BLACKBURNE, John (1754-1833), of Hale Hall, nr. Liverpool and Orford Hall, nr. Warrington, Lancs.
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Family and Education
b. 5 Aug. 1754, 1st s. of Thomas Blackburne of Hale by Ireland, da. and coh. of Isaac Green of Childwall, Lancs. and Hale. educ. Harrow; Queen’s, Oxf. 1772. m. 19 Apr. 1781, Anne, da. of Samuel Rodbard of Evercreech, Som., 3s. 4da. suc. fa. 1768; gdfa. John Blackburne to Orford 1786.
Sheriff, Lancs. 1781-2.
Capt. commdt. Hale vols. 1803.
Blackburne, who represented his native county for 46 years, gave general support to Pitt, from whom he obtained the wardenship of the Manchester Collegiate Church for his brother in 1791.1 In April of that year he was reckoned hostile to repeal of the Test Act in Scotland. His only wayward votes were for Sumner’s amendment concerning provision for the Prince of Wales’s debts, 1 June 1795, against the land tax redemption bill, 23 Apr. and 18 May 1798, and for inquiry into the Ferrol expedition, 19 Feb. 1801. He presented a Liverpool petition supporting the government’s repressive legislation, 30 Nov. 1795, voted against abolition of the slave trade, 15 Mar. 1796, and sat on the select committees on the Bank stoppage, 1 Mar. 1797, and Irish disaffection, 2 Apr. 1801. On 30 Oct. 1801 Edward Wilbraham Bootle told Charles Abbot that Blackburne was ‘growing more and more reconciled’ to the peace and he generally supported Addington in power, though he was in the minority on the Prince of Wales’s financial claims, 31 Mar. 1802, and was among ‘the most marked persons whose votes, having been counted on by government, were given to opposition’ on the adjournment pending news from France, 6 May 1803. Lord Redesdale, by way of explanation, commented that he was ‘always fearful of his election’.2
Blackburne, who on 22 Feb. 1804 aired the grievances of journeymen calico printers, adhered to Addington after his fall from power and was marked ‘doubtful’ by Pitt’s second ministry in May 1804. Despite his vote against the additional force bill, 11 June, he was listed under ‘Pitt’ in September, but the following month he wrote to Addington criticizing his successor’s financial measures. When seeking leave from Addington in December 1804 to miss the opening of the forthcoming session, he expressed the hope that a reconciliation with Pitt was in the offing, ‘as I think myself and the public would feel great confidence in the addition of your patriotism and integrity to the public councils’, and he duly rejoiced in the junction when it took place the following month. He reported from the committee of the whole House on the corn trade regulation bill, 28 Jan. 1805, but no other trace of activity in that session has been found and it was from Cheltenham that he replied to a letter from Addington (now Lord Sidmouth) in July, when ministers listed him under ‘Sidmouth’, informing him of the final rift with Pitt: ‘Whatever is your situation you will always possess my friendship and true esteem and I shall ever recollect with conscious satisfaction that I was a firm supporter of the most upright administration I have ever remembered’.3
Blackburne was present at a meeting of ‘Pitt’s friends’ to consider the steps to be taken over his funeral honours in January 1806,4 but with Sidmouth in the cabinet he supported the ‘Talents’, voting for the repeal of the Additional Force Act, 30 Apr. 1806. Later in the year he was reckoned ‘friendly’ to slave trade abolition. He differed from Sidmouth by voting, without explanation, for Brand’s motion condemning the Portland ministry’s pledge on Catholic relief, 9 Apr. 1807. This action, combined with a false belief that he had failed to present a Bolton loyal address to the King, provoked some hostility in Lancashire, where it was thought that ‘the name of an opponent is only wanting to defeat’ him at the general election, as he ‘was looked upon as the representative of the Church and King party in that county, and consequently the watchword of the ministerial party made very much against him’. The threatened opposition came to nothing and Sidmouth reported him to be ‘in high spirits after his fortunate escape’.5
Opposition hopes that Blackburne would vote with them against the address, 26 June 1807, were not realized and although he was said to be ‘furious against the seizure of the Danish ships’ in December, he did not vote against government on the issue in February 1808.6 He remained loosely attached to Sidmouth, but his line in the 1807 Parliament was essentially an independent one. He voted against the Portland ministry on the orders in council, 3 Mar. 1808, the Duke of York scandal, 17 Mar. 1809, despite a report that he had been ‘turned’ by Perceval’s performance,7 and corruption charges against Castlereagh, 25 Apr. On the collapse of the ministry he wrote to Sidmouth: ‘I rejoice at the breaking up of an administration that have wasted the resources of the country for less advantage, nay for disadvantage, more than any I have read of in our history’.8 In January 1810 Perceval’s Home secretary heard that Blackburne and his son had ‘avowedly changed sides’,9 but he was listed among opposition absentees or pairs for the division on the Scheldt fiasco, 5 Mar., was marked ‘hopeful’ by the Whigs and voted with them on the Scheldt, 30 Mar. He voted against parliamentary reform, 21 May, but for the release of John Gale Jones, 16 Apr., and for sinecure reductions, 17 May 1810, divided against government on the Regency bill, 21 Jan. 1811, and the sinecure paymastership, 24 Feb. 1812, and paired on the opposition side on the orders in council, 3 Mar., and the sinecure bill, 4 May 1812. He rallied to government against the call for a remodelling of administration, 21 May, but voted against the Admiralty registrars bill, 19 June. He was one of the die-hards who opposed Catholic relief, 22 June 1812, as he did consistently for the rest of this period, despite his admiration for Canning’s pro-Catholic speech of 11 May 1813.10 His few recorded speeches in the 1807 Parliament were on Lancashire matters: he presented a petition from cotton workers for a minimum wage, 24 Feb. 1809, pressed for inquiry into the cotton industry, 30 May and 5 June 1811, and sat on the committee of inquiry; presented a Blackburn petition for repeal of the orders in council, 20 Mar., secured the rejection of petitions complaining of the regime in Lancaster gaol, 16 June, and supported remuneration for Crompton for the invention of the ‘mule’, 24 June 1812.
