STUART WORTLEY, John (1801-1855), of 15 Curzon Street, Mdx.

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



2 June 1823 - 1830
1830 - 11 Dec. 1830
16 Feb. 1831 - 1832
1841 - 19 Dec. 1845

Family and Education

b. 23 Apr. 1801, 1st s. of James Archibald Stuart Wortley* and Lady Elizabeth Caroline Mary Creighton, da. of John, 1st Earl Erne [I]; bro. of Hon. Charles James Stuart Wortley*. educ. Harrow 1812-17; Christ Church, Oxf. 1818. m. 12 Dec. 1825, Lady Georgiana Elizabeth Ryder, da. of Dudley Ryder†, 1st earl of Harrowby, 3s. 2da. suc. fa. as 2nd Bar. Wharncliffe 19 Dec. 1845 and took additional name of Mackenzie. d. 22 Oct. 1855.

Offices Held

Sec. to bd. of control Feb.-Dec. 1830.

Maj. S.W. Yorks. yeomanry 1822, lt.-col. 1841; col. commdt. 1 W. Yorks. militia 1846.


Stuart Wortley, who as a small boy had the ‘great treat’ of becoming his mother’s ‘bedfellow’ when his father was away, passed much of his childhood in Yorkshire, under the supervision of his maternal grandmother Lady Erne. When he was six his mother admitted that ‘he is too like myself in many respects not to make me feel uncomfortable as to his future temper and feelings’.1 As a Harrow schoolboy he went with his parents to Spa and Paris in the late summer of 1814; and from October 1817 until June 1818, three months after his father succeeded to the family’s Yorkshire and Scottish estates, he was with them and his siblings visiting Paris, Rome, Naples, Venice and Innsbruck.2 In February 1819, after a delay since matriculating, he went up to Christ Church, where he was industrious and happy, and became close friends with Henry Edward Fox*, William Henry Greville and George William Howard, Visct. Morpeth*, who came from Whig families, and Lawrence Peel*, whose political background, like his own, was Tory.3 In a letter to Fox in June 1821 he deplored the disfranchisement of Grampound and transfer of its seats to Yorkshire, maintaining that ‘the county is considerably against it and it seems to me to satisfy nobody at all, besides ... it certainly was not at all necessary’. The following month, after attending the coronation, he judged Queen Caroline’s conduct there ‘disgusting’, but thought the king had ‘behaved rather like a naughty child about it’.4 At his examination in December 1821 he took a first in mathematics and a second in classics, with which he claimed to be ‘perfectly satisfied’. He hunted for the rest of the winter, postponed a planned visit to Ireland until the next summer and contemplated without relish the prospect of his first London season.5 In November 1822 he persuaded Fox to join him on a European jaunt at the end of the winter, though for a time it was threatened with delay by the possibility of an immediate vacancy on his father’s interest at Bossiney. They left London for Paris, 22 Feb. 1823, and travelled into Italy and Switzerland. Their mutual friend Robert Vernon Smith* told Fox that he would find Stuart Wortley ‘a very pleasant companion’, adding that ‘if he does not find you so, it can only be from his inveterate habit of disagreeing with the opinion of everybody else’. He was still away in June when he was returned for Bossiney after a contest with an interloper; he survived a petition against the return.6 That summer Fox, for whom Stuart Wortley was now a half-hearted rival for the hand of Theresa Villiers, daughter of the disgraced former paymaster of marines (though he had, or so he said, ‘prejudices ... against early marriage’), assessed his friend:

Wortley has plain good sense, a correct taste, but a total want of imagination. His desire of knowledge and his industry in procuring it is very great: but when he has got it it produces nothing, for he is so straightforward that what is not matter of fact appears to him falsehood. He has an excellent heart and a clear understanding, but has a brusquerie and coldness of manner that will make him unpopular.7

Like his father, he voted with Lord Liverpool’s ministry against reform of Edinburgh’s representation, 26 Feb., and the abolition of flogging, 5 Mar. 1824. Canning, the foreign secretary, to whom he was drawn politically, reckoned that his own speech in support of the aliens bill next day kept Stuart Wortley, who had ‘half a mind’ to ‘go astray’, in the government lobby.8 A few days later he went for a month to The Hague as the guest of the ambassador, Lord Granville, whose wife at first thought him ‘such a love’, but just before his departure told Lady Harrowby that he was ‘an odd fish’:

