ASHLEY (afterwards ASHLEY COOPER), Hon. Cropley (1768-1851).

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer



30 Jan. 1790 - 1790
14 Apr. 1791 - 14 May 1811

Family and Education

b. 21 Dec. 1768, 2nd s. of Anthony, 4th Earl of Shaftesbury, by 2nd w. Hon. Mary Bouverie, da. of Jacob Bouverie, 1st Visct. Folkestone. educ. Winchester 1778-80; Christ Church, Oxf. 1785-7; L. Inn 1788. m. 10 Dec. 1796, Lady Anne Spencer, da. of George, 4th Duke of Marlborough, 6s. 4da. Took additional name of Cooper 1807; suc. bro. as 6th Earl of Shaftesbury 14 May 1811.

Offices Held

Clerk of deliveries, Ordnance Jan. 1804-Feb. 1806, Mar.-July 1807; clerk of Ordnance July 1807-11; PC 22 July 1814; chairman of committees, House of Lords Nov. 1814-Feb. 1851; dep. Speaker of House of Lords 1 Apr. 1829.

Lt. Dorset militia 1790, capt. 1794; capt. 1 Regt. fencible cav. 1794; maj. of brigade 1794.

High steward, Dorchester 1798.


Ashley was defeated at the election of 1790 after sitting on his brother’s interest for only a few months. On petition he regained his seat, and a confirmation of the franchise favourable to the Shaftesbury interest gave him security at Dorchester. His brother had joined opposition on the Regency bill, and he was present at the meeting of the Portland Whigs, 11 May 1790. His opponents at the general election maintained that he was in opposition. On resuming his seat he was listed a supporter of the repeal of the Test Act in Scotland. He joined Brooks’s Club, 26 May 1791. On 1 Mar. 1792 he voted with opposition on the Russian armament. In December 1792 he was queried on the list of Portland Whigs, and on 10 and 17 Feb. 1793 attended the ‘third party’ meetings at Windham’s house. Subsequently he adhered to Pitt’s government, though on 20 June 1798 he was teller against the immediate second reading of the militia bill. Lamenting Pitt’s resignation, and ‘still more ... the grounds of it’, he wrote to Addington as a ‘private friend’, 13 Feb. 1801, to wish him well as Pitt’s successor.1

Ashley moved the address, 22 Nov. 1803, and two months later was awarded minor office. When Addington resigned, he transferred his support to Pitt again. He voted against the censure of Melville, 8 Apr. 1805. Deprived of his place by the Grenville ministry in 1806, he voted against their repeal of Pitt’s Additional Force Act, 30 Apr., and against the American intercourse bill on 17 June. He resumed office under the Portland administration, being promoted clerk of the Ordnance. He seldom spoke except on departmental matters or Dorset affairs. He presented the Ordnance estimates (1808-10), defending them against opposition, 14 Mar. 1810. He stood by administration in the divisions on the Scheldt inquiry, 26 Jan.-30 Mar. 1810, and voted against the release of the radical Gale Jones, 26 Apr., against criminal law reform, 1 May, and against parliamentary reform, 21 May. Following the defalcation of Joseph Hunt*, he obtained leave for a bill to regulate the taking of securities from office-holders, 13 Apr. 1810. In December he was urging his father-in-law to give ‘a loyal support to the King’ and acting as a committee man in the House’s conferences with the Lords. In consequence George Eden* received a letter of reprimand from the Duke of Marlborough, whose nominee he was, for voting against government. His father, Lord Auckland, commented:

I have learnt ... that this little ebullition was caused by an application from Mr Ashley to government to obtain a living for a clergyman who certainly has had great merit by his long and personal service in that house. Still I regard that application as falling within the chapter of small political intrigue.2

In May 1811 he succeeded to his brother’s title and to an encumbered estate. He was chairman of committees in the Lords for 37 years and, as such, acknowledged to be remarkably efficient.3 For the ‘benevolence that is hereditary in the Shaftesburys’, few gave him credit, least of all his philanthropical heir. He died 2 June 1851.4

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: E. A. Smith


  • 1. Sidmouth mss.
  • 2. HMC Fortescue, x. 85, 136.
  • 3. LJ, lxxxiii. 19; Annual Reg. (1851), 292.
  • 4. Gent. Mag. (1808), ii. 920.