PALLMER, Charles Nicholas (1772-1848), of Norbiton Place, Surr.

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

Constituency

Dates

26 June 1815 - 23 June 1817
1826 - 1830

Family and Education

bap. 11 June 1772, at St. Dorothy, Jamaica, 1st s. of Charles Pallmer of Cold Harbour, Jamaica and Jane Peters, da. of Nicholas Bourke of Clarendon, Jamaica. educ. L. Inn 1796. m. 2 June 1808, Maria Francis, da. and h. of Francis Dennis (whose wid. Mary bought the Norbiton estate in 1797), wid. of Hugh Ingoldsby Massy, s.p. suc. fa. 1787; William Thompson to Jamaica estates 1817. d. 30 Dec. 1848.

Offices Held

Maj. of brigade, W.I. 1805.

Crown solicitor in Jamaica 1806; bailiff, Kingston-upon-Thames 1820; sheriff, Surr. 1822-3; commr. of lunacy, Mdx. 1828-9.

Biography

Pallmer belonged to a West Indian planter family and owed his links with Surrey to his wife, who brought him his mansion near Kingston. He embellished it and extended the accompanying estate ‘to an area of about 300 acres’, comprising ‘an arable and sheep farm, a dairy farm, pleasure grounds, grotto, kitchen garden, grapery and other adjuncts of an attractive character’.1 Lord Liverpool was a near neighbour and connection: in 1820 Pallmer wrote on behalf of Kingston corporation to congratulate the prime minister on the failure of the Cato Street conspiracy and offer thanks to Providence for ‘the preservation of a life so inestimably useful to their country’.2 They subsequently corresponded on such matters of local interest as the construction of a new bridge over the Thames.3 During his first brief stint in the Commons Pallmer had been primarily a spokesman for the West India interest. He was a prominent figure in the West India Planters and Merchants’ standing committee, which he chaired from 1818-20, and which he served thereafter as deputy to his cousin Charles Rose Ellis*, invariably featuring in the deputations sent to ministers to argue the West Indian case.4 Ellis, on learning of his imminent ennoblement in June 1826, apparently considered returning Pallmer in his stead for Seaford at the general election. Liverpool was also keen to find a seat for him, but his acceptance of an invitation to stand for Surrey caused some embarrassment to the premier, as the Member at whom the contest was aimed was a government supporter. To the Whig 2nd Earl Spencer Pallmer meantime wrote that he was ‘well aware ... that neither property nor any pretensions of my own’ entitled him to ask for support, but if elected ‘I shall trust to show myself in my principles not altogether unworthy of your lordship’s approbation’.5 On the hustings he made light of his West Indian proprietorship by boasting of the 1,000 slaves on his plantation who had converted to Christianity. Though he praised a number of Whig luminaries, he declared his ‘decided preference’ for ministers. He declined to be pledged on Catholic relief (which he had opposed in 1816), but admitted to a ‘present bias’ against it. With the support of manufacturing and commercial interests, he was returned in second place after a five-day poll.6

