SLOPER, William Charles, of Twyford, Hants.
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Family and Education
b. post 1728, 1st s. of William Sloper. m. 1774, Amelia, da. of Rt. Rev. Jonathan Shipley, bp. of St. Asaph.
Ensign 2 Ft. Gds. 1753, lt. and capt. 1758, served in Germany 1760-2 as a.d.c. to Prince Ferdinand; ret. 1773.
Sloper was returned for St. Albans on ‘very liberal terms’1 by John, 1st Earl Spencer; Bishop Shipley’s wife was a cousin of Lady Spencer, and the bishop a close friend of the Spencers. In the divisions of February-March 1782 Sloper voted with the Opposition; and on 18 Feb. 1783 with the Foxites against Shelburne’s peace preliminaries; in Robinson’s list of March 1783 he was therefore classed as a Foxite. But he was absent from the first division on Fox’s East India bill, 27 Nov., and on the third reading, 8 Dec. 1783, voted against it. George John Spencer, who had succeeded as 2nd Earl on 31 Oct., wrote to his mother on 19 Dec.:
I have not yet seen Sloper ... he went against us or away on all the questions and in many bye matters lately has appeared desirous of showing a particular antipathy to the late Administration. I hardly know how to speak to him on the subject, but I think I may fairly ask him whether we are likely to agree in general or not, as it would really be a great joke to bring in a man who was to be plumping against one on every question; however I have really so good an opinion of his integrity that I do not think he can be very materially wrong, and his doctrines about government are such I believe that the odds are always for his being with Opposition.
When in February 1784 an address was sent from St. Albans to thank the King for having dismissed the Coalition, Sloper, presumably from regard for Spencer, declined presenting it; this was done by his colleague, Lord Grimston.2
Asked by Spencer on the dissolution to canvass St. Albans, Sloper replied on 23 Mar.:
I did not at all depend upon coming in again for St. Albans till I received your letter ... there is no man whom it would be so expensive for you to bring in, because I cannot afford to be at any part of the expense. However, I shall certainly begin canvassing ... and if you should afterwards think any other person more proper, or if your friends there should be disposed to resent my conduct, you will find me ready to withdraw all pretensions.
He wrote a similar letter to Lady Spencer, who looked after her son’s interests at St. Albans while he attended to Northampton: Sloper had ‘neither money to spend upon an election nor even a legal qualification to a seat, nor a disposition to acquire either of them by a seat’. And he again hinted at possible discontent with his conduct. Lady Spencer wrote in reply:
If you will allow me to speak my opinion freely on the subject it is this—that every degree of freedom on one hand and delicacy on the other should subsist, but that if from circumstances sentiments should wholly differ on the great line of politics—the person brought in would act more liberally in desiring to resign his seat than in persisting in a fixed opposition through a Parliament to him who brought him in.
And to her son, on 25 Mar.:
If you do wish to get rid of Sloper ... his letter to me gives you the best opportunity you are ever likely to have, as he really seems indifferent about it.
This letter crossed one from Spencer:
Even if I could accept of such an offer, as whoever I am likely to recommend will most probably be a person of nearly the same sentiments in politics, I should gain nothing by the change and lose a man on whose integrity I think I may very safely depend.
This was the more generous as Sloper was not popular at St. Albans, his conduct having offended even some of the oldest Spencer followers. When Sloper arrived, wrote Lady Spencer to her son, 25 Mar., he was ‘much discomposed at the reception he met with’; but at a well-attended meeting, which lasted nearly two hours, ‘bore their attacks with temper and good humour’, and ‘it went off much better than we expected’. She added: ‘Sloper assures me he has always thought as I do about the agreeing in the great line of conduct with the person who brings him in or declining the trust, and is much flattered with the opinion you express of his integrity.’
When a third candidate appeared—Lord Fairford, brother of Lady Salisbury—Sloper’s position became precarious, especially in view of Lord Grimston’s behaviour, who stood for re-election and professed to be neutral as regards the other seat, while his friends and connexions opposed the Spencer interest. It was only Lady Spencer’s skilful conduct of the election, and Lord Grimston at the last moment substituting his brother’s candidature for his own, that enabled Sloper to defeat Fairford by a narrow margin.
In the new Parliament Sloper supported Pitt’s parliamentary reform proposals, 18 Apr. 1785, but otherwise voted steadily against the Government. He spoke occasionally, mostly on matters of military organization. Before the next general election he wrote to Spencer, 25 Mar. 1790:
So far am I from thinking of canvassing St. Albans that if you think it is in my power to procure a single vote for whatever candidate you may espouse, I beg you will command my services ...
My own sense of the honour conferred on me by you and your family was sufficient to make me determine not to risk injuring your interest, even if I had been anxious to be in Parliament.
Sloper remained a friend of the Spencer family. He died in 1813 or later (the last letter from him in the Spencer manuscripts is dated 18 July 1813).