MOORE, Peter (1753-1828), of Hadley, Mdx. and Great George Street, Westminster.
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Family and Education
b. 12 Feb. 1753, 2nd s. of Rev. Edward Moore, LLB, vicar of Over, Cheshire by w. Mary. educ. Sedbergh sch. m. at Patna 8 or 10 Jan. 1774, Sarah, da. and coh. of Lt.-Col. Richmond Webb of Bandon, co. Cork, 5s. (1 surv. him) 2da.
Writer, E.I. Co. (Bengal) 1768; asst. in collector gen.’s office 1770, dep. collector 1771; factor and sec. to board of revenue, 1774; member, board of revenue, 1776; jun. merchant 1777; first in council, Murshidabad 1780; sen. merchant 1780; collector, Calcutta 1782; commr. of police 1783-4; home 1785.
Moore’s father died when he was two, and he owed his career to his much older brother Edward’s good fortune in being made alphabet clerk (indexer of the journals) of the House of Commons under Lord Holland’s protection. Under the same auspices Moore arrived in Bengal, 31 May 1769. He returned home in July 1785 with the proverbial nabob’s fortune, settling at Hadley as lord of the manor. He was Burke and Sheridan’s chief informant on Indian affairs, providing material for the attack on Warren Hastings and appearing as a hostile witness at his trial. He was for a time a thorn in the side of the East India Company directors, though he later became a stockholder. He also acted with the Whigs of the Westminster constituency, seconding their opposition to the treason bills in November 1795 and moving the dismissal of Pitt’s administration in April 1797.1
Moore wished to be in Parliament. In 1792 he put in an appearance at Tewkesbury, where there was a vacancy. In 1796, with Philip Francis* as partner, he contested the borough unsuccessfully, failing to establish the householder franchise on petition. He also lost a suit at Gloucester assizes over unpaid election bills. In December 1797, by then a widower, he was again defeated at a by-election at Tewkesbury and his petition found ‘frivolous and vexatious’. In December 1801 he found an opening at Coventry, as a partner to William Wilberforce Bird, the Whig Member, opposed by the corporation. His address was anti-ministerial. To boost his prospects, he publicized a project to import Bengal silks and muslins cheaply as raw material for the Coventry weavers. Meanwhile he secured his son George Peter’s return at Queenborough. He and Bird were defeated, but unseated one of their opponents on petition. Bird then made way for Moore, who defeated the corporation and ministerial candidate in March 1803. If it is true that he had spent more than £25,000 to obtain his return for Coventry, it is not surprising that he settled for a wealthy partner at subsequent elections.2
Moore took his seat on 5 Apr. 1803 and showed his colours by speaking for the adjournment, 6 May, and voting with the Foxite opposition on the threat of renewed hostilities with France, 24 May. By his own account, he also joined them in opposing the Nottingham election bill. On 15 July he made an unsuccessful bid to render invalid bequests of property to the church made less than a year before a testator’s death. On 25 July he made the first of many speeches on Indian affairs, this time, somewhat surprisingly, in favour of the East India shipping bill.3 He was an opponent of the marine society fishery bill, 27 Mar. 1804, and of the Aylesbury election bill, 13 Apr. He was listed ‘Fox’ in March 1804, voting against ministers on 7 Mar., if not also on 19 Mar., and joining the combined onslaught on Addington’s ministry on 10, 23 and 25 Apr. Again listed Foxite, he opposed Pitt’s second ministry, describing his additional force bill as worthy of King James II, 11 June 1804, and attacking it in detail on 15 June. He issued a ‘solemn protest’ against the foreign troops enlistment bill, 4 July.
From 1805 onwards he was a frequent speaker in debate on a variety of subjects. That session he was a spokesman for Burdett, whose proposer he had been, in the Middlesex election dispute, led the opposition to the St. Pancras poor bill and commended the work of the commissioners of naval inquiry. He was in the majorities against Melville and one of the triumphal procession to St. James’s on 11 Apr. He also opposed the Duke of Atholl’s claims, 7 June. On these questions he was sometimes teller. His chief effort, albeit in vain, was to settle the dispute between the calico printer journeymen and their masters, 30 May 1805, and to sustain the apprentices’ closed shop in woollen manufacture, 10, 20, 26 June. He renewed these efforts in the following year, claiming to represent the interests of employees against employers, in opposing any further suspension of statutory provisions in favour of the apprentices’ closed shop, 12 Mar., and promising a renewal of the calico printers’ question, 9 July 1806. He gave it up, 23 Apr. 1807, on the understanding that the parties wished for a settlement without parliamentary interference.
