PLEYDELL BOUVERIE, William, Visct. Folkestone (1779-1869).
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Family and Education
b. 11 May 1779, 1st s. of Jacob Pleydell Bouverie†, 2nd Earl of Radnor, and bro. of Hon. Duncombe Pleydell Bouverie*. educ. Paris 1789; Edinburgh Univ. 1794; Brasenose, Oxf. 1795; continental tour 1797. m. (1) 2 Oct. 1800, Catherine (d. 17 May 1804), da. and h. of Henry Fiennes Pelham Clinton, Earl of Lincoln†, s. of Henry, 2nd Duke of Newcastle, 1da.; (2) 24 May 1814, Anne Judith, da. of Sir Henry Paulet St. John Mildmay*, 3rd Bt., of Dogmersfield, Hants, 2s. 3da. suc. fa. as 3rd Earl of Radnor 27 Jan. 1828.
Recorder, Salisbury 1828-36.
Capt. Berks. militia 1803, Berks. vol. cav. 1805; lt.-col. Berks. militia 1813.
Viscount Folkestone was returned for Downton on the family interest on the first vacancy after he came of age; had he or his father wished it, his uncle the Hon. Edward Bouverie II* would have vacated in his favour several months before. His maiden speech, 22 Apr. 1801, was in favour of an opposition motion and enabled him to express resentment at the doubt thrown by the Duke of York on the fitness of the militia for enlistment in expeditionary forces. He had not himself been accepted for a militia commission, but his father was active in that sphere. Radnor could not disapprove the filial loyalty of this ‘first essay’, but urged Folkestone not to speak too frequently and ‘for, rather than against administration the next time’. His next venture was on more neutral ground, when he sought to prevent London corn factors from taking advantage of grain scarcity (2, 24, 26 June 1801), but he was induced to procrastinate. At the same time he impressed Addington privately with his arguments against the renewal of martial law in Ireland. He was still in unison with his father when he emerged in October 1801 as an opponent of Addington’s peace preliminaries with France. On 20 Oct. William Cobbett informed William Windham:
My Lord Folkestone has authorized me to say, that he reprobates the present peace, and that he shall be glad to have this made known to any other Members of the House of Commons, who may be desirous of collecting together those who may agree with him in sentiment, for the purpose of acting more in concert, or any other honourable and lawful purpose.1
At that time Edward Lee* wrote: ‘The most violent man that I have met with against [the peace preliminaries], is Lord Folkestone, he and his father will oppose it, but all the rest of their family will support it’. He and his father agreed to support Cobbett’s Political Register to oppose the peace, and his next venture in debate, 12 Feb. 1802, was an expression of resentment at Addington’s seduction of the editor of the True Briton from opposition. He denied any ‘political connection’, but objected to the newspaper’s scurrilous abuse of Members of the House in opposition to the ministry; he was thwarted when he attempted to make it a breach of privilege, 15 Feb.2 He subsequently urged Windham to raise the question of Buonaparte’s aggression since the peace preliminaries and make it the basis for an address to the King to provide for war in case the peace negotiations fell through. He was eager enough to do it himself, but deferred to Windham, who was dissuaded by more cautious friends.3 He was in the minority for inquiry into the Prince of Wales’s finances, 31 Mar. 1802 (again on 4 Mar. 1803), and voted his approval of Pitt’s removal from office, 7 May. On 13 May 1802 he seconded Windham’s censure on the treaty of Amiens and was one of the 20 Members who voted against the peace.
