BROGDEN, James (?1765-1842), of Clapham Common, Surr. and Trimsaran, Carm.

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



1796 - 1832

Family and Education

b. ?1765, 1st s. of John Brogden, Russia merchant, of Leadenhall Street, London and Clapham, Surr. by w. Mary (d. 19 Feb. 1814, aged 79). educ. Eton 1780-1. m. 25 Aug. 1837, at Paris, Ernestine Matilda Sophia, da. of Lt.-Col. W. Perks, s.p. suc. fa. 1800.

Offices Held

Ld. of Treasury Oct. 1812-Dec. 1813; chairman of ways and means 1813-26.

Asst. Russia Co. 1794; dir. Rock Life Assurance 1812, chairman 1816.

Capt. Clapham vols. 1798, maj. 1801, 1803; maj. 3 Surr. militia 1809, lt.-col. 1815.


Brogden’s great-uncle James, a merchant of St. Andrew Undershaft, London, retired to Narborough, Leicestershire. His father remained in London as a Russia merchant and director of the London Assurance Company and was in business at Leadenhall Street from 1757 until 1793. James Brogden, who appeared as a merchant at Size Lane by 1798, was probably in partnership with his father before the latter’s death in 1800: by 1806 he was described as ‘a respectable Russia merchant’. Soon afterwards he appears to have quarrelled with his business partner Pleschell, on his brother Henry’s account, and to have withdrawn, but he remained a company director. He may have been the ‘Mr Brogden’ who as ‘an intimate friend’ of William Joseph Denison*, accompanied him on his northern European tour in 1791. He certainly knew ‘the country and the climate’ of Russia well.1

Brogden, who joined the Whig Club on 12 Jan. 1796, entered Parliament for Launceston on the interest of the Duke of Northumberland, which he helped to restore after it had suffered a setback the previous year. It was Richard Wilson II* who had introduced him to his patron. He met with no further opposition and held the seat with the goodwill of the duke, with whom he was in constant correspondence on public affairs, until the Reform Act.2

‘In his early parliamentary career Mr Brogden took a decided part with Mr Fox and the Whigs and he frequently spoke on commercial subjects’.3 This political line was then that of his patron. Even so, divergences of opinion arose. In 1799, when the Irish union was proposed by Pitt, he wrote to the duke expressing sympathy for it; the duke replied, 3 Feb., stating his case against it, but leaving Brogden to make up his own mind. He did not appear in the minority against the Union on 7 Feb., nor on 21 Apr. 1800, though he supported Grey’s motion of 25 Apr. 1800 on the subject. Apart from this, he voted steadily with opposition between 1796 and 1802, without seceding, though he voted for parliamentary reform, 26 May 1797, after attending the Crown and Anchor meeting in its favour the week before.

In his maiden speech, 11 July 1799, Brogden expressed alarm lest the East India Company trade monopoly should cause the surplus trade with the Indies to fall into foreign hands. On 4 Apr. 1800 he opposed Hawkesbury’s resolution against the high price of copper, pointing out that it was due to ‘natural causes’ and that the mining industry (in which he developed a stake, with coal mines in Carmarthenshire) was ‘the greatest body of manufacturers’ in the country and should not be interfered with. On 27 Nov. 1800 he was a prominent critic of bounties on imported corn, expressing a preference for bounties for homegrown corn.

When Addington came to power, Brogden’s patron the duke ridiculed ‘this Puss in Boots’, but regarded him, so he informed Brogden later, as ‘though weak ... not wicked’.4 Brogden did not appear in the minority against Addington in the Parliament of 1802, except on 4 Mar. 1803, when he supported Calcraft’s motion for an inquiry into the Prince of Wales’s debts: the duke was a friend of the Prince. On 7 May 1803 he, together with Tierney, Thomas Maitland and George Porter, ‘left the opposition bench and went out with the minister’. So wrote Thomas Creevey*, who recalled that soon afterwards he was invited by Tierney, who had just joined Addington’s government, to dinner to meet Brogden and Colonel Porter, ‘two cursed rum touches [he elsewhere ironically termed them ‘those distinguished statesmen’] that he has persuaded to vote with him and to desert Fox’.5 On 2 Mar. 1804 Brogden, as a member of the committee on it, blamed the Irish currency problem on the disturbed state of that country, which discouraged trade. When an opposition combination between Foxites and Grenvillites came into being, he was one of those who remonstrated against it. Many years later he recalled:

