SHAW, Benjamin (?1770-1843), of 29 Lower Brook Street, Mdx.

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



1812 - 1818

Family and Education

b. ?1770, 2nd s. of Richard Shaw, merchant, of Walworth, Surr. by w. Mary. m. 5 Apr. 1815, Mary, da. of Joseph Ewart, 1s. suc. fa. 1790.

Offices Held

Dir. Union Fire Co. 1804-7, 1811-19, dep. chairman 1808; dir. Rock Life Assurance Office 1812-14; dir. Commercial Dock Co. 1815, dep. chairman 1817, chairman 1820, 1826-7 and 1840; treasurer 1841-3; member, Soc. of Shipowners 1817; chairman, Port of London committee 1817; dir. London Univ. jt. stock co. and member of council for the univ. 1825; member of Lloyd’s committee 1811, chairman 1824-6; dir. Anglo Mexican mint and mining cos. 1827.

1st lt. St. Olave vols. 1798, capt. 1799, capt. commdt. 1803; lt.-col. 5 Surr. militia 1813.


Shaw’s father was a merchant, having entered into partnership with Andrew Jordaine as a tallow factor, at 127 Aldersgate Street by 1763. In his will, having already provided his eldest son Richard with ‘more than his proportional part’, he left his partnership to Benjamin (1790). By then the firm had premises at 323 Borough High Street next to London Bridge, and Jordaine and Shaw, merchants, continued to trade there, and from 1826 at Cornhill until his death. Shaw’s wife brought him £10,000.1 He invested in East India Company stock. By the time he entered Parliament he was becoming prominent as a company director and was perhaps the Shaw of Perring, Shaw and Barber’s London bank, 1812-26.

Shaw signed the London merchants’ loyal declaration to Pitt’s government in December 1795 and was a ministerialist in local politics. He was returned for Westbury, probably as a paying guest of the patron (Sir) Manesseh Masseh Lopes*, his fellow insurance director, in 1812. While he appeared on the Treasury list of supporters after his election and gave a general support to the Liverpool administration, he showed independent traits. He was a religious dissenter who supported Catholic relief steadily. His evidence before the select committee on the corn trade, 5 Apr. 1813, showed that he had special knowledge of the grain trade with Ireland. He defended the bill regulating trade in liquor between Britain and Ireland, 24 June 1814. He went on to vote steadily against alteration of the Corn Laws. Other subjects that interested him were Christian missions to India, for which he voted steadily in 1813; the revision of the apprentice laws, 13 May, and the Hackney poor bill, which he defended, 8 June 1814. He deprecated Stock Exchange speculation on the leakage of a new government loan, 14 Nov. 1814. He was in favour of the restriction of cash payments by the Bank, 2 Mar. 1815, and suggested that resumption must be gradual. (He also defended the Bank’s record in its relations with the government, 29 June.) On 9 May 1815 he presented a London merchants’ petition against the Ship Letter Act. He joined opposition in the divisions on the Duke of Cumberland’s establishment, 29, 30 June, 3 July 1815. He ‘mixed much with commercial men’, so he informed the House on 28 Feb. 1816, urging ministers in his longest speech to abandon the property tax. He claimed, 1 Mar., that the country simply could not pay it. He was absent ill on the division, 18 Mar., but paired against the tax, though he had been prepared to accept the army estimates on 8 Mar. He also voted against the leather tax on 9 May. He advised delay on the bill to repeal the usury laws, 22 May. He rallied to ministers on the divisions of 20 June 1816, 7, 17 and 25 Feb. 1817, after questioning the chancellor about the application of the sinking fund on 7 Feb. On the strength of a visit to Coldbath prison he denied the allegations of a prisoner there who petitioned the House, 2 July 1817, and after a visit (two years before) to George Philips’s* cotton factories, he denied that child labour needed to be curtailed, 10 Feb. 1818. That day he voted with ministers on the conduct of the Scottish law officers. He opposed any grant to the city of London to support its gaols, 24. Feb. He was in the opposition majority on the Duke of Clarence’s marriage grant, 15 Apr. On 21 Apr. he moved for accounts of the East India Dock Company’s profits to ascertain whether subscribers were entitled to a rate reduction, and also gave it as his opinion that the Bank should have taken steps to prevent forgery of its notes by offering rewards for the detection of forgers. He voted against a clause in the aliens bill, 19 May, but on 21 May approved the prosecution of radical booksellers. He voted against Brougham’s motion for inquiry into popular education, 3 June 1818.

Shaw was a candidate at Grampound in 1818, where he had taken over Sir Manesseh Masseh Lopes’s interest, but was defeated. He was unsuccessful at Hedon in 1820. Reverting to his respected position in the business world, he played a material part in the founding of University College, London.2 He died 6 Nov. 1843, aged 73, leaving his houses in London and Brighton and his investments in four insurance companies to his wife, with remainder to his only son.3

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: R. G. Thorne


Not to be confused, as in Beaven, Aldermen of London, i. 310, with Benjamin Shaw, the sugar cooper and common councilman (d. 1809).

  • 1. PCC 307 Bishop; PCC 1844, f. 61.
  • 2. H. H. Belott, Univ. College, 71; C. Wright and C. E. Fayle, Hist. Lloyds, 320.
  • 3. Death cert.; PCC 1844, f. 61. Benjamin Shaw jun. (1819-77) was a barrister.