HARVEY, Daniel Whittle (1786-1863), of Feering House, Kelvedon, Essex and 7 Great George Street, Mdx.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009
Available from Cambridge University Press



1818 - 30 June 1820
1826 - 1834
1835 - 16 Jan. 1840

Family and Education

b. 10 Jan. 1786, 1st s. of Matthew Barnard Harvey (d. 1820), merchant and banker, of Witham, Essex and a da. and h. of John Whittle of Feering House. educ. I. Temple 1810. m. 23 May 1809, Mary, da. and h. of Ebenezer Johnston of Stoke Newington, Mdx., 1da. d. 24 Feb. 1863.

Offices Held

Common councilman, London 1808-18; registrar, metrop. public carriages 1839-40; commr. of police, City of London 1839-d.


Harvey, a tall, handsome man, with a ‘jovial rollicking nature’, and ‘an orator born’, was reckoned by ‘many persons’ in 1832 to be ‘the best speaker in the House’, but he was ‘damaged in character’. The establishment regarded him as ‘a scoundrel’ and ‘vile’, although his cleverness and fluency were acknowledged.1 A Unitarian by upbringing, an Essex attorney by profession and the possessor of a modest maternal estate at Kelvedon, he had a propensity for getting into scrapes. Above all, he bore the stigma of having been found guilty of stealing deeds and misappropriating money in 1809; and it was not until 1834 that a parliamentary inquiry exonerated him. This scuppered his application to be called to the bar in 1819, when he aspired to the recordership of Colchester, where, after two unsuccessful bids, he had secured his return at the general election of 1818 on the independent, anti-corporation interest, with the financial backing of a relative and the support of the large Dissenting element in the electorate.2 As a self-styled champion of the people, he espoused a moderate radicalism, of which church reform was a key component. He made enemies easily and had as little time for Whigs as for Tories. Like most contemporary radicals, he was by nature outspoken, truculent and self-righteous; but his exclusion from the bar embittered him and gave a rancorous edge to his politics.

At the general election of 1820, soon after the death of his bankrupt father, Harvey stood again for Colchester, where the late intervention of a third man forced a contest. He condemned the Six Acts as ‘most serious innovations’ inflicted on the constitution by ‘a most profligate and daring administration’ and claimed that he had attended the House on 77 of the 82 nights of the last session. He topped the poll and promised to continue to act ‘by those principles which marked the ... Revolution in 1688’.3 He divided with the opposition to the Liverpool ministry on the civil list, 5, 8 May, and called for ‘close’ scrutiny of such expenditure, 18 May 1820. He voted against the appointment of an additional Scottish baron of the exchequer, 15 May, questioned the utility of Lord Althorp’s insolvency bill, 5 June, and voted to reduce the army, 14 June, and the barrack establishment, 16 June, when he criticized grants for the secret service fund and demanded a revision of barristers’ fees. He supported the bill to give Colchester quarter sessions and was a teller for the minority for its second reading, 20 June.4 He divided against government on the Queen Caroline affair, 22, 26 June 1820. Four days later his election was declared void on a technicality arising out of his having let a freehold house in Brighton, which was deemed to have invalidated his property qualification. He did not stand at the ensuing by-election, but recommended and backed the successful Whig candidate and promised to offer at the next opportunity.5 He spoke at a Colchester meeting to celebrate the abandonment of the bill of pains and penalties, 19 Dec. 1820.6

In November 1821 he vainly pleaded his case for admission before the benchers of the Inner Temple, who gave his alleged transgressions as the reason for his rejection. His immediate appeal to the judges was also unsuccessful, and after their decision, 1 Feb. 1822, he published a Letter to the Burgesses of Colchester stating his case and seeking to link local radicalism with his persecution. At the Essex county meeting on distress, 21 Mar. 1823, he moved but was prevailed on to drop an alternative petition calling for parliamentary reform, an ‘equitable distribution’ of taxation, retrenchment and a commutation of tithes.7 In October 1822 he had established the London-based Kent and Essex Mercury; and four months later he became the owner of the Sunday Times, which he turned into a mass-circulation radical organ. In the autumn of 1823 he was convicted on an ex-officio information for libel, following the publication in both papers of articles insinuating that the king was insane. He was fined £200, sentenced to three months in king’s bench prison and bound over for five years on security of £2,000. On the day he was sentenced he was also involved in a dubious civil action brought by one Revett over a loan. Harvey later claimed that the Essex Whigs spitefully blackballed his application to join their Maldon Independent Club. Soon after his release he disposed, profitably, of his newspaper concerns, but he revived them in 1833 with the purchase of the True Sun.8

