LANGSTON, James Haughton (?1797-1863), of Sarsden House, Chipping Norton, Oxon. and 143 Piccadilly, 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

1820 - 1826
1826 - 1834
1841 - 19 Oct. 1863

Family and Education

b. ?1797, o.s. of John Langston† of Sarsden and Sarah, da. of John Goddard of Woodford Hall, Essex. educ. Eton 1811; Christ Church, Oxf. 23 May 1814, aged 17. m. 6 July 1824, Hon. Julia Moreton, da. of Thomas Reynolds, 4th Bar. Ducie, 1da. suc. fa. 1812. d. 19 Oct. 1863.

Offices Held

Sheriff, Oxon. 1819-20; verderer, Wychwood Forest.

Biography

On coming of age in about 1818 Langston took possession of a handsome inheritance from his father, a second generation London banker turned Oxfordshire squire, whose personal estate had been sworn under £250,000 after his death while Langston was still at school. The residue was calculated for duty at £192,611.1 Langston also inherited his father’s Whig politics, and on 22 Jan. 1819 he was admitted to Brooks’s, sponsored by his future father-in-law, Lord Ducie, and Sir Ronald Ferguson*. Soon afterwards he became sheriff of Oxfordshire, and as such he sanctioned and chaired the county meeting called to vote a loyal address in the aftermath of Peterloo, 12 Nov. 1819.2 At the general election of 1820 he made an opportunistic intervention at Woodstock, which lay about 12 miles from Sarsden, against the interest of the impecunious 5th duke of Marlborough, having apparently been alerted to the possibility of an opening in a ‘chance’ encounter in London with General John Michel†. Marlborough’s son Lord Blandford* withdrew after an unpromising canvass, and Langston was returned unopposed with a nominee of the Liverpool ministry. He subsequently told the disgruntled Marlborough that he had never ‘entertained for a single moment the idea of wantonly opposing your interest, or setting up any pretensions of my own’.3 He may have complied with Marlborough’s demand for a payment of £2,500 to help defray his local debts.

In the House, he acted consistently with the Whig opposition, but he was an indifferent attender, and is not known to have spoken in debate in this period. He voted against government on the civil list, 3, 5, 8 May, economies in revenue collection, 4 July, and the barrack agreement bill, 17 July 1820. He was in the minority against the appointment of a secret committee on Queen Caroline’s activities, 26 June 1820. Lord Jersey told Lord Holland, 20 Nov. 1820, that Langston might be ‘the best person’ to consult about the possibility of organizing an Oxfordshire meeting in support of the queen, although ‘caution’ was required as he had ‘expressed himself rather in a touchy manner upon being courted by Whig ladies’.4 He joined in the parliamentary campaign in Caroline’s support in the first weeks of the 1821 session. He voted for ordnance reductions, 16 Feb., and in condemnation of the Allies’ suppression of the liberal regime in Naples, 21 Feb. He was one of the few Whigs who were hostile to Catholic relief, and he voted in that sense, 28 Feb. After an apparent absence from the House of about two months he resurfaced in May 1821 to vote for various economies (he was in minorities of 27 on 7 May and of 29 on the 28th). He divided for repeal of the Blasphemous Libels Act, 8 May. He voted for parliamentary reform, 9 May, and for reform of the Scottish county representation the following day; and he was later a supporter of reform in the divisions of 20 Feb., 25 Apr. 1822, 20 Feb., 24 Apr., 2 June 1823, and 27 Apr. 1826. He voted for the forgery punishment mitigation bill, 23 May, against the duke of Clarence’s grant, 18 June, and for Hume’s motion for economy and retrenchment, 27 June 1821.

