CUST, Hon. Edward (1794-1878), of Leasowe Castle, Birkenhead, Cheshire and 1 New Gardens, Mdx.
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Family and Educationb. 17 Mar. 1794, 6th s. of Brownlow Cust†, 1st Bar. Brownlow (d. 1807), and 2nd w. Frances, da. and h. of Sir Henry Bankes of Wimbledon, Surr.; bro. of Hon. John Cust†, Hon. Peregrine Francis Cust* and Hon. William Cust*. educ. Eton 1805-8; Sandhurst. m. 11 Jan. 1821, Mary Anne, da. and h. of Lewis William Boode of Peover Hall, Cheshire, 1s. 5da. kntd. 3 Aug. 1831; KCH 1831; cr. bt. 26 Feb. 1876. d. 14 Jan. 1878.
Cornet 16 Drag. 1810; lt. 14 Drag. 1811; capt. 16 Drag. 1813, half-pay 1814-15; capt. 5 Drag. Gds. 1816, maj. 1821, half-pay 1822, lt.-col. 1826; col. 1841; maj.-gen. 1851; lt.-gen. 1859; col. 16 Drag. 1859; gen. 1866.
Equerry to Prince Leopold 1816; asst. master of the ceremonies to Queen Victoria 1845-7, master 1847-76.
Cust, who had been returned for Grantham on his brother Lord Brownlow’s interest in 1818, offered again in 1820. He defended his parliamentary record and declared that the country owed its good sense and its character to the industry of the middling classes. Emphasizing his support for the constitution in church and state, he urged the electors to ‘exert themselves ... to prevent the propagation of doctrines which, if successful, would strike at the root of all we hold dear and valuable’, and cautioned the lower classes against being duped by the promises of radicals, which could only lead to the rise of another Buonaparte. On being returned at the head of the poll he said that he yielded to no one in his determination to act independently, ‘in what appears to me to be the path of duty and honour’.1
He was a fairly regular attender who gave general support to Lord Liverpool’s ministry, although there is some difficulty in distinguishing his votes from those of his brothers. He divided against economies in revenue collection, 4 July 1820. He voted in defence of ministers’ conduct towards Queen Caroline, 6 Feb. 1821. He divided against Catholic relief, 28 Feb. He voted against repeal of the additional malt duty, 3 Apr., and disfranchisement of civil officers of the ordnance, 12 Apr. 1821. He divided against more extensive tax reductions, 11, 21 Feb., abolition of one of the joint-postmasterships, 13 Mar., and repeal of the salt duties, 28 June 1822. He voted against relieving Catholic peers of their disabilities, 30 Apr., and inquiries into Irish tithes, 19 June, and the lord advocate’s conduct towards the Scottish press, 25 June 1822. He divided against parliamentary reform, 20 Feb., and reform in Scotland, 2 June 1823. He voted against reduction of the assessed taxes, 10 Mar., repeal of the Foreign Enlistment Act, 16 Apr., and inquiry into the prosecution of the Dublin Orange rioters, 22 Apr. 1823. As a plantation owner in the West Indies, he was appointed that session to the standing committee of the West India planters and merchants.2 He divided against the motion condemning the trial of the Methodist missionary John Smith in Demerara, 11 June 1824. He voted for the Irish unlawful societies bill, 25 Feb., and against Catholic relief, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May, and the Irish franchise bill, 9 May 1825. He divided for the financial provision for the duke of Cumberland, 30 May, 10 June 1825. He voted against the motion condemning the Jamaican slave trials, 2 Mar. 1826. At the general election that summer he offered again for Grantham, explaining in his address that he had made a ‘zealous defence’ of the constitution ‘whenever a too generous liberality attempted a change’, and that he had not ‘hesitated’ to give his ‘general confidence and support to a ministry who even their opponents declare to be well deserving of their country’s’. However, he came bottom of the poll, a defeat that ended nearly 150 years of unbroken representation of the borough by members of his family.3
He was not without a seat for long, being returned for Lostwithiel as a paying guest of Lord Mount Edgcumbe on a vacancy in December 1826. He divided against Catholic relief, 6 Mar. 1827. In January 1828, following the formation of the duke of Wellington’s ministry, Cust wrote to the leader of the Commons, Peel, expressing a desire to be ‘actively useful’ and offering to move the address; this was not taken up.4 He divided against repeal of the Test Acts, 26 Feb. He dismissed Hume’s claim that public opinion in Grantham was moving in favour of Catholic relief, 25 Apr., and voted accordingly, 12 May. On 7 Mar. he was one of a small group of Members who attended a meeting convened by Henry Bankes to discuss ways of blocking John Nash’s plans for the royal parks.5 It may have been he who spoke in favour of the pension for Canning’s family, 22 May, arguing that nothing should stand in the way of rewarding those who had ‘sacrificed private fortune, domestic enjoyment, health and even life itself in the service of their country’. Though he had often disagreed with Canning’s politics and considered him to have been ‘faithless’ to his party, the country was ‘greatly indebted to him for his manly and successful exertions ... in repelling the mad and absurd innovations of parliamentary reform’. He divided with the ministry against reducing the salary of the lieutenant-general