LONG, Charles (1760-1838), of Bromley Hill Place, Kent

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



13 Jan. 1789 - 1796
1796 - 1802
1802 - 1806
1806 - 1826

Family and Education

bap. 29 Jan. 1760, 4th but 3rd surv. s. of Beeston Long (d. 1785), W.I. merchant, of Carshalton Park, Surr. and Sarah, da. and h. of Abraham Cropp of Richmond, Surr.; bro. of Samuel Long†. educ. Greenwich Sch.; Emmanuel, Camb. 1779; I. Temple 1779. m. 28 May 1793, Amelia, da. of Abraham Hume†, 2nd bt., of Wormleybury, Herts., s.p.; GCB 20 May 1820; cr. Bar. Farnborough 8 July 1826.

Offices Held

Sec. to treasury Feb. 1791-Apr. 1801; PC [GB] 13 Jan. 1802; member, bd. of trade Feb. 1802; ld. of treasury May 1804-Feb. 1806; chief sec. to ld. lt. [I] Sept. 1805-Mar. 1806; PC [I] 5 Oct. 1805; jt. paymaster-gen. Apr. 1807-Aug. 1817, paymaster-gen. Aug. 1817-July 1826.

Dir. Greenwich Hosp. 1799-1829; trustee, British Museum 1812-d., National Gallery 1824-d.

Lt.-col. commdt. Lewisham and Lee vols. 1803.


By 1820 Long was comfortably settled in the various roles which gave him a place close to the centre of affairs: departmental minister and party organizer; personal friend of the new king and arbiter of his taste in the fine arts, and confidant of the 1st earl of Lonsdale, on whose interest he was again returned unopposed for Haslemere, after some alarms, at the general election. Two months later, to his surprise and delight, he received a civil knighthood of the Bath as a personal favour from George IV.1 With his wife, a discerning judge of objets d’art and skilled horticulturist, Long devoted his moments of leisure to the creation of a shrine of good taste and centre of hospitality at their Italianate villa at Bromley Hill. His activities in this sphere were financed by an inheritance of £19,000 from his long dead father, the spoils of some 25 years of political employment, which currently brought him £2,000 a year, and a pension of £1,500 on the four and a half per cent Leeward Island duties, with remainder of £700 to his wife, which had been obtained for him by his mentor Pitt in 1801.2 Reviewing the elections, from which he reckoned that the Liverpool ministry had marginally gained, Long observed that ‘the country is fast dividing itself into the friends of government and radicals; the Whigs will, I am satisfied, soon disappear from the stage’. Lord Gower’s abandonment of Staffordshire was ‘one of the worst symptoms’, for ‘we are arrived at times when, if the rich will not fight the battles, we shall be overwhelmed by the rabble and the wild doctrines by which they are guided’.3 In the House, he of course voted steadily with his ministerial colleagues, and very occasionally acted as a government teller. He was an infrequent speaker. He opposed inquiry into military expenditure, 16 May 1820, when he defended his own record in clearing arrears of unsettled accounts, reducing the expenses of the pay office and eliminating sinecures.

