LASCELLES, Hon. Henry (1767-1841), of Harewood House, Yorks.
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Family and Education
b. 25 Dec. 1767, 2nd s. of Edward Lascelles*, 1st Earl of Harewood, and bro. of Hon. Edward Lascelles*. educ. Harrow 1780. m. 2 Sept. 1794, Henrietta, da. of Lt.-Gen. Sir John Saunders Sebright, 6th Bt., 7s. 4da. Styled Visct. Lascelles 3 June 1814-20; suc. fa. as 2nd Earl of Harewood 3 Apr. 1820.
Ld. lt. Yorks. (W. Riding) 1819-d.
Capt. 3 W. Yorks militia 1797, 2nd maj. 1798; capt. commdt. Harewood yeomanry 1803.
The representation of his county was thrust upon Lascelles in 1796 when his father anticipated a peerage and his elder brother was averse to it. The family was steadily attached to Pitt’s administration and expected to claim a county seat. Lascelles obtained preference over rival contenders and was unopposed. In his address of thanks, he engaged ‘to strengthen our excellent government against the attacks of internal, as well as external enemies’.1 He accordingly spoke in support of the suspension of habeas corpus, 19 Feb. 1800. Of three previous speeches, two were in support of his colleague Wilberforce’s bid to charge magistrates’ expenses to their counties, 2 Mar., 27 Apr. 1798, and the other against trade unions, 10 June 1799. A supporter of the Irish union, he took exception on behalf of his constituents to the article authorizing the export of wool to Ireland, 1, 5 May 1800, and was appointed to the committee to confer with the Lords on the Union, 16 May. He defended the bill against seditious meetings, 15 Apr. 1801.
Lascelles gratified Addington by his support of his ministry’s peace with France, 4 Nov. 1801, with a caveat that the country must remain prepared for its failure. He was placed on the committee of East Indian judicature, 9 Dec. 1801. He supported the proposed tax on private brewing, 13 Apr. 1802, but in general maintained that ‘those ought to bear the greater burden after a peace, who had derived the greatest benefit during the war’, 27 Apr. 1802. He opposed Sir Robert Peel’s bill to ameliorate the lot of cotton apprentices, 2 June 1802. After another unopposed return, he seconded the choice of Charles Abbot as Speaker, 16 Nov. 1802. He opposed inquiry into the Prince of Wales’s debts, 4 Mar. 1803, complaining that it was held over the House in terrorem as an indirect application from the Prince. He was then placed on the civil list committee. On 6 May he was conspicuous among Pitt’s admirers who deserted ministers on the adjournment;2 but explained on 13 May that he was dismayed to find himself among those who were in the habit of opposing ministers, after stating that he would not prejudge the question and would therefore abstain on this occasion. This explanation was turned to ridicule by Fox for the opposition. On 25 May Lascelles unequivocally supported the resumption of hostilities: ‘a state of war, evil as it was, was preferable to a state of peace under such circumstances’. On 3 June he voted with Pitt for the orders of the day. On 13 July he was minority teller for the equalization of exemptions from the property tax. A critic of Addington’s legislation for the volunteers (he commanded a corps), he was listed a Pittite in the spring of 1804, when he supported his defence motions of 15 Mar. and 25 Apr. Listed an adherent of Pitt’s second ministry, he floundered in a bid to defend Pitt’s additional force bill, 15 June. He chaired the committee on the corn trade bill, 3 July, and opposed the duty on agricultural horses, 19 Feb. 1805. He was in the majority for the censure of Melville, 8 Apr. 1805, and was named by Whitbread, with his own consent, for his proposed select committee on the tenth report of the naval commissioners, 25 Apr. He was in fact placed on the committee after a ballot. But when Whitbread indicted Pitt, 14 June, it was Lascelles who moved a counter-resolution and, acting on experienced advice,3 followed it up with a bill to indemnify Pitt. On Pitt’s death he gave notice of a motion for a ‘signal mark of respect’ to his memory, which disconcerted even Pitt’s friends, who had not been consulted on it, 24 Jan. 1806. They met at Lascelles’s house two days later and George Rose provided a formula adopted in Pitt’s father’s case which was moved by Lascelles next day. It was for a public funeral and memorial and was carried by 258 votes to 89.4
Lascelles was an opponent of the Grenville ministry’s repeal of the Additional Force Act, 30 Apr. 1806, and of their duty on iron, 9 May, acting as teller on both occasions. He also voted against them on Ellenborough’s seat in the cabinet, 3 Mar., and on the American intercourse bill, 17 June. He explained that his Sheffield constituents would suffer from the iron duty. His constituents’ attitude to his conduct in the House on the regulation of woollen manufacture was a source of great anxiety to him at the election of 1806. That it should be so seemed unjust to him, as he pointed out in a draft apologia of his conduct to his constituents, which he did not publish. His colleague Wilberforce had encouraged him to take up the case of the Yorkshire clothiers for the repeal of obsolete statutes hindering capitalist development of their trade since April 1803, only for him to find that the bill he introduced for the purpose (30 Apr. 1804) was upstaged by the efforts of the west country clothiers to secure a comprehensive bill (13 June). Such a measure was rendered difficult by regional differences in the structure of the trade, the Yorkshire manufacturers being middle men who sold to the merchants, whereas in the west country merchant manufacturers predominated. Lascelles had to be satisfied with the renewal of the suspension of the obsolete statutes, 14 June 1804. On 6 June 1805 he appealed for a government lead on the question. On 12 Mar. 1806 he secured the Grenville ministry’s cooperation in a committee to review the statutes. The report of this committee recommending the removal of the manufacturers’ restrictive practices was drafted by Wilberforce, but it was Lascelles who incurred the odium of the West Riding operatives by taking the merchants’ side against them. Wilberforce having been less unfavourable to the Grenville ministry secured Lord Grenville’s preference after Fawkes, the Whig candidate, whose canvass of the West Riding was so successful that Lascelles, perceiving that either he or Wilberforce must be beaten, retired from the contest. ‘In Yorkshire’, maintained George Rose, ‘government turned against Mr Lascelles the support he gave the measures introduced by themselves into the House of Commons respecting the woollen manufacturers.’ Rose consoled him: ‘I have often, very often, said, and Mr Pitt agreed with me, that there never sat in Parliament in our time a better county Member ...’ Lascelles did not regret his tactic, which, he thought, could not detract from his services to the clothiers. To another friend he wrote:
It is wholly repugnant to my disposition and habits to enter into the intrigues and cabals of a contested election, having acted in a public situation for a considerable period I can retire with the perfect approbation of my own mind, and feel some gratification from the reflection that it has been in my power thus to preserve the peace of the county.5
Attempts to find another seat for Lascelles during the Parliament of 1806 came to nothing, but his father purchased the returns for Westbury from Lord Abingdon’s trustees in time for the election of 1807. Lascelles might have come in quietly there, but the retirement of Fawkes offered an opportunity to recapture the county seat. This time he was over-confident, the show of hands favouring him and Wilberforce against Earl Fitzwilliam’s heir. He was defeated by the latter though he spent nearly £100,000: he wished ‘his father would give him the money instead of the seat’. He fell back on Westbury, which his brother had kept warm for him, giving up a petition against the county return.6
Lascelles was a relatively inconspicuous Member of the Parliament of 1807. He opposed legislative interference to regulate weavers’ wages, 19 May 1808, and denied that the prohibition of distillation from grain was necessarily harmful to the agricultural interest, 30 May. He complained of the accusations bandied about in the evidence on the Duke of York’s conduct, 3 Feb. 1809. He opposed the allegations of corruption against Castlereagh, 25 Apr. 1809, but not inquiry into them. He took the same position on the Scheldt question, 26 Jan. 1810, and objected three days later when listed in a newspaper as being against inquiry. There had been fears that he might desert ministers and they were renewed a month later, but he sided with them on 5 and 30 Mar. The Whigs had listed him ‘against the Opposition’. He voted against Sir Francis Burdett’s committal to the Tower, 5 Apr. 1810, but against the discharge of the radical Gale Jones, 16 Apr. He objected to a Member’s testimony on the activities of the military during the Burdettite riots in London, 18 Apr. On 21 May he voted against parliamentary reform. He was named to the committee to examine the King’s physicians, 13 Dec. 1810, and voted with ministers on the Regency, 1 Jan. 1811. In that year he was chairman of the Pitt Club memorial dinner. He paired against the repeal of the orders in council, 3 Mar. 1812. On 11 Apr., at dinner at Lord Mulgrave’s, he stated that he was ‘much afraid of the spirit of the country, which he prophesied would break out in our time into rebellion and revolution’. His only known vote that session was in the government minority on Stuart Wortley’s motion, 21 May. It disproved reports that he would support, or even second it, that circulated among the opposition; but it was a silent vote. On 5 June he asked the House not to allocate blame for the delay in forming a new administration and favoured adjournment. He had written to Arbuthnot at the Treasury, 25 Jan. 1812, that he would attend on 3 Feb. until the end of the month, but otherwise wished only to be given notice of the Catholic question, as an opponent of relief.7
Lascelles, whose father obtained an earldom from the Liverpool administration after the dissolution of 1812, was intended by him to come in for Pontefract at the general election and offered there on 25 Sept. Wilberforce’s decision to retire then opened the county. Lascelles’s stepping into his shoes caused some ill feeling: Stuart Wortley was already in the field on the understanding that Lascelles was out of the question. In view of his father’s step in the peerage, he was thought in some quarters to be overweening; but he came in unopposed, Member, as his colleague Lord Milton sarcastically put it, ‘for the borough of Leeds’.8 He appeared on the Treasury list as a supporter after the election. He also emerged from the shadows in debate. On 11 Dec. 1812 he spoke up for the Yorkshire maltsters. He opposed Catholic relief, 1 Mar. 1813, as no securities were given, and voted against it throughout. On 17 Mar. he intervened briskly in the debate on the Princess of Wales’s affairs, ridiculing the prosecution of a printer for the publication of proceedings before the Privy Council when the issue at stake was whether the Princess or her lady-in-waiting was telling the truth. He gratified his West Riding constituents by opposing the tax on American cottons, 31 Mar., 10, 14 May. On 22 June he voted in favour of Christian missions to India. He objected to the disfranchisement of Cornish boroughs like Helston for the benefit of Yorkshire ‘as the expenses of elections there were already too heavy’, 30 June. He further opposed the bill to limit election expenses, which would only disfranchise many electors, 16 May 1814.
