VI. The Members

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

Age, Family and Parliamentary Experience

Between the dissolutions of 1820 and 1832 the number of Members elected to the House was 1,367. Of these, 667 had first been returned before the general election of 1820. There were 37 survivors from the period before 1790. Eight of these men had first come in before the outbreak of the American War: William Plumer (1763); Sir John Aubrey and Lord Carhampton (1768); Sir William Lemon (1770); Thomas Assheton Smith I and Henry Peirse (1774); and Lord George Augustus Henry Cavendish and Charles Dundas (1775). Plumer was the only Member who sat in the first Parliaments of both George III and George IV.

The following table shows the age of Members when returned at each general election.





Under 30






























Over 80





Age not known



Returned for

more than

one constituency





No return


Average age






Members aged 40 to 60 continued to exceed those aged under 40.

None of the Members sitting in this period became a centenarian, but there were 250 octogenarians and 27 nonagenarians, comprising a fifth of the Membership. Charles Tyrell was almost 96 when he died in January 1872, and William Childe was nearly 95 at his death in December 1880. John Severn and Charles Shaw Lefevre lived to be 94. Of the Members who were first returned to the House in this period, only three had not attained their legal majorities (21) at the time: John Foster Barham (Stockbridge, 1820); John Robert Townshend (Whitchurch, 1826); and Lord Pollington (Gatton, 1831). All were within a few weeks of their majorities. Lord Lovaine was returned for Bere Alston in 1831 on his 21st birthday. The county Down election of 1826 was deliberately prolonged until 8 July to enable Lord Castlereagh to reach his 21st birthday on the 7th. There were 15 or possibly 16 Members who had been returned under age before 1820. Twenty-eight Members (of the whole total) were 60 or over when first elected.

Of the 1,367 Members, 844 (62 per cent) sat during ten or more years (not necessarily consecutively): 391 from ten to 19 years; 250 from 20 to 29 years; 150 from 30 to 39 years; 37 from 40 to 49 years; and 16 for 50 or more years. Thus 203 (15 per cent) sat for 30 or more years and 53 for 40 or more. The longest serving Members were Christopher Mansel Talbot (60 years as Member for Glamorgan); Aubrey (58 years for seven constituencies); George Byng, Member for Middlesex (57); Lord Palmerston (57 years for five seats); Sir Charles Burrell (56 as Member for New Shoreham); Cavendish (55 for three constituencies); Henry Lowther (Member for Westmorland for 55 years); George Granville Vernon (55 years for two seats); Lemon (54 years, 50 of them as Member for Cornwall); and Charles Watkin Williams Wynn (53 years, all but two as Member for Montgomeryshire).

In this period, the average age of Members on first entering the House, including those who did so before 1820, was 34.7 years. The figures for the periods 1754-1790 and 1790-1820 were 32.6 and 33.3 respectively. This suggests a discernible increase in the age profile of the House. However, Members first entering the House between 1820 and 1832 averaged 36.1 years, compared with 37.3 for those entering between 1790 and 1820. The earliest born of the 1820-32 Members was James Ferguson (25 May 1735), and the latest was Henry Glynne (9 Sept. 1810). The first fatality was Henry Grattan I, who died at his Baker Street lodgings on 4 June 1820 after making an heroic but futile journey from Dublin in the hope of renewing his call for Catholic relief. None of the Members lived into the twentieth century. The last survivor of the unreformed Commons was Pollington (4th earl of Mexborough from 1860), who died on 17 Aug. 1899, eight months after Lovaine (6th duke of Northumberland from 1867). Curiously, both had by then turned Catholic. Two Members perished in railway accidents: clumsy William Huskisson, who was run over by a locomotive at the opening of the Liverpool and Manchester railway in September 1830; and Henry Maxwell (7th Baron Farnham from 1838), who was incinerated with his wife and about 30 other people in the Abergele disaster of August 1868. Eight Members died before reaching 30, the youngest being George Coussmaker, who was no more than 24 when he expired in May 1821.

The average life expectancy of Members in this period was about 68.3 years, a slight increase on the figure for 1790-1820. Some 163 Members (12 per cent) are not known to have married, but at least eight of them fathered and acknowledged bastards, as did as many as 60 married Members. Twice-married Members numbered 221. Lord Worcester’s marriage in 1822 to the half-sister of his late first wife caused a sensation. While not illegal, it was technically voidable under the laws of consanguinity, and it was not ratified until 1836 (by the Act of 1835). Nineteen Members married three times. These included the dissolute Lord Blandford, who before taking his first wife went through a mock marriage, officiated by his brother Lord Charles Spencer Churchill, posing as a clergyman, with a 16-year-old London girl. She bore him a daughter and was subsequently paid off by the family. Lord Eliot married four times and Duncan Davidson five. Some 36 Members became divorced or separated from their wives: the odious William Pole Tylney Long Wellesley managed this twice. At least 14 Members were illegitimate. Forty-six are known to have fathered 12 or more children; the most prolific was Jonathan Frederick Pollock, who inflicted 19 on his two wives, while Sir Gerard Noel sired 18 (with one woman), and Davidson (with three) and Ross Mahon (with two) had 17 mouths to feed.

Of the Members in this period, 722 (53 per cent) were only or eldest surviving sons; and of these, 392 (54 per cent) had come into their paternal inheritances before entering the House. For Members returned before 1820, the figures are 347 first sons and 186 inheritors; and for those elected from 1820 they are 375 first sons and 206 inheritors. A quarter (340) of the Members were the eldest surviving or only surviving sons of past or present Members of Parliament, and a further 199 were the younger sons of such Members, making up 39 per cent of the Membership. Eighty-five Members in this period had a son or sons in the House during it, more often as successors than as contemporaries and in only one instance (Sir John and George Stevens Byng) as a precursor. The first Sir Robert Peel had five sons in the House in this period, while Denis Browne, himself a Member, had three. There were at least 64 sons of Members of the defunct Irish House of Commons (some of whom were also Members of the United Parliament). Seventeen of the first sons of past and present Members who sat in this period predeceased their fathers. There were 101 pairs of brothers in the House in this period, and 16 trios (Barings, Broughams, Brownes, Bullers, Cavendish Bentincks, Custs, Dundases, Fitzroys, Knoxes, Lennoxes, Ponsonbys, Robarts, Russells, Smiths, Thynnes and Tollemaches). There were four Ashley Coopers and Percys, and the five Peels mentioned above. The House continued to fulfil its role as a marriage bureau. A total of 334 of the 1820-32 Members married the daughters of Members past, present and future. At least 28 married daughters of former Irish Members.

The turnover of Members remained comparatively low. At the 1820 general election (which occurred only 21 months after the previous one), 571 of the men returned (87 per cent) had previous parliamentary experience and only 87 had none. A further 108 novices were subsequently returned on petition or at by-elections. The 1826 general election saw the return of 515 previous Members (78 per cent) and 143 newcomers. During the life of that Parliament a further 62 with no previous experience were returned on petition or at by-elections. An almost identical number of parliamentary veterans (517, or 79 per cent) were elected in 1830, along with 141 men with no previous experience. The short life of this Parliament (nine months) meant that only 21 new Members came in subsequently. At the 1831 general election, 541 (82 per cent) with previous experience came in, with 116 parliamentary virgins. Only 21 more novices found their way into the House during the 16-month duration of the reform Parliament.

Of the 1,367 Members, 576 (42 per cent) were returned at some point after 1832. Sixteen were Members after the second Reform Act of 1867. Three parliamentary dinosaurs, who were removed from the House only by death, are worthy of mention: Sir Philip Egerton (1881), Mansel Talbot (1890) and, the last Member of the unreformed House to occupy a seat, the preposterous O’Gorman Mahon, who died as Member for county Carlow in June 1891. Between 1820 and 1832, some 170 sitting Members (12 per cent) were defeated at the polls (not necessarily in contests for the seats which they had occupied); but only 80 (six per cent of the whole) of these men failed to find a way back into the House in this period. In 1826 there were 13 such victims; in 1830 22; and in 1831, when a number of anti-reformers gave up the ghost without going to a poll, 43. By-elections accounted for nine casualties.


Social Standing

The House remained a stronghold of the aristocracy in this period, when its Membership included 150 heirs of peers (of whom 12 died in their father’s lifetimes) and 141 younger sons of peers, of whom 25 eventually succeeded to peerages. There were also 11 peer’s bastards: Sir John Poo Beresford (1st marquess of Waterford); Maurice Fitzhardinge Berkeley (5th earl of Berkeley); Sir Augustus William James Clifford (5th duke of Devonshire); James Cuffe (1st Baron Tyrawley); Henry Ellis (4th earl of Buckinghamshire); George Finch (9th earl of Winchilsea); Charles Richard Fox (3rd Baron Holland); Robert Knight (1st earl of Catherlough); Henry Frederick Stephenson (11th duke of Norfolk); James Stuart (9th Baron Blantyre); and Richard Wellesley (1st Marquess Wellesley). Together, these men account for 22 per cent of the total Membership in this period, about the same as in the previous one. Sixteen first sons succeeded to British dukedoms, but none did so in this period: 14 succeeded their fathers, and two succeeded cousins. One heir to a dukedom died in his father’s lifetime (Lord Titchfield in 1824). Eleven heirs succeeded their fathers to British marquessates, three in this period. To British earldoms, 41 Members succeeded their fathers (four in this period), two succeeded their grandfathers and two their cousins, while one each succeeded an uncle and a half-brother, the last in this period. One heir to a British earldom died before his father (Lord Newark in 1850). Of the four Members who succeeded to their fathers’ British viscountcies, two did so in this period. One succeeded his uncle. Twenty-three succeeded their fathers as British barons, five doing so in this period, as did the one who succeeded his mother. One succeeded a brother and one a cousin. Two heirs to baronies predeceased their fathers (George Agar Ellis in 1832 and William Scott in 1835). Nine heirs of British peers were summoned to the Lords in their fathers’ lifetimes, one within this period. Five first sons succeeded their fathers to Irish marquessates, two doing so in this period. One succeeded also to a British barony. One such Member died in his father’s lifetime (Lord Mount Charles in 1824). To Irish earldoms, and in eight cases also to British baronies, 22 heirs succeeded their fathers, five in this period. Two succeeded cousins and one each an uncle (also to a British barony) and a grandfather. Five heirs to Irish earldoms died before their fathers (Lords Clements in 1839, Ennismore in 1827, Forbes in 1836, Kingsborough in 1837 and Valentia in 1841). Six heirs to Irish viscountcies succeeded their fathers, one in this period. One also came into a British barony and one later succeeded a cousin to an earldom. One Member succeeded to his mother’s viscountcy and his father’s British barony in this period. Ten succeeded to their fathers’ Irish baronies (one also to a British barony), two doing so in this period, when two others succeeded cousins. One succeeded his grandfather and one his mother. One heir to an Irish barony died before his father (Edward Henry Edwardes in 1827). Twelve Irish peers sat for non-Irish constituencies in this period. Fourteen Members later became Irish representative peers. One first son succeeded his father as a Scottish duke and British earl. Two did so to Scottish marquessates (one with a British barony also), one in this period. Five succeeded their fathers as Scottish earls (one also as a British baron), two of them within this period. One succeeded his grandmother. One died in his father’s lifetime (Lord Kennedy in 1832). One Member succeeded his father as a Scottish baron. James Andrew John Lawrence Charles Drummond became 6th Viscount Strathallan in 1824 on the reversal of an Act of attainder. He and Henry Francis Hepburne Scott (7th Lord Polworth) became Scottish representative peers.

Of the younger sons of British peers, 20 were the offspring of British dukes. One succeeded his brother, two were created earls and two barons (one of each in this period). Of the 13 sons of marquesses, one succeeded his father and another a brother, within this period. Two others succeeded brothers as barons, one succeeded his mother, and one was created an earl. There were 37 younger sons of British earls. Seven succeeded brothers, including two in this period, and one succeeded his father. Another succeeded his brother as a duke. Two were created barons. Of the 21 younger sons of British barons and one of a baroness, five inherited from brothers, one in this period, and one succeeded his mother. One (Frederick John Robinson, Lord Goderich) was created a viscount in 1827 (and promoted to earl of Ripon in 1833). The Irish younger sons consisted of one of a duke, three of marquesses, 14 of earls, five of viscounts and six of barons. One succeeded his father as a marquess in this period. Three succeeded brothers to Irish earldoms, one doing so in this period, and one succeeded a cousin. The latter and one of the former were also given British baronies in 1821. One Member succeeded a brother to an Irish viscountcy and one his mother to a barony. The one younger son of a Scottish duke succeeded his brother. Two of the eight sons of Scottish earls succeeded their bothers, one with a British barony, and another was created a British baron in 1831. The two sons of Scottish marquesses, one of a viscount and one of a baron did not inherit.

Aristocratic families who were well represented in the Commons in this period were those of Russell (seven Members); Cavendish, Cavendish Bentinck, Dundas, Fitzroy, Howard, Percy and Ponsonby (five each); and Ashley Cooper, Campbell, King, Pleydell Bouverie, Scott, Somerset, Thynne, Townshend and Wellesley (four each). The ramifications of the peerage in the Commons of course extended to numerous Members other than the sons of peers, through mothers who were the daughters of peers, marriage into peerage families, various blood ties and electoral patronage.

Of the commoner Members in this period, 82 were created peers at some point, but only 18 of them between 1820 and 1832 – in contrast to the excesses of Pitt’s time. All received British baronies. The coronation creations of 1821 rewarded the ministerialists John Foster, the last Speaker of the Irish Commons, and the distinguished civilian Sir William Scott, brother of lord chancellor Eldon. In 1823 the chancellor of the exchequer Nicholas Vansittart was kicked upstairs to make way for younger blood. The following year Sir Robert Gifford, the attorney-general, was ennobled on his appointment as lord chief justice of common pleas; there were subsequent legal peerages for John Copley and William Plunket (1827) and Henry Brougham (1830). At the dissolution of 1826 Lord Liverpool secured peerages for four long-serving supporters of his ministry: Charles Duncombe, Charles Ellis, Charles Long and James Stuart Wortley. The leading Whig John George Lambton received a peerage from the outgoing Goderich ministry, which he had supported, in early 1828, as did the Lancashire Tory Edward Bootle Wilbraham, suggested by the king as a counterweight to Lambton’s elevation. Soon afterwards Thomas Wallace, a former Tory minister, was given a peerage by the new premier, the duke of Wellington, to stop his political aspirations from complicating the formation of his administration. The Grey ministry’s coronation honours of 1831 included baronies for the staunch Whig Members Arthur Chichester II, Sir Edward Pryce Lloyd and William Lewis Hughes. The 80-year-old Whig Charles Dundas, who had been first returned in 1775 and had no male issue, was given a peerage in May 1832. British baronies were conferred on the Irish peers Lords Fife (1827) and Sefton (1831). Six heirs of peers received British baronies in this period: Lords Jocelyn (1821), Lindsay (1826) and Bective (1831) after succeeding their fathers; and Lords Binning (1827) and Stanley (1832) and Agar Ellis (1831) before doing so. Besides Robinson, noticed above, five younger sons of peers were ennobled in this period: James Butler received a coronation British barony in 1821, and was created an Irish marquess in 1825; the cabinet minister William Wellesley Pole, Wellington’s brother, also received a British barony in 1821 (he later succeeded his brother Richard as 3rd earl of Mornington); and the three Whigs Lord George Cavendish, William Maule (1831 coronation) and Lord Francis Osborne (1832) were elevated by the Grey administration. The issue of peerage creations of course loomed large in the reform crisis of 1831-2, following the reintroduced bill’s rejection by the Lords in October 1831. There was much agonizing among ministers, but early in 1832 Lord Grey secured a promise from the king to create enough new pro-reform peers to carry the revised measure through the Upper House. On the bill’s defeat in committee there in April, the king went back on his word and refused to create the necessary peers, prompting Grey and his colleagues to resign. The failure of the king and Wellington’s attempts to form a Conservative ministry to bring forward a modified reform scheme and the threat of popular violence led to Grey’s reinstatement and the king’s agreement to create peers. In order to prevent their House being swamped, the anti-reform peers and bishops, at Wellington’s prompting, gave way.

