debates on distillery prohibition. In his pamphlet, Thoughts on the expediency of establishing a new chartered bank, he hit back at the Bank directors who had attacked Lloyd’s, and in the House upheld Parliament’s right to investigate the Bank’s affairs, 5 Apr., and moved, unsuccessfully, for an account of its Exchequer bill holdings, 25 Apr. He approved the findings of the bullion committee, 14 May, but objected to the gold coin bill, 15 July, as a departure from them and a step towards making bank-notes legal tender. He supported Brougham’s bill to enforce abolition of the slave trade, 5 Mar., Romilly’s dwelling house robbery bill, 8 Apr., and Catholic relief, 31 May. Ministers reluctantly acceded to his request for papers on Trinidad, 14 May, but his motion of 13 June calling for the substitution of British for Spanish law in the island was negatived.

Marryat voted with opposition on Ireland, 4 Feb. 1812, but sided with government against Brougham’s motion for inquiry into the orders in council, 3 Mar., though he condemned licences and deplored the departure from the ‘system of retaliation as originally adopted’. Robert Ward*, a member of the government, noted that Marryat, ‘a coarse man but clear speaker’, made some telling blows against Canning in this speech, and the following day he wrote:

not one merchant left us ... Marryat disapproved ... but said to me he would not let "those fellows" take the thing out of the hands of government. At supper ... Ld. Temple [a Whig] said they had gained Marryat. I told him this. Then said he, "he is not worth having".4

When supporting the unlawful oaths bill, 5 May, he objected to the introduction of the orders in council, as 'a sort of standing dish', into 'every debate', and on 8 June criticized Brougham's anxiety for an early discussion of the crisis in relations with America, which he attributed to American provocation quite unconnected with the orders. He supported inquiry into the Bank's affairs, 17 Mar., when he condemned the 'present fatal paper system', and opposed the gold coin bill, 26 Mar. and 10 Apr. He voted against government on the barrack estimates, 13 Apr., the sinecure bill, 4 May, and the leather tax, 1 July, but opposed the attack on McMahon's appointment, 14 Apr., as 'a party question ... not involving anything unconstitutional', and was in the ministerial minority against a remodelling of administration, 21 May, though shortly afterwards he was named (as 'Marriett—an English borough') with five Irish Members who were said to have no intention of going into opposition with Liverpool and his colleagues.5

On 17 June 1812 Marryat complained of a report in The Day newspaper of Brougham's speech of the previous day, in which Brougham was stated to have represented him as saying, in the inquiry into the orders in council, that there was no distress in the manufacturing districts and that oatmeal and water were sufficient for the people. Arguing that this unfounded statement might endanger his life, he moved the attendance of the printer. After an explanation from Brougham he wished to withdraw the motion, but it was forced to a division and defeated by 116 votes to 110. He had spoken for Catholic relief, subject to safeguards, on 23 Apr. 1812, and when he did so again on 22 June he observed that, as ministers had deplorably sacrificed the orders in council to the complaints of 100,000 manufacturers, they ought for constistency's sake to give way to the greater grievances of four million people.

In his address to the electors of Sandwich, where he was returned unopposed with an Admiralty candidate at the general election of 1812, Marryat stated that while he flet 'a disposition to give due support to those to whom the administration of public affairs is confided', he was 'not enlisted under the banners of any party'.6 Government listed him among their supporters after the election, but he continued to follow a highly independent line in the House. He gave up his opposition to the gold coin bill, 14 Dec. 1812, welcomed the vice-chancellor bill, 15 Feb., but supported further reform of bankruptcy jurisdiction, 11 Mar. 1813; complained of imports of American cotton, 10 May and 29 June, and of the encouragement given to the licensed trade between America and the British West Indies, 18 May; opposed additional duties on Martinique sugar, 13 May, and the leather tax, 18 May, and was against meeting American loyalists' claims to compensation, 20 May. In June 1813 he strongly opposed the continuation of the East India Company's monopoly of the China trade: he was a stockholder. He voted for the encouragement of Christian missionary activity in India, 22 June, but against it on 1 July, and for Catholic relief, 2 Mar., 13 and 24 May, as he did again on 30 May 1815, 21 May 1816 and 9 May 1817. He opposed an address calling for peace negotiations, as threatened by Whitbread, 30 June 1813, arguing that the hands of ministers should not be tied at such a critical moment.

