WALL, Charles Baring (1795-1853), of Norman Court, East Tytherley, Hants.
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Family and Educationbap. 1 May 1795, o.s. of Charles Wall, merchant, of St. Peter le Poor, London and Norman Court and Harriet, da. of Sir Francis Baring†, 1st bt., of Stratton Park, Hants. educ. privately by Dr. Pearson, dean of Salisbury; Eton 1811; Christ Church, Oxf. 1813; European tour 1815.1 unm. suc. fa. 1815. d. 14 Oct. 1853.
Wall’s father amassed a considerable fortune from his partnership in the mercantile house of Baring and Company and left his only son, who apparently took no part in the business, his Hampshire estate and the bulk of his personal estate, which was sworn under £125,000.2 Wall lived the life of a fashionable aesthete, using his inheritance to indulge his interest in fine art and pursue a political career. Emily Eden, the novelist, wrote enviously after a visit to Norman Court in 1827: ‘Such luxuries! Such riches! It is too disgusting that little Wall should have it all’. Her host, she condescendingly noted
makes one laugh, which is a merit, and he is a warm friend, and if he is a little ridiculous, it is no business of ours. Heaven help Mrs. Wall, if there ever should be one. But there never will.3
Wall probably owed his entrée to the representation of Guildford to his father’s ownership of nearby Albury Park, although he did not inherit the estate, which was sold in 1819.4 He was again returned unopposed in 1820, despite some criticism of his support for Catholic relief. He voiced qualified approval of Lord Liverpool’s ministry and its recent emergency measures, but ‘could not give his support to restraints on the press’, and he spoke favourably of Lord John Russell’s parliamentary reform plan. To his friend and political confidant Ralph Sneyd he expressed concern that the age and health of George IV and his brothers might produce a series of dissolutions: ‘I fear many interferences of Providence in favour of the radicals to give us annual parliaments’.5
He was a fairly regular attender who followed an independent course, as promised. In his only known speech of the Parliament, 1 June 1820, he condemned the Aliens Act as an infringement of liberty and voted accordingly. He divided with government against economies in revenue collection, 4 July 1820. He voted against the omission of Queen Caroline’s name from the liturgy, 26 Jan., 13 Feb., but was absent from the division on the opposition motion condemning ministers’ conduct towards her, 6 Feb. 1821. He divided for Catholic relief, 28 Feb. He subsequently remarked to Sneyd on the large number of absentees from this division, hinted at a liberal view of foreign policy and confided that ‘I have a quiet fancy for a little speech on Lambton’s [parliamentary reform] motion’; he is not recorded as having spoken or voted for it, 18 Apr.6 He privately expressed satisfaction that ‘the king supports the government’, 24 Mar., but he opposed them by voting for repeal of the additional malt duty, 3 Apr. 1821.7 Early in 1822 he was involved in discussions with George Agar Ellis* and others regarding the formation of a small ‘independent’ party, to uphold the national interest; nothing came of this.8 He divided against the opposition motions for more extensive tax reductions, 11, 21 Feb. 1822. That autumn it was reported that he had been ill and ‘near losing the sight from one of his eyes’.9 No trace of parliamentary activity has been found for the 1823 session: in the summer he was in Milan and then Venice, buying paintings and complaining of police harassment.10 He voted in the minorities for information regarding the government’s stance towards the Franco-Spanish conflict, 17 Feb., inquiries into the Irish church, 6 May, and the state of Ireland, 11 May, and to condemn the prosecution of the Methodist missionary John Smith in Demerara, 11 June 1824. He divided for the Irish unlawful societies bill, 15, 21 Feb., and for Catholic relief, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May 1825. He voted for the financial provision for the duke of Cumberland, 6 June 1825, but was in the minority next day for inquiry into delays in chancery. In February 1826 he wrote in praise of Canning and Huskisson’s speeches on banking and currency reform, which were ‘so bitter, so true, so effective’, but he worried about the attitude of the country bankers.11 He voted in the minorities to condemn the Jamaican slave trials, 2 Mar., reform Edinburgh’s representation, 13 Apr., and consider the state of the corn laws, 18 Apr. 1826. At the dissolution that summer, faced with a contest at Guildford, he found refuge at Wareham, where he was returned on the interest of his friend John Calcraft*.12
In January 1827 he told Sneyd, possibly in reference to the controversy over the vacant post of commander-in-chief, that ‘we are all in great spirits about the extreme want of temper and conduct Peel has displayed ... when there was nothing to rattle him’. After Liverpool’s stroke the following month he reported rumours about the composition and leadership of the ministry, without making clear his own views, though he presumably supported Canning; he voted for Tierney’s motion calling for a speedy resolution of the situation, 30 Mar.13 He divided for Catholic relief, 6 Mar., and a select committee on the Irish miscellaneous estimates, 5 Apr. By October 1827 he could not see how Lord Goderich’s ministry, ‘stripped of all patronage, can stand long’, but his prognostications in February 1828 for the duke of Wellington’s administration were less accurate:
I can find no confidence in a government with a premier and a home secretary both against the Catholics, who I think have a worse chance now than they did ten years ago. The present men are supported by those who are against ... commercial and religious liberty.
