MONCK, John Berkeley (1769-1834), of Coley Park, Reading and Aldworth, Berks.
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Family and Educationbap. 19 Sept. 1769, 2nd s. of John Monck (d. 1809) of 20 Marlborough Buildings, Bath and Emilia, da. of John Snee, merchant, of Aldermanbury, London.1 educ. Eton 1778-88; L. Inn 1790; I. Temple 1796, called 1797. m. 4 May 1810, Mary da. of William Stephens of Aldermaston, Berks., 2s. 2da. d. 13 Dec. 1834.
Monck belonged to a branch of an old Devonshire family, of which General George Monck, the celebrated duke of Albemarle, was a member. His more recent antecedents were Irish. Charles Monck, joint surveyor-general of customs in Ireland in 1627, bought property in Westmeath. His son Henry Monck was attainted by James II, but restored in his estates by William III, and married into the Stanley family of Grange Gorman, county Dublin. Of his three sons, Charles (1705-72), the second, was the grandfather of Charles Stanley Monck (?1754-1802), who succeeded to the main family estates in 1787 and sat in the Irish Parliament as Member for Newborough, 1790-7, when he was created Baron Monck in the Irish peerage. He was made a viscount of the British peerage on the Union. His son and successor Henry Stanley Monck (1785-1845) was created earl of Rathdowne in 1822. William Monck, the fifth son of Henry, and grandfather of this Member, was born in 1692. He was called to the bar from the Middle Temple in 1728, prospered as a lawyer, became a bencher and reader of his Inn and died in 1763. With his wife Dorothy Bligh, the sister of the 1st earl of Darnley, he had a son, John Monck, who was born in 1734. He was educated at Westminster and Christ Church and called to the bar from the Middle Temple. In the 1760s he moved from London to Bath, where he lived for over 40 years, and was a generous patron of local hospitals and charitable institutions. According to an obituary, he was distinguished by ‘the urbanity of his manners, his cultivated taste and his various and extensive attainments in literary pursuits’.2 With his wife Emilia Snee he had five sons. The eldest, William Bligh Monck, born in 1768, was educated at Oxford and died unmarried in 1814.3 Charles (1772-1833), the third, was a barrister on the Western circuit and a fellow of New College, Oxford for many years. Henry Dutton, born in 1795, also went to Oxford, but subsequently lapsed into a state of imbecility.4 George (1777-1846) entered the church and married a daughter of the 5th Viscount Boyne.
John Berkeley Monck, the second and evidently favourite son, was educated for the bar, but ‘very delicate’ health forced him to give up living in London at around the time of his call. He settled in Reading, where he was said to have ‘pursued his professional duties with industry, honour and integrity’, involved himself in the civic affairs of the town, and became friendly with Mary Russell Mitford and Charles Shaw Lefevre, who sat for the borough initially as an Addingtonian and later as an independent supporter of the Whig opposition.5 In April 1807, ‘having much leisure on my hands, in consequence of confinement from illness’, he wrote General Reflections on the System of the Poor Laws, a subject which deeply interested him, as did Malthusian population theory in general. He contended that the existing laws did far more harm than good and were the main reason why ‘the poor are such as we find them, swarming, indolent, improvident, discontented, dispirited, oppressed, degraded, vicious’. While abolition was ‘the only radical cure’, he accepted that such drastic action was impractical, and suggested a number of reforms to improve the education of poor children, reward the deserving and discourage the idle from claiming relief. He expressed approval of Samuel Whitbread’s current bill to reform the system. When his father made his will in June 1808, he left only £4,000 from a trust fund of £27,000 created by his marriage settlement to his eldest son. He devised £6,000 of it to John Berkeley Monck, along with all his unspecified Irish real estate, his jewels, objets d’art and household goods and his Bath house. He also made provision from the residue of his personal estate, which was proved at a handsome £125,000 after his death in November 1809, for Monck to purchase real estate, to be settled on himself and his issue in tail male.6 The following year, when he married the sister of a Reading alderman, Monck bought the manor of Coley, which lay in the south-west of the town, within St. Mary’s parish. In 1812 he acquired the Berkshire estate of Aldworth, nine miles north-east of Newbury.7
In February that year he published A Letter to Spencer Perceval on the Present State of the Currency, in which he stressed the importance of maintaining the circulating medium ‘pure and unimpaired’, denounced the current metallic currency as ‘a debased specie’, reflected on the folly of making bank notes legal tender and proposed the issue by the Bank of England of gold guinea tokens as a prelude to prohibiting the issue of notes under £5 in value. To meet a local currency crisis, he issued large amounts of tokens, in gold for 40s., and in silver for 2s. 6d. and 1s. 6d., which were redeemable in notes on application to the Reading bank of Marsh, Deane and Company.8 At the general election in October 1812 he stood for Reading as the advocate of parliamentary reform in opposition to Shaw Lefevre’s ministerialist colleague Simeon, but finished a distant third.9 At the Berkshire county meeting of 17 May 1814 he deplored the continuing blockade of Norway and called for petitions against it; and at the borough sessions of January 1816 he appealed unsuccessfully against the poor rate levied on his property, arguing that land was unfairly charged one third more than houses. He subsequently instigated an experiment designed to discourage the able-bodied poor from seeking relief by having those in the workhouse whom he had assisted distinguished by the letters ‘M.P’ (Monck’s Poor) sewn on their sleeves.10 After the war he spent much time in France, for the good of his health.11 He was there when the death of George III in January 1820 precipitated a general election. Initially Shaw Lefevre, who was also in France for the sake of his health, offered again, as did his Whig colleague Charles Fyshe Palmer; but when he decided that he was not well enough his leading supporters issued an invitation to Monck, who had earlier indicated his willingness to stand if either sitting Member retired. Monck hurried home, and a contest ensued when the Tory Blues put up John Weyland*. On the hustings Monck, who was nominated by the leading radical activist Henry Marsh, and whose committee, chaired by his brother-in-law William Stephens, formed the nucleus of the newly established Association for the Purity and Independence of Elections, advocated reform, specifying triennial parliaments and an extension of the franchise in ‘decayed boroughs’. He attacked ‘excessive taxation’ and the corn laws. After a protracted and tight contest he topped the poll.12 He apparently returned briefly to Paris before the meeting of Parliament.13
