ADDINGTON, John Hiley (1759-1818), of Langford Court, Som.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer



6 Mar. 1787 - 1790
17 Feb. 1794 - 1796
1796 - 1802
1802 - Dec. 1802
4 Jan. 1803 - 1818

Family and Education

b. 1759, 2nd s. of Anthony Addington, MD, and bro. of Henry Addington*. educ. Cheam; Winchester 1769; by Dr Goodenough, Ealing 1773; Brasenose, Oxf. 1776. m. 25 Oct. 1785, Mary, da. and h. of Henry Unwin of Stock, Essex, 2s. 1da.

Offices Held

Ld. of Treasury Dec. 1800-Mar. 1801, July 1802-Aug. 1803; sec. to Treasury Mar. 1801-July 1802; jt. paymaster-gen. Jan. 1803-July 1804; PC 16 Feb. 1803; commr. Board of Control Feb. 1806-Apr. 1807; undersec. of state for Home affairs Aug. 1812-Apr. 1818.

High steward, Harwich 1803-d.

Lt.-col. commdt. Mendip vols. 1803.


Addington re-entered the House in February in February 1794 on the Barwell interest at Winchelsea, and at the general election of 1796 was brought in for Wendover by Pitt’s friend Lord Carrington. The influence of his elder brother, then Speaker, with Pitt was probably instrumental in providing him with at least the latter seat. The orthodoxy of his support for the war policy and repressive legislation of Pitt’s first ministry was unimpeachable. In his first known speech, against the motion for inquiry into the failures at Dunkirk and Toulon, 10 Apr. 1794, he expressed a hope that ‘the war would be prosecuted till the security of this country, both internal and external, was fully ascertained’. Pitt judged that in supporting the seditious meetings bill, 25 Nov. 1795, Addington performed ‘very ably’. Like his brother, he differed from Pitt on the question of the slave trade and consistently advocated a course of gradual abolition. He sat on the secret finance committee, 13 Mar. 1797, spoke against a call for peace, 10 Apr., delivered a general defence of government policy, 3 Jan. 1798, and opposed Cavendish’s attack on the handling of the Irish rebellion, 22 June. By the summer of 1798, he had lapsed into the gloom nad hypochondria to which he was always susceptible, but his brother patiently advised him to count his blessings. A year later Henry told him that ‘Pitt’s kindness and affection’ towards him were ‘undiminished’ and that his succession to the office of treasurer of the Ordnance, worth about £1,000 a year, was certain, but the aged incumbent did not die until 1803. Addington spoke against peace negotiations, 7 Feb. and 8 May 1800. By June his brother had prevailed on Pitt to offer him the first suitable vacancy, but his hopes of a seat at the Treasury in July were disappointed by Pitt’s late realization that he was still under a prior engagement to Lord Granville Leveson Gower. A second vacancy later in the year allowed him to be accommodated.1

On his brother’s accession to power Addington was the automatic choice as patronage secretary to the Treasury, but he was unhappy in the office where he made little mark and in April 1802, to Henry’s mortification, he pleaded to be relieved of his duties. He was persuaded to continue, but three months later, at the height of the general election, to the management of which his contribution appears to have been negligible, he was removed and began his second period as a lord of the Treasury. Addington was himself returned for Bossiney on the interest of Lord Mount Edgcumbe. He caused his brother further distress in July 1802 by cavilling at Henry’s decision to bestow the clerkship of the pells on his own, rather than Hiley’s, son.2

Addington was thought by some observers to be of little value to his brother’s ministry in the sphere of Commons debate. On 16 Feb. 1801 he ‘shortly vindicated the new administration’ and begged that it should not be prejudged. He put the ministerial case on the Irish distillation bill, 5 Dec. 1801, taxation, 9 Apr. 1802, the Irish volunteer consolidation bill, 16 Mar., and the volunteer exemption bill, 10 Dec. 1803, but the efforts were routine and in a low key. His talent as a controversialist was a useful, if double-edged, weapon and his most substantial contribution to the ministry was in his management of the press. A bargain struck with the Walters secured the allegiance of The Times and a constant stream of defensive and aggressive articles, written or commissioned by Hiley Addington, appeared in its columns. The scope afforded for personal vituperation, particularly in the reciprocation of Canning’s abuse, galvanized Hiley’s energies, but his lack of strategic judgment was probably damaging to his brother in the long run. The increasingly hostile tone of his comments on Pitt in The Times and the pamphlet A few cursory remarks (Sept. 1803), in which he almost certainly had a hand, helped to provoke Pitt’s breach with Henry Addington.3 He also proved serviceable as a go-between and his most exalted errand occurred in November 1802 when he was sent to Bath to gather Pitt’s views on the course to be taken in response to the French invasion of Switzerland.

