BRIGHT, Henry (1784-1869), of 2 Stone Buildings, Lincoln's Inn, Mdx.

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



1820 - 1830

Family and Education

b. 18 Jan. 1784, 1st s. of Richard Bright, banker and merchant, of Bristol and Sarah, da. of Benjamin Heywood, merchant, of Liverpool. educ. Reading; Peterhouse, Camb. 1801, fellow 1810; L. Inn 1804, called 1810. unm. suc. fa. 1840. d. 26 Mar. 1869.

Offices Held


Bright came from a junior branch of a family that originated in Worcestershire and had been established as landowners in Herefordshire since the seventeenth century. His grandfather was a West India merchant and mayor of Bristol in 1771 and his father was a partner in the city bank of Ames, Cave and Company, but he never directly engaged in business.1 His academic career was interrupted in 1805 when he was rusticated from Cambridge for a year following a ‘little fracas’ in a shop,2 but he later became a Perne fellow of Peterhouse and a practising barrister on the western circuit; one of his brothers was Dr. Richard Bright, the eminent pathologist. In 1818 his father inherited the family estates in Herefordshire from a cousin and land in Hampshire from another cousin, Richard Meyler, Member for Winchester. Bright was invited to offer for Bristol in 1820 as the representative of the West India Whig interest, and declared that his aim was to ‘restore the constitution ... to the standard’ of 1688 by ‘reducing the power of the crown to its legitimate bounds’, and that he favoured a ‘practicable’ measure of parliamentary reform, retrenchment and tax cuts. When pressed on the Catholic question, he stated that given ‘the moral tendencies of ... Catholic doctrines’ he was ‘not a friend’ to their cause. He was returned at the head of the poll.3

He was an active member of the Whig opposition to Lord Liverpool’s ministry on most major issues, including parliamentary reform, 9, 31 May 1821, 24 June 1822. However, he never joined Brooks’s Club and his attachment to ‘liberal’ principles was crucially tempered by constituency considerations. He supported the ‘eminently advantageous’ Western Union canal bill and was a majority teller, 15 May. He argued that the insolvent debtors bill should distinguish between ‘honest unfortunate’ and ‘fraudulent’ debtors, 26 May, and moved on 12 June that its provisions be extended to cover crown debtors, but withdrew as the sense of the committee was against him. He was named to the select committee on agricultural distress, 31 May, but wished he could decline as its membership was so obviously packed. He believed the standing army should be reduced to the level of 1792, arguing that though the country was disturbed ‘the principles of the people were sound’, 14 June. He warned that the excess of spirits bill would lead to the West of England being ‘deluged’ with ‘ardent spirits’ from Ireland, 6 July. He opposed the turnpike returns bill, which showed ‘want of confidence’ in commissioners ‘who performed a laborious duty gratuitously’ and sought to vest greater power in government, 12 July 1820.4 He thought the Commons should offer Queen Caroline what financial provision it deemed fit and let her decide whether or not to accept, 31 Jan. 1821. He spoke ‘warmly’ against the sheriff of Cheshire who had ‘fraudulently dispossessed the people of one of their most valuable constitutional rights’, 9 Feb., and supported restoration of the queen’s name to the liturgy ‘in point of law as well as on the ground of expediency’, 13 Feb. He complained that some Members were ‘disposed to take off taxes from themselves and lay them upon their neighbours’, as in the case of the husbandry horses tax, 5 Mar. He supported repeal of the additional malt duty, although it was not the most pressing case for relief, 3 Apr., as it would force ministers to retrench. He opposed the grant to Sandhurst in the belief that ‘a better system of education might be promoted at much less expense’, 