BARING, Francis Thornhill (1796-1866), of 17 New Street, Spring Gardens, Mdx.
Available from Cambridge University Press
Family and Educationb. 20 Apr. 1796, in Calcutta, 1st s. of Sir Thomas Baring, 2nd bt.*, and Mary Ursula, da of Charles Sealy, barrister, of Calcutta. educ. privately by Rev. William Short, Teignmouth, Devon 1805-7; Rev. John Venn, Clapham, Surr. 1811; Prof. William Farish, Chesterton, Cambs. 1813; Winchester 1807-11; Christ Church, Oxf. 1814; L. Inn 1817, called 1823. m. (1) 7 Apr. 1825, Jane (d. 23 Apr. 1838), da. of Sir George Grey, 1st bt., of Greyland, Hove, Suss., 2s.(1 d.v.p.) 2da.; (2) 31 Mar. 1841, Lady Arabella Howard, da. of Kenneth Alexander, 1st earl of Effingham, 1s. suc. fa. as 3rd bt. 3 Apr. 1848; cr. Bar. Northbrook 4 Jan. 1866. d. 6 Sept. 1866.
Ld. of treasury Nov. 1830-June 1834, sec. to treasury June-Dec. 1834, Apr. 1835-Aug. 1839; PC 26 Aug. 1839; chan. of exch. Aug. 1839-Sept. 1841; first ld. of admiralty Jan. 1849-Mar. 1852.
Capt. N. Hants militia 1818-21.
Baring was heir to the baronetcy conferred on his grandfather Francis Baring†, the founder of the family merchant bank. He was born in Calcutta, where his father held a succession of East India Company offices before returning to England in 1798. His mother was a Quaker and his tutelage under John Venn and William Farish, in the company of Venn’s son Henry, the future leader of the Clapham Sect, gave an Evangelical hue to his early education. Although the ‘wonderfully soporific’ atmosphere of Oxford encouraged his self-confessed tendency to idleness, he took a double first in classics and mathematics, the second gentleman commoner to do so after Robert Peel*. His essential serious-mindedness is revealed in his travel journals. While in Italy in 1815 he dubbed the expatriate English ‘the locusts of the continent’ and he was similarly offended by the ‘egregious coxcombs’ whom he encountered in Parisian society on a second European tour in 1818. He was more impressed with the standard of debate in the French national assembly, which he ascribed to the wider participation facilitated by a circular chamber. In Berlin, he was ‘almost singular in liking a place which even the inhabitants seem to dislike heartily’, and dined on the hospitality of the ambassador, Sir George Henry Rose*, a fellow Wykehamist and cricket enthusiast, before moving on to Italy.1
Baring’s father had anticipated in 1817 that ‘from his character, understanding and acquirements’ he would ‘do credit to his family and country’ and determined that he should read for the bar. Baring agreed that ‘the knowledge of the history and laws of my country are necessary to me, and five or six years shall be applied to them’, though he had no intention of pursuing a legal career.2 He became a partner in the bank in 1823, but does not appear to have been active in its management.3 Reviewing his foreign travels in January 1819, he contemplated a diplomatic career, adding an earnest prayer that ‘whatever may become of my schemes of natural improvement, God grant that I may be a better son, a more deserving citizen, and upright man’. His desire for betterment led him to read widely in literature and the classics, but he showed little obvious interest in politics beyond a disillusioned letter to his kinsman John Lewis Mallet in June 1819, which indicated that he shared the Whig outlook of his father. He despaired of a settlement of the Catholic question and found the inertia ‘in the cases when the country has been labouring under grievance for years and years ... rather staggering to one’s implicit "reliance on the wisdom of Parliament"’. An impression of alienation was also conveyed by his resignation from the North Hampshire militia over what he regarded as political jobbery in a promotion.4 In 1825 Baring extended his connections by his marriage to the niece of the future premier Lord Grey and daughter of Sir George Grey, commissioner of Portsmouth dockyard.5
It was for this borough that he was offered a seat at the 1826 general election by its patron John Carter*, a Hampshire neighbour of his father, whom Baring had met during a brief foray into legal practice on the western circuit in 1824. On the condition that he supported parliamentary reform, he was returned free and unopposed by the compliant electorate, to whom he had paid the courtesy of a canvass in April.6 In somewhat guarded language on the hustings, he called for a greater measure of ‘popular influence’ in the constitution and indicated his support for Catholic relief, the abolition of slavery and the application of ‘free and enlightened commercial principles’ to the corn laws.7 Directly after his unopposed return he departed for Switzerland, from where he despondently observed that the Irish returns spelt an end to hopes of a peaceful settlement of the Catholic question. He judged that ‘Whig opinions have gained ground’ in England, even though this had not been reflected in the results, which he ascribed to a failure of leadership in the Commons.8 Baring sided with the Whig opposition in the House, but he did not join Brooks’s until 16 Feb. 1828. As a new Member, he was determined to
