WALLACE, Thomas I (?1768-1844), of Carleton Hall, Cumb.; Featherstone Castle, Northumb. and 33 Portman Square, 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

1790 - 1796
1796 - 1802
1802 - 1806
1807 - 1812
1812 - 9 June 1813
27 Nov. 1813 - 1818
1818 - 2 Feb. 1828

Family and Education

b. ?1768, o.s. of James Wallace† of Asholme, Northumb. and Elizabeth, da. and h. of Thomas Simpson of Carleton Hall. educ. Eton 1777; L. Inn 1785; Christ Church, Oxf. 10 June 1785, aged 17; continental tour 1788. m. 16 Feb. 1814, Lady Jane Hope, da. of John, 2nd earl of Hopetoun [S], wid. of Henry Dundas†, 1st Visct. Melville, s.p. suc. fa. 1783; cr. Bar. Wallace 2 Feb. 1828. d. 23 Feb. 1844.

Offices Held

Ld. of admiralty July 1797-July 1800; commr. bd. of control July 1800-Feb. 1806, Apr. 1807-June 1816, Feb. 1828-Feb. 1830; PC 21 May 1801; vice-pres. bd. of trade Jan. 1818-Apr. 1823; master of mint1 Oct. 1823-May 1827.

Maj. Edenside rangers 1802, Cumbrian rangers 1803, lt.-col. 1803; lt.-col. commdt. W. Northumb. militia 1824.

Biography

Wallace came from a Northumberland family, though it was in Brampton, Cumberland, where his grandfather and namesake was an attorney, that he was said to have been born, probably in 1768.2 His father was Member for Horsham, 1770-83, and one of Lord North’s† law officers, and when Wallace followed him into Parliament in 1790, he supported Pitt, and held junior ministerial office almost continuously from 1797. Having inherited properties in Cumberland and Northumberland, though he disposed of the former in the late 1820s, he had some electoral influence in the north, where he was well respected. As his Northumberland neighbour James Losh of the Grove, Jesmond, later commented, he was

an honest man and very industrious, and has shown what may be done by these good qualities without any considerable talents. His connections enabled him to get into Parliament, and his political opinions (or rather those of his great friends Lord Melville, etc.) made him steady to that party.3

The prime minister Lord Liverpool, who like Canning was a friend from university, thought that Wallace, a petulant and unashamedly ambitious colleague, overrated his own abilities and, being a reluctant speaker, made little contribution to the standing of the government in the Commons. Despite being several times passed over for more senior positions, he was appointed vice-president of the board of trade, with a salary of £1,500, in 1818.4

At the general election that year he was returned after a contest for Weymouth, where he had sat briefly in the previous Parliament. This was on the Johnstone family interest, which, during the minority of the 7th baronet, was managed by the principal trustee, and Wallace’s ministerial colleague there, Masterton Ure. On the eve of another dissolution, he wrote to his friend, Sir Charles Monck of Belsay, 10 Feb. 1820, deploring his decision to retire from Parliament and admitting that ‘I believe I should not be sorry to follow your example’.5 He was, however, returned unopposed for Weymouth at the general election that year, with Ure and two town Members under the ‘union’ compromise, and drank to ‘union and independence’ at his election dinner. On 29 Mar. his agent Joseph Horsford informed him that Lady Johnstone, the 6th baronet’s widow, was convinced of his loyalty and that ‘as long as you wished, that seat should be filled by you’, but the following month Horsford suspected that she and Ure wanted him to be dislodged.6 In July Wallace differed seriously with Ure over the handling of the borough and local patronage, which Wallace exercised as a Member in his own right, through government, and via his wife’s son the 2nd Viscount Melville, the first lord of the admiralty.7 In an undated letter to Ure he angrily asserted that he was ‘bound to avail myself of nothing to be given in Weymouth but for the advantage of the Johnstone family’ and, indicating that Ure was acting without the sanction of the family and the other trustees, stated that he had ‘never abandoned my right of private judgement to you or anyone’.8 Nevertheless, the quarrel was apparently smoothed over.

