WHARTON, John (1765-1843), of Skelton Castle, nr. Guisborough, Yorks.
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Family and Educationb. 21 June 1765, 1st s. of Joseph William Stevenson (formerly Hall) of Skelton and Ann, da. and h. of James Foster of Drumgoon, co. Fermanagh. educ. R. Sch. Armagh; Trinity, Dublin 1781; L. Inn 1784. m. 14 Oct. 1790, Susan Mary Anne, da. of Gen. John Lambton† of Lambton, co. Dur., 2da. d.v.p. suc. fa. 1786; took name of Wharton on suc. to estates of aunt Mrs. Mary Wharton. d. 29 May 1843.
Wharton, a well-connected Foxite Whig, the uncle of ‘Radical Jack’ Lambton* and a former Friend of the People, stood for the venal borough of Beverley for the eighth time in 1820. Politics aside, the severe financial embarrassments which had obliged him in 1816 to place his estates in the hands of trustees, who allowed him a dole, made a seat essential as a refuge from creditors. He deplored the Liverpool ministry’s recent repressive legislation and failure to redeem their ‘promises of economy and retrenchment’, and was returned in second place.1 He continued to vote with his friends in opposition, but was far from being a thick and thin attender in the 1820 Parliament. He divided against Wilberforce’s compromise resolution on the Queen Caroline affair, 22 June, and steadily in support of the parliamentary campaign on her behalf in early 1821; he presented a Beverley petition for restoration of her name to the liturgy, 24 Jan. 1821.2 He voted for economies in revenue collection, 4 July, and against the barrack agreement bill, 13 July 1820. On 20 Feb. 1821 he introduced a bill to amend the General Enclosure Act, which became law on 19 Apr. (1 & 2 Geo. IV, c. 23). He voted to condemn the Allies’ suppression of liberalism in Naples, 21 Feb. He divided for Catholic relief, 28 Feb. 1821, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May 1825. He was in the minority for giving Leeds a ratepayer franchise if it received Grampound’s seats, 2 Mar., and divided for parliamentary reform, 9 May 1821, 24 Apr. 1823, 27 Apr. 1826. He cast sporadic votes for economy and retrenchment, 6 Mar., 30 Apr., 4, 14, 21, 28 May, 1, 18 June 1821. He was given a month’s leave on account of illness in his family, 12 Mar. 1821. He paired for repeal of the Blasphemous and Seditious Libels Act, 8 May, and divided with Burdett for inquiry into Peterloo, 16 May, having presented a petition from one of the wounded victims the previous day.3 He paired for the forgery punishment mitigation bill, 23 May 1821. His only known votes in 1822 were for reduction of the army estimates, 4 Mar., and abolition of one of the joint-postmasterships and inquiry into the board of control, 14 Mar. He voted against government on the sinking fund, 6, 13 Mar., the army estimates, 10 Mar., tax cuts, 17, 18 Mar., the deadweight pensions, 18 Apr., and repeal of the Foreign Enlistment Act, 16 Apr. 1823. He divided for inquiry into the prosecution of the Dublin Orange rioters, 22 Apr., and abolition of the death penalty for larcency, 21 May 1823. In 1824 he voted for inquiries into the reports of the Scottish judicial commissioners, 30 Mar., the state of Ireland, 11 May, and Irish first fruits revenues, 25 May; against the aliens bill, 2, 12 Apr., and the grant for new church building, 9, 12 Apr.; for allowing defence by counsel in felony cases, 6 Apr., and to condemn the prosecution of the Methodist missionary John Smith in Demerara, 11 June. On 24 May 1824 he brought up a Northallerton justices’ petition against a clause of the gaols bill.4 He was in the opposition minorities against the bill to suppress the Catholic Association, 18, 25 Feb. 1825. He voted for the production of information on the reorganization of the Indian army, 24 Mar., paired for repeal of the window tax, 17 May, and divided against the duke of Cumberland’s annuity bill, 10 June, for inquiry into the cost of emigration schemes, 13 June, and to reduce judges’ salaries, 17 June. He voted against the spring guns bill, 21 June 1825. He voted to reduce the army estimates, 6, 7 Mar., and in Hume’s minorities of 47 for the abolition of army flogging, 10 Mar., and 51 for inquiry into the state of the nation, 4 May 1826. He was in the largely protectionist minority against the emergency admission of foreign corn, 8 May, and before dividing likewise, 11 May, he defended his fellow ‘country gentlemen’ against the charge that they had ‘brought the country to its present state of distress by supporting the last war’. He voted for Russell’s resolution outlawing electoral bribery, 26 May 1826.
At the general election the following month Wharton offered again for Beverley, but loss of support among the resident freemen and his shortage of money condemned him to defeat at the hands of two new candidates.5 Lord Dundas commented that ‘being out of Parliament may be very inconvenient to him’, and he cast round desperately for an escape from his creditors.6 In early December 1826 he wrote to Lord Fitzwilliam’s son Lord Milton*:
It would be a very great accommodation to me to have a seat ... for one year, and therefore I take the liberty of requesting you will have the goodness to get me brought in upon a double return, if the seat is not promised, or upon a vacancy when one occurs, and I pledge myself to vacate on the first day of the session of 1828 if required, or at any time I may be required after that day. I shall not trouble you with my reasons for making this request, but assure you that if you comply you will confer on me an obligation that no length of time can efface.
Milton evidently advised him to petition against the return of one of his opponents at Beverley. He thought it was ‘too late’ for this (a petition in the names of two electors had already been presented, but it subsequently lapsed), and he asked Milton to secure his temporary return for Malton if the death of Lord Mulgrave removed one of the sitting Members to the Lords. This did not happen.7 A year later Wharton was served with several writs for recovery of debts, and in January 1828 he was confined within the rules of king’s bench prison.8 From there he declared himself a candidate for Beverley at the 1830 general election, but ‘his inability to discharge his pecuniary engagements’ forced him to withdraw.9 On 30 Aug. 1830 he wrote to Henry Brougham, who had been returned for both Yorkshire and Knaresborough, asking him to recommend him to the duke of Devonshire for the latter seat for the next session ‘if I cannot get it for the entire Parliament, which if there is such quality as gratitude amongst politicians, I think myself entitled to expect from the party’; nothing came of this.10 In February 1831 Brougham, now lord chancellor in the Grey ministry, told Lord Holland that at dinner their cabinet colleague Lord Durham (as Lambton had become) had
quarrelled ... with Bear Ellice [the patronage secretary] and myself for not knowing he had a difference with his uncle J. Wharton, and calling him ‘poor Peg’, which God knows he is whether he quarrels with his nephew or no, but it turns out (I did not know it) that he is pressing ... [Durham] to pay him £15,000 under his father’s will and that ... [Durham] don’t much like it.11
(There is no such provision in Durham’s father’s will, but it left an annuity to Mrs. Wharton ‘only until such time as the estates of her husband ... shall be so far liberated as to produce for her ... the clear sum of £2,000 per annum’.)12 Wharton was still harbouring hopes of being able to stand again for Beverley as late as 1839, but he remained within the rules until his death from prostate cancer, at 3 Asylum Buildings, Westminster Road, Lambeth, in May 1843.13 He had tried in his will to provide for his family, but an outstanding debt of £5,000 was claimed against his estate.14