He sits for ages quite silent with his head upon his shoulder, looking comfortable, but like a bird at roost ... He is a selfish person, and for a young man wonderfully so. Yet I cannot make him quite out, for he is more ready to do anything, go anywhere than anybody. I think him to begin with uncommonly pleasing. He is so refined, has such an accomplished mind. There is such manliness and good sense, such a freedom from all the vanities and littleness of his kind. On the other hand, I never saw anyone make so little effort to surmount any little cloud of humeur, chagrin or ennui for the benefit of the society he is in, and he never puts his best leg foremost to promote the satisfaction or amusement of those he is with ... If he is not in the vein there is no feeling of civility, good fellowship, or what is called helping a lame dog over a stile that will induce him to move a finger.

He was in the Commons, ‘fresh from the steam vessel’, on 6 May.9 He joined his father in the minority against repeal of the prohibition on the export of long wool, 21 May 1824. That summer he went with John Evelyn Denison* Edward Smith Stanley* and Henry Labouchere* on an extended tour of North America and Canada: they visited New York, Quebec, Boston, Washington (‘a sort of straggling village ... magnificent in its plan, of great space, thinly and unequally inhabited’), Baltimore and Halifax, and met Lafayette and ex-President Adams (‘one of the few remaining distinguished revolutionists’, now in ‘melancholy old age’).10 He arrived back in London in early June 1825 and shortly afterwards wrote to Fox, who was in Italy:

I have been doing nothing but sit at home excepting a few dinners since I returned, and feel no sort of inclination to squeeze into the beau monde again. The House of Commons will be up in a fortnight and I am come in so late for the session and am so behindhand in everything that is going on that I have hardly been there.11

In August he assumed ‘the solid and sturdy character of a magistrate’ in Yorkshire. Two months later, in ‘ecstasy’, he informed Fox of his impending marriage to the Harrowbys’ daughter Lady Georgiana Ryder (whom Fox had once described as ‘sensible, hard-headed, severe, vain, and spoiled by the admiration of all the many that worship’) after a courtship ‘of three weeks’, although it was ‘an old attachment ... on his part’. While he was said to be ‘desperately in love’, it was generally believed that she was ‘not a bit in love with him’. The wedding took place shortly before Christmas 1825 and the honeymoon was spent at Trentham, the Staffordshire home of the marquess of Stafford, Lady Georgiana’s uncle.12

Stuart Wortley was chosen to move the address, 2 Feb. 1826, in his parliamentary debut. Briefly straying from the traditional formula, he suggested that the current commercial distress was ‘temporary and ... the worst had passed over’. Denison thought he ‘spoke sensibly and without embarrassment, but too low in tone, and with too colloquial an expression’, while the Whig Lord Carlisle, Lady Georgiana’s kinsman, heard that he was ‘sensible, prudent and distinct’; the prime minister approved his performance.13 He voted with government on the Jamaican slave trials, 2 Mar. The previous month Greville had reported to Fox that their friend seemed ‘very happy, but looks just as dismal as if the most severe calamity had befallen him’, and in March he himself confirmed his ‘happiness’, which he ‘never knew ... really before’, telling Fox that he would ‘find me an old married man ... living quietly before my own fireside without much digression, and talking about currency and committees’. Yet he was reported to be looking ‘more dead than alive’ and in a ‘melancholy state of health’ at Brighton in late April.14 He was again returned for Bossiney at the general election that summer.15 In July 1826 his father’s elevation to the peerage as Lord Wharncliffe was gazetted.

On 29 Nov. 1826 Stuart Wortley, who was described at this time as being ‘very thin and amiable’, and who had apparently had his courage screwed up by his wife, earned praise in the House from the home secretary Peel for a speech on the ‘dry and tedious subject’ of controverted election precedents. Lord Holland told his wayward son Fox that his friend’s effort had been ‘very advantageous: a good speech, and what is better than a good speech much parliamentary knowledge, good parliamentary manner and a promise of taking a part and shining in debate’. The Whig lawyer James Abercromby* (who relished such topics) commented to Carlisle that ‘young Wortley seems to be very zealous and industrious, and with these properties ... he will make a better name for himself than men of higher talents’.16 In April 1827 his mother reported that he had

been gaining immense credit in a committee by the clearness and soundness of his arguments in a very difficult case ... All I hear of him encourages me to think that he is in the way to distinguish himself in no common way ... I am so delighted at his having taken so much to his parliamentary duties.17