In December 1820 he commented to Lonsdale of Canning’s resignation from the board of control that ‘the course he has steered ... is not always quite intelligible to plain men’. On the approaching ‘hard battle in the House of Commons’ over Queen Caroline, he thought ‘we have nothing to do but to fight, and many of our country gentlemen I know are stout and firm’. He took no part in the debates on the issue, but was ‘much satisfied’ with the majority of 101 on the liturgy question, 26 Jan. 1821. A month later he was confident that ‘the queen is going down hill very fast’. He asked Holmes, the whip, to ‘be upon the alert’ for the impending division on Catholic relief, of which he was an inveterate opponent; he was a teller for the hostile minorities, 28 Feb., 30 Mar.4 As a trustee of the British Museum, he defended restrictions on public access to the reading room, 16 Feb., 11 Apr. He did not resist Hume’s motion for information on public expenditure, 2 Mar., insisting that all ministers were willing to submit their departments to ‘the minutest inquiries’. He defended the composition of the select committee on receivers general of taxes against Hume’s allegation that it was packed with ministerialists, and deplored his ‘misrepresentations with respect to the possibility of retrenchment’, which were ‘eagerly received out of doors’, 22 Mar. At the same time, he suggested six additional names, in which Hume (‘one of the most troublesome Members in the House’, in Long’s private opinion) acquiesced.5 He had again to defend his own office, 30 Mar., when Hume demanded its eventual abolition. He denied Creevey’s charge that government intended to get rid of large numbers of lower grade clerks, 30 Apr., justified application of the Barbados repair fund to other purposes, 21 May, and on 24 May answered Creevey’s attack on this, complaining of ‘anonymous slanders circulated against him’. His salary and pension were the subjects of satirical comment at this time.6 He defended the grant for Millbank penitentiary, 31 May, and the proposed inquiry into Irish revenue, 15 June.7 On Hume’s call for economy and retrenchment, 27 June 1821, he stated that the commission of inquiry into the customs, of which he had been head since 1817, had produced ‘very great benefits’. He had drafted the amendment which he helped to persuade the respected backbencher Henry Bankes to move.8

Long was not unduly perturbed by reports in September 1821 that the king, influenced by Lady Conyngham, was determined to turn out Lord Liverpool: ‘the ship has righted so often when she appeared to be sinking that I expect the same will happen again’. He was relieved to learn that the Catholics had ‘gained no step whatever’ from Canning’s recent visit to Ireland, which ‘in other respects has done good’. In mid-November, after the king’s return from Hanover, he told Lonsdale that ‘every difference is reconciled’, and ‘there appears much more prospect of cordiality than has been the case for some time past’. When Lord Buckingham, keen to have Vansittart removed from the exchequer before committing himself to a junction with government, wondered if Long might replace him, Lord Londonderry* told him that Long was ‘too old to go to school under Liverpool and could not act with him like Vansittart’. For his own part Long welcomed the alliance with the Grenvillites, especially after lengthy conversations at Brighton with the king and Lord Wellesley had satisfied him that the latter’s appointment as Irish viceroy was not intended to encourage the agitation for Catholic relief.9 On the eve of the 1822 session Long submitted to Liverpool a memorandum proposing that, as the customs commission had largely had its recommendations for economies blocked by the treasury (not quite what he had professed in the House six months earlier), the more powerful parliamentary commission of inquiry into the Irish revenue boards should be extended to those of England and Scotland which had not yet been scrutinized. If the premier decreed that the customs commissioners should press on ‘I will do my best; but I assure you it will be under feelings more nearly approaching to despair, than those with which I ever undertook any task before in my life.’ There was no reprieve, and Long’s commission continued its work until 1823.10 In the House, 12 Mar. 1822, he opposed Davies’s motion for economies in revenue collection, arguing that the present complement of customs commissioners was irreducible, though he admitted that superannuations had got out of hand. He had to defend his own department against renewed attack, 20 Mar., when he observed that for all the reductions he had made, opposition ‘approved of nothing which was done by gentlemen in office’. He denied responsibility for allowing a continuance of half-pay to officers who had taken holy orders, 22 Mar., and handled routine pay office business, 4, 28 June, 17 July. He was a teller for the minority against Canning’s bill to relieve Catholic peers, 30 Apr. He replied to criticisms of the receivers general bill, 9 July 1822.11

