DUNCOMBE, Arthur (1806-1889).

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

Constituency

Dates

1830 - 1831
1835 - Sept. 1851
7 Oct. 1851 - 1868

Family and Education

b. 24 Mar. 1806, 5th but 2nd surv. s. of Charles Duncombe*, 1st Bar. Feversham (d. 1841), and Lady Charlotte Legge, da. of William, 2nd earl of Dartmouth; bro. of William Duncombe*. m. (1) 14 July 1836, Delia (d. 5 May 1873), da. and coh. of John Wilmer Field of Heaton Hall, Yorks., 5s. (1 d.v.p.) 3da.; (2) 13 Mar. 1877, Jane Maria, da. of Sir James Walker, 1st bt., of Sand Hutton, Yorks., s.p. d. 6 Feb. 1889.

Offices Held

Midshipman RN 1819, lt. 1826, cdr. 1828, capt. 1834, r.-adm. 1856, v.-adm. 1863, adm. 1867.

Groom in waiting to Queen Victoria 1841-6; ld. of admiralty Mar.-Dec. 1852.

Chairman, q. sess. Yorks. (E. Riding); sheriff, Yorks. 1874-5.

Biography

After an undistinguished political career, Duncombe’s father retired from the Commons at the dissolution in 1826 and finally achieved his ambition for a peerage by being created Baron Feversham. Duncombe, who had entered the navy at the age of 13, returned from Paris during the general election of 1830 to offer for the enlarged constituency of East Retford on the interest of his father’s like-minded friend, the duke of Newcastle, an Ultra. He embarked enthusiastically on a contest, and was returned in second place, with Lord Newark, after Granville Harcourt Vernon* had withdrawn. He ostensibly stood for the independence of the borough against the alleged coalition of his opponents, who were related, but his success owed more to Newcastle’s long purse.1 In the House he joined his eldest brother, William, who sat for Yorkshire, and their first cousin Thomas Slingsby Duncombe, Member for Hertford. However, his appointment to the Prince Regent that summer meant that he was not the most assiduous of attenders.

He was listed by the duke of Wellington’s government among the ‘violent Ultras’, and voted against them in the division on the civil list which precipitated their resignation, 15 Nov. 1830. He made a splash in the Commons through his involvement with the Evesham election committee, to which he was appointed, 2 Dec. On 13 Dec. he demonstrated his unfamiliarity with procedure by his attempt to secure publication of the committee’s report and was four times interrupted by the Speaker. The following day he assured Members of his disinterested motives in moving for the printing of the evidence, which, as ‘one mass of corruption’, fully justified the expense involved: ‘I am no reformer, in the strict acceptation of that word, but when I see such corruption employed to obtain a seat in this House, I do think it quite time to become a reformer’. In defending his proposal, which was ultimately carried, he stated that the decision not to report on electoral abuses at Evesham had been decided by the casting vote of the chairman. To what extent he was a party to Lord Chandos’s motion to supersede the new writ, 16 Dec., as a means of discomfiting the Grey administration, remains unclear, but he supported it in debate that day. Newcastle recorded in his diary on the 18th that the writ had been suspended at Duncombe’s instigation: ‘He saw the injustice and inconsistency of the proceedings ... and he determined to bring the matter before the House and he has carried his point’.2 Duncombe brought up anti-slavery petitions from Bassetlaw, 6 Dec. 1830, and one from Iver for a general fast, 21 Feb. 1831. He voted against the second reading of the ministerial reform bill, 22 Mar., presented and endorsed an East Retford petition to this effect, 28 Mar., and divided for Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831.

Duncombe, who again came forward under Newcastle’s auspices, declared himself a reformer at the ensuing general election, explaining that he had voted against the bill ‘because he considered it a robbery upon the burgesses and freeholders at large; instead of extending the franchise it was decidedly the reverse’. He damned ministers for sacrificing the interests of agriculturists, and was particularly scathing about their professions of retrenchment and non-interference abroad. According to Newcastle’s son Lord Lincoln†, Duncombe received ‘the universal and loudest mar