LEEDS, Edward (1728-1803), of Croxton, Cambs.
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Family and Education
b. 30 Nov. 1728, 1st s. of Edward Leeds of Croxton, serjeant-at-law, by Anne, da. of Joseph Collet of Hertford Castle, and formerly gov. of Fort St. George, India. educ. I. Temple 1743, called 1752. unm.
Sheriff, Cambs. 1758-9; master in Chancery 1773.
Edward Leeds’s grandfather had been an eminent Dissenter; and his father was politically connected with the first Earl of Hardwicke. Edward Leeds jun. did not practise at the bar, lived mostly in the country, and at various times did electioneering for the Yorkes in Cambridgeshire. From at least 1758 onwards he importuned the 1st Earl of Hardwicke, and next the 2nd Earl and Charles Yorke, to procure for him some Government appointment—of registrar or receiver general for Cambridgeshire, or of commissioner of the lottery—his income was ‘very moderate’, and ‘every small addition’ would be ‘acceptable’. Thus on 11 Mar. 1771: ‘Anxious as a man may be allowed to be in his 43rd year to have the die cast by which the future plan of his life is to be regulated.’ But when offered a post worth £120 p.a. (apparently at the office of hackney coaches) he thought the business ‘low and unpleasant enough’, and the emoluments insufficient to pay for his residing in London. Next, Hardwicke applied for him to the lord chancellor for a mastership in Chancery. Leeds promised ‘by appearing occasionally at the Chancery bar, as well to secure his Lordship from the imputations which he mentions, as to revive in myself those ideas of the practise of the court which a country life may be supposed in some degree to have obliterated’; and on 21 Jan. 1773 obtained that office, ‘fully equal to my wishes’.1
In 1784 Hardwicke returned Leeds for Reigate. When the House met Hardwicke, writing from Bath on 20 May 1784, inquired from his nephew Philip Yorke with condescending jocularity, ‘is Master Leeds come up for the session’, and would he sometimes let Hardwicke ‘as one of his constituents ... know how things go in Parliament’. In replying, Yorke reported that over the Westminster and Bedfordshire elections Leeds had voted with the Opposition, and upon the Address ‘went away before the division’. Hardwicke was indignant—‘when I recommended him to Reigate I little expected that we had chose a Member for Mr. Fox’; Yorke should tell Leeds that he ‘was opposing me in the only points upon which he could show the regard for or connexion with one who has done him every service in his power’. ‘If he means to persevere in his conduct, he should ... vacate his seat.’ Yorke wrote accordingly; and Leeds replied in an angry letter to Yorke, and more moderately to Hardwicke, that his votes were ‘upon two incidental questions of law’, and that he would support Government ‘in all measures which the circumstances of the state make necessary’. Hardwicke did not find the explanation convincing, and blamed himself ‘for not talking more with him when the offer was made’—‘I knew his peculiarities’.2
On 18 Apr. 1785 Leeds voted in the majority against Pitt on parliamentary reform;3 but Hardwicke, too, was against it. He voted against Government also on Richmond’s fortifications plan, and vacated his seat in May 1787.
He died 22 Mar. 1803.