MOORE, Peter (1753-1828), of Edward Street, Mdx.
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Family and Educationb. 12 Feb. 1753, 2nd s. of Rev. Edward Moore, LLB, vicar of Over, Cheshire (d. 1755), and w. Mary. educ. Sedbergh. m. at Patna, 8 or 10 Jan. 1774, Sarah, da. and coh. of Lt.-Col. Richmond Webb of Bandon, co. Cork, 5s. (4 d.v.p) 2 da. d. 5 May 1828.
Writer, E.I. Co. (Bengal) 1768; asst. in collector gen.’s office 1770, dep. collector 1771; factor and sec. to bd. of revenue 1774; member, bd. of revenue 1776; jun. merchant 1777; first in council, Murshidabad 1780; sen. merchant 1780; collector, Calcutta 1782; commr. of police 1783-4; home 1785.
Vilified by William Cobbett† in Coventry in 1820 as ‘a clerk in mind, though a Member of Parliament in name and rank’, Moore’s Commons and business careers derived from the East Indian one he owed to his elder brother Edward, a well-connected ‘alphabet (indexing) clerk’ in the Journals office, who had secured him the patronage of the 1st Baron Holland.1 Elections at Tewkesbury and Coventry, which he had represented as a self-professed Foxite Whig since 1803, had eroded his nabob’s fortune, but his reputation as an able debater and manager of local and private bills was assured and he retained the support of his wealthy colleague Edward Ellice, to whom he polled second in 1820.2 Like Ellice, he strenuously supported the return of Samuel Whitbread* for Middlesex.3 He was a popular figure at the Beefsteak Club and in the House, where he commanded attention and could sense when to give way or seek adjournment. He divided steadily with Hume and the ‘Mountain’, 1820-3, but seems subsequently to have adhered to the main Whig opposition. He opposed the Irish insurrection bill as a minority teller, 7 Feb. 1822, and again, 7, 8 Feb., 8 July 1822, 12 May 1823. He had failed to secure devaluation when the gold standard was restored in 1819, and he divided for inquiry into the currency, 12 June 1822, and for corn law revision, 18 Apr. 1826.4 As befitted a Coventry Member, he was named to the select committee on standing orders affecting trade, 14 June 1820, spoke regularly on commercial issues and initiated legislation and undertook much select committee work on private bills.
Moore joined in the opposition to the Western Union Canal bill with a droll speech mocking alterations to its intended course secured by Eton College to safeguard ‘the boys’ morals’, 15 May 1820.5 He brought up petitions from Andrew Beckwith, 12 June, and the self-styled duchess of Cumberland, Olive Serres, 14 July, and pressed the leader of the House Lord Castlereagh on the cases of other aggrieved persons, 14, 17 July, 18 Sept. 1820.6 His support for the parliamentary and extra-parliamentary campaigns on behalf of Queen Caroline was unstinting, and he was portrayed with Sir Gerard Noel* and Whitbread as one of the ‘three itinerant graces’ addressing meeting after meeting in Middlesex on her behalf.7 He denounced the bill of pains and penalties as a ‘dark and foul’ conspiracy ‘derogatory to the crown’, before voting for an address urging prorogation, 18 Sept., and seconded an abortive adjournment motion, 17 Oct. 1820. Bringing up petitions from Monmouth, 26 Jan. 1821, he called for the restoration of the queen’s name to the liturgy, and he again criticized her treatment by ministers, 1, 6 Feb. He presented Birmingham’s petition for their impeachment, 30 Apr.8 He voted for Catholic relief, 28 Feb., and provoked laughter by claiming the credit for its consideration, 28 Mar., but nevertheless presented the Coventry clergy’s hostile petition, 21 Apr. 1821.9 He divided for relief, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May 1825. Moore’s support for parliamentary reform was compromised by his obligations to the Coventry out-voters, who jealously guarded their privileges, and the ribbon weavers employed in making election favours. He voted to make Leeds a scot and lot borough under the Grampound disfranchisement bill, 2 Mar. 1821, and divided for reform proposals, 9 May 1821, 25 Apr. 1822, 24 Apr., 2 June 1823, 13, 27 Apr. 1826. He voted to receive the radical Greenhoe petition linking reform and distress, 3 June 1822, and endorsed the ‘objectives’ of the contentious Devon petition, 2 June 1823.
