EASTHOPE, John (1784-1865), of 39 Lothbury, London
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Family and Educationb. 29 Oct. 1784, 2nd surv. s. of Thomas Easthope, barge master, of Tewkesbury, Glos. and Elizabeth, da. of John Leaver of Overbury, Worcs. m. (1) 4 Aug 1807, Ann (d. 11 Feb. 1840)1, da. of Jacob Stokes of Leopard House, Worcester, 1s. d.v.p. 3da; (2) 19 Sept. 1843, Elizabeth, da. of Col. George Skyring, wid. of Maj. John Longley, s.p. cr. bt. 24 Aug. 1841. d. 11 Dec. 1865.
Director, Canada Co. 1826-60.
Easthope’s paternal grandfather Thomas Easthope was a native of Bridgnorth, Shropshire, where the family had long been settled. He married Frances Asbury there in 1738 and with her had three sons, Thomas (bap. 1748), the father of this Member, Edward (bap. 1751) and Francis Asbury (bap. 1758). He later moved to Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, where his son Thomas became a barge master, and he evidently married for a second time. By his will, dated 14 Sept. 1781, he devised property in the parish of St. Leonard, Bridgnorth to his son Francis, who was then abroad, and his leasehold inn, the Hole in the Wall, in the parish of St. Mary Magdalene, to Thomas. He was dead by early 1782.2 John Easthope, the third son of Thomas, was born at Tewkesbury in 1784, but not baptized until 11 Sept. 1788, along with his brother Edward and sister Ann. One of his two elder brothers, Francis Asbury and Thomas, apparently died comparatively young.3 His father’s economic circumstances and date of death are unknown; but Easthope was later described as a man of ‘vulgar origin’ who had been ‘the architect of his own fortune’.4 He worked as a clerk in the banking house of Thomas and Timothy Cobb at Banbury, Oxfordshire, but subsequently went to London to try his fortune. Although he was listed among Bridgnorth freemen resident in London in 1812, he first appeared in the directories as a stockbroker at 2 Hercules Court, Threadneedle Street in 1818.5 (John Bentall, who shared the same address, had been there since at least 1811.) By 1820, Easthope was in partnership with one Allen at 9 and 10 Exchange Buildings, Threadneedle Street, and by 1827 their firm had moved to 39 Lothbury. He engaged in a series of successful speculations and built up a useful though not spectacular fortune; he was said to have done particularly well during the financial crisis of 1825-6, which proved disastrous to many other commercial speculators. He was reckoned to be worth about £150,000 by 1841.6
As soon as the death of the Whig sitting Member created a vacancy for the open and venal borough of St. Albans, 9 Dec. 1820, Easthope, writing from Finchley, offered himself as ‘a sincere and steady’ supporter of ‘constitutional freedom’. According to Lord Duncannon*, the opposition whip, he started ‘at our instigation’, though he was unknown to Tierney, the Whig leader in the Commons and uncle of the deceased Member. (Easthope never joined Brooks’s.) He attacked ‘the present degraded and tottering administration’ and deplored their ‘unmanly and persecuting proceedings against the queen’, in which they had ‘become the dupes of a wicked conspiracy’. He promised to scrutinize public expenditure with ‘the utmost jealousy’ and to campaign for ‘the most rigid economy’, and asserted that ‘a temperate and constitutional reform of the Commons ... is indispensable’.7 The Whig Lord Spencer and his son Lord Althorp*, who had the remnants of an interest at St. Albans, and would in normal circumstances have given Easthope their blessing, remained neutral, out of deference to their long personal friendship with the father of Charles Ross*, one of his two ministerialist rivals.8 Easthope finished third, but he polled respectably enough to suggest that he might succeed on a future occasion, and he indicated that he would try again.9 Immediately afterwards he sought the support of Althorp in the event of his having the election declared void on account of the bribery of the winner, Sir Henry Wright Wilson, which he claimed he would have no difficulty in proving. Although Althorp was committed not to oppose Ross, he made a very half-hearted attempt to persuade Ross’s father to give Easthope a clear run at any by-election in return for his support for Ross at the election after that. When the Rosses refused to make way for him Easthope abandoned his intention of petitioning.10 He continued to cultivate the borough, and in October 1825, when he dated his address from Friern