SANDERSON, Sir James (1741-98), of London Bridge and East Hill, nr. Wandsworth, Surr.

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



20 Feb. 1792 - 1796
1796 - 21 June 1798

Family and Education

b. 30 Dec. 1741, o.s. of James Sanderson, grocer, of York by his w. (?Elizabeth née Marsden) who d. 23 Jan. 1802, aged 85. educ. g.s. m. (1) Elizabeth (d. 17 Aug. 1793), da. of John Judd, hop merchant, of Chelmsford, Essex, s.p.s.; (2) 9 May 1795, Elizabeth, da. of Thomas Skinner, ld. mayor of London 1794-5, 1da. Kntd. 6 Oct. 1786; cr. Bt. 6 Dec. 1794.

Offices Held

Alderman, London 1783-d., sheriff 1785-6, ld. mayor 1792-3; pres. Bethlehem and Bridewell hosp. 1793-d.; col. 2 London militia 1793-4, W. London militia 1794-6.


The son of a York grocer who died young, Sanderson was sent to a London hop merchant, William Golding, to prepare him for the family business, but finding it too small to support both himself and his mother and sisters, returned to Golding, who ‘settled him in a connexion with Mr Hunter, a hop merchant of eminence’. A fortunate marriage proved the turning point in Sanderson’s business career and to this alliance ‘he always gratefully acknowledged the foundation of his fortune, the source of his energies, and the reward of his exertions’. From the mid 1770s the firm of Judd, Sanderson & Co., hop merchants, of 3 London Bridge began to appear in the directories and by c.1790 had become Sanderson, Roxby & Co. In 1791 Sanderson was in partnership with one Brenchley under the style of Sanderson & Co. in a Southwark banking house which was rescued by the Bank of England when it got into difficulties in March 1793, Sanderson being then lord mayor. They dissolved the partnership in 1794 and joined Stacey, Parker and Newman at 1 Mansion House Street, a bank with which Sanderson was associated until his death and which later numbered Charles Price* and Joseph Marryat* among its partners.1

‘Deprived of a family by the early deaths of his children, and secretly despairing of his own health’, Sanderson devoted the last 15 years of his life to City politics. At the City election of 1790 he supported his friend the Pittite Brook Watson*. Declining a suggestion that he should stand for York the year before, he had said that he meant to purchase a quiet seat.2 His elections for both Malmesbury and Hastings were in all probability at the request of administration. In the House he at once emerged as a willing speaker. After the slave trade debate of 1 Apr. 1792, having resisted the arguments of Wilberforce and Pitt, ‘which I ever did with great difficulty’, he had voted for Dundas’s amendment for gradual abolition, but on 4 Apr. made it clear that he had only supported Dundas in the belief that he would speedily implement his proposals: ‘if I find, on the contrary, there is any danger of its going over the present session, I declare fairly that I had rather have voted for the original question’. He would support Fox’s motion for immediate abolition if no satisfactory explanation were given. On 17 May he announced his opposition to the government’s sugar bill: ‘inclined as he certainly was to give to his Majesty’s present ministers his cordial support, as thinking their general measures both wise and salutary, he should be always equally ready to oppose them’. At first he contended for 40s. instead of 60s. per cwt. as the price at which the export of refined sugar should be prohibited, but on 22 May admitted that Pitt’s speech in defence of the bill ‘had great weight with him, and had much shaken his opinion’, yet unsuccessfully moved an amendment for a reduction from 60s. to 55s.

His lord mayoralty coinciding with the panic produced by the activities of the radical societies, he became a frequent defender of government policy. On 13 Dec. 1792, he moved the address, giving details of disturbances in the City and supporting the activities of government both at home and abroad; on 4 Mar. 1793, again speaking from personal observation, he opposed Sheridan’s motion for a committee to inquire into the truth of the reports of sedition in the country. In May he was chairman of the City committee which urged the government to issue Exchequer bills to relieve commercial credit. On the subject of raising troops by subscription, he confessed, 24 Mar. 1794, that ‘he had an old fashioned prejudice about him, that led him to believe that all supplies of money for public purposes ought to originate in the House of Commons only’, but four days later was able to vote for the subscription though ‘not entirely decided on the subject yet’. He spoke in favour of the Sabbath observation bill, 15 Apr. 1794, whilst successfully objecting to the indulgence which it afforded to informers. On 20 June 1794 he supported the City militia bill against Sheridan’s criticisms and on 16 Nov. 1795, again under attack from Sheridan, defended his conduct when lord mayor. In his last recorded speech, 3 Dec. 1795, he produced evidence from London in the debate on the suspension of habeas corpus. If Sanderson’s conduct aroused the wrath of Whigs, he was more frequently in these years of alarm portrayed as a hero. The Queen quoted him with approval. George Chalmers was lavish in his praise of this self-made man who he claimed was a rare example of a politician who had successfully made the transition from a City to a Commons debater:

Few men ... have possessed a more graceful person, or spoken with a greater degree of elegance. The arrangement of his matter and the choice of his language, are equally pleasing. His ideas are strong, clear, and happy; his arguments ready, bold, and forcible; and his conclusions just, apt, and striking.

Certainly his support was valued by administration, and Pitt, in recommending him for a baronetcy, wrote to the King, 28 Nov. 1794, that such an honour ‘will probably produce a very good effect in the City’.3

Sanderson assured the common council, 20 Jan. 1795, that ‘the ministry and the government were by no means one thing’, but opposed the clamour for peace, being content to support ministers as long as he believed they were acting in the best interests of the country. He was also a loyalist speaker in the City in November of that year, and one of the City committee which promoted the declaration of support for Pitt. In April 1796 he was one of the committee of seven London businessmen deputed to lobby the chancellor on the state of specie. Apropos of his return for Hastings in 1796, the Morning Chronicle joked: ‘Sir James Sanderson comes into Parliament for Hastings, entirely on the hop interest, and not on the recommendation of George Rose, as has been invidiously reported’. He had been on the Treasury lists of prospective candidates in quest of a seat. He made no mark in his second Parliament. He addressed the loyal livery of London on 28 May 1797, but was reported ‘seriously indisposed’ at the end of the year. He died ‘after a long and painful illness’, 21 June 1798.4

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: J. M. Collinge


  • 1. Hilton Price, London Bankers, 133.
  • 2. PRO 30/8/135, f. 88.
  • 3. Prince of Wales Corresp. iii. 970; Parl. Portraits (1795), i. 151-4; Geo. III Corresp. ii. 1164.
  • 4. Courier, 21 Jan.; Oracle, 19 Nov., 3 Dec.; Morning Chron. 28 Nov. 1795, 4 Apr., 15 Sept. 1796; The Times, 29 May; British Gazette, 31 Dec. 1797.