While he never scaled any great political heights, he did become a diligent and respected parliamentarian. He divided for Catholic relief, 6 Mar. 1827, and subsequently supported Canning’s administration.18 He called for reform of the game laws, 4 May,19 and advised Smith Stanley to allow his planned bill to regulate Preston elections to be subsumed in Lord Althorp’s general measure, 14 June. He defended the government’s legislation on the corn trade, 21 June. In November 1827 he wrote to Fox that the members of Lord Goderich’s crumbling administration

appear to me to bear much resemblance to the ring of toadstools which often mark the spot where the great oak fell. I do not deny that they may be some of them very good fungi, but I am afraid they are as little united and as weak as worse ... I cannot help thinking that when a session comes, if they will stay in, it will be only because there is nobody to turn them out. Their condition in Parliament appears to me to be that in the Upper House they have leaders enough but lack votes, in the lower they have votes enough but lack leaders.

The feckless Fox, who had renounced Parliament, condescendingly noted that the letter was

much better expressed and fuller of clever thoughts than his letters used to be. Perhaps his marriage, which I have always hitherto lamented, has served to nerve and excite him, for that is all he wants. He has very fair abilities, but great indolence and constitutional indifference.20

In January 1828 Edward Littleton* remarked to Peel, back in office under the duke of Wellington, that Stuart Wortley, his brother-in-law Lord Sandon and a few other ‘young men’ formed ‘the most important party at this time in the House of Commons’; they ‘hang much together and ... though having different party connections [are] all united against High Tory principles’.21 As one of the small Huskissonite squad, Stuart Wortley initially supported Wellington’s ministry, but Canning’s nephew Lord George Cavendish Bentinck* could scarcely credit his assertion that ‘he cannot see any political hostility to Mr. Canning’s principles in anything the duke said or did last year’.22 He gave his ‘undivided support’ to the steamboat passengers regulation bill, 18 Mar. He voted against sluicing East Retford with freeholders of the hundred of Bassetlaw, 21 Mar., and with government against inquiry into delays in chancery, 24 Apr. He was reassured by Huskisson’s statement regarding the scope of the select committee on the civil government of Canada, 2 May. He questioned the fairness of the grant to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospels in Canada, where most of the inhabitants were Dissenters, 6 June, and laid ‘a large portion of the blame’ for Canadian disaffection on the colonial office, 14 July. He presented petitions for Catholic relief, 6 May, and voted in that sense, 12 May. Next day he supported the provision for Canning’s family as an ‘act of generosity and justice’; he found the acrimonious debate ‘very painful’.23 When Huskisson and the other leading Canningites resigned from the ministry that month, Stuart Wortley sympathized with them and was twice listed as one of their parliamentary group.24 On 22 May he introduced a bill to curb poaching at night, which his father had carried through the Lords; it gained royal assent, 19 July (9 Geo. IV, c. 69). He also took up, 30 May, a bill to regulate the sale of game which had originated in the upper House with Lord Salisbury, but he abandoned it on 6 June and secured leave to introduce a new one, which was endorsed by Peel. He described it as ‘an experimental measure’ and a ‘first step towards gradual reform of the whole system’, 24 June, but it was later thrown out by the Lords. (A similar bill the following year met with the same fate.) He argued that the ‘flourishing’ colony of New South Wales should be ‘freed from the disagreeable inconvenience of being made a receptacle for convicts’, 30 May, and pointed to this as an obstacle to the introduction of jury trial there, 20 June. He voted for revision of the usury laws, 19 June. He supported the compensation claims of British merchants on Denmark and Sweden, 4 July, when he divided in the opposition minority for ordnance reductions.25 He was in the majority for the bill to prevent the use of municipal funds for election purposes, 10 July 1828.

On 8 Feb. 1829 Stuart Wortley, informing Fox of the ministry’s surprising decision to concede Catholic emancipation, commented:

It has been amusing enough to witness the many incredible convulsions wrought in so short a space of time, and it is no small satisfaction to us to see that obstinate and haughty [Whig] party entrapped and exposed, though at the same time one must confess, somewhat provoking to find those very men getting credit for this great measure and using the language of conciliation and wisdom, who not two years ago killed poor Canning, and so embarrassed the king as almost to stop the course of government, with no other excuse than their pertinacious resistance to the very same arguments ... We are looking with anxiety to the papers from Ireland and news of the [Catholic] Association ... All parties are agreed upon their interest and duty, but there is no reckoning on Irishmen, and still less on Irish demagogues.26

