STRUTT, Joseph Holden (1758-1845), of Terling Place, Witham, Essex
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Family and Educationb. 21 Nov. 1758, 2nd but 1st surv. s. of John Strutt† of Terling and Anne, da. of Rev. William Goodday, rect. of Strelley, Notts. educ. Felsted; Winchester 1768; Brasenose, Oxf. 1778. m. at Toulouse, 21 Feb. 1789, Lady Charlotte Mary Gertrude Fitzgerald, da. of James, 1st duke of Leinster [I] (she was cr. Baroness Rayleigh 18 July 1821), 2s. (1 d.v.p.) 2da. suc. fa. 1816. d. 11 Feb. 1845.
Lt.-col. western batt., Essex militia 1783-96; col. S. Essex militia 1798, 1803-5, 1809, W. Essex militia 1823-31; brevet col. during service 1798.
Strutt, a short man with piercing blue eyes, was the grandson of a prosperous miller. On the death of his overbearing father ‘Black Jack’ Strutt in 1816 he acquired 6,000 inherited and purchased acres in Essex, to which during his lifetime he added 2,330, at a cost of £103,000, drawn entirely from savings.1 An undistinguished, mostly silent but conscientious parliamentarian, he had succeeded his father as Pittite Tory Member for Maldon in 1790 and, sustained by his friends in the corporation, had by 1820 extended their combined period of unbroken possession of the seat to almost 46 years. He was conceited and smug, under a cloak of false humility. He had married the daughter of an Irish duke at the age of 20 and since the turn of the century had vainly pestered successive Tory ministries for a British peerage for her, on the strength of his own and his father’s electoral and militia services in Essex. In a fragment of autobiography, intended as a lesson in filial obedience and civic duty for his troublesome son John James (1796-1873), he boasted that he had ‘obtained the approbation’ of Pitt, Dundas, Addington, Perceval, Lord Liverpool and George IV, among others; but in reality they considered him tiresome and importunate.2
He was returned again unopposed for Maldon at the 1820 general election. Notwithstanding his later ludicrous claim that he had ‘declined’ the offer of a place, ‘preferring penury which induced me and my daughters to breakfast on a penny worth of milk with water and dry bread, that I might be free in public life as an MP’, he remained generally steady in his support of the Liverpool administration.3 He was, however, credited with a vote in the minority against Wilberforce’s compromise resolution on the Queen Caroline affair, 22 June 1820.4 When the election for Colchester of the radical Whittle Harvey was declared void a week later, ministers encouraged Strutt to put up his son at the by-election; but his enquiries revealed divisions among the local Tories which made it a hopeless case.5 On 14 Dec. 1820, hearing that Western, the ‘violent’ Whig county Member, planned to urge the lord lieutenant Lord Braybrooke to convene a meeting to condemn ministers’ conduct towards the queen, Strutt dashed the 27 miles from Terling to Audley End in a successful bid to forestall him. Like Braybrooke, Strutt saw the dangers involved in ‘assembling the county to address against the clamour of the day’, which could end in embarrassing defeat; but he believed that ‘the minds of the people are coming round to sound consideration’ and that the issue could not ‘long infatuate’ them.6 He duly voted against the opposition censure motion, 6 Feb. 1821. As before, he divided against Catholic claims, 28 Feb. 1821, 30 Apr. 1822, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May 1825. On 9 May he was in the minority against the bill to disfranchise the Irish 40s. freeholders as a security for relief. He was in the ministerial majorities against repeal of the additional malt duty, 3 Apr., military economies, 11 Apr., 28 May, retrenchment, 27 June, the disfranchisement of ordnance officials, 12 Apr., and parliamentary reform, 9 May 1821. That summer his claim for a British peerage for his wife was finally conceded as one of the coronation creations. Returning obsequious thanks to Liverpool, Strutt described the honour as ‘requiting the long constitutional conduct in and out of Parliament of my ... father and of my humble constant exertions within the sphere of a country gentleman’; but he ‘lived long enough to repent’ of settling for this arrangement, which gave his son precedence of rank over him, and to wish that he had insisted on the peerage being granted ‘in my own person’.7
Strutt voted against more extensive tax reductions, 11, 21 Feb., and abolition of one of the joint-postmasterships, 13 Mar., and for the Irish estimates, 22 July 1822. He divided with government against repeal of the assessed taxes, 18 Mar., and of the Foreign Enlistment Act, 16 Apr., for the grant for Irish glebe houses, 11 Apr., and against inquiry into chancery delays, 5 June 1823. That month he and his son attended and were toasted at the anniversary dinner of the Maldon Pitt Club.8 His only known vote in the 1824 session was against the abolition of army flogging, 5 Mar. He voted for the Irish unlawful societies bill, 25 Feb., and the duke of Cumberland’s grant, 2, 10 June 1825. In April he had told Liverpool that ‘if no particular circumstance should arise to me or any of my family, prior to a dissolution of Parliament, I at present intend that my son and myself should be in the next, provided that your Lordship remains at the head of government’.9 In September 1825, when a dissolution was expected, Strutt informed the electors of Maldon that he would follow his father’s example and, with the country now ‘in the plenitude of honour and glory with the world, and in rising prosperity’, hand over the seat to John James. However the latter, who had recently been converted from a rake into an Evangelical religious maniac, had only reluctantly agreed to come in; and in March 1826, after a furious row with his father, he withdrew from the scheme, thereby ending the family’s 52-year tenure of the seat.10 Strutt presented Witham and Maldon anti-slavery petitions, 3 Feb., 11 May, but voted in defence of the Jamaican slave trials, 2 Mar. 1826.11 He divided for the president of the board of trade’s ministerial salary, 10 Apr., and against reform of Edinburgh’s representation, 13 Apr. 1826.
