STUART WORTLEY, James Archibald (1776-1845), of Wortley Hall, Yorks.; 15 Curzon Street, Mayfair, Mdx. and Belmont, Perth.

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



1802 - 1818
1818 - 1826

Family and Education

b. 6 Oct. 1776, 2nd s. and event. h. of Hon. James Archibald Stuart† and Margaret, da. of Sir David Cunynghame, 3rd bt., of Milncraig, Ayr. educ. Charterhouse 1789-90. m. 30 Mar. 1799, Lady Elizabeth Caroline Mary Creighton, da. of John, 1st Earl Erne [I], 3s. (1 d.v.p.) 2da. (1 d.v.p.). Took additional name of Wortley (with his fa.) 17 Jan. 1795; additional name of Mackenzie 17 June 1826; suc. fa. 1818; cr. Bar. Wharncliffe 12 July 1826. d. 19 Dec. 1845.

Offices Held

Ensign 48 Ft. 1790; lt. 7 Ft. 1791; capt. 98 Ft. 1794, maj. 1794, brevet lt.-col. 1796; lt.-col. 12 Ft. 1796; capt. and lt.-col. 1 Ft. Gds. 1797, ret. 1801; lt.-col. S.W. Yorks. yeomanry 1803, commdt. militia 1810.

PC 16 Dec. 1834; ld. privy seal Dec. 1834-Apr. 1835; ld. pres. of council Sept. 1841-d.

Ld. lt. Yorks. 1841-d.


According to Greville, Wortley, as he was usually known, occupied a ‘place in the political scale’ which ‘was that of the most conspicuous and important of the country gentlemen’. A ‘forcible’ rather than ‘eloquent’ debater, whose speeches were ‘more argumentative than ornamental’, at the 1820 general election he offered again for Yorkshire, where he had been returned unopposed in 1818 as part of an unpopular compromise between the leading interests.1 He had asked his uncle Sir William Cunynghame for a loan of £7,000 to enable him to stand again, which made his total debt to him £8,000.2 Defending his record at the Leeds Cloth Halls, where he was received with much hissing, 4 Mar., he called for repeal of the recent wool tax, which ‘every principle of political economy was against’, justified his votes for the Six Acts, arguing that ‘it was better to endure a temporary suspension’ of liberty ‘than to incur the evils of anarchy’, and explained that although he was no reformer, he would listen carefully to the arguments on both sides for enfranchising Leeds.3 He canvassed the West Riding extensively, describing to his wife, 13 Mar., ‘such a hooting and hissing from an immense mob at Sheffield as never was heard ... the Barnsley radicals too made a delightful noise ... By the respectable people, everywhere, I am received with open arms’.4 At the nomination, 20 Mar., Edward Baines, editor of the Whig Leeds Mercury, criticized his failure to support the county meeting over Peterloo and votes for the Six Acts, whereupon Wortley again defended his record, insisting that ‘he had not forfeited one pledge which he had given, and he left it to the freeholders to say, whether his conduct had not squared with his professions’. They had no chance to do so as he was returned unopposed. At his celebration dinner he warned that there were

but now two parties. One was those who loved the constitution and would support it; the other, those who talked about it, but united with the radicals. The time ... may not be far distant when we shall be called upon to support the principles we profess, for the present state of things cannot long exist. The party calling themselves Whigs must either entirely amalgamate with the radicals, or the radicals will pull them down.5

