GOOCH, Thomas Sherlock (1767-1851), of Bramfield Hall and Benacre Hall, nr. Beccles, Suff.
Available from Cambridge University Press
Family and Educationb. 2 Nov. 1767, 1st s. of Sir Thomas Gooch, 4th bt., of Benacre Hall and Anna Maria, da. of William Hayward of Weybridge, Surr. educ. Westminster 1781; Christ Church, Oxf. 1785; continental tour, home 1793. m. 11 May 1796, Marianne, da. of Abraham Whittaker of Stratford, Essex, 2s. 3da. suc. fa. as 5th bt. 7 Apr. 1826. d. 18 Dec. 1851.
Sheriff, Suff. 1833-4.
Capt. Suff. vol. cav. 1798, 1803; maj. commdt. 4 Suff. yeoman cav. 1809; lt.-col. commdt. 2 E. Suff. militia 1814.
By 1820, when to cries of ‘No Gooch’ he secured his sixth unopposed return for Suffolk, ‘Gaffer’ Gooch, an anti-Catholic Tory opposed to reform, had acquired a reputation as an able speaker and ready defender of the landed interest and Lord Liverpool’s ministry.1 His family, long established in the county, had purchased the Benacre estate in 1745, and were also major owners of land and property in Birmingham, where their tenants included the brassfounder Samuel Walker† and members of the Lloyd banking and iron-founding dynasty.2 Gooch had been made a commissioner in the exchequer bills loan office in 1817, and benefited in Suffolk politics from the aristocratic oligarchy’s preference for bipartisan representation, the interest of his brother-in-law, the former county Member Sir John Rous† (1st earl of Stradbroke), his personal wealth, and his father’s reputation as a staunch Pittite.3 The latter, who still occupied Benacre, was to die virtually bankrupt in 1826, having already sold out to Gooch to try to ensure that his mistress and three illegitimate children were provided for.4
Gooch seconded and served as teller for the motion for a select committee on the distressed state of agriculture, which government was forced to concede, 30 May 1820. He criticized attempts ‘to separate the interests of agriculture from the interests of any other great branch of the national industry’ and branded the 1815 corn law as ‘defective’ and ‘totally inoperative’, but he acknowledged that while agriculture needed protection the country needed taxes. He was appointed to the committee, 31 May, only to find its brief restricted to reviewing current methods of computing average corn prices: they recommended substituting one national for 12 regional averages and including Irish corn in returns.5 Declaring that her guilt was ‘as plain as the sun at noonday’, he made much of his refusal in December 1820 to present the hundred of Lackford’s address to Queen Caroline, agitated by the former under-secretary of war and Foxite Whig Sir Henry Bunbury*; and this, together with his readiness to consult the patronage secretary Arbuthnot about the growing distress and disaffection in Suffolk, pleased ministers.6 He divided with them against censuring their handling of the queen’s case, 6 Feb., repeal of the additional malt duty, 21 Mar., 3 Apr., and parliamentary reform, 9 May 1821. Although absent from the division on 28 Feb. 1821, he remained staunchly anti-Catholic, and opposed all concessions, 30 Apr. 1822, 30 June 1823, 1 Mar., 24, 26 Apr., 9, 10 May 1825.
