PENN, Richard (?1734-1811), of Queen Anne Street, Marylebone, Mdx.

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



1784 - 1790
20 Dec. 1790 - June 1791
1796 - 1802
1802 - 1806

Family and Education

b. ?1734,1 2nd s. of Richard Penn by Hannah, da. of Richard Lardner, MD, and gds. of William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania. educ. Eton 1748; St. John’s, Camb. 13 Oct. 1752, aged ‘past 18’; I. Temple 1752. m. 21 May 1772, Mary, da. of William Masters of Philadelphia, 2s. 2da.

Offices Held

Lt.-gov. Pennsylvania 1771-3.


Penn was a satellite of the first Earl of Lonsdale, whom he had known for many years and with whom he became closely involved after the loss of his valuable American interests. In 1790 he was Lonsdale’s candidate for Lancaster and the peer ‘said he would spend £50,000 rather than not have a seat there for him’. None the less Penn was defeated and spent the rest of the campaign following Lonsdale on his electoral journeys through Cumberland and Westmorland, ‘well in body but in mind miserable. It was shocking to see him such a slave, but he ... was under great pecuniary obligations to L[onsdale].’2 A few weeks later he wrote to Sir William Lowther*:

my very existence as well as that of my wife and children in a great measure depends upon Mr Pitt’s fulfilling his kind intentions towards me. I have no doubt, but that when you saw him you remembered me and I am of course extremely anxious to know the result of the conversation you had with him ... I trust that my being left out of the present Parliament in the manner I have been will in no degree prejudice me in Mr Pitt’s good opinion as I can conscientiously declare that whilst I was there on no occasion did I ever give a vote against him.3

When Lonsdale’s Member James Lowther decided to sit for Westmorland, Penn was brought in for the seat thus vacated at Haslemere. Like other Lonsdale Members, he was listed ‘doubtful’ on the Test Act repeal question in April 1791. He had sat for less than six months when he wrote to Lowther, 12 June 1791:

I think that what I am going to relate to you is one of the most diabolical acts ever committed even by our Great Friend in Charles Street. Without giving me an hour’s notice he has turned me out of Parliament in order that he may bring in Mr Satterthwaite, though he knew at the time that in all likelihood a jail might be the consequence, death to me and destruction to my children. I was actually upon his business at the time that he was determining upon this hellish stroke. I was by no means well in health but was ordered down to Haslemere to assist at a dinner that was to be given to the voters ... When I returned next day, I was summoned to Charles Street at about 8 o’clock. I went there and found his lordship less like a man and more furious than I had ever seen him in my life. He did not clap a pistol to my head, but with horrid imprecations he demanded of me his seat for Haslemere. I desired him not to threaten, I was not used to such treatment, nor was there any occasion for it, that I was perfectly willing immediately to obey his commands. A form ready cut and dry was instantly produced and I wrote to Mr Pitt for the Chiltern Hundreds. Only think of an act so horrid that he was obliged to make himself drunk before he could bring himself to effect it. Now ... my greatest hope in this world is upon Mr Pitt.4

Pitt, however, did nothing for him and on 27 June 1793 Penn wrote a dignified appeal to the minister, stating that ‘my difficulties are increased, and accumulating upon me’.5 It was no doubt his financial circumstances that obliged him in 1796 again to contest Lancaster under Lonsdale’s auspices and he was this time successful. He continued to support Pitt, voting for the triple tax assessment, 4 Jan. 1798. He apparently never uttered in debate. In 1800 he informed Sir William Lowther that he intended ‘taking French leave of Lord Lonsdale’, though he wished Lowther (Lonsdale’s heir apparent) ‘all health and happiness’. He complained that Pitt had forgotten his plight. He had received only £2,000 compensation for the loss of £18,000 in Pennsylvania; and had lost £1,500 a year as naval officer of the port of Philadelphia, which had been reduced by the American commissioners to £800 and by the Treasury to £360 p.a. ‘which is all I got’. He wished it to be made up to £800. Curiously, the payment recorded to him by the Treasury the year before was £1,000.6 On 31 Mar. 1802 he voted for inquiry into the Prince of Wales’s financial claims.

On Lonsdale’s death in 1802 Sir William Lowther returned Penn for Haslemere. He followed his patron’s line of attachment to Pitt, voting with the latter for the orders of the day, 3 June 1803; possibly for Pitt’s naval motion on 15 Mar. 1804—he was prevented by gout from staying for the division on Wrottesley’s motion the week before—and certainly for Pitt’s defence motion on 25 Apr. He was listed ‘Pitt’ in September 1804 and July 1805. He was still in ‘great difficulties’ and Lowther applied to Lord Camden and to Pitt on his behalf, suggesting to the latter that Penn ‘would be glad of anything on condition of giving up his seat, in which case, you are very welcome to it, for [Vicary] Gibbs*’. Pitt was tempted, but had nothing to offer in exchange. In 1806 Penn was ‘too infirm to engage in a contest’ for Lancaster and Lowther dropped him. On 9 Dec. 1806 he appealed to Lord Sidmouth, who had placed his son in William Windham’s office, for provision for his daughters, adding

My pecuniary embarrassments and the too well grounded dread of confinement induce me to conceal myself for the present in the hope of being enabled to make arrangements for taking the rules of the King’s bench.

This request was passed on to Lord Grenville on 14 Dec., apparently without success.7 Penn died 27 May 1811.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: M. H. Port


  • 1. Gent. Mag. (1811), i. 675.
  • 2. Boswell Private Pprs. xvii. 169; xviii. 48, 70.
  • 3. PRO 30/8/166, f. 17.
  • 4. Ibid. ff. 19, 20.
  • 5. Ibid. f. 21.
  • 6. PRO 30/8/153, f. 164; Debrett (ser. 3), ix. 194.
  • 7. PRO 30/8/197, f. 242; Lonsdale mss, Ward to Lowther, 8 Mar., Camden to same, 11 Oct. 1804; PRO, Dacres Adams mss 5/108; HMC Lonsdale, 153; Fortescue mss, Lowther to Grenville, 16 Aug., Sidmouth to same, 14 Dec. 1806.