STANLEY, Thomas (1749-1816), of Cross Hall, nr. Ormskirk, Lancs.

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



22 Feb. 1780 - 1812

Family and Education

b. 14 Sept. 1749, 1st s. of Rev. Thomas Stanley of Cross Hall, rector of Winwick, by Betty, da. and coh. of John Shaw of York. educ. Manchester g.s. 1759-66; Trinity Hall, Camb. 1767. unm. suc. fa. 1764.

Offices Held

Col. 1 R. Lancs. militia 1783-d.; brevet col. 1794-1802.


Colonel Stanley continued to sit undisturbed for Lancashire on the interest of his third cousin once removed, the Whig 12th Earl of Derby. He belonged neither to the Whig Club nor to Brooks’s, but had opposed Pitt’s ministry since the failure of the St. Alban’s tavern venture in 1784, and he divided with oppositon on Oczakov, 12 Apr. 1791 and 1 Mar. 1792. He declared his support for Catholic relief, 21 Feb. 1791, as ‘a friend to the civil and religious rights of mankind’: by the same token, he favoured repeal of the Test Act in Scotland that session. The progress of events in France and the prospect of war changed his political outlook and on 15 Dec. 1792 he announced his separation from Fox and his dangerous doctrines, having ‘unfortunately been a spectator of the scenes in Paris on the boasted 10th of August’. He was listed among Members ‘supposed attached’ to the Duke of Portland and in February 1793 joined the ‘third party’, attending their meeting on the 17th, after missing that of the 10th because of illness.

He supported the war and domestic repression thereafter and was a member of the secret committee of inquiry into sedition, 14 May 1794. He may have been the Mr Stanley who spoke up for Lafayette, from first-hand experience of his attempts to restrain the Paris mob, 17 Mar. 1794, though John Thomas Stanley was listed in the minority in the subsequent division; and either he or the other Stanley welcomed the French enlistment bill, 14 Apr., as a contribution towards the ‘desirable’ object of ‘destroying the present despotism in France’. On 29 Apr. he decried Whitbread’s insinuation that the majority of the House was in Pitt’s pocket. He brought in a bill to amend the Act of 1791 relieving restrictions on Catholic attorneys, 31 Mar., was a teller for the majority against the wool-combers bill, 9 May, and for the minority of two against an amendment to the slave shipping regulation bill, 26 May 1794. He presented Manchester petitions for and against the war, 9 and 19 Feb. 1795, clearly favouring the latter, but remarking that he ‘would always study to discharge his duty as an upright and independent Member’. He called for exemption of the militia from the restrictions on franking, 23 Feb., approved the bill providing for militia subalterns in peacetime, 19 Mar., and on 1 June 1795 successfully proposed that hawkers and pedlars should be allowed to sell their wares in towns.

Stanley objected to any further burden being imposed on the public to provide for the Prince of Wales’s debts, 27 Apr. 1795, and attempted to secure a call of the House to ensure a full attendance, but the order was discharged, 5 June, after a division. Had he been present the night before, he would have voted for the smaller sum proposed by Grey for the Prince’s marriage establishment, he informed the House, 15 May, arguing that such profuse grants of public money produced more discontent than any seditious pamphlets. He voted for Sumner’s amendment concerning payment of the Prince’s debts, 1 June; thought provision for the Princess should be made out of the money already allotted to her husband, 10 June; divided the House on his proposal to make her allowance chargeable with her separate debts, 15 June, when his only supporter against a majority of 131 was the other teller; and two days later lost by 51 votes to 12 his motion to make the Princess’s privy purse independent of the Prince. He welcomed the proposed relief for merchants trading to Grenada and St. Vincent, 18 June; presented Manchester and Liverpool petitions supporting the government’s repressive measures, 23 and 30 Nov.; claimed that the hostile Lancaster petition was unrepresentative, 3 Dec., and presented a Manchester counter-petition against peace negotiations, 15 Dec. 1795. He favoured prohibition of distillation from molasses, 10 Dec.; said that the Lancashire working classes flourished on their diet of oatcakes, 18 Dec.; voted against abolition of the slave trade, 15 Mar., and seconded Dent’s proposed dog tax, 5 Apr. 1796.

It was reported that Stanley was ‘not in spirits’ at the time of the 1796 general election, fearing that if Derby’s son were defeated at Preston he would have to give up the county seat; but Derby made it known that ‘he had never expressed any displeasure’ at Stanley’s ‘having lately held different political sentiments’ and was ‘satisfied’ that he ‘voted according to his conscience’. Stanley confirmed that Derby ‘had truly stated that nothing disagreeable had taken place between them’. He was present at a conference at Pitt’s house on balloting for the additional force in October. Soon afterwards he was said to be so ‘disgusted’ at Wilson Braddyll being made lieutenant-colonel of the Lancashire militia that he ‘wished to resign’, but he did not do so.1 He was a member of the finance committee, 13 Mar. 1797; introduced on 23 Mar. a bill to increase the daily allowance for debtors (37 Geo. III c.85); was a teller for the minority on the bill transferring the Lancashire sessions from Lancaster to Preston, 23 May 1797, and promoted the measure when it was successfully reintroduced the following year. He denied, from first-hand observation, allegations of maltreatment of French prisoners at Plymouth, 23 Feb. 1798, upheld the claims of Lancashire corn importers to compensation, 10 May, and was a teller in the subsequent division. He commanded his militia regiment against the rebels in Ireland and, after returning, called on government to take over the issue of clothing to the militia, 13 June, and was a teller for the majority against an amendment to the militia reduction bill, 1 July 1799.