At the general election of 1826 Harvey, who ‘avowed himself the advocate of parliamentary reform’ but advised the London out-voters of Maldon (where he was accused by the local Whigs of introducing the successful Tory candidate) that ‘before electors ventured to complain of non-representation, they should reform themselves’, offered again for Colchester, ‘unfettered by party engagements or family compact’. For financial reasons he and his leading supporters were anxious to avoid a contest, and in the event he came in unopposed with the new corporation nominee, Sir George Smyth. On the hustings he declared that he ‘could not be a Tory, a Whig he could not be, his object was to recognize the interests of the people’. He promised that he would ‘never vote for’ Catholic relief, which was anathema to most of the electors and on which he had accordingly abstained in the 1818 Parliament, ‘unless required to do so by his constituents’. He called for a gradual move towards free trade and a redistribution of taxation.9 He voted for the amendment to the address, 21 Nov. 1826. He secured returns of information on conveyancers’ fees and poor rates, 29 Nov., and of excise prosecutions, 1 Dec., when he urged the people to petition heavily for repeal of the corn laws.10 He presented Essex petitions to this effect, 9, 12, 16 Feb., and rebuked the representatives of the ‘landed interest’ for their intemperance on the issue, 13 Mar. 1827.11 He was in Hume’s minority for a small fixed duty, 27 Mar. He called for a full inquiry into reform of real property law, 14, 27 Mar., and suggested the establishment of a septennial committee to monitor the military estimates, 20 Feb., when he was in a minority of 15 on those for the army. He voted against the duke of Clarence’s grant, 16 Feb., 2, 16 Mar. On the 22nd, when he also voted for papers on the Barrackpoor mutiny, he explained that unlike ‘the party tacticians on his side’, who had opposed the grant because Clarence was not the heir apparent, he had done so ‘on the broad principle that the general financial affairs of this country required a speedy, sincere and effectual supervision, with a view to a real and unsparing system of retrenchment and economy’. He dismissed the government’s bill to separate bankruptcy from chancery administration as a piece of futile tinkering, 27 Feb., and on 13 Mar. secured a return of bankruptcy fees to prove his contention that the lord chancellor pocketed £30,000 a year. He abstained on the Catholic question, 6 Mar., letting it be known in Colchester that he felt that emancipation would ‘operate as a measure of perpetual exclusion’ to the Protestant Dissenters, whose release from the restraints of the Test Acts should have priority.12 In the House, 23 Mar. (when he voted for the spring guns bill), he asserted that most Dissenters, who formed the ‘greater part’ of his constituents, ‘found it difficult to reconcile the security of spiritual freedom, with the bondage and superstition of Catholic dominion’. On 22 May he said that ‘if the Catholics gained an ascendancy in Parliament, they would be decidedly opposed to Protestant toleration’.13 He voted for information on the Lisburn Orange procession, 29 Mar., but was not in the opposition minority for a speedy resolution of the ministerial crisis next day. On 5 Apr. he voted for inquiry into the Irish miscellaneous estimates and tried to get returns of recently completed and pending chancery and bankruptcy business. Replying to the debate, he denied any personal animosity towards Lord Eldon, but accused Wetherell, the attorney-general, of having defended the Cato Street conspirators in 1820 purely to spite the lord chancellor. His motion was beaten by 132-66. On 22 May he attacked the Canning ministry for abandoning urgently needed chancery reform. He thought there were grounds for inquiry into the involvement of Wilks, Member for Sudbury, in the Devon and Cornwall Mining Company, 9 Apr. He examined witnesses in the Penryn election inquiry, 18 May. He presented ten Essex petitions for repeal of the Test Acts, 7 June, and said that the government’s arrests on mesne process bill was unlikely to effect ‘a cheap and expeditious mode of recovering debts’, 15 June.14 He voted against the Coventry magistracy bill, 18 June 1827.

