HONYWOOD, William Philip (1790-1831), of Sibton, Kent; Marks Hall, Essex and 7 Charles Street, Berkeley Square, Mdx.
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Family and Educationb. 15 Apr. 1790, 1st s. of William Honywood† of Sibton and Marks Hall and Mary Drake, da. of Rev. Ralph Drake Brockman of Beachborough, Kent. educ. Rugby 1800; Jesus, Camb. 1808. m. 11 Sept 1820, Priscilla, da. of Charles Hanbury, banker, of Sloe Farm, Halstead, Essex, at least 4s. (at least 1 d.v.p.). suc. fa. 1818. d. 22 Apr. 1831.
Capt. Ashford regt. Kent militia 1809.
Although a handful of his forebears had sat for Kent and Essex, as well as their former pocket borough of Steyning, Honywood’s parliamentary career, which began in 1818, was restricted by his own personal and political failings. He inherited valuable properties in both counties in 1818 on the death of his father, whose personal wealth was sworn under £16,000, but he quickly ran into financial difficulties. His decision to reside at Marks Hall, near Coggeshall, rather than at Sibton, near Hythe, was constantly held against him, even by his supporters.1 He differed in politics from his first cousin, Sir John Courtenay Honywood of Evington, Kent, and from their relation by marriage, Sir Edward Knatchbull, the other Kent Member, who were both highly influential. Instead he followed the Whig line of his father, but never appeared to be wholly committed to the cause. A valetudinarian, as his father had been, he divided regularly with opposition when present, notably during their campaign against the Liverpool administration over economies in the early 1820s; his absences became increasingly prolonged towards the end of the decade, and he was never very active in handling local petitions and legislation.2 At the annual dinner of the Norfolk Fox Club in Norwich, 24 Jan. 1820, he admitted that he was ‘little known in the political world’, but boasted that he had been ‘nursed in the lap of liberty’.3 In an initial address, 23 Feb., he offered again for Kent at the general election and denounced the recent repressive legislation, ‘passed in a moment of panic, artfully created’. On the discovery of the Cato Street conspiracy, he hurriedly issued a second address, 1 Mar., so that his words would not be misconstrued, but he was criticized for his apparent leniency, his pro-Catholic vote and his non-residence.4 On the hustings, 18 Mar., he made clear that he had only opposed those laws, like the seditious meetings bill, which were attacks on the rights of the people. He explained that he had voted for the memorial of the Catholics of Ireland to be received in order ‘to ascertain whether the alleged grievances were well-founded ... [and] whether the Catholics had claims which ought to be considered’, but he promised to abide by the decision of any future county meeting on the subject. He also agreed with Knatchbull that agricultural distress should be relieved, but stated that any measures would fail unless taxes were lowered. The Tories attempted to challenge him, but nothing came of this and he was returned unopposed with Knatchbull.5 According to his agent’s accounts, he spent only £133 during the campaign, compared to £3,590 in 1818.6 At a dinner in Canterbury to celebrate his election, 11 Apr. 1820, he praised ‘liberty, freedom and independence’ as the ‘true principles of the British constitution’, and he gave a toast to the cause of moderate reform.7
He voted with opposition against the civil list, 5, 8 May, and the appointment of an additional baron of exchequer in Scotland, 15 May, and for reducing the size of the army, 14 June, and economies in revenue collection, 4 July 1820. He presented and endorsed petitions complaining of distress from Kentish landowners, 11, 17 May.8 He divided against Wilberforce’s compromise motion on Queen Caroline, 22 June, and against the appointment of a secret committee on the affair, 26 June 1820. He signed the requisition for a county meeting, which the sheriff refused to hold, and attended the unofficial gathering at Maidstone, 18 Jan. 1821, when he declared his ‘disapprobation of the shameful and scandalous bill of pains and penalties’, and moved resolutions for petitions to both Houses for the restoration of Caroline’s name to the liturgy.9 He voted steadily in support of the opposition campaign on her behalf in early 1821. On 26 Jan. he warned that he ‘feared much, that if these petitions should be treated with neglect, the people would be confirmed in an opinion which they had long entertained, namely that the House did not speak the sense, or represent the wishes of the country’. He