Numerous Members unsuccessfully solicited peerages, among them Sir John Aubrey, John Calcraft, Sir Hew Dalrymple Hamilton, Sir Compton Domvile, Dugdale Stratford Dugdale, John Gordon, Hans Hamilton, Sir Christopher Hawkins, Sir William Heathcote, John Thomas Hope, Sir John Kynaston Powell, Sir Thomas Lethbridge, John Lowther, Sir Gerard Noel, Sir Edward O’Brien, William Ord, William Edward Powell, Sir Matthew White Ridley, Michael Angelo Taylor, Sir Leonard Thomas Worsley Holmes and Marmaduke Wyvill. The staunch but disappointed Whig Ord complained privately in 1831 about what he saw as the ‘disreputable’ coronation creations.1

Baronetcies continued to be sought after, and 159 of the Members in this period (12 per cent, as against 11 per cent in the previous period) succeeded to one at some point. Most succeeded their fathers, but ten succeeded brothers, seven their uncles, four their grandfathers, and one each their father-in-law and a ‘kinsman’. Of the baronets by succession, seven were created peers, five succeeded to peerages and two were already Irish peers. One-hundred-and-six were baronets before they entered the House in this period; 17 succeeded during their membership in it; and the rest succeeded after 1832. The number of Members sitting in this period who were created baronets was 65. Twenty-nine had been so created before they were first returned in this period, while 19 were honoured after 1832. Of the 17 who were created baronets between 1820 and 1832, 12 received the accolade while they were sitting: they were John Astley and the Irish Members Arthur Chichester and Robert Shaw (1821); Edward Hyde East and Charles Forbes (1823); John Lowther (1824); John Hutton Cooper, Richard Bulkeley Philipps, George Philips, Charles William Taylor and Richard Husssey Vivian (1828); and Robert Greenhill (1831). The Grey ministry honoured Theodore Henry Lavington Broadhead, Robert Harty, William Heygate, James Martin Lloyd and William Wrixon in 1831, when they were no longer sitting Members. Harty’s baronetcy, to which he was theoretically entitled as a former lord mayor of Dublin, remained in doubt for some time, partly on account of his involvement in the Dublin electoral bribery scandal, but he was eventually given satisfaction. Four of those who received baronetcies were later elevated to the peerage. A disappointed aspirant to a baronetcy, who plagued the Liverpool ministry on the subject, was James Hewitt Massy.

For what they were worth, knighthoods of various types were conferred on 174 Members (13 per cent of the total). Plain knighthoods (knights bachelor) went to 26 Members, almost all of them lawyers. Of the three orders exclusive to the nobility, 27 knighthoods of the garter (KG) were conferred on peers who were Members in this period; six knighthoods of the thistle (KT) went to Scottish peers; and twelve knighthoods of St. Patrick (KP) were given to Irish peers. Over 100 other Members, including a large number of military and naval men, received decorative knighthoods, principally of the order of the Bath (KB, GCB, KCB, CB). Some of the peers noted above also received one or more of these baubles.

The proportion of ‘non-elite’ Members, that is, of men ‘not born and bred in the landed society of aristocracy and gentry which constituted the traditional ruling class’,2 suggests that their penetration of the Commons maintained the increase which had occurred since the late 1780s, but did not significantly advance it. Professor Christie identified among the Members returned at the 1818 general election (omitting the Irish Members) 136 ‘non-elite’ men. These included 25 categorized by him as ‘heirs’, that is sons of ‘non-elite’ men who carried on in business after their fathers’ deaths.3 Of the ‘non-elite’ East India Company servants returned in 1818, eight came in again in this period. To these can be added James Ewing and Sir John Malcolm. To the 17 bankers returned after 1820 might be added Matthias Attwood, Edward Bainbridge, Charles Barnett, William Handley, Benjamin Heywood, Harry Lott, Thomas Paget, Robert Shaw, Richard Spooner, Robert Stanton, Rowland Stephenson, Ralph Thicknesse and John Tomes. The 24 ‘non-elite’ merchants identified by Christie were supplemented in this period by John Atkins, Thomas Brayen, George Bridges, Daniel and Gerard Callaghan, John Capel, Ebenezer Collett, John Currie, Thomas Divett, John Easthope, Wynn Ellis, Frederick Gye, Thomas Hudson, Richard Ironmonger, William Leader, James Mackillop, James Mangles, James Morrison, William Gill Paxton, Charles Poulett Thomson, George Richard Robinson, Richard Sanderson, Christopher Smith, Christopher Spurrier, Henry Warburton, William Ward, Luke White and Henry Winchester. To Christie’s dozen surviving industrialists may be added William Copeland, James Foster, Josiah Guest, William Handley, George Harris, John Rawlinson Harris, Frederick Hodgson, John Hodson Kearsley, John Marshall, Henry Monteith, James Scott and William Venables. Seventeen ‘non-elite’ barristers were returned in this period, adding to the 16 noted by Christie who sat beyond 1820: William Burge, John Doherty, Richard Godson, Francis Jeffrey, Michael Nolan, James O’Hara, Louis Perrin, Thomas Pemberton, Jonathan Pollock, George Spence, Edward Burtenshaw Sugden, Nicholas Tindal, Horace Twiss, Thomas Wallace II, Peter Wason, Thomas Wilde and John Wood. Robert Blake, John Gregson, William Hughes Hughes, Joseph Neeld, John Phillpotts, Charles Tennant and the two John Wilks were attorneys who can be added to Christie’s three. Five miscellaneous ‘non-elite’ professionals named by Christie came in after 1820, as did the new Members Sir Colquhoun Grant and Sir Miles Nightingall, distinguished cavalry commanders. John Barlow Hoy was the son of a Dublin printer and became a surgeon, but a lucky inheritance of Hampshire land transformed his life and paved the way for his return for Southampton. Jesse Watts Russell was the son of a London soap boiler, but by 1811 owned a Staffordshire estate. Twenty-four of Christie’s ‘heirs’ survived in Parliament after 1820, and as many again of the new Members can be considered as falling into that category. Overall, and conceding that classifying Members in this way is a complex and imprecise business, some 230 of the 1,367 Members returned in this period might be reckoned ‘non-elite’. This is 17 per cent of the whole, somewhat lower than Christie’s 1818 figure of 21 per cent at the 1818 general election. (His percentage for that Parliament as a whole, even allowing for the few missing Irish ‘non-elite’ men, would be 19 per cent.) As Professor Jupp has pointed out, the Commons, while predominantly aristocratic in character in this period and well beyond it, did represent ‘a broad cross-section of the established interests in the state’, namely the church, rural and urban property, the army and navy, the legal profession, commerce and trade.4 The number of Members actively involved in the comparatively new forms of industrial production was extremely small – no more than 15.

A few outstanding examples of self-made men rising from ‘rags to riches’ largely by their own endeavours can be cited. James Morrison, the son of a Wiltshire innkeeper, became a London silk merchant on a grand scale, added merchant banking to his portfolio and was probably the richest commoner of the nineteenth century. Other successful sons of innkeepers were William Mayhew, who prospered as a London wine merchant, and John Tomes, who grew rich as a Warwick banker, though both ended up in financial strife. Richard Ironmonger’s modest origins in Derby did not prevent his emergence as the proprietor of a thriving coaching business in London. John Easthope rose from being the son of a Tewkesbury barge master to become a wealthy London stockbroker, proprietor of the Morning Chronicle and a baronet. Thomas Hudson, born to a Wigton shopkeeper, flourished as a London wine merchant and Shropshire landowner. Although John Marshall’s father, a Leeds draper, was able to leave him about £9,000, the sheer scale of his rise to fabulous wealth as a flax spinner warrants notice. Among the legal fraternity, Edward Sugden, the younger son of a London barber, attained the pinnacle of his profession; while Jonathan Pollock, the third son of a London saddler, had a distinguished career.


Wealth and Debt

In writing the biographies of our Members, selective use was made, for those who died before 1858, of the death duty registers (TNA IR26), which record legacy duty, 1796-1894, and succession duty, 1853-94, and give valuations of personal estate at probate. For Members who died from 1858 onwards, the probate records at the Principal Registry of the Family Division were used, supplemented very occasionally by death duty registers. TNA PROB 6 (administrations) and PROB 8 (probate act books) were also consulted, as necessary. These are potentially valuable sources of information about personal wealth, but present a number of difficulties and limitations of interpretation.5 It became clear during the drafting of the biographies that undiscriminating citation of estate valuations at death would give a misleading picture of Members’ wealth. For example, a valuation of the personal estate of a man who died 40 or 50 years after 1832 might have little accurate bearing on his financial status in this period or a few years thereafter. Generally, this information has been included for Members who died no later than about 1842. What follows here is largely confined to picking out from the Members who were first returned in this period those who were rich or very rich. (Those covered in the 1790-1820 volumes of the History who also sat in this period have been omitted, to avoid tedious repetition; but a few who went unnoticed there have been named.)6

It is, however, worth noting that at least nine of our Members are known to have become millionaires: they were the landowners William Cavendish (7th duke of Devonshire), William Cavendish Scott Bentinck (5th duke of Portland), Christopher Rice Mansel Talbot and Lionel William John Tollemache (7th earl of Dysart); the bankers William John Denison, Hudson Gurney and Samuel Jones Loyd; and the merchants (and also bankers) Philip John Miles and James Morrison.7 To these men might plausibly be added the nabob and Scottish landowner James Balfour, the Irish East India merchant Quintin Dick, and the Leeds flax spinner John Marshall. Morrison, a wholesale draper and merchant banker, was probably the richest commoner of the nineteenth century. John Gordon of Cluny, a Highland landowner on a vast scale, was reputedly the richest one in Scotland at his death, worth £2,000,000 or more, in 1858.

Members first returned in this period who possessed or came into substantial landed wealth included Thomas Alcock, Charles Anderson Worsley Pelham (as 2nd earl of Yarborough), Ralph Leycester, John Hungerford Penruddocke and William Smith O’Brien. Thomas Assheton Smith II, like his father, profited handsomely from the slate quarries on his Caernarvonshire estates. Wyndham Lewis, who fell dead at his desk in 1838, benefited from the coal and mineral wealth of his Glamorgan property and shares in the Dowlais iron works. William Russell of Brancepeth’s 1822 inheritance of Durham lands and collieries gave him claims to be England’s richest commoner, though neglect depleted his fortune. Like Cavendish (Devonshire), mentioned above, the Dorset squire Edward Berkeley Portman II (1st Baron and 1st Viscount Portman) made money from urban development of his metropolitan estates.

Commercial and industrial fortunes belonged to some Members returned before 1820 but not previously noticed: Robert Haldane Bradshaw, manager of the Bridgwater estates and canal enterprises, who was worth between £250,000 and £350,000 at his death in 1835; Ebenezer Collett, a hop merchant, whose personalty was sworn under £300,000 in 1833; William Leader, a malt distiller and chinaware dealer, who in 1828 left personal estate of £200,000 and real estate worth £100,000; and the Irishman Luke White, loan contractor and speculator, who by his death in 1824 had acquired real estate worth £30,000 a year and at least £100,000 in liquid assets. Of the newcomers from 1820, the Newfoundland merchant George Richard Robinson and the iron merchant William Thompson seem to have prospered handsomely, especially the latter. Sir Richard Hussey Vivian did well out of the copper business. The notably wealthy nabobs named for the previous period were joined after 1820 by the brothers James and Josias Du Pré Alexander, who bought the grass mound of Old Sarum with its two seats, Charles Mackinnon, and Alexander Nowell. Ralph Bernal joined the ranks of rich West Indians, to whom Joseph Marryat I, first returned in 1808, should be added, as he was probably worth at least £500,000 at his death in 1824, along with the Whig bore Richard ‘Conversation’ Sharp, whose entire estate was valued at over £250,000 in 1835. Those who benefited from ‘old corruption’ included the lawyers John Campbell II, John Doherty, Sir John Nicholl and Sir Charles Wetherell (the last two first returned before 1820, but not previously noticed). The naval officer Sir Augustus Clifford (a peer’s bastard) did well for himself, as did William Edward Tomline (returned in 1802), who was so careful with his inheritance of the fortune which his father, the bishop of Winchester, had plundered from the church, that he left personalty of some £400,000 in 1836.

Some 90 Members are known to have become enmeshed in serious financial difficulties or been ruined. At least 14 fled abroad, usually to France (but in two cases to America), and of these half died in exile. About the same number were arrested for debt when not enjoying parliamentary immunity from such humiliation. John Wharton died in debtors’ prison, and William Burge did not long survive his release on health grounds. A favoured few were rescued by securing appointments from sympathetic governments: Sir Edward Hyde East, Sir Alexander ‘Chin’ Grant, Lord Nugent and Sir George Hill are cases in point. Some once prosperous men ended their days at liberty, but in wretched circumstances: Charles Palmer was reduced to begging in the streets of London; Richard Wellesley and Lord Bury went mad; William Pole Tylney Long Wellesley was sustained by a £10 weekly allowance from his cousin, the 2nd duke of Wellington; Lord Chandos, as 2nd duke of Buckingham, was a virtual beggar when he died in 1861; and John Fitzgerald died a broken man, babbling about his ill-fated Lancashire mining enterprises.

