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Regency Personalities Series

In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency (I include those who were born before 1811 and who died after 1795), today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Thomas Erskine 1st Baron Erskine
10 January 1750 – 17 November 1823

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Thomas Erskine

Thomas Erskine 1st Baron Erskine was the third and youngest surviving son of Henry Erskine, 10th Earl of Buchan, and was born in a tenement at the head of South Grays Close on the High Street in Edinburgh. His older brothers were David (Lord Cardross and later the 11th Earl of Buchan) and Henry (later Lord Advocate of Scotland). His mother, Agnes Steuart, was the daughter of a solicitor general for Scotland and undertook much of her children’s education as the family, though noble, were not rich. The family moved to St Andrews, where they could live more cheaply, and Erskine attended the grammar school there. The family’s money having been spent on the education of his older brothers, Erskine, aged fourteen, reluctantly abandoned his formal education for the time being and went to sea as a midshipman. His family meanwhile moved to Bath to become members of the Methodist community headed by Selina, Countess of Huntingdon. One of Erskine’s sisters, Anne Agnes, was to become treasurer of Selina, Countess of Huntingdon’s charities.

Erskine went to sea as a midshipman in the Tartar, under captain Sir David Lindsay, who was a nephew of Lord Mansfield and a friend of the Erskine family. The Tartar set sail for the Caribbean, where Erskine was to spend the next four years, rising to the rank of acting lieutenant. When Erskine was eighteen he resigned from the Navy. His ship had been paid off, there were no commissions available, and he didn’t want to return to sea as a midshipman after having been an acting lieutenant. The 10th Earl of Buchan had recently died, and Erskine now had just enough money to buy a commission in the army, becoming an ensign in the 1st (Royal) Regiment of Foot. He was stationed first at Berwick and then on Jersey. On 29 March 1770 Erskine married Frances Moore at Gretna Green, against the wishes of her father, Daniel Moore who was member of parliament for Great Marlowe. Frances was the granddaughter of John Moore, who had been attorney general of Pennsylvania. Erskine’s regiment was then posted to Minorca, and Frances went with him. Before meeting Frances, Erskine had written about the qualities he was looking for in a bride: “Let then my ornament be far from the tinsel glare, let it be fair yet modest, let it rather delight than dazzle, rather shine like the mild beams of the morning than the blaze of the noon. I seek in my fair one a winning female softness both in person and mind”. Erskine appears to have found these qualities in Frances: she is described on her memorial in Hampstead Church as “the most faithful and affectionate of women”. The couple had four sons and four daughters.

While he was stationed in Jersey and Minorca, Erskine had on occasion preached sermons to his men, prompting one biographer to say that “a taste for oratory that ultimately would lead on to his true career originated in those soldier sermons”.

He also demonstrated his future skills as an advocate in a pamphlet entitled “Observations on the Prevailing Abuses in the British Army Arising from the Corruption of Civil Government with a Proposal toward Obtaining an Addition to Their Pay“.

Whilst on leave in London in 1772, the charming and well-connected young officer was able to mix in literary circles and met Dr Johnson. James Boswell, in his Life of Johnson, recalled meeting “a young officer in the regimentals of the Scots royal, who talked with a vivacity, fluency and precision so uncommon, that he attracted particular attention. He proved to be the Honorable Thomas Erskine, youngest brother to the Earl of Buchan, who has since risen into such brilliant reputation at the Bar in Westminster-hall”. Although Erskine was appointed a lieutenant in April 1773, he decided to leave the army and, with the encouragement of his family and Lord Mansfield, study for the Bar.

Erskine was admitted as a student of Lincoln’s Inn on 26 April 1775. He discovered that the period of study required before being called to the Bar could be reduced from five years to three for holders of a degree from Oxford or Cambridge universities. He therefore on 13 January 1776 entered himself as a gentleman commoner on the books of Trinity College, Cambridge where, as the son of an earl, he was entitled to gain a degree without sitting any examinations. He did however win the English declamation prize for an oration on the “glorious revolution” of 1688. At the same time, he was a pupil in the chambers of first Francis Buller and then George Wood. These were years of poverty for Erskine and his growing family: he installed Frances and the children in cheap lodgings in Kentish Town and survived on a gift of £300 from a relative, and the sale of his army commission. Jeremy Bentham, who knew Erskine at this time, described him as “so shabbily dressed as to be quite remarkable”.

In the summer of 1778 Erskine was awarded a degree and was called to the Bar on 3 July. While many newly qualified barristers, especially those without contacts to put briefs their way, took years to establish themselves, Erskine’s success was immediate and brilliant. His first case, that of Thomas Baillie, came to him by chance. The case involved the Greenwich Hospital for Seamen, of which Captain Baillie was lieutenant-governor. Baillie had uncovered abuses in the management of the hospital and, having failed to interest the directors and governors of the hospital or the lords of the Admiralty, he published a pamphlet and was then sued by the agents of John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich who was first lord of the Admiralty and had been placing his agents in positions of authority in the hospital. Hearing of a newly qualified barrister who had himself been a seaman and was sympathetic to his cause, Baillie appointed Erskine to his team although he already had four counsel. Erskine was the most junior, but it was his brilliant speech that won the case and exonerated Baillie. Despite a warning from the judge, Erskine attacked Lord Sandwich calling him “the dark mover behind the scene of iniquity”. After his success in the Baillie case, Erskine had no shortage of work and a few months later was retained by Admiral Augustus Keppel in his court martial at Portsmouth. Keppel was acquitted and gave Erskine £1,000 in gratitude. For the first time in his life Erskine was financially secure.