On 5 Feb. 1828 Harvey disputed the notion that Catholic emancipation would tranquillize Ireland and, with reference to the duke of Wellington’s accession to power, said that he would support ‘any government that will steadily fix an undeviating eye on financial reform’. He demanded a clear statement of intent from ministers, 11 Feb., when he was in Hume’s minority of 15 on the navy estimates. He presented petitions for repeal of the Test Acts, 22 Feb., 12, 25 Mar., and voted for that proposal, 26 Feb.; he made light of the ‘very sententious’ hostile Colchester petition presented by Smyth, 17 Mar. He believed that the complaints of debtors in Horsham gaol warranted investigation, 28 Feb. He deplored the ‘irresponsible power’ of licensing proposed to be given to magistrates, 29 Feb., 1 Apr. He examined witnesses in the East Retford inquiry, 3, 7, 10 Mar., when he accused Lord Fitzwilliam of ‘unconstitutional’ interference there, divided against sluicing the borough with the freeholders of Bassetlaw, 21 Mar., and said that such a clear case of corruption deserved punishment, 27 June. He thought Ross’s proposed bill to regulate the admission of freemen would be ‘inoperative’, 20 Mar., and seconded an unsuccessful attempt to add to the bill transferring Penryn’s representation to Manchester a requirement for Members to forswear bribery before taking their seats, 28 Mar. He liked some aspects of Davies’s borough polls bill, but felt that the restriction to six days was too short for places more than 20 miles from London, 15 May. He presented constituency petitions against the Malt Act, 22 Feb., 12 Mar. When bringing up a mass petition for wage regulation or revision of the corn laws, 21 Apr., he argued that ‘no principle can be more flagrant than that the landed interest should be supported and upheld at the expense of the labouring classes’ and that ministers must either ‘refuse the aristocracy their monopoly in corn’ or jettison ‘impracticable’ free trade theories. He voted for lower protecting duties on corn, 22, 29 Apr. In early March he offered his services to lord chancellor Lyndhurst as a member of the forthcoming commission of inquiry into the common law, but he was ignored; Peel, the home secretary, privately felt that ‘many people would decline to act ... with him’ in view of his shady reputation.15 On 5 Mar. Harvey obtained returns to support his contention that the structure of the expensive and so far unproductive commission of inquiry into charities required reform. He objected to the bill extending to Scotland and Ireland the right of barristers to perform the functions of attorneys in court, 2 Apr. He spoke and voted for inquiry into chancery administration, 24 Apr., denouncing the existing system as ‘monstrously hideous, vicious ... deformed ... odious ... dangerous ... ruinous ... unequal, cruel, and oppressive’. He presented many petitions against the friendly societies bill, 22 Apr., 1 May, when his motion to establish more efficient control over crown prosecutions for the recovery of excise penalties was defeated by 146-39. He again abstained on the Catholic question, 12 May. He pressed Peel to go further with his bill to facilitate the recovery of small debts, 22 May, when, in what Canning’s nephew Lord George Cavendish Bentinck* condemned to Canning’s widow as a ‘blackguard speech’, he opposed the financial provision for her and said that Canning had easily seduced the unprincipled Lansdowne Whigs in 1827.16 He thought the Colchester petitioners against a restriction on the circulation of small paper bank notes were deluded, 3 June, and reiterated his view that without ‘a system of rigid, strict and honest economy on the part of government’, all economic tinkering would be useless; he favoured Hume’s proposal for quarterly returns from banks, 26 June. He spoke, 5 June, and voted, 16 June, against the archbishop of Canterbury’s bill and opposed the Irish registrar’s bill, objecting to the imposition of charges on the enrolment of deeds, 17, 26 June. Although he wanted relaxation of the usury laws, he believed that the compulsory clause negated Poulett Thomson’s measure, 19 June. Next day he condemned the repeated reference of expenditure reductions to the finance committee as ‘a blind’ and voted against the Irish estimates. He spoke and divided for postponement of the additional churches bill, 30 June. On 1 July he presented a Colne hand-loom cotton weavers’ petition for wage regulation, dissented from the idea of a minimum wage and expounded his argument, which he rehearsed ad nauseam for the rest of this period, that to make free trade effective and fair it was essential to lower the burden of taxation on the labouring classes and to introduce a graduated property tax. John Hobhouse attacked him ‘for abusing ... the political economists’ and reflected that Harvey was a ‘sad dog, totally unprincipled and reckless of what he says’.17 He spoke in the same sense at a meeting of the Colchester Independent Club in London, 14 Oct. 1828.18

At a Colchester meeting of his supporters, 2 Feb. 1829, when the government’s concession of Catholic emancipation was rumoured, Harvey, stripped now of his excuse of Dissenters’ exclusion, said that he would ‘find it much less difficult to vote for the abolition of all church establishments, than countenance the introduction of the Papal system’; he promised to oppose any ‘measure of unregulated concession’ and to resign his seat if he found himself at odds with his constituents.19 In the event he supported emancipation, although his vote to consider it, 6 Mar., was his only one on the issue. That day he admitted that the hostile petitions presented by Smyth expressed ‘the universal sentiments of the population of Colchester and its vicinity’; but he insisted on his right to act as ‘a representative of the people, and not merely ... the deputy of a borough’. At the same time, he argued that only redistribution of Irish church revenues would permanently pacify Ireland, a theme to which he recurred on 10 Mar., when he offered to give up his seat if required and denied being ‘an enemy to a national church establishment’, and on the 16th, when he presented a Colchester petition for ‘religious liberty’. He presented a Walworth Dissenters’ petition against all church establishment and Catholic emancipation, 26 Mar. Securing returns of crown lands revenues, 24 Feb., with a view to moving for their reform, he lamented, not for the last time, ‘the suppression of the finance committee’. He criticized the size of the grant for Windsor Castle repairs, 13 Mar.; clashed with the chancellor of the exchequer, Goulburn, over the cost of the Charing Cross improvements, 7 Apr., when he presented an Essex silk-workers’ relief petition; repeated his usual economic arguments after the budget statement, 8 May; drew attention to the escalating cost of the refurbishment of Buckingham House, 12 May; voted against the grant for the marble arch, 25 May, and avowed that ‘we cannot go on, under the pressure of taxes of a war aspect, with a contracted peace currency’, 12 June. He opposed the St. Martin’s (Liverpool) church bill as a ‘misapplication of a public fund’, 2 Apr., and on 10 Apr. denounced the archbishop of Canterbury’s bill as an ‘example of indifference to the real wants of the church’. He was one of the five Members who attended the annual Westminster purity of election dinner, 25 May.20 On 5 June he attacked the excessive size of barristers’ fees and ‘the system of tyranny and oppression now exercised by the Inns of Court’ over admissions, complained that ‘we are now going to be sent to our homes, without having done anything for the people’ and criticized the terms of the charities inquiry bill. He later sent Wellington his plan to streamline the charities commission and revived in the press the issue of his exclusion from the bar, which he had tried unsuccessfully to bring before the law commissioners.21 In a letter excusing himself from attendance at a meeting of the London Colchester Independent Club because his indifferent health ‘renders it imperative that I avoid as much as possible hot rooms’, 3 July 1829, he ignored the Catholic question and bragged of his parliamentary efforts to expose ‘the quackery of the times’.22