Failures in business ruined about 30 Members. Some two dozen were gazetted as bankrupts, ten of them in this period. Bankers who failed were Robert Crickitt, John Maberly (his 1832 bankruptcy prompted widespread schadenfreude), Sir Peter Pole, Robert Stanton and the embezzler Rowland Stephenson, in this period; and John Ramsbottom and John Ward later. Among the entrepreneurs, David Barclay, Frederick Gye, John Innes, William Mayhew, Richard Sanderson, George Schonswar, Christopher Spurrier, William Ward and Henry Winchester came to grief, all except Schonswar and Spurrier after 1832. The declining fortunes of the West India interest did for John Plummer (who recovered) in 1830, and William Manning (who turned to religion) and the crook Charles Pallmer (who fled the scene) in 1831. Later sufferers by the abolition of slavery were ‘Chin’ Grant, Sir John Rae Reid, George Watson Taylor and James Wilson. Land speculation and ambitious urban development schemes went disastrously wrong for Thomas Claughton (1824) and William Madocks (1826), and subsequently for Thomas Kemp, Charles Palmer and Joseph Pitt. William Cavendish (as duke of Devonshire) ran into difficulties with the development of his Eastbourne property. Peter Moore, whose defeat at Coventry in 1826 robbed him of his shield of parliamentary privilege, and John Wilks II were ruined in this period through their involvement in dubious ‘bubble’ joint-stock companies. The losses sustained by James Brougham in similar activities contributed to the debts of about £16,000 which he left on his death in 1833; his brother Henry, the lord chancellor, was obliged to pay them in order to avoid the embarrassment of a gazetted bankruptcy. Fitzgerald’s ruinous coal mining venture has already been mentioned. Sir Stephen Richard Glynne and John Christian Curwen were other landowners who suffered financially in the same way; Curwen died in 1828 with debts of £118,000. General extravagance and financial imprudence caused problems for several landowner Members: Chandos, Long Wellesley and William Powell are extreme examples. Some struggled with encumbered estates and were forced to sell off property: this fate befell Lord Belfast (as 3rd marquess of Donegall), John Prendergast Vereker (as 3rd Viscount Gort), who died in penury, and the alcoholic madman Robert Henry King (as 4th earl of Kingston). Electioneering contributed to the problems experienced by Ralph Benson, Sir Francis Blake, Thomas Calley, Ralph Etwall, Long Wellesley, Dick Martin (who had to flee to France to evade his creditors when he was unseated on petition in 1827), Sir John Osborn and Sir John Owen; but many Members overstretched themselves in this line. The compulsive gamblers included Tommy Duncombe, Etwall, Lord Charles Fitzroy, who had to sell his army commission and was shunned by Bury St. Edmunds tradesmen, Lord Bury, the brave soldier Frank Russell, who left debts of £35,000 at his early death, Spurrier, who was said to have wagered and lost his last silver teapot on a maggot race, and Lord Edward Thynne. Their fellow aristocrats Lord Charles Spencer Churchill and Lord William Paget spent their indulgent fathers’ money with reckless abandon. A more innocent victim was the nabob Michael Prendergast, who vainly pursued a claim for compensation from the East India Company, but died unrewarded and in straitened circumstances.

In 1832 the wealthy financier Alexander Baring introduced a bill to limit parliamentary privilege in cases of arrest for debt, require insolvent Members in custody to vacate their seats and prevent insolvents from being elected. It passed its second reading and made some progress in committee, but was withdrawn as time ran out.



Information on the pre-university schooling of about 840 of the 1,367 Members (62 per cent) has been found. Those known to have been educated wholly or in part by private tutors, usually clergymen, number around 184; these include many who were also educated at institutions. In his poetical homage to Eton, the eternal schoolboy Winthrop Mackworth Praed wrote of the House being full of ‘bearded men’ who were ‘just Eton boys grown heavy’; and Eton’s supremacy among the public schools continued, with about 310 Members (23 per cent) known to have been among its scholars. Westminster and Harrow could claim some 178 and 154 respectively, while Winchester produced 33 Members, Rugby 27 and Charterhouse 22. Between them, these schools accounted for the education of about half the Members in this period; 16 went to two public schools in turn. Others were educated at Felsted (six), Stonyhurst (five), Blundells and Shrewsbury (four each), St. Paul’s, Tonbridge and Sherborne (three each), Downside and Sedburgh (two each) and Merchant Taylor’s and King’s, Canterbury (one each). Eighteen or more Members attended Edinburgh High School, and at least four the Royal School, Armagh. Twenty-seven grammar schools are known to have educated a Member or Members: those at Louth and Manchester produced four and three respectively. Some 116 other schools, mostly small establishments run by clerics, were involved in the education of Members: Newcombe’s of Hackney, though defunct before the start of this period, had been attended by at least nine. A dozen Members were educated abroad in continental Europe, and 20 or so at military and naval training establishments.

At least 813 Members had attended university, but the true figure is certainly higher, as the published records of the Scottish universities (Glasgow excepted) are problematical. Thirty-seven went to two universities and one to three. The preference for Oxford over Cambridge was even more marked than in the previous period: Oxford had 414 matriculants, Cambridge 291. At Oxford, the supremacy of Christ Church was unchallenged, with 267 Members among its undergraduates, comprising 64 per cent of the University’s intake of Members. Oriel (30) and Brasenose (28) were a distant second and third. At Cambridge, 143 Members (49 per cent) went to Trinity College, while about half that number (73) were admitted to St. John’s. Fourteen other colleges took in 75 Members between them. Trinity College, Dublin had 92 Members to its credit. The Scottish universities had at least 59 and probably more: Edinburgh had 30, Glasgow 16, Aberdeen seven and St. Andrews five. Ten Members are known to have attended continental universities: three went to Leipzig; two to Paris and Geneva; and one each to Gottingen, Stuttgart and Weimar.

The English Inns of Court counted over 340 Members among their admittees, but 155 of these men were not called to the bar. Lincoln’s Inn was still the clear favourite, with 222 entrants. The Inner Temple had 53, the Middle Temple 52 and Gray’s Inn 15. Over 40 Irish Members were admitted to the King’s Inns in Dublin, and three-quarters of them were called to the Irish bar.

Foreign travel remained a common method of finishing a gentlemen’s education, though the classic Grand Tour was a thing of the past. Of the Members returned for the first time in this period, at least 40 are known to have undertaken continental tours after leaving university, but many others would have done so unrecorded. Some got more than they bargained for. Lord Porchester and Philip Pusey were arrested by Catalan guerillas when travelling in Spain in 1823 and were in danger of being shot as constitutionalists until they managed to establish their identities. Lord Castlereagh (nephew of the distinguished foreign secretary), who contrived to get sent down from Oxford for riotous behaviour, contracted venereal disease in Scandinavia. He was by no means the only Member who brought home a lasting memento of youthful experiments with continental women. The burgeoning manufacturing districts of England were visited by some inquisitive young men before they entered the House. In 1824-5 the young Members John Evelyn Denison, Edward Smith Stanley and John Stuart Wortley went on a fact-finding tour of North America, taking with them their friend Henry Labouchere, who entered the House in 1826.


Religious Affiliation

The most significant development in the doctrinal composition of the House for over 150 years occurred in 1829 as a result of the Wellington ministry’s concession of Catholic emancipation, which ended the long exclusion of Roman Catholics from Parliament. The first man to take advantage of the Act was not the formidable Irish champion of emancipation, Daniel O’Connell, who was kept out on a technicality until 30 July 1829, but the earl of Surrey, eldest son of the premier English Catholic peer, the 12th duke of Norfolk. He was returned for his father’s borough of Horsham on 4 May 1829. Six other English Catholics were subsequently elected to the House in this period: Edward Blount, secretary of the British Catholic Association; Sir Thomas Constable; Philip Henry Howard; Edward Petre; Henry Stafford Jerningham and Robert Throckmorton. All except Constable supported the Grey ministry’s parliamentary reform proposals. Lords Pollington and Lovaine converted to Catholicism late in their lives. Lord Carmarthen and Henry Edward Fox may have done so. George Heneage had a Catholic family background and married a Catholic in 1833, but did not convert. Sixteen Irish Catholic Members were returned between 1829 and 1832. In addition to O’Connell, they were Sir Patrick Bellew; Walter Blackney; John Bodkin; William Browne; Sir John Burke; Daniel Callaghan; Lord Killeen; Henry Lambert; the O’Gorman Mahon; O’Connell’s son Maurice; Denis and Owen O’Conor; Richard O’Ferrall; Richard Lalor Sheil, and Thomas Wyse. Other than Daniel O’Connell, seven were first returned at the 1830 general election, four at that of 1831, and three at by-elections in 1831. Their impact on the House in this period, when reform dominated proceedings, was necessarily limited; but by 1832 some of them were making their presence felt with agitation for repeal of the Union (on which they were divided), tithe and land reform and church disestablishment.

Four Members, all first returned before 1820, had Jewish backgrounds. Sir Manasseh Masseh Lopes and his nephew and successor Sir Ralph Franco were from Sephardi families, as was the economist David Ricardo, who became a Unitarian. Ralph Bernal had mixed Sephardi and Ashkenazi parentage. On 5 Apr. 1830 the Huskissonite lawyer Robert Grant carried, thanks to some ministerial incompetence, a motion for the removal of Jewish disabilities by 115-97; but the government exerted themselves to crush the second reading of the resultant bill by 228-165 on 17 May. Practising Jews were not emancipated until 1852.

Members of the Society of Friends (Quakers) had also to conform to hold seats. Richard Gurney belonged to a Norfolk Quaker family of bankers, but he was disowned by a Friends’ monthly meeting in 1804 and was seen to his grave by an Independent minister. John Rawlinson Harris, who died before he could take his seat for Souhwark in 1830, came from a Quaker family, but he too had been expelled for marrying an outsider in a church. William Henry Miller was the son of a Scottish Quaker, and Charles Barclay and Robert Waithman had Quaker antecedents. Thomas Fowell Buxton’s mother was a Quaker, and Sir Thomas Baring and Ricardo married Quakers.

This period saw the repeal of the Corporation and Test Acts of 1661 and 1673, which theoretically confined municipal and civil and military office to those who took the sacrament of Holy Communion in an Anglican church. On the strength of widespread popular agitation from Protestant Dissenters, 1827-8, Lord John Russell proposed repeal of the Acts and, catching the new Wellington ministry unaware, carried the division by 44 votes, 26 Feb. 1828. The home secretary Peel, whose arguments against the proposal were low key, was annoyed; but he subsequently engineered a compromise whereby the sacramental test was abandoned in favour of a declaration by office-holders and corporators that they would not do anything to subvert the established church. Among the parliamentary Dissenters, the Unitarians, espousers of fashionable rational Dissent who disbelieved in the Trinity, enjoyed considerable influence in this period, when their doyen William Smith, Member for Norwich, was the principal parliamentary orchestrator of the campaign for repeal. Smith’s daughter married John Carter, the son of a Portsmouth brewer, who continued to attend Unitarian services but was not a proselytizer. The Essex attorney Daniel Whittle Harvey was a Unitarian by upbringing. The wealthy Leeds flax spinner John Marshall came from a family of Baptists who had become Unitarians. Ricardo, who was probably in practice an agnostic, has already been noticed. Others who openly espoused Unitarianism were Joseph Birch, the bankers Benjamin Heywood and Thomas Paget, William James, a Liverpudlian (like Birch) who enjoyed a West Indian and mercantile inheritance, and John Wood, the son of a Manchester manufacturer, who assumed Smith’s mantle from 1830. Henry Bright may have seceded from the Church of England and joined one of the Dissenting sects while a Member. James Loch espoused anti-Trinitarian views. The poet Robert Southey, who was returned without his knowledge in 1826 but never took his seat, had had a youthful fling with Unitarianism. Samuel Jones Loyd’s father was at one time a Unitarian minister. John Martin possibly followed his father in subscribing intellectually to rational Christianity. John Cam Hobhouse was raised as a Unitarian but subsequently conformed. All these Members were advanced Whigs or cradle radicals. Thomas Read Kemp, the developer of east Brighton, had left the House in 1816 to form a religious sect with a Unitarian tone, but when he resurfaced in the Commons in 1823 he was back in the Anglican fold. Congregationalism (whose adherents were usually styled Independents) was less well represented in the House. John Wilks, Member for Boston, was a Congregationalist, while Sir Culling Smith, John Easthope and Joshua Walker may have been, though the last was more probably a Methodist. William Venables had his first three sons baptized at an Independent chapel, and William Mayhew was himself thus baptized. Methodism had a prominent spokesman in Joseph Butterworth, the law publisher and son of a Baptist minister, while Lord Rocksavage became an enthusiastic convert, as did Sir Andrew Agnew, who made Sabbath observance his hobby horse. George Philips was the son of a Methodist and was educated at Dissenting schools.

The Scottish aristocrat Lord Garlies was a strict Episcopalian, which made him a Dissenter in Scotland, while John Gladstone and John Norman Macleod were sometime Scottish Presbyterians sitting (like Garlies) for English seats. Joseph Marryat was the son of a Presbyterian minister and believed in ‘revealed religion’. The Irishmen Lord Castlereagh and William Plunket were baptized as Presbyterians.

Charles Tulk was a founder member of the Swedenborgian Society (1810), dedicated to the promotion of the ideas of the 18th century Swedish Christian philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg. He saw politics as a means of implementing humanitarian social reforms and published extensively. Spencer Perceval, the son of the assassinated prime minister, fell under the fanatical influence of the Scottish divine, Edward Irving, founder of the Holy Roman Catholic Apostolic Church. Perveval developed millenarian convictions and on 20 Mar. 1832 made a spectacle of himself and embarrassed his friends with a Biblical rant against the godlessness of the House and the mockery made of the impending fast day, which he had secured.

Of the Evangelical proponents within the Church of England of ‘vital religion’, who were often referred to, sometimes in a pejorative sense, as the ‘Saints’, the survivors from the pre-1820 period were William Wilberforce, Charles and Robert Grant, Sir Thomas Dyke Acland, William Taylor Money, Frederick Gough Calthorpe and Fowell Buxton, who took over leadership of the Commons campaign for the abolition of colonial slavery when Wilberforce left the House, exhausted and a martyr to the piles, in 1825. George Sinclair, son of the egregious bore Sir John, became a convert to Pentecostal Evangelicalism and declined an invitation to dine with William IV on a Sunday. John Gladstone abandoned his native Presbyterianism for Evangelical Anglicanism, and his son Thomas, who first entered the House in this period, was of like mind. Other newcomers of this persuasion were Agnew, whose early scriptural Evangelicalism underpinned his later move to Methodism; Lord Clifton, who was backed by a fiercely religious wife; James Edward Gordon, an anti-Catholic fanatic and member of the Reformation Society who railed against the ministerial plans for non-denominational education in Ireland in 1832; Henry Reynolds Moreton, who was transmogrified from a man of pleasure into a promoter of temperance and a member of the Evangelical Alliance; Lord Mandeville, who shared his mother’s Evangelical enthusiasm and passion for the exegesis of apocalyptic texts, and William Carus Wilson. Sir Culling Smith, noted above as a possible Congregationalist, founded the Evangelical Alliance in 1846. The distinguished Irish lawyer Tom Lefroy was an Evangelical. The associated notion of ‘atonement’ through public service touched many Members, including some senior politicians. Most notable were the Tories Nicholas Vansittart and Henry Goulburn (whose ownership of a West Indian slave plantation sat uneasily with his Evangelical commitment) and the Whig Lord Althorp, who embraced a deep religious faith after the death of his wife.

Seventy-four Members in this period were the sons of established clergymen in England (58), Wales (two), and Ireland (14). They included four archbishop’s and five bishop’s sons. Another five were the sons of Scottish clergymen. James Somers Cocks, first returned in 1818, took holy orders in 1824, Charles Henry Foster Barham, who sat briefly for Appleby in 1832, followed suit in 1834, and Edward Stewart, Member for Wigtown Burghs, 1831-4, was ordained in 1841.


