TREMAYNE, John Hearle (1780-1851), of Heligan, nr. St. Austell, Cornw. and 8 New Street, Spring Gardens, Mdx.

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



1806 - 1826

Family and Education

b. 17 Mar. 1780, o.s. of Rev. Henry Hawkins Tremayne of Heligan (who suc. his kinsman Arthur Tremayne of Sydenham, Devon 1808) and Harriet, da. and coh. of John Hearle of Penryn, vice-warden of the stannaries. educ. Eton 1793-6; Christ Church, Oxf. 1798. m. 11 Jan. 1813, Caroline Matilda, da. of Sir William Lemon, 1st bt.*, 3s. 3da. (1 d.v.p.). suc. fa. 1829. d. 27 Aug. 1851.

Offices Held

Lt. St. Austell vols. 1798; maj. R. Stannary artillery 1803, lt.-col. 1808, lt.-col. commdt. 1812.

Sheriff, Cornw. 1831-2.


Tremayne, who was returned unopposed for the county for the fifth time in 1820, with his Whig father-in-law Sir William Lemon, had numerous family connections across the Cornish political spectrum, including the Tory 1st Baron De Dunstanville and the prominent reformer John Colman Rashleigh. He declared that he adhered to the same ‘independent’ principles on which he had first been elected, and in the past he had often voted with the Whig opposition to Lord Liverpool’s ministry, before associating himself briefly with the Grenvillites. A remark to his father in 1818, that he ‘abhorred’ Catholic emancipation and parliamentary reform, betrayed definite Tory leanings, and he had supported the government’s repressive legislation in late 1819.1

