WEBB, Edward (1779-1839), of Adwell, nr. Tetsworth, Glos. and 181 Piccadilly, Mdx.
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Family and Education
b. 30 Jan. 1779, 2nd s. of John Webb† (d. 1795) of Cote House, nr. Bristol, Glos. and Arabella, da. of Thomas Bushell of Sevinbroke, Oxon. educ. Elmore Court, Glos. c. 1793.1 m. 22 July 1807,2 Jane Mary Catherine, da. of Sir John Guise, 1st bt., of Highnam Court, Glos., 1da. d. 18 Sept. 1839.
Writer, E.I. Co. (Bengal) 1795; asst. to office of Persian translator to bd. of revenue 1795; asst. to registrar of sadar diwani and nizamat adalat 1796; asst. to collector of Dinajpur 1796; res. 1801.
Capt. N. Glos. militia 1803; lt.-col. 1 R. East Glos. militia 1809.
Webb had succeeded to most of his father’s property through the wills of his elder brother John in 1797 and of his mother in 1801.3 He was first returned for Gloucester at a by-election in 1816 after an expensive contest, supported by the Whig corporation and the Gloucestershire Constitutional Whig Club, in which his brother-in-law, Sir Berkeley William Guise*, the county Member, was prominent.4 He was returned unopposed with his Tory colleague Cooper at the general election of 1820, after proclaiming his support for ‘the just prerogatives of the crown’ and opposition to ‘all such measures as tended to subvert our valued rights and privileges’.5 He continued to vote with the Whig opposition to Lord Liverpool’s ministry on most major issues, including parliamentary reform, 9, 10, 31 May 1821, 25 Apr., 3 June 1822, 24 Apr., 2 June 1823, 26 Feb. 1824, 13, 27 Apr. 1826. However, he was one of the few Whigs who divided against Catholic claims, 28 Feb. 1821.6 He rarely spoke in debate, but reportedly denied that the burden of local rates was light, 15 Mar. 1821.7 He voted to go into committee on the usury laws repeal bill, 17 June 1823, but turned against this measure, 27 Feb. 1824, 17 Feb. 1825. He divided with the minority for inquiry into the state of Ireland, 11 May, but with ministers for the Irish insurrection bill, 14 June 1824. He voted against the Irish unlawful societies bill, 21, 25 Feb., but also against Catholic claims, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May, and the Irish franchise bill, 9 May 1825. At the annual meeting of the Constitutional Whig Club, 24 Jan. 1826, he acknowledged that his anti-Catholic stance was contrary to the views of many of his constituents, but claimed that he acted from conscience and declared his intention of standing at the next general election.8 He voted in the protectionist minority against the corn bill, 11 May 1826. At the general election that summer he was again returned unopposed with Cooper, after a threatened intervention by a local Whig, John Phillpotts*, failed to materialize. He affirmed his commitment to the abolition of sinecures, the repeal of taxes bearing heavily on the poorest classes and parliamentary reform.9
He divided against the Clarence annuity bill, 2 Mar., for information on the Barrackpoor mutiny, 22 Mar., and for inquiry into the Irish miscellaneous estimates, 5 Apr. 1827. He again voted against Catholic relief, 6 Mar., and the corn bill, 2 Apr. He was granted a week’s leave for urgent private business, having served on an election committee, 5 Apr. He divided against Canning’s ministry to remove bankruptcy jurisdiction from chancery, 22 May, to disfranchise Penryn, 28 May, and against the grant to improve water communications in Canada, 12 June 1827. He presented petitions for repeal of the Test Acts, 21, 25 Feb., and voted in that sense, 26 Feb., but he paired against Catholic claims, 12 May 1828. He voted against extending East Retford’s franchise to Bassetlaw freeholders, 21 Mar., and for a lower pivot price for the corn duties, 22 Apr. He divided against the financial provision for Canning’s family, 13 May, and the grant for the Society for Propagation of the Gospels in the Colonies, 6 June, and to reduce civil list pensions, 10 June, condemn the misapplication of public money for work on Buckingham House, 23 June, cut the salary of the lieutenant-general of the ordnance, 4 July, and delete the grant for North American fortifications, 7 July 1828. In February 1829 Planta, the Wellington ministry’s patronage secretary, predicted that Webb would side ‘with government’ for Catholic emancipation, despite his previous opposition. He presented an anti-Catholic petition from the Gloucestershire rural dean and clergy, 23 Feb., and testified to the respectability of the signatories to a similar petition from Gloucester, 2 Mar., but indeed voted for emancipation, 6, 30 Mar. He divided for an amendment to the Irish franchise bill to allow reregistration, 20 Mar., and for Lord Blandford’s reform scheme, 2 June 1829. He voted for Hume’s tax cutting amendment, 15 Feb., and inquiry into the revision of taxation, 25 Mar. 1830, and steadily in the revived opposition campaign for retrenchment that