Placemen and Pensioners

On 31 May 1821 the radical Whig Henry Grey Bennet moved for leave to introduce a bill ‘for better securing the independence of Parliament’ by excluding ‘clerks and underlings’ in government departments from the House. He asserted that there were at present 51 Members who held places at the pleasure of the crown, and proposed to have 29 of them declared ineligible. In a premature division, his motion was rejected by 76-52. Bennet secured on 8 June 1821 returns of current Members who were office-holders, legal officers, pensioners, sinecurists and the beneficiaries of reversions. Henry Brougham’s motion of 24 June 1822 condemning the alleged increase in crown influence (defeated by 216-101) was wide ranging, but included references to the number of placemen in the House. A number of radical publications in this period listed the holders of places, pensions, grants, sinecures, compensations and emoluments, which included past and present Members of Parliament.8 The 1823 Black Book provided an annotated ‘Key to the Lower House’ at the end of the 1822 session, and alleged (p. 134) that it contained 89 ‘paid’ Members, who made up ‘the treasury phalanx’. In 1821, The Times, which supported the campaign for economy and retrenchment promoted by the opposition ‘Mountain’, published a number of partial lists of ministerial majorities on various issues (supplied by Grey Bennet and company), which consisted mostly of the names of office-holders. The first, published on 21 Feb. 1821, listed 27 ‘placemen’, with their offices and emoluments, who had voted with government on the ordnance estimates five days earlier. Of these, 22 were place-holders, one was a pensioner, one a sinecurist, one (Holford) Member for Queenborough, one an inspector of cavalry and one a London naval agent.9

The 1820 Parliament, presided over by one administration, though with two significant reshuffles, contained overall 50 office-holders, ten men in efficient legal office, 13 members of various royal households, and 15 sinecurists (one name duplicated). This was roughly on a par with the preceding Parliament. The 1826 Parliament saw four administrations, albeit with some considerable continuity of personnel. The total of office-holders was 61, of legal officers 11, of courtiers an enhanced 19, and of sinecurists a reduced quota of seven. Three men qualified on two counts. In the short 1830 Parliament the Wellington ministry fell and was replaced in mid-November by Lord Grey’s aristocratic and nepotistic reform coalition. In the last days of the former, the House had 34 office-holders and six legal officers, while the new administration was sustained by 30 placemen and the same number of legal officers. A few of the 16 courtiers who sat in this Parliament were removed on the change. There were eight sinecurists, of whom two were duplicates. The 1831 Parliament contained only 28 office-holders, seven legal officers, 11 courtiers and five sinecurists, including one pluralist. At least 36 of the Members in this period were in receipt of state pensions for themselves or their wives or other relatives. These included Irish Union compensation pensions, awards on account of war wounds, diplomatic retirement pensions, and pensions contingent on loss of office.10 A notable example was Charles Arbuthnot, the former Tory patronage secretary, whose wife was granted a pension of £1,200 when his change of office from secretary to the treasury to commissioner of woods and forests in early 1823 halved his official salary. Arbuthnot himself was entitled to an 1807 diplomatic pension of £2,000 on leaving office; but when he resigned as chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster on the defeat of the Wellington’s ministry he hesitated to draw his pension, not sure whether his doing so would disqualify him from sitting in the House. The Speaker ruled that he could not sit while drawing a public pension and he resigned his seat for Ashburton in February 1831, so ending his long parliamentary career. The inquiry into civil list pensions conceded by the new ministry made him fret over the possibility of his wife’s pension being abolished, and it was not until 1834, shortly before her untimely death, that his fears were allayed. The Tory whip ‘Black Billy’ Holmes resigned as treasurer of the ordnance with his colleagues in the duke of Wellington’s ministry after their Commons defeat on the civil list, 15 Nov. 1830. Next day Wellington controversially secured him a £500 civil list pension (nominally conferred on his son), which excited much adverse comment. On 26 Mar. 1830 the independent Whig Sir Robert Heron singled out from the vote of £174,584 for the superannuation of officials in the civil department of the navy pensions of £500 and £500 respectively for the sons of two cabinet ministers (Lords Melville and Bathurst), namely Robert Dundas and William Lennox Bathurst, a former Member. His amendment to end these payments was carried against government by 139-121. However, the idea of a pension as reward for significant public service was gaining ground, and Acts of 1817 (57 Geo. III, c. 65) and 1825 (6 Geo. IV, c. 90) made provision for pensions for the holders of certain ‘high and efficient civil offices’. The beneficiaries in this period (in chronological order of award) were Robert Plumer Ward (1822); Stephen Rumbold Lushington, Henry Goulburn and Thomas Peregrine Courtenay (1825); Nicholas Vansittart (as Lord Bexley) and John Wilson Croker (1828); and Joseph Planta (1830). On 2 Feb. 1831 Jonathan Raine received a pension of £1,000 in compensation for the abolition of his Welsh judgeship, but he died three months later.


Country Gentlemen

The so-called independent country gentlemen, who by the post-war period were almost all natural Tories, and predominantly anti-Catholic, remained an important element in the Commons. They had created difficulties for Lord Liverpool’s ministry by pressing for tax reductions and retrenchment after 1815, but Peterloo and the threat of sedition prompted them to rally to the government. Agricultural distress worsened early in this period, when the grievances of landlords, farmers and others involved in the rural economy were given expression by George Webb Hall’s Central Agricultural Association, and country Members responded to constituency opinion. Their campaign of 1820-2 for enhanced protection for domestic producers was skilfully neutralized by ministers and had little serious impact in the House. However, when a significant number of country backbenchers saw merit in the opposition’s advocacy of tax remissions, cuts in government expenditure, reversal of the resumption of cash payments and reform of the national debt as remedies for distress, their disaffection furrowed many ministerial brows in 1821 and 1822. Perhaps the most conspicuous of the dissidents was James Stuart Wortley, Member for Yorkshire, who presided over ‘the Boodles cabinet’. It was two Whig country gentlemen, Charles Western and John Curwen, who in 1821 carried against government motions for repeal of the additional malt duty (later rescinded by a ministerial muster) and repeal of the tax on agricultural horses. A number of disgruntled Tory country gentlemen backed the somewhat chaotic opposition campaign for economy, retrenchment and reduced taxation in 1822, when the government’s package of relief measures did not satisfy them. A very narrow defeat on a proposal for a gradual reduction of the salt duties was followed by the success of Whig proposals to cut the navy estimates and, in early May 1822, to abolish one of the joint-postmasterships. It was at this point that the alarmed cabinet played the card of threatened resignation if impending motions condemning the level of diplomatic expenditure were carried. This had the desired effect, as ever, on the rebels, whose fear of a Whig administration and general aversion to parliamentary reform proved stronger than their sense of grievance on their own and, in some cases, their constituents’ accounts. A subsequent recovery in the agricultural economy ensured that the country gentlemen were comparatively quiescent during the remainder of the 1820 Parliament, at least until its last session (1826), when the government’s responses to the banking crisis and threatened food shortages provoked a renewed outbreak of wayward voting, forcing ministers to rely in part on Whig support to carry their measures. Further relaxation of the corn laws in 1827 was opposed, ineffectually, by a number of Tory country Members. The Wellington ministry’s pragmatic concession of Catholic emancipation in 1829 outraged a large number of their landed backbench supporters, but the measure was easily carried with Whig support. Most of those who voted against it, whether from conviction or under pressure from constituency opinion, returned after the dust settled to their natural allegiance; but about 50, the core of whom were the self-styled Ultras, were permanently estranged from the government. The votes of some of these men and of others who had been reckoned as supporters after the 1830 general election helped to bring down the now moribund and discredited administration on a motion for inquiry into the civil list. A number of Ultras and kindred spirits among the Tory backbenchers had concluded that the carrying of emancipation in the teeth of overwhelming popular hostility made a convincing case for reform of the representative system; but the scale and scope of the Grey ministry’s reform proposals terrified most of them, and those who survived the Tory election disaster of 1831 opposed the scheme. The events of 1842-6, when Peel’s Conservative government was plagued by backbench revolts by men who insisted on their right to exercise independent judgement on specific issues (or had their arms twisted by constituents) and was eventually destroyed by some of its erstwhile country gentlemen supporters over repeal of the corn laws, echoed those of 1829-30.


Lawyers and Other Professional Men

Almost 180 barristers sat in the House in this period, including 17 Scottish advocates and 32 men who were called to the Irish bar. Their average ages at entry were 38.8 for English barristers, 39.4 for advocates and 44.3 for Irish barristers; the overall average was 34.7. Deducting those who are not known to have practised, did so for only a short time, or turned to politics or some other profession (there were two dozen in the last group) leaves some 74 career barristers. The 1820 Parliament contained 41, the 1826 Parliament 43, the 1830 Parliament 38 and the 1831 Parliament 44. Two-thirds of them secured legal office at some point in their careers. Successful barristers had to think carefully before deciding to enter Parliament, for the loss of income could be considerable. For a man just making his way at the bar, taking a seat was fraught with risk. For example, the 30-year-old reformer Frederick Villiers, Member for Saltash, sought employment from lord chancellor Brougham in January 1832, explaining that

owing to my constant attendance in the House last year, for the purpose of giving my support to the reform bill, I was prevented [from] applying to my profession so closely as I was wont to do. I was compelled to absent myself from the sessions and the circuit … Your Lordship is aware how prejudicial it is to a man working at the bar to absent himself from his sessions or circuit. I fear that I shall be called upon this year to make the same sacrifice.11

He went unrewarded and had eventually to give up the law. The six active civil lawyers who sat in this period were all survivors from the previous one: John Dodson, Stephen Lushington, Sir John Nicholl, Joseph Phillimore, Sir Christopher Robinson and Sir William Scott. All became judges in due course. Sir Scrope Morland had retired from practice in 1818. James Farquhar, first returned in 1802, was a proctor at Doctors’ Commons.

Thirty-six of the barrister Members took silk or patents of precedence (three). The earliest appointment occurred in 1786, and the latest in 1843. The Whig Thomas Denman’s patent in 1828 was extorted with great difficulty from a reluctant George IV, who never forgave him for alleged personal insults during his part in the defence of Queen Caroline. The Tory king’s counsel, James Lewis Knight, Thomas Pemberton and Jonathan Pollock, were ‘brought in’ in 1831 ‘to oppose the [reform] bill’.12 Some two dozen barristers were recorders of boroughs. Seventeen were commissioners of bankruptcy, and five were masters in chancery. One of these was an Irish master, Thomas Ellis, who defeated the son of the late Henry Grattan in a bitter Dublin by-election in June 1820. Some Irish Whigs tried to exact revenge by having Irish masters deemed ineligible to sit in the House, basing their case partly on Ellis’s own admission to the judicial commissioners that his duties in Dublin required daily attendance for ten months a year. Ellis, lukewarmly supported by the Liverpool ministry, survived in the House until 1826, but in 1823 the government carried a regulation bill to replace the Irish masters’ fees with a fixed annual salary, which therefore barred them from Parliament in future. Two other Orange Dublin barrister Members, Frederick Shaw, the recorder, and George Moore, Irish deputy registrar and, from 1830, registrar of deeds, came under attack as being ineligible on account of their offices. Both survived, but an Act of 1832 (when Moore had left the House after defeat at the polls in 1831) disbarred the holder of his office, which he held for another 14 years, from Parliament. Eight barristers acted as counsel to various government departments or public bodies, while nine became officials of the duchies of Cornwall or Lancaster or of the county palatine of Durham. Thirteen are known to have held minor legal offices or sinecures: William Dundas, a Melvillite Scot who practised at the English bar, acquired Scottish sinecures worth about £4,000 a year; and lord chancellor Eldon’s younger son, William Henry John Scott, did equally well out of the chancery spoils system. Both Eldon’s immediate successors were Members in this period: Sir John Singleton Copley (Lord Lyndhurst) and Henry Brougham. Future lord chancellors in the Commons were Charles Pepys, John Campbell II, Thomas Wilde and Edward Burtenshaw Sugden. Lancelot Shadwell replaced Sir John Leach as vice-chancellor in 1827, and Knight was appointed to the office in 1841. The master of the rolls, unlike the vice-chancellor, could sit in the Commons, and Sir Robert Gifford and Copley held the post successively, 1824-7, when Leach, who was no longer a Member, was appointed. Pepys replaced him on his death in 1834. The attorney-general, the leading lawyer in the Commons, and his assistant, the solicitor-general, were responsible for the government’s legal business, initiated legislation and were often consulted by cabinets. The following held these posts in this period:


Sir Robert Gifford


Sir John Singleton Copley


Sir Charles Wetherell

1826-1827, 1828-1829

Sir James Scarlett

1827-1828, 1829-1830

Sir Thomas Denman



Sir John Singleton Copley


Sir Charles Wetherell


Sir Nicholas Conyngham Tindal


Sir Edward Burtenshaw Sugden


Sir William Horne



Horne, Pollock, Campbell and Wilde later became attorney-general, all after serving as solicitor-general.

The profession attracted hardly any aristocrats. Half a dozen with immediate peerage connections were called to the bar, but only George Chapple Norton practised for any length of time. The most distinguished lawyers in the House came from modest, or even, in the case of Gifford, Pollock and Sugden, humble backgrounds. Over 30 of the barristers were frequent if not always welcome contributors to debate. Many of their speeches were inevitably on dull, technical questions, and court room oratory did not generally go down well in the Commons. However, Brougham, the young Tom Macaulay, William Plunket and Daniel O’Connell, to name only four, were capable of pyrotechnics in debate, while the slovenly and smelly Wetherell produced some amazing rants against Catholic emancipation. The young anti-Catholic Tory Clinton Fynes Clinton commanded respect even from his opponents and would probably have risen high in the profession, but he died young in 1833. The barristers were divided by about 45 to 28 in favour of the Tories, and the Whigs James Abercromby and Scarlett took office in Tory governments. Political partisanship among the lawyers was perhaps more marked than in the previous period, at least on the Whig side. Brougham, Denman and Macaulay, for example, were stalwarts of the party, while O’Connell and Sheil pursued their own Irish agendas.

Brougham and Denman, Queen Caroline’s law officers, were Members when they conducted her defence before the Lords in 1820. John ‘Demosthenes’ Williams shone as their junior counsel; he was later one of Queen Adelaide’s law officers, as were Horne and Pepys. Gifford and Copley, leading the prosecution of Caroline, started badly, but, the former especially, redeemed themselves as the fiasco progressed. Plunket was the only Irish attorney-general of this period to sit in the Commons (1822-7). He was offered by Canning and accepted in 1827 the British mastership of the rolls, with a peerage; but an outcry from the English bar forced them to think again. Plunket became Irish lord chief justice of common pleas and in 1830 Irish lord chancellor. Louis Perrin was a future Irish attorney-general. John Doherty and Philip Crampton were in the House as Irish solicitor-generals, 1827-32. Sugden, though an Englishman, was later twice a Conservative Irish lord chancellor. Doherty replaced Plunket at common pleas in 1830. William Burge was attorney-general of Jamaica until 1828. Over 30 of the barrister Members were raised to the judicial bench at some point in their careers. Denman and Campbell became lord chief justice of king’s (in the latter’s case, queen’s) bench. Gifford and Tindal were lords chief justice of common pleas within this period, and Wilde was subsequently. Copley, Scarlett and Pollock were chief barons of the exchequer court, the first within this period as Lord Lyndhurst. Williams became a puisne baron. The judge advocate-general, legal spokesman for the armed forces, was usually in the House: Sir John Beckett (twice), Abercromby and Robert Grant filled the post in this period, and Robert Cutlar Fegusson did so in the 1830s. Welsh judgeships, desirable because they were tenable with a seat in the House, were attained by four Members. The Irishmen Philip Crampton, John Doherty, John Leslie Foster, Thomas Lefroy (as chief justice of queen’s bench), John Henry North, John Clere Parsons and Perrin, as well as Plunket, found places on the Irish bench. Anthony Buller, Codrington Carrington, Sir Edward Hyde East, John Peter Grant, Sir James Mackintosh and Robert Percy ‘Bobus’ Smith were at some point Indian judges. Norton owed his appointment in 1831 as a stipendiary metropolitan police magistrate in Whitechapel to the home secretary Lord Melbourne, whom he later sued unsuccessfully for alleged crim. con. with his wife.