In early September 1822 the king gave Long several ‘very long audiences’ in which he rehearsed his worries over the problem of replacing the dead Londonderry. Long thought the only solution was to make a fair offer to Canning: there were drawbacks, but ‘the objections to not making the proposition are still stronger’. The arrangement finally reached was, in his opinion, ‘the most desirable’ one. A dim view of his fitness as an adviser to the king was taken by George’s secretary, Sir William Knighton, who, according to Charles Arbuthnot*, accused him of ‘indecision of character’.12 Long anticipated ‘a stormy session’ in 1823; and early in the year, at Liverpool’s behest, he made an unsuccessful bid to resolve the conflict between Lord Palmerston, the secretary at war, and the duke of York, the commander-in-chief, over staff reductions in foreign garrisons. Palmerston later wrote Long off as ‘a servile toady of the duke’.13 He again defended the application of the Leeward Islands duties, 17 Mar., and presented an anti-Catholic petition from the dean of St. George’s Chapel, Windsor, 14 Apr. On the motion to refer papers on George III’s library, a gift to the nation, to a committee, 18 Mar., he explained George IV’s wishes for the fullest possible public access and its separate housing. He answered carping criticisms from Hobhouse and Croker, 18 Apr., 20 June, emphasizing that the decision to accommodate the library in an extension to the British Museum accorded with the king’s desires.14 As a man who recognized rubbish when he saw it, he brushed aside a petition from Benjamin Haydon for greater encouragement of historical painting, 25 June 1823. He had refused to handle it himself because Haydon would not specify what he wanted; and he taunted its presenter, Brougham, with his opposition to the purchase of the Elgin marbles.

By the will of his wife’s uncle, the 7th earl of Bridgwater, who died in October 1823, Long received a life annuity of £4,000, and he consequently surrendered his pension.15 At about this time he placed his expertise at the disposal of Liverpool in the negotiations for the purchase of the Angerstein collection of pictures as a basis for a national gallery;16 and of the king, over the extensive and costly alterations and improvements at Windsor Castle, in which he played a central directing role. At the turn of the year he commented to Lonsdale:

We look well I think ... both internally and externally. No petitions complaining of grievances, and the country gentlemen silent, if not satisfied, from finding perhaps that clamour has done them no good. The only black spot is the West Indies, of which we shall hear a good deal in the next session.17

He voted against the production of information on Catholic office-holders, 19 Feb. 1824. In response to a tribute from his ministerial colleague Robinson, chancellor of the exchequer, to the work of the customs commission, 25 Feb., he boasted, for public consumption, that ‘their exertions had been deemed most useful’ and all their suggestions ‘adopted with entire success’. (He was privately cursed by Lonsdale’s son Lord Lowther* for causing almost all customs patronage to be removed from the treasury.)18 Long justified the grant for the new Westminster law courts, 1 Mar., though he concurred in criticism of Soane’s designs, 23 Mar., when he was named to the select committee. He dismissed charges of incompetence levelled against the trustees of the Museum, 29 Mar., explained the Angerstein purchase and future policy on such matters, 2 Apr., and defended the Windsor Castle grant, 5 Apr. 1824. Not without difficulty, he secured for £10,000 from ‘Chin’ Grant* the lease of a house at 5 Whitehall Gardens, next to Peel’s: his wife had ‘always set her heart upon my getting a house at Whitehall’. ‘In point of architecture’, he deemed it ‘very meagre’, but he was confident that ‘in the interior arrangements we shall make it good’. His purchase prompted idle speculation that he was about to crown his ‘political and dilettante life’ with retirement and a peerage.19 He visited Paris in the autumn of 1824, partly to inspect the Soult collection of paintings with a view to their purchase. On his return he reviewed the progress of the Windsor improvements and, with Liverpool’s blessing, acceded to the king’s request that he should act as the channel of communication between them on the subject of the furnishing.20 Long, who thought that ‘if those who have supported the Catholic claims do not see the danger now of admitting them, nothing can open their eyes’, hoped for strong measures to curb agitation in Ireland on the eve of the 1825 session.21 He divided against relief, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May, and the Irish franchise bill, 26 Apr. He agreed to arrange for wounded soldiers’ allowances to be paid quarterly, 4, 7 Mar., and explained a departure from the normal practice of succession by rotation among the clerks at Chelsea Hospital, 8 June.22 He raised difficulties when Colborne proposed the establishment of a national gallery separate from the British Museum, 28 Mar., pointing out that the Angerstein collection had been left to the Museum’s trustees. He welcomed the provision of funds to buy the Rich collection, 25 Apr. 1825.

