SMITH STANLEY, Edward, Lord Stanley (1775-1851), of Knowsley Park, nr. Prescot, Lancs.

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



1796 - 1812
1812 - 1832

Family and Education

b. 21 Apr. 1775, 1st s. of Edward Smith Stanley, 12th Earl of Derby, by 1st w. Lady Elizabeth Hamilton, da. of James, 6th Duke of Hamilton [S]. educ. Eton 1789-92, Trinity Coll. Camb. 1792. m. 30 June 1798, his cos. Charlotte Margaret, da. of Rev. Geoffrey Hornby, rector of Winwick, 3s. 3da. cr. Baron Stanley 22 Dec. 1832; suc. fa. as 13th Earl of Derby 21 Oct. 1834; KG 2 Apr. 1839.

Offices Held

Ld. Lt. Lancs. 1834-d.

Col. 2 R. Lancs. militia 1797; brevet col. 1797-1802.


Stanley, heir of the most powerful family in Lancashire, was returned on their interest for Preston in 1796, but only after a fierce contest provoked by the corporation. His father subsequently reached a compromise with them and he was unopposed at the next two general elections. He followed his father’s line and became a member of Brooks’s on 29 Oct. 1796 and of the Whig Club ten days later. He had something to say on the cavalry augmentation bill, 1 Nov., and the following day condemned it as an example of Pitt’s policy of cowing the people by exploiting imaginary fears. He voted against government on the foreign loans, 14 Dec., the war, 30 Dec. 1796, the Bank stoppage, 28 Feb. and 1 Mar., and the French invasion of Ireland, 3 Mar., and supported Grey’s parliamentary reform motion, 26 May 1797. His only recorded votes during the Foxite secession were against the triple assessment, 4 and 14 Dec. 1797, 4 Jan. 1798, after speaking against it the day before; against the address endorsing the refusal of peace negotiations, 3 Feb. for inquiry into the Dutch expedition, 10 Feb., against the war aim of restoration of the Bourbons, 28 Feb., and against the Union, 21 and 25 Apr. 1800.

Stanley, who was said to have had £7,000 a year settled on him after his marriage, suffered from deafness which worsened with age.1 He voted for the amendment to the address, 2 Feb., and for Grey’s censure motion, 25 Mar. 1801. He did not vote against Addington’s repressive measures, but divided against the ministry on the civil list arrears, 29 Mar.; the Prince of Wales’s financial claims, 31 Mar. 1802 and 4 Mar. 1803, when he spoke briefly on the subject; the retrospective attack on Pitt, 7 May 1802, and the renewal of war, 24 May 1803. He proposed but eventually withdrew an amendment to Peel’s cotton apprentices bill, designed to extend it to all children employed in cotton factories, 18 May 1802, and criticized the militia officers bill, 22 and 23 Mar. 1803, suggesting that Roman Catholic landowners should be admitted. He voted against government on Ireland, 7 Mar., and in the divisions of 16, 23 and as Apr. 1804 which brought Addington down. He appeared on a cumulative list of opponents of Pitt’s additional force bill, 18 June 1804, and went on to vote steadily against his second ministry in 1805, when he attacked the militia enlistment bill, 21 and 26 Mar. He supported the ‘Talents’ ministry, in which his father was chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster. He spoke and voted for the repeal of the Additional Force Act, 30 Apr. 1806, supported the additional grant to Maynooth, 20 Feb., and voted for Brand’s motion condemning the ministerial pledge, 9 Apr. 1807. He was returned for Preston at the general election after a contest.

Stanley voted against government on most major issues in the 1807 Parliament, but was not one of the Whigs’ dedicated attenders. He voted for Whitbread’s third peace resolution, 29 Feb. 1808, and spoke at length on the Duke of York scandal, 15 Mar. 1809, pronouncing him guilty of corruption, but his only known vote in the subsequent campaign for economical reform was on the Dutch commissioners, He was on the pro-Catholic side in the divisions of 3 Mar., 11 and 25 May 1808, and voted for Catholic relief, 24 Apr. 1812, as he continued to do throughout this period. He presented a Preston peace petition, 23 Mar., Lancashire petitions against the orders in council, 17 and 27 Apr., and on 28 Apr. 1812, when he blamed distress in the manufacturing districts on the orders, got the petitions referred to a committee of the whole House. He was chairman of the committee which investigated Crompton’s claims to remuneration for his invention of the ‘mule’, and on 24 June 1812 he proposed the payment of £5,000.

