III. The Members

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


Between the dissolutions of 1790 and 1820 the number of Members elected to the House was 2,143. This excludes the Hon. John Knox, returned to the first Imperial Parliament for the Irish borough of Dungannon, who was lost at sea before the date of his return. Of the 2,143 some 492 were first elected to the House before the general election of 1790: seven were first elected before the general election of 1754, Welbore Ellis as early as 1741.


Under 30869787102119102107
Over 801101243
Age not known6134373
Returned for more than one constituency111171614116
Average age43-1843-2344-2643-7642-9344-0944-39


(Members chosen for more than one constituency have been counted once only.) Allowing for the fact that membership of the House increased from 558 to 658 in 1801, with the advent of the Irish contingent, these figures reveal no startling changes in age composition. Members aged 40 to 60 exceeded those aged under 40 after 1801.

None of the Members sitting in this period lived to be a centenarian, though there were several nonagenarians. Sir George Jackson was 97 when he died. There were at least 29, possibly 30, new Members who had not attained their legal majority (21 years) when elected to the House in this period—omitting the 15 or 16 Members who were minors when first elected before 1790 and were still in the House. Only one of the new minors, Sir Thomas Mostyn elected for Flintshire in 1796, was unseated on account of his minority, though the same fate might have befallen the others according to 7 and 8 William III, c.25. Viscount Jocelyn, returned in 1806, was barely 18 years old; but most of the rest were within months or days of their majority. None apparently attempted to vote or speak in the House until they had attained it, except Viscount Milton, who was still under age when he spoke against the slave trade, 23 Feb. 1807. Three minors were elected in 1790, three in 1796, three in 1802, three in 1806, five in 1807 (one of these was first returned in 1806), three in 1812 and one in 1818; another 11 were returned at by-elections. Only four in all were county Members: one Irish, one Scots and two Welsh, one of the latter being unseated. Most were returned for their fathers’ pocket boroughs.

Over half of the Members in this period sat during ten years or more: 358 from ten to 15 years; 281 from 15 to 20 years; 211 from 20 to 25 years; 148 from 25 to 30 years; 119 from 30 to 35 years and 72 from 35 to 40 years. Another 72 sat for 40 years or more—not necessarily continuously. Twenty of these served 50 years or more. Sixteen of them were—rightly or wrongly, for the term was not strictly defined—styled Father of the House: Sir John Aubrey, John Blackburne, Sir Henry Bridgeman, Sir Charles Merrick Burrell, George Byng, John Bullock, Thomas William Coke I, William Edwardes (1st Baron Kensington), Sir Christopher Hawkins, Whitshed Keene, the Hon. Henry Cecil Lowther, Richard Price, Philip Rashleigh, Clement Tudway, George Granville Venables Vernon and Charles Watkin Williams Wynn. Sir John Aubrey served for 58 years, sitting for seven different constituencies; Henry Temple, 2nd Viscount Palmerston, for 57 years, his father having served 40. George Byng was the longest serving county Member, representing Middlesex for nearly 57 years. Another 26 of the 72 longest serving Members sat for counties for all or most of their Commons careers; no more than 20 of them could plausibly be described as political careerists.

In this period, the average age of Members on first entering the House, including those who did so before 1790, was 33.3 years—compared with 32.6 years in the period 1754-90. Members entering the House between 1790 and 1820 averaged 37.3 years. The average age at entry for all county Members sitting in this period was 36.5 years, the English being the youngest of them, followed by the Welsh, the Scots and the Irish: but the range did not exceed four years. Allowing for the distortion caused by the transfer to Westminster of veterans of the Irish parliament in 1801 (average age 44 years), there was thus only a slight increase in the threshold age. All Members in this period were born in the 18th century, the earliest, Evan Vaughan, in or before 1709, the latest, Dudley Ryder, Viscount Sandon, on 19 May 1798. The first fatality was that of Peregrine Francis Bertie, who died 20 Aug. 1790, but some three dozen Members saw in the year 1870—the last to die, on 13 June 1889, was Edward Denny.

The average life expectation of Members in this period was approximately 67 years, very little below what it is for the average British male today, but a mark of upper class background then, despite a gradual increase in general life expectancy. Some 320 Members, about 15 per cent of the whole, are not known to have married, even though only 30 of these died in their twenties. In any case, over a third of all the Members sitting in this period were unmarried when first elected, including widowers and divorcees. Of these, 160 remained unmarried during their Membership. Twice-married Members numbered 338; another 26 were three times married; three were four times married. Twenty-three were divorced. Some 25 Members were illegitimate, most of them sons of grandees, and over twice as many had acknowledged illegitimate children: this is a superficial estimate. Sir John St. Aubyn had 15 children by the mistress he eventually married. About 300 (nearly one in seven) of the Members in this period left no issue that survived infancy, and another 25 outlived their offspring. Fifty Members, on the other hand, died before their fathers. Some 170 Members left no legitimate male issue. Among the philoprogenitive Members, 100 had 12 or more children, including one premier, Spencer Perceval. Six Members had 17 or more children, Robert Wigram I siring 23. Sir Edward Knatchbull, 8th Bt., had 20 children and his son and heir 15.

Well over half the Members—1,272 in all—were the eldest surviving or only surviving sons of their fathers, over a third of them entering the House before coming into their inheritance. Over a tenth of the Members—some 235—had a son or sons in the House in this period, more often as successors than contemporaries and rarely as precursors. Over a quarter of these patriarchs had more than one son in the House, ranging from two to five, if sons by different marriages and illegitimate sons are included. The 1st Marquess of Hertford had five sons in the House, though only four simultaneously. Apart from the 320 Members whose fathers sat within the period, there were another 444 whose fathers (342 of them) had sat before 1790. So over a third of the Members were sons of Members past or present. About 100 more Members were the sons of Members of the defunct Irish parliament. There were in all 191 pairs of brothers or half-brothers in the House in the period, 32 trios, 11 quartets, one quintet and one sextet (the Pagets, but no more than three of them in any one Parliament). Ten Members had maternal grandfathers also sitting in this period; a few had paternal grandfathers. Some 284 Members had Members for maternal grandfathers (209 of them). Over 500 Members—nearly a quarter—married the daughters of Members, past or present, more than 200 of them doing so before they entered the House. In many of the latter instances the marriage was a passport to a seat; but over 200 of the bridegrooms were themselves the sons of Members past or present and most of these were merely marrying within their own circle, or, as often happened, within their own family. The same pattern is found among the Irish contingent. Twenty-one Members’ widows were unable to resist marrying other Members and several Members were the cause of other Members’ divorces. One Member (the Hon. John Cust) married four Members’ daughters in turn. Nearly a quarter of the Members were the sons of heiresses or coheiresses and 400 married heiresses or coheiresses: these two categories overlap.

Apart from the patrimonial and marital opportunities for Membership, other degrees of kinship played their role. Uncles without male issue sponsored the return of their nephews to the House; cousins were regarded as safe nominees for close boroughs, safer sometimes than a patron’s unreliable offspring. If the House at times resembled one big family, there were family quarrels. Fathers expelled recalcitrant sons from the House. In one instance the Tarletons at Liverpool—brothers competed for a seat; in another cousins did so—the Hills at Shrewsbury; in another the husbands of two sisters and coheiresses did so—West and Biddulph at Denbigh. Inheritance from cousins, sometimes remote ones, could play a significant role in attaining Membership. The many changes of name among Members in this period testify to it.


1796      1802       1806       1807       1812      1818
New Members (i.e. returned for the first time)12412715013784119151
Former Members, but not in the previous Parliament29262032493728
New and former Members elected but unseated on petition64125546
New and former Members returned on petition or vice Members returned for more than one constituency118791084



The figures in brackets immediately below the totals indicate the number of these who did not sit in the next or any future Parliament. In by-elections between 1790 and 1796, 114 new and former Members (7 former) were returned; between 1796 and 1802, 123(8 former); between 1802 and 1806, 105 (5 former); between 1806 and 1807, 9 (2 former); between 1807 and 1812, 115 (15 former); between 1812 and 1818, 120 (11 former) and between 1818 and 1820, 36 (2 former). Of these by-elected Members the numbers of those not returned to any future Parliament were 33, 30, 21, 2, 23, 30 and 7 respectively. The figure for the election of 1802 includes 27 new Irish Members, though the Irish contingent that arrived at Westminster the year before were all novices there except Viscount Castlereagh, joined before the year was out by the Hon. William Wellesley Pole, who was one of 14 new Irish Members by-elected before the dissolution.

The turnover of Members was therefore low. In 1807, when the previous Parliament had lasted only one session, it was as low as 22.5 per cent, and entailed a record number of former Members re-entering the House after being excluded the year before. The highest turnover was in 1790 when it stood at 30.4 per cent, followed by 29.5 per cent in 1796, 28.7 per cent in 1802 and 1818, 27.8 per cent in 1806, and 25.5 per cent in 1812. Only 88 who were Members at the dissolution of 1820 never returned to the House. Some 679 Members sitting in this period were re-elected from 1820 onwards, 608 of them in 1820, 414 in 1826, 303 in 1830 and 258 in 1831. Some 212 Members sitting in this period were elected to the reformed House, 163 in 1832, 143 in 1835, 121 in 1837, 85 in 1841, 51 in 1847, 33 in 1852, 14 in 1857, 12 in 1859 and two in 1865 (Viscount Palmerston and the Hon. Henry Cecil Lowther, who died 6 Dec. 1867). It is notable that nearly two-thirds of the Members re-elected after 1820 sat for the same seats as before and many others did so for part of their remaining period of service.

The number of sitting Members who faced defeat at the poll was low: 197 in all (five at by-elections). Thirty-four of these were county Members. Seventeen regained their seats on petition. The victims numbered 27 in 1790, 14 in 1796, 29 in 1802, 28 in 1806, 35 in 1807, 24 in 1812 and 35 in. 1818.



The House retained its aristocratic flavour, which was reinforced by Pitt’s new peerage creations. On average each Parliament in this period returned nearly 170 peers’ or peeress’s sons and Irish peers, the figures rising perceptibly from 1807 onwards. Seventeen Members succeeded to British dukedoms (one of them to a Scottish earldom as well), five of them between 1790 and 1820 Two of them succeeded an uncle and a cousin, not their fathers. One heir to a dukedom died in his father’s lifetime. Eleven other Members succeeded to British marquessates, seven during this period; two were subsequently created dukes. Two heirs to marquessates died in their fathers’ lifetime. Sixty-two Members succeeded to British earldoms, 38 in this period; three succeeded cousins and two uncles. Eight of them attained a marquessate, one a dukedom, and one was made a baron while his father lived. Five heirs to earldoms died before their fathers. Seven Members (one heir to a cousin) succeeded to British viscountcies, five in this period. Four of these were created earls. One heir to a viscountcy died v.p. Twenty-six Members succeeded to British baronies, one succeeding a cousin (another succeeded a cousin to a Scottish barony before succeeding his father) and five their mothers (one succeeded both parents in turn to baronies). Sixteen succeeded within the period. One Member had the abeyance of a barony terminated in his favour. Eight heirs to baronies died before succeeding. Twelve were subsequently created earls, without benefit of viscountcy. Nine sons and heirs of British peers were summoned to the Lords in their fathers’ lifetime, six within the period. There were also heirs to a count of the Holy Roman Empire, to a Savoyard comte and to a Hungarian baron. Forty-three Irish Members and 17 others were heirs to Irish titles. Five succeeded to marquessates, and another died before he could do so; three of them were created British barons. Twenty-five succeeded to earldoms, 11 within the period, all but two their fathers’, and another four heirs to earldoms died v.p. Four were created British barons, six inherited such baronies, and one was so created before inheriting one. Nine succeeded to viscountcies, five of them their fathers’. One was created an Irish earl, three also succeeded to British baronies and one of the two heirs to viscountcies who died v.p. was first created a British baron. Fifteen succeeded to baronies, nine within the period, and seven their fathers’. Two were also younger sons of British peers. Three were created British barons, one an Irish viscount, and one succeeded also to a British barony. Fourteen Members in all were to become Irish representative peers after the Union. Five Members succeeded to Scottish dukedoms, one of whom succeeded simultaneously to a British earldom, and another succeeded his mother to a British barony. One Member succeeded to a Scottish marquessate, with a British barony. Ten succeeded to Scottish earldoms, only three, who did not succeed their fathers, sitting for Scottish constituencies. Two of these also succeeded to British baronies, and another four were created British barons. Two heirs to Scottish earldoms died before succeeding to them. One Member procured the restoration in his favour of a viscountcy held by Jacobite forbears. Two Members succeeded to a Scottish barony and one died before he could do so. Three Members in all became Scottish representative peers.

There were 129 younger sons of British peers in the House in the period. Twenty-five were sons of dukes (another three took precedence as brothers of dukes). Of these one succeeded his brother as duke, two were created earls and three were created barons. Eighteen were younger sons of marquesses. Of these one was created in turn viscount and earl, one succeeded his half-brother as marquess, another his brother as a baron, another his uncle as a baron; while one succeeded his mother as an Irish baron. There were 51 younger sons of earls. Of these eight succeeded their brothers as earls, one as a duke; one succeeded his nephew as earl, and the wife of another succeeded to a peerage. There were six younger sons of viscounts and 29 younger sons of barons. Of the latter six succeeded their brothers as barons, and one as an earl. One was created a baron and another created viscount and earl.

Of 58 younger sons of Irish peers in the House, 36 sat chiefly for Irish constituencies. The fathers of four were dukes: one was created an Irish baron and the wife of another was created a peeress. Five were the sons of marquesses—one succeeded his brother to the title and was created a British earl; another succeeded his mother as a British baron. Twenty-two were the sons of earls. Of these, five succeeded their brothers as earls, one became a marquess and, like three others, a British baron: of the latter, one, Arthur Wellesley, rose to a dukedom. Of eight younger sons of viscounts, two succeeded their brothers to the title. Of 13 younger sons of barons, two succeeded their brothers to the title, and another Member, whose brother was created a baron, succeeded him in the title. Two of these were promoted in the peerage, one as a British baron the other as baron and earl in turn. Of 28 younger sons of Scottish peers in the House, all except six sat at some time for Scottish constituencies. Five were dukes’ sons, one succeeding his brother to the title and another being created a British baron. Twenty were earls’ sons: one succeeded his brother as earl and British baron and three others were created British barons. Three were barons’ sons: one was created first an Irish then a British baron and finally a British viscount.

Some peerage families were particularly well represented in their names alone: Abercromby (a father, four brothers and an uncle); Cavendish Bentinck (the Duke of Portland’s brother, three sons and a grandson); Beresford (the Marquess of Waterford’s five); Bouverie (the Earl of Radnor’s seven); Cavendish (the Duke of Devonshire’s seven), Clive (six), Cocks (six), Cust (five), two branches of the Dundas family (12), Fane (the Earl of Westmorland’s eight), Fitzroy (the Duke of Grafton’s six), Grenville (six), Grosvenor (six), Herbert (the Earl of Pembroke’s five), Hope (six), Leveson Gower (six), Lowther (six), Manners (six, plus four Suttons), Paget (six brothers), Ponsonby (nine), Russell (five), Seymour (eight), Smith (Lord Carrington’s six), Somerset (seven), Spencer (the Duke of Marlborough’s eight), Stewart (the Earl of Galloway’s five sons), Stuart (the Marquess of Bute’s six plus three Stuart Wortleys), Townshend (nine of both branches), and Wellesley (six).

Forty-seven Members who were already peers of Ireland sat in the House for non-Irish seats in this period: 16 earls, nine viscounts and 22 barons. Not counted in this number are nine Members who obtained Irish titles while in the House. Of the 47, 14 were created British barons, two of them promoted to Irish marquessates, one to a British and another to an Irish earldom. One succeeded to a British barony and one was created an Irish viscount; one was created a British viscount. Only 27 of the 47 were landlords of appreciable estates in Ireland, Irish peerages having become in the 18th century merely a reward for political services in Britain.

If over one-fifth of the House consisted of heirs or younger sons of peers, there were about 70 others who remained commoners but whose mothers were peers’ daughters, about 200 commoners who married into the peerage, and countless others who were connected with peerage families by blood, and frequently owed their return to the House to this fact. Six Members, too, were illegitimate sons of peers. One, Viscount Dursley, actually succeeded to the title before being disqualified: he was later created a baron, and died an earl after all. The Marquess of Waterford’s two illegitimate sons had Irish seats, as did the Duke of Devonshire’s illegitimate son and Lord Tyrawley’s. Richard Wellesley and Robert Knight, sired respectively by the Marquess Wellesley and the Earl of Catherlough, both Irish peers, sat for English constituencies.

The peerage promotions so far mentioned involved 35 sons and heirs of British peers (eight of them summoned to the Lords in their fathers’ barony in their fathers’ lifetime), and eight younger or illegitimate sons of British peers; 18 Irish peers, 14 heirs of Irish peers and 11 younger or illegitimate sons of Irish peers (one being for a wife); seven heirs of Scottish peers (three summoned to the Lords in their fathers’ lifetime) and five younger sons of Scottish peers. To these 98 must be added 98 commoners who were created peers, or whose wives were in four cases, one of which was followed by a peerage for the husband. In 18 cases further promotion occurred. Just over half (51) of these elevations were initiated in this period. The first was that of William Wyndham Grenville in 1790: his cousin the prime minister intended him to take the lead for government in the Lords. In 1794 Sir Henry Bridgeman, Assheton Curzon, Sir Thomas Dundas, Welbore Ellis and Charles Anderson Pelham, followers of the Duke of Portland, received peerages at the duke’s instigation when he and they went over to the government. They were among the many for whom the duke was pressed to apply for the honour. Sir Alexander Hood’s Irish peerage in the same year was an established form of recognition for naval services, but two years later he was further rewarded by a British one, rather than by promotion in the Irish peerage, and in 1800 he was made a British viscount. The dissolution of 1796 provided Pitt with an opportunity to reward some of his supporters who were ambitious of the honour: Sir Francis Bassett, Sir Peter Burrell, Sir Henry Gough Calthorpe, John Campbell I, Edward Lascelles, Charles Pierrepont, John Rolle, John Rous, Robert Smith and Joshua Vanneck. The last two obtained Irish peerages, but Smith was promoted to a British one a year later. Likewise, after a delay until the following year, Pitt ennobled Sir Gilbert Elliot, the wife of John Foster (then the Irish Speaker), James Grenville, Francis Humberston Mackenzie, Thomas Orde, Thomas Powys, Sir John Rushout, Charles Townshend, Sir George Allanson Winn and Sir John Wodehouse. Sir John Jervis received an earldom for his naval services the same year. In 1799 Sir John Scott received a peerage on his legal promotion. A year later Sylvester Douglas received an Irish one for his political services, and Alan Gardner for his naval services.