In the House, Wallace continued to divide, for the most part silently, with his ministerial colleagues. In May 1820 he was asked by Horsford to give advice on the Weymouth bridge bill.9 He was appointed to the select committee on foreign trade, 5 June, and chaired its sittings. On presenting its report, 18 July, he outlined the existing state of distress and advocated for its relief the greatest practicable measure of free trade, recommending the relaxation of the navigation laws, the extension of the warehousing system and the simplification of the laws relating to commerce. He hailed the committee’s findings, at the start of a series of ground-breaking reports, as ‘the first and most material step of this country to a departure from the course of restrictive policy which its legislature had hitherto pursued, and to the establishment of a more enlarged and liberal policy towards foreign states than any which had yet prevailed’.

He was chairman of the foreign trade committee during the following four sessions, and much of his parliamentary work was concerned with sponsoring the ensuing legislation.10 Wallace spent that autumn in Buxton, explaining to Charles Arbuthnot* that ‘I have been so ill since I came to this place as to be hardly capable of doing anything’. The other treasury secretary, Stephen Rumbold Lushington, reassured him by letter, 18 Oct., that ‘you were not at all wanted last night’, when no division had occurred on the bill of pains and penalties against Queen Caroline.11 During his stay he corresponded with his friend John Gladstone* about his commercial proposals and expressed his anxiety about the progress of the queen’s trial.12 According to Robert Ward*, he listened to the Lords debate, 4 Nov. 1820, and ‘came out very sanguine for a large majority, which he said would have great weight with people out of doors, and bring them round’.13 He commended government’s decision to withdraw the bill against Caroline, hoped that the loyal addresses would help to calm the agitation of her supporters and doubted rumours of ministerial changes; but he noted that there would be a good deal of violent opposition in Parliament ‘and if we are to form any conjecture from what passed at the time of the prorogation, there seems to be no extent of it for which we ought not to prepare ourselves’.14

He commented on an alleged breach of privilege, 9 Mar. 1821. He moved for the reappointment of the select committee on foreign trade, 6 Feb., when he indicated that government would take the inquiry in hand and bring forward measures for relief. Having answered questions about the future of the timber duties, 14, 16 Feb., 27 Mar., he moved resolutions to repeal them, 29 Mar., on the ground that it was more economic to import timber from northern Europe than to rely on uncompetitive colonial produce, and spoke in favour of the timber duties bill, 5, 12, 16, 19 Apr.15 It was no doubt in recollection of one of these occasions that Hudson Gurney* later recorded in his diary that Wallace ‘made a very long and heavy speech on the timber trade. On coming out of the House Lord Londonderry [Castlereagh], being stopped by a timber dray conveying an immense timber, called out, "There goes Wallace’s speech to be printed".’16 The chancellor of the exchequer announced his appointment as the head of the commission of inquiry into the Irish revenue, 15 June, when he answered Hume’s objections by saying that he had waived any emolument because he was already in receipt of an official salary. Reiterating his customary arguments in favour of free trade, he moved resolutions for amending the Navigation Acts, 25 June, when Henry Grey Bennet* recorded that ‘he made, as usual, a dull, though by no means a bad speech. His principles were good, but I have no doubt the merchants and their interests will prevail’.17 It was probably of this debate that Gladstone wrote to him, 24 Sept., in praise of the ‘liberal, enlarged, comprehensive and statesmanlike view which you have taken of the great commercial and mercantile interests of the country’.18 Wallace related to John Herries*, one of his fellow commissioners, 8 Aug., that

it is clear to me from what passed [in conversation with Liverpool] that a great deal is expected from us and if we fulfil the intentions and wishes of government we must be prepared to cut very deep, in fact that we are to be the instruments of changing completely the actual system of governing Ireland by patronage.19

He spent the autumn taking evidence in Dublin, from where he reported to Liverpool, 3 Dec., and to Gladstone, 5 Dec. 1821, that he and his colleagues were unanimous in their recommendations, which included abolition of the separate Irish customs and repeal of many of the duties on Irish trade.20

