CHRISTIAN JOHN, (1756-1828), of Ewanrigg and Workington Hall, Cumb.
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Family and Education
b. 12 July 1756, 1st surv. s. of John Christian by Jane, da. of Eldred Curwen, M.P., of Workington. m. (1) 10 Sept. 1775, Margaret (d. 1 Feb. 1778), da. of John Taubman, speaker of the House of Keys, of Castletown, I.o.M., 1s.; (2) 5 Oct. 1782, his cos. Isabella, da. and h. of Henry Curwen, 5s. 3da. suc. fa. 1767; took add. name of Curwen 1790.
Sheriff, Cumb. 1784-5.
Christian traditionally belonged to the anti-Lowther party in Cumberland. His uncle Henry Curwen was the first man to lead the revolt against Lowther in Cumberland, and his father had been one of Portland’s supporters. He himself wrote from Brussels to Portland’s friend, Lord Torrington, 27 Feb. 1780:
I have long had a wish (foreseeing an opposition) to offer my services for Carlisle ... I should think myself greatly indebted if your Lordship had no objections to name it to his Grace, at the same time explaining my sentiments: if his Grace would give me his full interest he should be put to no expense: that my principles as well as inclination would lead me in case of being successful to support the same his Grace does, that in all private affairs [I] must be left to act as I thought right.
Portland’s reply was favourable, and Christian returned to England to begin his canvass. But he found Lord Surrey bent on establishing his interest at Carlisle, and unwilling to come to any definite arrangement, and by June, after keeping Christian on tenterhooks, Surrey announced that he would himself stand. Christian’s nomination would now have embroiled Portland in a further struggle with Lowther, and to avoid it he recommended Christian to Edward Eliot for one of Eliot’s Cornish boroughs. There was some confusion about informing Christian of this arrangement, and by the time the matter was cleared up Christian had made plans (probably to go abroad again) which prevented his accepting the offer. He deeply resented the part played by Surrey at this time, and wrote to Portland, 11 Aug:
Lord Surrey’s claim upon Carlisle, however unexpected it was to me, would have been readily concurred in by me had his Lordship taken the proper steps. It was the manner not the thing from which I felt myself so much hurt. It will not admit of my making any comments upon it—should his Lordship’s seat prove a short one it is from your Grace only I can form any hopes of succeeding in what has been long an object of consequence with me.1
At the by-election of 1786 caused by the death of Lowther’s Member, Edward Norton, Christian contested Carlisle with the support of Surrey, who had now taken Portland’s place at the head of the anti-Lowther party in the city. Christian was defeated at the poll, but returned on petition.
Christian’s first recorded vote was in favour of Pitt’s motion that Parliament was competent to regulate the powers of the Regent, 16 Dec. 1788. In the debate three days later, he regretted that the question had been introduced at all, but since it had, he had thought ‘it was the duty of that House to assert its rights and decide them for the benefit of posterity’. Now, however, he thought the House should ‘declare the Prince of Wales Regent as our ancestors had declared the Prince of Orange King, and ... he did not think it right to place any restrictions whatever on the Prince while acting as Regent’. But later in the same debate he admitted he ‘scarcely knew which way he ought to vote. He did not wish to shrink from his duty; but the possibility of voting away the rights of the Crown under the pretence of defending the rights of the people staggered him.’2 On the second recorded division on the Regency, 11 Feb. 1789, he paired off in opposition. After the outbreak of the French war Christian voted regularly with Opposition.
Christian was well known for his agricultural improvements. He died 11 Dec. 1828.