At the general election in June he was returned in absentia for Okehampton on the Savile interest, presumably as a paying guest; he proclaimed his ‘firm adherence to the principles of our glorious constitution’.12 He was given eight days’ leave of absence on account of ill health, 13 Feb., but was present to vote against Catholic relief, 6 Mar. 1827. He was granted a fortnight’s sick leave, 30 Mar. On 18 June 1827 he was in the Tory minority against the Coventry magistracy bill. He divided against repeal of the Test Acts, 26 Feb. 1828. He got two weeks’ leave on account of illness, 1 Mar., but was in the minority of 15 against punishing a prevaricating witness in the East Retford inquiry, 7 Mar. 1828. He voted against Catholic relief, 12 May, and the provision for Canning’s family, 13 May, and with the Wellington ministry on the ordnance estimates, 4 July 1828. Planta, the patronage secretary, thought he would side ‘with government’ for Catholic emancipation, but he voted steadily against it in March 1829, presenting hostile petitions from Terling and Fairsted on the 17th. Although the Ultras did not count him as one of their own in October 1829, he divided against administration on the Terceira affair, 28 Apr., the army estimates, 30 Apr., and the grant for South American missions, 7 June 1830. He voted against Jewish emancipation, 17 May, and in minorities for amendments to the sale of beer bill, 21 June, 1 July 1830. Now aged 71, he left Parliament at the dissolution that month.
On his wife’s death in 1836 Strutt had the mortification of seeing his son seated in the Lords, but they subsequently buried the hatchet.13 In his declining years he was consoled and nursed by his unmarried daughter Emily Anne (1790-1865), for whose future comfort he bought in 1840 St. Catherine’s Court, near Bath, where he mostly spent the last five years of his life.14 In his egotistical memoir he claimed that
whenever his consideration and judgement permitted him to exert himself (which was not so often as he wished) upon public business, success usually followed, affording credit to him, and advantage to those interested and the public. My dear children, would it not have been melancholy to know that your father had been despised of men? Is it not pleasing to cherish in recollection that he was approved by men, so as to receive consideration, esteem and honour [for] high incorruptible conduct?
In 1843 he moaned to his distinguished soldier brother William Goodday Strutt:
What a miserable state the nation is in! Twenty years ago I said it was at its zenith, and Sir R. Peel has precipitated its downfall by free trade ... what a frightful state we are in - Radicals, Chartists, distressed manufactories, an income declining, debt increasing, interest not paid or paying though there is a property tax, Ireland upon the verge of rebellion, the duke of Wellington old and Peel not of strength of mind to govern the nation.15
Strutt died at Bath in February 1845, four weeks after being forced by a fire in his bedroom to take to the street in his nightshirt.16 In his interminable will, dated 25 Nov. 1844, he asked to be carried to his grave by Terling estate labourers. He left Emily an annuity of £1,075, in addition to a sum of £1,000 in three per cent consols given to her in 1844, and settled on her St. Catherine’s and property at Marshfield, Gloucestershire. He gave his married daughter Margaret Drummond an annuity of £425 and £3,000 for the purchase of land, and left his brother £5,000 and Blunt’s Hall, near Terling. His entailed real estate passed to his son.17