Apart from three legal peerages (Sir Richard Pepper Arden’s, Sir Edward Law’s and Sir John Mitford’s), Addington’s ministry saw only one Member ennobled—Henry Dundas, made a viscount in 1802. Pitt, during his second ministry, kicked Addington upstairs. Gerard Lake also received a peerage for his Indian services, though, as the King complained, he could ill afford the rank. One of Pitt’s last wishes was respected, though ‘an outrage to common decency’, when the wealthy Peter Isaac Thellusson was made an Irish peer a week after Pitt’s death. William Lygon’s peerage was another legacy of Pitt’s. Since the Union, new Irish peerages were to be bestowed only when three Irish titles became extinct. When, in the Grenville administration, this ensued, Fox was able to honour old obligations by procuring an Irish peerage for William Brabazon Ponsonby as well as British ones for John Crewe and Thomas Anson. Charles Pierrepont was promoted to an earldom. Alan Gardner’s promotion to the British peerage at the dissolution was his compensation from Lord Grenville for being nudged out of his constituency. The Duke of Portland’s application book after he took office in 1807 teemed with applications for peerages but none was granted to any commoner Member, apart from Gerard Lake’s promotion and Sir Thomas Manners Sutton’s peerage on becoming lord chancellor of Ireland in 1807, until 1812 when William Handcock’s Irish services were rewarded. In 1814 three war heroes, Sir Thomas Graham, Sir Rowland Hill and Sir Edward Pellew were ennobled (Pellew further in 1816). The retiring Speaker received a peerage in 1817 and Canning’s Irish cousin and namesake in 1818. Forty-seven peerages were granted to commoners, Members in this period, between 1821 and 1859.

The 98 heirs or younger sons of peers and Irish peers who were promoted in or to the peerage fall into a similar chronological pattern. Only 43 were ennobled before 1820. Lord Auckland exchanged an Irish for a British barony in 1793, bolstered by his diplomatic services. Henry Phipps, Lord Upper Ossory and Lord Clive, promoted in 1794, were Portland Whigs, as was Sir Ralph Payne, awarded an Irish barony in 1795 during an interlude in his Membership. Lord Hood received a British viscountcy for naval services in 1796, when two other Irish peers, Courtown and Downe, received British baronies. Mornington received a British barony on his transfer to India (1797) and, to his indignation, a mere step up in the Irish peerage for his services there (1799). Indian services also brought Lord Clive an earldom in 1804. Naval services inspired Sir George Keith Elphinstone’s first step in the peerage—an Irish barony—in 1797. Lord Hobart and Earl Gower were wafted to the Lords in their fathers’ lifetime in 1798 and 1799. Lord Charles Fitzgerald obtained a union peerage in 1800, while Lord Inchiquin became an Irish marquess in 1800 and a British baron in 1801, with royal connivance, and two other courtiers, the Irish peers Carysfort and Arden, received British baronies in 1801 and 1802. Thomas Pelham was kicked upstairs to join his father for Addington’s political purposes in 1801. Lord Sheffield obtained a British barony in 1802. The Marquess of Blandford joined his father in the Lords in 1806, having failed, as an officeholder, to find a seat in the Commons. The Grenville ministry bestowed a British barony on the Earl of Eglintoun, promoted Lord Templetown to an Irish viscountcy, made Lord Henry Fitzgerald’s wife a peeress, sent Lord Douglas to the Lords to join his father, and ennobled Thomas Erskine as lord chancellor. The Portland ministry sent the Marquesses of Dalkeith and Huntly up to the Lords to join their ducal fathers and made Lord Lowther an earl in 1807. In 1809 Perceval made Dudley Ryder and Lord Mulgrave earls: on Perceval’s death Lord Compton became a marquess, as did Lord Camden, Castlereagh’s step-uncle. Lord Percy joined his father in the Lords. The most startling progress was made by Sir Arthur Wellesley from viscount in 1809 to duke in 1814; patriotic services also procured a viscountcy for Lord Elphinstone and a barony for John Hope in 1814. A year later there were several promotions concurred in by the Regent, for personal reasons in the case of Lord Melbourne’s British barony. Lord Uxbridge, made a marquess, was a hero of Waterloo. Viscount Cole and Richard Trench were also military men. John Eliot, James Walter Grimston, John Cust and Orlando Bridgeman, all made earls, were more pedestrian supporters of government. More questionable was the carving out of a barony for the Duke of Marlborough’s younger and favourite son, Lord Francis Spencer, which dismantled the Blenheim estate. Lord Granville Leveson Gower’s viscountcy was a stipulation of his friend Canning on his realignment with government.

Many Members were disappointed aspirants to peerages, or to promotion in the peerage. Reference to the biographies of Sir Jacob Astley, Sir John Aubrey, John Bagwell I (who lost a peerage ‘through a nickname’), Thomas Richard Beaumont, William Beckford, George Cranfield Berkeley, Christopher Bethell Codrington, Sir Eyre Coote, Charles Gregan Craufurd, Sir Henry Watkin Dashwood, Sir Compton Domvile, Gerard Noel Edwards, Sir Hew Dalrymple Hamilton, Richard Erle Drax Grosvenor, John Fownes Luttrell I, Sir Charles Gould and his son Charles Morgan, Sir James Graham of Netherby, Hans Hamilton, Christopher Hawkins, Sir William Heathcote, Henry Arthur Herbert, John Kynaston Powell, Robert Ladbroke, Sir John Lethbridge, Humphrey Minchin, Charles Small Pybus, Leonard Thomas Worsley Holmes and Sir George Yonge will suffice for a commentary on the vanity of their wishes.

The baronetcy, a status symbol for country gentlemen and social climbers, was an honour not less sought after by Members. No less than 234 of them succeeded to a baronetcy—usually their fathers’, though 14 succeeded uncles, 12 their brothers, five their grandfathers, one his great-uncle, one his father-in-law and four their cousins. One succeeded an ancestor whose title was in abeyance. There were three usurpers—one illegitimate (Stephen May), and two who assumed the title on the death of remote kinsmen (Sir John Wishart Belsches and Christopher Bethell Codrington. One Member, William Edward Tomline, declined his father’s baronetcy; another, William Ingilby, succeeded both his grandfather and his father to baronetcies (the latter was illegitimate and had obtained a fresh creation); two Members (Charles William Rouse Boughton and John Anstruther) succeeded to baronetcies after being created baronets, and one succeeded to Scottish and British baronetcies (Sir John Anstruther). Of the baronets by succession, 22 were created peers and eight succeeded to peerages (one being further promoted). Four of the latter succeeded to peerages before baronetcies. Six baronets (one also a peer) were knights as well. Of the baronets by succession, 143 were already baronets when they were Members in this period, 39 succeeded while Members, or in an interval between being Members in the period, and 51 succeeded after being Members.

The number of Members sitting in this period who were at some stage created baronets was 152, the average number sitting in each Parliament as baronets being 94. Forty-nine were already baronets when they sat in this period, 40 were so created after sitting, and the other 63 were created while Members, or in the interval of being Members: a sure pointer that their claims to the honour were reinforced by Membership. Of these 151, 20 were also knights; seven (two of them also knights) were created peers. Three were illegitimate (Charles Thompson, Sir John Ingilby and John Poo Beresford). A wide range of claims—of substance, antiquity of family, political and electoral support, public service or professional skill—were recognized in these creations. Even so a few Members were disappointed aspirants, usually, as in the case of Christopher Atkinson, because of a blot on their character.

Equally harmless were knighthoods—plain ones for humbler aspirants such as municipal or legal officials and decorative ones for distinguished service. Seventy-six Members at some stage became knights bachelor—most of them legal men or self-made men. Sixteen of them went on to decorative knighthoods, 11 became baronets and ten peers. Some 200 Members were decorated. Forty-five were knights of the Bath (KB) by 1815, so created for distinguished public service, especially in wartime. After 1815, when the order was remodelled, 73 further Members (including Lord Cochrane, stripped of his KB in 1814) became knights grand cross, styled GCB, and 43 more became knights commanders, styled KCB. Another 15 became companions of the Bath. The orders confined to the nobility, namely the Garter (KG), the Thistle (KT) and St. Patrick (KP) included 45 former Members in this period for the Garter, 11 for the Thistle, and 17 for St. Patrick. The Royal Hanoverian Guelphic Order, instituted by the Prince Regent in August 1815 received Members in each of its three classes—though being a foreign order it did not entitle them to the style of knights bachelor in Britain. Its knights grand cross (GCH) included 30 Members, its knights commander (KCH) 14 more, and its knights (KH) another three Members. The Order of St. Michael and St. George, instituted for Malta and the Ionian Isles in 1818, attracted among Members a grand master, a knight commander and eight knights grand cross. One Member had previously become a knight of Malta. Another survived to become a knight of the Star of India. The House included several Members with foreign knighthoods exclusively Turkish and Austrian until a spate of them was bestowed by the Allies on others who had distinguished themselves in war against Buonaparte.

In a House with a property qualification for Membership the landowning classes—titled or otherwise—prevailed. A number of Members vied for the style of ‘the richest commoner in England’, though Richard Benyon II was satisfied to be the ‘richest commoner in Berkshire’; and John Rolle with estates worth £70,000 p.a. (in 1809) in Devon alone, Henry Bankes in Dorset and Thomas William Coke the agricultural improver in Norfolk were comparable. Those with nationwide pretensions included William Drake of Shardeloes and his progeny in the House; Charles Gould I (afterwards Sir Charles Morgan, Bt.), a wealthy lawyer who married a Welsh border heiress worth about £30,000 p.a.; Charles Anderson Pelham, created Lord Yarborough; John Tempest of Durham; Thomas Anson who left his son estates worth £70,000 p.a.; Sir James Tylney Long, whose heiress was one of the greatest catches in the kingdom, courted by a royal duke, and Sir Henry Paulet St. John Mildmay, whose wife brought him valuable estates. The favourite candidate for the honour of being the wealthiest commoner in the Empire might be Sir William Pulteney, who died reputedly worth £2 million in 1805, to the great benefit, in turn, of Sir James Murray, Bt., and John Murray.

Many other Members had equally great expectations. John William Egerton inherited part of the Bridgwater estates with £2 million and a title in 1803, but the bulk of them went to Earl Gower, who became a leviathan of wealth. Sir William Lowther, Bt., inherited Lord Lonsdale’s northern estates and £100,000 personally in 1802. Cecil Forester got £17,000 p.a. in rents and £140,000 by succession to a cousin in 1811. James Henry Leigh inherited the Stoneleigh estate in 1806, with timber worth a million. Lord Herbert came into £35,000 a year on succeeding his father as Earl of Pembroke in 1794, Sir Horatio Mann inherited first a fortune from his father, then a fine estate in Kent from his uncle. John Willett Willett was left estates worth £10,000 p.a. by a cousin in 1795. William Sloane, heir to a Hampshire estate, was reputed to be a millionaire at his death in 1860; Sir William Abdy, another great landowner, died one in 1868. The Seymour Conway heirs came into £70,000 p.a. and £85,000 p.a. respectively in 1794 and 1822. Viscount Belgrave who succeeded to the Grosvenor estates in 1802 was thought to be the richest man in England at his death in 1845. In his case immensely valuable realty in London had helped. The Portmans, squires in Dorset, enjoyed a similar advantage. Sir Oswald Mosley was likewise made rich through being a ground landlord in Manchester, the Gough Calthorpes and Thomas Sherlock Gooch in Birmingham, Bamber Gascoyne in Liverpool and Thomas Kemp in Brighton. John Pitt was the largest private property owner in Gloucester.

The possession of mineral-bearing lands made some estates very lucrative. William Henry Lambton, the Durham colliery owner, was one of the richest commoners in England. Sir Henry Vane Tempest was similarly well placed (by inheritance from an uncle) and William Jolliffe, a southern squire, was made rich by Durham collieries. Thomas Richard Beaumont married a northern lead mine heiress. Sir Matthew White Ridley was at once landowner, industrial entrepreneur and banker in the Newcastle-upon-Tyne district. John William Ward was heir to substantial coal-bearing estates in the Midlands; so was Edward John Littleton. Cornish landowners speculated extensively in mining ventures, among them Sir William Lemon (also a banker), Sir Francis Basset, Christopher Hawkins and Ralph Allen Daniell. Basset got £22,000 in a good year from his mines. Thomas Williams was the Welsh copper king, worth half a million, and George Hay Dawkins Pennant the Welsh slate king. Sir Robert Peel, the first cotton king to enter Parliament, died a multi-millionaire in 1830. Other cotton kings were Samuel Horrocks of Preston (who took over from his brother John), John Hodson of Wigan, and George Philips and Thomas Houldsworth of Manchester. John Denison inherited an uncle’s wealth from the Yorkshire wool industry: his son William Joseph Denison died worth £2,300,000 in 1849. James Milnes was heir to a Yorkshire cloth magnate. Liquid wealth by inheritance amounted to £900,000 in the case of Sir Thomas Dundas and £700,000 in the case of Lord George Augustus Henry Cavendish, on the death of an uncle in 1810. Others had less to play with but invested shrewdly, ranging from Sir Gregory Page Turner, an old-fashioned money maniac who hesitated between government stock and his private hoard of gold, to Davies Giddy, who speculated with mathematical precision and had an intellectual interest in gambling, but settled for an Eastbourne heiress. The most successful financiers, the Baring family, formed a combine with American connexions. Sir Francis Baring was worth £80,000 p.a. and left at least half a million on his death in 1810. More humdrum were the banker MPs: Robert Biddulph, Rowland Burdon, Richard Muilman Trench Chiswell, John Dent, William Devaynes, Henry Drummond II, Richard Hanbury Gurney, Sir Benjamin Hammet, Thomas Harley, Robert Ladbroke, Ralph John Lambton, John Langston, John Latouche of Dublin, Samuel Jones Loyd (a future multi-millionaire), Ebenezer Maitland, James Martin, William Moffat, John Perring, Abraham Robarts, Robert Smith, James Walwyn, and Robert Williams II were the plutocrats though banking proved precarious for two of them, as it did for others less well-backed.

Mercantile wealth remained a springboard: it lay behind many a banking or industrial venture as well as being the time-honoured basis for the acquisition of landed estates. David Ricardo, the most theoretical of merchants, died leaving £700,000 in 1823, aged 51, despite being disinherited. Quintin Dick, son and nephew of wealthy East India merchants, died a millionaire in 1858. The three Thellusson brothers were heirs to £700,000 when their father died in 1797. Alexander Baring had a million to invest in land. William McDowall and Archibald Speirs by inheritance, and Kirkman Finlay by enterprise, represented Glasgow mercantile fortunes. Edward Ellice was bolstered by Canadian trade wealth and invested in land there. The Thornton brothers represented a family fortune in the Baltic trade. John Cator, a London timber merchant, died ‘very rich’ in 1806. Other wealthy London merchants were William Curtis, John Irving and George Hibbert. Brewing and distilling made fortunes for the Calverts, Henry Isherwood, Philip Metcalfe and the Whitbreads; corn dealing for Christopher Atkinson; flour mills for John Bagwell (‘Old Bags’); estate jobbing for Robert Mackreth and Joseph Pitt; pharmacy for Sir Samuel Hannay; portrait-painting, followed by a fortunate marriage, for Nathaniel Dance.

Nabobs returned home from India formed another group of wealthy MPs. Some of them invested in banking or trade as well as land and stocks. Notably wealthy among them were Boyd Alexander, James Alexander, Richard Barwell, Robert Biddulph, Alexander Brodie, Patrick Craufurd Bruce, Sir John Hadley D’Oyly, James Andrew Drummond, Philip Dundas, Charles Forbes, George Graham, Joseph Hume, Edward Monckton, Peter Moore, Sir William Paxton, the Petrie brothers, Robert Preston (who invested in shipping and died a millionaire), David Scott I, Sir Francis Sykes, John Benn Walsh, Walter Wilkins and Mark Wood I. West India proprietors, especially those with mercantile investments, were also a well-to-do group, though their fortunes were on the decline by the end of the period. Notable among these were Alexander Allardyce, Evan and James Baillie, William Beckford (‘England’s wealthiest son’), Samuel Boddington, Christopher Bethell Codrington and Sir William Codrington, James Dawkins, Charles Rose Ellis and George Ellis, Edward Lascelles, Sir Manasseh Lopes, Richard Meyler, William Mitchell and his nephew John, George Watson Taylor and Sir David Wedderburn.

Fortunes could also be made in the professions. In the law, Thomas Erskine, Sir Edward Law, Sir John Scott, Robert Percy Smith (who made over £150,000 in India) and George Wood were the outstanding examples. Soldiering in India made fortunes for Gabriel Doveton and Sir Hector Munro. Naval prize money made Sir Edward Pellew rich.

There were many more Members who might be described as self-made in this period than in the preceding one—well over 100 of them. Few were men of genius like Edmund Burke and Richard Brinsley Sheridan, or, like George Canning or William Huskisson, aspired to statesmanship. Outstanding ability brought Sir John Scott and his brother William, sons of a Newcastle-upon-Tyne coalfitter, to the top of their profession. A number of other successful men of law were of humble origin: in Ireland, Patrick Duigenan, James Fitzgerald, William Conyngham Plunket and John Stewart I spring to mind. In England William Draper Best, Henry Peter Brougham, John Singleton Copley, Vicary Gibbs, Robert Gifford, William Grant (a Highland Scot), French Laurence, John Leach, Sir Christopher Robinson, Sir Samuel Romilly, James Stephen and George Wood made the law their highway. Attorneys were even more likely to be self-made than barristers and often owed their seats in Parliament to their astuteness in borough management or to the influence of their clients. John Edwards went further and sat for a Welsh county. Thomas Williams, the Welsh copper king, started life as an attorney. Evan Foulkes, another Welshman, remained one and cultivated an aristocratic clientele in London. Gilbert Jones from Herefordshire had a similar success story, as did Richard Wilson II (‘Morpeth Dick’). James Kibblewhite became patron of the borough of Wootton Bassett. Joseph Pitt, banker, land jobber, brewer, picture collector, landowner and boroughmonger, was a carpenter’s son who got his start as an attorney. Thomas Claughton, a Warring-ton attorney, became a large-scale property speculator. The services also had their quota of self-made men: witness Sir Home Riggs Popham, Sir Thomas Troubridge and Francis John Wilder.

A batch of Members might be compared to Dick Whittington in their rise from rags to riches. Walter Boyd, John Barker Church (who made his fortune in America after being a bankrupt grocer), William Devaynes, Samuel Farmer, Pascoe Grenfell, John Maberly, Philip Metcalfe, Richard Ramsbottom, David Ricardo, Christopher Smith, Samuel Whitbread I, Luke White in Dublin, Robert Wigram I, Robert Williams II; John Atkins, John Perring, Sir James Sanderson, James Shaw and Brook Watson, all five lord mayors of London; Christopher Atkinson (who had two lives, the second under the name of Savile), Thomas Coxhead, George Gipps I, John Gladstone of Liverpool, Thomas Hall, Sir Benjamin Hammet, John Irving, William Jacob, Joseph Marryat, William Moffat, Robert Preston, Claude Scott, Thomas Thompson II and Robert Waithman all made mercantile and banking fortunes after starting off with next to nothing. Three stationer MPs, Matthew Bloxam, Joseph Butterworth and James Simmons, might be added to them.

Some of the nabobs were men of humble or modest origins: Alexander Allan, Richard Barwell, Paul Benfield, John Call, Charles Grant I, Joseph Hume, Peter Moore, James Paull, Michael George Prendergast, John Prinsep, David Vanderheyden and John Benn Walsh started off with few advantages in life. The same was true of several Members who made fortunes in industry—notably Benjamin Benyon, John Hodson, Samuel Homfray, John and Samuel Horrocks and Thomas Houldsworth. Some self-made men were models of wish-fulfilment: such were Robert Mackreth, a former waiter; John McMahon, the Regent’s factotum; Thomas Wildman, agent to William Beckford, whom he systematically fleeced: and several Members who pandered to Whig sensibilities such as Lucius Concannon, demi-mondain purveyor of amenities; William Roscoe, scholar-poet, Thomas Creevey, gossip (and, like Roscoe, on the face of it a Liverpudlian de basse souche); James Hare, wit; Francis Horner and Sir James Mackintosh, intellectuals; John Palmer, pioneer of the flying post; Joseph Richardson, playwright, and William Taylor, opera manager.

