SAXTON, Sir Charles, 2nd Bt. (1773-1838), of Circourt, Berks.
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Family and Education
b. 2 Oct. 1773, 1st s. of Sir Charles Saxton, 1st Bt., of Circourt by Mary, da. of Jonathan Bush of Burcott, Oxon. educ. Eton; Univ. Coll. Oxf. 1792; L. Inn 1791, called 1800. unm. suc. fa. as 2nd Bt. 11 Nov. 1808.
Commr. of public accts. [I] Aug. 1806-8; under-sec. (civil dept.) [I] and ranger of Phoenix Park Sept. 1808-May 1812; commr. of inquiry into cts. of justice [I] Feb. 1815-16.
Recorder, Abingdon 1805-19; sheriff, Berks. 1824-5.
Vol. London and Westminster light horse 1803-8.
Saxton’s father, commissioner of Portsmouth dockyard for 18 years from 1790, was created a baronet in 1794, but fell foul of St. Vincent about the terms of his retirement and then had the ‘effrontery’ to ask the same terms of Howick at the Admiralty in 1806. His heir and namesake was then a barrister practising on the Chester circuit and recorder of his native Abingdon. His friendship with Lord Grenville’s nephew Charles Williams Wynn* helped to secure for him a civil servant’s career at Dublin, commencing in August 1806 when he arrived ‘safe in potato land’. He returned to England in October to be one of Lord Radnor’s candidates in his unsuccessful attack on the borough of Malmesbury at the election. Saxton reported that though his chances, even on a petition, were thin there as he had refused a compromise with the patron, he should like to give Grenville’s government ‘the sanction of my voice’ for any ‘equally free and independent borough’. He may have had thoughts of Abingdon, then or at the ensuing election.1
Saxton retained office under the Portland ministry, though his politics remained Grenvillite in complexion. On the death in 1808 of James Trail*, civil under-secretary at the Castle, he was earmarked to succeed him. Lord Hawkesbury informed the viceroy, 22 Aug. 1808, that Saxton ‘promises better than any other person who has hitherto occurred’ and that the attorney-general commended him ‘not only for abilities but for industry, good temper and conciliatory manners’. He suggested his appointment on probation and the Duke of Richmond soon took to him. Saxton in turn described the viceroy to his friend Williams Wynn, whose sister Harriet he was courting, as ‘this cranky pinnace of our state’.2 Their relations survived the strain of a painful dilemma in October 1809 when Saxton, still a Grenvillite who wished that Canning might have joined the opposition after his quarrel with government at that time, considered himself pledged to go over to Oxford to vote for Lord Grenville in the election for chancellor. Wellesley Pole, the chief secretary, who bore a ‘grudge’ against the Grenvilles, deplored the viceroy’s granting Saxton leave of absence as ‘very injurious to your government’: it showed
unpardonable weakness in the Irish administration to let the under-secretary in the civil department ... the very organ of communication ... against the encroachments and disaffection of the Catholics ... support the avowed champion of Catholic claims against the King and the avowed opposer of the nomination ... of the ministry.
He felt that it would ‘throw everlasting ridicule and contempt upon us’. Richmond sympathized with Saxton: he had promised his vote and the Williams Wynns were holding him to it, though he had tried to get off: if refused leave to vote, he might have resigned at their instigation. Saxton cast his vote, leaving Wellesley Pole in what he called ‘the most awkward situation that I believe any chief secretary was ever placed in’, and received Lord Grenville’s special thanks for what the latter regarded as an uncalled for sacrifice. Perceval did not wish to punish him for it.3
Charles Williams Wynn was convinced that Wellesley Pole would ‘strain every nerve to get rid of him’ on Saxton’s return to Dublin in December 1809, but the viceroy stood by him. When Saxton was at Wynnstay in April 1810, Tom Grenville grumbled that he
entertains a better opinion of the abilities of the Duke of Richmond than I thought could be ascribed to him, and he professes to have no apprehensions as to the anti-Union meetings and resolutions which he is persuaded will die away without effect or mischief.