Folkestone, who resided at Coleshill, would have been in the running for a county seat for Berkshire if one of the sitting Members had retired in 1802. Failing that, his father had decided to return him for Salisbury, his own former seat, and he was chosen there. Radnor advised him to profess in his canvass ‘a perfect independence in your political conduct both of ministers, and opposition, and if you have any notice taken of your conduct respecting the peace, you will say that you followed your own opinion ... and acted as you thought for the best’. But Folkestone assured Windham through Cobbett on 9 July that he still wished to ‘fight under your banner’.4 On 18 Dec. 1802 he suggested the postponement of the last reading of the bill appointing the naval commission of inquiry on the grounds that war was nigh: he could not approve the bill in any case. On 18 Mar. 1803 he attacked the militia completion bill as ‘a death blow to the militia’, in so far as it allowed half-pay regular officers to accept militia commissions; he could not blame men of property who held commissions for quitting the service in these circumstances. He also opposed the enlistment of the militia, 22 Mar. He was thwarted, 28 Apr., when he sought information on the status of the Cape colony, due to be restored to the Dutch under the peace treaty. On the resumption of hostilities, he informed Windham of his view that this war must be conclusive and based on a clear-cut aim; nor should Addington’s ministry escape censure for their conduct of foreign policy. Elaborating on this, 31 May 1803, he sent Windham his proposal for a resolution which he wished to move before Patten’s censure motion came on a few days later. Instead of the ‘old hackneyed’ war aim of ‘indemnity and security’, he proposed the restoration of the Bourbons as ‘the cheapest, the shortest, and the easiest mode’ of achieving ‘a prospect of permanent peace’. He suggested that public recognition and support for Louis XVIII (whom he had met) would effect this purpose. Windham and French Laurence steadied this ‘precipitate’ intention and Folkestone admitted that he was ‘in a fever, brought on by anxiety and vexation at the way in which things are going on’.5 He contented himself with a vote for Patten’s motion, 3 June, and a criticism of the annual supply proposed by ministers, thinking it adequate only for ‘defensive warfare’, 14 June. This speech was boosted by Cobbett and published. On 2 Aug. he supported Fox’s motion for a council of general officers.
In the last session of Addington’s ministry Folkestone voted steadily with opposition and occasionally spoke against ministerial defence proposals, particularly on the officering of the militia. He also supported Lord Archibald Hamilton’s campaign and was named to the committee on the effects of the Irish currency exchange rate, 2 Mar., 12 Apr. 1804. He was listed ‘Windham’ in March and ‘Grenville’ in May 1804, after joining Brooks’s Club on 7 Apr. He as steadily opposed Pitt’s second ministry, being listed ‘Fox and Grenville’ in September 1804 and ‘Opposition’ in July 1805. In this he was inconspicuous, except in the proceedings against Melville. On 11 Apr. 1805 he was one of the Members who went to St. James’s undressed to present the censure of Melville to the King; on 25 Apr. he proffered his consituents’ petition in support of the censure and was proposed by Whitbread for a select committee of inquiry; on 26 June he was appointed one of the managers of the impeachment. He joined Windham in reprobating public funeral honours for Pitt and in objection to the public payment of his debts, 27 Jan., 3 Feb. 1806.
When Windham took office in the Grenville ministry he asked Lord Grenville to bestow office on Folkestone, who had been their steady adherent since 1802:
Lord Folkestone has great industry, and by no means inconsiderable talents for business, and seems to be so marked out for the situation, which I suggested, that I hardly know how I could be thought to satisfy the fair claims which he has upon me personally as well as upon all of us conjointly, if I were to be seen going into great office without obtaining for him the offer of that situation or of some one equivalent to it ...