He had expressed the hope to his constituents that he might ‘endeavour to act in some degree as a mediator between the legislature of this country and the West Indian planter’. He accompanied the planters’ deputations to lobby Huskisson, the president of the board of trade, for the admission of sugar to distilleries in October 1826, and to discuss the sugar duties with Robinson, the chancellor of the exchequer, in March 1827. Four months earlier he had been in the delegation to the colonial secretary Lord Bathurst to urge compensation for slave owners once the order for abolition was enforced.7 He spoke regularly in the House on West Indian and commercial matters. He defended the tax advantages enjoyed by West Indian over East Indian sugar, 23 Mar. 1827.8 While admitting that justice in the West Indies was ‘in general badly administered’, 12 June 1827, he denied that Jamaicans of mixed race were peculiarly victimized and set his face against ‘too sudden changes’ in the system. He moved for trading accounts of West Indian produce, 5 Mar., and after lobbying ministers he presented a petition from the planters and merchants for a reduction in sugar duty, 21 Apr. 1828.9 He argued that cheaper sugar might palliate the famine in Ireland, and that the revival of West Indian prosperity would provide a greater market for British manufactures. His suggestion for a clause to introduce the principle of reciprocity of duties to the corn importation bill was accepted, 23 May. He favoured the repeal of that part of the Foreign Enlistment Act which he deemed an interference with shipping interests, 3 July 1828. In January 1829 he led a delegation to the prime minister, the duke of Wellington, to lobby for a reduction in sugar duties.10 He moved for accounts of imports and exports of rum, sugar and coffee, 24 Mar., and spoke in favour of the West India Docks bill, 14 Apr. 1829. That month Pallmer and Ellis, now Lord Seaford, resigned their official positions on the West India committee after an organizational coup at a general meeting. Although this implied criticism of their leadership, the committee acknowledged Pallmer’s ‘prompt and assiduous support of the colonial interest both in and out of Parliament’.11 He briefly condemned the government’s ‘infatuated’ policy towards the West India interest, 1 Mar. 1830. At a meeting of concerned Members, 2 June, he proposed the motion for a representation to be made ‘in the strongest possible terms’ to Vesey Fitzgerald, the president of the board of trade, for some measure of relief ‘without loss of time’; the remedy suggested was an experimental reduction of the sugar duties in Ireland. The usual philanthropic gloss was put on this, and it was commended to ministers with the argument that if the expected increase in consumption took place, no loss of revenue would result.12 Denouncing their response as ‘very unsatisfactory’, 14 June, Pallmer put the scheme to the House, 1 July, and saw it defeated by 68-38. Having complained about the punitive duties on West Indian rum, 7 Apr., he supported Huskisson’s attempt to lift them, 5 July 1830.

On wider issues there was a streak of liberalism in Pallmer’s philanthropic interests and his sympathy for measures of parliamentary reform. He expressed support for Lord Althorp’s resolutions against electoral bribery, 22 Nov. 1826, and his motion for inquiry into the procedure for taking county polls, 15 Mar. 1827, when he detected an ‘auspicious’ mood in the House for ‘beneficial measures’ of this kind. He voted that day for inquiry into Leicester corporation, and explained on the 16th that he suspected malpractice in the creation of freemen. Yet he divided with Canning’s ministry against the disfranchisement of Penryn, 28 May, and regulation of the Coventry magistracy, 18 June. He voted against Catholic relief, 6 Mar. He divided for the Clarence annuity bill, 16 Mar., and praised the duke and duchess for their ‘domestic virtue and hospitality’, 22 Mar. Though he voted for the spring guns bill next day, he believed that the right to set them should be retained by the owners of market gardens, ‘a species of property especially subject to depredation, from being so near town’, 17 May. He divided for information regarding delays in chancery, 5 Apr. He voted for the grant for Canadian waterways, 12 June. On 14 May he urged the importance of the moral reform of prisoners, a concern which he had shown in his attempt at the Surrey quarter sessions to secure daily instruction for prisoners, and in his patronage of the Surrey Refuge for the Destitute (for ‘discharged prisoners ... desirous to forsake their depraved course of life’) and the Surrey Asylum for the employment and reformation of discharged prisoners.13 He introduced a bill to consolidate the law on savings banks, 22 May, when he lauded them as ‘giving the benevolent rich the means of encouraging the prudence of the industrious’; it foundered at the report stage. He promised a bill to regulate lunatic asylums, 8 June, but nothing more was heard.14 Similarly, he appears to have abandoned his intended bill to regulate jurors’ recognizances, 14 June 1827, after the home secretary Sturges Bourne promised a government measure the following session.15 He presented petitions for repeal of the Test Acts, 7, 19 Feb., and voted accordingly, 26 Feb. 1828. In presenting an anti-Catholic petition, 8 May, he declared that tranquillity in Ireland should not be bought ‘at the price of the discontent of England’; he divided against relief, 12 May. He unsuccessfully moved for the extension of Penryn into the neighbouring hundreds, 24 Mar., and maintained that the guilt of ’15 or 16 individuals’ did not justify the borough’s disfranchisement, 7 June. On 19 June he reintroduced his savings banks amendment bill, for which he had apparently secured backing from Wellington’s ministry; he replied to minor objections, 27 June, 3, 8 July, and after amendment in the Lords it gained royal assent, 28 July (9 Geo. IV, c. 92). He voted against reduction of the salary of the lieutenant-general of the ordnance, 4 July 1828. In February 1829 Planta, the patronage secretary, listed him as one who was ‘opposed to the principle’ of Catholic emancipation. He confessed to having ‘painful misgivings’ about the anticipated concession, 20 Feb., presented hostile petitions, 26, 27 Feb., 3 Mar., and divided against emancipation, 6, 18, 23, 27, 30 Mar. Prior to the vote on the 6th he had divided the House against resumption of the debate, to allow more time for petitions, but was defeated by 205-76. Three days later his conduct attracted comment from Althorp and others about his earlier evasiveness on the issue, prompting him to affirm his ‘solemn and sincere conviction’ that the Protestant constitution would be endangered by the government’s proposals. He admitted to occasional irregularities in the collection of signatures for anti-Catholic petitions, but insisted that they represented the majority view. On 19 Mar. he presented another petition from London and Westminster, to which he claimed 113,000 signatures were attached, and, anticipating the imputations that would be cast on its respectability, he sniped at the ‘dogmas and declamations of those who arrogantly call themselves "the intellectual"’. At a county meeting two days later he outdid even his rabidly anti-Catholic predecessor, George Holme Sumner, in condemning the government’s bill as ‘idolatrous worship of the demon of fear’ and a ‘sacrifice upon the altar of unhallowed tranquillization’; Liverpool, he maintained, would not have remained in office to pass such a measure. He made no reply to John Maberly’s* demand that he suggest an alternative means of pacifying Ireland, but along with the meeting’s petition against emancipation he presented another for the establishment of a poor relief system in Ireland, 26 Mar.16 Either he or Charles Fyshe Palmer voted for the transfer of East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 5 May. His attempt to legislate against bull baiting fell at the first hurdle, 12 May, when his motion to repeal the existing Cruelty to Animals Act failed by 73-28. His bill to tighten the regulations on new buildings gained a first reading, 5 June 1829, too near the end of the session to make any further progress.

