CALVERT, John (?1758-1844), of Albury Hall, Herts.

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

Constituency

Dates

28 Nov. 1780 - 1784
1784 - 1790
1790 - 1796
1796 - 1831

Family and Education

b. ?1758, 1st s. of John Calvert† of Albury and Elizabeth, da. of Sir Edward Hulse, 1st bt., of Breamore, Hants. educ. Eton 1770-5; L. Inn 1773; St. John’s, Camb. 1776. unm. suc. fa. 1804. d. 2 June 1844.

Offices Held

Sec. to ld. chamberlain Dec. 1783-Mar. 1831.

Capt. E. Herts. yeoman cav. 1794.

Biography

Calvert, the son of a quondam London brewer who died worth £30,000, received a salary of £1,130 per annum as secretary to the lord chamberlain. In 1820 he came forward again for Huntingdon on the interest of the Dowager Lady Sandwich. He was inaudible on the hustings but was returned after a token contest. Samuel Wells, the local radical challenger, denigrated him as a sinecurist who could well afford to buy his seat: he was the lord chamberlain’s lackey and ‘pops up his head, like Punch in a puppet show’.1 He continued to support the Liverpool government, appearing on their side in most of the major divisions for which full lists have been found, and was listed by the Pamphleteer among the Members who regularly assembled to outvote those returned by the ‘voice of the people’.2 He voted against economies in revenue collection, 4 July 1820, and in defence of ministers’ conduct towards Queen Caroline, 6 Feb. 1821. He divided against Catholic relief, 28 Feb. 1821, 30 Apr. 1822, 1 Mar., 21 Apr. 1825. He voted against inquiry into expenditure, 6 Mar., repeal of the additional malt duty, 21 Mar., 3 Apr., reduction of the grant for the adjutant-general’s office, 11 Apr., the disfranchisement of civil officers of the ordnance, 12 Apr., parliamentary reform, 9 May, economy and retrenchment, 28 May, 27 June, and reduction of the grant for barracks, 31 May 1821. He voted for the duke of Clarence’s grant, 18, 29 June 1821. He mustered for the divisions against more extensive tax reductions to relieve distress, 11, 21 Feb., and relaxation of the salt duties, 28 Feb. 1822. As a member of the lord chamberlain’s department he had attended Queen Caroline’s funeral cortege at Harwich. He saw the coffin ‘lowered in a most solemn manner’, and in the House, 6 Mar., rebutted the charge that either the admiralty or the government of Hanover had shown disrespect for her obsequies. He voted against abolition of one of the joint-postmasterships, 13 Mar., Irish tithe reform, 19 June, and repeal of the salt duties, 28 June. He divided in support of the lord advocate over his dealings with the Scottish press, 25 June, and for the Canada bill, 18 July, and the aliens bill, 19 July. He presented petitions against the beer bill, 15 July 1822.3

Calvert voted with government against tax reductions, 3, 18 Mar., and military economies, 10 Mar. 1823. He divided against repeal of the Foreign Enlistment Act, 16 Apr., inquiry into the prosecution of the Dublin Orange rioters, 22 Apr., reform of the Scottish electoral system, 2 June, and inquiry into chancery delays, 5 June. Either he or his cousin Nicolson Calvert intervened in committee, 7 May, over absolving witnesses from their oaths as jurymen. He divided for the usury laws repeal bill, 17, 27 June 1823. He voted against reform of Edinburgh’s representation, 26 Feb. 1824. He was credited with an unlikely vote in the minority for repeal of the window tax, 2 Mar. He divided against the abolition of flogging in the army, 5 Mar., and for the usury laws repeal bill, 8 Apr. He voted in defence of the conviction of the Methodist missionary John Smith for inciting rebellion among the slaves in Demerara, 11 June, for the Irish insurrection bill, 14 June 1824, and the Irish unlawful societies bill, 25 Feb. 1825. On 15 Apr. he was one of the Members unable to hear the Speaker put the question on the Southwark paving bill, and subsequently voted to postpone it. He voted for the duke of Cumberland’s grant, 30 May, 2, 6, 10 June 1825. He voted with government on the Jamaican slave trials, 2 Mar., the ministerial salary of the president of the board of trade, 10 Apr., and against reform of Edinburgh’s representation, 13 Apr. 1826. The Huntingdon Gazette, outraged at his conduct, denounced him as a ‘well-trained beagle’ who always ‘hunted with the treasury pack’.4

Calvert was re-elected unopposed in 1826, when he justified his opposition to Catholic relief on the ground that history proved it dangerous to ‘put civil power in their hands’. He said that he would always oppose parliamentary reform and declared it preferable to keep the ‘practical good’ of the present system than to encourage the ‘delusive speculations of theorists’. As to the corn laws, experience had shown that controlled admission was more beneficial than total prohibition; but if any doubts arose, he would ‘give the bias in favour of agriculture’.5 He voted against Catholic relief, 6 Mar., and for the spring guns bill, 23 Mar. 1827. He voted against repeal of the Test Acts, 26 Feb., and Catholic relief, 12 May 1828. He divided with the duke of Wellington’s government on chancery delays, 24 Apr., and against reduction of the salary of the lieutenant-general of the ordnance, 4 July. He voted for the usury laws amendment bill, 19 June 1828. In February 1829 Planta, the patronage secretary, thought he would vote ‘with government’ for their concession of Catholic emancipation. According to the Gazette, Lady Sandwich ‘directed her representatives’ to do so, and Calvert accordingly voted for emancipation, 30 Mar. 1829.6 He voted against Lord Blandford’s parliamentary reform motion, 18 Feb., and the enfranchisement of Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, 23 Feb. 1830. He voted against Jewish emancipation, 5 Apr., 17 May, and the Galway franchise bill, 25 May. He divided against reduction of the South American consular grant and abolition of the death penalty for forgery, 7 June. He presented constituency petitions against the administration of justice bill, 21 May, and the northern roads bill, 15 June 1830.

Calvert stood again for Huntingdon in 1830 and was returned after a nominal contest. He refused to be drawn over his future conduct in the House.7 He was listed by ministers among their ‘friends’, and he voted with them in the division on the civil list which brought them down, 15 Nov. 1830. He voted against the second reading of the Grey ministry’s reform bill, 22 Mar. He was one of the Members removed from their posts in the lord chamberlain’s department for doing so, but he evidently continued to receive a pension of £750.8 He presented a petition from the Huntingdonshire fens against the Eau Brink drainage bill, 12 Apr. He voted for Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment to the reform bill, 19 Apr. 1831. He did not stand at the ensuing general election, and retired from the House after 50 consecutive years of membership. Calvert had always maintained his family’s association with the Puckeridge Hunt and was joint-master with Nicholson Calvert until 1826.9 He died a bachelor in June 1844, in the ‘87th year of his age’.10 In his will, dated 2 Apr. 1838, he directed that his estate should be sold and the proceeds invested in trust for his cousin John Calvert (?1801-74). He left debts of over £30,000, and as late as the 1870s the interest due to Sophia Calvert, one of the residuary legatees, was set aside in order to meet the payment due to the last surviving annuitant.11 Albury Hall was sold by his trustees in 1847 to Richard Dawson of Withcall, Lincolnshire, and Patmere Hall, another family property, in the following year to Hugh Parnell of Upper Clapton, Middlesex.12

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Simon Harratt

Notes

  • 1. Huntingdon, Bedford and Peterborough Gazette, 4, 11 Mar. 1820.
  • 2. Pamphleteer (1822), xvi. 203.
  • 3. The Times, 16 July 1822.
  • 4. Huntingdon, Bedford and Peterborou