JENKINS, Richard (1785-1853), of Bicton Hall, Salop and 7 Mansfield Street, Mdx.

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

Constituency

Dates

1830 - 1832
1837 - 1841

Family and Education

b. 18 Feb. 1785, 1st s. of Richard Jenkins of Bicton Hall and Constantia Harriet, da. of George Ravenscroft of Wrexham, Denb. educ. E.I. Coll. Fort William 1801-3. m. 31 Mar. 1824, at Hingnah, Elizabeth Helen, da. of Hugh Spottiswoode of E.I. Co. civil service, 4s. 4da. (2 d.v.p.). suc. fa. 1797; GCB 20 July 1838. d. 30 Dec. 1853.

Offices Held

Asst. writer E.I. Co. (Bombay) 1798; acting asst. in office of gov.-gen. 1803; asst. resident and acting sec. Hyderabad Feb. 1804, Burhanpur June 1804; acting resident, Nagpur 1807, resident 1810-27; ret. 1 May 1828.

Dir. E.I. Co. 1832-50, dep. chairman 1838-9, chairman 1839-40.

Biography

The Jenkins, a cadet branch of the Charlton (Salop) family of that name, had East India connections and a mansion in Shrewsbury’s Abbey Foregate, built in 1698 by Thomas Jenkins. His descendants had intermarried with the county families of Wingfield of Preston Brockhurst, Charlton of Ludford, Leighton of Loton, Lloyd of Aston Hall and Muckleston of Bicton, through whom, by the death in childbirth in 1740 of Laetitia, the wife of Richard Jenkins (d. 1743), they had acquired that estate. Jenkins, the eldest of six children, was born at Cruckton and baptized at Portesbury, 2 June 1785.1 References in his election addresses suggest that he attended Shrewsbury School,2 but this cannot be confirmed. His father died intestate, 2 Nov. 1797, and shortly afterwards Jenkins was promised a writership and his brother Charles Edward Orlando (d. 16 July 1823) a military commission in the East India Company. Jenkins took up his post in 1800, arrived in Bombay, 8 Jan. 1801, and in May entered the college at Fort William, where he excelled as a translator and was awarded prizes in Arabic, Hindustani and Persian. Now intended for a diplomatic career, early in 1803 he was seconded to the office of the governor-general, Lord Wellesley, and came to be ‘considered one of the family’. He was posted to the courts of Hyderabad and Dowlut Rao Scindia, where, following the death of the resident Joseph Webbe in November 1804, he remained ‘virtually a prisoner’ until Lord Lake demanded his release in October 1805, and Sir Barry Close arrived from Poona to negotiate a new treaty.3 In 1807 he was sent to Nagpur to relieve the resident Lord Elphinstone, whose love of sport and literature he shared; his own appointment as resident was confirmed on Elphinstone’s transfer to Poona in 1810. The annihilation of the Pindaris in 1812 was ordered on his advice, and he negotiated a treaty of perpetual defensive alliance between the Company and Nagpur, 27 May 1816, and effectively ruled that kingdom until the raja Rahuji came of age in December 1826. Reporting to the governor of Madras, Sir Thomas Munro, 4 May 1821, he observed that ‘our general plan in all things has been to avoid innovation, and to regulate the old machinery and restore it where deficient’.4 He was commended in dispatches and in a speech by Canning for his handling of the Appah Sahib rebellion, particularly the battle of Sitabaldi, 26 Nov. 1817; and following his marriage at Hingnah in 1824, he campaigned to have the increased allowance he had received since 1822 backdated to 1817 (an additional 75,000 rupees).5 Forwarding a copy of his memorial, a ‘last appeal ... to circulate privately amongst my friends at home’, to the governor-general Lord Amherst in December 1825, he observed:

I cannot help but feel mortified at the neglect which I have experienced from the authorities at home, now eight years since I was led to expect some special rank or favour ... Whatever may be the result I shall wish to be able to leave Nagpur early in 1827, and to embark from Calcutta towards the end of that year.6

