BEAUMONT, Thomas Wentworth (1792-1848), of Bretton Hall, Yorks. and Bywell, Northumb.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009
Available from Cambridge University Press

Constituency

Dates

1818 - 1826
15 Dec. 1826 - 1830
1830 - 1832

Family and Education

b. 5 Nov. 1792, 1st s. of Thomas Richard Beaumont† of Hexham Abbey, Northumb. and Bretton Hall and Diana, illegit. da. and h. of Sir Thomas Wentworth Blackett, 5th bt., of Hexham and Bretton. educ. Eton 1805; St. John’s, Camb. 1809. m. 22 Nov. 1827, Henrietta Jane Emma Hawks, da. of John Atkinson of Maple Hayes, Staffs., 4s. 2da. suc. fa. 1829; mother in Blackett estates 1831. d. 20 Dec. 1848.

Offices Held

Lt.-col. commdt. W. Northumb. militia 1813-24.

Biography

Beaumont, a forceful public speaker who had the wealth of the Blacketts’ Yorkshire lead mines at his disposal, had succeeded his ailing father as Member for Northumberland in 1818 with the tacit endorsement of the duke of Northumberland and the Liverpool ministry, despite turning down their request to stand jointly there with Henry Thomas Liddell*.1 Determined to demonstrate his independence in the Commons, he aligned increasingly with the Whig opposition led by George Tierney, and only avoided a contest in 1820, directed against him by the duke through the Tory Charles John Brandling*, because his Whig colleague Sir Charles Monck† retired. On the hustings, he countered accusations of inconsistency and ‘political turgidity’, criticized Brandling and his supporters, and declared that he would be of no party: ‘He would vote for what he deemed good for the country generally and for the county locally ... economy and retrenchment consistent with the dignity of the crown ... and some modification of the corn laws’.2

Beaumont formalized his adhesion to the Whigs in June and joined Brooks’s, sponsored by the radical Whig Henry Grey Bennet* and Lord Grey’s son-in-law John Lambton*, 11 July 1820. Until the summer of 1822 he divided unstintingly with the main Whig opposition and fairly regularly with the ‘Mountain’ for economy, retrenchment and tax reductions. He supported the London merchants’ petition for relaxation of commercial restrictions, 8 May 1820. As discussed with Grey, who considered his letter ‘well written and sensible’, he suggested that agriculture and manufacturing would be better represented if the Members designated for Leeds under the Grampound disfranchisement bill were awarded to the North and East Ridings of Yorkshire, 19 May 1820. (His amendment for the separate enfranchisement of the West Riding under the Grampound bill attracted bipartisan support but failed by 126-66, 12 Feb. 1821.)3 He joined in the criticism of the foreign secretary Lord Castlereagh, when the proceedings against Queen Caroline were announced, 6 June 1820, and, supporting the 1820-1 parliamentary and extra-parliamentary campaigns on her behalf, he made Castlereagh disclose the coronation’s postponement, 7 July, and proposed the critical address adopted at the Northumberland meeting, 10 Jan. 1821. Presenting their petition, 1 Feb., he condemned the sheriff’s conduct in refusing to convene the meeting. He was prevailed on to refrain from making this the subject of a general inquiry motion, in deference to the Cheshire proceedings, 14 Feb. 1821.4 He deplored Sir Robert Wilson’s* dismissal from the army for forcing a way through the City at the queen’s funeral, 13 Feb. 1822. He divided for Catholic relief, 28 Feb. 1821, presented and endorsed a moderate petition for parliamentary reform from Morpeth, 23 Feb., and voted for Lord John Russell’s proposals, 9 May 1821, 25 Apr. 1822, but not Lambton’s, 18 Apr. 1821.5 He brought up the report on the Northumberland county gaol bill, 23 Feb., rejected the home office under-secretary Henry Clive’s criticism of the Northumberland petition for repeal of the agricultural horse tax, 5 Mar. 1821, and presented and endorsed another, 7 June 1822.6 His commitment to the Whigs had waned, but he divided with them against the suspension of habeas corpus in Ireland, 7 Feb., the Irish insurrection bill, 8 Feb., and on taxation, 11 Feb., and consistently until 28 June 1822, when, as on 28 Feb., he voted to repeal the salt duties. He claimed that the abortive Yorkshire poll bill he backed was strongly supported beyond the West Riding, 29 Apr.7 He presented petitions against taxing leather, 1, 31 May, and had to be dissuaded by Lambton and the Tory agriculturists George Holme Sumner and Sir Edward Knatchbull from proceeding prematurely with a repeal motion before ministers’ intentions were known, 1 May.8 Opposing the naval and military pensions bill that day, he recommended financing pensions from the sinking fund, and added that he would ‘not object’ to its entire abolition. Disappointed by the agriculture report, he warned of the danger of revolution unless substantial tax cuts were made and voted accordingly, 8 May, and for a 20s. fixed duty on corn, 9 May 1822. He presented petitions from Northumberland against the turnpike bill, 14 Mar., Catholic relief, 18 Apr., and colonial slavery, 26 May 1823, but left no other record of his attendance that session.