Barnet, he offered himself for the next general election, Ross, now seated elsewhere, having withdrawn his pretensions. Shortly before he conducted his canvass in December, he strenuously repudiated ‘vague insinuations’ in the local press of impropriety in his financial dealings.11 A contest was expected, but shortly before the election in June 1826 one of the contenders pulled out, leaving Easthope to come in unopposed with the ministerialist sitting Member. On the hustings, he adopted a far less strident tone than in 1821. He expressed satisfaction at the ‘present aspect of public affairs’, particularly applauding Canning’s liberal foreign policy and Peel’s first attempts to lessen the severity of the penal code. He reiterated his desire for tax reductions, but suggested that in present circumstances it was ‘impossible’ to achieve substantial cuts without damaging ‘national credit or public honour’. In general terms he observed:
If the ministry act as they have hitherto done, I will come forward in their support; but I shall watch over the interests and privileges of my country, and place myself in the ranks of their bitterest opponents when they offer a stab to the liberties of England.
In his written address of thanks he declared his devotion to the Protestant religion, but admitted his support for ‘extending to those who conscientiously differ from us, every manifestation of kindness and conciliation that is compatible with national security’. The editor of the local Tory newspaper approved the ‘moderate and manly’ line taken by Easthope, but cast doubt on the sincerity of his professions of friendliness to the Liverpool ministry.12
Easthope’s conduct in the House justified this cynicism. He voted with opposition against the duke of Clarence’s grant, 16 Feb., 2 Mar., and was in the small minority on the army estimates, 20 Feb. 1827. He voted for Catholic relief, 6 Mar. He divided for inquiry into Leicester corporation’s electoral activities, 15 Mar., and for the production of information on the mutiny at Barrackpoor, 22 Mar., and the Lisburn magistrates’ conduct over the Orange procession, 29 Mar. He was in the opposition minority for the postponement of the committee of supply the following day. He voted for inquiries into the Irish miscellaneous estimates and chancery delays, 5 Apr. He voted for the disfranchisement of Penryn, 28 May. He was in the majority for Althorp’s election expenses bill later that day, and, as a director of the recently established Canada Company, voted for the grant to improve water communications in that country, 12 June. He was not reported as speaking in debate in his first session, but in May and June 1827 he presented a number of petitions, some from Dissenting congregations in London, for repeal of the Test Acts.13
Easthope presented more of the same, 15, 18, 19, 25 Feb. 1828, and voted for repeal the following day. He voted against the extension of the East Retford franchise to the neighbouring hundred, 21 Mar., and for inquiry into chancery delays, 24 Apr. On behalf of the Canada Company, 27 Mar., he responded to Waithman’s motion for inquiry into its dealings with government by saying that its directors had nothing to hide and were ‘governed by a laudable spirit of liberality’; and he deplored Poulett Thomson’s ‘wanton’ attack on the directors of the Hibernian Joint Stock Company, 24 Apr. He was in the minorities of 58 and 27 for further relaxation of the restrictions on the import of foreign corn, 22, 29 Apr. On the 29th he supported the unsuccessful bid by the Members for Hertfordshire and his colleague Alderman Smith to allow the legislation for the erection of a new court house at St. Albans to be proceeded with despite an inadvertent failure to comply with standing orders. Easthope, who voted for Catholic relief, 12 May, was in the small minorities for more effective control over crown proceedings for the recovery of excise penalties, 1 May, a revision of civil list pensions, 10 June, and the Irish assessment of lessors bill, 12 June. He argued that allowing any ‘evasions’ of the Scottish and Irish bank notes bill would render that irksome but essential measure nugatory, 16 June. Later that day he opposed Hume’s bid to force country bankers to supply quarterly returns of notes circulated. He divided for the usury laws amendment bill, 19 June, and voted against government on the cost of building works at Buckingham House, 23 June, the ordnance estimates, 4 July, and the silk duties, 14 July 1828.