The Melvillite Sir William Rae was lord advocate for Scotland (the equivalent of the English attorney-general) from 1819 until the Wellington ministry fell in November 1830, having stayed in place under Canning and Lord Goderich. So too had the Scottish solicitor-general, John Hope, who was not a Member. The Grey ministry replaced them with the leading Edinburgh Whigs, Francis Jeffrey and Henry Cockburn. The latter did not sit, but Jeffrey, the head and flower of the Scottish bar, who had to be accommodated at an English borough after losing his seat for Perth Burghs on petition, flopped in the Commons. He was not helped by indifferent health and the overwhelming demands on his time of patronage requests from Scottish Members. In 1834 he found a more congenial role in his native city as a lord of session. Archibald Campbell Colquhoun, a Member, died as lord clerk register in 1821, when he was replaced by William Dundas. Abercromby was made chief baron of the Scottish exchequer court by the Wellington ministry in February 1830 and suffered remarkably little harm to his political reputation as a result.

The number of Members who were or had at some time been attorneys or solicitors was 21. They include the former Irish attorney Michael Nolan, who was called to the English bar in 1790, and Masterton Ure, a Scottish writer to the signet. Their average age at entry to the House was 46.2 years – more than 11 years higher than that of the whole Membership. Only 13 of them were still active in their profession in this period. Of those returned before 1820, Thomas Claughton had turned to land speculation; John Edwards Vaughan had had his name removed from the roll of attorneys in 1818 and became a business associate of the architect John Nash; Sir Robert Gifford had long ago turned barrister and was attorney-general by 1819; Sir James Graham had retired from legal practice in 1802, and Joseph Pitt of Cirencester had sold his in 1812 and concentrated on banking and urban development. The four active survivors were Robert Blake and William Leake of London, Ure, who managed the Johnstone electoral interest at Weymouth and Melcombe Regis, and the Essex radical Daniel Whittle Harvey, who was tainted (unfairly) by scandal and therefore frustrated in his wish to be called to the bar. In June 1832 Harvey, referring to his own grievances, sought leave to introduce a bill to empower king’s bench to compel the benchers of the Inns of Court to admit deserving men as students and barristers, but the Grey ministry had his motion rejected by 68-52. The newcomers were the London-based attorneys James William Freshfield, who was attorney to the Bank of England and several City companies and had Robert Peel as a client; John Gregson, who was articled to a Sunderland attorney in 1810 and from 1817 was based in Bedford Row, Gray’s Inn; the wealthy William Hughes Hughes, who practised from 1814 until 1825; Joseph Neeld, the son of a London attorney who came into a handsome inheritance; Charles Tennant, who was articled to his father, a London attorney and promoter of South Wales canals, in 1812 and admitted in 1820, and John Wilks and his son and namesake. The latter, who became a solicitor in 1822, got into very hot water over his involvement in the Welch Iron and Coal and Cornwall and Devon Mining Companies a few years later. Thomas Wilde had practised in London from 1805 until 1817, when he was called to the bar, on his way to the woolsack. Nolan has already been noticed. The new provincial attorneys were William Addams Williams of Monmouthshire, who probably did not practice after succeeding to his father’s landed estate in 1823; Nathaniel Barton of Warmister; James Halse of St. Ives, Cornwall, who also had a hand in local mining enterprises, and John Phillpotts of Gloucester, who became a barrister in 1822. Besides Ure, Pitt continued his electioneering activities, returning himself for Cricklade until 1831 and both Members for Malmesbury until 1832. Neeld secured his own return for Chippenham in 1830 by buying most of the burgage houses, and sat there until his death in 1856. Halse had his own interest at St. Ives, which returned him to four Parliaments. Freshfield acted a broker of seats. Leake continued to work as agent for Sir Christopher Hawkins, who returned him for Mitchell in 1826. Gregson was employed by William Russell of Brancepeth and was responsible for managing his borough interests at Bletchingley and Saltash. His own return for the latter in 1830 was a temporary measure. In 1850 he was acting for the 3rd marquess of Londonderry. Barton, who sat very briefly for Westbury in 1820, may have been agent to Sir Manasseh Masseh Lopes. The attorneys past and present in this period were inclined to Toryism, but at least seven of them espoused Whig or radical politics. Among the latter, Harvey and Tennant, whose hobby horse was the encouragement of emigration through systematic colonization, were frequent speakers. Of the Tories, Freshfield spoke regularly on bankruptcy administration, while Hughes Hughes was never short of something to say.

Other non-military professions were represented in the House. Of Members returned before 1820, John Fleming, Joseph Hume and Sir James Mackintosh had been surgeons or physicians. They were joined in 1827 by Charles Mackinnon, like Hume a former East India Company naval surgeon. A number of Members, apart from the previously noted attorneys, acted as agents or auditors to aristocrats. These included Abercromby (to the duke of Devonshire); Robert Haldane Bradshaw and his son James (to the duke of Bridgwater and his trustees); James Loch (to the marquess of Stafford and countess of Sutherland, the earl of Carlisle, Lord Dudley and others); Abraham Moore (to Earl Grosvenor); and the 11th duke of Norfolk’s bastard Henry Stephenson, a notably incompetent equity draftsman (to the duke of Sussex and John Lambton, later Lord Durham). Crampton, Mackintosh and Phillimore, among others, held academic posts. Joseph Butterworth was a law publisher and Andrew Spottiswoode the king’s printer from 1830. Gibbs Crawford Antrobus, Peter Browne, Sir Stratford Canning, Edward Cromwell Disbrowe and George Henry Rose were career diplomats during part or all of their spells in Parliament in this period.

Many Members tried to make money through their pens. Those who had novels published included Edward Lytton Bulwer, Sir Roger Gresley, Lord William Pitt Lennox, Lord Normanby, William Parnell Hayes, Lord John Russell, Sir Francis Vincent, Robert Plumer Ward and John Wilks II. Some of their works enjoyed a brief vogue, but all now rest in deserved obscurity. Sir Stratford Canning, Edward Davies Davenport, Lord Porchester, Russell, Richard Sheil, Robert Southey, Horace Twiss and George Watson Taylor wrote stage plays. Sheil pocketed about £2,000 from his efforts before he turned to the law. There were at least 30 published poets, of whom the laureate, Southey, who was returned without his knowledge by Lord Radnor in 1826 and vacated his seat as soon as the new Parliament met, stood pre-eminent. Winthrop Mackworth Praed’s work had some merit. Davies Davenport, an accomplished Italian scholar and translator, produced in 1823 The Golden Age, a savage jeremiad on contemporary parliamentary politics and the hopelessness of opposition. The saintly Robert Grant composed hymns, which were published as Sacred Poems (1839). Tom Macaulay was a poet of some talent, though he was more noteworthy as the best of the 30 or so historian Members. The procrastinator Sir James Mackintosh laboured painfully and slowly on his History of England (1830), but promised far more than he delivered. Two rather less celebrated Members published works which were highly regarded: Sir Edward Cust’s Annals of the Wars of the Eighteenth Century (1857) and The Nineteenth Century (1862), and Sir John Malcolm’s Political History of India (1811), History of Persia (1815) and later efforts. Soon after the concession of emancipation in 1829, Thomas Wyse wrote a widely acclaimed Historical Sketch of the Late Catholic Association of Ireland. Richard Neville was an incompetent editor of Pepys’s Diary. A dozen biographers included – besides Mackintosh, Malcolm, Russell and Southey – John Campbell II, who produced the Lives (from 1845) of his predecessors as lord chancellor and Lives of the Chief Justices (1849-57); Twiss, whose Life of Lord Eldon (1844) was far superior to Campbell’s meretricious and slipshod work; and William Henry Bulwer, who produced a Life of Lord Palmerston (1870 onwards). There were a several travel writers, while Henry Brougham, Sir Robert Heron, Lord William Lennox and Sir George Staunton wrote and had published reminiscences of their life and times. Among the many who published works on economics and social issues, Thomas Gisborne, Sir Henry Parnell, David Ricardo, Michael Sadler, Robert Slaney, Robert Torrens and John Weyland made the weightiest contributions.


Army Officers

Just over 250 Members (18 per cent of the whole and exactly the same proportion as in the previous period) held commissions in the regular army at some stage of their lives. Of these, 117 (46 per cent) were first returned before 1820. Those who had joined the army before 1793 numbered 47. Lord Carhampton had enlisted in 1757, 15 years earlier than anyone else in this group. James O’Callaghan had joined in 1772 and Sir James Montgomerie and Sir George Nugent in 1773. Besides Nugent, the most distinguished of these veterans were Sir George Anson, Lord William Henry Cavendish Bentinck, Sir William Henry Clinton, Sir Henry Fane, Sir Ronald Craufurd Ferguson, Isaac Gascoyne, George Vaughan Hart, Sir Alexander Hope, Sir Galbraith Lowry Cole, Edmund Phipps and Sir William Henry Pringle. A further 146 Members (57 per cent of the whole) had taken commissions during the war years, 1793-1815, including seven who entered the army in the year of Waterloo itself. The most distinguished of these soldiers were Charles A’Court, George Anson, Ulysses Burgh, Sir Henry Bunbury, Sir John Byng, Henry Cavendish, Lord Frederick Cavendish Bentinck, Sir Henry Cooke, Edward Cust, Thomas Davies, Lord Charles Fitzroy, Sir Colquhoun Grant, Sir Charles Greville, Lord Arthur Hill, Sir Edward Kerrison, Henry King, Lord John George Lennox, Sir George Murray, Sir Miles Nightingall, Hercules Pakenham, Frederick Ponsonby, Francis Russell, Lord George William Russell, Lords Fitzroy and Robert Somerset, Horatio Townshend, Arthur Upton and Sir Robert Wilson. About 30 had fought at Waterloo, including Henry Percy, who brought home the triumphant dispatches. At least half a dozen were severely wounded in that engagement. William Clayton was one of these, but as the surgeon was unable to list him among the wounded, his leaving the field placed a cloud over his conduct. The duke of Wellington gave him the benefit of the doubt and his future promotions were not affected. A number of Members were permanently mutilated in action: Sir Henry Hardinge lost his left hand at Ligny; Mervyn Archdall, Hope, Sir William Maxwell and Lord Fitzroy Somerset each parted company with an arm; and Frederick Ponsonby, left for dead on the field of Waterloo, survived with a paralysed right arm. Fulke Greville Howard and Lord William Lennox emerged blind in one eye, though the latter sustained the damage in a riding accident, which got him out of Waterloo. Henry King was severely crippled in both legs in 1799, but soldiered on for another 13 years. Disease, notably the Walcheren fever, permanently undermined the health of others. Of course, few of the army officer Members experienced violent action in this period. Clinton, Sir John Doyle, Augustus Ellis (who was captured) and Charles Grey fought for Dom Pedro in Portugal. Wilson, dismissed from the British army for his part in the disturbances at Queen Caroline’s funeral in 1821, defied the Foreign Enlistment Act to go to Spain to fight against the invading French, 1823-4, while Lord Bingham was with the Russian army in Bulgaria in 1825. A number were on peace-keeping duties in Ireland and the manufacturing districts of England and Scotland. Routine regimental duties, at home or in foreign garrisons, took some Members away from the House for periods of time. A much larger number had retired altogether or were on half-pay.

At least 119 of the army officer Members (47 per cent) were from aristocratic families. As before, the three regiments of Foot Guards were the most popular and attractive, with some 130 Members among their recruits. Twenty served with the Life Guards, and a dozen with the Royal Horse Guards. The seven regiments of Dragoon Guards attracted 23 Members, while the cavalry regiments in general lured some 107. The ranks held by military Members on entering the House in this period were as follows:



















cornet or ensign



Five Members joined the army after entering the House. Thirty-nine attained the rank of full general, six of them within this period. Six eventually became field marshals. There were at least 38 Scots and 52 Irishmen among the officer Members. The average age of army officers at entry to the House was 32.6 years, three years lower than that of naval officers and two below that of the Membership as a whole. The number of Members who had held army commissions at the time of their return to Parliament are as follows:










Excluding those retired or on half-pay:










Thus there was a steady fall in the number of serving officer Members as the war receded in time. Thirty-two sat in only one Parliament in this period – a far smaller proportion (13 compared with 38 per cent of the whole) than in the previous wartime period. Only about ten could be classed as poor or non-attenders. One of these, Augustus Ellis, lieutenant-colonel of the Rifle Brigade, was said by his father Lord Seaford in 1831 to dislike Parliament ‘as interfering with his military duties’.13 The duke of Wellington’s eldest son Lord Douro, a major in the same regiment, caused a stir by failing to attend for the crucial division on the civil list which brought down his father’s ministry, 15 Nov. 1830. Two dozen past or present army officer Members were active in debate, not exclusively on military matters. Two-thirds of the army officers were Tory in their political allegiance, looking, in the case of serving soldiers, to the Liverpool, Canning and Wellington ministries for professional promotion. For the higher ranks, at least, a respectable military record was normally required. In February 1827 George IV tried to secure the appointment of his well-connected courtier Lord George Beresford, who had never seen active service, as colonel of the 4th Dragoon Guards instead of the stalwart Whig Sir George Anson, but the duke of Wellington, the new commander-in-chief, managed to thwart this scheme. In September 1829, however, Wellington’s successor Lord Hill felt unable to resist the king’s furtive insistence on making Beresford colonel of the 3rd Dragoon Guards. There was much disgust at this job, about which Wellington, now prime minister, was kept in the dark. The proportion of Whigs and radicals among the army officer Members was higher than in the previous period. Those in opposition between 1820 and 1830 included the advanced Whigs Thomas Davies, a relentless critic of excessive military expenditure, Sir Ronald Ferguson, Robert Torrens, and Wilson, though the last dished himself with his Southwark constituents in 1831 through his lukewarmness on reform. Ferguson was awarded the colonelcy of the ‘tip-top crack’ 79th Foot in 1828, thanks to Hill and Wellington, who overcame the king’s objections. It softened, if it did not end, Ferguson’s hostility to the ministry. On the other hand, in 1820 the Whig Sir Henry Bunbury’s public espousal of Queen Caroline’s cause in Suffolk brought him close to dismissal from the army and cost him the pension awarded him on the abolition of his colonial under-secretaryship in 1816. Tommy Duncombe, George De Lacy Evans and Edward Ruthven espoused radical politics. No more than ten military governorships fell vacant for the benefit of officer Members in this period. As for decorative honours, only 16 army officer Members received knighthoods in this period, not all of them on account of military distinction. Four were created baronets: Augustine Fitzgerald, Sir Edward Kerrison and William Jolliffe at the coronation in 1821, and Sir Richard Hussey Vivian by the outgoing Goderich ministry in 1828.