Lascelles was at first extremely cautious about supporting agricultural protection, 15, 21 June 1813, 13 May 1814, claiming to dislike manipulation of market fluctuations. He could not support the corn importation bill, 24 May 1814. But on 27 Feb. 1815, with a bow to the manufacturing interest, he supported the alteration of the Corn Laws, his object being, in a ‘technical phrase, to leave things to look downward’. He qualified his support, 1 Mar., by reserving his freedom to opt for a lower threshold price for home corn before foreign import was allowed, and on 6 Mar. presented a petition against the alteration. In the county elections of 1806 and 1807 he had suffered from his father’s ownership of slaves, to which he became heir on the death of his elder brother in June 1814. On 27 June he supported Wilberforce’s motion for an international ban on the slave trade, but doubted if France should be dictated to on the subject. Moving the address of congratulation to the Regent on the peace treaty, 29 June, he professed himself satisfied with Castlereagh’s attempt to secure French cooperation on the subject, while admitting that he detested the trade. On 19 Apr. 1815 he defended the property tax as a necessary safeguard against the resumption of hostilities. He voted with ministers that session, being described as one of their ‘best friends’, except on the increased salary of the Irish master of the rolls, 19 June, and on the Regent’s message on marriage provision for the Duke of Cumberland, 28 June.9 On 4 Mar. 1816 he objected to a petition from Leeds presented by his colleague against the property tax, but admitted that popular distress warranted a reduction of taxation. He added that the state of his health would prevent his future attendance on this subject, but on 18 Mar. turned up with a petition from Sheffield in favour of the tax. He approved the discontinuance of the wartime malt duties, 20 Mar. He questioned the usefulness of a committee on agricultural distress, 28 Mar., pointing out that a committee could not work miracles and that manufacturing distress was equally worthy of attention; government retrenchment, and abatement of taxation on raw materials would be efficacious remedies. On 29 Apr. he defended the decision of the committee on the wool trade against a duty on the import of foreign wool. He discredited a petition for reform from Huddersfield, 8 May. When on 31 Jan. 1817 Burdett presented another from Halifax, he was more conciliatory, explaining that the violence of its language was caused by popular distress. In doing so, he was represented as rescuing Burdett from Canning.10
Lascelles was prominent among the country gentlemen prepared to impress on ministers the need for retrenchment. On 7 Feb. 1817 he welcomed their declaration of intent on this subject, though he wished (as he had previously informed them) that there were not so many ministerialists on the finance committee and promised to scrutinize any complaint against its proceedings. There seems only to have been no question of his voting against them. He was content to present critical petitions from his constituents, if they were respectable. In defence of the suspension of habeas corpus, 26 Feb. 1817, he explained (being a member of the secret committee) that he did not lump all reformers together; but a few were dangerous, and the lower orders must be protected from their agitation. On 3 Mar., ‘at the head of the country gentlemen of England’, he paid tribute to a respectable opponent, Francis Horner*. In suggesting provision for a continuation of Parliament following the demise of the King, 15 May, he denied that he sought any political advantage for ministers. He defended the report of the secret committee on sedition, 20 June, and opposed inquiry into the employment of government spies, 5 Mar. 1818. He was invited to the meeting at Fife House at which Lord Liverpool outlined the proposals for the ducal marriage grants, 13 Apr. 1818, and informed the House that day that the proposals were ill received; nor could he support them. This announcement had its influence on ministers who were reported as having ‘truckled to Lord Lascelles’ in halving one of the grants. Not only the Prince Regent was displeased:
Lord Liverpool was deeply offended at the conduct of Lord Lascelles in not having spoken his sentiments respecting the grants at Fife House—wh[ich] might have prevented their being proposed. Said his father Lord Harewood had received every attention from the government—but hat Lord Lascelles did not give it that manly support it was entitled to expect from him. On most unpopular questions, he continually walked away.
