MARJORIBANKS, Stewart (1774-1863), of Bushey Grove, nr. Watford, Herts.

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 - 9 May 1837
1841 - 1847

Family and Education

b. 1774, 3rd s. of Edward Marjoribanks (d. 1815) of Hallyards and Lees, Berwick and Grizel, da. of Archibald Stewart† of Edinburgh and Mitcham, Surr.; bro. of Sir John Marjoribanks, 1st bt.* m. (1) 19 Feb. 1798,1 Eleanor (d. 14 Dec. 1799), illegit. da. of Archibald Paxton, wine merchant, of Buckingham Street, Strand, Mdx. and Watford Place, Herts., 1s. d.v.p.; (2) 2 Feb. 1841, Lucy, da. of Edward Roger Pratt of Ryton Hall, Norf., wid. of Rev. William Thellusson, 3rd Bar. Rendlesham [I], s.p. d. 31 Aug. 1863.

Offices Held

Dir. E.I. Dock Co. 1824-35, Australian Agricultural Co. 1824-53.

Biography

Marjoribanks’s maternal grandfather Archibald Stewart, Member for Edinburgh, 1741-7, and his son John Stewart, Member for Arundel, 1771-4, were in business in London as wine merchants, with premises in Buckingham Street, Strand. By 1768 Archibald Paxton who, like Marjoribanks and Stewart, came from a Berwickshire family, was operating a similar but apparently separate enterprise from the same address, and he took over the whole concern after the deaths of the Stewarts in the early 1780s.2 Marjoribanks was presumably sent to work for Paxton, with whom he was in partnership by 1798. That year he married one of Paxton’s daughters, who was almost certainly illegitimate. She died in 1799, after giving birth to a son, Archibald John Marjoribanks, who was at Harrow, 1810-15, received £5,000 by Paxton’s will and died in 1826.3 On Paxton’s death in 1817 Marjoribanks continued in the wine business with his son William Gill Paxton*. John Stewart had been active in East India Company politics and Marjoribanks’s elder brother Campbell Marjoribanks was elected a director of the company in 1807 and served three times as its chairman. Marjoribanks may have been involved in the East India agency of Paxton’s brother Sir William Paxton†. Certainly by 1817 he was pursuing this line on his own account, initially from premises at 6 Great Winchester Street, then at 3 Copthall Buildings, and at King’s Arms Yard, Coleman Street from about 1820. He became an East Indian ship owner on a considerable scale.4

At the general election of 1820 Marjoribanks stood for Hythe, where wealthy merchants were popular with the numerically dominant out-voters. A threatened opposition came to nothing and, with the aid of money and East India Company patronage, he made himself virtually impregnable there. ‘I am not a Whig’, he told his kinsman James Loch* on the eve of the election; and at the nomination, according to one report, he said that he

did not hesitate to declare himself favourable to government, but he was not what is called ‘a thick and thin man’. Whenever administration proposed measures, which to his unbiased judgement appeared for the welfare of the country, they should have his support; but measures which he conceived to be of a contrary tendency, he would as firmly oppose; in short, he should look to measures and not to men.5

Yet, in marked contrast to the conduct of his eldest brother Sir John Marjoribanks, almost all his known votes in the 1820 Parliament were with the Whig opposition on most major issues, though it was not until 3 May 1823 that he joined Brooks’s Club.

He divided for Catholic relief, 28 Feb. 1821, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May 1825. He voted routinely for economy, retrenchment and reduced taxation throughout the Parliament, but on 18 June 1821 he joined his brother in siding with ministers against the omission of arrears from the duke of Clarence’s grant. (They were on opposite sides over the duke of Cumberland’s annuity in 1825.) He was granted three weeks’ leave to attend the Stirlingshire by-election, 17 May 1821. His first known vote for parliamentary reform was on 25 Apr. 1822: thereafter he supported it in the divisions of 3 June 1822, 20 Feb., 24 Apr., 2 June 1823, 26 Feb. 1824, 13, 27 Apr. 1826. Marjoribanks, of whom James Abercromby* wrote in 1824 that he had ‘a very odd temper, which makes it difficult to deal with him’, was one of the few mercantile Members to vote in the ministerial majority for the restriction of bank note circulation, 13 Feb. 1826.6 In his only known contribution to debate in this period, 3 Mar. 1825, he remarked that wine merchants ‘would act, not only unjustly, but inconsistently with their own interests, if they did not reduce the prices of all their wines after a ratio at least equal to the reduction of duties upon them’.