The office Windham had in mind was a junior lordship of the Treasury and, when Grenville reported that that was no longer available, one at the Admiralty. Although Folkestone was hard up, he informed Windham that he ‘would rather that no offer was made to him’, thereby letting in Lord Kensington. Windham was anxious to placate Folkestone’s father and Folkestone himself made common cause with his friend Cobbett in requiring to be convinced of the measures of his friends in office. He made a virtue of his refusal to second Spencer Stanhope’s motion critical of Ellenborough’s seat in the cabinet.6 He nevertheless caused some embarrassment to the ministry by his support throughout the session for James Paull’s campaign against the conduct of Lord Grenville’s friend the Marquess of Wellesley in India. He was also an outspoken critic of the East India Company, 25 Feb. 1806, and on 27 Feb. argued against the Speaker’s contention that a motion of his on the subject was irregular because no prior notice of it had been given. (He suggested on 20 June that this procedural problem be resolved once and for all.) He and Paull did not co-operate well: Folkestone was absent when Paull needed a seconder on 22 Apr. 1806 and on 20 June he disagreed with Paull’s wish that the question of Wellesley’s conduct should be settled before the end of the session. His attempt to impugn a trifling excess in the public grant for the payment of Pitt’s debts was unavailing, 16 July. On the same day, however, he came to the defence of Windham’s militia proposals, which were strictly in accord with his own expressed views. Paull’s defeat at Westminster in the ensuing election placed the campaign against Wellesley in his hands, though he steadily assisted Paull’s unsuccessful petition against the return. On 26 Jan. 1807 he took over the Oudh charge against Wellesley, the only one to which he pledged himself. He seconded Biddulph’s motion for a committee of inquiry into sinecures, 10 Feb. He was listed among the ‘staunch friends’ of the abolition of the slave trade. He voted for Brand’s motion following the dismissal of the ministry, 9 Apr. 1807, being a steady supporter of Catholic relief.
As Paull was again defeated in the election of 1807, Folkestone resumed responsibility for the attack on Wellesley, 29 June 1807, but agreed to postpone the Oudh charge until the next session. Instead, he supported the campaign launched by Thomas Creevey against the East India Company. Creevey’s preference for a committee to review the Oudh charge disconcerted Folkestone (9, 22 Feb. 1808), but he produced 12 resolutions against Wellesley on 9 Mar., complaining of the misrepresentations of them put abroad by Wellesley’s publicists. His attack failed, 15 Mar., by 182 votes to 31. He continued to support Creevey’s attacks on the East India Company. In other respects he seldom contributed to debate on behalf of the orthodox opposition, while continuing to vote with them. He spoke up for Windham’s militia plans against the Portland ministry’s proposals, 5 Aug. 1807. He stated that he had approved the expedition against Denmark, but disliked the grounds given by ministers for it and moved reparation to Denmark, 29 Mar. 1808. This motion was defeated by 105 votes to 44. His political allegiance was now to (Sir) Francis Burdett*, rather than to Windham, who made no secret of his contempt for Folkestone’s attacks on Wellesley.7 He supported Burdett on the droits of Admiralty, 11 Feb., on the mutiny bill, 14 Mar., and on corporal punishment in the army, 30 June 1808. On 25 Jan. 1809, having been rejected for the finance committee the day before, he was the sole dissentient voice against the vote of thanks to Sir Arthur Wellesley for his military services, and he voted against the convention of Cintra on 21 Feb.
Folkestone’s radical tendencies were confirmed when he supported the attack made by Gwyllym Lloyd Wardle* on the Duke of York for allowing his mistress Mary Anne Clarke to meddle in army patronage, 27 Jan. 1809. He was entirely in Wardle’s confidence. His attempt to obtain a select committee of inquiry was frustrated, 15 Feb., but at times he took over from Wardle the questioning of witnesses at the bar of the House and on 28 Feb. secured a call of the House for the review of the evidence on 10 Mar., when in a much admired speech he stated the case against the duke. When the duke at length resigned, he called for the cause of the termination of the proceedings to be inserted in the Journals, 20 Mar. He was now in pursuit of other evidence of corruption. He also had in mind a bill to exclude the King’s sons from responsible office, which must include the regency.
