PRICE, Samuel Grove (1793-1839), of Knebworth, Herts. and 9 Gray's Inn Square, Mdx.
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Family and Education
b. 17 June 1793, o.s. of Rev. Morgan Price, rect. of Knebworth and Letchworth, and Catherine, da. and h. of Samuel Grove of Taynton, Glos. educ. by Rev. Roberts; Eton 1808; Trinity Coll. Camb. 1810, BA 1815, fellow, Downing 1817, MA 1818; L. Inn 1813, called 1818; G. Inn 1823. m. 4 Dec. 1830,1 Marianne, da. of William Page of 5 Fitzroy Square, Mdx., 2s. suc. fa. 1830. d. 17 June 1839.
There is some doubt as to the identity of Price’s father, but he was probably the Morgan Price, son of Lewis Price of Prignant, Cardiganshire, who matriculated at Christ Church, Oxford on 10 Dec. 1768, aged 21. If so, he was turned 41 when he married in January 1789, just under a year after his institution as rector of Knebworth, Hertfordshire. His wife’s inheritance at Taynton lay six miles from Gloucester, of which city he acquired the freedom in 1794; and he may have had a family connection with Morgan Price, a Gloucester timber merchant, who died in 1776 and whose descendants lived at Tibberton, adjacent to Taynton.2
Samuel Grove Price, an only child, left Eton with a high reputation as a scholar, which he enhanced at Cambridge. His contemporary Charles John Shore, president of the Union Society, recalled him as its ‘principal Conservative speaker’ and ‘an ardent and chivalrous high Tory’, who ‘revered’ and modelled himself on Burke ‘as the denouncer of the French Revolution’. Although Price supposedly had ‘a distaste for the law’, he went the home circuit after his call to the bar and found occasional work as a parliamentary counsel.3 He attended the Hertfordshire county meeting called to petition for parliamentary reform, 8 Feb. 1823, but was shouted down when he attacked reform as ‘the euthanasia of the British constitution’.4 To set the record straight, he published an expanded and improved version of his speech, in which he argued that there was no connection between ‘the depression of the agricultural interest and the construction of the Commons’ and predicted that reform, by upsetting the essential balance of the existing constitution, would lead, ‘after a feverish and convulsive struggle, into an inconvenient and ill-digested republic’:
I confess that my views of the future are somewhat melancholy: I fear more from what is likely to fail within, than from what menaces us without. A rash, presumptuous, meddling spirit has usually preceded the downfall of every free state in the world. There is something, I fear, like this spirit abroad at present.
Price voted for the anti-Catholic William Bankes* at the Cambridge University by-election of 1822. In the uproar provoked in the Senate House in 1826 by a Whig attempt to have the bribery oath administered, he mounted the vice-chancellor’s table and ‘declared he had never been insulted in his life till this day’.5 At the nomination for Hertfordshire that year, he intervened to attack the unopposed candidates for their support of Catholic relief; and at a dinner to celebrate the return for Hertford of the nominee of the 2nd marquess of Salisbury, 11 July 1826, he delivered a long anti-Catholic rant.6
Price was taken up by Salisbury, whom he may have known at Eton and who shared his extreme Tory views. In April 1827 he wrote at Salisbury’s behest a piece for the Herts Mercury in which he praised the retiring ministers and indirectly censured their successor Canning. Salisbury had ‘never read a cleverer paragraph’ and told him that ‘if you can write in so formidable a strain as that which pervades this short essay, you have it in your power to render the cause you have espoused most essential service’.7 The following March he composed for Salisbury’s private amusement a spiteful and tasteless verse epitaph on Canning, which began:
Sprung from a harlot, by a playwright got,
Here George remains, in infamy, to rot;
A wretch, condemned to everlasting fame,
Without one virtuous tear to blot his name.8
He continued to act as Salisbury’s go-between with the editor of the Mercury.9 On 2 Nov. 1828 the Hertfordshire Whig Lord Dacre informed Lord Holland of
various little, contemptible and hitherto most ineffectual attempts to excite the Brunswick mania in different parts of this county. At the sessions a pert barrister, of the name of Price, produced a species of declaration of faith - half political, half polemical - in the hope of obtaining priestly signatures. He did not get one. This Price is the instigator and organ of the intolerants. The fellow has no intellect, but he possesses great facility of loose declamation ... He is brought into contact with very many by attending the sessions as well at St. Albans as at Hertford. Thus, he is in a condition to produce some effect. Lord Salisbury is at Rome, and if here, he would not lend himself ... to the blandishments of the bigots.10
