LOWTHER, William, Visct. Lowther (1787-1872).

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009
Available from Cambridge University Press



11 July 1808 - Nov. 1813
22 Nov. 1813 - 1831
2 Feb. 1832 - 1832
1832 - 8 Sept. 1841

Family and Education

b. 30 July 1787, 1st s. of William Lowther†, 1st earl of Lonsdale, and Lady Augusta Fane, da. of John Fane†, 9th earl of Westmorland; bro. of Hon. Henry Cecil Lowther*. educ. Harrow 1796-1803/4; ‘under the roof of the Rev. John Stonard’, 1804;1 Trinity Coll. Camb. 1805. unm. styled Visct. Lowther 1807-41. summ. to the Lords in his fa.’s barony as Bar. Lowther 8 Sept. 1841; suc. fa. as 2nd earl of Lonsdale 19 Mar. 1844. d. 4 Mar. 1872.

Offices Held

Ld. of admiralty Nov. 1809-July 1810; commr. bd. of control July 1810-June 1818; ld. of treasury Nov. 1813-Apr. 1827; PC 30 May 1828; chief commr. of woods, forests and land revenues June 1828-Dec. 1830; vice-pres. bd. of trade and treas. of navy Dec. 1834-May 1835; postmaster-gen. Sept. 1841-Dec. 1845; ld. pres. of council Feb.-Dec. 1852.

Dir. Greenwich Hosp. 1819.

Lt.-col. Whitehaven militia 1809.

Ld. lt. Cumb. and Westmld. 1844-68.


A well-connected Tory with a penchant for office, Lowther was heir to the vast Northern estates and electoral influence of his father, Lord Lonsdale, whose ability to return nine Members (two for Westmorland, Cockermouth and Haslemere and one for Appleby, Carlisle and Cumberland) was severely challenged in this period.2 His transfer from Cockermouth to Westmorland had been opposed by Henry Brougham* for the Whigs at the general election of 1818; and with further contests threatened, he had lately attended closely to local issues and promoted the anti-Catholic cause in the Commons.3 His private life was governed by his love of opera, the Turf and Paris, where his daughter Marie Caroline was born, 2 May 1818, and which he eulogized in January 1820 as the only place

where I attend dinners without suffering in my health; where I am well received and my acquaintance courted; greeted with confidence by men of all ranks and situations, ministers of France, ambassadors, bankers; where ennui is quickly banished; where novelty cheers; time most plenty; little left to desire.4

His absence there when George III died, coupled with dissension between his uncle John Lowther* and Lonsdale, disrupted planning at the general election of 1820, when he and his brother Henry only narrowly defeated Brougham in Westmorland after an exhaustive poll. Cumberland and Carlisle were also contested and trouble was threatened at Appleby and Haslemere.5

Lowther was regarded as a placeman and his father’s ‘party manager’, although Lonsdale also turned to his brother John, his son-in-law John Beckett*, the government whip William Holmes* and trusted agents for advice and to do his bidding.6 He was appointed to many select committees, including those on privilege, 30 Mar. 1821, public accounts, 18 Apr. 1822, the metropolitan police, 14 Mar. 1822, 28 Feb. 1828, 15 Apr. 1829, the civil list, 16 Nov. 1830, and on numerous public and private bills. He also sat on the 1828 finance committee on William Huskisson’s* recommendation, and was regarded as an excellent Tory nominee on election committees.7 He mustered support for the anti-Catholics and, dismayed by their defeat, 28 Feb. 1821,8 he deliberately absented himself from the division of 17 Apr. 1823.9 As agreed with Lonsdale, he voted but refused to speak against relief, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May, and divided against the attendant Irish franchise bill, 26 Apr. 1825.10

Acting for his constituents, he presented petitions for repeal of the wool duties, 1 May, and government action to combat distress, 17 May, and expressed support for the posthorse duties bill, 11 July 1820.11 He failed to dispel unease at the deployment of troops to restore order at the Carlisle election or to prevent the new Member William James’s motion summoning the Carlisle magistracy being held over, 3 July. As a treasury spokesman, he indicated that ministers would reconsider the French General Desfourneaux’s right to compensation for loses resulting from the capture of Guadeloupe in 1794, 15 July 1820.12 He was instrumental in drawing the king’s attention to the ‘difficulty about praying for the queen’, privately doubted the wisdom of prosecuting her,13 and had no qualms about making financial provisions for her, 1 Feb. 1821.14 His attempts to kill James’s motion alleging improper interference by the military at the Carlisle election also failed, 15 Mar., but the anodyne report of the investigative committee saved him from further embarrassment, 3 Apr.15 He spoke and was a majority teller against appointing select committees on the game laws, 5 Apr., and the Lyme Regis franchise, 12 Apr., and poured scorn on its presenter Curwen’s endorsement of the Cumberland petition suggesting parliamentary reform as a remedy for distress, 17 Apr.16 He paired against mitigation of the death penalty for forgery, 23 May. He presented petitions against the timber duties, 23 Feb., and the tax on wool, 12 Apr.17 He was appointed to the select committee on the extra post bill, 13 June, for which he was a minority teller, 2 July. He stayed at Windsor for the Ascot races in June, and spent November and December 1821 in Paris, whence his return was delayed by bad weather.18