It was at this point that several Whig grandees became anxious about Folkestone’s winning the support of other young Whig aristocrats whom he was urging to promote county meetings. Earl Spencer, whose son Althorp admired Folkestone, put it down to his ‘steering a straightforward course through the whole proceeding’ against the Duke of York, and felt that the admonishments of Thomas Grenville, who regarded Folkestone as the tool of Cobbett and through him of Burdett and Horne Tooke, were unduly alarmist. Earl Fitzwilliam’s son, Milton, was also impressed by Folkestone, who attempted to reassure his critics by expressing his disapproval of William Alexander Madocks’s intention to raise the subject of parliamentary reform in the House at this juncture. In this he was at one with Burdett, because, so the Whigs maintained, Madocks had let the cat out of the bag as to the intentions of the radicals. Althorp advised Folkestone to proceed with the campaign against corruption and eschew reform if he wished to be respectably supported.8 Accordingly, on 17 Apr. 1809, inspired by suspicions of irregularities in the compensation of officers raising military levies, he moved for a committee to inquire into this, but under the general injunction to inquire ‘into the existence of any corrupt practices with regard to the disposal of offices in any department of the state, or any agreement, negotiation, or bargain, direct or indirect, for the sale thereof; and of any corrupt practices relative to the purchase and sale of commissions in the army ...’ The motion was criticized on all sides as too general, tantamount to creating a committee of public safety, and defeated by 178 votes to 30. Spencer Perceval had previously introduced a sale of offices prevention bill, opposed by Folkestone, who claimed that it would be ineffective unless rewards were offered to informers. The Whig grandees deserted Folkestone, though the Morning Chronicle, echoed by reformers in many parts of the country, supported him. Even the specific instance of compensation for a military levy which he had claimed to be irregular was rejected by the House, 4 May. On 22 Apr. he gave qualified approval to parliamentary reform at the London livery dinner, though he was absent from the Crown and Anchor dinner on 1 May. He was instructed to help Curwen bring in his reform bill on 4 May. On 11 May he came out in favour of Madocks’s motion alleging ministerial corruption; resumed his attack on Perceval’s sale of offices prevention bill, 15 May; supported Whitbread’s motion against place-holders, 8 June, and on 12 June led the opposition to Curwen’s reform bill in its final form. His ironical amendment that the preamble of the bill should read ‘A bill for more effectually preventing the sale of seats in Parliament, for money; and for promoting a monopoly thereof to the Treasury by the means of patronage’ was defeated by 133 votes to 28. He did not vote for Burdett’s reform motion three days later. On 21 Sept. 1809, when the Portland ministry collapsed, he informed his friend Creevey, ‘If Nobbs [George III] does not, the Mob will name the ministers’.9
In the session of 1810 Folkestone, listed ‘No Party’ by the Whigs, as were other Burdettites, was active in the House until May. He had denounced ministers at a Berkshire meeting, 17 Jan., and been applauded for it. He supported the amendment against the thanks to Wellington, 1 Feb.; opposed the exclusion of strangers on 6 Feb., alleging that it was too late to conceal debates from the press, particularly as public confidence in the House was at a low ebb, and on 19 Feb. raised the question of the unconstitutional nature of the Earl of Chatham’s report to the King, ‘without the intervention of any responsible minister’, on the Scheldt expedition. This turned out to be a good ploy and led to the resignation of Chatham, though not to the defeat of the ministry. He favoured the discharge of the radical Gale Jones, 12 Mar. and 16 Apr., and on 26, 28 Mar. and 5 Apr. championed Burdett on the question of his breach of privilege. He visited Burdett when he resisted arrest. Subsequently he advised the House to pay more attention to petitions, when London petitioned in Burdett’s favour, 7 May, and he appealed to the decision of the courts of law, in preference to that of the House, when Burdett proceeded against the House’s officials, 9, 11 May.