Over 200 Members got into conspicuous financial difficulties or were ruined, many of them after the end of this period. At least 35 were driven abroad and died there. It is likely that a number of other Members who died abroad were at least economizing; many went abroad for short periods, France being their usual place of asylum. Some of them went elsewhere provided with places (William Wilberforce Bird to Cape Town, George Galway Mills to Sydney, John Jeffery to Lisbon, John Meade to Madrid). Three others died in the Isle of Man and two (non-Irishmen) in Ireland. Seven Members died in prison for debt: Thomas Cherburgh Bligh, Viscount Kingsborough, Sir Watkin Lewes, John Mytton, William Odell, John Pytches and John Wharton. Edmund Lechmere died in sanctuary at Holyrood.

The immunity from arrest for debt enjoyed by Members of the House meant inevitably that a number of them had to be in Parliament. The reductio ad absurdum of this occurred in 1818 when Robert Christie Burton, elected that year, was ordered out of a debtor’s prison by the House, following his application to the Speaker. He fled abroad at the dissolution. Although only about 15 Members in the period were, notoriously, in the House to benefit from such immunity, there must have been many more who took advantage of it. The case of Benjamin Walsh, who clearly entered the House as a debtor’s expedient, drew unfavourable attention to the anomaly in 1812, but the case of Christie Burton illustrates that it remained on sufferance.

The causes of Members’ financial setbacks were various. Failure in business and speculation were the most common. The collapse of banks in which they were partners overtook John Agnew, Matthew Bloxam, Walter Boyd, Patrick Craufurd Bruce, Rowland Burdon, Richard Muilman Trench Chiswell, Sir George Cornewall, John Fordyce, Thomas Harley, William Lushington, William Mainwaring, Sir Simon John Newport, William Roscoe, Robert Salusbury, James Charles Stuart Strange and George Templer, before 1820; and Robert Chaloner, Robert Alexander Crickitt, George Duckett, William Elford, Hugh Hammersley, John Perring, George Simson, Gabriel Tucker Steward and Godfrey Wentworth Wentworth later on. Apart from the bankers, several merchant MPs and rather more speculators were ruined, most of them after 1820. West India proprietors became extremely vulnerable towards the end of the period. Others staved off ruin by new ventures—several nabobs went back to India—or were rescued by their friends. Most of them lived their later years in obscurity—a few have not been traced to their deathbeds. General extravagance was the commonest cause of ruin among landowner Members. In some cases, electioneering played the chief role: Valentine John Blake, Augustus Cavendish Bradshaw, Denis Bowes Daly, John Jones, Thomas Potter Macqueen, William Maxwell II, Ralph Milbanke, John Owen, Ralph Verney, William Pole Tylney Long Wellesley, James Hamlyn Williams and Sir George Yonge are the most notorious examples, but over half of these succumbed after 1820. Compulsive gambling ruined William Burroughs, Charles Chapman, Charles Bagot Chester, George Harley Drummond and William Shipley, but such a fashionable vice must have claimed many other victims without being the principal known or assigned cause of their downfall. Sport and dissipation or an extravagant life-style were often contributory. Building and collecting, prospecting and inventing were other manias that took their toll. The lives of William Beckford and George Watson Taylor illustrate this, but they were only the most notorious examples. Prudence and good management of their own affairs were so far from being a characteristic even of the most statesmanlike politicians of the period that Pitt and Fox were in constant financial difficulties, and Richard Brinsley Sheridan spent much of his time avoiding his creditors.



Particulars of the pre-university education of about 1,240 of the 2,143 Members between 1790 and 1820 have been obtained. Of these over 1,200 attended schools, the rest having been educated privately, that is at home by a tutor, or as pupils, usually of a neighbouring or school-keeping clergyman. Doubtless many of the Members whose schooling is unrecorded were privately educated. By this period evidence is available of preparatory schooling, usually in small establishments run by the clergy. As for the public schools, the favourite by far was Eton, attended by about 400 Members. Westminster, eclipsed by Eton in the preceding period of the History, had 239 Members among its scholars. Harrow emerged into the limelight in this period, with an intake of 177 Members. By 1826 it produced more Members than Westminster School. Winchester yielded at least 60 and almost certainly more: the imprecision of the school registers makes some identities uncertain. Charterhouse was also attracting patronage and educated 35 Members, while Rugby educated 27. These two schools were becoming fashionable. Shrewsbury remained in eclipse. Its catchment area was local, but the defective registers obscure attendance. Twenty or more Members were educated at Edinburgh High School. About 240 schools, preparatory or secondary, were involved in the education of the rest: none of them is known to have educated more than ten Members. (Newcome’s Academy at Hackney was by now defunct, but other academies with a dissenting flavour were attended by some Members.) Blundells, Felsted and Tonbridge drew local scholars. Many Members of modest origins attended grammar schools. It is clear, however, that Members were more likely to have been to public schools in this period than in the preceding one. About 30 Members attended, in turn, two public schools.

By 1818 nearly 60 per cent of the Members had attended university. Of the two English universities, Oxford still attracted more matriculants among Members than Cambridge—531 to 414. Among the Oxford colleges, Christ Church, which took about a seventh of the undergraduates, attracted 285 Members. Dr Cyril Jackson, the dean, was the most forceful educator for public life of his day, and from 1806 Christ Church produced more Members than the rest of the Oxford colleges put together. Among the Cambridge colleges Trinity attracted 151 Members, but St. John’s, which it outnumbered by the 1780s, did not lag far behind. Trinity College, Dublin had 110 Members as matriculants. The Scottish universities attracted at least 70 Members and probably more: the unpublished Edinburgh matriculation registers pose problems of identity. Glasgow and Edinburgh accounted for most of them, and attracted about the same number each. About a dozen Members, at least, attended continental universities, chiefly the German ones with their rising reputation. About 20 Members attended continental military academies; about as many as are known to have attended military and naval academies at home. Less evidence is available on commercial education, but it is supplied in the case of Members in the East India Company service from their applications for writerships in the Haileybury records at the India Office library.

Just over 500 Members were entered at the inns of court, which is no guarantee that they studied law there—some 225 were not called to the bar. A minority of those who were called did not practise. Lincoln’s Inn was by far the favourite, attracting just over 300 entrants, half of whom were not called. The Middle Temple attracted just over 100, a higher proportion of whom were called; the same is true of the Inner Temple, which attracted about 65. Gray’s Inn was of little account in this period. Fifty Irish Members were admitted to the King’s Inns at Dublin, and since by a statute of 1783 such admission was open to them as students at an English inn of court, only their call to the Irish bar has been specified.

The Grand Tour, the classic 18th-century finish to a gentleman’s education, remained mandatory until the French Revolution. Subsequent events led to the tentative substitution for it of a continental tour, sometimes a hazardous one in time of war. Thus about 90 Members of the older generation are known to have done the Grand Tour, but over 100 embarked on the continental tour, some of them seeing Northern Europe only. Fewer Members than in the preceding period finished their education abroad. Exploration of the Lake District, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, which consoled travellers for their exclusion from Napoleonic Europe, attracted many Members, some of them being pioneers in this field; a few others went to Asia. After 1814 many Members visited Europe, which those who had grown up since 1790 scarcely knew.



Although there are three times as many Members in this section of the History as in the last who are known to have been brought up outside the established churches of England, Scotland and Ireland, there was no commensurate increase in their influence on the House as a whole. There were still fewer than 60 of them, and many of these later conformed. This was necessarily true of all those of Roman Catholic background: Ralph Sheldon and Sir Thomas Gascoigne, scions of old English Catholic families, educated at Douai, and four or five Irish Members—Richard Martin and Richard Wogan Talbot, who themselves conformed, and Henry Augustus Dillon Lee and Gerard Callaghan through their fathers’ conversion. (The religious allegiance of Dr Patrick Duigenan’s parents is in some doubt but his character was represented as that of a virulent convert from Catholicism.) Before he entered Parliament, the Earl of Rocksavage was a convert to Catholicism, but his subsequent tendency was to Methodism: he was regarded as a religious maniac. A few Members married Catholics: the marriage of the 1st Marquess of Buckingham to a Catholic had political repercussions in attaching his clan to the Catholic cause, and William O’Dell’s marriage proved an electoral handicap in 1818.

Five Members had a Jewish background. Lord Eardley, baptized as a youth, first sat in 1770. In this period Manasseh Lopes and his nephew Ralph Franco, both baptized in 1802, came of Sephardi families, as did David Ricardo, who married ‘out’ and became a Unitarian. Ralph Bernal, who conformed, came of mixed Sephardi and Ashkenazi parentage. Thomas Thompson I was the reputed son of a Jewish stockbroker, but his mother’s faith is not known.

Members of the Society of Friends (Quakers) had also to conform to sit in the House. To this category belong the two Penns, descendants of the founder of Pennsylvania; Nathaniel Dimsdale, whose father sat before 1790, as did John Cator and Henry Beaufoy; Charles Barclay, Robert Barclay Allardice (who remained a Friend in private life) and, probably, George Barclay, who certainly posed as a dissenter to win electoral support at Bridport. John Jeffery and Robert Waithman were reputed to have Quaker backgrounds. Thomas Fowell Buxton’s mother was a Quaker and he was much influenced by the Friends in the formation of his philanthropic outlook. David Ricardo (mentioned above) and Thomas Baring were the most conspicuous among Members married to Quakers.

In Scotland, where the established kirk was presbyterian, such episcopalians as William McDowall and David Murray were dissenters; but so, by the same token, were Scots sitting for English constituencies. For instance, James Watson and John Gladstone of Liverpool were Scottish Presbyterians. The former was at one time pastor of a presbyterian and independent congregation in England, but conformed; Gladstone conformed some 15 years before he entered the House. Two Irish Members at least were baptized as Presbyterians in Ulster: Lord Castlereagh and William Conyngham Plunket. James Craig and James Blair possibly were also. Sir Henry Hoghton was a Lancashire Presbyterian of gentry stock; his son Henry Philip apparently conformed. Sir William Middleton, 5th Bt., was another northern dissenter whose heirs conformed. Benjamin Benyon came of a distinguished presbyterian family. Richard Slater Milnes was the son of a presbyterian cloth merchant at Wakefield; his own son Robert Pemberton Milnes retained dissenting sympathies, particularly with Unitarians. William Curtis also had a presbyterian family background. Congregationalism (its adherents as yet still styled Independents) was not so well represented: Joshua and Samuel Walker of Rotherham were of independent background. There are some doubts about Matthew Wood and Thomas Pares, whose parents were certainly dissenters of some kind. Benjamin Shaw had dissenting sympathies, though his religious background is not clear. Nathaniel Newnham’s father was a dissenter.

Unitarianism was the avant garde of protestant dissent in this period, a development foreshadowed in the preceding one. John Lee, by now the veteran Unitarian in the House, conformed occasionally. James Martin was attracted to ‘rational Christianity’, as perhaps was his son John. James Adair and Daniel Whittle Harvey had unitarianism in their backgrounds. Robert Wigram was converted by his first wife’s family, but his mother insisted that his first son Robert should be baptized into the established church. Samuel Jones Loyd’s father was at one time a unitarian minister. John Carter conformed to attend university. Joseph Birch and possibly George Philips were attracted to unitarianism. Benjamin Vaughan, William Smith, Benjamin Hobhouse and William Roscoe were perhaps the most interesting unitarian Members. The intellectual appeal to them of unitarian doctrine was apparent—in Roscoe’s case his previous background was presbyterian, and in Smith’s independent. Vaughan’s dissent took on a radical political colouring. Hobhouse graduated self-consciously to ‘humanitarianism’, the logical conclusion of his emancipation from dogma.

Frederick North—an odd man out—was a youthful convert to Greek orthodoxy in 1791. Other Members were to be involved in the sects that flourished in the 19th century: Henry Drummond II, a leader of the Irvingites; Spencer Perceval, the premier’s son, also an Irvingite; Edward Denny who joined the Plymouth Brethren, and Thomas Read Kemp, who seceded both from Parliament and the established church in 1816 to found a short-lived and obscure religious sect.

As can be seen in the preceding section of the History, the educational reputation of dissenting academies in 18th-century England had attracted to them pupils, many of them from gentry families, whose background was not nonconformist. This tendency was now on the decline. The dissolution of Newcome’s Academy at Hackney was its chief feature. Robert Gifford and Richard Sharp were examples of Members known to have been educated by dissenters.

Wesleyan Methodism, potentially the most powerful new impulse to dissent in 18th-century England, did not formally separate from the established church until 1811. Its first sympathizers in the House, led by Sir Richard Hill, sought to inject their enthusiasm into the church, rather than separate from it. Two Members were out-and-out Wesleyans: Thomas Thompson II and Joseph Butterworth. The latter, grandson of a Baptist minister, was a spokesman in the House for Wesleyans. Later converts included the Earl of Rocksavage and Benjamin Bloomfield, and possibly John Simeon. Joseph Foster Barham’s mother had Wesleyan sympathies and his father was one of the Moravian Brethren, whom he himself supported financially though he conformed. Wesleyanism was not without its fashionable element and the 2nd Baron Kensington, for instance, had no objection to attending their worship: it did him no harm with his constituents there.

Within the Church of England there was already a movement to convert the community to ‘vital religion’. The Evangelists played a more prominent role in the House than all the dissenters combined. Their leading representatives, who had all become Members by 1790, were William Wilberforce and his cousins Henry, Samuel and Robert Thornton, founders of the Clapham sect. They were nicknamed the Saints. Other Members sympathized with them, notably Walter Spencer Stanhope and William Mainwaring among the veteran Members, and the Hon. Edward James Eliot; and among the new ones, all of them Wilberforce’s followers, James Stephen (his brother-in-law), Thomas Babington, Charles Noel Noel, Charles Grant I and his sons Charles and Robert, Sir Thomas Dyke Acland, William Taylor Money and Frederick Gough Calthorpe. Members who had a strong evangelical streak in their religion must be headed by Spencer Perceval, the premier from 1809 to 1812, and Nicholas Vansittart, chancellor of the Exchequer from 1812. They also included John Gladstone, William Coles Medlycott, Edward Monckton and Thomas Read Kemp: the latter, however, formed his own sect in 1816, leaving Parliament to do so. The zeal which characterized the Evangelicals in their reaction against the mandatory quality of being religious ‘without enthusiasm’ proclaimed on so many 18th-century memorial tablets was shared by Members who did not necessarily sympathize with evangelical aims. Thomas Baring, married to a Quaker, was a very active religious philanthropist, while Henry Fitzroy, Earl of Euston, was a fanatical Anglican and teetotaller.

Religious conformity had too many social advantages to make it likely that rebels would ever form a large or cohesive group in the House. The fear of social disorder generated by the French Revolution created a barrier to the rationalizing tendencies of 18th-century enlightenment, especially among the upper classes of society. They paid increasing lip-service to religion in general, though most were content to subscribe to ancestral tenets. Nearly 100 Members were themselves sons of established clergy in England, Wales and Ireland. They included six English archbishops’ sons and ten bishops’ sons. Another 12 were the sons of Scottish established clergymen. Seven Members went on to become clergymen (Richard Bagwell, Henry Bowyer, Hon. William Herbert, Hon. Richard Boyle Bernard, Hon. James Somers Cocks, John William Drage Merest and John Gordon). From 1801, by 41 Geo. III, c.63, clergymen of the established church in England and Scotland were statutorily excluded from the House, a measure inspired by the presence in it of John Horne Tooke, who had once been in holy orders.

Freemasonry in its English form was no badge of dissent. No distinct political undertones are discernible in it, though the evidence available is limited. George III’s father had supplied it with royal patronage, and although the King himself steered clear of it, his brother and sons were patrons of masonic lodges. The Britannic Lodge of which George, Prince of Wales was master numbered the following Members among its brethren: Peter William Baker, Robert Haldane Bradshaw, Sir Lionel Darell, John Dent, Sir John Doyle, Martin Browne Ffolkes, William Garthshore, Pascoe Grenfell, Henry Hobart, Charles Kinnaird, Gerard Lake, Stephen Lushington, Nathaniel Newnham, Thomas Boothby Parkyns, Peter Patten, Charles Small Pybus, John Willett Payne, George Porter, John Ramsbottom, George Shum, Thomas Drake Tyrwhitt and Sir John Borlase Warren. In this miscellany there is no political leitmotiv. Many other Members are known to have been masons, but it has not been thought necessary to identify them as such unless it was a pronounced hobby of theirs as other social activities were for their compeers.



These pejorative terms had been part of the stock in trade of the ‘Country’ opposition to the ‘Court’ since the Restoration. Members holding places and pensions were, in this view, paid supporters of the King’s government, incapable of independence. There was, however, a distinction, if only a nominal one, between Members appointed to office by a given administration and those who held court office and were not as likely to be affected by changes of administration, which was also true of those who were granted offices or pensions for life, often termed sinecurists in the same pejorative vocabulary. Opposition jealousy of place-holders and pensioners continued throughout this period. New political offices, such as the third secretaryship of state created in wartime, or legal offices with political undertones, such as the vice-chancellorship, were the subject of critical debate. It was sinecure offices, however, that were most effectively attacked, the ringleader being Henry Bankes, though he was not a political enemy of the government. From 1807 onwards increasing publicity was given to sinecures held by Members, and many of them stood to lose these perquisites by the gradual implementation of reform.

How many placemen were there in the House? In the Parliament of 1790 there were up to 40 salaried political office-holders, another 16 holding efficient legal office, ten holding minor offices which would now be regarded as civil service appointments, and 18 court office-holders. There were some 39 sinecurists at home and abroad, ten of whom also held efficient office. There were also ten employees of the Prince of Wales, at that time inclined to opposition politics. There was a slight increase in political office-holders in the Parliament of 1796 due to offices created in wartime, and from 1801 some additional Irish offices (Irish placemen were statutorily limited to 20 out of 100 Members). There were fewer sinecurists, and the Prince of Wales’s employees were halved in number following the pruning of his establishment. The Parliament of 1802 was conspicuous for two changes of ministry, so the number of political office-holders increased in aggregate, swollen also by a full complement of Irish office-holders. There was a decrease in the number of courtiers and sinecurists. The short Parliament of 1806 with two prime ministers included in all 73 place-holders in Britain and Ireland and 24 sinecurists (five being in both categories); II courtiers and seven of the Prince of Wales’s employees. The Parliament of 1807, with two remodellings of the ministry, included 88 place-holders in all, 26 sinecurists and 19 courtiers (amalgamating the King’s and the Prince of Wales’s on account of the Regency). But 13 of these are included in two of the categories. The Parliament of 1812, which produced no change of ministry and only a slight reshuffle, had only 71 place-holders, 20 sinecurists and 18 courtiers. Eight names are duplicated. The House elected in 1818 provided an ascetic model with 57 place-holders, 15 sinecurists and 13 courtiers—six names being duplicated. Not included in these computations are very minor sinecures, such as governorships of castles, for which the remuneration was nominal. Sometimes included and sometimes not are some 40 Members who were in receipt of state pensions for themselves or their wives while in the House. Ten of these had been on the Irish list since the Union. Four were diplomatic pensions, of which the most curious was the £5,130 p.a. granted Lord Grenville’s nephew Henry Watkin Williams Wynn in compensation for the loss of his envoyship to Saxony in wartime: he retained it until 1816. Five were rewards for active service. Most of the rest were compensatory for the loss of political office or contingent on temporary deprivation of it. Sinecures, rather than pensions, were the usual consolation for political losers, but as the campaign against sinecures gained momentum the notion of the state pension as a reward for public service became more acceptable: it was a subject of legislation in the civil service compensation bill in 1817.