Wallace agreed with Gladstone, 7 Jan. 1822, that government had ‘purchased’ the Grenvillites ‘at a price much beyond the value of any strength or credit they bring to our support’, and although he approved of most of the ministerial changes that month, he added that ‘I hope it will answer, but I cannot help having my fears’. Anticipating some busy months of legislative activity for himself, he admitted in another letter, 21 Jan., that ministers’ ‘great difficulty in the ensuing session will arise from the agriculturists, who I suspect will make a violent assault upon our taxation, with what success it is in these times impossible to say’.21 He secured the reappointment of the foreign trade committee, 25 Feb., and was a teller for the majority of three to one against James Drummond being added to it, 28 Feb., when the House was counted out. On 27 Feb. he presented his proposals on the Irish revenue, the first of the 22 reports which he oversaw (the last was ordered to be printed by the Commons, 9 July 1830).22 Having put off the discussion on his navigation bill, 6 May, he spoke in its favour, 20 May, arguing that the changed circumstances of overseas trade made it necessary to remove the existing restrictions, which would not endanger the country’s shipping and commercial interests, but would lead to more general economic prosperity. He repeated this opinion, 23 May, 4 June when he was a teller for the majority in favour of the third reading.23 He postponed the warehousing bill to the following session, 21 June 1822, promising that an investigation would be made into the silk trade. He admitted privately that he ‘had determined to make my escape some time before Parliament rose’, and rested at Carleton Hall until he had to resume his Irish revenue work, although he did not in fact visit Ireland that autumn.24

In December 1822 Frederick Robinson, the president of the board of trade, accepted Liverpool’s invitation to succeed Nicholas Vansittart as chancellor, but warned the prime minister that Wallace considered that his services entitled him to take over the department (which was to go to Huskisson), and ‘may therefore require a little soothing, when it comes to the point’. Canning and Arbuthnot agreed, and suggested that Liverpool take the chance to express ministers’ gratitude for his useful work before broaching the new arrangements. Liverpool finally informed Wallace of the changes by letter, 8 Jan. 1823, stressing that Huskisson was the only commoner he would consider placing over his head. As expected, Wallace, who was described as being ‘most indignant’, was extremely disappointed, and reacted (as he had in 1816) by resigning. He did offer to take the presidency without a salary, when that was raised as a sticking point, and urged Liverpool to consider

my situation fairly, consider my time of life and that my political views are drawing very fast to a close. Am I never to have the gratification of anything but a subordinate office? Is nothing more due to me? If so it is time for me to retire.

Liverpool, who was acutely sensitive to his friend’s distress, endeavoured to dissuade him, and even proposed that Wallace and Arbuthnot, who was to go to the department of woods and forests, should exchange places. This was much to the discomfiture of Arbuthnot, whose wife believed the problem to be that ‘Lady Melville will not allow Mr. Wallace to remain where he is’. Other solutions were suggested, the most feasible being that Wallace should succeed Lord Maryborough as master of the mint, but in the end all that could be held out to him was the vague promise of a future office.25 Of his resignation, Wallace confided to Gladstone, 6 Feb. 1823:

I own to you I did it with great reluctance because it gave me advantages in prosecuting my views in opening and relieving the commerce of the country, but I really was placed by the new arrangement in a situation in which, consistently with my honour and character, I could not hesitate.26

Despite his low profile in government, his departure was regretted by his constituents, who voted him an address of thanks for his services, 8 Feb. 1823, and this was matched by others, notably from several hundred London merchants.27 Ministers were quick to praise his achievements. Arbuthnot stressed his experience when he wrote to Liverpool that

Wallace in this respect, had he consented to remain, would have had an advantage which I possess not. He had laboured so well and so zealously that Robinson had become the cypher; and so fair has been the fame that he has acquired, that not even Huskisson himself would eclipse him.28

When he moved for the reappointment of his committee and commented on the improved economic situation, 12 Feb., Wallace was complimented on his efforts by Ricardo, Hume and Canning; and Peel privately congratulated him ‘on the just and most gratifying testimonies which you received’.29 Robinson added to these encomiums when, in the course of his budget statement, 21 Feb., he said that nothing

in the course of my political life has given me more satisfaction than to have found in him a colleague, imbued with the same principles upon all these subjects, as those which I have at all times advocated, and upon which I have endeavoured to act.