Moore opposed the attack on St. Vincent’s naval administration, 28 Jan. 1806, and, except for a vote in the minority on Indian affairs, 21 Apr., supported the Grenville ministry. To oblige Fox, as one of his ‘sincere supporters’ he had agreed to sacrifice his son’s seat for Queenborough, in exchange for a provision or place for him, provided no obligation to Lord Grenville was thereby incurred.4 He brought in the Middlesex petition against Mainwaring (refused by the House), 24 Feb. 1806, and (as Sheridan’s champion) the Westminster petition against Paull, 2 Mar. 1807. A ‘staunch’ friend of the abolition of the slave trade, he explained, 17 Mar. 1807, that he was opposed to the immediate emancipation of slaves. He voted for Brand’s motion following the dismissal of the ministry, 9 Apr. 1807, and survived another contest at the ensuing election. According to family tradition, he was to have returned to India, with the prospect of a peerage, had his friends remained in power.
Moore was in the second rank of opposition spokesmen in the Parliament of 1807, listed one of their ‘thick and thin’ men in 1810. On 23 July 1807 he outlined his approach to the Indian question (elaborated on 23 Feb. 1809): the East India Company’s difficulties arose from government and Board of Control pressure on policy matters. He opposed the board’s salaries bill, 24, 27 May 1811, and the vote of thanks to the viceroy, 10 Jan. 1812. Having married into an Irish family and as a friend of Sheridan, he also spoke on Irish questions. On 15 June 1804 he had reproached Pitt for abandoning Catholic relief. On 7 Aug. 1807 (and again on 9 June 1810) he spoke against the Irish arms bill; on 13 Aug. 1807 he voted for Sheridan’s Irish motion and on 2 July 1808 complained of the treatment of political prisoners in Ireland. He favoured Irish tithe reform, 11 June 1811. When present he always supported the Maynooth College grant and Catholic relief. He wished the notorious frauds practised by Irish licensed distillers to be exposed, 30 May 1809, but to see the Irish distillers protected, 14 June 1811.
The topic that most exercised him was retrenchment, 7 Aug. 1807. He voted for Cochrane’s motion for inquiry into pensions and places, 7 July 1807, and for Burdett’s on the droits of Admiralty, 11 Feb. 1808, though he was a champion of John Palmer’s* claims for compensation, 12 May 1808, 21 May 1811, 31 May 1813. He described the finance committee, 24 Jan. 1809, as ‘a mere farce to cajole and delude them’, complaining that government ignored their reports, even of the most crying abuses. He supported the eradication of abuses in naval administration, 21 Mar., and inquiry into the affairs of Chelsea Hospital, 14 Apr. He thought Folkestone’s motion for a general inquiry into abuses too vague, 17 Apr., and suggested that the eighth report of the commissioners of military inquiry on levies would be a fit subject for particular investigation. He approved the exposure of peculation by the Dutch commissioners, 1 May, and next day divided the House on the militia completion bill, as an unnecessary burden to the country. On 8 May he denounced sinecures and on 10 May assailed the War Office accounts. He favoured investigation of the charges of corruption against ministers, 11 May, lest the House lose face by refusing to countenance them: but he thought the innocent subjects (company cadets) of improper East India Company patronage should be spared retribution, 19 June 1809. He opposed the army estimates, 26 Feb. 1810, and on 6 Mar. spoke at length in favour of the regulation of offices held in reversion. Then and on 23 Mar. he rhapsodized on the function of the finance committee as a ‘committee of public safety’, urging Bankes to clean out the Augean stables of wanton and inefficient government expenditure. On 17 May 1810 he spoke at great length in favour of the abolition of sinecures.
