MARKHAM, John (1761-1827), of Ades, nr. Lewes, Suss.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer



12 Nov. 1801 - 1818
1820 - 1826

Family and Education

b. 13 June 1761, 2nd s. of Rev. William Markham, headmaster of Westminster sch. and later abp. of York, by Sarah, da. of John Goddard, merchant of Rotterdam; bro. of Osborne Markham*. educ. Westminster 1768-75. m. 27 Nov. 1796, Hon. Maria Rice, da. of George Rice of Newton, Carm. by Cecil, 2nd Baroness Dinevor, 3s. 1da.

Offices Held

Entered RN 1775, capt. 1783, half-pay 1786-93, r.-adm. 1804, v.-adm. 1809, adm. 1819.

Ld. of Admiralty Feb. 1801-May 1804, Feb. 1806-Apr. 1807.


Markham was cashiered after eight years’ naval service in America and the West Indies, but reinstated. While on half-pay he travelled extensively. Resuming active service on the outbreak of war with France, he served in the West Indies and subsequently under St. Vincent at Cadiz and Brest, capturing several French men-of-war in theCentaur. St. Vincent snubbed him at sea, but when he became first lord of the Admiralty in Addington’s ministry, secured Markham’s appointment to the Admiralty board as one of his ‘Neptunes’. As a spokesman was needed in the House, a vacant seat was found for him before the year was out, for Portsmouth, on Admiralty recommendation to the patron Sir John Carter.1

In his maiden speech, 19 Jan. 1802, Markham assured alarmists of the ability of the fleet to withstand a naval attack on Jamaica. From his own experience he advocated the setting up of courts of Admiralty in the West Indies, 24 Mar. 1802. St. Vincent procured his re-election at Portsmouth in 1802.2 The ministerial decision to meet St. Vincent’s wishes to root out abuses in naval administration enhanced Markham’s role in debate, as well as his influence on St. Vincent. On 2 Dec. 1802 he justified the dismissals from the dockyards and on 13 Dec. obtained leave for the bill for a commission of inquiry into the ‘frauds, abuses and irregularities ... practised by persons in the several departments of the navy, and in the business of prize-agents’. During the next few days he justified the inquiry, which was duly instituted. On 16 Mar. 1803, after the circulation of a ‘stockjobbing story’ in the press affecting the Admiralty board, and his colleague Sir Thomas Troubridge* in particular, Markham ‘who undertook the defence of the board in the House of Commons, was so extremely agitated and affected, as to be near fainting away once or twice in the course of the speech’.3 but he made his point. Subsequently, using what he called ‘the downright, rough language of his profession’, he defended St. Vincent’s policy against its critics, 4 May 1803, 27, 29 Feb. 1804, and on 15 Mar. and 23 Apr. took on Pitt in debate.

Markham went out of office with Addington, being listed among his followers in May and September 1804, and opposed Pitt’s second ministry. He voted against the additional force bill in June 1804 and for its repeal, 6 Mar. 1805, but spoke only on naval questions. On 1 Mar. 1805 warmly supported the continuation of the inquiry into naval abuses and he supported the vote of thanks to the commissioners, 2 May. He was spokesman for St. Vincent when his naval administration came under attack, 7, 8 May, and following the censure of Melville (which he supported, as well as his criminal prosecution) urged the House to appoint a non-partisan committee, if they intended to scrutinize St. Vincent’s conduct. The Speaker rebuked him for the implication of this. He moved for information to combat John Jeffery’s intended impeachment of St. Vincent, 16 May, and the same day supported the opposition amendment to the military commission of inquiry bill. Next day he secured the inclusion of Greenwich Hospital within the scope of the naval commissioners’ inquiry. He was dissatisfied with the prize agency bill, 28 May, and supported inquiry into the lack of timber supply, 31 May. He defended the reputation of Admiral Duckworth, under whom he had served, 7 June, and parried the attacks of Jeffery and Sir Andrew Snape Hamond on St. Vincent, 25 June, 1 July, moving for more papers to vindicate him, 3 July. He thwarted Jeffery on the same subject, 28 Jan. 1806.

