BIRCH, Joseph (1755-1833), of Red Hazles, Prescot, nr. Liverpool, Lancs.
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Family and Education
b. 18 June 1755, 1st s. of Thomas Birch, merchant, of Liverpool. m. 6 Mar. 1786, Elizabeth Mary, da. of Benjamin Heywood, merchant banker, of Liverpool 1s. surv. 3da. suc. fa. 1782. cr. Bt. 30 Sept. 1831.
Capt. Liverpool ind. vols. 1797, maj. 1798.
Birch’s father, mayor of Liverpool in 1777 and son of Caleb Birch of Whitehaven, Cumberland, provided him with the basis for a commercial fortune as merchant and shipowner, partner in a brewery, Jamaican proprietor and East India Company stockholder.1 His marriage confirmed his local standing. He patronized Prescot Unitarian chapel. In 1802 he unsuccessfully contested Liverpool, avowing his hostility to Pitt’s administration and his ‘approbation of the present administration as peace-makers, and his intention of supporting them while they continued their present career’. Thomas Creevey was informed ‘he is a powerful dog and came off with great credit’ and his informant added:
Besides he had a back game which astonished everybody. On the same day that he started here he was, it seems, proposed at Nottingham, and at the moment of giving up the poll here he had received an express saying he was at the head of the poll there at the end of the second day’s polling. He however dined with his friends in great spirits: after dinner he stated his new game, which was received with acclamation ... But how came he proposed at Nottingham? Dr Crompton stood there at last election and failed; the same party offered to bring him in now: he refused, but recommended Birch.2
Apart from his Whig politics, which were congenial to the corporation and most of the stockingers, Birch’s great recommendation at Nottingham was a long purse. His opponents labelled him a slave trader. He was elected after riotous scenes and a petition against his return ensued. On 8 Dec. 1802
Birch rose in a very full House, intending ... to complain of misrepresentation and to vindicate himself and the returning officers and his friends at Nottingham. It is no disparagement to him to say he was terribly alarmed and spoke very ill, but you may well appreciate the effect that the consciousness of these defects, added to his being quite irregular and being clamorously called to order by the House, would have upon Birch; several hours afterwards his dejected yet irritated visage deterred me almost from meeting it.3
On 4 Mar. 1803 he voted for inquiry into the Prince of Wales’s finances.4 Twelve days later his election was declared void by the House. He stood again with corporation support, but was defeated. In 1806 he vacillated between Liverpool and Nottingham: in either case he was thought worthy of the Grenville ministry’s support, ‘for he is a strong supporter of them’. He contested Nottingham and, although he was nearly ‘frightened away by the idea of the expense’ and thought of transferring to Liverpool, persevered there, only to be defeated by a coalition of his former opponent Coke with Lord Carrington’s brother.5
In 1812 Birch was nominated at Nottingham without his consent, but his name was withdrawn in favour of another Whig, Lord Rancliffe, when it was known that he was contesting St. Ives. There he stood on the interest of Samuel Stephens*, but was defeated. Soon after Parliament met he became the guest of Joseph Hague Everett* at Ludgershall. If the Treasury expected him to support them, they were soon disillusioned. All his known votes were with opposition. He was also a supporter of Catholic relief. On 4 Apr. 1815 he joined Brooks’s Club. No speech is known until 15 June 1815 when he secured an inquiry into two Treasury loans to the corporation of Liverpool not authorized by Parliament. He was less successful in a bid of 21 May 1816 to secure a select committee on the finances of Trinity House, which he alleged had an increasing surplus from depredations on the shipping interest. He withdrew his motion, which elicited a statement on the subject from George Rose a week later when Birch once more called for some relief for the shipping interest. On 3 Mar. 1817 he criticized the alarm about jacobinism in Lancashire and on 12 Mar. vouched for the respectability of the Liverpool meeting which petitioned the House for reform. He voted for Burdett’s reform motion, 20 May 1817, though not on 1 July 1819. He was a subscriber to the Whig press fund of 1817.6
In 1818 Birch was again thought to be standing for Liverpool, but he was triumphantly returned for Nottingham. Soon afterwards he was mistakenly reported dead. He signed the requisition to Tierney to lead the opposition and voted steadily with them, speaking occasionally. On 1 Feb. 1819 he was a critic of impressment into the navy; on 26 Feb. he opposed import duties on foodstuffs, as representative of a manufacturing district; on 15 Mar. he advocated government relief for distressed framework knitters. He opposed repressive legislation throughout December 1819, seeking the exemption of Nottingham from the seizure of arms bill, 14 Dec., and deprecating alarmism based on false allegations, 23 Dec. Birch died 22 Aug. 1833.
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Authors: P. A. Symonds / R. G. Thorne
- 1. A. C. Wood, Notts. 281; Ignotus, Letter to the Earl of Sefton (1806), 18; PCC 9 Teignmouth.
- 2. Creevey mss, Currie to Creevey, 9, 11 July 1802.
- 3. Ibid. Creevey to Currie, 9 Dec. .
- 4. Ibid. same to same, 11 Mar. 1803.
- 5. Fortescue mss, Grenville to Derby, 25 Oct. 1806; Wentworth Woodhouse mun. E209, 210.
- 6. Brougham mss, Brougham to Grey, Fri. [?21 Mar. 1817].