On the death of John Robinson, surveyor-general of woods and forests, in December 1802, Lord Glenbervie, joint paymaster-general, was given the option between the two positions. He chose the former and Addington succeeded him at the Pay Office. The opportunity was also taken to secure for Addington’s government Robinson’s seat at Harwich, where he had established an interest independent of that exercised by the Treasury. Hiley was returned unopposed and he in turn built up a personal interest which gave him undisturbed possession of the seat until his retirement.4

Addington defended the volunteer consolidation bill, 9 Mar. 1804, but evidently did not speak against the combined attack on the ministry which followed. Glenbervie recorded some months later that the King, who thought Addington was ‘a very clever man, but idle’, had told him that Hiley had made no secret of his view that his brother had precipitated his own downfall and ‘discredit’ by introducing ill considered measures without consulting his colleagues. Glenbervie’s testimony is suspect, for he had resented what he had considered his enforced surrender of the paymastership, and Hiley, whose devotion to Henry was generally complete, wrote to his sister of the debate of 23 Apr. 1804 in terms of fulsome loyalty. On the other hand, after voting against the additional force bill on 8 June, he stayed away from Parliament, possibly because of illness, for the first few weeks of Pitt’s new ministry. He was pressed to come up by his brother, as ‘particular notice’ had been taken of his absence, which had been construed in some quarters as an indication that the Addingtonians were ‘not very hostile to the bill’. He was still at Langford Court later in the month, but wrote contemptuously of Pitt, Canning and the new measure, which he thought ‘calculated to shake the security of the country to its foundations’.5

In the negotiations surrounding his reconciliation with Pitt in December 1804 Henry Addington pressed Hiley’s prior claim to office but, deeming neither of the two immediate offerings suitable, accepted assurances that he would be provided for as soon as possible. Rumours in January 1805 that Hiley was destined for the Mint or Pay Office came to nothing.6 Addington supported the address recommending war against Spain, 12 Feb., but declared against abolition of the slave trade, 28 Feb. 1805. When the issue of Melville’s alleged misappropriation of public funds severely strained relations between Sidmouth and Pitt in April, he wrote in disparaging terms of the prime minister to his brother from the country, where he stayed until May. He claimed that ‘no consideration, short of an absolute injunction’ from Sidmouth would induce him to take office: ‘From everything relating to politics I turn away with aversion and disgust. Nor am I yet seaworthy enough to sail again (unless forced from port) in boisterous weather and troubled seas.’ During the temporary peace between Sidmouth and Pitt he opposed consideration of the Roman Catholic petition, 14 May, and upheld the government’s interpretation of the scope of the military commissioners bill, 16 May 1805. With the rest of Sidmouth’s followers, however, he voted for the criminal prosecution of Melville, 12 June, and when the decision was rescinded to impeachment, 25 June, he insisted that the House should abide by its earlier verdict. To Sidmouth, Pitt ‘threw out difficulties about placing Bond and Hiley Addington; dwelt upon the appearance of hostility and defiance’; and shortly before Sidmouth’s resignation Addington wrote:

the object is to force you to resign in order to afford ground for an urgent application to the King to allow of a material alteration in his govt ... For myself, tho’ office would not be inconvenient, I am quite indifferent about the result. Tho’ everything else may be lost, we have saved our honour.