As requested at the county meetings, Lowther presented Westmorland petitions for action to combat distress, 11, 13 Feb. 1822.19 Before leaving London for the obligatory autumn round of meetings and functions in Westmorland, he gave his opinion on the political consequences of the foreign secretary Lord Londonderry’s* suicide in a letter to the king’s secretary Sir William Knighton, in which he observed that ‘barkers and worriers’ apart, opposition had ‘but Brougham and Mackintosh fit for everyday service’, and Canning ‘such sudden twists and quirks I know not whether he is most to be dreaded as friend or foe’; but he accepted the need to ‘yield to circumstances and take him’ as foreign secretary.20 He advised Lonsdale to ‘remain neuter’ at the Cambridge University by-election in November 1822 when the anti-Catholic William Bankes defeated Lord Hervey* and James Scarlett*.21 Lowther predicted a ‘quiet session’ in 1823, but was soon embroiled in the protracted negotiations surrounding Robert Ward’s appointment as civil list auditor in April, and replacing him at Haslemere with his relation George Lowther Thompson.22 He presented a petition against Catholic relief, 11 Apr. 1823.23 He was appointed to the select committee on the game laws, 13 Mar., and was a teller for the minority against legalizing sales, 2 June. On 13 June he was named to the select committee on gas lighting, an issue that was to cost him electoral support in Lancashire after he refused to back the first 1824 Manchester gas bill.24 He presented petitions against the wool duties, 21 May, and for abolishing colonial slavery, 28 May, 23, 25 June.25 In November 1823 he was a party to the negotiations which led to the conferral of a baronetcy on John Lowther a year later.26 Lowther’s ability to summon the Swillington Lowthers and Lowther Thompson for the 1824 session was sorely tested, but they mustered to vote against reforming the representation of Edinburgh, 26 Feb.27 He had much constituency business to attend to, and presented petitions against wool imports, 10 Feb., taxes on sheepdogs and coal, 25 Feb., colonial slavery, 11, 16, 23, 31 Mar., 5, 14 Apr., the hides regulation bill, 17 Mar., 18 May, and the excise license duties, 23 Mar., and in favour of the proposed legislation for the recovery of small debts, 30 Mar.28 Calling for an end to the monopolies enjoyed by bridge companies, he expressed qualified support for the Hammersmith bridge bill and dismissed the compensation claims of rival companies as a matter to be dealt with by the select committee, 13 Apr. 1824.29 He supported the abortive Dublin coal trade bill, 13 Apr., notwithstanding Curwen’s criticism and petitions against it from Whitehaven, where Lowther control of the harbour was resented. As a majority teller for recommitting the Tees and Weardale railway bill, in which the Swillington Lowthers had a vested interest, 3 May, he claimed that its opponents greatly exaggerated the detrimental effect it would have on Lord Londonderry’s estates. (He promoted the bill again when it was reintroduced in 1825.)30 He was a majority teller for the Equitable Loan Company bill, later rejected by the Lords, in both divisions, 1 June 1824.

Having urged close scrutiny of the London turnpike trusts when William Cobbett† petitioned, 5 May 1824, Lowther (a member of the 1821 and 1827 select committee) moved for and was appointed to chair that on their revenues, 17 Feb. 1825. He voted against the usury laws repeal bill that day, and also presented a petition for the county courts bill. He corresponded with Lonsdale about the Carlisle by-election occasioned by the death in March of Sir James Graham, and presented petitions from Kirkby Lonsdale and Carlisle against amending the corn laws, 28 Apr.31 He voted against the spring guns bill, 21 June. He was at Newmarket for the July races, but with a dissolution in contemplation, constituency arrangements took up much of his time and he joined Beckett, Holmes, Lord Lauderdale and Sir John Lowther in negotiations calculated to secure the neutrality of Lord Thanet in Westmorland, where Lonsdale was ‘in a terrible fright about a contested election’. With an eye to commercial investment in mining and quarrying, he also toured Wales for six weeks with Alderman William Thompson* before returning to London on 11 Sept.32 Knowing that the Whigs planned to oppose them on all fronts, he encouraged his father to spend to protect their strongholds of Cumberland, Westmorland and Carlisle at the next general election, and suggested selling their borough seats through the treasury to finance the expected contests.33 He privately criticized Lord Liverpool’s decision to patch up his ministry and avoid a dissolution that autumn, and dallied in London and Brighton where he enjoyed the low life with Holmes and Henry de Ros, who had found him a compliant woman.34 The ‘awkward’ Cambridge University election, the December 1825 banking crisis, and trouble at Haslemere spurred him to political activity.35 He privately considered treasury intervention on behalf of the country banks in the aftermath of the crisis counter-productive.36 He steered the successful Middlesex turnpike trust bill through the Commons with Brogden, and advised making tarred roads a proviso of the 1826 Westminster improvement bill, 1 May.37 He presented anti-slavery petitions, 22 Feb., 10 Mar., 19 Apr., chose not to divide on the Jamaican slave trials, 2 Mar., but voted against reforming Edinburgh’s representation, 13 Apr. 1826.38 His Westmorland committee insisted that he direct them personally at the general election in June, when he and his brother defeated Brougham at an estimated cost of £50,000. They were repeatedly castigated for exploiting the anti-Catholic vote and ‘mushroom’ freeholds and ‘inventing’ and circulating speeches giving the ‘false’ impression that Lowther had outshone Brougham.39 Afterwards he organized the requisite payments, appealed against the court ruling on the charitable status of St. Bees School, which had gone against Lonsdale, and arranged for William Carus Wilson to be replaced at Cockermouth by Lawrence Peel.40

Lowther viewed the death of the duke of York as

a severe national calamity; his influence balanced or checked the effects of the present system of liberalism. What is to happen now no one can predict. Our country gentlemen are sore even now and grumble they have to divide in company with the radicals. All must depend upon the views of Canning; if he is as ambitious as some of his followers a short time can only elapse before some separation must take place.41