Folkestone suffered a setback at this point because of the disclosure of his appetite for fornication, which was reported to have had tragic consequences in his first marriage. Introduced to Mary Anne Clarke by Wardle the year before, he had been unable to resist sexual intercourse with her and, when she fell out with Wardle later that year, was pressurized by her to take her part against Wardle. When she threatened to publish her memoirs, however, Folkestone, unbeknown to Wardle, was party to a bargain with royal agents to buy her off. Wardle discovered this, accused Folkestone of surreptitious behaviour and asked for information about the bargain. Folkestone then withdrew from it. Mrs Clarke had attempted to prejudice him against Wardle by alleging that Wardle was an agent of the Duke of Kent, but Wardle satisfied Folkestone that he was not. In revenge, Mrs Clarke disclosed her relations with Folkestone in her publication The Rival Princes in June 1810, in which she published a letter of his contemptuous of Wardle and indicated that she was in possession of other letters from him. In a second edition, she published eight of them. His unpublished letters contained some ‘awkward expressions’, apparently of boundless contempt for the royal family, and Folkestone, in a panic, lay low. He failed to placate Wardle and subsequently deserted him.10 He had fallen from grace in many radical eyes. He crept back into the House in November 1810 and voted with opposition on the Regency, but did not open his mouth until 15 Feb. 1811, on a procedural matter. He was still acting with Burdett and was placed on the committee of inquiry into the Coldbath Fields prison for political offenders, 21 Feb. On the same day and on 4 Mar. he resumed support of Creevey’s attacks on the East India Company. But his own motion of 28 Mar. 1811 (aided and abetted outside the House by Thomas Holt White, Henry Clifford, William Cobbett and John Walter of The Times) in favour of the liberty of the press was ill supported by the Whigs: Romilly and Burdett were his allies in debate.11 It turned on the increase in prosecutions of publicists by the attorney-general following informations for libel and the use of special juries to incriminate them, and was defeated by 119 votes to 36. Nor did he get anywhere when on 12 June he sought publicity for two of the informations in question. Subsequently he abdicated the issue. He was an opponent of the legalization of paper money and attempted both to secure pardon for a man prosecuted for selling gold guineas and to obstruct the bank-note bill, 9, 15 July 1811.
Folkestone turned his attention to the jurisdiction of the inferior ecclesiastical courts, 9 Jan. 1812, when he introduced the House to the plight of Mary Ann Dix, in gaol at Bristol and excommunicated for refusing to perform a penance and pay the costs of a defamation case. When he moved for an inquiry, 23 Jan., Sir William Scott stole his thunder by promising a bill for the better regulation of these courts (introduced on 29 June). Nothing daunted, he introduced a bill to amend the legislation on insolvent debtors, with reference to the same case, 28 Jan., and on 5 Mar. presented a petition from debtors in the Fleet prison. On 10 Mar. he sought information on the number of Germans in the army, having previously expressed reservations about the enlistment of foreigners. He opposed the barracks estimates, 13 Apr. Next day he supported Williams Wynn’s motion against McMahon’s Regency appointment. In his final attack on the bank-note amendment bill, 20 Apr., he pointed out that paper money could be reduced to pap or eaten by rats, with no hope of compensation. He voted for a more efficient administration on 21 May, and on 11 June moved an amendment to Stuart Wortley’s motion, calling for the appointment of such a ministry as would ‘reform existing abuses, restore the commerce, economize the resources and support the honour and independence of the nation’, at the same time deploring the restoration to office of Liverpool’s administration. It was negatived without a division after he had been refused leave to withdraw it.
On 31 July 1812 Folkestone wrote to his father expressing a ‘very strong and decided wish not any more to return to the House of Commons’. He added:
This wish has not arisen from any momentary feeling of ill humour or disgust, but it is now of some years standing, originating in disapprobation of the proceedings there, and the consciousness of my inability either to do anything effectual for their correction, or to distinguish myself in opposition to their total disregard of all constitutional principle, of all attention to the rights and liberties of the people, and almost of all honour, honesty and truth, with which the proceedings there are carried on. If I could hope, that by any exertions of mine I could mend the matter, or even if I could flatter myself, that I had abilities to distinguish myself, and such as would enable me to raise a party in opposition to the present system, and as an enemy of that absolute and military despotism to which the government of this country is fast approaching, I should by no means be unwilling to do so, but I have no such hope, and no such flattering prospects, and that being so, I wish to decline being a tame looker-on and a supposed assenter to proceedings, of which I so much disapprove. The attendance in the House, too, I must confess, is extremely irksome and disagreeable, and though there are few persons in my situation, who are so diligent in their attendance as myself I daily feel more and more how very incompletely I perform the duties of the situation. Add to this, the discomfort of disagreeing from you on many points of essential importance.