On 5 Feb. 1821, he asked the leader of the House, Lord Castlereagh, whether ministers planned any measures to relieve agricultural distress that session. Told that a committee of inquiry might be permitted as a conciliatory measure, he moved successfully for one and was appointed to its chair, 7 Mar. Countering his critics in the press, he said that he did not perceive agriculture, distress or his committee as party matters, stressed the need for protective tariffs on grain imports, and criticized the chancellor Vansittart’s optimistic interpretation of returns showing an increase in malt production, which derived solely from the abundance of barley in 1820, when the wheat crop had been poor.7 Parliamentary commitments kept him away from the Suffolk county meeting convened to petition for reform as a means of alleviating distress, 16 Mar. Though not selected to do so, he seconded the petition when it was brought before the House, 17 Apr., claiming that he owed ministers nothing; however, he dissented from much of its prayer.8 On the 21st, clearly disillusioned, he informed the Birmingham banker and future political unionist Thomas Attwood† that the recent currency change ‘was intended to operate a total transfer of the landed rental of the kingdom into the hands of the fundholders’.9 His decision to second the motion for repeal of the agricultural horse tax, which was carried against government, 14 June, surprised some Whigs like Thomas Coke I, who regarded him as a Member who ‘for so many years always supported ... ministers, who had stood by them imposing every tax during this period, and in passing every bill brought in by them’.10 Gooch replied that his object was simply to compensate for the failure of his committee (which the liberal Tory William Huskisson and the political economist David Ricardo had succeeded in dominating) to instigate any measures to afford ‘effectual relief to agriculture this session’.11 His vote was a token protest, and he seconded and was a majority teller for Henry Bankes’s pro-government amendment to the address on public expenditure, 27 June.12 He had presided at the Pitt dinner at the London Tavern, 28 May, and in July 1821 was instrumental in establishing the Suffolk Pitt Club.13
Gooch publicized his correspondence with the treasury, who agreed to concessions on taxing malted grain, but it was not enough to satisfy the radical Joseph Hume* or his critics at Foxite dinners in January 1822. On 29 Jan. the Suffolk agricultural distress meeting chastised him for ‘colluding with ministers’ by chairing the ineffectual 1821 committee, and for his votes.14 He tempered criticism by calling on all parties to unite to combat distress and distanced himself from the 1821 report, but failed to prevent the adoption of a petition linking reform to its call for remedial action.15 The former Whig Commons leader Tierney rightly predicted that the hostility to ministers demonstrated by Gooch and his allies that session was largely bluff and bluster.16 He voted against an opposition motion for tax reductions to alleviate distress, 11 Feb., and on the 15th presented and commended a petition for unspecified palliative measures from Suffolk occupiers ‘who he was glad to say ... did not mix up their case with politics’. He again disowned the 1821 report when Lord Londonderry (Castlereagh) moved for a select committee on agriculture, to which he was appointed, 18 Feb.17 He stated that he would support cuts in the establishment and ‘tax reductions consistent with the national interest’ only, and he voted against Lord Althorp’s resolutions criticizing the inadequacy of the government’s relief proposals, 21 Feb., and against reducing the salt duties, 28 Feb. After failing to upstage the Whig Sir Matthew White Ridley by reviving the malt question, he divided with him against government to reduce the admiralty lordships from six to four, 1 Mar.; he similarly voted to abolish one of the joint-postmasterships, 13 Mar. The Whig banker Hudson Gurney* still counted him among the most ministerial of the squires; and, according to The Times, his presence on the opposition benches for the debates on the malt and salt duties, 4 Mar., aroused much mirth.18 He presented but dissented from the plea for reform in the Suffolk distress petition, 7 Mar., drawing criticism from Thomas Barrett Lennard for claiming that it was entirely the work of the Whig aristocracy, and from James Macdonald (who had attended the Suffolk meeting), for failing to vote against the salt duties as his constituents had requested and been led to believe he would.19 On 1 Apr. Gooch brought up the agricultural committee’s report which he had written with Bankes. Based entirely on the 1821 evidence, it recommended a 70s. pivot price with fixed countervailing duties, and advocated an agricultural bank and closer scrutiny of bonded warehouses to dictate supply, prices and the opening and closure of ports. Its failure to scrutinize the grain market or recommend tax reductions were severely criticized in the press.20 On the 29th, presenting a second petition adopted at the Suffolk county meeting, he confirmed the severity of the economic downturn and reasserted the case for prohibitive tariffs on imported corn, as markets were glutted and ‘nothing satisfactory to the country’ had been achieved; he again dissented from the petitioners’ claim that reform would assist their cause. In this he was backed by Edmond Wodehouse, who attributed Suffolk’s demands for reform to William Cobbett’s† recent tour of the county.21 Hume and others, however, sought to undermine Gooch’s contribution by criticizing his voting record on taxation. He lamented party divisions and defended ministers, when the