In the House he was one of the most active of the group of radical Whigs who associated with Joseph Hume, a dedicated attender, never afraid to open his mouth in debate, and a persistent critic of the lavish expenditure and high taxation. He complained of the ‘extravagant and enormous’ allowances paid to British senior diplomats, 19 May. On 12 July he depicted the aliens bill as part of ‘a mysterious and undefined attempt to hunt down the liberal-minded men - the Whigs of the continent - who were deserving of an asylum in this country’. Opposing the appointment of a select committee on agricultural distress, 31 May, he said that the corn laws ‘affected the poor in a cruel and disproportionate manner’ by driving up the price of food and reducing many of them to ‘the dreadful alternative of starvation or pauperism’. He voted with opposition in the divisions on Queen Caroline’s case, 22, 26 June, and may have been a member of the Reading deputation which presented her with a loyal address in September.14 He attended the dinner of the Purity of Election Association, 9 Nov.15 His name headed the list of requistionists for a town meeting to congratulate the queen on the abandonment of the bill of pains and penalties and call for the dismissal of ministers. When it took place, 7 Dec. 1820, he denounced the ‘inexpedient, unnecessary and unconstitutional’ prosecution, and attacked the king in savage personal terms. He attributed Caroline’s sometimes coarse demeanour to nothing more sinister than lax European habits, which offended ‘English reserve’:
Those who have travelled, and those who have seen the common engravings of the Swiss costumes, well know that the peasants in many parts of Switzerland wear petticoats that do not descend even to the knees; and that these mountaineers expose the lower part of their persons as constantly and innocently as some ladies nearer home, from the most amiable of all motives - a desire to please, or frequently without any motive, in obedience only to the sway of fashion - expose the upper part of their persons, the arms and shoulders, the well-turned neck and rising bosom.
Returning to the point, he called for nationwide parish meetings to bring popular opinion to bear on ministers, and to
demand indemnity for the past, security for the future; to demand a change not of ministers only but of measures; to demand a system of conciliation to be pursued towards a most meritorious but suffering people, instead of coercion; to demand a reduction of all those taxes that press hardest upon national industry and on the labouring class of society; to demand, in lieu of those taxes, a system of economy and retrenchment; if this be not sufficient for the revenue, to demand sacrifices ... of the rich; and above all to demand a reform of Parliament, as the only means of rebuilding the fabric of our constitution on its ancient basis, and of opening to ourselves new sources of wealth and strength, of internal prosperity, and of external power.
He chaired the county meeting on the same subject, 8 Jan. 1821.16
Monck presented and endorsed petitions for restoration of Caroline’s name to the liturgy from Wantage, 26 Jan., and Hungerford and Newbury, 8 Feb. 1821. On 21 May, pressing ministers to say whether or not she would be admitted to the coronation, he said that it would be shameful if ‘a grand national fête was to be converted into an engine for ... [her] humiliation and degradation’.17 He was a dedicated voter for economy, retrenchment and reduced taxation, often appearing in tiny minorities with Hume. When supporting repeal of the tax on husbandry horses, 5 Mar., he argued, in his familiar refrain, that the interests of agriculture would be best served not by high protecting duties but by a reduction of the burden of domestic taxation and allowances being made for the difficulties created by the resumption of cash payments. He said that the House must be persuaded to insist on ‘retrenchment and reform’, 9 Mar., as he did when supporting repeal of the additional malt duty, 21 Mar., in what his associate Henry Grey Bennet deemed ‘the best [speech] of the night’.18 However, he opposed and was a teller for the minority against inquiry into Scottish petitions on the duties, 12 Apr. He complained that the enhanced timber duties taxed the whole community taxed the whole community for the benefit of ship-owners, 19 Apr.19 He backed Hume’s call for a revision of salaries increased and inflated by the currency adjustment of 1797, 30 Mar.,20 and on the bill to accelerate cash resumption, 9 Apr., said that inquiry as proposed by Baring would do no good, although he did not pretend to have a ready answer to the problems arising from the ‘return from a false and fictitious, to a sound currency’. On the same theme, 13 Apr., he argued that the Ricardo system, which ‘substituted payments in bullion for the ancient currency’, was ‘a cheat and a fraud upon the public creditor’. He took particular exception to the grant to the duke of Clarence in June, criticizing it severely on the 8th. He voted for Catholic relief, 28 Feb. 1821, as he did again, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May 1825. He approved the proposal to give Leeds a scot and lot franchise if it received Grampound’s seats, 2 Mar., observing that ‘the great defect in the constitution was, that the poorer classes were not represented’. He was a steward for the City reform dinner, 4 Apr., when he declared that the corn laws, Peterloo and the prosecution of the queen ‘were not calculated to reclaim him from the error of being a reformer’.21 He spoke and was a teller for the minority of 33 in favour of referring the Lyme Regis petition on the franchise to the committee of privileges, 12 Apr., and voted for Lambton’s reform motion, 18 Apr., Russell’s, 9 May, reform of the Scottish county representation, 10 May, and Grey Bennet’s attempt to reduce the number of placemen in the Commons, 31 May. He spoke for repeal of the usury laws, which he constantly supported, 12 Apr. He voted for inquiry into Peterloo, 16 May, having the previous day, when presenting a petition from a victim, stated that ‘never was human blood poured out more wantonly, more lavishly, and more unnecessarily’. He criticized the poor laws, 8 May, and called for a repeal of taxes to benefit the poor and so reduce rates; and on 8 June asserted that if such action was taken the laws would ‘die a natural death’.22 He condemned them as ‘an ingenious device for obtaining the greatest quantity of labour at the least expense’, 2 July, but admitted that abolition was not feasible. On the vagrancy bill, 24 May, he said that the destitute must be given some relief and that he was not prepared to subject vagrants to ‘an eternal round of punishments’. He opposed attempts to legislate to prevent cruelty to animals, 1, 25 June. He was, surprisingly, one of the ‘creditable’ minority of six against reducing the grant for General Desfourneaux, 28 June 1821.23
