WHITWORTH, Richard (?1734-1811), of Batchacre, Staffs.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754-1790, ed. L. Namier, J. Brooke., 1964
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Constituency

Dates

1768 - 1780

Family and Education

b. ?1734, s. of Richard Whitworth of Adbaston, Staffs., 1st cos. of Charles Whitworth.  educ. Eton; Trinity, Camb. 18 May 1752, aged 18.  unm.

Offices Held

Sheriff, Staffs. 1758-9.

Biography

Whitworth contested Stafford in 1768 on his own interest against Lord Chetwynd, the representative of the most powerful family interest in the borough, and Hugo Meynell, who was supported by Lord Gower. In a letter to Lord Grosvenor of 6 Jan. 17681 he took a rosy view of his prospects:

My men continue very steady and I increase very greatly, everyone says I am sure to be first upon the poll, notwithstanding the high price my opponents give I have greatly the majority ... Many people wonder how I dare attack two such powerful men. I did at first wonder at it myself but my success has made me forget those thoughts ... I have carried the whole on at my own expense and paid my way, and I think about £900 or £1,000 will settle me there for life.

The day of election, 18 Mar. 1768, Whitworth had a majority of 15 over Chetwynd and 31 over Meynell on a poll of nearly 400.

At first he voted with the Opposition: attended the Opposition dinners at the Thatched House Tavern in 1769 and 1770; and was one of the 26 Members who are known to have voted for Sawbridge’s motion for shorter Parliaments, 4 Mar. 1772. In the Parliament of 1768 he is recorded as having made over 100 interventions in debate, most of them between 1768 and 1771. He seems to have had little contact with either of the main Opposition parties.

Under date 16 Mar. 1772 Horace Walpole wrote of the debate on the committee stage of the royal marriage bill:2‘Richard Whitworth, a necessitous member of the Opposition, who had spoken against the bill, had now been bought off and spoke for it.’ In Robinson’s first survey on the royal marriage bill, drawn up before it was introduced into the Commons, Whitworth is classed as ‘contra, present’; in the second, drawn up after the division of 4 Mar., as ‘doubtful, present’. On the naval captains’ petition, 9 Feb. 1773, he voted against Administration, but was classed in the King’s list as a friend; and again on Grenville’s Act, when he was listed as holding a place. This may have been the secret service pension which he is known to have been receiving in 1779 when the extant portion of North’s secret service accounts begins.

In Robinson’s list of September 1774 Whitworth was classed as a Government supporter, and it seems probable that he had Gower’s support at the general election when he was returned for Stafford unopposed.3 From 1774 to 1780 Whitworth was a regular Government supporter. For this period only five speeches by him are known: three on local matters, one on a point of procedure, and one on defence against invasion, 22 June 1779.4 ‘He recommended erecting beacons immediately round the coast, and teaching people to prepare for an invasion. He also advised every gentleman to direct each of his tenants to provide one man, and arm him, in order to have an immediate local defence throughout the country.’ In 1780 Robinson expected him to be returned again for Stafford, and he received £700 from Administration towards his expenses; but he failed badly on the poll.

His name first appears in Robinson’s secret service accounts under date 16 Feb. 1779: ‘Mr. Richard Whitworth in advance, £100’; next on 5 July 1779: ‘in full for one year, £200’.5 According to the ‘list of pensions extinguished and not returned’, sent to the King on North’s resignation,6 Whitworth’s pension was of £600 p.a.; which does not quite tally with the payments recorded in the accounts.7 It ceased in 1780 when he left Parliament. But in George Rose’s secret service accounts for 1784 there is an entry, so far unexplained: ‘Mr. Whitworth, Stafford, a bond, £400.’8

Whitworth is not known to have stood again after 1780. He died September 1811, aged 77.