On his way to Yorkshire to investigate crown lands in the Malton area in November, Harvey stopped at Newark to survey the duke of Newcastle’s property held on an expiring crown lease; the duke, who wrongly assumed that he had church property in his sights, privately dismissed him as ‘a clever man, but utterly devoid of any principle’.23 At a constituency meeting to petition for repeal of the beer and malt taxes, at which his enemy Western, the Whig county Member, spoke, 19 Dec. 1829, he proposed but did not press an alternative petition making expenditure reductions and a redistribution of taxation the priorities. At the quarterly meeting of the London Independent Club, 5 Jan. 1830, when he was pressed to declare his intentions for the forthcoming session, he warned that asking ‘the aristocratic combination’ who dominated Parliament to reform the ‘system of plunder’ would be ‘like calling upon the inhabitants of Bedlam to establish a code of rationality’, and said that he would concentrate for the moment on appropriation of church and crown lands revenues and the reform of charities. At the Essex county meeting, 11 Feb., he proposed and easily carried an amended petition for parliamentary reform, tax revision, the abolition of sinecures and unmerited pensions, a reduction of public salaries, an equitable adjustment of tithes, simplification of the poor laws and the overthrow of monopolies.24 When Western presented it to the Commons next day Harvey, who had voted for the amendment to the address, 4 Feb., mocked his currency fixation and endorsed the petition’s reform agenda. Soon afterwards the Whig Lord Holland remarked that if Harvey could ‘get a decent character or shake off the very bad one he always carries about him he would I am told be a first rate man’.25 In fact Harvey had already done himself more harm by setting up as a parliamentary agent in partnership with the pleader Sir William Sydney: they had advertised their services to country agents for the management of private bills, in return for a share in the profits. Peel, apprised of this during the recess, said that he would ‘not be sorry if there is a good case against ... Harvey’, but would be ‘surprised if so very clever and plausible a rogue shall have laid himself open’.26 When Littleton raised the matter in the Commons, 19 Feb. 1830, Harvey admitted and defended his involvement, but agreed to abide by the House’s decision. Littleton proposed a resolution forbidding Members from the management of private bills for pecuniary reward, 26 Feb., when Harvey expressed contrition but, on the advice of Hobhouse, moved an amendment that no Member could vote in committee on any measure in which he had a direct interest. He was defeated by 174-27, with Hume his only significant supporter.27 He had voted for Hume’s call for a revision of taxation, 15 Feb., and he divided fairly regularly for economy and retrenchment that session. He spoke on these subjects, 15 Mar. (when he welcomed repeal of the leather and beer taxes, but demanded abolition of ‘the horrid tax upon bread’), 22, 23 Mar., 14 June. He paired for the enfranchisement of Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, 23 Feb., and voted for reception of the Newark petition complaining of Newcastle’s electoral interference, 1 Mar., and Russell’s reform motion, 28 May. At the Essex by-election in mid-March, when he supported as an independent Wellington’s wastrel nephew William Pole Long Wellesley*, but, after his late withdrawal, backed the less extreme of two Tories, he declared, during a long rant:

I will give my support to the duke of Wellington whenever I think fit, yet I should be sorry to see the Whigs in office tomorrow, for I think they have abandoned every sound principle of policy. So long as the people were ignorant of the nature of parliamentary reform ... they were eternally professing to be its advocates. Now that the people understand it ... a change takes place.28