In the House Wortley resumed his line as an independent supporter of the Liverpool ministry, who paid close attention to matters of procedure. Despite what he had said during the election, he was suspected of being ‘not very much in earnest’ about repeal of the wool tax;6 but in the early stages of the 1820 Parliament he devoted much time to it. He condemned it as a ‘cruel measure’ and urged its repeal, 3 May, brought up multiple petitions against it from the West Riding that month, and when his colleague Lord Milton introduced his repeal motion, 26 May, asserted that it was the ‘universal opinion’ of those involved in the woollen industry that the tax had been ‘a deadly blow’. That day he presented a Forfar petition to extend the linen bounties, as enjoyed by Irish producers, to the manufacturers on the mainland. He reaffirmed his opposition to the wool tax, which ‘had almost ruined the export trade in wools, and had been quite inefficient to protect the grower’, 18 June 1821.7 During discussion of the remit of the newly appointed committee on agricultural distress, 31 May 1820, he backed the ministerial proposal to limit its scope, noting that although the agriculturists were entitled to ‘every protection which could be consistently extended to them’, they of all classes ‘were suffering the least’ and their distress ‘bore no proportion to that of the manufacturers’. When the government sought to appoint a secret committee to investigate the behaviour of Queen Caroline, 7 June, Wortley said that he had ‘very little hope of any compromise’ before judicial proceedings against her were instigated, but as many thought a delay would help, he urged the House ‘to consider whether it ought not to make that small sacrifice’. Ministers failed in their own attempt to broker a deal a few days later, and on 22 June Wilberforce introduced his own compromise motion, which Wortley seconded, warning that if it was rejected there was no other option but to proceed with the inquiry and ‘for months to come, the country would be plunged into a state of agitation’. The motion passed and Wortley, Wilberforce, Sir Thomas Acland and Henry Bankes were deputed to present the resolutions to the queen, 24 June. They were received ‘in the most impertinent manner’ and her reply, read to them by Henry Brougham*, was a flat refusal. On leaving they were forced to make a dash for their carriage under a barrage of bricks and abuse from a large crowd that had gathered outside.8 Wortley reported on the failed mission to the House and later to Lord Liverpool.9 The motion to proceed with the inquiry was reintroduced, 26 June, when Wortley contended that the ministerial proposals were the ‘best adapted for the emergency of the case’. Over the next few months he vacillated in his opinion of the wisdom of introducing the bill of pains and penalties against the queen, and when her trial began became convinced that she would ‘damn herself by her own witnesses’, noting that her counsel, ‘seeing that their case was ruined’, were ‘catching at straws’.10 On 29 Oct. he advised his wife that ‘the second reading of the bill in the Lords will be carried’, which, he informed Liverpool, ‘would be the worst and most dangerous thing for the country possible’. Yet he predicted to his wife that it could ‘never go through the ... Commons, and will therefore probably be got rid of some how before it goes there’.11 After its abandonment Liverpool sought Wortley’s opinions, 30 Nov. In reply, 18 Dec., he expressed amazement that anyone with the evidence before them could have voted for her innocence, but ascribed the failure of the bill to the king’s actions, adding that whatever course ministers decided upon, they should act ‘in deference to the feelings of the better part of the community ... and by no means in deference to any personal feelings of the king’s’. He agreed with Liverpool’s determination to exclude the queen from the liturgy, she having forfeited ‘all moral right’, and urged him to put the question before Parliament as soon as possible. This, he contended, would ‘do more to strengthen your government than any other step’. He had no firm opinion on her being given a palace, but said that if she was granted an annuity of £50,000, it should be unconditionally, though personally he had ‘very great doubts’ about giving the queen ‘any such sum’. He concluded by declaring that it was unlikely that a Yorkshire county meeting to support her would take place because of disagreements between the Whigs and radicals.12 Arbuthnot, the patronage secretary, thanked Liverpool for an account of the letter, which he believed was ‘very important’, while Seymour Bathurst* told Lady Wortley that it ‘did my heart good ... it was worthy of a Blue and coming from a Bottled Green, it gave me, if possible, more satisfaction’.13

Wortley defended ministers on the issue, asserting that they had not yet ‘lost the public confidence so much as to reconcile the country to having the gentlemen opposite as their successors’, 31 Jan., and voted against their censure, 6 Feb., and a motion to restore the queen’s name to the liturgy, 13 Feb. 1821. The dowager duchess of Devonshire told his wife, 7 Feb., that his ‘firmness and manly expression of his opinions does him great credit everywhere’.14 Following the presentation of a petition complaining of the conduct of the sheriff of Cheshire, 9 Feb., he condemned all the sheriffs who had lately refused to hold county meetings in defiance of properly signed requisitions. After the queen’s death he asked ministers if pensions would be provided for all members of her household as was the custom, 13 July 1822. On being told that some would be excluded, he threatened to move an amendment to assert their rights, but never did so.15 He presented and endorsed a West Riding petition for inquiry into the stamping of woollen cloth, 8 Feb., and moved for one, to which he was appointed, 28 Mar. 1821.16 On 12 Feb. he spoke and was a majority teller against Nicolson Calvert’s amendment to the Grampound disfranchisement bill transferring its seats to a divided county of Yorkshire (two Members for the West Riding, two for the East and North). Dismissing claims that giving Leeds the Members would make them the puppets of the clothiers, he argued that the House would benefit from the presence of representatives of manufacturing, that there was neither precedent nor machinery for dividing the county, and that the result of giving Members to counties rather than towns would be ‘that the whole of the representation would fall into the hands of the aristocracy’. On 2 Mar. he welcomed the proposed enfranchisement of Leeds but spoke against adopting a £10 voting qualification, as it would produce too large an electorate, and moved as an amendment £20, which would ‘include every person of the rank of tradesman ... and give a body of voters of between 2,000 and 3,000’. After Milton’s proposal for a scot and lot franchise was rejected, Wortley’s amendment was carried, which induced Lord John Russell, the bill’s initiator, to abandon it. Taking it up himself Wortley moved the report, 5 Mar., and successfully pressed for the bill’s recommittal on the ground that his amendment had been misunderstood, explaining that he had not intended to limit the franchise to the owners of houses with an annual rental value of £20, but to enfranchise all occupiers ‘paying scot and lot on an annual rental of £20’. In moving the third reading, 19 Mar. 1821, he hoped ministers would refrain from using their influence in the Lords to defeat it.17 Liverpool was apparently dismayed, but by a compromise suggested by Lord Castlereagh and moved in the Lords by Liverpool in May, it was proposed that the seats should go to the county of Yorkshire as a whole.18 When the bill returned to the Commons, 30 May, Wortley protested that the Lords had ‘placed them in a more cruel situation than they had ever before stood in’: not only had they abrogated to themselves greater power, but their solution would satisfy nobody. He accordingly urged the rejection of the bill and a separate one to disfranchise Grampound, leaving the question of the disposal of the seats to be settled later, but the bill passed as amended. When Milton moved the Yorkshire election polls bill to alter the way the poll would be taken in consequence of the additional Members next day, Wortley observed that many gentlemen of all political persuasions and from all the ridings opposed the scheme.19 He presented hostile Huddersfield and York petitions, 29 Apr., 14 May 1822, and was a majority teller against it, 7 June 1822.