Easthope presented and endorsed a petition from the Catholics of Heythrop, Oxfordshire, for redress of grievances, 6 Feb., voted for emancipation, 6, 30 Mar., and presented favourable petitions from Protestant Dissenters, 13, 16 Mar. 1829. On 12 and 19 June 1829 he pressed ministers to intervene with the Spanish government to obtain satisfaction for British bondholders who had suffered financial losses. He was one of the 28 oppositionists who voted with the Wellington ministry against the amendment to the address, 4 Feb. 1830; but he divided for the transfer of East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 11 Feb., Lord Blandford’s parliamentary reform scheme, 18 Feb., the enfranchisement of Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, 23 Feb., and investigation of the Newark petition accusing the duke of Newcastle of improper electoral interference, 1 Mar. He voted to get rid of the Bathurst and Dundas pensions, 26 Mar., and for Jewish emancipation, 5 Apr., 17 May. On 7 Apr. he presented the Hertfordshire petition complaining of distress and called for reductions in expenditure and the removal of all restrictions on commerce and trade: he subsequently voted for economies, 3, 21 May, 7, 14 June. He was one of O’Connell’s minority for reform of the Irish vestry laws, 27 Apr., and voted against government on the Terciera incident the next day. He presented petitions from the Dissenters of Nether Chapel, Sheffield for abolition of the death penalty for forgery and action against suttee, 11 May; he voted for the former, 24 May, 7 June. He voted for inquiry into the civil government of Canada, 25 May, and parliamentary reform, 28 May. He was shut out of the division on the sale of beer bill, 1 July. He was in the minorities of 11 for a reduction in judges’ salaries, 7 July, and 27 for Brougham’s condemnation of colonial slavery, 13 July 1830. He offered again for St. Albans on the death of the king, but his initial canvass convinced him that he could not win the anticipated contest; it was reported that he had lost support on account of his failure to ‘attend to the local interests of the borough’ with sufficient zeal. He decided to cut his losses, but before making public his retirement notified Althorp, who would have supported him personally, to give him the chance to alert another opposition candidate to the opportunity. Althorp thought he had behaved ‘very well by us’.14 At the general election of 1831 Easthope stood for Banbury, where the local reformers were up in arms against the patron Lord Bute, whose nominee was assaulted and driven out of town. He was returned after a token contest.15
He voted for the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July 1831, and was a steady supporter of its details, though he was briefly made hors de combat by a broken collar bone sustained in a fall from his horse in August,16 and was in the minority for the total disfranchisement of Aldborough, 14 Sept. He voted for the passage of the bill, 21 Sept., and the motion of confidence in the Grey ministry, 10 Oct. He divided with them on the Dublin election controversy, 23 Aug. At about this time Greville noted Easthope’s connections with the French government as a broker in the London market.17 He voted for the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831, and again was a reliable supporter of its detailed provisions. He voted for the third reading, 22 Mar., and the address calling on the king to appoint only ministers who would carry it unimpaired, 10 May, and against an amendment to the Scottish reform bill, 15 June. He sided with ministers on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan.,12, 16, 20 July, and relations with Portugal, 9 Feb.; but he voted in the minority against their temporizing amendment to Buxton’s call for the abolition of slavery, 24 May. On 22 May he agreed to postpone his motion for a disclosure of information on the circulation of Bank of England notes, to which ministers were opposed, to accommodate their proceedings on the proposed renewal of the Bank’s charter. They duly resisted and defeated it, 26 July 1832, when Easthope explained that his object was to expose the incompetence of the Bank’s directors, its culpability for the panic of 1825 and its unfitness for a continuation of its ‘exclusive privileges’. By then it was known in Banbury that he did not intend to stand again at the next general election.18