In the House, 27 Feb., he argued that while ‘popular clamour’ was undoubtedly hostile to emancipation, ‘public opinion’, or ‘the sense and intelligence of the country’, was for it. He voted, 6, 30 Mar., and spoke again, 24 Mar., for the measure. He confessed his dislike for the accompanying bill to disfranchise Irish 40s. freeholders, 19 Mar., but with ‘considerable difficulty’ swallowed it as a matter of ‘absolute necessity’. He voted to allow Daniel O’Connell to take his seat unhindered, 18 May. He welcomed ministerial assurances that the grant to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospels in the colonies would not be used to establish ‘an exclusive church’, 6 Apr., and denied Hume’s assertion that the Canadians were innately hostile to Britain. He secured information on the management and economy of Sierra Leone which, he argued, could not be ‘retained with advantage’, 19 May, and returns of military mortality in the West Indies, 2 June. He supported Labouchere’s call for information on communications between the colonial office and the Canadian governments and lamented the colonial secretary Murray’s evasive response, 5 June. He voted for the transfer of East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 5 May. He supported Warburton’s anatomy bill, 15, 18 May, when he was a majority teller for its third reading. He spoke contemptuously and voted against the grant for the sculpture of the marble arch, 25 May 1829. Shortly afterwards, according to Mrs. Arbuthnot, who despised him as one of the ‘rank Canningites’, Peel considered recruiting him for a place at the admiralty board, but nothing came of it.27

In January 1830, however, Wellington offered Stuart Wortley the vacant secretaryship to the board of control. In an interview with Peel, who found him ‘in a very good temper of mind and very much flattered’, he sought and received assurances that the government did not intend to renew the East India Company’s charter without prior inquiry or to depart from their liberal commercial policy, and that as a minister he would be free to vote as previously on the East Retford question. He said ‘not a word about Tories or junction with any party’, clarified matters with Wellington and, having hastily consulted his family and a few accessible friends, took the office.28 His father told Littleton (who six years later recalled sourly that his acceptance came only a week after a conversation at Sandon ‘in which he expressed the strongest opinions against the ... government and discussed with me the various modes of attacking and demolishing it’):

His communications with the duke ... and Peel were so satisfactory that I am quite sure there were no principles at stake to give him the least excuse for [refusing] ... and therefore, if he has made up his mind to official life, he could not do otherwise in my opinion than accept this, which at this moment is likely to be an office of considerable work and importance, and to open a door to anything for which he may be fitted by his abilities.

Yet Huskisson, who asked Denison, ‘does this make the government less harlequin?’, took rather a dim view, reflecting that Wellington was ‘a very clever recruiting sergeant’.29 Mrs. Arbuthnot decided that it was ‘an excellent appointment as he is one of a knot of young men who are rather inclined to oppose the government’; Lord John Russell* considered it ‘a very fair one, much better than the duke’s usual nominations’, but Greville doubted ‘his being of much use’ to a government to which he had previously been ‘rather inimical’. Lady Granville reported a wag’s comment that Stuart Wortley ‘between Lords Ashley* [a commissioner of the board] and Ellenborough [its president] will be the tame elephant between the wild ones’.30 He was duly named to the select committee on the East India Company, 9 Feb. 1830. He supported the prayer of a Sheffield petition for the franchise, as he had been ‘particularly requested’ to do, 23 Feb., but later that day voted with his colleagues against the enfranchisement of Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester. He was, however, in the minority for the transfer of East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 5 Mar. He spoke and was a majority teller against O’Connell’s ‘sweeping’ reform scheme, which aimed ‘to exclude the influence of property from the House of Commons’, 28 May. He was in the ministerial minority against the Galway franchise bill, 25 May, and voted against abolition of the death penalty for forgery, 7 June. He maintained that the northern coal owners were anxious for full inquiry into the London trade, 11 Mar. He regarded Labouchere’s motion for reform of the Canadian administration, 25 May, as an ‘unfair and unjust ... censure’ of the government. As a minister, he now took the line that the grant to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospels in the colonies was not for the establishment of a ‘dominant’ church, 14 June, and next day he opposed withdrawal from Sierra Leone, suggesting that Britain was ‘not paying so heavy a price for the colony as some appear to suppose’. He made only a handful of interventions on departmental business: Ellenborough thought he did ‘very well’, speaking ‘very officially and properly’, on the awkward question of Indian half-castes, 4 May, when he showed ‘forbearance’ in passing over the chance to make a flashy speech.31 He was evidently not particularly happy as a government underling. He told John Cam Hobhouse* at the end of May that ‘he expected the ministry would not last long’ and ‘confessed it was no very pleasant task acting under Peel’ in the House: ‘his manners were cold, and very little assistance was required by him from anybody’.32 He felt unable to vote with government on the regency issue and abstained, 30 June, when Wharncliffe and Harrowby divided against ministers in the Lords. Next day, claiming to have acted quite independently of them, he offered his resignation, initially to Peel and Ellenborough, who expressed regret and referred him to Wellington. On 2 July 1830 Ellenborough recorded in his diary:

I saw Wortley who ... was much distressed, and evidently regrets extremely that he tendered his resignation ... He was going to see Peel and afterwards the duke. He told me the government could not be conducted in the House of Commons unless some more ministers would speak - that there must be a change ... Spoke to the duke about Wortley. He said he had written a kind note to him, and told him he had been too hasty. He should have spoken to some of the ministers first. The duke evidently intends the thing to blow over. Spoke to Lord Wharncliffe ... He said he would neither have voted nor have spoken against government ... if he had had an idea of Wortley’s resigning, because it gave the appearance of concert, and there really was none ... He said he thought Wortley altogether wrong. That a young man, having joined a government, had no right, for a difference on a single point, to resign ... He afterwards talked to the duke, and I have no doubt Wortley will remain.

So he did, withdrawing his resignation, and he reportedly had ‘tears in his eyes’ when talking to Ellenborough of Wellington’s ‘kindness of heart’.33 At the general election that summer he made way at Bossiney for his brother Charles and stood for Perth Burghs, where his father’s property in Forfarshire and Perthshire gave him a stake. He was returned after a fractious contest with a representative of the Airlie interest, but faced a certain petition.34

Before the election Stuart Wortley had been authorized by his father to inform his ministerial colleague Charles Arbuthnot*, who passed it on to Wellington, that Lord Palmerston* and Charles Grant* were willing to join the cabinet and for their leader Huskisson to be excluded. Nothing came of this, but he made another approach in early September, when Peel and Arbuthnot agreed that he had been ‘fishing’ and seemed disposed ‘to leave us if we are supposed to be not strong’. A Whig observer suspected that Wharncliffe was trying to promote a coalition in order to ‘keep his son in place’.35 On 6 Nov. 1830 Stuart Wortley confided to Ellenborough his belief that ‘we cannot go on’, as Wellington’s ‘declaration against reform had made it impossible for any to join them, and upon the question of reform it is doubtful if we should have numbers enough’. He considered the cancellation of the king’s visit to the City soon afterwards ‘a sad business, and fatal to the government’. Yet, on 11 Nov. he maintained that ‘the spirits of our friends are improved, and those of our foes lowered, the last few days, as to reform’.36 In the House, 15 Nov., he vainly tried to have consideration of the Perth Burghs petition deferred until after Christmas. Later that day he voted in the ministerial minority in the crucial civil list division. He resigned in due course with his colleagues, pleased at least that the defeat had not come on reform and that the Whigs and their allies now had ‘the burden of bringing [it] forward ... as a government measure’.37 He expressed qualified support for the principle of Lord Chandos’s game bill, 18 Nov., and presented an anti-slavery petition, 25 Nov. On 11 Dec. 1830 he lost his seat when the Perth Burghs election was declared void, but early in the 1831 session his brother stepped aside for him at Bossiney.38 Shortly before his return Ellenborough, who doubted whether he would be staunch in opposition, noted that while other Tories were laughing at the Grey ministry’s budget embarrassments, Stuart Wortley ‘seemed sorry for them’.39 In the House, 17 Feb. 1831, he supported Chandos’s proposal to disfranchise Evesham if electoral corruption, of which he had ‘little doubt’, was proved. He was added to the East Indian committee, 22 Feb. (and reappointed, 28 June 1831, 27 Jan. 1832). He thought repeal of the coastwise coal duty would be of little benefit to Londoners unless other restrictions on the trade were lifted, 23 Feb. He argued that ‘the principles of political economy, in the strict sense’ were inapplicable to ‘human affairs in the complicated relations of a great nation’, 11 Mar., and gave a cautious welcome to the government’s colonial trade bill. He approved, with some reservations, their plan for the timber duties, 15 Mar. He introduced a bill to regulate the fees and emoluments of officials of the Indian supreme court, 17 Mar., but it made no further progress that session. Nor did the measure which he presented on 21 Mar., in accordance with a committee’s recommendation, to amend the municipal sett of Dundee, one of the constituent burghs of the Perth district. He complained that Scotland had been unfairly treated in the matter of the tax on steam navigation, 29 Mar. He voted silently against the second reading of the government’s reform bill, 22 Mar., but in supporting a petition from Anstruther Easter Burghs against disfranchisement, 28 Mar., he indicated that he would support the principle of the Scottish bill. He endorsed an assertion that opinion in Yorkshire was not unanimous for reform. He voted for Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment to the reform bill, 19 Apr. 1831. The ‘Tory party in Leeds’ invited him to stand for Yorkshire at the ensuing general election, but his father thought better of it; ‘animated to a degree you never saw’ by the crisis, as his mother reported, he was returned unopposed for Bossiney.40