The Liverpool ministry, of which Sidmouth was a member, listed Blackburne among their supporters and he voted with them in 8 of the 23 divisions of the 1812 Parliament for which full lists have been found, including those on the renewed suspension of habeus corpus, 23 June 1817, and the employment of spies, 5 Mar. 1818, when he refuted allegations made in a hostile Manchester petition. He paired in favour of the Irish window tax, 21 Apr., and spoke and voted against Bennet’s motion on the imprisonment of radical booksellers, 21 May 1818. His only known wayward votes were on the sinecure bill, 29 Mar. 1813, the civil list, 8 May 1815, and the property tax, 18 Mar. 1816, and he voted with the minority on the Speakership, 2 June 1817. He presented petitions against the corn bill, 6 Mar. 1815, but is not known to have opposed the measure. In October 1816 he asked Sidmouth to station a troop of cavalry at Blackburn in case of disturbances.11 At the 1818 general election he was attacked by Lancashire reformers for his support of ministers and their repressive measures,12 but nothing came of the opposition, and in the new Parliament he voted against Tierney’s censure motion, 18 May, and paired in favour of the foreign enlistment bill, 10 June 1819. Bootle Wilbraham warned Liverpool, 26 Sept., that Blackburne was ‘too old’ to be relied on to defend the conduct of the Peterloo magistrates in the House, but this did not stop him complaining of his failure to speak out when Parliament met.13
As Blackburne aged, he became eccentric. Captain Gronow recorded a visit to Hale in 1815:
Mr Blackburne was extremely absent and otherwise odd: upon one occasion I gave him a letter to frank, which he deliberately opened and read in my presence; and on my asking him if it amused him, he replied that he did not understand what it meant.
Gronow went on to tell how Blackburne peremptorily refused to shoot with the Duke of Gloucester because he carried his gun cocked, repeatedly drained his royal guest’s wine glass at dinner and afterwards deprived him of his cup of tea, pursuing the royal servant who held it and brushing aside his protestations with the exclamation, ‘D— his Royal Highness; I will have this tea.’14 He died 11 Apr. 1833.
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Authors: M. H. Port / David R. Fisher
- 1. PRO 30/8/114, ff. 23, 25.
- 2. PRO 30/9/1 pt. 1/2; Add. 35714, f. 81; 35717, f. 90.
- 3. Sidmouth mss, Addington to J. H. Addington, 12 June, Blackburne to Addington, 8 Dec. 1804, 22 Jan., 9 July 1805; Pellew, Sidmouth, ii. 322, 376.
- 4. Rose Diaries, ii. 239.
- 5. Kenyon mss, Sturges Bourne to Kenyon, 3 May; Spencer mss, Rev. Allen to Spencer, 17 May; Sidmouth mss, Sidmouth to J. H. Addington, 20 May 1807.
- 6. Buckingham, Court and Cabinets, iv. 187; Farington Diary (Yale ed.), viii. 3181.
- 7. Geo. III Corresp. v. 3832.
- 8. Sidmouth mss.
- 9. NLI, Richmond mss 62/530.
- 10. Farington, vii. 173.
- 11. Pellew, iii. 154.
- 12. Preston Chron. 27 June 1818.
- 13. Add. 38280, f. 19; Colchester, iii. 92.
- 14. Reminiscences (1900), i. 159-60.