He also complained that Huskisson had behaved ‘in the basest manner’ towards Lord Lansdowne.14 He admired the contributions of Peel and John Cam Hobhouse to the debate on the battle of Navarino, 14 Feb., and was on the spot next day to report from that on the appointment of the finance committee.15 He divided for repeal of the Test Acts, 26 Feb., having solved his dilemma of the previous year when he had been ‘much puzzled’ as to how to vote on this issue, given the king’s reported antipathy.16 He divided for Catholic relief, 12 May. His admission to Brooks’s Club, 1 Mar., appeared to signal a move towards the Whigs, and in June he hoped that Lord Grey would shortly join the cabinet.17 He voted to recommit the East Retford disfranchisement bill, 27 June, and for reduction of the salary of the lieutenant-general of the ordnance, 4 July. He attended the Kent meeting on Catholic emancipation in October 1828 and was impressed by the oratory of William Cobbett†, but by the end of the year he had ‘lost all interest in politics, for I feel that whatever is done will be so soon reversed’.18 In letters to Sneyd he shed no tears over the recall of Lord Anglesey from the lord lieutenancy of Ireland, 11 Jan. 1829, but, apparently reanimated by the prospect of Catholic emancipation, he predicted victory for Peel in the Oxford University by-election. He observed that ‘the Lords are coming round by the dozen’, 24 Feb., and was impressed by the resolve he detected in the Commons to carry a measure, 4 Mar.19 He presented a pro-Catholic petition from Guildford, 2 Mar., and cast aspersions on the legitimacy of one of the opposite prayer, 9 Mar. He divided for the government’s emancipation bill, 6, 30 Mar., although he privately jibbed at the clause against the Jesuits. He praised Peel’s ‘gracious’ speech introducing the measure, but told Sneyd that ‘it quite settles my mind that he is no great man’.20 He voted to transfer East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 5 May 1829. That summer he reported from Paris on the instability of the French government.21 He divided for Knatchbull’s amendment to the address on distress, 4 Feb. 1830. He voted for the transfer of East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 11 Feb., and the enfranchisement of Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, 23 Feb., but against Lord Blandford’s reform scheme, 18 Feb. He divided with the revived Whig opposition to condemn the appointment to the vacant treasurership of the navy, 12 Mar., and British interference in Portuguese affairs, 28 Apr., to obtain returns of privy councillors’ emoluments, 14 May, and inquire into the civil government of Canada, 25 May; he paired for reduction of the grant for consular services, 11 June. He divided for Jewish emancipation, 5 Apr., 17 May, and abolition of the death penalty for forgery, 24 May, 7 June. He voted against increased recognizances in libel cases, 9 July 1830. At the general election that summer he was returned for Guildford at the head of the poll and celebrated, according to a local newspaper, with a dinner ‘given in the style worthy of [his] well known liberality’.22
The ministry listed Wall as one of their ‘foes’, yet at the end of October 1830 Georgiana Ellis found him to be in ‘a most anti-liberal state’, though she believed persuasion would make him ‘reasonable on all subjects’ except Brougham’s anticipated motion on parliamentary reform. On the other hand, his cousin Francis Thornhill Baring* reckoned he would ‘certainly’ support this motion.23 He voted against ministers in the crucial civil list division, 15 Nov. On 1 Dec. 1830 Georgiana Ellis reported that the extent of disaffection revealed by the ‘Swing’ agricultural disturbances had left Wall ‘in a most desponding state since his expedition into Hampshire’, and that ‘he talks as if it was all over with the landed property’. She again noted his antipathy to reform, about which he was ‘very unhappy’, in February 1831. When Lord John Russell introduced the Grey ministry’s bill, 1 Mar., Wall turned to Hobhouse and twice exclaimed, ‘They are mad!’24 Speaking from the opposition benches the next day, he condemned the bill as too democratic and biased towards northern and commercial interests. He argued that the prevailing ‘spirit of reform ... that pervades all our institutions [and] animates all our public men’ made such a sweeping measure unnecessary and, dwelling on the alleged divisions among ministers, he expressed a wish to see Peel at the head of the government in the Commons. This speech was widely hailed as one of the best from the opposition side, though Georgiana Ellis wished ‘for his own sake’ that he had not joked that the proposed