Edward John Littleton, informed of this, confided to his journal
Lord L. however has acquired great weight in the House—not so much by his talents—for they are not great—as by circumspection and moderation. His rank—property—his representation of Yorkshire—are strong circumstances in his favour—he has plain and conciliatory manners—and a show of independence. He seldom speaks—and generally takes a middle line, but as sometimes on great questions he takes an active one with government, and scarcely ever a decided one against ministers—when he does oppose them—he does it with success. He must soon be taken from the House of Commons—by the death of his father—who will fill his place?
On 15 Apr. Lascelles announced his concurrence with the reduction and voted with ministers. Lord Grey, the Whig leader commented:
Lord Lascelles, and the whole herd of hypocrites deserve in reality no credit for the votes they have given and any they obtain ... will only be employed to support measures in comparison with which the establishments of the princes do not deserve to be mentioned.11
Lascelles renewed his opposition to Sir Robert Peel’s factory legislation, 19, 23 Feb., 17, 27 Apr. 1818, which he regarded as an infringement of free labour, and of parental rights, and as discriminating in favour of steam mills over water mills. He was a member of the Poor Law committees, 1817-19.
Lascelles ceded the county representation to Stuart Wortley in 1818 and came in on the family interest for Northallerton. He played little part in the first session of the new Parliament, taking six weeks’ leave on 5 Feb. 1819. He came up to vote against Tierney’s censure motion on 18 May and for the foreign enlistment bill, 10 June. He opposed the increase of the duty on foreign wool, 14 and 18 June. He was an alarmist in the autumn and appointed lord lieutenant of the West Riding in place of Fitzwilliam. He advised the House, 30 Nov., that without knowing anything of the events at Manchester, he thought steps must be taken to curb popular disaffection. Robert Ward reported that Lascelles ‘spoke better upon Yorkshire affairs, than ever I remember him upon any subject. He had no uncouthness of language, and what was better, no hesitation as to opinions, in short spoke out.’ Defending the seditious meetings bill two days later, he claimed that the people were inflamed by malcontents who preached seditious doctrines. Report had it that his health was not equal to the long sittings in the House and that he was to be summoned to the Lords. On 26 Feb. 1820 he asked Lord Liverpool if he was to receive a coronation peerage. This eventuality was rendered superfluous by his father’s death in April 1820, though it had prevented him from seeking re-election. As a peer, ‘though firm in his constitutional and conservative principles [he] belonged to what may be termed the middle or moderate party. His sound sense and extensive practical knowledge even more than his wealth and station gave him great weight.’12 He died 24 Nov. 1841.
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: R. G. Thorne
- 1. True Briton, 10 June 1796.
- 2. Add. 35714, f. 81; Creevey mss, Creevey to Currie, 7 May; Lansdowne mss, Petty to Lansdowne, 7 May; E. Suff. RO, Tomline mss, Rose to bp. of Lincoln, 7 May 1803; Leveson Gower, i. 420.
- 3. PRO 30/8/121, f. 180.
- 4. Leveson Gower, ii. 167; Rose Diaries, ii. 238, 240.
- 5. Harewood mss, draft address  endorsed ‘not made use of’, Rose to Lascelles 7 Nov., reply 12 Nov., Lascelles to Frank, 12 Nov.; Lonsdale mss, Muncaster to Lowther, 26 Oct.; Tomline mss, Rose to bp. of Lincoln, 6, 16 Nov. 1806.
- 6. Add. 38737, f. 181; NLI, Richmond mss 70/1330; Leveson Gower, ii. 251; see YORKSHIRE.
- 7. Jnl. of Lady Holland, ii. 253; PRO 30/8/368, f. 145; Phipps, Plumer Ward Mems. i. 477; Buckingham, Regency, i. 311; HMC Fortescue, x. 264; PRO NI, Caledon mss C/11/14; T.64/260.
- 8. Add. 35650, f. 352; Wentworth Woodhouse mun. F42/4, 25; Fitzwilliam mss, X1606, Milton to Fitzwilliam, 18 Oct. 1812.
- 9. Colchester, ii. 549; Add. 40289, f. 128.
- 10. Add. 51644, Lady Holland to Horner, 4 Feb. .
- 11. Mackintosh Mems. ii. 344; Staffs. RO, Hatherton diary, 1 Feb., 13, 17 Apr.; Grey mss, Lambton to Grey, 17 Apr., Grey to Lady Holland, 19 Apr. 1818.
- 12. Phipps, ii. 39; Colchester, iii. 102, 104, 125; Gent. Mag. (1842), i. 97.