LEMON, John (1754-1814), of Polvellan, nr. Truro, Cornw.

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



5 Apr. - Aug. 1784
7 May 1787 - 1790
1796 - 5 Apr. 1814

Family and Education

b. 6 Nov. 1754, 2nd s. of William Lemon of Carclew, nr. Penryn by Anne, da. of John Willyams of Carnanton, St. Columb; bro. of Sir William Lemon, 1st Bt.* educ. Harrow 1770-1. unm.

Offices Held

Sub.-brig. and cornet, 2 Horse Gds. 1773; adj. and lt. 1776, exempt and capt. 1780; maj. 2 Life Gds. 1786, lt.-col. 1790, ret. 1792.

Ld. of Admiralty Jan.-Apr. 1804.

Capt. R. Cornw. militia 1792-5; lt.-col. R. Cornw. and Devon Miners 1798-d.


Lemon, who had sat previously on the interest of his brother-in-law John Buller of Morval, was left out in 1790, the latter being already engaged to place Lemon’s seat at the disposal of William Beckford*.1 A friend of the Prince of Wales who in August 1790 went on a cruise with the Duke of Clarence, he was spoken of shortly after the election as a person likely to be interested in the electoral affairs of his native Truro,2 and at the election of 1796 he was returned for that borough by an arrangement with George, 3rd Viscount Falmouth, the patron. In view of the fact that Falmouth was in the habit of returning friends of government and that Lemon, as previously, opposed Pitt in the division lobby, it seems likely that his return was a compromise by the patron with the Prince of Wales’s friends among the corporation. Moreover, being a man of standing in his own right at Truro and brother of the county Member, Lemon had no difficulty in retaining this seat until his death: the 4th Viscount Falmouth certainly regarded himself as being unable to dispose of Lemon’s seat to a friend of government in 1812, owing to existing engagements with Lemon.3

Lemon voted with opposition in the 1796 Parliament almost as regularly as his brother Sir William, like whom he belonged to the ‘armed neutrality’ of 1797. He may have seceded, for after voting in favour of reform, 26 May 1797, the only minority votes recorded between then and the session of 1800 were against Pitt’s taxes, 4 Jan. 1798, and on Ireland, 22 June 1798. He resumed regular opposition in 1800 and 1801. He voted for Nicholls’s motion of 7 May 1802 thanking the King for the removal of Pitt. He was better disposed to Addington, to whom his friendship with De Dunstanville commended him, and while he supported Calcraft’s motion on the Prince of Wales’s debts, 4 Mar. 1803, he accepted a place on the Admiralty board in January 1804. Fox noted that he had ‘completely gone’, but was not surprised.4 The only speech that can certainly be attributed to him in that Parliament was on the subject of the commission of inquiry into naval abuses, 18 Dec. 1802; he seconded Folkestone’s motion to postpone the third reading of the bill, fearing that it was an ex post facto one, whereby individuals might be called on to ruin themselves upon oath.

When Pitt returned to power, Lemon went into opposition with Addington5 and opposed Pitt’s additional force bill in June 1804. He supported Sheridan’s motion for its repeal, 6 Mar. 1805. He supported the censure and criminal prosecution of Melville, 8 Apr. and 12 June 1805. He went on to support the Grenville ministry and rejoined the Whigs in opposition in 1807. On 19 May 1809 he moved the adjournment of the debate on Curwen’s reform bill. De Dunstanville wrote of him to Lord Sidmouth, 3 Jan. 1810:6

between ourselves, though I have the highest regard for Lemon and know his many valuable qualities, he is the strangest politician I ever knew: of politics indeed in the true sense of the word he never treats; but though one of the best tempered men I know in private life, he has the strongest antipathies to men in public situations that extend to almost every public man with the exception only of yourself of whom he always speaks with the greatest affection and esteem.

In 1810 he was listed ‘present opposition’ by the Whigs and his voting conduct confirmed it on all major issues. He voted regularly for sinecure reform, but was absent on Brand’s motion for parliamentary reform, 21 May 1810, and could not be rallied to an extra-parliamentary meeting of Friends of Constitutional Reform in 1811. On 14 May 1811 he said a few words on the proposed interchange of militias. He supported Catholic relief at every opportunity, speaking on behalf of it, 23 Apr. 1812. Lemon died 5 Apr. 1814.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. See SALTASH.
  • 2. Prince of Wales Corresp. ii. 521, 523, 525, 539.
  • 3. Add. 38249, f. 223.
  • 4. Add. 47566, f. 174.
  • 5. Sidmouth mss, De Dunstanville to Addington, 28 Oct. 1804.
  • 6. Ibid.