WALLACE, James (1729-83), of Carleton Hall, Cumb.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754-1790, ed. L. Namier, J. Brooke., 1964
Available from Boydell and Brewer



18 Apr. 1770 - 16 Nov. 1783

Family and Education

bap. 12 Mar. 1729, 1st s. of Thomas Wallace, attorney, of Asholme, Northumb. by Dulcibella, da. of John Sowerbye of Botcherby, Cumb.  educ. L. Inn 1754, called 1761.  m. 8 Jan. 1767, Elizabeth, da. and h. of Thomas Simpson of Carleton Hall, Cumb., 1s. 1da.  suc. fa. 1737.

Offices Held

K.C. 1769; bencher, L. Inn 1769, treasurer 1779; bencher, M. Temple 1769, reader 1778, treasurer 1782.

Solicitor-gen. 1778-80; attorney-gen. 1780-Apr. 1782, May 1783- d.


Wallace, a close friend of Alexander Wedderburn, was a distinguished lawyer who was returned at the recommendation of Government on the Irwin interest at Horsham. Within two months of entering Parliament he refused the offer of a judge’s seat in the King’s bench.1 Although he voted with Government he had connexions with the Opposition, particularly with the Duke of Portland with whom he sided in Cumberland affairs; and on 11 and 20 Feb. 1771 spoke for the bill to amend the Nullum Tempus Act in Portland’s favour.

When in 1778 there was a re-arrangement of the law offices, Wallace and James Mansfield were first to be considered for solicitor-general. ‘Mr. Wallace and Mr. Mansfield’, wrote North to the King, 18 Apr. 1778,2 ‘... are sensible men and good lawyers, but I doubt whether in Parliament we shall draw from them all the assistance we shall want.’ Wallace was appointed; and, as North had feared, was not of much help in defending Administration in the Commons. Indeed, on one occasion he did them harm. On 15 Mar. 1779, in the debate on Dunning’s motion censuring the Admiralty for granting a court martial on Keppel, Wallace, after arguing on legal grounds that the Admiralty had behaved correctly,

launched forth into very passionate expressions against Sir Hugh Palliser, and bestowed several harsh epithets on his conduct, which he attributed to the worst motives ... he hoped the justice of the nation would be satisfied by bringing him to a trial, and ... [he] would be one of the first in that House ... to move ... a motion of censure on the Admiralty Board if they should again employ a man who had been convicted ... of preferring a malicious and ill-founded accusation against his principal in command.3

It was an extraordinary speech for the solicitor-general to make, and three years later Wallace recanted most of what he had said—his speech was made ‘at a time when he did not know all the truth, and when there was a popular rage against Sir Hugh Palliser’.4

Wallace adhered to North after his dismissal, and returned to office with the Coalition, ‘though labouring under ill-health’.5  He died 16 Nov. 1783.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: John Brooke


  • 1. Fortescue, ii. 151-2.
  • 2. Ibid. iv. 116-17.
  • 3. Almon, xii. 164.
  • 4. Debrett, i. 430.
  • 5. Wraxall, iii. 55.