DEVAYNES, William (c.1730-1809), of Dover St. and Pall Mall, London

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



1774 - 1780
1784 - 1796
13 Dec. 1796 - 1802
1802 - 1806

Family and Education

b. c.1730, 2nd s. of John Devaynes, a Huguenot, by Mary, o. surv. child of William Barker, City remembrancer. m. (1) Jane Wintle, 1s. 1da.; (2) 3 Feb. 1806, Mary, da. of William Wileman, s.p. suc. bro. 1801.1

Offices Held

London banker, of the firm Crofts, Roberts, Devaynes, and Dawes, 39 Pall Mall. Liverpool commr., Africa Co. 1772, 1776; director, 1782-5, 1787-90, 1792-5, 1797-1800, 1802-5, chairman 1780-1, 1785-6, 1793-5; director, Globe Insurance Co.; director of the French Hospital 1770- d.


Devaynes was a big Government contractor, and between 1776 and 1782 held together with John Henniker, George Wombwell and Edward Wheler army victualling contracts for 12-14,000 men in America.2 All the partners except Henniker being directors of the East India Company, the friends of Hastings, whom Administration then meant to dismiss, feared that the contracts were part of Robinson’s endeavours to gain control of the Company.3 Devaynes held at various times considerable sums in Government stock: in 1783, £19,000; between 1783 and 1792 his purchases and sales of Government stock exceeded £100,000.

No previous connexion between Devaynes and Barnstaple has been traced: in all probability it was a cash nexus. He was defeated there in 1780 and 1796. In the House he voted invariably with the Government: with North in his first Parliament, and with Pitt in his second—‘Devaynes to have early notice vice Bassett’ (a supporter of the Coalition) Robinson had written in a paper of February-March 1784.4 He spoke very rarely: on 26 May and 5 June 1777, when the Africa Company was charged by the Board of Trade with having ‘set up and established a private trade, directly tending to a monopoly’5 (and Devaynes was at that time the only commissioner of the Africa Company in the House); and in debates, 1788-90, he dealt with technical points concerning the East India Company. In the India House before 1782 he went with the Government side, directed by Sandwich and Robinson;6 after 1782 he belonged to the so-called ‘Old Party’. He is described as a ‘self-seeking mediocrity’.7 Richard Atkinson wrote to Henry Dundas, 31 Jan. 1785: ‘As long as he gets his job, Devaynes will be all right.’8

He died 29 Nov. 1809. A ‘mulatto daughter’ is mentioned in his will, which suggests his having at one time resided in Africa.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: Sir Lewis Namier


  • 1. Gent. Mag. 1801, p. 93.
  • 2. T29/45 seq., and 54/42-43. In Jan. 1782 Devaynes obtained a smaller separate contract.
  • 3. F. Sykes to Hastings, 30 May 1776, and L. Macleane to same, 25 June 1776, Add. 29137, ff. 204, 249.
  • 4. Laprade, 115.
  • 5. Almon. vii. 234.
  • 6. See e.g. Abergavenny mss 250, 265.
  • 7. C. H. Philips, E.I. Co. 1784-1834, p. 26.
  • 8. Ibid. 62n.