I had always supported Lord Sidmouth’s administration and my support to that administration I have never repented for I believe by their energetic measures at home and abroad, by their making an opportune peace and as opportunely again declaring war, they saved the country. It was a most conscientious support on my part for I had at that time nothing to ask and no intention of taking office ... I never received a favour from him during the whole of his administration but when the coalition of the Foxites and Mr Pitt’s friends drove him out I voted against all my connections in the House of Commons knowing well what the result would be to Lord Sidmouth and the next morning I offered or rather insisted on taking the Chiltern Hundreds and quitting the House of Commons. My friends kindly prevented my doing this. Lord Sidmouth never forgot my conduct.6

This was confirmed by Robert Gervase Ker*, who entertained Brogden on tour in Ireland in the autumn of 1804 and assured Sidmouth on 15 Oct. ‘he is your firm friend and upon good principle, when I see you I will tell you at what risk he voted with you’.7

The duke continued to inveigh against Pitt, whose measures and principles he ‘abhorred’, and on Pitt’s return to power, Brogden opposed his additional force bill, June 1804, and supported Windham’s and Sheridan’s motions against his defence measures, 21 Feb., 6 Mar. 1805. He was listed as one of Fox and Grenville’s supporters in September 1804 and as in opposition to Pitt in July 1805. He had supported the majorities against Melville, 8 Apr., 12 June, and also opposed the salt tax bill, 4 Mar., and the Duke of Atholl’s compensation, 7 June 1805.

His patron was offended when the Grenville administration ignored him, but Brogden, whose brother Henry was offered, but refused, a post in Brazil by Lord Sidmouth, did not oppose them. He supported Prinsep’s motion on East India shipping, 14 Mar. 1806, having, he said, intended to bring in a similar motion last session had he not been uncertain of support. He was listed ‘friendly’ to the abolition of the slave trade. He approved the ministry’s new plan of finance and while he was explaining it to Col. Martin in the House in February 1807 was amazed to be struck by Arthur Shakespeare*, who allegedly exclaimed ‘You must not mind what Mr B[rogden] says, he is a damned villain’. Brogden made do with an apology from Shakespeare, but had to be cajoled into resuming attendance. His patron expressed surprise that the House had taken no notice of ‘a Member wishing to charge another with an offence against the independence of Parliament’.8 On 10 Feb. 1807 he was appointed to the finance committee.

Brogden supported Brand’s motion following the dismissal of the ministry, 9 Apr. 1807, and was listed in June 1807 as one of those who had ‘approved the conduct of late ministers’. Nevertheless he retained his place on the finance committee that month and did not otherwise act against Portland’s ministry until, on 21 Feb. 1809, he voted against the convention of Cintra. On 10 Feb. 1808 he spoke in the debate on the Bank of England. When the finance committee report came up on 24 Jan. 1809 he said he thought it was rightly confined to abuses of public expenditure and did not, as with the previous committee, raise the questions of the royal prerogative or privileges of Parliament. He appeared in all three minorities against the Duke of York, 15-17 Mar. 1809, in that of 25 Apr. against ministerial corruption and in that of 1 May against the Dutch commissioners.

Brogden opposed Perceval’s administration on the Scheldt inquiry, January-March 1810, and on Burdett’s committal to the Tower, 5 Apr. The Whigs were ‘hopeful’ of him, but the duke was anxious that his Members should not be ‘party’ men, unless his son Lord Percy formed one, and was unwilling to join with Grenville and Grey. The Burdett riots confirmed him in this view and Brogden ceased voting with opposition.9 Brogden was named by Bankes for the finance committee, 31 Jan. 1810 (as also in 1811 and 1812), and was one of the commercial men placed on the committee on commercial credit, 1 Mar. 1811. In February 1812 the duke decided to support the Regent’s administration, and Brogden, who had last been authorized to join opposition on the Regency, 1 and 21 Jan. 1811, followed suit. He voted with ministers on 24 Feb. 1812, and was ‘very miserable at being shut out on the question of Mr Wynn’s motion’, 14 Apr.10 He was in the minority against Stuart Wortley’s motion for a stronger administration, 21 May.

