HAMILTON, Thomas, Lord Binning (1780-1858), of 5 Chesterfield Street, Mdx. and Tynninghame, Haddington

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

Constituency

Dates

1802 - 1806
17 Jan. 1807 - 1807
1807 - 1812
5 Dec. 1814 - 1818
1818 - 1826
1826 - 24 July 1827

Family and Education

b. 21 June 1780, o.s. of Charles, 8th earl of Haddington [S], and Lady Sophia Hope, da. of John, 2nd earl of Hopetoun [S]. educ. Edinburgh Univ. 1796; Christ Church, Oxf. 1798. m. 13 Nov. 1802, Lady Maria Parker, da. and h. of George Parker†, 4th earl of Macclesfield, s.p. cr. Bar. Melros 24 July 1827; suc. fa. as 9th earl of Haddington [S] 17 Mar. 1828; KT 25 Oct. 1853. d. 1 Dec. 1858.

Offices Held

Commr. bd. of control July-Nov. 1809, June 1816-Feb. 1822; PC 29 July 1814; ld. lt. [I] Dec. 1834-Apr. 1835; first ld. of admiralty Sept. 1841-Jan. 1846; ld. privy seal Jan.-July 1846.

Hered. keeper of Holyrood park 1828-43.

Capt. E. Lothian yeomanry 1803; lt.-col. Haddington militia 1808.

Biography

Binning, who had been returned on the government interest for Rochester in 1818, stood there again at the general election of 1820 and, despite rumours of other candidates coming forward, was returned unopposed.1 Originally a Pittite, he was closely connected with George Canning* and had served under him at the India board since 1816. He was an active Member, especially on Scottish affairs, and when in office of course voted steadily with Lord Liverpool’s administration, frequently acting as a teller. He was named to the select committee on Rochester bridge, 16 June 1820, one of several such appointments in that Parliament. He obtained leave to bring in a bill to allow the East India Company to raise a corps of volunteer infantry, 14 June, and spoke in its favour, 16, 19 June. He defended the barracks grant, 12 July.2 He was one of the deputation nominated by a meeting of freemen in Rochester to carry their address to Queen Caroline, 21 July.3 He thought that the case against her was ‘clearly made out, to my mind so clearly that I think, had I been a peer, no doctrine of expediency could have prevented me from voting stoutly for the bill’ against her, but he rightly judged that the government would survive the affair.4 Canning resigned over the issue in December 1820, but he successfully overcame Binning’s reluctance to remain in office and disapproved of his having hinted to the prime minister that he might, albeit assigning other reasons, soon follow his example.5 Noting that he was to be temporarily replaced by Charles Bathurst*, Canning commented in a letter to his wife, 5 Jan. 1821, ‘how Binny will fume!’6

Binning argued that Scottish county meetings in support of ministers were genuinely representative of opinion there, 31 Jan. 1821, and he was a teller in defence of their conduct towards the queen, 6 Feb., and against printing the hostile Nottingham petition, 20 Feb. He denied Denman’s allegation that Canning was guilty of corruption, 9 Feb., and was thanked by him for delivering such a swift rebuke.7 He acted for Sir George Warrender, who had taken offence at Creevey’s personal attack on him in the Commons, 14 Feb., and after several hours of discussion the following evening he managed to settle the row; according to Henry Grey Bennet*, he made ‘a very good statement’ condemning libellous newspaper accounts of the disagreement, 15 Mar.8 He spoke in favour of reforming the system of Scottish juries, 14 Feb., but against taking their nomination out of the hands of judges, 18 May. As in the previous year, he was appointed to the select committee on Scottish burghs, 16 Feb., and on the presentation of the report, which he had helped to concoct, 14 June, he stated that it contained all that was necessary to satisfy the demands of reformers. He voted in favour of Catholic claims, 28 Feb., and against the forgery punishment mitigation bill, 23 May. He justified ministerial policy on the burning of Hindu widows, 20 June. He spoke in favour of reducing the grant of £20,000 to General Desfourneaux, 28 June, when he unsuccessfully moved that it should be lowered to £5,000 rather than to the eventually agreed figure of £3,500.9 He vindicated the court of session and its president, his cousin Charles Hope, against the criticisms of Hume, whom he forcefully ‘took to task’ without, however, persuading the House of the disinterestedness of his defence, 10 July 1821.10