30 Apr. He condemned the country gentlemen for failing to attend to enforce retrenchment, 28 May, and lamented that Britain was becoming ‘a military nation’ when it should look to the navy as its ‘natural protection’. He claimed he was not opposed to the additional grant to the duke of Clarence but saw no ground for the payment of arrears, 8 June. He supported the amended tobacco duties bill, 18 June.5 He warned that ‘small tradesmen would be injured’ by the proposed extra post bill, 17 May, and moved the rejection of the packet vessels bill, which exposed owners and captains to the excise penalties, 13 June; he was a minority teller.6 He defended the petition complaining of the conduct of Justice William Best† and was a minority teller for its reception, 23 Feb. He favoured a provision in the spoiled stamps bill to permit unstamped papers to be allowed as legal evidence in certain cases, 30 Apr.7 He ‘indignantly’ repudiated the ‘vile, base and atrocious imputations ... thrown upon the judges’ by Henry Hunt’s* petition complaining of ill-treatment at Ilchester gaol, 15 May, and was a majority teller for discharging the order for a copy of the magistrates’ report, 21 June. He opposed the forgery punishment mitigation bill, 23 May, arguing that forgery was ‘the crime of education and trade’ and that the death penalty was needed ‘for the protection of property’. He divided against Catholic claims, 28 Feb., argued that the Protestant Dissenter should ‘be first raised to his proper rank in the state’, 16 Mar., and opposed the relief bill ‘upon every principle of the British constitution’, 26 Mar. He condemned the Irish education bill as one that taxed Dissenters for a system biased towards the established church, 10 July 1821. He was a minority teller for omitting the ‘monstrous’ indemnity clause from the Irish insurrection bill, 8 Feb. 1822. He criticized Canning’s plan to relieve Catholic peers of their disabilities as ‘one great step to the admission of ... Catholics to political power’, 29 Mar. He emphasized the need for retrenchment, 28 Feb., declaring that ‘they might ... strike out of the estimates many sinecures ... useless offices ... boards and lords of the admiralty’. However, he defended the grant for fortifications in Barbados, 27 Mar. He presented and endorsed Bristol petitions for repeal of the duties on leather, 30 Apr., tobacco, 10, 14 May, and salt, 30 May, 17 June.8 He denounced the deadweight pensions scheme as a ‘delusion’, which diverted public attention from the real issue of tax cuts, 1 May. He denied that the king had the prerogative right to dismiss army officers, 12 Mar. He presented a Bristol petition for inquiry into the conditions of Hunt’s imprisonment and admitted that a case had been made, 18 Mar.9 He thought the colonial trade bill would ‘give a blow to the remains of the slave trade’ and benefit the West Indian slaves, 1 Apr., but he urged ministers to declare their intentions regarding the sugar duties, 17 May. He approved of the measures taken to combat piracy in the West Indies, 23 July, but could not ‘acquit the admiralty of supineness’, 30 July. He warned that the increase in the number of partners allowed in country banks would render the bankruptcy regulations ‘entirely inefficient’, 9 May.10 He thought it was ‘due in equity to the commercial interest’ to permit the export of bonded corn as flour and acted as a minority teller, 10 June. He supported repeal of a part of the Excise Licenses Act that was damaging to maltsters, 2 July. He condemned the Canada government bill as ‘purely an Upper Canada bill, having for its object to destroy the influence of the Lower Provinces and give a decided superiority to the Protestant over the Catholic population’, 18 July; he was a minority teller for instructing the committee to divide the bill into two. He expressed the hope that the ancient histories of the realm would be ‘published at full length’, 24 July 1822.

