FRANKLAND, William (1761-1816), of Muntham, Suss.

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



7 Nov. 1801 - 1806
1806 - 1807
1807 - Mar. 1815

Family and Education

b. 26 July 1761, 4th s. of Adm. Sir Thomas Frankland, 5th Bt., of Thirkleby, Yorks., and bro. of Sir William Frankland, 6th Bt.* educ. Christ Church, Oxf. 1779; fellow, All Souls 1783; L. Inn 1780, called 1787; I. Temple 1789. unm. suc. uncle William Frankland to Muntham 1805.

Offices Held

Private sec. to sec. of state for Home affairs Aug. 1798-July 1801; ld. of Admiralty Oct. 1806-Apr. 1807.

Attorney-gen. Isle of Man at d.

Lt.-col. N. Yorks militia 1803-14.


After three years as private secretary to the Duke of Portland at the Home Office, Frankland was disappointed in his hopes for employment compatible with a seat in Parliament in Addington’s administration. Had his cousin Thomas Pelham* obtained the War Department in February 1801, he would most probably have served under him as under-secretary but the arrangement did not take place. Subsequently there were unofficial hints that he might succeed Edward Finch Hatton as under-secretary at the Home Office, but by July 1801 all that had materialized was a parting offer by Portland of a précis writership, ‘which offer he desired me to consider rather as a proof of his willingness to give me a choice of what he happened to have to give, than as offering me a situation which, he should conceive, I could ultimately wish to hold, as he knew that I was anxious to come into Parliament’. The précis writership was incompatible with Parliament, and otherwise Portland could only advise him to look to the Admiralty.

When Pelham at this point obtained the Home Office, Frankland appealed to him, knowing that only as his under-secretary there could he take advantage of his eldest brother’s offer to make way for him as Member for Thirsk (5 July 1801). ‘Few persons are more capable of application’, he said in his own commendation, adding that he would be happy to stand in for absent or ailing official persons in debate. Pelham, in reply, regretted that he had no option but to employ Sir George Shee as undersecretary and offered instead to recommend Frankland for a seat at one of the boards if he took his seat in Parliament.1 This he did later that year. On 1 Dec. 1801 he supported the abolition of the pauper’s ‘badge’ which was ‘repugnant to the genius and liberal feelings of the British nation’; on 7 Dec. he warned against the disadvantages of competitive bread prices and on 24 May 1802 at some length opposed legislation against bull-baiting, on which he saw eye to eye with William Windham*. On 13 Aug. 1802, about to sail to France, he reminded Pelham that nothing had been done for him, although Addington had made polite gestures in his direction at the end of the session and for a year past he had made no secret of his wish to succeed William Baldwin* as counsel to the Home Office. Being willing to prepare official details and defend them in the House, he wondered whether Castlereagh might place him on the India board; he was familiar with Indian affairs, his uncle William, whose heir he was, having been a nabob. In Paris he was mistaken by Buonaparte for James Mackintosh* and ‘not being much accustomed to speak French, found it impossible to undeceive him, and was obliged to accept the civilities intended for Mr Mackintosh’.2

Frankland supported more extensive powers for the commission to investigate naval abuses, 27 Dec. 1802, and defended the militia officers completion bill, 18 Mar. 1803. On 20 Apr. he defended the Nottingham election bill. He cleared the gallery for the debate on defence, 2 Aug. Henceforward he was a colonel of militia. No vote against Addington is known (some credited him with the pamphlet produced by the ‘Near Observer’) but he was listed ‘Pitt’ in September 1804. On 12 Mar. 1805 he opposed a clause proposed for the mutiny bill and on 28 Mar. disapproved the militia enlisting bill. He joined the opposition majorities against Melville, 8 Apr., 12 June 1805, and opposed the Duke of Atholl’s claims, 7 and 19 June. He was therefore listed ‘doubtful Opposition’ by the Treasury in July. On 27 Dec. 1805 Lord Barham, Melville’s successor at the Admiralty, informed Pitt: ‘I have seen a sketch of an Act for manning the navy by Mr Frankland, Member for Thirsk, which is both simple and easy in execution. Its tendency is to increase apprentices, and is worth your perusal.’3

On Pitt’s death Frankland supported the Grenville ministry. He voted for their repeal of the Additional Force Act, 30 Apr. 1806, and was on good terms with William Windham, who held out hopes in June of ‘an honourable situation’ for him. On 15 Oct. he informed Windham that his ‘mixed habits and acquirements’ pointed to a post connected with ‘the arrangements necessary for increasing and improving our military means’, and he had in mind Gen. Craufurd’s, in Windham’s department, if it was vacated. In fact he became a lord of the Admiralty soon afterwards, an appointment first declined by William Dickinson II*. This was primarily a bid for his family’s parliamentary interest.4 In office, he played no part in debate, but came in for a Treasury borough to accommodate a Grenvillite at Thirsk.

