PEIRSE, Henry (?1754-1824), of Bedale, Yorks.
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Family and Education
b. ?1754, 1st s. of Henry Peirse† of Bedale by w. Anne Johnson. educ. Eton 1764-70; Pembroke, Camb. 3 July 1771, aged 17; Grand Tour 1775. m. 16 Aug. 1777, Hon. Charlotte Grace Monson, da. of John, 2nd Baron Monson, 3da. suc. fa. 1759.
Peirse returned himself on his long-established family interest at Northallerton all his adult life. Not a syllable is he known to have contributed to debate: nor was he to be nailed down in politics, though his general inclination, before 1790, was to be against the government. He voted with Pitt’s ministry on the Regency question, and was listed among opponents of the repeal of the Test Act in Scotland in 1791: indeed, he did not act with opposition until 30 May 1794, when he voted with Fox against the war with France. In the session of 1795 he was steady in opposition both to the war and to the suspension of civil liberty, as also to ministerial proposals for the payment of the Prince of Wales’s debts. The Treasury now listed him as ‘con’. He opposed repressive legislation in November 1795 and was in another minority on 15 Feb. 1796. He resumed this line in the session of 1796-7, voting for parliamentary reform on 26 May, as he had done in 1783 and 1785. He admitted to the Yorkshire reformer Christopher Wyvill that he was opposed to a county meeting for the dismissal of ministers at that time and, further, 6 Dec. 1798, that he was co-patron of an effectively closed borough1. He returned to the House to oppose Pitt’s assessed taxes, 14 Dec. 1797 and 4 Jan., and his land tax redemption plan, 9 May; also to vote against the ministry on the Irish rebellion, 14, 22 June 1798. But no vote is known for the remainder of that Parliament. It was a virtual secession, though he was not a member of the Whig Club (he had joined Brooks’s as early as 1778). He regretted early in 1801 that there was inadequate support for a county meeting in favour of peace2.
Peirse re-emerged in opposition on the resumption of war, 24 May 1803. He voted in the divisions of 15 Mar., 23 and 25 Apr. 1804 that contributed to Addington’s downfall. He was listed a Foxite throughout that year. He opposed Pitt’s additional force bill in June 1804, voting for its repeal, 6 Mar. 1805, as well as against the war with Spain, 12 Feb., and against ministers on defence, 21 Feb. He was in the opposition majorities against Melville, 8 Apr., 12 June 1805, and listed among them in July. His only known vote under the Grenville ministry was with them for the repeal of the Additional Force Act, 30 Apr. 1806, but he was listed among ‘staunch friends’ of the abolition of the slave trade and voted against the Portland ministry, 9 Apr. 1807.
Although his attendance remained somewhat unpredictable, Peirse justified the Whigs’ listing him as one of their adherents in 1810. He was present for most major divisions (except on 26 Jan. 1810)3 and his votes for exposure of placemen and pensioners, 7 July 1807, for mediated peace, 29 Feb. 1808, and for parliamentary reform, 21 May 1810, threw additional light on his views. This time he joined opposition on the Regency question. He opposed the reappointment of the Duke of York, 6 June 1811. In the session of 1812 he voted against the orders in council, 3 Mar.; for Catholic relief, 24 Apr.; for sinecure reform, 4 May, and against the leather tax, 1 July. He remained staunch for Catholic relief after 1812. He opposed the resumption of war, 7, 28 Apr., 25 May 1815, and in that and the following sessions voted steadily for retrenchment; and against continental entanglements, 20 Feb. 1816. In 1817 he opposed the suspension of habeas corpus and voted for Burdett’s reform motion of 20 May. He had assured Wyvill in February that he was prepared to proclaim his support for reform at a county meeting.4 Named by Lambton as one of the eight sporting Whigs who refused to leave Newmarket,5 he was nevertheless listed in the majority against ministers on 15 Apr. 1818, on the Duke of Clarence’s marriage grant.
Peirse was one of six Members who, according to Lord Duncannon, gave their ‘complete approval’ to Tierney’s leadership of opposition in the House, but who ‘object only to signing their names to anything, and who ... will never attend party meetings’.6 Apart from leaves of absence from 19 Mar. until early in May 1819, he again voted with opposition in the Parliament of 1818, in which his last known vote was against the seditious meetings bill, 13 Dec. 1819.
He died 14 May 1824. He and his father between them represented Northallerton for 84 years.