Like Salisbury, he was outraged by ministers’ concession of Catholic emancipation in 1829, and he ‘strained every nerve’ to ensure the apostate Peel’s defeat in the Oxford University by-election.11 In March 1829 he came forward at the last minute to contest a vacancy for Sandwich, where Sir Henry Fane, surveyor-general of the ordnance and a pragmatic supporter of emancipation, was expected to come in on the government interest. Price, who had been invited to stand by a local anti-Catholic clergyman, was too late in the field to be anything but a nuisance, and he finished 220 behind Fane in a poll of 402.12 He immediately declared his candidature for the next vacancy. At a meeting of the London freemen, 24 Apr. 1829, he attacked Wellington and Peel for their ‘expediency’ and condemned the ‘new-fangled notions respecting our commercial policy, by which the strength of the nation had been reduced’. In a typically portentous peroration he
declared himself to be a Tory ... He was a friend to civil and religious liberty, but did not agree that ... [it] would be advanced by altering the constitution ... We may prepare ourselves for a series of evils ... and ... a period of misery ... Let us hope that the new system of liberty will not cause sorrow and bloodshed.13
He duly stood for Sandwich at the general election of 1830 when, claiming to be ‘unfettered by any party connection’, he deplored emancipation and called for measures of ‘just economy’, enhanced protection and preservation of the constitution from ‘the evils of an unlimited monarchy, an overbearing aristocracy or a violent democracy’. His ministerialist opponent withdrew on the eve of the election leaving Price, who suffered from a ‘severe indisposition’ immediately afterwards, to come in with the independent sitting Member.14 He was to have been married on 24 Sept. 1830, but he was ‘fetched from Sandwich, at the moment he was quitting that place for another, where he was to meet his destined bride’, to attend his father’s death bed at Knebworth that day; he was ‘much cut up’. The wedding was postponed for ten weeks.15
Ministers listed Price among the ‘moderate Ultras’, but he was in their minority on the civil list, 15 Nov. 1830. At a Hertford election dinner, 24 Nov., he attributed distress to ‘a want of general credit’ and said that parliamentary reform was no solution. He explained that he had ‘found fault’ with Wellington’s ministry ‘for adopting too closely, and following with so much adherence, the opinions of the present [Grey] administration’; but that if forced to choose between them, he would opt for that of Wellington.16 In the House, 10 Dec., he disclaimed ‘any desire to embarrass the new government’, but tried to do precisely that by asking whether they had sanctioned or acquiesced in the united trades’ procession to St. James’s, which he considered to have been illegal. When a Member called him to order for digression, the Speaker took his side, and Price rambled on, making particular play of the alleged flaunting of the tricolour, ‘the signal of more crime, bloodshed, rapine, and destruction, than any other that has ever been raised in Europe’. Peel gave him little support. His intervention in a squabble over the corn laws, 11 Dec. 1830, earned him a rebuke from the chair for attributing expressions to another Member. He criticized petitioners against the burden of tithes in St. Giles, Cripplegate, 11 Feb., and attacked the proposed tax on steamboat passengers, 17 Feb. 1831. He ridiculed ministers’ failure to execute in office promises of civil list economies made in opposition, 28 Mar., and on 30 Mar., disregarding protests at his prolixity, accused them of allowing Spanish liberal refugees to use Gibraltar as a base for insurgency. Price voted against the second reading of the ministerial reform bill, 22 Mar. In an exchange with his colleague Marryat, 25 Mar., he cited his own return as proof that Sandwich was not ‘an appendage to the admiralty’ and denounced in general terms the ‘bill of pains and penalties’, which would disfranchise at least half his constituents. On 30 Mar. he asserted that ‘I do not wish to retain my seat in this House after the reform bill passes’. The same day Tom Macaulay, who had encountered him at Cambridge, wondered ‘why did not the great Samuel Grove Price speak’ in the debate on the second reading:
He often came to the front rows, and sat making notes. Everybody expected him to rise, and prepared night-caps accordingly. But he always sneaked away. On my soul, I believe that he is a craven with all his blushes. Indeed if he is afraid, it is the best thing that I ever knew of him. For a more terrible audience there is not in the world.17
Price, whose ‘accidental aid’, according to the Rev. George Gleig of Ash, near Sandwich, enabled a meeting of local Tories to take ‘much higher ground’ than he had expected in declaring against reform, voted for Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831.18 Two days later he protested against Dr. Lushington’s assertion that the present corrupt Parliament deserved to be dissolved. There were cheers from the ministerial benches when he said that this was ‘possibly ... even ... probably’ the last time he would address the House. Price, who claimed to be ‘in infirm health’, held up the 1830 revolution in France as an awful example, and quoted De Lolme, Hume, Addison, Bolingbroke and of course Burke in a wild diatribe against the bill. There was a laugh at his pronouncement that ‘we are now standing in the eleventh hour of the constitution’; but, unabashed, he predicted that once embarked in ‘the career of revolution’, ministers would be ‘hurried, with an accelerating velocity’ into the ‘abyss’ of ‘confusion, civil war, and ... a military despotism’.