Monck spoke at length at a Reading meeting to vote thanks to Hume for his parliamentary exertions, 14 Jan. 1822, when he advocated cuts in expenditure and tax remissions in his usual terms and dwelt of the ‘monstrous absurdity’ of the agriculturalists’ selfish demands for increased protection. He called for parliamentary reform at the annual dinner of the Purity of Election Association, 16 Jan.24 He voted regularly and stubbornly for tax cuts, economy and retrenchment throughout the session. He aired his views on the problems caused by the changes in the currency, 8 Mar., 1 Apr., 2, 31 May, 14 June, and voted for Western’s motion for inquiry, 12 June. Although he was ‘directly opposed to the principle’ of the sinking fund, he initially welcomed the government’s scheme to pay naval and military pensions from it, 1 May, ‘because it went to effect a reduction of taxation’; but he voted against the measure, 3, 24 May, 3, 26 June. On the presentation of the report of the agricultural distress committee, 8 May, he spoke and voted for Wyvill’s amendment calling for retrenchment and tax remissions. He again declared undying hostility to the corn laws as ‘a tax for the exclusive benefit of the landed interest’, 4 June.25 He supported repeal of the house and window taxes, 2 July, but thought that abolition of the beer tax would be more beneficial. He welcomed, as ‘calculated to effect considerable savings to the public’, the bill to regulate the office of receiver general of taxes, 18 July. He voted for inquiry into the Scottish burghs, 20 Feb., and parliamentary reform, 25 Apr., 3 June. On 15 July he said of the Irish insurrection bill that he ‘saw nothing in it of a remedial nature’ for the problems of a country bedeviled by overpopulation, where ‘the state of society was half civilized, half savage’. He called for reform of the oppressive licensing system, 24 Apr., when he censured the autocratic powers vested in magistrates and ‘that strait-laced morality which, by forbidding public houses, drove the people of England from their ancient, wholesome, good manly beverage, beer, to drink that nasty, meagre infusion of foreign herbs, tea’. He spoke in the same vein, 6, 20 May, when he asserted that Reading contained not a single free house, supported Grey Bennet’s licensing bill, 27 June, and approved a beer retail bill, 10 July, presenting constituency petitions in its favour, 17 July.26 He presented Reading petitions against Scarlett’s poor removal bill, 13 May, and argued that the measure, for all its author’s good intentions, would make a bad system worse, 31 May 1822.27
At the Berkshire county reform meeting, 27 Jan. 1823, Monck, admitting that ‘they might as well ask the wolf to give up its prey’ as request a corrupt Commons to reform itself, recommended a nationally organized boycott of the consumption of ‘superfluous articles’ to ‘starve the enemy into compliance’.28 At the Purity of Election dinner, 16 Jan., he had declared for ‘radical reform’, and promised that in the approaching session he would be found ‘advocating purity of election, reform, and retrenchment’ and denouncing ‘paper, extravagance and corruption’.29 He was as good as his word, voting as usual for economy, retrenchment and tax reductions, and speaking for repeal of the tax on tallow candles, 21 May, and of the malt and beer duties, 28 May. On the proposals for reduction of the national debt, 6 Mar., he denounced the sinking fund as ‘not only useless, but decidedly mischievous’, and urged the application of surplus revenue to tax cuts. He voted for inquiry into the parliamentary franchise, 20 Feb., endorsed the Berkshire reform petition, 27 Feb.,30 and voted for Russell’s reform scheme, 24 Apr., though he missed the division on reform of the Scottish representative system, 2 June. On 26 Feb., when he identified the dislocation of the currency as the basic cause of the ‘unparalleled distress which overwhelmed the productive industry of the country’, he spoke and voted to reduce the import price of corn to 60s. He was one of the 27 Members who voted for inquiry into the currency, 12 June, having told ministers that they were wrong to measure depreciation by simply comparing gold with paper. He supported Hume’s motion for inquiry into the Irish church establishment, 4 Mar., distinguishing between ‘spoilation’ and a reallocation of revenues; he was a teller for the minority. On 23 June he supported the grant to subsidize Irish emigration to Canada as a gesture of goodwill, but argued that Irish absentees should be make to contribute substantially to the economic development of their country. He approved the removal of restrictions on the conduct of marriage services by Catholic priests, 12 June. He was friendly to the principle of the silk manufacture bill, but did not wish it to become law without a repeal of the Combination Acts, and therefore voted for its recommittal, 9 June. He was named to the select committee on poor returns, 23 Feb., as he was on its renewal in the next three sessions. He said a reduction of poor rates was ‘indispensably necessary, to prevent them from swallowing up the landed interest’, 12 May,31 and that their ‘total but gradual extinction’ was the only solution to the problem, 4 June. He was a stern critic of the beer duties bill, which he said would be ‘cruel to the public brewer, and not advantageous to the public’, as the poor man was entitled to ‘a beverage which would neither disagree with his head nor with his stomach’, 25 Apr.32 He called for modifications to it, 12 May, and again denounced it, 17 June, when he was a teller for the minority against the third reading. He supported his colleague Palmer’s unsuccessful attempt to legislate to permit brewers to retail beer in small quantities, 28 May 1823.