In 1781 Erskine had his first opportunity to address a jury when he defended Lord George Gordon who had been charged with high treason for instigating the anti-Catholic riots of 1780. Erskine’s defence not only achieved Gordon’s acquittal but also dealt a blow to the English legal doctrine of constructive treason. The case established Erskine as the country’s most successful barrister. By 1783, when he received a patent of precedence, he had earnt enough to pay off all his debts and accumulate £8–9,000. He could afford a country house, Evergreen Villa, in Hampstead as well as a house in Lincoln’s Inn Fields.

In 1783, when the Fox-North Coalition came into power, Erskine entered parliament as Whig member for Portsmouth. Erskine’s friend Charles James Fox had been eager to have such a brilliant lawyer join the ranks of Whig members, but Erskine’s speeches failed to make the impact in parliament that they did in court. Erskine lost his seat the following year in the general election, becoming one of “Fox’s martyrs” when Pitt’s party made large gains, although he would regain the seat in 1790.

The loss of his parliamentary seat enabled Erskine to concentrate on his legal practice. In 1786, when he was thirty-six years old and had been practising at the Bar for only eight years, he was able to write: “I continue highly successful in my profession, being now, I may say, as high as I can go at the Bar. The rest depends on politics, which at present are adverse.” Amongst his notable cases in 1780s was his successful defence of William Davies Shipley, dean of St Asaph (and son of Jonathan Shipley) who was tried in 1784 at Shrewsbury for seditious libel for publishing Principles of Government, in a Dialogue between a Gentleman and a Farmer, a tract by his brother-in-law Sir William Jones advancing radical views on the relationship between subjects and the state. Erskine’s defence anticipated the Libel Act 1792, which laid down the principle that it is for the jury (who previously had only decided the question of publication) and not the judge to decide whether or not a publication is a libel.

In 1789 he was counsel for John Stockdale, a bookseller, who was charged with seditious libel in publishing John Logan’s pamphlet in support of Warren Hastings, whose impeachment was then proceeding. Erskine’s speech, which resulted in the Stockdale’s acquittal, argued that a defendant should not be convicted if his composition, taken as a whole, did not go beyond a free and fair discussion, even if selected passages might be libellous. Henry Brougham considered this to be one of Erskine’s finest speeches: “It is justly regarded, by all English lawyers, as a consummate specimen of the art of addressing a jury”.

Three years later he would, against the advice of his friends, take on the defence of Thomas Paine who had been charged with seditious libel after the publication of the second part of his Rights of Man. Paine was tried in his absence; he was in France. Erskine argued for the right of a people to criticise, reform and change its government; he made the point that a free press produces security in the government. But in this case his arguments failed to convince the special jury, who returned a verdict of guilty without even retiring.

Erskine’s speech is also remembered for a passage on the duty of barristers to take on even unpopular cases:

“I will for ever, at all hazards, assert the dignity, independence, and integrity of the English Bar, without which impartial justice, the most valuable part of the English constitution, can have no existence. From the moment that any advocate can be permitted to say that he will or will not stand between the Crown and the subject arraigned in the court where he daily sits to practise, from that moment the liberties of England are at an end.”

Erskine’s decision to defend Paine cost him his position as attorney-general (legal advisor) to the Prince of Wales, to which he had been appointed in 1786.

In 1794 William Pitt’s government, fearful of a revolution, decided to take action against people who were campaigning for parliamentary reform. Habeas corpus was suspended and twelve members of radical societies were imprisoned and charged with a variety of offences amounting to high treason. Erskine and Vicary Gibbs were assigned as counsel to seven of them. They were not paid for their services, as it was considered unprofessional to take fees for defending people charged with high treason. The treason trials began on 28 October before Lord Chief Justice Eyre at the Old Bailey with the trial of Thomas Hardy, a shoemaker and secretary of the London Corresponding Society. After eight days of evidence and speeches, including Erskine’s seven-hour speech on the final day, and several hours deliberation, the jury returned a verdict of not guilty. Erskine was hailed as a hero by the crowds outside who unharnessed his horses (which he never saw again ) and pulled his carriage through the streets. Although it was usual in cases where several people were jointly charged with high treason to discharge the rest if the first was acquitted, the government persisted with the trials of John Horne Tooke and John Thelwall. They too, defended by Erskine and Vicary Gibbs, were acquitted and it was only then that the prosecution was halted. A disappointed government had to scrap a further 800 warrants of arrest.

Notable amongst the later cases of Erskine’s career was that of James Hadfield, a former soldier who had fired a shot at the king in Drury Lane Theatre. The shot missed and Hadfield was charged with treason. Erskine called a large number of witnesses who testified to Hadfield’s sometimes bizarre behaviour, a surgeon who testified to the nature of the head injuries that Hadfield had sustained in battle, and a doctor, Alexander Crichton, who gave evidence that Hadfield was insane. Erskine argued that, although Hadfield could appear rational, he was in the grip of a delusion and could not control his actions. He summed up: “I must convince you, not only that the unhappy prisoner was a lunatic, within my own definition of lunacy, but that the act in question was the immediate unqualified offspring of the disease”. The judge, Lord Kenyon, was convinced by Erskine’s evidence and argument and stopped the trial, acquitted Hadfield and ordered him to be detained. The trial led to two acts of parliament: the Criminal Lunatics Act 1800 which provided for the detention of people who were acquitted of a crime by reason of insanity, and the Treason Act 1800.

