WESTERN, Charles Callis (1767-1844), of Felix Hall, Kelvedon, Essex.

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



1790 - 1806
4 Feb. 1807 - 1812
1812 - 1832

Family and Education

bap. 9 Aug. 1767, 1st s. of Charles Western of Felix Hall by Frances Shirley, da. and h. of William Bollan of Rivenhall, agent for the council of Massachusetts. educ. Felsted;1 Eton 1776-84; Queens’, Camb. 1784. unm. suc. fa. 1771; cr. Baron Western 28 Jan. 1833.

Offices Held

Capt. Kelvedon vols. 1798.


Western, heir to an Essex estate, canvassed the nearby borough of Maldon before he came of age. It seems that he was already committed to the Whig opposition and that Sir Peter Parker, one of the sitting Members who went over to them on the Regency question, was ready to make way for him at the next election. Western patronized an Independent Club prepared ‘to carry their point by open assault’, but a compromise was reached between him and John Strutt, the other Member, which let him in unopposed in 1790, despite Treasury pressure on Strutt to exclude him.2 He voted steadily with opposition, was listed favourable to repeal of the Test Act in Scotland in 1791, and joined Brooks’s Club on 2 Jan. 1793. Windham could not recruit him for his ‘third party’ a month later and he adhered to Fox, joining the Whig Club on 6 May 1794.

In his maiden speech, 24 Mar. 1794, Western attacked the raising of troops by subscription as unconstitutional. On 10 Dec. 1795 he objected strongly to the King’s safety bill. He voted regularly for peace, against the conduct of the war, against subsidies to the allies and against the curtailment of civil liberty. When the Bank of England stopped cash payments, he was concerned at the multiplication of paper currency, 2 Mar. 1797. He alleged that if Pollen’s motion for peace proved unpalatable to the House, he would try one of his own, 10 Apr. 1797. Having voted for parliamentary reform on 7 May 1793, he again did so, 26 May 1797, but did not secede with Fox. During the next session he voted against ministers on the assessed taxes and opposed (as teller) the land tax redemption. He opposed the cart tax, 25 June 1798. He voted against the income tax, 14 Dec. 1798, and a week later opposed the renewal of the suspension of habeas corpus, though he conceded that government had not abused its powers under it. After voting against ministers on the plight of Ireland, 14, 22 June 1798, he seems to have avoided the Union debates. He next appeared on 2 Oct. 1799 as a critic of the enlistment of the militia and of expeditionary forces. He was in regular opposition in the session of 1800 and on 9 July censured ministers for their rejection of peace overtures and needless prolongation of war. His motion was defeated by 148 votes to 26. On 9, 11 and 18 Dec. 1800 he was a critic of the food substitutes for the wheaten loaf proposed to relieve the poor during the scarcity.

Western made his scepticism about Addington’s administration apparent from the outset, 16 Feb. 1801. He followed the Foxite line, but was one of those who remonstrated in February 1804 against Fox’s alliance with the Grenvillite opposition.3 By 13 Apr. he had relented and he joined the minorities that led to Addington’s fall. His speeches had been confined to criticism of the malt duties, 15 June 1802, 5 Mar. 1804, and of the income tax, 5 July 1803, and, on Pitt’s return to power, he was preoccupied with the corn trade committee, of which he was chairman. On 31 May 1804 he announced a modification of the protective Act of 1791, which he justified on 20 June: the import of corn was to be regulated by the average price of grain in the 12 maritime districts of England and four of Scotland. His bill, as amended by the Lords in July, was rejected by the Commons; but he tried again and succeeded just before the end of the session. On 10 May 1805 he attempted to obstruct a committee to investigate petitions against the measure. He was a critic of the stipendiary curates bill, 6, 21 May, as an unwarranted interference in the church establishment. On 14 May he obtained leave to bring in a bill to indemnify parishes for tax defaults. He voted regularly against Pitt’s second ministry.

While his friends were in office, 1806-7, Western was inconspicuous. He spoke only once, to note how advantageous to Ireland the corn intercourse bill was, 5 June 1806. At the ensuing election his security of tenure at Maldon was successfully challenged and he was fortunate to regain his seat on petition. He was nominated to the finance committee, 10 Feb. 1807, but was a defaulter on 2 Mar. He paired in favour of Brand’s motion following the dismissal of the Grenville ministry, 9 Apr. 1807, and survived another contest at Maldon a month later. He returned to active opposition, invariably supporting Catholic relief. In the session of 1808 his speeches were largely confined to opposition to the prohibition of distillation from grain on behalf of the agricultural interest, 13 Apr., 23 May, 3 June, and again 23 Feb. 1809. He was one of the Whigs meeting to endorse Ponsonby’s leadership, 18 Jan. 1809, but was no longer orthodox. He supported Lord Cochrane’s motion on places and pensions, 7 July 1807; Folkestone’s on abuses, 17 Apr.; allegations of ministerial corruption, 11 May, and aligned himself with the critics of Curwen’s reform bill, 12 June 1809. On 15 June he supported Burdett’s reform motion, without committing himself to Burdett’s particular plan.