Wallace, who continued to give ministers largely silent support, voted against parliamentary reform, 20 Feb., and alteration of the Scottish representative system, 2 June. He divided against repeal of the assessed taxes, 18 Mar., and the production of information on the plot to murder the Irish lord lieutenant, 24 Mar. He spoke for the warehousing bill, 21 Mar. (when he was teller for the majority in its favour), 24 Mar., 21 Apr. He voted against repeal of the Foreign Enlistment Act, 16 Apr., and inquiry into the legal proceedings against the Dublin Orange rioters, 22 Apr. He defended the reduction of duties on Irish cloth, 2 May. He called the Spitalfields Acts ‘a disgrace to the statute book’, 9 May, and supported the silk bill, 21 May. He spoke in defence of the reciprocity of duties bill, 6 June, 4 July, and the distilleries bill, 30 June, 8 July 1823.30

The death of Lord Cornwallis later that year allowed a relieved Liverpool to make Maryborough master of the buckhounds and so ‘reward the indefatigable labours of Mr. Wallace as chairman of the parliamentary commission, and repair in some degree the injury he thought he received’; however, the king was reportedly displeased ‘that a place in his household should be made subservient to an accommodation for Wallace’. He welcomed his appointment to the undemanding office of master of the mint, and acquiesced in the decision to deny him a seat in the cabinet, although admitting privately that he still thought his claim was ‘full as good a one as Huskisson’s’.31 He was congratulated by the corporation of Weymouth, 10 Oct., and was elected a capital burgess, 24 Nov. 1823, during a visit to the town, after which he complained of ‘having been detained amongst my constituents subject to all the slavery of such a situation preparatory to an election’. He was returned unopposed at the by-election in February 1824, when he advocated free trade, commented on the increasing economic recovery and opposed involvement in any foreign wars.32 With the exception of slavery, Ireland and the Catholic question, he observed to Gladstone, 5 Feb., that ‘I do not see that the parliamentary prospect has anything in it of a disagreeable nature’.33 He voted against the production of papers on Catholic office-holders, 19 Feb. He criticized the proposal to adopt a decimal coinage as impracticable, 25 Feb. He denied that a pledge had been given to repeal the hemp duties, 26 Feb., and, having for the last time been appointed chairman of the foreign trade committee, 4 Mar., he urged opening the silk trade to competition, 8, 22 Mar. He promised in the following session to introduce a measure to equalize the English and Irish currencies, 24 June 1824.34

Wallace supported the St. Katharine’s Docks bill, 22 Feb. 1825. As he had on 28 Feb. 1821 and 30 Apr. 1822, he voted against Catholic relief, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., when he spoke at length on the issue, and 10 May, and presented an anti-Catholic petition from Weymouth, 18 Apr. 1825.35 Among other select committee appointments, he chaired one on the combination laws, although Gladstone warned Huskisson that ‘from having seen very much of your chairman in the foreign trade committee, I do not hesitate to say to you that I have not confidence in either his nerve or his judgement; I hold him unequal to the task’.36 However, the radical Francis Place was of a different opinion of Wallace’s performance in the chair, noting that

he was a man singularly well qualified for his office, conversant with parliamentary business, not too wise for the purposes of his masters, but more than sufficiently conceited with his own wisdom and his own importance. In many ways he was perhaps the most unmanageable man that could have been pitched upon. He had a purpose to accomplish, and would attend to no suggestions from those who were opposed to him. The committee was informed that about half-a-dozen gentlemen would be examined, and then a bill would be submitted to the committee to remedy the evils complained of.37

