VINCENT, Sir Francis, 10th bt. (1803-1880), of Debden Hall, nr. Saffron Walden, Essex

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 - 1834

Family and Education

b. 3 Mar. 1803, 1st s. of Sir Francis Vincent, 9th bt., of Stoke d’Abernon, Surr. and Debden Hall and Jane, da. of Hon. Edward Bouverie† of Delapre Abbey, nr. Northampton. educ. Eton 1817. m. 10 May 1824, Augusta Elizabeth, da. of Hon. Charles Herbert†, capt. RN, 1da. suc. fa. as 10th bt. 17 Jan. 1809; grandmo. Mary Vincent (née Chiswell) to property at Debden 1826.1 d. 6 July 1880.

Offices Held

Cornet 9 Drag. 1818, ret. 1821.

Biography

Vincent belonged to a very old family, which had possessed land in Leicestershire in the early fourteenth century, migrated to Northamptonshire and settled in Surrey, where the estate of Stoke d’Abernon, near Leatherhead, came into their hands by marriage into the Lyfield family. The baronetcy was conferred on Francis Vincent, later Member for Surrey, in 1620. His direct descendants, the 5th, 6th and 7th baronets, made financially advantageous marriages into London mercantile families; and the 3rd, 5th, 6th and 7th baronets were Members of Parliament. The last, Sir Francis Vincent (d. 1775), this Member’s great-grandfather, sat for Surrey from 1761 until his death. His son and successor, Sir Francis Vincent, who was born in 1747, married in 1779 Mary, the daughter and heiress of Richard Muilman Trench Chiswell, Member for Aldborough, 1790-7, whose Essex estate at Debden thus came to the Vincents.2 Sir Francis, who was supposed to have kept as a mistress a Mrs. Harris, one of the women debauched by James Hare† during his Cambridge days, was appointed resident consul at Venice in February 1791, but died there only 18 months later.3 Like his two predecessors, he died intestate. His son Sir Francis Vincent, 9th baronet, was born in 1780, educated at Cambridge and called to the bar from Lincoln’s Inn in 1804. His wife of only two years died the following year. He was a Whig in politics, and on the formation of the Grenville ministry in February 1806 he gave up the law to accept an appointment as under-secretary at the foreign office under Fox. He remained there under Fox’s successor Lord Howick (subsequently 2nd Earl Grey). Nothing came of a plan to find him a seat at the 1806 general election, and he went out of office on the fall of the government in March 1807.4 He was admitted to Brooks’s, sponsored by Lord Fitzwilliam, three months later. He died, aged 28, 17 Jan. 1809, ‘after four days illness, brought on by a cold, with which he had been some time affected’. He too had not made a will, and administration of his estate, which was sworn under £7,000, was granted to his mother, Dame Mary Vincent, the guardian of his infant boys Francis and Edward William.5 She survived until 1826.

After Eton, Francis Vincent had a perfunctory career in the cavalry. The Stoke d’Abernon estate had been disposed of by the time of his marriage into another Whig family, soon after coming of age, in 1824.6 He had joined Brooks’s the previous year. At the general election of 1831 he stood as ‘a staunch reformer’ for the open and venal borough of St. Albans, where he was returned with a barrister of the same politics after a contest with the Tory sitting Member.7 He lost no time in making his parliamentary debut, speaking in support of the second reading of the Grey ministry’s reintroduced reform bill, 5 July, when he gave it his ‘cordial support’

not because the system of representation has grown materially worse of late years, but ... [because] the eyes of the people are opened to its defects, and ... it is no longer possible to persuade them that the system works well for the nation, however it may for the governors, which has crippled and paralyzed its resources, and brought upon it an overwhelming burden of debt.

An effective reform, he contended, would ensure that the people would ‘no longer give a willing ear to those wild theories which have been propounded to them for the last 15 or 20 years by various political quacks’. He voted for the bill next day, and went on to give general support to its details, though he cast wayward votes for the disfranchisement of Saltash, 26 July, against the division of counties, 11 Aug., against giving borough freeholders a county vote, 17 Aug., for the enfranchisement of £50 tenants-at-will, 18 Aug., and for the disfranchisement of Aldborough, 14 Sept. On 29 July he argued that the partial disfranchisement of Maldon would not adversely affect the agricultural interest in Essex, being more than compensated for by the addition of two county Members and the opening of Harwich. He voted for the passage of the bill, 21 Sept., and the motion of confidence in the government, 10 Oct. He divided against ministers in favour of a reduction in the grant for civil list pensions, 18 July. He made much of this vote at a constituency dinner for his supporters, 30 July, and also paid tribute to the power of the press as ‘an overwhelming and irresistible instrument when employed to effect good’.8 On Hume’s presentation of a petition complaining of prosecutions for the sale of unstamped pamphlets, 5 Sept., Vincent observed that

the more restraints are put upon the diffusion of knowledge by means of the press, the more ingenious and the more numerous will be the devices resorted to for the purpose of evading the laws imposing those restrictions.

