ADAMS, James (1752-1816), of Berkeley Square, Mdx.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer



21 Aug. 1784 - 1790
1790 - 1796
1796 - 1802
7 Apr. 1803 - 1806
9 Mar. 1807 - 1807

Family and Education

b. 5 June 1752, 1st s. of Sir Richard Adams, baron of Exchequer, by 1st w., and bro. of Charles Adams*. educ. Univ. Coll. Oxf. 1769; I. Temple 1769. m. 10 Sept. 1796, Mary Anne Susanna, da. and coh. (with Ursula Mary, w. of Henry Addington*) of Leonard Hammond of Cheam, Surr., 1s. suc. fa. 1774.

Offices Held

Ld. of Admiralty Feb. 1801-May 1804.


Adams rallied to Pitt’s administration in his first Parliament, sitting on the Buller interest. In 1790 and 1796 he was returned as a guest on the Calthorpe interest at Hindon and Bramber. He seldom spoke in debate, but not infrequently acted as teller for the government. He was listed hostile to the repeal of the Test Act in Scotland in 1791. On 26 Jan. 1795 he briefly opposed peace negotiations and on 4 Jan. 1798 supported Pitt’s assessed taxes. He had subscribed £5,000 to the loyalty loan for 1797 and his brother Charles £2,000. Although never particularly close to his brother-in-law Addington, he was appointed a lord of the Admiralty by the latter on taking office in 1801. He was occasionally obliged to bring up Admiralty business in the House, but took no great interest in it: he was absent from the board meeting of 20 Aug. 1802 which launched the inquiry into the management of the dockyards. He had heedlessly taken a holiday and St. Vincent had to insist that he should at least attend the proceedings at Chatham and Sheerness, the yards nearest his home.1 In the election of 1802 he had caused a stir by being defeated as Treasury nominee at Harwich, but gained the seat on petition. By then the other Member was Addington’s brother Hiley.

Adams joined Addington in opposition in 1804, voting against Pitt’s additional force bill in June. He voted with the majority for the criminal prosecution of Melville, 12 June 1805. His brother-in-law did not obtain any office for him in the Grenville ministry in 1806, but he voted with them for the repeal of Pitt’s Additional Force Act, 30 Apr. Lord Grenville could not be persuaded to let two Addingtonians come in for Harwich at the election of 1806 and Adams was obliged to make way for Hiley Addington and a Treasury nominee. His brother Charles was reluctant to sacrifice his seat for Weymouth to him. He was still ambitious for office, but his brother-in-law concluded that ‘office and a seat, under such circumstances as the present, is more than could be expected except for a person more immediately connected with the minister’.2 Grenville promised to find him an opening elsewhere, but as it happened a vacancy was made at Harwich in the month that the ministry fell. Adams was a defaulter on 10 Apr. 1807 and could not be expected to obtain the support of the Portland government. He did not seek re-election. Nothing came of an offer by Lord de Dunstanville in November 1811 to secure his return for Penryn.3 He died 14 Sept. 1816.4

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Authors: Winifred Stokes / R. G. Thorne


  • 1. St. Vincent Letters (Navy Recs. Soc. lxi), 8, 141, 191, 194.
  • 2. Sidmouth mss, Sidmouth to J. H. Addington, 26 Sept. 1805, 13, 17 Oct. 1806.
  • 3. PRO 30/70/4/270; Sidmouth mss, De Dunstanville to Sidmouth, 5 Nov. 1811.
  • 4. Not to be confused, as in Alumni Oxon and J. Wilson, Biog. Index (1806, 1808) with William Adams, the civil lawyer (1772-1851).