He added that his place at Salisbury might be supplied by one of his two brothers. His father, in his reply on 18 Aug., ignored this last point, expressing ‘mortification and disappointment’: he had hoped to break records by the length of the family’s parliamentary association with Salisbury and had invested in two seats for the borough of Downton. In short, Folkestone’s resignation of his seat was ‘the resignation of the family interest’, but ‘after much struggle I have determined to say, that you shall do about it as you please’. In reply to this, 20 Aug., Folkestone, after questioning the freehold on Downton, conceded that his father had not directed his parliamentary course of action, even on questions on which he felt strongly, until lately, when they differed on the Regency, the Catholic question and parliamentary reform. In the success of the latter he admitted that he had little confidence and had not actually voted for it—he had missed Brand’s motion by accident and should have voted against it (he could not be rallied, either, to an extra-parliamentary meeting of reformers in 1811), but he would support a bid to shorten the duration of Parliaments. He then repeated his reasons for wishing to retire, admitted that on the footing on which his father placed the question he could no longer think of doing so, but made it clear that he was not to be further plagued by consideration of what he might be supposed to owe to his family. This elicited a conciliatory reply (24 Aug.): Radnor urged him to persevere in ‘an impartial and disinterested investigation of public measures’, which in a few years would prove both useful and satisfying; not to trust solely to his own judgment; not to be always on one side in politics (which was being ‘at least sometimes in the wrong’) and to realize that ‘a compliance with Treasury notes is full as salutary, and as honest too as with oppositional combinations’. He denied that his affection for his heir was limited by his ability ‘to add new honours, or acquire fresh power to the family’.12
Although Folkestone retained his seat, he was for several sessions in the Parliament of 1812 noticeably slack in attendance. This gave him an opportunity for intellectual pursuits at Coleshill and for a second marriage. He was an outspoken opponent of the gold coin bill, 8 and 9 Dec. 1812, and on 10 Dec. brought in a motion against the embodiment in the army of the German legion, by now a bête noire of his. On 22 Feb. 1813 he took six weeks’ leave of absence for illness, thus avoiding a parade of his difference from his father on Catholic relief. He also avoided contact with reform associations.13 There is no evidence of further attendance until 31 Mar. 1814 when he again criticized the Gold Coin Act and opposed the clergy penalties bill. He was present on 28 Feb. 1815 when he voted with opposition on the continuation of the militia, and on 18 May when he opposed its embodiment. On 31 May he supported inquiry into the Regent’s expenditure. Next day he led the opposition to the bill authorizing the enlistment of foreign soldiers in the army, as being contrary to the Act of Settlement. On 9 Jan. 1816 Henry Brougham, to whom Folkestone had handed over his case against the attorney-general for the freedom of the press, informed Earl Grey:
I am trying to put Folkestone up to coming forward and co-operating cordially. His feelings and principles are almost all with you and now that Burdett is so much out of the field, he will be invaluable from his character and abilities if he can only muster up spirits enough to take a part.
On 2 Feb. Henry Grey Bennet informed Creevey:
You will be pleased to hear that Folkestone made his appearance well in health and most stout in politics. He told Brougham that his speech revived him and brought back all his zeal, so I think we shall have him still active.
On 20 Feb. he took a month’s leave but interrupted it to oppose the property tax, 26 and 27 Feb., and the army estimates, 28 Feb., and was thenceforward a more or less steady speaker and voter with opposition for retrenchment. The younger Whigs encouraged him in this line. He was soon as much in the front line of debate as formerly.14 He called for the abolition of the third secretaryship of state in peace time, 11 Mar., 3 Apr., and complained of the prevalence of military display, 4, 10 Apr., as it reminded him of the ‘military despotisms of the Continent’. He opposed the Bank restriction bill, 8 Apr., 1, 7, 8 May, trying in vain to delay its progress. As a descendant of refugees he opposed the aliens bill, 31 May 1816.