He unsuccessfully contested Southampton at the 1835 general election and Lewes at a by-election in April 1837; but he was successful at Leicester at the general election later that year and sat there for ten years. He was defeated at Tewkesbury in 1841 and Bridgnorth in 1847. James Grant wrote in 1841 that while Easthope was an infrequent speaker in the House, ‘not only is he listened to with attention, but he speaks with great ease, and usually with much effect’, by virtue of ‘the strong good sense’ which he purveyed and ‘the lucidness with which he arranges his ideas and facts’. His unpolished diction was a source of amusement to some.19 In the summer of 1834 he was persuaded by government party managers to purchase the ailing Morning Chronicle. (One of them rather churlishly described him as ‘a liberal, honest and most active man, but not well backed in opinion or instruction; and like all men of vulgar origin accessible to the praise of great men’.) He paid about £16,500 for the paper and placed its columns at the disposal of ministers, though their relationship was not always harmonious. He was rewarded with a baronetcy by Lord Melbourne in 1841. He disposed of his interest in the Chronicle in 1847.20
By 1838 Easthope’s firm was styled Easthope and Son; the latter died in France in January 1849, about two years after the business had moved to 38 Throgmorton Street. It had disappeared from the directories by 1857. With his second wife, Easthope, for all his supposed vulgarity, was a generous and accomplished dinner host to the great and the good, both in London and Paris.21 In the mid-1840s he acquired a residence at Fir Grove, Weybridge, Surrey; and it was there that he died in December 1865.22 By his will, dated 18 Nov. 1863, he left his wife 300 shares in the Cordova and Seville Railway, the Weybridge house and four labourers’ cottages there. He devised a freehold estate at Weybridge and Chertsey and the remaining 950 shares in the Spanish Railway Company to his grandson John Andrew Doyle, his residuary legatee. He directed that his London house in Great Cumberland Place be sold and the proceeds combined with his personal estate to honour a bond of £10,000 due to his wife and daughter Louisa Doyle, and to furnish legacies amounting to £3,000.
Ref Volumes: 1820-1832
Author: David R. Fisher
- 1. Gent. Mag. (1840), i. 332.
- 2. IGI (Glos. and Salop); PROB 11/1087/74.
- 3. IGI (Glos.).
- 4. Hist. of ‘The Times’, i. 463; [J. Grant], Portraits of Public Characters (1841), i. 76.
- 5. VCH Oxon. iii. 333; x. 91.
- 6. Oxford DNB; Grant, i. 77-78.
- 7. The Times, 11, 15 Dec., 1, 4 Jan. 1821; Add. 76124, Duncannon to Spencer [11 Dec.]; Grey mss, Tierney to Grey, 13 Dec. 1820.
- 8. Add. 76124, Duncannon to Spencer [11, 13 Dec.], Howarth to same, 11 Dec., reply, 12 Dec., Spencer to A. Ross, 12 Dec., reply, 13 Dec. 1820.
- 9. The Times, 10-13, 15, 16, 18 Jan.; Cambridge Chron. 12 Jan. 1821.
- 10. Add. 76378, Althorp to A. Ross, 24 Jan. 1821.
- 11. Herts Mercury, 29 Oct., 19, 26 Nov. 3, 17, 24 Dec. 1825.
- 12. Ibid. 3, 10, 17 June 1826.
- 13. The Times, 22, 26, 31 May, 9, 16, 30 June 1827.
- 14. Herts Mercury, 3, 10 July; Althorp Letters, 150-1.
- 15. VCH Oxon. x. 91; Jackson’s Oxford Jnl. 30 Apr., 7, 14 May; The Times, 4 May 1831.
- 16. The Times, 15 Aug. 1831.
- 17. Greville Mems. ii. 186.
- 18. VCH Oxon. x. 91.
- 19. Grant, i. 79-81; Disraeli Letters, ii. 604.
- 20. Oxford DNB; A. Aspinall, Politics and the Press, 101, 240-1, 257, 260; Greville Mems. iv. 139; Hist. of ‘The Times’, i. 305-6, 462-3.
- 21. Broughton, Recollections, vi. 110; Disraeli Letters, ii. 604; iv. 1456.
- 22. Gent. Mag. (1866), i. 128.