Moore joined in the clamour for retrenchment and tax reductions throughout 1821 and 1822, and fulfilled his declared intention of sparing Members by moving adjournments to ‘arrest all business after midnight’, 11, 14, 18, 25 May 1821, 11, 29 Mar. 1822.10 His stated objections to the ‘unnecessary’ award for the duke of Clarence, 18 June 1821, were procedural and based on the revival of a ‘vote of a previous Parliament ... without a previous message from the crown’. He pressed for the production of comprehensive estimates early in the session to facilitate ‘proper debate’, 10 July 1821, 11 Feb., 1, 4, 11 Mar., 18 Apr. 1822. Preferring 1798 or 1799, he urged his ‘Mountain’ colleagues in vain against making 1797, the first year for which details of government expenditure were available, their standard for measuring inflation, 18 Apr. 1822.11 He failed to delay the superannuation bill, 11 Mar., or the finance bill, 1 July 1822. Londonderry (Castlereagh) rejected his plea for detailed discussion of the latter - ‘that species of enjoyment pointed out by the Hon. Member for Coventry’ - and ensured that his amendment restricting the bill’s duration (to the fist six weeks of the 1823 session) was defeated, 155-55, 1 July.12 Neither ministers nor the ‘Mountain’ would take up Moore’s complaint against the Austrian ambassador Frederic Von Gentz, the author of a memorial to the Lords criticizing him and Sir Robert Wilson*, but the chancellor of the exchequer Vansittart made it known that the treasury ‘lent no credence’ to its claims, 31 May 1822.
Moore endorsed Wilson’s opposition to the Stoke Newington vestry bill, 5 Mar., 6 Apr., and secured the recommittal of the metropolitan gas light bill, in which they had vested interests, 24 May 1821.13 He brought up petitions against and criticized Scarlett’s poor relief bill on his constituents’ behalf, 28 May, 6 June; likewise the extra post bill, 2 July 1821, 3 Apr., Henry Hunt’s* treatment in Ilchester gaol, 1 Mar., 2 Apr., the poor removal bill, 13 May, and the beer bill, 18 July 1822.14 He enlivened debates with interventions in favour of the vagrancy bill, 29 Mar., and the Salford hundred courts bill, 13 May, and condemned the receivers-general (customs) bill, which he had previously backed.15 He voted against referring the Calcutta bankers’ petition to a select committee, 4 July, and defended the East India Company’s handling of the affair, 4, 29 July.16 On 5 Aug. 1822 he announced that he would seek to repeal the combination laws the following session and requested ministerial backing.17 Despite objections from the home secretary Peel and the president of the board of trade Huskisson, who criticized the ‘short notice’ and Moore’s private Member status, he received leave to introduce it, 3 Mar. 1823. It ‘drew on 28 Acts’ and he defined its objectives as: ‘First, to bring back a great number of eminent artificers from the continent; secondly, to effect a better distribution of the profits of labour between the employers and the employed; and thirdly, to facilitate the means of recovering debts and deciding suits between artificers and their employers’. He also projected it as a means of reducing poor rates. Its reception and the petitions it attracted were mixed, 22, 27 May, 11, 30 June. Littleton and the Warwickshire Member Dugdale testified to Coventry’s opposition to the measure and Huskisson quashed it as too complex, 27 May. However, the bill was printed and circulated, and Moore promised to revive it in 1824, together with his 1819 schemes for regulating the clock-making trades and consolidating the apprenticeship laws, 18 July 1823.18
He attributed the failure of his 1823 Insolvent Debtors Act repeal bill, for which Coventry petitioned, 13 Mar., and his masters and servants bill to lack of support from other manufacturing towns.19 Coventry silkmasters relied on import restrictions and protective tariffs and resisted any relaxation in the navigation laws, and Moore supported their campaign against the 1823 silk manufacture bill, by which the Spitalfields Acts were repealed. His speeches (22 May, 9, 11 June) condemned it as a harbinger of mass unemployment and poverty and he welcomed the three-year adjustment period secured by a late Lords’ amendment.20 He presented and endorsed petitions against the importation of foreign silks, 4, 15 Mar. 1824, and was caricatured by Cruikshank being borne towards the Speaker by the Coventry weavers, holding a placard inscribed ‘petitioners shall ever weave’ and arguing that ‘Coventry is the barometer of the [commercial] world’.21 As one of the trade’s parliamentary spokesmen in 1826, he presented petitions alleging distress and seeking inquiry, 13, 23 Feb., 10 Mar., and advocated their referral to a select committee, 23 Feb. He reiterated their plea in a major speech the following day and criticized Huskisson for ignoring the petitions and the distress and misery his policies had brought to the manufacturing districts and for refusing to accept that ‘people mattered more than the Navigation Acts’.22
