MANSFIELD, John (1778-1839), of Birstall House, nr. Leicester, Leics.

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



1818 - 1826

Family and Education

b. 13 Mar. 1778, 2nd but 1st surv. s. of John Mansfield, banker, of Leicester and Mary, da. of William Pank. m. (1) 16 Feb. 1797, Sarah (d. 6 July 1813), da. and h. of Henry Ward of Stamford, Lincs., 7da. (2 d.v.p.); (2) 16 Mar. 1815,1 Hannah Mary, da. and h. of Thomas Harper of Barne Hill, Stamford, s.p. suc. fa. 1798. d. 9 Jan. 1839.

Offices Held

Maj. commdt. Leicester vols. 1779, lt.-col. commdt. 1803, 1 batt. militia 1809-11; receiver-gen. land tax, Leics. 1804-18; mayor, Leicester 1815; sheriff, Leics. 1833-4.


Mansfield, a partner in the Leicester bank of Boultbee, Mansfield and Boultbee, came forward again as the corporation candidate for the borough at the general election of 1820. He withdrew briefly following an intrigue against him by the editor of the Leicester Journal, but in the event was returned unopposed.2 He continued to give general but not slavish support to the Liverpool ministry. He described Holme Summer’s motion for inquiry into agricultural distress, 30 May 1820, as a pretext to increase the ‘present protecting duties on corn’; and as ‘the representative of a place of large manufacturers’ he regretted that their ‘much greater’ distress was not to be taken into account and could not therefore give his ‘entire support’ to the agriculturists. He objected to the proposal to submit all bills for the regulation of trade to inquiry before their introduction, 14 June, but failed to prevent the appointment of a select committee on the issue, to which he was named. He was granted a fortnight’s leave of absence on account of ill health, 27 June 1820. He voted in defence of government’s conduct towards Queen Caroline, 6 Feb., and stated his resentment of opposition’s implication that the House had ‘voted against the wishes of the people’, 14 Feb. 1821. He opposed the printing of the Nottingham petition calling for the impeachment of ministers, 20 Feb., and complained of Sir Ronald Ferguson’s ‘personal allusions’ to them over the proceedings of the Milan commission, 21 Feb.3 He objected to the levy of additional charges on county rates to provide judicial salaries, but stressed that few other ‘burden[s] on the public [were so] light’, 15 Mar.4 He voted against Catholic relief, 28 Feb. 1821, 30 Apr. 1822, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May 1825, and the Irish franchise bill, 26 Apr. 1825. He divided against inquiry into expenditure, 6 Mar., repeal of the additional malt duty, 3 Apr., parliamentary reform, 9 May, reduction of the barracks grant, 28 May, and economy and retrenchment, 27 June 1821. He presented a petition against Scarlett’s poor relief bill, 6 June, and opposing the measure, 20 June 1821, claimed that despite the ‘great distress’ prevalent in Leicester, the local poor ‘had not voluntarily thrown themselves on the rates’.5

He mustered for the divisions against more extensive tax reductions to relieve distress, 11, 21 Feb., but voted for admiralty economies, 1 Mar. 1822. When opposing the Newcastle petition on behalf of Henry Hunt*, which imputed ‘notorious corruption’ to the House, 22 Mar., he denied that ministerialists were ‘influenced by corrupt motives’:

He, for one, sat in that House, not by the influence of corruption, but by the unanimous choice of a large number of most respectable constituents; and though his vote had often been given in opposition to the opinions of gentlemen opposite, yet he had given that vote unbiassed by any undue influence or corrupt motive.