debate on agricultural distress resumed, 8 May, for ‘all they could do was to stem the torrent of mischief which was inundating the country and prevent fluctuation in prices by means of protection’, and he repeated his refrain that although tax reductions were ‘desirable’ as a means of relief, it was necessary to ‘keep faith with the public creditor’. He attended Londonderry’s funeral in August 1822 and, according to Viscount Clive*, deliberately distanced himself from the dissatisfaction that many country gentlemen expressed with government that summer.22 However, after Canning derided him in speeches at Liverpool, calculated to boost his claim to become foreign secretary and leader of the House, The Times cautioned: ‘Apply not wit ... to such as Mr. Gooch and his associates. It is worse than meddling with uncle Toby’s hobby-horse: "Ah! touch him, touch him, touch him - not"’.23
Gooch was appointed to the select committee on the game laws, 13 Mar., an issue discussed at the Suffolk reform meeting at Stowmarket, 4 Apr. 1823, when he was heckled for using ministerial patronage to procure the living of South Cove for his son Charles and clashed with Bunbury over his failure to support reform.24 He voted with government against repeal of the Foreign Enlistment Act, 16 Apr., and divided against the usury laws repeal bill, 27 June. In August 1823 he rallied support at a Suffolk Pitt Club dinner.25 He voted against abolishing flogging in the army, 5 Mar. 1824. On the 13th, referring to the ‘great ability ... displayed by ministers’, he seconded a successful spoiling amendment to the opposition’s motion for information on the French evacuation of Spain and claimed that Britain had been correct not to interfere on behalf of the Spanish liberals.26 He made numerous patronage applications to the home secretary Peel (on behalf of the inventor of the life buoy Captain Manby, the corporation of Beccles and others) and in February 1825 he used his influence with government to save John Thurston from becoming sheriff, an appointment that Bunbury then failed to avoid.27 He raised no objection to the receipt of a contentious City of London petition for revision of the corn laws with which he disagreed, 25 Apr., and used it as bait to draw a response from Huskisson.28 He spoke strongly against Whitmore’s motion to remove protection, 28 Apr., now citing 60s. and 30s. a quarter as reasonable pivot prices for wheat and barley, and arguing that the ‘present system ... with all its imperfections ... worked well and afforded the farmer a fair remunerating price’, and that great reductions in taxation would be necessary if protection was to be abolished. Reports of his speech caused alarm in Suffolk, and in May he wrote to the local press to explain that ‘all he admitted was that 60s. a quarter was the least possible remunerating price for wheat that a British grower could afford to accept’, and reaffirmed his commitment to the 1822 rates.29 He helped to secure a 5s. concessionary tariff on Canadian wheat, 2, 9 June 1825.30 When the Staffordshire potteries petitioned for corn law repeal, 2 Mar. 1826, he insisted that ‘50-60s. a quarter’ was ‘no more than a fair remunerative price’ and argued for protection as a means of encouraging corn growing to keep gold in the country in times of scarcity. He voted against the bill empowering the government temporarily to admit warehoused corn, 11 May. He opposed a cut in the grant for the yeomanry, ‘the constitutional force of the country’, 8 Mar. 1826. He was returned unopposed at the general election in June, although he encountered criticism and questions about his stance on the corn laws and the Holy Alliance. He maintained that he ‘never let party interfere when he could render any service’ and that his politics were ‘unchanged and unchangeable’.31 He had consulted Peel beforehand about a scheme, to which the duke of Richmond objected, for his eldest son Edward Sherlock Gooch† (1802-56) to be brought in for Aldborough at the next opportunity on his son-in-law Andrew Lawson’s† interest.32
On 26 Feb. 1827 Gooch presented a series of Suffolk petitions for agricultural protection, deliberately and provocatively based on the president of the board of trade Huskisson’s 1814 pamphlet promoting the 1815 corn law. He declared that he no longer sought ‘total exclusion’ and would be satisfied with a 70s. pivot price and 17s. duty.33 He reiterated his protectionist principles in the corn debates of March following Lord Liverpool’s stroke, claiming that while ‘he wished to see the present administration continue in their places’, he was ‘not so chained down to any administration as not to give his vote against it if he disapproved of its measures’. He joined Sir Thomas Lethbridge and Sir Edward Knatchbull in doing so (for which the ‘three baronets’ were duly lampooned), 2 Apr., when, venting his spleen against political economists, he suggested using the latter as ballast for every vessel leaving the country after discharging its cargo of wheat. However, the baronets’ attempt to discredit Canning in debate, 6 Apr., backfired.34 On the 18th, at celebrations marking the return for Ipswich on petition of the anti-Catholic Tories Charles Mackinnon and Robert Adam Dundas, Gooch acknowledged that hitherto he had been ‘a party man’ and still saw advantage in a party system; but now that Canning headed the ministry he could no longer tell ‘to what party I belong’. He declared that he remained duty bound to oppose all Catholic concessions, as he had done in the division on 6 Mar.35 He described Canning as