Wortley was in the opposition minority for printing the Nottingham petition for the impeachment of ministers, 20 Feb. 1821. To Sir Robert Wilson’s assertion that he could prove murder at Peterloo, 21 Feb., he retorted that the ‘place for preferring such a charge was surely a court of law’, and to those who complained that no inquiry had taken place he suggested, ‘why not set the question at rest by prosecuting any of the parties for common assault?’ He spoke in similar terms against Burdett’s motion for inquiry, 16 May. Commenting on the meeting of the Allied monarchs over Naples, 21 Feb., he declared that ‘if such a tribunal ... was suffered to exist’, not only Europe but ‘the British constitution was not safe’. He ‘spoke on the matter in a manner becoming a great English gentleman’, John William Ward* later informed the bishop of Llandaff.20 After the Allied sovereigns had issued the Laibach declaration Wortley, moving for a copy to be laid before the House, 21 June, argued that Britain ought to point out that the ‘doctrines advanced in that document were not consonant with those on which the government of this country acted’, adding that while those sovereigns had the right to determine how to govern their own people, ‘the moment they stepped out of their own territories ... to promulgate principles hostile to the existence of liberty, it became necessary for that House to express its opinion’. His motion was lost by 113-59. He voted for Catholic relief, 28 Feb., and dissented from a hostile petition from the clergy of York which he presented, 26 Mar.21 On 9 Mar. he contended that the Morning Chronicle was guilty of a breach of privilege for a ‘very foul libel’ in its report of one of Castlereagh’s speeches and moved that the printer and publisher attend at the bar, but was eventually prevailed upon to desist. He voted against repeal of the additional malt duty, 3 Apr. On Lambton’s motion for parliamentary reform, 17 Apr., he said that although there was ‘a strong and general’ feeling for it in the country, he believed that ‘even as constituted at present’ the Commons ‘was the only assembly for successfully carrying on the business of the nation’. He conceded that the constitution had evolved through innovations, but maintained that the effect of making elections too popular ‘would be to do away with the House of Lords’, and that if the ‘wild visions’ of some were realized, ‘the limited monarchy of England would be converted into a republic, and an end would be made to our glorious constitution’. He was granted ten days’ leave on private business, 7 May. He presented a Settle petition for revision of the criminal law, 17 May, and voted for abolition of the death penalty for forgery, 3 June. On 18 June he denied a charge of inconsistency in supporting both the estimates and repeal of the tax on husbandry horses, explaining that while he was in the general habit of voting with ministers, the repeal of a tax was ‘a very different case ... where every man exercised his own judgement as to its necessity’. He divided against Hume’s proposals for economy and retrenchment, 27 June. Writing to his wife, 20 July 1821, he observed that ‘although I hesitated a long time about going to the coronation, I confess I am glad I did go, for certainly nobody can see a more magnificent spectacle’, and predicted that owing to the queen’s affair, the bitter wrangle over the promotions in the Irish peerage and the resignation of Lord Hertford as lord chamberlain, ‘I fully expect that the government will not be in office long’.22 During a stay at Wortley Hall, Edward Littleton* noted in his diary, 3 Nov. 1821, that he was

rather disappointed in this visit, as far as the agrémens of place and establishment go, for I have seldom witnessed less show and splendour in the place of a gentleman of £5,000 a year. He got elected for the county during his father’s lifetime, and having been obliged to observe economy and parsimony, he seems now to be unable to shake off the habit and expand his mode of life with his means.23

However, Wortley was still indebted to Cunynghame, and his accounts for 1822 show that his household expenditure alone came to over £10,000 that year.24