Folkestone remained cautious, or evasive, on the subjects likely to be bones of contention with his father. He avoided voting for Catholic relief until 9 May 1817. On parliamentary reform, he was a stickler ‘for annual parliaments, but objects to every other sort of reform’. This did not extend to the presentation of petitions, for, without any connexion with them, he presented one which included the topic of reform from Spafields, 11 Feb. 1817, and another from Horsham on 7 Mar.; but he did not support Burdett’s motions, only Heron’s against the Septennial Act, which he seconded, 19 May 1818. He ridiculed the soldiers seduction bill, 28 Feb. 1817. He went away without voting on the question of Canning’s Lisbon mission, 6 May 1817, nor would he vote for Williams Wynn as Speaker, 2 June. He vehemently opposed the suspension of habeas corpus the same day and likewise the seditious meetings bill, 28 Mar., 5 June. On the latter day he unsuccessfully moved two instructions to the secret committee to promote an inquiry into the causes of popular discontent, and on 11 June moved for a list of the detainees under the suspension of habeas corpus. He had been refused leave to visit those held in Reading gaol the day before. On 18 June he sought confirmation of the right of magistrates to visit such prisoners but failed by 85 votes to 56 (and again on 17 Mar. 1818). This issue revived all his former energies and he supported a public meeting at Reading against the curtailment of civil liberty, and himself, urged on in a public letter by Cobbett, prepared to play a leading role in the opposition campaign against the effects of it during the next session. This he did, 27, 29 Jan., 17 Feb. 1818, confiding in Lord Holland that perhaps ‘it will be better for posterity that this age should be recorded with all its baseness, folly and cowardice fully displayed. We are to be pointed at with scorn and reproach—an example to be shunned and avoided. ...’ He thought it necessary to deny, 27 Jan. 1818, that he was an enemy to the House of Brunswick. He rebuked the House for the scant regard paid to petitions to it, 4 Feb. Unfortunately he had a knack of selecting dubious petitioners to make his points and Francis Ward, on whose petition he based his motion of 17 Feb. (defeated by 167 to 58), was just such another bad egg. His zeal had again brought him to the point of indiscretion.15 He was a critic of the indemnity bill, 11 Mar. In opposing the ducal marriage grants, he exempted the Duchess of Cumberland, 16 Apr. He entered a ‘solemn protest’ against the aliens bill, 15 May, and opposed the continuance of the Bank restriction, 1, 19 May 1818.
Folkestone expected opposition at Salisbury in 1818 both because of his politics and because of his neglect, but the other seat changed hands peacefully and he concluded that the family interest was ‘as strong as it ever was’. He himself had been returned on it for Downton as well, for his father’s purposes. Asked to sign the requisition to make George Tierney leader of the Whig opposition in July, he at first demurred, having ‘by no means implicit confidence in Tierney’, whose politics were not ‘sufficiently sublimated’. Informed by Duncannon that the choice of Tierney was popular and that his signature did not bind him as to political issues, he did so ‘without any scruple’, although there were some expressions he disliked in the requisition, in the hope that it would lead to the defeat of the ministry. Tierney was assured that Folkestone was one of those who had written flattering letters about him. His peculiar position in the party was underlined in November 1818 when his name was suggested as a suitable candidate to stand for Westminster in place of Romilly, with Whig and radical support.16 Nothing came of this. He first voted with opposition on the Windsor establishment in the ensuing Parliament, 22 Feb. 1819, and moved the omission from it of a clause in favour of the Duke of York on 19 Mar. He told 97 votes against 156. He voted for criminal law reform, 2 Mar. On 1 Apr. and 6 May he voted for burgh reform. He was in the minority for Tierney’s censure motion on 18 May. He criticized the inconsistency of ministerial policy on the resumption of cash payments by the Bank, 25 May. His attendance that session was not regular, but in the 1819-20 session he was a pronounced opponent of repressive measures, first speaking at length against the seditious meetings prevention bill, 29 Nov. He objected to repressive measures in toto and thought it insufficient to temporize or localize them, unless they were reduced in duration pending inquiry. He excepted only the training prevention bill, 8 Dec. He supported Bennet’s motion for inquiry into the plight of the manufacturing districts, 9 Dec., and on 23 Dec. described the blasphemous libel bill as an attempt ‘to stop the progress of intelligence’. On 15 Jan. 1820 he swayed a Berkshire county meeting to petition for the dismissal of ministers and for a measure of parliamentary reform. A year later he put the latter first. He was able to give full rein to his radical tendencies in 1828, when his father died. He refused office when the Whigs offered it to him, and died 9 Apr. 1869.
