MIDDLETON, William (1748-1829), of Crowfield and Shrubland Park, Suff.
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Family and Education
b. 8 Nov. 1748 at Charleston, S. Carolina, 1st s. of William Middleton of Crowfield by Sarah, da. of Morton Wilkinson of S. Carolina. educ. Bury St. Edmunds g.s. 1759; Caius, Camb. 1767. m. 18 Apr. 1775, Harriot, da. and event. h. of Nathaniel Acton of Bramford Hall, Suff. 1s. 2da.1 suc. fa. 1775;cr. Bt. 12 May 1804; took additional name of Fowle under the will of John Fowle of Broome, Norf. 1823.
Sheriff, Suff. 1782-3; capt. E. Suff. militia 1788; capt. Rosmere and Claydon vols. 1803, lt.-col. 1804.
The son of a Suffolk landowner with considerable estates (over 9,000 acres) in South Carolina and Georgia, Middleton made an advantageous marriage and aspired to Parliament.2 He was returned for Ipswich at his second attempt in 1784 and gave an independent support to Pitt. In 1790 he was defeated. His support for parliamentary reform and for relief for dissenters came under fire. He failed to unseat his running partner Charles Alexander Crickitt* on a scrutiny and found the latter unwilling to renew their alliance before the next election. He was defeated again in 1796. In March 1801 his friend Christopher Wyvill, the Yorkshire reformer, was told that Middleton was ‘altered in his politics’. He had decided not to contest Ipswich in 1802, but in October wrote to the prime minister Addington, asking for his support in the event of a vacancy made likely by Crickitt’s state of health and claiming to have been his ‘admirer’.3 On Crickitt’s death three months later, he came in unopposed.
Middleton gave a silent support to Addington, who sealed his loyalty by making him a baronet on going out of office. He was listed an Addingtonian in May and September 1804, voting against Pitt’s additional force bill in June 1804 and for its repeal on 6 Mar. 1805. Like his chief he rebelled against Pitt on Melville’s conduct and was in the opposition majorities of 8 Apr. and 12 June 1805. On 22 Apr. he informed Sidmouth that in reply to Pitt’s circular for attendance on the 25th he had written: ‘It is always my wish to support government, as far as my duty to my country will permit, and more especially, as long as Lord Sidmouth is in his Majesty’s councils, of whom I have the highest opinion’. After Sidmouth’s resignation Middleton wrote:
I assure you I was amongst those of your friends that did not imagine that you and [Pitt] would act long in consort with each other. Your constitutional, economical and temperate mode of conducting the affairs of the country made the machine of the state go on smoothly and quietly ..., whereas the present lavish, jobbing, imperious system forces on the same machine and racks and jars it so much that the consequences must be dreaded.4
Middleton supported the Grenville ministry, in which Sidmouth was included. He voted for the repeal of Pitt’s Additional Force Act, 30 Apr. 1806. He hoped to obtain official support at Ipswich at the next election. It was denied him because he could not command support sufficient to carry both Members, which government wished to do. They offered him a Treasury seat in compensation for his withdrawal. He was duly returned for Hastings and gave up a suggestion that he should offer for his county, at least for the present. He begged to be excused attendance in January 1807, because of his preoccupations in the country.5 On 16 Mar. he obtained two weeks’ leave, after serving on an election committee. He was among the ‘staunch friends’ of the abolition of the slave trade. He returned to vote for Brand’s motion following the dismissal of the ministry. No speech in the House is known.
Left without a seat in 1807, Middleton was placed in a stronger position in 1811 by the death of his younger brother, who won £20,000 in the state lottery in 1801 and had £50,000 in the 3 per cents in 1807. He was an avowed Friend of Constitutional Reform at that time, and in 1811, at the county nomination meeting, tried to procure a pledge of support for parliamentary reform from Sir William Rowley.6 In 1818 he was content with securing Rowley’s return for the county and assisting the opposition to the Crickitt interest at Ipswich. He was, primarily, ‘a country gentleman devoted to agricultural pursuits ... the improvement of his estates and the employment of the poor’. Shrubland, which he purchased in 1796, was his recreation.7 He died 26 Dec. 1829.
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: Winifred Stokes
- 1. These dates of birth and marriage are taken from the Middleton mss at Shrubland Hall.
- 2. Ibid. His wife brought him £8,000. Middleton sold some American estates in 1816 for $10,000.
- 3. Farington, i. 71; Ipswich Jnl. 3 Apr. 1790; PRO 30/8/127, ff. 115-16; N. Riding RO, Wyvill mss ZFW7/140/29; Sidmouth mss, Middleton to Addington, 14 Oct. 1802.
- 4. Sidmouth mss, Middleton to Sidmouth, 22 Apr. [July 1805]; cf. Pellew, Sidmouth, ii. 376.
- 5. HMC Fortescue, viii. 233, 234; Sidmouth mss, Sidmouth to J. H. Addington, 23 July; Ipswich Jnl. 8 Nov.; Grey mss, Middleton to Howick, 29 Dec. 1806.
- 6. Middleton mss; Morning Chron. 7 June 1811; The Times, 16 Oct. 1812.
- 7. The Late Elections (1818), 328-35; Gent. Mag. (1830), i. 80-81.