Price, whose father had died intestate, with effects sworn under £200,19 was in some trouble at Sandwich, where there was considerable support for the reform bill, despite its threat to the voting rights of freemen: ‘the reformers’, he wrote, ‘are moving heaven and earth against me’, for his speech of 21 Apr. had ‘driven them frantic’. He was opposed by Marryat and Sir Thomas Troubridge*, a naval officer who stood on the government interest. Price managed to prevent any second anti-reform candidate, endorsed by Wellington in his capacity as lord warden of the Cinque Ports, being sent down to join him, and professed to be ‘quite certain if I am left undisturbed’. Yet his appearance at Deal provoked a riot, which forced him to abandon his canvass, and he gave up on the third day, when he lagged 100 behind Troubridge.20 In a long and defiant address, 7 May, he attributed his defeat largely to government influence, though he did acknowledge the strength of ‘popular excitement’ on reform. He denounced the politicians of all parties who, under the spell of those ‘pretended philosophers, the political economists’, had ‘tampered with the agriculture, the commerce, the shipping of this country’ and ‘contracted the currency and limited that credit, without which the agricultural and manufacturing interests can never flourish’.21
Price returned to London with a letter of introduction to Wellington from Gleig, who wrote:
At a crisis like the present, when above all things talent and a knowledge of the constitution are needed in the House of Commons, a vacancy ought to be made for Mr. Price at almost any cost.
Wellington replied that Price was ‘one of those whom I should be most anxious to see in Parliament, if it should ever be in my power to take any steps upon such a subject’. In July 1831 the duke was in negotiation for an unspecified seat for Price, but this collapsed, to the great regret of Gleig, who hoped that ‘some other opening may yet occur’.22 Price remained active at Sandwich, which he continued to cultivate, and in Kent as an opponent of the reintroduced reform bill. He harangued meetings at Sandwich, 7 July, and Sittingbourne, 3 Aug., when he called it ‘a decoy duck intended to lead us on to a revolution’.23 With Gleig, he organized a Sandwich meeting to petition the Lords against the bill, 29 Sept.; he travelled from Cheltenham to address it.24 On 7 Nov. 1831 he wrote to Gleig from his then London house at 20 Guildford Street, Russell Square:
I am fortified to the teeth, in ‘my castle’. I am determined to set the example of resistance to a turbulent and felonious mob at any risk of person, or personal misrepresentation ... You may depend upon my temper and forbearance, until forbearance shall be feebleness, and until the law shall justify more decisive measures. But my house shall not be invaded with impunity, whatever be the sacrifice. We do live in fearful times, but the firmness of the crew may bring weather-beaten ships to port. Dreadful is the example of Bristol, but it may be salutary ... We have been hitherto undisturbed, but there is a meeting of the most desperate Jacobins now, I am informed, in White Conduit Fields. Numerous ill-looking fellows have flocked to town, I have no doubt from Birmingham, etc. I expect something this afternoon or night, and am quite prepared. You would smile to see my arsenal.25
In January 1832 he assisted Salisbury and Lord Verulam in their promotion of a Hertfordshire address to the king calling for the suppression of political unions and applauding his reported refusal to create peers to carry the reform bill. Later in the year he drew up for Salisbury draft articles of impeachment against Lord Grey for his ‘unconstitutional use’ of the king’s name and threats to create peers.26
The opposition whip Holmes pointed out to Wellington in November 1831 that Price, ‘violent Protestant as he was’, had ‘voted with us on the civil list, and has ever since acted in concert with the Conservative party’.27 His candidature for the reformed constituency of Sandwich at the 1832 general election had their backing, but he was beaten by the sitting Members.28 Salisbury had him in mind as a candidate for Hertford after the election there had been declared void in April 1833, but subsequently set him aside for Wellington’s younger son. (In the event, no new writ was issued until the dissolution in December 1834.) Price was one of the counsel employed by Salisbury in the libel suits of July 1833 against Thomas Duncombe* arising out of the Hertford election.29 He was ‘seriously ill’ early in 1834, when he was living at Sunninghill, Berkshire, and he boasted to Salisbury of his ‘most perfect hatred, contempt and aversion’ to the Whigs, ‘the vilest faction which the empire ever beheld’.30 With his Conservative friends in power, he topped the poll at Sandwich in 1835, but he lost his seat again in 1837. He was an enthusiastic supporter of Don Carlos in the Spanish civil conflict.31
An anonymous schoolfellow and uncritical admirer of Price credited him with ‘a powerful and comprehensive mind’ and a capacity for ‘bold, manly and sincere’ oratory.32 Shore wrote of him:
The sonorous and well-rounded sentences which had elicited the admiration even of his opponents at Cambridge wearied the House of Commons. His eloquence nevertheless was no less appreciated than his honesty. But he was an anachronism during the period of his parliamentary career ... Price was endowed with many excellent qualities, and beloved by a small number of attached friends.33
He died at Sunninghill on his forty-sixth birthday. By his brief will, dated 3 Apr. 1839, he devised all his property, which included that at Taynton, to his wife. His personalty was sworn under £1,500.34 His surviving sons Lettsom Grove Price and Stanhope Grove Price went to Eton; and in 1870 the latter, a naval officer, took the name of Grove instead of Price after coming into possession of the Taynton property.35
Ref Volumes: 1820-1832
Author: David R. Fisher
- 1. Gent. Mag. (1830), ii. 640.