He continued to attend regularly and speak occasionally, while serving on many select committees; Thomas Grenville† described him as being ‘in the highest class of honourable, independent and effective Members’.2 He divided with the minorities to consider the droits of the crown and the admiralty as sources of revenue for the civil list, 5 May, against the appointment of an additional baron of exchequer in Scotland, 15 May, and for economies in tax collection, 4 July 1820. He presented Cornish petitions for relief from agricultural distress, 11, 18 May 1820.3 Following the debate on the restoration of Queen Caroline’s name to the liturgy he reported to his father, 29 Jan. 1821, that the government was ‘very triumphant’ and the queen ‘in the way of being forgotten’, noting that ‘there was no mob about the ... Commons nor any excitement of the people’.4 He voted to defend the conduct of ministers, 6 Feb. He urged them to ‘turn their attention to the civil establishments of the navy, which ... were capable of great reduction’, 2 Feb., and divided for military retrenchment, 16 Feb. (when, as a member of the finance committee, he reportedly ‘protested against the expense of the ordnance department’),5 14, 15 Mar., 11 Apr., 9, 11, 12 May. He complained to his father, 17 Feb., that the Commons was ‘very flat and tiresome’ and apparently disinclined to ‘make any [effort] in saving public money’. Although he was ‘quite sure’ the country could be saved from ‘ruin’ by ‘proper reductions and attention to the collection of revenue ... nobody will attend to that’, whereas ‘if there is a proposition to take a tax off, they will come down in shoals and vote for it, thus endeavouring to lessen the ways and means without reducing the expenditure’.6 He accordingly voted against repeal of the additional malt duty, 3 Apr., and Hume’s economy and retrenchment motion, 27 June. He divided against the payment of arrears in the duke of Clarence’s annuity bill, 29 June. When the chancellor of the exchequer, Vansittart, offered to appoint a committee to inquire into the receivers general of taxes and stamp distributors, 22 Mar., Tremayne was, in the eyes of a Whig Member, the ‘only person of character’ proposed for it among the ‘sham country gentlemen’.7 He wrote that he had ‘swallowed the vote in ... favour’ of the conduct of the sheriff of Cheshire, which ‘went hard with me’, 20 Feb., for although the sheriff had been ‘partial’ in his handling of the county meeting, there had to be ‘a very strong case to warrant a committee’.8 In March he told the organizers of the petition arising from the meeting in Cornwall that he sympathized with their grievances about agricultural distress and believed ‘few were inclined to go further than myself’ in the direction of economy and retrenchment, but that he saw little hope of any ‘immediate remission of taxation’. Moreover, he ‘totally differed’ from the petitioners with respect to Queen Caroline and had ‘seen nothing to make me alter the opinion I had formerly expressed by my vote’. He also adhered to his belief that in any ‘great and general’ reform of the representation ‘our risk of loss was greater than our chance of gain’, although he did not ‘preclude myself from reforming any particular abuse that might occur even by disfranchisement, holding as I do that the elective franchise was a political trust granted for the benefit of the state and which the legislature might without injustice resume whenever the welfare of the state required it’.9 He voted against Russell’s reform resolutions, 9 May. On being named to the select committee on agricultural distress, 7 Mar., he said he was ‘convinced that agriculture was the sure and stable anchor of the health and prosperity of the country’, but emphasized that any measures of relief must be extended to ‘all branches of the community’, as they were ‘inseparably connected’. In letters to his father while the committee was examining witnesses, he observed that the land agents ‘give a rather more favourable account of the general state of things than the practical farmers’, with the former reporting that rents had fallen by 20 to 33 per cent since 1812-13, while the latter implied that ‘land is absolutely worth nothing’. One ‘bold theorist’ who gave evidence maintained that ‘the goodness or badness of the harvest had no effect on the price of corn’, but as Tremayne noted, ‘everyone is more or less mad on some topic, and he is so on the question of a depreciated currency’. It was his impression that while some committee members ‘make a very good thing of it ... others make very little’, and he had ‘no idea to what result we shall come’.10 When the committee began to consider its report in May, he was ‘quite clear we can do nothing to relieve the present distress’, and his own inclination was to ‘hold fast [to] the protection we have by a prohibition up to 80s. [rather] than such a high fixed duty, which in a time of scarcity would be clamoured against and speedily repealed’. Towards the end of the month he wrote that ‘we have got so far as to determine that a report shall be drawn, which we may pull to pieces and alter’, but he suspected that ‘if we change at all hereafter it will be rather towards a free trade in corn than the other way’. In his final surviving letter on the subject, 7 June, he groaned that ‘we are debating the report inch by inch, and I am afraid I shall have to come up again tomorrow if not also on Saturday, so that my Whitsuntide holidays will be greatly interfered with’. He vowed that ‘never again will I undertake such a mass of committees as I have this year’, as ‘it has so completely occupied my time that I am sure no salaried officer of government has had fewer leisure hours or less time for exercise’.11 In fact, he served on eight committees that session. He divided against Catholic relief, 28 Feb., but after the bill was rejected by the Lords he remarked to his father that it was ‘the very worst state of things that can be to have the two Houses at variance on such a subject’, and ‘considering the perfect certainty of its passing within a few years ... I cannot say I wish it longer withheld’.12 He declared himself ‘favourable to the general principle’ of the steam engines bill, but doubted whether it could be applied ‘in the mining districts’, 18 Apr. He voted against the forgery punishment mitigation bill, 23 May 1821.

He was granted ten days’ leave on account of family illness, 22 Apr., but returned to present a Cornish petition for relief from agricultural distress, 29 Apr. 1822.13 He divided against the removal of Catholic peers’ disabilities, 30 Apr., and the Irish constables bill, 7 June. He voted to abolish one of the joint-postmasterships, 2 May, when he explained that ‘a pledge had been given, on the passing of the pension bill, to reduce all sinecures ... which he should never consider redeemed while the two [offices] remained’. He wrote to his father, 20 May, that he had ‘made a bad hit in coming up’ in the hope of attending a debate on the corn bill, as ‘it is the week of Epsom races and people are full of that and nothing else’. On 6 June he thought it was ‘a pretty thing to come 200 miles to see a House adjourned for want of Members at 4 o’clock’, because ‘all the world are gone to ... Ascot races’.14 In late May he ‘asked Vansittart across the House whether he meant to allow any drawback on salt used on fish exported’, in the proposed revision of the salt duties, and was informed that this would be a ‘matter for consideration’. Fearing that ‘the small curers will be certainly annihilated’ by the plan to remove their exemption from the duty, he ‘sat up a great part of Friday night writing letters to different parts of the county, which I left for Sir William’s [Lemon’s] signature and which will go down by his post’. Since there was ‘no bill yet in the House and the holidays will last some days’, he hoped the fishermen would ‘move actively on the subject’, although it involved the ‘necessity of my being more in London than I wish or can well stomach this year’. He reported on 8 June that he had received a petition from the fishing adventurers to present to the Commons, and intended to ‘have an interview also with Vansittart, who ... is a shuffling little fellow’; he had ‘no hopes of doing any good with him but by frightening him’. He ‘implored’ Vansittart in vain ‘not to listen to the revenue board on this subject’, 11 June.15 He mentioned that ‘we had a long tedious night’ on Western’s motion for inquiry into the currency, 10 July, and ‘no division after all’.16 He attended a county meeting to condemn the proposed removal of Falmouth’s packet service, 25 Oct. 1822, when he emphasized the need to ensure that ‘the interests of the country might not be whispered away’.17