Marryat welcomed increased duties on East Indian sugar, 26 Nov., the new brandy duties, 30 Nov. 1813, and the colonial offices bill, 28 Mar. and 18 Apr. 1814. He was hostile to the election expenses bill, 26 Apr. and 16 May, which he said would effectively disfranchise out-voters (who comprised about half the Sandwich electorate), and favoured permitting them to vote at their place of residence. On Wilberforce's address concerning the slave trade, 2 May, he observed that there was still much to be done to suppress it, as it was increasingly carried on by Spain to the detriment of British planters. He favoured the exportation of corn, 13 May, and spoke and voted against alteration of the Corn Laws, 16 May. When Horner criticized the conduct of the American war, 1 Dec. 1814, Marryat absolved the Admiralty from blame for maritime losses, but called for an improved convoy system. Later the same day he supported the two-month adjournment, resisted by the Whigs, because ministers, having won the war, deserved a breathing space to consolidate the peace settlement. He opposed the corn bill in 1815, arguing that protection, while reasonable in principle, was carried too far, voted for Whitbread's motion on behalf of Spanish Liberal refugees, 1 Mar., supported inquiry into the Bank 2 Mar., 19 and 26 Apr., opposed the additional newspaper duty, 8 June, but approved the terms of the American peace treaty, 11 Apr., and gave reluctant support to the retention of the property tax while war continued, 19 Apr., though he wished it to be ameliorated, and accordingly voted for Milton's amendment, 1 May. He unsuccessfully opposed the East India ships registry bill, 19 May, 6 and 8 June, but spoke against the motion of censure on the Company over the grant to Lord Melville, 24 May, and was a teller for the majority in the division. On the foreign slave trade bill, 5 May, he objected to the clause making it a felony for British subjects to lend money on the security of property in countries where trade continued, because it would ruin the South American trade, but deemed the rest of the measure 'effectual and valid'. The abolition of slavery was a different matter. On 13 June 1815 he opposed Wilberforce's proposed bill for a registry of slaves, arguing that it infringed the colonies' legislative rights; that with the slave trade abolished the planters had a vested interest in treating slaves humanely; that slavery would die a natural death and that enforced abolition would ruin the West Indian colonies. He also condemned the interference and propaganda of the African Institution, and in 1816 in his pamphlet Thoughts on the Abolition of the Slave Trade he expanded these arguments and attacked the 'wild and dangerous political doctrines, that are now circulated under the guise of humanity' by 'a certain class of Methodists, a sect who profess superior sanctity'. His battle with the 'Saints' on this subject was carried on in subsequent pamphlets, More Thoughts (1816) and More Thoughts Still (1818), and in the Commons with Wilberforce and Romilly, 22 Apr., 20 May and 3 June 1818.