- 2. Ibid. (1789), i. 86; R. Clutterbuck, Herts. ii. 380; J.E. Cussans, Herts. ‘Broadwater’, 26, 115; Reg. Gloucester Freemen ed. A.R.J. Jurica, 182, 208, 236; VCH Glos. iv. 127.
- 3. Gent. Mag. (1839), ii. 200; Lord Teignmouth, Reminiscences, i. 48.
- 4. The Times, 10 Feb. 1823.
- 5. Ibid. 15 June 1826; Palmerston-Sulivan Letters, 183.
- 6. Herts Mercury, 17 June, 15 July 1826.
- 7. Ibid. 21 Apr.; Hatfield House mss 2M/Gen., Price to Salisbury and reply, 18 Apr. 1827.
- 8. Hatfield House mss 2M/Gen., Price to Salisbury, 16 Mar. 1828.
- 9. Ibid. Macqueen to Salisbury, 20 July, 11 Sept., 2 Nov., Sunday [Dec. 1828].
- 10. Add. 51834.
- 11. Hatfield House mss 2M/Gen., Price to Salisbury, 4 Jan. 1829.
- 12. Kent Herald, 26 Mar., 2 Apr. 1829.
- 13. Kentish Gazette, 28 Apr. 1829.
- 14. Ibid. 2, 13, 20, 23, 27, 30 July, 10 Aug. 1830.
- 15. Hatfield House mss 2M, Nicholson to Salisbury, 24 Sept. 1830.
- 16. Herts Mercury, 27 Nov. 1830.
- 17. Macaulay Letters, ii. 11-12.
- 18. Wellington mss, Gleig to Wellington, 9, 13 Apr. 1831.
- 19. PROB 6/207.
- 20. Hatfield House mss 2M/Gen., Price to Salisbury, 23 Apr.; Wellington mss WP1/1182/11; Gleig to Wellington, 22 Apr.; Kent Herald, 7, 14, 21, 28 Apr., 5 May 1831.
- 21. Kentish Gazette, 10 May 1831.
- 22. Wellington mss, Gleig to Wellington, 9 May, 21 Sept. 1831; WP1/1186/11; 1190/17; 1191/11, 14; 222/15, 16.
- 23. Kent Herald, 7, 14 July, 4 Aug. 1831.
- 24. Ibid. 29 Sept., 6 Oct. 1831.
- 25. Wellington mss WP1/1196/35; WP2/215/72.
- 26. Herts Mercury, 7 Jan.; Hatfield House mss 2M, draft articles .
- 27. Wellington mss WP2/215/67.
- 28. Ibid. WP2/215/70; 222/85; Hatfield House mss 2M/Gen., Mahon to Salisbury, 7 Oct. 1832.
- 29. Wellington Pol. Corresp. i. 160, 196; V. Rowe, ‘Hertford Borough Bill’, PH, xi (1992), 90, 103-3; Morning Post, 13, 15 July 1833.
- 30. Hatfield House mss 2M/Gen., Price to Salisbury, 5 Mar. 1834.
- 31. Wellington Pol. Corresp. ii. 245; Add. 40407, f. 91.
- 32. Gent. Mag. (1839), ii. 200-1; Add. 40427, f. 394.
- 33. Teignmouth, i. 49.
- 34. PROB 8/232 (5 Sept. 1839); 11/1916/586.
- 35. London Gazette, 27 Dec. 1870.