He presented petitions for relief on behalf of the woollen manufacturers of Leicester, 22 Apr., and from his constituents against the poor removal bill, 21 May. On 31 May 1822 he argued that the measure was ‘likely to prove as injurious to the poor ... as to those who were obliged to contribute to their support’; his wrecking amendment was carried by 82-66.6 He presented constituency petitions against the Marriage Act, 17 Feb., and the hawkers and pedlars bill, 24 Mar. 1823.7 He voted against reform, 20 Feb., tax reductions, 3, 13, 18 Mar., repeal of the Foreign Enlistment Act, 16 Apr., and inquiry into chancery delays, 5 June 1823; but he was in the minority for the re-committal of the silk manufacture bill, 9 June 1823. On 12 May 1823 he said that Leicestershire petitioners for the abolition of slavery were willing to ‘submit to any burdens which it might be necessary to impose to make up for the loss to the proprietors of slaves’. He presented Leicester abolitionist petitions, 12, 16 Mar. 1824.8 He presented petitions from Leicester wool staplers against the warehousing bill, 21 May 1823.9 He presented a Leicester petition against the beer duties bill, 14 May, but approved subsequent modifications to it, 24 May 1824, since ‘it would enable the labouring classes to drink a better commodity at a greatly reduced price’.10 He brought up constituency petitions for repeal of the Combination Acts, 11 June 1823, 11, 25 Mar., 6 Apr., and spoke for this measure, 14 Apr. 1824.11 He presented a petition against restoration of the laws, 22 Apr., and on 6 May 1825 craved the ‘indulgent consideration’ of the House for a similar one from the framework knitters of Leicester, who had ‘conducted themselves extremely well, even in periods of greatest manufacturing distress’. He protested that the report of the select committee was ‘founded on the representations and observations of the masters, while no opportunity was allowed to the workmen to counteract them’, 16, 17 June. He declared his hostility to the revised combination bill and expressed his hope that ‘the power of enforcing it would be left to the discretion of the magistrates’, 27 June 1825, when he divided in two small minorities for opposition amendments.12 On 11 Mar. 1824 he presented and endorsed a petition from the merchants, wool-dealers and worsted manufacturers of Leicester against the plan to repeal the ban on the export of long wool;13 and he was in the minority of 20 who voted against this proposal, 21 May 1824. He voted for the Irish unlawful societies bill, 25 Feb., and the grant for the duke of Cumberland, 6, 10 June 1825. He presented a Leicester petition for relaxation of the corn laws, 22 Apr., paired in favour of this step, 28 Apr. 1825, brought up another repeal petition, 21 Feb., and voted in that sense, 8 Apr. 1826. Replying to Peel’s private inquiry as to the state of public credit in Leicestershire following the failure of three local banks, 21 Dec. 1825, Mansfield noted that ‘though the panic [was] ... greatly abated ... great difficulty and distress [would] be felt for some time to come [by the] manufacturing and trading establishments’.14 As a ‘practical man’, he approved the government’s legislation to regulate country banks and spoke in favour of the promissory notes bill, 27 Feb. 1826. He presented more anti-slavery petitions, 10 Mar., 19 Apr. 1826.15 He was named to the select committees on poor rate returns in 1821 and 1826 and county rates in 1824 and 1826.

Mansfield, whose two elections for Leicester had cost him a total of £5,200, retired from Parliament at the dissolution in 1826, as he had planned to do for some time.16 In view of the expense of the ensuing contested election, Hudson Gurney* thought him ‘well out of it’.17 He devoted the remainder of his life to his business, but was ‘ever ready to relieve the poor and afflicted’.18 The intimate friend of the 5th duke of Rutland, treasurer of the Leicester Infirmary and an active promoter of the Leicester music festival of 1827, he ‘considerably enlarged’ Birstall House.19 He died in January 1839.20 By his will of 9 Mar. 1830 he set up trust finds for his second wife and five surviving daughters.21

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Simon Harratt


  • 1. IGI.
  • 2. Leicester Jnl. 18, 25 Feb., 3, 10, 17 Mar. 1820.
  • 3. The Times, 21, 22 Feb. 1821.
  • 4. Ibid. 16 Mar. 1821.
  • 5. Ibid. 7, 21 June 1821.
  • 6. Ibid. 23 Apr., 22 May, 1 June 1822.
  • 7. Ibid. 18 Feb., 25 Mar. 1823.
  • 8. Ibid. 13 May 1823, 13, 17 Mar. 1824.
  • 9. Ibid. 22 May 1823.
  • 10. Ibid. 15 May 1824.
  • 11. Ibid. 12 June 1823, 12, 26 Mar., 7 Apr. 1824.
  • 12. Ibid. 23 Apr., 7, 16, 18, 28 June 1825.
  • 13. Ibid. 12 Mar. 1824.
  • 14. Add. 40384, ff. 65, 80.
  • 15. The Times, 11 Mar., 20 Apr. 1826.
  • 16. Add. 40381, f. 345; 40385, f. 333; Leicester Jnl. 2, 9, 16 June 1826.
  • 17. Gurney diary, 23 Sept. 1826.
  • 18. Roll of Mayors of Leicester ed. H. Hartopp, 185.
  • 19. C. J. Billson, Leicester Mems. 9, 12, 29.
  • 20. Gent. Mag. (1839), i. 319.
  • 21. PROB 11/1913/449; IR26/1522/472.