Pleased to see election petitions resolved ‘fortunately ... to the advantage of the Protestants and the government’, he mustered support against Burdett’s motion for Catholic relief, which he denounced as trickery ‘concocted by Canning’, and rejoiced in its defeat, 6 Mar. 1827.42 He presented anti-Catholic petitions, 2 Apr.43 He had little confidence in Canning’s corn bill, but he had advised Lonsdale against encouraging petitioning and he chose not to endorse the hostile ones he presented, 26 Feb.44 He introduced several complaining of depressed trading conditions following the relaxation of the navigation laws, 23 Mar.45 When inquiry into county polls was sought, 15 Mar., he said that he ‘had had his share of contested elections’ and refuted Lord Althorp’s criticism of land tax based registration. His motion for printing membership lists of committees on private bills was carried without a division, 21 Mar.46 After Liverpool’s stroke, Lowther’s preference was for a ministry headed by the duke of Wellington, with his schoolfellow Robert Peel as home secretary and leader of the Commons.47 On Lonsdale’s advice, he took ‘no part whatever’ in politics and stayed away from the House while confusion attended the appointment of the pro-Catholic Canning as premier. He was one of the ‘shoals of underlings’ who resigned with Peel when it was effected.48 Mistrusting ‘Whig men and ultra liberal measures’, after talks involving Lord Lyndhurst, Beckett and the king, he turned down Canning’s conditional offer to make him chief commissioner of woods and forests.49 The clerk of the ordnance Sir Henry Hardinge* recalled in January 1828 that

Lord Lowther is still more selfish [than Lord Hertford], but his father is no means so, and last year [1827], when Lowther was consulting with Canning, told him he might vote as he pleased, but the family strength should oppose Canning, if he L. accepted the woods and forests.50

To Lonsdale, 23, 24 Apr., Lowther predicted that the Canning ministry would be unstable, adding that there would be ‘little opportunity of trying the division of parties’ that session. He depicted the Commons as

the strangest jumble and mixture of parties that ever assembled in one room. There will be: the actual government; the seceders opposed; the seceders supporting government; some late supporters of government who will not vote at all. There will be: Whigs supporting government: Whigs against the government and the Mountain against all government. How to calculate upon the relative numbers of these different bodies is quite impossible at this time.51

He moved the third reading of the Marylebone vestry bill, 22 May, voted against disfranchising Penryn, 28 May, and joined Lord Hertford’s Members in opposing the Coventry magistracy bill, 11 June, to which he failed to add a rider limiting the concurrent jurisdiction of county magistrates in the borough during parliamentary elections, 18 June.52 He presented an anti-Catholic petition from the deanery of Richmond, 7 June. He voted for the Canadian waterways grant, 12 June. He called in vain for the deferral of the East Retford disfranchisement bill, 22 June, but, by threatening a division, he precipitated the withdrawal on the 29th of Lord Nugent’s voters’ registration bill.53 A difficult by-election for Carlisle, where his nominee the East India Company director James Law Lushington eventually prevailed, kept him away from London during the first flurry of negotiations following Canning’s death in August.54 The king advised Canning’s successor Lord Goderich to appoint Lowther to woods and forests in order to secure the Lonsdale interest, but no cabinet place was offered and Lonsdale, who saw the king on 31 Aug., reiterated his preference for Wellington and Peel and refused to compromise.55 Writing to his friend John Croker*, 14 Aug. 1827, Lowther, who was disappointed not to be offered a peerage in return for his support, rightly predicted that the ministry would be short-lived, as ‘Goderich has not talent, nerve or audacity to conduct or regulate so large a machine’. He remained convinced that it would not be propped up by a middle party.56

Lonsdale cautiously welcomed the appointment of the Wellington ministry in January 1828, but Lowther warned of the impossibility of mixed government without Canning and strongly criticized the arrangement, especially the appointment of Goulburn as chancellor of the exchequer in preference to Herries. Having turned down the vice-presidency of the board of trade as incompatible with the representation of agricultural counties opposed to free trade, he was furious to be passed over in favour of Charles Arbuthnot* for woods and forests, and declined a place on the privy council.57 As a member of the 1828 finance committee, he was, according to Philip Pusey*, ‘the most active reformer’.58 He took charge of the Scottish vagrants bill, 19 Feb., divided (as the cabinet had agreed) against repealing the Test Acts, 26 Feb., and by arrangement with ministers, he and his colleagues voted in defence of East Retford, 7 Mar.59 Now unusually voluble in debate, in speeches and interventions (21 Feb., 3, 6, 11, 20, 25, 31 Mar., 15, 16 May) he admitted that better regulation of elections was desirable and conceded that there might be advantages in providing additional polling facilities, particularly in boroughs such as Carlisle, where safe conduct to the poll was an issue; but he vehemently opposed each of the five remedial bills introduced by the opposition that session and expressed his mistrust of voter registration and short polls and continued confidence in the land tax based system. He used similar arguments against the transfer of Penryn’s seats to Manchester, 24 Mar. Despite his previous criticisms, on 27 June, as a member of the select committee, he successfully moved the third reading and was a teller for the borough polls bill, from which ‘all the parts which I thought objectionable were removed’. He expressed himself wholly dissatisfied with the salmon fisheries bill that day and was a majority teller against it, 20 Mar. He presented protectionist petitions from the Cumberland lead miners, 1 Apr., and Kirkby Lonsdale wool producers, 13 May, and another that day for repeal of the Bank Restriction Act. He divided against Catholic relief, 12 May. The Canningite exodus later that month facilitated his appointment as chief commissioner of woods and forests.60 He was re-elected with only token opposition.61 He took charge of the Regent’s Park and Charing Cross improvement bills, previously drafted for his department, carrying both that session.62 Having declared that the corporate funds bill was flawed in principle, 1 July, he opposed it to the last by brief interventions and as a minority teller, 4, 10 July. He divided with his colleagues against ordnance reductions, 4 July, and against amending the duties on silk, 14 July 1828. As George Agar Ellis* observed, Lowther was ‘really interested’ in his work and he continued to correspond with Goulburn and Wellington on departmental business during the recess, also briefing Peel on likely allies among the Middlesex vestry clerks and magistrates.63 He proposed ‘steering clear and unconnected’ at the Cumberland by-election of January 1829, when the Whig Sir James Graham succeeded Curwen, and reluctantly acquiesced in the candidature of Sir William Scott* of Ancrum for the Carlisle seat thus vacated, on which Lonsdale refused to spend.64

