MANNERS, Lord Charles Henry Somerset (1780-1855), of Belvoir Castle, Leics. and 28 Sackville 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

1802 - 1830
29 Dec. 1835 - 1852

Family and Education

b. 24 Oct. 1780, 2nd s. of Charles Manners†, 4th duke of Rutland (d. 1787), and Lady Mary Isabella Somerset, da. of Charles Noel Somerset†, 4th duke of Beaufort; bro. of Lord Robert William Manners*. unm. CB 4 June 1815; KCB 20 Apr. 1838. d. 25 May 1855.

Offices Held

Cornet 10 Drag. 1798, lt. 1799, capt. 1800, maj. 1808; lt.-col. 23 Drag. 1811, 3 Drag. 1812-25; brevet col. and extra a.d.c. to prince regent 1817; maj.-gen. 1825; lt.-gen. 1838; col. 3 Drag. 1839-d.; gen. 1854.

Biography

When a contest was threatened for Cambridgeshire at the approaching 1820 general election Manners advised his brother, the 5th duke of Rutland, on whose interest he sat, to withdraw him if it materialized.1 In the event there was no disturbance and Manners, who promised to work to ‘secure the liberty and independence of his constituents’ and to safeguard the interests and agriculture of the county, and declared his attachment to ‘the constitution in church and state’, came in again with the other sitting Member, the Whig Lord Francis Osborne. It was not entirely plain sailing, for he was attacked for his ‘blind support for every measure of administration’ by adherents of the independent party opposed to the Rutland interest in both county and borough. He was questioned as to whether he approved of the perpetuation of corrupt electoral influence such as that exercised by his brother in Cambridge; whether he would vote for or against the civil list; whether he had voted for the grant of £10,000 to the duke of York, and whether he would support Lord John Russell’s Grampound disfranchisement bill. He ‘declined giving any pledge of future conduct’ and claimed that at the time of the proceedings on the ducal grant he had been ‘on a bed of sickness’.2

Manners continued to support the Liverpool ministry, though he was an unenthusiastic politician and an indifferent attender, who was even keener than his brother, Member for Leicestershire, on hunting and riding. (He used a whip with an eyeglass fitted in the handle.)3 He presented a petition from the occupiers of 70,000 acres in the Isle of Ely for amelioration of agricultural distress, 31 May 1820.4 He voted in defence of ministers’ conduct towards Queen Caroline, 6 Feb. 1821. Taking the family line, he divided against Catholic relief, 28 Feb., and he presented a hostile petition from the dean and chapter of Ely cathedral, 23 Mar.5 He presented two Cambridgeshire petitions complaining of agricultural distress, 2 Mar.,6 but paired with government against repeal of the additional malt duty, 3 Apr. He was in their majorities for the duke of Clarence’s grant, 18 June, and against Hume’s call for economy and retrenchment, 27 June 1821. Manners voted against more extensive tax reductions to relieve distress, 11 Feb. 1822, though the next day he presented a Wisbech agriculturists’ petition for remedial measures.7 He voted against abolition of one of the joint-postmasterships, 13 Mar. At the county reform meeting, 4 Apr., what amounted to a vote of censure on him was carried when it was resolved that its petition should be presented by Osborne and the Whig Lord Tavistock, the duke of Bedford’s son.8 Manners voted against Canning’s bill to emancipate Catholic peers, 30 Apr., and in defence of the lord advocate’s dealings with the Scottish press, 25 June 1822. On 20 Feb. 1823 he presented a petition from owners and occupiers of Linton parish for relief from agricultural distress, observing that the petitioners had confidence in the Commons ‘as at present constituted’, and that none of them had attended the unruly county meeting of 14 Feb. which had supported a radical reform programme.9 Later that day he voted against parliamentary reform; and he divided with government against inquiry into the prosecution of the Dublin Orange rioters, 22 Apr., Scottish parliamentary reform, 2 June, and investigation of chancery delays, 5 June 1823. The only known traces of his parliamentary activity in 1824 are his presentation of an Isle of Ely publicans’ petition against the Beer Acts, 12 May,10 and his vote in defence of the prosecution of the Methodist missionary John Smith in Demerara, 11 June. He was a defaulter on a call of the House, 28 Feb. 1825, but attended and was excused the next day, when he divided against Catholic relief, as he did on 21 Apr. and 10 May. He voted against the Irish franchise bill, 26 Apr. He presented three Cambridgeshire petitions against any alteration in the corn laws, 22 Apr., but he was criticized in the county for failing to attend to support the Manea enclosure bill.11 He divided against the spring guns bill, 27 Apr. He voted for the duke of Cumberland’s grant, 30 May, 6, 10 June, but was in the protectionist minorities against the relaxation of restrictions on the importation of foreign corn, 8, 11 May 1826.