On the report of the address, 2 Feb. 1816, Marryat 'could not reproach himself with having acted wrong' in voting for it: distress and high prices were the 'necessary and unavoidable consequences' of the transition from war to peace, recession was a 'wholesome check' on 'inordinate speculation', and if government would equalize the burdens falling on different interests all would be well. He supported inquiry into the Bank, 13 Feb., pressing ministers to prove that their pledge of economy was not 'mere empty sound', did so again on 14 Mar., spoke and voted for speedy a resumption of cash payments, 1 May, and on the Bank restriction bill, 3 May, demanded and voted for a firm guarantee of a resumption in 1818. He opposed continuation of the property tax, which he wished to be kept in reserve for times of war, 6, 18 and 20 Mar, 1816. He voted with government on the army estimates, 6 Mar., but against them on the 11th, against them on Admiralty salaries, 20 Mar., but with them on the treasurer of the navy's salary, 1 Apr. Although he opposed Tierney's motion of 3 Apr. 1816 against the colonial secretaryship, which he thought was indispensable given tbe existing complexity of colonial affairs, he favoured a return to a simpler form of colonial administration. These sentiments, together with his grievance over Trinidad, led him to support the motion when Tierney revived it on 29 Apr. 1817. He supported repeal of export duties on foreign linen and voted for reductions in public expenditure, 25 Apr., but voted with government against civil list inquiries, 6 and 24 May, and opposed Althrop's call for inquiry into public offices, 7 May, as a party question and covert motion of no confidence:

[he was] as desirous as any man to promote economy and retrenchment, but he considered that there was a certain point beyond which violent and intemperate zeal would defeat its own object. A pretty large dose had already been given to ministers, and he was anxious to see how that dose worked before the House proceeded farther.

This restraint did not prevent him from supporting repeal of the leather tax, 9 May, and inquiry into extents-in-aid for crown debtors, 30 May, or from voting against clauses of the public revenues bill, 14, 17 and 20 June. He was in the minority on the Perrot case, 11 June, and on 26 June he attacked the conduct of the Berbice commissioners, a theme on which he expanded in a pamphlet the following year. On Brougham's motion for a bill to safeguard press freedom, 8 May, he recalled the incident of 1812 and remarked sarcastically that it would be a great point gained if the measure were to provide redress for Members whose words were misrepresented as his had been. Angry exchanges with Brougham ensued.

Marryat voted against government on the composition of the finance committee, 7 Feb., spoke and voted for a Bank inquiry, 19 Feb., and was in the opposition minority on Admiralty economies, 25 Feb., but voted with ministers on the Admiralty secretary's salary, 17 Feb. 1817. He opposed the suspension of habeas corpus, 26, 27 amd 28 Feb., and was listed among the opponents of its renewal in June. He called for a ban on distillation from grain, 10 Mar., complained of the rule of Spanish law in Trinidad, 18 Mar., advocated the abolition of colonial sinecures, 5 May, and supported inquiry into linen transit duties, 22 May. On Wilberforce's address on the slave trade, 9 July, he thought prohibition of the produce of Spain and Portugal would expose Britain to accusations of self-interest, and that the trade could be more effectively curtailed by clarifying the regulations concerning the capture of slave vessels.

In 1818, Marryat opposed government on the leather tax, 12 Mar. and 6 Apr., Admiralty economies, 16 Mar., the Duke of Clarence's marriage grant, 15 Apr., Bank restriction, 1 May, and the prevention of bank-note forgeries, 14 May, but sided with them on the colonial army estimates, 3 Mar., and the indemnity bill, 9 Mar., when he said that, while he had no reason to regret his opposition to the suspension of habeas corpus, he saw no evidence that ministers had abused their powers under it. He approved the treaty with Spain to end the slave trade, 9 Feb., opposed William Wynn's election laws amendment bill, 19 Feb. and 2 Mar., and the transfer of slaves to Demerara and Berbice, 3 Apr.; supported inquiry into East India Dock Company profits, 21 Apr., and voted against Brougham's motion on the education of the poor, 3 June.

In his address to Sanwich in 1818, when he was returned unopposed, Marryat boasted of his independence and his oppostion to the property tax, excessive expenditure, the suspension of habeas corpus and the leather tax. Shortly after the election Sir George Warrender, who was returned there on the Admiralty interest, wrote to Lord Melville, first Lord of the Admiralty:

Marryat was throughout as hostile as his address showed him to be, and although we dined together the last day, yet he having had all the Jacobins in the place on his committee, and an obvious intention existing of giving him single votes in the event of a contest, I am in no way indebted to him or his friends for a quiet election.

