PERCEVAL, Spencer (1795-1859), of Elm Grove, Ealing, Mdx.
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Family and Education
b. 11 Sept. 1795, 1st s. of Hon. Spencer Perceval* by Jane, da. of Lt.-Gen. Sir Thomas Spencer Wilson, 6th Bt.† educ. Harrow 1804-13; L. Inn 1812; Trinity Coll. Camb. 1813. m. 3 July 1821, Anna Eliza, da. of Norman Macleod* by 2nd w., 3s. 8da. suc. fa. 1812.
Teller of Exchequer 1813-34; under-sec. of state for Home affairs Apr.-July 1827; clerk of Ordnance Aug. 1828-Dec. 1830.
Vol. London and Westminster light horse 1819.
After seeing him at Harrow, Wilberforce wrote to his wife in October 1812: ‘Young Perceval is a sweet young man, and in some of his features and motions so like his father that it was impossible for anyone, who had known and valued him, not to be affected by seeing the son’. Perceval certainly inherited his father’s courage, piety and eloquence, but lacked the self-control and industry, ‘the needful discipline of ordinary life’, which had enabled him to make the most of his qualities. After his father’s assassination he became in Lord Teignmouth’s words ‘the spoiled child of the nation’: the benchers of Lincoln’s Inn provided him with a free legal training; Parliament granted him an annuity of £1,000; his appointment to a tellership of the Exchequer in February 1813 supplied further financial security. At Cambridge ‘he neglected the studies of the University, and took no part in the debates of the Union— satisfied with the hereditary prestige of renown which clave to him, his qualification for social enjoyment, and the respect and estimation of the set to which he belonged’. He then travelled in Greece and Italy ‘adopting as well as he could Byron’s picturesque costume, and piquing himself on exemption from the drudgery of learning the languages of the countries which he visited, so far as to anglicize the address on his card’.1
He was returned for Ennis in 1818, according to Teignmouth ‘at considerable cost’, by William Vesey Fitzgerald*, probably on the recommendation of the Treasury. In his maiden speech, 16 Mar. 1819, in opposition to reductions in the Windsor establishment, he stood forward ‘to fight the battle of his old and respected King’. Opposition, he claimed, ‘held out to the country, that they had supported the principle of economy and the rights of the people; and coming down fat from the pastures of popularity, boasted of their strength, by which they drove their opponents into measures of conciliation at the same time weak and unworthy’. He voted with government on the complaint against Wyndham Quin*, 29 Mar. 1819, and Tierney’s motion for a committee on the state of the nation, 18 May. He voted against Catholic relief, 3 May. On 10 June he supported the foreign enlistment bill. Next session he proceeded to speak and vote against the second reading of the seditious meetings bill, 2 Dec. 1819, and on 6 Dec. in a speech described by Charles Williams Wynn as ‘clever but violent’, defended the right of the people to meet to petition as ‘a most salutary vent for discontent’. He supported Buxton’s motion to limit the bill to three years, 6 Dec., and Hutchinson’s motion to exclude Ireland from its operation, 13 Dec. Lord Redesdale’s verdict was that Perceval’s intimates had been ‘too much of the Fox school’, but Edward Bootle Wilbraham noted that his opposition was ‘attributed to oddity, which is an excuse for much’. He did not return to the House in 1820 and when Croker unsuccessfully recommended his appointment as an under-secretary of the Home Office in May 1821, he noted that ‘his late unsteady conduct is not forgotten’.2
Falling under the influence of Henry Drummond*, Perceval devoted the greater part of his life to religious work and, like Lord Sidmouth’s eldest son, served as an ‘Angel’ in the Irvingite Catholic Apostolic Church. He died 16 Sept. 1859.