Thirty-two army officer Members held political or household office (or both) in this period. The highest ranking were Sir George Murray, colonial secretary from 1828 to November 1830, whose appointment raised eyebrows, and Hardinge, secretary at war from May 1828 until July 1830 and Irish secretary for four months thereafter. Of his predecessor at the war office Lord Palmerston and his successors Lord Francis Leveson Gower, Charles Williams Wynn, Sir Henry Parnell and Sir John Cam Hobhouse, only Leveson Gower had been in the army, and that only briefly. Murray and Hardinge were ordnance officials in this period, as were Sir Henry Fane, William Gosset, Edmund Phipps and Lords Fitzroy and Robert Somerset. Lord Fitzroy left the Commons to become the long-serving military secretary at the war office in 1829. (As Lord Raglan, he had the command in the Crimea from 1854 until his death from dysentery the following year.) Sir Herbert Taylor was military secretary to Wellington as commander-in-chief during his stint as Member for New Windsor, 1820-3. He later became William IV’s able private secretary and go-between with Lord Grey as prime minister during the reform crisis. The widespread involvement of Members military and non-military in their local militia, yeomanry and volunteers continued. A few came to the fore during the outbreak of ‘Swing’ agricultural disturbances in late 1830. For example, John Fleming, Member for Hampshire, clad in yachting attire, mustered a troop of yeomanry to confront a mob at Portswood before joining his colleague Sir William Heathcote, who was very active against troublemakers in and around Winchester. John Benett, Member for Wiltshire, was struck on the head by a stone when haranguing machine-breakers on his estate, and later participated with his yeomanry in a violent confrontation with rioters. Lord Chandos was prominent in Buckinghamshire. At the other end of the country, Charles John Brandling and Matthew Bell led the Northumberland yeomanry against rioting Tyne keelmen, 1822-3, and Bell was conspicuous at their head during the pitmen’s strikes of 1830-2. As captain of the Central Glamorgan militia, Charles Robinson Morgan helped to crush the Merthyr ‘uprising’ in June 1831.


Naval Officers

Fifty-four Members entered the royal navy. Seven of them did not reach the rank of commander, including Charles Richard Fox, Hugh Lindsay, Horace Seymour and William Wellesley Pole, who left the service to pursue other careers. John Palmer Bruce Chichester, James Edward Gordon and Lord Mandeville retired as lieutenants. Twenty-one had entered the navy before 1793: the oldest entrants were Sir Eliab Harvey (1771) and Sir Isaac Coffin (1773). Those joining during the period of the French wars numbered 29. Four entered after 1815: Arthur Duncombe, Lord Ingestre, Lord William Paget and Robert Henry Stanhope.

Of the naval officers, 25 (46 per cent) belonged to aristocratic families, including three illegitimate sons: Sir John Poo Beresford, Sir Augustus Clifford and Fox. All but seven were returned to the House on their family interest. Five of these seven were brought in by aristocratic kinsmen or political allies, while Frederick Spencer and Stanhope benefited from government support and reform fever in 1831. Seven were county Members: two in England, four in Scotland and one in Ireland. Another 20 (37 per cent) were of gentry stock, including the illegitimate Sir Edward William Campbell Rich Owen. Six of these sat on a family interest. The office-holders Sir George Cockburn and Sir Thomas Byam Martin sat for Plymouth on the admiralty interest, while Owen, also a minister, was Member for Sandwich on the government interest. This group contained five county Members: two in England and three in Scotland. The remaining naval Members were of professional or mercantile stock and included two sons of clergymen, one of an attorney, one of a theatrical impresario, one of a silk merchant and one (Sir Edward Thomas Troubridge) of an admiral, who had been lost at sea in 1807. Troubridge was one of the Grey ministry’s Members for Sandwich, while John Markham was the last naval officer to sit on the admiralty interest at Portsmouth for 84 years. Two of these men were county Members, one in Wales and one in Ireland, where Theobald Jones rested on a family interest in Londonderry. Ten of the naval Members were Scots.

Twenty-three had been first returned before 1820. Ten novices were returned to the 1820 Parliament, five to that of 1826, seven to that of 1830 and nine to that of 1831. The number of naval officers returned to each Parliament was as follows: 1820, 29; 1826, 28; 1830, 25; 1831, 28. Their average age at entry to the House was 36. It took an average of 13 years from entry to the service for these Members to attain the rank of post-captain. Half a dozen managed it in under ten years by dint of distinguished active service or good connections or both. James Bradshaw was promoted to post-captain after only three years, but he had not joined the service until he was 19. In 1823 the promotion to captain of the inexperienced and bungling Lord Henry Thynne, son of the 2nd marquess of Bath, was criticized in the House by Joseph Hume as an example of undeserved promotion through family connection and political interest. The average wait for promotion from captain to rear-admiral was 27 years, and only nine managed it in less than 20. Thirty of the Members were captains when they first entered the House. Seven were already rear-admirals, one (Sir Charles Ogle) was a vice-admiral, and one (Coffin) was a full admiral. Twelve attained flag rank while they were Members, but only two (Sir Charles Paget and George Mundy) did so within this period. Overall, 38 of the 54 Members eventually reached flag rank. A dozen held at some point station commands at home and abroad. Martin and Duncombe Pleydell Bouverie became naval administrators, while 15 were appointed to the admiralty board, including five within this period. Two drowned in accidents: Sir Joseph Sydney Yorke in 1831, when his yacht was struck by lightning in the Hamble; and Sir David Milne, who went down with the steamer taking him to Scotland from his Plymouth command in 1845. Sir Charles Paget succumbed to yellow fever off Jamaica in 1839.

Only six of these naval officers (11 per cent) sat in just one Parliament, whereas in the previous period, when active war service took priority, some 27 per cent had done so. Forty-four had seen action in the French wars. In this period of relative peace, 28 were retired, on half-pay or inactive. A few saw violent action: Lord Ingestre and Frederick Spencer fought at the battle of Navarino in 1827, and the former brought home the dispatches, was promoted to post rank and awarded the CB. Sir Samuel Brooke Pechell clashed with pirates off the Ionian Isles, 1823-6, and Sir Harry Neale commanded the controversial bombardment of Algiers in 1824. In all, some 22 Members were absent on active sea service at some point in this period. George Harris (1823) and Lord William Paget (1831) had to face courts martial, but were acquitted. Only one of the naval officer Members, Maurice Berkeley, received a peerage, and that not until 1861, 20 years after his last active command. Only four were created baronets, all before this period. Twenty-five were honoured with various orders of knighthood, but only seven of these were bestowed between 1820 and 1832. Three future admirals of the fleet, Sir George Cockburn, Martin and Ogle, were Members in this period. A dozen held household appointments at various times, while the duke of Devonshire’s bastard Sir Augustus Clifford was Black Rod after leaving the House in 1832 until his death in 1877.

Only 14 of the naval officer Members were Whigs in politics. At least 12 of the whole were very poor attenders, but about 15 of them made their presence felt in debate. As a Tory lord of the admiralty, 1818-30, Cockburn was frequently obliged to explain and defend the navy estimates, which came routinely under attack from elements of the opposition, with dockyard expenditure a particular bone of contention. Backbenchers who spoke regularly on naval affairs were Charles Adam, Coffin, Henry Evans, William Gordon, George Harris, Sir Eliab Harvey (whose volcanic temper and foul mouth made life a misery for his family and servants), Frank Sotheron and Charles and Sir Joseph Yorke. Adam had much to say also in favour of the Scottish reform proposals, and Berkeley was supposed to have become a reformer as a result of his experiences on a man-of-war. On the other side Ingestre and Sir Joseph Yorke were voluble opponents of the English reform bills. Evans, James Edward Gordon and James Wemyss dealt freely in anti-Catholic invective. Coffin and Sir Joseph Yorke offered occasional comic relief. The posthumous description of Wemyss’s speeches as those of ‘a jolly mariner, rough, homespun, full of a sort of ready raillery, blunt, off-hand and ready witted’, was applicable to the oratory of most of these men.14



Some 140 Members (ten per cent of the whole) were bankers, financiers, merchants and industrialists. A third of the 65 banker Members were also involved in commerce or manufacturing industry or both. The number of merchants, industrialists and bankers in each Parliament of the period is as follows, with the bankers given in brackets:


46 (47)


46 (36)


49 (34)


49 (35)


Of the bankers, 28 were partners in London firms The others’ concerns were based in the provinces, including three in Wales (John Guest, William Lewis Hughes and Walter Wilkins), three in Scotland (Douglas Hallyburton, Adam Hay and John Maberly), and one in Ireland (Robert Shaw). The London contingent included the Smiths, who had branches in Derby, Hull and Nottingham, John Martin of Martin, Stone and Foote, and Charles Mills of Glyn, Mills and Company. The commercial crash of 1825-6 claimed a few victims among the Members. The first casualty of the entire panic was Sir Peter Pole’s London bank, which went to the wall in December 1825, though Pole himself managed to salvage most of his personal fortune. Robert Chaloner’s York bank failed (Chaloner was bailed out by Lord Fitzwilliam), as did the Chelmsford firm of Robert Crickitt. Joshua Walker’s Sheffield and Rotherham banks survived, but the London one had to suspend payment and devise an instalment scheme of payment to creditors. The Windsor bank of John Ramsbottom was saved by some quick and not quite scrupulous action. Also within this period, failure befell the banks of the scoundrel Rowland Stephenson (1828-9), Sir Scrope Morland (posthumously in 1832) and Maberly (1832). Those of Edward Bainbridge, David Barclay, Joseph Marryat and John Wells failed later in the century. Among international financiers, Alexander Baring and his sons remained pre-eminent. He was one of the 11 Members in this period who were at some point directors of the Bank of England. Kirkman Finlay was a director of the Bank of Scotland, and Nathaniel Sneyd of the Bank of Ireland. About half the bankers and financiers were Whigs or radicals in their politics, although Baring and Abel and Samuel Smith turned Tory towards the end of the period. Baring was a very frequent contributor to debate, as were ten or so others. Matthias Attwood and William Heygate were leading critics of the resumption of cash payments, while Maberly had his sights trained on excessive public expenditure and the sinking fund.

About 70 Members were merchants of one sort or another. Of these, 39 were based primarily in London. Leaving aside the East and West India merchants, who are noticed below, Charles Poulett Thomson worked for a time in his family’s firm trading to Russia, while the Poole-based George Richard Robinson and Christopher Spurrier were active in the trade with Newfoundland. William Ward’s sphere of operations was the Mediterranean area, especially Spain. Edward ‘Bear’ Ellice had been in the Canadian trade, but had withdrawn from his London partnership by 1820. A dozen Members were involved in the beer brewing trade. The two Whitbread brothers and the two Barclay brothers represented London brewing dynasties which long endured. Thomas Fowell Buxton, Charles Calvert and Frederick Hodgson, whose Bromley-by-Bow enterprise specialized in exports to India, also operated in London. The provincial brewers were Joseph Cripps of Cirencester, William Farnworth Handley of Newark, and Ramsbottom of Windsor, who were also involved in banking, the preposterous John Hodson Kearsley of Wigan, and Joseph Pitt of Cheltenham. John Currie ran a distillery at Bromley-by-Bow. There were half-a-dozen wine merchants, including George Schonswar of Kingston-upon-Hull and Sneyd of Dublin, and two hop merchants. Thomas Gisborne and Ralph Thicknesse traded in coals, and Sir Samuel Scott in corn. Textiles were the business of Thomas Divett, Wynn Ellis and James Morrison (silk), and of Michael Thomas Sadler and John Ward (linen). Robert Harty began his climb to prominence in the affairs of Dublin corporation as a local hosier. The radical Robert Waithman, sometime lord mayor of London, was a Fleet Street retailer of linen goods. Another shopkeeper was Thomas Brayen, a Leominster grocer. Pascoe Grenfell, William Hughes and Owen Williams sold copper. The Callaghan brothers were naval contractors based in Cork (Gerard Callaghan was unseated on petition as such in March 1830), and Sir Francis Ommanney did his business in London. John Pearse was an army clothier and Blackwell Hall factor. James Capel, John Easthope and Alexander Sanderson were stockbrokers. Sir William Curtis had interests in shipping and whaling, and James Mangles was a London wharfinger. Richard Ironmonger, who was very briefly Member for Stafford, was a London coach proprietor, and William Blamire had once been a cattle dealer. Daniel Whittle Harvey owned newspapers, including the Sunday Times, and Henry Grattan II was the inefficient proprietor of the Dublin Freeman’s Journal for a few years. At least two dozen Members exploited their estates’ resources of coal, minerals and slate on a large scale. John George Lambton, Cuthbert Ellison, Matthew Bell, Charles John Brandling, John Hodgson and Sir Matthew White Ridley, for example, led the way in Durham and Northumberland. Thomas Wentworth Beaumont benefited from his wife’s inheritance of Yorkshire lead mines. The Lindsays had collieries in south-west Lancashire and profited handsomely, but John Fitzgerald came to grief there. John William Ward’s West Midlands estates yielded immense profits from coal and minerals, as did Edward Littleton’s in Staffordshire. Caernarvonshire slate enriched the Assheton Smiths and George Hay Dawkins Pennant, but did not save William Madocks from eventual ruin. The South Wales coal and iron fields filled the pockets of Christopher Talbot and Sir Charles Morgan. Talbot, like Madocks, was a promoter of urban development (Port Talbot and Porthmadog, respectively). The Gough Calthorpes, Thomas Kemp and Joseph Pitt did likewise at Birmingham, Brighton and Cheltenham.

At least two dozen Members were industrialists or manufacturers on a significant scale. The original cotton king, Sir Robert Peel, left the House in 1820, and the only one of his sons to participate in business was Edmund, who ran calico printing works in Staffordshire and Lancashire. Other Lancashire cotton magnates were Samuel Horrocks of Preston (who in 1823 survived an attempt on his life by a disgruntled worker) and Thomas Houldsworth and George Philips of Manchester. William Evans inherited a share in Derbyshire cotton mills, though his uncle managed them. Evans also had interests in lead smelting and paper manufacture. Kirkman Finlay, a merchant prince, but a Member in this period for only a few weeks, had mills in the Glasgow area, as did Henry Monteith, whose various enterprises, which included bleaching and dyeing, employed 4,000 workers in 1826. Flax spinning and linen manufacture in Leeds made John Marshall rich beyond the dreams of avarice, while his former partner Benjamin Benyon operated profitably in Leeds and Shrewsbury. John Maberly’s extensive business portfolio embraced linen and sailcloth production in Aberdeen. Grenfell, William Hughes, Sir Richard Hussey Vivian and Owen Williams were involved in copper smelting. The three leading ironmasters in the House were James Foster of Stourbridge and Bridgnorth, whose works turned out railway locomotives and related artefacts; Josiah Guest, the inheritor of the principal share in the Dowlais works at Merthyr Tydfil; and Joshua Walker of Rotherham, whose declining firm also processed lead. William Venables, a London stationer and City Member, had family paper mills in Buckinghamshire. William Copeland was in partnership with Josiah Spode in their successful porcelain manufacturing business, based in London and later in Stoke-upon-Trent. John Wilson Patten was a partner in the family firm of patent roller manufacturers at Cheadle. John Buchanan and John Rawlinson Harris were hat makers in Glasgow and Southwark respectively. After winning a seat for Great Grimsby in 1831, George Harris established there a rope and canvass factory, which used raw material from New Zealand. James Scott was a brickmaker and Robert Stanton, briefly, a looking glass manufacturer, like his father. Joseph Dixon’s family were prosperous manufacturers of crown glass in Dumbarton, but his own active involvement seems to have been minimal. These men were more or less equally divided in their politics, with Copeland, Evans, Finlay, Guest, Halse, Maberly, Marshall, Philips, Venables and Williams staunch on the Whig side. Some of these Members had views to offer when Parliament considered factory conditions in the industrial districts, at the prompting towards the end of this period of Sadler, who, taking over from Sir John Hobhouse, tried to secure regulation and restriction of children’s factory hours. The main thrust of the ten hours movement, under the parliamentary leadership of Lord Ashley, came after 1832.