Bright condemned the insolvency laws for ‘letting loose a most profligate race of men to prey upon the community’, 14 Feb., supported a Bristol petition against the insolvent debtors bill, 17 Feb., and argued that if the law could not be amended it had better be repealed, 13 Mar. 1823.11 He was in ‘no way satisfied’ with the government’s tax reductions, which only affected ‘superfluities’, 25 Feb., and observed that repealing the assessed taxes would remove a ‘host of collectors ... to the very beneficial diminution of the influence of the crown’.12 He supported repeal of the house and window taxes for properties rated under £5, 10 Mar., arguing that the burden was ‘felt most in the close and unhealthy quarters of great towns’. He urged the Commons to consider the state of the colonies ‘for the purpose of forming wise and wholesome constitutions’ and to pay ‘due regard ... to their immediate wants and their original habits’, 25 Feb. He deplored the ‘extreme injustice’ of the treatment of the people of Cape Breton, who were opposed to union with Nova Scotia, 25 Mar., and was a minority teller for inquiry into the state of Newfoundland, 14 May. He supported the petition for the introduction of trial by jury in New South Wales, which was ‘necessary for the freedom and civilization of the colony’, 2 July; he was a minority teller for it to be considered by a committee of the whole House. On 7 July he moved to reject the report on the New South Wales bill, which was ‘drawn with such ... utter contempt of every principle of British jurisprudence’, but he was defeated by 41-30. He was not satisfied that the admiralty was giving traders in the West Indies sufficient protection from pirates, 4 Mar. He complained of the ‘gross exaggerations’ contained in the Southwark anti-slavery petition, 27 Mar., maintaining that ‘the gradual progress of civilization in the West Indies would do more towards ameliorating the condition of the black population than could be effected by the enactment of positive laws’. He presented two Bristol petitions for equalization of the sugar duties, 22 May.13 He objected to the East India trade bill, 3 July, warning that it would allow opium to be imported into the West Indies, of which ‘nothing could be more destructive’.14 He warmly supported the grant for a monument to Edward Jenner, 19 Mar. He pointed to the ‘truly frightful’ powers which the warehousing bill left in the hands of excise commissioners and lords of the treasury, 21 Apr., and ‘derived little consolation’ from the promised consolidation of the customs and excise laws, ‘many of which he would rather see expire’, 3 June.15 He was a minority teller against the reciprocity of duties bill, 4 July. He voted with ministers against repealing the Foreign Enlistment Act, 16 Apr. He put questions to witnesses during the Commons hearings into the Orange plot to murder the Irish lord lieutenant, 2, 5, 23, 27 May. He supported inquiry into the procedure for empanelling special juries, 28 May. He predicted that the silk bill would cause ‘distress, confusion and discontent’ among the workers, 9 June, adding that it was not ‘fitted for the complicated state of society in which they lived’, 18 July 1823. He considered the Bermuda naval establishment to be ‘of the utmost importance’ and hoped the works there could be expedited, 20 Feb. 1824. He supported the grant for the civil establishment of Canada, 12 Mar., arguing that the colony might become ‘a counterpoise to the power of the United States’. He supported a Bristol petition for repeal of the tobacco duties, ‘perhaps a more fertile source of crime than any other branch of the revenue’, 24 Feb. He thought reduction of the sugar duties was ‘not advisable’ at the present time, 8 Mar. That day he supported a Bristol petition for repeal of the window tax.16 He called for wool merchants to be allowed a drawback on imports, a matter of considerable concern in Bristol, 19, 29 Mar. He favoured repeal of the salt tax to benefit the fisheries, 6 Apr., and was a minority teller against the hides and skins bill, 14 Apr. He supported the warehoused wheat bill as he hoped to see Britain become the ‘granary of Europe’, 17 May. He presented a Bristol shoemakers’ petition against the combination laws, 19 Mar.17 He was a majority teller for the Bristol and Taunton canal bill, 30 Mar. He argued that the St. Katharine’s Docks bill should be postponed as insufficient notice had been given to those facing eviction, 2 Apr. He maintained that the Manchester gas light bill violated the standing orders of the House, 6 May, and complained of the ‘improper’ way that ‘night after night, petitions were presented for private bills’; he withdrew his motion on the subject as a select committee had been appointed, 10 June.18 He was a minority teller against the Equitable Loan bank bill, 1 June. He voted against Brougham’s motion condemning the trial of the Methodist missionary John Smith in Demerara, 11 June. He opposed the East India possessions bill, 17 June 1824, arguing that it involved a ‘breach of faith to the native powers’ and that the territory being returned to the Dutch was the ‘property of the crown’.

