SARGENT, John (1750-1831), of Woolavington, Suss.

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



1790 - Nov. 1793
15 Feb. 1794 - 1802
17 Dec. 1802 - July 1806

Family and Education

b. 1750, 2nd s. of John Sargent of Halstead Place, Kent by Rosamund Chambers. educ. Eton 1760-7; St. John’s, Camb. 1767; L. Inn 1770. m. 21 Dec. 1778, Charlotte, da. and h. of Richard Bettsworth of Petworth, Suss. by Charlotte Orme, heiress of Woolavington, 6s. 4da.

Offices Held

Dir. Bank of England 1778-9; gent. of privy chamber 1784; member, board of agriculture 1803.

Clerk of Ordnance 1793-1802; jt. sec. to Treasury July 1802-May 1804; commr. of audit 1806-21.


Sargent showed scholastic promise and wrote dramatic poetry on historical themes.1 His marriage to a Sussex heiress led to his becoming chairman of quarter sessions there for over 40 years and to his friendship with the 3rd Duke of Richmond, who put him up for Seaford in 1790 as a supporter of Pitt’s administration. His election was disputed but the decision of the House was in his favour. He first spoke as an ex-director of the Bank, 15 Dec. 1790, in favour of the appropriation by government of the Bank’s unclaimed dividends. On 4 Apr. 1791 he was balloted for the public revenue committee. The same month he was listed among opponents of repeal of the Test Act in Scotland. From December 1792 onwards he often acted as a ministerial teller. In 1793 Richmond appointed him clerk of the Ordnance and arranged his transfer to the Ordnance borough seat for Queenborough. On 10 Apr. 1794 he defended the duke’s Ordnance administration in debate and henceforward spoke regularly on departmental business. The duke’s departure from office gave him further scope. He supported the Austrian loan, 5 Feb. 1795. He obtained leave to introduce a Poor Law amendment bill, 12 Nov. 1795, and on 27 Nov. was in the chair at the committee stage of the seditious meetings bill. On 2 Dec. he signed the London declaration of support for Pitt’s measures. Pitt suggested him as a candidate for the chief secretaryship to the viceroy of Ireland, Lord Camden: ‘He is a man of very clear understanding, of good temper, a sufficiently good speaker and very conversant in business’. But Camden did not consider him ‘at all fitted for the situation’.2 He voted against the abolition of the slave trade, 15 Mar. 1796.

Sargent attended the ministerial meeting to discuss Pitt’s tax proposals, 17 Dec. 1797, and on 22 Dec. secured an exemption for physicians from the increase. He chaired the income tax bill at the committee stage in March 1799. He remained in office in Addington’s ministry and in July 1802 succeeded Addington’s brother as junior secretary to the Treasury. He had been unexpectedly defeated at Queenborough, but Addington found him another seat on Lord de Dunstanville’s interest before the year was out. He steered several ministerial bills through the committee stage, but took no part in debate. Addington was prepared to see him remain in office in Pitt’s second ministry, but he went into opposition with him. Addington then persuaded the King to grant his wife a pension of £616 per annum with reversion to him for his 12 years’ service. He voted against Pitt’s additional force bill in June 1804. In September he was still listed ‘Addington’ but also among the latter’s friends ‘on whom some impression might be made’. He welcomed Addington’s reconciliation with Pitt and was in the ministerial minority against the censure of Melville, 8 Apr. 1805. Subsequently, however, he concurred in his leader’s quarrel with Pitt and was in the majority for Melville’s criminal prosecution, 12 June. In July he was duly listed ‘Sidmouth’ and in November reported as steadfast with him.3

Sargent supported the Grenville ministry, which incorporated Sidmouth, voting for their repeal of Pitt’s Additional Force Act, 30 Apr. 1806. He had been a silent Member since leaving office and in July 1806 left the House when Sidmouth procured from Lord Grenville his appointment as auditor of public accounts in exchange for his seat.4 Sargent died 9 Sept. 1831.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. Genealogist (n.s.), xxxiii. 191.
  • 2. Geo. III Corresp. ii. 1198, 1347, 1349, 1358; Camden mss C123/7; Add. 33101, f. 368.
  • 3. Colchester, i. 123, 502; The Times, 12 June, 2 July 1802; Geo. III Corresp. iv. 2858; Sidmouth mss, Sargent to Addington, 27 Dec. 1804; Dorset RO, Bond mss D367, J. H. Addington to Bond, 28 Nov. 1805.
  • 4. Sidmouth mss, Sidmouth to Bragge Bathurst, 17 July, to J. H. Addington, 23 July 1806.