Diplomats as such have not been included among the place-holders. In theory at least a career diplomat was unlikely to become a Member unless he did so before being bound for diplomacy, or after his retirement from it. Nevertheless, of 78 Members who held diplomatic appointments, only 13 sat exclusively before their appointments and only 20 exclusively after their diplomatic service. Two sat before and after. Twenty-two Members sat during their diplomatic appointments, another five before and during, nine during and after, four between holding posts, one between and during, and two before, during and after. Even so, most of the diplomatic appointments in question were of a temporary nature, predominantly emissaries and envoys extraordinary.



The 18th-century ideal for a Member of Parliament was the country gentleman, self-sufficient, independent of Court and party alike, who judged every issue in the House on its merits. In practice, of course, this left him little scope for initiative or effective action. Even so, neither government nor opposition could count on the invariable support of Members who in a House based on landed property qualification made their independence a badge of virtue. Not only county Members, but country landowners representing close and sometimes open boroughs were ready to adopt this stance. The country gentleman was by definition no seeker after political rewards: he gave his support to good government, the more economical the better, and had no truck with ‘factious’ opposition. He needed reassurance about government measures and was suspicious of innovation, unless it was disguised as restoration, or answered his local problems. In the latter sphere he came nearest to initiative; if neither the government nor any other Member was prepared to act, he would—though few of his kind had the acumen or perseverance necessary to carry through their legislative projects. Eloquence was not to be expected of them; the language of plain protest was their forte.

The negative political role of the country gentlemen had been underlined in 1784 and 1788 by their failure to lobby convincingly for a coalition of Pitt and Fox in a patriotic administration. The term ‘third party’, applied to their endeavour in 1788, was in itself a sentence of political flotation. Pitt incurred their further displeasure when he seemed to be set upon war with Russia in 1791-2, and many of them voted with opposition; but after the excesses of the French Revolution they were prepared to support war against the would-be destroyers of the social fabric. William Windham wooed the Portland Whigs among them in 1793 for his ‘third party’, a ginger group that adumbrated Portland’s eventual accession to government a year later. Portland’s own fears that he was placing too much confidence in a partisan government were to some extent mirrored by these recruits, and some subsequently showed rebellious tendencies, but not en bloc. The prolongation of war and the suspension of civil liberties worried them most, though they also made difficulties, in 1795, about the payment of the Prince of Wales’s debts. Some of them continued to vote for parliamentary reform, although Pitt had set his face against it. In 1797 there was another ‘third party’ bid to remodel the government, a notion again attractive to them in time of crisis. The storm blew over, and they swallowed Pitt’s fiscal measures for prolonging the war, but with reservations that concentrated on his land tax redemption bill and the inquisitorial aspects of the income tax. The secession of the Foxite opposition neither met with their approval nor led to their taking initiatives: the reversionary interest of the Prince of Wales, too, attracted only a few in these years.

Pitt’s successor Addington prided himself on the support of the country gentlemen, and, after making peace, he in large measure obtained it; but Canning, ring-leader of the attempted coup to restore Pitt to power, was able to recruit country gentlemen for that too. The number who voted against Addington in the divisions on defence that brought him down in 1804 was an indication of their waning confidence in him. Pitt’s second ministry nearly toppled when his colleague Lord Melville’s conduct incurred their displeasure in 1805. The Grenville ministry relied on their distaste for partisan opposition, and became the victim of it on ceding office to Portland a year later: the King’s conscientious stand against commitment to Catholic relief was one they by and large approved.

The Parliament of 1807 posed issues which provoked a conflict of loyalties among them. When the only alternative was a divided opposition, should an inept government that drifted from crisis to crisis be overthrown? On the brink of abetting it in March 1810, they shrank back for fear of placing themselves in the hands of Burdett and the mob. Spencer Perceval, shouldering burdens that were not of his making, impressed them and the Regent: Canning, his would-be replacement, did not. Nor in some respects did Lord Liverpool, who on Perceval’s assassination took over the reins of government. They made him feel it at once, but saw that there was no practicable alternative. Liverpool’s neutrality on Catholic relief was offset by the country gentlemen’s residual hostility: the backwoodsmen among them turned up to thwart the relief bill in 1813. They also insisted, except for a few Whig dissidents, on protection for the agricultural interest in 1814-15 and government was hard put to it to moderate their demands. Above all, with the advent of peace, they were sticklers for tax relief and government retrenchment: they gave the government a difficult time throughout the session of 1816 on these topics, and again in 1818 on the grants awarded the royal princes. On that occasion Liverpool took the step of summoning a representative gathering of them to Fife House to state the case for supporting the grants: his embarrassment was increased by their subjecting him to some home truths. The threat of radical disorder in 1819-20, however, found them once more rallying to the government.



Among the professions the law stood foremost in the House, though next in numbers to the army in a period of war. Nearly 300 barristers sat in the House in this period, including over 40 called to the Irish bar and some 35 Scottish advocates. Average ages at entry were 37½ for English barristers, 45 for Irish and 39 for Scots advocates—compared with the overall average of 33 11/33 years. There were also a dozen civil lawyers, whose average age at entry was over 40. Of the 300, nearly one-third are either not known to have practised (in 60 or so cases) or did so only for a relatively short time. Inheritance or fortunate marriage were the best pretexts for retirement; disinclination for circuit life and its slow rewards was another cogent reason. Thirty-five Members started as barristers but switched to politics or some other profession. Those who made a career of the law, whether or not they obtained legal office, therefore numbered about 165; of these about two-thirds were spared the quest for briefs by obtaining office. For successful barristers, however, the decision to enter Parliament and public life was often a painful one, involving loss of income.

Fifty-five barrister Members in this period took silk or patents of precedence (which obviated the re-election to the House necessary for a KC), ten being Irish. One took silk as early as 1754 and the latest in 1834. All but five took silk during George III’s reign, and of 105 patents granted by the King all but 38 were to barristers who sat in Parliament at some stage. About 40 barrister Members were recorders of boroughs, often the borough they represented. Twenty-seven Members were commissioners of bankruptcy; 12 were masters in Chancery. Over a dozen were employed as counsel to the Admiralty, the Board of Control, the East India Company, the Bank, the two English universities and the Irish boards, or to English government departments. Several others were duchy of Lancaster or Cornwall officials. Over 40 held minor legal offices, sometimes sinecures—excluding here such as were obtained by the top-ranking lawyers as their perquisites. Over 30 barristers either took political office without embarking on a legal career, or practised for a few years only. Two barristers became advocates (civil lawyers).

The lord chancellor, head of the profession, presided over the House of Lords. Like his immediate predecessors Edward Thurlow and Alexander Wedderburn, Sir John Scott who became lord chancellor as Lord Eldon in 1801 had sat in the Commons as a law officer of the crown. Thomas Erskine, the Whig who replaced him briefly during the Grenville ministry, had no such experience, though he had been a law officer to the Prince of Wales. In 1813 Parliament authorized the institution of a vice-chancellor to assist the overburdened Eldon. Sir Thomas Plumer was chosen, succeeded in 1818 by Sir John Leach until 1827. Eldon’s successors John Singleton Copley and Henry Peter Brougham were Members in this period. The lord chancellor’s spokesman in the Commons was the master of the rolls: in this period, Richard Pepper Arden, William Grant and Thomas Plumer, subsequently Robert Gifford, John Singleton Copley and John Leach. The attorney-general was the leading lawyer in the Commons and responsible for the legal aspect of government business, in which he was assisted by the solicitor-general. These two law officers often initiated legislation, or at least gave their opinions on it. The following were the law officers:


Attorney-general Solicitor-general
Sir Archibald Macdonald1788-1793Sir John Scott
Sir John Scott1793-1799Sir John Mitford
Sir John Mitford1799-1801Sir William Grant
Sir Edward Law1801-1802Hon. Spencer Perceval
Hon. Spencer Perceval1802-1806Sir Thomas Manners Sutton
Sir Vicary Gibbs (from 1805)
Sir Arthur Leary Piggott1806-1807Sir Samuel Romilly
Sir Vicary Gibbs1807-1812Sir Thomas Plumer
Sir Thomas Plumer1812-1813Sir William Garrow
Sir Robert Dallas
Sir William Garrow1813-1817Sir Samuel Shepherd
Sir Samuel Shepherd1817-1819Sir Robert Gifford
Sir Robert Gifford1819-1824Sir John Singleton Copley


The succession was broken only by the changes of ministry in 1801, 1806 and 1807; and by reshuffles in 1805 and 1813. Former law officers still in the House were John Lee and Richard Pepper Arden; future ones included Charles Wetherell, James Scarlett, Thomas Denman and William Horne.

Most of these prominent lawyers had modest backgrounds, though Spencer Perceval—the future prime minister—was a peer’s son, and eschewed the knighthood which had become automatic for law officers. Samuel Romilly would have adorned any profession. William Grant (like Perceval) was a notable debater. In general the House was reputedly not fond of lawyers’ speeches, and most of the law officers were plodding, if conscientious, professionals. Political enthusiasm was rare among them: Thomas Plumer’s attachment to Perceval was exceptional, that of the Whig law officers appointed in 1806 to their chiefs less surprising. The burden of business irked the law officers in the 1790s and in 1798 they appealed to the prime minister to devise some means of easing it. Nothing came of this, but they were promoted in the following year. After 1812 none of the law officers distinguished himself, except John Singleton Copley, appointed in 1819 when an able spokesman was especially necessary. John Mitford was elected Speaker of the House in 1801, an office appropriated by lawyers, though neither his predecessor, Henry Addington, nor his successors, Charles Abbot and Charles Manners Sutton, had risen so high in their profession—and Mitford, as Speaker, never appeared to greater disadvantage.

The Prince of Wales’s law officers also sat in the House, with the exception of the two whose names are in square brackets:

Attorney-general Solicitor-general
Thomas Erskine1783-1792Arthur Leary Piggott
[Robert Graham]1793-1800John Anstruther (to 1795)
Vicary Gibbs
Vicary Gibbs1800-1805Thomas Manners Sutton (to 1802)
William Adam
William Adam1805-1806William Garrow
William Garrow1806-1812Joseph Jekyll
Joseph Jekyll1812-1816Samuel Shepherd (to 1813)
William Draper Best
William Draper Best1816-1819[William Harrison]
Charles Warren1819-1820


It is noteworthy that the law officers of the crown appointed by the Grenville ministry in 1806 were the Prince’s law officers until 1792, when he dismissed them for their association with the Friends of the People. Indeed, his various law officers were reflections of the Prince’s political moods, and from 1802 his chancellors of the duchy of Cornwall (Thomas Erskine until 1806, William Adam until 1816, and John Leach until 1820) eclipsed them in the House. Three of Queen Charlotte’s law officers, George Hardinge, William Grant and Richard Richards also sat in the House, as well as Queen Caroline’s future law officers, Brougham and Denman, and Queen Adelaide’s, William Horne. Two Irish law officers, Plunket and John Stewart I, and three Irish lord chancellors, John Mitford, George Ponsonby and Thomas Manners Sutton were Members before, and in Ponsonby’s case after, holding that office: Ponsonby became leader of the opposition from 1808. Two Caribbean law officers, Robert Sewell and John Stanley, also sat, and another Member, William Frankland, became attorney-general of the Isle of Man. There were four King’s attorneys for the duchy of Lancaster, John Lee, Edward Law, James Topping and James Scarlett. Charles Marsh was King’s advocate in Madras before he entered the House.

Over 50 barrister Members obtained judgeships at some stage in their careers. Two lord chief justices of King’s bench in this period, Lords Kenyon and Ellenborough, were former Members, as was a future one Thomas Denman, and one of the puisne judges, William Draper Best. The lord chief justices of common pleas from 1799 until 1804, John Scott, Richard Pepper Arden, and those from 1814 to 1829, Vicary Gibbs, Robert Dallas, Robert Gifford and William Draper Best had all been Members; Gibbs and Dallas had previously been puisne judges of the court. The chief barons of the Exchequer court from 1793 until 1814, Archibald Macdonald and Vicary Gibbs, and three subsequent ones, Richard Richards, John Singleton Copley and James Scarlett, had been Members; as were three puisne barons, Thomas Manners Sutton, George Wood and William Garrow. The judge advocate-general, legal spokesman for the armed forces, was usually a Member; witness Sir Charles Gould, Nathaniel Bond, Richard Ryder and Charles Manners Sutton in this period, and three in the future; and the judge advocate to the fleet, Sir George Jackson, was a Member. Welsh judgeships were a much-coveted consolation for barristers, as they were tenable with a seat in the House, despite opposition bids to disqualify them. Twenty-four Members were Welsh judges. Two Irish Members went on to become judges in Ireland. Ten Members had been or became Indian judges (John Anstruther, Anthony Buller, William Burroughs, Edward Hyde East, John Peter Grant, Elijah Impey, James Mackintosh, John Henry Newbolt, Robert Percy Smith and James Watson). These Indian judgeships were less sought after though they virtually guaranteed a fortune: James Watson did not survive the Indian heat more than a few days.

The consolation prizes for Scots advocates in the House were fewer. Three of them, John Anstruther, William Adam and John Peter Grant joined the English bar to their distinct advantage, while one scion of an eminent Scots legal family, William Dundas, did not even qualify as an advocate. Some advocates settled for shrievalties or legal sinecures, as the plums of the profession were unreachable. Until 1811, with one exception, Henry Dundas awarded the plums. His nephew Robert Dundas was lord advocate (equivalent to the English attorney-general) from 1789 until 1801, followed by his connexion by marriage, Charles Hope, until 1804, then by his adherent James Montgomery. In 1806 the Whigs restored Henry Erskine to an office he had held in 1783. Erskine was displaced in 1807 by Archibald Campbell Colquhoun, who was succeeded in 1816 by Alexander Maconochie. In 1819 William Rae became lord advocate when it was clear that Maconochie was incompetent to cope with Scottish measures in the House. The lord advocate’s deputy, styled the solicitor-general as in England, had not usually been a Member of the House but Henry Dundas had eventually become one; so had his nephew Robert, and, in this period, so did David Boyle and Alexander Maconochie. Scottish judgeships were also likely rewards for Members. Charles Hope, David Boyle and Alexander Maconochie became lords of session, Hope and Boyle becoming presidents. Boyle was also lord justice clerk and Campbell Colquhoun succeeded Lord Frederick Campbell as lord clerk register. Scottish Exchequer barons included Robert Dundas and (an Englishman) Samuel Shepherd, who were chief barons, and as puisne barons, Sir John Wishart Belsches, William Adam and (in the future) Sir Patrick Murray and James Abercromby. William Adam was appointed first chief commissioner of the Scottish jury court in 1815 following the assimilation of the Scots to the English mode of trial.

Twelve civil lawyers sat in the House in this period, compared with eight from 1754-90. Two had first been called to the bar (William Scott and Stephen Lushington II) before becoming advocates at Doctors’ Commons. The others were Sir James Marriott, Scrope Bernard, French Laurence, Thomas Champion Crespigny, Sir John Nicholl, Patrick Duigenan, Joseph Phillimore, the Hon. William Herbert, Sir Christopher Robinson and John Dodson. These men practised in the Admiralty and ecclesiastical courts. Eight of them reached the top rank of their profession as judges and King’s advocates. There were also in the House three proctors at Doctors’ Commons, Stephen Lushington I, Charles Alexander Crickitt and James Farquhar.

The number of attorneys and solicitors (the latter practising in Chancery) who sat in the House in this period was 23, more than twice as many as from 1754-90. This was a rising profession for able and ambitious men of modest origins. Significantly their average age at entry into the House was nearly 49—more than 15 years older than the average. Attorneys had played an important part in electioneering during the 18th century, and their most prestigious clients were often parliamentary patrons. John Baynes Garforth and Francis Gregg were protégés of Lord Lonsdale, practising in London. Indeed 14 of the 23 elected to Parliament practised in the metropolis. James Graham, another Lonsdale protégé, was at the head of his profession, catering for an extensive aristocratic clientele, built up by his partner Thomas Wildman, a Member returned by his client William Beckford. Henry Smith, like Gregg a company solicitor, was returned by his client, the 2nd Marquess of Lansdowne. Evan Foulkes rose from nothing to be a fashionable solicitor, procurer of loans for his titled clients and borough-broker for Lord Exeter at Stamford, for which he came in. Gilbert Jones was the 4th Duke of Newcastle’s borough manager. Nathaniel Saxon did business for Sir William Manners, who returned him to Parliament. William Leake was Sir Christopher Hawkins’s nominee. James Kibblewhite rose a step higher in 1807 when he bribed his native borough of Wootton Bassett out of its allegiance to two fainéant grandees, and he was able to sell it in 1813 to Joseph Pitt, another borough-mongering attorney, practising at Cirencester, who also had brewing, land-jobbing and banking concerns. Pitt, a carpenter’s son, started as Lord Carnarvon’s steward and in 1811 purchased his interest at Cricklade, for which he was returned a year later. By then he had also purchased the Estcourt interest at Malmesbury, and named both Members there, as well as setting in train the Wootton Bassett negotiation. Pitt overreached himself and by 1820 had to limit his parliamentary ambitions. The same was true of another parvenu, John Edwards, who, at an opportune moment in 1818, sprang himself on the gentry of Glamorgan, where he had a marriage connexion. The gentry snubbed him at the next opportunity. Benjamin Cooke Griffinhoofe, stopgap Member for Yarmouth (I.o.W.), was linked by marriage with the patron. Robert Blake, a well-connected opportunist, snatched a seat at a by-election in 1819 from the Duke of Norfolk. Richard Wilson II was most remarkable for his Whig politics and life-style, but he started as an agent of the Duke of Northumberland.

The nine provincial attorneys were John Pitt, a veteran from Gloucester who had bought up as much as he could of the city; Thomas Williams, a Welsh solicitor who turned to a more lucrative business in copper mining; Richard Preston of Ashburton and George Tennyson of Grimsby, both of whom nursed their boroughs, as did Joseph Pitt of Cirencester, who cultivated other professions—and other boroughs; William Roscoe of Liverpool who graduated to scholarship and banking before entering the House; Thomas Claughton of Warrington, an ambitious land-jobber, who eventually came to grief; Lewis Allsopp of Nottingham, an adept at municipal politics, who briefly held a Cornish seat; and Daniel Whittle Harvey, the Essex radical.

Of the attorney Members, Richard Preston succeeded in being called to the bar. James Kibblewhite and Daniel Whittle Harvey attempted it, but were frustrated. Richard Wilson II was principal secretary to the lord chancellor for six years and resigned with a sinecure. Only three or four of these men were of the second generation in their profession. A number of other Members were at one time articled to attorneys, but never qualified. Robert Gifford did so but failed to find a partner and became a barrister; William Garrow, articled to an attorney, also read for the bar instead. There were two Scots writers to the signet in the House, Andrew Stuart and Masterton Ure. The latter was agent to the Johnstone family for Weymouth and Melcombe Regis.