He voted against the usury laws repeal bill on account of its effect on ‘the comforts of the middling and lower classes’, 17 Feb. 1825. He was ‘favourable’ that day to the game bill. He criticized the way in which private business was conducted in the House and was ‘decidedly of opinion that no Member who had a direct interest in a private bill ought to vote upon it’, 23 Feb. He was a majority teller for the third reading of the Newbury improvement bill, 5 May, and for the motion to allow the committee on the Berkshire and Hampshire canal bill more time to report, 10 June. He supported a Bristol petition for repeal of the house and window taxes, 25 Feb.19 In opposing the ‘utterly uncalled for’ army estimates, 7 Mar., he argued that ‘ministers, though they had gained, had not yet deserved any popularity by their reduction of taxation’; they had merely ‘obtained the same revenue from a diminished taxation in consequence of the spirit with which the people ... entered into all commercial transactions’. He regretted the ‘comparative inattention’ to West Indian interests in the budget statement, 28 Feb., hoped that the friends of free trade would ‘not ... leave them in the lurch’, 18 Mar., and called for ‘facilities’ to encourage the introduction of new crops, 17 June. He complained of government inaction on the corn laws, 26, 28 Apr. He divided against Catholic claims, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May, and declared that ‘persecution was the essence of Popery’, 19 Apr. He voted against the Irish franchise bill, 26 Apr., 9 May. He expressed his ‘entire approbation’ of the juries regulation bill, 9 Mar., and agreed not to press his amendment to prevent juries from separating until they had given their verdict, 30 May.20 He introduced an arrest for debt bill to prevent frivolous and vexatious arrests for small debts, 16 Mar.;21 it passed, but did not reach the Lords. He approved of the ‘urgently called for’ felonies pardon bill, 24 Mar. He thought the compensation to court officials for loss of fees in the county courts bill was ‘objectionable in principle’ and ‘pernicious in ... example’, 13 May, and he secured the exemption of Bristol, 19 May.22 He gave his ‘hearty assent’ to the Canadian wastelands bill, which would advance the progress of the colony, 15 Mar. He warned that India was ‘in a state of disturbance and anger’ and was a minority teller for information about the organization of the Bengal army, 24 Mar. He claimed that the slave trade had increased in Mauritius and was a minority teller against the Mauritius trade bill, 3 June. He presented petitions from Spitalfields silkweavers and Bath mechanics against the combination laws, 3, 17 May 1825.23 He was said at this time to be ‘a dull orator’.24 He introduced a debtor and creditor bill, to make the agreement of the majority of creditors binding on the others, 10 Feb. 1826; it passed, but did not reach the Lords. He advised ministers to issue exchequer bills to relieve distress, as in 1793, and declared that it was ‘absolutely necessary that some plan should be devised for supplying the provinces with a circulating medium’, 15 Feb. He criticized government ‘supineness during the late distress’ and repeated his call for exchequer bills, 17 Feb., adding that he was ‘no theorist’ and ‘disliked the fashionable philosophy of the day’. He supported the London merchants’ petition for relief from distress, which he feared ‘must become more extensive’, 23 Feb. In the ‘very critical situation’ facing the country he believed that ‘not a shilling should be voted’ until the whole of the estimates were before the House, 15 Feb.;25 he supported the motion for detailed navy estimates, 17 Feb. He condemned ministers for not making their position clear on the usury laws repeal bill, 15 Feb., and warned the country gentlemen that it would be ‘most injurious ... to their interests’ as they would only be able to raise money on mortgage at the ‘most enormous rate’. He favoured abolishing the tax on receipt stamps, which ‘pressed heavily upon persons ill able to bear it’, 13 Mar. He argued that ‘an alteration of the corn laws was ... essentially necessary to the welfare of the country’ and accused ministers of ‘shirking from their duty’, 4 May. He voted against the