LECHMERE, Edmund (1747-98), of Hanley Castle, Worcs.
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Family and Education
b. 1747, 2nd s. of Edmund Lechmere† of Hanley Castle by 2nd w. Elizabeth, da. of Rev. John Whitmore of Fenny Compton, Warws.; half-bro. of Nicholas Lechmere† (afterwards Charlton). educ. Queen’s, Oxf. 23 May 1764, aged 16; I. Temple 1771, called 1774. m. June 1792, s.p.
Lechmere, a barrister, was the son of a county Member and half-brother of the Member for Worcester in 1774. Himself disappointed at the vacancy for Worcester earlier in the year, he canvassed there in June 1789. The independent interest that had lately returned Edmund Wigley was well disposed to him, but he claimed, like the sitting Members, to be a supporter of Pitt’s administration and wished to avoid a contest. He tried through John MacNamara† to switch Wigley to Leicester, but nothing came of it and in the event he was returned in second place at ruinous expense.1
At first Lechmere supported Pitt in silence. He was listed among opponents of the repeal of the Test Act in Scotland in 1791. On 14 May 1793 he rose to protest at Wilberforce’s proposal to abolish foreign slave trading in English ships, having himself intended a bill merely to regulate the traffic. He criticized Wilberforce’s bill as an attack on property rights, 7 Feb. 1794, and described it as nugatory, though he would not introduce his own 14 Mar. That day he divided with opposition on the landing of foreign troops in England. On 30 Dec. 1794 he voted for Wilberforce’s plea for peace, and in the same sense on 26 Jan. and 27 May 1795. He objected to the tea duties, proposing a tax on one-man carts instead, 11 Mar. 1795. He supported a public monument for his naval friend Capt. Robert Faulknor, 14 Apr. Opposing the Austrian loan, 10 June, he described subsidies to continental allies as a waste and suggested that the Emperor should receive nothing unless he pledged himself not to make peace with France unilaterally. On the same day he objected to public settlement of the Prince of Wales’s debts, which he thought the King should shoulder.
In his last session in Parliament Lechmere, now listed ‘con’ by the Treasury, voted against the address, 29 Oct. 1795, against the proposed legislation to curb seditious meetings, 10 Nov., for peace negotiation, 15 Feb. 1796, against the loans, 26 Feb., for inquiry into the national finances, 10 Mar., and against the conduct of the war, 10 May. But nearly all his speeches were devoted to the distress of the poor. On 2 Nov. 1795 he offered his assistance in any remedy proposed by Pitt, and described himself as ‘the poor man’s friend’ on 18 Nov., when he condemned the export of grain at a time of domestic scarcity. He supported Whitbread’s poor relief bill, 25 Nov., and promised a remedy of his own, 14 Dec. He opposed the mixed bread bill, 18 Dec. On 16 Feb. 1796 he moved that the committee on the price of corn promote a bill to prevent the consolidation of farms, which he regarded as a major source of the distress; but the House was counted out. His speech contained a compliment to Fox. On 1 Mar. he sought to influence the same committee to legislate against corn exportation and prevent the marketing of grain by small samples. To his disappointment nothing was done, but he renewed his campaign against grain exports, 22 Mar. On 11 May, in a final effort, he attempted to enforce the sale of corn in the public market and to prevent the sale of adulterated flour, but was thwarted by 34 votes to 10. He remained hostile to the abolition of the slave trade, 15 Mar. 1796. He was strongly in favour of a dog tax, particularly on sporting dogs and lap dogs, 5 Apr., 12 May, and was an advocate of the Quaker relief bill, which affected a number of his constituents, 26 Apr.
Lechmere, who was rumoured to be getting an appointment in India, could not afford another contest in 1796.2 His London friends, labelling him ‘the friend of the poor’ and crediting him with reducing the price of bread, were moved to tears when he unfolded to them ‘a system of ministerial persecution degenerating even so basely as to influence the ties of nature’ and offered a subscription;3 but he did not stand and took refuge from his creditors in the precincts of Holyrood, Edinburgh. He was arrested in sanctuary in June 1797 for a debt, but his immunity was upheld.4 He died ‘in a little stuffy hole’ within the limits of the sanctuary, 31 Oct. 1798. His family refuted allegations that he had left an illegitimate daughter.5