Among other non-military professions represented in the House, the medical was facile princeps. Nathaniel Dimsdale, John Fleming, William Grieve, Humphrey Howorth, Joseph Hume, John Kingston, James Mackintosh, John Matthews and William Morland had been surgeons or physicians. Their profession was on everybody’s lips during Addington’s administration, when he was labelled ‘The Doctor’: his father had treated the King, and his own function was supposed to be curative. Opposition embroidery on this metaphor produced some of the best political jokes of the period: ‘medical aid’ took on a new meaning. Half-a-dozen Members, apart from the attorneys previously mentioned, were hommes d’affaires to their parliamentary patrons. The most notable and varied examples were Thomas Gilbert (to the Marquess of Stafford), Robert Haldane Bradshaw (to the Duke of Bridgwater), James Edward May (to the Marquess of Donegall), Richard Burke (to Earl Fitzwilliam), James Abercromby (to the Duke of Devonshire), and, to some extent, William Adam (to the Duke of Bedford). There were several stockbrokers, pharmacists, printers and stationers. Several Members had been collectors of customs and excise—more consoled themselves in that way on giving up Parliament. John Palmer was the embodiment of the Post Office in his day. Several Members went on to obtain academic posts. There were two theatre managers, Sheridan and ‘Opera’ ‘Taylor: John Palmer also doubled in this role. The playwrights included Sheridan, Joseph Richardson, Miles Peter Andrews, Richard Paul Jodrell and Matthew Gregory Lewis. Authors proliferated from the sublime (Edmund Burke) to the ridiculous (the palm might be awarded to several Members, but Charles Small Pybus, Sir Isaac Coffin and Nathaniel Brassey Halhed are strong contenders). David Ricardo was the most reputable of a number of Members who published economic theories. Pamphlets written by Members defy calculation, as do the number of speeches in the House that they published and articles for newspapers and periodicals that they contributed. Nathaniel Wraxall was the historian of his own time, as, with a parti pris, was John Nicholls; William Mitford chronicled Greece, Henry Bankes, Rome; Malcolm Laing, Scotland. As topics, antiquities attracted several Members, and travelling experiences others. Richard Payne Knight wrote on aesthetics and Henry Gally Knight on architecture, as did Sir James Hall, better known as geologist and chemist. Philology was the forte of John Horne Tooke, who made it the basis of his radical politics. The interests of the Romantic movement in literature were espoused by James Macpherson, William Beckford, Matthew Gregory Lewis and William Herbert. Thomas Johnes translated and published Froissart. Nor was the House short of occasional poets. John Wilson Croker was a literary critic. Sportsmanship was little short of a profession among some country gentlemen, notably George Osbaldeston and Thomas William Coke II. Amateur scientists and inventors included William Elford, William Congreve, and Arthur Howe Holdsworth. Patronage of the arts was widespread among Members and ranged from connoisseur collections (Richard Hart Davis, Charles Long and Richard Viscount Fitzwilliam) to coin and fossil cabinets. There was one former professional artist of repute, Nathaniel Dance; there were several noted amateur artists, Sir George Howland Beaumont, William Elford and Robert Frankland; cartoonists, such as Heneage Legge and Thomas Orde; and a professional architect, Charles Wyatt. Richard Edgcumbe, Viscount Valletort, and John Fane, Lord Burghersh, both composed operas, the latter founding the Royal Academy of Music.



Britain was at war for most of this period, and just over 400 Members (nearly one-fifth) had at some stage served in the regular army. Of these, 86 were first elected before 1790. In all, 51 were veterans who had joined before the end of the Seven Years’ War in 1763. Thirty of these were still in the service, and of course among the top ranking officers. They included such distinguished figures as Sir Ralph Abercromby, Sir Archibald Campbell, Sir Henry Clinton, Sir George Howard (who had enlisted as long ago as 1725), Gerard Lake, Hector Munro, Charles Rainsford, Sir James Steuart Denham, John Vaughan I, and the Hon. Thomas Maitland, who has to be included, although he was enlisted from the cradle in 1760. Between 1763 and the outbreak of the war of American Independence in 1775, another 49 of our Members joined the service, and of these 25 were still serving while in the House. The most distinguished were the Hon. Thomas Bruce, Sir John Doyle, John Hely Hutchinson, William Loftus, Sir James Murray, George Nugent, Sir Thomas Picton, John Graves Simcoe, and the Hon. Charles Stuart.

The era of the American war (1775-83) added another 95 soldiers to our Membership, of whom 57 were still in the service when elected to the House in this period. These included Sir John Abercromby, Duncan Campbell, Sir Eyre Coote, the brothers Charles and Robert Craufurd, Viscount Feilding, the Hon. Edward Finch, Lord Charles Fitzroy I, William Fullarton, Isaac Gascoyne, George Vaughan Hart, Lord Herbert, Sir Charles Lockhart Ross, Alexander Mackenzie, John Randoll Mackenzie, Norman Macleod, Robert Manners, William Monson, the Hons. Edmund and Henry Phipps, Sir James St. Clair Erskine, John Hayes St. Leger, Sir Brent Spencer, Banastre Tarleton, and the Hon. George Walpole, to name only the more celebrated among them. Another 70 Members joined the army between 1784 and 1792, years of peace except in India, and 46 of these were still serving when elected to the House. They included George Anson, Sir William Carr Beresford, Lord Blayney, Lord William Henry Cavendish Bentinck, the brothers Henry and William Clinton, Galbraith Lowry Cole, Stapleton Cotton, Sir William Erskine, Henry Fane, Ronald Craufurd Ferguson, Sir Rowland Hill, the brothers Alexander, Charles and John Hope, Charles Lennox, the brothers Mahon, the brothers Mathew, John Murray, Edward Paget, William Ponsonby, William Henry Pringle, Lord Charles Somerset, the Hon. William Stewart, Michael Symes (formerly in the East India Company army), and not least Sir Arthur Wellesley.

In the French revolutionary and Napoleonic wars (1793-1815) there were 135 recruits to the army among Members. Thirteen of them were already in the House when they were granted their commissions, and three were volunteers for one campaign only. Of the 135, 96 were still serving when elected to the House. Among so many the most distinguished perhaps were Alexander Abercromby, the Hon. George Anson, Cecil Bisshopp, Ulysses Bagenal Burgh, the brothers George and Henry Compton Cavendish, Lord Frederick Cavendish Bentick, the brothers Edward and John Somers Cocks, Edward Cust, Thomas Henry Hastings Davies, Lord Charles Fitzroy II, Viscount Forbes (commissioned at the age of nine), Sir Charles John Greville, Lord Arthur Hill, Edward Kerrison, the Lennox and Lygon brothers, the Manners brothers, the Paget brothers, Hercules Robert Pakenham, Frederick Cavendish Ponsonby, Viscount Proby, Lord George William Russell, Hugh Beauchamp Seymour, the Somerset brothers, the Hon. James Hamilton Stanhope, Lord Charles William Stewart, Sir Henry Sullivan, the Hon. Horatio Townshend, the Hon. Arthur Percy Upton, Francis John Wilder and Sir Robert Thomas Wilson. Six Members joined the army between 1815 and 1824, four of them already having been elected Members.

Thus 256 Members were serving in the army when elected to the House, though a few of them left it within a year or two of their election. Four in every ten never saw active service out of the country during their Membership; if they were elected after 1815, they had little opportunity to do so. For a majority of military Members, however, assiduous Membership was impossible, either because they served abroad or because of their professional duties at home. Until the Peninsular war, the theatre of service which most of them had in common over the years was Ireland, and in this period the Irish rebellion of 1798 involved dozens of Members, Irish and British, including the militia officers sent over to assist in its suppression. Over 40 Members had served in North America before 1783, several of them in two wars, and a dozen others served in Canada in this period, some of them participating in the Anglo-American war of 1812-14. About 70 Members saw service on the Continent soon after the outbreak of war with revolutionary France, notably in the Flanders campaign, in Holland and Germany, or in the occupation of Toulon. Thirty Members took part in the expedition to Holland in 1799, and 25 in the Egyptian expedition a year later. Sixteen Members served in the Walcheren expedition in 1809, and about the same number in Sicily, either in 1806 or 1811. About a dozen served in the Baltic, and at least four in South America. But it was the Peninsular war (1807-14) that drew the largest number of Members, not far short of 100 of them at some stage, and 25 participated in the triumph of Waterloo. More distant service took some 40 Members to the West Indies, only slightly fewer to India, and others to the Cape of Good Hope.

Military Members risked death, disease, mutilation or capture. Sir Ralph Abercromby died of the wound he received in command during the battle of Alexandria in 1801; two years before, Alexander Telfer Smollett had been killed at Alkmaar. Edward Charles Cocks, Robert Craufurd, John Randoll Mackenzie and Sir Henry Sullivan were killed in the Peninsular war, while George Henry Compton Cavendish was drowned on his way home from it, and Sir William Erskine committed suicide at Lisbon. Cecil Bisshopp was killed in Canada in 1813, Sir Thomas Picton and William Ponsonby fell at Waterloo. Robert Honyman II and Stephens Howe died of yellow fever in Jamaica. The Walcheren fever took its toll of victims more slowly: there was one fatality, Alexander Mackenzie Fraser, but subsequently Viscount Proby’s insanity and James Hamilton Stanhope’s suicide were, rightly or wrongly, attributed to it. About 40 Members bore conspicuous wounds. The one-eyed (Sir William Carr Beresford and Fulk Greville Howard) and one-legged (John Theophilus Rawdon, and later Lord Paget) were easily outnumbered by the one-armed (Mervyn Archdall II, Alexander Hope, William Maxwell I, Edward Paget, Edmund Phipps and Lord Fitzroy Somerset). Wounds were compensated by medals, pensions and administrative and home staff appointments, and could prove electoral assets: Banastre Tarleton’s missing two fingers made their absence felt on the hustings at Liverpool. Few military Members, as compared with civilians, were prisoners of war in this period, and the latter, most of them detained by Buonaparte after the resumption of hostilities in 1803, were held prisoner much longer.

To the youngest generation of military Members the Royal Military College at Sandhurst offered a suitable education for the dedicated professional, eclipsing the academies, most of them continental, that had served the same purpose for their fathers’ generation. Even so, in the case of the majority of Members entering the army, neither military science nor adventures in foreign fields motivated their recruitment. The aristocracy and gentry regarded the army as a suitable career, if only for a few years, for their young offspring, for whom they bought commissions, usually in fashionable regiments, which could readily be sold once the service became inconvenient. (Relatively few of them retired on half pay.) The Guards were the great attraction. The three regiments of Foot Guards recruited at some stage 107 of our Members, 55 in the 1st Regiment (the Grenadiers), 33 in the 2nd (the Coldstream) and 21 in the 3rd (two Members served in two of the regiments). In addition, nine Members served in the Royal Horse Guards; six in the 1st troop Horse Grenadier Guards, three in the 1st Horse Guards and one each in the 2nd troop Horse Grenadier Guards and 2nd Horse Guards. After the two troops of Horse Grenadier Guards and two troops of Horse Guards were incorporated in the Life Guards in 1788, a further 14 joined the Life Guards. Thirty-eight served in the seven regiments of Dragoon Guards, of which the 1st and 3rd Regiments attracted 11 each. Otherwise, the mounted infantry regiments exercised a powerful attraction. In all, the six regiments of dragoons and over a score of regiments of light dragoons (the 10th, the Prince of Wales’s, was particularly fashionable) lured 133 Members. There were some transfers among these different Guards and dragoons regiments: the total number of Members involved was 270. All except a handful of the remaining military Members served in the hundred or so regiments of foot. The few exceptions served in the Royal Artillery, the Royal Engineers, the Royal Marines, the Invalids, the Garrison Battalions, or the Foreign Corps: not counting those who at some time belonged to regiments on special service, such as the West Indian and Ceylon regiments.

The ranks held by military Members on entering the House from 1790 until 1820 (including the state of promotion of 86 Members who first came in before 1790) were as follows:

(one with local rank, one retired)
major-general25(two with local rank)
colonel23(one with local rank, three resigned (one with local rank), one on half pay)
brevet colonel27(two on half pay)
lieutenant-colonel59(as retired, ten on half pay, two with temporary rank)
brevet lieutenant-colonel9(one retired, two on half pay)
major32(eight retired, two on half pay)
brevet major3
captain and lt.-col.23(seven retired)
captain65(24 retired, one on full pay, 12 on half pay)
capt.-lt. and capt.1(retired)
capt. and lt.1(retired)
lieutenant and capt.32(13 retired, one on half pay)
lieutenant37(23 retired, four on half pay, one honorary)
sub-lieutenant2(one retired)
cornet15(seven retired, one on half pay, one cornet and sub-lieutenant)
ensign15(eight retired, one on half pay, three ensign and lieutenant, one ensign and 2nd lieutenant)
non-commissioned volunteers          
foreign service only2
not certain1


In addition there were 13 who went into the army after entering the House. A disproportionate number of officer Members were Scots—nearly a quarter. Two-thirds of these sat for Scottish constituencies. Nearly as many Irishmen were army officers, though somewhat fewer of these sat for Irish constituencies. In any case, it is clear that the army was a profession that appealed to Scots and Irish at all social levels. They—the Scots in particular—were eager to raise new regiments when war broke out in 1793. Scots and Irish officers-were also more likely to be county Members than English or Welsh ones: the figures were 40 and 34 to 27 respectively.

The average age of military officers at entry into the House was 34, nearly the same as the general average for Members, and several years lower than for naval officers.

Numbers of MPs who had held commissions in the regular army at the time of their return to Parliament are as follows:







Excluding those on half pay or retired:







The 1807 and 1812 Parliaments contained the greatest number of army officers; the 1796 and 1812 Parliaments returned the largest number of newcomers to the House. The average number of officers returned to each Parliament was 136, with 77 of them still active. Over 150 Members with army experience sat in only one Parliament in this period, and at least eight of them seem never to have taken their seats. Only a third of those who did contributed to debate, despite the frequency of debates on military affairs; and a third of these, in turn, are known to have spoken only once or twice, in several instances merely to acknowledge the thanks of the House for their military services. The more tangible rewards expected by army officers in the House are reflected in their political alignment: less than a quarter of them offered opposition to the government with any regularity. In exchange for support of government they expected professional promotion, and where possible and justifiable they usually received it. The House once quashed as a piece of favouritism (1809) the over-rapid promotion of one of its Members, Lord Burghersh, son of a cabinet minister. The official fount of army patronage was the commander-in-chief, in which post the King’s second son, Frederick Augustus, Duke of York, had succeeded Lord Amherst in 1795. The alleged abuse of patronage by his mistress Mary Anne Clarke, who was accused of taking bribes to secure officers’ commissions, became a parliamentary scandal in 1809, at the instigation of Gwyllym Lloyd Wardle, and forced the resignation of the duke; but his connivance was not clearly proven, and in 1811 he was restored to his post, which had meanwhile been occupied by Sir David Dundas, and retained it until his death in 1827, when he was replaced by the Duke of Wellington. The office had become permanent—a step rejected by the House when Richard Fitzpatrick advocated it on 28 Mar. 1791.

Apart from promotion in army rank, which interested them most in the early stages of their careers, army officer Members, once they had achieved lieutenant-colonelcies or colonelcies, had few ambitions to realize in Parliament. As Members they might well be more interested in staff appointments at home than adventures abroad. Army commands were generally the fruit of professional distinction, though officer Members might hope to owe the command of secondary expeditions to political friendships. Successive secretaries of War, notably Henry Dundas and William Windham, were frequently besieged by officer Members with such ambitions. Long-serving officers also looked to military governments as their reward. There were 33 in Great Britain and nine in Ireland to choose from; and a variety of remunerative colonial governorships available for those prepared to leave the country (otherwise only officers serving in India grew rich from their spoils). Some 45 governorships, at home and abroad, were awarded to military Members in this period. Gallant service, too, carried honours—eight CBs, 22 GCBs, 12 KCBs, 31 other knighthoods, a dozen GCHs, and several baronetcies and peerages were showered on distinguished officer Members. Most of these were bestowed by the Prince Regent in the year of victory, 1814-15. The peerages bestowed on Sir Ralph Abercromby’s wife, on Sir William Carr Beresford, Stapleton Cotton, Thomas Graham I, John Hely Hutchinson, Sir Rowland Hill, the Hon. John Hope, Gerard Lake, the Hon. Charles William Stewart, and Sir Arthur Wellesley were largely in recognition of military services. Wellesley was the ornament of his profession, and a national hero after his successes in the Peninsular war and victory at Waterloo. The prestige of the army never stood so high as at that moment. Wellesley, created baron and viscount in 1809, was promoted earl in 1812, marquess later the same year, and Duke of Wellington in 1814. Parliament voted £200,000 for an estate for him and his heirs, and he was foremost among several military Members who were loaded with honours by Britain’s allies. Yet in the early stages of the Peninsular war, particularly after the convention of Cintra, Wellington was one of the most vilified officers in the army. Actual disgrace befell few of those who were Members, but Francis William Barlow, Napier Christie Burton, the Hon. Andrew James Cochrane Johnstone, Oliver de Lancey, John Henry Loft, John Murray, Charles Palmer, the Hon. Frederick St. John and the Hon. George Walpole suffered various forms of humiliation. His political views ruined Norman Macleod’s professional prospects, and damaged, though they did not ultimately frustrate, Thomas Graham’s.

Only one secretary of War in this period had served in the regular army, Robert, Lord Hobart (1801-4). The others, Henry Dundas (1794-1801), John Jeffries Pratt, Marquess Camden (1804-5), Robert Stewart, Viscount Castlereagh (1805-6, 1807-9), William Windham (1806-7), Robert Banks Jenkinson, 2nd Earl of Liverpool (1809-12) and Henry Bathurst, 3rd Earl Bathurst (1812-27) had no more than militia experience. The same was largely true of the secretaries at War, William Windham (1794-1801), Charles Philip Yorke (1801-3), Charles Bragge (1803-4), William Dundas (1804-6), Richard Fitzpatrick (1806-7), Sir James Pulteney (1807-9), Lord Granville Leveson Gower (1809) and Henry Temple, 2nd Viscount Palmerston (1809-28). Of these, Fitzpatrick and Pulteney were the only regular army officers. Of the under-secretaries at the War Office from 1794 to 1820, four were not Members, and two of these were responsible for War rather than for the Colonies which had been transferred to the War Office from the Home department in 1801. The two Members who as under-secretaries were responsible for War were the Hon. Charles William Stewart, an army officer, and the Hon. Frederick John Robinson. In 1806, it is true, Robert Craufurd, another regular officer, was provisionally appointed, but the arrangement had to be abandoned.

