FYNES CLINTON, Clinton James (1792-1833), of Denton Hall, Lincs.; 58 Cadogan Place, Sloane Street and 7 Old Square, Lincoln's Inn, Mdx.
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Family and Educationb. 13 Dec. 1792, 2nd s. of Rev. Charles Fynes (d. 1827) and Emma, da. of Job Brough of Newark, Notts; bro. of Henry Fynes*. educ. Westminster 1807; Christ Church, Oxf. 1811; L. Inn 1815, called 1818. m. 2 May 1825, Penelope, da. of Sir William Earle Welby†, 2nd bt., of Denton Hall, 1s. 4da. Like fa. and bro. took additional name of Clinton by royal lic. 26 Apr. 1821. d. 13 Apr. 1833.1
Recorder, Newark and Retford.
Fynes Clinton, a barrister on the Midland circuit, came from a family who were descended directly from the 2nd earl of Lincoln and thus were kinsmen of the 4th duke of Newcastle. He appears to have begun conducting legal work for the duke in 1823.2 In May 1825 Newcastle recorded in his diary that Fynes Clinton had been to see him ‘on business’ and was ‘much pleased with the near prospect of coming into Parliament’, which he did at the general election of 1826, when he replaced his brother Henry as one of the ducal nominees for Aldborough. At that time, Newcastle wrote of Fynes Clinton and his colleague, Sir Alexander Grant, that ‘both have been of great service to me, both so intelligent and so active, that I do not fear the attack of any adversaries’.3 Fynes Clinton subsequently worked closely with Newcastle’s attorney William Tallents to prepare evidence to combat possible petitions against the return of the duke’s Members for Aldborough and Boroughbridge, but these did not materialize.4 In November 1827 Newcastle wrote of him that he was ‘universally esteemed and looked up to as a lawyer’ and was ‘considered at this time as the most promising man at the bar’, having ‘more business than usually falls to young counsellors’; it seemed that ‘if he lives he cannot fail to be seated on the woolsack’.5
Fynes Clinton divided against Catholic relief, 6 Mar. 1827. He was granted leave to go the circuit, 26 Mar., but returned to vote against the corn bill, 2 Apr. According to a newspaper report, it was he who declared his intention of opposing the Coventry election committee’s report, 14 May.6 He divided against the disfranchisement of Penryn, 7 June 1827. In presenting a petition from East Retford (another borough where Newcastle exercised influence) against disfranchisement, 8 Feb. 1828, he gave notice that he would move for the petitioners to be heard by counsel at the bar. He presented a further petition, 25 Feb., when he pointed to the inconsistency of the committee on the East Retford bill, who, having ‘acquitted the electors of bribery’ at the last general election, ‘go on ... to fix upon them a general charge’. He explained to the House that he had been agent to Sir Henry Wright Wilson* at the election in question, 4 Mar., and maintained that he had promised no money to any freemen. He presented a petition from the Imperial Gas Company for a private bill to amend their regulating Act, 31 Jan. It was referred to a committee, which reported the next day, and resulted in his introducing a bill, 4 Feb., which secured a second reading, 8 Feb. However, despite his strenuous efforts it was rejected at the report stage, by 81-6, 25 Feb. He divided against repeal of the Test Acts, 26 Feb., and Catholic relief, 12 May. He voted with the duke of Wellington’s government against reduction of the salary of the lieutenant-general of the ordnance, 4 July 1828. In presenting a Grantham petition against Catholic relief, 9 Feb. 1829, he observed that he had voted against this in the last two sessions and, ‘notwithstanding the very great and unexpected changes which have lately taken place’, he saw ‘no reason why I should give a different vote this session’. He claimed that majority opinion at Oxford University was against concession, 4 Mar. Two days later, after voting against resuming the debate on the government’s emancipation plan, he delivered a long and detailed speech in which he questioned the assumption that such a measure would pacify Ireland, maintained that it had never been the intention of their ancestors that the king, ‘who must be a Protestant sovereign, should be surrounded with Catholic advisers’, and asked, ‘should we break in upon the principles of 1688, to purchase a short and precarious truce with the Catholics?’ John Henry North, who spoke next, complimented his speech and acknowledged that ‘both by the gravity of his manner and the evident sincerity with which he spoke his sentiments’, he was ‘entitled ... to the attention and consideration of the House’. Newcastle was delighted with his ‘excellent speech’, which had ‘excited very great attention and ... gained to him a decided reputation’, and felt he was ‘sure to be a very distinguished object in Parliament’.7 He divided against emancipation, 6 Mar., but cast no further recorded votes on this issue, though he presented hostile petitions from Aldborough, Boroughbridge and East Retford, 10 Mar. In July the Ultra leader Sir Richard Vyvyan*, writing to Newcastle about their attempt to oust Wellington and form a new ministry, observed that ‘we must now look upon your relations Mr. Fynes Clinton and Mr. [Michael] Sadler*’, who were ‘both powerful men’.8 That autumn Vyvyan counted Fynes Clinton among those Tories who were ‘strongly opposed to the present government’. In January 1830 he informed Newcastle that ‘some of our party are anxious to join with the Huskissons’, a move that the duke would not hear of.9 He voted for Knatchbull’s amendment to the address on distress, 4 Feb., and spoke on this subject, 16 Mar. 1830. He consulted Lord Lowther* about the impending petition accusing Newcastle of electoral malpractice at Newark, and when it was presented to the Commons, 1 Mar., he declared that ‘I never saw any petition ... so full of exaggerated statements and unfounded aspersions’; he was a majority teller for its rejection. Newcastle was pleased with his ‘excellent speech’.10 He presented two petitions from East Retford against disfranchisement, 4 Mar., and next day was granted a month’s leave to go the circuit. He voted for reduction of the grants for public buildings, 3 May, and the establishment at Nova Scotia, 14 June. He presented an East Retford petition against the sale of beer bill, 6 May, and voted to prohibit consumption on the premises, 21 June. He divided against Jewish emancipation, 17 May, and the administration of justice bill, 18 June 1830. At the general election that summer, when he worked with Tallents to organize the Newcastle interest at Newark, he was returned unopposed for Aldborough.11
