BROGDEN, James (?1765-1842), of 115 Park Street, Mdx.; Clapham Common, Surr. and Trimsaran, Kidwelly, Carm.
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Family and Educationb. ?1765, 1st s. of John Brogden, Russia merchant, of Leadenhall Street, London and Clapham Common and w. Mary (d. 19 Feb. 1814, ‘aged 79’).1 educ. Eton 1780-1. m. bef. 8 June 1839, Hannah Hemsley, s.p.2 suc. fa. 1800.3 d. 24 June 1842.4
Ld. of treasury Oct. 1812-Dec. 1813; chairman of ways and means 1813-26.
Asst. Russia Co. 1794; dir. Rock Life Assurance 1812, chairman 1816; dir. Equitable Loan Co. 1824; dir. Arigna Iron and Coal Mining Co. 1824, chairman 1826.
Brogden was a Russia merchant turned financial speculator and company director, and the owner since about 1802 of a 530-acre South Wales estate containing valuable coal and iron deposits.5 His Foxite Whig past was well behind him by 1820 when, having been returned for the eighth consecutive time for Launceston on the interest of the 3rd duke of Northumberland, whose father had been his friend and demanding political patron, he began his third Parliament as chairman of ways and means, at £1,200 a year. He sat undisturbed for Launceston for the rest of this period. He appears to have been a competent chairman, but Henry Grey Bennet* noted, 12 Mar. 1821, that during some rowdy proceedings he was ‘very roughly handled’ and ‘the Speaker was sent for to restore order’.6 The opponents of corruption often included Brogden in lists of placemen, and, despite indifferent health,7 he gave steady general support to the Liverpool ministry, though he voted in small minorities for inquiry into the currency, 9 Apr. 1821, investigation of the Calcutta bankers’ complaints, 4 July 1822, and an amendment to the alehouses licensing bill, 12 May 1826. He voted against Catholic relief, 28 Feb. 1821, 1 Mar. 1825, presented a hostile petition from Launceston, 22 Mar., and paired against the relief bill, 21 Apr., 10 May 1825.8 Other than in his official capacity, he had little to say in debate. He opposed reception of a petition concerning the plight of the widows of half-pay naval officers, 2 July 1821.9 He presented one against the beer retail bill, 18 July, and, as a member of the select committee on the London Orphans’ Fund coal duties, said he was satisfied that they had been properly managed, 22 July 1822.10 He defended the grant for the improvement of London Bridge, 6 June, and was a teller for the majority for the clause requiring treasury control over the appointment of the engineer, 20 June 1823.11 He presented a Launceston petition for repeal of the coastal coal duties, 19 Feb., and endorsed the Cheltenham water works bill, 25 Mar. 1824.12 He brought up a petition from the directors of the Equitable Loan Company (of whom he was one) for a regulation bill, 4 Feb., and secured leave to introduce it, 14 Feb. 1825.13 He thought the Western Ship Canal project was likely to be beneficial and discounted stories that the list of subscribers had been fabricated, 3 June. He had a clause added to the Bristol town dues bill to prevent the corporation from extending its jurisdiction, 10, 13 June 1825.14 He presented a petition from Dolgelly against the importation of foreign gloves, 16 Feb. 1826.15 He was named to the select committee on turnpike trusts, 17 Feb. 1825. In August 1822 he privately commended to Peel, the home secretary, a London merchant’s scheme to ‘make Lundy Island a depot for vagrant children’.16
Greed brought about Brogden’s downfall. In November 1824 he became a director of the Arigna Iron and Coal Mining Company, a joint-stock enterprise formed by Sir William Congreve, Member for Plymouth, and others to exploit the Arigna mines in county Roscommon, Ireland. On 20 Jan. 1825 he took receipt of £1,047, as most of the other directors, including John Bent, Member for Totnes, had already done. During the course of the year it emerged that these payments had come from a sum of £15,000 fraudulently obtained from the shareholders by Henry and Joseph Clarke, Congreve’s coadjutors, who had bought the mines from Roger Flattery for £10,000 but sold shares to the amount of £25,000. The scandal became public in December 1825. At a meeting of the proprietors, 7 Jan. 1826, an agitated Brogden claimed that like Bent he had initially and still honestly believed that his money had come not from peculation but from the sale by the Clarkes of his reserved shares, and that as soon as he had been alerted (by Bent) that something untoward had occurred, he had helped to promote an internal investigation. He was strongly attacked in The Times, 10 Jan. 1826, in a leader calling for parliamentary inquiry and questioning his fitness to continue as chairman of committees. The following day the newspaper printed his solicitor’s letter proclaiming his innocence, and another meeting of the Arigna shareholders reiterated their belief in his innocence of wrong-doing.17 On 14 Jan. Brogden wrote to Canning, the foreign secretary and leader of the Commons, requesting an interview, which Canning, rightly suspecting that Brogden wanted to enlist his support, declined, inviting him to state his business in writing. Brogden, who complained that it was ‘a little hard to be put upon my trial on one of the most perverted, false and malignant accusations that ever was made in any public paper’, responded with a lengthy exposition of the facts of the case and of his own defence, self-righteously concluding:
To talents I have never pretended, nor have I ever affected any extraordinary morality; but with the character I have hitherto maintained and the station I have hitherto held in society, I must have been devoid of common sense as of virtue to put them at hazard for such a paltry temptation.