attend committees assiduously, to take part in the discussions there when I have really anything to say, but to do that as shortly and as much to the point as possible, and with as little violence. This may perhaps lead to an opportunity of saying something to the purpose in the House, if not, it is valuable both for gaining character and ... confidence. It is not till a man has made more than half a dozen speeches and has mingled a little in the business of the House that he has a fair opportunity of making the most of himself.9
He was sworn in and took his seat, 20 Nov. 1826, and from a newcomer’s sense of duty attended the king’s speech the next day. His first vote was in the ministerial majority against Hume’s amendment to the address, 22 Nov., when he was relieved to find himself not alone among the Whigs. He voted for Grattan’s amendment for economies in expenditure and inquiry into Ireland the same day. In December he expressed the private opinion that the government were duty bound to protect Portugal from French aggression.10 According to a local paper, he divided against additional financial provision for the duke of Clarence, 16 Feb. 1827.11 He voted for Catholic relief, 6 Mar. 1827, 12 May 1828. He divided against increased protection for barley, 12 Mar., for inquiry into alleged electoral interference by Leicester corporation, 15 Mar., and to outlaw spring guns, 23 Mar. 1827. He voted for information on the conduct of Lisburn magistrates over an Orange procession, 29 Mar., to postpone the committee of supply until the ministerial uncertainty was resolved, 30 Mar., and for inquiry into the Irish miscellaneous estimates, 5 Apr. Commenting privately on the admission of the Lansdowne Whigs to Canning’s reconstructed ministry, he remarked that ‘there has been a compromise of principle, or at least consistency, in their taking place without the Catholic question’. Bonham Carter, as his colleague and patron was now known, also had his reservations, but supposed that they should both sit on the ministerial benches. To his constituents, Baring subsequently declared himself an independent supporter of government, ‘wishing neither in opinions nor conduct to be separated from the large body of Whigs who, with Lord Lansdowne at their head, had joined Mr. Canning, and cordially agreeing with the foreign policy which had shaken off the yoke of the Holy Alliance, freed South America, and protected Portugal’.12 He was, however, in the majority for the disfranchisement of Penryn, 28 May. On 13 June he presented a petition from Lymington for repeal of the Test Acts.13 He was gratified by his appointments to the select committees on friendly societies, 27 Mar., and lunatic asylums, 13 June., and gained praise for his diligent work on the latter from Robert Gordon, Member for Cricklade. From his end of session report it emerges that he also sat on the Reading election committee, 6 Mar., and was among those deputed to examine the enclosure bill for Droxford, Hampshire, 2 Apr. All this he regarded as valuable experience, though he thought ‘neither favourably or unfavourably’ of his overall progress as a parliamentarian, observing that ‘as to speaking, I merely opened my mouth twice, and twice presented petitions, nothing of a speech’.14 He was in Portsmouth for the visit of the duke of Clarence, the lord high admiral, 30 July 1827.15
Baring presented petitions for repeal of the Test Acts, 15, 20 Feb., and voted thus, 26 Feb. 1828. In his first full speech, 4 Mar., he gave a glowing account of a Canadian emigration scheme, which he regarded as a useful bulwark against American expansionism. He was co-author of a bill to regulate friendly societies and was appointed to its select committee, 25 Mar., but the legislation foundered amid opposition from the bodies concerned and he presented hostile petitions from local societies, 17, 21, 24 Apr. He expressed ‘many objections’ to the pauper lunatics bill, 27 Mar., and was appointed to the revived select committee, 6 June. He voted against the government-backed plan to sluice the corrupt borough of East Retford, 21 Mar., for relaxation of the corn laws, 22 Apr., and for the more efficient recovery of customs penalties, 1 May. On 17 June he presented a petition for the abolition of slavery from Chipping Wycombe, his father’s constituency. He disagreed with a proposal to give county magistrates concurrent jurisdiction over alehouse licensing in boroughs, 19 June. Taking the opposite view to his uncle Alexander Baring, he voted for revision of the usury laws that day. He was in minorities against the misuse of public money on Buckingham House improvements, 23 June, for inquiry into abuses in the Irish church, 24 June, and against the additional churches bill, 30 June 1828.
