SHAW LEFEVRE, Charles (1759-1823), of Heckfield, Hants.
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Family and Education
b. 20 Sept. 1759, 3rd but o. surv. s. of Rev. George Shaw, rector of Womersley, Yorks. by Mary, da. of Edward Green of Hindley, Yorks. educ. by Mr Brooke, Leeds; Trinity Coll. Camb. 1775, BA 1780, fellow 1782, MA 1783; L. Inn 1776, called 1787. m. 3 Sept. 1789, Helena, da. and h. of John Lefevre, distiller and banker, of Heckfield and Old Ford, Mdx., 3s. suc. fa. 1779; took additional name of Lefevre by royal lic. 8 Aug. 1789.
Recorder, Basingstoke 1800-d.; dir. Sun Fire Office 1800-d., treasurer 1821-d.
Capt. Basingstoke yeoman cav. 1794, maj. commdt. 1797, lt.-col. 1803.
Lefevre practised briefly as a barrister on the midland circuit, but on the death in 1790 of his father-in-law, a wealthy distiller and banker of Huguenot stock, he inherited an ample fortune and retired from legal practice. He had commercial interests also, as a partner in the London banking house of Lefevre, Curries and Raikes from 1789 until 1812 and a director of at least one insurance company. He invested in East India Company stock.
Returned unopposed for Newtown on the Barrington interest in 1796, Lefevre consistently supported Pitt’s ministry. He was present, by invitation, at a gathering called by the minister to hear his plans for the increase in assessed taxes, 17 Dec. 1797,1 and he spoke and voted for the measure, 4 Jan. 1798. He supported the land tax redemption bill and was teller for the majority in the division on its third reading, 30 May, defended the income tax proposals, 29 Dec. 1798, and was selected to move the address, 24 Sept. 1799.
On Pitt’s fall Lefevre transferred his allegiance to Addington, a personal friend, and became a recognized member of the Addingtonian connexion in the House. He defended the government’s use of secret service money, 20 Nov. 1801. At the general election of 1802 he was returned for Bodmin, as a friend of government, by Lord de Dunstanville and also successfully contested Reading, for which he chose to sit, placing the Bodmin seat at Addington’s disposal. He subsequently built up a strong position at Reading, partly by expenditure on treats and charities, and retained the seat at the next four general elections, two of which were contested. He vindicated the moderation of ministers and the renewal of war, 25 May, supported Addington’s financial plans, 1 June, spoke against Patten’s censure motion, 3 June 1803, privately encouraged Addington to ‘ride in the whirlwind and direct the storm’ and remained faithful to him to the end in 1804.2
Lefevre was nevertheless considered ‘doubtful’ in the government list of May 1804, although he had been placed under ‘Addington’ in an earlier analysis of the House. He spoke and voted against the additional force bill in June, and in the ministerial list of September was recognized as an Addingtonian, with the rider that he was one of ‘Addington’s friends on whom some impression might be made’. Privately, however, he was severely critical of Pitt’s handling of affairs and his pleasure at Addington’s restoration to office at the end of 1804 was hampered by doubts as to the permanency of the junction with Pitt, whom he still distrusted. He voted against government on Giles’s motion to continue the commissions of naval inquiry, 1 Mar., and for the censure of Melville, 8 Apr. 1805, but was reported by Sidmouth shortly afterwards to be ‘anxious to support government, and alarmed at the hopes given to opposition’. Only illness prevented him from voting against Melville on 12 June, however, and when Sidmouth separated from Pitt, Lefevre followed him, as was recognized in the government list of July 1805. Early in 1806 the Sidmouthite, Dr Beeke, found him still loyal, ‘but inclined in the next instance to Fox’s party’, although he approved the Sidmouthite leaders’ determination to preserve their identity by avoiding too close connexion with others.3
With Sidmouth in the cabinet, Lefevre supported the ‘Talents’, voting for the repeal of the Additional Force Act, 30 Apr., and defending the grant of £10,500 to the commissioners of military inquiry, 9 July 1806. On the change of government in 1807 he told Sidmouth, 1 Apr., that in the event of the quick collapse of the Portland ministry, to which he could not give ‘any degree of confidence collectively’, he looked to Sidmouth himself as the man to take over, aided perhaps by Lord Howick and the Foxites, with Perceval and a few other current ministers to remain an ‘additional protection’ against ‘Catholic innovations’. He pleaded the excuse of duty at quarter sessions for his inability to attend to vote against Brand’s motion condemning the ministerial pledge; but Mary Russell Mitford thought him guilty of ‘trimming’ until ‘he has found which party is strongest’, an impression strengthened by his ‘incomprehensible’ speech of 13 Apr. when he advised Whitbread to defer consideration of his Poor Law reforms in view of the hints of imminent dissolution, but was at pains to insist on his indifference, as an ‘independent Member’, to such threats from the executive. Miss Mitford wrote: ‘the more I know of this gentleman the more I am convinced that, under a roughness of manner, he conceals a very extraordinary pliancy of principles and a very accommodating conscience’. At a contentious Reading meeting on recent events, 6 May 1807, he promised to support the ‘just prerogative of the crown’, but in the course of his election campaign he also pledged himself to resist excessive government expenditure and to expose abuses.4
