NESBITT, John (?1745-1817), of Keston Park, nr. Bromley, Kent.

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



1780 - 1790
1790 - 1796
1796 - 1802

Family and Education

b. ?1745, 2nd s. of Cosby Nesbitt, MP [I], of Lismore, co. Cavan by Anne, da. of John Enery of Bawnboy, co. Cavan. unm. suc. uncle Arnold Nesbitt 1779.

Offices Held

Councillor, duchy of Cornwall 1801; commr. for hackney coaches 1814-d.


Nesbitt inherited from his uncle, a West India merchant, his business in Bishopsgate Street and a large estate in England and the West Indies encumbered with debts, largely to the crown, of over £120,000. This accounts for his fluctuating fortunes; the business (Arnold and John Nesbitt) was transferred to Aldermanbury as Nesbitt and Stewart by 1791, and in 1803 to more modest premises as Nesbitt and Rolleston at Tokenhouse Yard, Lothbury, where it was at his death and afterwards, in his name, until 1826. The crown debts, on the Winchelsea estates, were the subject of a suit in Chancery that was not settled until shortly before his death and by 1802 he was declared bankrupt.1

In Parliament after 1790, having sold the family interest at Winchelsea for £15,000, he sat for two proprietary boroughs, presumably by purchase: for Gatton probably on Robert Ladbroke’s* interest and for Bodmin on Sir John Morshead’s*. He apparently never spoke in the House, but he did transfer his allegiance from opposition to government: after being listed a supporter of repeal of the Test Act in Scotland in April 1791 and voting with opposition in the Oczakov divisions, 12 Apr. 1791 and 1 Mar. 1792, no other minority vote is recorded and he certainly supported Pitt over assessed taxes, 4 Jan. 1798. He voted against the abolition of the slave trade, 15 Mar. 1796. That week he was steward at the anniversary dinner of the St. Patrick’s Benevolent Society. His firm subscribed £30,000 to the loyalty loan for 1797. He was a neighbour of Pitt’s in Kent and in May 1797 offered to be his go-between with a party in the French government who, he was informed, were ready to open peace negotiations.2

In 1802 he had to sell much of his property, including Gainsborough’s portait of his uncle (1 gn.) and ‘Blue Boy’ (80 gns.), to meet his creditors and did not return to Parliament. In 1811 he begged the Prince of Wales, to whose set he had belonged, to give him a post in his household, but the Prince had nothing suitable to offer, except the promise that he might succeed Sir James Gambler as consul-general in Brazil. In December 1811, after sending some vintage brandy to McMahon, he again requested a position, referring to the Prince’s kindness to him for 30 years and to ‘a late melancholy event in my family which makes me now more urgent’. In 1814 he wrote ‘I shall be happy to take any situation you may think fit for a faithful servant who has been ... near twenty years in Parliament and never applied for any favour’. He obtained a commissioner’s place.3

He died 15 Mar. 1817, aged 71. In 1871 his housekeeper at Keston remembered him as ‘a tall, thin and gentlemanly looking man, much younger looking than he was said to be’. His residuary legatee was his brother Thomas.4

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. N. and Q. clxxiv. 331; A. Nesbitt, Hist. Fam. of Nesbit or Nesbitt, 46-47.
  • 2. PRO, Dacres Adams mss 2/8.
  • 3. Prince of Wales Corresp. viii. 3235.
  • 4. Gent. Mag. (1817), i. 375; Nesbitt, loc. cit.; PCC 325 Effingham.