motion condemning the Jamaican slave trials, 2 Mar. He argued that the county elections bill ‘ought to be extended to all the places which had lost their ancient rights’, 26 Apr., and voted for Russell’s resolutions to curb electoral bribery, 26 May (but not his reform motion, 27 Apr.). He supported the call for papers regarding the ‘calamitous, unprovoked and unnecessary’ Burmese war, 26 Apr., and warned two days later that if the East India naval force bill were passed Parliament would lose all control over such events; but ‘he knew and lamented the indifference with which all subjects connected with India were treated by the people of England’. He said he would ‘strenuously oppose’ an Act of Indemnity until the allegations of torture authorized by magistrates in New South Wales had been investigated, 2 May 1826.26 At the general election that summer he was returned for Bristol in second place, behind a Tory, after affirming his support for retrenchment and opposition to Catholic emancipation, and defending himself against accusations that he was an inefficient representative of the city’s commercial interests. It was stated on several occasions, without contradiction, that he had seceded from the Church of England and joined one of the Dissenting sects.27

Bright attended meetings of the West India planters and merchants’ committee in London during the 1826 Parliament.28 He advised against any ‘sudden change’ to the law regarding the export of machinery, 6 Dec. 1826. On the address, 12 Dec. 1826, he argued that Britain was not obliged to intervene in Portugal as this would be ‘taking part in a civil war’. He observed that previous emigration schemes had ‘amounted to a total failure’, 15 Feb. 1827, and thought ‘better and more eligible means’ were needed to encourage this desirable objective, such as the mapping and surveying of Canada. He presented a Bristol petition for revision of the corn laws, 26 Feb.,29 and voted for a 50s. rather than a 60s. import price, 9 Mar., and against increased protection for barley, 12 Mar. He divided against Catholic claims, 6 Mar. On 2 May he urged Peel, now out of office, to ‘come forward manfully and maintain his opinions’, in the belief that ‘he would be backed by the country and ... an end would soon be put to the Catholic question’. He rejected the argument that emancipation would pacify Ireland, the condition of which was attributable to its ‘low state of civilization’. He was granted one month’s leave on account of the illness of a near relative, 14 Mar. He divided against Canning’s ministry for separating bankruptcy jurisdiction from chancery, 22 May, and the disfranchisement of Penryn, 28 May. He supported the London petition for a lower duty on marine insurance, 21 June 1827.30 He supported petitions for repeal of the stamp receipt duty, 19 Feb. 1828, and complained of the ‘ruinous’ system of ‘commercial espionage’ organized by the stamp office. He approved of the motion for greater control over crown proceedings for the recovery of penalties under the customs and excise laws, 1 May, describing the system as ‘oppressive’ and arguing that ‘if we are to have a free trade all these impediments and shackles ought to be removed’; he was a minority teller. He objected to a ‘new field being opened up to the excise’ by the passage vessels licensing bill, 30 June. He feared that the silk trade would be ‘thrown into confusion and distress’ by Poulett Thomson’s proposal to cut the import duty on silk goods, 10 July, and voted with the Wellington ministry against this, 14 July. He complained that the import duty on lead ore was virtually a ‘prohibition’, but did not press his motion for reduction, 15 July. He presented petitions for repeal of the Test Acts, 25 Feb., and voted in this sense next day. He divided against Catholic claims, 12 May. He supported the motion for papers regarding the Canada Company, 27 Mar., observing that it was necessary to dispose of the land known as the crown and clergy reserves, which ‘interfered with the communication between one part of the province and another’. He endorsed the New South Wales petition for popular representation and trial by jury, 18 Apr., which would ‘advance civilization and ... be the means of encouraging commerce and manufactures’; he