Monck began his attendance in the 1824 session slightly later than previously, but was present to call for full inquiry into the concerns of the Bank of England and express his hope that its charter would not be renewed as a matter of course, 19 Feb. His customary support for economy, retrenchment and reduced taxation included a vote in a minority of ten against any increase in the standing army, 20 Feb., and a denunciation of the grant for the Society for the Propagation of the Gospels in the colonies as ‘a great waste of money’, 12 Mar. He would not, however, support John Maberly’s motion to transfer the tax on beer to malt alone, 15 Mar., for he thought the agricultural interest deserved some compensation for its heavy burdens; and he only reluctantly supported his motion for inquiry into redemption of the land tax, 6 Apr., believing the scheme to be ‘mischievous’. On 14 June, when the measure was abandoned, he opined that it would have entailed too great a sacrifice. He voted for reform of Edinburgh’s representation, 26 Feb. On William Maberly’s motion for an advance of capital to Ireland, for which he did not vote because it offered only an inadequate solution, at the expense of the taxpayers of England and Wales, 4 May, he argued that the problems of Ireland ‘arose from an excessive and redundant population, and from a want of the means to afford employment’. He outlined a remedial programme to check population growth and create work by prohibiting the building of cottages without land attached, taxing absentees and introducing English farming methods. He supported the prayer of an Armagh petition for a fixed import duty on corn, 7 May, when he said that one of the greatest causes of Irish distress was the export of her wheat to England.33 He presented a Reading petition for immediate execution of the government proposals for the silk duties, 9 Mar.34 He voted for inquiry into the prosecution of the Methodist missionary John Smith in Demerara, 11 June, having brought up a Reading petition on the subject, 31 May.35 He presented a Berkshire yeoman’s petition against Stuart Wortley’s bill to reform the game laws, 25 Mar., but expressed personal approval of its principle, though he carped at the severity of some of its clauses, 1, 12 Apr.36 On 4 June he opposed the new churches bill, because ‘the Church of England had not, at present, its root in the affections of the people’. On 21 May he welcomed the beer retail bill, on which he congratulated the government, 24 May, after presenting a Berkshire parish petition in its favour.37 He was named to the committee on the vagrancy bill, 6 May, and, as he explained on 3 June, emerged from it a convert to the proposal to give a single magistrate the power to commit for indecent exposure. He was, however, opposed to the whipping of ‘incorrigible rogues’. He remarked on the cost to Berkshire of passing on Irish vagrants, 18 June.38 He spoke and was a teller for the minorities for Hume’s attempts to obtain returns of Irish and Scottish commitments and convictions, 27 May. On 1 June 1824 he opposed the Equitable Loan Company bill as ‘Jewish in principle, as the object of the speculators was to monopolize the profits which the Jews at present enjoyed’.
Monck presented a Reading petition for repeal of the assessed taxes, 28 Feb.,39 and spoke and voted for that proposal, 3 Mar. 1825. He supported repeal of the beer duties, 5 May, and voted for that of the window tax, 17 May. On 22 Mar. he confessed that he had recently revised his opinion on the poor laws, having decided that without them the English poor would have been ‘quite as turbulent’ as their Irish counterparts during the winter. He obtained leave to introduce a bill to prohibit in certain cases the payment of any part of labourers’ wages from the poor rates, 12 May, but he withdrew it on 14 June.40 He voted against the bill to disfranchise Irish 40s. freeholders, 26 Apr., 9 May, and on 12 May explained that he objected to the Irishman being deprived of his vote ‘on account of evils which were not of his own making’, while seats were ‘sold openly and notoriously to the highest bidder’ in England. He divided for prior inquiry before granting money to subsidize Irish emigration, 13 June, and was a teller for the minority in favour of inquiry into the Irish church, 14 June. He voted for revision of the corn laws, 28 Apr., after presenting a Reading petition to that effect,41 and on 2 May attacked the laws as a tax on 14,000,000 people for the benefit of a few landowners. He again called for reform of the licensing system, 4 May.42 He spoke against the grant to the duke of Cumberland, 27 May, and voted steadily against it thereafter. He ridiculed the idea of trying to curb blasphemy by prosecution, 2 June. On 17 June he said that he would have no objection to the new judicial salaries if they were coupled with an assurance that puisne judges would not be promoted; but he was subsequently a teller for the minority for an amendment to the proposals. Like Palmer, he opposed the Newbury improvement and Berkshire and Hampshire canal bills.43 At the annual Reading mayoral feast, 3 Oct. 1825, he was reported as saying that much good had been accomplished that session ‘by a judicious reduction of taxes and many other useful measures’, notably the Jury Act, but to have reiterated his demand for ‘some material alteration’ of the corn laws.44
