PIGOTT, George Grenville Wandisford (1796-1865).

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

Constituency

Dates

3 May 1830 - 1832

Family and Education

b. 10 Mar. 1796, 1st s. of William Pigott of Doddershall Park, nr. Aylesbury, Bucks. and Anne, da. of Rev. William King, rect. of Mallow, co. Cork. educ. Rugby 1808. m. (1) 26 Oct. 1822, Charlotte (d. 20 Mar. 1823), da. of Edward Beeston Long of Hampton Lodge, Surr., s.p.; (2) 30 Oct. 1838, Charlotte, da. of William Lloyd of Aston Hall, Salop, 1s. 1da. suc. fa. 1838. d. 4 Jan. 1865.

Offices Held

Ensign 14 Ft. 1812, lt. 1814, half-pay 1818; lt. 6 Ft. 1818; lt. 86 Ft. 1822; lt. (half-pay) 12 Drag. 1822-30.

Asst. poor law commr. 1845-62.

Lt.-col. Bucks. militia 1836-52.

Biography

Pigott’s ancestors were established in Wales and the Marches soon after the Conquest, and settled at Chetwynd, Shropshire. During the eighteenth century the small Buckinghamshire estate of Doddershall, with its Tudor house, came into the family. Pigott’s father inherited this property in 1802 and later became receiver-general of land tax for the county.1 Pigott was named in honour of the family’s powerful county neighbours, the Grenvilles of Stowe, with whom they were on friendly terms. In his desultory army career he served in the Mediterranean, at home and in Ireland. His first wife died at Torquay, ‘of a rapid consumption’, only five months after their wedding.2 In March 1822, when it seemed that Lord Liverpool’s ministry would send out George Canning* as governor-general of India, Richard Grenville†, 1st duke of Buckingham, sought to recommend Pigott for Canning’s ‘establishment or secretariat’, explaining that

my father in a manner left him as a legacy to me to provide for, being his godson. He has travelled much, speaks French, Italian and German fluently, has a remarkable talent for business ... most gentlemanlike manners, and will I am certain ... be a very valuable member of any man’s family. But I will not send him so far off as India upon an uncertainty, or unless he could be sure of being well provided for.3

Nothing came of this, of course, but the following year Buckingham secured Pigott a position as an ‘unsalaried but official’ attaché to the Württemberg embassy, headed by his cousin Henry Williams Wynn†, who reported from Stuttgart in June 1824 that

I continue to like Pigott as much as ever; he is a most invaluable person and I shall be, on my own account, very sorry when we are to part. I trust, however, that in the course of a year or two you will be able to get him an appointment. It is yet too early to make an application in his favour, as Canning [now foreign secretary] would not probably be able to attend to it.4

Pigott went as an attaché with Williams Wynn to Denmark in 1825 and remained there until early 1830, ‘performing during the greater part of that time’, as he later said, ‘the duties of secretary of legation’. He then obtained from Lord Aberdeen, foreign secretary in the duke of Wellington’s ministry, ‘a formal acknowledgement of my claim to advancement, with a distinct promise of promotion as soon as the few engagements to which he was pledged were redeemed’. He subsequently stated that ‘a serious accident’ had put him out of contention for such vacancies as had immediately occurred.5