In 1806 Erskine was offered the Lord Chancellorship in the Ministry of All the Talents formed by Lord Grenville and Charles Fox on the death of William Pitt. Fox’s original plan had been to offer Erskine the chief judgeship of the Common Pleas or the King’s Bench when one of the holders was elevated to Lord Chancellor. But both Lord Ellenborough, chief justice of the King’s Bench and Sir James Mansfield, Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, declined the chancellorship. Erskine was therefore appointed although he had no experience in Chancery. He was created a peer to become Lord Chancellor. The Prince of Wales, who had inherited the Duchy of Cornwall, chose Erskine’s title, Baron Erskine of Restormel Castle, while the motto, “trial by jury” was Erskine’s own. Frances Erskine did not live to enjoy the title of Lady Erskine; she died a few weeks before her husband took the seals of office.

Although Erskine lacked experience in equity, only one of the judgements he made during his brief tenure as Lord Chancellor was appealed against and that, concerning Peter Thellusson’s will, was upheld. His handling of the impeachment of Lord Melville was generally admired. Along with Lords Grenville, Spencer and Ellenborough, Erskine was commissioned by the king to enquire into the morals of his daughter-in-law Caroline of Brunswick in what became known as the “delicate investigation”.

Erskine was Lord Chancellor for only fourteen months, having to give up the seals of office when the ministry of all the talents resigned over a disagreement with the king concerning the question of Catholic Emancipation. The king gave Erskine a week to finish pending cases, and Erskine took advantage of this to appoint one of his sons-in-law, Edward Morris, as master of Chancery.

As ex-chancellor, Erskine was not permitted to return to the Bar. He was awarded a pension of £4000 a year and remained a member of the House of Lords. He was only 57 when the ministry of all the talents fell, and hoped that he might return to office when the Prince of Wales became regent. In the event, however, the regent retained the ministry of Spencer Perceval and the Whigs would not be in power again until 1830, seven years after Erskine’s death. Erskine largely retired from public life, rarely speaking in the House of Lords. In 1818 he married for the second time. His bride was a former apprentice bonnet-maker, Sarah Buck, with whom he had already had two children. The couple travelled to Gretna Green for the marriage, with an angry adult son in hot pursuit. It was a tempestuous relationship, and the marriage ended in separation a few years later. In spite of his generous pension and the enormous sums he had earnt at the Bar, Erskine experienced financial difficulties in his later years, having to sell his villa in Hampstead and move to a house in Pimlico. He also bought an estate in Sussex, but his agricultural efforts were not a great success. He wrote a political romance, Armata, which ran to several editions.

Causes which Erskine took up in his retirement were animal rights, Greek independence, and the defence of Queen Caroline. He had always been an animal lover; amongst his favourite animals were a Newfoundland dog called Toss who used to accompany him to chambers, a macaw, a goose and two leeches. He introduced a bill in the House of Lords for the prevention of cruelty to animals, arguing that humanity’s dominion over them was given by God as a moral trust. It was the first time he had proposed a change in the law. The bill was accepted in the Lords but opposed in the Commons; William Windham arguing that a law against cruelty to animals was incompatible with fox-hunting and horse racing. Eventually the bill was introduced in the Commons and passed as statute 3 Geo 4 c71. When Caroline was being prosecuted for divorce Erskine spoke against the Bill of Pains and Penalties and, when the government dropped the bill, expressed his approval: “My Lords, I am an old man, and my life, whether it has been for good or evil, has been passed under the sacred rule of Law. In this moment I feel my strength renovated by that rule being restored”. He was invited to a public dinner in Edinburgh in February 1820, and made his first trip to Scotland since he had left it on the Tartar over fifty years before.

In 1823 Erskine set out by sea on another visit to Scotland with one of his sons, hoping to see his brother the Earl of Buchan. But he became ill with a chest infection on the journey and was put ashore at Scarborough. He managed to travel to the home of his brother Henry’s widow in Almondell in West Lothian, where they were joined by the earl. He died at Almondell on 17 November 1823 and was buried in the family burial-place at Uphall in Linlithgowshire. His widow survived him by over thirty years. She, as reports in the Times revealed, was reduced to poverty and had to rely on a small charitable allowance to survive. Even these meagre payments were withheld by Erskine’s executors when she tried to prevent them sending her son Hampden away to school, and she had to appeal to the lord mayor of London. She died in 1856.

Erskine’s first marriage produced four sons and four daughters:

  • David Montagu Erskine (1776–1855) was a member of parliament and diplomat;
  • Henry David (1786–1859) was Dean of Ripon;
  • Thomas (1788–1864) became a judge of the Court of Common Pleas;
  • Esmé Steuart (1789–1817) fought at the Battle of Waterloo where he lost an arm (his widow Eliza married Admiral James Norton, who also lost an arm in action).
  • Frances (d. 1859) married Samuel Holland, Precentor of Chichester and Rector of Poynings, Sussex (a grandson of Frances and Samuel was Thomas Erskine Holland the jurist);
  • Elizabeth (d, 1800) married her cousin Captain (later Sir) David Erskine, the illegitimate son of the 11th Earl of Buchan;
  • Mary (d. 1804) married lawyer Edward Morris.

With his second wife Erskine had one legitimate son, Hampden (b. 1821) and two children, Agnes and Erskine, born before the marriage.