On 15 June 1809 and 21 May 1810 he voted for parliamentary reform. On 13 June 1810 he presented the Coventry petition in its favour and on 15 June seconded a motion for the discharge of the radical John Gale Jones. On the Regency question, he admitted, 2 Jan. 1811, that he had hitherto voted for the two adjournments of the question, but had by now reverted to the opposition line. A champion of the freedom of the press, 6 Feb. 1810, he also supported Folkestone’s motion against informations ex officio for libel, 28 Mar. 1811, and wished to see the Irish press flourish, 16 May. He was an opponent of the bank-note bill, 17, 19 July 1811. He seconded Cochrane’s motion of complaint against the vice-admiralty of Malta, 18 July 1811, and on the same day opposed gagging in the army. He championed George Eden’s attempts to secure an effective civil list committee, 11 Feb. 1812, and seconded Creevey’s motion critical of the sinecure tellerships of Exchequer, 7 May. He failed in a bid to carry a bill to set up sea water baths near the metropolis, 9 Apr. 1812; but was successful (as a member of the Drury Lane management committee and sometimes its spokesman in the House) in thwarting the London theatre bill, 20 Mar. 1812. That year he published Familiar Letters, arguing the case for Catholic relief.
In 1812 Moore had to find a new partner to shoulder the expenses of re-election at Coventry. He had his critics there, but his colleague Mills, who now retired, had been accused of negligence and of thereby obstructing Moore’s efforts to serve his constituents.5 But Moore’s fellow traveller, a nabob’s son, was defeated. His health deteriorated and although he recovered and attended regularly, he played a smaller part in debate in the ensuing Parliament. He opposed Christian missions to India, 2 Apr. 1813: their converts usually turned out to be rogues (22 June). He advised Wilberforce that charity began at home when he nibbled at the reform of corrupt Cornish boroughs, and suggested that they should be abolished and the seats awarded to Yorkshire, 30 June. He promised an attack on the Board of Control at the last stage of the East India Company charter bill in July, but did not succeed in delaying the bill or making his point. He renewed his efforts on behalf of the manufacturing apprentices’ closed shop, 6, 27 Apr., 13 May 1814. He opposed the colonial offices bill as totally unnecessary, 18 Apr., 6 May 1814. He was a patron of the Royal Clarence canal bill to link Woolwich and Erith, 7 May 1813, 16 May 1814. He ridiculed the arrest of De Berenger for fraud at the instigation of the Stock Exchange committee, 23 May 1814: he had hoaxed ‘a body of professed hoaxers’. He also championed Alexander McRae, who had misguidedly offered to divulge the conspiracy for a reward, 5 July. On 27 May 1814 and 3 Mar. 1815 he presented and defended his constituents’ petition against alterations to the Corn Laws, which he opposed throughout. On 20 July 1814 he informed the House the time was ripe for international abolition of the slave trade, but on 14 Apr. 1815 complained of the unjust treatment of traders too readily convicted of carrying slaves, which did the cause no good. He likewise opposed Wilberforce’s slave importation bill, 5 July 1815, as being inadequately framed. (On 9 July 1817 he advised the House to proceed by committee on the subject.) He seconded Parnell’s motion for Catholic relief, 18 May 1815. On 8 June he opposed Marryat’s clause for the East India ships registry bill.
Moore voiced his opposition to the resumption of hostilities to restore the Bourbons, 29 May 1815. He presented the Coventry petition against the property tax, 28 Feb. 1816, and promised his opposition to it. On 12 Mar., with reference to the interest charged by the Bank on advances to government, which he had previously criticized (26 Apr. 1815), he denounced the whole financial system of the country as ‘base and despicable in the extreme’. On 25 Mar. 1816 he opposed substitutes for the property tax, calling for retrenchment: ‘He has always believed that the war was not carried on to put down the French revolution and French principles, so much as it was from the dread of reform at home’. The Bank loan bill was ‘most improvident and unjustifiable’, 29 Mar.; the tax on agricultural horses was unnecessary, 13 May 1816. On 10 Feb. 1817 he presented the Birmingham petition for representation in Parliament and next day his constituents’ petition for reform and retrenchment. He was in favour of the resumption of cash payments by the Bank, 19 Feb. 1817. On 28 Feb. he congratulated the House on the number of petitions presented against the suspension of habeas corpus, which was a mere government ploy ‘for the nefarious purpose of preventing reform’ and creating ‘a nation of slaves’. He thought the House should not refuse petitions merely because they were printed, 12 Mar. The seditious meetings bill did not apply to his constituents, 14 Mar. On 12 Feb. 1818 he presented the Coventry ribbon weavers’ petition for relief. He opposed the Election Laws amendment bill, 2 Mar., because it disfranchised a third of his constituents (the out-voters) and did away with cockades, a source of livelihood to the ribbon weavers. He denounced the indemnity bill, 13 Mar., as part of ‘a bastard constitution’ foisted on the country since 1792. He opposed the Irish window tax, 21 Apr.