In May 1830 Pigott came in on a vacancy for Buckingham’s borough of St. Mawes. He was sworn in, 10 May, and voted for Jewish emancipation, 17 May. He was in the minorities for amendments to the sale of beer bill, 21 June, 1 July 1830. He was returned again for St. Mawes at the general election that summer, surviving an attempt to open the borough and a subsequent petition.6 Wellington’s ministry numbered him among their ‘friends’, but he was absent from the crucial division on the civil list, 15 Nov. 1830, apparently owing to an attack of gout.7 He divided against the second reading of the Grey ministry’s reform bill, 22 Mar., and for Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831. He came in again for St. Mawes at the ensuing general election, after a token contest.8 He obtained an order for information on duties levied by foreign countries on British and colonial exports, 28 June 1831. He divided against the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, and for use of the 1831 census to determine the disfranchisement schedules, 19 July. On the proposal to disfranchise St. Mawes, 26 July, he entered his ‘protest against the gross injustice’ of schedule A and insisted that St. Mawes was neither ‘decayed’ nor ‘corrupt’, maintaining that ‘the influence which has prevailed there is the fair influence of property’. He voted next day against the partial disfranchisement of Chippenham. He supported the argument of Buckingham’s son Lord Chandos against conferring an additional county Member on Buckinghamshire, 13 Aug., suggesting that an extra one for Great Marlow would be preferable. He voted to preserve the voting rights of non-resident freeholders at Aylesbury, 2 Sept. On 15 Sept. he proposed that the flourishing county towns of Dorchester, Guildford and Huntingdon, currently in schedule B, should be permitted to retain two Members each, but this was negatived without a division, which the Tory leaders had been keen to avoid.9 (All three boroughs were fully reinstated in the final bill.) He divided against the bill’s passage, 21 Sept. He voted against the issue of a new writ for Liverpool, 5 Sept., and for inquiry into the effects of the Sugar Refinery Act on the West India interest, 12 Sept. He divided against the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831, and going into committee, 20 Jan. 1832, after complaining that it was ‘impossible, from the documents now in our hands, to decide what boroughs ought to be disfranchised’. He secured a return of the population, assessed taxes and inhabited houses of the English counties, 31 Jan. He contended that Midhurst rather than Amersham should be included in schedule A, 21 Feb. Two days later his argument that the ‘most extraordinary’ omission of yeomanry exemptions from the estimate of assessed taxes had unjustly condemned Helston to schedule B was dismissed by ministers. He voted against the enfranchisement of Tower Hamlets, 28 Feb. On the English county schedule, 9 Mar., he moved an amendment for houses and assessed taxes rather than population to be taken to determine which were to have four and which three Members: on this basis, the agricultural counties of Berkshire, Hertfordshire and Oxfordshire would receive an extra seat, at the expense of Cumberland, Durham and Northamptonshire. Ministers would have none of it, and Pigott did not divide the House. He questioned Lord John Russell’s assertion that the reform bill had given a preponderance to the agricultural interest, 20 Mar., arguing that the reverse was the case and that, since a reformed Parliament was likely to vote for ‘an entirely free trade in corn’, the prospect loomed of ‘the ruin of the whole existing race of landowners and farmers’, as well as the abolition of primogeniture, the peerage and the church. He divided against the third reading, 22 Mar. He voted against government on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., 12 July, and spoke at length against the ‘miserable sophistry’ of their attempts to justify it, 16, 20 July. He protested at their acquiescence in the French invasion of Spain, which might encourage France to attack Ireland, 13 Mar. He joined in the attack on Russia’s treatment of Poland, 28 June. He supported an amendment to Warburton’s anatomy bill to prohibit dissection in private houses, 11 Apr. He presented Buckinghamshire petitions for a majority of parish ratepayers to be authorized to adopt schemes for the employment of the able-bodied poor, 8 May, and defended this proposal as incorporated in Burrell’s agricultural labourers bill, 9 July. He seconded Robinson’s protectionist motion for inquiry into trade, 22 May, when he condemned the tariff reforms of the last ten years. He presented a petition against the proposed scheme of Irish national education and the Maynooth grant, 20 June 1832. His parliamentary career ended with the disfranchisement of St. Mawes.

Pigott remained a zealous promoter of the Conservative and protectionist cause in Buckinghamshire, where he supported Chandos’s electoral campaign amongst the farmers in the autumn of 1832. At a dinner in Buckingham, 6 Oct. 1832, when his father spoke as ‘a farmer to all intents and purposes’, Pigott declared his preference for a sliding scale to a fixed duty on corn imports, but emphasized that above all protection should be adequate. He attacked the ‘theoretical politicians’ and ‘political economists’ in the government, who were determined to introduce free trade in corn. He subsequently published a Letter on the Present Corn Laws, calling for the relief of agriculturists from heavy local taxation, which was the real cause of high bread prices.10 On Peel’s accession to power in 1834 Pigott applied for a place, citing Aberdeen’s earlier promise of diplomatic promotion, which had been frustrated by his parliamentary opposition to the Grey ministry. He now sought ‘employment’ at home, as the ‘temporary embarrassment’ of his father’s affairs, caused by ‘the depreciation of landed property’ and the loss of the receivership in 1831, ‘renders my presence in England almost absolutely necessary’. Peel gave him no encouragement, and he vainly approached Wellington for a foreign post.11 When he succeeded to the Doddershall estate in 1838 his father’s personalty was sworn under a paltry £1,500.12 The following year he published a copious Manual of Scandinavian Mythology. He again asked for a domestic office on Peel’s return to power in 1841 and, through the intervention of Chandos (now 2nd duke of Buckingham), a cabinet minister, his name was placed on the list for diplomatic advancement, with a seniority equivalent to a record of unbroken service since 1823. However, he was advised that this ‘concession’ would probably turn out to be ‘a barren one’, and so it proved.