By 15 Jan. 1829 the Lowthers knew through Holmes of the negotiations that fixed Wellington’s determination to concede Catholic emancipation.65 Lonsdale was belatedly briefed by the duke, and on 2 Feb. Peel saw Lowther and, according to Lord Ellenborough, found him ‘quiet, but not favourable’, and reluctant to ‘take a different line from that which his family and himself had acted for so long, and on which their interest was supported’.66 Lowther informed Lonsdale, who backed him throughout, that he had ‘abstained from committing myself’, but that, being determined to avoid ‘any charge of inconsistency’, he ‘was not disposed to be dragged in to sanction the principle’. He surmised that ‘no effectual opposition’ could be made and by 9 Feb. had concluded that to support emancipation or to betray Wellington on other issues would amount to an unacceptable ‘loss of all political character’.67 Holmes and Croker, who saw him on 11 Feb., claimed that they were hard pressed to prevent his precipitate resignation.68 In late February the patronage secretary Planta predicted that Lowther would go ‘with government’ for emancipation, and classified his relations as ‘hostile’ or ‘doubtful’; but there was also speculation that he would join any new anti-Catholic ministry.69 In the event the ‘ninepins’ voted together against emancipation, 6 Mar., and Lowther tendered his resignation with Beckett, the judge advocate, the next day.70 He presented hostile petitions, 10 Mar., and voted against the relief bill, 18, 30 Mar., knowing that it had the king’s approval notwithstanding ministers’ unease at the duke of Cumberland’s visits to Windsor.71 Wellington, anxious not to irritate the king and to keep his supporters together, neither replied to Lowther’s resignation letter nor replaced him, and amidst speculation over his future, and as to whether he was ‘in’, ‘out’, or ‘sacked’, he kept a low profile until the measure was enacted.72 He commented briefly when required to on turnpikes, 27 Feb., 31 Mar., lighthouses, 3 Mar., county bridges, 25 Mar., public compensation, 18 Mar., 6 Apr. and the Clarence railway bill, of which he had charge, 19 Mar., 2 Apr. He was also forced to defend his decisions on Charing Cross, 7 Apr., and as a director of Greenwich Hospital, 9, 14 Apr. Wellington summoned him on the evening of 15 Apr. and by the 18th his reinstatement had been settled. No formalities were necessary, as his resignation had not been accepted by the king.73 Holmes, Beckett and Lonsdale were among the first to congratulate him on his conduct.74 Acting with the chairman of ways and means, Sir Alexander Grant, he promoted the 1829 Land Revenues Act and the Charing Cross Improvements Act, and fended off criticism of the Buckingham House improvements in committee, 12, 14, 19, 28 May.75 John Nash’s leases, the royal residences and the proposed road through Windsor Great Park remained difficult issues for his department, and decisions were increasingly referred to Wellington.76 According to the duke’s confidante Mrs. Arbuthnot, Lowther had been ‘attacking Mr. Nash’ but ‘totally failed in his object of proving Mr. Nash to have been a cheat’, 14 June.77 In August he rallied behind the Ultra editors of the Lowther newspapers, which had served him so well at elections, and was criticized by Brougham and Michael Sadler* for doing so.78 So furious was he with the prevarications of the Haslemere electors that by November 1829 he contemplated selling the borough.79