On 9 Feb. 1826 Monck ‘condemned the mystery on the part of the Bank’ over publication of its accounts, but praised the government measure to restrict the issue of small notes, on which ministers ‘had not led, but followed the public mind’. He would not support Hume’s motion for a select committee on the banking and currency system, 20 Feb., but he did vote against a ministerial adjustment to the promissory notes bill that day, supported Maberly’s call for the Bank to give regular information of the number of notes in circulation, 24 Feb., and was in minorities of nine and 19 for amendments to the measure, 27 Feb., when he pressed ministers to end once and for all the worthless paper issues of country banks, most of which were crooked. His own attempt to ensure that in the event of a banker’s failure the holders of one pound notes would have priority in proving debts was negatived. He spoke and voted for Hume’s bid to secure regular returns of note issues from country banks, 7 Mar. He denounced the Bank charter amendment bill as ‘a positive nuisance’, 14 Apr., and on 4 May, endorsing the prayer of a petition on the dangers of a paper currency, rehearsed his argument on the difficulties created by having to pay in gold debts contracted in depreciated paper: the lesser evil was ‘to adjust our difficulties to our currency, instead of endeavouring to adjust our currency to our difficulties’. He now advocated the introduction of a system of poor laws to Ireland, 16 Feb., voted for the extirpation of non-resident voters from Irish boroughs, 9 Mar., and supported Grattan’s attempt to empower Irish vestries to assess parishes for relief, 27 Apr. He presented a Reading silk weavers’ petition for protection against foreign competition, 21 Feb.,45 but did not vote for inquiry into the trade, 24 Feb. On 6 Mar. he deplored the cost of the Royal Military College. He defended petitions calling for revision of the corn laws or ‘bread tax’, and called for more of the same, 10 Mar.46 He voted for inquiry into the laws, 18 Apr., and on 12 May applauded ministers’ decision to postpone general discussion of the problem to the next Parliament: ‘he trusted that now, when country gentlemen saw that ministers could not, or would not, protect them in their high prices, they would direct their attention to a more legitimate source of wealth - a reduction of the burthens of the country’. He voted for reform of Edinburgh’s representation, 13 Apr., and general reform, 25 Apr. He again urged reform of the licensing system, 21, 26 Apr., and spoke and voted for a clause to provide for adjourned sittings to be added to the licensing bill, 12 May 1826.47
Monck stood again for Reading at the general election in June, when he and Palmer were opposed by two candidates on the Blue, or Tory interest. He declared himself to be ‘the steady friend of a just economy in the public expenditure, of a temperate reform in the representation of the people, and respecting the corn laws, a decided enemy to any system, which, like the present, was calculated for the supposed benefit exclusively on one class, to raise the price of food at the expense of all others’. He confirmed his undiminished support for Catholic relief. He comfortably topped the poll after a desperate contest, which saw Palmer turned out by four disputed votes. (He was subsequently seated on petition.)48 At the mayoral dinner in October 1826 he attributed ‘the present distress and depression ... to the operation of the corn laws and the hocus-pocus tricks which had been played with the currency’.49 He voted for the amendment to the address, 21 Nov. 1826. He spoke and voted against the Clarences’ grant, which was ‘most unseemly in the present state of public distress’, 16 Feb., 2, 16 Mar. 1827. He complained of the ‘growing charge on the country’ imposed by military widows’ pensions, 16 Feb., and supported reduction of the grant for the Royal Military College, 16, 19, 20 Feb. On 3 Mar. he at last joined Brooks’s, sponsored by Sir Francis Burdett* and Sir Ronald Craufurd Ferguson*. Mary Russell Mitford described him in rather fanciful terms to Benjamin Haydon:
I am sure you will be pleased with his frankness and originality. He is a great Grecian, and a great political economist - a sort of Andrew Marvell in Parliament; living in a lodging close to the House [15 College Street], with an old woman who cooks him alternately a beef steak, a mutton chop, or a veal cutlet; he does not indulge in a lamb chop until after Easter. He votes sometimes with one party and sometimes with another, as he likes their measures; he is respected by all, notwithstanding his independence, and he is idolized here in the country for his liberalilty, his cheerfulness, his good humour and his unfailing kindness.50
He voted for Catholic relief, 6 Mar., as he did again, 12 May 1828. On 9 Mar. and 25 May 1827 he aired his views on the need to provide for the poor in Ireland.51 He voted for a 50s. corn import price, 9 Mar., and on 12 Mar. opposed the increased duty on barley, which he said had been ‘conceded to the threats held out to ministers ... by those who ought to be the natural protectors of the people, but who would make themselves their masters’. He was one of Hume’s minority of 16 in favour of a reduction in duty to 10s. over the next six years, 27 Mar., and on 9 Apr. failed in an attempt to add a clause to the corn bill authorizing the holders of leases granted after 1815 to pay up to two thirds of their rent in corn.52 He voted for inquiry into the allegations against Leicester corporation, 15 Mar., and the production of information on the mutiny at Barrackpoor, 22 Mar., and the Orange procession at Lisburn, 29 Mar.; but he was not in the opposition minority on Tierney’s motion to postpone going into committee of supply until the ministerial crisis was resolved, 30 Mar., even though he spoke and voted, as a teller, for the spring guns that day, as he had on the 23rd.53 On 3 Apr. 1827 he advised Hume to leave in the hands of ministers his proposed inquiry into debtors’ prisons, but to persevere with his attempts to have an end put to arrests for debts of under £20; and on 9 Apr. he endorsed the prayer of petitions for reform of county courts. He voted for inquiry into the Irish miscellaneous estimates and chancery delays, 5 Apr. He divided for the disfranchisement of Penryn, 28 May, was in the minority of ten for repeal of the Blasphemous and Seditious Libels Act, 31 May, and said that Hume’s suggestion that Stanley should incorporate the ballot in his bill to regulate Preston elections was ‘entitled to consideration’, 14 June 1827.