a political cuckoo: he had laid his political egg, and his political friends have unconsciously nursed it into life and action, till at length, to prevent their necks being broken they have deserted their nests and flown away. All I can now hope is that the cuckoo having possession of the nest, he will not feather it to the exclusive advantage of his friends and the detriment of the country.36
Presiding at the ‘spiritless’ Pitt dinner at the London Tavern, 28 May 1827, he deplored Liverpool’s political death and eulogized the duke of Wellington and Lord Eldon.37
Gooch welcomed Peel’s return to the home office in Wellington’s coalition ministry, but regretted Eldon’s omission from the cabinet.38 He was in Paris for his eldest son’s wedding, 23 Jan. 1828, but, knowing that a new corn bill, for which John Drage Merest† and his Bury St. Edmunds allies lobbied, was in preparation, he sent Wellington a printed report from the Suffolk magistracy supporting his own contention that calculations should be based on prices received by the growers rather than on market prices. Wellington’s polite but dismissive reply, 27 Mar., made it clear that the existing principle would be adhered to.39 Undeterred, Gooch repeated his ‘strong predilection in favour of the old law’ when government introduced the new resolutions, 31 Mar., and presented and endorsed petitions from Suffolk reasserting his views, 25 Apr., 14 May. When the resolutions were read a second time, 29 Apr., he spoke against government, whom he attacked for not heeding the needs of the small landowner, took a swipe at the paternalism of the Whig aristocracy, and attributed current problems to a premature return to a metallic currency.40 He was appointed to the committee of inquiry into the law on parochial settlement, 21 Feb., and supported the bill to regulate settlement by hiring, 29 Apr., stating that 19 out of 20 such cases brought before him as a magistrate depended on hiring and service. He presented petitions from Suffolk for repeal of the 1827 Malt Act, 28 Mar., protection for the woollen trade, 19 May, and the abolition of slavery, 30 May, 2, 10 June. Hume, noticing him in the House, 8 July, prompted general laughter by welcoming him back ‘after a long absence’.41 He brought up petitions against Catholic claims and the admission of Dissenters to high office, 25 Apr., and divided against Catholic relief, 12 May 1828. His diehard views remained unchanged when Wellington and Peel conceded emancipation in 1829. He promised to ‘do my best to defeat it unless the bill contain more and fuller securities than I have at present reason to suppose it will’, 10 Feb., presented hostile petitions that day and again, 12 Feb., 10, 27 Mar., and voted against the measure 6, 18, 23, 27, 30 Mar., but refrained from making a major speech on the issue. The chancellor of the exchequer Goulburn later confirmed his continued adherence to the ministry.42
Gooch appears to have had no difficulty in collecting his own rents but, recognizing his constituents’ ‘unparalleled distress’, he stifled their proposals to meet ‘by the hundred’, signed the Suffolk Tories’ requisition for a single county meeting and delayed his return to Parliament to attend it on 6 Feb. 1830. Wellington was informed that he proposed to moderate their petition; he also avoided voting on the omission of distress from the king’s speech, 4 Feb. 1830.43 On the hustings at Ipswich he concurred in the proposed petition’s demands for protection, lower taxes, and ‘the severest retrenchment in every department of the public expenditure’ and described how his experience of the 1821 and 1822 agricultural committees had taught him to oppose free trade and distrust political economy. He attributed current difficulties to the precipitate return to the gold standard in 1819 and insufficient protection for agriculture. His promises to support repeal of the malt tax and retrenchment were interpreted as pledges to vote for them and cheered.44 He presented distress petitions from five east Suffolk parishes calling for repeal of the taxes on beer and malt, 8 Feb., but merely testified to the ‘genuine nature’ of their grievances.45 Bringing up the county petition, 5 Mar., he described himself as a ‘declared supporter of administration’ anxious to retain them in office, who deplored the omission from the king’s speech of distress which was undeniable and should not be concealed. He repeated charges that ministers were too closely allied to free traders and that the protection afforded by the corn laws was totally inadequate for the small landowner, but Goulburn took solace from his pronouncement that the worst effects of the currency change were over.46 When agrarian distress became an issue in the debate on the state of the nation, 19 Mar., he moved a wrecking amendment, but waived it for a government amendment to adjourn until the 23rd.47 He presented petitions for repeal of the malt and beer duties and action against distress, 22 Mar., and when the debate was resumed, 23 Mar., declared that he would vote against the proposed inquiry. However, because ‘it is the lower orders, the labouring and productive classes, who are suffering most severely’, he pressed the need for tax reductions and suggested a modified five per cent property tax, but refrained from tabling it as an amendment. He introduced and was a majority teller for the Southwood Haven bill, from which Edward stood to profit, 3 May.48 He presented a petition for equalization of the duties on rum and corn spirits, 12 May. He divided against Jewish emancipation, 17 May, and voted to make forgery a non-capital offence, 24 May. On the sale of beer bill, he voted for amendments granting magistrates greater licensing powers, 15 May, and to restrict on-consumption, 21 June 1830. He was still counted among the ministry’s supporters at the dissolution.