The conduct of the army in wartime inevitably came under the House’s scrutiny, particularly when campaigns or expeditions were ineffective. The most important debates on specific campaigns were on Thomas Maitland’s motion of 10 Apr. 1794; Joseph Foster Barham’s of 2 June 1795; Fox’s (more general) motion of 10 May 1796; Sheridan’s motion of 10 Feb. 1800; Thomas Jones’s motion of Nov. 1800; Charles Sturt’s motion of 19 Feb. 1801; Tierney’s motion of 22 Apr. 1801; Thomas Creevey’s motion of 14 Mar. 1804; the opposition motions on the Copenhagen expedition, January-February 1808; Lord Henry Petty’s motion on the convention of Cintra, 21 Feb. 1809; and the opposition motions for inquiry into the Scheldt expedition, January-March 1810, when an inquiry was carried against the government but the ensuing censure thwarted. The annual debates on the army estimates and the mutiny bill provoked regular discussion of the size, scope and conditions of service. The landing of foreign mercenaries, the barracks system and the enlistment of émigrés were assailed by opposition in 1794. On the resumption of hostilities in 1803, Fox’s motion of 2 Aug. for a council of generals to supervise the war effort was linked with the consolidation of opposition to Addington, and the Prince of Wales’s wish to obtain a military command, denied him by the King. In the following spring it was the succession of debates and divisions on home defence requirements, at a time when a French invasion was believed to be imminent, that brought Addington down. In 1806 Windham’s military plan for a strong regular army with enlistment for a number of years instead of for life (previously advocated by Richard Fitzpatrick in the House in 1797-8) provoked much debate. After the successful conclusion of the war, reduction of the military establishment, and even of military prestige, were main themes of the opposition. Sir Francis Burdett repeatedly advocated the abolition of flogging as part of military discipline, and the composition and procedure of courts martial were debated from time to time. Ironically, the last major debate on a military subject in this period was on the foreign enlistment bill, designed to prevent British volunteers from entering foreign service, and more particularly from espousing the cause of the Spanish colonies in South America against their mother country.

The appeal of the militia and the local volunteers was universal among Members. Nearly 1,000, not far short of half of the Members in this period, were involved in them in person, and at some stage probably a few more whose activities have not been traced. Over 300 Members were militia officers—more than two-thirds of them ranking as colonels or lieutenant-colonels, virtually automatic for Irish county Members, and often for other county Members. Another 20 Members achieved this rank after 1820, and a handful had militia commands before 1790 which they had resigned. Nearly a third of the Members commanding militias had previous experience in the army or were granted the rank of colonel in the army during service. The militia raised in 1793-4 was not altogether disbanded at the conclusion of war with Buonaparte, despite motions in the House to that end by Sir Samuel Romilly in 1814 and 1815.

Nearer 700 Members were involved in the local volunteers. In most cases they were responsible for raising them. During the war, apart from the militia, Members interested themselves in raising regiments, fencible corps and volunteer cavalry or infantry. Those who volunteered generally preferred the command of yeoman cavalry. The volunteer movement was boosted by the seal of approval given it by Addington’s ministry in 1803, when a French invasion scare arose; depressed by the indifference towards it shown by William Windham at the War Office in 1806; but given a fresh lease of life as a local militia by his successor Castlereagh in 1807. As a ‘Home Guard’ the volunteers had their ludicrous side: the Bloomsbury lawyers’ corps had to draw the line at the ‘awkwardness’ on parade of Edward Law, the future lord chief justice, and he was dismissed. The London and Westminster light horse was a convenient favourite among volunteer Members, about 80 joining it at some stage.



Some 100 Members entered the Royal Navy. Of these 90 reached the rank of commander. (The dropouts included Thomas Erskine, Evan Nepean, William Wellesley Pole and George Rose, who distinguished themselves in other spheres.) Eighteen of the 90 officers entered the navy before the conclusion of the Seven Years’ War (1763), one as early as 1738. They were Peregrine Francis Bertie, Sir Richard Bickerton, 1st Bt., William Cornwallis, Sir John Thomas Duckworth, Sir George Keith Elphinstone, Alan Gardner, Andrew Snape Hamond, Charles Herbert, Sir Alexander Hood, Samuel, Baron Hood, Sir John Jervis, Sir Richard King, John Leveson Gower, Henry Martin I, George Murray, Charles Pierrepont, Peter Rainier and Charles Thompson. Another 43 entered the navy between 1763 and the conclusion of the war of American Independence 20 years later. They were (most of them Lord Nelson’s contemporaries): John Poo Beresford, George Cranfield Berkeley, Sir Richard Bickerton, 2nd Bt., Courtenay Boyle, Edward Buller, Harry Burrard, George Campbell, Charles Carpenter, Alexander Forrester Inglis Cochrane, Sir Isaac Coffin, Sir Christopher Cole, Noah Dalway, Henry Evans, William Clement Finch, John Fish, Charles James Fitzgerald (Baron Lecale), Frank Frank, Thomas Henry Fremantle, Sir Charles Hamilton, Eliab Harvey, Robert Honyman I, Sir Samuel Hood, Sir George Johnstone Hope, William Johnstone Hope, David McDowall Grant, John Markham, Robert Moorsom, Sir John Orde, William Paget, John Willett Payne, Sir Edward Pellew, Sir Charles Morice Pole, Sir Home Riggs Popham, John Rodney, Hugh Seymour Conway, Sir William Sidney Smith, George Stewart (Viscount Garlies), Robert Stopford, Sir Thomas Boulden Thompson, Sir Thomas Troubridge, Sir John Borlase Warren, James Athol Wood and Joseph Sydney Yorke. The remaining 29 officers entered the navy after 1783, none later than 1806. They were John Bastard, Richard Henry Alexander Bennet, Augustus William James Clifford, Thomas, Lord Cochrane, Sir George Cockburn, George Heneage Lawrence Dundas, Charles Elphinstone Fleeming, Lord William Fitzroy, the Hon. Charles Herbert, Edward King, Edward Leveson Gower, Anthony Maitland, Sir Thomas Byam Martin, William Augustus Montagu, George Mundy, Charles Paget, Peter Parker, Pownoll Bastard Pellew, Josceline Percy, William Henry Percy, Charles Herbert Pierrepont, Duncombe Pleydell Bouverie, Granville Leveson Proby, William Allen (Viscount Proby), John Spratt Rainier, Samuel Campbell Rowley, Lord William Stuart, Lord James Nugent Boyle Bernardo Townshend and William Waldegrave.

Of the naval officers, 45 (just half), including four who were illegitimate—Beresford, Clifford, Montagu and Charles Thompson—came of peerage families, an indication in itself of the growing prestige of the service, but also of how they came to be in the House: four in every five of them came in on their family interest. Another 18 officers were of gentry stock, and 12 of these also came in on a family interest. The remaining 27 were of professional families, though many of them doubled as country gentlemen either by inheritance or acquired status. About half of these were the sons of naval or army officers, the rest chiefly of merchants, clergymen or lawyers. The humblest in origin was probably Sir Thomas Troubridge, whose father was a baker. No more than five of the officers of professional background came in on a family interest. Indeed, nearly half of the 27 were sponsored by the Admiralty or by government generally, and most of the rest were patrons’ guests.

Of the 79 naval officers with seats in the House between 1754 and 1790 15 sat in this period, ten of these coming in again at the latter election, and one other in a by-election soon after it. The number of novices in each Parliament (including by-elections) was 12 in 1790, 9 in 1796, 15 in 1802, 11 in 1806, 7 in 1807, 10 in 1812 and 9 in 1818. In all, the number of naval officers (including the few who had struck their flags) returned to each Parliament was as follows:



The figures in brackets are those for Members by-elected within the Parliament, who are included in the aggregate figures. From these it may be seen that an average of 25 naval officers sat in each Parliament, and that the elections of 1806 and 1807 returned, marginally, the largest number of naval officers in the period, the contingent of 1802 having only one fewer. Eighteen of those elected in 1818 were to sit in the House after 1820, as well as six others who sat before 1818 but were not chosen then.

The average age at entry into the House was 38, older than for most army officers and barristers, but younger than for self-made merchants. This reflects the career pattern of most naval officers, who entered the service as boys and spent the next decade or so reaching the rank of post-captain—except that naval Members on average achieved it in just less than six years (Admiral Lord Rodney’s son John became a captain at 15). They usually had to wait longer for further promotion as rear-admiral: the average wait for 68 of the naval officer Members who attained this rank was over 23 years, and none of them achieved it in less than 16 years. It was in this interim that the majority of them entered the House. Indeed all except 20 of the 90 were either captains or, in a handful of cases, had yet to become captains when they entered the House. Another 20 went on to obtain flag rank while they were Members. Those who had already achieved it on entry into the House consisted of nine rear-admirals (Campbell, Cockburn, Frank, the three Hoods, Sir George Johnstone Hope, Sir Thomas Byam Martin and Moorsom); six vice-admirals (the two Bickertons, father and son, Lord Lecale, Sir Richard King, Sir Charles Pole and Charles Thompson); and five admirals (Coffin, Duckworth, Fish, Orde and Rainier). In all, 38 of the 90 naval Members eventually became admirals, 18 vice-admirals, and 12 rear-admirals. Sixteen were, at some stage, colonels of marines. By 1820, 25 Members had held station commands at home and abroad. Twenty remained captains, and two commanders, including a few who left the service and two who, no longer fit for active service, became naval administrators, and most of those who perished on active service: Edward King, William Paget, Peter Parker and Lord Proby. Hugh Seymour Conway and Lord William Stuart died at sea. (John Knox, an Irish Member, was lost at sea before the date of his return to the Imperial Parliament, and has not been counted a Member.) The only higher ranking officer lost at sea was Sir Thomas Troubridge. The Hon. Charles Herbert and Joseph Sydney Yorke were drowned, but neither while on active service.

The impact of the 90 naval officers on Westminster was limited. Twenty-four of them sat in only one parliament in all, and another 15 in only one parliament before 1820. Their attendance was affected far more than that of any other professional group by their duties at sea. A few probably never took their seats; one (Edward Leveson Gower) was a French prisoner of war for most of his parliamentary career. Instances can be found of their being requested to give attendance at the House preference over professional requirements, but equally of the latter gaining the day. Among naval officers in opposition the suspicion was at times mooted that they were being spirited away on active service to cancel their vote: something difficult to prove. Lord Buckingham attributed his nephew Lord Proby’s death in action to the ‘vindictive and diabolical revenge’ taken by the Admiralty for his vote with opposition on 15 Mar. 1804. The majority of naval Members supported the government of the day, which, as in the case of army officers, was not calculated to damage promotion prospects in the early stages of their career. Yet over 20 of them were committed to the Whigs, and usually in opposition: one, Bennet, forfeited his seat for this reason. Another ten or so vacillated or behaved independently. Plain speaking was regarded as the birthright of a naval officer, and was jealously claimed as such in debate. In this respect Lord Hood set the example; but over half of them were silent Members, even among those 15 who sat for counties (six for Scottish, five for English and two each for Welsh and Irish counties). Nottinghamshire, an inland county, returned a naval officer from 1778 to 1831, and two from 1814 to 1816. Contributions to debate might more readily be expected from naval office-holders. The Admiralty board consisted of six commissioners as well as the first lord, until it was reduced to five in 1822, following pressure begun by opposition in the House in 1817 and 1818. For most of this period half of these commissioners were ‘blue coated’, i.e. naval officers. The first lords of the Admiralty sitting in the House were non-naval politicians in this period (Grey and Grenville in 1806 and Charles Yorke from 1810 to 1812); but the other commissioners included (in chronological order up to 1820) Lord Hood, Alan Gardner, Hugh Seymour Conway, Sir Thomas Troubridge, John Markham, Sir Harry Burrard Neale, Viscount Garlies, Sir Charles Morice Pole, Thomas Francis Fremantle, Sir Richard Bickerton, 2nd Bt., William Johnstone Hope, Robert Moorsom, Sir Joseph Sydney Yorke, George Johnstone Hope and Sir George Cockburn. Even so, most of these were not prominent in debate. The most articulate were the unofficial trouble-shooters. The navy was a contentious subject in the House, and a highly competitive service. The opportunities for glory in high command were hotly contended for, and senior officers were frequently at loggerheads, as can be seen from the biographies of Berkeley, Lord Cochrane, Gardner, Harvey, Lord Hood, Markham and Orde. Lord Hood was dismissed by Earl Spencer, at the Admiralty, in 1795; professional vendettas and insubordination were apparent in the other cases. Remunerative offices were few, and prize money from the capture of enemy vessels was a great lure. Naval courts martial were a crippling hazard: several Members found their careers effectively blocked by them. The prestige of the senior service was enhanced by the succession of victories at sea from the Glorious First of June to Trafalgar, in all of which a number of the officer MPs participated, but was at times blemished by outbursts from its own representatives in the House, and not least by the controversial conduct of two of the first lords of the Admiralty in this period: Sir John Jervis, who as Earl of St. Vincent undertook the overhaul of naval administration (1801-4), and his successor Henry Dundas, who as Viscount Melville was impeached for malversation of naval accounts (1806). Melville, who resigned office, was replaced by a former naval officer, Lord Barham; he was, with one exception, the only officer to be first lord in the 19th century. The most cutting contributors to debate among the naval officers were Berkeley, Lord Cochrane, John Markham, Sir John Orde, Sir Edward Pellew, Sir Charles Pole, Sir Home Popham, Sir William Sidney Smith and Sir John Borlase Warren, most of whom had encountered professional disappointments.

Nevertheless, the navy was sufficiently well represented to provide spokesmen on all aspects of the service. The Admiralty sponsored most of the Members for Rochester and Sandwich, and had a significant say in the return of Members for several other maritime constituencies with a dockyard electorate, such as Dover, Great Yarmouth, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Queenborough and Southampton. In other constituencies, such as Bridport and Wexford, there was a naval bias in the patronage. Ipswich and Westminster proved partial to naval heroes, though the former rejected one in 1818. The Earl of St. Vincent, in the election of 1802, made the most significant bid to manipulate the Admiralty interest in this period. His exertions favoured Eliab Harvey for Essex, Alexander Cochrane for Stirling Burghs (seated on petition), Evan Nepean for Bridport, Sir Edward Pellew for Barnstaple, Knatchbull and Geary for Kent, John Markham for Portsmouth, Sir William Elford and (unsuccessfully) John Graves Simcoe for Plymouth, John Willett Payne (unsuccessfully) for Queenborough, and Sir Thomas Troubridge and Thomas Jervis for Great Yarmouth, where St. Vincent had a personal interest. A naval uniform was no guarantee of success: at least 20 naval officers who aspired to Membership failed in contests for seats, among them two former Members, Kingsmill and Macbride, and Sir Thomas Masterman Hardy, Nelson’s flag captain (Nelson himself made no attempt to get into Parliament). But a naval background undoubtedly proved an electoral asset.

Honours, if not rewards, for gallant service in the maintenance of British naval supremacy were freely available: by 1820 7 knighthoods, 17 baronetcies, 9 KBs, 14 KCBs, 12 GCBs, 6 CBs, 4 Irish and 4 English baronies, 4 viscountcies and 1 earldom had been bestowed on naval officer MPs in this period. The most prominent were Sir John Jervis (Earl of St. Vincent), the Hood brothers, Alexander and Samuel (both viscounts), Sir George Keith Elphinstone (Viscount Keith) and Sir Edward Pellew (Viscount Exmouth). George Cranfield Berkeley failed to obtain the peerage he coveted, as did Sir John Borlase Warren. Several severely wounded officers were in receipt of official pensions, but as Lord Cochrane reminded the House, Lord Arden’s sinecure office of Admiralty registrar was equal to the compensation for 1,022 lost captains’ arms. Prize money offered the best road to a fortune, and some officers were accused of giving it priority, notably Sir John Orde. Lord Hood, John Willett Payne and Sir Thomas Boulden Thompson were treasurers of Greenwich Hospital. Henry Martin I, his son Sir Thomas Byam Martin, Sir Andrew Snape Hamond and Sir Thomas Boulden Thompson were the comptrollers of the navy in this period, and Sir Isaac Coffin was prominent as a commissioner of the navy. Berkeley and Moorsom, the latter an outstanding scientific officer, both served as surveyors-general of the Ordnance. Berkeley was one of the would-be naval strategists of the period, as frustrated in this respect as Sir William Sidney Smith and Sir Home Popham.

The average naval officer in the House, however, was an awkward politician and a wretched speaker, out of his element there. Lord Uxbridge wrote of his son William, who had no opportunity to figure in the House, after his premature death in 1794:

William did take his seat before he went abroad and ... within these two years he has taken ten merchant men besides one of the largest frigates the French had, which was serving his country more effectively than anything he could have done in the House of Commons.


Some 360 Members, about a sixth of the whole in each Parliament in this period, were men embarked on capital enterprises other than drawing rents and multiplying them by fresh land purchase or safe investment. Included in this category are bankers, financiers, merchants, industrialists and landowners who exploited mines. In the table below, these landowners have, however, been excluded. Some 50 Members whose fathers were entrepreneurs have not been included, for want of evidence that they themselves were so engaged. Sir Richard Carr Glyn, a successful banker, was not alone in wishing his heir to be a country gentleman, though such heirs might well become token company directors. Agricultural improvers have also been excluded: few activities were so often claimed for landowners in their obituaries, but proof, except in such well-attested cases as that of Coke of Norfolk, is difficult.

The number of merchants, industrialists and bankers in each parliament of the period is as follows, the figures in brackets being the bankers, some of whom were also merchants.

87 (44)   

112 (52)
1796114 (66)

1807125 (62)
1802124 (56)

1812113 (55)

1818103 (50)


The average in each parliament was therefore 111 (55 bankers). Of these Members 52 had sat before 1790, and 92 were to sit after 1820.

Forms of capital enterprise overlapped. For instance, of 160 bankers in the House nearly 30 were also merchants or contractors, ten more were also brewers, and 16 invested in industrial projects. Banks, London and provincial, had proliferated since the 1760s, and by the 1790s there were about 70 London banks and four times as many country banks. Ninety of the 160 banker Members were partners in London banks—clearly some partnerships supplied more than one Member—and the rest provincial, including 11 Irish and four Scottish. Two or three had continental banking experience. Nearly 50 of the 160 inherited their bank partnerships, and of these a dozen were third or fourth generation bankers. Most of them had mercantile wealth behind them, but merchant families did not necessarily regard banking as a feather in their cap: Henry Thornton’s mother was of the opinion that ‘to cease being a merchant in order to become a banker was to descend in life’. Even for provincial businessmen who started banks to oil the wheels of their commerce, there was a high risk. Many banks went to the wall: in 1792-3 and 1797 there was a crop of failures, though not on the same scale as in 1825. Most of these were country banks, which attracted country gentlemen as partners. Over 20 Members were partners in banks that failed either in this period or between 1820 and 1832. They included five of the 13 nabobs whose Indian wealth was security for their bank partnerships. The unrestricted issue of paper currency was the chief hazard, highlighted when the Bank of England stopped payment in specie in 1797, which it did not resume in this period.