therefore had ‘very great objections’ to the government’s bill. He thought the removal of Stephen, counsel to the colonial office, would be ‘hailed by the colonies as a most important step of conciliation’, 30 May. He argued that the West Indies were entitled to ‘claim a preference in our markets’, as they had lost free access to those in the United States, 9 June, and maintained that the removal of bounties would be a ‘violation of the parliamentary pledge ... that we would protect the interests of our colonies’. He warned that refusing the royal assent to the Act by the Jamaican assembly to consolidate its slave laws had ‘produced the greatest irritation’, 1 July. He condemned the fact that Greeks from Morea had been sold into slavery by the Egyptians after the battle of Navarino, 3 Apr., and concluded that ‘our intercourse with Turkey has been of a very improper character’. He argued that the friendly societies bill must do nothing that could ‘possibly have the effect of breaking up such societies’, 28 Apr., and advised next day that it should be abandoned as the ‘greatest hostility prevails’. He voted against the financial provision for Canning’s family, 13 May, and for information regarding civil list pensions, 20 May, and he described the salaries of envoys to the new American states as ‘too large’, 30 May. He made detailed objections to the borough polls bill, which he considered unworkable, 15 May. He voted for inquiry into the circulation of small bank notes in Scotland and Ireland, 5 June. Next day he asked when a better place would be found for ‘invaluable’ public records than a wooden box in Westminster Hall. He presented or supported petitions from contractors for the settlement of their claims on the French government, 23 June, 11, 17 July. He divided against the additional churches bill, 30 June 1828.

In February 1829 Planta, the patronage secretary, listed Bright as being ‘opposed to the principle’ of Catholic emancipation, and indeed he saw ‘no reason to change the opinions I have always ... entertained’ on this subject, 13 Feb. He admitted that the Bristol pro-Catholic petition showed that ‘there is among the respectable people of the city a strong division of sentiment, more so ... than I had anticipated’, 19 Feb., but he maintained that the anti-Catholic petition represented the views of ‘a great body of the middling and ordinary classes of life’, 26 Feb. He divided against emancipation, 6, 18, 23, 27, 30 Mar., and supported the amendment stipulating that the prime minister must be a Protestant, 24 Mar., as a ‘watchman’ was needed ‘to guard ... the British constitution’. He regretted that nothing had been done about the stamp receipt tax, 23 Feb., and said the house tax was the ‘cause of the greatest oppression to citizens’. He favoured the appointment of a committee to consider silk trade petitions, 26 Feb., thought French imports were partly to blame for distress in the industry, 7 Apr., presented a Manchester petition for relief, 10 Apr., and voted against the silk trade bill, 1 May. He successfully objected to the addition of names to the committee on private bills, which upset the arrangement by which such committees were appointed, 17 Mar. He favoured inquiry before passing the justice of the peace bill, 25 Mar., as ‘the subject of summary convictions ... ought to be looked at with great suspicion’. He had ‘a great objection’ to the home secretary Peel’s metropolitan police bill, which created ‘only a partial system’ and gave ‘new power to the secretary of state’, 19 May. He presented a Hackney petition against the bill, ‘one of the most arbitrary ever brought before Parliament’, 25 May, but later that evening announced that he would not press his opposition further. Although he preferred to rely on the ‘good sense of the House’ in dealing with cases of Members accepting offices abroad, 6 May, he supported the East India offices bill, 19 May, but not the clause making its operation retrospective, 22 May. That day he thought the case of the Rosanna brig showed the defective state of the law regarding compensation for damage caused by a king’s ship, and he suggested that the droits of admiralty should be used to establish a permanent compensation fund. He argued that the sugar duties should not be