BRAND, Hon. Thomas (1774-1851), of The Hoo, Kimpton, Herts.

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



16 Jan. 1807 - 1807
1807 - 3 Oct. 1819

Family and Education

b. 15 Mar. 1774, 1st s. of Thomas Brand of The Hoo by Gertrude, da. of Hon. Charles Roper, sis. and h. of Trevor Charles Roper, 18th Baron Dacre, whom she suc. 1794 as Baroness Dacre. Dacre. educ. L. Inn 1795, called 1800. m. 4 Dec. 1819, Barbarina, da. of Sir Chaloner Ogle, 1st Bt., wid. of Valentine Henry Wilmot of Farnborough, Hants, s.p. suc. fa. 1794; mother as 20th Baron Dacre 3 Oct. 1819.

Offices Held

Capt. Herts. rifle corps. 1803.


In the same year as he inherited his father’s estate and shouldered his debts, Brand became heir to a peerage in his mother’s right. He inclined to his father’s politics, joining the Whig Club on 6 and consorting with Whig society, though he did not join Brooks’s Club until 9 Mar. 1815. He was a favourite of the Melbournes at Brocket and commended to Lord Holland, at the age of 23, as ‘gentle in his manners, shy and not happy’. Called to the bar, he attended the western circuit for two years, ‘rather as an amateur than as looking to professional employment’.1 His father, on the strength of the Elsworth estate, had aspired to a seat for Cambridgeshire in 1770 and 1789. Brand followed suit: he chaired the county meeting against the sedition bills in 1795 and, after lying low at the election of 1796 when he thought of contesting Hertford borough but was dissuaded, offered for Cambridgeshire in 1802. This was against his better judgment, for his chief allies were dissenters and radicals opposed to the Hardwicke-Manners junta, and to succeed he would have needed to split the coalition. Nevertheless, he threw away his money by going to a poll.2 In July 1804 he was a steward of the meeting to adopt Sir Francis Burdett for Middlesex.

Brand was the unsuccessful candidate in the Hertfordshire by-election of 1805. His opponent was William Baker, a former Whig whom his father had challenged as a renegade at a county meeting in 1792; but Brand’s own stance was compromised by his electoral alliance with Lord Salisbury, then a disgruntled courtier, whose wife wished Brand to marry their daughter Lady Georgina Cecil. Nicolson Calvert’s* wife described him at that time as ‘a very pleasing gentleman-like man’, but added ‘I am much afraid he has not much religion, from some expressions he dropped when we talked of the question of Catholic emancipation’.3 At the election of 1806 Brand again aspired to the county and the veteran Whig Member William Plumer was prepared to retire in his favour but, in anticipation of a seat for Shaftesbury, Brand withdrew. He was disappointed at Earl Spencer’s reluctance to back him for the county. He was defeated at Shaftesbury, where he stood on the interest of John Calcraft*. Plumer’s ill health promised an early opening for Hertfordshire, but meanwhile Brand was disappointed in his hope of a seat for Enniskillen, an Irish borough purchasable by the Treasury.4 In January 1807 he was found a vacant seat for Helston on the Duke of Leeds’s interest.

On 9 Apr. 1807 Brand made a spectacular parliamentary debut. He had done nothing while his friends remained in power, except sit on an election committee, assist in the preparation of a Poor Law bill and get leave to attend assizes. Now, giving notice of it on 26 Mar., he was entrusted with the Whig protest in the Commons against the pledge to the King made by the incoming Portland administration. There were misgivings, owing to Brand’s ‘character for violence and democracy’: Lady Bessborough reported that

Mr Brand’s motion is to be revised and corrected by the chefs till it is softened down to the taste of the weakest palates and Sheridan says its whole strength will lie in Mr Brand’s arms which he usually waves about with great vehemence.

Despite rumours that the matter would be taken out of his hands, it was Brand who moved that it was

contrary to the first duties of confidential servants of the crown to restrain themselves by any pledge expressed or implied, from offering to the King any advice which the course of circumstances may render necessary for the welfare and security of any part of his Majesty’s extensive empire.