Although Pallmer’s name does not appear in the lists compiled in the autumn of 1829 by the Ultra Tory leader Sir Richard Vyvyan*, his disillusionment with Wellington’s ministry became apparent during the 1830 session. He divided for Knatchbull’s amendment to the address on distress, 4 Feb. While professing continued admiration for the premier and for Peel, the leader of the Commons, he considered their proposed tax reductions to be inadequate, 19 Feb., and suggested that Members’ ‘abused privilege’ of franking letters be abolished. He voted with the Whig opposition for military economies, 19, 26 Feb., 1 Mar., a revision of taxation, 25 Mar., and against the Bathurst and Dundas pensions, 26 Mar. He attended a county meeting on distress, 19 Mar., and spoke in support of the resulting petition, 23 Mar., when he called for the substitution of duties on fuel and candles with a ‘fair and equal tax upon property’. That day he presented a petition from the labourers on William Cobbett’s† Barn Elms farm complaining of distress and protesting at schemes for emigration.17 He divided against the East Retford bribery prevention bill, 11 Feb., and for the enfranchisement of Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, 23 Feb. On 28 May he voted for Russell’s reform resolutions and conspicuously featured in the minority of 13 for O’Connell’s motion for universal suffrage, triennial parliaments and the ballot; he did not explain his apparent conversion to the cause of radical reform. He divided for Jewish emancipation, 17 May, abolition of the death penalty for forgery, 24 May, 7 June, and against increased recognizances in libel cases, 9 July 1830. He retired at the dissolution that summer, citing to his constituents ‘the state of my health and the consciousness of my utter inability to do justice to the duties incumbent on your representative’. On the hustings he endorsed the reformer John Ivatt Briscoe* and observed that ‘great as were the duke of Wellington’s merits ... there were others as capable of conducting the government of the country’.18