His constituents, meanwhile, had failed to find proof that Gooch’s promises of 6 Feb. 1830 were being translated into votes for economy and retrenchment, although, as the Bury and Norwich Post commented, ‘whether he voted against the propositions, we have no means of ascertaining; for but few of the lists of "majorities" have made their appearance’. He also failed to dispel the damaging effects of allegations that he had used his position to acquire church livings for his son and sons-in-law and that he had put his party before his county and done nothing to ‘endanger the permanency of the administration’.49 Rous had died in 1827, the Tory 3rd marquess of Hertford refused to intervene, and at the general election Gooch lost his seat to one of his erstwhile supporters, Charles Tyrell, a liberal Tory prepared to sanction religious toleration and ‘moderate reform’, and ally of the Felixstowe merchant, the Tory Samuel Sacker Quilter, who, at the county meeting (6 Feb.) had accused Gooch of attending solely to the agricultural interest.50 The patronage secretary Planta lamented Gooch’s defeat, which he attributed ‘to local matters and to his inattention to certain interests in the county’.51 According to his partisan Lord Lowther*, ‘Gooch’s sin with his constituents was in abstracting himself from the government’.52 He told his supporters:
I carry with me into private life, the proud satisfaction of having, to the utmost extent of my abilities, promoted those measures which in my judgement have been best calculated to give stability and permanence to our valuable institutions in church and state; and to secure the prosperity of the British empire: and I can conscientiously say that in the discharge of my duty to my constituents in particular, and to the local interests of the county of Suffolk, I have ever most anxiously and unremittingly attended.53
Cobbett’s 1830 lecture tour provided some justification for Gooch’s claim ‘that every art has been used by some itinerant orators to enrage the yeomanry of Suffolk against me’.54 He retained considerable support among the Anglican clergy and the aristocracy, particularly in the eastern half of the county, but it had become impossible for him to obtain a hearing at public meetings, and he accordingly had to forego opportunities to stand for the county in 1831, when, recanting, he declared for moderate reform, and again for its eastern division in 1832.55 He became sheriff in 1833 and chaired the quarter sessions until 1843. His patronage requests to Peel had little success, but he remained active in Conservative politics in Ipswich and in East Suffolk, which returned Edward as a Conservative in 1846. He died at Benacre in December 1851, leaving property in Birmingham, Norfolk and Suffolk to Edward, who succeeded him as 8th baronet and received £23,000 as residuary legatee.56
Ref Volumes: 1820-1832
Author: Margaret Escott
- 1. HP Commons, 1790-1820, iv. 34-36; Suff. Chron. 26 Feb., 4, 11, 18 Mar.; Ipswich Jnl. 18 Mar. 1820; A. Mitchell, Whigs in Opposition, 79.
- 2. Birmingham City Archives mss 3449, 3609; [NRA 13644].
- 3. HP Commons, 1790-1820, ii. 366-7; W.P. Scargill, Peace of the County (1830), 4-10.
- 4. Bury and Norwich Post, 12 Apr. 1826; PROB 11/1717/533; IR26/1085/708.
- 5. B. Hilton, Corn, Cash, Commerce, 102, 104.
- 6. Bury and Norwich Post, 15 Aug. 1820, 3, 10 Jan. 1821; The Times, 4 Sept. 1820, 5 Jan. 1821; Add. 38574, ff. 232, 235; HMC Bathurst, 490, 493-4.