Canning returned the letter, rebuked Brogden for disrupting his busy life and repeated his determination ‘absolutely to abstain from entering unnecessarily upon an investigation which I earnestly hope will never be forced upon me in any other way’.18 In the House, 3 Feb. 1826, on the resolution reappointing him to the chair of ways and means, Brogden sought to ‘exculpate himself from the gross imputations which had been cast upon him in the newspapers’, complained of his ‘severely ... wounded’ feelings, protested his (and Bent’s) innocence, making much of the shareholders’ public expressions of confidence in them, and professed to court a full inquiry. He was duly put into the chair, but The Times returned to the attack, pointing out that even if he had genuinely believed his payment to have come from the sale of reserved shares, this practice in itself was highly dubious, and questioning also the probity of the dealings of the Equitable Loan Company.19
On the address at the opening of the 1826 Parliament, 21 Nov., Waithman, radical Whig Member for London and a dogged critic of the many fraudulent and ruinous bubble schemes which had proliferated in recent years, said he would challenge Brogden’s reappointment to the chair if it was proposed. Brogden, whose initial remarks were inaudible in ‘the buzz which pervaded the House’, admitted that he had become involved in some ‘speculations which ... had grown out of the excessive circulation of the country, the small value of money, and the low rate of interest’, and that the Arigna project had indeed turned out to be ‘nefarious’. But he insisted on his personal innocence of malpractice, deplored the ‘sweeping odium’ currently being directed at joint-stock companies, many of which had brought great advantages to the country, and accused Waithman of uttering ‘a direct and positive falsehood’ in alleging outside the House that he had ‘possessed himself of thousands of pounds’. Forced by the Speaker to apologize, he read the exculpatory report of the Arigna committee and boasted of his past zeal and assiduity as chairman of ways and means. When directly accused by Sir Joseph Yorke of pocketing and refusing to refund the spoils of fraud, he stuck to his story about the shares. On 24 Nov., protesting that ‘among the public at large his character had been taken from him by anonymous publications of the most scandalous and virulent description’, even though he was ‘perfectly guiltless’, he stood down as chairman and challenged Waithman to give him the chance to vindicate himself. Almost 16 years later, towards the end of his life, he privately claimed that he had ‘had Mr. Canning’s feelings with me’, but had been forced to relinquish the chair (a ‘blow’ from which he had ‘never recovered’) by Peel, whose friend Sir Alexander Grant was chosen to replace him.20 On 28 Nov. Waithman presented a petition from Flattery detailing his grievances and requesting inquiry, but it was ruled technically out of order.21 Two days later Brogden, speaking ‘with a degree of agitation which rendered him almost inaudible’, complained of being left under a cloud and urged Waithman not to defer his planned motion for inquiry into joint-stock companies until after Christmas, which would be ‘cruel to myself and unjust to the House’. On 1 Dec. Waithman obliged him by giving notice of a motion for the 5th. When he moved it, after presenting a revamped petition from Flattery and one from Arigna shareholders, Brogden, ‘with much earnestness of manner, begged leave to second the motion’, which was for inquiry into the origin, management and present state of joint-stock companies since 1824. Canning’s amendment to restrict the investigation to the Arigna affair was carried, after Brogden had once more protested his innocence and stated his case, observing that he had always considered investment in such enterprises ‘a legitimate mode of employing capital’.22 On 8 Dec. 1826 he admitted to the House that he had at first been unhappy with the composition of the 23-man committee because it contained too few commercial Members, but said he now ‘desired no alteration’. There had been speculation that he was ‘in danger of expulsion’, but one observer reported that ‘they say Brogden will make a tolerable case: the bad part is, when he perceived that the £1,040 came from a wrong source, that he did not return it’.23