Monck was in Hume’s minorities of 15 and eight against the navy estimates, 11, 12 Feb. 1828, when he asserted that ‘if such extravagant establishments were maintained, they would lead, at no very distant period, to some dreadful explosion, in which the credit of the country must suffer’. On the army estimates, 22 Feb., he cited with approval the example of France, where retired officers never got full pay. He presented petitions for repeal of the Test Acts, 19, 25, 26 Feb., when he voted for it. He denounced the ‘fatal and improvident system of sub-letting’ operated by the Irish gentry, 19 Feb., and agreed with Hume that the increase in crime was largely attributable to oppressive taxation, 28 Feb. He presented Reading and Abingdon petitions for repeal of the recent Malt Act, 29 Feb., 7 Mar. He voted against the proposal to extend the franchise at East Retford to the freeholders of the Hundred of Bassetlaw, 21 Mar., 24 June, and later divided for attempts to transfer its seats to Birmingham, 5 May 1829, 5 Mar. 1830. He approved the Wellington ministry’s life annuities repeal bill, 25 Mar. 1828, because it gave security for liquidation of a proportion of the national debt, but he stressed the importance of applying any surpluses to tax reductions rather than to the sinking fund. On 31 Mar. he described the debt as ‘the root of all our misfortunes’ and attacked the new corn bill; he voted for a pivot price of 60s., 22 Apr., and denounced the measure as ‘perfectly useless and idle’, 23 May. On 1 and 17 Apr. he elaborated his views on the need to introduce a system of poor relief to Ireland, which had ‘the most numerous, increasing, unemployed, and desperately wretched population on the face of the earth’; but he saw no merit in refusing relief to the able-bodied in England, as Slaney proposed, and advocated ‘the adoption of a minimum of wages’, which might ‘make a minimum of human misery and human degradation’. On 1 May, however, he pointed out that to ensure fair wages without harming manufacturing industry it was necessary to have a moderate corn law and a remission of taxes on necessities. He supported the principle of Macqueen’s settlement by hiring bill, thinking that it would be ‘productive of more caution, circumspection and prudence in the lower classes’, 29 Apr. He pressed for legislation to fix wages in the stricken silk industry, 26 June, and on 1 July presented and endorsed a petition from Manchester calling for wage regulation and suggested the appointment of an arbitration body to intervene in disputes. He was named on 2 Apr. to the committee on the bill to regulate borough polls, which he supported, 15, 23 May. He divided in the minority on excise penalties, 1 May. He voted against the provision for Canning’s family, 13 May, and seconded Hume’s bid to have it rejected out of hand, 22 May. Earlier that day, though, he had dissented from Hume’s advocacy of a paper currency convertible to gold. He voted for information on civil list pensions, 20 May, and spoke and voted for Hume’s motion for reductions, 10 June. He was a teller for the minority against the report stages of the pensions bill, 22 May. He spoke and voted against the grant for the Society for the Propagation of the Gospels in the colonies, 12 June, opposed charitable grants to Ireland, the least taxed country in Europe, 9, 20 June, and voted for the Irish assessment of lessors bill, 12 June, and for inquiry into abuses in the Irish church, 24 June. When complaining again of the ‘peculiarly extravagant’ dead weight charge of military pensions, 13 June, he declared:
This House, instead of being a security to the people, and a check upon a lavish expenditure, itself affords the means of excessive expenditure ... Nothing has been done in the way of reduction. We have been employed in voting money into our own pockets. The only way of attending speedily to the wishes of the country is, by making a large reduction. Not a single successful vote has been given by the opposition for reduction this session. What has the finance committee done in the way of reduction? Nothing; on the contrary, in my opinion, they have added, by their vote on the currency, ten per cent to the burdens of the country.
He accordingly voted against the grant for the improvement of Buckingham House, 23 June, the additional churches bill, which would ‘impose an unlimited taxation upon the public’, 30 June, and the ordnance estimates, 4, 7 July, protesting on the 8th that ministers had made only paltry savings. On 3 June he asked them to consider imposing a standard excise duty of 5s. on beer and allowing brewers to produce whatever strength of beer they wished. He supported a clause of the licensing bill which aimed to curb the power of magistrates, 19 June, voted against imposing licenses on cider retailers, 26 June, and on 8 July argued that retail brewers should be allowed to remain open until ten at night. He wanted restrictions placed on savings banks as to interest paid and size of individual deposits allowed, 3 July, but on 10 July asked for the measure to be given a fair trial. He voted for the bill to prevent the application of municipal funds to electoral purposes, 10 July 1828. On the budget the following day, he agreed with Hume in condemning the folly of borrowing money to redeem the national debt and likened the government to ‘a young spendthrift dealing with an usurer’.
When he called for army reductions, 20 Feb. 1829, Monck stressed the vital necessity of parliamentary reform, for the Commons as at present constituted had ‘a decided interest in the creation and multiplication of places and pensions of all sorts’. He was a guest of the annual Westminster Purity of Election dinner, 25 May.54 He voted for Lord Blandford’s reform scheme, 2 June. He played down the significance of a Reading petition against Catholic emancipation, which he congratulated ministers for conceding, 26 Feb. While he thought the anti-Catholic petition of the Cobbetite William Hallett was drivel, 19 Mar., he agreed with its prayer for provision to be made for the poor in Ireland, without which emancipation would do little good. He duly voted for relief, 6, 30 Mar., though he was unhappy with the severity of the relief bill’s restrictions on Jesuits in England, 24, 27 Mar. He thought the disfranchisement of Irish 40s. freeholders might be beneficial, but was sure that it would not, as was claimed, create ‘a substantial yeomanry’. He presented a Dublin petition for the emancipation of Jews in Ireland, 10 Apr., and voted for O’Connell to be allowed to take his seat without hindrance, 18 May. He spoke and voted against the silk trade bill, which he saw as the death blow to the industry, 1 May, when he called for a property tax to replace taxes on necessities. Supporting inquiry into the beer and malt duties, 12 May, he demanded an end to the ‘absurd regulations’ affecting the brewing trade and appealed to the country gentlemen for support. He approved Davenport’s juvenile offenders bill that day, but wanted it to provide for the use of juries. On 15 May he supported Slaney’s labourers’ wages bill as ‘the first great measure of amelioration’, but warned that its clause allowing overseers to contract for the employment of the poor would nullify it by ‘degrading the labourers ... to the state of galley-slaves’. He voted for a fixed duty on corn imports, 19 May, and urged ministers to revise them when presenting a Stockport manufacturers’ petition complaining of distress, 28 May. On 2 June he pressed for their ‘total repeal’ next session, along with a significant adjustment of tithes. Like Hume, he deplored the exchequer bills funding bill, 22 May, and he voted for reduction of the grant for the Marble Arch, 25 May, and of the hemp duties, 1 June 1829.