Erskine’s eldest brother the 11th Earl of Buchan had no legitimate sons and was succeeded by a nephew, the son of Erskine’s brother Henry. When all Henry’s descendants in the direct male line died out in 1960 the seventh Baron Erskine (Donald Cardross Flower Erskine, Erskine’s great-great-greatgrandson) became the sixteenth Earl of Buchan.

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Regency Personalities Series

In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

John Crewe 1st Baron Crewe
27 September 1742 – 28 April 1829

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John Crewe

John Crewe 1st Baron Crewe of Crewe Hall in Cheshire, was a British politician. He is chiefly remembered for his sponsorship of Crewe’s Act of 1782, which barred customs officers and post office officials from voting.

Crewe was the eldest son of John Crewe, Member of Parliament for Cheshire between 1734 and 1753, and grandson of John Offley Crewe who had also held the same seat before him. In 1764 he was chosen High Sheriff of Cheshire, and he entered parliament at a by-election in 1765 as Whig member for Stafford; but at the next general election, in 1768, he was returned unopposed for Cheshire, which he represented for the next 34 years. He was never opposed for Cheshire, and presumably was highly regarded locally : the Dictionary of National Biography records that he was “an enlightened agriculturalist and a good landlord”.

In the factional politics of the Whig Party, Crewe was initially a friend and follower of the Duke of Grafton, but later became a particular supporter of Charles James Fox, apparently subsidising him to the tune of £1200 a year. After Fox’s resignation from office in 1782, the incoming administration considered offering Crewe some governmental office to secure his support, but were told that his only ambition was for a peerage. He remained loyal to Fox, and in February 1784 was on Fox’s list of new peers to be made should he return to office as he hoped. Fox did not succeed in returning to power at that point, but eventually – four years after his retirement from the Commons – Crewe was rewarded with the desired peerage when Fox finally returned to office in 1806. Crewe was created Baron Crewe on 25 February 1806.

Crewe rarely spoke in the House of Commons, and more than half his recorded contributions concerned a single measure, the Parliament Act of 1782 which thereafter bore his name. This was an attempt to curb a particular source of corruption in elections: in many of the rotten boroughs of the period, only a few votes were needed to swing elections, and it was common for those who held the power of appointment to various well-paid official posts to reserve these for voters in return for co-operation at election time. The scale of the problem may be judged by Prime Minister Rockingham’s statement that 11,500 officers of customs and excise were electors, and that 70 Commons seats were decided chiefly by such votes. William Dowdeswell had attempted in 1770 to put a stop to this practice by preventing officers of the Custom, Excise and Post Office from voting. This measure had not reached the statute book, but Crewe introduced a bill with the same object in 1780 and again in 1781, succeeding on the latter occasion in passing it into law.

Unfortunately, the new regulation was easily evaded, as the power of patronage was simply shifted to offer lucrative offices to the voters’ relatives instead of to the voters themselves.

He married Frances Anne Greville in 1766, and they had two children who survived infancy: a son, John, who succeeded him in the peerage, and a daughter, Emma, who married Foster Cunliffe. Lord Crewe died in 1829.

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Regency Personalities Series

In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Joseph Nollekens
11 August 1737 – 23 April 1823

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Joseph Nollekens

Joseph Nollekens was born on 11 August 1737 at 28 Dean Street, Soho, London, the son of the Flemish painter Josef Frans Nollekens (1702–1748) who had moved from Antwerp to London in 1733. He studied first under another Flemish immigrant in London, the sculptor Peter Scheemakers, before studying and working as an antiques dealer, restorer and copier in Rome from 1760 or 1762. The sculptures he made in Rome included a marble of Timocles Before Alexander, for which he was awarded fifty guineas by the Society of Arts, and busts of Laurence Sterne and David Garrick, who were visiting the city.

On his return to London in 1770 he set up as a maker of busts and monuments at 9, Mortimer Street, where he built up a large practice. Although he preferred working on mythological subjects, it was through his portrait busts that he became famous and one of the most fashionable portrait sculptors in Britain.

He enjoyed the patronage of king George III and went on to sculpt a number of British political figures, including George III himself, William Pitt the Younger, Charles James Fox, the Duke of Bedford and Charles Watson-Wentworth. He also made busts of figures from the arts such as Benjamin West. Most of his subjects were represented in classical costume.

‘Faith’, a sculpture commissioned by Henry Howard, following the death of his wife Maria in 1788 in childbirth at Corby Castle, is said to be Nollekens finest work. The sculpture can be seen in the Howard Chapel at the Parish Church of Wetheral, Cumbria.

Although he took great care over the modelling of the details of his sculptures, the marble versions were normally made by assistants, such as Sebastian Gahagan who carved Nollekens’ statue of William Pitt for the Senate House at Cambridge, and L. Alexander Goblet. Some subjects were produced in large numbers: more than 70 replicas of Nollekens’ bust of Pitt are known.

Nollekens became an associate of the Royal Academy in 1771 and a full academician the following year.

He died in London in 1823, having made a considerable fortune from his work; he left around £200,000 in his will. He is buried in Paddington Parish Church with a monument by William Behnes.

A biography Nollekens and his Times by his executor John Thomas Smith was published in 1828, portraying him as a grotesque miser. It has been described as “perhaps the most candid biography ever published in the English language”.

No. 44 Mortimer Street in Fitzrovia stands on the site of the house where Nollekens died and has a blue plaque commemorating him.