Lowther acknowledged the severity of the economic distress against which a Whig meeting in Cumberland petitioned in January 1830. Deeming the petitioners’ plight to be well known and not easily remedied, he expected them to gain nothing thereby and he was irked by the fuss generated by the signature of a Lonsdale agent on the requisition, which Wellington asked him to explain.80 He divided with his colleagues on the address, 4 Feb., but testified to the severity of the depression in their trade when the Cumberland lead workers’ petitioned for protection, 16 Feb.81 Departmental business proved difficult and Wellington now privately doubted his loyalty and ability.82 However, he was committed to supporting government until the end of the session, and was annoyed and embarrassed by Lonsdale’s decision to back Wetherell’s motion for the production of ex-officio informations involving the Morning Chronicle, which government opposed, 2 Mar.83 He made light of an opposition motion for inquiry into crown land revenues, 30 Mar.; but the Haymarket removal bill which he promoted (8, 15, 26 Mar., 2 Apr.) was powerfully opposed and referred to counsel before being passed, 7 Apr.84 The approach road to Waterloo Bridge and proposed entrance to St. James’s Park were quibbled over at Court and in Parliament, 6 May, 4 June.85 He also had to answer regular complaints about the Charing Cross and Strand improvements and other matters relating to the metropolis, and the Dean Forest bill he tried to steer through the Commons was repeatedly deferred and timed out, 5 Apr., 13 May, 4, 11, 14, 18 June.86 On 5 July he succeeded in confining the scope of a motion for returns on crown lands to ‘existing papers’. He reaffirmed his mistrust of any measure of parliamentary reform, 11 Feb., divided against the enfranchisement of Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, 23 Feb., and, as briefed by the duke of Newcastle’s agents, spoke strongly against referring the Newark petition condemning his electoral interference there to a select committee, 1 Mar.87 He divided against Jewish emancipation, 5 Apr., 17 May, and abolition of the death penalty for forgery, 7 June. He was bitterly opposed to the Northern Roads bill, which he regarded as a potential financial drain on government, 20, 28 May, 4, 7 June, and was a minority teller against its committal, 3 June. Knowing it would be overtaken by the dissolution following the king’s death, he ordered returns with further opposition in mind, 8 July, and warned Wellington accordingly.88 Rumours that he would stand for Cambridge University as an Ultra were soon discounted.89 At the general election in August 1830 his return for Westmorland was made ‘perfectly safe’ by a compromise agreed to by his father and Brougham. However, the return of the radical Lord Radnor’s son Philip Pleydell Bouverie for Cockermouth and of James Brougham for Radnor’s borough of Downton caused comment and he had to act swiftly to quell opposition at Carlisle, Cockermouth, Cumberland and Haslemere, where he was pleased to return Holmes.90

Lowther was in the government’s minority on the civil list when they were brought down, 15 Nov. 1830, and resigned with them, co-operating briefly with his successor Agar Ellis while his patent was authorized.91 Though irked by the defections and apathy which had contributed to their defeat, he privately acknowledged that the ‘commanding talent for the times’ was ‘nowhere to be found in the Tory ranks ... We are lamentably deficient in debaters, and that is perhaps the real reason for our failure’.92 ‘Half glad’ to be out of office, he became a regular guest at Tory dinners where opposition policy and tactics were discussed, and considered the future representation of their constituencies with his father, who suggested transferring him to Cumberland.93 He presented constituency petitions for the eradication of West Indian slavery, 13 Dec. He repudiated Hume’s criticisms of the government of the Isle of Man and the management of the signet office, 21 Dec., and was a minority teller for printing Sir Harcourt Lees’s petition against the oaths in Parliament bill, 23 Dec. 1830. Defending his former department and his own record, he had the commissioners’ returns printed, 9 Feb., justified his decisions to create an entrance to St. James’s Park from Waterloo Place, 15 Feb., and criticized changes to his proposals for the Forest of Dean, 11 Mar., and Waterloo Bridge New Street, 18 Apr. Anticipating a division ‘of some moment’ when the Grey ministry’s reform bill was introduced and dissolution in the event of its defeat, 1 Mar., he summoned his Members and was disappointed when Peel failed to divide the House.94 Denis Le Marchant†, believing that Lowther, ‘a very adroit intriguer’, had learnt on 28 Feb. of the boroughs to be disfranchised, which included Appleby and Haslemere in schedule A and Cockermouth in schedule B, held him personally responsible for failing to brief Peel adequately, but realized afterwards that this was not the case.95 The Lowther newspapers now mounted strong attacks on the first lord of the admiralty Sir James Graham and the chancellor of the exchequer Althorp, and Lowther criticized the likely loss of revenue if legislation preventing tobacco cultivation in Ireland was carried, 10 Mar. Opposing the corporate funds bill at its second reading, 11 Mar., he protested that it imputed corruption to every borough and claimed that redress was already available through the court of chancery. He presented petitions against the timber duties, 17 Mar., and the general registry bill, 30 Mar., and another that day for the abolition of capital punishment for property offences. He acknowledged privately that his initial confidence that the Ultras would all join them in opposition was misplaced, and by 7 Mar. he doubted whether the reform bill could be defeated; contemplating compromise, he resented the cost of an additional and expensive election to carry reform.96 He nevertheless voted against the bill at its second reading, 22 Mar., obtained detailed population returns for the places it enfranchised, 30 Mar., and divided for Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831. Amid great publicity the Lowthers were ‘attacked everywhere’ at the ensuing general election and forfeited seats for Westmorland and Carlisle to the Blues. Lacking a suitable candidate, Lowther stood for Cumberland himself, demanded a poll, when the show of hands was decidedly against him, and came a poor third behind the reformers Graham and William Blamire.97 His claims that he was a moderate reformer were ridiculed and he was taken to task on the hustings for accommodating the turncoat Scarlett at Cockermouth and for the ‘disgraceful’ Westmorland compromise.98 Lonsdale observed:

Had you not come to a poll both you and your friends would have remained under a delusion, which is now dissipated. What has occurred under your own eyes, and which indeed has pervaded the whole empire, shows how little the influence of property can resist popular clamour.99