Saxton’s view of Ireland was that, while there was ‘no trace of English feeling’ or ‘congeniality with English interests’, there was no pressing danger either and, as for the Catholic claims, he regarded the obstinacy of the hierarchy in not yielding to the royal veto on episcopal appointments as the chief obstacle. Such views were not conducive to marriage with a Williams Wynn and Harriet rejected her suitor, despite his inheritance in June 1810 of nearly £100,000 and his gift to her of a horse which he had been three years breaking in. Charles Williams Wynn had to accept Thomas Cholmondeley as his brother-in-law, but he continued to rank Saxton, whom romance eluded, ‘next after a brother’.4
In May 1812 Saxton resigned his office, but in the political crisis that ensued was persuaded to remain as caretaker, or as Charles Williams Wynn put it ‘dry nurse to Master Peel and Master Fitzgerald’, out of ‘personal friendship’ for the viceroy; ‘much against his wish and his comfort’, as was admitted by the latter, who regarded Saxton as difficult to replace, since he ‘knew ... much about Ireland without having any connections in the country’. Saxton’s wish was to come into Parliament and a bid was made by the Castle to secure him by arranging his return for Cashel. He feared for his political freedom, as Peel reported, 6 Oct. 1812:
His disposition is favourable towards government, and I have every reason to believe that he would give it his support, but he would not attempt to effect his return for Cashel unless it was distinctly understood that he made no engagements whatever for his future conduct; that he came into Parliament friendly to the general principles upon which the present administration is established, but at perfect liberty to give his vote at any time against their measures, if he should think it fit.
Lord Liverpool was content with ‘a general favourable disposition’, which was all he expected from his friends. Saxton was unexpectedly given a choice, when he was returned ‘without previous concert’ for Malmesbury, but after seeing the patron of Cashel, Richard Pennefather, he was evidently satisfied and chose to sit for Cashel, making government the gift of Malmesbury.5
Saxton did not make any mark in his only Parliament, possibly because he was between two stools. He sat on the Irish finance committee and on 7 Apr. 1813 was added to the corn trade committee. After voting against Catholic claims, 2 Mar., 11 and 24 May 1813, he informed Charles Williams Wynn that he dissented from Lord Grenville only on the Catholic question—a wry reflection on his journey of 1809—and it was clear that he approved government’s conclusion of the war against Buonaparte. Subsequently he went to Holland and there is no evidence of his attendance for some time, though early in 1815 when Peel secured his appointment as a commissioner of inquiry into the Irish courts of justice, for which Saxton was not required to vacate his seat, he assured the premier that Saxton was ‘so honourable and so able a man, and has given the government since he left Ireland and came into Parliament, such disinterested support ...’. In May 1816 Saxton, wishing to resign, went to Ireland ‘to wind up the report of the commission’.6
Saxton reappeared in Parliament, possibly from abroad, in the spring of 1818 and Charles Williams Wynn delightedly announced that he intended to ‘take up his seat, à demeure, with us’ [i.e. the Grenvillite ‘third party’].7 He duly appeared in the opposition majority against the additional grant to the Duke of Clarence, 15 Apr. 1818. On 27 Apr. he delivered his maiden speech in defence of an Abingdon petition against allegations of abuse of corporation charities, but was obliged to withdraw it. On 27 May he defended the work of the Irish judicial commission of which he had been a member. He did not obtain a seat at the ensuing election. He died 24 Jan. 1838.
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: P. J. Jupp
- 1. Grey mss, St. Vincent to Howick, 11 Mar. 1806; NLW, Coedymaen mss 20, Saxton to Williams Wynn, 3 Mar. 1805, 5 Aug., 27, 30 Oct. 1806; NLW mss 10804, Williams Wynn to Saxton, 8 June 1807.
- 2. Coedymaen mss 20, Saxton to Williams Wynn, 27 May 1807, 20 Oct. 1809; NLI, Richmond mss 72/1628, 73/1634.
- 3. Richmond mss 71/1373, 73/1655, 1720; HMC Fortescue, ix. 412, 434; Phipps, Plumer Ward Mems. i. 324-5.
- 4. Richmond mss 72/1536; HMC Fortescue, ix. 428-9; x. 50; Fortescue mss, Williams Wynn to Grenville, 13 June 1810; Corresp. of Lady Williams Wynn, 150, 153; NLW mss 2791, C. to H. Williams Wynn, 31 Aug. 1812.
- 5. Coedymaen mss 20, Saxton to Williams Wynn, 22 May; NLW mss 2791, C. to H. Williams Wynn, 20 Sept. 1812; Richmond mss 74/1810; Add. 40181, f. 13; 40280, ff. 52-3, 70.
- 6. Coedymaen mss 20, Saxton to Williams Wynn, 21 Dec. 1813; Add. 40287, f. 202; 40288, ff. 47, 117; 40291, f. 39.
- 7. Buckingham, Regency, ii. 237.