Stuart Wortley presented a petition from the grain dealers of St. Andrews for better protection of buyers’ rights, 22 June 1831. He pressed ministers to make the renewed East India committee smaller than the last one, 28 June, as there had been ‘much more of desultory conversation than of regular examination’. He supported the case for St. Andrews to be united with five other Fife burghs to return a Member and called for separate representation for Perth, 30 June. He voted against the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, for use of the 1831 census for the purpose of scheduling boroughs, 19 July, and against the partial disfranchisement of Chippenham, 27 July. He persuaded ministers to add Wednesday to the two weekly order days as an ‘experiment’ to expedite business, 13 July. Two days later he endorsed Agnew’s ludicrous amendment to have disfranchised schedule A boroughs combined into ‘convenient’ districts to return Members and insisted that the ‘dangerous’ bill, which could have ‘lamentable consequences’, was supported by ‘mere popular clamour’ rather than by ‘real public opinion’. He offered no resistance to the proposed disfranchisement of Bossiney, 20 July, but insisted that it was ‘an open corporation’ where the only influence was legitimate. He argued for the inclusion of Dunster parish to save Minehead, 22 July, and harried ministers over the inconsistency with which they had treated this and other cases, 2 Aug. He also proposed to have Salford included in the new Manchester constituency, but gave way after hearing an explanation of the reason for their separation. He criticized the enfranchisement of Wolverhampton, 4 Aug., Gateshead, 5 Aug., and Walsall, 6 Aug. He complained that giving the boundary commissioners the final word on constituency limits made ‘a perfect mockery of legislation’, 5 Aug., and suggested increasing the majority required to fix their decisions, 13 Sept. He approved the plan for Yorkshire to have six county Members, 10 Aug., but thought Buckinghamshire entitled to four and that giving two to Glamorgan strengthened the case for augmenting the Scottish county representation, 13 Aug. He failed in an attempt to have the amended county franchise clause set aside for further consideration, 19 Aug. He denied being ‘irritated’ when he attacked the £10 householder clause, 24 Aug., but asserted that through it ministers had ‘destroyed the old constituency’, 26 Aug. He lamented the ‘great injustice’ of the partial disfranchisement of the county towns of Dorchester, Guildford and Huntingdon, 15 Sept. He divided against the bill’s third reading, 19 Sept., and its passage, 21 Sept. Two days later he spoke and voted for the second reading of the Scottish bill, though he warned that he did not anticipate being able to support its details as they stood. He opposed an amendment to the game bill, 8 Aug. He voted to censure the Irish administration for interfering in the Dublin election, 23 Aug. He secured a minor change to the wine duties bill, 7 Sept., and denied that the northern coal owners were monopolists, 15 Sept. He questioned ministers about the contingency plan for the administration of justice in Prince of Wales Island, 19 Sept. On 29 Sept. 1831 he finally brought on a motion condemning the proposed reduction of the salary of the president of the board of control; it was negatived.