He had famously failed to woo Grey’s daughter Elizabeth, and his engagement to the Catholic Sir John Swinburne’s daughter Elizabeth was terminated in August 1823, when, in a fit of delusion, he accused Lady Swinburne of adultery, naming Grey (whom he later threatened to prosecute for libel for declaring him insane) among her paramours.9 By February 1824, after spending time abroad and at Worthing, he had recovered sufficiently to apply for the Chiltern Hundreds and consider moving to the continent, but the London and Northumberland bankers Nicholas Ridley Colborne* and his brother Sir Matthew White Ridley* dissuaded him from doing so before the Whigs could organize his replacement. To the annoyance of Grey, who was manoeuvring to bring in his son Lord Howick* for Northumberland, Beaumont guessed what was afoot, changed his mind and made it known that he was prepared to spend £100,000 defending his seat at the general election.10 He helped to establish the Westminster Review in 1824, but his parliamentary activity remained minimal. He voted for inquiry into the state of Ireland, 1 May, and presented petitions against the hides and skins bill, 1 May, and colonial slavery, 13 May.11 A radical publication of 1825 erroneously noted that he ‘attended frequently and voted with the opposition’;12 for in January 1825, having sold the manor of Gunnerton for £18,500, he went to the continent on health grounds, having first confirmed his intention of seeking re-election and voted against suppressing the Catholic Association, 15 Feb. The Whig lawyer James Losh, the auditor of the Beaumont estates and his adviser on election matters, observed:

My opinion of Mr. Beaumont is unchanged. Had he been a person of moderate fortune and properly educated, he would have been an amiable and accomplished man, whereas now he is evidently (though not without some good qualities) the mere slave of his passions and his habits.13

Shortly after Beaumont returned to England, Brandling’s death in February 1826 caused a by-election in Northumberland. During it, and undeterred by hostile intrigues, constant criticism of his parliamentary conduct and absence and parental disapproval of his reputed liaisons, Beaumont contradicted reports of his retirement and issued canvassing notices for the anticipated general election. Perceiving that Howick, whose aristocratic supporters backed the anti-Catholic Tory Matthew Bell*, posed the greater threat to his re-election, he spoke for the Canningite Liddell on the hustings, 21 Feb., but distanced himself from him in defeat. Denouncing the Whig-Tory coalition, he said that his politics were ‘pro-Catholic’ and ‘in opposition to the leading parties of the state’. Making his mother the scapegoat, he attributed his recent absences to ‘domestic difficulties’.14 He presented anti-slavery petitions, 4 May, and one from Bishop Burnett criticizing Lord Charles Somerset’s† conduct as governor of the Cape, 8 May, which, despite ministers’ objections, he promised to pursue in the next Parliament, 8 May.15 Taunted over the Swinburne affair and vilified by the Whigs, whose verbal violence he more than matched, he finished third behind Bell and Liddell after a 14-day poll at the general election. During it he fought a bloodless duel against his bête noir Lambton on Bamburgh sands, 1 July 1826, and spent £40,634 (£60,000 according to Grey’s brother-in-law Edward Ellice*).16 On the hustings he confirmed his commitment to corn law revision, Catholic relief and retrenchment, and called for a more equitable distribution of capital, the abolition of colonial slavery, criminal law reform and a ‘sweeping’, not piecemeal, reform of Parliament.17 He failed to prevent Grey’s agents wreaking revenge afterwards for Howick’s fourth place defeat by publishing the 1823-4 ‘Swinburne’ correspondence.18 Anxious to remain in Parliament, ‘the mad beast’, as Lambton called him, secured an introduction through the Whig barrister John Campbell II* to the venal borough of Stafford, where he topped the poll at the December 1826 by-election at an estimated cost of £14-15,000. It was later alleged that he never paid ‘one sol’.19 Addressing the voters, he said that ‘he had obtained their suffrages by means perhaps not altogether constitutional, but he hoped the money would do them good and be of service to their families’.20 At a celebration dinner for his Northumberland supporters, 7 Feb. 1827, he denounced the county’s aristocracy and claimed that ‘England is tired of both Whigs and Tories’. Thus provoked, the editor of the Whig Durham Chronicle criticized his ‘neglect of public duty and shameful private life ... distinguished by inconsistency’.21