He accepted that ‘it was the duty’ of the House ‘to enforce the severest retrenchment’, but opposed the amendment to the address because ministers had pledged themselves to that course and it was only fair to wait to see how far they would redeem their promise, 5 Feb. 1822. He voted with them against Brougham’s motion on the distressed state of the country, 11 Feb. On the motion for a select committee on agricultural distress, to which he was appointed, 18 Feb., he denied that the landed interest ‘had arrived at their present condition principally through their own fault’, cited the expenses that the recent wars had inflicted on the country, and endorsed the government’s proposals for retrenchment rather than tax reductions, hoping that the money saved would be put into the sinking fund to reduce the national debt and thereby lower interest rates. He criticized the scheme to issue exchequer bills to help relieve parishes, however, and insisted that the great object must be to ‘prevent that great influx of corn which was likely to pour in ... immediately after the price of grain reached the maximum now established by law’. He voted with ministers against further tax reductions, 21 Feb., and reducing the salt duties, 28 Feb., but was in the opposition majority for admiralty cuts, which the ‘circumstances of the times made it imperative’ to support, 1 Mar. Alarmed, the treasury circularized the country gentlemen to rally to government, and on Lord Normanby’s motion for abolition of one of the joint-postmasterships, 13 Mar., Wortley announced that ‘there was a point at which resistance must be made by those who wished to preserve the just influence of the crown’ and divided in the government majority. When Normanby reintroduced his proposal, 2 May, and ministers intimated that they might be willing to concede an inquiry, an outraged Wortley, having given his previous vote with ‘considerable hesitation’, declared that he would now vote with Normanby and led ‘40 other country gentlemen who a month ago had voted against’ into the opposition lobby to ensure the government’s defeat.25 He refused to back the superannuation amendment bill until more details were known, 11 Mar., supported the call for Henry Hunt* to be released from gaol, 14 Mar., and recommended equalization of the distillation laws of Ireland and the mainland to benefit barley growers, 27 Mar. He supported a similar adjustment of the Scottish distillery regulations, 29 Apr., and presented a Forfar petition for the export of whisky to England, 6 May.26 Presenting a Linlithgow petition complaining of distress, 1 Apr., he agreed that the tax reductions had been inadequate and endorsed its suggestion that government intervene to purchase £1,000,000 of corn, observing that the Bank of England, ‘by refusing to discount at a lower rate of interest, had contributed materially to the distress of the country’. He presented a Sculcoates petition to simplify the recovery of small debts, 18 Apr., and one from Burlington ship owners against the West Indies and American trade bill, 29 Apr.27 He presented West Riding petitions against the importation of foreign wool that day and 30 May, when he again complained that the wool tax had driven the British manufacturer out of the foreign market. On 10 July he sought assurances that ministers would try to reverse the Portuguese doubling of import duties on British wool.28 He presented petitions against the poor removal bill, 17, 31 May, and for revision of the criminal code, 17 May, 4 June. He brought up a Howden tanners’ petition against the leather tax, 17 May, and when presenting another from Sheffield, 20 May, suggested that relief would be best afforded by repeal of some of the assessed taxes, 20 May. He presented a Whitby petition against any alteration in the navigation laws that day,29 a York petition against alterations to the corn laws, 3 June, and a West Riding petition for equalization of the East and West Indian sugar duties, 25 June. The previous day he spoke against Brougham’s motion alleging an increase in influence of the crown, perceiving its real object to be a reform of Parliament. He voted for repeal of the salt duties, 28 June, although he believed it would be of little benefit to the country.30 He contended that the begging of the Irish poor in London should be stopped by giving them proper relief, 8 July 1822.31

In August 1822 John Croker*, writing to Peel about the political prospects following Lord Londonderry’s death, named Wortley as likely to be ‘inclined’ to join Canning if he did not go to India and went into opposition.32 However, Canning’s confidant Charles Ellis* warned Lord Granville, 20 Oct., ‘Pray be on your guard in talking to Wortley. I suspect that he is by no means friendly’. Writing again, 28 Nov., he added:

What you report of Wortley’s language is exactly what I had expected. He feels certain that C[anning]’s management of the House of Commons will not suit his book. He wants a man who will consent to bring forward a parcel of foolish measures which he and the Boodle’s cabinet may have the credit of throwing out. His pride is to take a rural gentleman to the minister, and to astonish his simplicity by the disagreeable things which he will say about government, and his mind misgives him that he cannot do this by Cannning.33

At the Yorkshire county reform meeting, 22 Jan. 1823, Wortley was the only speaker against the resolutions. Before a hostile crowd, he extolled the ‘great and magnificent blessings’ of the constitution, defended legitimate aristocratic influence and predicted ‘anarchy and revolution’ from wholesale reform. He and Richard Fountayne Wilson, later Ultra Member for the county, were the only dissentients from the petition. William Blackwood, editor of the Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, later praised him for having ‘bearded the lion in his den’.34 Wortley reiterated his objections when Milton presented the petition, 22 Apr., and voted against reform of the Scottish electoral system, 2 June, as he had against inquiry into the parliamentary franchise, 20 Feb. 1823. After the Commons had reconvened Canning, now leader of the House and foreign secretary, informed Liverpool, 9 Feb. 1823, that he had asked Wortley to show restraint about the developing crisis in the Peninsula, and warned the premier that

the mischief he may do if he opens the subject again, to limit and qualify and warn against war is incalculable. My apprehension is that he will fancy that HIS! expressions of disapprobation of the conduct of France will more than compensate for his pacific admonitions to the government, but it will do no such thing.35