Monck was one of the 28 opposition Members credited with supporting the address, 4 Feb. 1830, after which his first known vote was for Blandford’s reform plan, 18 Feb. He voted for the enfranchisement of Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, 23 Feb., and for investigation of the Newark petition against the duke of Newcastle’s electoral interference, 1 Mar., against the East Retford disfranchisement bill, but for O’Connell’s proposal to incorporate the ballot in it, 15 Mar.; he had spoken for this on 5 Mar., contending that the time had come to give it a trial in order to uphold the ‘legitimate influence’ of property. He voted for Russell’s reform motion, 28 May. He was a persistent critic of the army estimates in February, demanding on the 22nd cuts of £3,000,000 in expenditure to facilitate essential tax reductions. He again linked retrenchment with a reform of Parliament, 8 Mar., when he said that ‘we represent not the people but ourselves, and we help ourselves as well as we can to the contents of the public purse’. He divided ‘against the opposition motion for information on relations with Portugal, 10 Mar.55 He voted regularly for economies and tax cuts as the opposition to the ministry revived; but he declined to support Davenport’s motion on the state of the nation, 23 Mar., believing that such an inquiry would be ‘unprofitable’. He reiterated his criticisms of the burden of military pensions, 29 Mar., 29 Apr., when he secured returns of information. He preferred repeal of the beer duties to that of the assessed taxes, 28 May. He supported inquiry into the state of the poor in Ireland, 11 Mar., 3 June, and on 17 May exhorted Irish Members to consider resuscitating the system of county asylums. He divided for the Irish vestry reform, 27 Apr., 10 June, abolition of the lord lieutenancy, 11 May, repeal of the coal duties, 13 May, and inquiry into Irish first fruits, 18 May. He presented another petition for the emancipation of Irish Jews, 23 Mar., and voted for the wider measure proposed by Robert Grant, 5 Apr., 17 May. He supported Lord Ellenborough’s divorce bill, 6 Apr. He presented a Reading petition for abolition of the death penalty for forgery, 11 May, and voted for that measure, 7 June. He favoured the establishment of a permanent court in London to deal with insolvent debtors, 14 May, objected to the lord chamberlain’s powers of censorship over plays, 25 May, and voted to modify the libel law amendment bill, 6, 9 July, and to reduce the new judicial salaries, 7 July. On 30 Apr. he questioned the chancellor of the exchequer on the sale of beer bill, on which he found himself at odds with the majority of his constituents. He described it as a measure for ‘the spoliation and confiscation’ of brewers’ property, 3 May, and the following day he presented petitions against it from the brewers, magistrates and licensed victuallers of Reading. When Palmer brought up the inhabitants’ petition in favour of the bill, 11 May, Monck claimed also to favour the opening of the trade, but said that he could not accept that ‘the sale of beer should be so extensive, as to enable every man who might so think fit, to turn his house into an ale-house for drinking’. His attempt to prevent consumption on premises licensed under the bill, 21 May, was defeated by 143-118’ and he failed in bids to limit the licenses to houses rated at a specified amount, 3 June, and to have third case appeals decided by juries, 4 June. He divided for unsuccessful amendments seeking to restrict on-sales, 21 June, 1 July 1830, when he deplored the ‘mischievous’ tendency of the bill.
It was initially assumed in Reading that Monck would stand again at the 1830 general election, but on 9 July he made an ‘unexpected’ announcement of his retirement, claiming that ‘I find the regular attendance on parliamentary business, becoming every year, as I grow older, more fatiguing and more inconvenient’. He recommended as his replacement and formally proposed on the hustings the eminent Whig civilian Stephen Lushington*, who was narrowly beaten by a Blue.56 He had chaired a Reform Association meeting in London, 16 July 1830, when he urged reformers not to ‘weaken themselves by internal division’.57 He remained active in borough and county politics. He addressed a town meeting which petitioned for a repeal of assessed taxes, 12 Oct., and a reform dinner, 21 Oct., when he declared that ‘the effect of time had made him a radical reformer’, now strongly in favour of the ballot. He was one of the promoters of a petition in favour of lord chancellor Brougham’s plan for the establishment of courts of local jurisdiction in early December 1830.58 He supported the campaign to obtain clemency for the ‘Swing’ rioters condemned to death by the Reading special commission at the turn of the year.59 At the county reform meeting, 17 Jan. 1831, he had to abandon for lack of support a proposal for about one sixth of the Commons to be elected by universal suffrage, but he carried a resolution in favour of the ballot. He took prominent roles at the town reform meeting, 31 Jan., and the borough and county meetings to endorse the Grey ministry’s reform bill, 14, 16 Mar.; on the 14th he stated that it was
not an innovation, but a restoration . It was objected that the bill took away the power from the aristocracy. It deprived them, certainly, of tyrannical power; but wealth and rank, combined with probity, would always maintain their influence ... The measure was safe, practical and efficient.