Yet in the House, 15 Mar., he emphasized his hostility to the secret ballot and universal suffrage, which were ‘suitable adjuncts of a simple scheme of [republican] government’. On the 30th he moved for inquiry into crown lands revenues, which he put at £20,000,000 a year, with a view to their appropriation for public use; he was beaten by 98-46. The Tory backbencher Henry Bankes referred to him on this occasion as ‘crafty attorney and very good speaker’.29 He voted for Jewish emancipation, 5 Apr., 17 May, and for abolition of the death penalty for forgery offences, 24 May, 7 June. He called for urgent inquiry into the debtors’ laws, 29 Apr., but on 14 May approved the ministerial proposal to allow offenders who could pay 10s. in the pound to be released from gaol. He supported and was a minority teller for Hume’s attempt to wreck the Rother Levels drainage bill, 10 May. He voted for abolition of the Irish lord lieutenancy, 11 May, backed O’Connell’s demand for inquiry into the Cork conspiracy trials next day, when he was in the minority of 12, and divided for better use of Irish first fruits revenues, 18 May. He championed the right of Barrington, the Irish admiralty court judge accused of peculation, to be heard in his own defence, alleging that the Wellington ministry had reneged on their predecessors’ promise to let him off, 13, 20, 22, 25 May. He voted for reform of the laws regulating divorce, 3 June, and in Hume’s minority of 14 for inquiry into the conduct of the church commissioners over St. Luke’s, 17 June. He had a bad tempered exchange with Scarlett, the renegade Whig attorney-general, 4 June, when he exposed the large fees paid to the law officers for their nominal involvement in charity cases; he put the annual ‘spoliation and robbery’ arising from charities in general at £1,000,000. He spoke and voted against the creation of three new judgeships by the Welsh judiciary bill, 18 June, and on the 24th dismissed Wetherell’s bill to reform the ‘curse and torment ... and ... terror’ that was chancery as ‘wholly inadequate’. Presenting the London-based Colchester freemen’s reform petition, 5 July 1830, he proclaimed that the only way to advance the cause was for voters to return its advocates at the impending general election. In his address to Colchester that day he wrote that ‘the progress of national improvement depends mainly upon the people, for great as is the power of the boroughmongers, it is yielding to the mighty current of public opinion, by which it must eventually be swept away, provided the people are true to themselves’. He stood by his ‘rational political creed’. His conduct on Catholic emancipation had cost him some support, and a rival London club had been established in an attempt to throw him out. Harvey, who again supported Long Wellesley for the county and was a persistent and angry critic on the Chelmsford hustings of the Whig and Tory coalition which defeated him, comfortably saw off their challenge and topped the poll. He admitted to having spent £25,700 on his Colchester campaigns since 1812. At his celebration dinner, 8 Sept. 1830, he castigated the 599 freemen who had shown such ‘want of thought and political principle’ as to vote for his two opponents, denied being an enemy to the church and state establishments and expressed regret at the bloody events in France.30

On complaints that petitioning was out of hand, 3 Nov. 1830, he told the House, ‘Diminish the taxes, alter their character, abolish slavery, and grant reform, and there will be but few subjects left to petition upon’. Moving again for information on crown lands revenues, 5 Nov., he applauded the government’s proposal to appropriate some hereditary ones for public use. He welcomed their statute of frauds bill, but deplored the halting progress of legal reform, 9 Nov. As one of their ‘foes’ he helped to vote them out of office on the civil list, 15 Nov. Four days later he urged agricultural landlords to reduce their rents to pre-war level and the clergy, as regarded tithes, to ‘practise that forbearance, humanity and economy which they preached once a week’. He presented a Colchester anti-slavery petition, 23 Nov. Approving the Grey ministry’s motion for inquiry into a reduction of official salaries ‘as a pledge of great and long-desired reform’, 9 Dec., he said that ‘although I am sitting among those who may be considered hostile ... if that government does what I expect ... I shall feel it my duty to support them’. He called for the repeal of stamp duty on freemen’s admissions, 9 Dec.; agreed to withdraw his notice of a motion for information on the proportion of borough electors to populations in deference to the government’s planned reform bill, 13 Dec.; welcomed Littleton’s measure to end truck payments, 14 Dec.; urged a repeal of assessed taxes, 17 Dec., and said he would accept the secret ballot if the ‘general feeling of the public’ favoured it, though he still believed that it was not an essential ingredient of reform, 21 Dec. 1830. On 10 Feb. 1831 Harvey unsuccessfully contested the London aldermanic vacancy for Portsoken against the disreputable reformer Scales. He demanded a scrutiny but abandoned the business a fortnight later.31 He approved the ministry’s proposed tax on stock transfers, though he would have preferred a comprehensive property tax, 11 Feb. He presented and endorsed an Essex parish petition for tithe reform, 16 Feb. At the Essex county reform meeting, 28 Feb., he announced that he had now taken his seat on the treasury benches to support ministers not as Whigs but as the professed advocates of reform and economy, and stated that he favoured

an efficient reform, and such a one as will conserve the present form of government. I am an enemy to ... radical reform ... because its advocates know not what the consequences would be. You cannot have universal suffrage and the ballot, unless you are prepared to overthrow the monarchy and the aristocracy ... We must have a reform which shall make large concessions, but which requires evidence of property and intelligence.32