After the concession of Catholic relief by the Wellington ministry, Baring joined the committee to re-elect Peel, the home secretary, for Oxford University. Writing to his wife, he blamed Peel’s defeat on the country clergy, who ‘in a year hence will be heartily sorry for what they have done’.16 He divided for emancipation, 6, 30 Mar. 1829. He voted for the transfer of East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 5 May, against the grant for the marble arch sculpture, 25 May, and for reduction of the hemp duties, 1 June. He voiced disapproval of a proposal to allow appeals to the county quarter sessions in areas under corporate jurisdiction, 27 May. Reviewing his progress at the end of the session, he wrote:
I seem rather to have retrograded than advanced. I have done very little, having only talked a few sentences upon very inferior and trifling subjects ... but the state of the House ever since the Catholic question has rendered speaking almost impossible, and the Catholic question was too large and too warm a subject to try one’s hand on. Most of the other subjects went off entirely or became of no interest.17
Baring voted for Knatchbull’s amendment to the address, 4 Feb. 1830, though he subsequently fretted in private about ‘going too much into coalition with the ultra Tories’. He may have been the ‘Mr. Baring’ appointed to the select committee on the East India Company, 9 Feb., and despite his being misidentified in some London papers, it was certainly he who raised the case of a convict’s delayed release from compulsory naval service, 11 Feb.18 Unlike his father and Bonham Carter, he abstained on Hume’s motion for a reduction of taxes, 15 Feb., privately observing, ‘I don’t much like this, but did not think it fair to vote against government’. At a meeting held at Lord Althorp’s*, 3 Mar., he declared that he ‘would support economy, but not pledge myself to a reduction in taxes which would necessitate a property tax’. He nonetheless voted for inquiry into a revision of taxation, 25 Mar., and divided steadily thereafter with the revived Whig opposition for economy and reductions in expenditure, including the omission of the Bathurst and Dundas pensions from the civil list, on which the government was defeated, 26 Mar. He presented an Alresford petition complaining of economic distress, 9 Mar., and with a hint of moral rectitude contrasted the featherbedding of a dispossessed naval sinecurist with the harsh treatment of discharged sailors, 22 Mar. He voted for the transfer of East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 11 Feb., 5 Mar., the enfranchisement of Birmingham, Leeds, and Manchester, 23 Feb., when he judged Brougham’s speech ‘one of the best I ever heard’, and parliamentary reform, 28 May. He divided for Jewish emancipation, 5 Apr., 17 May, and mitigation of the punishment for forgery, 24 May, 7 June, having presented a favourable Portsmouth petition, 8 Apr. In a speech which went ‘against constituents, colleague, father and uncle’, he welcomed the government bill to open the beer trade, 5 May.19 There were, as he had noted on 4 June, ‘no symptoms of reconciliation between the old Tories and the government’, and on the death of the king he observed that Peel’s ‘dull panegyric ... was received very coldly’, 29 June 1830. Despite William IV’s reported determination to support the Wellington ministry, he concluded that changes were likely which would ‘not involve Peel or the duke’.20
At the 1830 general election he apologized to his constituents for missing a division on colonial slavery, presumably that of 13 July, and with reference to the recent deposition of the French king, proposed a toast to ‘civil and religious liberty all over the world’. He was again returned unopposed.21 After informing his wife of the ministerial divisions on parliamentary reform, 4 Nov., he laughed off Wellington’s reported assertion that ‘all the Barings were coming over to him’ and would vote against the anticipated motion on the subject, 12 Nov., and was present at an opposition meeting to discuss tactics next day.22 He was, of course, listed by ministers among their ‘foes’ and he divided against them in the crucial division on the civil list, 15 Nov. The incoming Grey ministry’s ministerial appointments provoked widespread allegations of nepotism, but Baring’s elevation to the treasury was deemed ‘blameless’ by Denis Le Marchant†, while Althorp, the chancellor of the