In deploring the shipwreck of the Grenville ministry on the issue of Catholic relief, Brand did not meet Lord Temple’s wish that he would ‘temper his language in such a manner as will ensure the support of Wilberforce, Bankes, etc, etc, upon whose opinions at this moment much depends’. The motion was defeated by 258 votes to 226, a result ‘equally unexpected by all parties’, for as Romilly, for the Whigs, noted in his journal, ‘we supposed ourselves the majority’.5

At the dissolution of 1807 Brand obtained an opening for Hertfordshire, as anticipated, by Plumer’s retirement: he faced no contest while he held it. He at once emerged as a sniper for opposition, making a general attack on the Portland ministry, 30 June. He was a critic of the Irish insurrection bill 24, 27 July 1807, and on this and the question of droits of Admiralty, 11 Feb. 1808, showed his affinity with the Whig ‘Mountain’; like them he had reservations about the party leadership.6 On the Copenhagen expedition, 28 Jan., 29 Mar. 1808, he took a line of his own, thinking the measure justifiable, but not on the grounds proposed by ministers. He joined his friends in opposition, nevertheless, because the confiscation of the Danish fleet did not warrant its retention. He was a spokesman for the agricultural interest against the prohibition of distillation from grain, 13 Apr., 3 June 1808. On 8 June he presented a petition from the reformer John Cartwright against the local militia bill. Opposition failed to secure his election to the finance committee, 24 Jan. 1809. On 17 Mar. he was a critic of the Duke of York’s misconduct; he had declined the opportunity of presenting the case against him, but was active in questioning witnesses. Later he washed his hands of the investigator, Wardle.7 He opposed and was teller against Folkestone’s motion for an inquiry into abuses in general, 17 Apr. 1809. He was a scathing critic of the Walcheren expedition and disparaged the Earl of Chatham as a military commander, 23 Jan., 2 Mar. 1810. He was named to the bullion committee, 19 Feb. On 28 Mar. he moved the adjournment on the conduct of Sir Francis Burdett, and on 5 Apr. defended the latter’s letter to his constituents as not being a breach of privilege. He also, on 6 June, defended a petition for Burdett’s release.

On 21 May 1810, denying that he meant to steal Burdett’s thunder, Brand introduced a motion for parliamentary reform which he had contemplated since the failure of the inquiry into the Walcheren expedition. On 14 May he had defended John Cartwright’s petition in favour of reform. His gesture was the outcome of over two years’ lobbying by Cartwright.8 On 22 Apr. 1809 he had patronized the London livery reform dinner and on 1 May was a steward, if not present, at the Crown and Anchor reform dinner. He had voted with the critics of Curwen’s reform bill, 12 June, but not for Burdett’s reform motion, 15 June 1809. He was a moderate reformer and his proposals did not go far enough for the Burdettites, but went too far for the conservative Whigs, who were the chief critics of the motion in a debate in which there were no ministerial speeches. Brand’s scheme, supported by Ponsonby, Tierney and Whitbread but rejected by 234 votes to 115, was for the enfranchisement of copy-holders in the counties and of all rate-paying householders in the boroughs; for the disfranchisement of rotten boroughs such as Gatton, Old Sarum and St. Mawes (with some compensation to the proprietors) for the benefit of populous places like Birmingham, Manchester and Sheffield; and for the restoration of triennial Parliaments and the institution of polling districts. He suggested that the Scottish counties should be assimilated to the English county electoral system and that sinecure place-holders be excluded from Parliament.

