HUGHES, James (1778-1845), of Llysdulas, Anglesey and Berkeley Square, Mdx.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009
Available from Cambridge University Press



1820 - 11 July 1820
1831 - 1832

Family and Education

b. 12 Nov. 1778, 3rd s. Rev. Edward Hughes (d. 1815) of Kinmel Park, Denb. and Mary, da. and coh. of Robert Lewis of Llysdulas; bro. of William Lewis Hughes*. m. 16 Mar. 1841, Frances Anne Jane, da. of Sir Francis Charles Stanhope, s.p. CB 4 June 1815. d. 28 Nov. 1845.

Offices Held

Cornet 16 Drag. 1800; lt. 18 Drag. 16 Sept. 1802, capt. 22 Sept. 1802, maj. 1812, lt.-col. 1817, half-pay 1821; col. 1837.


Hughes, unlike his elder brother William, Member for Wallingford, 1802-1831, played no active part in the family’s copper mining business, whence came their immense wealth, but followed a military career. He saw active service in the Peninsula and was wounded in the cavalry assault at Mayorga. During the retreat from Corunna, he commanded the Hussars as they formed ‘the last picket of the British cavalry, which remained until whole embarkation had taken place’. Later, while stationed in the south of France, he was ‘severely wounded’ in an action near Hellette.1 He shared his brother’s Whig politics and joined Brooks’s, 7 May 1816. Whilst in France, he accepted an invitation from the Grantham freemen living in London to come forward at the 1818 general election in opposition to the candidates of the influential Brownlow and Manners famililes. Though first in the field, obtaining permission to leave delayed his departure and he arrived only just in time for the poll. His backers William Ostler, an attorney and the town clerk, and Sir John Thorold of nearby Syston Park urged to him continue, but he received only 14 votes. On his return to France he was court martialled on a charge of going absent without leave, but cleared after it was shown that his leave order had arrived before his departure.2

At the 1820 general election he offered again for Grantham, after an encouraging private canvass on his behalf and amid reports of support from the duke of Devonshire and Lord George Cavendish*. Branded by his opponents as a ‘radical’ and a ‘coppermonger’, who was ‘totally unconnected’ with the borough, on the hustings he clarified his alleged ‘radicalism’, saying that ‘he did not exactly understand the meaning of that title, but if it means a Spencean, or a disciple of annual parliaments and universal suffrage, the accusation was unjust, as he was no advocate for such chimerical doctrines’. He assured them of his support for the ‘glorious constitution’ and added that nothing appeared more dangerous to him than attempts ‘to control and influence elections’.3 After a three-day poll he was returned in second place. Shortly after the declaration an address from ‘H. Manners of Buckminster’ appeared in the local press denouncing Hughes as ‘an upstart coppermonger’ and ‘an ungentlemanlike exciter of tenants against landlords and workmen against masters’, and claiming to have sufficient ‘proofs of bribery against this adventurer’ to unseat him on petition.4 In a published response, Hughes named the writer as Sir William Manners†, as ‘no one lives at Buckminster to whom the signature can apply but one of your sons, who is yet quite a boy’, dismissed the comments about being ‘a coppermonger, ironmonger, or any other monger that implied honest and honourable commerce’, and explained that he demanded an explanation for the charge of ungentlemanlike conduct, to which he could not be ‘permitted to ... be indifferent’, but had received no reply. ‘What can be expected from a man who, in the exercise of low scurrility, is unrestrained by the dignity of sex, rank or the general estimation in which the object of his impotent violence is held?’, he asked, before conjecturing that Manners’s motive was to close the borough.5

Hughes is not known to have spoken in debate. It is not clear whether it was he or his brother, a colonel in the militia, who was the ‘Col. Hughes’ listed in the minority on the civil list, 5 May, but he voted with opposition on the same issue, 8 May, and against the appointment of an additional Scottish baron of exchequer, 15 May, and the continuation of the Aliens Act, 1 June, and may have been the ‘Col. Hughes’ in the minority for reducing the standing army, 14 June 1820. He divided against the motion urging Queen Caroline to compromise her stance, 22 June. Following the presentation of Manners’s petition an election committee was appointed, 10 July. Next day they unseated Hughes, citing his illegal payments to out-voters to ‘indemnify them for loss of time’, a practice which they believed had been sufficiently general to necessitate a by-election, from which he was excluded.6 In his parting address, 19 July 1820, Hughes claimed to have been unfairly targeted by Manners and promised that he would ‘not abandon’ the borough.7 At the ensuing by-election he helped to bring up the London out-voters in the successful campaign against Manners’s eldest son.8

At the 1831 general election he accepted an invitation from the London freemen to offer again for Grantham, following the unexpected retirement of the pro-reform Member because of ill health and the candidature of two of Manners’s sons. In his campaign he claimed to have been ‘content with his retirement, provided your independence was secure’, but explained that he now felt compelled to act, adding that ‘time had made no change to his principles’, which ‘remained what they had always been, most decidedly in favour of reform’. After a three-day poll he was returned in second place, ahead of Manners’s sons.9 He voted for the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, against the adjournment, 12 July, and gave generally steady support to the bill’s details, though he was in the minority against the proposed division of counties, 11 Aug. Listed in error by The Times in the minority against Lord Chandos’s amendment to enfranchise £50 tenants-at-will, 18 Aug., he wrote to explain that he had abstained:

Entertaining the opinion that ... property, even to its minimum, should have a share in the election of representatives, I could not in the abstract object to the franchise being given to tenants paying £50 ... while I could not be insensible to the argument of Lord Milton about the derivative right of voting, which ... appears to me to have great weight ... particularly since ... the division of counties prevents the expansion of the voter’s opinion out of that part of the country where he is irresistibly influenced by the immediate personal claims of his landlord ... Under the confliction of these considerations, I declined to vote ... I trust the division of counties will, at all events, become unnecessary.10

He voted for the third reading, 19 Sept., and passage of the bill, 21 Sept., and Lord Ebrington’s confidence motion, 10 Oct. 1831. He divided for the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831, again silently supported its details, and voted for the third reading, 22 Mar. 1832. He was in the minority of 51 for printing the Woollen Grange petition for the abolition of Irish tithes, 16 Feb. He divided for the address calling on the king to appoint only ministers who would carry reform unimpaired, 10 May, the second reading of the Irish reform bill, 25 May, and against a Conservative amendment to increase Scottish county representation, 1 June, but was in the minority for O’Connell’s motion to extend the Irish county franchise to £5 freeholders, 18 June. He voted with ministers on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., 12, 16, 20 July, and relations with Portugal, 9 Feb. At the 1832 dissolution he retired from politics.

Hughes died intestate in Florence in November 1845. Administration of his estate passed to his widow.11

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Authors: Philip Salmon / Martin Casey


  • 1. Gent. Mag. (1846), i. 209.
  • 2. UCNW, Hughes of Kinmel mss 1581.
  • 3. The Times, 15 Feb. 1820; Grantham Pollbook (Ridge, 1820), 8, 19-20; (Storr, 1820), 8, 13.
  • 4. Drakard’s Stamford News, 24 Mar. 1820.
  • 5. Ibid. 14 Apr. 1820.
  • 6. The Times, 6, 12 July 1820.
  • 7. Lincoln, Rutland and Stamford Mercury, 21 July 1820.
  • 8. The Times, 20 Nov. 1820.
  • 9. Boston Gazette, 3 May 1831; Grantham Pollbook (Ridge, 1831), passim.
  • 10. The Times, 19, 20 Aug. 1831.
  • 11. PROB 6/222/46; IR26/264/253.