exchequer, reportedly ‘departed from his normal reserve to express his warm approval’.23 Baring learned of his appointment at Brighton, whence he proceeded to Winchester and then to Portsmouth at the onset of the ‘Swing’ disturbances. He reassured his wife that ‘there is no real personal cause of alarm’, 23 Nov., but indicated his dislike of making personal arrests, one of which would return to haunt him.24 After a quiet re-election for Portsmouth, 29 Nov., Baring took his seat at the treasury board, 1 Dec. 1830, and was put to work on tax collection efficiencies, superannuations, and customs and excise convictions.25 It was probably he, rather than his cousin Francis Baring, Member for Thetford in the 1830 Parliament, who spoke in favour of printing evidence on the disputed Evesham election, 14 Dec. 1830. In February 1831 he perceived that the limited pruning of the civil list had ‘evidently caused great disappointment’ on the government benches. He privately considered that Althorp’s budget proposals were ‘not wanting in boldness’ and was disappointed both with their reception, never having seen ‘so complete a specimen of the House "ratting" in the course of one debate’, and with the subsequent abandonment of the proposal to tax stock transfers.26 It was surely he rather than his cousin who spoke on the wording of the settlement of the poor bill, 10 Feb., and supported a plan to facilitate emigration, 22 Feb. ‘Never has a government been more unfortunate than ours hitherto’, he lamented, 27 Feb., but apart from the budget, he regarded its difficulties as primarily presentational, as ‘our Irish affairs have succeeded better than even our most sanguine friends could expect’ and ‘in England the government has restored peace, and disturbance has been put an end to’. Looking forward to the introduction of the reform proposals on 1 Mar., he noted that ‘on this all must turn and the moment it is over our fate is decided’.27 He was delighted with Lord John Russell’s speech, after which ‘the House had the appearance of a drunken man reeling under the blow’, and the balance of the subsequent debate in favour of the government. As the Member not on the payroll, it was most likely his cousin who warned that the population returns for boroughs would prove an unreliable guide to the true significance of a town, 3 Mar. By his own account, he was ‘well received’ at a Portsmouth reform meeting, 16 Mar., when he scotched a local press rumour that like his uncle Alexander, he would not support the reform bill. He attended a Hampshire reform meeting the following day, and duly voted for the second reading of the bill, 22 Mar.28 He presented petitions in its favour, 23 Mar., denied Hunt’s claim that general dissatisfaction with the reform proposals existed in Scotland, 14 Apr., and divided against Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831. Though initially dubious about the wisdom of an immediate dissolution, he rejoiced in the discomfiture of the opposition once it had been granted.29
At the ensuing general election Baring was again returned for Portsmouth unopposed. On the hustings he referred to his personal efforts to effect retrenchments through salary reductions and defended the reform bill, alluding to the democracies of ancient Greece.30 He voted for the second reading of the reintroduced measure, 6 July, and gave steady support to its details throughout the summer. On 13 July he was acquitted at Winchester sessions of the wrongful arrest and imprisonment of Thomas and Caroline Deacle of Marwell, Hampshire, a charge arising from an incident during the ‘Swing’ riots. He had informed his wife, 24 Nov. 1830:
Today I have had ... to lay hold of a respectable farmer and his wife from their own fireside, and from the evidence not without cause. The woman had marshalled the mob in twenties to receive their pay, and accompanied them on horseback to break engines and extort money. She was not rightly an object of pity, but nevertheless I never was so civil to any woman before, nor so gallant, if you can fancy me gallant.31