He divided against repeal of the Foreign Enlistment Act, 16 Apr., reform in Scotland, 2 June, and inquiry into delays in chancery, 5 June 1823. He voted with the minority to introduce trial by jury in New South Wales, 7 July 1823. He described the prorogation of Parliament that month as ‘the flattest ... I ever witnessed’.18 A radical publication referred to him at this time as ‘a sincere alarmist, a supporter of ministers from real dread of the people’.19 He presented petitions against the coastwise coal duty, 13, 18 Feb.,20 and expressed support for its gradual repeal, 1 Apr. 1824. He voted with the minority for the motion accusing lord chancellor Eldon of a breach of privilege, 1 Mar. He similarly divided against the grants for Irish charter schools, 15 Mar., and repairs to Windsor Castle, 5 Apr. He presented anti-slavery petitions, 1, 16, 18 Mar.21 He thought it would be a ‘great improvement’ to punish smugglers ‘by hard labour’ rather than by imprisonment, 6 Apr. 1824.22 He served on nine committees that session. He voted for the Irish unlawful societies bill, 25 Feb., and against Catholic relief, 1 Mar., presenting hostile petitions from Cornish clergymen, 28 Mar., 18 Apr. 1825.23 Yet, according to Charles Williams Wynn*, he privately ‘declared his determination to vote’ for Catholic relief, ‘at the hazard, indeed the extreme probability, of an opposition in Cornwall at the next election’; in fact he was absent from the divisions on 21 Apr. and 10 May.24 Early in March he was ‘alarmed’ to find that ‘the government has declared war against the protecting duties on metals’, and he and other interested Members met the president of the board of trade, Huskisson, to ascertain his intentions.25 He maintained that he had ‘no wish ... to oppose the principles of free trade’, 11 Mar., but pointed out that large sums had been invested in Cornish copper mines ‘on the faith of a continuance of the existing system’ and warned of ‘the most mischievous effects’ if they were exposed to South American competition. He complained that the House was ‘losing sight’ of the principles laid down by the finance committee, 7 Mar., and felt that no case had been made for the increased army estimates. He ‘cordially concurred’ in the motion to reduce judges’ salaries, 16 May, and voted against the financial provision for the duke of Cumberland, 30 May, 6, 9, 10 June. He divided against the spring guns bill, 21 June 1825. Surprisingly, it was said of him at this time that he ‘attended occasionally and voted with ministers’.26 He presented several anti-slavery petitions, 14, 27, 28 Feb., 1, 2, 17 Mar.,27 and voted to condemn the Jamaican slave trials, 2 Mar. 1826. He divided for reduction of the navy estimates, 21 Feb., the army estimates, 3 Mar., and abolition of the treasurership of the navy, 7 Apr. He thought that ‘estimates previous to expenditure’ on public buildings would be ‘more useful than accounts afterwards’, 13 Mar.28 He divided against a proposal to reform Edinburgh’s representation, 13 Apr., but for Russell’s resolutions to curb electoral bribery, 20 May. He voted against the corn importation bill, 11 May 1826, as there was ‘nothing in the state of the country’ to justify altering the existing system. At the general election that summer he offered again for Cornwall on the same ‘independent’ principles, but was caught up in the struggle between other Whig and Tory candidates. He observed that ‘a strict adherence to party might be right in those who had in view the attaining office’, but ‘a Member for a great county should watch all parties without being entangled with any’. One of his sponsors maintained that ‘during the 20 years he had sat in Parliament he had never asked or received a favour from ... ministers’. Tremayne emphasized that he had ‘supported every measure of economy’ recommended by the finance committee. However, he admitted to ‘feelings of difficulty and doubt’ on the Catholic question, and while he could not ‘make up his mind to grant the ... claims’, he saw that continued resistance might lead to ‘the separation of Ireland and the consequent dismemberment of the empire’. He thought emancipation would be ‘less objectionable’ if the Irish franchise qualification was raised. His hope that he might be spared the expense of a contested election, on account of his long service to the county, was disappointed, and he withdrew before the poll.29