When Canning informed the House, 14 Apr., that the French had declared war on Spain, he was strongly attacked, but he seemed to find solace in telling Peel that it had been ‘very well worth it ... not the less so as I find that Wortley is at Newmarket, and not likely to be in town till late in the week’.36 On 28 Apr. the Whig James Macdonald moved a vote of censure against ministers for their conduct in the affair, whereupon Wortley, declaring that ‘the true question [was] whether they did or did not approve ... the course they had taken during recent negotiations’, moved a pacific amendment, pouring scorn on Macdonald’s ‘totally visionary and unfounded’ view and asking what more ministers could have done without endangering Britain’s neutrality. The ensuing debate lasted three days, enabling Canning to deliver a robust defence, and resulted in a majority of 372-20 for Wortley’s amendment. On 14 Feb. he presented a Bradford petition against the Insolvent Debtors Act, which he said had produced ‘no good effect’ and required ‘some remedial measure’, 13 Mar.37 He thought that Whitmore’s motion to reduce the import price of corn to 60s. did not go far enough, 26 Feb., as ‘there was no safety for the agriculturalist unless the ports were kept constantly open, with a regulating duty’, before voting for it. He divided against Hume’s attempt to cap the sinking fund, 13 Mar., when he was appointed to the select committee on the game laws. When Lord Cranbourne proposed to revise them, 2 June, Wortley said that he was ‘anxious’ for some change, that the first step should be legalizing the sale of game, and that although the bill would not end poaching, it would help to diminish it and that therefore he would support it. He saw no necessity for the division of counties bill, 17 Mar.38 He was a minority teller against the wheat warehousing bill, 21 Mar. On 14 Apr. Charles Williams Wynn, president of the board of control, informed the duke of Buckingham that in a bid to limit the damage the pro-Catholic cause was likely to receive when Plunket introduced his motion to consider their claims, ‘we are trying in secret’ to persuade Wortley, amongst others, to ‘rise immediately after Plunket’ and ‘propose an adjournment’. This, he added, Wortley would be willing to do ‘to avoid offending ... Orange constituents and the government’.39 In the event, however, the motion was abandoned. He voted against inquiry into the prosecution of the Dublin Orange rioters, 22 Apr. He presented a Whitby petition for repeal of the leather tax, 26 May, and a York one to make permanent the temporary Act for the use of sulphuric acid in bleaching, 28 May.40 He welcomed proposals for altering the combination laws, 27 May. Next day he seconded Lord Nugent’s motion to put British Catholics on a par with the Irish, by enabling them to vote and fill certain offices. On 3 June his son John was returned for the family’s pocket borough of Bossiney, and thereafter there is some difficulty in distinguishing between them. When Milton presented a Leeds petition for repeal of the duty on foreign wool, 4 June, Wortley declared that ‘little benefit’ would be derived from free export as the foreign manufacturers would not resort to this country for wool that could be had on better terms elsewhere. He presented a Halifax petition against the workmens’ wages regulation bill, 9 June, Leeds and Manchester ones against repeal of the linen stamping bill, 18 June, and several from Yorkshire, and one from Bury, against any alteration in the wool duties, 24, 25 June.41 He presented a Whitby petition against the reciprocity of duties bill, 30 June, and spoke thus, arguing that ‘the protecting duty on grain could not be long continued, but must be brought nearer to the standard of the European markets’, 4 July 1823.

Wortley presented a Barnsley petition for repeal of the combination laws, 10 Feb., was appointed to the select committee to investigate them, 12 Feb. 1824, and, the same day, defended the legality of prisoners on remand being made to use the treadmill.42 Seeking leave to bring in a game laws amendment bill, 17 Feb., he said that ‘there could be no subject more important to the comfort, to the morals, and the well being of the people of this country’ and dismissed the fears of landowners as ‘unfounded’, arguing that the bill would facilitate the preservation of game by legalizing its sale, establishing shooting rights and facilitating punishments for persistent poachers. It received its second reading after he had made some minor concessions, 11 Mar., but although he secured the bill’s recommittal, 25 Mar., it was lost in committee, 31 May, whereupon Wortley gave notice that he would resurrect it next session. On 24 Feb. he condemned the government’s decision to reduce the duty on foreign wool and allow its free export, claiming that the manufacturers faced an act of ‘extreme injustice’ and demanding that they be either invited to direct talks with the government or allowed to appear at the bar of the House. He present multiple petitions against the proposals, 2 Mar., when he warned that long wool, the ‘exclusive growth of this country’, was essential to our own manufacturers and ought not to be exported, and between 4 and 26 Mar.43 He condemned the wool import and export bill, 21 May, arguing that it would be ruinous to both agriculturalists and manufacturers, that it was wrong to give up a natural advantage without any reciprocity, and that the measure had nothing to do with free trade. Despite his protests it passed the House, 24 May 1824. He was a majority teller against reform of Edinburgh’s representation, 26 Feb., when he complained that such motions ‘tended to cherish republican sentiments’ and ‘encouraged vituperation of the existing system’. He presented multiple petitions from the licensed victuallers of several Yorkshire towns against the duty on excise licenses, 25, 26 Feb., 1 Mar., 12 May.44 He voted against ending flogging in the forces and brought up a York petition for continuing the bounty on low linens, 5 Mar. He presented petitions from Huddersfield and Halifax for repeal of the Union duties, 8 Mar., Yorkshire petitions for repeal of the house and window taxes, 12, 31 Mar, and a Northallerton petition against the county courts bill, 19 Mar.45 He asked ministers to justify levying a tax of 6s. on seaborne coal, but only 1s. on that transported inland, 29 Mar., and insisted that northern coal owners sought no advantage, but only equal treatment, 1 Apr. During March and May he presented six petitions from the tanners of Yorkshire against the hides and skins bill (and one for repeal of the leather tax), and four from the county’s butchers in its favour. He submitted West Riding petitions against the beer retail bill, 12, 21 May. When presenting petitions from civil service clerks against paying five per cent superannuation, 13, 21 May, he complained of the hardship they suffered under the Superannuation Act of 1822 and defended the bill to abolish their payments, 12, 21 June. He presented Bradford and Whitby petitions for inquiry into the trial of the Methodist missionary John Smith for inciting slave riots in Demerara, 25, 26 May, but voted against condemning it, 11 June. He criticized Members who voted in private bill committees after hearing none of the evidence, 27 May, and hoped that ‘some better means would be devised for punishing those who harbour vagrants’ during a debate on the vagrants bill, 5 June 1824.46

