DAWKINS, James (1760-1843), of Standlynch, Wilts.

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



1784 - 1806
23 Feb. 1807 - 1807
5 Feb. 1808 - 1812
1812 - 1826
1831 - 1832

Family and Education

b. 1760, 1st surv. s. of Henry Dawkins of Over Norton, Oxon. and Standlynch, and bro. of George Hay Dawkins Pennant and Henry Dawkins. educ. Christ Church, Oxf. 4 May 1779, aged 18. m. (1) 3 Sept. 1785, Hannah, da. of Thomas Phipps of Heywood, Wilts. wid. of Charles Long of Grittleton, Wilts., 2s. 1da.; (2) Maria, da. of Gen. Gordon Forbes, s.p. suc. fa. 1814; to estates of his cos. Thomas, 4th Earl of Portmore [S], taking name of Colyear before Dawkins by royal lic. 24 Dec. 1835.

Offices Held

Capt. Wilts. supp. militia 1796, lt.-col. commdt. 1803, col. 1804, 1813.


Dawkins succeeded his father as Member for Chippenham in 1784 and strengthened his interest in the borough by purchasing burgages. He was defeated in 1806, but was returned on petition and was again seated by the House after the election of 1807 when he obtained the same number of votes as another candidate. Following this contest, which had proved very expensive, Dawkins sold his property at Chippenham to John Maitland and in 1812 was returned on the recommendation of the Treasury at Hastings.

In his first Parliament Dawkins acted with opposition and joined the Whig Club, 3 Apr. 1787. In September 1788 Pitt made inquiries about the possibility of ousting him from his seat.1 He met with the Whigs at Burlington House on 11 May 1790 and voted with them against Pitt’s foreign policy, 12 Apr. 1791, 1 Mar. 1792. He was reckoned a supporter of repeal of the Test Act in Scotland in 1791, and was clearly a Portland Whig,2 though not so listed in December 1792. On 10 and 17 Feb. 1793 he joined the ‘third party’ at William Windham’s house:3 seceding from the Whig Club, he ceased to act with opposition. Heir to ancestral West Indian estates, he voted against the abolition of the slave trade, 15 Mar. 1796.

Dawkins looked to the Duke of Portland for a peerage for his father, but applications of 9 Oct. 1797 and 29 Dec. 1800 met with disappointment.4 He voted for Pitt’s assessed taxes, 4 Jan. 1798, but there is little evidence of further parliamentary activity. On 18 June 1804 Portland summoned him to an interview, to rally him to Pitt’s second ministry.5 He was listed its supporter in September 1804 and July 1805. It was more likely he than his brother Henry who was a die-hard opponent of the abolition of the slave trade, 6 Mar. 1807. Even when Portland came to power in 1807 and noted the family’s wish for a peerage, it was not granted.6

Dawkins rallied to Perceval’s ministry on the address, 23 Jan. 1810, and on the Scheldt questions, 26 Jan., 23 Feb. and 30 Mar. The Whigs were doubtful of him, under the name of ‘James Dickens’. He voted against parliamentary reform, 21 May 1810. On the Regency he appeared in the opposition majority, 1 Jan. 1811. He was in the government minority against Stuart Wortley’s motion, 21 May 1812. He opposed Catholic relief throughout in 1813. As a Treasury supporter after 1812, he voted with them on critical questions such as the Duke of Cumberland’s marriage grant, 29 June and 3 July 1815; the property tax, 18 Mar. 1816; the public revenue bill, 20 June 1816; the suspension of habeas corpus, 23 June 1817, and the Duke of Clarence’s establishment, 15 Apr. 1818. The Treasury included him in their dinner lists in 1818.7 In the next Parliament he was in the majorities against Tierney’s censure motion, 18 May, and for the foreign enlistment bill, 10 June 1819. By 1820 he had been 35 years in Parliament without a murmur credited to him in debate. He died a commoner 13 Mar. 1843, aged 83.8

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. Pellew, Sidmouth, i. 57.
  • 2. Ginter, Whig Organization, 161.
  • 3. Add. 34448, f. 296.
  • 4. Portland mss PwV 111.
  • 5. PRO 30/8/168, f. 160.
  • 6. Portland mss PwV 114.
  • 7. Add. 38366, f. 135.
  • 8. Gent. Mag. (1843), i. 446.