He was unopposed at Hythe at the general election of 1826, when he boasted of his ‘independence’.7 He voted against the Clarences’ grant, 16 Feb., and for Catholic relief, 6 Mar., information on the Irish government’s handling of the Lisburn Orange procession, 29 Mar., and for supplies to be withheld until a strong ministry was formed, 30 Mar. 1827. He voted for chancery reform, 5 Apr., and the disfranchisement of Penryn, 28 May 1827. He presented petitions for repeal of the Test Acts, 25 Feb. 1828, and voted for that measure the next day. He opposed the extension of the East Retford franchise to freeholders of the hundred of Bassetlaw, 21 Mar., and was in minorities for a reduced duty on corn imports, 22 Apr., action on chancery delays, 24 Apr., and the establishment of efficient control over crown proceedings for the recovery of customs and excise penalties, 1 May. He voted for Catholic relief, 12 May, and for the provision for Canning’s family, 13 May: ‘I feel quite conceited’, he told Loch the next day, ‘in being in majorities for two successive nights’.8 He was in the small minorities on civil list pensions, 20 May, bank restriction, 5 June, the archbishop of Canterbury’s bill, 16 June, Irish church reform and East Retford voters, 24 June, and the additional churches bill, 30 June; as well as the larger ones on the misappropriation of public funds for work at Buckingham House, 23 June, and for reduction of the ordnance estimates, 4 July 1828. He voted for the Wellington ministry’s concession of Catholic emancipation, 6, 30 Mar., and for O’Connell to be allowed to take his seat without hindrance, 18 May 1829. He voted to reduce the grant for Buckingham House works, 25 May, and was in the minorities of 40 and 44 for Lord Blandford’s parliamentary reform resolutions and the issue of a new writ for East Retford, 2 June 1829. He divided for the amendment to the address, 4 Feb., and a reduction of taxation, 15 Feb., 25 Mar. 1830. He voted for army economies, 19, 22 Feb., 9 Mar., and divided with the reviving Whig opposition in most of the major divisions which it forced on retrenchment. He again supported Blandford’s reform scheme, 18 Feb., and he voted for the enfranchisement of Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, 23 Feb., inquiry into the duke of Newcastle’s electoral interference at Newark, 1 Mar., the transfer of East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 5, 15 Mar., and Russell’s reform motion, 28 May. He supported Jewish emancipation, 5 Apr., 17 May, and abolition of the death penalty for forgery, 24 May, 7 June. He divided against government on the Terceira incident, 28 Apr., abolition of the Irish lord lieutenancy, 11 May, and Irish first fruits, 18 May, and was in minorities for amendments to the sale of beer bill, 21 June, 21 July 1830.

When Marjoribanks and his third cousin John Loch, chairman of the East India Company, sought re-election for Hythe in 1830, they encountered an attempt to open the borough. They were returned in defiance of it, and survived a subsequent petition.9 Soon after the election he expressed to the ministry’s patronage secretary Planta ‘an anxious wish’ that James Redsull of Dover, a kinsman of one of his constituents, should be made a Cinque Ports pilot, a place in the gift of the duke of Wellington as lord warden. Planta commented:

Now though Mr. Marjoribanks is a Whig and has as yet voted against us, yet his Whiggery is very much modified (I think) of late, and if he chooses to come forward and ask this as a favour, it would perhaps (if it be a small favour) be a good thing to give it to him.

He added that Marjoribanks had ‘behaved ... civilly’ when they had considered putting up one of Wellington’s sons for Hythe on a vacancy earlier in the year. Wellington felt ‘some difficulty in acceding to the request’, and no immediate decision was taken. When Marjoribanks renewed the request two weeks later Planta, who had hoped he ‘would have properly understood my silence to him’, asked the duke for his ‘formal orders’. It was decided that Marjoribanks’s recommendation should be duly considered ‘at the proper time’ but that, as there was to be no appointment of pilots that year, the matter ‘must stand over until another’. Nothing seems to have come of it.10 Marjoribanks was described in the press as ‘a Wellington Whig’,11 but ministers numbered him among their ‘foes’, and he voted against them in the crucial division on the civil list, 15 Nov. 1830. He presented a Hythe petition for repeal of the coal duties, 8 Feb. 1831. He voted for the second reading of the Grey ministry’s reform bill, 22 Mar., and against Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831, and was returned unopposed for Hythe as a reformer at the ensuing general election.12 He voted for the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, and was a steady supporter of its details in committee, though he voted in the majority for the Chandos amendment to enfranchise tenants-at-will, 18 Aug. He divided with government on the Dublin election controversy, 29 July, 23 Aug., but voted for inquiry into the grievances of West Indian sugar producers, 12 Sept. He voted for the passage of the reform bill, 21 Sept., and the motion of confidence in the ministry, 10 Oct. 1831. He voted for the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831, and supported most of its details, but was in the minority against the separate enfranchisement of Gateshead, 5 Mar. 1832. He voted for the third reading, 22 Mar. He divided for the address asking the king to appoint only ministers who would carry undiluted reform, 10 May, and the second reading of the Irish reform bill, 25 May, and against a Conservative amendment to the Scottish measure, 1 June. He supported vestry reform, 23 Jan. He divided with ministers on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., 13, 16, 20 July, and their dealings with Portugal, 9 Feb., but voted to recommit the Irish registry of deeds bill, 9 Apr. He divided against Hunt’s call for inquiry into military punishments, 16 Feb. 1832.

At the general election in December 1832 Marjoribanks, who expressed cautious support for the abolition of slavery and, though neither ‘a republican, nor a radical’, said he was ‘ready to vote against and assist in reforming any abuse’, stood for the single seat to which Hythe had been reduced. He beat one of his opponents of 1830 and subsequently took up residence at Cliffe House, Folkestone, which formed part of th