In January 1810 Western declined an opening for Essex because another reformer, Montagu Burgoyne, insisted on standing.4 On 21 May he supported Brand’s motion for reform at the very time his constituency had its old charter renewed, to his disadvantage. He enlisted among the friends of constitutional reform and was appointed one of their stewards in 1811. On 28 Apr. 1812 he presented an Essex petition for parliamentary reform. He was absent ill during the Regency debates. He was a supporter of the bid for sinecure reform, associating himself with his friend Thomas Creevey in this. But to Creevey he had written, 24 Sept. 1809, ‘I am deeper than ever in farming, which is my only consolation and a very great one’.5 His speeches were meanwhile limited to an attack on the distillery bill, which damaged agricultural interests, 3, 9 Apr., 10 May 1811, until on 19 July 1811, admitting that he left the discussion of ‘important subjects’ to ‘Members of superior talents and ability’, he felt he must protest against the gold coin and bank-note bill, a retrospective violation of property and contract. On 31 Mar. 1812 he defended Whitbread’s intentions in airing the plight of the Princess of Wales. A week before, he had failed in a bid to impugn the Admiralty for injustice towards a naval captain, and on 30 June he lost an amendment intended to remove the additional duty on farm horses. He opposed the leather tax, 26 June, 1 July, and the domestic search bill, 13, 20 July 1812.

At the election of 1812 Western offered for the county ‘upon the old Whig interest’ and refused to coalesce with the more radical Montagu Burgoyne. One of the sitting Members retired and he received some support from the Tories, ‘as an agriculturalist and an independent principled man’.6 Burgoyne was bitter about this compromise, but Western was approved by the Whig grandees. He had recently endorsed the Whigs’ refusal to take office under Lord Moira and he continued to vote with them. He voted against the East India trade monopoly, 14 June 1813, and for Christian missions to India. As county Member he had more to say in the House, but was not prominent until 16 May 1814, when, having been a member of the corn trade committee, he delivered a set speech (afterwards published) in favour of the protection of the agricultural interest against foreign competition by means of the Corn Laws. On 6 June he produced a statistical justification of protection and on 17 Feb. 1815 answered mercantile critics of it. He was cheered by the House, 8 Mar. 1815, when he called for the military to be used against the anti-Corn Law rioters. He was now ‘Squire’ Western, at odds with most Whigs on this issue. Within a narrower compass, he criticized the favour shown to Irish distillers at the expense of British ones in the spirits intercourse bill, 24, 30 June 1814. He warned government against attempting to renew the property tax, 17 Nov. 1814, being prepared to rally Essex against it;7 when they did so, he denounced it, 19 Apr. 1815, 6 Mar. 1816. He voted against the renewal of war, 28 Apr. 1815. He objected to the singling out of the Duke of York for a vote of thanks for his military services, 6 July 1814, 4 July 1815; he had been one of his opponents in 1809 and 1811. He was a critic of Samuel Egerton Brydges’s* efforts to reform the Poor Laws. He advocated retrenchment and feared national bankruptcy. He called for tax relief for farmers, 12 Feb. 1816, and on 7 Mar., in a speech which was afterwards published, produced 14 resolutions to justify it; on 28 Mar. he secured a committee of the whole House to discuss agricultural distress and act on his resolutions. Debates on them took place on 9 and 29 Apr. Meanwhile ministerial defeats on tax questions had drawn his thunder. He was then absent, pairing, until May 1817 and for the whole of the following session. He did not sign the requisition to Tierney to lead the Whigs. He shared the ‘Mountain’s’ cynical view of the Whig leadership: ‘no superior mind amongst us’, he complained to Creevey, after a severe outburst against the pretensions of Henry Brougham in February 1816.8

Western resumed attendance and opposition in the early session of 1819. On 25 Feb. he presented three Essex petitions on agricultural distress. On 3 May he differed from his constituents who petitioned against Catholic relief. He voted for Tierney’s censure motion, 18 May. His motion to secure gaol deliveries three times a year was snubbed by the attorney-general, 10 June. He was a spokesman for the protection of home grown wool against foreign competition, 18 June, and tried ineffectually to stop the malt tax, 25 June. Western did not attend the last session of that Parliament. He objected to a county meeting on the subject of Peterloo and could not be drawn on the subject. He had thoughts of retirement for health reasons, but the temptation to ‘coax’ Essex into ‘Whiggism’ proved stronger.9 When it failed in 1832, his friends consoled him with a peerage. He died 4 Nov. 1844.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Authors: Winifred Stokes / R. G. Thorne


  • 1. Creevey’s Life and Times, 8 alleges that Western met Creevey as a pupil at Newcome’s academy, Hackney.
  • 2. Essex RO, Strutt mss, micro T/B 251/5, J.H. to J. Strutt, 7 Feb. 1787, Tonins to same, 3 Feb., Bate Dudley to same, 2 May, 12, 14 Nov., 31 Dec. 1789, Rose to same, 20 Feb. 1790.
  • 3. Moore, Sheridan , ii. 324.
  • 4. Whitbread mss W1/1914.
  • 5. Creevey mss.
  • 6. Add. 35650, f. 350; Grey mss, Goodwin to Grey, 29 Aug. 1812.
  • 7. Grey mss, Western to Ponsonby, 26 Dec. 1814 (encl. to Grey, 4 Jan. 1815).
  • 8. Creevey Pprs. ed. Maxwell, i. 249, 251.
  • 9. Essex RO, Barrett Lennard mss C58/87, Bickersteth to Barrett Lennard, 30 Sept; C60, Western to same, 15 Sept. 1819.