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: R. G. Thorne
R. H. Huch, The Radical Lord Radnor (Minneapolis Monographs in the Humanities vol. 10, 1977) is the only biography.
- 1. Wilts. RO, Radnor mss 490/1373, Bouverie to Radnor, 29 Nov. 1800; Berks. RO, Pleydell Bouverie mss 028/6, Radnor to Folkestone, 24 Apr. 1801; Rose Diaries, i. 356; Add. 37853, f. 16; Windham Pprs. ii. 177; Melville, Cobbett, i. 137.
- 2. PRO 30/9/1 pt. 3/3, Lee to Abbot, n.d. [Oct.]; Fitzwilliam mss, X516/33, Laurence to Fitzwilliam [17 Dec. 1801]; HMC Fotescue, vii. 78.
- 3. Add. 37880, f. 249; Fitzwilliam mss, box 60, Laurence to Fitzwilliam, 24 Feb. 1802.
- 4. Pleydell Bouverie mss 028/9, Radnor to Folkestone, 27 Feb.; 028 15, same to same, 19 June 1802; Add. 37853, f. 43; Melville, Cobbett, i. 163-4.
- 5. Add. 37881, ff. 170, 172, 178.
- 6. HMC Fortescue, vii. 346; viii. 12; Add. 37847, ff. 1, 13; 37883, ff. 58, 136, 141.
- 7. Blair Adam mss, Windham to Adam, 20 Feb. .
- 8. Spencer mss, Grenville to Spencer, 30 Mar., 1, 5 Apr.; Add. 41854, f. 246; Pleydell Bouverie mss 025/64, 68, 69; Fitzwilliam mss, X1605, Folkestone to Milton, 30 Mar. 1809.
- 9. Creevey Pprs. ed. Maxwell, i. 96-7.
- 10. Farington, v. 160; Paul Berry, By Royal Appointment (1970), 190-5, 206; Huch, ch. 4; Creevey Pprs. i. 112, 115; Leveson Gower, ii. 354; HMC Fortescue, x. 45; Brougham, Life and Times, i. 522.
- 11. Wakes Museum, Selborne, Holt White mss, Cobbett to Holt White, 21 Mar. 1811; Huch, 71-3; Add. 51561, Brougham to Holland, 6 Apr.; Creevey mss, Brougham to Creevey, Sunday [?7 Apr. 1811].
- 12. Pleydell Bouverie mss 028/69, 76, 77, 78.
- 13. Huch, 81.
- 14. Add. 51566, Folkestone to Holland, 3 Jan. 1816; Brougham, Life and Times, ii. 308; Creevey mss; Pleydell Bouverie mss 028/94, Althorp to Folkestone, 7 Apr. 1816; Creevey Pprs. i. 257.
- 15. Horner mss 7, f. 258; Heron, Notes (1851), 83, 89; Creevey Pprs. i. 271; Add. 51566, Folkestone to Holland, 1, 13 June 1817, 16, 19, 23 Jan.; Grey mss, Tierney to Grey, 18 Feb. 1818.
- 16. Pleydell Bouverie mss 027, Folkestone’s diary of Salisbury election, 6 Aug. 1818; 028/172, 174, 175; Hants RO, Tierney mss 40a; Add. 27842, f. 49.