session. He again divided for Blandford’s reform scheme, 18 Feb., and against the East Retford disfranchisement bill, 15 Mar. He presented a Gloucester corporation petition against renewal of the East India Company’s charter, 29 Mar. He voted against ministers on the affair at Terceira, 28 Apr., the civil government of Canada, 25 May, and to abolish the Irish lord lieutenancy, 11 May. He divided against Jewish emancipation, 17 May. He paired for abolition of the death penalty for forgery, 7 June, and voted against the administration of justice bill, 18 June, and to prohibit sales for on-consumption in beer houses, 21 June 1830. He offered again for Gloucester at the general election that summer, when he faced a challenge from Phillpotts but was helped by the decision of another Whig candidate, Frederick Berkeley*, to withdraw rather than jeopardize his chances. In his address, Webb stressed his voting record on retrenchment and tax cuts and advocated measures to ‘ameliorate the condition of my fellow creatures’, including ‘the abolition of slavery and the removal of punishment too severe to be inflicted’. He was returned at the head of the poll.10
He voted against Wellington’s ministry, who of course had listed him among their ‘foes’, in the crucial civil list division, 15 Nov. 1830. He presented a Gloucester corporation petition in favour of parliamentary reform, 26 Feb., and petitions supporting the Grey ministry’s bill from the same body, 16 Mar., and the inhabitants of Gloucester, 19 Mar. 1831. He divided for the bill’s second reading, 22 Mar., and against Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831. Next day he stated that the freemen of Gloucester, many of whom faced disfranchisement, were nevertheless ‘entirely satisfied’ with the measure. At the ensuing dissolution he was persuaded not to retire, in accordance with a promise made to Berkeley at the previous election, and to stand in conjunction with him. He trusted that there would be a ‘triumphant majority’ for the bill and that ‘the whole horde of borough-mongers might in a very few months be driven from their strongholds’. He wished to see ‘the just rights of the people exercised and the privileges of voting extended to those who contributed to the burthens of the state’. He was returned in second place behind Berkeley, but comfortably ahead of Phillpotts.11
Webb divided for the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July 1831, and generally supported its details. However, he voted against the disfranchisement of Downton, 21 July, which caused ‘great offence’ in Gloucester and led to his effigy being burned in the streets,12 and the proposed division of counties, 11 Aug., and for the Chandos amendment to enfranchise £50 tenants-at-will, 18 Aug., and the preservation of the rights of non-resident freemen, 30 Aug. He divided for the bill’s third reading, 19 Sept., its passage, 21 Sept., the second reading of the Scottish bill, 23 Sept., and Lord Ebrington’s confidence motion, 10 Oct. He attended the unofficial county meeting in Gloucester to petition the Lords for reform, 28 Sept., when he declared that ‘he had always supported the bill and never was absent from any of its stages’.13 He voted to punish only those guilty of bribery at the Dublin election and against the censure motion on the Irish administration, 23 Aug. He divided for the second reading of the revised bill, 17 Dec. 1831, and generally supported its details, but he voted against the enfranchisement of Gateshead, 5 Mar. 1832. He divided for the third reading, 22 Mar., and Ebrington’s motion for an address asking the king to appoint only ministers committed to carrying an unimpaired measure, 10 May. He voted against ministers on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., but was absent from the divisions on this issue in July. He divided with the minority for inquiry into the glove trade, 31 Jan., but with government on relations with Portugal, 9 Feb. He voted to recommit the Irish registry of deeds bill, 9 Apr. He was in the minorities for the abolition of slavery, 24 May, and permanent provision for Irish paupers from a tax on absentees, 19 June. He voted to make coroners’ inquests public, 20 June 1832. That summer he was requisitioned to offer again for Gloucester at the impending general election, but announced that he would not do so on the ground that his candidature might jeopardize Berkeley’s return, adding that in any case ‘if a seat ... is only to be obtained by an enormous sacrifice of money and anxiety of mind, I am not ambitious of seeking it on those terms’.14 He made an unsuccessful attempt to regain his seat, in the Liberal interest, at a by-election in May 1838. He died in New York in September 1839, after being taken ill on a visit to Niagara Falls.15 He left the residue of his estate, including land in four counties, to his only child Elizabeth Frances Webb; his personalty was sworn under £25,000.16