Long and his wife visited Paris in September 1825 and executed ‘some commissions’ for the king, whom he found on his return ‘very anxious that the dissolution should not take place’ that autumn. Personally, he was ‘glad that the evil day ... is put off’, though he hoped that ‘care will be taken not to bring forward questions that are unnecessary in the next session, and which may place us in a less favourable condition for a general election than that in which we now stand’. In particular, he was concerned that the vexed question of the corn laws should not be agitated. At about this time Mrs. Arbuthnot, whose husband, as commissioner of woods and forests, was in dispute with George IV over the ownership of a piece of Green Park, condemned Long as ‘a complete courtier’, who ‘always acquiesces in anything the king says and never dares contest a point with him’.23 In the commercial crisis of early 1826 he welcomed the measures taken to ‘restore the confidence among mercantile men’, but privately wished his colleagues had followed Pitt’s example in restricting cash payments:

I am sorry to say there appears to me a disposition in many persons to think all that Mr. Pitt did was wrong, and that we are much wiser now. The cash restriction bill passed in 1797 is said to have been a very unwise measure. Does any rational man believe that we could have carried on the war without it; and where should we now be, if at that time we had been at the mercy of France? And what besides would have been the state of the country, if the Bank (as certainly would have been the case) had stopped payment? I am of the old school. I venerate all Mr. Pitt did, and I have not seen more wisdom displayed in later times than there was by him in the midst of unparalleled difficulties.24

Long, who in 1826 published Short Remarks and Suggestions on the improvements in hand in the west end of London, introduced a bill to consolidate the regulations governing Chelsea and Kilmainham Hospitals, 3 Mar. He absolved government from blame for the increase in the grant for Chelsea pensioners, 6 Mar. On 15 Mar. he explained the consolidation bill, which became law, 11 Apr. (7 Geo. IV, c. 16).25 On the subject of a national gallery, 19 Apr., he stressed that ‘none but first-rate works should have a place’ in it. He also said that he had decided to refuse all future invitations to view and value potential acquisitions, a ‘thankless task’ in which it was too easy to cause offence. It was known by then that Long, who, as he later wrote, ‘had always determined when I reached the age of 65 that I would quit all busy life’, intended to retire from office at the end of the current session. He duly did so, ‘with as much eagerness and delight as any man ever accepted the highest object of his ambition’, and took a peerage, which the odious duke of Newcastle considered ‘a prostitution’ of the dignity.26

Although he devoted his retirement largely to his artistic pursuits, he remained utterly hostile to Catholic relief, dismissing all notion of ‘compromise’, because ‘if seats in Parliament are given to the Catholics everything is given’. He was one of the Protestants who peremptorily declined Canning’s offer of the home secretaryship in April 1827.27 In 1829, when he opposed emancipation in the Lords, he was suspected of abetting the duke of Cumberland’s attempts to turn the king against it. His intimacy with George IV earned him the dubious honour of selection as keeper of the royal signet during his fatal illness in 1830.28 He did ‘not like the political atmosphere’ in the autumn of 1830, as he told his friend, the engraver George Cumberland: ‘the influence of revolution is very catching. I trust we shall escape the contagion’. The Grey ministry’s reform bill, which he opposed in the Lords, appalled him, and he could only hope that ‘those who have lighted up the inflammable spirit which now rages everywhere may be able to put out the fire they have kindled when it has burned as long as they wished, but I doubt it’. He blamed reform for the decline in British artistic activity in the early 1830s, in that ‘the wild theories which have been advocated have induced many persons to think property insecure’ and so to curb expenditure on ‘superfluities’. Yet the arts remained his ‘great solace and amusement’, while the British Museum had become ‘a principal object of my care and attention’.29 He died at Bromley Hill in January 1838. By his will, dated 14 Feb. 1837 and proved under £120,000, he devised Bromley, 5 Whitehall Gardens and property in Westminster to his nephew Samuel Long, and real estate at Duxford and Whittlesford, Cambridgeshire, plus £5,000 to his nephew William Long. He left other legacies amounting to about £21,000, and bequeathed pictures by Canaletto, Poussin, Reynolds, Rubens and others to the trustees of the Museum for deposit in the National Gallery.30

