TARLETON, John (1755-1841), of Finch House, nr. Liverpool, Lancs.

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



19 Mar. 1792 - 1796

Family and Education

b. 26 Oct. 1755, 3rd s. of John Tarleton, W. I. merchant, of Aigburth, nr. Liverpool, and bro. of Banastre Tarleton*. m. 26 Oct. 1790, Isabel, da. and coh. of Alexander Collingwood of Unthank, Northumb., 3s. 1da.

Offices Held


Tarleton, who received £5,000 by his father’s will on coming of age, was a Liverpool West India merchant, in partnership with his brothers Thomas and Clayton Tarleton and one Daniel Backhouse. Between 1786 and 1804 he invested in 39 Liverpool registered ships, with a total tonnage of 7,874. He was a member of the delegation sent to London in 1788 by the committee of Liverpool Africa merchants opposed to abolition of the slave trade and promoted resistance to Dolben’s bill for regulating slaving ships.1

He joined the Whig Club in 1787 and was listed among opposition ‘candidates unfixed’ before the general election of 1790,2 when he stood for Seaford on the Pelham interest with Sir Godfrey Webster. They were beaten by two ministerialists, but Tarleton was seated on petition in March 1792, Soon afterwards he went to Liverpool to assist in the formation of a committee to inquire into Wilberforce’s charges against the captains of slaving ships; Tarleton condemned their conduct as ‘black and infamous’.3 His brother Banastre, returned for Liverpool in 1790, was a Foxite, but John is not known to have voted against government on any major issue and was marked ‘pro’ in the ministerial survey drawn up for the 1796 general election. He was a teller for the majority against inquiry into the slave trade, 26 Feb. 1793, voted against abolition, 15 Mar. 1796, and was a teller for the minority who opposed the expulsion of Cawthorne, a fellow opponent of abolition, 2 May 1796. He is not known to have spoken in the House, but was later accused of having ‘opposed in Parliament, with all the warmth and malignity of his nature’, the Liverpool corporation loan bill of 1793.4 He was the Liverpool merchants’ go-between with government on matters relating to shipping and the West Indies and, writing to Pitt on these subjects from Bath, 5 June 1795, he added that ‘nothing but severe indisposition, for which my physician ordered me the use of these waters, should have prevented my attendance in Parliament at this critical period’.5

Tarleton did not stand for Seaford in 1796, but instead came forward for Liverpool in opposition to his brother and another soldier, basing his pretensions on his involvement in the commercial life of the city and declaring himself

a decided supporter of the general measures of the present administration; conceiving those measures to be the most conducive to the common good and most likely to produce a speedy, an honourable and a permanent peace.

Among the charges brought against him was one that he had failed to pay Webster £3,000 owed for the Seaford seat. (In 1794, Thomas Pelham alleged that he had queered Webster’s pitch there by not indemnifying their supporters ‘for the expense of contributing to the poor rates by which they gained the right of voting’.)6 He finished bottom of the poll.

Tarleton subsequently failed in business and lived for a period in Holland. He died 19 Sept. 1841 and was buried at St. Pancras, London.7

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Authors: M. H. Port / David R. Fisher


  • 1. R. Stewart-Brown, ‘Tarleton of Bolesworth’, Cheshire Sheaf (ser. 3), xxvii (1930), 62; Liverpool Registry of Merchants Ships (Chetham Soc. ser. 3, xv), 195; J. A. Picton, Liverpool Municipal Recs. 215; Add. 38416, ff. 90, 93.
  • 2. Ginter, Whig Organization, 256.
  • 3. Add. 38310, f. 75b; 38416, f. 258.
  • 4. Liverpool Pollbook (1796), 21, 51.
  • 5. PRO 30/8/182, f. 36 (see also ff. 38, 53); 270, ff. 175, 177; Add. 38310, ff. 110, 111, 114, 126b, 133, 167.
  • 6. Liverpool Pollbook (1796), 36, 40-41, 51; Add. 33630, f. 9.
  • 7. Stewart-Brown, 63. Thanks are due to the Liverpool RO for drawing attention to this reference.