Insisting that some level of protection against combinations should be retained, he spoke in favour of the committee’s recommendations for a bill to abolish the Combination Acts, 16, 23, 27, 29 June, when he was a teller for the majority in its favour.38 He argued the case for assimilating the Irish and English currencies, 12 May, and oversaw the bill to achieve this, which became law, 27 June 1825. The following year the lord lieutenant, Lord Wellesley, wrote that ‘Ireland is as prosperous as any country can be, under the auspices of poverty, discord and disease, with the currency of Wallace in possession and with a famine price of potatoes in reversion’.39

In February 1826 Wallace was said ‘to be dying’,40 and his only known votes that session were for receiving the report on the salary of the president of the board of trade, 10 Apr., and against reform of the representation of Edinburgh, 13 Apr. He agreed that the rates of postage in England and Ireland ought to be made equal, 21 Apr.41 At the general election that summer he offered again for Weymouth, where he was returned with Ure on the interest of the trustees, despite the fact that their differences with the Johnstone family provoked a long contest. He was roundly condemned for helping to uphold the ‘union’ against the family’s challenger John Gordon*, and for suggesting that the mayor summon the military to suppress the disturbances caused by his supporters. His expenses amounted to £1,216.42 Senior ministers considered various changes during July 1826, and Canning proposed that Wallace be made either secretary at war or postmaster, having ‘earned just that sort of reputation which would render the placing him at the head of a great department, in which there is much to set right, or to improve’. Nothing came of it.43 He was still in very poor health at the beginning of the following year,44 and his last known vote in the Commons was that given against Catholic relief, 6 Mar. 1827. He requested the postponement of a motion relating to foreign trade, 23 Mar., and, after several changes of plan, was able to attend the Commons to defend the Irish revenue commission’s findings, 10 Apr.45 He was among the anti-Catholics whom Canning tried to recruit when forming his ministry that spring, but he declined a peerage and the home office. As the 3rd marquess of Londonderry noted, ‘Wallace was offered carte blanche, but gallantly threw up’.46 In August the king apparently wished to have him appointed president of the board of trade, but Canning’s successor Lord Goderich (as Robinson now was) persuaded him that to appoint a ‘Tory-Protestant-seceder’ to the cabinet would alienate the Whigs.47 In November 1827 he was listed by the new master of the mint George Tierney* among those intended for inclusion on the finance committee.48

Although disappointed at being again passed over for high office, he decided not to impede the formation of the government in January 1828, and so acquiesced in the duke of Wellington’s offer of a peerage. He merely stipulated that it should be announced at the same time as the cabinet in order to ‘produce the impression I am anxious should be generally received that although not holding an official situation I am identified with your grace’s administration’.49 This duly occurred, and he returned to office as a member of the board of control. Lord Ellenborough, the new lord privy seal, was one of those who regretted his exclusion as a result of the junction with Huskisson, believing that ‘Wallace’s name was as good for the commercial interest’.50 Despite his protestations of support, Wallace was also concerned at the scope for dissension within the coalition ministry and differed with ministers over Catholic emancipation, which he voted against by proxy, 4, 10 Apr. 1829. He left the government in February 1830, blaming the long-standing ‘mutual repulsion’ between himself and Peel for his failure to win a cabinet place. He was strongly opposed to the Grey ministry’s reform bills and for many years voted silently with the Conservatives in the Lords.51 Wallace, one of the minor actors in the emergence of liberal Toryism in the early 1820s, died in February 1844, when his peerage became extinct. He left his papers to Monck, his executor, who failed to honour an apparent agreement whereby the survivor was to have written a biography of his late friend, but his estates passed to his wife’s nephew Lieutenant-Colonel James Hope (1807-54), Conservative Member for Linlithgow, 1835-8, who took the additional name of Wallace.52