Questioned by the committee on 20, 22, 23, 26 Dec. 1826 and 2, 3, 6 Feb. 1827, he was particularly roughly handled by Waithman. The committee’s report, which was presented to the Commons on 3 Apr. 1827, concluded that Brogden had not been privy to ‘the fraud respecting the reservation of the £15,000, on the sale of the property to the Company’ and accepted his explanation that he had believed that he was entitled to the £1,047 as the proceeds of the sale of his reserved shares. At the same time, it pointed out that his and Bent’s testimony as to their reactions to the gift contained ‘many discrepancies’; that he ‘did not take sufficient pains’ to ascertain the source of the money previous to his receipt of it; that he ought not to have taken it if he believed it to have come from the sale of ‘a hoard of shares secretly reserved for the benefit of the directors’; and that he was still refusing to return it, even though he had at first promised to do so.24 Although no further action was taken on the report, it was damning enough and effectively destroyed Brogden, who in the interim had voted against Catholic relief, 6 Mar. 1827, as a public figure. On 15 May, responding to ‘frequent allusions made to him’, he opposed Waithman’s motion for inquiry into the Cornwall and Devon Mining Company, protesting that such investigations were ‘unfair and unjust, and only to be likened to the Star Chamber inquisitions, in their effect upon the individuals who unhappily came before them’. He complained that he had ‘been, for the last three months, placed in a state of despair, which was scarcely to be endured’; that he had been ‘tried ... by country gentlemen and by young officers ... totally unacquainted with the subject’; that Waithman’s conduct towards him had been ‘rancorous’; and that the report presented ‘a laboured argument’ not sustained by the minutes of evidence. Robert Grant, who had chaired the committee, denied that Waithman had behaved with ‘undue asperity’.
Brogden evidently felt a year later that ‘the mist of delusion ... [was] passing away’ and that he would ‘rise triumphantly to convince the world how ill ... [he had] been used’; but in reality he cut an abject and largely inconspicuous figure until his retirement at the dissolution of 1832.25 He paired against Catholic relief, 12 May 1828, but, as anticipated, divided with the Wellington ministry for emancipation, 6, 30 Mar. 1829. Listed as one of their ‘friends’ after the 1830 general election, he received the formal request for attendance,26 but was absent from the crucial division on the civil list, 15 Nov. 1830. He voted against the second reading of the Grey ministry’s reform bill, 22 Mar., and for Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831. He divided against the second reading of the reintroduced measure, 6 July, and in the opposition minorities on the statistical basis of the disfranchisement schedules, 19 July, and the case of Chippenham, 27 July. In his last known speech, on the disfranchisement of the Looes, 22 July, he attacked Daniel O’Connell, who had denounced such boroughs, for establishing his ‘extraordinary degree of influence ... over the minds of the people in Ireland ... by religion ... and by democratic feeling’; applauded the ‘essential service’ which nomination boroughs had ‘been to government in seasons of violent party excitement’; and bragged that as Member for one he had been as independent and patriotic as the next man. He voted against the third reading, 19 Sept., and passage of the bill, 21 Sept. He was absent from the division on the second reading of the revised bill, 17 Dec. 1831, but voted against the enfranchisement of Tower Hamlets, 28 Feb., and the third reading, 22 Mar., and the second reading of the Irish reform bill, 25 May. He divided against government on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., 12 July 1832.