brought up the Kent petition, 8 Feb., when he quarrelled with Knatchbull over the validity and respectability of the meeting which had approved it, and the following day he denied Wilbraham’s allegation that the only man opposing it had been physically assaulted as he left the hall.10 He voted for Catholic claims, 28 Feb. On the motion for the appointment of a committee on agricultural distress, 7 Mar., he complained of increases in the national debt and poor rates, the lack of effective protection for domestic producers and the corrupt influence of government, adding that he ‘was one of those who lived among the people, who sympathized with their sufferings and who participated in their distresses. The only chance we had of maintaining the public faith, was by rigidly enforcing economies and retrenchment’. He voted to adjourn the House on Stuart Wortley’s complaint against the Morning Chronicle, 9 Mar., and against going into the committee of supply until the question of distress had been considered, 6 Apr. He spoke in favour of reform at the London Tavern dinner, 4 Apr., arguing that it ‘was not innovation, but renovation that was wanted’.11 He had divided for making Leeds a scot and lot borough if it was enfranchised in place of Grampound, 2 Mar., and, just before the adjournment of the debate on Lambton’s motion for a committee to consider the representation, 17 Apr., he declared that ‘although he was convinced of the necessity of a reform in Parliament, yet he was not prepared to go the length of his hon. friend’s proposition’. He was not listed in the minority on it the next day, but divided for Russell’s reform resolutions, 9 May. The radical Black Book noted that he had not voted for repeal of the Blasphemous and Seditious Libel Acts, 8 May, or inquiry into Peterloo, 16 May.12 He had, however, been given a fortnight’s leave, 14 May 1821, on account of the death of a near relation.
Honywood attended a meeting of local landowners in Canterbury on distress, 19 Dec. 1821, and the dinner in Norwich to venerate Fox’s memory, 24 Jan. 1822.13 He voted for Hume’s amendment to the address, 5 Feb., and more extensive tax reductions to relieve distress, 11, 21 Feb. He sided with opposition on the Irish habeas corpus suspension and insurrection bills, 7, 8 Feb., Sir Robert Wilson’s* removal from the army, 13 Feb., inquiry into Scottish royal burghs, 20 Feb., interference with Members’ mail, 25 Feb., and the outrage against Alderman Waithman*, 28 Feb. He continued to divide steadily in favour of economies, but seems to have been absent for several weeks from early March and, for instance, did not vote for reform, 25 Apr.14 He was, however, back in the House by mid-May, and voted for inquiry into the government of the Ionian Islands, 14 May, and law reform, 4 June, and against the aliens bill, 5, 14 June, 1 July. He was cheered at the Kent county meeting, 11 June, when he advocated lower taxation and reform, and told Knatchbull that ministers were not to be thanked for having been goaded into effecting what were only small reductions.15 The following day he voted for Western’s motion on the resumption of cash payments. He presented the ensuing Kent petition, 14 June, and repeatedly defended the conduct of the Whigs in failing to prevent William Cobbett† tacking on an addition to it for lowering the rate of interest on the national debt. He nevertheless endorsed its call for relief and reform, and opined that ‘had government, two years ago, adopted that economy and retrenchment so loudly called for by the distresses of the country, they would never have heard such a sentiment from the freeholders of Kent’. This speech was his last major intervention in the House before 1830. He voted in condemnation of the influence of the crown, 24 June, and for inquiries into the conduct of the lord advocate and chancery administration, 25, 26 June 1822. He divided against the appointment of Lord Beresford as lieutenant-general of the ordnance in peacetime, 19 Feb., for reform, 20 Feb., 24 Apr., against Stuart Wortley’s amendment approving British neutrality towards the French invasion of Spain, when most of the opposition voted with ministers, 30 Apr., and inquiry into the Middlesex county court, 19 June 1823. He briefly supported the Essex petition complaining of distress, 2 May, and continued to divide in favour of economies.16 He voted for inquiries into the Irish church establishment, 4 Mar., the legal proceedings against the Dublin Orange rioters, 22 Apr., the disturbances in Ireland, 24 June, and Catholic complaints against the administration of justice there, 26 June 1823.