Moore found a well-to-do partner for the general election of 1818 and they secured both seats for the Whigs. He signed the requisition to Tierney to be their leader in the House and attended regularly. He welcomed the steps that led to the resumption of cash payments by the Bank, 1 Feb., 25 May 1819. He supported the suspension of the writs of corrupt Cornish boroughs, 26 Feb., 8 Apr. On 13 May, presenting two Coventry petitions on behalf of the ribbon weavers, he sought leave for a bill to regulate their wages for piece work (a method of remuneration introduced in 1816, but since abandoned) as a remedy for the present reduction in their wages. He withdrew the motion in the hope that government would take up the weavers’ plight. He failed to carry the London gas light bill, 17 May. On 8 June he assailed the government’s budgetary proposals, which exacerbated the distress of his constituents, as did the poor rates misapplication bill, 11 June. He supported Burdett’s motion for parliamentary reform, 1 July, and condemned the foreign enlistment bill, ‘the prop of Old Spain against the liberties of the patriots in South America’. On 6 Dec. 1819 he presented a petition from Coventry complaining of the disruption of a peaceful public meeting there by constables. He proposed the exemption of his constituency from the seizure of arms bill, 14 Dec.: ‘this was the Pitt system long advancing in its desolating course, and now hastening to a consummation’. He opposed ministerial repressive measures to the end.
Moore had been presented with a gold cup by 2,000 of his constituents for his services in March 1819. His new colleague Ellice was advised to press him to retire in 1820, on the grounds that he was ‘out of fashion’, but refused to do so. They were defeated in 1826, a calamity for Moore, who could not resist plausible ventures and was a director of several shaky companies that had recently crashed. He was driven to France to escape arrest, surrendering most of his assets for the benefit of his creditors. He died at Abbéville, 5 May 1828. Only one of his sons survived him and left issue. His claim to fame was as the promoter of the rebuilding of Drury Lane theatre (1811), the Highgate tunnel and the Imperial Gas Light Company. It was he also who secured a decent burial and proper commemoration for Richard Brinsley Sheridan. In the House, he frequently presented petitions from or raised the cases of aggrieved individuals, not always happily. Of his involvement in the complaint against Wyndham Quin* in March 1819, which arose out of a casual encounter with Quin’s adversary Grady at Boulogne in the preceding summer, Charles Arbuthnot wrote to Castlereagh that Moore was ‘the instigator of the whole ... a busy bustling fellow, always meddling with other persons’ concerns, and having his nose in everything, from an actress in the Green room to the affairs of the highest department in the State’.6
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: R. G. Thorne
- 1. DNB; J. Wilson, Biog. Index (1808), 166; Bengal Past and Present, xxvi. 180-3; Burke Corresp. v. 252; Morning Chron. 1 Dec. 1795, 28 Sept.; Oracle, 4 Apr. 1797.
- 2. See TEWKESBURY; T. W. Whitley, Parl. Rep. Coventry, 224, 225; The Times, 17, 19 Dec. 1801; Gent. Mag. (1828), i. 568.
- 3. The Times, 7 May, 5 Sept. 1803.
- 4. Add. 51469, f. 7.
- 5. Whitbread mss W1/1906.
- 6. Grey mss, Ellice to Grey [4 Mar. 1820]; Gent. Mag. (1828), i. 567-8; Arbuthnot Corresp. (Cam. Soc. ser. 3, lxv), 15.