Beaumont voted for Catholic relief, 6 Mar., and a 50s. pivot price for corn imports, 9 Mar. 1827. He objected to the award to the duke of Clarence because of the ‘breathless haste with which it had been presented to Parliament, and the want of sympathy with the distress of the people it glaringly betrayed’, 16 Mar. 1827. He demanded clarification of William Sturges Bourne’s tenure of the home office (as Lord Lansdowne’s locum) in Canning’s ministry, 11 May, asked Russell that day when he proposed moving the repeal of the Test Acts, and on the 15th proposed a motion of no confidence in the new administration. To the regret of Canning, who had looked forward to demolishing it, he withdrew it three days later.22 He presented a petition for repeal of the Test Acts, 7 June 1827. His precipitate marriage in November to a wealthy hatter’s daughter, ‘not over-well connected’, displeased his socially ambitious mother, and he and his bride spent much of 1828 abroad.23 In December that year Losh impressed on him the ‘absolute necessity’ of regular parliamentary attendance to boost his election prospects in Northumberland, and wrote of his circumstances:

The lady is young, pleasing in her appearance and unaffected in her manners. But she does not appear to me either handsome or clever. With the exception of a little vehemence against the Quakers and the Irish Association, there was nothing eccentric in Beaumont’s sentiments and his manners are always good. Beaumont is certainly a man of good talents. He has a good memory, has read much but without any regular system and his imagination often runs away with him. He would be very pleasant in conversation, were he not too fond of metaphysical subtleties, and did not a little disguised Aristocracy now and then show itself.24

Beaumont had recently resigned from Brooks’s, and the Wellington administration’s patronage secretary Planta was ‘doubtful’ of his support for Catholic emancipation in 1829. However, he divided for it, 6, 30 Mar., having presented a favourable petition from Blyth, 26 Mar. His father died, worth £60-120,000, 31 July 1829, having left virtually everything unrestricted by entail and settlements to his mother.25

Beaumont was one of the 28 ‘opposition Members’ who voted against Knatchbull’s amendment to include reference to distress in the address, 4 Feb. 1830. He voted to transfer East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 11 Feb., and to enfranchise Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, 23 Feb. He considered distress ‘general’ and caused by ‘overwhelming taxation’ that only remissions could relieve, and would have liked to see it investigated by a select committee, 8 Mar. However, he did not think the ministry, whose policies and poor public standing he criticized, had grasped its true extent, and made this his reason for opposing Davenport’s state of the nation motion, 23 Mar. A rebuke from the chancellor of the exchequer Goulburn failed to deter him from harrying the former commissioner of woods and forests Charles Arbuthnot over the architect John Nash’s lease purchases and on public access to St. James’s Park, 29 Mar. From now until 7 June he divided fairly steadily with the revived Whig opposition, including for Jewish emancipation, 5 Apr., 17 May, reform, 28 May, and the abolition of capital punishment for forgery, 24 May, 7 June. He made way for Campbell at Stafford at the general election that summer and declared early for Northumberland, where he was returned unopposed with Bell after Liddell declined a contest. On the hustings, he reaffirmed his view that taxation was the ‘prime cause of the national distress’, stated that vested rights should not be allowed to prevent the abolition of rotten boroughs, and called for retrenchment and reform.26 When, on 11 Aug. 1830, he chaired the Newcastle-upon-Tyne anti-slavery meeting addressed by Henry Brougham*, the latter, to Howick’s annoyance, hailed Beaumont’s election as ‘one of the greatest victories achieved by the liberal party’.27