On this basis he supported the ministerial reform bill, 4 Mar., being prepared to do so even though its proposed disfranchisement of freemen would harm his own electoral interests. On 9 Mar. he pointed to the belated popular awareness of ‘the pervasion of the means, and of the mismanagement of the resources of the nation’ by the privileged elite as the catalyst for the irresistible demand for reform, and indignantly repudiated the allegation of John Tyrell, the Tory county Member, that he had promoted republicanism at the county meeting. At the second Essex reform meeting, 19 Mar., he declared that reform would pave the way for ‘a regulation of the church’ and ‘cheap and speedy law’.33 He voted for the second reading of the bill, 22 Mar., having denied Tyrell’s charges that he supported it ‘as affording the foundation for a lever, by which revolutionary measures may be raised’ and that he was an enemy of the church, earning a rebuke from the Speaker for his vehemence. He divided against Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment to the bill, 19 Apr. 1831. At the ensuing general election he stood for Colchester as its uncompromising supporter and was returned, after a contest forced by the corporation, with his erstwhile independent opponent of 1830, as the general enthusiasm for reform forged an uneasy alliance between them. His diatribe on the hustings included an attack on supposed corporation peculation; and in his victory address he vowed to continue his parliamentary crusade for ‘checking that system of fiscal spoliation and political corruption ... which has well nigh thrown us into the hands of despotism’.34 At the county election he enthusiastically supported Western and Long Wellesley as reformers and on 9 May 1831 he led a cavalcade of Colchester voters into Chelmsford.35

Harvey, who impressed Littleton with the ‘justness and beauty’ of his private observation on the paucity of ‘great men’ in the House, that ‘there is too much light for luminaries’,36 voted for the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, and on the 8th condemned ‘the hollowness of the sympathy which those who have always been the strenuous defenders of the rotten boroughs now manifest for the labouring classes’ threatened with disfranchisement. Objecting to hearing counsel on behalf of Appleby, 12 July, he disclaimed ‘the imputation of being one of the marshalled majority who are to be led out of the House at the nod or command of any man or ministry’ and proclaimed himself ‘the advocate of the rights of the people’. He stated his willingness to set aside his reservations about certain aspects of the measure, 15 July, and gave its details generally steady support; but he thought a case had been made out for reprieving Chippenham from the loss of a Member, 27 July, and duly voted for inquiry. He said that Maldon was expensive to contest but not corrupt, 29 July, defended the enfranchisement of Gateshead, 5 Aug., opposed Hume’s attempt to do away with actual payment of rent as a requirement for the borough franchise, 25 Aug., when they squabbled childishly, and disputed his assertion that popular opinion was turning against the measure because it did not go far enough, 30 Aug. That day he spoke and voted for the disfranchisement of non-resident freemen, but he urged ministers to abolish the stamp duty on their admissions. He was in the minority for the disfranchisement of Aldborough, 14 Sept. He divided for the passage of the bill, 21 Sept., and for Lord Ebrington’s confidence motion, 10 Oct., and on 12 Oct. accused those ‘feeble’ reformers who sought to impede the Liverpool writ of wishing to ‘canonize a system of nomination’. He had the Waterloo Bridge New Street bill, the potential cost of which perturbed him, sent to a select committee, 11 July. Next day he condemned as an outrage the bishop of Londonderry’s possession of a 90,000-acre estate, considering that the people were ‘weighed to the earth by fiscal oppression’. On 18 July, when he voted to reduce the grant for civil list services, he criticized the cost of printing parliamentary papers and of the largely ineffectual law commission. He rebuked Irish Members for harassing ministers over the question of disarming the yeomanry, 11 Aug., arguing that they could not ‘remedy ... by a single statute the misgovernment of centuries’; and he voted with administration on the Dublin election controversy, 23 Aug. He briefly attacked the corn laws, 13 Aug., and objected to the steam vessels regulation bill, 19 Aug. He said that if there was no inquiry into the apparent ‘plunder’ of public money by the Irish vice-treasurer, ‘all our speeches can be considered no more than a joke’, 31 Aug., supported the Irish public works bill, 16 Sept., and called for the application of English and Irish church revenues to relief of the poor, 26 Sept. Next day he spoke and voted for inquiry into the Deacles’ allegations against William Bingham Baring*, which he said raised important issues:

As long as I have a seat in this House, I will always be ready to raise my voice in behalf of the poor, however much such conduct may displease those gentlemen whose arithmetic is puzzled in counting their millions, and whose enormous fortunes are accumulated at the expense, and almost by the destruction, of their poor fellow countrymen.

He presented a Brighton traders’ petition for the easier recovery of small debts, 4 Oct., approved, with some reservations, Campbell’s general register bill and supported Sadler’s measure to improve the condition of the labouring poor, 11 Oct., and welcomed the ministry’s bankruptcy reform bill, 14, 17 Oct. 1831.