In October 1821 Henry Lawes Long of Hampton Lodge, Surrey, who was on a visit to Tyninghame, described Binning as ‘a thin under jawed fellow’ and ‘one of the pleasantest men I ever met’.11 By December Binning, like William Sturges Bourne*, had decided to resign from the India board. He had reportedly refused to serve under its new president, Charles Williams Wynn*, but he disclaimed any intention of wishing to embarrass Canning or the administration. On 21 Dec. he wrote to William Huskisson*, who objected to their retirement, that

it is surely a very simple question whether it be or be not worth our while, being in no sense dependent upon office and the youngest of us being in his 42nd year, to continue in so disagreeable a situation, there being absolutely no such probability of escaping from it by promotion, as any reasonable man could rely upon, however sanguine his disposition might be. A general arrangement is made and we take that natural opportunity, in perfect good humour, to make our bow, fully intending to be in our places and give as constant a support as we did before.12

He duly voted with ministers against more extensive tax reductions to relieve distress, 11, 21 Feb., repeal of the salt duties, 28 Feb., 28 June, and abolition of one of the joint-postmasterships, 13 Mar. 1822. He was appointed to the select committee on agricultural distress, 18 Feb. On 1 Mar. he went up to the wife of the former Whig Commons leader Tierney in the ventilator above the chamber and ‘told her, with perceptible pleasure, that the ministers would be heartily thrashed’, as they were, on the opposition bid to suppress one of the junior lordships of the admiralty.13 However, he defended the conduct of his former department on the issue of Hindu widows, 14 Mar. He presented petitions for relief from the shoemakers of Rochester, 24 Apr., and the coach proprietors and innkeepers on the London to Dover road, 19 July.14 He was a teller for the second and third readings of Canning’s bill to allow Catholic peers to sit in Parliament, 30 Apr., 10 May. He voted with government for the Canada bill, 18 July 1822.

On leaving office, Binning’s involvement in debates on Scottish affairs increased markedly. He spoke against providing an account of the fee fund of the court of session, 12 Feb. 1822. He opposed Lord Archibald Hamilton’s motion for inquiry into the royal burghs, 20 Feb., as he thought that it was designed to achieve by stealth a general parliamentary reform, which he trusted ‘would always be steadily resisted by this House’, and that details of lord advocate Rae’s intended bill should have been heard first. He defended the burghs accounts bill, 17 June, on the ground that it remedied abuses that had crept in without trenching on existing charters, and was a teller for its third reading, 18 July.15 He again spoke, ‘wretchedly’ as Sir James Mackintosh* recorded, against altering the system of jury nomination, 20 June.16 He unsuccessfully sought the postponement of James Abercromby’s motion on Rae’s conduct in the allegedly partial prosecution of Borthwick, 13 June, and was a teller for the majority against inquiry into it, 25 June. When Abercromby presented Borthwick’s petition, 28 June, Binning stated that his close friend John Hope (son of Charles), who was also implicated, would co-operate with any inquiry, but he begged the House to keep an open mind until both sides had been heard. He failed to stop Hope’s printed letter of protest to Abercromby being voted a breach of privilege, 9 July, but he again defended his conduct, 12 July. On 17 July he claimed that Hope had vindicated himself in his evidence before the House that day and that his letter should be judged a pardonable transgression; the matter was not pursued further.17 He brought up a petition in favour of the bill for a national monument in Edinburgh, 1 July, and in unsuccessfully moving that it should be referred to the committee, 5, 15 July, defended the allocation of £10,000 for building a new church there as an integral part of the plan. The House approved his motion to compel a majority of the members of the council of every burgh to reside within three miles of it, 19 July 1822.18