On 15 Feb. 1825 he complained to his wife that the House had already spent three days debating ‘one question of the bill for putting down the Catholic Association’, but observed, ‘I don’t however hold myself bound to listen to all the human voice that is so uselessly expended ... I get away to dinner always’.47 He voted for the bill, 25 Feb. Speaking in favour of the ‘just claims of the Catholics’ three days later, he dismissed the ‘chimerical apprehension’ that the Catholic clergy wanted to overthrow the established church and warned that there would be no ‘substantial peace in Ireland until the question was conceded. He divided accordingly, 1 Mar., when he boasted to his wife that he had been credited with assisting the motion ‘by my eloquence’, 21 Apr. (as a pair), 10 May.48 He voted for repeal of the usury laws, 17 Feb., next day telling his wife that ‘today is one of the busiest days of the year with me, being the last day for presenting petitions for private bills’.49 On 17 Feb. he had reintroduced his game laws amendment bill, threatening to ‘wash his hands’ of it if any attempt was made to limit its scope to legalizing the sale of game, which was his secondary aim, his first being ‘to give every occupier of land a right to the game ... and protection against the poacher and trespasser’. Despite his strenuous efforts the bill was again rejected. He presented petitions in favour of the county courts bill that day and 10 May, and one from Doncaster for repeal of the house and window taxes, 9 Mar.50 He brought in a bill to regulate the cutlery trade, 24 Mar., but it appears to have proceeded no further. He was appointed to the select committee on the combination laws, 29 Mar., presented a petition from the manufacturers of Sheffield complaining of the consequences of their repeal, 27 May, and spoke on the combination of workmen bill, 30 June, emphasizing that he did not wish to come between master and employee, but to prevent ‘any combination of journeymen from exercising a cruel tyranny over the honest industry and the labour of any other workman’.51 He presented Yorkshire petitions against the change in linen duties, 25 Apr., and alteration of the corn laws, 25, 26, 28 Apr.52 That day, before voting for Whitmore’s critical motion, he ‘entreated’ ministers to pledge themselves to consider the laws at the beginning of the next session. He spoke and voted for the spring guns bill, 21 June 1825.

Anti-Catholic agitation in Yorkshire, led by the Yorkshire Gazette, had been steadily growing since the last general election, and the candidates for the next increasingly became the subject of speculation through 1825. Perhaps with his eye on this Wortley had hoped to use the annual Pitt dinner in Sheffield to explain his pro-Catholic stance, but on 20 Oct. Sir John Beckett* told Lowther that the gathering would be cancelled ‘in order to prevent him’.53 By early December it was clear that two anti-Catholic Tories, William Duncombe* and Fountayne Wilson, would offer for the county. Milton was expected to come forward again, and with Richard Bethell*, a pro-Catholic Tory, also in the field, a contest looked certain. On 4 Dec. Lord Althorp* reported to his father that he feared that ‘Wortley and Bethell will fly’.54 Wortley, however, stuck firmly to his principles, and wrote to the Gazette and Leeds Mercury, 29 Nov., to deny a suggestion in that week’s York Chronicle that he would not in future support Catholic relief.55 Taking up his pen again to reply to the vicar of Bradford over a similar rumour, 10 Dec., he declared:

For nearly 25 years I have heard the question of Catholic emancipation argued and discussed, by men, perhaps, of the greatest reasoning powers that ever adorned this country. It is impossible that I should not have made my mind up on it ... The gentlemen who are now, for the first time, asking the confidence of the freeholders may be justified in taking steps at this period to bring their pretensions before them, while I cannot but feel that some of the duty which has been entrusted to me, is still to be performed, and that until the whole is concluded, I can have no right to ask for their renewed support ... Whenever the proper time comes, I shall again present myself to the county.56

The Whigs, calculating that Wortley would probably be defeated by Duncombe, Wilson and two Whigs, discussed the means of helping him and Bethell by splitting votes with them. However, as early as 22 Dec., James Abercromby* reported hearing that ‘there are rumours of great promotion in the peerage, and unless they have determined not to add to the House of Lords, Wortley may be made a peer’.57 Nevertheless, his friends pressed on with arrangements, holding a private meeting in Leeds at the end of December, when they declared that he was ‘strong in solid votes’.58 Wortley spent Christmas and the New Year in Paris, but returned to attend to electioneering, 4 Jan. 1826.59 He met his committee in York, 12 Jan., and the following day declared himself a candidate, telling his wife:

Bore as all this journey has been to me, I have at least the satisfaction of feeling that it has been useful to me, and it has certainly been most gratifying and flattering to me to find myself so kindly and cordially received by almost all my old friends, and by a very considerable number of new ones. At the same time I cannot conceal from myself that nothing but a feeling that I have done my duty to the county, and a dependence upon my integrity and independence, could have carried me through against the feeling of the lower and middle classes, which is undoubtedly strong on the ‘no Popery’ subject.