In the crisis following the rejection of the reform bill by the Lords, Stuart Wortley was approached by his former associate Palmerston, the foreign secretary, who ‘expressed a desire that some compromise should be effected between the government and the opposition leaders’. He contacted his father and Harrowby, and they and Sandon ‘discussed the matter and came to a sort of general resolution as to the basis on which they could treat’. This led to negotiations with ministers for a modified bill which Wharncliffe, Harrowby and the other ‘Waverer’ peers could support.41 In the House, 12 Dec. 1831, after the revised bill had been detailed, Stuart Wortley was one of those in opposition who tried to soothe the ‘irritation’ caused by Peel’s ‘very injudicious speech’. Yet he made it clear that despite certain ‘improvements’, he could not support the still ‘objectionable’ measure, and appealed to ministers to play their part in resolving the crisis ‘by mutual concession and ... statesmanlike views’; one observer reckoned that he was ‘not attended to’.42 He was said to have spoken ‘very well’ in the same sense before voting against the second reading, 17 Dec. 1831, when he applauded the Lords’ rejection of the previous bill and indicated that he and those who felt like him would accept a limited degree of disfranchisement, the enfranchisement of large towns and a modest widening of the franchise. He told Denison that if those who really disliked the measure continued nevertheless to vote for it, it had ‘no chance of being mended’.43 After questioning ministers, he denounced the ‘absurdity’ of fixing in advance the number of boroughs to be included in schedule A, 20 Jan. 1832, but he did not vote in the opposition minority on the issue that day.44 He argued that York was preferable to Beverley as a polling place for the East Riding, 24 Jan. He condemned the plan to give some counties three Members as ‘absurd and inconsistent’, 27 Jan., mocked the separate representation proposed for the Isle of Wight, 1 Feb., and, supporting an amendment to the £10 householder clause, 3 Feb., complained of the ‘extreme scantiness of information furnished to the House’. He was unhappy with the registration clause, 7 Feb., and next day ridiculed the proposal to retain the freeholder franchise in the surviving sluiced boroughs. He voted against the enfranchisement of Tower Hamlets, 28 Feb., objected to the revised plans for Manchester and Salford, 5 Mar., said it was preposterous to give South Shields separate representation, 7 Mar., and voted silently against the bill’s third reading, 22 Mar. He supported an unsuccessful bid to increase the Scottish county representation, 1 June, but secured an alteration allowing town clerks to act as returning officers, 27 June. He divided against ministers on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., 12 July. He welcomed the proposed appointment of poor law commissioners, 15 Mar. He approved the principle of the Indian juries bill, 18 June, and voted for Baring’s measure to exclude insolvent debtors from Parliament, 27 June 1832.

Nothing came of talk of Stuart Wortley’s standing for the West Riding at the general election of 1832, and the disfranchisement of Bossiney left him without a seat.45 But for his narrow defeat in Forfarshire in 1835 he would have become colonial under-secretary in Peel’s first ministry. He was subsequently offered a place at the treasury, but declined because it would appear ‘too much like a desire of holding office merely for the sake of its emoluments’, when he had no parliamentary seat.46 In 1841 he won a notable victory in the West Riding, but his father’s death in December 1845 removed him from the Commons. An improving agriculturist, who published a short treatise on the currency in 1833, he later suffered much from ‘sorrows and ill health’; he spent part of the winter of 1854-5 in Egypt, where he grew a beard.47 He died of consumption in October 1855 and was succeeded by his eldest son, Edward Montague Stuart Wortley (1827-99), who was created earl of Wharncliffe in 1876.48