In August 1822 Binning was listed by John Wilson Croker* as one of the Members closely connected with Canning, but he did not follow his chief when he returned to office as foreign secretary in September. Canning thought that Binning had been quite right to refuse his offer of an under-secretaryship as it would have meant resigning his seat.19 He divided with ministers against inquiry into the right of voting in parliamentary elections, 20 Feb., and on the sinking fund, 3 Mar. 1823. He was given a fortnight’s leave on urgent private business, 14 Apr., but was back to vote against inquiry into the legal proceedings against the Dublin Orange rioters, 22 Apr. On the presentation of a pro-reform petition from Edinburgh, 5 May, he denied that its 7,000 signatures made it representative of opinion there and declared that ‘he was no friend to partial, or temperate, or moderate or any other kind of reform’. He spoke and voted against reform in Scotland, 2 June, because it lacked any popular demand, had enormous implications if applied to England and would mean interfering with the Act of Union. When the Borthwick case was raised, 3 June, he again defended Hope’s conduct. He spoke in support of increasing the duty on barilla in order to encourage the production of kelp, 13 June. On the same day he attempted to present a petition from the sheriff depute of Lanarkshire, and when he introduced the matter again, 18 June, he rebutted Hamilton’s allegations that the petitioner had been guilty of misconduct during the 1818 election for that county.20 He spoke and was a teller against the Scottish juries bill, 30 June 1823, when he also voiced his support for extending the vote to Scottish Catholics.

He presented and endorsed a petition from the distillers of Scotland for equalizing the duties on Irish and Scottish spirits, 25 Feb. 1824. George Agar Ellis* reckoned that he spoke ‘feebly’, 26 Feb., on his reiterating his former arguments against reforming the representation of Edinburgh; in a long contribution, he stressed his view that any changes which did more than ameliorate minor blemishes in the constitution would be contrary to chartered rights and would upset the whole elective franchise of the country.21 He voted to repeal the usury laws, 27 Feb., and abolish flogging, 5 Mar. He spoke in favour of changes to the game laws, 25 Mar., though he was concerned that the transfer of the ownership of game from the lord of the manor to the landowner was an invasion of property rights. On 1 Apr. he urged the lifting of duties on charitable legacies. He spoke and was a teller against inquiry into the Scottish courts of justice, 30 Mar., and on 17 June he declared that the Scottish judicature bill would thrust down the throats of his countrymen a measure second only in significance to the Act of Union. He continued to voice his opposition to the Scottish juries bill, 4 May, and unsuccessfully moved its recommittal, 24 May. He paired with Agar Ellis on the opposition motion for repealing the assessed taxes, 10 May.22 He was appointed to the select committee on the disturbances in Ireland, 11 May, and voted for the second reading of the Irish insurrection bill, 14 June. He divided with ministers against condemning the prosecution of the Methodist missionary John Smith in Demerara, 11 June. He argued for an increase in official pensions, particularly in his former department, 12 June, and for the restoration of attainted Scottish peerages, 14 June 1824.23 That summer Huskisson, a fellow invalid, privately observed that Binning, who was unable to decide when and where he would recuperate, was as ‘fidgety as usual’ and ‘finds a constant occupation in watching and nursing his dyspeptic organ’.24

Binning again voted for repeal of the usury laws, 8 Feb. 1825. He was named to the committee to consider a petition to light Rochester with gas, 14 Feb., and, following one of the corporation’s requests for assistance, he was involved with the passage of the subsequent bill.25 He was reappointed to the select committee on Ireland, 17 Feb., and voted for the Irish unlawful societies bill, 25 Feb. He divided for Catholic relief, 1 Mar., and the second reading of the relief bill, 21 Apr., when he stated that opinion had shifted to the view that it would calm, not inflame, Ireland. He added:

The best security of the church was the truth of its doctrines. In these he believed, as well as in the respectability of its ministers; and, if they but broke away the disadvantages under which it laboured, by the handle which it furnished its enemies, they would thereby give it more security, than could be given to it by all the laws now in existence or which might be hereafter enacted.

He also advocated disfranchisement of the 40s. freeholders and payment of the Catholic clergy in order to ensure its success. On 2 May he denied that he had said that the destruction of the Protestant church in Ireland would be no great evil, as had been reported in the Edinburgh papers. He voted for the bill’s third reading, 10 May, and was disappointed by its defeat in the Lords.26 He spoke against limiting the application of the duke of Cumberland’s grant solely to expenses incurred within Great Britain, 27 May, and voted for it, 30 May, 6, 10 June. He had something to say on Carlile’s petition for greater freedom of religious discussion, 2 June. He spoke in favour of the spring guns bill, 21 June, attempted to move an amendment to allow their use in gardens and orchards, 23 June, and had this agreed, 29 June 1825, when he also voted for the bill’s second reading.27 He travelled on the continent late that year and early the next and made no recorded votes or speeches in the 1826 session. One local paper reported in September 1825 that he had decided to withdraw from Rochester at the next dissolution and that the ‘motives which have led him to this determination are, we believe, wholly unconnected with politics’. At the general election of 1826 he was returned unopposed as a government supporter for Yarmouth, presumably on the interest of Lord Yarborough for the Worsley Holmes trustees.28

