RICKETTS, Charles Milner (1776-1867), of 6 Park Street, Westminster, Mdx.

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

Constituency

Dates

4 Jan. 1820 - 1 Apr. 1822

Family and Education

b. 21 Apr. 1776, 2nd s. of George Poyntz Ricketts (d. 1800) of Midgham, Jamaica and Grove Place, Hants, gov. Tobago and Barbados, and Sophia, da. of William Watts of South Hill, Berks., gov. Fort William, sis. of Amelia, 1st w. of Charles Jenkinson†, 1st earl of Liverpool. educ. Westminster 1788. m. 8 Mar. 1800, Ellen Theresa, da. of Miles Prendergast of co. Galway, wid. of Sackville Marcus Taylor, 4s. (3 d.v.p.) 4da. d. 7 Sept. 1867.

Offices Held

Writer, E.I. Co. (Bengal) 1792; asst. to sec. to govt. Aug. 1792, to resident at Rangpur Nov. 1792, to opium agent at Bihar 1798; first asst. to commercial resident, Dacca 1798; jnr. merchant 1801; acting sec. to bd. of trade 1799, sec. to bd. 1802; commercial resident, Commarcolly 1801; jt.-inspector of opium 1805; snr. merchant 1807; sec. to govt. in public dept. 1811; dir. Bank of Bengal 1811; principal private sec. to gov.-gen. Nov. 1813, again Jan. 1817; ch. sec. to govt. 1815; member of council and pres. bd. of trade Dec. 1817; ret. Jan. 1819.

Consul-gen. at Lima 1825-30.

Biography

Ricketts had obtained a seat for Dartmouth on the Holdsworth interest through his cousin Lord Liverpool, the prime minister, who had done much to advance his successful career in India. He came in again at the general election of 1820, only nine weeks after his original return, but his incursion into British public life proved to be brief and unrewarding. He voted in defence of ministers’ conduct towards Queen Caroline, 6 Feb. 1821. He divided against Catholic relief, 28 Feb. He voted with government against repeal of the additional malt duty, 3 Apr., the disfranchisement of ordnance officials, 12 Apr., and retrenchment, 27 June. He was granted ten days’ leave owing to illness in his family, 15 May 1821. No other trace of parliamentary activity has been found and he vacated his seat early in 1822.

By then he was skulking on the continent, with his marriage in ruins. The exact cause of the breakdown is not clear, but it evidently did him no credit. His brother-in-law Michael George Prendergast*, one of the trustees of the Ricketts’s deed of separation, wrote of his ‘gross and unworthy conduct’ and ‘acts of insult and injury to my sister’, and disputed Ricketts’s plea that ‘the faux pas with the girl he carried off was the only crime he ever committed against his marriage vows’. Ricketts kept in touch with Prendergast, who in October 1822 reported to Liverpool that there would be ‘considerable difficulty’ in persuading him to ‘relinquish his views of political preferment in this country’, which the premier had vetoed. Prendergast suggested that Ricketts might be surreptitiously sent back to India as private secretary to the new governor-general, Lord Amherst, on the understanding that he should resign this post ‘as soon as a suitable office for a person of his rank in the service [became] vacant’. This, Prendergast hoped, would be the ‘means ... of reconciling him to a meeting with his old friends and associates’, which was desirable since ‘his going out without the marked countenance of persons in power will make it more irksome to him to face society in Calcutta ... under the unhappy circumstances of his situation’. Liverpool would not countenance this ruse and Prendergast had to apologize for his ‘indiscretion’ in proposing it, though he still saw Ricketts’s return to India as ‘the surest mode of averting the never-ceasing conflicts which will be kept alive so long as he continues in Europe’.1 Ricketts subsequently irritated Prendergast by publicly seeking to fix ‘the entire blame of separation’ on his wife and accusing the trustees of imposing punitive financial terms on him. Prendergast’s threat in November 1823 to expose the unsavoury truth drew a conciliatory response, and Ricketts made known his anxiety to obtain ‘office of some kind anywhere but in India’, preferably a consulship in South America. Liverpool considered Ricketts, whom he presumed to have no Spanish, to be utterly unfit for such a sensitive appointment, and denied his allegations that he had encouraged him to expect employment at home when he returned from India:

I had a conversation with him in which I was quite explicit. The truth is, India is not the road to office in this country. It would be unfair if it was so generally, for whatever disadvantages may attend an India life a person has the means of making a fortune there, which he has not now through civil office in this country ... I procured him an easy seat in Parliament ... and gave him thereby the opportunity of making himself known, and of forming English connections. Whether anything further would have resulted from this it is impossible for me to say ... but the road was certainly open to him and it is no fault of mine he has not been able to take advantage of it.

Ricketts again lapsed into bitterness and recrimination, forcing Prendergast to end their private correspondence. In 1824, claiming to have given ‘close application to the Spanish language for the last year’, he applied through his wife for consulships in Colombia, Cuba, Mexico and Puerto Rico, but Liverpool still would not recommend him. In 1825, however, he was offered the consulship in Peru, worth £1,600 per annum, which he gratefully accepted.2 He returned from Lima in 1827, but retained the consulship until January 1830; the remainder of his life is largely obscure. He died in September 1867.3

Liverpool could have been forgiven for regretting his connection with the Ricketts family, for two of Ricketts’s sons caused him almost as much aggravation as did their father. The eldest, Charles Prendergast, had to be withdrawn from Sandhurst in 1818 after repeated brushes with authority. He subsequently made some progress in the army, but died as lieutenant-governor of Sierra Leone in 1828. Liverpool obtained a writership for the youngest, Dashwood Watts, in 1822, but he was expelled from Haileybury in 1824 after a series of misdemeanours culminating in profiteering in the sale of college books; he later made a career in the foreign service. Poyntz, the other son to survive infancy, was provided by Liverpool with a Bombay writership in 1820, but died in India four years later.4

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Authors: Terry Jenkins / David R. Fisher

Notes

  • 1. Add. 38411, ff. 101, 103, 109.
  • 2. Add. 38298, f. 219; 38299, ff. 29, 38; 38475, ff. 17, 19, 94-108, 114, 117, 188, 192, 194, 199.
  • 3. Gent. Mag. (1867), ii. 546.