With Lord Morpeth* refusing to come forward for the Whigs, he hoped he might succeed without a contest.60 Before the opening of the 1826 session, Wortley told his wife that Sir Charles Stuart’s conduct during the negotiations over the independence of Brazil were out of character and ‘certainly not approved by Canning’, but he suspected that he had ‘a complete defence’, as Stuart appeared ‘quite satisfied’. On the commercial and financial crisis, he wrote that ‘all confidence between mercantile men is entirely gone ... I do not think that the government are aware of the full extent of the difficulties’.61 He presented Sheffield petitions for reduction of the tobacco duties, 23 Feb., and the abolition of slavery, 27 Feb., 7 Mar.62 Perhaps with his thoughts on a contest for Yorkshire, he brought in a bill to increase the number of polling booths at the county’s elections to facilitate more efficient polling, 20 Apr., but it went no further. That day he also expressed his determination to press on with his campaign for reform of the game laws. He voted for revision of the corn laws, 18 Apr., recommended postponing the freeholders in districts bill, 2 May, and divided against Russell’s proposal to curb electoral bribery, 26 May 1826.

Shortly before the 1826 general election John Whishaw assured Lady Holland that Wortley was still expected to come in for Yorkshire.63 On 27 May, however, when John Marshall*, a Leeds linen manufacturer, finally agreed to become the second Whig candidate, it had become known that Wortley would receive a barony. Although many suspected the motives behind his elevation, the duke of Bedford reported that it was the king’s ‘own gracious and spontaneous act’, 30 May.64 Wortley considered taking Stuart as his title, but eventually settled on Wharncliffe, the name of one of his Yorkshire estates. Lady Caroline told her mother, 10 June, ‘the king was beyond measure kind and gracious to [him] at Ascot, and when he told him his latest decision, approved, but added, "My good fellow you will now be the Dragon of Wharncliffe all the rest of your life"’.65 On 3 June Beckett advised Lowther that ‘the Dragon’ would ‘show at the nomination and propose Bethell, but all his vapouring won’t do’.66 Wortley did appear, but only to thank the county for past support. However, he was prevented from doing so until after the protracted nominations, and when he did eventually step forward to speak he was frustrated by ‘an incessant clamour’ from the anti-Catholics. He tried again after the show of hands, but ‘was often interrupted’.67 Bethell withdrew from the contest that evening, and Beckett wrote gleefully to Peel, 20 June:

Wortley’s peerage was very ill-timed, and has been ill-received. He thought he could put Mr. Bethell into his shoes for the county. But he could not get a hearing even at York ... and was not allowed to speak till all was over and he left to himself, and some of Lord Milton’s friends!68

A public dinner to thank Wharncliffe for his services to the county was held in Sheffield, 14 Sept. 1826, when he denounced the escalating cost of elections, saying that ‘if the freeholders wish to have independent Members, they must endeavour to prevent this enormous expense’, otherwise ‘the county might as well be put up for auction’. He insisted that he would have stood the contest, despite the cost, if he had not been made a peer, and defended his barony, claiming that he had never asked for it, and had only accepted it as a personal favour from the king.69 In 1830 Wharncliffe tried to arrange a compromise with Milton to cut the cost of the Yorkshire election by agreeing that candidates would not pay for travelling expenses, but the plans were disturbed by the candidacy of Martin Stapylton on principles of purity.70 The results of the 1830 general election convinced him of the need for a measure of reform and he played a pivotal role in the crisis after the reform bill was defeated in the Lords in October 1831. He became the chief broker between the government and those Tory peers who supported reform, but wanted a less radical measure. His negotiations on behalf of the ‘Waverers’ managed to deliver a majority for the second reading, 14 Apr. 1832. Desperate to repair his rift with the Conservative party, however, he voted for Lord Lyndhurst’s motion to postpone the disfranchising clauses, 7 May, and so made himself ‘odious to both parties’. He later served under Peel, in 1835 as lord privy seal, and in 1841 as lord president of the council, ‘but he was disappointed in not having a more important office’. He lacked sufficient weight in cabinet to extend the educational reforms as far as he would have liked, and was ‘one of the sturdiest opponents’ of repealing the corn laws, although many expected that eventually he could have been won round.71 His edited Letters and Works of Lady Mary Wortley Montague, his grandmother, was published in 1837.

