LESTER, Benjamin Lester (1779-1838), of Stone Cottage, nr. Poole, Dorset.
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Family and Education
Sheriff, Poole 1804, mayor 1815.
Capt. Poole vol. inf. 1803, Dorset vol. inf. 1804, maj. 1805-8; capt. E. Dorset militia 1813.
Garland inherited considerable property and an interest in the Newfoundland trade at Poole, and in 1805 on the death of the last Lester (his uncle Sir John) changed his surname. In 1799 he had been captured at sea by the French and imprisoned at Bordeaux.1 His father engineered his return for Poole on a vacancy in 1809, after a contest. His conduct in Parliament was independent from the start: he appeared in three minorities critical of the Duke of York’s conduct, 15 and 17 Mar. 1809. When he voted against ministers 23, 26 Jan., 23 Feb. and 5 Mar. 1810, on the Scheldt question, the Whigs ventured to label him one of the present opposition and his vote on 30 Mar. seemed to confirm it. He was again in opposition on the Regency question, 29 Nov. 1810, 1 and 21 Jan. 1811. He could not be rallied to an extra-parliamentary meeting to promote constitutional reform that year, but he voted for Catholic relief, 31 May 1811 and 24 Apr. 1812. He was in the opposition majority in favour of abolishing the sinecure paymastership, 24 Feb., and in favour of sinecure reform, 4 May 1812. He was also in the minority critical of the tellership of the Exchequer, 7 May. He had voted against the orders in council, 3 Mar., and was in the majority favouring a more efficient government, 21 May 1812: all this without saying a word in debate.
Lester nevertheless claimed government support at the election of 1812, when he was threatened with a contest which did not materialize.2 He was also on the Treasury list of supporters. This may have reflected his father’s intentions for him: but Lester did not get on well with him— there were differences about financial problems, about marriage and about his general reluctance to confide in his father.3 He voted with the minority for Burdett’s motion on the Regency, 23 Feb. 1813, and supported Catholic relief on 2 Mar., 13 and 24 May 1813 (but not subsequently). On 31 May 1815 he was on the government side on the Regent’s expenditure and his only known minority vote that session was on the East India ships registry bill, 6 June. Then he opposed the military estimates, 6, 8, 11 Mar. 1816, the property tax, 18 Mar., and the navy estimates, 27 Mar. He further joined opposition on 12, 14, 17 and 20 June 1816 and 25 Feb. 1817, in favour of retrenchment. His father, who supported the suspension of habeas corpus, left him ‘perfectly free to act’4 and he opposed it, 23 June 1817, but he was in the majority against inquiry into government employment of informers, 5 Mar. 1818. Next day he voted for the reduction of the army and on 15 Apr. in the majority against the Duke of Clarence’s grant. He also opposed the chancellor’s proposals to extend forgery prevention, 14 May.
Lester survived a contest in 1818. He took six weeks’ leave of absence, 25 Feb. 1819, and two weeks more for illness on 5 May. On 18 May he was in the majority against Tierney’s censure of government. He appeared in two minorities at least in that Parliament, against the foreign enlistment bill, 10 June, and for limiting the duration of the seditious meetings bill to three years, 6 Dec. 1819. No speech of his is known before 1820, but his obituary asserted that his ‘attention to the interests of the town was such as to secure for him the respect of all parties’ and that he was a ‘consistent and liberal Whig’. He died at Paris 15 July 1838, worth £16,000.5 His brother John Bingley Garland (1791-1875) was speaker of the Newfoundland house of assembly.