By then he was in serious financial trouble, hounded by many creditors. The Arigna misappropriation was the subject of litigation in England and Ireland for several years.27 In the winter of 1829-30 Northumberland evidently helped him out, on condition that he sold the Trimsaran property, but he was unable for various reasons to do so except ‘at a price utterly ruinous’. He seems to have been stuck with it for life.28 He sold his residence on Clapham Common in 1838 and went to live at Friar’s Oak, near Brighton, Sussex.29 To the end he remained bitter, convinced, as he told a member of Peel’s cabinet a month before his death, that he had been the victim of
a very great injustice ... [and] suffered ... by the ... most abominable of all tribunals, a select committee of the House of Commons [which] tried me for my conduct which ought to have been rewarded, in the Arigna Company, my principal inducement to which was to encourage capital to go to Ireland rather than Mexico ... I was made the scapegoat to excuse Lord Brougham, Lord Grey, Lord Palmerston, Sir James Graham, etc., etc.30
Brogden died at Friar’s Oak in June 1842. By his brief will of 8 June 1839 he devised his Carmarthenshire real estate (which in his first will of 1825 he had left to his brother Henry) and all his personal estate to Hannah Brogden, now his wife. She renounced probate to Thomas Scott, a creditor, who proved the will under £1,500, 26 Aug. 1843, but left it unadministered during his lifetime. Further grants of administration were made in 1856 and 1865.31 Brogden’s widow died at Friar’s Oak, ‘aged 79’, 24 Jan. 1855, having in her will of 18 Jan. 1853, in which she left many small legacies to a variety of relatives, asked to be buried beside him in the family vault at Narborough, Leicestershire.32
Ref Volumes: 1820-1832
Author: David R. Fisher
- 1. Gent. Mag. (1814), i. 411.
- 2. In his will of 22 Oct. 1825 (later revoked) he described her as his partner of ‘some years’ (Essex RO, Sperling mss D/DSe 7). In his final will of 8 June 1839 he called her his wife (PROB 11/1983/539). The James Brogden who married Ernestine Perks in Paris, 25 Aug. 1832 (Gent. Mag. ii. 263: not 1837, as stated in HP Commons, 1790-1820, iii. 259) was not this Member.
- 3. Gent. Mag. (1800), ii. 805.
- 4. The Times, 13 July 1842. HP Commons, 1790-1820, iii. 262, following Gent. Mag. (1842), ii. 428, erroneously gives 24 July 1842.
- 5. P. Crimmins, ‘Madocks and Removal of Welsh Coal Duties’, Trans. Caern. Hist. Soc. xliii (1982), 122-3.
- 6. HLRO, Hist. Coll. 379, Grey Bennet diary, 35.
- 7. Sperling mss 3, Northumberland to Brogden [9 Sept. 1820].
- 8. The Times, 23 Mar. 1825.
- 9. Ibid. 3 July 1821.
- 10. Ibid. 19, 23 July 1822.
- 11. Ibid. 7 June 1823.
- 12. Ibid. 20 Feb., 26 Mar. 1824.
- 13. Ibid. 5, 15 Feb. 1825.
- 14. Ibid. 11 June 1825.
- 15. Ibid. 17 Feb. 1826.
- 16. Add. 40349, f. 1.
- 17. CJ, lxxx. 68, 118, 232, 587; lxxxii. 41; PP (1826-7), iii. 39-46, 60; The Times, 7, 10, 11 Jan.; Sperling mss 31, Comerford to Brogden, 11 Jan. 1826.
- 18. Sperling mss 17, Canning to Brogden, 14, 22 Jan., Brogden to Canning, 20 Jan. 1826.
- 19. The Times, 13, 21 Feb. 1826.
- 20. Northants. RO, Agar Ellis diary, 24 Nov. ; Sperling mss 3, Brogden to Hardinge, 21 May 1842.
- 21. CJ, lxxxii. 41.
- 22. Ibid. 91-92; The Times, 6 Dec. 1826; Ann. Reg. (1826), Hist. pp. 182-7.
- 23. Castle Howard mss, Abercromby to Carlisle [9 Dec.]; Add. 52017, J.R. Townshend to H.E. Fox, 22 Dec. 1826.
- 24. CJ, lxxxii. 384; PP (1826-7), iii. 60-68, 351-63, 379-96, 417-39, 446-54, 477-88, 489-92, 546-50; The Times, 4 Apr. 1827.
- 25. Sperling mss 3, Smith to Brogden, 27 Apr. 1828.
- 26. Ibid. 12, Peel to Brogden, 4 Oct. 1830.
- 27. The Times, 25 June 1827, 8 Mar., 23 May 1828; CJ, xc. 600.
- 28. Sperling mss 3, Brogden to Northumberland, 25 Jan. 1830, Northumberland to Brogden, 26 May 1834; 7, passim; Crimmins, 122.
- 29. Sperling mss 17 and 22, passim.
- 30. Ibid. 3, Brogden to Hardinge, 21 May 1842.
- 31. PROB 11/1983/539; IR26/1634/670.
- 32. Gent. Mag. (1855), i. 334; PROB 11/2211/388.