HORNE, Sir William (1773-1860), of 19 Old Square, Lincoln's Inn; 49 Upper Harley Street, Mdx. and Epping House, Little Berkhampstead, Herts.

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

Constituency

Dates

1812 - 1818
18 Feb. 1831 - 1831
1831 - 1832
1832 - 1834

Family and Education

b. 2 Dec. 1773, 2nd s. of Rev. Thomas Horne, DD (d. 1824), master of Manor House sch., Chiswick, Mdx. and his w. Frances Ann née Price of Weobley, Herefs.1 educ. at his fa.’s sch.; L. Inn 1793, called 1798. m. (1) 12 Aug. 1799, Ann (d. 21 July 1823),2 da. of James Hesse of Flitwick, Beds., 4s. (1 d.v.p.) 3da.; (2) c.1826, Ann Davison, wid., 1s. 1da.3 kntd. 24 Nov. 1830. d. 13 July 1860.

Offices Held

Commr. of bankrupts 1807-18; KC 7 Aug. 1818; bencher, L. Inn 1818; att.-gen. to the queen July-Nov. 1830; solicitor-gen. Nov. 1830-Nov. 1832; att.-gen. Nov. 1832-Feb. 1834; master in chancery 1839-53.

Lt. Inns of Court vols. 1803.

Biography

Horne took silk soon after leaving the House in 1818 and continued his distinguished career as a leader in chancery, which was punctuated by the deaths of his first wife in 1823, his father in 1824 and his mother in 1826, and by a second marriage. He was appointed attorney-general to Queen Adelaide in July 1830 and four months later, when the Whigs came to power, was chosen by lord chancellor Brougham to be their solicitor-general. Horne, who was known to be ‘a good Whig’ (though he did not join Brooks’s until 1835), was evidently quite willing to serve under the attorney-general Thomas Denman*, his professional junior.4 The Grey ministry had some difficulty in finding him a seat, but eventually accommodated him at Bletchingley on the Russell interest. He apparently contributed £800 from his own pocket towards the £1,500 which was required for the first year’s occupation of the seat.5 At the general election of 1831 he came in for Newtown, where Lord Yarborough sold the seat to government.

Horne’s first task in the House, 23 Feb. 1831, was to make an impromptu defence of Brougham in his squabble with the metropolitan lunacy commissioners. On 21 Mar. he spoke at length in support of the ministerial reform bill, which he believed to be

perfectly safe and constitutional; and to furnish safe and adequate means of attaining the great object which we have in view, namely, the preservation of our constitution, the security of the throne, and the happiness and well-ordered liberty of the people.

He condemned the ‘vexatious’ series of adjournment divisions forced by the opponents of the revised bill, 12 July, when he was a government teller in the last of them. He was steady in his attendance during the bill’s passage through committee, but his contributions to debate were confined to very occasional observations on technical points.6 His attempt to explain the proposed leasehold franchise, 17 Aug., was frequently interrupted by a rowdy House, and a former Tory Member thought he had ‘failed’ in his attempts to defend the measure.7 On 12 Oct. he and Denman, ‘to their great fright at the time, and amusement afterwards’, were mistaken for bishops and consequently ‘hooted and pelted’ by the crowd which converged on St. James’s to support the metropolitan reform petition.8 They were both ‘quite decisive’ in their professional view of the illegality of the plan for the organization of the Birmingham Political Union.9 Horne was a member of the committee on general chancery practice formed by Brougham to assist him in his planned legal reforms; he ‘would at first not hear of viva voce evidence, but rather than argue the point he soon conceded it’.10 He defended the appointment of lunacy commissioners by the chancellor, 26 Sept., and replied to criticism of the Scottish exchequer court regulation bill, 7 Oct. Taunted by Wetherell for his silence on Brougham’s bankruptcy court bill, 12 Oct. 1831, Horne admitted his ‘libido tacondi’, but thought it preferable to Wetherell’s ‘libido loquondi’, and he broke his ‘habits of silence’ to support the measure at length.

He spoke in defence of government on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan. 1832, but, in the opinion even of friends, he had never performed worse and failed to make out ‘a tolerable case’.11 He made a few technical contributions to the debates on the details of the revised reform bill. He opposed and defeated Knight’s attempt to allow the Irish master of the rolls to try his right to appoint his own secretary, 22 Feb. He agreed with Alexander Baring that the House ‘ought not to be made an asylum for insolvent debtors’, but had strong reservations about his plan to exclude them, 6 June. He also had misgivings over John Campbell II’s proposed alteration to the law of dower, 8 June; and later that month he was one of seven barrister Members who protested to Brougham against the unexpected passage through the Commons of four measures touching the laws of real property, which required ‘much further consideration’.12 He spoke and voted in favour of public inquests, 20 June, and later that day advised Lord Nugent to include marriages and deaths as well as births in his proposed registration bill. He welcomed Spence’s chancery reform bill, 10 July, and again spoke in defence of government on the Russian-Dutch loan, 25 July. He landed himself in a scrape by failing, through a chapter of accidents, to apprize Brougham of Sugden’s intention of raising in the House the appointment of the chancellor’s brother James to two chancery sinecures. He was himself caught unawares, 25 July, and he had an awkward time in explaining his conduct the next day. In a letter of apology to Brougham he accepted the ‘backhander or two’ which the chancellor had given him in a speech in the Lords and pleaded for ‘remission of any further punishment’.13 He backed Denman’s defence of the ecclesiastical courts contempts bill, 3 Aug., had something to say on the Deccan prize money dispute, 6 Aug., and regretted opposition hostility to government’s proposal to allow extra time for the payment of rates and taxes as required for the registration of voters under the Reform Act, 7 Aug. 1832.

In November 1832 Horne, who planned to stand for the new constituency of Marylebone at the forthcoming general election, was promoted to the post of attorney-general on Denman’s appointment as lord chief justice. Yet he was universally deemed to be ‘obviously unfit for it’, and it was only the failure of Brougham’s attempts to create a vacancy for him on the bench which prevented his being passed over for Campbell.14 His tenure of the office was brief and undistinguished. He was removed in humiliating circumstances in 1834, when the puisne judgeship which he was expected to take in compensation was unacceptable to him.15 He reverted to private practice for a few years before becoming a master in chancery. Horne was described by Edward Littleton* as ‘grave and somewhat pompous’, but the Irish chancellor Lord Plunket thought him ‘an honourable kind-hearted person’.16 Both Brougham and Campbell, who between them were responsible for his ‘abominable treatment’ in 1834, condescended years later to acknowledge his good points. Brougham, writing of the Grey ministry’s ‘underlings’, noted that Horne was ‘inferior of course’ to Denman, but that ‘his admirable good nature was highly serviceable as a contrast to the coldness of John Russell and Althorp and Graham’;17 while Campbell claimed to have ‘a sincere regard’ for him on account of his ‘many valuable qualities’.18 Horne was widowed for a second time in 1849 and died in July 1860.

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: David R. Fisher

Notes

  • 1. IGI (Herefs.); PROB 11/1681/82; T. Faulkner, Hist.