DU PRÉ, James (1778-1870), of Wilton Park, Beaconsfield, Bucks.

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

Constituency

Dates

29 Apr. 1800 - 1802
1802 - 1806
1807 - 1812

Family and Education

b. 10 June 1778, 1st s. of Josias Du Pré of Wilton Park, gov. Madras 1770-3, by Rebecca, da. of Nathaniel Alexander of Gunsland, co. Londonderry, sis. of James, 1st Earl of Caledon [I]. educ. Eton 1791; Christ Church, Oxf. 1796-1800. m. 18 May 1801, Madelina, da. of Sir William Maxwell, 4th Bt., of Monreith, Wigtown, 3s. 8da. suc. fa. 1780.

Offices Held

Sheriff, Bucks. 1825-6.

Capt. S. Bucks yeomanry 1803.

Biography

Du Pré’s father was a nabob who had purchased Wilton Park in 1760 and a kinsman of Josias Du Pré Porcher*. His mother’s brother, James Alexander, was another nabob and Du Pré, left fatherless at two, moved in his orbit. Soon after coming of age he bought his way into Parliament, finding a vacancy at Gatton, which had just been sold by John Petrie* to Mark Wood I*. In October 1800 he showed an interest in purchasing the borough interest of William Jolliffe* at Petersfield, after his uncle had declined it. Writing to his cousin Du Pré Alexander, he suggested that if he bought Petersfield, he might accommodate him in one of the seats, at the market price, supposing ‘you are at least as keen a legislator as myself’.1 Nothing came of this, but he found an opening nearer home in December 1800 when, at the invitation of some electors hostile to the 1st Marquess of Buckingham’s interest, he canvassed Aylesbury. In a justificatory letter to the marquess’s brother Lord Grenville he wrote, 21 Dec.:

My situation in life and residence in this country have induced me to aspire [to] the borough of Aylesbury, and I will prosecute the canvass I have commenced most successfully, with all the zeal and activity in my power.

He added that he was willing to respect the Grenville interest, as long as it did not affect his independence in Parliament. Grenville alerted Scrope Bernard* who deplored Du Pré’s ‘hasty and unthinking conduct’ and apparently tried to dissuade him, but he persisted.2 He resisted a bid by Buckingham to divert him into a contest for the county and won the seat. An attempt to unseat him for bribery failed.3

Although Du Pré was in the minority of 12 Nov. 1800 for a call of the House, he was evidently well disposed to Pitt. His marriage to the Duchess of Gordon’s niece in 1801 led him in the same direction. No speech of his in the House is known. On 3 Mar. 1803 he took a week’s leave, but next day appeared in the minority in favour of a review of the Prince of Wales’s financial claims. He most probably voted with Pitt on 3 June 1803 and certainly did so on 15 Mar. 1804. He was also in the minorities against Addington on defence questions, 16, 23 and 25 Apr. 1804. In September 1804 and July 1805 he was listed ‘Pitt’, having appeared in the government minority against the censure on Melville on 8 Apr. After Pitt’s death he also opposed the repeal of his Additional Force Act, 30 Apr. 1806. He was at that time an East India Company stockholder, entitled to two votes for the directorate.

Du Pré did not contest Aylesbury at the election of 1806 when the Grenvilles were in the ascendant: they regarded him as a foe. But in 1807 the 4th Duke of Richmond (his wife’s connexion) put him up at Chichester, where he was returned unopposed. He may by then have become a reluctant Member. He was also at loggerheads with the Portland ministry over county politics in Londonderry. On 11 Feb. 1810 Richmond informed Earl Bathurst that Du Pré, who had been ill, would probably not stand for Parliament next time: ‘He thinks his idleness hurts my interest’. He had voted with ministers on the address, 23 Jan. 1810, but on 30 Mar. paired with Henry Shelley on the Scheldt question. The Whigs listed him ‘against the Opposition’. No further vote of his is known. On 27 June 1811 Bathurst asked Richmond if he was willing to substitute his son Apsley for Du Pré, who ‘never attends’, next session. Du Pré remained a Member until the dissolution. According to Lord Egremont he had damaged his patron’s interest by his neglect and would not do in future.4

He died 13 June 1870, leaving his heir £10,000 a year.5

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: R. G. Thorne

Notes

  • 1. PRO NI, Caledon mss D2433/C/3/25.
  • 2. Fortescue mss, Bernard to Grenville, 25 Dec., enc. Du Pré to Grenville, 21 Dec.; Due Pré to Grenville, 26 Dec., 1800.
  • 3. Spencer mss, Harrison to Spencer, 20 June 1802; CJ, lix. 121.
  • 4. Fortescue mss, Grenville to Elliot, 31 Oct. 1806; NLI, Richmond mss 61/333, 69/1226, 1227, 1237, 1238, 1251; 72/1597; Blair Adam mss, Loch to Adam [Mar. 1810].
  • 5. Letters of Thackeray ed. Rae, i. 146.

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