Moore was named to the 1824 and 1825 select committees on artisans and machinery and presented petitions from Coventry and elsewhere for repeal of the combination laws, 29, 31 Mar., 8, 15 Apr. 1824, and from Lancashire against their re-enactment, 28 Apr., 11 May 1825.23 He decided against proceeding with his own bill, announced on 26, 31 Mar. 1824, and Hume rushed repeal through in a measure denounced by the Coventry silkmasters, who held Moore responsible for it, as a disastrous and costly failure.24 He continued to divide fairly regularly with opposition and to present petitions, but henceforward most of his time in and out of the House was devoted to promoting and safeguarding his business interests. A major shareholder in at least two coal-gas companies (the Metropolitan and the Imperial), he strove to defeat the bills of the rival London Oil Gas Company in which Ellice had a stake (12 Apr., 3 May 1824, 23 Feb. 1825). The presence of the Coventry Members as rival tellers, 12 Apr. 1824, 22 Feb. 1825, prompted Hume to demand the annulment of the votes of interested Members, and Moore’s proprietorial interest was recorded in the Journal.25 The failure of the 1824 Equitable Loan Company bill again compromised Moore, for although his work in committee and in the chamber, 15, 23, Mar. 1825, secured its passage in the Commons (39-12), 24 Mar., its fate rested with the Lords, who rejected it, 25 Mar., and king’s bench, where lord chancellor Eldon’s ruling of 4 Feb. 1825 in the Joseph v. Pebrer case that the ‘Equity’ was ‘illegal within the operation of the Bubble Act’ prompted alarm in the City and a spate of protective joint-stock legislation.26 On 29 Mar. Moore made but subsequently withdrew a motion for leave to bring in a bill to repeal the Bubble Act, but the attorney-general Copley and Huskisson condemned it as ill-prepared. He defended the companies he was associated with, called on the board of trade to take immediate action and reinforced claims that the ‘Bubble Act, being so full of penalties and contradictory enactments ... [was] a dead letter’. He protested also that ‘various companies possessing a capital of £250 million were left at sea, without rudder or compass, not knowing whether they were acting right or wrong’. Assisted by Grenfell, he proposed but agreed to postpone his revised repeal bill, 30 Mar., 18 Apr., secured its first reading, 30 Apr., but effectively abandoned it, 13 May, when a government measure was known to be imminent.27 His prosecution in the court of chancery as chairman of the British Annuity Company did not deter the Ffestiniog Railway Company, the Welch Mining Company and others from soliciting his parliamentary services with share offers, which he foolishly accepted after the Bubble Act was repealed in June 1825.28 He secured leave for a bill enabling the Aegis Insurance Company to sue and be sued, 23 Feb. 1826, but new legislation he promoted on behalf of the ‘Equitable’ and the Welch Iron and Coal Company failed - the latter through the intervention on 22 Mar. 1826 of Littleton and of the Breconshire Member Wood (as spokesman for Coventry’s London out-voters).29 The silkmasters and corporation had been campaigning to oust Moore since August 1825, and they secured their objective when he polled fourth at the general election of 1826, unable to make himself heard above the mob, which mocked him as ‘Pope Peter’.30
Defeat cost Moore the House’s protection, and the collapse of his businesses following the rejection of his appeal in the British Annuity Company case of Van Sandau v. Moore and others, 15 Aug. 1826, induced him to make over his assets, which included East India Company stock, to his creditors and to take refuge in France. His subsequent recovery actions were non-suited.31 On 16 Aug. 1827, now 74, he vainly wrote to the 3rd Baron Holland, whom he anticipated would become foreign secretary in the reshuffle following Canning’s death:
I anxiously look at the progress of the Whigs, as we are called, from this coast and cordially rejoice at the expulsion from office and power of the old sordid leaven so long keeping misery and disgracefully lowering the dignity of our country. I trust that my 35-year support of the Whig cause from which I never spared personal exertion or purse will not be lost sight of, nor the seat for Queenborough which placed ... Romilly in Parliament to strengthen your administration in 1806, for which I never received the promised return: no, not even the return of the fees paid for the Chiltern Hundreds ... I shall be happy to serve under you, either at home or abroad. You cannot have more sincere attachment near you.32
‘The scapegoat for the slurs of a multitude of jobbers’, he died in May 1828 at his home in St. Valery sur Somme, near Abbeville, ‘broken’, according to the Times, by his speculation in the ill-fated Devonshire and Cornwall Mining Company, in which several ministers and Members had invested.33 He was recalled as a friend and sponsor of the dramatist Richard Brinsley Sheridan†, the author William Thackeray and the Charing Cross tailor Francis Place, and as a casualty of his high profile ‘Bubble company’ investments.34 By his will, dated 11 May 1827, and proved under £300, he left everything to his unmarried daughter and housekeeper Maria Sarah, subject to a token payment of £100 to his ‘beloved son Macartney Moore’ (d. 1831), an East India army officer.35
Ref Volumes: 1820-1832
Author: Margaret Escott
- 1. Pol. Reg. 25 Mar. 1820.