Brand promised to revive the question of reform in the session of 1811. At its outset, although he objected to the Regency bill, 21 Jan. 1811, he ‘fairly cheered’ Perceval’s performance during the debates on it and was particularly hostile to any Whig junction with Canning to smooth their return to power. He had no illusions as to that likelihood.9 On 2 Mar. he surprised John Cartwright by a cold answer to his proposal for a tripartite reform dinner of which Brand, Burdett and Thomas William Coke were to be the sponsors. On 25 Mar. he criticized the election bribery bill, claiming it would award the Treasury the monopoly of bribery. He presented a moderate Hertfordshire petition for reform, 3 Apr. On 30 Mar. and 6 Apr. he met Burdett and Cartwright’s friends to concoct an acceptable plan of reform, but found that, apart from a handful of Members, he was isolated and labelled an extremist by the Whigs: he did not attend on 4 May. He attended the Livery reform dinner of 3 May, but not the thin general reform meeting of 10 June.10 He had on 15 May withdrawn his promised motion in the House and then absented himself. When on 11 June he defended the Kent reform petition, he promised to raise the matter next session. His only achievement that session was a motion of 13 June for the scrutiny of exchange of prisoners of war with France.

In the next session Brand was a spokesman for economy. (He had already opposed the foreign ministers pensions bill, 1 Apr. 1811.) He attacked the royal household bill, 18, 27 Jan. 1812, and on 21 Jan. seconded Brougham’s motion for the parliamentary audit of the droits of Admiralty. On 4 May he voted for the sinecure reform bill. Two days later he waived his motion on parliamentary reform in favour of Creevey’s motion against the tellers of the Exchequer, which he amended unsuccessfully, 7 May. Next day he moved for reform, calling as before for the enfranchisement of copyholders in the counties and triennial Parliaments, but also for the abolition of nomination boroughs and curtailment of bribery. This was rejected by 215 votes to 88, after a debate in which conservative Whigs and ministerialists united against him. He voted for a stronger administration, 21 May 1812.

Soon after his re-election in 1812, Brand’s mother had a serious illness and he was placed in the painful position of preferring William Hale, his protégé, as his successor to the Hon. William Lamb*, the Whig grandees’ favourite.11 Lady Dacre’s recovery solved the problem. In the House Brand’s contempt for the Regent found expression in his hostility to the bank-note bill, 8 Dec. 1812, his support of Burdett’s motion on the Regency, 23 Feb., and of the cause of the Princess of Wales, 5 Mar. 1813. He also supported Catholic relief steadily, though silently. He was nominee for the Haslemere petition that session, which enabled him to state the case for reform to the committee; but when individual boroughs were brought to the notice of the House for irregularities, such as Weymouth and Helston in 1813, Haslemere in 1817 and Penryn in 1819, he made it an occasion for remarking that only systematic reform would end such scandals.12

Brand, who sat on the select committee on the corn trade, was one of the foremost Whig supporters of the protection of the agricultural interest during the debates on the Corn Laws, 15 June 1813, 16, 23 May 1814, as well as of the English corn distillers against their Irish competitors, 25 May, 24 June 1814. On 1 Aug. 1814 appeared his pamphlet in defence of protectionism.13 On 17 and 27 Feb. 1815 he rebuked the mercantile and manufacturing interests for favouring free trade when it could only harm the poorer classes, and he refused to link the issue with the need for parliamentary reform. Henceforward, he was a stickler for government economy. On 19 Apr. 1815 he failed by 183 votes to 58 to thwart the re-enactment of the property tax. He voted against the resumption of hostilities with Buonaparte. He moved the amendment to the address, 1 Feb. 1816, calling for retrenchment, but abandoned it and missed the division forced by Sir Gilbert Heathcote.14 He was a critic of the military establishment, 12 Feb., and presented petitions against the property tax, 27 Feb., 14 Mar. He welcomed the cessation of the wartime malt duties, 20 Mar., but insisted that ministers were paying insufficient attention to agricultural distress, 28 Mar., 9 Apr., 24 May. The burden of the poor rates and of tithes demanded alleviation, 22 May: government should set an example in economizing, 14 June 1816.