At the general election of 1812 Stanley transferred to the county seat. A local ministerialist wondered if it might be possible to find in preference ‘a man who is not deaf and dumb, who is not a friend of Sir F. Burdett, to Brougham, Roscoe and all the illuminati’, but there was no real disturbance and Stanley occupied the seat for the rest of his Commons career.2 He condemned the proposed cotton duty, 31 Mar. 1813, voted to censure the Speaker for his anti-Catholic prorogation speech, 22 Apr. 1814, divided against government on the blockade of Norway, 12 May 1814, the civil list accounts, 14 Apr., and the property tax, 19 Apr. and 5 May 1815. He spoke and voted for Romilly’s motion against the embodiment of the militia in peacetime, 28 Feb., and opposed the local militia bill, 9 May 1815. He paired for the division on the resumption of war, 28 Apr., and voted against the address of 25 May 1815, but evidently took no part in the opposition to the peace settlement early in 1816. When presenting petitions against the property tax, 12 Mar., he called for economy, reduction of ‘sums applied to the gratification of royal caprice’ and the abolition of sinecures; and he joined, though less actively than many Whigs, in their post-war campaign for these objects. He spoke against legislative interference with the wool trade, 29 Apr., attacked the soap duty bill, 13 May 1816, and served on the Poor Law select committees of 1817 and 1818. When presenting parliamentary reform petitions, 13 Feb. 1817, he condemned annual parliaments and universal suffrage as ‘wild and absurd theories, which were totally incompatible with any just system of representation’, but he voted for Burdett’s reform motion, 20 May. Although he opposed the suspension of habeas corpus, 26 Feb., he was prepared to agree to measures to protect the Regent’s person and prevent the fomentation of sedition among the armed forces, and he did not oppose the seditious meetings bill. He was named on a combined list of the opponents of the renewed suspension of habeas corpus in June, but his first recorded vote after 20 May 1817 was for inquiry into the use of spies and informers, 5 Mar. 1818. Even so, he acquitted ministers, who had been ‘much calumniated’, of having deliberately used agents to incite unrest. He voted against the committal of the indemnity bill, 11 Mar., opposed the ducal marriage grants, 13, 15, 16 Apr., 15 May, and voted for the repeal of the Septennial Act, 19 May. He opposed the cotton factories bill, 17 Apr., considering its proposed limitation of hours to be ‘extremely improper and injurious’, and on 27 Apr. 1818, after condemning it as an unnecessary and dangerous interference with free labour, moved a wrecking amendment, which was defeated by 91 votes to 26.

Stanley signed the requisition calling on Tierney to take the Whig leadership in the Commons, but gave him little support there in the new Parliament, when his name appeared in only a handful of divisions, including those on Bank restriction, 2 Feb., criminal law reform, 2 Mar., Scottish burgh reform, 1 Apr. and 6 May, and Tierney’s censure motion, 18 May 1819. A defaulter ordered to attend, 1 Apr., he was given a month’s leave, 7 June,3 paired against the foreign enlistment bill, 10 June, and did not vote for Burdett’s reform motion, 1 July. Lord Derby could not entirely condone the Peterloo massacre, but was unwilling to press for severe censure of the Manchester magistrates, and although Stanley voted for the amendment to the address, 24 Nov., on the report stage two days later he defended the Lancashire grand jury, of which he was foreman, the magistrates and the yeomanry, and went on to make clear his alarm, given that the situation

called for some measures to meet what the present laws were not sufficient to put down, what he confessed existed in his own country, atheism, blasphemy, and disaffection, to the greatest degree—he had almost said, to the borders of rebellion; but till the case should be fully made out, he could not pledge himself to any particular measure.

Castlereagh thanked him for his testimony, commenting that he ‘had never given any other than the most constitutional opposition’ to ministers. Henry Bankes thought his speech had been ‘of the greatest service’ to the Manchester authorities, and Lord Carlisle, a Whig alarmist, that it had ‘given a new colour to the Manchester massacre’.4 He divided with opposition on the state of the nation, 30 Nov., but voted for the second reading of the seditious meetings bill, 2 Dec.,5 again defended the grand jury, 6 Dec., and spoke guardedly in favour of the training prevention bill, 8 Dec., alleging that drilling had long been going on in Lancashire and ‘created not only alarm, but real danger’. He voted to limit the seditious meetings bill to three years, 6 Dec., and against the newspaper stamp duties bill, 20 Dec. 1819.

Stanley, who lavished much time and money on his private zoo at Knowsley, never made much mark in politics, in which sphere he was overshadowed by his father and, even more, by his son, the future prime minister. He died 30 June 1851.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: M. H. Port


  • 1. Farington, i. 242; House of Stanley ed. Lee, 318.
  • 2. Add. 40605, f. 46.
  • 3. CJ, lxxiv, 292, 502.
  • 4. A. Mitchell, Whigs in Opposition, 126-7, 131, 134; Colchester, iii. 94; Carlisle mss, Carlisle to Morpeth, 1 Dec. [1819].
  • 5. Phipps, Plumer Ward Mems. ii. 40.