GUISE, Sir Berkeley William, 2nd Bt. (1775-1834), of Highnam Court, Glos.
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Family and Education
b. 14 July 1775, 1st s. of Sir John Guise, 1st Bt., of Highnam by Elizabeth, da. and h. of Thomas Wright of Laurence Lane, London. educ. Eton 1791; Christ Church, Oxf. 1794. unm. suc. fa. as 2nd Bt. 2 May 1794; to Guise fam. estates of Elmore Court and Rendcombe, Glos. on d. (1807) of his cos. Jane, w. of Rt. Rev. and Hon. Shute Barrington, bp. of Durham.
Verderer and dep. warden, Forest of Dean 1801-d.; sheriff, Gloucester 1807, mayor 1818.
Capt. N. Glos. militia 1798; lt.-col. commdt. 1 R. E. Glos. militia 1809.
Guise came from an old Gloucestershire family. His cousin and namesake had sat for the county on the Berkeley interest from 1770 until 1783. He became known as a reformer and early in 1809 accepted Major Cartwright’s invitation to attend his projected meeting of the Friends of Parliamentary Reform. He was listed among the stewards in the subsequent advertisement for the meeting to be held on 1 May 1809 at the Crown and Anchor. Shortly beforehand he took an active part in an attempt to organize a county meeting to demand reform and vote thanks to Wardle, Burdett and company for their parliamentary exertions in the Duke of York affair. He was taken aback when his friend Sir George Onesiphorous Paul of Rodborough, a veteran of Wyvill’s reform campaign of 1780 and the leading opponent of the aristocratic monopoly of the county representation, refused to have anything to do with the agitation for reform at public meetings and warned him against associating with such ‘dangerous’ men as Cartwright and Burdett. He subsequently toned down the resolutions proposed for the meeting and stayed away from the Crown and Anchor.1
Guise had clearly absorbed the message that extremism would not advance his political ambitions in Gloucestershire, for when he came forward for the county on a vacancy in August 1810, as the candidate of the independent gentlemen, he issued a handbill refuting allegations that he was a Burdettite in politics and attributing his withdrawal from the Crown and Anchor meeting of 1809 to the fact that in the advertisement ‘my name was associated with persons the violence of whose politics I could not but disapprove’. On the hustings he professed himself ‘a genuine Whig’, friendly to ‘a moderate and temperate reform of abuses’, but determined to resist ‘the dangerous spirit of innovation’. William Cobbett, commenting from Newgate on these proceedings, stated that Guise had never enjoyed the privilege of association with Burdett and dismissed his disclaimer of Burdettite politics as an electoral device designed to appease the local Whigs. Certainly Guise’s opponent John Dutton, who stood on the Berkeley interest, also presented himself as a reforming Whig, though he was supported by the 6th Duke of Beaufort, a ministerialist, and at least two members of the Perceval ministry who had property in Gloucestershire.2 When the by-election took place early in 1811, Guise defeated Dutton after a ten-day contest and retained the seat until his death.
In the House he voted consistently with the Whigs, though he did not join Brooks’s until May 1816, and he was not the most assiduous of attenders. His only known vote in 1811, when he could not be rallied to an extra-parliamentary meeting of the Friends of Reform, was against ex officio libel informations, 28 Mar. In 1812 he paired for the divisions on Ireland, 4 Feb., and the sinecure bill, 4 May, and did not vote for the formation of a stronger administration, 21 May, when he may have been absent on militia business;3 but he was in the minority of 17 against the framework knitters bill, 17 Feb., and voted for reduction of the emoluments of the sinecure tellerships, 7 May. He voted for Catholic relief, 24 Apr. 1812, and continued to do so throughout this period.
Guise voted against the sinecure joint pay-mastership, 8 Mar. 1813, for the censure of the Speaker’s anti-Catholic speech, 22 Apr., against the blockade of Norway, 12 May, and the peacetime militia, 28 Nov. 1814 and 28 Feb. 1815. On 24 Feb. 1815 he successfully moved for documents to refute allegations of the maltreatment of prisoners in Gloucester gaol. He opposed the transfer of Genoa, 21 Feb., voted against the corn bill and for Whitbread’s motion on Spanish Liberal refugees, 1 Mar., and against the property tax, 19 and 20 Apr., 1 May 1815. He opposed the renewal of war for the restoration of the Bourbons, 28 Apr. and 25 May 1815, voted for reception of the City petition, 1 May, and against the peace settlement, 20 Feb. 1816. Thereafter he voted regularly for retrenchment, economy and reduced taxation; on the hustings in 1818 he promised to continue in the same vein.4 He voted for the Lymington reform petition, 11 Feb., Burdett’s reform motion, 20 May 1817, and Scottish burgh reform, 6 May 1819, but not for Burdett’s reform motion of 1 July 1819. He opposed the suspension of habeas corpus, 26 and 28 Feb. 1817, and its renewal, 23 June; in February and March 1818 he joined in the attack on the domestic spy system and the indemnity bill. On Folkestone’s call for inquiry into the operation of the suspension, 17 Feb., he again gave the lie to complaints of the regime in Gloucester gaol, but supported the motion. He spoke and voted against the additional grant to the Duke of Clarence, 15 Apr., and spoke for the unsuccessful land tax assessment bill, 4 May.
Guise signed the requisition calling on Tierney to take the Whig leadership in the Commons in August 1818, and voted for his censure motion, 18 May 1819, and in most of the important divisions of the session. He went up for the emergency session at the end of the year and voted against the address, 24 Nov., and for inquiry into the state of the nation, 30 Nov. He subsequently voted to limit the duration, 6 Dec., and the scope of the seditious meetings bill, 8 Dec., when he stated that it was unnecessary in Gloucestershire, against its third reading 13 Dec., and against the night searches provisions of the seizure of arms bill, 14 and 16 Dec. 1819. He died 23 July 1834.