Markham was restored to the Admiralty board under Viscount Howick in the Grenville ministry. Resuming his seat on 3 Mar. 1806, he spoke only in vindication of St. Vincent against Jeffery that session, notably on 14 May, when Jeffery was finally frustrated. Busy at his office from nine until six, Markham claimed he had not seen Jeffery’s charges until noon that day and had little time to prepare his answers. He voted for the repeal of Pitt’s Additional Force Act, 30 Apr. 1806, but was listed ‘adverse’ to the ministry’s abolition of the slave trade, like his brother Osborne, who sat in that Parliament. Unlike Osborne, he did not vote with the diehards against it. A few words on the navy estimates were his only contribution to the Parliament of 1806, in which he was continued at the Admiralty board by Thomas Grenville*. Rumour had it that Markham was to resign because St. Vincent did not succeed Howick as first lord, and Grenville, who noted his efficiency, regretted that Markham had ‘made so many enemies’. Yet Howick assured Grenville and his brother the premier that his removal would be ‘a great misfortune to the public’ and Grenville’s other brother, the Marquess of Buckingham, pointed out that ‘though brutal’, Markham ‘at least has the advantage of knowing the details’.4 He showed this when called upon to furnish the Rio Plate expedition.

Markham was reported to have voted with opposition after the dismissal of the ministry, 9 Apr. 1807, and owed his unopposed return at the ensuing election to the goodwill of Sir John Carter and not to the Admiralty.5 He voted with opposition on 26 June and 6 July 1807, but refused to countenance Lord Cochrane’s allegations of naval abuses, 10 July. Thereafter he was not a particularly assiduous Member. He was in the minorities on Copenhagen and the droits of Admiralty, 3 and 11 Feb. 1808, against the Duke of York, 15-17 Mar. 1809, and against ministerial corruption, as Apr., 11 May. He rallied to opposition in the session of 1810, when he was named to the committee of inquiry into the Scheldt expedition and listed among their adherents by the Whigs. He opposed the ministry on the treatment of Burdett and Gale Jones, 5, 16 Apr. 1810, the only non-naval subject on which he is known to have uttered in the House, but no vote for parliamentary reform is known. He opposed the adjournment on the King’s illness in November 1810, but after his wife’s death in child-bed a month later left no mark in the House until 4 Feb. 1812, when he was in the minority on the state of Ireland. After opposing the naval estimates on 22 Feb. and McMahon’s sinecure on 24 Feb., he was again absent and his only surviving vote during the remainder of the session was for consideration of Catholic relief, 24 Apr. He remained favourable to it in 1813, though absent on the critical division of 24 May, the day after he joined Brooks’s Club. He again voted for it on 9 May 1817. On 12 Mar. 1813 he offered the House a detailed critique of the navy estimates, advocating a dock at Northfleet. He reappeared as an opponent of the Regent’s expenditure and the Duke of Cumberland’s establishment bill, 31 May and 3 July 1815. In 1816, for the first time for ten years, he attended regularly, opposing foreign entanglements in February and voting steadily for retrenchment for the rest of the session. He attacked the Admiralty on official salaries, 13 Mar., and on the navy estimates, 25 Mar., criticizing the new dockyard at Pembroke. On 29 Mar. and 1 Apr. he voiced the naval officers’ grievances, calling the navy ‘a very oppressed service’ compared with the army. In the session of 1817 he took the same line, but deplored the reduction of the marines, 5 Apr. He opposed the suspension of habeas corpus and its consequences, the ducal marriage grants, 13, 15 Apr. 1818 and the aliens bill, 22 May.

Markham withdrew in the face of an Admiralty candidate at Portsmouth in 1818, but regained his seat in 1820. He retired for health reasons in 1826 and died at Naples, 13 Feb. 1827.6

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Authors: Brian Murphy / R. G. Thorne



  • 1. Rose Diaries, ii. 180; St. Vincent Letters (Navy Recs. Soc. lv), 269, 371-2.
  • 2. St. Vincent Letters (Navy Recs. Soc. lxi), 89.
  • 3. Add. 51736, Caroline Fox to Holland, 18 Mar. [1803].
  • 4. Buckingham, Court and Cabinets, iv. 83, 86; HMC Fortescue, viii. 349, 386; Lonsdale mss, Ward to Lowther, 17 Oct.; Grey mss, Howick to St. Vincent, 9 Oct. 1806; Add. 41851, f. 281; Markham Corresp. (Navy Recs. Soc. xxviii), intro.
  • 5. Grey mss, Markham to Howick, 10 May 1807.
  • 6. Gent. Mag. (1827), i. 363.