A week before the 1826 general election Manners, anticipating ‘a very unpleasant day’ at best and an expensive contest at worst, advised Rutland to give up his interest in Cambridgeshire in the latter eventuality. A few days later, notwithstanding his awareness of their ‘very great unpopularity’ with some elements, he had come, as he told his brother, to

presume we must go to a poll, and I will go on until our committee recommend to give up. Believe me, I feel very little on my own account, for you must be aware that my personal ambition would never have led me to ask you to spend a farthing to get me returned for this county, or any other place whatever. I chiefly regret my situation on account of the additional harass[ment] and annoyance which this will cause your mind already overwhelmed with affliction [Rutland’s wife had died seven months earlier].12

At the nomination, he declared his support for undiminished agricultural protection and the existing constitution, ‘the envy of surrounding nations’. When asked by Samuel Wells, the radical Huntingdon attorney, if he would vote for reform, he ‘declined answering the question, as he considered it the business of a representative to be guided by the arguments which might be adduced when any question came under discussion’. After a diatribe against Manners, Rutland and their numerous family connections who held lucrative places, Wells nominated Henry Adeane*, a local squire, who had turned down a requisition to stand earlier that day. Even though Adeane declined the nomination and said he would vacate the seat if returned, his radical promoters forced a seven-day poll, principally to create trouble and expense for Rutland. They achieved that object, but posed no threat to the return of Manners who, polling mainly plumpers, finished at the head of the poll, almost 500 above Osborne.13

He presented an anti-Catholic petition from the authorities of Ely cathedral, 5 Mar. 1827, and voted against relief the following day.14 He obtained three weeks’ leave ostensibly to attend to urgent private business, 20 Mar.; but according to one of his Cambridgeshire critics his real object was hunting, and he was attacked for thus absenting himself when two important drainage bills were before the House.15 He attended to vote against the corn bill, 2 Apr. In May 1827 Rutland, lamenting Canning’s accession to power, told Mrs. Arbuthnot that Manners and their brother Robert were ‘enthusiastic’ in their attachment to their fellow soldier the duke of Wellington.16 Manners was the guest of his close friend Sir Watkin Williams Wynn* at his Denbighshire home in September 1827.17 Although Rutland told Wellington, the new premier, in January 1828, that his brothers were ‘ready to attend in their places, whenever you think their presence desirable’, Manners was inconspicuous in the House that session, when he presented the Ely cathedral anti-Catholic petition, 29 Apr., and divided against relief, 12 May 1828.18 Rutland, informed by Wellington in early February 1829 of the government’s decision to concede Catholic emancipation, declined to commit himself either way before the details were revealed, though he doubted whether he would be able to support it. At the same time, he had no difficulty in confirming, as Wellington requested, that whatever ‘insulated difference of opinion’ he might have with ministers on this issue, he would still ‘be generally as warm and strenuous in their support as heretofore’.19 Planta, the patronage secretary, thought that Manners, who presented petitions against Catholic claims from Ely cathedral and Wenlock corporation, 10 Feb., would side ‘with government’; but Rutland told Mrs. Arbuthnot that his brothers would probably be obliged to ‘go with the current of public feeling’. Manners duly voted with his brother against consideration of relief, 6 Mar. They did so, according to Rutland, ‘from the dictates of their own opinions (having no time to communicate again with me) and from a deference to the strong feeling in their respective counties’; they seemed ‘very uncomfortable’ in opposing Wellington.20 Manners was less persistent than Robert in his opposition: he presented a dozen hostile Cambridgeshire petitions, 9, 20 Mar., and voted against the relief bill at its report stage, 27 Mar.; but he only paired for the division of 23 Mar., and was absent from those on the second and third readings, 18, 30 Mar. Rutland, whose relations with Wellington remained thoroughly cordial, voted for the second reading in the Lords, 4 Apr., but sent his proxy against the third, 10 Apr. 1829, to mark his reservations about the adequacy of the securities.21

Manners attended the county meeting called to petition for repeal of the beer and malt taxes and revision of the licensing regulations, 23 Jan. 1830. Forced by clamour to speak, he as usual evaded the issue:

He was fully sensible of the existence of ... great distress ... and of the urgent necessity of applying some relief, if it could be effected without an infraction of the public credit. He should be ready to lay their petition before Parliament, but at the same time he should reserve to himself the privilege of fully examining every part of the question, and acting in that manner as he believed would best conduce to the interests of the country.