equalized until the West Indian colonies were allowed to trade freely with other countries, 25 May. He moved to reduce the duty on tobacco by 9d., which would enable the West Indies ‘to become rival producers ... with the United States’, 1 June, but was ruled out of order. He voted to reduce the grant for the sculpture of the marble arch, 25 May. He supported a petition for continuation of the fishery bounties, 2 June 1829, as this industry was ‘not ready for free trade’. He voted that day for the issue of the East Retford writ, not on the basis of innocence or guilt but because the Commons had ‘not proceeded in the inquiry with due diligence’. He divided for Knatchbull’s amendment to the address on distress, 4 Feb., and tax reductions, 15 Feb. 1830. He declared that distress could only be relieved by ‘a great reduction in ... national expenditure and a great reduction of taxation’, 19 Feb., and suggested that lowering the tax on servants would create employment, 5 Mar. In presenting a Bristol petition for tax remissions, 8 Mar., he expressed the opinion that ‘distress has been mainly occasioned by our reversion to a metallic currency’. He opposed the appointment of a select committee to inquire into taxation as it was ‘our duty to act collectively as a body’, 25 Mar. He obtained a return of the number of surcharges under the Assessed Taxes Act, 27 May, and argued next day that this provided ‘proof of a most oppressive system’ and that ‘repeal of the ... taxes would diffuse good and afford general satisfaction’. He regularly acted with the revived Whig opposition that session on retrenchment motions. He complained that the opinion of the House had not been taken before commissioners were appointed to inquire into colonial expenditure, 22 Mar., and objected to the way it was being asked to grant money for a hospital in Malta when the building was nearly complete, 26 Mar. He had ‘little hope of any good result’ from the select committee on the East India Company, 9 Feb. He supported the West India planters and merchants’ petition for lower duties on sugar and rum, 23 Feb., pointed to the ‘unparalleled’ distress of the ‘colonial body’, many of whom had been ‘reduced to absolute penury’, and argued that there was no chance of ameliorating the condition of the slaves while the colonists felt unjustly treated. He appealed for measures to encourage tobacco cultivation in the West Indies, 8 Apr. He said he needed to consult his constituents before expressing an opinion on the government’s plan for reducing the sugar duties, 14 June, but was advised that it was ‘partial, complicated, unjust and difficult of execution’, 21 June; he suspected that ‘there are some other measures which are to be kept back until this one is passed’. He supported Lord Chandos’s amendment for further reductions, 30 June, and maintained that the planters were ‘entitled to the approbation of this House’ for their efforts to improve the condition of the slaves, 1 July. He presented a Bristol West India planters and merchants’ petition for a lower duty on rum, 17 June, but was ‘sorry to see that their interests can be so trifled with’. He divided against Lord Blandford’s reform plan, 18 Feb., but supported the ‘practical proposition’ for enfranchising Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, which would develop the constitution by ‘replenishing Parliament from quarters not hitherto properly represented’, 23 Feb. He rejected the argument that county Members could be the advocates of manufacturers as their interests were ‘entirely different’. He did not vote for Russell’s general reform motion, 2 May. He presented two Bristol petitions for Jewish emancipation, 4 May, and paired for the relief bill, 17 May. He presented a petition against the Avon and Gloucestershire railway bill, 12 Mar., and accused the Kennet and Avon Canal Company of ‘monstrous’ conduct towards the Bristol and Gloucestershire Railway Company; he was a majority teller against the second reading. He advised ministers to reduce the stamp duty on advertisements, insurances and small receipts, 7 Apr., and expressed dissatisfaction with their Stamp Act, 28 May. He thought there was an ‘absolute necessity’ for revision of the insolvency laws to afford greater protection to traders, 