In April 1831 he was pressed by Lord Radnor, the leader of the Berkshire reformers, to stand for the county in the event of a dissolution, but he declined, recommending instead the young Catholic, Robert Throckmorton, for whose successful campaign he worked at the ensuing general election, and whose nomination he seconded. In the borough he proposed Palmer as an uncompromising supporter of the bill.60 He spoke at the county meeting to petition the Lords to pass the bill, 5 Oct., and was the leading spirit behind the town meeting called in response to its defeat, 10 Oct., when he deprecated such measures as refusing to pay taxes and appealed for confidence to be shown in ministers.61 On 22 Nov. 1831 he was fêted in Reading and was presented with an ornate, inscribed candelabrum in recognition of his public services. Returning thanks, he called on the people to support ministers with ‘that moral power which ... is derived from reason, from discussion, from combination, from political union for good, peaceful and lawful purposes’.62 He again advocated peaceful demonstrations and the formation of unions at the Reading meeting called to discuss the political crisis after the dismissal of the reform ministry, 14 May 1832; and he spoke in the same vein at the county meeting called to address the king and petition the Lords, 25 May.63 At the county by-election of late May 1832 he seconded and worked for Hallett, the unsuccessful candidate, forecasting that within a year of the passage of the reform bill there would be ‘an equitable commutation of tithes’; and at the general election in December he proposed Palmer as the advocate of the abolition of slavery, triennial parliaments and reform of tithes and municipal corporations.64
Monck died at Coley Park in December 1834. His funeral at St. Mary’s, Reading was marked by civic mourning.65 In his will, dated 5 June 1815, he confirmed the settlement of his real estate laid down by his father. He left his wife £300, plus selected books and artifacts, and an annual allowance of £150 from the rents of his property. To his elder son, John Bligh Monck (1811-1903), who succeeded him in the Coley estate, he devised diamonds, objets d’art and furniture, on condition that on coming of age he should pay £3,000 for them. He directed that the residue of his estate should be sold and the proceeds added to the £10,000 fund created on his marriage settlement. He left £10 a year to one Jane May, ‘an infant under my protection’. By a codicil of 14 Aug. 1834 he left modest annuities to a brother, sister and nephew and suits of mourning to all the tenants and labourers on the Coley and Aldworth estates, and to the inmates of local almshouses. His personalty was sworn under £20,000.66
Ref Volumes: 1820-1832
Author: David R. Fisher
- 1. She was bap. 22 Sept. 1742 (IGI).
- 2. Gent. Mag. (1809), ii. 1236.
- 3. Ibid. (1814), i. 516.
- 4. PROB 11/1506/888.
- 5. Gent. Mag. (1835), i. 432; Friendships of Mary Russell Mitford ed. A.G.K. L’Estrange, i. 7-9.
- 6. PROB 11/1506/888; IR26/154/114; Gent. Mag. (1809), ii. 1236.
- 7. VCH Berks. iii. 365; iv. 4.
- 8. Gent. Mag. (1835), i. 432; J. Doran, Hist. Reading, 265-6; [W. Turner], Reading 70 Years Ago ed. P.H. Ditchfield, 33.
- 9. HP Commons, 1790-1820, ii. 12; Reading Mercury, 5, 12 Oct. 1812.
- 10. Reading 70 Years Ago, 19, 47; ‘Octogenarian’, Reminiscences of Reading, 133.
- 11. Gent. Mag. (1835), i. 432.
- 12. Reading Mercury, 21, 28 Feb., 6, 13 Mar. 1820.
- 13. Friendships of Mary Russell Mitford, i. 22-23; Letters of Mary Russell Mitford (ser. 2) ed. H.F. Chorley, i. 99.
- 14. Life of Mary Russell Mitford ed. A.G.K. L’Estrange, ii. 109-10.
- 15. Reading Mercury, 13 Nov. 1820.
- 16. Ibid. 4, 11 Dec. 1820, 15 Jan. 1821; The Times, 11 Dec., 9 Jan. 1821.
- 17. The Times, 22 May 1821.
- 18. HLRO, Hist. Coll. 379, Grey Bennet diary, 41.
- 19. The Times, 20 Apr. 1821.
- 20. Ibid. 31 Mar. 1821.
- 21. Ibid. 4, 5 Apr. 1821.
- 22. Ibid. 9 June 1821.
- 23. Grey Bennet diary, 111.
- 24. The Times, 16, 19 Jan. 1822.
- 25. Ibid. 5 June 1822.
- 26. Ibid. 25 Apr., 21 May, 11, 18 July 1822.
- 27. Ibid. 14 May, 1 June 1822.
- 28. Reading Mercury, 3 Feb. 1823.
- 29. The Times, 18 Jan. 1823.
- 30. Ibid. 28 Feb. 1823.
- 31. Ibid. 13 May 1823.
- 32. Ibid. 26 Apr. 1823.
- 33. Ibid. 8 May 1824.
- 34. Ibid. 10 Mar. 1824.
- 35. Ibid. 1 June 1824.
- 36. Ibid. 26 Mar., 2 Apr. 1824.
- 37. Ibid. 25 May 1824.
- 38. Ibid. 19 June 1824.
- 39. Ibid. 1 Mar. 1825.
- 40. CJ, Ixxx. 407, 416, 483, 538.
- 41. The Times, 29 Apr. 1825.
- 42. Ibid. 5 May 1825.
- 43. Ibid. 6 May, 21 June 1825.
- 44. Berks. Chron. 8 Oct. 1825.
- 45. The Times, 22 Feb. 1826.
- 46. Ibid. 11 Mar. 1826.
- 47. Ibid. 22, 27 Apr., 13 May 1826.
- 48. Reading Mercury, 12, 19, 26 June 1826.
- 49. Berks. Chron. 8 Oct.; Reading Mercury, 9 Oct. 1826.
- 50. J.J. Cooper, Worthies of Reading, 122.