Ministers listed him among their ‘foes’, but having rebuked Daniel O’Connell for calling them ‘madmen’, 5 Nov., he ‘contrived’ to be shut out of the division on the civil list by which they were brought down, 15 Nov. 1830.28 When Sir James Graham made political capital of the Tory Henry Phillpotts’s appointment to the see of Exeter, 10 Nov., Beaumont, who had prepared a motion to this effect, stressed the local furore and inconvenience it had caused to the parishioners of Stanhope, 10 Nov. He presented several anti-slavery petitions, 10 Nov. 1830-23 Feb. 1831. He complained that the long debate on the Grey ministry’s budget made Members lose sight of the chancellor’s original statement, and approved his decision to tax stock transfers. He considered the army estimates ‘entirely justified’ as long as Belgium, France, Holland, Ireland and Russia remained potential problems, turned on their critics Davies and O’Connell, 21 Feb., and expressed impatience at time-wasting quibbling over minutiae in the committee of supply, 14 Mar. On reform, he presented, endorsed and defended radical reform petitions from North and South Shields, 10 Dec. 1830, and Alnwick, 23 Feb., attended the county meeting, 2 Feb., and sent a letter of support to that on 16 Mar. 1831, which petitioned in favour of the ministerial bill.29 He commended it in the House as a moderate measure ‘calculated to prevent revolution ... by uniting the middle to the higher classes’, and declared his intention of not voting against ministers until the English bill was carried, 9 Mar. He spoke similarly on bringing up favourable petitions from North Shields and Tynemouth, 14 Mar., but also cautioned ministers against consenting to its dilution, for they had ‘not so much to fear from their openly professed foes as from their lukewarm friends’. He divided for the bill at its second reading, 22 Mar., and paired against Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. Next day, when he had three further favourable petitions to present, he criticized the Northumberland anti-reform petition as the work of the duke of Northumberland’s agents, and substantiated his statement by reading out the duke’s directive to them. He refuted the anti-reformer Sir Henry Hardinge’s alternative explanations. At the dissolution, 23 Apr. 1831, Beaumont claimed in his canvassing address that he had voted for the bill ‘because it would have put an end to the unconstitutional use which is now made of seats for close boroughs, and have given to the real representatives of the nation, by means of more open elections, an efficient control over the expenditure of the public money’.30 Northumberland’s reformers resolved to return him free of charge with Howick at the general election in May, when Bell’s retirement left them unopposed. Beaumont eulogized Grey and the reform bill on the hustings.31

He divided for the reintroduced reform bill at its second reading, 6 July, and against adjourning its consideration in committee, 12 July 1831, but he does not seem to have supported its details. His failure to vote at its passage, 21 Sept., was attributed to ill health, for which he had received three weeks’ leave, 15 Sept. His mother had died, 10 Aug., and by her will (proved under £180,000), he was obliged to provide £50,000 each and a share in the interest on £150,000 for his three brothers and two sisters.32 As this made his income precarious, he contemplated taking the Chiltern Hundreds and selling Bywell or his entire Northumberland property, but, instead, he dismissed the Crowhalls as agents and hired the Morpeth attorney John Hodgson, who developed the Allendale lead mines, appointed Losh’s son as auditor and made an arrangement with the Whig Member for Morpeth, William Ord, to stand jointly for Northumberland South at the first post-reform election.33 He divided for the revised reform bill at its second reading, 17 Dec. 1831, steadily for its details and for the third reading, 22 Mar. 1832. He voted for the address calling on the king to appoint only ministers who would carry it unimpaired, 10 May. When a ministry headed by Wellington was contemplated, he authorized his Northumberland committee to canvass in anticipation of a snap dissolution. He also protested vehemently in debate at the prospect of the duke becoming the ‘step-father’ of the reform bill, 14 May. He added that he would ‘do everything within doors and without in the way of agitation’ to thwart him.34 Deeming the bill’s defeat a greater threat to the constitution, he had had no qualms about creating peers to ensure its passage, and dismissed discussions on the matter as ‘absurd’ and ‘time-wasting’, 22 May. He divided against a Conservative amendment to the Scottish reform bill, 1 June, and endorsed Tynemouth’s petition for withholding supplies pending the English bill’s passage, 4 June. Presenting another backing the government’s Irish education policy that day, he described the Protestants as a bulwark ‘between Ireland and Ireland’s prosperity’. Beaumont declared on 6 June 1832 that his days of self-restraint in the interests of the English reform bill were over. He would continue to vote with ministers ‘when a sense of duty will permit me to do so’, but would also be ‘happy to support any amendment or motion ... calculated to improve’ the Irish bill. (He is not known to have spoken or voted on that measure.) He divided with government on Portugal, 9 Feb., and paired with them on the Russian-Dutch loan, 12, 20 July, but joined in the radicals’ condemnation of the Russian tsar as the ‘miscreant conqueror’ of Poland, 28 June. Attending to local business, he voted in the minority for the Sunderland (South side) wet docks bill in select committee, 2 Apr., spoke against instituting breach of privilege proceedings against the attorneys responsible for publishing their division lists, 16 Apr., and upheld their conduct when they appeared before the House, 7 May.35 He questioned ministers about the murder of two union members during the Tyne pitmen’s strike and announced a motion on their poor working conditions, 14 June, but he failed to proceed with it and ‘chose to make no speech’ on presenting their employers’ petition for inquiry, 6 July 1832.