Warrender complained that a boast by Marryat's second son Frederick, naval officer who was later to become famous as the novelist of sea life, that he was 'immediately to have a ship, was a serious inquiry to me, in the face of his father's most gratuitous advertisement'.7

Marryat struck a blow at Brougham by opposing his inclusion in the Bank committee, 8 Feb. 1819, on the ground that it already contained too many theorists. He voted with opposition on the Windsor establishment, 25 Feb., but opposed Bennet's motion against transportation, 18 Feb. and 7 Apr., and the repeal of the Irish window tax, 5 May, when he mocked the Whigs' eagerness to repeal all taxes in the name of 'morality, humanity and philanthropy', which were 'more flourishing than the revenue'. He criticized the choice of Sierra Leone as the residence for the judges and commissioners of arbitration on the international slave trade, 19 Mar. On Tierney's censure motion, 18 May, speaking from the ministerial side of the House, he applauded government for their conduct of the war, but strongly attacked their financial policy and in particular pilloried Vansittart for his failure to help commerce through the transition from war to peace:

Of his Majesty's ministers in general, I think highly ... I wish, however, to seperate the chaff from the wheat, and therefore cannot join in a vote of censure upon them, but neither can I give a vote which would imply my approbation of the conduct of ... [Vansittart], whom, in my opinion, his colleagues ought to consider as a second Jonas and that they have no alternative but either to throw him overboard or to sink with him.

He welcomed the proposed resumption of cash payments, 25 May, but objected to the imposition of a graduated scale and voted in the minority on the cash payments bill, 8 and 11 June, as a threat to South american trade and 'the first stone of a temple intended to be dedicated to arbitrary power'.

Marrayat did not vote for the Whigs' motions of no confidence at the opening of the emergency session of 1819, but he had reservations about certain aspects of the government's coercive measures. He spoke and voted in favour of limiting the operation of the seditious meetings bill to three years, 6 Dec., and the following day expressed fears that it might hamper meetings of respectable merchants, and criticized the clause defining those entitled to attend county meetings. On Maxwell's motion concerning distress in the Scottish industrial areas, 16 Dec., he conceded that ministers were bound to give first priority to national safety, but took them to task for failing to introduce measures of relief, attributed distress to the post-war decline in the export trade, caused by over-taxation and restrictive legislation, and called for the reduction of taxes and freeing of trade. In committee on the newspaper stamp duties bill, 20 Dec., he moved an amendment to the sureties clause, which was defeated by 202 votes to 82, having earlier declared his opposition to the principle of the seditious libels bill, against the second reading of which he voted the following day. He voted to make the stamp duties bill temporary, 22 Dec. 1819. When he applied to Liverpool for a place for a constituent, 3 Jan. 1820, a note was made to the effect that he was now 'strongly opposed to government'.8

In 1819, Marryat became a partner in the London bank of Sir Charles Price, Price & Co., and the firm, which had premises at 1 Mansion House Street, became known as Marryat, Kay, Price and Coleman. He dropped dead at his office there, 12 Jan. 1824.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Authors: Lawrence Taylor / David R. Fisher


  • 1. Misc. Gen. et. Her. (ser. 4), iii. 242-5, 336-9.
  • 2. Ibid. 340; F. Marryat, Life and Letters of Capt. Marryat, i. 5-6; Gent. Mag. (1824), i. 373; J. Millette, Genesis of Crown Colony Government, 97-98, 227-8; CJ, lxii. 143; PP (1807), iii. 13; VCH Surr. iv. 121.
  • 3. C. Wright and C. E. Fayle, Hist. Lloyd’s, 240-59, 261-93.
  • 4. Phipps, Plumer Ward Mems. i. 447, 450-1.
  • 5. Add. 37297, f. 171.
  • 6. Morning Chron. 28 Sept. 1812.
  • 7. Kent AO, Sa/ZP1; NLS mss 1041, f. 119.
  • 8. Add. 38282, ff. 92, 95.