His obvious ‘mental reservation’ did not escape his critics, who secured the passage of a resolution instructing him and Osborne to promote the objects of the petition and a ‘general repeal of taxes’.22 On 8 Feb. he seconded his colleague’s formal motion to have the petition brought up and acknowledged the ‘unexampled distress’ which prevailed; but he declined to divulge his own opinion on the subject. He divided against parliamentary reform proposals, 11, 18, 23 Feb. Either he or his brother voted against Jewish emancipation, 5 Apr.; and he definitely did so, 17 May. He presented petitions from Wisbech brewers against, 4 May, and the inhabitants of Ely for, 10 May, the sale of beer bill; and he voted in the minorities for attempts to restrict the extent to which it opened the trade, 21 June, 1 July 1830.

Adeane’s acceptance of a requisition to stand at the 1830 general election did not unduly alarm Manners who, ‘perfectly well in health, though still disabled in my arm’ (presumably after a riding accident), was initially confident of victory, though concerned over the likely cost.23 At the nomination, he expressed ‘the greatest confidence’ in the Wellington ministry; said that he had, ‘on every occasion when it could be consistent with the safety of the institutions of the country, supported a reduction of taxation’, and, seeking to portray himself as a Member who would not give ‘a blind or servile support’ to government, claimed to have resisted the 1828 corn bill ‘by every means in his power’ (no trace of such activity has been found) and stressed his opposition to Catholic emancipation. He ignored Wells’s demands to know if he would vote for tax reductions, and during the contest refused to pledge himself to support the abolition of slavery. The transfer of the Hardwicke interest to Adeane, the defection of a number of Tory men of influence and a massive increase in turnout, which gave anti-Rutland feeling an electoral impact, overwhelmed Manners. By the end of the second day he was significantly in arrears, and he gave up early on the fifth, almost 230 behind Adeane.24 A local observer blamed his defeat, which was generally seen as a symptom of ministerial weakness, on ‘a combination of untoward circumstances’ and the inadequacies of his agents and committee men; but Lord Lowther*, a junior member of the government, attributed it in no small measure to Manners’s own feebleness and ‘inability and unwillingness to transact the common county business’.25

At the general election of 1831 Manners, now backed by Hardwicke, was put up for Cambridgeshire as an opponent of the Grey ministry’s ‘wild and sweeping’ reform bill, a friend to ‘any safe and constitutional measure of reform’ and the champion of the agricultural interest. Even though Adeane, who had expressed reservations about details of the bill, seemed vulnerable, a week’s canvassing revealed that Manners had no chance, and he withdrew.26 He came in for Leicestershire North on his brother’s death in 1835, went on to oppose repeal of the corn laws and retired ‘on account of declining health’ in 1852. For the last 20 years of his life Manners, who in 1839 obtained the colonelcy of one of his old regiments, had rooms in the Albany. He died in London in May 1855.27

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: David R. Fisher

Notes

  • 1. Rutland mss (History of Parliament Aspinall transcripts), Manners to Rutland, 16 Mar. 1820.
  • 2. Cambridge Chron. 18 Feb., 10, 17, 24 Mar. 1820.
  • 3. T.F. Dale, Belvoir Hunt, 122.
  • 4. The Times, 1 June 1820.
  • 5. Ibid. 24 Mar. 1821.
  • 6. Ibid. 3 Mar. 1821.
  • 7. Ibid. 13 Feb. 1822.
  • 8. Cambridge Chron. 5, 12 Apr. 1822.
  • 9. The Times, 21 Feb.1823.
  • 10. Ibid. 13 May 1824.
  • 11. Ibid. 23 Apr.; Cambridge and Hertford Independent Press, 7 May 1825.
  • 12. Rutland mss, Manners to Rutland, 16-19 June 1826.
  • 13. Cambridge and Hertford Independent Press, 24 June, 1 July; Rutland mss, Manners to Rutland [24], 26 June, 9 July 1826.
  • 14. The Times, 6 Mar. 1827.
  • 15. Cambridge and Hertford Independent Press, 31 Mar. 1827.
  • 16. Canning’s Ministry, 284.
  • 17. Williams Wynn Corresp. 361.
  • 18. Wellington mss WP1/914/13, 38.
  • 19. Wellington Despatches, v. 489-94; Ellenborough Diary, i. 362.
  • 20. Rutland mss, Rutland to Mrs. Arbuthnot, 3, 10 Mar. 1829.
  • 21.</