STUART, James (1774-1833), of 63 Portland Place, 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

14 May 1824 - 1831

Family and Education

bap. 12 July 1774, illegit. s. of William Stuart, 9th Bar. Blantyre [S] (d. 1776), and Harriet Teasdale of Iver, Bucks. educ. by William Rutherford at Uxbridge Common. m. 23 Sept. 1822, Charlotte, wid. of Charles Chapman of E.I. Co. (Bengal), 2da. d. 6 Apr. 1833.

Offices Held

Writer, E.I. Co. (Bengal) 1791; asst. in sec.’s office, revenue dept. 1791; commr. ct. of requests 1791; asst. registrar, Nizamut Adawlut, Calcutta 1793; dep. registrar, Sudder Dewanny and Nizamut Adawlut 1796-9, registrar 1801; sec. in revenue and judicial dept. 1801; judge and magistrate, Agra 1804, Benares 1805; 3rd judge, provincial ct. Benares 1807; 3rd judge, ct. of appeal, Benares 1808; puisne judge, Sudder Dewanny and Nizamut Adawlut 1809; member, supreme council and pres. of bd. of revenue 1817; res. 1822.

Director, E.I. Co. 1826-d.

Biography

Stuart was one of the four illegitimate children fathered by the 9th Lord Blantyre in his liaison with Harriet Teasdale: Colonel John Stuart died of wounds received at the battle of Rolica in 1808, and Major Charles Stuart (?1777-1854) served in the Bengal army.1 Their sister Ann Maria married Thomas Brooke of the Bengal civil service. According to Mrs. Littlehales, James and Charles had ‘delicately fair complexions, like the inside of a bivalve shell’.2 Blantyre died intestate in 1776, but appears to have made provision for his children. Harriet Teasdale subsequently became a favourite of the 5th earl of Sandwich, and bore him two bastards, of whom William Augustus Montagu, Member for Huntingdon, 1818-20, was one. James Stuart was educated at Uxbridge and earmarked for service with the East India Company. He arrived in India in June 1791, enjoyed rapid promotion and was one of the civil servants specifically commended by Sir John Shore on his resignation as governor in 1798. He took over the registrarship of the courts of Sudder Dewanny and Nizamut Adawlut at an annual salary of 5,000 rupees, but subsequently relinquished it on account of ill health. He convalesced at the Cape and in May 1799 was recommended for leave. He returned to Bengal in February 1801 and resumed his deputy registrarship. In March he was appointed secretary in the revenue and judicial departments, but shortly afterwards succeeded as registrar of the Sudder Dewanny and Nizamut Adawlut. He continued to hold a number of important judicial and administrative posts and by 1808 was third judge in the court of appeal at Benares. His report on the police and judicial arrangements of the province was subsequently published in the fifth report of the select committee on the East India Company in 1812.3 He was appointed puisne judge of the Sudder Dewanny and Nizamut Adawlut in 1809. He was again recommended for leave, to return with his rank, and was appointed second member of the council of the College of Fort William in 1811. His illegitimate son James Stuart was born in Bengal in April 1812 as a result of his copulation with Maria Fenelon. In 1814 he was compelled by illness to quit the presidency and recuperate at the Cape. His total annual income in 1816 was estimated at 55,000 rupees. He was given seniority over Lord Liverpool’s nominee and appointed to the supreme council of Bengal in 1817. He became president of the board of revenue in December the same year and, according to an obituary, acquired a comprehensive knowledge of Indian affairs. He resigned from the Company’s service on 23 Feb. 1822, returned to England and in September married the widow Charlotte Chapman.4

Stuart was brought forward for Huntingdon in May 1824 by the Dowager Lady Sandwich on Lord Ancram’s succession to the peerage; he appears to have been a substitute for his half-brother Montagu, who was then preoccupied with his naval career.5 He was attacked by the liberal Huntingdon Gazette as a placeman, and at the election was forced to swear an affidavit as to his property qualification. He presented himself as a ministerialist, but repudiated the charge that he had ‘imbibed slavish principles’ in India. In what the Gazette called a ‘specious address’, he boasted of his determination to protect national prosperity: no man was more attached to the ‘free constitution’. He was elected ahead of the anti-corporation candidate after a contest forced in an effort to try the eligibility of the votes of the inhabitant householders.6 John Drakard, editor of the Stamford News, predicted that he would not find his seat ‘altogether so pleasant as he may have anticipated’.7 A petition against his return was presented on 21 May 1824, but it was not finally rejected until 1 Mar. 1825. An appeal against this decision was rejected, 17 Apr. 1826.8 The cost of defending his seat amounted to over £3,046. Lady Sandwich, astonished at the expense, contributed over £1,572, but Stuart remained indignant and considered that his colleague John Calvert ought to bear some share.9