Wharncliffe died intestate in December 1845 at his London house, following a short illness of suppressed gout and apoplexy induced, his son James claimed, by ‘anxiety about public affairs’.72 Administration of his estate was granted to his widow and his eldest son and successor John (1801-55).73 Greville wrote:

In public life [Wharncliffe played] a secondary, but an honourable and useful part, in private life he was irreproachable, amiable, and respected ... No man died with fewer enemies, with more general goodwill, and more sincerely regretted by everyone belonging to or intimate with him.74

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Authors: Martin Casey / Philip Salmon


  • 1. Greville Mems. v. 342; Ann. Reg. (1845), Chron. p. 320; Yorks. Gazette, 4 Mar. 1820.
  • 2. Sheffield Archives, Wharncliffe mun. WhM/426, Cunynghame to Wortley, 22 Feb., 1 Mar. 1820.
  • 3. Yorks. Gazette, 11 Mar. 1820.
  • 4. Wharncliffe mun. T.687.
  • 5. Yorks. Gazette, 25 Mar. 1820.
  • 6. Wentworth Woodhouse mun. F48/171.
  • 7. The Times, 19 June 1821.
  • 8. Arbuthnot Jnl. i. 25.
  • 9. Wharncliffe mun. 553b/1.
  • 10. Ibid. 553a/14, 19, 20, 21.
  • 11. Ibid. T.714; 553a/23.
  • 12. C.D. Yonge, Lord Liverpool, iii. 114-19.
  • 13. Add. 38574, f. 232; Wharncliffe mun. 574/4.
  • 14. Wharncliffe mun. 575/11.
  • 15. The Times, 13 July 1822.
  • 16. Ibid. 9 Feb., 29 Mar. 1821.
  • 17. Ibid. 20 Mar. 1821.
  • 18. J.E. Cookson, Lord Liverpool’s Administration, 306.
  • 19. The Times, 1 June 1821.
  • 20. Ward, Llandaff Letters, 278.
  • 21. The Times, 27 Mar. 1821.
  • 22. Wharncliffe mun. T.761.
  • 23. Hatherton diary.
  • 24. Wharncliffe mun. 618.
  • 25. Arbuthnot Jnl. i. 161.
  • 26. The Times, 15, 28 Mar., 30 Apr., 7 May 1822.
  • 27. Ibid. 19 Apr. 1822.
  • 28. Ibid. 31 May, 11 July 1822.
  • 29. Ibid. 1, 18, 21, May, 1,5 June 1822.
  • 30. Ibid. 4, 26 June 1822.
  • 31. Ibid. 9 July 1822.
  • 32. Add. 40319, f. 57.
  • 33. TNA 30/29/9/5/18, 19.
  • 34. Sheffield Mercury, 25 Jan. 1823; Wharncliffe mun. 449a.
  • 35. Add. 38193, f. 179.
  • 36. Add. 40311, f. 25.
  • 37. The Times, 15 Feb., 14 Mar. 1823.
  • 38. Ibid. 18 Mar. 1823.
  • 39. Buckingham, Mems. Geo. IV, i. 449.
  • 40. The Times, 27, 29 May 1823.
  • 41. Ibid. 5, 10, 19, 25, 26 June 1823.
  • 42. Ibid. 11 Feb. 1824.
  • 43. Ibid. 5, 19 Mar. 1824.
  • 44. Ibid. 26, 27 Feb., 2 Mar., 13 May 1824.
  • 45. Ibid. 6, 9, 13, 20 Mar.; 1 Apr. 1824.
  • 46. Ibid. 1 Apr., 13, 14, 18, 22, 25-27 May, 7, 14 June 1824.
  • 47. Wharncliffe mun. T.824.
  • 48. Ibid. 826.
  • 49. Ibid. 825.
  • 50. Ibid. 25 Feb., 10 Mar., 11 May 1825.
  • 51. Ibid. 28 May, 1 July 1825.
  • 52. Ibid. 26, 27, 29 Apr. 1825.
  • 53. Lonsdale mss.
  • 54. Althorp Letters, 127.
  • 55. York Chron. 24 Nov.; Yorks. Gazette, 26 Nov. 1825.
  • 56. Leeds Mercury, 10 Dec. 1825.
  • 57. Fitzwilliam mss, Tottie to Milton, 12 Dec. 1825; Castle Howard mss.
  • 58. Fitzwilliam mss, Sir F. Wood to Milton, 1 Jan. 1826.
  • 59. Wharncliffe mun. T.839.
  • 60. Ibid. T.840.
  • 61. Ibid. T.835.
  • 62. The Times, 24, 28 Feb., 8 Mar. 1826.
  • 63. Add. 51659.
  • 64. Add. 51668.
  • 65. Wharncliffe mun. 553b/7.
  • 66. Lonsdale mss.
  • 67. E. Baines, Yorks. Election 1826, p. 110.
  • 68. Add. 40387, f. 207.
  • 69. Sheffield Mercury, 16 Sept. 1826.
  • 70. M. Brock, Great Reform Act, 95.
  • 71. Ibid. 275-7; Greville Mems. v. 343.
  • 72. C.B.S. Wortley and C. Grosvenor, Lady Wharncliffe, ii. 353.
  • 73. PROB 6/222/270.
  • 74. Greville Mems. v. 344.