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Stephen Farrell

Notes

  • 1. Not master of the mint [I] as erroneously stated in HP Commons, 1790-1820, v. 468.
  • 2. C. Rogers, Bk. of Wallace, i. 224-5; J. Hodgson, Northumb. pt. 2, vol. iii. p. 92; Gent. Mag. (1844), i. 426.
  • 3. Diaries and Corresp. of James Losh ed. E. Hughes (Surtees Soc. clxxxiv), 34-35.
  • 4. HP Commons, 1790-1820, v. 468-72; Black Bk. (1820), 443.
  • 5. Northumb. RO, Middleton mss ZMI/B16/V.
  • 6. Ibid. S76/40/5, 7, 8; Western Flying Post, 13, 20 Mar. 1820.
  • 7. Middleton mss S76/29/9, 11, 18, 43; 30/70; 34/1-7; 40/23, 29.
  • 8. Ibid. S76/30/23.
  • 9. Ibid. S76/40/13, 14.
  • 10. B. Hilton, Corn, Cash, Commerce, 179, 185, 195-7.
  • 11. Middleton mss S76/30/81; 31/11.
  • 12. Ibid. S76/31/6, 7; St. Deiniol’s Lib. Glynne-Gladstone mss 319, Wallace to Gladstone, 22 Sept., 18, 26 Oct. 1820.
  • 13. Plumer Ward Mems. ii. 76.
  • 14. Glynne-Gladstone mss 319, Wallace to Gladstone, 11, 15, 29 Nov., 16 Dec. 1820.
  • 15. The Times, 15, 17 Feb., 28 Mar., 6, 13, 20 Apr. 1821.
  • 16. Gurney diary, 24 Mar. 1824.
  • 17. HLRO, Hist. Coll. 379, Grey Bennet diary, 104.
  • 18. Glynne-Gladstone mss 319.
  • 19. Add. 57401.
  • 20. Northumb. RO, Hope-Wallace mss ZHW/2/5; Add. 38290, f. 113; Glynne-Gladstone mss 319.
  • 21. Glynne-Gladstone mss 319; Hilton, 128.
  • 22. The Times, 26, 28 Feb. 1822.
  • 23. Ibid. 7, 24 May, 5 June 1822.
  • 24. Glynne-Gladstone mss 319, Wallace to Gladstone, 8 Aug. 1822; Add. 38291, ff. 185, 187.
  • 25. Add. 38291, ff. 223, 233, 236, 335, 344, 347, 351, 398, 406; 38292, f. 160; 38744, ff. 17, 19, 26, 28; Buckingham, Mems. Geo. IV, i. 417; Arbuthnot Corresp. 35, 36, 42, 43; Arbuthnot Jnl. i. 201-2, 204-5, 208; Wellington mss, Wellington to Arbuthnot, 16 Jan. 1823; W. D. Jones, ‘Prosperity’ Robinson, 66, 96-97.
  • 26. Glynne-Gladstone mss 319.
  • 27. Salisbury Jnl. 17 Feb. 1823; Gent. Mag. (1844), i. 428; Hope-Wallace mss 2/112.
  • 28. Arbuthnot Corresp. 36.
  • 29. Add. 40354, f. 216.
  • 30. The Times, 3 May, 1 July 1823.
  • 31. Middleton mss S76/49/3-5; Add. 38296, f. 168; 38425, ff. 149, 151; 57401, Wallace to Herries, 28 Aug. 1823; Geo. IV Letters, iii. 1079; HMC Bathurst, 542.
  • 32. Weymouth Mus. Weymouth and Melcombe Regis borough recs. 110.MB2, pp. 384, 391-2, 396-9; Middleton mss S76/49/7; Salisbury Jnl. 27 Oct., 1 Dec. 1823; Dorset Co. Chron. 12 Feb. 1824.
  • 33. Glynne-Gladstone mss 319.
  • 34. The Times, 25 June 1824.
  • 35. Ibid. 19 Apr. 1825.
  • 36. PP (1825), iv. 569-989; Middleton mss S76/49/12.
  • 37. G. Wallas, Life of Place, 229.
  • 38. The Times, 17, 24, 30 June 1825.
  • 39. Wellington mss WP1/860/14.
  • 40. Keele Univ. Lib. Sneyd mss SC8/79, Ellis to Sneyd, 13 Feb. 1826.
  • 41. The Times, 22 Apr. 1826.
  • 42. Ibid. 22, 27, 30 June; Dorset Co. Chron. 6 Apr., 15, 22, 29 June, 6 July 1826; Middleton mss S76/49/20; 52/2-4, 7, 8, 12.</