His later denunciation of Pitt as ‘a consummate hypocrite’ and ‘a man whose affections are on all occasions deliberately made subservient to his interests’ reflected an impulse to seek immediate revenge, possibly by alliance with Fox and Grenville, which Sidmouth, who wished to reserve his position for the present, took pains to suppress.7

In the arrangements attending Sidmouth’s junction with the ‘Talents’ in February 1806 Addington was settled at the Board of Control. His appointment appalled his colleague Lord Morpeth, and the issue of which of them was to take the lead in the Commons on Indian affairs—in which Addington, who privately thought his brother was ‘too complying’ towards his new colleagues, appears to have acted a devious part—almost wrecked the arrangement. At length it was determined that Morpeth should lead, and it was he who presented the India budget of 1806. Addington’s role in the House was emphatically a subordinate one. He supported Fox in his attempts to parry the attacks of Paull and Francis on Lord Wellesley, and his motion of 19 Mar. 1806, designed to restrict the scope of papers concerning the Rajah of Bhurtpore, was withdrawn at the request of Lord Henry Petty and Morpeth. Although he declared, 6 June 1806, that ‘he so perfectly approved’ of Windham’s mutiny bill ‘that he should wish his political character in that respect to stand or fall with that of those who introduced the measure’, he later confided to his brother his view that public dissatisfaction with Windham’s military arrangements had made him a liability to the government. He voted for the committal of the slave trade abolition bill, 23 Feb., but divided for the unsuccessful amendment to delay abolition for five years, 6 Mar. 1807.8

He shared Sidmouth’s view of the proceedings which led to the fall of the ‘Talents’ and voted with the new ministers against Brand’s motion condemning the ministerial pledge, 9 Apr. 1807. His part in keeping the Sidmouthite group together in the Commons during Sidmouth’s five years in isolation is not clear. Indifferent health and hypochondria restricted his activities, and his contribution, both as organizer and spokesman for Sidmouth in the Lower House, was certainly a lesser one than that of his brother-in-law, Charles Bragge Bathurst. At his brother’s prompting he came up, despite indisposition, to concert plans and to vote for the address, 26 June; but on 27 July 1807 he spoke at length against the militia transfer bill, expressing the views which Sidmouth shortly afterwards expounded in the Lords. He was appointed to the revived finance committees, 30 June 1807 and 28 Jan. 1808, but appears to have been almost inactive during 1808, when he was twice granted leave of absence because of ill health. On 25 Jan. 1809 he seconded the vote of thanks to Sir Arthur Wellesley on his victory at Talavera, but on 21 Feb. he voted, with the Sidmouth group, for Petty’s motion condemning the convention of Cintra and, after voting with government in the major divisions on the Duke of York’s alleged abuse of army patronage, he spoke for Bathurst’s resolution of mild censure, 20 Mar. He appears to have passed the rest of the session at Langford Court. He was a member of the select committees on the affairs of the East India Company, 23 Feb. 1809, 20 Feb. 1810, and again, 14 Apr. 1813. When Sidmouth was sounded by Lord Chatham on Perceval’s behalf in October 1809, Addington was not among those mentioned as likely to be provided for in the event of a junction. Later in the year his health and spirits were at a low ebb, as Sidmouth told Bragge Bathurst:

It is to you and Hiley only that I can open myself upon all subjects, and there are some upon which, at this time, I write to him under a degree of restraint, from the dread of harassing and distracting his mind, when it requires all the aid that can be given it towards the recovery of its natural cheerfulness and vigour.

These afflictions prevented his attending to support Porchester’s motion criticizing the Scheldt expedition, 26 Jan. 1810, but he was present to vote against government in the divisions of 5 and 30 Mar. He spoke and voted for the release of John Gale Jones, 16 Apr. He was appointed to the committee to examine the royal physicians, 13 Dec. 1810, in place of Bragge Bathurst who was absent. Like his brother, he took the ministerial side on the Regency issue, giving verbal support to their proposals, 21 Dec. 1810, 1 and 17 Jan. 1811, and voting against Gower’s amendment to the fifth resolution of the Regency bill, 1 Jan.9