When the matter came before the House, 21 July 1831, Baring gave a similar account of the episode by way of self-justification, though the main target of opprobrium was his cousin William Bingham Baring*, who had been convicted of assault in making the arrest. Althorp, who had advised Baring beforehand, considered that he ‘did admirably ... not better however than I expected, for his abilities are first rate and his judgement as good as his abilities’3233 Baring did not resist the reception of the Deacles’ own petition, 22 Aug., but pointed to the discrepancies of its prayer with the evidence accepted in court. Having reiterated his support for a full investigation, 22 Sept., he was in the minority for a select committee on the incident, 27 Sept. He spoke briefly against suspending the Dublin writ, 8 Aug., and of course divided with his colleagues on the issue, 23 Aug. On 12 Aug. he was appointed to the select committee on government charges. He was a majority teller against Sadler’s bill for an Irish poor law, 29 Aug., and replied to a query on the building of Somerset House, 28 Sept. On 5 Sept. 1831 he was appointed to the select committee on malt drawback, a tax incentive for Scottish and Irish distillers. He secured accounts on the issue, 7 Feb., and proposed a reduction on the grounds of fraud, 17 Feb. 1832. He steered the subsequent bill through the House, 29 Feb., 30 Mar., 2 Apr., and found himself to be ‘rather better in speaking than I expected on a subject in which I felt no interest’.34 The measure received royal assent, 9 Apr. 1832. He voted for the passage of the reform bill, 21 Sept., and the motion of confidence in the government, 10 Oct. 1831. According to his journal, on the defeat of the bill in the Lords, he had warned Althorp that a creation of 40 peers would constitute ‘a greater innovation than all your bill over and over again, it is a revolution’. ‘The mass of the English are eminently aristocratical and will be disgusted by any insult offered to the Lords’, he recorded. On 24 Dec. 1831 he noted wistfully that since his marriage and entry to Parliament he had gone ‘from living with books to living almost without them’.35
Baring voted for the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831, and again divided steadily for its details, acting as a government teller against limiting polling in small boroughs to one day, 15 Feb. 1832. He chaired the reform bill committee on its first and last days and voted for its third reading, 22 Mar. On 4 Feb. he advised Althorp that he might have hard work in the House over the Russian-Dutch loan, on which he of course voted with his ministerial colleagues, 26 Jan., 12, 16, 20 July, and vainly urged him not to put the entire pension list in a single estimate, thus rendering it more conspicuous. He approved of the decision to retain Althorp as leader of the Commons, 1 Apr., a position for which he had previously mooted Edward Smith Stanley as a worthy successor.36 In the House, 4 Apr., he offered some explanation of details of the army estimates. Though pessimistic about the prospects for the reform bill in the Lords without a creation of peers, Baring remained uncomfortable with the idea, and approved the pragmatic course adopted by ministers, though he warned Althorp that it was ‘attended with some risk’, 9 Apr. On 7 May he recorded that by rejecting the bill on the question of borough disfranchisements, ‘the point probably the most popular in the country’, the Lords had let the government off the hook, for ‘had they waited for the metropolitan Members the case would have been very different’.37 He divided for the address asking the king to appoint only ministers who would carry the bill unimpaired, 10 May, convinced that it was ‘sufficiently strong to satisfy the country’ without implying an assumption of the royal prerogative. He foresaw ‘hard work’ for Wellington in forming an alternative ministry, 11 May, and after his failure expected general acquiescence in the bill’s passage. He was evidently surprised at evidence of further resistance and reported to his wife that ‘nothing which has occurred in the whole course of my life could exceed the desperate language of the Lords last night’, 18 May.38 He believed that the prospects of the reinstated Grey ministry would be ‘more uncertain than ever’ after the bill’s passage, 23 May, but was not unduly distressed at the possibility of losing his place, finding that ‘the novelty of the thing is quite gone, and the habits of office have not become so inveterate, as to have become necessary to one’s happiness’.39 He voted for the second reading of the Irish reform bill, 25 May, and against a Conservative amendment to increase the Scottish county representation, 1 June. Rumours that month that he might offer for Chipping Wycombe in the room of his