CAVENDISH, Charles Compton (1793-1863), of Latimers, nr. Chesham, Bucks.

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

Constituency

Dates

24 Nov. 1814 - 1818
9 Feb. 1821 - 1830
1831 - 1832
1832 - 1841
1841 - 1847
1847 - Dec. 1857

Family and Education

b. 28 Aug. 1793, 4th but 2nd surv. s. of Lord George Augustus Henry Cavendish* (d. 1834) and Lady Elizabeth Compton, da. and h. of Charles Compton†, 7th earl of Northampton; bro. of George Henry Compton Cavendish†, Henry Frederick Compton Cavendish* , and William Cavendish†. m. 18 June 1814, Lady Catherine Susan Gordon, da. of George, 5th earl of Aboyne [S], 1s. 2da. suc. fa. to estates in Bucks., Herts., Hunts., Lancs. and ‘elsewhere in England’ 1834;1 cr. Bar. Chesham 15 Jan. 1858. d. 10 Nov. 1863.

Offices Held

Biography

Cavendish did not follow his brothers to Eton, and his education appears to have left much to be desired. According to Lord Morpeth†, who was brother-in-law to his cousin, the 6th duke of Devonshire, he was ‘quite deficient’ at reading and writing even in 1820.2 As the second surviving son of Lord George Cavendish, the senior Commons representative of a prominent Whig dynasty, he had already enjoyed a four-year spell in the House, which had terminated in defeat at the polls in 1818. His father cherished hopes that Devonshire would return him for Derby at the general election of 1820. That he did not do so was chiefly on account of the feud between Lord George and his elder son Henry, the sitting Member. In March 1820 Devonshire was advised by James Abercromby*, his man of business, that ‘unless you provide for Henry he would be left out. Lord George might have had a seat for Charles if he would have paid for it, but he will not ... Charles speaks in the warmest terms of your kindness to him, and thinks you have done quite right, but he finds it, I suspect, difficult to manage with his father’.3 The piqued response of Cavendish’s father was to start him belatedly for Sussex, where two supporters of the Liverpool ministry had controversially coalesced against the radical Member who nominally represented its Eastern division.4 The latter eventually retired in favour of Cavendish, who cited the principles ‘of my family’ in his address, issued from Compton Place, near Eastbourne, the ancestral home of his mother. Hostile comment focused on his non-residence in the county and consequent lack of acquaintance with its affairs, along with his reticence on the hustings, where his father spoke on his behalf. With the combined forces of the county elite ranged against him, he abandoned the contest after eight days. Despite being ‘almost overcome’ by ‘very strong feelings’, he broke his silence to deliver a brief speech of concession, in which he blamed defeat on his late entry and promised to try again.5 The venture cost his father over £26,000, though he could well afford it.6

Cavendish re-entered the Commons in February 1821, when he was returned unopposed on a vacancy for Newtown, Isle of Wight, on the interest of Charles Anderson Pelham*, who was later a notable beneficiary of his father’s will.7 A fairly regular attender, who was inaccurately stated to have ‘never [voted] for repeal of taxes’ by a radical commentary of 1823, he continued to divide steadily with the Whig opposition on most major issues, including economy, retrenchment and reduced taxation, but his continued silence in debate lent support to the assertion of the family historian that his was a generation of political nonentities.8 He voted for Catholic relief, 28 Feb. 1821, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May 1825. He divided for parliamentary reform, 9 May 1821, 25 Apr. 1822, 27 Apr. 1826, and reform of Edinburgh’s representation, 13 Apr. 1826. Like his brother, he was shut out of the division on agricultural distress, 11 Feb. 1822. No trace of parliamentary activity has been found for 1823. He voted for inquiries into the Irish church establishment, 6 May, and the state of Ireland, 11 May 1824. He voted against suppression of the Catholic Association, 15, 21, 25 Feb. 1825. That November he may have been in Paris, if he accompanied his wife, whose glowering presence at a dinner party there attracted the attention of Lady Granville.9 He was in the protectionist minority against the corn importation bill, 11 May 1826.