In the debate on the Members’ privilege of franking in 1795, it was suggested that bankers entered the House for the sake of free postage. This was certainly advantageous to them, just as their access to funds often contributed to their success in open boroughs, for which many of them were returned. As Members they were barely distinguishable from the commercial interest as a whole, though their specialized experience was drawn on in debates on banking and currency questions. The most prominent among them were what would later be known as merchant bankers: that is, they traded and handled credit transactions on an international scale. But this category of financiers was not confined to bankers: Sir Francis Baring and his sons, William Mellish, David Ricardo and the Thellusson brothers had no banking houses, though John William Anderson, William Curtis, William Devaynes, Stephen Lushington I, Abraham Robarts, the Smith brothers headed by Lord Carrington and James Walwyn had. These Members have been named because they participated in the consortia that vied for the public loan contract from 1793 onwards. The Thellussons obtained it in 1793, but from 1794 to 1798 it was procured on behalf of a consortium (the Barings among them) by Walter Boyd, a self-made London banker fresh from Paris, whose successful brokerage was keenly resented by his competitors. His efforts to retain the preference ruined his partnership, and caused embarrassment to the government, which had been induced to protect him for his services in raising a loan for Austria. Financial manipulators like Boyd (who entered Parliament on his nabob banking partner Benfield’s interest in 1796) were doubly suspect thereafter, as were loan monopolies, though David Ricardo, an Exchange broker and future Member, was able to contract the loan for his consortium from 1811 to 1815. At the beginning of this period the house of Thellusson led by a neck in the London money market, but it was by 1803 eclipsed by the house of Baring which from 1815 onwards was floating international loans in London, with less panache than its current principal rivals, the house of Rothschild (also of German origin but, as Jews, excluded from Parliament), though with general esteem: a Whig dynasty, to boot. It was Disraeli who called Alexander Baring ‘the greatest merchant England perhaps ever had’, and Lord Glenbervie regarded him as ‘the best model of a natural, unaffected, sensible, well-informed liberal merchant’. Edward John Littleton in his diary for 14 Mar. 1819, thought Baring was ‘the wealthiest Englishman engaged in commerce—it being reported that he was worth a million some years ago’. He added ‘I know no individual who gives me more the idea of a perfect mercantile character than Mr Baring—liberal and consistent in his politics—leaning to the side of the oppressed in all countries, having intimate communication with the great merchants of all parts of the world; generous and manly in pursuit of public interests—candid but discreet in pursuit of his own’. Such tributes were perhaps less surprising when it is recalled that Baring’s father, Sir Francis, thought ripe for a peerage at a time when a baronetcy was the pinnacle for a merchant, was described as ‘the true English merchant’ with ‘large and liberal principles and no unreasonable ambition’; but they underline the fact that the generality of merchants was not distinguished for breadth of mind. Of Sir Charles Price the comment was, ‘an actor of dignity—had no mind, but had got money’. It was the money that impressed: Pasco Grenfell ‘began the world without any fortune and is now supposed to be in the receipt of £20,000 a year’; Richard Hart Davis ‘had not 20 or 25 years ago a thousand pounds in the world, and is now supposed to be worth from £300,000 to £500,000. He is an exception to the general character of Bristol merchants as he lives at a large expense, has a house at Bristol and another near it; one in Grosvenor Square, London, and another in its vicinity. His collection of pictures it is supposed, cost him £100,000.’ In other respects, criticisms abound. Robert Smith (Lord Carrington) had ‘no parliamentary talents’; John Marjoribanks’s ‘political creed attaches him to all governments indiscriminately’—true of many of his fellow bankers and merchants; Patrick Craufurd Bruce admitted to becoming a Member out of vanity—Parliament soon bored him. William Shepherd Kinnersley had ‘scarcely two ideas in his head’. More surprisingly we learn of the gullibility of some of these merchant Members. John Prinsep was apparently easily duped. Of George Knapp it was said ‘Not he the shark but the shark’s prey’; Matthew Wood was dubbed ‘Jackass’. Samuel Boddington unsuccessfully contested Milborne Port ‘which he prefers to paying his £4,000 quietly and fancies it will be a great deal cheaper’. But most of them were more cautious men like Sir Robert Wigram I, who said ‘he should be miserable if in a morning he should not awake with his head full of ideas of business for the day, and that before he arises he forms his plan of proceeding throughout the day’. To make doubly sure: ‘In the night time Sir Robert has a light in his room with pen, ink and paper, and when any thought arises in his mind which he wishes to retain he immediately commits it to paper’. Wigram could not understand a mentality ‘disinclined to further accumulation’. John Maberly was ‘in his way a thorough Buonaparte. His grasp of mind was as comprehensive as his attention to details was minute ... he was said to be the only man in England who could sleep over a million of omnium.’

Over 180 Members were merchants trading from the United Kingdom, but less than a third of them were based outside London. Even so, the numbers of provincial merchants returned to Parliament were rising, especially from Bristol and Liverpool. The merchants, London and provincial, who were also bankers have been again counted in this category. About a third inherited their business—and these were more likely to enter the House as young men. The three Thornton brothers, who did so, were ‘all City people and connected with merchants, and nothing but merchants on every side’. Few self-made merchants entered Parliament before they were 40, and the dozen London Members who were merchants had an average age of 47½ years at entry. Few of them had electoral interests which they had not made for themselves, and whether they got in by contesting an open borough, or quietly as a patron’s paying guest, they had to reach into their purses. An experiment in status symbolism, a badge of respectability, a possible investment in business contracts, all these factors impelled them into Membership. But many of them were content to sit in one parliament only, had little or nothing to say in debate, and no opposition to offer the government except perhaps on a few questions in which their interests were involved. They had their expertise to flourish: when the Irish revenue schedules perplexed the House, 9 Mar. 1803, up got John Atkins, a self-made London merchant, and said ‘there were a sufficient number of mercantile men in that House, who were fully competent to the understanding of any business of that, or a similar nature’.

All except 20 of the merchant Members can be classified, though as usual with some overlaps. The 20 exceptions must be described as general merchants, trading in a variety of goods, and include several of the financier class. Of the rest, 25 Members were in business as brewers and distillers, nearly as many in the provinces as in London. The brewing dynasties of Whitbread and Calvert each provided several Members—the former in three generations. The brewing combines of Barclay Perkins, Meux Truman, and Combe of London were also represented. Among the provincial brewers, three (Henry Isherwood, John and Richard Ramsbottom) sat for New Windsor, and two (George Best and James Hulkes) for Rochester. Another five Members were hop merchants (two more, John Baker and Thomas Godfrey were great hop growers in Kent) and Sir James Sanderson, lord mayor of London, was described as the spokesman for the ‘hop interest’. About ten Members were wine merchants, chiefly importing from Portugal, and eight were corn merchants. Liquor was an important component of the West Indies trade, in which about 35 Members were engaged, trading from London, Bristol and Liverpool. Robert Bent was a former slave trader, and as such deemed by his opponents unworthy of a seat in the House. Alexander Allardyce and Joseph Birch avoided such a charge. Over 25 Members traded to the East Indies. Several of these had previously traded (personally) in India, and as already stated 13 nabobs were bankers: Members trading exclusively in India are considered below. Until 1813 the East India trade was a London monopoly. Thereafter the outports’ participation developed: John Gladstone of Liverpool was prominent in this respect. Apart from the West India merchants who did so, there were ten Members whose firms traded exclusively to the United States and Canada: the most prominent belonged to the houses of Baring and Ellice. Four Poole Members were in the Newfoundland trade. William Jacob was a pioneer trader to South America and Thomas William Plummer of commercial links with Australia. A few Members had interests in the traditional South Sea and Levant trade. Portugal apart, continental trade was severely circumscribed by war and by Buonaparte’s system of exclusion, but the trade to the Baltic faltered on. At least a dozen Members were involved in this, notably the Thornton brothers. Kirkman Finlay grew rich on contraband trade to Napoleonic Europe. Another dozen Members were prominent as shipowners, whether or not they engaged in trade on their own behalf. About 15 Members were involved in the cloth trade, most of them in the West country. Wiltshire had long provided most of the clothier Members, but the trade there was in decline and Yorkshire’s now in the ascendant. Two Members were in the silk trade, one in leather. Several were grocers or victuallers and two dealt in drugs. One Member, Robert Waithman, was a retailer—a linen draper—and as such a new phenomenon in the representation of London, which usually bestowed its seats only on wholesale merchants. Of 27 aldermen of London who were Members, only two did not have trading interests, and they were veterans. There were ten London aldermen in the Parliament of 1790, seven in that of 1796, five in those of 1802 and 1806, six in that of 1807, seven in that of 1812 and seven in that of 1818.

The status symbols of the commercial world were directorships. Foremost were directorships of the Bank of England. Thirteen Members were or had been directors: (in chronological order) John Sargent, Samuel Thornton, Brook Watson, John Harrison, John Whitmore, Peter Isaac Thellusson, John Pearse, William Manning, William Mellish, Alexander Baring, John Staniforth, Robert Wigram II and William Tierney Robarts. It is true that banking or commercial antecedents were by no means a prerequisite among stockholders, but most of these men were the sons of merchant princes, if not themselves businessmen. They were the Bank’s spokesmen in the House. More competitive were the directorships of the East India Company, open to election. Thirty-two Members in this period (compared with some 40 in the previous one) were at some time directors of the Company: (in chronological order) John Stephenson, Sir Henry Fletcher, William Devaynes, Joshua Smith, Nathaniel Smith, William Mills, Sir Francis Baring, Lionel Darell, John Hunter, Stephen Lushington I, Samuel Smith II, Sir Hugh Inglis, Paul Le Mesurier, Charles Mills, Robert Thornton, Abraham Robarts, David Scott I and Thomas Theophilus Metcalfe—all first chosen before 1790; and (chosen subsequently, before 1820), Charles Grant I, George Smith, George Woodford Thellusson, William Thornton (afterwards Astell), John Hudleston, John Jackson, John Alexander Bannerman, George Abercrombie Robinson, William Wigram, Robert Williams II, John Bladen Taylor, Alexander Allan, David Scott II, and William Taylor Money. All but seven of the 32 were directors while sitting in the House in this period: the exceptions were John Alexander Bannerman, Sir Henry Fletcher, William Mills, David Scott II, Joshua Smith, Samuel Smith II, and John Stephenson. A directorship, in terms of patronage, might help a man to secure Membership, and Membership in turn bolstered his pretensions to the directorate. Thirteen of the 32 Members who were directors served as chairmen of the Company, nine of them in this period. A mercantile or banking background was even more indispensable than for Bank directorships, though only a handful had an East India background. Like the bank directors, East India directors were expected to act as spokesmen for Company interests in the House, though there was more divergence of opinion among them as to policy. They closed ranks, however, when the Company monopoly was most severely challenged on the occasion of the renewal of the charter in 1813. They sat on the House’s select committees on East India affairs, and at East India House represented the interests of proprietors of East India stock, next in popularity to the government consols as a form of investment. Up to 100 Members were proprietors in each of the parliaments of this period. In 1795, for instance, some 80 sitting Members were proprietors, 16 of them entitled to more than one vote for the directorate, of whom six were entitled to the maximum of four votes each. At the same time, another 75 proprietors were future Members, 20 of them being elected the following year. In April 1806, some go sitting Members were proprietors, nearly 30 plural voters for the directorate; and again about as many were future or past Members, two-thirds of them destined to sit in the House again.

Other companies attracted fewer Members to their directorates. The declining South Sea and Levant Companies had several; the Russia and Eastland Companies a half-dozen (chiefly members of the Thornton family). The Society of Merchants trading to the Continent (formed in 1801) and the later Societies of British North American Merchants and Company of Merchants of England trading to the East Indies also attracted mercantile Members—there were ten in the latter by 1820. Eight Members belonged to the Society of Shipowners in 1817. The Sierra Leone Company, formed to promote African commerce attracted seven Members as directors: Thomas Babington, Edward James Eliot, Charles Grant I, John Kingston, John Prinsep, Henry Thornton and William Wilberforce, all of them members of the anti-slave trade lobby. This Company was however much criticized in the House as a philanthropic endeavour lacking in commercial viability which fell back too readily on government subsidies. The London dock companies also attracted Members as directors. The West India Dock Company, instituted in 1799, numbered 11 Members among its directors in this period; the East India Dock Company six; the London Dock Company three; the Commercial Dock Company five. The more prominent canal companies too had their tally of Members as directors.

Insurance company directorships were bestowed on many Members as a badge of mutual respectability. The Royal Exchange Assurance had seven Members; the Equitable four; the London Assurance three; the Sun Fire Office nine or ten, the Union Fire Office one; the Hand in Hand Fire Office four; the Phoenix Fire Office three; the Westminster Fire Office four; the Atlas Assurance five; the Eagle Insurance two; the Norwich Union Fire Office five; the Hope Insurance one; the Westminster Life Insurance ten; the Albion Insurance three; the County Fire Office (a Grenvillite venture) four; the Rock Life Assurance eight; the British Fire Office 13; the Imperial Insurance Company eight; the Globe Insurance 13 and the Pelican Office three. Brook Watson was chairman of Lloyd’s from 1796 until 1806, Joseph Marryat from 1811 until 1824, when he was succeeded by Benjamin Shaw.

The British Fisheries Company founded in 1786 attracted several Members as directors, the Lead Company two and the Penclawdd Copper Company two. Sir James Montgomery was deputy governor of the British Linen Company, and Sir William Paxton a director of the Gas, Light and Coke Company. Sir Charles Price was president of the Commercial Travellers.

It would be a daunting task to enumerate Members’ directorships in the years after 1820 when there was a boom in speculative enterprise with the expansion of Britain’s world market. Not a few Members courted ruin by their investment in the more questionable of these companies which ‘bubbled’ in the next two decades. Trusts and charitable societies provided unexceptionable directorships for Members. Among the London merchants the honorific office of a master of one of the City companies was a status symbol for the more stolid liverymen in their number.

The progress of the industrial revolution can be measured by the number of Members—50 or so—who were engaged in manufacturing and industrial concerns. This figure does not include over 30 Members who derived a significant part of their incomes from coal mining on their land alone, most of them from the north-east, the West Midlands or South Wales. Revenues from coal had in such instances long formed part of the landowner’s income. In this period the exploitation of slate quarries was a new feature: it was carried on in North Wales by Thomas Assheton Smith and George Hay Dawkins Pennant, in Ireland by Maurice Fitzgerald. Other enterprises patronized by Members were already a feature of the economic scene long before 1790. Such were the ironworks: masters included Isaac Hawkins Browne, Benjamin Hall, Samuel Homfray, Edward Protheroe, Samuel and Joshua Walker. The Walker cousins were also lead manufacturers. Other Members with interests in lead mining included Thomas Richard Beaumont, William Evans and Edward Webb. The mineral wealth of Cornwall was exploited by Sir Francis Basset, Sir Christopher Hawkins, Ralph Allen Daniell and John Call, who smelted copper, as did William Evans in the Midlands. The war stimulated copper production and a fortune was made by Thomas Williams in North Wales, and consolidated by his sons Owen and John. William Lewis Hughes profited from the same connexion. Pascoe Grenfell, Samuel Stephens and Matthew Wood invested in the copper trade in Cornwall and South Wales. Sir Benjamin Hammet and his son manufactured tinplate near Cardigan, but the latter wound up the venture in this period. Isaac Coffin was an unsuccessful manufacturer of tin pots and patented a bread oven. There was no porcelain manufacturer in the House from 1790 to 1820, but the Ridleys, father and son, had a glassworks and John Call a plate glass factory; Arthur Shakespeare had a rope factory; Miles Peter Andrew owned gunpowder works; Clement Taylor was a paper maker and George Longman, Matthew Bloxam, James Simmons and Charles Edward Wilsonn made stationery. William Morton Pitt, a philanthropist, started a sailcloth factory to provide employment. Several Members promoted canals: William Praed was obsessed by them. Ayscoghe Boucherett and George Tennyson helped develop the port of Grimsby, Robert Barclay Allardice founded Stonehaven, and William Alexander Madocks created Portmadoc.

The mechanical revolution in textile manufacture gave rise to a new wave of Members. The cotton kings were led into Parliament by Robert Peel I, the statesman’s father, returned in 1790. He died a multi-millionaire. He was followed by John Hodson, the brothers John and Samuel Horrocks, George Philips, Thomas Houldsworth and William Evans: most of them operated in Lancashire. Kirkman Finlay did so in Scotland. Less successful in this field was one Irish Member, Richard Wogan Talbot. Benjamin Benyon manufactured yarn and John Maberly linen; James Graham did not himself run woollen factories but leased them. John Douglas was the son of a Lancashire cotton mill owner, though not himself concerned in it. Houldsworth, already mentioned as a cotton king, later became an ironmaster in Scotland, but no Scots industrialist of this type was returned in this period.

The industrialist Members were an asset to the House when the special problems of a particular industry were forced on its attention. Their expertise was needed, for instance, on the copper committee in 1799 and on the cotton committee in 1811; but they were scarcely qualified to understand the reaction against machinery exemplified in the Luddite movement in the Midlands. Automation was to the industrialists’ advantage. So, probably, in the long run was factory regulation, of which Robert Peel I was the keenest promoter, though he met with stubborn opposition from less enlightened factory owners. Industrialists saw the advantage of promoting local banks, and over a dozen were floated by Members in this category.

Enterprise abroad involved two major interest groups represented in the House, the East Indian and the West Indian interests. By 1790 the nabob returned from India had long been a stock figure on the English social scene. In this period just over 100 civilians and over 30 military or naval men, engineers or surgeons who had lived or served in India, sat in the House. These figures exclude over 30 officers who had served with the regular army in India—though Sir Hector Munro and Norman Macleod, who did so, were as much nabobs as the rest—and about 25 merchants trading to India from Britain who did not have Indian careers. Six of those described as civilians went out to India intending to pursue a military or naval career in the Company service, but became civilians. Of the civilians, nine went out as governors only after service in the House and the following served the judiciary only: Sir Elijah Impey, John Anstruther, William Burroughs, James Mackintosh, Robert Percy Smith and Charles Marsh. James Watson, John Henry Newbolt, Edward Hyde East, Anthony Buller and John Peter Grant became judges after service in the House. A dozen Members had been free merchants in India, while another 15, at least, combined Company service with private mercantile activities. Some 60 served the Company for an average of 18 years as administrators, no bar to private profit through the contract system. Nearly half of them were in the Bengal service, the rest in the Madras service, except for eight who served at Bombay and four who served at Canton. John Bladen Taylor, Robert Grant and James Ramsay Cuthbert were brought up in India, and George Sumner was born there. There was therefore no want of expertise in the House when Indian subjects were debated, as they frequently were. In any parliament in this period there were likely to be about 35 Members who had lived in India and eight or nine officers who had served there, as well as 20 or so merchants who traded thither. The intake of nabobs reached its peak in 1802 when at least 46 were returned, and its nadir in 1818 when 28 were returned. In the latter Parliament, too, there were only five regular officers with an Indian background. The Marquess Wellesley had in the elections of 1806, 1807 and 1812 made efforts to return an Indian ‘squad’ loyal to his interests: only in 1812 did he have a significant degree of success.

The West Indian interest, though less parvenu, was more diffuse. About 75 Members in this period owned, were heir to or married into plantations in the islands, most of them in Jamaica, followed by Antigua and Barbados. As already stated, about 35 Members were merchants trading to the West Indies: about two-thirds of these had West Indian connexions—and many of them, if they did not already own plantations, acquired them in the course of trade. Several Members, notably James Wildman and John Pedley, were planters’ agents, and John Bent had been an estate steward. Another handful of Members held West Indian places—some of them sinecures under attack in this period. A few were at one time members of the West Indian assemblies. The islands appointed colonial agents in London, and ten Members held these appointments before 1820. They were expected to act as spokesmen in Parliament for West Indian interests, which were threatened by the campaign to abolish the slave trade, by war and insurrection, and by the vulnerability of the sugar trade. Attempts were made to keep a West Indian lobby going in London, boosted by the formation of a society of West India planters and merchants in 1780. Its spokesmen in the House included Edward Hyde East, Robert Sewell, Bryan Edwards and later Charles Rose Ellis, Joseph Foster Barham and Charles Nicholas Pallmer. In 1792 the West Indian lobby prevented the East India Company from obtaining a lien on sugar imports. Even so the West Indian interest was less effectively represented than the East Indian interest despite its superiority in numbers by 1818, and its spokesmen frequently adopted a plaintive tone which matched the decline of their prospects. Joseph Foster Barham apart, none of them seems to have had any forward-looking solution to offer to the decline of the Caribbean planters.