Honywood voted for papers on the government’s conduct towards France and Spain, 17 Feb., reform of the representation of Edinburgh, 26 Feb., and Abercromby’s complaint against the lord chancellor over an alleged breach of privilege, 1 Mar. 1824. He presented several Kentish anti-slavery petitions, 19 Mar., 6 Apr., and divided in condemnation of the trial of the Methodist missionary John Smith in Demerara, 11 June.17 He voted for referring the reports of the commissioners of inquiry into the Scottish courts of justice to a committee of the whole House, 30 Mar., to permit defence by counsel in felony cases, 6 Apr., and for considering the evils of naval impressment, 10 June. He was also in opposition minorities on the advancement of capital to Ireland, 4 May, inquiry into the church establishment there, 6 May, the state of that country, 11 May, and the Irish insurrection bill, 14 June 1824. He divided against the Irish unlawful societies bill, 15, 21 Feb., and again for inquiry into the Irish church, 14 June 1825. He voted for Catholic relief, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May. He presented a local petition against the assessed taxes, 24 Feb., and another against alteration of the corn laws, 28 Apr., and he divided for repeal of the beer duties, 5 May, and the window tax, 17 May.18 His only other known votes that session were to make puisne judges immoveable, 20 May, and for two amendments to the combination bill, 27 June 1825. He divided against going into committee on the Bank Charter Acts, 13 Feb., and was in the minority condemning the Jamaican slave trials, 2 Mar. 1826. He divided in favour of large reductions in the army, 3, 7 Mar., and to abolish flogging in it, 10 Mar., against receiving the report on the salary of the president of the board of trade, 10 Apr., and again for a bill to allow counsel to those facing felony charges, 25 Apr. He voted for alteration of the representation of Edinburgh, 13 Apr., parliamentary reform, 27 Apr., and resolutions to curb electoral bribery, 26 May. He voted against ministers on their resolution to admit foreign corn, 8 May, and the second reading of the importation bill, 11 May 1826.
Honywood offered again at the general election of 1826, on the basis of the ‘same zeal in support of constitutional principles, and the same conviction of the necessity of diminishing the burden of excessive taxation, by every possible retrenchment in the public expenditure, which I have hitherto felt’. Although no contest was expected, a ‘no Popery’ cry was raised against him, as were doubts about his fitness. The Whig economist Sir Samuel Egerton Brydges† wrote that ‘with every concession to the amiable private character and manly disposition’ of Honywood, ‘it would be contemptible flattery to assert that his habits fit him for a public man, and for the representative of a large and rich agricultural county, at this extraordinary and dangerous crisis!’19 On 20 June Honywood declared that if demanding lower taxes ‘was advocating cheap bread, then he was an advocate of it, but he was no advocate for opening the ports of this country to the admission of the wheat of the untithed, untaxed grower of foreign countries’. Although it meant differing with many of his supporters, he urged concessions to the Catholics, and he denied that 30 or 40 Catholic Members would endanger the constitution. He also expressed his strong opposition to slavery. He was again returned with Knatchbull, and his agent charged him only £12 12s. 11d. for his services between 3 and 22 June.20 He was one of the diners at the party held by Abraham Wildey Robarts to celebrate his return at Maidstone, 23 Aug., but he refused to attend the meeting of the East Kent and Canterbury Agricultural Association, 15 Dec. 1826, because it was called at too short notice.21 He voted in the minority for Catholic relief, 6 Mar. 1827. He divided for information on the mutiny at Barrackpoor, 22 Mar., and the Irish government’s handling of the Lisburn Orange procession, 29 Mar., Tierney’s amendment to postpone the committee of supply, 30 Mar., and against the second reading of the corn bill, 2 Apr. He was probably absent from the House for a lengthy period, as in mid-June there were alarming reports about his health.22 It may have been at about this time that he wrote from Cheltenham to ask John Cam Hobhouse to present a petition against the Test Acts on his behalf, adding that ‘I have been here some time, and am happy to say am better though still weak and not strong’.23 This period also saw the culmination of his financial problems, which, possibly at the instigation of his wife, were taken out of the hands of his former agents. Sometime in the autumn of 1827 Samuel Forster of Lincoln’s Inn visited Marks Hall to consult him about his ‘pecuniary affairs, which he understood were in great disorder’.24
