BARNETT, James (?1760-1836), of Dorset Square, Marylebone, Mdx.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
b. ?1760, 2nd surv. s. of Charles Barnett of Stratton Park, Beds. by Bridget, da. of Alexander Clayton. educ. Westminster 1769. m. c.1797, Anne, 2s. 2da.
Barnett entered the Lombard Street, London banking partnership of Barnett, Hoare and Hill in 1790. He joined the Whig Club, 7 Nov. 1797, and in 1804 was a steward for the election of Sir Francis Burdett for Middlesex. In 1806 he came in for Rochester under the aegis of a fellow Whig John Calcraft*, after a ruthless contest in which he gave as good as he got.1 He supported the Grenville ministry in silence, being listed among the ‘staunch friends’ of the abolition of the slave trade and voting for Brand’s motion after their dismissal from office, 9 Apr. 1807. He did not seek re-election in 1807 and stood down in favour of Calcraft in 1812, on the latter’s pledging himself to oppose the ministry.2
Barnett again contested Rochester when Sir Thomas Boulden Thompson was obliged to seek re-election in 1816 and narrowly defeated him, but his election was voided. He was not opposed at the fresh election. He was one of the steadiest voters with opposition in the next two Parliaments. He supported Catholic relief, 9 May 1817. On 21 Mar. 1817 he spoke against the bill for Exchequer bills, which would add ‘still further to the unfounded debt of the country, amounting now as it did to nearly 50 millions’. On 18 Feb. 1818 he spoke on the Election Law amendment bill: he regularly supported parliamentary reform. He wound up the opposition to the ‘iniquitous’ indemnity bill, 11 Mar. 1818.
At the election of 1818 there was a rift between him and Calcraft, Barnett insisting that he had never indicated any intention of standing down in Calcraft’s favour at the dissolution.3 Calcraft gave way and Barnett headed the poll. He approved the re-election of the Speaker, 14 Jan. 1819. Brougham informed Earl Grey the same day, ‘up jumped Barnett, our friend, and gave the support of our side of the House. It was very droll—for though a worthy man, he is the last I should have expected to try such a thing. Tierney was not there, which probably occasioned this little mistake.’4 Barnett staunchly opposed repressive legislation in his last session in Parliament,5 but did not seek re-election in 1820, perhaps because of the expense of Rochester elections. He died 1 Oct. 1836, aged 76.