He had his first success in the Derby in May 1831 with Spaniel.100 Dependent on his brother and their friends to represent their constituency interests, he attended party meetings and encouraged opposition to test opinion and ministerial resolve by arranging for petitions to be sent up from Appleby, Westmorland’s county town, requesting to be heard by counsel concerning its disfranchisement, 12 July. He canvassed for the anti-reformers at the October 1831 by-elections in Dorset and Cambridgeshire, and was regarded as a contender for cabinet office in the event of Lords Wharncliffe or Harrowby forming a ministry following the reform bill’s defeat in the Lords.101 Anxious to return to the Commons, he was suggested by Holmes for Ennis, defeated at Bandon Bridge, 22 July 1831, considered for Newark by Newcastle, whose offer he ‘wisely declined’, and eventually accommodated at Dunwich by Michael Barne* for £1,000 a year, 2 Feb. 1832.102 He divided against the enfranchisement of Tower Hamlets, 28 Feb., and the third reading of the revised reform bill, 22 Mar., and voted against the Irish reform bill at its second reading, 25 May. He hoped in vain to see Wellington return to office that month, and was appointed to the committees established by the Conservatives to manage the English elections and a partisan press.103 He divided against government on the Russian-Dutch loan, 12 July 1832.104

Lowther set out on a lengthy tour of France and Italy in September 1832, leaving his brother Henry in charge of the first post-reform elections in Cumberland and Westmorland.105 After much wrangling he successfully contested Cumberland West and Westmorland in absentia and chose to sit for the latter, which he represented without interruption until summoned to the Lords in September 1841.106 Unsuited for high office by his poor debating skills, he was a shrewd and cool political observer, who remained loyal to the Conservatives, filling places under Peel and Lord Derby, and regularly hosted party and business meetings at his Carlton Terrace residence, noted for its Louis XV style and ‘profusion of fine old Sèvres china’.107 After succeeding his father as earl of Lonsdale and to the county lord lieutenancies in 1844, he took pride in instigating land drainage schemes and patronising London and provincial opera, but he spent little time at Lowther Castle. He died at Carlton Terrace in March 1872, remembered for his wealth, love of the arts and electioneering, and as the inspiration for Lord Eskdale in Benjamin Disraeli’s† novels Conningsby (1844) and Tancred (1847).108 Despite his father’s admonitions and testamentary provisions, Lowther, who acknowledged three illegitimate children by three opera singers, never married, and the main beneficiary of his will, proved on 28 Mar. 1872, was his nephew Henry Lowther (1818-76), Conservative Member for Cumberland West, 1847-1872, his successor in the earldom and Lonsdale estates. He provided £125,000 each for his daughter Frances Broadwood (d. 1890) and son Francis William (1841-1908), a naval captain.109