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Regency Personalities Series

In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Brooks’s
March 1764-

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Brooks’s

In January 1762 a private society was established at 50 Pall Mall by Messrs. Boothby and James in response to having been blackballed for membership of White’s. This society then split to form the predecessors of both Brooks’s and Boodle’s. The club that was to become Brooks’s was founded in March 1764 by twenty-seven prominent Whig nobles including the Duke of Portland, the Duke of Roxburghe, Lord Crewe and Lord Strathmore. Charles James Fox was elected as a member the following year at the age of sixteen. The club premises at 49 Pall Mall was a former tavern owned by William Almack as was the neighbouring 50 Pall Mall where the society had previously met and so the club become simply known as Almack’s. These fashionable young men, known as Macaronis, would frequent the premises for the purposes of wining, dining and gambling.

In September 1777 William Brooks, a wine merchant and money lender who acted as Master, or manager, for Almack’s, commissioned Henry Holland to design and construct a purpose built clubhouse at a site on neighbouring St James’s Street. Paid for at Brooks’s own expense, the building was completed in October 1778 and all existing members of Almack’s were invited to join. Brooks’s gamble paid off as all existing members swiftly moved into the new building and the club then took on Brooks’s name as its own. Brooks himself however would not live long to enjoy this success, dying in poverty in 1782.

The new clubhouse was built of yellow brick and Portland stone in a Palladian style similar to Holland’s early country houses. The main suite of rooms on the first floor consisted of the Great Subscription Room, Small Drawing Room and the Card Room. The interiors are in neoclassical style, the Great Subscription Room having a segmental barrel vault ceiling. The interior of the building remained fairly unchanged until 1889 when neighbouring 2 Park Place, which had been purchased a few years before, was converted and adapted as part of Brooks’s.

The main historic attraction of Brooks’s was its gaming rooms. At several tables in one, gentlemen would stake fortunes on whist and hazard. Gambling all night was common; all day and all night, not unheard of. When the stakes far exceeded any ordinary expenses, all the club accounts were commonly deducted from winnings, so that no bills were rendered to members. Numerous eccentric bets were and are made in the Brooks’s betting book. One extraordinary entry from 1785 is “Ld. Cholmondeley has given two guineas to Ld. Derby, to receive 500 Gs whenever his lordship fucks a woman in a balloon one thousand yards from the Earth.” (However, there is no further indication that the bet was paid, or even how they would check it if it was claimed.)

Notable Members covered in the Regency Era’s timeframe

  • Horace Walpole, 4th Earl of Orford (1717–1797)
  • Edmund Burke (1729–1797)
  • Edward Gibbon (1737–1794)
  • William Cavendish-Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland (1738–1809)
  • Philip Francis (1740–1818)
  • John Ker, 3rd Duke of Roxburghe (1740–1804)
  • John Crewe, 1st Baron Crewe (1742–1829)
  • John FitzPatrick, 2nd Earl of Upper Ossory (1745–1818)
  • William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Devonshire (1748–1811)
  • Dudley Long North (1748–1829)
  • Charles James Fox (1749–1806)
  • William Windham (1750–1810)
  • Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751–1816)
  • Hugh Fortescue, 1st Earl Fortescue (1753–1841)
  • Thomas Grenville (1755–1846)
  • Lord John Townshend (1757–1833)
  • Sir Scrope Bernard-Morland, 4th baronet (1758–1830)
  • William Pitt the Younger (1759–1806)
  • William Wilberforce (1759–1833)
  • Richard ‘Conversation’ Sharp (1759–1835)
  • Sir John Lade (1759–1838)
  • George FitzRoy, 4th Duke of Grafton (1760–1844)
  • Pascoe Grenfell (1761–1838)
  • The Prince of Wales, later George IV (1762–1830)
  • Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany (1763–1827)
  • Prince William, Duke of Clarence, later William IV (1765–1837)
  • William Henry Fremantle (1766–1850)
  • Lord William Russell (1767–1840)
  • Jean-Lambert Tallien (1767–1820)
  • John Campbell, 1st Baron Cawdor (1768–1821)
  • Francis Burdett (1770–1844)
  • David Ricardo (1772–1823)
  • Charles Watkin Williams-Wynn (1775–1850)
  • Alexander Raphael (1775/6-1850)
  • Richard Temple-Grenville, 1st Duke of Buckingham and Chandos (1776–1839)
  • Henry Brougham, 1st Baron Brougham and Vaux (1778–1868)
  • Beau Brummell (1778–1840)
  • John Campbell, 1st Baron Campbell (1779–1861)
  • William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne (1779–1848)
  • Thomas Moore (1779–1852)
  • James Evan Baillie (1781–1863)
  • Edward Ellice, the elder (1781–1863)
  • John Ward, 1st Earl of Dudley (1781–1833)
  • Granville Proby, 3rd Earl of Carysfort (1782–1868)
  • Hugh Fortescue, 2nd Earl Fortescue (1783–1861)
  • Henry Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston (1784–1865)
  • Daniel O’Connell (1785–1847)
  • George Parkyns, 2nd Baron Rancliffe (1785–1850)
  • Thomas Francis Kennedy (1788–1879)
  • William Arden, 2nd Baron Alvanley (1789–1849)
  • George Nugent-Grenville, 2nd Baron Nugent (1789–1850)
  • Robert Rolfe, 1st Baron Cranworth (1790–1868)
  • Charles Compton Cavendish, 1st Baron Chesham (1793–1863)
  • George Glyn, 1st Baron Wolverton (1797–1873)
  • David Salomons (1797–1873)
  • John Townshend, 4th Marquess Townshend (1798–1863)
  • Matthew Talbot Baines (1799–1860)
  • Michael Thomas Bass, Jr. (1799–1884)
  • George Keppel, 6th Earl of Albemarle (1799–1891)
  • Edward Smith-Stanley, 14th Earl of Derby (1799–1869)
  • Richard Bethell, 1st Baron Westbury (1800–1873)
  • Robert Vernon, 1st Baron Lyveden (1800–1873)
  • Fox Maule-Ramsay, 11th Earl of Dalhousie (1801–1874)
  • Robert Grosvenor, 1st Baron Ebury (1801–1893)
  • Charles Pelham Villiers (1802–1898)
  • Edward Stanley, 2nd Baron Stanley of Alderley (1802–1869)
  • Edward Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton (1803–1873)
  • Edward Horsman (1807–1876)
  • Lionel de Rothschild (1808–1879)

