ST. JOHN, Hon. St. Andrew (1759-1817), of Melchbourne Park, Beds.
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Family and Education
b. 22 Aug. 1759, 2nd surv. s. of John, 12th Baron St. John, by Susanne Louise, da. and coh. of Peter Simond, Huguenot merchant, of London. educ. by Rev. John Skynner at Easton, nr. Stamford;1 L. Inn 1773, called 1782; St. John’s, Camb. 1776. m. 16 July 1807, Louisa, da. of Sir Charles William Rouse Boughton, 1st and 9th Bt.*, 1s. 1da. suc. bro. as 14th Baron St. John 18 Dec. 1805.
Under-sec. of state for Foreign affairs Apr.-Dec. 1783; PC 12 Feb. 1806; capt. gent. pens. Feb. 1806-Apr. 1807.
Capt. Beds. vols. 1803, maj. 1805, lt.-col. commdt. 1 regt. 1806, 2 batt. Beds. militia 1809.
St. John, who practised on the western circuit until he succeeded to the peerage, sat undisturbed in this period for Bedfordshire, where his family interest was reinforced by the support of the 5th and 6th Dukes of Bedford. In 1806 Lord Guilford described him as ‘the beloved apostle’ of Fox, to whom he remained utterly loyal throughout his career in the Commons.2
He condemned the war in India, 2 Mar. 1791, voted against government on the Oczakov question, 12 Apr., and seconded Baker’s motion on the same subject, 15 Apr. He was listed favourable, the same month, to repeal of the Test Act in Scotland. He protested against Burke’s introduction of general principles into the debate on the Quebec bill, 6 May, and threatened to take the sense of the House on his conduct. As one of the managers of Hastings’s impeachment he moved the fourth article of the charges, 23 May 1791, in language described by William Elliot as ‘very neat and perfectly adapted to his style of speaking’. In his last reported speech for over three years, 29 Feb. 1792, he again deplored the armament against Russia. He was one of the minority of 50 who voted for Fox’s amendment to the address, 13 Dec. 1792, voted against the war, 18 Feb., and for Grey’s parliamentary reform motion, 7 May 1793, and continued to divide regularly with the Foxite opposition before and after the junction of the Portland Whigs with government. He questioned the adequacy of British forces in the West Indies, 15 June 1795, and on 18 May 1797 moved an address to the King calling for their withdrawal, which was defeated by 116 votes to 31. The Duke of Portland commented that he had been told ‘by several of my own friends and have heard from other general friends of administration that St. John must have been paid by us for making his motion’.3 He voted for Grey’s parliamentary reform motion, 26 May 1797. He acted as teller for the opposition in a number of divisions, including those on the address, 31 Jan. 1792; the East India Company charter bill, 24 May 1793; the seditious meetings bill, 17 Nov. 1795, and Harrison’s motion for retrenchment, 13 Mar. 1797, when he was balloted on to the secret finance committee.
In January 1797 St. John had favoured an attempt to mobilize public opinion against government,4 and during the Whig secession he was more active in the House than many other Foxites. He was in the minorities which divided against the assessed taxes augmentation bill, 14 Dec. 1797 and 4 Jan. 1798; government’s Irish policy, 14 and 22 June 1798; the address welcoming the failure of peace negotiations, 3 Feb., and for inquiry into the failure of the Dutch expedition, 10 Feb. 1800. He also voted in smaller minorities against the income tax, 14 Dec. 1798, 17 Apr. and 5 June 1800; the Union, 7 Feb. 1799, when he spoke against it at length, and the suspension of habeas corpus, 13 Feb. 1800. On 11 June 1798 he moved for copies of Home Office warrants for the arrest of Roger O’Connor, in an attempt to prove his contention that habeas corpus had been violated. The motion was lost by 104 votes to 15, but Lord Holland later wrote that St. John ‘in a very learned and well-reasoned speech, made out a much better case against government than I imagined the state of the law would have enabled him to do’.5 Described in The Times of 4 Dec. 1800 as ‘deputy chairman’ of the revamped opposition, he was very active in the lobbies in the first few weeks of the new session, not only voting for inquiry into the state of the nation, 27 Nov., and acting as teller for the minority in favour of a separate peace, 1 Dec., but also dividing in the tiny minorities on the incapacity of ministers, 4 Dec., the continued suspension of habeas corpus, 11 and 18 Dec., and Lemaitre’s petition, 15 Dec. 1800.
St. John voted against government in the larger minorities of early 1801 as the Whigs began to drift back, and divided regularly with the Foxite opposition to Addington in 1801 and 1802, but his only known speeches in this period were brief affairs on matters arising from election petitions, 13 and 21 Dec. 1802. He visited France when peace was concluded and Lady Ossory told Lord Holland, 6 Feb. 1803, that he was ‘not at all altered in costume, or manner since being at Paris; still full of its charms and comforts, although, he does allow with all the splendour, the windows do not shut quite so well as those in England’.6 He voted against the address concerning the renewal of war, 24 May 1803, joined in the combined attack on Addington in April 1804 and divided regularly against Pitt’s second ministry in 1804 and 1805, when, in the course of the Melville scandal, he was appointed to the committee of inquiry into the tenth naval report, 25 Apr.
As a peer, St. John accepted an ill-paid and undemanding Household office, together with a privy councillorship, under the ‘Talents’, at ‘the earnest solicitation of Mr Fox, and merely with the object of obliging him’. He was soon reported to be ‘so dissatisfied’ that he was talking of resignation, but he did not carry out his threat and remained loyal to the opposition after 1807.7 He died 15 Oct. 1817.