WIGLEY, Edmund (1758-1821), of Ullesthorpe, Leics.
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Family and Education
b. 1758, 1st s. of Rev. Henry Wigley of Pensham, Worcs. by Mary, da. and h. of Edward Ludlam, alderman of Leicester. educ. M. Temple 1776, called 1788. m. 24 Sept. 1795, Anna Maria, da. and h. of Charles Watkins Meysey of Shakenhurst, Worcs., 2s. 3da. suc. fa. 1801; took name of Meysey before Wigley by Act of Parliament 15 June 1811.
Recorder, Leicester 1787-98; cornet, London and Westminster light horse 1795-6.
Wigley, who went the Oxford circuit, owed his return for Worcester to an impulse of the independent freemen to unite in support of a respectable local man whose expenses they guaranteed. In 1790 he headed the poll. His new colleague Edmund Lechmere had hoped that Wigley might transfer his candidature to Leicester, of which he was recorder, but he had no such thought.1 In the House he remained well disposed to Pitt’s ministry in the ensuing Parliament and, as before, was a ready debater and teller. In his first session he had taken the part of John Scott* in championship of Warren Hastings, and on 14 Feb. 1791 spoke at length against the continuation of the impeachment, which he had attended. On 28 May 1793 he was appointed to the committee to review the state of the impeachment and dissented against its report in favour of the managers, 30 May. He moved the previous question and there was a tie on the division, but the Speaker cast his vote against Wigley. On 11 Feb. 1794, however, he carried nem. con. a message to the Lords to expedite the proceedings and on 20 June seconded the previous question against the vote of thanks to the managers on the conclusion of the trial.
Wigley was counted hostile to repeal of the Test Act in Scotland in 1791. He upheld the prerogative right to deport aliens, 31 Dec. 1792, and opposed the Nottingham petition for parliamentary reform, 21 Feb. 1793. He foiled an attempt to impose a general limit on increases in canal tolls, 1 Mar. 1793. On 20 Feb. 1794 he championed provision for the families of militiamen. Defending legislation for the detention of conspirators, 16 May 1794, he was prepared to justify the proceedings against them at Leicester. He was in the minority against Pitt on the payment of the Prince of Wales’s debts, 1 June 1795. He supported the mixed bread bill, 18 Dec. 1795, and presented an apothecaries’ petition against the market in quack medicine, 23 Feb. 1796. The same day he opposed additional burdens to the county rates to meet legal costs, and unsuccessfully attempted to prevent the expulsion of John Fenton Cawthorne*, 2 May 1796. Relying on Quaker votes at Worcester, he supported the bill to relieve them, 26 Apr. 1796, 17, 23 Feb. 1797.
Wigley was returned unopposed in 1796. Repeated applications to Pitt for a church living for his brother Edward had been disappointed.2 Henceforward he ceased to apply to him and was increasingly critical of Pitt’s measures. On 2 Mar. 1797 he spoke in favour of a limit to paper currency issue and he wished to make promissory notes as valid as bank-notes, 21 June, 4 July. He voted for parliamentary reform on Grey’s motion, 26 May 1797. He opposed the canal duty bill on behalf of the inland counties, 3 July. On 17 and 18 July he opposed the bill to enable the King to summon Parliament within 14 days as arbitrary, thinking a call of the House more appropriate. Although he preferred Pitt’s tax proposals to an application of the sinking fund to redeem the public loan, 27 Nov. 1797, he could not stomach the triple tax assessment, which he opposed throughout, as his constituents wished:3 he objected to the burden on the middle classes and the disclosure of people’s financial circumstances. He failed to secure tax exemption for persons furnishing horses for the provisional cavalry, 30 Apr. 1798. He voted and spoke against the land tax redemption bill, which diminished the House’s authority by converting an annually voted tax into a permanent charge, 18, 30 May. He objected to the attorney-general’s newspaper bill as an innovation, 13 June. The income tax bill incurred his displeasure for its ‘great inequality’, 14, 17 Dec. 1798, and he opposed several clauses in it, then fell silent. He voted against the Irish union, 14 Feb. 1799. He voted with the minority for a call of the House, 22 Jan., against the refusal to negotiate with Buonaparte, 3 Feb., and for Grey’s motion on the parliamentary consequences of the Irish union, 25 Apr. 1800. He voted for continuation of prohibition of distilling from corn, 14 Dec. 1801. He was apparently well inclined to Addington’s ministry and welcomed the repeal of the income tax, 6 Apr. 1802, but disliked the indirect taxes on beer and windows.
Wigley was defeated by an unexpected third man at Worcester in 1802. He had relied on corporation and the dissenting leaders’ support, but he had neglected to keep a promise at the last election to treat his supporters to a feast. His friends thought his defeat was ‘effected by prejudices as groundless and unfounded as derogatory to the general character of the inhabitants of this city’.4 He did not make a comeback. He died 9 Sept. 1821.