father, who had resigned on 10 June in order to stand for Hampshire, came to nothing.40 He voted to make coroners’ inquests public, 20 June. He presented a Portsmouth petition against a bill to suppress pluralism in the church, which he claimed would have the opposite effect, 25 July. On 27 July he reported on changes to the duty on glass. He presented a Halifax manufacturer’s petition against the factories regulation bill and disputed death rate figures contained in its prayer with Sadler, 31 July 1832. That August he was mentioned by Thomas Macaulay* as part of a dining group of junior ministers, which included his cousin Henry Labouchere, Member for Taunton.41
At the 1832 general election Baring was returned again for Portsmouth after a contest with a more advanced Liberal.42 He served as financial secretary to the treasury in the administrations of Lord Melbourne, who rated his capabilities highly, and somewhat reluctantly became chancellor of the exchequer in 1839.43 Lord Holland implied that he was chosen as a safe pair of hands, though he produced a controversial final budget in 1841, which embodied the principles of anti-monopolism and opposition to income tax.44 By then he had acquired a reputation as a rigid advocate of economy and a scourge of sinecurists, one of whom, the diarist Greville, denounced him in June 1835 as a ‘morose and rigid millionaire’.45 Even among more sympathetic observers, he was regarded as a thoroughly desiccated, though capable man. Macaulay called him ‘one of the driest and most severe official men in the whole government’ in October 1833.46 Le Marchant, a friend since the mid-1820’s, later recalled:
His manner was cold and his disposition reserved, so that he had few friends or even political followers, but no man was more respected and trusted by those who had to deal with him, as was shown when he came into high office. He had a clear head and considerable powers of reasoning, and was a sound and well informed financier. In the diligent performance of his official duties he had no superior.47
Baring became head of the family on the death of his father in 1848, when he succeeded to the baronetcy and Hampshire seat of Stratton Park. Appointed head of the admiralty in Russell’s ministry next year, he was regarded by Erskine May as ‘the fairest first lord who ever administered that department’.48 He sat for Portsmouth until the 1865 dissolution and in January 1866 was elevated to the peerage as Lord Northbrook, an offer he had twice before refused.49 He died at Stratton in September 1866 of ‘a sudden stroke, which allowed no last words’, and was buried at Micheldever. His public works were eulogized at his funeral by his old schoolfellow Henry Venn, who observed that ‘throughout his prosperous career there was no fever of ambition, no courting of distinction, no compromise of his own conscientious convictions, no suppression of his independent judgement’.50 In private life, noted an obituarist, ‘his tastes were very simple and he was happier in the retirement of his family circle than in society ... To the last he was fond of the classical studies for which he was distinguished in early life’.51 He was succeeded in the peerage and Hampshire estate by his eldest son Thomas George Baring (1826-1904), Liberal Member for Penryn and Falmouth since 1857. If Baring was as wealthy as had been generally represented, he was highly successful in concealing his assets for the purpose of legacy duty, as his personalty was sworn under £16,000, 9 Oct. 1866.
Ref Volumes: 1820-1832
Authors: Philip Salmon / Howard Spencer
- 1. Baring Jnls. i. 1-27; ii. 209.
- 2. Ibid. i. 11; B. Mallet, Earl of Northbrook, 11.
- 3. R.W. Hidy, House of Baring in American Trade, 43.
- 4. Baring Jnls. i. 29-30, 33-34, 38, 40.
- 5. Ibid. 44.
- 6. Ibid. i. 39, 44-5; ii. 209.
- 7. Ibid. 45; Hants Telegraph, 24 Apr., 12 June 1826.
- 8. Baring Jnls. i. 45, 48-49.
- 9. Ibid. i. 50.
- 10. Ibid. i. 50-51.
- 11. Hants Telegraph, 26 Feb. 1827.
- 12. Baring Jnls. i. 52; Hants RO, Bonham Carter mss 94M72 F10, Bonham Carter to wife, 6 Aug. 1827.
- 13. The Times, 14 June 1827.
- 14. Baring Jnls. i. 52-53.
- 15. Hants Telegraph, 6 Aug. 1827.
- 16. Baring Jnls. i. 61-62.
- 17. Ibid.
- 18. Hants Telegraph, 15 Feb. 1830.
- 19. Baring Jnls. i. 63.
- 20. Ibid. i. 64.
- 21. Hants Telegraph, 9 Aug. 1830.
- 22. Baring Jnls. i. 67-71.
- 23. Three Diaries, 6; Le Marchant, Althorp, 264.
- 24. Baring Jnls. i. 72-79.