Frankland’s political allegiance was fixed by the Grenville ministry. He voted against their successors, 9 Apr. 1807, and, resuming his seat for Thirsk, joined them in opposition in the ensuing Parliament. He opposed the militia transfer bill, 3 Aug. 1807, as undermining the ‘constitutional’ character of the militia, and on 2, 14 Feb. and 15 Mar. 1809 was again critical of ministerial proposals for the militia. He was not an assiduous attender (only two votes are known in 1808), but met with the Whigs to endorse Ponsonby’s leadership, 18 Jan. 1809. That session he voted against the convention of Cintra, 21 Feb., and against Perceval’s motion exonerating the Duke of York, 17 Mar. He assisted Lord Grenville in his canvass to become chancellor of Oxford University later that year.5 He mustered for opposition in 1810 when they listed him among their ‘thick and thin’ adherents and voted against Burdett’s committal to the Tower, 5 Apr. But his conservatism was becoming marked. He had opposed the bill to prevent cruelty to animals, 13 June 1809. He voted against criminal law reform, 1 May 1810, and on 21 May against parliamentary reform.6 He joined opposition on the droits of Admiralty, 30 May 1810, and on the Regency, 1 and 21 Jan. 1811, but on 29 Mar. 1811 he led the opposition to Romilly’s campaign to reform the penal code in a speech of great length, afterwards published, taking for his motto ‘Nolumus leges Angliae mutari’. As if to make up for this he again mustered for opposition in the session of 1812 and on 7 Feb. seconded a minor motion of Romilly’s. He at first opposed the legislation against the Luddite machine breakers, 14 Feb., but on further reflection, concurred with it, 17 Feb. On 6 Mar. he opposed the compulsory education of soldiers, and on 13 Mar. defended corporal punishment in the army. He had again voted with opposition on Turton’s censure motion, 27 Feb., and supported Catholic relief, 24 Apr., and Stuart Wortley’s motion for a more efficient administration, 21 May; but he approved the preservation of the public peace bill, 13 July, as a remedy for a ‘moral epidemic’.

Frankland was in the minorities on the vice-chancellor bill and Burdett’s Regency motion, 11, 23 Feb. 1813, and remained staunch in favour of Catholic relief that year; but his speeches were confined to opposition to Romilly’s proposals for criminal law reform, 17 Feb., 26 Mar., 5, 9 Apr. 1813. Nor did he leave any further mark in the House. In March 1815 he made way for his nephew. On 6 Dec. Joseph Jekyll wrote: ‘Poor Frankland, Attorney-General of the Isle [of Man] ... is in an atrophy and his intellects totally impaired—what a stout active lively being he was! only a year ago’. He died 10 June 1816. According to an obituary, ‘At the university, at the bar, in the House of Commons and among military men, his brilliant talents and extensive attainments made him equally conspicuous and acceptable’.7

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Authors: Winifred Stokes / R. G. Thorne


  • 1. Add. 37884, f. 196; 37916, f. 22; Geo. III Corresp. iv. 3319; Grey mss, Grenville to Grey, 20 Oct. 1806.
  • 2. Add. 33107, ff. 23, 89, 93; 33109, f. 353; Mackintosh Mems. ii. 287.
  • 3. Lonsdale mss, Ward to Lowther, 18 Sept. 1803; Kent AO, Stanhope mss 728/7.
  • 4. Add. 37884, f. 196; 37916, f. 22; Geo. III Corresp. iv. 3319; Grey mss, Grenville to Grey, 20 Oct. 1806.
  • 5. HMC Fortescue, ix. 373, 413, 418.
  • 6. NLW, Coedymaen mss 8, f. 505.
  • 7. Dorset RO, Bond mss D367, Jekyll to Bond, 6 Dec. [1815]; Gent. Mag. (1816), i. 572.