PEARSE, John (?1760-1836), of 50 Lincoln's Inn Fields, Mdx. and Chilton Lodge, nr. Hungerford, Berks.

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



1818 - 1832

Family and Education

b. ?1760, 1st s. of Nicholas Pearse, Blackwell Hall factor, of 41 Lothbury, London and Woodford, Essex by w. Sarah. m. c.1786, Anne, da. and coh. of John Phillimore, silk merchant, of 15 New Broad Street, London, 3s. 3da. suc. fa. 1795.

Offices Held

Dir. Bank of England 1790-1, 1793-1808, 1812-28, dep. gov. 1808-10, gov. 1810-12; manager, Sun Life Office 1788-d.; dir. Sun Fire Office 1791, manager 1823-d.; gov. Van Dieman’s Land Co. 1829-d.

Capt. commdt. Hungerford vols. 1798, 1803; capt. Bank of England supp. vols. 1803.


Pearse’s father, a Blackwell Hall cloth factor under the style of Pearse and Bowdon, took him into partnership in 1780. His father left over £30,000 and his father-in-law £35,000 to his wife and £15,000 to him. Before his father’s death he became a Bank director.1 He signed the London merchants’ declaration of loyalty to Pitt’s administration in 1795 and subscribed £10,000 as a Bank director and £1,000 privately to the loyalty loan for 1797. He took his brothers Nicholas and Brice into partnership with him at Lothbury and subsequently at Long Acre. The firm prospered as army clothiers and was singled out by the controversial Gwillym Lloyd Wardle in his motion for economy in contracts for army clothing, 23 June 1808, as having induced the government to pay inflated prices for wares procured on the cheap in defiance of lower tenders from another firm. The matter was dropped and J. and B. Pearse & Co. flourished, until it merged with Compton and Webb in the twentieth century.2

In 1807 Pearse bought an estate at Chilton Foliat on the Wiltshire border. It was for Devizes that he entered Parliament in 1818. Although a stranger there, he had the backing of William Salmon, the deputy recorder. A hostile squib had this to say in 1820:

Mr Pearse commenced his career of life as a cloth factor and consequently entered into contracts for supplying the troops as an army tailor, in consequence of which, and the situation he holds as a director of the Bank of England, he has become more intimately connected with the government, if not absolutely engaged in such contracts as to disqualify him from sitting in Parliament. It is quite clear that the supposed great leader of the corporation ... who brought Mr Pearse forward [i.e. Salmon] ... suspected he was disqualified, else, surely he would not have allowed himself to have been named as a candidate ... merely to serve as a buttress to his tottering friend ... besides which the residence of Mr Pearse being nearly thirty miles from Devizes, he was quite unknown to the inhabitants generally until expecting that Mr Smith the late representative would soon resign his seat he attended and very disinterestedly contributed turtle to a certain club held annually in the borough [the Bear Club]. These circumstances convinced the independent electors and the respectable inhabitants that Mr Pearse was brought forward to answer the purposes of a few, and that he never can be an uninfluenced, free and constitutional representative of the people of England.3

In his first Parliament Pearse supported administration. He had appeared in the House before. In March 1810 he several times testified, as deputy-governor of the Bank, before the bullion committee, claiming that the issue of paper currency need not be controlled by the price of bullion or the state of the exchanges, 13 Mar., and that he was prepared to see the restriction of Bank payments in specie made permanent, although public opinion ran contrary, 23 Mar. In July 1811 he sat under the gallery during the debates on paper currency, and Brougham reported apropos of the Prince Regent’s friends’ stance on that question that ‘the Duke of Cumberland sat by [Pearse] flirting for two hours one night’. His opinions on money supply were taken to be authoritative by the politicians. He was, according to Thomas Moore, ‘a good, hearty, jolly man of the world; knows everybody; was intimate with Sheridan’. The same apparently went for Tierney, the opposition leader, whose censure motion he voted against, 18 May 1819, but whose secret piety he revealed to the world after Tierney’s death.4 Not surprisingly he had his say in the debates on the resumption of cash payments, speaking on behalf of the Bank directors, 25 May 1819. He denied an excessive issue of Bank notes and advocated a four-year delay in resumption. On 9 June, in the Budget debate, he answered Pascoe Grenfell’s criticisms of the Bank directors. On 14 June he spoke and was in the minority for the amendment to the cash payments resumption bill. He published Remarks on the question that year. He had supported the foreign enlistment bill, 10 June.

Pearse was an alarmist in the autumn of 1819 and stayed in town until 23 Dec. to support repressive measures. He cultivated Lord Sidmouth, whose influence at Devizes was not negligible and, surviving another contest in 1820, held his seat until 1832. He died 21 July 1836, aged 76, desiring to be buried at Chilton Foliat.5

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. PCC 198, 706 Newcastle.
  • 2. N. and Q. clxxix. 133, 224.
  • 3. VCH Berks. iv. 192, 193; ‘Elucidator’, 2 Mar. 1820, Devizes Mus. cuttings and scraps, iii. 62.
  • 4. Brougham, Life and Times, i. 524; Grey mss, Rosslyn to Grey, 17 Sept. 1813; Moore Mems. ed. Russell, ii. 215; Pellew, Sidmouth, iii. 441.
  • 5. Sidmouth mss, Pearse to Sidmouth, 21 Oct. 1819; Gent. Mag. (1836), ii. 331; PCC 564 Stowell.