His only known vote in the following session was in favour of Catholic relief, 12 May 1828. Four days later a newspaper reported that he had returned to Marks Hall in order to convalesce.25 Lord Clifton*, who observed that ‘his stake in Kent is very inconsiderable’, noted that Honywood was ‘unfortunately hors de combat’ and so unable to attend the stormy county meeting that narrowly decided in favour of an anti-Catholic petition, 24 Oct. 1828, when his opinion was represented to be strongly opposed to anything at variance with civil and religious liberties.26 However, one freeholder argued in an address that, since he had pledged to follow his constituents’ views, he should now oppose emancipation. He was named as a steward for the Kent anti-Brunswick dinner, though he was probably not able to attend.27 He did not speak on the ensuing petition when it was debated in the House, 12 Feb. 1829, and that month he was listed by Planta, the Wellington ministry’s patronage secretary, as one of those who would be absent on the emancipation bill. He made no known votes during that session and was less frequently named to committees on local legislation. He probably missed Knatchbull’s amendment to the address on distress, 4 Feb. 1830, but he was present for much of the session, and having voted for lower army estimates, 22 Feb., he thereafter divided steadily in the opposition’s renewed campaign for reduced expenditure and taxation.28 He divided for enfranchising Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, 23 Feb., transferring East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 1, 5, 15 Mar., and parliamentary reform, 28 May. He attended the Kent county meeting, 12 Mar., at which he acknowledged that the Commons was not representative of the nation, and declared that
he thought that the contents of the petition might refer to no other subject than the distress of the country, the reduction of taxation and a reform of Parliament. And he would remind the meeting that he had never, in his whole parliamentary career, given a shy vote, or shied from giving his open and bold opinion on reform whenever it was found necessary.29
He backed the petition on its presentation, 29 Mar., stating that the ‘distress is grievous’, and avowing that, having been a reformer for 20 years, his mind derived ‘from year to year additional strength of the value of my early impressions of that necessity’. He voted for abolition of the Irish lord lieutenancy, 11 May, Jewish emancipation, 17 May, the ending of capital punishment for forgery, 24 May, 7 June, inquiry into the civil government of Canada, 25 May, and reform of the divorce laws, 3 June 1830.
Writing on 9 July 1830, Thomas Law Hodges* noted that he had not heard of Honywood’s intentions as to the general election, but gave his opinion that ‘as he has within the last six weeks attended the House of Commons, he feels his health better, and that he will again offer himself as a candidate’.30 Despite rumours of a groundswell of Whig opposition, he announced that he would stand, as the ‘uncompromising advocate of reform, economy and retrenchment’, 15 July. However, he withdrew by another address, 3 Aug., ‘being informed that a general feeling prevails of the necessity of the Members of this county being resident amongst you, which condition is not in my power to comply with’.31 Lord Darnley commented to Lord Holland, 4 Aug., that he had ‘wisely retired’, leaving the field open for Hodges who, as he explained at the election, 9 Aug. 1830, would ‘on no consideration’ have opposed him, had his health and place of residence allowed him to stand. After some wrangling, a vote of thanks to Honywood for his services was agreed.32 He died, on the eve of another general election, in April 1831. By his will, dated 28 Nov. 1827, his estate was left in trust to his infant sons, of whom the eldest was his namesake, William Philip (1823-59). His personal wealth was initially sworn under £12,000, but notes in the death duty register indicate that his debts then amounted to at least £4,000 and the estate was declared insolvent in 1834.33
Ref Volumes: 1820-1832
Author: Stephen Farrell
- 1. F. Chancellor, Ancient Sepulchral Mons. of Essex, 116-22; Gent. Mag. (1818), i. 379; IR26/746/298; Farington Diary, xv. 5265.
- 2. HP Commons, 1790-1820, iv. 223-4.
- 3. Kentish Chron. 28 Jan.; Norf. Chron. 29 Jan. 1820.
- 4. Kentish Gazette, 25 Feb., 3, 10, 14 Mar. 1820.
- 5. Kentish Chron. 14, 21 Mar.; Add. 51571, Thanet to Lady Holland, 16 Apr. 1820.
- 6. Cent. Kent. Stud. Knocker coll. U55 E54.
- 7. Kentish Chron. 14 Apr. 1820.
- 8. The Times, 12, 18 May 1820.
- 9. Kentish Chron. 2, 12, 19 Jan. 1821.
- 10. The Times, 9, 10 Feb. 1821.
- 11. Ibid. 5 Apr. 1821.
- 12. Black Bk. (1823), 164.
- 13. Kentish Chron. 1 Jan.; Norf. Chron. 26 Jan. 1822.
- 14. Black Bk. (1823), 164.
- 15. Kentish Chron. 14 June 1822; A