At the 1826 general election it was widely assumed that Cavendish would offer again for Sussex, though Anderson Pelham, now 2nd Baron Yarborough, had rated his chances as ‘doubtful’ in March. His failure publicly to account for not coming forward was widely resented, while some reports ascribed his retreat to a recognition that his pro-Catholic views were unpalatable to the county.10 He did not, as the duke of Buckingham had feared, stand for Aylesbury instead, but was again returned for Newtown.11 His only recorded votes in the next two sessions were for Catholic relief, 6 Mar. 1827, 12 May 1828, and repeal of the Test Acts, 26 Feb. 1828. He was granted three weeks’ leave of absence on urgent business, 12 Mar. 1827. It is conceivable that like his brother, he spent time abroad at this juncture. William Ord* lamented his absence from London early in 1829, when the Wellington ministry announced its concession of Catholic emancipation, but he was present to vote for the measure, 6, 30 Mar.12 He was in the minority for allowing Daniel O’Connell to take his seat unhindered, 18 May 1829. He voted against the East Retford disfranchisement bill, 15 Mar., presented an East Sussex farmers’ petition for repeal of the malt and beer duties, 23 Mar., and was in the revived opposition’s minorities for a general revision of taxation, 25 Mar., and the omission of the Bathurst and Dundas pensions from the civil list, 26 Mar. 1830. He voted against British interference in Portuguese internal affairs, 28 Apr., to consider abolition of the Irish lord lieutenancy, 11 May, and for returns of privy councillors’ emoluments, 14 May. He divided for abolition of the death penalty for forgery, 7 June, 20 July 1830.

At the 1830 general election Cavendish retired in favour of his patron’s heir. Nothing came of rumours that he planned to stand for Sussex on this occasion or at the 1831 general election, when he was returned unopposed for Yarmouth, Isle of Wight, by Yarborough, who, as the dominant trustee of the late patron’s property, had controversially arranged to accommodate supporters of the Grey ministry’s reform bill.13 Cavendish duly voted for the second reading of the reintroduced bill, 6 July, gave steady support to its details, and divided for its passage, 21 Sept., the second reading of the Scottish bill, 23 Sept., and Lord Ebrington’s confidence motion, 10 Oct. He voted with ministers on the Dublin election controversy, 23 Aug. He divided for the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831, again gave steady support to its details, and voted for its third reading, 22 Mar. 1832. He was listed in the majority for an address calling on the king to appoint only ministers who would carry the bill unimpaired, 10 May, but was also named among those absent in the country.14 He voted against a Conservative amendment to increase the Scottish county representation, 1 June, and with ministers on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan, 12, 16, 20 July 1832.

At the 1832 general election the additional representation given to Sussex by the Reform Act enabled Cavendish finally to claim a county seat. He came forward professing the same liberal principles and comfortably topped the poll for the eastern division.15 After a close contest in 1837 he thought better of risking another in 1841 and took refuge in an Irish borough controlled by Devonshire.16 He was returned unopposed for Buckinghamshire as an ‘independent’ supporter of the Russell administration in 1847 and retired ten years later, shortly before his elevation to the peerage in 1858, an honour which had been first mooted 20 years earlier.17 Cavendish had inherited the Latimers estate in Buckinghamshire on the death of his eldest brother William in 1812, and as an apparent beneficiary of the continuing poor relations between his father and younger brother, he inherited all his father’s non-entailed property in 1834, including the London mansion of Burlington House, Piccadilly.18 This was sold to the government for £140,000 in 1854, after Cavendish had reportedly resisted higher offers to guard against its desecration. It subsequently served as the headquarters of several learned societies.19 He died in November 1863 at his residence in Grosvenor Square, ‘after an illness of a few weeks’, which had brought him to London in search of medical advice, and was succeeded in his title and estates by his only son William George Cavendish (1815-82), Liberal Member for Peterborough, 1847-52, and Buckinghamshire, 1858-1863.20 By his will, dated 24 July 1850, he provided an annuity for his wife charged on his estates and left about half his personalty to his brother, in accordance with a prior agreement about building developments in the grounds of Burlington House.

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Authors: Howard Spencer / Philip Salmon

Notes

Known as Latimer House by the mid-19th Century.

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