Langston divided for more extensive tax reductions to relieve distress, 21 Feb. 1822, but his only recorded votes for retrenchment were for abolition of one of the joint-postmasterships, 13 Mar., 2 May, to pay naval and military pensions from the sinking fund, 3 May, and for cuts in diplomatic expenditure, 15, 16 May. He voted against Canning’s bill to relieve Catholic peers of their disabilities, 30 Apr. He was in the minority of 25 for Ricardo’s proposal for a fixed duty of 20s. on wheat imports, 9 May. He voted to limit the duration of the Irish insurrection bill, 8 July 1822. His only known votes in the 1823 session, besides those on reform, were for inquiries into the legal proceedings against the Dublin Orange rioters, 22 Apr., the state of Ireland, 12 May, and chancery delays, 5 June. After a long period of inactivity, he turned up to present a Woodstock petition for repeal of the house and window taxes, 14 Apr.,5 and to vote for inquiries into the Irish church establishment, 6 May, Ireland, 11 May, and Irish first fruits revenues, 25 May, and for repeal of the leather tax, 18 May 1824. He was a defaulter on a call of the House, 28 Feb. 1825, and did not vote in the division on Catholic claims the following day. He was granted a fortnight’s sick leave, 14 Apr., and missed the divisions on the relief bill, 21 Apr., 10 May; he later claimed that he had been ‘confined from the effects of an accident’.6 Yet he was listed in a minority of 23 for repeal of the beer duties, 5 May. He voted against the duke of Cumberland’s annuity, 6, 10 June 1825. In 1826 he voted for inquiry into the corn laws, 18 Apr., and for the introduction of defence by counsel to felony trials, 25 Apr.

Langston had stood his ground at Woodstock in September 1825 when, with an early dissolution expected, Blandford and an aristocratic kinsman declared their joint candidature. He offered again at the general election of 1826, and at the nomination denied a report that he had voted for Catholic relief in 1825, but he seems to have been knocked out of his stride by heckling. The more overt anti-Catholicism of Blandford and his colleague was probably decisive, and Langston was narrowly beaten into third place.7 He immediately went to Oxford, in response to a request from some of the leading resident freemen, resentful of the intrusion of a wealthy stranger, William Hughes Hughes*, who was expected to walk over with one of the sitting Members, Lockhart. It was suggested that Langston’s ‘great popularity and property in the county must make him a very formidable rival’, and so it proved, for he easily topped the poll, receiving support from two-thirds of those who voted. He proclaimed himself ‘the champion of public principles’.8 He was in the minority of 39 against the Clarence annuity bill, 2 Mar. 1827. He voted against Catholic relief, 6 Mar. He voted with the Whig opposition to postpone going into committee of supply, 30 Mar., and for inquiries into the Irish miscellaneous estimates and chancery delays, 5 Apr., when he was appointed to the select committee on borough polls. He presented an Oxford parish petition for repeal of the Test Acts, 7 June 1827.9 He presented several more petitions on this subject, 21, 26 Feb. 1828, when he voted for repeal. He voted against sluicing the delinquent borough of East Retford, 21 Mar. He presented Oxford corporation’s petition against Catholic claims, 2 May, and voted accordingly, 12 May. He voted against the Wellington ministry for inquiry into civil list pensions, 20 May, and on the archbishop of Canterbury’s bill, 16 June, the grant for the Royal Cork Institution, 20 June, the misapplication of public money on Buckingham House, 23 June, and the ordnance estimates, 4 July 1828. At the annual Oxford mayoral feast, 1 Oct. 1828, Langston stated his view that the time had arrived for ministers to take decisive action on the Catholic question.10 In February 1829 he was asked to present an Oxford petition against emancipation. In a reply subsequently made public, he agreed to do so if it was entrusted to him (it was not), but said that he felt unable to support its prayer, having concluded that concession was essential to avert rebellion in Ireland, and being confirmed in this view by his awareness, ‘above all, of the utter impossibility of forming what is called a Protestant government, the united talent of the country being arrayed against it’.11 Planta, the patronage secretary, expected him to vote ‘with government’, and he duly did so, 6, 30 Mar. He voted for the transfer of East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 5 May, and against the grant for the marble arch, 25 May. At the Oxford mayoral dinner, 30 Sept. 1829, he defended and explained his turnabout on Catholic emancipation, to the apparent satisfaction of his audience.12 In the 1830 session, Langston was more active in the lobbies than had been his habit. He voted for the amendment to the address, 4 Feb. He divided for the transfer of East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 11 Feb., 15 Mar., and the enfranchisement of Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, 23 Feb., but against Blandford’s reform plan, 18 Feb. He voted for Russell’s reform motion, 28 May. He voted against government in most of the major divisions forced by the reviving opposition, including those on the Bathurst and Dundas pensions, 26 Mar., the Terceira incident, 28 Apr., the treasury establishment, 10 May, abolition of the Irish lord lieutenancy, 11 May, privy councillors’ emoluments, 14 May, South American missions, 7 June, and consular services, 11 June. He was listed in the minority in favour of Jewish emancipation, 17 May, but let it be known in Oxford that he had in fact voted against it.13 He voted against abolition of the death penalty for all forgery offences, 7 June 1830.

