REID, Sir John Rae, 2nd bt. (1791-1867), of 8 Broad Street Buildings, Finsbury Circus, London and Ewell Grove, Surr.
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Family and Education
b. 2 Dec. 1791, 1st s. of Sir Thomas Reid, 1st bt., merchant, of 3 Angel Court, Throgmorton Street, London and Elizabeth, da. and h. of John Looker Goodfellow of Newbury, Berks. educ. ?Eton 1808. m. 9 Sept. 1840, Maria Louisa, da. of Richard Eaton of Stetchworth Park, Cambs. 2s 1da. suc. fa. as 2nd bt. 29 Feb. 1824; mo. to Ewell Grove 1829. d. 30 July 1867.
Dir. Bank of England 1820-47, dep. gov. 1837-9, gov. 1839-41.
Reid’s grandfather James Reid (d. 1775), the son of John Reid of Kirkmahoe, was a prominent merchant of Dumfries. His sons Thomas and Joseph, born in 1762 and 1772 respectively, entered the London commercial world. In about 1790 Thomas became a partner with John Irving* in the West India trading house of John Rae in Angel Court. The firm, which extended its operations to the East Indies, became known as Reid, Irving and Company, and from about 1799 to 1838 occupied premises in Broad Street Buildings. Thomas Reid was elected a director of the East India Company in 1803 and served as its forceful chairman in 1816 and 1821. He acquired Surrey estates at Ewell and Woodmanstone and also owned a ‘small landed property’ at Greystone Park, Dumfriesshire.1 In 1819, he deplored ‘the infamous machinations of the disaffected’, but at the same time urged the Liverpool ministry to relieve the ‘serious and grievous distresses ... felt by the poor operatives in manufacturing and other districts’ by repealing the taxes on leather, malt and salt and replacing them with one on ‘realized property, not meddling with capital in trade or professional income because they are in a state of transition’. He also advocated statutory wage regulation, ‘for whatever Mr. Malthus and other philosophers may say, every man has a right to live’.2 A year later he exhorted Lord Liverpool to counter the ‘daily increasing’ threat of sedition by ‘calling out and encouraging volunteer yeomanry corps in much greater numbers’ and to postpone Queen Caroline’s trial until tranquillity had been restored.3 He was in pursuit of a baronetcy from at least 1809, when he renewed his application after letting it lapse for a while in deference to the ‘turmoil’ caused by radical attacks on public ‘profusion’. His ambition was not gratified until late 1823, and within four months he was dead, ‘from the effects of a paralytic attack’.4 By his will, dated 25 Aug. 1822, he left £1,000 and a life annuity of £2,500 to his wife; £10,000 to his brother; £20,000 to his daughter Harriet Lempriere; £7,000 to his grandson Charles Sandford, on whom he entailed his West Indian property, and £5,000 to Charles’s brother Thomas. His personal estate was sworn under £400,000. He devised Woodmanstone to his younger son George Reid (1800-55) and the Dumfriesshire estate to the elder, John Rae Reid, who was only to take possession of Ewell Grove on the death of his mother (which occurred five years later). He considered that any comparative loss suffered by John on account of his mother’s life interest would be ‘amply’ compensated for by ‘the profits that have accrued to him from his having been so long a partner in the house of business’.5
At the general election of 1830 Sir John Rae Reid, a director of the Bank of England for ten years, stood for Dover with the backing of the premier the duke of Wellington in his capacity as lord warden of the Cinque Ports. Although he ‘expressed his intention of standing upon independent principles, and would pledge himself to no party’, it was clear that his politics were ‘ministerial’. When smeared as ‘a large slave holder’, he issued an immediate denial, explaining that he had nothing more than ‘a temporary interest as mortgagee of an estate in the West Indies’. He promised to give the abolition question his ‘attentive consideration’ when he judged that the time was ripe. He was returned in second place after a contest and survived a petition.6 Ministers of course numbered him among their ‘friends’, and he was in their minority on the civil list, 15 Nov. 1830. Reid, who is not known to have spoken in debate, declined to support the Dover petition in favour of the Grey ministry’s reform bill: the measure was, he told his constituents, ‘of too sweeping a nature to receive his support’, though he claimed to be ‘friendly to reform’ in principle.7 He divided against the second reading, 22 Mar., presented a hostile petition from Dover out-voters, 15 Apr., and was in the opposition majority for Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831. At the ensuing general election he started again for Dover, but was forced to withdraw by what he admitted was a ‘strong ... bias ... in favour of the measure of reform’ among the electors.8
Reid continued to cultivate the borough and fought successful contests there in 1832 and at the next three general elections. His firm, which was located from 1838 at 16 Tokenhouse Yard and had a branch in Liverpool, failed for £1,500,000 on 17 Sept. 1847. While its assets were nominally greater than its liabilities, they were not very liquid, being mostly tied up in property in the West Indies and Mauritius; and it was over nine months before a dividend of 1s. 6d. was paid.