The ministry listed him as one of the ‘violent Ultras’, and he duly voted against them in the crucial division on the civil list, 15 Nov. 1830. During the ensuing negotiations surrounding the formation of Lord Grey’s ministry, Lord Palmerston* approached the Ultra leader Knatchbull, with Grey’s permission, and suggested Fynes Clinton for a place; nothing came of it.12 He was given leave to go the circuit, 4 Mar., but was present to vote against the second reading of the government’s reform bill, 22 Mar. 1831. He presented a hostile petition from Aldborough, 18 Apr. 1831, and voted for Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment the next day. He was returned again for Aldborough at the ensuing general election. In May 1831 Newcastle learned that, in the event of a vacancy for the Speakership of the Commons, the ‘Peel party’ intended to propose Henry Goulburn, with Fynes Clinton as their ‘next ... choice’.13 In a notable speech seconding Walsh’s amendment to kill the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 4 July, Fynes Clinton warned that if Members were to be ‘only the puppets of the popular will’, there was ‘an end to all freedom of discussion’ and to ‘public conduct of which calm inquiry and unbiased judgement are the guides’. He maintained that ‘we are not merely sent here to re-echo the opinions of our constituents, but to do that which on our consideration and deliberation, may appear best for their interests’. While it was easy to ‘point out and ... descant on the anomalies of the present system of representation’, it was ‘no difficult task to sketch out plans for their removal’. The ‘real question’, he believed, was whether reform would ‘have the effect of producing an assembly more efficient, better calculated to discharge its functions’. The reformer Sir John Mackintosh, who followed him, was ‘by no means surprised that the excellent speech we have just heard should have extorted from the House the applause with which [it] has been greeted’, and remarked that Fynes Clinton’s speeches ‘leave no unpleasant impression but that of regret that he speaks so seldom’. Thomas Spring Rice, the treasury secretary, reported that he ‘spoke as he always does, well’, and observed that ‘he is a lawyer and a gentleman and is formed of much better things than to play a second rate Tory’.14 He divided against the second reading, 6 July, and for an adjournment motion, 12 July. He was granted ten days’ leave to go the circuit, 13 July, and a further ten days owing to family bereavement, 16 Aug. He paired against the disfranchisement of St. Germans, 29 July, and voted to preserve the rights of non-resident freemen, 30 Aug., and those of the freeholders of East Retford and three other sluiced constituencies, 2 Sept. He argued that it would be better to extinguish Aldborough altogether than to destroy its established interest by extending its boundaries and placing it in schedule B, 14 Sept. He voted against the bill’s passage, 21 Sept. 1831.
In October 1831 Fynes Clinton solicited the vacant recordership of Newark and the corporation, who were under Newcastle’s influence, duly appointed him. This provoked an outcry in many quarters: a public meeting expressed condemnation of the selection of such a ‘political partisan’, and the duke received an anonymous letter threatening Fynes Clinton with a reception like Sir Charles Wetherell’s* at Bristol. Flags were displayed bearing the legend ‘No Clinton Rabble’, and warnings were received that he would be assassinated. Writing to Tallents, he declared himself to be ‘decidedly against any measures which have the appearance of timidity’, and demanded that action be taken to deal with any attempted riot. Approaches were made to him to postpone the winter quarter sessions, but he refused, insisting that they be held at the regular time. He asked the home secretary Lord Melbourne to provide troops to quell any disorder, which was done. In the event, the sessions passed off quietly.15 Fynes Clinton divided against the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831. He voted against going into committee, 20 Jan., and the enfranchisement of Tower Hamlets, 28 Feb., and paired against the third reading, 22 Mar. 1832. In May he was apparently one of a number of Tories who complained of a lack of communication from the leadership, before the breakdown of attempts to form a Wellington administration. According to Lord Stormont*, he had been ‘endeavouring to bring over the duke of Newcastle’ in support of such an enterprise.16 He voted against government on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., but with them against Hunt’s motion regarding military punishments, 16 Feb. 1832.
Aldborough was disfranchised by the Reform Act and Fynes Clinton did not find another seat at the general election of 1832. He died in April 1833. According to an obituarist, his ‘latter days were entirely engrossed by a diligent perusal of the sacred scriptures, in which he found his best support and comfort at his despairing hour’. The same writer noted that while ‘his politics were strongly conservative ... his speeches in the House were delivered with a discreet and gentlemanly feeling which gained him universal respect’. Fynes Clinton left no will, but administration of his estate was granted to his wife; the personalty was sworn under £2,000.