GRANT, Alexander Cray (1782-1854), of Malshanger House, nr. Basingstoke, Hants.
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Family and Education
b. 30 Nov. 1782, 1st s. of Sir Alexander Grant, 7th Bt., of Dalvey, Elgin and Malshanger House by Sarah, da. and h. of Jeremiah Cray of Ibsley, Hants. educ. L. Inn 1799; St. John’s, Camb. 1801. unm. suc. fa. as 8th Bt. 26 July 1825.
Member of assembly, Jamaica 1810-11; agent, Antigua 1819-20, St. Christopher 1820-3, Nevis 1823-6.
Chairman of ways and means 1826-32; commr. Board of Control 1834-5; commr, public accts. 1843-d.
Lt. Mdx. vols. 1803; recorder, East Retford 1827.
Grant was heir to Jamaican plantations with 1,200 negroes, and a partner in a London West India agency, with ‘above 4,000 hogsheads of sugar annually consigned to him’. In 1810 he went out to Jamaica to acquaint himself with his inheritance. There he gained ‘an accurate and local knowledge of the proper mode of conducting West India concerns’, so as to be able to protect himself from ‘becoming a victim to the system of negligence, deception and plunder too generally practised towards absentees’. After his return to England in 1812, he was recommended by Andrew Cochrane Johnstone* to William Beckford*, as a person with the integrity and ability necessary to take charge of his Jamaican property: ‘he is of good family, a perfect gentleman himself, and will not degrade himself by resorting to the rapacious system of the Messrs Plummers ... In employing Mr Grant, your affairs will I am confident be soon placed on a thriving and economical system.’1
In the same month Grant was returned after a contest for Tregony on the duchy of Cornwall interest, at the instigation of Lord Yarmouth. He entered Parliament primarily as a spokesman for the planters’ interest, but supported government on all major issues. He voted against Catholic relief in 1813, 1816 and 1817. In his first known speech, 13 Mar. 1816 and again on 13 May 1817 disguised as George Grant*, he ‘protested strongly’ against any reduction of the West Indian forces and viewed the ‘black corps’ with extreme jealousy. On 19 June 1816 he replied to Brougham in the debate on West Indian slavery, attributing the disorders in Barbados to the slave registry bill, a violation of the planters’ rights. He denied that there was any illegal importation of slaves and on the basis of his experience in Jamaica praised the standards of the colonial assemblies: much had been done to ameliorate the conditions of the slaves. He likewise attacked Romilly’s motion on the treatment of slaves in Dominica, which ‘might produce very wrong impressions regarding the character of the West India proprietors: its object was not to misrepresent, but its tendency was’, 22 Apr. 1818. On 3 June, he quoted a letter from a ‘respectable friend’ in Nevis denying the maltreatment of slaves. The same day he opposed Brougham’s bid to promote the education of the poor.
In the ensuing election Grant was returned on the interest of Lord Mount Edgcumbe, who usually nominated wealthy friends of ministers. Edward John Littleton who dined with him on 30 Jan. 1819 described him as
One of the most strenuous partisans of government, who nevertheless joined in the cry which we raised against Mr Vansittart. Grant who has had more jobbing in boroughs than most men, said he would give £1,400 per annum for a seat for a friend— and that £6,000 for the Parliament had in his opinion been the average price.2
He had certainly been bargaining to introduce a friend at Grimsby in 1818, with an introduction from the Treasury. He was later a neighbour and friend of Robert Peel II, who, like others, called him ‘The Chin’.3 Grant died 29 Nov. 1854.