- 2. Coventry Herald, 25 Feb. 10, 24 Mar.; Grey mss, Ellice to Grey [4, 16 Mar. 1820].
- 3. The Times, 8, 28, 30 Mar. 1820.
- 4. B. Hilton, Corn, Cash, Commerce, 47.
- 5. The Times, 16 May 1820.
- 6. Ibid. 15, 18 July, 19 Sept. 1820.
- 7. M.D. George, Cat. of Pol. and Personal Satires, x. 13989; Ann. Reg. (1821), Chron. pp. 417-20.
- 8. The Times, 27 Jan., 2 Feb., 1 May, 1821.
- 9. Ibid. 13 Apr. 1821.
- 10. Ibid. 12, 19, 26 May 1821, 12, 30 Mar. 1822.
- 11. Ibid. 11 July 1821, 12 Feb., 2, 5, 12 Mar., 19 Apr. 1822.
- 12. Ibid. 2 July 1822.
- 13. Ibid. 6 Mar., 7 Apr., 25 May 1821.
- 14. Ibid. 29 May, 7 June, 3 July 1821, 2 Mar., 3 Apr., 14 May, 19 July 1822.
- 15. Ibid. 30 Mar., 19 July 1822.
- 16. Ibid. 30 July 1822.
- 17. Ibid. 6 Aug. 1822.
- 18. Ibid. 23 May, 12 June, 1, 19 July 1823.
- 19. Ibid. 14, 19 Mar., 23 Apr. 1823.
- 20. P. Moore, ‘Letters on the Repeal of the Combinations Laws’ (1825) [Coventry Local Stud. Lib. Coventry Pamphlets, V].
- 21. The Times, 5, 16 Mar. 1824; George, x. 14673.
- 22. The Times, 14, 24, 25 Feb., 11 Mar. 1826.
- 23. Ibid. 30 Mar., 1, 9, 16 Apr. 1824, 29 Apr., 12 May 1825.
- 24. Ibid. 30 Mar., 1, 9, 16 Apr. 1824; Moore, ‘Letters’.
- 25. CJ, lxxx. 110.
- 26. The Times, 27 May 1824, 5 Feb. 16, 24, 25 Mar. 1825; R. Harris, ‘Political economy, interest groups and repeal of Bubble Act in 1825’, EcHR, l (1997), 679-83.
- 27. The Times, 31 Mar., 19 Apr., 14 May 1825; Harris, 688-9.
- 28. The Times, 7, 10 Mar. 1825, 27 Apr., 6, 9 May 1826; NLW, Porthmadog mss 330; Gwynedd Archives (Caernarvon) XD/8/2/210; Lawyers and Legislators (1826), 78.
- 29. The Times, 18, 24 Feb.; Coventry Herald, 24 Feb. 1826.
- 30. The Times, 2, 12, 17, 21 June; Coventry Herald, 5 June 1826.
- 31. The Times, 16 Aug. 1826, 1, 7 May; Coventry Mercury, 18 Mar., 6 May 1827.
- 32. Add. 51811.
- 33. The Times, 15 May; Coventry Herald, 16 May 1828.
- 34. Oxford DNB.
- 35. PROB 11/1742/368; IR26/1169/364.