MORANT, Edward (1730-91), of Brockenhurst, nr. Lymington, Hants.
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Family and Education
bap. 10 Dec. 1730, 1st surv. s. of John Morant of Jamaica by Mary, da. of Edward Pennant, c.j. of Jamaica. educ. St. Mary Hall, Oxf. 1747. m. (1) 10 June 1754, Eleanor Angelina (d. 5 Feb. 1756), da. of Edward Yeamans of Liguanea, Jamaica, wid. of William Dawkins, 1s.; (2) 22 Apr. 17621, Mary Whitehorne, da. and h. of James Goddard of Conduit St., London, 1s. suc. fa. 1733.
Member of the Jamaica assembly 1752-6, of council 1757-9.
Morant was ‘proprietor of many estates in the island of Jamaica, which have been long in the family, and from whence various parts of that island take the family name; such as Morant River, Point, and Bay’.2 In a list of Jamaican estates3 that of the Morants is put at 8,159 acres; and Morant’s plantation accounts, 1733-91, show an average income from Jamaica of about £20,000 p.a.; he had also an English income (he owned a number of houses in London, including 16, 17, and 18 Park Lane). He left Jamaica in 1759.
Morant was returned for Hindon in 1761, on William Beckford’s interest; went abroad after the election; but was back in London in December. Attendance in Parliament is seldom mentioned in his pocket diary for 1762; more often after 1774, and still more in the 1780s; but there is no record of his having spoken in the House. At first he was a dark horse for the parliamentary managers. In Bute’s list he appears as ‘West Indian’, ‘merchant’ (which he never was), and as connected with Pitt (presumably a guess because of Beckford). But in Newcastle’s list of 13 Nov. 1762 he was classed as ‘against’; and at the beginning of December was included by Fox among those in favour of the peace preliminaries. In the autumn of 1763 he was classed by Jenkinson as ‘doubtful’, and over general warrants, on 15 and 18 Feb. 1764, the only divisions in that Parliament in which his name appears, he voted against the Government.
In 1768 he stood for re-election at Hindon, but was thrown over by his own agents just before the poll began, and came out third.4 During the following years his pocket diaries register social intercourse with a growing circle of friends both in London and in the country: in the early years it had been mainly with other West Indians, especially his cousins Henry Dawkins and Richard Pennant; next with Hampshire and Wiltshire neighbours; but by the 1770s Morant moved in the foremost political and social circles - fox-hunting, going on sight-seeing tours, on visits to friends, to dinner parties and balls, the opera and theatres, and playing cards at clubs (he regularly noted wins and losses). In February 1770 he purchased Brockenhurst for £6,400.
He noted on 20 Dec. 1770: ‘Went to Mr. Dawkins’, saw Mrs. Brudenell about Bedwyn’ (where a seat was vacant). But he did not re-enter Parliament till 1774 when returned for Lymington by his friend the Duke of Bolton, on an agreement with Sir Harry Burrard whereby Bolton relinquished henceforth all interest in the borough, and Morant undertook, if chosen, never to interfere there again nor try to make ‘any personal interest among the burgesses thereof’.5 In September 1774, ‘the Duke of Bolton having declared himself a friend to Government’, North expected Morant to ‘be favourable to us’;6 but Bolton’s connexion with Government was of short duration; Morant voted with the Opposition on Wilkes’s Middlesex motion, 22 Feb. 1775, and from 1778 onwards, appears on the Opposition side in every extant division list. Robinson, in his survey of July 1780, noted against Lymington that Morant would not come in again; and against Christchurch that ‘Mr. Morant and Mr. Dehany, aided by the Duke of Bolton, are trying to get ground there from the support of some malcontents’. But nothing came of it, and when on 1 Sept. 1780, Morant, while partridge shooting, ‘heard of the dissolution of Parliament’, he on the next day visited Clarke Jervoise, patron of one seat at Yarmouth. 8 Sept.: ‘Dined at Yarmouth and was chose Member for it.’ 3 Nov. 1780 (the day after Morant had taken his seat:
Received of Mr. Long [his banker] £3,000 which was immediately paid Mr. Clarke Jervoise for an engagement of honour. No one present at the receipt. Sir Robert Lawley dined with Mr. Clarke Jervoise, and was in the other room.
Morant supported Shelburne’s Administration, and voted for peace with America, 18 Feb. 1783; but he went to the meeting at the Duke of Portland’s on 23 Mar.; and voted for Fox’s East India bill. He now regularly attended the House, staying till the early hours of the morning and carefully recording divisions, which he had not done formerly. He was re-elected at Yarmouth in his absence, 3 Apr. 1784. ‘Dined at home. Opera and Boodles. Lost 2 rubbers, 39 guineas. Chose at Yarmouth.’ On 23 May 1784 Morant attended the Opposition meeting at Devonshire House, and he adhered to them during his remaining three years in Parliament. On 4 Apr. 1787: ‘Dined at home ... Boodles. Vacated my seat in Parliament. Easterly wind.’
He died 27 July 1791. He was a thoroughly independent Member: never held, nor solicited, any office or favour. He was the only Morant to sit in Parliament.
Ref Volumes: 1754-1790
Author: Sir Lewis Namier
- 1. This, and other information about Morant, has been obtained from his pocket diaries (for 1762, 1769-71, 1773, 1777-88, 1790-1) in the possession of Mr. John Morant of Brockenhurst.
- 2. Gent. Mag, 1791, ii. 777.
- 3. Add. 12436.
- 4. Francis Meade to Fasham Nairne, 25 Feb. 1774; printed in Report of Select Commitee on Hindon Election 1774.
- 5. S. Burrard, Annals Walhampton, 91.
- 6. Fortescue, iii. 135.