He was in the minority for printing the Waterford petition for disarming the Irish yeomanry, 11 Aug., but sided with government on the Dublin election controversy, 23 Aug. He was chosen to second the address, 5 Dec., when he declared that the recent Cambridgeshire by-election proved that there was ‘no symptom of that reaction [against reform], which some would fain pretend to have taken place’. He voted for the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831, gave it steady support in committee and divided for its third reading, 22 Mar. 1832. He was named to the select committee on the East India Company, 27 Jan. He spoke and voted in defence of ministers on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., and divided with them on relations with Portugal, 9 Feb. He presented a St. Albans petition in favour of the factories regulation bill, 28 Feb., and one from interested landowners against the London and Birmingham railway bill, 4 Apr. He voted in Hunt’s minority of 31 for inquiry into Peterloo, 15 Mar., but was in the ministerial majority on the navy civil departments bill, 6 Apr. On 18 Apr. he declared his ‘deep interest’ in ‘the fate of unfortunate Poland’, and contended that it was time to ‘make a stand’ against Russian aggression. He took the same line when supporting George Evans’s motion on the subject, 7 Aug: ‘there are some persons in this House who do not think that truckling to a powerful and ambitious nation is the best mode of preserving peace’. He voted for the address calling on the king to appoint only ministers who would carry the reform bill unimpaired, 10 May, and spoke at the St. Albans meeting on the subject, 16 May.9 He voted for the second reading of the Irish bill, 25 May, but was one of O’Connell’s minority for the enfranchisement of £5 freeholders, 18 June. He secured returns of information on the New South Wales veteran companies, 22 May, and voted to make coroners’ inquests public, 20 June. He voted against ministers in favour of a speedy abolition of slavery, 24 May, the suspension of flogging in the army, 19 June, and to reduce the barracks grant, 2 July; but he paired with them on the Russian-Dutch loan, 12 July, and voted with them in person, 16, 20 July. To confirm his alignment with the radical wing of their supporters, he spoke and voted against the Greek loan, 6 Aug. 1832.

At the St. Albans reform festival, 28 June 1832, Vincent declared his intention of standing for the borough at the forthcoming general election:

He had been sent to Parliament a pledged man, but had not been obliged to profess doctrines and opinions which he had formerly condemned. His political principles were the same as they had ever been - they were the principles of a Chatham, a Fox, a Grey, a Brougham.10

He topped the poll, but stood down in 1834. He subsequently became the author of triple-decker, silver fork novels, producing Arundel, a Tale of the French Revolution in 1840, and four others, equally execrable, in a late burst of creativity between 1867 and 1872. He seems to have spent much time in the fashionable watering-holes of Europe: Greville encountered him at Baden-Baden in 1843, and the opening scene of his last novel, The Fitful Fever of a Life, was set in one of the gambling halls there. Indeed, according to Captain Gronow, Vincent was one of the many victims of the ‘French hell’ of the Salon des Etrangers in Paris: he ‘contrived to get rid of his magnificent property and then disappeared from society’.11 Gronow’s assertion is given credence by the fact that Vincent seems to have died intestate, in the family tradition, in July 1880. Debden Hall passed to his only child Blanche, the wife of John Raymond Trevilian. The baronetcy was assumed by his cousin, the Rev. Frederick Vincent (1798-1883).

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: David R. Fisher

Notes

  • 1. PROB 11/1709/121.
  • 2. T. Wright, Essex, ii. 141.
  • 3. Glenbervie Diaries, i. 1.
  • 4. HMC Fortescue, ix. 42, 421.
  • 5. Gent. Mag. (1809), i. 94; PROB 6/185/705.
  • 6. VCH Surr. iii. 458; Nottingham Univ. Lib. Portland mss PwL 253-6.
  • 7. The Times, 25, 29 Apr.; County Herald, 30 Apr., 7 May 1831.
  • 8. County Press, 2 Aug. 1831.
  • 9. County Herald, 1 May 1832.
  • 10. County Press, 3 July 1832.
  • 11. Greville Mems. v. 111; Gronow Reminiscences, i. 122. CB, i. 159 assumes Vincent’s father to be the subject of Gronow’s allegation; but chronology