In September 1827, after the formation of Lord Goderich’s coalition ministry, Tremayne wrote to a friend that ‘the Whigs have opened themselves most terribly, and they catch it most roundly in every quarter’, although their only mistake in his opinion was to make their objection to the appointment of John Herries* as chancellor of the exchequer ‘so public a point’. He found it ‘quite ridiculous to witness the feeling that exists that the Protestant church is considerably more secure’ because of Herries’s presence.30 On his father’s death in 1829 he inherited his landed property in Cornwall and Devon and was the residuary legatee of the personal estate, which was sworn under £35,000.31 As sheriff of Cornwall he convened county meetings on the Grey ministry’s reform bill, 23 Mar., 26 Oct. 1831, and after the latter he expressed the hope that the issue might ‘be so settled as to secure the permanence of the constitution and the happiness of the country’.32 He declined an invitation from leading Conservatives to stand for East Cornwall at the general election of 1832.33 He ‘dropped down suddenly and expired at the railway station at Dawlish’ in August 1851, leaving his estates to his eldest son, John Tremayne (1825-1901), Conservative Member for East Cornwall, 1874-80 and South Devon, 1884-5.34

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Terry Jenkins


  • 1. E. Jaggard, Cornw. Politics in Age of Reform, 46; West Briton, 25 Feb., 24 Mar. 1820; Cornw. RO, Tremayne mss DD/T/2514.
  • 2. Buckingham, Mems. Geo. IV, ii. 282-3.
  • 3. The Times, 12, 19 May 1820.
  • 4. Tremayne mss 2563.
  • 5. HLRO, Hist. Coll. 379, Grey Bennet diary, 22.
  • 6. Tremayne mss 2571.
  • 7. Grey Bennet diary, 42.
  • 8. Tremayne mss 2573.
  • 9. Ibid. 1922.
  • 10. Ibid. 2575-7.
  • 11. Ibid. 2588, 2591, 2599, 2602.
  • 12. Ibid. 2548.
  • 13. The Times, 30 Apr. 1822.
  • 14. Tremayne mss 2654, 2662.
  • 15. Ibid. 2657, 2662, 2663; The Times, 12 June 1822.
  • 16. Tremayne mss 2669.
  • 17. West Briton, 1 Nov. 1822.
  • 18. Christ Church, Oxf. Phillimore mss, Tremayne to Phillimore, 22 July 1823.
  • 19. Black Bk. (1823), 198.
  • 20. The Times, 14, 19 Feb. 1824.
  • 21. Ibid. 2, 17, 19 Mar. 1824.
  • 22. Ibid. 7 Apr. 1824.
  • 23. Ibid. 29 Mar., 19 Apr. 1825.
  • 24. Buckingham, ii. 242-3.
  • 25. Tremayne mss 2735.
  • 26. Session of Parl. 1825, p. 488.
  • 27. The Times, 15, 28 Feb., 1, 2, 3, 18 Mar. 1826.
  • 28. Ibid. 14 Mar. 1826.
  • 29. West Briton, 9, 16 June 1826.
  • 30. Phillimore mss, Tremayne to Phillimore, 10 Sept. 1827.
  • 31. PROB 11/1755/251; IR26/1208/136.
  • 32. West Briton, 25 Mar., 28 Oct. 1831.
  • 33. Carew Pole mss CC/N/65, circular letter, 30 Aug., Buller to Pole Carew, 1 Sept. 1832.
  • 34. Gent. Mag. (1851), ii. 653; PROB 11/2146/78; IR26/1945/17.