SALUSBURY, Robert (1756-1817), of Llanwern, Mon.
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Family and Education
b. 10 Sept. 1756, 1st s. of Robert Salusbury of Cotton Hall, Denb. by Gwendoline, da. of Ellis Davis of Nantyrerwheidd, Merion. educ. Trinity Coll. Camb. 1775; L. Inn 1776, called 1785. m. 16 May 1780, Catherine, da. and event. h. of Charles Van† of Llanwern by Catherine, sis. of John Morgan*, 3s. 2da. suc. fa. 1776; bro.-in-law Thomas Van to Llanwern, 1794. cr. Bt. 4 May 1795.
Sheriff, Mon. 1786-7; capt. commdt. Newport vols. 1798, maj. commdt. 1799; lt.-col. Mon. vols. 1803, W. Mon. militia 1808-12.
Salusbury’s family had long been settled in North Wales, but it was his marriage which determined his public career. In 1792 he succeeded his wife’s uncle John Morgan of Tredegar as unopposed Member for Monmouthshire, and in 1794 to his wife’s brother’s estate of Llanwern.1 He was then a candidate for the board of agriculture.2 In private,3 Salusbury insisted on ‘a proper degree of independence, and a proper degree of spirit to act up to it’, but he gave a discreet support to Pitt’s administration in Parliament. He opposed the county address for peace in 1795, though he was listed as a supporter of Wilberforce’s amendment to Grey’s peace motion on 26 Jan. He was rewarded with a baronetcy in that year. His only noteworthy contribution to debate in that Parliament arose from his involvement in the Stockbridge election committee: he attempted to bring in a bill for the better prevention of bribery and corruption at elections, 16 May 1793. He was a member of the waste land committee, attending it regularly in 1796.
That year, to suit the convenience of his nephew by marriage Charles Morgan*, Salusbury transferred to a seat for Brecon, on the Morgan interest. Charles Morgan took the precaution of being elected for Brecon first, until his return for Monmouthshire was certain. Salusbury opposed the Monmouthsire petition for the removal of ministers in April 1797. He wrote to Pitt, 10 Nov. 1798, complaining of his inadequate income and its effect on his parliamentary attendance, but he applied for patronage explicitly only for his friends, not for himself.4 He spoke in opposition to reform of the Game Laws, 1 Mar., 29 Apr., and in favour of the dog tax, 25 Apr. 1798. Had Sir Charles Morgan obtained a peerage in 1801, Salusbury would have succeeded him as Member for Breconshire. On 12 Mar. 1803, he wrote to Addington as ‘an independent individual in Parliament not able yet after a long illness to attend my duty there’, to congratulate him on his resistance to Buonaparte’s posturing: ‘it proves you as much alive to maintain the rights of peace as you were to obtain it’. On 16 Apr. 1804 he wrote again, promising to support the minister against Fox’s defence motion of the 23rd, expressing displeasure at Pitt’s support of it and adding, ‘if I was inclined to find fault with you I would complain of your too strict economy with regard to the volunteers’.5
Salusbury was listed a supporter of Pitt in September 1804, after his return to power, but with reference to his vote for the criminal prosecution of Melville, 12 June 1805, after he had been listed both for and against the censure on 8 Apr., he appeared in July as ‘doubtful Pitt’. On Pitt’s death he informed Addington, now Lord Sidmouth, that he wished to see him first lord of the Treasury and Tierney chancellor of the Exchequer, adding that though confined by gout he would ‘come up immediately if you have any occasion for my support’.6 He voted against the repeal of Pitt’s Additional Force Act, 30 Apr. 1806. He was considered ‘friendly’ to the abolition of the slave trade at that time. Subsequently he spoke in favour of the offices in reversion bill, 28 Mar. 1808, and he appeared in the minority in favour of the Irish Catholic petition, 25 May, and against Perceval’s motion on the misconduct of the Duke of York over army patronage, 17 Mar. 1809.
These tentative outbursts of independence caused Perceval to propose to Salusbury, who had voted with government on the Scheldt expedition, 30 Mar. 1810, the unpopular task of moving Burdett’s committal to the Tower, 5 Apr. 1810. Perceval is reported to have said, ‘You would be a proper person to move it, being a country gentleman, and not always voting with us, it could not seem from ministerial influence’. Salusbury evidently wished to decline, not being accustomed to such a conspicuous role, but Perceval reassured him: ‘A few words will be sufficient, as we shall support you’. So it was, and Salusbury’s motion was carried; whereupon he was ‘frightened out of town’ by the hostility of the mob, finding safety only at home in Llanwern. Even there he was exposed to embarrassment: he had formed a banking partnership at Newport and Abergavenny, Salusbury, Jones & Co., shortly before, and the local radicals attempted a run on it. His friends felt that Salusbury ‘might well ask for a prebendary of Westminster’ as a reward for a service to government which had brought such unpleasant experiences upon his unsuspecting head.7 Salusbury remained disgruntled. Unlike Morgan he voted for Catholic relief, 24 Apr. 1812 and then took a month’s leave. On 6 July he wrote to Sidmouth, expressing his regret that the latter had not been made minister in 1806 and boasting of his loyalty to him in 1804, despite pressures to the contrary, when Pitt’s conduct was, he thought, ‘a blot upon his great character’. At the same time he regretted that government had not been able to come to terms with Lord Wellesley and Canning. From another source it appears that Salusbury had in 1807 wished Sidmouth to succeed Portland ‘very soon’.8 At the dissolution, Salusbury made way at Brecon for young Charles Morgan and was not again in Parliament.
In 1816 Salusbury went bankrupt and was detained in King’s Bench prison. Even now his pride forbade him to apply for relief on his own behalf: but Sir Robert Williames Vaughan* informed Sidmouth of his plight. Sidmouth regretted, 5 June 1816, that he was unable to do anything ‘to promote his comfort during the remainder of his life’, but pointed out that there was not ‘an office suited to Sir Robert’ within his own ‘very limited patronage’. Salusbury died at Canterbury, 17 Nov. 1817.9
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: R. G. Thorne
- 1. R. D. Rees, ‘Parl. Rep. S. Wales 1790-1830’ (Reading Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1962), ii. 478.
- 2. PRO 30/8/178, f. 144.
- 3. D. Williams, Hist. Mon. pp. lxxv, 193.
- 4. Morning Chron. 1 May 1797; PRO 30/8/175, ff. 99-111.
- 5. The Times, 3 June 1801; Sidmouth mss.
- 6. Sidmouth mss, 28 Jan. 1806; Pellew, Sidmouth, ii.