MORDAUNT, Charles (1771-1823), of Walton, Warws.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
b. 5 Jan. 1771, o. surv. s. of Sir John Mordaunt, 7th Bt.*, of Walton by Elizabeth, da. and coh. of Thomas Prowse† of Compton Bishop, Som. educ. Eton 1779-88; Christ Church, Oxf. 1788-91. m. 31 Jan. 1807, Marianne, da. of William Holbech* of Farnborough, Warws. 1s. 2da. suc. fa. as 8th Bt. 18 Nov. 1806.
Capt. (vols.) Warws. militia 1794; cornet, Warws. yeoman cav. 1798, capt. 1801.
As an Oxford undergraduate, Mordaunt toured the north of England and Scotland with his friend William Ralph Cartwright*. He served with the militia at the scene of the naval mutiny in 1797 and against the Irish rebels a year later. He ruined his health in Ireland and went to Portugal to recuperate in 1803, but suffered from asthma for the rest of his life.1 In 1804, only two years after his father’s retirement from the county representation, he obtained the same honour on a vacancy. Opposition melted away and, unlike his father, he was not regarded as specifically responsible for the interests of Birmingham, though he discovered that he could not afford to ignore them.
He was at once listed a supporter of Pitt, but raised doubts about this after voting in the majorities against Melville, 8 Apr., 12 June 1805. On 3 Mar. 1806 he was in the minority against Ellenborough’s seat in Lord Grenville’s cabinet. Eight days later he presented the Warwickshire maltsters’ petition for relief from malt duties and on 9 May opposed the iron duty bill to please his Birmingham constituents. He was an infrequent speaker from ‘sensitive shyness’. Like his father he was friendly to the abolition of the slave trade. On 17 Feb. 1807 he was given leave to bring in a bill for the recovery of small debts in Birmingham, but defaulted early in March. On 21 Mar. 1808 he took a month’s leave after serving on the Malton election committee. His only known vote against the Portland ministry was on the allegation of ministerial corruption, 25 Apr. 1809. On 11 May he had his moment of glory when, with Cartwright, he led the opposition to Madocks’s bid to turn the question into a reform issue, but it has been snatched from him by the misattribution of his speech.2 In supporting Perceval’s ministry on the address, 23 Jan. 1810, he behaved like his colleague Dugdale, with whom he was in the opposition majority on 5 Mar., but apparently reverted to government on 30 Mar. on the Scheldt question. The Whigs listed him ‘doubtful’ at that time. He voted against parliamentary reform, 21 May. Like Dugdale, he deserted ministers on the Regency, 1 Jan. 1811.
Mordaunt’s conduct over the orders in council, which were so much resented by his Birmingham constituents, did not give them satisfaction. On 17 Apr. 1812, presenting their petition against them, he allowed himself some levity, though he said he would support a committee of investigation and conceded (28 Apr.) that the manufacturers’ distress was a burden on the poor rates. His only other known gesture in the House that session was to support inquiry into conditions at Lincoln gaol, 25 June. At the dissolution attempts were made by his Birmingham critics to conjure up an opposition to him at the general election, but they failed.
He was listed a Treasury supporter after the election and suggested as a seconder of the Speaker’s re-election in October 1812.3 Unlike his colleague, he supported Catholic relief on 13 and 24 May 1813. He had been absent ill early in March but was present by 17 Mar., when he opposed the fire-arms bill on behalf of Birmingham manufacturers. On their behalf, too, he supported the fire-arms improving bill, 28 May. He also spoke in committee on the amendment of penalties for treason, 9 Apr. He was in the majority favourable to Christian missions to India, 22 June. He supported the repeal of the obsolete apprentice laws, ‘the strongest possible fetters upon ingenuity and industry’, 13 May 1814. In 1815 and 1816 he sympathized with his constituents’ opposition to the renewal of the property tax:4 he called for delay so as to enable them to muster against it, 26 Feb. 1816, and three days later called on ministers to give it up, in view of the public outcry against their breach of faith. He voted against the army estimates, 8 Mar. That day he presented his county’s petition for retrenchment. He was in the majority against the property tax, 18 Mar. He also opposed the leather tax, 9 May. He seems to have vacillated on Catholic relief, opposing it in 1816 and reverting to support of it in 1817. His seat, like that of his colleague, was said to be in danger unless he opposed ministers at this juncture;5 but, like Dugdale, he voted for the suspension of habeas corpus, 23 June 1817. Unlike him, after being invited to Fife House to hear the ministerial point of view, he joined opposition to the ducal marriage grant, 15 Apr. 1818. His constituents pressed him to support Mackintosh’s motion on bank-note forgery, 21 Apr., and on 14 May he presented their petition on the subject. He also complained of the delays in trials on the midland circuit, 26 May.
Mordaunt was spared a contest in 1818, having doubtless satisfied many of his critics of his independence. He opposed alteration in the coal duties, 2 Feb. 1819, and was one of the midland Members who lobbied the prime minister on the issue on 8 Feb.6 On 2 Mar. he supported Mackintosh’s motion for a committee on criminal law reform, stating his preference for one general committee over a ‘family’ of them. He supported ministers against Tierney’s censure motion, 18 May 1819. In October 1820 he vacated his seat, being expected to expire ‘with a groan that the whole county will hear’.7 He lingered until 30 May 1823.
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: R. G. Thorne
- 1. E. Hamilton, The Mordaunts, 231, 235, 251.
- 2. Geo. III Corresp. v. 3876, 3878. The speech is mistakenly attributed to Sir Charles Morgan.
- 3. Brougham mss 15339; Colchester, ii. 403.
- 4. Field, Mems. Samuel Parr, ii. 191.
- 5. Grey mss, Goodwin to Grey, 16 Dec. 1816.
- 6. Add. 38275, f. 218.
- 7. Corresp. of Lady Lyttelton, 230.