BURT, William Mathew (d.1781), of Maiden Erleigh, nr. Reading, Berks.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754-1790, ed. L. Namier, J. Brooke., 1964
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1761 - 1768

Family and Education

1st s. of William Pym Burt, chief justice of St. Kitts, by Louisa, da. of Sir William Mathew. m. 29 Aug. 1754, Sarah, da. of John Foster of Jamaica, sis. of Thomas Foster, 1s. 2da. suc. fa. 1751.

Offices Held

Member of the council of St. Kitts 1748-55; gov. Leeward Is. 1776- d.


The Burts were an old West Indian family: William Mathew Burt’s great-grandfather was in Nevis in 1670, and the family remained there until c.1725 when they moved to St. Kitts. William Mathew Burt seems to have spent his early years on the island, and to have gone to England between 1751 and 1755. He inherited estates both in St. Kitts and Nevis. In 1758 he was consulted by the Cabinet when planning the expedition to Martinique,1 and in 1759 went as Crown Agent with the expedition which took Guadeloupe.

In 1761 he was returned after a contest for Great Marlow. His first recorded speech, 25 Nov. 1762, was in support of the peace preliminaries. James Harris described it as ‘dull as far as could be heard’, and had no better opinion of Burt’s other speeches: 18 Apr. 1764 he wrote, ‘I left Burt haranguing on the African trade’; and 12 Mar. 1765, ‘Burt and Beckford rambled like Creolians from Africa to America, thence to East Indies, etc.’ Only some half-dozen speeches by Burt are recorded, all except one (9 May 1765, against the proposal to appoint the Queen Regent) concerned with trade or the West Indies.

From the reports of his speeches Burt seems generally to have supported Grenville’s Administration, but he voted against them over general warrants, 15 and 18 Feb. 1764. Newcastle classed him, 10 May 1764, as a ‘doubtful friend’; and Rockingham, July 1765, as ‘doubtful’, which was afterwards altered to ‘contra’. On 19 Dec. 1765 Burt spoke for Grenville’s motion for American papers, and on 22 Feb. 1766 voted against the repeal of the Stamp Act. During the Chatham Administration he was usually classed as a supporter of Grenville; but though they were on friendly terms, Grenville himself never reckoned Burt as one of his followers. Burt voted against the Chatham Administration on the land tax, 27 Feb. 1767.

In 1768 he contested Great Marlow again, but was badly defeated.

He died in office as governor of the Leeward Islands, 27 Jan. 1781.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: John Brooke


  • 1. Newcastle to Hardwicke, 5 Oct. 1758, Add. 32884, ff. 259-67.