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Margaret Escott


  • 1. Heber Letters, 196.
  • 2. H. Owen, Lowther Fam. 395-6; J.R. McQuiston, ‘The Lonsdale Connection and its Defender’, Northern Hist. xi (1975), 143-97; The Times, 13 Sept. 1819.
  • 3. HP Commons, 1790-1820, ii. 405-8; iv. 462-5; W.A. Hay, ‘Henry Brougham and the 1818 Westmorland Election: A Study in Provincial Opinion and the Opening of Constituency Politics’, Albion, xxxvi (2004), 28-51, and The Whig Revival, 1808-1830, pp. 67-87.
  • 4. Owen, 393; Lonsdale mss, Lowther’s diary, January 1820.
  • 5. Clwyd RO, Lowther mss DD/L/178, J. Lowther to Lonsdale and replies, 26 Jan.-24 Mar.; Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale and replies, Feb.-Apr., Ward to Lonsdale, 6, 23 Mar., Long to Lowther, 14, 20, 23 Mar., J. Lowther to same, 12 Feb.; The Times, 20-23, 25 Mar.; Whitehaven Gazette, 27 Mar. 1820.
  • 6. Lowther mss DD/L/178, J. Lowther to Lowther [1820].
  • 7. Add. 40395, f. 221; St. Deiniol’s Lib. Glynne-Gladstone mss 276, Huskisson to J. Gladstone, 10 Dec. 1826; 350, J. Gladstone’s pprs. on the 1825 Liverpool-Manchester railway bill.
  • 8. Lowther mss 178, J. Lowther to Lowther, 23, 27 Feb. 1821.
  • 9. The Times, 12 Apr.; Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale, 12 Apr. 1823.
  • 10. Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale, 21-28 Mar. 1825.
  • 11. The Times, 2, 18 May, 12 July 1820.
  • 12. Ibid. 17 July 1820.
  • 13. Croker Pprs. i. 159; Lonsdale mss, Lowther’s diary, 9, 16 Nov. 1820.
  • 14. Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale, 27 Jan. 1821.
  • 15. Ibid. Lowther to Lonsdale, 27 Feb.; Brougham mss, Sir J. Graham to Brougham, 15 Mar.; The Times, 16 Mar., 4 Apr. 1821; CJ, lxxvi. 230.
  • 16. The Times, 13, 18 Apr. 1821.
  • 17. Ibid. 24 Feb., 13 Apr. 1820.
  • 18. Croker Pprs. i. 194; Lonsdale mss, Lowther’s diary, 16 Nov.-20 Dec. 1821; Von Neumann Diary, i. 89.
  • 19. The Times, 12, 14 Feb. 1822.
  • 20. Geo. IV Letters, ii. 1043.
  • 21. Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale, n.d. Oct., 12 Nov. 1822.
  • 22. Ibid. same to same, 24 Jan.-9 Apr. 1823.
  • 23. The Times, 12 Apr.; Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale, 12 Apr. 1823.
  • 24. Northumb. RO, Middleton mss ZM1/S/76/52/2, 3; The Times, 19, 25 Sept. 1826.
  • 25. The Times, 23, 29 May 1823.
  • 26. Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale, 18 Nov., 8 Dec. 1823.
  • 27. Ibid. same to same, 15 Jan., 11, 17 Feb. 1824.
  • 28. The Times, 11, 26 Feb., 12, 16, 24, 31 Mar., 6, 15 Apr., 19 May 1824.
  • 29. Ibid. 14 Apr. 1824.
  • 30. Ibid. 14 Apr., 4 May 1824, 5 Mar. 1825.
  • 31. Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale, 21-28 Mar.; The Times, 29 Apr. 1825.
  • 32. Lonsdale mss, A. Stewart to Lowther, 23 May, Lowther to Lonsdale, 12 July, 12, 14 Sept., 18 Oct., Lowther’s diary, 2 July-18 Sept. 1825; Gwynedd Archives, Caernarfon XD/8/2/215; McQuiston, 160-2.
  • 33. Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale, 19, 24, 29 Sept., 12 Oct. 1825.
  • 34. Arbuthnot Jnl. i. 414; Hobhouse Diary, 119; Lonsdale mss, Lowther’s diary, 20 Sept.-2 Dec. 1825.
  • 35. Lonsdale mss, Lowther’s diary, 2 Dec. 1825-2 Jan. 1826; Lowther to Lonsdale, 12 Nov.-28 Dec. 1825.
  • 36. Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale, 9 Feb. 1826.
  • 37. The Times, 15 Mar., 2 May 1826; CJ, lxxxi. 202, 252, 310, 391.
  • 38. The Times, 23 Feb., 11 Mar., 20 Apr. 1826.
  • 39. McQuiston, 162-6; R.S. Ferguson, Cumb. and Westmld. MPs, 245-50; The Times, 11 Apr., 1, 12, 20-23, 26, 30 June, 1, 13, 18 July 1826; Baring Jnls. i. 48.
  • 40. Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale, 1 Aug., 25 Oct., 27 Nov. 1826, 3, 7, 17 Jan. 1827.
  • 41. Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale, 5 Jan. 1827.
  • 42. Geo. IV Letters, ii. 1289; Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale, 7 Mar. 1827.
  • 43. The Times, 3 Apr. 1827.
  • 44. Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale, 27 Nov. 1826; The Times, 27 Feb. 1827.
  • 45. The Times, 24 Mar. 1827.
  • 46. Ibid. 22 Mar. 1827.
  • 47. N. Gash, Secretary Peel, 42, 430; Geo. IV Letters, ii. 1289.
  • 48. Lonsdale mss, Lonsdale to Lowther, 25 Apr.; Nottingham Univ. Lib. Denison diary, 14 Apr. 1827.
  • 49. Lonsdale mss, Lyndhurst to Beckett, n.d., Beckett to Lowther, 14 Apr., Canning to same, 4 May, Lonsdale to same, 13 May 1827; Croker Pprs. i. 372-4; Add. 48406, ff. 118, 121.
  • 50. Durham CRO, Londonderry mss D/Lo/C83/25 (1).
  • 51. Lonsdale mss.
  • 52. The Times, 19 June 1827.
  • 53. Ibid. 30 June 1827.
  • 54. Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale, 21 July-17 Aug. 1827; McQuiston, 168-73.
  • 55. Geo. IV Letters, iii. 1381; Wellington mss WP1/895/15, 22, 25, 44; Add. 40394, f. 189; Lonsdale mss, Lonsdale to Lowther, 6 Sept. 1827.
  • 56. Croker Pprs. i. 392-4; Grey mss, Ellice to Grey, 15 Aug.; Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale, 7 Sept., 5, 10 Oct. 1827.
  • 57. Wellington mss WP1/903/20; 915/21; Geo. IV Letters, iii. 1454; Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale and replies, 10 Jan.-3 Feb. 1828; Buckingham, Mems. Geo. IV, ii. 363; Add. 38754, f. 215; Ellenborough Diary, i. 11.
  • 58. Cent. Kent. Stud. Stanhope mss U1590 C335, Pusey to Mahon, 8 Apr. 1828.
  • 59. Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale [1828].