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Regency Personalities Series

In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Fox Maule-Ramsay 11th Earl of Dalhousie
22 April 1801 – 6 July 1874

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Fox Maule-Ramsay

Fox Maule-Ramsay 11th Earl of Dalhousie was the eldest son of William Maule, 1st Baron Panmure, and a grandson of George Ramsay, 8th Earl of Dalhousie. Christened Fox as a compliment to Charles James Fox, the great Whig, he served for a term in the Army.

In 1835 he entered the House of Commons as member for Perthshire. In the ministry of Lord Melbourne (1835–1841), Maule was Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, and under Lord John Russell, he was Secretary at War from July 1846 to January 1852, when for two or three weeks he was President of the Board of Control.

In April 1852, he succeeded his father as 2nd Baron Panmure. In early 1855, he joined Lord Palmerston’s cabinet, filling the new office of Secretary of State for War. Lord Panmure held this office until February 1858. He was at the War Office during the concluding period of the Crimean War, and met a good deal of criticism. He was Keeper of the Privy Seal of Scotland from 1853 until his death.

Always interested in church matters, Dalhousie was a prominent supporter of the Free Church of Scotland after it split from the Church of Scotland in the disruption of 1843. In December 1860, he succeeded his kinsman, the 1st Marquess of Dalhousie, as 11th Earl of Dalhousie. He shortly afterwards changed his surname to “Maule-Ramsay” (his father had changed his surname to “Maule” from the family’s patronymic “Ramsay” before being created Baron Panmure).

Lord Dalhousie married the Hon. Montague, daughter of George Abercromby, 2nd Baron Abercromby, in 1831. They had no children. She died in November 1853, aged 46. Lord Dalhousie died July 1874, aged 73. On his death, the barony of Panmure became extinct, but the earldom of Dalhousie (and its subsidiary titles) passed to his cousin, George Ramsay.

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Regency Personalities Series

In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Admiral Sir George Cranfield-Berkeley
10 August 1753 – 25 February 1818

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George Cranfield-Berkeley

Admiral Sir George Cranfield-Berkeley was born in 1753, the third son of Augustus Berkeley, 4th Earl of Berkeley and his courtier wife Elizabeth Drax. His father died when George was only two and the title Earl of Berkeley passed to his elder brother Frederick. George was privately educated until nine, when he attended Eton College, gaining a formal education until 1766 when he was attached to the royal yacht Mary commanded by a relative Augustus Keppel. Mary conveyed Princess Caroline Matilda to Denmark, where she was married to Christian VII of Denmark. Berkeley acted as page at her wedding.

In 1767, Berkeley was attached to the squadron under Hugh Palliser based at Newfoundland. Berkeley was there mentored by Joseph Gilbert (who later accompanied James Cook) and John Cartwright (later a prominent political reformer). With these men, Berkeley participated in a survey of Newfoundland, learning seamanship, surveying and numerous other skills in the two-year commission. In 1769, Berkeley was transferred to the Mediterranean and served in the frigate HMS Alarm under John Jervis. For the next five years, Berkeley spent time in the Mediterranean and at home, making lieutenant in 1772 but failing to be elected as MP for Cricklade and then Gloucestershire after a bitter and enormously expensive contest.

Following the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War, Berkeley served on HMS Victory, in which he commanded a gundeck at the First Battle of Ushant. Berkeley became a prominent opponent of Sir Hugh Palliser after the battle, at which Palliser was accused of refusing to obey the orders of his commanding officer, Augustus Keppel. This opposition did not prevent Berkeley gaining his first independent command the same year, when he took over the 8-gun HMS Pluto. The next year he moved to the similarly tiny HMS Firebrand and impressed his commanding officer Lord Shuldham. Shuldham’s recommendation for promotion was turned down however due to his previous involvement in the Palliser affair.

In 1780, Berkeley was appointed to HMS Fairy, a 14-gun brig under his cousin George Keppel and together they captured the American ship Mercury, taking prisoner Henry Laurens who was on a secret mission to loan money from the Dutch government. The information procured from Laurens led to a British declaration of war against the Netherlands. As another consequence, Berkeley was promoted to captain by Admiral Richard Edwards and commanded Fairy during the relief of the Great Siege of Gibraltar and further operations against American shipping from Newfoundland.