In early 1827 Binning, described by Charles Percy* as one of ‘Canning’s toads’,29 was convinced that his chief would succeed the ailing Liverpool, especially as he had been declared by the Whigs to be the ‘undoubted lord of the ascendant’. On the Catholic question, he wrote that

the industry of the Protestant runners is immense ... They are industriously circulating the opinion that we who vote for the Catholics, but are friends of the government, ought to pray most heartily that we may be beat, because in that event the necessary ministerial arrangements will be made with ease, whereas, if we conquer, the government must break down. This is most mischievous and is but too likely to tell.

He voted for relief, 6 Mar., but was not unduly alarmed by the effect of its defeat on Canning’s prospects, and later denied that the new prime minister had been forced to accept restrictions on the issue as a pre-condition for entering office.30 He voted for the spring guns bill, 23 Mar., and was named among those appointed to prepare a bill to regulate parochial settlements in Scotland, 3 Apr. He spoke in favour of the propagation of the gospels in Canada, 14 May, provided that due allegiance to the imperial government was also inculcated, and on the importance of maintaining the position of the Scottish church there, 15 June. He presented a petition from Haddington against being taxed for the expenses of the Dunbar harbour bill, 21 May, and proposed as an amendment to the bill, 15 June, that five burgesses of Dunbar be made additional trustees; Lord John Hay, who believed Binning’s motives were ‘to go against his near political friends, to overthrow the Maitlands’, attacked him effectively in the Commons at some point in May and privately commented that ‘before this took place he was in the habit of going through all the committees of which he was a member and bullying them into his own views’.31 He voted against the disfranchisement of Penryn, 28 May, 7 June 1827, arguing that it was wrong to punish the whole electorate for the corruption of a minority.

Of Canning’s demands during minor ministerial changes the previous year, Mrs. Arbuthnot had written that ‘Binning is the new person he would bring in of his own friends, which is fair enough’.32 William Ord* reported to John Nicholas Fazakerley*, 17 Apr. 1827, that Binning had been made a commissioner of woods and forests, but although he was also considered for a place at the treasury, he was not given any office under Canning. However, Lord Melville’s resignation opened the way for him to take over the role of Scottish manager, and he wrote to his close friend Charles Bagot that ‘Canning has put the concerns of Scotland into my hands and I am to be peered this session’. This provoked a horrified outcry from various Scots, especially the Whig Members, and Abercromby convinced Canning of the necessity of letting Scotland be governed

by the ministry or by some known and responsible part of it, specially assigned to the duty by constitutional office, instead of handing us over as a province to some proconsul and taking no more thought of us.

In the face of this attack, Binning withdrew his pretensions and on 30 Apr. he asked Canning ‘to dispose of me absolutely. I have no wish for the thing if it is not to be a clear and decided advantage to you. It could in such case only produce misery to me’.33 Nevertheless, in the following months he advised ministers on Scottish affairs, and attempted to have Hope promoted from solicitor-general to lord advocate and given a seat in Parliament. In July 1827 Binning was raised to the British barony of Melros, partly in order to bolster the new ministry’s debating strength in the Lords. He set about organizing the attendance and support of the Scottish peers for the forthcoming session. He declined to try to mediate between Canning and the duke of Wellington in July 1827, and was shocked by the premier’s death the following month.34