Harvey successfully discouraged plans to call Colchester meetings to petition the Lords both before and after the bill’s defeat there and declined an invitation to the Maldon Independent Club’s anniversary dinner in November unless their slight to him was renounced, which it was not.37 However, he helped to promote a county meeting, 10 Dec., when he spoke at length and with great animation for reform, economy, repeal of the corn laws and church and tithe reform. He read, but did not press, after a furious row with Long Wellesley, in which they almost came to blows, an address to Lord Grey encouraging him to use all possible means to carry reform. His performance further alienated Western and the county Whigs.38 In the Commons, 14 Dec., he replied to a personal attack on him for his ‘public execration’ of the church with the observation that the bishops’ participation in the defeat of the reform bill had given ‘the real foes of the church ... a strong ground of attack’. He voted for the second reading of the revised bill, 17 Dec. 1831, and divided silently for its details and for its third reading, 22 Mar. 1832. He was keen to see the general registry bill improved by submission to professional advice, 19 Jan., 7 Feb., 6 Mar.; he was added to the select committee on it, 27 Mar. He divided with government on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., and the affairs of Portugal, 9 Feb., but he was in Hunt’s minority of 31 for inquiry into Peterloo, 15 Mar. He secured a return of intestates’ effects administered by the crown, which involved the appropriation of large sums, 28 Feb. He wanted the rights of the poor to be better protected in enclosure bills, 19 Mar. He thoroughly approved the ministerial scheme for non-sectarian Irish education, 9 Apr. He voted for the address calling on the king to appoint only ministers who would carry reform bill undiluted, 10 May, and on the 15th blamed the recent disturbances on ‘the irritating language of anti-reformers’ and ‘the conduct of the episcopal bench’. He tried to present an address from Colchester expressing gratitude for the passage of the bill, 14 June, but it was ruled inadmissible. He was in O’Connell’s minority for the enfranchisement of Irish £5 freeholders, 18 June 1832.

Harvey voted for the immediate abolition of slavery, 24 May, for coroners’ inquests to be made public, 20 June, for the bill to exclude insolvent debtors from the House, 27 June, and to give representation to New South Wales, 28 June 1832. On 14 June he moved for leave to empower king’s bench to compel the benchers of the Inns of Court, in certain cases, to admit men as students and barristers, denouncing their ‘odious despotism’, enforced by ‘irresponsible and secret tribunals’. He referred directly to his own case in his reply. The motion was opposed by government and beaten by 68-52. In a preface to the published version of his speech, which was separately issued as A Letter ... to his Constituents (30 June 1832), he alleged that ministers had, as ‘a remnant of the original bar conspiracy’, treated him in a ‘treacherous manner’ by reneging on their offer, which he had accepted, to make him secretary of the revived charities commission. He complained that when the commission had been belatedly established in December 1831 lord chancellor Brougham had tried to fob him off with mere membership of it and that a subsequent proposal to make him its solicitor had been vetoed by the treasury. He viewed this and official resistance to his bid to open the Inns as part of a personal vendetta:

Had I served the Tories with a tithe of the zeal with which I have sacrificed my health, my time, and my fortune in the cause of their opponents, I should not have been repaid by the treachery of professional advisers, nor insulted by the tender of heartless sympathies (p. 13).

He abstained from the division on the Russian-Dutch loan, 12 July, explaining in a letter to the press that while he ‘could not adopt the construction of the treaty as urged by the government’, he ‘was not prepared to sanction an amendment, being in fact a vote of censure’.39 The attorney-general, Denman, did not resist his motion for an address directing the law commissioners to examine the Inns’ admissions policy, 17 July; but Wetherell did so, and the House was counted out when it divided 26-2 for the motion. Denman assured Harvey that he would nevertheless lay the matter before the commissioners, 18 July. That day he conceded the validity of Hunt’s assertion that the Reform Act’s requirement for borough voters’ rates to be paid by the 20th to qualify them would disfranchise many and encourage bribery; but he argued that it was ‘obligatory upon every friend of freedom to gave the bill fair play’ and that ‘if the extended representation does not secure better government, the ballot will not achieve the object desired’. He was in the minority for a more radical reform of Irish tithes than that proposed by government, 24 July. On 30 July, when he criticized the £10,000 salary awarded to the lord chancellor, he had a clause inserted in the electoral bribery bill requiring Members to swear their innocence before taking their seats. He hinted at a potential fraud over the emoluments of excise commissioners and announced that next session he would propose the funding of national education from the resources of charities and inquiries into crown duchy revenues and chancery administration, 1 Aug. Recurring to the problem of urban ratepayers’ registration, 9, 15 Aug. 1832, he criticized their own ‘supineness’, but suggested that disfranchisement would be limited and localized.

At the general election of 1832 Harvey, frustrated in his bid to come in for the Northern division of Essex, was again returned for Colchester, but only in second place. He had to defend himself against Western’s allegations that to spite his Whig enemies he had leagued himself with Conservatives there, at Harwich and Maldon and in the county.40 A founder of the Radical Westminster Club in 1834, he remained ‘an eccentric politician.’41 He abandoned Colchester to the Conservative in 1835 and came in for Southwark. In November 1839, beset with financial problems of his own making, he accepted from the second Melbourne administration, who were anxious to be rid of him, ‘the mess of potage’ of the commissionership of the newly established City police force, thereby deserting ‘his rightful sphere’ for ‘an uncongenial occupation’. Harvey, who was reckoned by one commentator to have been ‘as great an orator as Burke’, died in harness at his official residence, 26 Old Jewry, in February 1863, from ‘a carbuncle in the mouth’ which had led to erysipelas. He was given an imposing police escort to his grave in the grounds of the Unitarian chapel at Hackney.42 No will or administration has been found.

