BAGOT, William (1728-98), of Blithfield, Staffs.
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Family and Education
b. 28 Feb. 1728, 1st surv. s. of Sir Walter Wagstaffe Bagot, 5th Bt.. educ. Westminster 1739-46; Magdalen, Oxf. 1747; Grand Tour 1749-52. m. 20 Aug. 1760, Hon. Elizabeth Louisa St. John, da. of John, 2nd Visct. St. John, 6s. 4da. suc. fa. as 6th Bt. 20 Jan. 1768; cr.Baron Bagot 17 Oct. 1780.
In 1754 Bagot was returned for Staffordshire in place of his father. Classed in Dupplin’s list as a Tory, he was one of the group who frequented the Cocoa Tree, Horn, and St. Alban’s taverns.
In Bute’s list of December 1761 he was classed ‘Tory, Legge’; ‘Legge’ was later changed to ‘Bute’. He did not receive Newcastle’s whip in October 1761. But in November, when a commission of accounts was to be set up, Barrington suggested that he would ‘make a proper commissioner’.1 He appears in Fox’s list of Members in favour of the peace preliminaries, and was offered a place at the Board of Trade: he ‘seemed inclined to take it’, wrote Newcastle to Devonshire on 23 Dec., ‘but desired to consult his father ... who ... showed an inclination that his son should not accept it; upon which young Bagot refused it’.2 His name does not appear in any of the minority lists between 1762 and 1764. In Rockingham’s list of July 1765 he is classed as ‘doubtful’. He voted against the repeal of the Stamp Act, 7 and 22 Feb. 1766; with Opposition on the land tax, 27 Feb. 1767; and with Administration on Wilkes’s expulsion, 3 Feb. 1769 and the Middlesex election, 15 Apr. 1769. In the division list of 8 May 1769 he appears as voting with Opposition—almost certainly a mistake, since on 8 and 25 Jan. 1770 he again voted with Government over the Middlesex election.
Described by Walpole as ‘Lord North’s particular friend’,3 Bagot supported Government to the end of his time in the Commons. In April 1770 North offered him the office of treasurer of the chamber. In a long letter of refusal Bagot wrote:4 ‘Any little support it has been in my power to give you, was certainly due to you from every honest and unprejudiced man’; though flattered by the offer he ‘declined it’, for ‘circumstanced so as not to be impatient for emoluments, I am confident this will be disposed of much more advantageously for his [Majesty’s] service than if I had accepted it’. His only fear was that his refusal should offend the King. To this North replied: ‘You need be under no apprehensions lest your refusal should be misinterpreted or misunderstood in any place; your principles are known to be honourable, loyal, and friendly towards Government.’
He was a frequent speaker in the House on both national and local issues, voluble, humourless, and a steady opponent of change. Supporting the royal marriage bill, 13 Mar. 1772, he declared that since it was impossible to draw a line defining the prerogative, he ‘as a commoner’ thought it ‘safer to trust that line with the Crown than to trust that line anywhere else’.5 He feared ‘that without this bill the younger children of the Crown would intermarry with the great families, and the regal and aristocratical powers would oppress the commoners’.6 He vigorously opposed all attempts to grant relief to the Dissenters, declaring (10 Mar. 1779) that such relief would be ‘no less than an alteration of the constitution in this country’, and ‘that the toleration as it now stood was ample, and that under that toleration doctrines were delivered and disseminated of a very extraordinary nature’.7 Even a bill to license a playhouse at Birmingham seemed to him a source of danger to the nation, 19 Apr. 1777:
By way of proving the fatal tendency of establishing theatres indiscriminately in any kingdom, Sir William adverted to the times of the Romans, when he declared the giving theatres was the cause of the decline of the state; he declared, that to add to the dissipation of the people was always the maxim adopted by those who meant to enslave them ... the Romans were also obliged to establish granaries of corn, and to give the people bread at the same time; this latter he feared would be the next step with Birmingham, if the House gave them a theatre.8
The Public Ledger wrote about Bagot in 1779: ‘With very moderate abilities, and without any of those engaging qualities which attract men’s regard, has continued to take a lead in the Cocoa Tree club ... He wishes to be thought an unbiassed, independent man, but his conduct in Parliament shows the contrary.’
He did not stand in 1780, having been assured by North that he was to be created a peer. He died 22 Oct. 1798.
Ref Volumes: 1754-1790
Author: Mary M. Drummond
- 1. Barrington to Newcastle, 1 Nov. 1761, Add. 32930, f. 257.
- 2. 23 Dec. 1762, Add. 32945, f. 338.
- 3. Last Jnls. ii. 22.
- 4. W. Bagot, Mems. Bagot Fam. 90.
- 5. Cavendish’s ‘Debates’, Egerton 237, f. 118.
- 6. Lord John Cavendish to the Duke of Portland, 19 Mar. 1772, Portland mss.
- 7. Almon, xii. 101-2.
- 8. Ibid. vii. 136-7.