PYM, Francis (1756-1833), of Hasells Hall, Sandy, Beds.

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

Constituency

Dates

5 Feb. 1806 - 1818
1820 - 1826

Family and Education

b. 28 Oct. 1756,1 3rd but 1st surv. s. of William Pym of Radwell, Herts. by Elizabeth, da. and h. of Heylock Kingsley of Hasells. educ. Charterhouse 1772-4; Trinity Coll. Camb. 1774. m. 21 May 1785,2 Anne, da. of Robert Palmer of Holme Park, Berks., 5s. 2da. suc. fa. 1788.

Offices Held

Sheriff, Beds. 1791-2; lt.-col. commdt. 2 Beds. vol. inf. 1803; capt. 1 Beds. militia 1810.

Biography

The Pyms, who were involved in trade with Holland and India, had a footing in Bedfordshire in the late 17th century, but it was initially in Hertfordshire that they built up substantial estates. Pym’s father acquired the Hasells property through his marriage to the Kingsley heiress; Pym himself extended the family’s holdings around Sandy and by 1791, when he was appointed sheriff, he was well established among the Bedfordshire gentry. John Byng, later Viscount Torrington, visited Pym and his wife, daughter of the estate agent of the dukes of Bedford, in May 1794 and found their style of living uncomfortably formal:

Mr P. and his wife, a couple much respected, would be much happier could they cast off much form and grandeur of living; and adopt an easier style; permitting dogs to enter and boots and leathern breeches to sit down to dinner.3

When Pym came forward for the county on a vacancy in December 1805 the 6th Duke of Bedford agreed to support him, but made it clear that his son would stand for Bedfordshire at the first opportunity on coming of age. There was no opposition to his return and he was again unchallenged at the 1806 general election. He supported the ‘Talents’, voting for the repeal of the Additional Force Act, 30 Apr. 1806, and for Brand’s motion condemning the ministerial pledge after their fall, 9 Apr. 1807. A ‘naturally nervous’ man, according to Bedford,4 Pym was always apprehensive of being involved in excessive election expenses. His lack of resolution almost ruined the Whig scheme to oust his ministerialist colleague John Osborn from the county seat in 1807, but his fears were overcome and he headed the poll.

In 1810 Whitbread asserted that ‘the sterling sense and sound integrity of Mr Pym are universally respected’ in Bedfordshire,5 but he made no mark in the wider political world. He never became a member of Brooks’s, but he voted consistently with the Whigs in opposition and could generally be relied on to turn up for important divisions, although his voting record suggests that he was not a dedicated attender in quieter times. He voted against government on the Duke of York scandal in 1809; for the motions charging Perceval and Castlereagh with corruption, 25 Apr. and 11 May 1809; against sinecures, 17 May 1810 and 4 May 1812, and divided quite regularly in favour of economy and retrenchment after the war. He supported Brand’s motion for parliamentary reform, 21 May 1810, but could not be induced to attend a meeting to promote a ‘constitutional reform’ in 1811, and did not vote for reform in the divisions of 1817 and 1818. He voted for Whitbread’s motion against the renewal of war, 28 Apr., and for the opposition amendment condemning a war of proscription against Buonaparte, 25 May 1815, but not against the terms of the peace settlement early in 1816. He opposed the suspension of habeas corpus in both February and June 1817, and the domestic espionage system and indemnity bill in 1818. He supported Roman Catholic claims. In the only known speech of his parliamentary career, 22 Jan. 1808, he criticized the seizure of the Danish fleet and argued the case for immediately securing peace, ‘that great and most desirable object’, but he did not vote for Whitbread’s peace resolutions, 29 Feb. 1808.

There were further doubts about his firmness before the 1812 election, but no opposition was encountered. In 1818, when Osborn stood again, Pym initially declared his own intention of doing so but, baulking at the prospect of an expensive contest, he backed down at the eleventh hour. His loss of nerve mortified Whig supporters, the more so as it was rumoured that he had ‘£20,000 worth of timber upon his estate, which wants to be cut down’, a