LAW, Ewan (1747-1829), of Lower Brook Street, Mdx. and Horsted Place, Little Horsted, Suss.

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



1790 - Jan. 1795
5 May 1802 - 1802

Family and Education

bap. 30 Oct. 1747, 2nd s. of Rev. Edmund Law, DD, later bp. of Carlisle, and bro. of Sir Edward Law*. educ. by J. Sharpe, Bromley by Bow 1762-3. m. 28 June 1784, Henrietta Sarah, da. of Most Rev. William Markham, abp. of York, 4s. 4da.

Offices Held

Writer, E.I. Co. (Bengal) 1763; asst. collector, Patna 1768; factor and member of council, Patna 1770; jun. merchant 1772, sen. merchant 1776; chief at Patna 1777; home 1780; res. 1782.

Commr. of naval inquiry 1802-5.


Law made a fortune in India1 and married a sister of William Markham, a colleague in the Company service; his sisters married Sir Thomas Rumbold, governor of Madras, whose executor Law was, and Rev. James Lushington, a relative of Stephen Rumbold Lushington*, another governor of Madras. Two of his sons died in India and his nephew, Lord Ellenborough, became governor-general: ‘a regular knot of Anglo-Indian alliances’.2

On settling in England, Law purchased a handsome property in Sussex, apart from his investment in East India Company stock. He was returned for Westbury, on the 4th Earl of Abingdon’s interest, to ‘hold the seat for his brother Edward’, then engaged in Warren Hastings’s trial.3 He supported administration, except on the question of raising public money by private benevolence, 28 Mar. 1794. In 1791 he was considered hostile to the repeal of the Test Act in Scotland. He spoke only on the trial of Warren Hastings, in which his brother led for the defence; he believed Hastings, whom he had not known in India, to be ‘honest and honourable’ and called the protraction of the trial ‘a libel on British justice’, 6 June 1793. He condemned Burke’s conduct as manager and was sorry to see Fox, whom he professed to respect, in such company. He also defended the conduct in India of his ‘intimate friend’ Sir John Shore, 20 June 1794. Canning, who dined with Law at the archbishop of York’s, 3 Dec. 1793, said he was in Parliament ‘in a seat which it is supposed he will resign to his brother when Mr Hastings’ trial is at an end’.4 But he vacated in January 1795; the trial ended in April and it was not his brother who filled the gap.

As Law’s correspondence with his brother the bishop of Elphin shows, he was no politician: in January 1789 he had written ‘Of politics, I can say nothing good. Our situation is lamentable, and I see no likelihood of its being better’; on the appearance of Burke’s Reflections, 8 Nov. 1790, ‘I have not got through him’. In November 1792, he deprecated alarmism and reported without comment the rumours of a coalition of parties. He deplored the expense of war, 4 Jan. 1794, 29 Oct. 1796, but was not in favour of peace on French terms only. A chronic sufferer from gout, he wrote of his brother 4 Jan. 1794, ‘Edward is labouring hard and I hope laying well up for that time when the gout and infirmities will call for rest’. On 3 May 1797 he wrote of ‘immediate danger from reform and certain ruin from persisting in the present system of abuses and extravagance—God send us better times’.5

Law evidently did not intend to return to Parliament, but when Edward Law became lord chief justice as Lord Ellenborough in 1802 he occupied his seat for Newtown on the Worsley interest until the dissolution, supporting administration. There was a delay in his taking his seat. He informed his brother the bishop, 18 May 1802:

I was to have filled the gap made by Edward’s promotion but in the return the letter V was used instead of W in my Christian name. It therefore stands over till a person present at the election can appear and give such evidence as may induce the House to amend the return.

He spoke twice before the dissolution, as a critic of the Sierra Leone settlement, 11 June, and in a bid to secure additional information on the nawab of Arcot’s affairs, 23 June. On 17 June he wrote: ‘I shall not for a variety of reasons be a Member of the new Parliament, but amongst them there is not one which stands on the ground of dislike to the present minister’. He seems to have been partial to Addington and on the latter’s resignation in 1804 wrote, 16 May, ‘I wish the new men may do as well as he has done’, and criticized the former Pitt administration: ‘As war ministers and politicians they were wretched and lavish of public money beyond all example.’ Law’s membership of the commission of naval inquiry, 1802-5, no doubt prompted the latter remark. In December 1802 he did not feel well enough to attend his duty and in 1804 he wrote:

The attendance on the office I hold is too much for me; I shall not be surprised if the new lord of the Admiralty, the old jobber, should procure a stop to be put to our enquiries; as far as I am personally concerned I should heartily rejoice at it.6

Yet Lord Ellenborough told Lord Grenville, 26 May 1806, that his ‘zeal, industry and usefulness’ in the detection of public abuses were ‘unquestioned’. Woodfall, writing to Lord Auckland, described him as ‘by no means destitute of good abilities’. Law did not welcome the Portland ministry. He wrote, 2 July 1807, that he thought the outgoing ministers stood ‘much clearer of job and abuse than the present ruins of Mr Pitt’s administration, of whom if any good come I shall be agreeably disappointed’.7

Law died 24 Apr. 1829, leaving his properties in Sussex and Lincolnshire to his eldest son and monetary bequests to the rest of his family. His estate was valued at £70,000.8

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. J. M. Holzman, Nabobs in England, 148; Farington, i. 11. Incorrect variants of his name are Evan and Ewen (Glenbervie Diaries, i. 315, 401).
  • 2. Holzman, 41; Lord Eldon’s Anecdote Bk. 119.
  • 3. Horsfield, Sussex, i. 373; Jackson’s Oxf. Jnl. 24 June 1790.
  • 4. Harewood mss.
  • 5. PRO 30/12/17/2, Ewan to John Law, bp. of Elphin.
  • 6. Ibid.; St. Vincent Letters (Navy Recs. Soc. lxi), 201.
  • 7. HMC Fortescue, viii. 154; Auckland Jnl. iv. 158; PRO 30/12/17/2.
  • 8. PCC 300 Liverpool.