No attempt has been made to quantify and evaluate the myriad of directorships of companies, old and new, respectable and shady, which many Members held.


East Indians

The nabob remained a familiar social and political type. In this period, 26 former civil servants of the East India Company sat in the House. Of these, John Baillie began his Indian career in the Company’s army, while Sir Robert Townsend Farquhar became a controversial governor of Mauritius in 1811. Fourteen of them were in the Bengal service, six in the Madras, two in the Bombay and four at Canton. There were (excluding Baillie) 16 military or naval men, engineers or surgeons who had served the Company in India. Officers who had served with the regular army there have not been included as nabobs. Of the Company’s soldiers, Alexander Nowell became a free merchant in indigo, and Sir John Malcolm was resident at Mysore, 1802-12, and in 1827, before his spell in the House, went out to govern Bombay. Three Members had operated exclusively as free merchants in India and one, Alexander Robertson, at Canton. Four of the Company civilians had combined those duties with profitable free enterprise. Four Members had been to India to serve the judiciary before entering the House: Codrington Carrington, James Buller East, Robert Cutlar Fergusson and Robert ‘Bobus’ Smith. Sir Anthony Buller was also an Indian judge, 1815-27, between two spells in the House. A dozen Members were merchants or ship owners who traded to India but never went there (although one of them, Henry Porcher, was born there, as were Francis Thornhill Baring, Michael Bruce, Charles Buller II, George Cherry, Charles and Robert Grant, George Holme Sumner, Ralph Leycester, John Norman Macleod, John Stewart, John Young and perhaps John Forbes). Seventeen past, present or future directors of the East India Company were Members in this period. William Astell, John Loch, Hugh Lindsay and William Wigram served as chairman of the Company between 1820 and 1832. The 1820 Parliament’s Membership contained 36 East Indians, of whom 29 could be defined as nabobs. The figures for the other Parliaments are as follows: 1826, 35 (29); 1830, 29 (23); and 1831, 27 (22). There was thus plenty of expertise available when Indian affairs were discussed, and William Astell, Fergusson, Sir Charles Forbes, Joseph Hume, Malcolm, William Money, Michael Prendergast and William Trant were ready contributors to debate. On 9 Feb. 1830 a select committee was appointed to inquire into the affairs of the East India Company, the prospective renewal of whose monopolistic charter was the subject of hostile petitioning from countrywide commercial and banking interests. It was reappointed on 4 Feb. and 28 June 1831, and 27 Jan. 1832. Seventeen East Indian Members were named to one or more of these committees. Thirty-four of the nabobs (71 per cent) were Tories, as against 12 Whigs, the radical Hume and the independent Sir George Staunton.


West Indians

About 42 Members in this period owned, were heir to, married into or were trustees for slave plantations in the Caribbean islands, predominantly in Jamaica. A handful were distributed among Antigua, Barbados, Demerara, St. Vincent and Trinidad. Some 19 Members were actively involved in trade to the West Indies; at least 13 of them also owned plantations. William Burge and Charles Pallmer had once held West Indian legal offices, and Sir Alexander ‘Chin’ Grant, John Rock Grosett and perhaps James Wilson were sometime members of one of the West Indian assemblies. The following Members were colonial agents in this period: Burge (Jamaica from 1830); William Robert Keith Douglas (Tobago, 1823-26); ‘Chin’ Grant (Antigua, 1819-20, St. Kitts, 1820-23, Nevis, 1823-26); William Holmes (Demerara, 1818-33); William Manning (Grenada, 1825-31); Joseph Marryat I (Grenada, 1815-24); Joseph Marryat II (Grenada, from 1831); Patrick Maxwell Stewart (Tobago, contentiously, from 1826); and Thomas Hyde Villiers (Berbice, from 1825). Douglas, Grant, Manning, the Marryats and Stewart were members of the London-based West India Planters and Merchants’ Committee, as were at least a dozen other Members. The most active were Charles Rose Ellis, chairman from 1810, Douglas, Grant, Manning, the Marryats, Ralph Bernal and Robert ‘Bum’ Gordon. They organized deputations to ministers on various issues, most notably the vexed one of the sugar duties, and defended the beleaguered West India interest, under mounting pressure from the abolitionist crusade and economic uncertainty, in the House, where Douglas was one of the chief and most persistent spokesmen for the West India Association from 1829. In 1824 Grosett published a reply to the abolitionists’ arguments. The 1820 Parliament contained about 32 West Indians, the 1826 Parliament some 33, the 1830 Parliament about 30, and the 1831 Parliament (which was inundated with petitions for abolition) about 25. Tories outnumbered Whigs and independents by two to one.

Members born in the Caribbean (not all of them belonging subsequently to the West India interest) included Ralph Benson, Sir Eyre Coote, Edward Hyde East, possibly Ellis, Sir Manasseh Masseh Lopes, Samuel Moulton Barrett, Charles Pallmer, James Scarlett and George Watson Taylor (Jamaica); William Mackinnon (Antigua); and the younger Marryat (Grenada).

Another colonial agent was Thomas Peregrine Courtenay, for the Cape, 1813-33, and his predecessor William Huskisson, who was responsible for Ceylon until 1823. Thomas Potter Macqueen was a proponent of controlled emigration to Australia: he secured grants of 20,000 acres in New South Wales for this purpose, 1823-27, and went out in 1834 to take charge of his Segenhoe settlement; but the venture ended in tears, recrimination and financial disaster.


Members Born Abroad and of Foreign Extraction

Members known to have been born in America were Sir Isaac Coffin and John Singleton Copley (Boston) and Sir Scrope Bernard Morland (New Jersey). Sir Edward Owen was born in Nova Scotia and Richard ‘Conversation’ Sharp in Newfoundland. Paris was the birthplace of Lord Rocksavage and Sir Horace St. Paul, Montpelier that of Lord Forbes, Brussels that of Augustus Clifford, Dresden that of Robert Eden, Geneva that of Fulke Greville Howard and St. Petersburg that of Lord Fitzharris. Ralph Bernal was born in Spain. Two Members were born at sea: Charles George James Arbuthnot and Rowland Stephenson.

Men with paternal descent from Huguenot families included the pre-1820 Members Sir Thomas Brooke Pechell, Sir William De Crespigny, Robert Latouche and Joseph Marryat I. The new Members with Huguenot ancestry were William Gosset, Henry Labouchere, Louis Hayes Petit and Henry Porcher, and the Irish Members Anthony and Thomas Langlois Lefroy and Louis Perrin. The Barings, well represented in the House in this period, were of North German extraction, and Theodore Henry Broadhead’s ancestors came from Hanover. George Schonswar’s paternal grandfather was a native of Friesland, and Peter Van Homrigh came from a long line of ‘Dutch Irishmen’.


Welshman, Scotsmen and Irishmen

At least two dozen Welshmen sat at some point in this period for non-Welsh seats. All represented English constituencies (including Sir Charles Morgan in Monmouthshire) except Thomas Frankland Lewis, who sat for Ennis between spells as Member for Beaumaris and Radnorshire.

The 45 Scottish seats did not cater for the demand among Scotsmen, of whom some 68 occupied non-Scottish seats. They included the eldest sons of Scottish peers Lords Ancram (Huntingdon), Binning (Rochester and Yarmouth), Garlies (Cockermouth), Glenorchy (Okehampton), Graham (Cambridge), Kennedy (Evesham), Lindsay (Wigan), Loughborough (Great Grimsby) and Maitland (Appleby), who were excluded by law from representing Scottish constituencies. Some Scottish families had electoral interests in England or Wales, notably the Stuarts, marquesses of Bute, the Campbells, Earls Cawdor, the Dundases, Barons Dundas (six of them sat for English seats in this period), the Lindsays, earls of Balcarres, and the Johnstones at Weymouth. As before, the great majority of Scots who secured non-Scottish seats were adventurers in politics or commerce, with a fair sprinkling of nabobs among them. Although the Melvillite stranglehold over the Scottish representation was loosening by 1820 and weakened further as the period progressed, many Scottish Whigs had to look outside their borders for opportunities to enter Parliament. All but four of the Scotsmen noticed here sat for English seats: the exceptions were Lord James Crichton Stuart (Cardiff Boroughs), James Farquhar (Portarlington), James Edward Gordon (Dundalk), and Sir William Rae (Portarlington).

Fifty-seven Irishmen or Anglo-Irishmen sat for non-Irish seats in this period. They included the Irish peers Lords Carhampton (Ludgershall), Downes (Queenborough), Dunalley (Okehampton) and Londonderry (Orford), who were ineligible for Irish constituencies. Five were former Members of the Dublin Parliament. The most distinguished were Londonderry and, of course, George Canning. John Croker and George Dawson were second rank Tory ministers, and the party managers ‘Black Billy’ Holmes and Francis Bonham were Irishmen. The eminent Irish barristers Michael Nolan and John Henry North found English seats, while two successive Irish solicitor-generals, John Doherty (1827-30) and Philip Crampton (1830-34) were accommodated at the behest of the relevant ministries. The Catholic agitator Richard Sheil sat briefly for Milborne Port in 1831, before becoming Member for county Louth. The others were a miscellaneous collection of nabobs, merchants and adventurers.

Twenty-nine Englishmen sat for Irish seats, while Sir Christopher Cole represented Glamorgan, John Henry Lowther, Sir John Osborn and Nicholas Tindal came in for Wigtown Burghs, and John Stuart Wortley briefly sat for Perth Burghs.


The Scandalous and Unfortunate

On Boxing Day 1828 the old Etonian London banker Rowland Stephenson, Member for Leominster, made his way to Bristol and thence by sea to Milford Haven, from where he and his assistant J. H. Lloyd boarded ship for America, taking with them £200,000 in exchequer bills. Charged with embezzlement and outlawed, Stephenson was unseated as a bankrupt in February 1830. He died in America in 1856. Another Etonian (and sometime fellow of King’s College, Cambridge), Abraham Moore, fled to America in 1821 after leaving his employer and patron Earl Grosvenor in debt to the tune of £80,00, arising out of the sale of non-existent lead. Moore vacated his seat for Shaftesbury in April 1822 and died in America soon afterwards. The West Indian plantation owner Charles Nicholas Pallmer, Member for Surrey and friend of Lord Liverpool, absconded in 1831 leaving debts of about £100,000 contracted through borrowing from business connections and personal friends. James Crosbie was strongly suspected of obtaining money in return for patronage and of using his influence in county Kerry to frustrate the enforced repayment of a personal debt. Lord Perceval, son and heir of the 4th earl of Egmont, was driven to drink and dissipation by the revelation of the massive debts on the family’s estates and, with his father immune from prosecution as a member of the Lords, was forced to roam the continent to avoid creditors. He was returned for East Looe in March 1826, but probably never took his seat, failed to find refuge at Penryn at the general election in June and was outlawed and went abroad in 1828. Frederick William Mullins was prosecuted over a bill of exchange in 1835 and in 1854 was formally charged with forging the signature on a bill of attorney with a view to defrauding the Bank of England of £1,500. Denied bail at the first hearing, he was remanded to Newgate prison, where he died a week later. The expulsion of William Smith O’Brien after his conviction for high treason occurred in 1849.

Electoral malpractice at Grampound landed the scapegoat Jew Sir Manasseh Masseh Lopes in gaol in November 1819, but he was released on compassionate grounds in September 1820. In 1825, however, he was prosecuted over his alleged failure to pay the legal expenses of the independents of the Looes. The boroughmonger Sir Christopher Hawkins, exposed for electoral corruption in 1807, remained under a cloud. The London banker Robert Stanton, who was returned for Penryn in 1824 on Hawkins’s interest, ended up in king’s bench prison as a debtor and gave extremely evasive evidence to the Lords committee of inquiry into systematic corruption in the borough. Bribery at Penryn had sent Henry ‘Black’ Swann to gaol at the same time as Masseh Lopes. He was nevertheless returned again at the 1820 general election, released in November and died in harness in 1824.

Involvement in the affairs of the proliferating ‘bubble’ joint-stock companies in the mid-1820s damaged a few Members. John Bent, a leading player in the Arigna Iron and Coal Company, was examined by the Commons select committee of inquiry over his receipt of a fraudulent payment of £1,047. Though acquitted of personal fraud, he was heavily censured. The brunt of this scandal was borne by James Brogden, who was damned by the committee’s report and effectively destroyed as a public figure, losing his role as chairman of ways and means (since 1813), though he remained a Member until 1832. The company’s chairman, Sir William Congreve, inventor of military rockets and comptroller of the royal laboratory, was also censured. He fled to France to escape creditors and died in penury there in 1828. The equally dubious Devon and Cornwall Mining Company attracted parliamentary attention in 1827, when John Wilks II, an incorrigible rogue, was questioned but escaped without blame. Debtors’ prison claimed him the following year and he later lived a rackety life as a journalist in Paris. His coadjutor Peter Moore lost his seat in 1826 and headed to France, where he died in 1828.

After he left the House in 1830 to govern St. Vincent, the debt-ridden Sir George Hill came under strong suspicion when it was discovered that his accounts as vice-treasurer of Ireland since 1817 were in chaos. The radical attorney Daniel Whittle Harvey was tarnished by having been found guilty in 1809 of stealing deeds and misappropriating money. He was belatedly cleared by parliamentary inquiry in 1834, but the bar remained closed to him. Another Member to be exonerated of malpractice was Colin Macaulay, whose alleged part in the attempt of the descendants of John Hutchinson to secure the payment of debts from the rajah of Travancore passed scrutiny in 1832. George Vaughan Hart had been found guilty of peculation while in the service of the East India Company in the 1790s, was dismissed in 1801 and never cleared his name. Sir Robert Townsend Farquhar was dogged by accusations that as governor of Mauritius he had connived in the continuation of the slave trade there after abolition; his death in 1830 spared him from further torment. John Charles Herries rose from the obscurity of a treasury clerkship to become (briefly) chancellor of the exchequer, but acquired a probably undeserved reputation as a stock-jobbing rogue who, as commissary-in-chief, 1811-16, had profited from his close association with the Rothschilds. The Whig Charles Warren’s cynical acceptance of a Welsh judgeship, worth £1,000 a year, and subsequent espousal of Tory politics in 1819 destroyed his reputation and led to his public humiliation. The role of William Burge in the deportation of the free ‘men of colour’ Lescene and Escoffery from Jamaica was raised in debate in 1825 (before Burge entered the House). In July 1831 the Hampshire magistrate William Bingham Baring, not at that time a Member, was convicted of assault and fined £50 for his part in the arrest of an elderly married couple during the ‘Swing’ disturbances. A parliamentary and press witch-hunt ensued.

