EAST, Edward Hyde (1764-1847), of Bloomsbury Square, Mdx.
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Family and Education
b. 9 Sept. 1764 in Jamaica, s. of Edward East of Whitehall, Jamaica by Amy, da. of James Hall of Jamaica. educ. Harrow 1776; Magdalen, Oxf. 1782; I. Temple 1781, called 1786. m. 23 Dec. 1786, Jane Isabella, da. of Joseph Chaplin Hankey of East Bergholt, Suff., 1s. 1da. Kntd. 26 Feb. 1813; cr. Bt. 25 Apr. 1823.
C.j. Bengal 1813-23; bencher, I. Temple 1823, reader 1830, treasurer 1831; PC 29 June 1831.
Vol. London and Westminster light horse 1794-6.
The great-grandson of a Jamaica pioneer, East was educated for the bar and practised on the western circuit. He was at first co-editor and from 1800 sole editor of the first regular term reports of proceedings in King’s bench (1785-1812).1 An alarmist about the French revolution, he was warning the prime minister in March 1792 of the ‘actual impending danger of insurrection’.2 He had just been returned to Parliament on a vacancy by the 1st Earl of Ailesbury. He was more particularly concerned about the implications of the ‘new doctrines’ for the West India planters. On 22 June 1792 he informed Ailesbury of the
earnest requisition of many gentlemen in the House of Commons in the West India interest, who considered themselves injuriously dealt with last session, and threatened with new attacks in the next from the fanatical party and by Mr Fox, to form a parliamentary club of that interest where they might have an opportunity of deliberating upon a systematic mode of defence against the new doctrines, which as they seem to be pervading every department of politics have not spared our colonies. I can answer for the inconvenience felt last session from the want of some such common centre of union to which to refer upon these subjects. As I have been called upon by several of my friends to take an active part in this concern, which may possibly lead to a degree of influence, which their friendship may induce them to yield, I would not take any step without previously communicating with your lordship.
On 25 June he explained that this parliamentary junto was not like ‘ordinary political clubs’, but was to be ‘altogether on the defensive, to preserve property from violation as far as prudence can point out the means’.3
East’s chief preoccupation in his first Parliament was therefore to combat the agitation for the abolition of the slave trade, which, he emphasized, must cause disturbances in the West Indies, 7, 25 Feb. 1794, 26 Feb. 1795. He also defended the independence of the colonial assemblies as a bulwark against such innovations, 11 Apr. 1796. He had acted as teller for the West Indian lobby in 1793. Another subject which interested him was Poor Law reform: he attempted on 27 Feb. 1794 and 23 Feb. 1795 to legislate against the removal of the vagrant poor to their parish of legal settlement until they became a charge on the rates, and on 5 Mar. 1795 supported a bill to enable the poor to avoid the workhouse. He criticized opposition on General Lafayette’s plight, 17 Mar. 1794; on their attitude to the war, 14 Apr.; was government teller three times that session; and opposed Grey’s peace motion, 6 Feb. 1795, complaining of the abusive terms in which some Members referred to others as being liable to create a bad impression on the public mind. He had voted, however, for Fox’s amendment critical of the loan to the Emperor the day before. He advocated inquiry into (14 May) and supported Sumner’s amendment on (1 June 1795) the Prince of Wales’s debts, and Foster Barham’s motion on Martinique the next day. He approved Pitt’s taxes on 8 Dec. 1795, except for the drawback on sugar which was liable to fraud. He urged the House to give unanimous approval to adulterated bread, 11 Dec. On 10 May 1796 he opposed the exemption of Quakers from the ecclesiastical courts.
Although Sir Francis Basset was prepared to shortlist him as Member for Penryn if Pitt wished it, 20 Sept. 1795,4 East did not sit in Parliament from 1796 until 1823. He resumed his professional activities. In 1803 he produced a Treatise on the pleas of the crown. He assured his friend Charles Philip Yorke, 5 Oct. 1801, that he had lost none of his admiration for Pitt, who he thought would have wound up the ‘unavoidable’ war against France but for ‘bad company’, that is, the Portland Whigs; now he approved the armistice. On 8 Aug. 1810 he wrote Yorke a ‘pamphlet’ on behalf of the West Indian interest, which, but for distillation from sugar, would be ruined. He suggested reform of the Board of Trade and of the Jamaica council, in anticipation of a new deal for Jamaica as an entrepôt for trade between the West Indies and liberated South America. In November 1810 Yorke informed Spencer Perceval of East’s wish to succeed Sir Henry Russell as chief justice of Bengal. Perceval wished him well and early in 1811 notified him of Russell’s resignation. This proved unfounded, so East was offered the succession to Sir James Mackintosh at Bombay. He declined on learning that a similar vacancy was now expected at Madras. This also proving erroneous, he had to be satisfied with the offer of the first vacancy, whether Bengal or Madras. Meanwhile he published the Cases of Sir Francis Burdett against the Rt. Hon. Charles Abbot (1811). In November 1812 he obtained ministerial approval for his appointment to Bengal.5 While there, he promoted the foundation of the Hindu college. On his return to England, he re-entered Parliament on his son’s father-in-law’s interest. East died 8 Jan. 1847.