partial disfranchisement of Guildford would leave him ‘but half a man’; Lord Auckland, the master of the mint, on hearing the quip, commented that ‘he overstates it very much’.25 He attended the Hampshire meeting on reform, 17 Mar., when, speaking against a great clamour, he decried the bill as an ‘anomalous, unjust, unconstitutional and revolutionary measure’. In a pamphlet dated two days later he reminded his constituents that ‘this bill talks not of inherent rights or principles’ but was ‘proposed to you as a mere question of expediency’, and he advised them to ‘be sure that your remedy is the right one for the grievances you complain of’. He warned of the increased influence the bill would give to country gentlemen, radical demagogues and ‘Papal Ireland’, and criticized the ‘slovenly manner’ of its framing, the peculiar distinction it drew between ‘due’ and ‘undue’ influence, and the proposal to deprive Guildford of a Member. Without being specific, he stood by his election pledge to support a measure of moderate reform, and excused his vote on the civil list thus:
I always entertained a firm conviction that the Whigs would be unable to form an administration upon purely Whig principles. I imagined (simple minded as I was) that the party to whom they naturally looked for support, and who afterwards did unite with them, would have insisted on some conditions with regard to the reform question.26
He voted against the bill’s second reading, 22 Mar., and for Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831. At the ensuing general election he was soundly defeated at Guildford, and told Sneyd afterwards that from ‘what I saw there I feel convinced ... there is no resisting the torrent’.27
By mid-May 1831 Wall had recovered enough optimism to predict a Huskissonite desertion of the government, who he reported had ‘decided on a budget ten thousand times more absurd than the last’.28 His anxiety to return to the Commons led him in August to Weymouth and Melcombe Regis where, aided by a decision on the local franchise in his favour, he defeated a reformer after an eight-day poll. Later that month he signed the Wiltshire declaration against the reintroduced reform bill.29 In the House, 5 Aug., he argued that on the basis of their separate populations the conjoined boroughs which he represented were entitled to return three Members. Somewhat inconsistently, he then raised ‘insuperable objections’ to schedule B and single Member boroughs, suggesting instead the complete disfranchisement of all places with a population under 3,000. He moved for returns of towns and cities whose population exceeded 10,000 and which remained unrepresented under the provisions of the bill, 30 Aug., and next day cast doubt on the impartiality of the boundary commissioner Bellenden Ker. On 5 Sept. he embarrassed ministers by drawing attention to letters sent to local officials requesting their co-operation with commissioners whose names had yet to be approved by the Commons; he told Sneyd that he was ‘mad about this part of the bill’. He also reported to his friend on the coronation, claiming that
the king’s figure was ludicrous, he could hardly grasp the orb ... What a king and government it is, I dare not say what I think of both ... We have a majority in the Lords, but I have a conviction that Lord Grey will pass the bill somehow, how is indifferent to him.30
In attacking the bill’s inconsistencies, 20 Sept., he remarked that ‘it would seem as if ministers were frightened at the results which their own [measure] will produce, for they will not push them to their legitimate result’. He predicted that the bill as it stood would not only entrench existing oligarchies and restrict social mobility, but spell an end to the monarchy. He voted against its passage the next day. Early in December he met Lord Wharncliffe, one of the leaders of the Tory ‘Waverers’, and hoped that the meagre concessions offered to them would convince them of ‘the uncompromising and unreliable spirit of the government’.31 He divided against the second reading of the revised bill, 17 Dec., when he went so far as to admit the justice of the schedule A disfranchisements but predicted ‘disappointment and reaction’ once the popular excitement over the bill had abated. Writing to Sneyd, 2 Feb. 1832, he confessed himself ‘puzzled’ as to the course the opposition should adopt, but doubted if the bill was susceptible to worthwhile amendment given that it was ‘revolutionary in its principle’. He appeared to favour a line of unwilling acquiescence, assuming that ministers would create peers to pass it in any case, and ‘if they do, the game is up ... [for] we are in that situation that no government can