A few other Members were imprisoned, but were mischief-makers or victims of the establishment rather than rogues. The demagogue Henry Hunt was tried for ‘seditious conspiracy’ in 1820 for his part in the Peterloo episode and sent to gaol for two years. He later made his unruly and ignorant presence felt in the House as the sensational winner of the Preston by-election of December 1830. Michael ‘Lavelette’ Bruce (who counted Lady Hester Stanhope and Marshall Ney’s wife among his sexual conquests) and his accomplices Sir Robert Wilson and John Hely Hutchinson I had spent three months in a French gaol for their part in assisting the escape of Buonaparte’s postmaster-general. The barrister Robert Cutlar Fergusson, a Friend of the People, was found guilty on flimsy grounds of riot and imprisoned for a year in 1799. After his release he went to India, where he prospered at the bar, and he won a seat in the House in 1826. John Cam Hobhouse was sent to Newgate for a written breach of privilege in late 1819, but his martyrdom in the radical cause helped to ensure his return for Westminster with Sir Francis Burdett at the general election three months later. The preposterous O’Gorman Mahon was dismissed from the county Clare magistracy in 1828 (before he entered the House) for ranting seditiously at a Catholic Association meeting; and in March 1831 he had to be ordered from the chamber by the Speaker after hearing the verdict of the election committee which unseated him on petition.

Three aristocratic black sheep are worth mentioning: Lord Brudenell, son and heir of the 6th earl of Cardigan, was in perpetual hot water and was fined £1,000 in a crim. con. action in 1824. As a peer and soldier he remained a controversial figure, who achieved his apotheosis at Balaclava as commander of the charge of the light brigade. Later, as colonel of the 11th Hussars, he was tried by his peers for attempted murder. Lord Bruce, the son of the 4th earl of Albemarle, was a profligate, womanising scoundrel, pursued by creditors and imprisoned for debt in France in 1831. Easily the most odious man to sit in the House in this period was the duke of Wellington’s nephew, William Pole Tylney Long Wellesley, the son of the cabinet minister William Wellesley Pole (Lord Maryborough). A wastrel who racked up massive debts, he squandered his first wife’s fortune and drove her to an early grave through his adultery with a married woman (from whom he later separated) and law suits over the custody of their children. At the time of his return for Essex in 1831 he was skulking in France, evading his creditors. Later that year he abducted his children. He was arrested for contempt of court and dragged before the Commons committee of privileges, who let him off. He spent his last years in obscure penury, sustained by a meagre weekly allowance from the 2nd duke of Wellington, and, as 4th earl of Mornington, died while eating an egg at his London lodgings in 1857.

There was no shortage of eccentrics and buffoons in the House in this period. Outstanding examples are William John Bankes, Sir Isaac Coffin, John Cressett Pelham, Robert Downie, Thomas Slingsby Duncombe, James Edward Gordon, Daniel Harvey, Christopher Hely Hutchinson, John Hodson Kearsley, Edward Bolton ‘Bellows’ King, Marmaduke Lawson, the O’Gorman Mahon, Spencer Perceval, Charles Waldo Sibthorp, Sir Charles Wetherell, James Wilson and Sir Joseph Yorke. Henry Brougham may have been intermittently insane. The erratic Thomas Wentworth Beaumont exhibited symptoms of mental instability. As 5th duke of Portland and 8th duke of Bedford respectively, Lords Titchfield and Russell became reclusives in later life. At least eight Members lapsed into permanent insanity, though only one did so within this period. John William Ward, who as Lord Dudley was foreign secretary, 1827-8, became harmlessly deranged in 1832, was confined and died in 1833. Lord Eldon’s grandson and successor Lord Encombe was declared insane in 1853 and died in 1854. John Foster Barham was certified insane in 1836 and died two years later. The choleric London alderman Henry Winchester was tipped over the edge by the deaths of five of his eight children and bankruptcy, and died in an asylum in 1838. Robert Henley Eden, Robert Peel’s brother-in-law, went mad in 1840 and died the following year. Bury was certified mad a month after succeeding his father as 5th earl of Albemarle in 1849: among his ravings was a claim to have fought at Bunker Hill, been decapitated there, and had his head replaced. He died in 1851. Lord Castlereagh, Londonderry’s nephew, went mad as 4th marquess of Londonderry in 1862 and was confined at Hastings for the last ten years of his life. Robert Henry King succeeded his lunatic father as 4th earl of Kingston in 1839. After his Irish estates had been confiscated and sold to pay debts, he appeared frequently in the London courts on charges of drunkenness and assault. His nemesis came in 1860 at Chester, where he walked through a railway tunnel, was thrown out of the cathedral for refusing to remove his hat, and pranced naked in the street. He died in confinement in 1867. There were other marginal cases: Richard Wellesley, Marquess Wellesley’s unhappy bastard, died, aged 42, ‘in a state of insane hypochondria’ in 1832; Sir William Scott (Lord Stowell) spent the last two years of his long life (90 years) in a state of senile dementia; Lord Sefton was in a state of imbecility for six months before his death in 1838, and the poet laureate Robert Southey was in the same condition for the last four years of his life.

At least seven Members had bouts of insanity, four of them with fatal consequences. Cressett Pelham had been certified insane at the turn of the century, but he recovered and reappeared in the House as loquacious Member for Shropshire in 1822. Marmaduke Lawson was reportedly unhinged while at Cambridge University, where he set his college on fire and walked naked in the afternoon. Lord Deerhurst, who became 8th earl of Coventry in 1831, betrayed symptoms of insanity before his death in 1843. When Londonderry, then foreign secretary and leader of the Commons, cut his throat with a pen knife in August 1822, he was suffering from paranoia and depression brought on by overwork. A paranoid and miserable John Calcraft, twice a political turncoat, ended it all by the same method in September 1831. James Bradshaw had been deranged for a month before he cut his throat in 1833. George Spence, worn out by his work in chancery and mortified by his failure to secure a mastership, inflicted severe wounds to his neck, wrists and thigh in 1850, but took two days to die.

Two Members besides Londonderry and Calcraft took their own lives in this period. James Hamilton Stanhope, tortured for 12 years by increasing pain from a musket ball which had lodged against his spine at the siege of St. Sebastian, hanged himself in an outhouse at Kenwood, Hampstead Heath, in 1825. In 1830 the courtier and Irish peer Lord Graves cut his throat, unable to live with the society gossip that he had been bribed to connive in his wife’s adultery with the king’s odious brother, the duke of Cumberland. Outside the period, Sir Henry Brooke Parnell, once war secretary, hanged himself in 1842 after a prolonged fit of depression. Charles Russell, suffering from chest pains and low spirits, ate his gun in 1856. Thomas Read Kemp may have committed suicide in Paris in 1844, but the evidence is inconclusive. John ‘Dog’ Dent, driven frantic by the tic doloureux, threw himself off a cliff in 1825, but survived. A natural death relieved him the following year. Richard Wellesley, mentioned above, made two unsuccessful suicide bids in his last months of misery.

Among Members with lurid reputations for sexual incontinence were Long Wellesley, already noticed; Lord Blandford, who, like his father, the 4th duke of Marlborough, had the morals of a goat; the younger Lord Castlereagh, who contracted venereal disease and impregnated Madame Vestris; John Robert Townshend, another victim of the clap, who flirted with and bedded married women; Lord Palmerston, whose sexual appetite lasted into his old age; Henry Lytton Bulwer, a womaniser and gambler; Lord Perceval, who was steeped in ‘evil courses’; the charming soldier John Hobart Cradock, an irresistible lady-killer with a taste for titled continental ladies of a certain age; Lord Yarmouth, whose mother Lady Hertford was for a time George IV’s mistress, and who, after leaving his wife, indulged his gargantuan appetite for fornication; and Tommy Duncombe, who entered the House with a name as a gambler and rakehell. At the age of 17 Yarmouth’s son and heir Lord Beauchamp impregnated a married woman. (Their bastard Richard (1818-90) took the name of Wallace in 1842, received a baronetcy in 1871, was Conservative Member for Lisburn, 1873-85,and left his father’s superb artistic possessions to the nation as the Wallace Collection.) Charles Ricketts ruined his marriage through ‘gross conduct’. William Powell preferred his mistress in London to his sickly wife and gave her four bastards. The young John Savile Lumley remained a bachelor, but he seduced a married French woman in about 1816; one of their bastards was made a peer in 1888. William Maule, ‘a spoiled beast from his infancy’, was a debauched relic. Sir Thomas Mostyn was accused of defiling a friend’s daughter. Election propaganda in Somerset in 1832 accused John Fownes Luttrell of indulging in unbridled depravity with prostitutes and servants at his Dunster Castle residence. After his death, John Ward (Lord Dudley’s) journal was found to contain pornographic descriptions of his largely joyless sexual exploits with women of high and low birth. Lord Nugent was reputed to have resorted habitually to prostitutes and doubtless other Members made use of their services: the Tory whip Billy Holmes and Lord Lowther cavorted with Brighton prostitutes in the autumn of 1825. Colonel Charles Waldo Sibthorp, whose wife secured a legal separation from him in 1826 on account of his adultery with a woman of ‘low character’, was reputed to sleep during the session at a brothel near the House. Some Members strayed outside the conventions, but with a degree of self-control. For example, George Philips openly paraded his mistress in Manchester, before he got religion. William Leake separated from his wife and lived openly with his paramour Madame Levasseur, and Henry Hunt did likewise with his mistress Mrs. Vince. Lord Rancliffe, having cast off his adulterous wife, established his long-term mistress at his Nottinghamshire home, scandalizing county society. Frederick Polhill also separated from his wife for his mistress. ‘Black Jack’ Needham (Lord Kilmorey) left his wife and lived openly for ten years with his ward Priscilla Hoste. Sir Henry Fane was unmarried, but lived as man and wife with Mrs. Edward Cooke, with whom he had six bastards. John Morison fathered a battery of them with at least four women, while Lord Lowther acknowledged three by three of the opera singers he habitually lusted after. Speaker Charles Manners Sutton, the son of the archbishop of Canterbury, cohabited with Mrs. Ellen Purves Home during her husband’s lifetime, but managed not to impregnate her until after he married her as a widow in 1828. As a young unmarried man William Smith O’Brien twice impregnated the sister of his brother’s servant. Lords Bective and Brudenell, Abel Dottin, Robert Ferguson, Richard Fitzgibbon, the lapsed Quaker Richard Gurney (whose half-brother Hudson Gurney was a partial to a spot of flagellation) and Sir George Murray (the son of an adulteress) were sued for crim. con. with married women, whom they married subsequently after their divorces. William Lamb (Lord Melbourne), cuckolded by Byron, among others, was intimate with Lady Branden and bought off her husband to avoid legal action. As prime minister (with a liking for flagellation), he successfully defended an action brought by the Member George Norton, husband of his current mistress.

Like Melbourne and Rancliffe, Robert King was both adulterer and cuckold. Others whose wives’ betrayal came to public notice were Graves, who rather overreacted; Robert Knight; George Lane Fox; Lord William Lennox, whose actress wife eloped with her leading man; Granby Calcraft, another who fell foul of an actress; the gambler Henry Baring, whose French wife went astray; William Clayton, who was suspected of connivance and received only £100 damages; Joseph Neeld, whose wife had a child by another man in revenge for his persistent cruelty to her; John Tyssen Tyrell, whose wife eloped with a vicar; and Richard Martin, who was cuckolded by a Frenchman. After the death of his wife in 1815 John Calcraft took up with an actress, but she ended up in George IV’s bed.

In view of the legal position of homosexuality in this period, it is not surprising that only four definite cases have come to light. In 1825 the radical Whig bore Henry Grey Bennet, an indefatigable attender until the end of the 1824 session, was accused in Spa, where he was living with his wife and children, of propositioning a young male servant, whose accomplices blackmailed him. To the veteran Whig George Tierney he protested his innocence, but admitted that part of the charge was true. Diplomatic intervention ensured that a trial was avoided, but the affair became public knowledge and Bennet’s reputation was ruined. He resigned his seat in 1826 and died in Italy in 1836. The unmarried bibliophile Richard Heber destroyed his parliamentary career (such as it was) as Member for Oxford University in 1825 by making advances at the Athenaeum to two young men, including the son of his agent, one Fisher, who threatened to bring charges. The business was brought to the attention of the home secretary Peel (the other University Member), who with the assistance of underlings got Heber to admit enough guilt that they were able to force him to go abroad and resign his seat. This he did, to general mystification, early in 1826, but rumours and innuendo about his relationship with a much younger man soon surfaced. One of his libellers was successfully sued and Heber returned to England in 1831, but he was an outcast from respectable society and died alone in Pimlico in 1833. The Egyptologist William John Bankes, a tiresome prattler who fancied himself a wit, was arrested in 1833 with a guardsman after they had been seen loitering together in a public urinal in the churchyard of St. Margaret’s, Westminster. They were brought to trial, but the evidence was circumstantial and the great and the good, led by the duke of Wellington, testified to Bankes’s good character. He was acquitted without a stain, but in 1841 was caught in flagrante with another soldier in Green Park. He was arrested and released on bail, but fled before his trial and lived abroad as an outlaw until his death in Venice in 1855. The fashionable and wealthy man about town Charles Baring Wall, whose letters indicate his fancy for men in uniform, was tried in 1833 for allegedly indecently assaulting a policeman in Harley Street. He got off and served as a Member for another 20 years, during which he either changed his ways or was more discreet. He never married. Sir Stephen Glynne, William Gladstone’s brother-in-law and a leading ecclesiologist, who died a bachelor, was accused on the Flintshire hustings in 1841 of acts of buggery. The madman Robert Henry King’s ravings shortly before his death included references to ‘unnatural crimes’. Although Lord Rocksavage was twice married, he had no children, and was the subject of innuendo. Peel’s brother Lawrence apparently flirted with homosexuality at Oxford (he would not have been alone in that), but he subsequently married and fathered six children. It is inconceivable that among the 1,367 men who sat in the House in this period, over half of whom attended public schools, there were not a number of practising homosexuals whose activities remained in the closet.

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: David R. Fisher

End Notes

  • 1.  Duke Univ. Lib. Fazakerley mss, Ord to Fazakerley, 13 Sept. 1831.
  • 2.  I.R. Christie, British ‘non-elite’ MPs, 1715-1820 (Oxford, 1995), p. 2.
  • 3.  Ibid. 128. There seem to be some minor discrepancies in Christie’s figures.
  • 4.  P. Jupp, The Governing of Britain (2006), pp. 190-1
  • 5.  See B. English, ‘Probate Valuations and the Death Duty Registers’, BIHR, lvii (1984), pp. 80-91, and ‘Wealth and Death in the nineteenth century: the Death Duty Registers’, ibid. lx (1987), pp. 246-9; M. Collinge, ‘“Probate Valuations and the Death Duty Registers”: some comments’, ibid. lx. 240-5.
  • 6.  See HP Commons, 1790-1820, i. 288-90.
  • 7.  See W.D. Rubinstein, ‘British Millionaires, 1809-1949’, BIHR, xlvii (1974), 207-10. For Miles, who was missed by Rubinstein, see English, ibid. lvii. 88.
  • 8.  See, for example, The Black Book; or, Corruption Unmasked! (1820); The Extraordinary Red Book (4th edn., 1821); The Black Book, vol. ii (1823); The Extraordinary Black Book (by John Wade, 1832).
  • 9.  Others, without annotations, appeared in The Times, 26, 31 Mar., 21, 24, 25, 29 May, 1, 8, 1 26, 30 June 1821. There was another in the issue of 28 Feb. 1822.
  • 10.  See CJ, vol. lxxxvi, pt. 1, pp. ccxcvii-cccxl.
  • 11.  Brougham mss.
  • 12.Life of Campbell, i. 517.
  • 13.  TNA 30/9/5/78.
  • 14.Fifeshire Jnl. 6 Apr. 1854.