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: David R. Fisher


  • 1. Oxford DNB; Arbuthnot Corresp. 14; Lonsdale mss, Long to Lonsdale, 11 Mar. [1820]; Farington Diary, xvi. 5515, 5696.
  • 2. Farington Diary, xi. 4020-1; Arbuthnot Jnl. i. 113; PROB 11/1125/32; Geo. III Corresp. iii. 2339; PP (1822), iv. 41.
  • 3. Lonsdale mss, Long to Lonsdale, 11, 21, 23 Mar. [1823].
  • 4. Ibid. same to same, 21 Dec. [1820], 27 Jan., 22 Feb. 1821.
  • 5. The Times, 2, 23 Mar. 1821; Lonsdale mss, Long to Lonsdale, 20 Mar. [1820].
  • 6. The Times, 22 May 1821; M.D. George, Cat. of Pol. and Personal Satires, x. 14195.
  • 7. The Times, 1, 16 June 1821.
  • 8. Dorset RO D/BKL, Bankes jnl. 129.
  • 9. Lonsdale mss, Long to Lonsdale, 7, 19 Sept., 8, 13, 19 Nov., 22, 28 Dec.; BL, Fortescue mss, Buckingham to Grenville, 2 Dec. [1821].
  • 10. Add. 38290, ff.254-60; PP (1823), vii. 175.
  • 11. The Times, 21, 23 Mar., 5, 29 June, 10, 18 July 1822.
  • 12. Lonsdale mss, Long to Lonsdale, 15 Aug., 4, 7, 12 Sept. 1822; Add. 38290, f. 233; 40351, f. 31.
  • 13. Lonsdale mss, Long to Lonsdale, 2 Feb. [1823]; K. Bourne, Palmerston, 173, 180; Palmerston-Sulivan Letters, 156-7; Add. 38370, f. 224.
  • 14. The Times, 15, 19 Apr. 1823.
  • 15. On d. of 8th earl of Bridgwater in 1830, Mrs. Long, as a residuary legatee, came into £63,821. See PROB 11/1678/670; IR26/1185/175; Gent. Mag. (1829), i. 560; (1838), i. 426.
  • 16. Northants. RO, Agar Ellis diary, 24 Dec. [1823].
  • 17. Add. 38297, ff.84, 321, 324, 337; 38298, ff.64, 66; 38371, ff.1-8; Wellington and Friends, 39; Arbuthnot Corresp. 47-51; Lonsdale mss, Long to Lonsdale, 1 Jan. 1824.
  • 18. Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale, 19 Dec. 1823.
  • 19. Add. 36510, f. 103; 40362, f. 214; 40605, ff. 168, 171, 228, 240, 271, 311; Survey of London, xiii. 196; Buckingham, Mems. Geo. IV, ii. 143; Grey mss, Tierney to Grey, 31 Jan. 1825.
  • 20. Add. 38299, ff.150, 152, 180, 198, 199.
  • 21. Lonsdale mss, Long to Lonsdale, 6 Dec. [1824], 2 Jan. [1825].
  • 22. The Times, 9 June 1825.
  • 23. Lonsdale mss, Long to Lonsdale, 23 Sept., 1 Oct. [1825]; Arbuthnot Jnl. ii. 419.
  • 24. Lonsdale mss, Long to Lonsdale, 25 Feb. [1826].
  • 25. The Times, 4, 7, 16 Mar. 1826.
  • 26. Arbuthnot Jnl. ii. 17; Add. 36513, f. 176; 38301, f. 185; Colchester Diary, iii. 436; Nottingham Univ. Lib. Newcastle mss Ne2 F2/1/139.
  • 27. Lonsdale mss, Long to Lonsdale, 21 Aug., 10 Sept. [1826]; Palmerston-Sulivan Letters, 187; Canning’s Ministry, 168, 182, 210.
  • 28. Add. 40394, f. 210; Greville Mems. i. 260; Colchester Diary, iii. 610; Wellington Despatches, v. 488; vii. 66-67; Arbuthnot Jnl. ii. 361.
  • 29. Add. 36512, f. 326; 36513, ff. 64, 249, 273.
  • 30. PROB 11/1893/238; IR26/1481/154.