of the ordnance, 4 July. He was in the minority against the corporate funds bill, 10 July 1828. Later that year he informed Peel that his duties for Prince Leopold were so light that he was ‘afforded ... every leisure’ and would therefore be pleased to have some other employment. He sought only a ‘subordinate ... [or] temporary occupation’ and pointed out that ‘as my seat ... is one which I could without risk vacate ... I may (in the midst of a Parliament) even offer a convenience to the government’. Peel apparently misunderstood him and replied that there were no posts available at any of the revenue boards. Cust restated his wishes, but nothing came of it.6 In February 1829 Planta, the patronage secretary, listed him as one who was ‘opposed to the principle’ of Catholic emancipation. He presented several hostile petitions, 10, 27 Feb., and voted against the measure, 6, 18, 23, 27, 30 Mar. 1829. On the last occasion he explained that while it was ‘painful’ for him to oppose ministers he had heard nothing to convince him that there were any just grounds for their change of opinion. He warned that ‘those who press forward this measure, reckless of the opinions of the people, will be sent back to their constituents and made to answer for their conduct’. He believed the concession was a political one, but it would ‘not set the question at rest’ in Ireland, and for these reasons he had ‘pertinaciously resisted’ it. He divided against transferring East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 11 Feb., and Lord Blandford’s reform plan, 18 Feb., and paired against the enfranchisement of Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, 23 Feb. 1830. He voted against Jewish emancipation, 17 May, and the Galway franchise bill, 25 May. He was in the minorities to prohibit and postpone on-consumption in beer houses, 21 June, 1 July 1830. At the dissolution that summer he rejected a requisition to stand for Grantham and was returned unopposed at Lostwithiel.7
The ministry regarded Cust as one of their ‘friends’, and he duly voted with them in the crucial civil list division, 15 Nov. 1830. He called for the establishment of some authority to control the ‘lavish and unlimited expenditure’ on public buildings such as Buckingham House and the new law courts, 15 Feb. 1831. He divided against the second reading of the Grey ministry’s reform bill, 22 Mar., and for Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831. He was again returned unopposed for Lostwithiel at the ensuing general election. He divided against the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, and for Gordon’s adjournment motion, 12 July. He voted to use the 1831 census for the purpose of determining the disfranchisement schedules, 19 July, and to postpone consideration of Chippenham’s inclusion in schedule B, 27 July. He divided against the bill’s passage, 21 Sept., and the second reading of the Scottish bill, 23 Sept. He voted to abolish the Maynooth grant, 26 Sept. Following the report of the select committee (of which he was member) on the House’s accommodation, 11 Oct., he said it was obvious that the office provision was ‘extremely inconvenient’ and he hoped that ‘effectual steps’ would be taken. He divided against the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831, having expressed disappointment that Lostwithiel still faced complete disfranchisement. He believed the bill was fundamentally ‘the same in principle’ as its predecessors and would still make ‘dangerous inroads upon the constitution’. He welcomed the reprieve given to resident freemen voters, but warned that the disfranchisement of small boroughs would ‘deprive the colonists of making their wants and wishes known to the legislature’. He claimed that he would have been willing to support ‘a mild measure of reform’, but asserted that ministers had ‘endeavoured to catch the popular breath on every occasion, by yielding anything to the demands of the leaders of the populace’, and were apparently ‘either ignorant of, or indifferent to the consequences which may flow from their acts’. He protested in vain at the disfranchisement of Lostwithiel when boroughs with smaller populations, such as Malmesbury and Midhurst, were spared, 21 Feb. 1832. He voted against the enfranchisement of Tower Hamlets, 28 Feb., and the bill’s third reading, 22 Mar. He divided against ministers on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., 12 July 1832.
Cust did not seek another seat after the dissolution in 1832. He visited his plantation in 1838 and on his return published Reflections on West Indian Affairs (1839), in which he stated that in hindsight he regretted that the process of abolishing slavery had not commenced immediately after the parliamentary resolutions of 1823. He also wrote The Colonies and Colonial Government (1845). He became a respected military historian, producing a five-volume Annals of the Wars of the Eighteenth Century (1857), a four-volume companion on the nineteenth century (1862), and a three-volume study, Lives of the Warriors of France and England (1865-9). He also edited two volumes of religious writings, Noctes Dominicae (1848) and Family Reading (1850), based on the New Testament. He died in January 1878 and was succeeded by his only son Leopold, who died suddenly seven weeks later.