BASTARD, Edmund Pollexfen (1784-1838), of Kitley, nr. Plymouth, Devon.
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Family and Education
b. 12 July 1784, 1st s. of Edmund Bastard*, and bro. of John Bastard*. educ. Eton 1799-1802; Christ Church, Oxf. 1803. m. 22 Jan. 1824, Hon. Anne Jane Rodney, da. of George Rodney†, 2nd Baron Rodney, 3s. suc. fa. 1816.
Lt.-col. commdt. S. Hams yeomanry 1820.
Bastard replaced his father as Member for Dartmouth, where the family reinforced the controlling Holdsworth interest, at the general election of 1812. He was marked ‘hopeful’ in the list of friends to government, but initially drew attention to himself only by the ‘rarity’ of his attendance, as Lord Granville noted in 1816.1 He voted against Catholic relief, 2 Mar., 11 and 24 May 1813, but opposed ministers on the civil list inquiry, 14 Apr. 1815, and the renewal of the property tax, 18 Mar. 1816. On the death of his uncle, John Pollexfen Bastard, in April 1816, when his father succeeded to the main family estates, he sought to replace him in the county seat which he had held for over 30 years, but was opposed by the Whig, Lord Ebrington, son of the lord lieutenant. Bastard rested his pretensions largely on his kinship with the late Member, by whose shining example of ‘firmness and independence’ he promised to abide, but the propaganda issued on his behalf included an exaggerated claim of his proven dedication to the cause of economy and retrenchment which, as his opponents were quick to point out, was not borne out by his voting record. Accused of hostility to tithe reform, he retorted that he would consider it, when raised, ‘with an unbiased and independent mind’ and due regard to local interests, but committed himself no further.2
Bastard, better prepared and organized than his opponent, won a comfortable victory, but at a cost of over £17,000. Within a month his father was dead and he was head of the family, but when Ebrington and the other sitting Member, Sir Thomas Dyke Acland, began an active canvass at the end of the year, Bastard, after assessing his financial position, publicly declared that the expense of another contested election would seriously impair his ability to maintain his much vaunted ‘liberal independence’ and declined to engage in a contest. When a committee of his leading supporters offered to try to secure his election free of expense, either by general subscription or by individual defrayment of the cost of transporting voters to the poll, he declined to accept any ‘assistance, which might subject me to the slightest constraint, either of gratitude or obligation, in the exercise of my parliamentary duties’, but, anxious now to keep his options open, did not rule out the possibility of his standing again at his own expense. In February 1817 he admitted privately to a supporter that he had been offered and had refused a borough seat at the next election, but refuted the current rumour that it had come from the Ebrington camp.3
In his first full session as a county Member, Bastard, still evidently a poor attender, divided against government on the question of Binning’s inclusion on the finance committee, 7 Feb., Admiralty economies, 17 and 25 Feb., to limit the suspension of habeas corpus, 28 Feb.,4 and the third secretaryship, 29 Apr. 1817. He did not vote for the suspension of habeas corpus, 23 June. He is not known to have voted against ministers in 1818, when his name was included in the lists of suitable guests for ministerial dinners, and on 11 Feb. he voted in defence of the employment of agents provocateurs.
At the dissolution of 1818, when his leading supporters called for a general subscription to implement the declared intention of freeholders’ meetings, held throughout the county during the past year, to nominate and vote for him, Bastard felt able to accept the support offered. Before polling began he and Acland coalesced in an attempt to counteract the threat posed by Ebrington’s well organized campaign for single votes. After six days, with the county almost polled out, he was nearly 300 behind the Whig and only 16 ahead of Acland, but the latter, currently the least popular of the three candidates, had little option but to concede defeat. Bastard had made a good bargain, for it was reported that his supporters were faced with a bill of about £13,000.5
He seems to have been more attentive to his parliamentary duties in 1819, when he divided with government on the complaint against Wyndham Quin*, 29 Mar., against Tierney’s censure motion, 18 May, and for the foreign enlistment bill, 10 June, but against them on Admiralty economies, 18 Mar., the salt laws, 29 Apr., and the repeal of the coal duties, 20 June. He presented and endorsed the sentiments of petitions against Catholic relief, 3 May, and for inquiry into agricultural distress, 9 June. On 14 Oct. he reported with pleasure to Lord Sidmouth that disaffection was ‘quite unknown in Devonshire, notwithstanding the indefatigable efforts made by some ill disposed persons to propagate it in Exeter by the circulation of blasphemous and seditious pamphlets’, and offered to help raise a corps of yeoman cavalry in the South Hams district.6 Permission was granted and he was gazetted lieutenant-colonel commandant the following April.
He went to London for the emergency session of Parliament in November 1819 clearly disposed to support the government’s repressive legislation; but when Castlereagh circularized him as one of ‘the friends of Government’, 1 Dec., with a pressing request not to depart until all the measures had been voted through the House, he felt compelled in his reply, 4 Dec., to insist on recognition of his essential independence:
I cannot but be flattered at being considered ... as a friend to the government, particularly at a period so pregnant with mischief and danger to the constitution; but an unqualified adherence to any party, such as appears to be implied in your lordship’s note, would be decidedly at variance with my own feelings, and with the principles on which I solicited and obtained the suffrages of my constituents. My duty to them and to my country, which brought me to town at the meeting of Parliament, will keep me at my post except under circumstances of emergency. I have supported those measures which have been already brought forward this session, because I believe them to be best calculated to meet the exigencies of the present crisis; and my votes with respect to those bills which remain to be proposed will be guided by the opinion I may form of them when they come under discussion.7
It may fairly be assumed that Bastard’s opinion of the measures was favourable. He died 8 June 1838.
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: David R. Fisher
- 1. Add. 48223, f. 67.
- 2. R. Cullum, Exeter and Devon Addresses (1818), 132, 134, 142-8.
- 3. Ibid. 230, 239-41; Sidmouth mss, Bastard to Sidmouth, 12 Nov.; Devon RO, Bastard mss, Bastard to Rolle, 17 Dec. 1816, to Fursdon [Feb. 1817].
- 4. Morning Chron. 1 Mar. 1817.
- 5. Cullum, 243-6; HMC Fortescue, x. 442.
- 6. Sidmouth mss.
- 7. Bastard mss.