When Sidmouth joined Perceval’s government in April 1812, provision for Hiley was inconclusively discussed. On becoming Home secretary in June he pressed the matter on Lord Liverpool, and in August an under-secretaryship was offered and accepted, so Addington spent his last years officially at his brother’s elbow. He seems to have been assiduous in his parliamentary attendance, but his declining health and fitful energies, which were roused only by congenial work, were handicaps in a departmental minister, and Sidmouth was occasionally compelled to protest at his laxity.10 In debate he rarely ventured beyond routine Home Office business. He handled the bill continuing the death penalty for machine breaking, 29 Nov. 1813, explained the terms of the Aliens Act repeal bill, 14 July 1814, introduced militia bills, 2 and 9 May 1815, and an offenders transportation bill, 3 Apr. 1816, and defended the aliens bill, 10 May 1816. Addington signed the crucial Home Office letter in the case of Oliver the spy, and his last recorded speeches, on the suspension of habeas corpus, 24 June, Sidmouth’s circular letter, 25 June, and Brougham’s motion for inquiry into the state of the nation, 11 July 1817, were devoted largely to a defence of the government, and more especially his brother, in their employment of Oliver and their general handling of recent disturbances. Like he opposed Catholic relief. When Addington’s health collapsed irreparably in 1818, he resigned his office and decided also to retire from Parliament at the dissolution.11

While Addington never emerged from his brother’s shadow to become an effective second-rank politician or minister he was more than the fawning and parasitic ‘Brother Hiley’ of Canning’s malicious lines. Hiley’s career owed almost everything to Henry’s friendships and political status, but his reciprocal influence was not inconsiderable. The bond of affection between the two, though occasionally strained, remained close and Hiley perfectly performed the function of the loyal and largely unquestioning confidant and ally for which his brother had an intense need. His more bellicose and unscrupulous qualities, his enthusiasm for the seamier aspects of political activity and a moderate talent for organization were assets to Henry which, in the long term, perhaps marginally outweighed the liabilities of his basic indolence, lack of judgment and capacity for making enemies. Hiley’s importunities, which sprang from jealousy, sometimes distressed his brother; but generally his ambitions were pitched too low to be embarrassing (in contrast to those of the Earl of Buckinghamshire) and he seems ultimately to have settled for his supporting role.

He died 11 June 1818, the day after the dissolution.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: David R. Fisher


  • 1. Geo. III Corresp. ii. 1333; Sidmouth mss, H. to J. H. Addington, 8 July 1798, 28 June 1799, 27 June, Pitt to H. Addington, 10 July, 29 Sept. 1800.
  • 2. Sidmouth mss, H. to J. H. Addington, 8 Apr., 27 July 1802.
  • 3. Farington, ii. 80; Hist. of ‘The Times’, i. 120; The Times, 19 June 1819; E. Suff. RO, Tomline mss, Rose to bp. of Lincoln, 18 Nov. 1801, Rose’s notes [Dec. 1802]; P. Ziegler, Addington, 131; E. M. G. Belfield, Annals Addington Fam. 57-58, 126; A. Aspinall, Politics and the Press 1780-1850, p. 206.
  • 4. Sidmouth mss, H. to J. H. Addington, 24 Dec. 1802; George III Corresp. iv. 2689; Glenbervie Diaries, i. 353.
  • 5. Glenbervie Diaries, i. 390; Sidmouth mss, J. H. Addington to his sister, 24 Apr., to H. Addington, 23 June, H. to. J. H. Adington, 12, 13 June 1804.
  • 6. Colchester, i. 532; George III Corresp. iv. 2984; Sidmouth mss, H. to J. H. Addington, 22 Dec. 1804, 3, 5 Jan. 1805; Add. 31229, f. 84.
  • 7. Sidmouth mss, Addington to Sidmouth [Apr.], 30 June, 11 July, Sidmouth to Addington, 23 July 1805; Colchester, ii. 13.
  • 8. Leveson Gower, ii. 179; HMC Fortescue, viii 16-17, 19, 30; Add. 41856, f. 218; Dorset RO, Bond mss D367, Addington to Bond [4 Feb.]; Sidmouth mss, Addington to Sidmouth, 1 Dec. 1806; Colchester, ii. 92; PRO 30/9/34, Abbot diary, 6 Mar. 1807.
  • 9. Sidmouth mss, Sidmouth to Addington, 13, 14 June 1807, to Bragge Bathurst, 6 Oct., 4 Dec. 1809; CJ, lxiii. 88, 286; Pellew, Sidmouth, iii. 22.
  • 10. Colchester, ii. 372; Sidmouth mss, Sidmouth to Addington, 8 May, 30 July 1812; Ziegler, 317.
  • 11. Sidmouth mss, Addington to Sidmouth, 7 Apr., 26 May 1818.