Beaumont’s conduct at the general election of 1832, when he topped the poll and Bell defeated Ord, and his collusions to ensure that the Liberal and Conservative petitions were subsequently abandoned, damaged him locally.36 He rejoined Brooks’s in 1834 and was re-elected for Northumberland South as a Liberal in 1835, but his dealings with O’Connell, whom he denounced in December 1835 but subsequently supported, and his violent opposition to the application of the 1834 Poor Law in Yorkshire further undermined his reputation. He resigned on health grounds in 1837 rather than risk defeat.37 He died at Bournemouth and was buried at Bretton in December 1848, recalled by an unsympathetic obituarist as ‘a man of little stability of character’. His wife and six children were the main beneficiaries of his will, which was sworn (in York), 14 May 1849.38 His estates passed to his eldest son Wentworth Blackett Beaumont (1829-1907), Liberal Member for Northumberland South, 1852-1885, and Tyneside, 1886-92, who in 1906 was created Baron Allendale. His sons Frederick Edward Beaumont (1833-99) and Somerset Augustus Beaumont (1835-1921) were also Liberal MPs.

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Margaret Escott

Notes

  • 1. Add. 38258, f. 266.
  • 2. Newcastle Courant, 18 Mar.; Tyne Mercury, 21 Mar. 1820.
  • 3. Grey mss, Grey to wife, 26 May 1820; HLRO, Hist. Coll. 379, Grey Bennet diary, 17.
  • 4. The Times, 27, 29 Dec. 1820, 15 Jan., 9 Feb.; Newcastle Chron. 12 Jan. 1821.
  • 5. The Times, 23 Feb. 1821.
  • 6. Ibid. 24 Feb., 6 Mar. 1821, 8 June 1822.
  • 7. Ibid. 30 Apr. 1822.
  • 8. Ibid. 2 May, 1 June 1822.
  • 9. Edgeworth Letters, 504-5; Grey mss, Lambton to Grey, 2 Sept.; Bessborough mss F53, Brougham to Duncannon [18 Oct. 1823].
  • 10. Grey mss, Ridley to Grey, 25 Aug., 14 Oct. 1823, 26, 27 Feb., 11, 13, 16, 19 Mar., Ellice to same, 8, 11 Mar., Tankerville to same, 8 Mar., Lambton to same, 15, 17, 18, 23 Mar., Grey to Ridley, 21 Mar.; Northumb. RO, Middleton mss ZMI, memo. [27 Feb.]; ZMI/B16/VI, Grey to Monck, 5 Mar.; Diaries and Corresp. of James Losh ed. E. Hughes (Surtees Soc. clxxiv) [hereafter Losh Diaries ii.], 3, 11, 163; Northumb. RO, Ridley (Blagdon) mss ZRI25/45, Ridley Colborne to Beaumont, 18 Mar. 1824.
  • 11. The Times, 4, 14 May 1824.
  • 12. Session of Parl. 1825, p. 451.
  • 13. J.C. Hodgson, Hist. Northumb. iv. 329; Losh Diaries, ii. 21; Grey mss, Lambton to Grey, 9 Feb. 1825.
  • 14. Grey mss, Ellice to Grey, 2 Oct. 1825, 2 Mar., Fitzwilliam to same, 19 Dec. 1825; Add. 51580, Carlisle to Lady Holland, 12 Feb.; 51584, Tierney to Holland, 12 Mar.; Tyne Mercury, 14 Feb.; Northumb. election pprs. [BL J/8133.i.13.], i. passim.; Losh Diaries, ii. 41; Creevey mss, Creevey to Miss Ord, 21, 23 Feb., 2 Mar.; Fitzwilliam mss 124/5, 9; Durham Chron. 18 Mar. 1826.
  • 15. The Times, 5, 9, 20 May 1826.
  • 16. Grey mss, Lambton to Grey, 6 June, Lady Lambton to same [June], Ellice to same, 27 July; Castle Howard mss, W. Howard to Morpeth [10 June]; Creevey mss, Creevey to Miss Ord, 11 June; Middleton mss B16/VI, Bigge to Monck, 12 June; Reid, Lord Durham, i. 170; M.D. George, Cat. of Pol. and Personal Satires, x. 11530-3, 11642; Welford, i. 222; NLS, Ellice mss, Grey to Ellice, 7 Feb. 1827.
  • 17. Newcastle Chron. 24 June 1826.
  • 18. Grey mss, Lambton to Grey, 13, 21 July; The Times, 21 July, 15 Aug.; Globe, 22 July 1826.
  • 19. The Times, 12, 16, 18, 21 Dec. 1826; Grey mss, Lambton to Grey, 29 Jan. 1827; St. Deiniol’s Lib. Glynne-Gladstone mss 195, T. to J. Gladstone, 28 June 1830.
  • 20. Life of Campbell, i. 436.