go on without an efficient and strong measure of reform being carried’. He attended a meeting at Peel’s house to discuss tactics before he voted against the enfranchisement of Tower Hamlets, 28 Feb.32 He divided against the third reading, 22 Mar., and the second reading of the Irish bill, 25 May. On 22 June he opposed the proposal to enlarge his former constituency of Wareham to include the whole of the Isle of Purbeck, protested at the division of Dorset and warned that ‘many of the counties under the new system will be complete rotten boroughs’. He voted for his uncle Alexander Baring’s bill to deprive Members of their immunity from prosecution for debt, 27 June. He divided against ministers on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., 12 July, but with them on military punishments, 16 Feb. He voted for a system of representation for New South Wales, 28 June 1832. Towards the end of the session he admitted to Sneyd that ‘I am very low about everything ... Let us go abroad together as soon as the Parliament is dissolved’.33
In the summer of 1832 Wall canvassed Guildford ‘with a heavy heart’, but he succeeded in displacing one of the sitting reformers at the general election later that year.34 Soon afterwards his political and personal reputation was threatened by a charge that, in the early hours of 28 Feb. 1833, he had indecently assaulted a policeman in Harley Street. At the trial, 11 May 1833, the policeman, John Palmer, testified that Wall had initially engaged him in vulgar conversation in which he had railed against religion and the system of government. Palmer claimed that after the alleged offence had taken place, Wall first attempted to bribe him and then tried to escape arrest. Wall’s counsel, Sir James Scarlett*, seized on minor inconsistencies in the story to suggest that it was an extortioner’s fiction. After listening to 19 of Wall’s friends, relatives and servants testify to the spotlessness of his character and his inability to utter blasphemy, the jury acquitted him. However, two earlier letters to Sneyd suggest that his interest in the uniformed forces of law and order was such as to render Palmer’s tale at least plausible. In August 1828, after meeting ‘two good looking soldiers’, Wall remarked that ‘I wish I lived in a disturbed district’; and in October 1829 he had written of the new metropolitan police force, ‘I delight in them all’. Charles Greville, while anticipating Wall’s acquittal, observed that ‘nobody can be plunged into such mire without smelling of it more or less ever after’.35 Nevertheless, his parliamentary career continued without interruption and he was eventually classed as a Liberal, having supported repeal of the corn laws. He also established a reputation as an authority on artistic matters. Evidently he was not socially ostracized, as he continued to entertain lavishly at 44 Berkeley Square, where he had resided since 1827 in what Benjamin Disraeli† described as ‘a house the most beautiful I ever entered’. To the surprise of Hobhouse, the dinner guests in April 1841 included William Bankes*, another Member who had been dubiously acquitted of a homosexual offence and was about to repeat his transgression.36 Wall died in October 1853 and left his entire property to his cousin Thomas Baring, Conservative Member for Huntingdonshire, 1844-73.37
Ref Volumes: 1820-1832
Author: Howard Spencer
- 1. The Times, 13 May 1833.
- 2. PROB 11/1571/407; IR26/662/356.
- 3. Miss Eden’s Letters ed. V. Dickinson, 128-9, 152.
- 4. VCH Surr. iii. 74.
- 5. Surr. Herald, 11 Mar. 1820; Keele Univ. Lib. Sneyd mss SC17/15, 17.
- 6. Sneyd mss SC17/19.
- 7. Ibid. 20.
- 8. Northants. RO, Agar Ellis diary, 19, 21 Feb. 1822.
- 9. Miss Eden’s Letters, 78.
- 10. Sneyd mss SC17/24, 25.
- 11. Ibid. 28.
- 12. Ibid. 21, 26; Baldwin’s London Weekly, 6 June 1826.
- 13. Sneyd mss SC17/30, 31.
- 14. Ibid. 33, 34.
- 15. Ibid. 36.
- 16. Ibid. 30.
- 17. Ibid. 191.
- 18. Ibid. 40, 41.
- 19. Ibid. 43, 44, 183.
- 20. Ibid. 46.
- 21. Ibid. 51.
- 22. County Chron. 31 Aug. 1830.
- 23. Howard Sisters, 151; Baring Jnls. 70.
- 24. Howard Sisters, 171-2, 186; Broughton, Recollections, iv. 87.
- 25. Howard Sisters, 190-1; Baring Jnls. 84; Sneyd mss, Mahon to Sneyd, 5 May 1831.
- 26. The Times, 18 Mar.; C.B. Wall, To the Electors of Guildford (1831).
- 27. Sneyd mss SC17/57.
- 28. Ibid. 58.
- 29. The Times, 30 July, 4 Aug.; Devizes Gazette, 11 Aug. 1831.
- 30. Sneyd mss SC17/59.
- 31. Ibid. 64.
- 32. Ibid. 60, 65.
- 33. Ibid. 67.
- 34. Ibid. 182.
- 35. The Times, 13 May 1833; Sneyd mss SC17/39, 52; Greville Mems. ii. 364.
- 36. Gent. Mag. (1853), ii. 643-4; Disraeli Letters, ii. 514; Broughton, vi. 14, 97.
- 37. PROB 11/2181/844; IR26/1985/674.