Those born in the Caribbean cannot be counted accurately, but they included Ralph Benson, Edward Hyde East, George Ellis, Samuel Long, Manasseh Lopes, Charles Nicholas Pallmer, James Scarlett, George Watson Taylor and Benjamin Vaughan (Jamaica), Anthony Browne and William Alexander Mackinnon (Antigua), Sir Francis Ford, Edward Lascelles and Sir Arthur Leary Piggott (Barbados), George Galway Mills and Ralph Payne (St. Kitts), Josias Jackson (St. Vincent) and almost certainly several others.

The Caribbean colonial agents were George Hibbert and Robert Sewell for Jamaica, William Manning and Sir William Young for St. Vincent, James Baillie and William Lushington for Grenada, Joseph Marryat for Trinidad and later Grenada, Samuel Estwick I for Barbados, Anthony Brown for Montserrat, later for Antigua and St. Kitts, Alexander Cray Grant for Antigua, later for St. Kitts and Nevis, and, after 1820, Charles Henry Bouverie for St. Lucia. William Holmes became agent for Demerara in 1820 and John Irving for Mauritius. Other colonial agents included Brook Watson for New Brunswick, William Huskisson for the Cape and for Ceylon in turn, and Thomas Peregrine Courtenay for the Cape.



The severance of the United States of America from the British Empire diminished the American presence in the House, leaving a rump of loyalists. John Penn had wound up his hereditary claims in Pennsylvania, while his cousin Richard Penn was ill-compensated for his. Sir Isaac Coffin, born in Boston of a loyalist family, crossed the Atlantic 30 times: for his services in the war of Independence he was awarded the Magdalen Islands in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Matthew White, son of a New York loyalist merchant, came to England as a boy; Oliver de Lancey, scion of a New York loyalist family of Huguenot descent, and John Singleton Copley, a Boston artist’s son, also came to England as young men. Copley rose to be lord chancellor of England. William Middleton, born at Charleston of an American mother, owned about 9,000 acres in Georgia and South Carolina. Josias Du Pré Porcher was also born in Carolina, of Huguenot extraction. Walter Stirling was born in Philadelphia of an American mother and a Scots father; Richard Sharp, born in Newfoundland, also had an American mother. Scrope Bernard was born in New Jersey and George Johnstone in West Florida while their fathers were colonial governors. Napier Christie Burton, son of a general, was born in America and was heir to Canadian estates. Henry Gage was born in Montreal, and Sir Henry Clinton in Newfoundland. The Canadian interest was probably best represented by the Ellice brothers, Edward and William, sons of a Scots merchant who migrated to America, settling, as a loyalist, at Montreal. The family returned to England, but both brothers renewed their acquaintance with Canada, where they expanded their interests. Benjamin Vaughan, born in Jamaica of an American mother, became a political dissident during the French Revolution and settled in the United States for the rest of his life. Slightly different was the case of two of the Baring brothers. Their father’s mercantile house was foremost in maintaining commercial links with the USA. They married sisters who were daughters of an American senator and acquired extensive American interests. John Barker Church went to America as an adventurer and eloped with an heiress. Joseph Marryat found a wife in Boston. David Montagu Erskine also married an American lady and lived there several years before becoming envoy to the States in 1806. His father, Thomas Erskine, was a heavy investor in American stock, which he disposed of at a discount in 1807; Sir William Pulteney too had so speculated. Apart from Members who served in America in wartime, several other Members had been there on one errand or another before 1790; but subsequently there was a lull in such intercourse and from 1806 until 1814 commercial rivalry culminated in a renewal of hostilities between the two countries.



These included Sir Robert Ainslie (bred if not born at Bordeaux); John William Anderson (Danzig); Edward Clarke (Lyons); Augustus William James Clifford (Brussels); Edward Spencer Cowper (Florence); Lionel Darell (Lisbon); Henry Augustus Dillon Lee (Brussels); Sir Thomas Gascoigne (Cambrai); James Edward Harris, Viscount FitzHarris (St. Petersburg); Fulk Greville Howard (Geneva); Richard Johnson (The Hague); Viscount Melgund (Lyons); the Earl of Rocksavage (Paris) and Horace David Cholwell St. Paul (Paris), and probably his brother Henry as well. Caesar Colclough had lived so long on the Continent that he apologized in the House for his foreign accent.



More than a hundred years after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, families of Huguenot extraction were still notable for their contribution to public life. Sir John Blaquiere, Sir Thomas Brooke Pechell, Oliver De Lancey, John De Ponthieu, William Devaynes, Samuel Robert Gaussen, Joseph Marryat, Josias Du Pré Porcher, Peter and John Spratt Rainier, Sir Samuel Romilly and the Thellusson brothers exemplified this, to name only Huguenots by paternal descent—quite as many claimed maternal descent. Richard Muilman Trench Chiswell, David Vanderheyden and Joshua Vanneck were of Dutch antecedents, but born in England. Paul Le Mesurier was a native of Alderney. William Busk had a Franco-Swedish genealogy, and George William Denys a Swiss one. The Barings, Dorrien Magens and Sir John Duntze were of North German extraction, and Theodore Henry Broadhead’s family came from Hanover. An interesting case is that of Henry Speed, born in London of an English mother as heir to the Savoyard diplomat, the Comte de Viry. His father-in-law the Earl of Sandwich returned him unopposed to Westminster in 1790 under the alias of his mother’s surname. Naturalized Englishmen were however ineligible to sit in Parliament, as were aliens.



Just over 100 Irishmen, or Anglo-Irishmen, whether born, bred in or connected by family and property with Ireland, sat for non-Irish seats in this period. In the century before the Act of Union the term ‘Irish adventurers’ had readily been applied to men of talent from the sister island who made their way in English public life. The genius of such Irishmen as Edmund Burke and Richard Brinsley Sheridan had done much to tone down the imputation. It had never properly applied to the sons of landed magnates with estates in both islands sitting for English seats. After the Union the number of these increased. At least 37 Members who sat for non-Irish seats had been Members of the Dublin parliament before 1800, though nine of these were not Irishmen but imported place-holders in the vice-regal administration. Only half of the Members with Irish connexions never sat for Irish constituencies, either before or after the Union, and of the rest about half held non-Irish seats for reasons of family or ministerial convenience. Others, admittedly, were more akin to ‘adventurers’ with little or nothing to look for in Ireland: John Baker Holroyd, Philip Francis, Lyndon Evelyn, Whitshed Keene, John Nesbitt, Humphrey Minchin, James Blair, Michael George Prendergast, William Holmes, the Sullivan brothers, Benjamin Bloomfield, John Leland, John Hayes St. Leger, John Courtenay, Lucius Concannon, Benjamin Walsh, Sir Home Popham, William Henry Pringle, Mark Singleton, John Kingston, George Tierney, George Canning I and John McMahon were notable instances.

Scotsmen sitting for non-Scottish seats numbered over 130, noticeably more than the Irish. With 45 seats in Scotland almost monopolized by themselves, the Scots still needed more scope. The eldest sons of Scottish peers, who were not eligible to be created peers of Great Britain until 1782, could not sit for seats in Scotland, and they are among the number. In addition, some Scottish peerage families had English or Welsh interests—notably the Butes. Apart from them, the Campbells, created Lords Cawdor, had Welsh interests. The Johnstone family interest at Weymouth brought in Scots Members; the Dundas interest in Yorkshire introduced members of the family. But, by and large, far more Scots than Irish might properly be termed adventurers: their own country could not support them. Many of them were nabobs—John Agnew, John Alexander Bannerman, Sir George Dallas, Philip Dundas, John Fleming, Charles Forbes, Joseph Hume, Sir John Macpherson, James Paull, Sir William Paxton, John and William Petrie, Patrick Ross, George Simson, James Charles Stuart Strange and Henry Trail come to mind. This was no coincidence: the East India patronage bestowed on his countrymen by Henry Dundas was at work. Apart from dominating Scottish elections, he also occasionally returned Scots for vacant English seats in which he was able to exert ministerial influence, and Scottish Whigs were more or less driven out of their country by him to look for seats elsewhere. Only 23 of all these Members ever sat for Scottish constituencies: the rest crept into every corner of the land for their seats. They were more likely than the Irish to be of mercantile background—London Scottish merchants were often ambitious of a seat in Parliament.

Only 21 Welshmen sat for non-Welsh seats (see p. 68).



Five Members were expelled from the House in this period. The first was John Fenton Cawthorne expelled on 2 May 1796 for malversation of militia funds: 11 years later he resumed his seat. Joseph Hunt, treasurer of the Ordnance, had a deficit of £93,296 to account for. He fled abroad, was expelled in absentia, 23 May 1810, and died in France six years later. Benjamin Walsh, a stockbroker, was expelled on 5 Mar. 1812 for a fraud on Sir Thomas Plumer: he too fled abroad. A year later he re-emerged at Plymouth, where he became a newspaper owner, but the venture failed. Lord Cochrane was expelled on 5 July 1814 for manipulating the Stock Exchange. Cochrane’s guilt not being clearly established, he was able to recover his reputation, and secured re-election. It was his uncle, Andrew James Cochrane Johnstone, expelled the same day, who instigated the attempt to influence the stocks by a false report of Buonaparte’s defeat. Cochrane Johnstone, who had fled the country, was one of those rogues whose activities defy analysis from the incomplete surviving evidence.

Other Members narrowly escaped expulsion. George Galway Mills was returned to Parliament to escape his creditors, and obtained immunity by his election in 1807 merely to gain time for his flight abroad. He survived his disgrace, being reelected in 1818 disguised as plain George Mills. He was soon on his travels again, provided, ironically, with a job in Australia. The convict aristocracy there outwitted him at gambling and he committed suicide. Joseph Hunt was the only office-holder expelled for peculation. Others were not brought to book. John Fordyce, who in 1783 owed the public as much as Hunt, got away with it; Thomas Steele, with nearly £20,000 of Pay Office funds to account for, repaid it all on being found out in 1807 and retired unscathed from Parliament. Oliver de Lancey was no longer in the House when his barracks accounts were found deficient in 1804: his property was distrained by the Treasury two years later. Richard Mansel Philipps’s private debts involved him in fraud and libel cases, and by 1812, at the end of his first Parliament, he was beyond rehabilitation. He did not seek reelection, nor (in 1796) did Henry Speed, a debtor likewise charged with fraud, who fled to the Isle of Man. Christopher Atkinson’s shady dealings led to his exposure for perjury in 1783; pardoned in 1790, he changed his name and resumed his parliamentary career. Stephen Thurston Adey, dislodged from his banking partnership for gross professional misconduct in 1801, also made a fresh start but died soon after.

Election offences damaged the reputations of several Members. Sir Christopher Hawkins, the Cornish boroughmonger, narrowly escaped expulsion in 1807 when his corrupt practices were exposed in the House. Sir William Manners was found guilty of assaulting a recalcitrant elector. Sir Manasseh Lopes was fined and imprisoned for election bribery in 1819. In the same year Wyndham Quin, an Irish Member and renegade Whig, was assailed in the House for his manipulation of the county officers in his election the year before. He survived the charge with ministerial support, but did not seek re-election in 1820. Gwyllym Lloyd Wardle, who briefly achieved nationwide popularity by exposing the baneful influence on the Duke of York, commander-in-chief of the army, of his mistress Mary Anne Clarke, was in disgrace two years later, by which time it was clear that his own conduct had been highly questionable. Years before, the Duke of York had himself called Richard Barry, 7th Earl of Barrymore, ‘a great rogue’: if so, he was a short-lived one, for he died aged 24. In somewhat different fashion, the radical John Horne Tooke was not allowed to live down his past when returned to the House in 1801. Many years before he had been in holy orders and on this pretext his political opponents had him declared ineligible to sit in the House, though he was allowed to retain his seat until the dissolution. Another radical, Banjamin Vaughan, had fled the country in 1794 when he faced implication in the treason scare as a known sympathizer with the French revolutionary regime. He never returned.

Members who were army or naval officers faced the occupational hazard of courts martial. This did not make them rogues. Among the army officers, Sir John Murray survived a damaging court martial in 1815; Lord William Fitzroy, a naval officer, was dismissed the service in 1811, but reinstated the same year. John Henry Loft, was, however, something of a rogue. He was deprived of his army rank in 1817 as ‘unworthy’. Sir Thomas Troubridge, a naval hero, was accused of a stock exchange fraud in 1803, but the case was not proved against him and the matter was dropped.

The respectability of William Jolliffe was almost undermined in 1791 when he was convicted of abusing his powers as a local magistrate for his own advantage: he lived it down. William Beckford, a sexual outlaw, was seldom seen in Parliament and led a reclusive life when in England; two other Members with homosexual tastes were not exposed for them until after 1820. Sir Eyre Coote’s partiality for flagellation placed him in danger of expulsion when it was revealed in 1815, but he survived the scandal. Henry William Fitzgerald de Ros’s career as a roué; began with the prostitution of Harriet Cavendish in 1818 and ended with his cheating at cards. No young virgin he could procure was safe from Sir Robert Williams. Henry Penton was a social pariah because he abandoned his wife to live with her maid, whom he eventually married.

It was in the 18th century that the English eccentric flourished. Many Members in this period might merit the description, but some 35 either verged on insanity or were insane. The former category included Patrick Duigenan, the pathologically anti-Catholic Irish Member; Thomas Cherburgh Bligh, who harassed his cousin Lord Darnley for many years and ended up in a debtors’ prison; the Earl of Bective, ‘a chattering, capering spindleshanked gaby’, whose crim. con. with Lord George Thomas Beresford’s wife caused her husband to commit her to an asylum; Charles Tottenham, ‘a strange odd fellow who never leaves home’; Montagu Mathew, the Irish giant with stentorian lungs, who shouted everybody down, the House included; Charles Brereton Trelawny, who was pathologically mean; Robert Deverell, the eccentric author, thought mad by some; Nathaniel Brassey Halhed, also thought to be going out of his mind when he became a follower of the prophet Richard Brothers; Henry Drummond, who, perhaps equally unjustly, had his sanity questioned when he espoused the Irvingite sect; Sir John Macpherson, an irrepressible egomaniac who corresponded for the most part with royalty; John Blackburne, who, by contrast, treated royalty rudely; John Pytches, unhinged by his projected English dictionary. Paranoid tendencies were exhibited by Sir William Manners, and persecution mania by Richard Wilson I, the Hon. William Cornwallis and William Beckford. John Broadhurst, at least during his first Parliament, was a victim of neurosis. Thomas Whitmore was ‘one-third’ mad, which became particularly noticeable when he was ‘two-thirds’ drunk as well. The persistent clowning of John Courtenay, Sir Frederick Flood and Marmaduke Lawson passed as eccentricity in their day but not all observers gave them the benefit of the doubt.

Over 20 Members suffered bouts of insanity or lapsed into permanent insanity, a fate shared by their sovereign. Lord John Townshend was spasmodically unstable, like other members of his family. His nephew Lord Charles Patrick Thomas Townshend fell victim to this trait on the night of his election to Parliament in 1796: either he shot himself or his brother shot him dead in a paralytic frenzy. Henry Brougham, whose sister was a lunatic, betrayed insanity at times, especially later in life: his intellectual flights had often appeared to lesser minds indistinguishable from it. Lord Glerawly was ‘once in Willis’s care’. Those who never recovered their sanity included Joshua Edward Cooper, ‘deranged’ by 1804—he went out of the House in 1806; William Frankland, whose mental atrophy led to his leaving Parliament in 1815; Sir James Hall, confused of mind by 1818; John, Lord Proby, a victim of the Walcheren fever, insane for the last 40 years of his life; John William Ward, long eccentric and judged insane by 1832; Hon. Coulson Wallop, ever of feeble intellect, like his brother the 3rd Earl of Portsmouth; William Garthshore, unhinged by the deaths of his wife and child; Thomas Clarke Jervoise, after he had left the House; Lewis Alexander Grant, a promising young man, pronounced incurable at the age of 27; and Sir Thomas John Tyrwhitt Jones, whose insanity followed a shooting accident in 1827. William Congreve Alcock went mad after shooting his opponent John Colclough dead in the Wexford election of 1807. A bid by his constituents to unseat him failed. Seven Members who committed suicide were thought to have done so while the balance of their minds was disturbed: Richard Muilman Trench Chiswell, Sir Godfrey Webster, William Crosbie, James Paull, Sir William Erskine and (in 1848) Sir Henry St. John Carew Mildway and Augustus John Foster. Among the Members who suffered from a form of senile dementia before they died were Richard Paul Jodrell and William Stewart Rose. John Sawbridge led a vegetable existence after a paralytic stroke in his last Parliament.

Nineteen Members in this period certainly committed suicide. John Pardoe blew his brains out during his wife’s funeral in 1796. Richard Muilman Trench Chiswell shot himself in 1797 after business setbacks; the verdict was lunacy. William Crosbie was also deranged when he took his own life in 1798, and Sir Godfrey Webster when he shot himself in 1800. It is not certain whether Lord Charles Patrick Thomas Townshend shot himself or was shot dead by his brother after election celebrations in 1796. George Barclay made a half-hearted attempt at suicide in 1806. James Paull, an adventurer whose political and personal fortunes were at a low ebb, cut his throat in 1808. Lord Auckland’s eldest son William Frederick Elliot Eden was found drowned in the Thames in 1810. The inquest ruled out foul play and left the verdict open: the motive was obscure, but an unhappy clandestine love affair may have been the cause. Sir William Erskine was believed not to be in his right mind when he committed suicide at Lisbon in 1813. Three notorious suicides were those of Samuel Whitbread II in 1815, Sir Samuel Romilly in 1818 and Lord Londonderry (formerly Castlereagh) in 1822. All three cut their throats. Romilly’s suicide followed a breakdown after the death of his wife. The other two seemed to have no certain basis, especially Whitbread’s, though Castlereagh’s intimates knew that he had been mentally distraught for some time. George Campbell shot himself in a bout of depression in 1821—he was then no longer a Member. Nor was James Gordon when he ‘cut his throat’—the report has not been confirmed—in 1822. James Hamilton Stanhope was, when he hanged himself in 1825: wounded in action, he had long suffered bouts of intolerable physical pain. George Galway Mills, whose affairs were in disarray, shot himself in Sydney in 1828. Lord Graves cut his throat in 1830, allegedly through marital jealousy—he had heard reports that he was being cuckolded by the Duke of Cumberland. A year later John Calcraft shot himself after turning coat politically—the strain of reproach was apparently too much for him. Richard Wellesley, who had twice failed to commit suicide, died in 1831 from natural causes, as did John Dent, another would-be suicide, in 1826. Henry Brooke Parnell shot himself in 1842. Augustus John Foster cut his throat in 1848, assailed by religious doubts after an illness, and in the same year Sir Henry St. John Carew, who was in financial difficulties, shot himself.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: R. G. Thorne

End Notes