In 1781, Berkeley was given command of the frigate HMS Recovery which was placed in the squadron of Samuel Barrington. At the Second Battle of Ushant in 1782, Berkeley’s ship was engaged in the decimation of a French convoy and its escorts. As a reward, Berkeley was given the captured ship of the line HMS Pegase. Whilst aboard her he was approached by a young William Cobbet who wanted to volunteer for the navy. Berkeley dissuaded Cobbet, who later credited Berkeley with saving him from “most toilsome and perilous profession in the world”. In April 1783, Berkeley finally gained a seat in parliament, at the constituency of Gloucestershire. Berkeley would remain MP for the town for the next 27 years and took the position seriously, becoming a very important independent MP. He even attempted to bring William Pitt the Younger and Charles James Fox into an alliance, although the collapse of the scheme ended with a feud between him and Fox.

The following year, 1784 after the peace, Berkeley married Emilia Charlotte Lennox, daughter of Lord George Lennox. The marriage was a love match and Berkeley’s sister commented that they were “a pattern of domestic happiness scarcely to be equaled”. The couple had three daughters and two sons and remained an unusually tight-knit family, Berkeley using his extensive personal wealth to bring his family with him on long voyages and overseas postings. In 1786 Berkeley commanded HMS Magnificent and remained with her for three years until 1789 when he became surveyor-general of the ordnance. He left the post after the French Revolutionary Wars broke out in 1793, taking over HMS Marlborough.

Berkeley was still in command of Marlborough when she fought under Lord Howe at the Glorious First of June, fighting as part of Admiral Thomas Pasley’s van division there and at the preceding Atlantic campaign of May 1794. At the First of June, Marlborough was dismasted in close combat with several French ships and Berkeley badly wounded in the head and thigh, having to retire below after a period to staunch the bleeding. He had a long convalescence after the action but was amongst the captains selected for the gold medal commemorating the action, only awarded to those felt to have played a significant part in the victory.

Returning to service in 1795, Berkeley commanded HMS Formidable off Brest, Cadiz, Ireland and the Texel, coming ashore in 1798 to command the Sussex sea fencibles. In 1799, Berkeley was promoted rear-admiral and attached to the Channel Fleet, but the gout which had forced his first retirement returned, and Berkeley was forced to take permanent shore leave in 1800. In 1801, Berkeley increased his political interests to compensate for the loss of his naval career.

Berkeley continued building his political status during the Peace of Amiens and by it’s end Berkeley had been appointed inspector of sea fencibles, a job he undertook with vigour, conducting a fourteen-month survey of Britain’s coastal defences, which greatly improved the island’s defences. In 1806, after a shift in political power, Berkeley fell out of favour somewhat and was dispatched to the North American Station. From there, Berkeley ordered the attack by HMS Leopard on the American frigate USS Chesapeake in retaliation for American recruitment of British deserters. This action, known as the Chesapeake-Leopard Affair, helped precipitate the War of 1812.

Having embarrassed the British government with this action, Berkeley was recalled home. However, public opinion supported his orders, so Berkeley was moved to command in Lisbon in the hope he could organise the chaotic supply system for Wellington’s army in the Peninsula War. Berkeley recognised that only a dedicated and organised convoy system could keep the supply of men, food and material regular and consequently set one up. Simultaneously, he reequipped and galvanised the remnants of the Spanish Navy, rescuing several ships from capture by the French as well as used frigates to supply partisan units all along the coast of Portugal and Northern Spain.

By 1810, Wellington could truthfully say of Berkeley that “His activity is unbounded, the whole range of the business of the Country in which he is stationed, civil, military, political, commercial, even ecclesiastical I believe as well as naval are objects of his attention”. He was promoted to full admiral and made Lord High Admiral of the Portuguese Navy by the Portuguese Regent in Brazil. By 1810 he had used sailors to man coastal defences all over Spain, freeing soldiers for Wellington and also formed a squadron of river gunboats to harry French units from major rivers like the Tagus.

Berkely retired from the post in 1812, again laid low by health. He and Wellington remained good friends for the rest of their lives, and Wellington later stated that Berkeley was the best naval commander he had ever cooperated with. Berkeley’s final voyage was to return to Britain aboard HMS Barfleur. Later rewards included being made a Knight Companion of the Order of the Bath in 1813 which was converted to a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath in 1815. He was reportedly disappointed not to have been given a peerage for his long and excellent service.

Berkeley retired to a house in South Audley Street, London, where his gout continued to plague him with severe pain for the rest of his life. He spent some time during this period conversing with lifelong friend Edward Jenner, whose vaccine for smallpox Berkeley had persuaded the government to investigate, particularly with regard for the health of the navy. He was confined to bed as a result of chronic gout, and died in February 1818 at the age of 64, survived by his family.

His eldest son Sir George Berkeley was a general and father of the 7th Earl of Berkeley while his younger son Grenville Berkeley was a politician. His third daughter Mary Caroline (d. 1873) married Henry Fitzroy, 5th Duke of Grafton.

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Regency Personalities Series

In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Thomas Fyshe Palmer
August 1747 – 2 June 1802

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Thomas Fyshe Palmer

Thomas Fyshe Palmer was born in Ickwell, Bedfordshire, England, the son of Henry Fyshe who assumed the added name of Palmer because of an inheritance, and Elizabeth, daughter of James Ingram of Barnet.

Palmer was educated at Eton College and Queen’s College, Cambridge from 1765, with the purpose of taking holy orders in the Church of England. He graduated B.A. in 1769, M.A. in 1772, and BD in 1781. He obtained a fellowship of Queens’ in 1781, and officiated for a year as curate at Leatherhead, Surrey. While at Leatherhead he was introduced to Samuel Johnson, and dined with him in London; but he had become disillusioned with some aspects of the Church of England.