Brand returned to the subject of parliamentary reform, 18 June 1816, when he presented two petitions from Aberdeen in favour of it. He deplored the apathy of the House and on 29 Jan. 1817 he blamed extremists for it. On 31 Jan. he defended the Cornwall petition for reform. He denied that his proposals were ‘chimerical’, 17 Feb. He defended another petition, 10 Mar., and on 20 May seconded Burdett’s reform motion in a studiously moderate speech which failed to soothe alarmists. He had been thwarted by 210 votes to 117 on 7 Feb. when he amended the government motion for a finance committee in the interests of retrenchment. He opposed the suspension of habeas corpus, 26 Feb., 5 June 1817, and complained of its effects, 29 Jan., 9 Mar. 1818. He opposed the ducal marriage grants, 13, 15 Apr. 1818. By then he had turned his attention to reform of the Game Laws, which he denounced as oppressive if not vicious, 6 May 1818. On 9 Mar. 1819 he elaborated on this in a motion for their amendment, having a week before voted for criminal law reform. His motion was carried, but the bill was afterwards lost at the committee stage. He voted for Burdett’s reform motion of 1 July 1819. He was on the Poor Law committees of 1817, 1818 and 1819.

Brand had ‘scruples and doubts’ about Tierney’s leadership of the Whigs, though he signed the requisition to him in 1818 and voted for his censure motion, 18 May 1819. When he succeeded to the peerage in October 1819, he was disappointing the Whig leaders by his unwillingness to promote a county meeting in condemnation of the Peterloo tragedy.15 Continually frustrated in his objects during his Commons career, he remained attached to the Whigs. He died 21 Mar. 1851.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. Jnl. of Lady Holland, i. 47, 122; Leveson Gower, i. 165; Add. 51796, Lady Upper Ossory to Holland [25 Aug. 1797]; Cornw. RO, T/S mems. of J. C. Rashleigh, i. 63.
  • 2. Morning Chron. 5 Dec. 1795; PRO 30/8/142, f. 98; Add. 35393, f. 105; A. Hare, Memorials of a Quiet Life (1874), i. 146.
  • 3. Warrenne Blake, Irish Beauty, 36.
  • 4. Grey mss, Whitbread to Howick, 9 Oct., 5, 7, 8 Nov., Brand to same [4 Dec. 1806]; Whitbread mss W1/896.
  • 5. Colchester, ii. 114, 118; Add. 45034, f. 17; Leveson Gower, ii. 243; Grey mss, Temple to Howick, 1 Apr.; NLW mss 10804, Williams Wynn to Temple, 4 Apr. 1807; Romilly, Mems. ii. 199.
  • 6. Add. 51558, Lamb to Holland, 18 Dec. 1807.
  • 7. Horner mss 4, f. 24; Brougham, Life and Times, i. 522.
  • 8. Wakes Mus., Selbourne, Holt White mss 358; Whitbread mss W1/4434; Sidmouth mss, Cartwright to St. Vincent, 9 Feb. 1809.
  • 9. Lonsdale mss, Ward to Lonsdale, 18 Jan. [1811]; Phipps, Plumer Ward Mems. i. 336, 345-9, 386; Jnl. of Lady Holland, ii. 286; Horner mss 5, f. 11.
  • 10. Cartwright Corresp. ii. 1-4; Whitbread mss W1/4452; Morning Chron. 11 June 1811.
  • 11. Add. 51576, Whitbread to Holland, 30 Oct., 1 Nov. 1812.
  • 12. Lonsdale mss, Long to Lonsdale, Tues. [23 Feb. 1813]; Parl. Deb. xxv. 512, 674; xxvi. 805, 991; xxxvi. 946, 1042; xxxix. 917.
  • 13. Letter from the Hon. Thomas Brand MP to W. Wilshere Esq. on the subject of the Corn Laws (Hitchin, 1814).
  • 14. Creevey mss, Bennet to Creevey, 2 Feb. 1816; Add. 35394, f. 213; 35651, f. 363.
  • 15. Brougham mss, Brougham to Lambton, Thurs. [1818], to Grey [18 Oct. 1819].