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: David R. Fisher


  • 1. C. Grosvenor, The First Lady Wharncliffe and her Fam. i. 65, 141, 145, 163.
  • 2. Ibid. i. 198-211, 223-5, 233-52.
  • 3. Ibid. i. 257-8; Add. 52011, Stuart Wortley to Fox, 31 Dec. 1820, 22, 31 Jan., 23 Aug.; 52059, Vernon Smith to same, 6 July [1821].
  • 4. Add. 52011, Stuart Wortley to Fox, 5 June, 25 July 1821.
  • 5. Ibid. Stuart Wortley to Fox, 20 Dec. 1821, 13 Jan., 2 Feb., 11 July 1822; Fox Jnl. 62, 95, 130.
  • 6. Add. 52011, Stuart Wortley to Fox, 3, 16 Nov., 29 Dec. 1822 [16, 30 Jan.]; 52059, Smith to same [3 Mar. 1823]; Fox Jnl. 157, 166; West Briton, 30 May, 6 June 1823.
  • 7. Add. 52011, Stuart Wortley to Fox, 2 Oct. [1823]; Fox Jnl. 175, 182.
  • 8. Harewood mss, Canning to wife, 4 Apr. 1824.
  • 9. Countess Granville Letters, i. 279, 288-91; TNA 30/29/9/5/30.
  • 10. Grosvenor, i. 316-19; Add. 52011, Stuart Wortley to Fox, 21 Oct. 1824, 11 Feb., 14 Mar. 1825.
  • 11. Add. 52011, Stuart Wortley to Fox, 25 June 1825.
  • 12. Ibid. Stuart Wortley to Fox, 24 Aug., 16 Oct.; 52012, Greville to same, 8 Nov.; 52017, Townshend to same, 12, 30 Oct., 20 Nov. 1825.
  • 13. Grosvenor, ii. 2; Nottingham Univ. Lib. Denison diary, 2 Feb.; Add. 51580, Carlisle to Lady Holland, 5 Feb.; Sheffield Archives, Wharncliffe mun. WhM/T.842, Lady C. Stuart Wortley to Lady Erne, 6 Feb. [1826].
  • 14. Add. 52011, Stuart Wortley to Fox [6 Mar.]; 52012, Greville to same, 9 Feb.; 52017, Townshend to same [29], 30 Apr. 1826.
  • 15. West Briton, 2, 16 June 1826.
  • 16. Grosvenor, ii. 9, 10; Castle Howard mss, Morpeth to Lady Carlisle, 25 Nov., Abercromby to Carlisle [9 Dec.]; Add. 51749, Holland to Fox, 3 Dec. [1826].
  • 17. Grosvenor, ii. 12.
  • 18. Ibid. ii. 15; Arbuthnot Corresp. 83.
  • 19. The Times, 5 May 1827.
  • 20. Add. 52011, Stuart Wortley to Fox, 17 Nov. 1827; Fox Jnl. 249.
  • 21. Hatherton diary, 29 Jan. 1828.
  • 22. Add. 38755, f. 158; Nottingham Univ. Lib. Portland mss PwH 145.
  • 23. Broughton, Recollections, iii. 261-2.
  • 24. Add. 38756, f. 222.
  • 25. Denison diary, 4 July [1828].
  • 26. Add. 52011, Stuart Wortley to Fox, 8 Feb. 1829.
  • 27. Arbuthnot Jnl. ii. 282.
  • 28. Ellenborough Diary, ii. 158, 181; Lady Holland to Son, 107; Wellington mss WP1/1089/13.
  • 29. Hatherton mss, Stuart Wortley to Littleton, 30 Jan., Huskisson to same, 30 Jan., Wharncliffe to same, 1 Feb. 1830; Nottingham Univ. Lib. Ossington mss OsC 72.
  • 30. Arbuthnot Jnl. ii. 328; Greville Mems. i. 365; Countess Granville Letters, ii. 60.
  • 31. Ellenborough Diary, ii. 329.
  • 32. Broughton, Recollections, iv. 25.
  • 33. Add. 40401, ff. 1, 3, 5, 18; Wellington mss WP1/1123/4, 20; Ellenborough Diary, ii. 295, 297-9, 302.
  • 34. Edinburgh Evening Courant, 26, 28 Aug. 1830; Wellington mss WP1/1126/27.
  • 35. N. Gash, Secretary Peel, 640; Add. 40340, ff. 226, 230, 232, 234; Brougham mss, Agar Ellis to Brougham, 4 Oct. 1830.
  • 36. Ellenborough Diary, ii. 416, 423, 429.
  • 37. Ibid. ii. 435.
  • 38. West Briton, 11, 25 Feb. 1831.
  • 39. Three Diaries, 47, 51.
  • 40. Grosvenor, ii. 74-75, 76, 78; Creevey mss, Creevey to Miss Ord, 30 Apr.; West Briton, 29 Apr., 6 May 1831.
  • 41. Greville Mems. ii. 214; Three Diaries, 158; M. Brock, Great Reform Act, 245.
  • 42. Grosvenor, ii. 102; NLS mss 24762, f. 49.
  • 43. Grosvenor, ii. 102, 104; Holland House Diaries, 97.
  • 44. Croker Pprs. ii. 149.
  • 45. Wharncliffe mss, Stuart Wortley to bro. James, 9 July 1832.
  • 46. Add. 40405, f. 185; 40406, ff. 49, 255; 40407, f. 218; 40411, f. 297; Greville Mems. iii. 145; Grosvenor, ii. 220-3.
  • 47. Add. 52011, Wharncliffe to Holland, 8 Sept., 18 Oct., 20, 22 Nov., 6 Dec. 1854, 19 Jan. 1855, Lady Wharncliffe to same, 8 July [1856].
  • 48. Gent. Mag (1855), ii. 643.