EDWARDS VAUGHAN (formerly EDWARDS), John (1772-1833), of Rheola, Neath, Glam. and 14-16 Regent Street, Mdx.
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Family and Educationbap. 29 Mar. 1772, s. of John Edwards of Belvedere House, Lambeth, Surr. and w. Catherine. m. (1) 17 Dec. 1799, Ann (d. 16 Apr. 1807), da. and h. of Thomas Williams of Court Herbert, Glam., 1s.; (2) 26 Nov. 1807, Sarah, da. and h. of Thomas Barwix of the Stock Exchange, London, wid. of John Dalton of Russell Square, Mdx., 1s. 1da. suc. fa. 1818; William Vaughan of Glanelai, Glam. and took additional name of Vaughan 29 July 1829. d. 16 Aug. 1833.
Sheriff, Glam. 1823-4.
Edwards, whose brief tenure as Member for Glamorgan was ended in 1820 by the concerted opposition of the local gentry, left behind a reputation as an opportunist, an unscrupulous demagogue and ‘a low lived blackguard’, whose canvassing methods consisted of ‘a large distribution of ale and money’.1 He accumulated substantial wealth through two advantageous marriages and inheritances from his father and his chief political supporter in Glamorgan, William Vaughan, whose name he added to his own in 1829.2 His work as a parliamentary solicitor had originally drawn him into a business association with the architect John Nash, who may have been a relative, and he subsequently invested money in Nash’s projects, including the ill-fated Regent’s Canal Company. Nash enlarged and remodelled the house at Rheola which Edwards had inherited from his father, and they shared the premises in Regent Street which Nash completed in 1824. Edwards’s connection with Nash confirmed the widespread prejudice against him as a speculator and adventurer. George IV’s proposal in 1829 that Nash should be awarded a baronetcy, with remainder to his ‘nephew’ Edwards, ‘a gentleman of excellent character ... and a most loyal man, besides being well known to me personally’, was blocked by the duke of Wellington, the premier, on the ground that Nash’s business affairs were under investigation by the Commons. The fact that Edwards had been a solicitor and that his son still worked in the profession was apparently regarded as another obstacle to the conferment of an hereditary title.3
Prior to 1825 fears had persisted in Glamorgan landed circles that he planned to make another attempt on the county at the next general election.4 However, in May that year he was requisitioned to stand for Wells on the ‘independent’ interest against the sitting Members. He canvassed the city that summer with his friend Richard Williams, a London banker, and professed ‘a strict adherence to the constitution ... in church and state’, denounced the Catholic religion as ‘subversive of liberty’ and promised to support ‘popular rights’. He and Williams were defeated at the general election of 1826 and their petition against the result was rejected, but the party with which they were associated later captured control of the corporation.5 Early in 1830 it was reported that Edwards Vaughan (as he was now known) had suffered ‘a fit of apoplexy ... accompanied with ... loss of sight’.6 He was sufficiently recovered by the general election that summer to offer for Wells with John Lee Lee, the son of his key ally in the corporation; they were returned ahead of a candidate backed by the old corporation interest.7
The Wellington ministry regarded him as one of their ‘friends’, but continued ill health prevented him from taking much part in parliamentary proceedings. He was absent from the crucial civil list division, 15 Nov. 1830. He attended to vote against the second reading of the Grey ministry’s reform bill, 22 Mar., and paired for Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831. Defying expectations, he offered for Wells at the ensuing general election and defended his opposition to a measure that would have deprived the freemen of their privileges and increased the representation of ‘Catholic Ireland’. However his later statement, expressing the hope that the next bill would be framed in such a way as he could support, helped to avert a potentially dangerous contest and allowed him and Lee to come in unopposed.8 In June 1831, after the riots at Merthyr Tydfil, the Tory Herries reported to Peel that Edwards Vaughan, ‘who was rather a doubtful supporter of ours, told me ... that he attributed all this mischief to the spirit which ... ministers have elicited and that there is no length to which he is not prepared to go in opposition to them’.9 Yet no trace of his activity has been found for the first session of the 1831 Parliament. He was granted one month’s leave on account of ill health, 17 Sept. He divided against the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831, the enfranchisement of Tower Hamlets, 28 Feb., and the third reading, 22 Mar. 1832. He voted against ministers on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., and paired against them on this issue, 12 July 1832. He is not known to have spoken in debate, but he presented petitions against the Shaftesbury road bill, 30 Mar., and the Exeter improvement bill, 16 Apr. 1832. That summer, despite having been dangerously ill, he was suspected of planning to offer for Glamorgan as a Conservative at the forthcoming general election, but nothing came of this.10 He stood again at Wells, where he explained that his main objection to the Reform Act lay in the uniform £10 householder franchise for all boroughs, because ‘in some it presented a very respectable constituency, whilst in others it was quite the reverse’. Trailing well behind the other candidates after the first day’s polling, and ‘suffering from extreme bodily affliction’, he retired from the contest.11
Edwards Vaughan died in August 1833 and left all his real estate to his son by his second marriage, Nash Vaughan Edwards Vaughan (1811-68), who later inherited Nash’s property. His wife and son were named as guardians of ‘the property and estate of my son (by my first wife) John Williams Edwards’, who was still living. His personalty was sworn under £14,000.12
Ref Volumes: 1820-1832
Author: Terry Jenkins
- 1. R. Grant, Parl. Hist. Glam. 39-40, 144-53; Glam. Co. Hist. vi. 10.
- 2. R.D. Rees, ‘Parl. Rep. S. Wales, 1790-1830’ (Reading Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1962), ii. 361-5.
- 3. T. Davis, John Nash, 76-78, 97-98; Geo. IV Letters, iii. 1563.
- 4. Mid-Glam. RO, Bute mss D/DA11/47, Bute to Knight, 9 July; Merthyr Mawr mss, Nicholl to son, 14 Sept. 1824.
- 5. Bristol Mirror, 28 May, 23, 30 July 1825, 1 July 1826.
- 6. NLW, Bute mss L73/21.
- 7. Keene’s Bath Jnl. 9 Aug. 1830.
- 8. Bristol Mirror, 30 Apr., 7 May 1831.
- 9. Add. 40402, f. 89.
- 10. Bute mss L75/90, 93; NLW, Penrice and Margam mss 9239.
- 11. Bristol Mirror, 15 Dec. 1832.
- 12. PROB 11/1828/793; IR26/1342/659.