He succeeded his father as 9th earl of Haddington in March 1828 and in June was listed by Lord Palmerston* as a ‘Liberal’. He voted for Catholic emancipation, 4, 10 Apr. 1829. He maintained a close friendship with Huskisson and much regretted his death in September 1830.35 He was one of the leading ‘Waverers’ on parliamentary reform and, like Lords Harrowby and Wharncliffe, voted against the second reading of the Grey ministry’s reform bill, 7 Oct. 1831, but in favour of the second reading of its revised version, 13 Apr. 1832. In November 1834 he pledged his support for the caretaker Wellington administration, in which he served as lord lieutenant of Ireland. He thereafter became a leading Conservative, held senior office under Peel and supported him over repeal of the corn laws.36 His ministerial career surprised many, and Richard Monckton Milnes† commented that his appointment as first lord of the admiralty in 1841 was ‘not much to the satisfaction of those who remember that Canning, his great friend and patron, never saw anything in him worthy of official distinction and gave him a peerage without a place’.37 He had many intellectual interests and numbered Sir Walter Scott and Baron Bunsen among his friends. He died in December 1858, after a brief attack of jaundice. The barony of Melros became extinct, but he was succeeded in his Scottish earldom and estates by his second cousin, George Baillie (1802-70), of Mellerstain, Roxburgh, and Jerviswood, Lanark, who was a Conservative representative peer, 1859-70.38

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Stephen Farrell

Notes

  • 1. Kentish Gazette, 25 Feb., 3 Mar.; Morning Chron. 8 Mar. 1820.
  • 2. The Times, 15, 20 June, 13 July 1820.
  • 3. Kentish Gazette, 25 July 1820.
  • 4. Add. 38742, f. 131; A. Aspinall, Lord Brougham and Whig Party, 118.
  • 5. Haddington mss, Canning to Binning, 14, 28 Dec., Binning to Liverpool, 20 Dec.; TNA, Dacres Adams mss, Courtenay to Adams, 21 Dec. 1820.
  • 6. Harewood mss WYL250/8/26.
  • 7. Haddington mss, Canning to Binning, 19 Feb. 1821.
  • 8. Creevey’s Life and Times, 139-40; HLRO, Hist. Coll. 379, Grey Bennet diary, 37-38.
  • 9. The Times, 19 May, 21, 29 June 1821.
  • 10. Grey Bennet diary, 116.
  • 11. Recs. and Letters of Fam. of Longs of Longville ed. R.M. Howard, ii. 444, 454.
  • 12. Add. 38290, f. 225; 38411, f. 81; 38743, ff. 73-77, 82; Haddington mss, Canning to Binning, 1, 22 Dec. 1821; Buckingham, Mems. Geo. IV, i. 273.
  • 13. Add. 52445, f. 60.
  • 14. The Times, 25 Apr. 1822.
  • 15. Ibid. 13 Feb., 18 June 1822.
  • 16. Add. 52445, f. 88.
  • 17. The Times, 14, 29 June, 10, 13 July 1822; NLS mss 3895, f. 28; Add. 38743, f. 183.
  • 18. The Times, 2, 16, 20 July 1822.
  • 19. Add. 38744, f. 10; 40319, f. 57; Haddington mss, Canning to Binning, 14, 20 Sept., reply [?17] Sept.; Harewood mss, Canning to Granville, 21 Sept. 1822; Bagot, Canning and Friends, ii. 157-8; A. Aspinall, ‘Canningite Party’, TRHS (ser. 4), xvii (1934), 207.
  • 20. The Times, 14, 19 June 1823; Add. 40356, f. 337.
  • 21. Northants. RO, Agar Ellis diary.
  • 22. Ibid.
  • 23. The Times, 25 May, 14 June 1824; Add. 38576, f. 49.
  • 24. TNA 30/29/9/3/10, 11.
  • 25. Medway Archives and Local Stud. Cent. Rochester city recs. RCA/A5/2, 70.
  • 26. Edinburgh Evening Courant, 25 Apr. 1825; Sir W. Fraser, Mems. of Earls of Haddington, i. 316-17; Bagot, ii. 280-4.
  • 27. The Times, 3, 24 June 1825.
  • 28. Fraser, 317-18; Maidstone Jnl. 6 Sept. 1825.
  • 29. Keele Univ. Lib. Sneyd mss SC12/79.
  • 30. Canning’s Ministry, 31, 42, 117; Bagot, ii. 375-6, 378-80, 383.
  • 31. The Times, 15, 22 May, 16 June 1827; NLS mss 3436, ff. 153, 159; 14441, f. 24.
  • 32. Arbuthnot Jnl. ii. 18.
  • 33. Duke Univ. Lib. Fazakerley mss; NLS mss 24749, f. 35; Canning’s Ministry, 111, 261, 278; Cockburn Mems. 417; Cockburn Letters, 153-63.