STEPHENS, Samuel (c.1768-1834), of Tregenna Castle, nr. St. Ives, Cornw.
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Family and Education
b. c.1768, 2nd but 1st surv. s. of Samuel Stephens† of Tregenna Castle by Anne, da. and h. of Richard Seaborne of Bristol, Glos. educ. St. John’s Camb. 1786-90; L. Inn 1789, called 1795. m. 22 Nov. 1796, Betty, da. and h. of Capt. Samuel Wallis the circumnavigator and commr. of the navy, of Tremaine, Cornw., 5s. 1da. suc. fa. 1794.
Sheriff, Cornw. 1805-6.
Stephens inherited the greater part of his father’s property at St. Ives and with it his dormant electoral interest there. A year afterwards he was called to the bar, but did not practise. He became a partner in Williams, Foster & Co., copper smelters of Swansea. In 1806, by which time William Praed, the erstwhile patron, had sold his interest at St. Ives, he offered himself there.
Farington reported Lord de Dunstanville as saying (somewhat condescendingly):
Mr Steevens [sic] was born at or near St. Ives and is but of low origin. When he offered himself a candidate to represent St. Ives an opposing candidate reproached him with this circumstance which, however, Mr Steevens very judiciously turned to his own advantage. In his reply he acknowledged that he sprung from the lower orders of the people, but that he could boast of having a very considerable number of the electors in the list of his relations, and hoped to have the gratification of being returned Member by near connexions. This retort had its effect and he was elected. He married a lady who brought him a fortune said to be £100,000. [She was a coheiress of the Hearle and Paynter families.]
Francis Horner, the candidate on Sir Christopher Hawkins’s interest who joined with Stephens in the election contest, called him ‘Squire Stephens, a man of good fortune close by the town’. As Stephens was a justice of the peace and deputy lieutenant and had been high sheriff the previous year, this seems a more appropriate description of him.
In Parliament Stephens gave a general support to administration. He is not known to have spoken in debate. The Whigs listed him ‘Government’ in 1810 and he did not do anything to contradict this view, though he was not, to judge by the division lists, an assiduous supporter. (He was in the majority for the address, 23 Jan., and on the Scheldt question, 30 Mar. 1810.) At the election of 1812, he was narrowly defeated, but regained his seat with ease by standing alone in 1818. He again gave an inconspicuous support to administration, obtaining leaves of absence in March and April 1819, but supporting them in the crucial division on Tierney’s censure motion, 18 May, and again on legislation against sedition, 23 Dec. 1819. He retired at the ensuing dissolution. Stephens died 25 Feb. 1834. Two of his sons contested St. Ives after him.
G. C. Boase, Coll. Cornub. 928; J. H. Matthews, Hist. St. Ives, 459; Farington, vi. 138; Horner Mems. i. 379.