Palmer then read in Joseph Priestley’s works, and became a Unitarian. For the next ten years Palmer preached Unitarianism to congregations in Dundee and other Scottish towns. A Unitarian society had been founded by William Christie, a merchant, at Montrose, and Palmer offered his services as a preacher (14 July 1783). In November 1783 Palmer reached Montrose, and remained as Christie’s colleague till May 1785. He then moved to Dundee to become pastor of a new Unitarian society there, and he founded a Unitarian church. He preached also in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Arbroath, and Forfar, and formed further Unitarian societies. In 1789 he took temporary charge of the society at Newcastle. In 1792 his sermons in Edinburgh attracted attention, and pamphlets were published in refutation of his doctrines.

When agitation for political reform began in 1792, Dundee became one of its centres in Scotland. A society called the ‘Friends of Liberty’ was formed in 1793, and met in the Berean meeting-house in the Methodist Close, beside the house where Palmer lived in the Overgait. The society was composed mainly of working men. One evening in June 1793 Palmer was attended a meeting, when George Mealmaker, weaver in Dundee, brought a draft of an address to the public which he purposed circulating as a handbill. Palmer revised it, modifying it to a complaint against the government for war taxation, and a claim for universal suffrage and short parliaments. The address was sent to be printed in Edinburgh in July 1793. The authorities were alarmed, and decided to meet an anticipated revolution in time; and, in the belief that they were attacking a revolutionary leader, Palmer was arrested in Edinburgh on 2 August on a charge of sedition as the author of the document.

At the preliminary legal inquiry he refused to answer the questions put to him, pleading his ignorance of Scots law. He was confined in Edinburgh gaol, but afterwards freed on bail. An indictment was served on him directing him to appear at the circuit court, Perth on 12 September to answer to the charge. The presiding judges were David Rae, Lord Eskgrove and Alexander Abercromby, Lord Abercromby; the prosecutor was John Burnett, advocate-depute, assisted by Allan Maconochie; and Palmer was defended by John Clerk, and Mr. Haggart. One of the first witnesses was George Mealmaker, who admitted that he was the author of the address, and stated that Palmer was opposed to its publication. Other officials of the ‘Friends of Liberty’ corroborated, and the evidence proved nothing relevant to the charge beyond the fact that Palmer had ordered one thousand copies to be printed, but had given no instructions as to distribution.
Both the judges summed up adversely, and, when the jury found the accused guilty, he was sentenced to seven years’ transportation. The conviction of Palmer, following close on that of Thomas Muir, raised indignation among the Whig party throughout the kingdom; and during February and March 1794 attempts were made by the Earl of Lauderdale and Earl Stanhope in the House of Lords, and by Charles James Fox and Richard Brinsley Sheridan in the House of Commons, to obtain the reversal of the sentence. But the government, under William Pitt, was too strong.

Palmer was detained in Perth Tolbooth for three months, then taken to London and placed on the hulk Stanislaus at Woolwich, where he was put in irons for forced labour for three months. Palmer left in the Surprize, along with the so-called Scottish Martyrs, Thomas Muir, William Skirving and Maurice Margarot, embarking in February but sailing in April 1794, with a gang of convicts for Botany Bay. The vessel arrived at Port Jackson, New South Wales, on 25 October, and as Palmer and his companions had letters of introduction to the governor, they were well treated, and had houses assigned to them.

Whilst serving his seven years of exile in Sydney Palmer did not suffer the usual convict restraint, and he engaged in business enterprises. Besides cultivating the land, the exiled reformers constructed a small vessel, and traded to Norfolk Island. At the end of 1799 Palmer and his friend James Ellis—who had followed him from Dundee as a colonist—combined with others to purchase a vessel in which they might return home, when Palmer’s sentence expired in September 1800.

Palmer and Ellis intended to trade on the homeward way, and provisioned their vessel for six months; but their hopes of securing cargo in New Zealand were disappointed, and they were held up for half a year. They sailed to Tongatabu, where a war prevented them from landing. They steered for the Fiji Islands, where they were well received; but while making for Goraa, one of the group, their vessel struck a reef. Having refitted, they started for Macao.

Adverse storms drove them about the Pacific until their provisions were exhausted, and they were compelled to put in at Guguan, one of the Ladrone Islands, then under Spanish rule. Spain and Britain were then at war, and Spanish governor treated them as prisoners of war. When Palmer was attacked with dysentery, he succumbed. He died on 2 June 1802, and was buried by the seashore. Two years later an American captain touched at the Isle of Guguan, and, having found out where Palmer had been buried, he had the body exhumed and taken on board his vessel, with the governor’s permission. The remains were taken to Boston, Massachusetts, and reinterred in the cemetery there.

A monument was erected in the Old Calton Cemetery, Edinburgh, in 1844 to commemorate Palmer, Muir, and the other Scottish Martyrs.

Palmer’s publications were mostly magazine articles and pamphlets.

  • To the Theological Repository he contributed regularly in 1789–90, as Anglo-Scotus.
  • In 1792 he published a controversial pamphlet entitled An Attempt to refute a Sermon by H. D. Inglis on the Godhead of Jesus Christ, and to restore the long-lost Truth of the First Commandment, against Henry David Inglis.
  • His Narrative of the Sufferings of T. F. Palmer and W. Skirving was published in 1797.

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