GRENVILLE, James (1742-1825), of Butleigh Court, Som.

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



26 Dec. 1765 - 1768
26 Nov. 1770 - 14 Dec. 1790
27 Dec. 1790 - June 1797

Family and Education

b. 6 July 1742, 1st s. of James Grenville.  educ. Eton 1754-8; Ch. Ch. Oxf. 1759; L. Inn 1760. unm.  suc. fa. 14 Sept. 1783;  cr. Baron Glastonbury 20 Oct. 1797.

Offices Held

Ld. of Treasury Mar. 1782-Mar. 1783; P.C. 26 Dec. 1783; member of Board of Trade 1784- d.


When in 1765 a seat at Thirsk was vacated by Henry Grenville, James was returned in his place ‘in consequence of a former agreement made with Mr. Frederick Frankland’.1 Like his father he supported the Chatham Administration and voted with them on the land tax, but against them on nullum tempus, 17 Feb. 1768. He did not stand at the general election of 1768, but in 1770, on the death of George Grenville, was returned for Buckingham on Lord Temple’s interest. During this Parliament he followed an independent line: voted with Opposition on the Spanish convention, 13 Feb. 1771; was classed by Robinson as ‘contra, present’ in his first survey on the royal marriage bill, March 1772; voted with Opposition on the naval captains’ petition, 9 Feb. 1773, when he was marked in the King’s list as a friend; voted with Opposition on the Middlesex election, 26 Apr. 1773, and on George Grenville’s Act, 25 Feb. 1774, when he again appears in the King’s list as a friend; but in Robinson’s list of September 1774 he is classed as ‘contra’. Grenville spoke several times during this Parliament, apparently always on matters about which he felt strongly. After Grenville’s first speech on 7 Mar. 1771 Barré reported to Chatham:2 ‘His manner had all the modesty of his character; his language had not the smallest appearance of being studied; it was spirited and nervous. He was universally applauded.’ Grenville supported Sir William Meredith’s motion concerning subscription to the 39 Articles at the universities, declaring on 23 Feb. 1773 that ‘no subscription to these Articles should be exacted from any layman whatever’.3 On 21 May 1773 he supported Clive, not only because of his ‘eminent services to the whole nation’ but because ‘we are now proceeding by an ex post facto resolution to punish an action which we have constituted a crime, but it was not such when it was committed ... This ... is contrary to every rule of justice, contrary to every rule of policy.’4 He strongly supported the motion to perpetuate George Grenville’s Election Act, 25 Feb. 1774. He disapproved of the American war. The Parliamentary Register5 reports that on 27 Oct. 1775, ‘with that modesty, ability and candour for which he is remarkable’, he

gave his reasons for not going on against America, because the Americans did not mean to render themselves independent of this country, and because he judged it impracticable to reduce them by force. He concluded by showing with much feeling propriety, that he did not mean to throw any reflection upon the conduct of his late relation Mr. George Grenville.

Grenville now voted consistently with Opposition, and criticized the Administration with increasing vehemence. On 12 Dec. 1781 he supported Lowther’s motion to end the war, and quoted Chatham when after Saratoga he called upon Parliament to ‘relinquish this mad war’.6

Grenville, who was appointed a lord of the Treasury by Rockingham, retained the post under Shelburne, having ‘declined in the most positive manner’ to become either chancellor of the Exchequer or secretary at war in the new Administration. Shelburne wrote to the King on 9 July that he was ‘obliged ... in a very particular manner to the assistance of Mr. James Grenville’ who had persuaded his cousin Lord Temple to go to Ireland instead of having the secretaryship for home affairs which he had hoped for. The King replied the same day: ‘I am glad Mr. James Grenville has been of use; I hope he will be cultivated. He is certainly a worthy man.’7 Grenville voted against Fox’s East India bill, 27 Nov. 1783. Only one vote by him is reported during the Parliament of 1784, with the Administration on Richmond’s fortifications plan, 27 Feb. 1786, and there is no record of his having spoken.

Horace Walpole described Grenville as ‘an amiable and ingenious man, who had improved parts, and a most pleasing manner’.8  He died 26 Apr. 1825.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: Mary M. Drummond


  • 1. Grenville Pprs. iii. 192.
  • 2. Chatham Corresp. iv. 109.
  • 3. Egerton 244, pp. 196-9.
  • 4. Egerton 248, pp. 206-14.
  • 5. Almon, iii. 58.
  • 6. Debrett, v. 133.
  • 7. Fortescue, v. 77, 79.
  • 8. Last Jnls. i. 301.