Langston offered again for Oxford at the 1830 general election, when he made much of his recent support for tax reductions, economy and retrenchment and ‘every measure of constitutional liberty’, but claimed that he had ‘lent his support to ministers when he conceived they were aiming to advance the public good, and ... had never countenanced a factious opposition to them’. He again topped the poll after a contest in which Hughes Hughes defeated Lockhart.14 Ministers numbered him among the ‘bad doubtfuls’, and he voted against them on the civil list, 15 Nov. 1830. Two days later he presented an Oxford Dissenters’ petition for the abolition of slavery. He did not attend the Oxford meeting to endorse the Grey ministry’s reform bill, 15 Mar., but he presented its petition, 19 Mar. 1831. He voted for the second reading of the bill, 22 Mar., and against Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831. He was returned unopposed for Oxford at the ensuing general election, when he said that he ‘could not hesitate to support the main principle of the bill’, believing that

the diminution of influence, and the extension of the elective franchise, will bind a powerful class of the community to all that is good and sacred, and that the sound sense of Englishmen will not be led to adopt wild theories or revolutionary opinions.15

He voted for the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, at least twice against the adjournment, 12 July, and was a fairly steady supporter of the measure’s details. He was listed in the ministerial minority against the enfranchisement of £50 tenants-at-will, 18 Aug., but later claimed that he had in fact voted with Hughes Hughes for it. However, he was at odds with his colleague by voting with government against attempts to preserve the voting rights of freemen, 27, 30 Aug.16 He voted for the passage of the reform bill, 21 Sept., the second reading of the Scottish bill, 23 Sept., and the motion of confidence in the Grey ministry, 10 Oct. He was in the majority in favour of the Irish union of parishes bill, 19 Aug. He voted for the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831, could again be relied on to support its details and divided for its third reading, 22 Mar. 1832. He voted for the address calling on the king to appoint only ministers who would carry the measure unimpaired, 10 May, and the second reading of the Irish reform bill, 25 May. He divided with government on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., 12, 16, 20 July, relations with Portugal, 9 Feb., and the navy civil departments bill, 6 Apr. 1832.

He stood again for Oxford, declaring that reform was ‘essential to the honest administration of public affairs, and the establishment of ... mutual confidence between the government and the people’, at the 1832 general election, and easily headed the poll.17 He did not stand at the next two general elections, but came in again in 1841, and occupied the seat, as a Liberal in favour of the ballot, franchise extension and ‘rational progress’, for the rest of his life.18 He died at Sarsden in October 1863. It was rather lamely said of him that he ‘stood very high in the estimation even of his political opponents, and he was also favourably known as a good landlord and an active magistrate’. In 1826 he had entirely subsidized, to the tune of at least £14,000, the building of ‘a new gothic church’, with a tower ‘exactly copied from Magdalen tower, Oxford’, at his neighbouring village of Churchill.19 By his will, dated 3 Aug. 1850, he devised his London house in Piccadilly to his wife, along with a life annuity of £1,000, and confirmed the settlement of his Oxfordshire estates on his only child Julia, at the time of her marriage in 1849 to her cousin Lord Moreton (1827-1921), later 3rd earl of Ducie.

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: David R. Fisher

Notes

  • 1. Gent. Mag. (1812), i. 196; PROB 11/1531/130; IR26/551/171.
  • 2. Jackson’s Oxford Jnl. 30 Oct., 13 Nov. 1819.
  • 3. VCH Oxon. Xii. 404; Jackson’s Oxford Jnl. 4, 11 Mar.; St. Deiniol’s Lib. Glynne-Gladstone mss 290, Langston to Marlborough, 8 Mar., reply, 9 Mar., Marlborough to J. Gladstone, 13 Mar. 1820.
  • 4. Add. 51729.
  • 5. The Times, 15 Apr. 1824.
  • 6. Jackson’s Oxford Jnl. 10 June 1826.
  • 7. Ibid. 10