Stanley voted against government at least three times during the last year of Pitt’s first ministry: for a call of the House, 22 Jan., on the failure of the expedition to Holland, 10 Feb. 1800, and for inquiry into the Ferrol expedition, 19 Feb. 1801. He was in the minority in favour of continued prohibition of spirit distillation, 14 Dec. 1801, but is not otherwise known to have opposed Addington’s administration, and was appointed to the select committee on East Indian judicature regulations, 9 Dec. He also sat on the committee of inquiry into the Prince of Wales’s claims to duchy of Cornwall revenues, 17 Feb. 1802, and when the question of the Prince’s finances was raised again in 1803 expressed anxiety lest a new burden should fall on his constituents, 23 Feb., and supported Dolben’s motion, subsequently withdrawn, to set apart a portion of the Prince’s annuity for the use of his wife, 7 Mar. He presented a cotton weavers’ petition for uniformity of wages, 18 Feb., and a Lancaster petition for repeal of the income tax, and chaired committees of the whole House on the army of reserve bill, 20 and 27 June 1803.

Stanley voted against Pitt’s additional force bill, 11 June 1804, but was listed under ‘Pitt’, albeit with a query, in September. He opposed the cotton manufacturers bill, unsuccessfully, 4 July, arguing that it laid the foundation for fresh disputes between masters and men; criticized the corn bill, 9 July, and made clear the extent of hostility to it in Lancashire, 28 Feb. and 10 May 1805. He secured the addition of a clause to the militia officers bill, 27 June, and handled the bill compensating the Duke of Atholl for the sale of the Isle of Man, in which the Stanleys had a financial interest, defending it as ‘a measure of justice’, 2 July 1805. He had voted for the censure of Melville, 8 Apr., but was not listed in the ministerial analysis of the House in July. He supported the ‘Talents’ ministry, in which Lord Derby held office, but was one of the diehards who voted against the slave trade abolition bill, 23 Feb. 1807. His vote for Brand’s motion condemning the ministerial pledge on Catholic relief, 9 Apr., provoked some discontent in Lancashire, but a threatened opposition at the general election came to nothing.

Stanley voted against the Portland ministry on the address, 26 June, and on 27 July declared his rooted hostility to the militia transfer bill, even though ‘in the present critical circumstances of the country, he was very unwilling to oppose any measures that might be deemed necessary’. He presented peace petitions from Lancashire towns, 22 and 23 Feb., 18 Mar. 1808, but refused requests from their promoters that he move their reference to a committee, arguing that such a step would merely encourage Buonaparte and render peace even less attainable.2 He voted against government on the orders in council, 3 Mar., on Giffard’s appointment the same day and for the Irish Catholics’ petition, 25 May. Under pressure from some of his constituents he introduced a bill designed to make it more difficult for paupers to obtain parish settlements, but it was defeated on its second reading, 19 May 1808, by 114 votes to 11.3 There is no trace of parliamentary activity in 1809, but Stanley voted against the Perceval ministry on the address, 23 Jan., and the Scheldt inquiry, 23 Feb. and 5 Mar. 1810. The Whigs included him in their ‘thick and thin’ adherents, but he only paired with them on the Scheldt, 30 Mar. He voted with opposition on the Regency, 1 and 21 Jan. 1811. His only other recorded votes in his last Parliament were for Catholic relief, 31 May, and for liberty of conscience for Irish militia serving in England, 5 June 1811. He called for delay in proceeding with the cotton wool duty bill, 22 May; unsuccessfully opposed the militia interchange bill, 23 May; presented petitions for relief from the cotton industry, 30 May; secured the appointment of a select committee on them, 5 June, and, on its report, 24 June 1811, expressed his sorrow that it had proved impossible to produce some measure of relief. Stanley, who was listed among opposition absentees from the division on Ireland, 4 Feb. 1812, retired from Parliament at the dissolution because of poor health. He died at Bath, 25 Dec. 1816.4

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: M. H. Port


  • 1. Farington Diary (Yale ed.), ii. 648; iii. 689; Add. 35393, f. 3.
  • 2. Whitbread mss W1/4190, 4199.
  • 3. Romilly, Mems. ii. 247-8.
  • 4. Gent. Mag. (1816), ii. 626. Manchester School Reg. (Chetham Soc. lxix), i. 81 gives 24 Dec.