Stuart voted with the Liverpool ministry in defence of the prosecution of the Methodist missionary John Smith in Demerara, 11 June 1824, and for the Irish unlawful societies bill, 25 Feb. 1825. He divided against Catholic relief, 21 Apr., but, much to Huntingdon corporation’s dismay, voted for it, 10 May 1825. Lady Sandwich was reported to have demanded his compliance on the ground that the question did not relate to India.10 An East India Company stockholder since 1824, he was defeated by Henry Alexander* in the ballot for the vacant directorship, 8 Mar. 1826. Undaunted, he stood as a candidate in the annual election to the court of directors the following month. The Huntingdon Gazette attributed his absence from the division on the ministerial salary of the president of the board of trade, 10 Apr., to his active canvass. Supported by the deputy chairman Hugh Lindsay* and all 16 directors, he was duly elected, 12 Apr., and immediately appointed to the Company’s shipping and private trade committee.11 The Gazette ironically attributed his absence from the division on the reform of Edinburgh’s representation, 13 Apr., to his ‘deserved contempt’ for so ‘limited a franchise’; and he was censured for missing the division on inquiry into economic distress, 4 May.12 On 11 May 1826 he was added to the select committee to consider the appeal of James Silk Buckingham,† the proprietor of the Calcutta Journal, who had been expelled from India for his criticism of the Company.

Stuart was returned unopposed for Huntingdon in 1826 despite rumours that he would retire to provide William Henry Fellowes* with a safe seat. Challenged to explain his equivocation on Catholic relief, he denied that he had bowed to the ‘petticoat government’ of Lady Sandwich: he had opposed it in deference to public opinion, but had subsequently voted for it because it would improve the condition of Ireland. He refused to be drawn on the equity of an extended franchise at Huntingdon; but, currying favour with the freemen, he claimed that the failure of the householders’ petition had confirmed their privileges against ‘speculative and factious attacks’.13 In the House, 11 June 1827, he secured information on Anglo-Indian shipping.14 He was credited with a speech against the second reading of the East Retford disfranchisement bill, 22 June, though the reporter for The Times failed to catch his name: he was not prepared to see the House pledged to transfer its seats to Birmingham and proposed as an alternative one of the Scottish counties, ‘where there was neither bribery nor corruption’.15 On 11 Mar. 1828 he moved for further information on Anglo-Indian shipping, and had the papers printed, 21 Mar. He voted against the archbishop of Canterbury’s estate bill, 16 June, and the modified East Retford disfranchisement bill, 27 June. He voted with the duke of Wellington’s government against reduction of the salary of the lieutenant-general of the ordnance, 4 July 1828. He had sent his illegitimate son to Frome grammar school and, as a director of the Company, successfully endorsed his application for a writership on the Prince of Wales Island establishment, 10 Dec. 1828.16 Planta, the patronage secretary, predicted in February 1829 that he would vote ‘with government’ for the concession of Catholic emancipation. According to the Gazette, Lady Sandwich directed her Members to do so, but Stuart voted against consideration of the measure, 6 Mar. 1829.17 He divided against the transfer of East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 11 Feb., and reduction of the South American consular grant, 7 June 1830. In a debate on the bill framed to authorize the Company to compensate those whose property had been lost as a consequence of the Madras registrar’s malversation, 9 July 1830, he warned against attaching too much weight to it as a precedent, regretted that it had not undergone the discussion ‘which its importance demands’ and defended the court of directors.

Stuart stood again for Huntingdon in 1830, presenting himself as an independent, and was returned after a nominal contest. He declared that he would go to Parliament ‘unfettered as to the tea monopoly’, but that as ministers had his confidence on ‘most points’ he would generally defer to them.18 They listed him among their ‘friends’, and he voted with them in the division on the civil list which brought them down, 15 Nov. 1830. 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 did not seek re-election at Huntingdon at the ensuing general election.19

Stuart died in April 1833. In his will, dated 22 July 1830 and proved under £20,000, he made provision for his wife and confirmed her jointure of £800 for life. He left £10,000 to furnish marriage settlements for each of his two daughters. Among the residuary legatees were his son James (d. 31 Aug. 1833), Charlotte Chapman, a daughter of his wife’s first marriage and his remarkable nephew, Sir James Brooke (1803-68), the first raja of Sarawak.20<