LEWIS, Thomas Frankland (1780-1855), of Harpton Court, Rad.
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Family and Education
b. 14 May 1780, o.s. of John Lewis† of Harpton Court by 2nd w. Anne, da. of Adm. Sir Thomas Frankland, 5th Bt.† of Thirkleby, Yorks. sis. of Sir Thomas Frankland, 6th Bt.*, and William Frankland*. educ. Croydon 1788-92, Eton 1792-8, Christ Church, Oxf. 1798. m. (1) 12 Jan. 1805, Harriet (d. 11 Aug. 1838), da. of Sir George Cornewall, 2nd Bt.*, 2s.; (2) 15 Oct. 1839, Mary Anne, da. of John Ashton, capt. Horse Gds., s.p. suc. fa. 1797; cr. Bt. 11 July 1846.
Commr. revenue [I] 1821, [UK] 1822-5, education [I] 1825-8; jt. sec. to Treasury Sept. 1827-Feb. 1828; vice-pres. Board of Trade Feb.-May 1828; PC 5 Feb. 1828; treasurer of navy Feb.-Nov. 1830; chairman, Poor Law commission Aug. 1834-Jan. 1839; charity commr. 1835-7; commr., ‘Rebecca’ riots in Wales Oct. 1843.
Sheriff, Rad. 1804-5; recorder, New Radnor 1819.
Maj. Rad. vols. 1803, lt.-col. 1803-5, (militia) 1808.
Lewis’s father and grandfather had represented New Radnor, but when he aspired to a seat in Parliament the family influence was in abeyance. He was discouraged from offering himself there in 1802 and 1807. He refused to contemplate standing for the county in 1802 and gave it up in 1812. He later represented both, but first came in for Beaumaris as a stranger at the invitation of Viscount Bulkeley. Like his patron he acted with the Grenvillite Whig line of opposition to Lord Liverpool’s administration. After a satisfactory maiden speech on 5 Mar. 1813 against the Brecknock and Abergavenny canal bill, he spoke regularly on agricultural and financial questions and made his name as a committeeman. In 1813 he brought in a bill to regulate the assize of bread and in 1815 succeeded in securing the repeal of the existing statute on it as far as London was concerned. He obstructed the auction duties bill, 3 July 1813, as harmful to the agricultural interest, and had something to say on the Corn Laws. On 5 May 1814 he wished to defer a committee on the subject until the Bank of England had resumed cash payments; on 17 May, he opposed legislative interference and denied the agricultural interest was in danger, voting accordingly on 16 May: but on 23 Feb. 1815 he stated that he was now convinced of the expediency of some legislative adjustment, even if his friends disagreed. He acquiesced in the continuation of the property tax for the present, 5 May 1815, but castigated government for retaining it the next year amid agricultural distress, 12 Feb. 1816, and voted against its renewal on 18 Mar. He went on to oppose the army estimates, 26 Feb. 1816, advocating colonial self-defence and the disembodiment of the militia. Between 1815 and 1817, he voted steadily against government on issues of retrenchment.
Lewis seconded Western’s motion for a committee on agricultural distress, 7 Mar. 1816, and in committee complained (28 Mar.) that the landed interest, ‘the frame of the whole of English society’, had been neglected at the expense of the manufacturers and needed protection. He was consequently elected chairman of a select committee to consider duties on imported seeds, the free export of wool and the encouragement of tobacco growing, but he was unable to secure his aims, 29 Apr., 17 May. Deputizing for Western in the committee on agricultural distress, 24 May, he admitted that he no longer supported the free export of wool. He was from the start a keen advocate of the resumption of cash payments by the Bank. On 7 Feb. 1817 he was chosen for the finance committee. He voted ‘with reluctance’ for the suspension of habeas corpus, 26 Feb., deploring the agitation of ‘Spencean philanthropists’. That year he joined Grillion’s Club. On 20 May he was in the majority against Burdett’s plea for parliamentary reform. Other subjects that engaged his attention were the reform of the Poor Laws and the Game Laws and of public credit. He voted steadily for Catholic relief.
Lewis’s sympathy for the Catholic claims proved a disadvantage to him in the autumn of 1817, when his name was mentioned as a likely successor to Peel as Irish secretary in the event of a government re-shuffle. Lord Whitworth’s comment was: ‘it cannot be. He is too well known for what he is and being so known, he can have no hope.’ He was expected to join the Grenvillite ‘third party’ in the session of 1818, but preferred to retain his opposition seat. His criticisms of the government were nevertheless limited. In October 1817 he had been observed ingratiating himself with the county ministerialists at Hereford races and had informed Robert Price*, after expressing some distaste for Broughan’s tactics in opposition, that since Lord Grenville’s abdication he ‘considered himself entirely as a free person, to act as he himself thought best’.1
In May 1818, in anticipation of Peel’s resigning the Irish secretaryship, Lewis was again considered as his successor. The viceroy Lord Talbot feared his pro-Catholic views would be embarrassing. Lord Liverpool thought he would not do, though he was
a most honourable and respectable man and is by marriage connected with my family. He possesses very good abilities, but his political connexions have never been those of the government. He is strongly committed upon some questions of finance and internal economy which might render his holding so responsible and confidential a situation embarrassing, and he has never been in any public office and would be wholly new therefore to the whole course of official business.2
Although Lewis spoke and voted for the resumption of cash payments by the Bank on 2 Feb. 1819 on Tierney’s motion, being placed on the secret committee next day, he pursued his own line thereafter in broad agreement with the Grenvillites. On 8 Feb., the day he was named to the finance committee, he went away, rather than vote for the addition of Brougham to the Bank committee, and on 22 Feb. he went away before the vote on the Windsor establishment. At that time Edward John Littleton* described him as ‘a financier of easy principles, who wishes to be bought by the strongest party’.3 Lewis was in the majority on the first division and in the minority in the second on the case of Wyndham Quin*, 29 Mar. 1819, being one of eight Members who wished to excuse the House from proceeding to expulsion. He went away before the division on Tierney’s censure motion of 18 May. His speeches were now confined to his favourite subjects, though on 21 May he came out in favour of the reform of the Welsh judicature. On 10 June he was in the majority for the foreign enlistment bill. He was listed one of those Members who remained in town as late as 23 Dec. 1819 to support legislation against sedition. In 1821 Lord Grenville advised him to accept a commission in anticipation of the Grenvillite rapprochement with government. It was the foundation of a distinguished career in the public service. Lewis, described by Mrs Arbuthnot in 1820 as ‘a very agreeable clever man, with the same farming mania as Mr Arbuthnot’, died 22 Jan. 1855.4
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: R. G. Thorne
- 1. NLW, Harpton court mss; HMC Fortescue, x. 431; Add. 40194, f. 121; Buckingham, Regency, ii. 238; NLW, Coedymaen mss 20, Buckingham to C. Williams Wynn, 15 Sept. 1817, Fri. ; Wentworth Woodhouse mun. G83/56.
- 2. Add. 38272, f. 54; 40194, f. 251.
- 3. Buckingham, ii. 305, 323; Staffs. RO, Hatherton diary, 22 Feb. 1819.
- 4. Harpton court mss; Jnl. of Mrs Arbuthnot, i. 19.