STEWART, Charles (1801-1891), of 28 Oriental Place, Brighton, Suss.

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

Constituency

Dates

1831 - 1832

Family and Education

b. 30 Sept. 1801, 3rd but 2nd surv. s. of Capt. Philip Stewart (d. 1837) of Lisburn, co. Antrim and his cos. Anne, da. of Capt. William Smyth. educ. L. Inn 1835; M. Temple 1836, called 1838. m. in Paris, 21 July 1861, Emily Constantia, da. of John Parland of St. Petersburgh, 1s. d. 30 June 1891.

Offices Held

Biography

Stewart belonged to a branch of an old Perthshire family which had migrated to Ulster in the early eighteenth century and had a strong tradition of military service. His father was born at Kinsale in 1765, entered the army in 1782, attained the rank of major in 1805, and was captain successively of the 5th (1805), 9th (1807) and 2nd (1819) Royal Veteran Battalions until his retirement on full pay in 1820 (he eventually settled at Brighton). His mother was a great-granddaughter of John Vesey, archbishop of Tuam, 1668-1716.1 He stood for the venal borough of Penryn on the anti-corporation interest at the 1830 general election, purporting to be ‘perfectly independent of party’, but gave up after three days’ polling left him a poor third.2 He thought better of his threat to petition, continued to cultivate the borough and offered again at the general election of 1831, when he ‘declared some reform to be necessary, but not that set forth in the [Grey ministry’s] bill’, which proposed the partial disfranchisement of Penryn; he was narrowly returned in second place.3

He divided against the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, at least four times for adjournment motions, 12 July, and for use of the 1831 census to determine the borough disfranchisement schedules, 19 July 1831. He voted for the total disfranchisement of St. Germans but against that of Saltash, 26 July, and he was in the minority next day to postpone consideration of the fate of Chippenham. He was presumably the ‘Sir Charles Stuart’ who recommended the inclusion of ‘the important parish’ of Hove in the new borough of Brighton, 5 Aug. He acquiesced in the proposed amalgamation of Penryn with Falmouth to form a two Member constituency, 9 Aug., but protested on behalf of Penryn’s ratepayers, who he claimed were ‘as pure and incorrupt as the voters in any other open town’, at their inevitable subjugation to the £10 householders of Falmouth. He called for the borough qualification in the West of England generally to be significantly lowered, arguing that ‘the influence of property will operate more on the lower classes of voters than on £10 householders’. He also expressed his hope that ‘the first fruit of the union’ of Penryn and Falmouth would be his own re-election. Around this time he made private representations to ministers about local anxieties regarding the boundaries of the Penryn portion of the new borough.4 He divided against the bill’s passage, 21 Sept. He was in the small minority for the Irish union of parishes bill, 19 Aug., voted to censure the Irish administration for undue interference in the Dublin election, 23 Aug., and divided against the Maynooth grant, 26 Sept. 1831.

Stewart voted against the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831, the motion to go into committee, 20 Jan., and the enfranchisement of Tower Hamlets, 28 Feb. 1832. He secured the adoption of an amendment prohibiting acting borough returning officers from serving as churchwardens or overseers of the poor, 14 Mar. Before dividing against the bill’s third reading, 22 Mar., he warned that its ‘dangers’ far outweighed its dubious benefits:

It unsettles completely the relative weight of the different interests represented in this House; it takes from the land that power which it has so long and so properly possessed, and gives the preponderance to the commercial and manufacturing interests ... At the first election for a reformed Parliament, the vote by ballot and universal suffrage will be clamoured for by those classes whom you are now about to call into political power. I believe they will demand the abolition of the corn laws, an equitable adjustment of the national debt, and the destruction of church property; but ... the excited appetite of the people will not be restrained here, and the abolition of the hereditary peerage and the downfall of the monarchy will sooner or later follow the adoption of this ill-fated measure.

He appealed to the Lords to reject the bill.