  • 60. Wellington mss WP1/933/11; 980/30; Ellenborough Diary, i. 125; Arbuthnot Jnl. ii. 189.
  • 61. Carlisle Jnl. 7, 14, 21 June 1828.
  • 62. CJ, lxxxiii. 418-19, 473, 481, 491, 504, 535, 544.
  • 63. Wellington mss WP1/935/24; 951/65; 952/19; 953/15; 956/25; Add. 40397, f. 326; Northants. RO, Agar Ellis diary, 7 July 1828.
  • 64. Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale, 22 Dec.-4 Feb. 1829.
  • 65. Lonsdale mss, Lowther’s memo. 15-17 Jan. 1829.
  • 66. Wellington mss WP1/994/28; 995/4; 1000/12, 13; Grey mss, Ellice to Grey, 6 Feb. 1829; N. Gash, Secretary Peel, 556; Ellenborough Diary, i. 333, 340.
  • 67. Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale, 3-7 Feb.; Grey mss, Howick jnl. 8 Feb. 1829.
  • 68. Croker Pprs. ii. 7-11; Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale, 11 Feb. 1829.
  • 69. Ellenborough Diary, i. 365.
  • 70. Croker Pprs. iii. 159; Ellenborough Diary, i. 382, 385; Wellington mss WP1/1002/8; Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Wellington, 9 Mar. 1829.
  • 71. Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale, 12-31 Mar. 1829.
  • 72. Wellington mss WP1/996/18; Arbuthnot Jnl. 250-1; Howick jnl. 10 Mar.; Keele Univ. Lib. Sneyd mss, Ellis to Sneyd, 16 Mar., Lady Bathurst to same [19 Mar.]; Add. 76369, Althorp to Brougham, 18 Mar.; Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale, 24 Mar.; Brougham mss, Lord J. Russell to Brougham, 25 Mar. 1829.
  • 73. Wellington mss WP1/1011/9, 10; 1014/15, 16; Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale, 16 Apr. 1829.
  • 74. Lonsdale mss, Lonsdale to Lowther, 17, 19, 21 Apr., Holmes to same, 25 Apr., Beckett to same, 25 Apr. 1829.
  • 75. CJ, lxxxiv. 365, 399, 416.
  • 76. Wellington mss WP1/1036/31; 1039/28; 1042/21, 54, 62; 1100/18.
  • 77. Arbuthnot Jnl. ii. 283.
  • 78. Add. 51562, Brougham to Holland [14 Aug.]; Lonsdale mss, Sadler to Lowther, 22 Oct. 1829.
  • 79. Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale, 22 Sept., 2 Nov., 22 Dec. 1829, 11 Jan. 1830.
  • 80. Ibid. bdle. for Cumb. meeting (1830), Lowther to Lonsdale, 18-28 Jan. 1830.
  • 81. Ibid. Lowther to Lonsdale, 4, 6 Feb. 1830.
  • 82. Greville Mems. i. 363-4; Lincs. AO, Ancaster mss 3Anc 9/2/20, Valletort to Heathcote, 9 Feb. 1830.
  • 83. Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale, 22 Feb., 1, 3 Mar. 1830.
  • 84. Howick jnl. 30 Mar., 6 Apr. 1830; CJ, lxxxv. 151, 180, 184, 209-10, 253, 278, 355.
  • 85. Wellington mss WP1/1102/3; 1122/46.
  • 86. CJ, lxxxv. 548, 565, 569, 576, 579.
  • 87. Notts Archives, Tallents mss, Clinton to Tallents, 23 Feb. 1830.
  • 88. Wellington mss WP1/1139/1.
  • 89. Palmerston-Sulivan Letters, 240.
  • 90. Lonsdale mss, bdles. for 1830 election, Lowther to Lonsdale, 18 July-21 Sept.; Wilts. RO, Radnor mss 490/1374, Radnor’s memo. 9 July; Nottingham Univ. Lib. Ne2 F3/1/248; Carlisle Jnl. 17, 24 July, 7, 14 Aug. 1830; McQuiston, 176-7.
  • 91. Agar Ellis diary, 23, 27 Nov. 1830.
  • 92. Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale, 16, 17 Nov. 1830; Three Diaries, 2.
  • 93. Add. 40340, f. 250; Three Diaries, 27, 37, 45, 47, 56-57, 63; Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale, 22 Nov. 1830-24 Jan. 1831.
  • 94. Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale, 25 Feb., 2 Mar. 1831.
  • 95. Three Diaries, 13; Le Marchant, Althorp, 297.
  • 96. Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale, 22 Nov. 1830, 7 Mar., 3, 4 Apr.; Grey mss, Ellice to Grey, 6 Apr. 1831.
  • 97. Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale, 28, 29 Apr.; Lowther mss, J.H. to J. Lowther, 28 Apr.; Sir James Graham mss (IHR microfilm XR 80),1, bdle. 5, Graham to Grey, 5 May; The Times, 28, 29 Apr., 11, 12, 14, 24 May; Westmld. Advertiser, 30 Apr., 7, 14 May 1831; Three Diaries, 7, 90; Northumb. RO, Hope-Wallace mss ZHW/2/12, 14, 15; Greville Mems. ii. 147.
  • 98. The Times, 10 May 1831.
  • 99. Lonsdale mss, Lonsdale to Lowther, 16 May 1831.
  • 100. Von Neumann Diary, i. 124, 248.
  • 101. NLW, Ormathwaite mss FG1/5, pp. 183, 240; Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale, 11, 22 July, 29 Sept.-29 Oct.; Sheffield Archives, Wharncliffe mss, Harrowby to Wharncliffe, 22 Nov. 1831; Macaulay Letters, ii. 17, 143; Three Diaries, 93, 100, 177, 250; Wellington mss WP1/1199/13.
  • 102. Add. 40402, f. 183; Westmld. Advertiser, 30 July, 20 Aug.; Tallents mss, Newcastle to Tallents, 2 Nov., 2 Dec.; Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale, 13 Dec. 1831, 21 Jan.; Sneyd mss SC17/68; Ipswich Jnl. 18, 25 Feb. 1832.
  • 103. Add. 57370, Arbuthnot to Herries, 11 June 1832; Three Diaries, 257, 266, 269.
  • 104. The Times, 14 July 1832.
  • 105. Lonsdale mss, H.C. Lowther to Benn, June-Dec. 1832.
  • 106. Sir James Graham mss 2, bdle. 14, Graham to Rev. E. Stanley, 7 July, 21 Aug.; Brougham mss, Crackanthorpe to J. Brougham, 21 July, 11 Aug., 1 Dec., J. Brougham to Atkinson, 15, 21 Nov., 19 Dec.; Lonsdale mss, bdles. for 1832 election.
  • 107. N. Gash, Sir Robert Peel, 458, 563; J.R. Vincent, Disraeli, Derby and the Conservative Party, 76; Greville Mems. iii. 104; v. 14; vi. 283; Raikes Jnl. ii. 353; iv. 198-9; Von Neumann Diary, ii. 145.
  • 108. The Times, 6, 11, 13 Mar.; Cumb. Pacquet, 12 Mar. 1872; Ann. Reg. (1872), Chron. p. 145.
  • 109. The Times, 6 Apr. 1872; Owen, 376-8, 391-2; Oxford DNB.