On 15 Sept. 1812 the duke wrote to McMahon, the Prince Regent’s secretary, on Brogden’s behalf, ‘to procure some situation in the administration’ for him, adding, ‘his superior knowledge in all matters relating to trade would be very useful to the public ... As I wish for no employment myself, I trust I shall not be deemed very unreasonable, in having at least one friend provided for.’ The Regent recommended Brogden to Lord Liverpool and, after a reshuffle, he obtained a seat at the Treasury board, attending that session as ‘business lord’.11 He got no peace, however, for the duke was mortified at being denied the nomination to promotions in his regiment and he was obliged to mediate.12 He voted against Catholic relief, 24 May 1813, again in 1816 and 1817, and in favour of Christian missions to India, 12 July 1813. In December 1813 he gave up his place at the board to become chairman of committees, speaking only in his official capacity thereafter and steadily supporting government until 1826, when he resigned his place owing to his involvement (innocent as he insisted it was) in the Arigna mining company scandal.13

Brogden’s change of position had been precipitated by another quarrel of the duke’s with administration over patronage in Northumberland, from which the duke emerged unsympathetic to the minister, despite the latter’s conciliatory moves. He was placed in the embarrassing position of the mediator maligned by both parties, but concentrated on his official duties and weathered the crisis. On 28 Jan. 1816 he assured the duke that he would resign ‘without a pang’ if the duke wished it. Soon afterwards illness kept him from his duties in the House. By June 1816 the duke, placated by administration, conceded that he was grateful to Brogden for his mediation, and on 28 June, prescribing an old wives’ remedy for Brogden’s sore throat, he added:

To you I am sure ministers ought to think themselves much obliged for the good humour and readiness with which you consented to quit the seat at the Treasury for your very troublesome situation in the chair at the table of the House of Commons.

Within a month the duke was taking credit to himself for not believing the tale that it was Brogden’s misrepresentations that had poisoned his relations with ministers. Brogden’s health did not improve, but the duke’s death in 1817 eased his lot and he clung to his responsibilities, yielding them up very unwillingly in 1826. He died 24 July 1842, aged 77, and was buried at his own request at Narborough.14

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. Nichols, Leics. iv. (pt.2), 815; Gent. Mag. (1800), ii. 805; (1814), i. 411; (1842), ii. 428; J. Wilson, Biog. Index (1806), 82; Essex RO, Sperling (Brogden) mss D/DSE/3, Free to Brogden [24 May 1816]; 17, Brogden to Matthews, 8 Oct. 1823; Add. 34435, f. 361; Life of Wilberforce (1838), iv. 86.
  • 2. Brogden mss D/DSE/3, passim.
  • 3. Gent. Mag. (1842), ii. 428.
  • 4. Brogden mss D/DSE/3, Northumberland to Brogden, 14 Apr. 1801, 28 Oct. 1803.
  • 5. Creevey mss, Creevey to Currie, 7 May 1803, to Bennet, 30 Dec. 1818; Creevey Pprs. ed. Maxwell, i. 22; ii. 10.
  • 6. Brogden mss D/DSE/17, Brogden to Matthews, 8 Oct. 1823.
  • 7. Sidmouth mss.
  • 8. Brogden mss D/DSE/7, memo, n.d., Northumberland to Brogden, 4 Feb., Porter to same, 15 Feb. 1807.
  • 9. Ibid. D/DSE/3, Northumberland to Brogden, 6, 18 Feb., 31 Mar., 12 Apr. 1810.
  • 10. Geo. IV Letters, i. 63.
  • 11. Ibid. 145; Alnwick mss 67, ff. 187, 193; Morning Chron. 16 Oct. 1812; Lonsdale mss, Beckett to Lowther, 30 Sept. [1813].
  • 12. Brogden mss D/DSE/3, Northumberland to Brogden, 7, 25 Nov., 2, 11 Dec. 1812.
  • 13. N. and Q. (ser. 7), xii. 472.
  • 14. Brogden mss D/DSE/3, Northumberland to Brogden, 26 Nov., 3 Dec. 1813, 11 Mar., 26 May, 8 June, 26 July 1816, Brogden to Northumberland, 28 Jan.; 17, Osborn to Brogden, 7 Mar. 1816; Gent. Mag. (1842), ii. 428.