The prospect of a vacancy for Shrewsbury may have induced him to apply to bring forward his departure on ‘urgent family considerations ... pressed upon me in letters from home’ in January 1826.7 He stayed to negotiate a treaty with Nagpur in December 1826, but cut short his stay in Calcutta, where his Report on the Territories of the Rajah of Nagpore, an analytical document based on his dispatches and memorials to Amherst, Hastings and Munro, was published in 1827.8 His homecoming was marked by a dinner for his friends at the Raven, Shrewsbury, 7 Aug. 1827, and ‘a fine ox and three sheep decorated with colours and preceded by a band of music and flags were carried through the streets in procession to Bicton and Montford Bridge’ for distribution to the poor.9 He supported his financial claim and his pretensions to a baronetcy for ‘political services’ by publishing Extracts from Public Documents having Reference to the Services of Mr. Jenkins, 1804-1827 in 1828, and Sir John Malcolm*, the 1st earl of Powis and Lord Ashley* wrote to the duke of Wellington as premier on his behalf. He was turned down and his application to succeed Malcolm as governor of Bombay in 1829 was also rejected, making him, according to Malcolm, ‘the only person unrewarded for his services in 1817 and 1818’.10 Testifying before the Lords select committee on the Company, 23 Mar. 1830, he described revenue collection, the ryot system, criminal and civil jurisdiction and the customs and religion of Nagpur, but he could say little about its commerce or potential for sugar beet production. He insisted that the objectives of British ‘superintendentship’ had been ‘to bring the country back to what it had been in its best times [rather] than to introduce any European principles into the general administration’, so reinforcing the president of the India board Lord Ellenborough’s view that a new treaty would be ‘impolitic’.11 Jenkins and his relations had been acclaimed at Shropshire Brunswick Club functions in 1829 and his return for Shrewsbury at the general election of 1830 was assured even before the Ultra Thomas Boycott stood down in his favour, for the interests of the 1st marquess of Cleveland and the 5th earl of Tankerville were his and he spent ‘like a proper nabob’.12 He refused to be bound by pledges, but was regarded as a government supporter. He stated on the hustings that he stood independently of and without the knowledge of the East India Company, as a defender of the constitution in church and state and promoter of the ‘diffusion of education through all classes’. His declaration that he did not oppose necessary ‘ameliorations and reforms’ was loudly cheered and he described himself as

an enemy to all regulations and restrictions which tend to shackle a man from doing the best for himself without injuring his neighbour. I am of opinion that legislation on such subjects is best left alone. I am an enemy to all monopolies, domestic and foreign, which tend to close any available markets for the produce of our manufactories. India and China are imagined to afford these fields; and should I be returned ... no vote of mine shall oppose the just claims of the public. But this question involves the destiny of many millions of people, and I cannot bring myself, therefore, to view it as a matter of commercial regulation.13

On the eve of the poll he refused ‘for family reasons’ to go to Persia as commander-in-chief, a posting approved by Wellington, and which Elphinstone had already rejected.14

Henry Brougham* thought that Jenkins might oppose the Wellington ministry, but they included him among their ‘friends’ and, perceiving that their existence ‘depended on the result of that question’, he divided with them on the civil list when they were brought down, 15 Nov. 1830, and corrected The Times for listing him as an absentee.15 He remained a stockholder and East India Company affairs dictated his political career, but nothing came of his application to succeed Baring to a directorship in February 1831.16 Declining attendance at the Shrewsbury reform meeting, 17 Mar., he wrote:

I am a friend to moderate reform, meaning thereby the admission of the great unrepresented towns to send Members to Parliament and the extension of the elective franchise to householders of a certain grade in towns and to leaseholders and copyholders in counties. I conceive, however, that these measures might be engrafted on the elective system as it stands, but I cannot see the necessity of subverting so many boroughs altogether, nor still less of taking away the right of voting from the lower classes, and of entirely reconstructing the elective system, which, however complicated, is interwoven with the habits and feelings, the patriotic feelings, of the lower classes. Any measure for checking bribery and corruption, and for lessening the expense and trouble of elections, both to the electors and the elected, I am also a good friend to; and in these views I dare say the subsidiary measures proposed may be useful and at least worth trying. With such opinions, I should not be disposed entirely to oppose the [Grey ministry’s] plan, but I shall not be able finally to agree to it without considerable changes ... I am not inclined to be a violent anti-reformer, but I am convinced that we ought not to go too far in demolishing old institutions, with the view of correcting abuses, in conjunction with which the country has so long flourished, the envy and admiration of the world.17

When their petition in favour of the reform bill was presented, 21 Mar., he testified to the respectability of its 1,000 signatories, but dissented from their prayer and said that ‘though not altogether an anti-reformer’, he considered the government’s measure ‘too sweeping’. He divided against its second reading, 22 Mar., and for Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. His supporters pressed their argument that most of Shrewsbury’s freemen would be disfranchised by the bill, and he kept his seat at the general election that month, assisted by the retirement after the first day’s poll of Boycott and the Manchester Unitarian mill owner Richard Potter†. He was denied a hearing on the hustings, and his opponents insisted that his votes did not match his professions of support for ‘moderate reform’. In his intended speech, which he had printed, he said that he had voted against the Grey administration on the timber duties, 18 Mar., because he thought lowering them would damage shipping ‘for the theoretical advantage of free trade’. Directly after the chairing he returned to London, where his second son was born, 20 May 1831, and kept aloof from the Shropshire contest.18