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: David R. Fisher


  • 1. Gent. Mag. (1863), i. 662; Pol. Economy Club (1921), 231; Greville Mems. iii. 58; Harewood mss, Lord G. Cavendish Bentinck to Lady Canning, 27 May 1828; Nottingham Univ. Lib. Newcastle mss Ne2 F3/1/180; Bodl. MS. Eng. lett. c. 159, f. 40.
  • 2. Add. 38458, f. 331; Oxford DNB; Grey mss, Howick jnl. 5 June [1830]; C.F. Smith, ‘Daniel Whittle Harvey’, Essex Rev. xxiv (1915), 25-30; PP (1834), xviii. 331-839.
  • 3. Procs. at Colchester and Essex Elections (1820), 11, 14, 39.
  • 4. The Times, 12, 31 May, 17, 21 June 1820.
  • 5. Smith, 29; Suff. Chron. 8, 15 July; County Chron. 18 July 1820.
  • 6. Suff. Chron. 23 Dec. 1820.
  • 7. Colchester Gazette, 22 Mar. 1823.
  • 8. M.E. Speight, ‘Politics in Colchester’ (London Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1969), 207-8; Smith, 135; Oxford DNB; The Times, 31 Oct., 1, 21 Nov. 1823; Speech of Whittle Harvey ... in vindication of his conduct, 27 Nov. 1832, p. 6.
  • 9. Kent and Essex Mercury, 16, 23 May; Colchester Gazette, 27 May, 3, 10 June 1826; Bodl. MS. Eng. lett. c. 159, ff. 38-42.
  • 10. The Times, 30 Nov., 2 Dec. 1826.
  • 11. Ibid. 13, 17 Feb., 14 Mar. 1827.
  • 12. Colchester Gazette, 17 Mar. 1827.
  • 13. The Times, 23 May 1827.
  • 14. Ibid. 8, 16 June 1827.
  • 15. Ibid. 21 May 1828; Add. 40396, f. 45.
  • 16. Harewood mss, Cavendish Bentinck to Lady Canning, 27 May 1828.
  • 17. Add. 56552, f. 116.
  • 18. The Times, 15 Oct. 1828.
  • 19. Colchester Gazette, 7 Feb. 1829.
  • 20. Add. 56554, f. 17.
  • 21. Wellington mss WP1/1030/26; The Times, 11 Aug. 1829.
  • 22. Colchester Gazette, 11 July 1829.
  • 23. The Times, 6 Nov. 1829; Newcastle mss Ne2 F3/1/180, 208.
  • 24. Colchester Gazette, 26 Dec. 1829, 9 Jan., 13 Feb. 1830.
  • 25. Add. 51785, Holland to C.R. Fox, 20 Feb. 1830.
  • 26. Add. 40399, ff. 397, 399.
  • 27. Add. 56554, f. 68.
  • 28. Colchester Gazette, 13 Mar. 1820.
  • 29. Dorset RO D/BKL, Bankes jnl. 169.
  • 30. Colchester Gazette, 10, 17, 24, 31 July, 7 Aug., 11 Sept.; Speight, 190-2, 233-5; Essex RO, Barrett Lennard mss D/DL O42/3, Harvey to Wright, 6 July 1830; Essex Co. Election (1830), 12, 16-17, 25-30, 91-93.
  • 31. Colchester Gazette, 12, 26 Feb. 1831; A.B. Beaven, Aldermen of London, i. 188, 242.
  • 32. Colchester Gazette, 5 Mar. 1831.
  • 33. Ibid. 26 Mar. 1831.
  • 34. Ibid. 30 Apr., 7 May 1831.
  • 35. The Times, 6, 7, 9 May; Colchester Gazette, 14 May 1831.
  • 36. Hatherton diary, 26 July [1831].
  • 37. Colchester Gazette, 24 Sept., 15 Oct.; Barrett Lennard mss C62, Harvey to Barrett Lennard, 15 Nov. 1831.
  • 38. Colchester Gazette, 26 Nov., 17 Dec.; Barrett Lennard mss C60, Western to Barrett Lennard, 21 Dec. 1831.
  • 39. The Times, 17 July 1832.
  • 40. Speech of Harvey ... in vindication of his conduct, 27 Nov. 1832.
  • 41. Disraeli Letters, iii. 415; Arbuthnot Corresp. 181, 194; Greville Mems. iii. 136-7.
  • 42. The Times, 15, 20 Nov. 1839, 25 Feb. 1863; Oxford DNB; Smith, 133-4, 137-8; Gent. Mag. (1863), i. 662-3.