LUTTRELL, Hon. Temple Simon (?1738-1803), of Eaglehurst, nr. Southampton, Hants.
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Family and Education
Temple Luttrell contested Milborne Port in 1774 on the interest of Thomas Hutchings Medlycott, and was seated after a double return. His first speech, 13 Feb. 1775, was a violent attack on North’s ministry. He denounced
the arbitrary principles and system of government applied to almost every department of the state by that flagitious confederacy which hath latterly presided over the councils and arcana of the Cabinet ever since the accession of our present most gracious sovereign ... let the all-potent minions beware, lest while they are bowing the stubborn necks of these colonists to the yoke, they find not their own necks bow to the block of an executioner.1
This is a fair sample of the style and contents of his speeches: a foundation of cant, taken from Burke, decorated with threats and abuse. Nearly a hundred are reported in Almon’s Parliamentary Register: long, repetitious, and boring; and padded out with classical comparisons and historical disquisitions. Twice, bitter and personal attacks almost led him into a duel: on 26 May 1778, when he taunted Lord George Germain about Minden;2 and on 16 Mar. 1779, when he said of Rigby that he ‘seemed to be ignorant of everything but the infamous and inordinate profits of his own employment’.3 And, writes Walpole,4 ‘no man published more abuse in the papers’.
In the early stages of the American war he contended that the colonists were fighting only for their just rights, not for independence. Even as late as 1777 he professed to believe that if Chatham were minister—‘the ablest statesman and truest patriot this nation ... was ever blessed with’, and
if taxation were once given up, and that great minister ... invited again into office, with a lenient disposition to heal those wounds our civil distractions had made on either side the Atlantic, and with talents and spirit equal to so difficult a contest, if irremediably and unhappily necessary to continue it, this nation might yet be saved.
As the war progressed he became notorious for his attacks on the Admiralty. On 8 Nov. 1776 he
insisted that the absolute management of the maritime power of the British Empire was too arduous, too solid, too important a trust, to be committed to a bon vivant of Lord Sandwich’s levity of disposition and known depravity of conduct.
He repeatedly brought against Sandwich charges of inefficiency, corruption, and even embezzlement. He displayed great knowledge of naval affairs, and sometimes talked sound sense—as when he told the House on 11 Mar. 1778: ‘Your fleet can never cope with the confederate naval strength of France, Spain and America.’5 But he spoiled a good case by absurd charges and wild language, and, writes Walpole,6 ‘little regard was paid to him by either court or Opposition’.
The best thing he did was his fight against the press gang. On 11 Mar. 1777 he first brought in a bill against pressing; on 3 June 1778 he recommended to the Admiralty a ‘plan of hiring seamen for three years, with a bounty on their voluntary entrance’;7 and on 9 Mar. 1780:
he recapitulated the various hardships the seamen were now subject to. That of his being pressed and compelled to take low wages; his being dragged from his family and connections, who were in general thrown upon their respective parishes for a livelihood; and above all the withholding of his pay for years together, by which he was totally disabled from giving any relief to his wife and children out of his hard earned wages.8
On 6 Mar. 1780 he charged North with ‘undue and corrupt practices’ at Milborne Port.9 Luttrell claimed that he had always enjoyed the confidence of his constituents, and ‘in a peculiar manner’ that of Medlycott,
insomuch that about two years ago he signified his hopes in writing that I should keep, by the most unexceptionable tenure, the seat I now hold, till his eldest son, aged about eleven, should at least attain twenty-one years.
He then complained that North had told Medlycott: ‘At any cost Mr. Luttrell must be removed. Lord North is determined to pursue him to any borough for which he may offer himself a candidate.’ Lastly, ‘the lure of a first minister’s dignified situation and power, joined with the immediate practical influence of the dispenser of secret service money’ had seduced Medlycott. Luttrell moved for witnesses to attend at the bar.
On 16 and 17 Mar. the case was heard. Evidence was given of an agreement between Medlycott and Maurice Lloyd, who Luttrell alleged was an agent of North: Lloyd was to advance £3,000 to be used to strengthen Medlycott’s interest at Milborne Port, and Medlycott was to return either Lloyd or ‘such other gentleman as Lord North, Mr. Medlycott, or Mr. Lloyd shall mutually approve’.10 Luttrell was to be asked ‘to contribute the like sum, as his share towards the expense of bringing him into Parliament’: if he refused, North was to be given the recommendation to his seat. Luttrell’s answer was said to have been,
that not only his honour was very much wounded in this respect, but that it was a great national affair, and ought to be enquired into, and that he would not accept a seat on such terms, nor even ten seats.
Between 18 Sept. 1779 and 11 Aug. 1781 the court spent £7,431 on Milborne Port—which shows how far North was prepared to go to be rid of Luttrell. But Luttrell could not prove his case, and the House agreed nem. con. that the charges against North were ‘ill founded and injurious’. Luttrell threatened to revive the matter, but never did so. The English Chronicle commented on the case: ‘Mr. Temple Luttrell’s impeachment of Lord North has verified an old proverb, which is, the greatest rogue is the first who cries out stop thief.’ Rather, it was a case of the boy who cried wolf too often.
Luttrell was not included in the treaty his family made with the court in 1780, and his two younger brothers were returned at the general election for Stockbridge—perhaps a condition of the treaty. He contested Milborne Port against Medlycott’s interest and Reading, and was defeated at both places.
He died 14 Jan. 1803.