Jenkins suggested holding anti-reform dinners and divided against the reintroduced reform bill at its second reading, 6 July, and to use the 1831 census to determine borough representation, 19 July 1831.19 He voted against taking a Member from Chippenham, 27 July, paired against uniting Rochester with Chatham and Strood, 9 Aug. and divided against the bill’s passage, 21 Sept., and the second reading of the Scottish measure, 23 Sept.20 On 7 Oct. he was granted a month’s leave because of ill health. He voted against the second reading, 17 Dec. 1831, committal, 20 Jan., and third reading of the revised reform bill, 22 Mar. 1832. He divided against administration on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., 12 July, having also voted in the majority against the Vestry Act amendment bill, 23 Jan. 1832. Jenkins was excluded from the 1831 select committee on the East India Company, but appointed to its successor, 27 Jan., and elected a director of the Company in June 1832.21 His mother, who had remained at Bicton, died in August 1832, and her estate proved awkward for Jenkins to administer.22

Jenkins had announced his candidature for Shrewsbury and canvassed early, but on 27 Oct. 1832 he stood down on health grounds, making way for another Conservative, Sir John Hanmer. He replaced Hanmer in 1837 after a severe contest and retired in 1841.23 Though initially hostile, he voted (as a director) to accept the East India Company’s 1833 charter vesting power in the crown, rather than paralyse business by opposition.24 A baronetcy eluded him until 1838, when as deputy chairman he was made a knight commander of the Bath, on the recommendation of the president of the India board Sir John Hobhouse* and his predecessor Lord Glenelg. Wellesley considered the honour ‘better suited to his services’ than a baronetcy.25 He became Company chairman for a single term in 1839, but his application to succeed Sir Henry Pottinger as envoy to China in 1843 was rejected.26 He died ‘somewhat impoverished’ at his London home, Gothic Cottage, Blackheath, in December 1853 and was buried in Bicton Old Church. Recalling him, the Shrewsbury Chronicle praised him for securing East India posts for many from Shropshire.27 He had entrusted his estates to his widow (described as ‘of Paris’), Capel Sandys of Baddesley Clinton, Warwickshire and Major Thomas Wilkinson of Hanover Square, and was succeeded at Bicton by his eldest son Richard (1828-80) and to the Abbey Foregate and Birmingham properties by his three younger sons.28

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Margaret Escott

Notes

  • 1. BL OIOC J/1/18.
  • 2. Salop Archives D45/1170/5b.
  • 3. OIOC mss. Eur. F. 228/79-80.
  • 4. Ibid. 151/76.
  • 5. Ibid. 88/11; IOR/F/4/869/22981.
  • 6. OIOC mss. Eur. F. 228/140/92.
  • 7. Ibid. See SHREWSBURY.
  • 8. OIOC mss. Eur. F. 151/101.
  • 9. Salop Archives 6001/3057 (‘Henry Pigeon’s Salopian Annals’, v. 30).
  • 10. Wellington mss WP1/946/10; 973/38; 980/22, 38; 993/7; 1020/6; 1024/12; 1025/9; 1026/12; 1044/7; 1045/15; NLW, Aston Hall mss C.371.
  • 11. OIOC L/PARL/2/64, pp. 140-8; Wellington mss WP1/1114/16; C.H. Philips, E.I. Co., 271.
  • 12. Salopian Jnl. 4 Feb. 1829; Aston Hall mss C.559; Salop Archives 840/442-3; D45/1170/1a-b, 3b, 4a-b, 5a-b, 8b, 11b; qD45/2-4; 6003/6 (Slaney jnl.), 4, 25 July, 2 Aug.; Add. 51835, Goodwin to Holland [Aug. 1830]; J.A. Phillips and C. Wetherell, ‘Great Reform Bill of 1832 and Rise of Partisanship’, JMH, lxiii (1991), 634.
  • 13. E. Edwards, Parl. Elections in Shrewsbury, 25-26; Shrewsbury Chron. 6 Aug. 1830; Salop Archives D45/1170/6.
  • 14. Wellington mss WP1/1129/2; 1134/12.
  • 15. The Times, 22 Nov. 1830; Shrewsbury Chron. 29 Apr. 1831.
  • 16. Wolverhampton Chron. 9 Feb., The Times, 24 Feb. 1831; Philips, 286.