Lefevre, who criticized the militia transfer bill, 22 July 1807, continued for a time to act with the Sidmouthites in the House, but gradually drifted into regular, but essentially independent opposition. He told Sidmouth, 17 Nov. 1808, that the ‘last act’ of the ‘Talents’ had ‘cooled my ardour about them and their present supporters’, though he considered the former Pittites ‘at least as bad’; on 16 Dec. 1808 he was still urging Sidmouth to take over the management of affairs if the opportunity arose.5 His opposition to government on the Copenhagen incident, 3 Feb. 1808, the convention of Cintra, 21 Feb. 1809, and the Scheldt expedition, 23 Feb., 5 and 30 Mar. 1810, was in common with other members of the Sidmouth connexion; but he took a divergent line by voting steadfastly with opposition on the Duke of York scandal in March 1809 and appearing in the minority of 15 who divided for Burdett’s parliamentary reform motion, 15 June 1809. Sidmouth was reported to be ‘vexed’ at the latter vote, which he attributed to Lefevre’s having been ‘bitten by a popularity’ at Reading, where reforming sentiment was currently rife and his behaviour on the Duke of York affair had been publicly commended. Lefevre was still writing to Sidmouth in terms of friendship and loyalty early in 1810, but he was numbered by the Whigs among ‘present Opposition’ in March, commented favourably on a petition from Reading for the release of Burdett and presented another petition for reform, 10 May, voted against sinecures, 17 May, and for Brand’s reform motion, 21 May; and was thought by Abercromby in June 1810 to be unlikely to follow Sidmouth in a junction with Perceval.6 He voted with the opposition on the Regency proposals, 1 and 21 Jan., opposed the Duke of York’s reappointment, 6 June 1811, and continued to support economical reform. Like two other former Sidmouthites, Charles Adams and Sir Charles Pole, however, he voted in the ministerial minority against Stuart Wortley’s motion for the formation of a stronger administration, 21 May 1812, possibly because of his anti-Catholic views, or from vestigial loyalty to Sidmouth, on the verge of a return to office.
Lefevre voted consistently in opposition to government for the rest of the period, though he remained actively hostile to Catholic relief, never joined Brooks’s and did not sign the requisition to Tierney in 1818. He fully participated in the campaign for economy and retrenchment after the war, and spoke against alteration of the Corn Laws, 8 Mar. 1815, and against the property tax, 29 Feb. 1816. He did not vote against the renewal of war in 1815, or against the suspension of habeas corpus in February 1817, but he did oppose the renewed suspension in June and voted for Burdett’s reform motion, 20 May 1817, and the repeal of the Septennial Act, 19 May 1818. He voted for Tierney’s censure motion, 18 May 1819. During the Peterloo furore and the subsequent emergency session of Parliament, Lefevre was in southern France ‘for the benefit of his health’,7 the poor state of which induced him to retire at the dissolution of 1820. He was a frequent speaker on the Poor Law and other facets of local administration, sat on the Poor Law select committees of 1818 and 1819, and had to his credit a bill, which passed into law in 1799, to restore the opening of the partridge shooting season to the first of September. He died 27 Apr. 1823.8
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: David R. Fisher
- 1. Colchester, i. 123.
- 2. Pellew, Sidmouth, i. 327; ii. 220.
- 3. Ibid. ii. 322, 340, 357; Sidmouth mss, Lefevre to Addington, 29 Oct. 1804; A. G. L’Estrange, Friendships of Mary Russell Mitford, i. 31; Add. 31230, f. 124.
- 4. Sidmouth mss; Life of Mary Russell Mitford ed. L’Estrange, i. 64-65; Reading Mercury, 11 May 1807; A. Aspinall, Parliament through Seven Centuries, 88.
- 5. Sidmouth mss.
- 6. Dorset RO, Bond mss D367, Jekyll to Bond, 24 June 1809; J. Man, Reading, 102-3; Sidmouth mss, Lefevre to Sidmouth, 24 Sept. 1809, 18 Jan.; Loch mss, Abercromby to Loch, 7 June 1810.
- 7. Reading Mercury, 25 Oct. 1819.
- 8. His MI at Heckfield church, which supplies his birth date, gives 26 Apr. as his death date.