HARRIS, John Rawlinson (1774-1830), of Winchester Place, Southwark, Surr.
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Family and Educationb. 8 Oct. 1774,1 o. surv. s. of John Harris, hatter, of 56 Cannon Street, London and Ann, da. of Simon Warner, coal factor, of East Lane, Rotherhithe.2 m. 23 Apr. 1814, Ann Durrant, da. of William Quincey, timber merchant, of Holland Street, Blackfriars Road, London,3 3s. suc. fa. 1819. d. 27 Aug. 1830.
Harris belonged to a Quaker family, who originally came from Fordingbridge, Hampshire. His grandfather Robert Harris (1709-91) married one Elizabeth Cross ‘of London’ in 1739, was established by 1752 as a retail hatter in Cannon Street and later retired to Wandsworth.4 His father became a partner in the family firm in 1766, and in turn Harris was involved at the same level from 1798. The following year, according to a local history, the firm purchased premises in Southwark which doubled as Harris’s private address.5 By 1811 they were described in trade directories as ‘hat makers’, and in 1817 their manufactory occupied five houses. Following the death two years later of his father, who made him the sole residuary legatee of personal estate sworn under £30,000,6 Harris entered into partnership with a cousin, John Warner. It appears that his parents had been disowned by their Quaker meeting in 1811, and the same fate befell him in 1814 when he married an outsider in a church. He was afterwards ‘greatly esteemed’ as chief warden of St. Saviour’s, Southwark Cathedral.7 He made much of his local connections when contesting his native borough at the general election of 1830; his eleventh-hour candidacy was reportedly championed by the licensed victuallers. He disavowed party labels, but professed an abhorrence of slavery and support for a ‘moderate and temperate reform, and economy in the public expenditure’. Pressed to elaborate, he advocated the enfranchisement of populous places and a general extension of voting rights, and denied that he was ‘a trimmer and a friend to the ministry for the time being’. Although his surprise return at the head of the poll, after a five-day contest, was ascribed by newspapers to his popularity among the ‘potwallopers’, the duke of Wellington’s ministry regarded it as a gain for them. His colleague, Sir Robert Wilson, who had not previously heard of him, gathered that he was ‘distinguished by his private acts of benevolence’ and ‘belonged to that class that "did good by stealth and blushed to find it fame"’. A ‘splendid cavalcade’ followed the election, and at his celebratory dinner Harris was feted as a ‘decided enemy to jobbing and a friend to the liberty of the press’.8
The excitement proved too much for Harris, and before he could take his seat he died, 27 Aug. 1830, following ‘a short illness, which terminated in a typhus fever, supposed to have been occasioned by the fatigue and anxiety attendant on the election’.9 His wish to be laid to rest in the Quaker burial ground at Bunhill Fields was not respected, and he was interred at St. Saviour’s, Southwark. He left all his freehold estates, consisting of 42 houses in Southwark and other property in London and Essex, to his eldest son and heir to the family business, John Quincey Harris (b. 1815); his personalty was sworn under £50,000.