The background to Pallmer’s sudden retirement emerged shortly afterwards. Reports appeared in the press during March 1831 that several West Indian houses had stopped payment, on account of the disappearance of a major creditor. The Observer referred to the culprit, none too obliquely, as the person who, ‘from being an attorney of no great eminence in Jamaica rose, by his suavity and pliancy of manner, to be the "hail fellow" of Lord Liverpool and the recognized of the highest in the land’, and who had ‘spent £20,000 in obtaining the representation of a metropolitan county’. Seaford informed Lord Granville with obvious consternation, 1 Apr., that

Pallmer, whom I believed to be one of the best ... of men, suddenly left England about a month ago, leaving debts to an enormous amount, contracted under circumstances of the most discreditable nature, and involving some of his most intimate friends and nearest connections in very serious losses. He had obtained from me, among many others, the loan of about £7,000, under assurances which have proved not only fallacious, but treacherous.19

Pallmer was listed as a bankrupt in the London Gazette, 26 Apr. 1831, where, presumably to allow him the protection of the bankruptcy laws, he was described as a ‘ship owner, dealer and chapman’. The Observer thereupon expatiated on his fall from grace:

Ten or twelve years ago this person launched forth on the world with the reputation of possessing a large income from West India property ... Whatever that income might have been in prosperous times, it soon sunk in the same proportion as that of other proprietors, and Mr. Pallmer’s pride proving greater than his integrity, he continued spending some £8,000 or £10,000 a year long after his estate was wholly unproductive. The result of the system under which he raised the necessary supplies is a debt of £100,000 due to the firm with which he was connected. It is said that the ex-Hon. gentleman has written from Paris to say that everyone will ultimately be paid. On such a subject a little trading slang may be excused: ‘we wish they may get it’.

He appears to have surrendered to his creditors in absentia and returned to Jamaica.20 He died in Boulogne-sur-Mer in December 1848.21 By his will, executed in Jamaica in 1837, he left his entire estate, ‘with the full concurrence of my most dearly beloved and excellent wife’, to his sister, Eliza Parker. She renounced probate and administration was granted to John Parkinson of 60 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, a creditor; the personalty was sworn under a nominal £20.22

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Howard Spencer

Notes

  • 1. E.W. Brayley and E. Walford, Surr. 236.
  • 2. Add. 38283, f. 286.
  • 3. Add. 38299, ff. 349, 360, 369, 371; 38300, f. 259.
  • 4. Inst. of Commonwealth Stud. M915/3/4, 4/1.
  • 5. Add. 38301, ff. 213, 231; 40305, f. 186; 76135, Pallmer to Spencer, 11 June 1826.
  • 6. Baldwin’s Weekly Jnl. 17, 24 June; County Chron. 20 June 1826.
  • 7. Baldwin’s Weekly Jnl. 17 June 1826; Inst. of Commonwealth Stud. M915/4/1.
  • 8. The Times, 24 Mar. 1827.
  • 9. Inst. of Commonwealth Stud. M915/4/1.
  • 10. Wellington mss WP1/994/2.
  • 11. Inst. of Commonwealth Stud. M915/4/1.
  • 12. Ibid. 11/7.
  • 13. The Times, 11 Jan., 15 Nov. 1826, 15 May 1827, 9 May 1828.
  • 14. Ibid. 9 June 1827.
  • 15. Ibid. 15 June 1827.
  • 16. Ibid. 23 Mar. 1829.
  • 17. County Chron. 23 Mar. 1830; Cobbett’s Rural Rides ed. G.D.H. and M. Cole, iii. 1016.
  • 18. County Chron. 6 July; Baldwin’s Weekly Jnl. 7 Aug. 1830.
  • 19. Observer, 13 Mar. 1831; TNA 30/29/9/5/78.
  • 20. I. Duffy, Bankruptcy in Industrial Revolution, 22; Observer, 1 May 1831; Surr. Arch. Colls. vii. p. xliii.
  • 21. IR26/1880/836. A monumental inscription cited in Caribbeana, iii. 333, gives his date of death as 30 Sept.
  • 22. PROB 11/2124/912; IR26/1880/836.

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