29 Apr., and condemned the ‘quite abominable’ practices and procedures in the bankruptcy and insolvency courts, 14 May, declaring that ‘there never was a system better calculated to corrupt a community’. He regretted the clause in the administration of justice bill abolishing arrest for debt in cases involving less than £100, which would ‘open a door to the grossest frauds upon the honest creditor’, 18 May. He paired against abolishing the death penalty for forgery, 7 June. He regarded the sale of beer bill as ‘nothing but a half measure’, as innkeepers would be subject to the excise regulations, 3 May. He feared that the bill would operate against ‘the establishment of a small system of brewing’ and that ‘large capitalists will have a greater monopoly than they have at present’, 4 June. He voted to prohibit sales for on-consumption, 21 June, and to postpone them for two years, 1 July. He thought the benefits of the labourers’ wages bill were ‘obvious’, 3 May, and warned that it was ‘totally impossible’ for the country to ‘go on in peace while the only property of the poor ... the wages of their labour [was] taken away from them’; he defended the bill’s wording, 1, 5 July. He voted for inquiry into the state of Newfoundland, 11 May, and of Ceylon, 27 May. He praised Huskisson’s speech on relations with Mexico, 20 May, and argued that ‘any course of conduct’ would be justifiable to prevent it and Cuba from being absorbed by the United States. He was ‘very suspicious’ of the proposed changes to the four-and-a-half per cent duties, 21 May, and feared that the crown was ‘endowing itself with a large revenue by means of obsolete and forgotten views of fiscal regulations’. He hoped there would be no restrictions on the rights of Members when presenting petitions, 15 June, as they afforded a ‘better opportunity of being heard, and of giving satisfaction to those whose interest they represent, than in set debates’. He also complained of the way public business was conducted in the early hours of the morning, by which means ‘the vigilance of Members is deceived and objectionable measures are passed without receiving due investigation’. On 17 June he protested against the resolution that public business should commence at 5.30 pm, as this left insufficient time for petitions. He regretted that there was to be an early dissolution when so much urgent business remained to be dealt with, 30 June 1830, observing that it was particularly inconvenient for lawyers on the circuit.

At the dissolution Bright announced his decision not to stand again for Bristol, ‘being as he says tired of it and the expense’.31 A Whig diarist later recalled how Canning had compared ‘the snapping, barking, cur-looking Member for Bristol to a dog tied by a string under a pedlar’s cart’.32 In 1840 he inherited his father’s estates in Herefordshire and Hampshire, along with a one-fifth share of the Jamaican property and a one-seventh share of the residue.33 He died in March 1869 and divided the bulk of his property between various nephews.

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Terry Jenkins


  • 1. C. Cave, Hist. Banking in Bristol, 220-1.
  • 2. Palmerston-Sulivan Letters, 40.
  • 3. Bristol Jnl. 26 Feb., 4, 11 Mar. 1820.
  • 4. The Times, 13 July 1820.
  • 5. Ibid. 19 June 1821.
  • 6. Ibid. 18 May, 14 June 1821.
  • 7. Ibid. 1 May 1821.
  • 8. Ibid. 1, 11, 15, 31 May, 18 June 1822.
  • 9. Ibid. 19 Mar. 1822.
  • 10. Ibid. 10 May 1822.
  • 11. Ibid. 15, 18 Feb. 1823.
  • 12. Ibid. 26 Feb. 1823.
  • 13. Ibid. 23 May 1823.
  • 14. Ibid. 4 July 1823.
  • 15. Ibid. 4 June 1823.
  • 16. Ibid. 9 Mar. 1824.
  • 17. Ibid. 20 Mar. 1824.
  • 18. Ibid. 11 June 1824.
  • 19. Ibid. 26 Feb. 1825.
  • 20. Ibid. 31 May 1825.
  • 21. Ibid. 17 Mar. 1825.
  • 22. Ibid. 20 May 1825.
  • 23. Ibid. 4, 18 May 1825.
  • 24. Session of Parl. 1825, p. 452.
  • 25. The Times, 16 Feb. 1826.
  • 26. Ibid. 3 May 1826.
  • 27. Bristol Jnl. 3, 10, 17 June 1826; J. Latimer, Annals of Bristol, 129.
  • 28. Inst. of Commonwealth Stud. M915/4.
  • 29. The Times, 27 Feb. 1827.
  • 30. Ibid. 22 June 1827.
  • 31. Bristol Jnl. 10 July 1830; Hopetoun mss 167, f. 153.
  • 32. Hatherton diary, 17 Mar. 1836.
  • 33. The will was proved under £50,000 (PROB 11/1928/390; IR26/1538/421).