- 7. The Times, 2 Mar. 1821; Mitchell, 79, 160.
- 8. Ipswich Jnl. 17, 31 Mar.; The Times, 21 Mar., 18 Apr. 1821.
- 9. C.M. Wakefield, Life of Thomas Attwood (1885), 81.
- 10. The Times, 15 June 1821.
- 11. J.E. Cookson, Lord Liverpool’s Administration, 304-5; Quarterly Rev. xxv (1821), 466-70; Hilton, 104-9.
- 12. The Times, 28 June 1821; Hilton, 138-9.
- 13. The Times, 29 May; Essex RO, Barrett Lennard mss D/DL/C61, Barrett Lennard to fa. 20 May 1821; Suff. Coll. [BL 1034. m. 1.], f. 199.
- 14. The Times, 11, 16, 26 31 Jan. 1822; Hilton, 144.
- 15. Ipswich Jnl. 19, 26 Jan., 2 Feb. 1822; Oakes Diaries ed. J. Fiske (Suff. Recs. Soc. xxxiii), ii. 272; Mitchell, 162.
- 16. Grey mss, Tierney to Grey, 23 Jan. 1822.
- 17. The Times, 19 Feb., Hilton, 106-7.
- 18. Gurney diary, 28 Feb.; The Times, 5 Mar. 1822.
- 19. The Times, 8 Mar. 1822.
- 20. Ibid. 4 Apr. 1822; Hilton, 151.
- 21. Cobbett’s Rural Rides ed. G.D.H. and M. Cole, i. 48.
- 22. The Times, 21 Aug.; Devon RO, Sidmouth mss, Clive to Sidmouth, 22 Aug. 1822.
- 23. The Times, 31 Aug., 2 Sept., 23 Nov. 1822.
- 24. Ipswich Jnl. 29 Mar., 5 Apr.; The Times, 7 Apr.; Bury and Norwich Post, 9 Apr. 1823.
- 25. Bury and Norwich Post, 27 Aug. 1823.
- 26. The Times, 14 Mar. 1824.
- 27. Add. 40356, f. 50; 40357, f. 261; 40363, f. 231; 40367, ff. 88, 102, 127, 174; 40373, f. 1.
- 28. Arbuthnot Jnl. i. 389; The Times, 26 Apr. 1825.
- 29. Bury and Norwich Post, 1 May 1825.
- 30. Huskisson Pprs. 181-5.
- 31. The Times, 9 June; Bury and Norwich Post, 14, 21, 28 June 1826.
- 32. Add. 40387, ff. 52-53.
- 33. The Times, 27 Feb. 1827.
- 34. G.I.T. Machin, Catholic Question in English Politics, 98-99; Nottingham Univ. Lib. Denison diary, 6 Apr.; The Times, 6 Apr. 1827; B. Gordon, Economic Doctrine and Tory Liberalism, 1824-30, pp. 4, 59; Mitchell, 187.
- 35. The Times, 26 Apr. 1827.
- 36. Bury and Norwich Post, 25 Apr. 1827.
- 37. The Times, 29 May 1827.
- 38. Add. 40375, ff. 15, 19.
- 39. Wellington mss WP1/925/51;Bury and Norwich Post, 18 Jan, 19 Mar.; The Times, 1 Apr. 1828.
- 40. Gordon, 65.
- 41. The Times, 9 July 1828.
- 42. Wellington mss WP1/1051/10.
- 43. Bury and Norwich Post, 27 Jan. 1830; Wellington mss 1083/13.
- 44. Bury and Norwich Post, 3, 10, 17 Feb. 1830.
- 45. The Times, 8 Feb. 1830.
- 46. Ibid. 6 Mar. 1830.
- 47. NAI, Leveson Gower letterbks. M. 736, Leveson Gower to Singleton, 20 Mar. 1830.
- 48. Suff. Chron. 24, 31 July, 7 Aug. 1830.
- 49. Bury and Norwich Post, 10 Feb., 31 May, 16, 30 June, 7, 14, 21, 28 July; Suff. Chron. 17 July 1830.
- 50. Add. 60288, f. 282; Bury and Norwich Post, 11, 18 Aug.; The Times, 12, 14 Aug. 1830.