LUSHINGTON, William (1747-1823), of Marks Hall, Essex and Mount Pleasant, Tunbridge Wells, Kent.

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



12 Mar. 1795 - 1802

Family and Education

b. 18 Jan. 1747, 4th s. of Rev. Henry Lushington, vicar of Eastbourne, by 1st w., and bro. of Stephen Lushington I*. educ. by J. Willis, Foster Lane, London until 1763, m. 28 Mar. 1769, Paulina, da. and h. of Thomas French of Calcutta, 1s. d.v.p., 3da.

Offices Held

Writer, E.I. Co. (Bengal) 1763; factor 1771; collector, Hijili by 1772; res. 1773.

Alderman, London May 1795-1799.

Member, Merchant Taylors’ Co.; vice-pres. Hon. Artillery Co. 1795-1804; agent for Grenada May 1795-1815; dir. W.I. Dock Co. 1803-8; trustee, British Fire Office 1805-12.

Capt. Loyal Essex fencibles 1794; capt. commdt Chislehurst vols. 1803.


Lushington, who applied for an East India Company writership in 1763, went out to India as a young man and married an heiress there. He and his elder brother Stephen, whom he accompanied, both returned with fortunes and became associated with the banking house of Boldero, Adey, Lushington and Boldero of Cornhill, (stopped 1812), through Stephen’s marriage with Miss Boldero. William damaged his fortune by over-ambitious investment in West Indian trade.1 Like his brother, he aspired to a seat in Parliament, but while Stephen became a baronet in 1791 and supported Pitt in that Parliament, William was a Friend of the People in April 1792. By June, however, he was wavering, and by November the excesses of the French revolution had caused him to resign.2 He admitted this when he offered himself for London in the by-election of 1795, as a friend of Pitt’s government and the prosecution of the war with revolutionary France. He defeated the Whig candidate Alderman Combe. Two months later he was elected an alderman for the Billingsgate ward.

On 30 Mar. 1795 he made his maiden speech in defence of the London militia bill, which provided ‘an effective body of troops’ superior to ‘the old Gothic establishment of trained bands’. On 4 May he presented a petition for the West Indian interest complaining of the conduct of Gen. Grey and Adm. Jervis in Martinique, which he endorsed by speech and vote, 2 June. He was also a spokesman for East India Company officers, 16 June: it was he who moved for Warren Hastings’s pension at East India House, 14 Oct. 1795. He spoke in favour of the seditious meetings and royal safety bills, 10 and 12 Nov. 1795, admitting his past enthusiasm for parliamentary reform, but explaining that he favoured a temporary sacrifice of liberty for security’s sake and suggesting that the legislation should be annual. On 12 Nov. he was majority teller. He was hissed by the mob for expressing these views in common hall, but proceeded to discredit the London merchants’ and bankers’ petition against the bills, 24 Nov., being sure that three-quarters of them favoured the bills: ‘Were not the security and distribution of property, not universal suffrage, as was the theory nowadays, the base of the social compact, and of the constitution of this country?’. Yet he was in the minority on the question, 25 Nov. He endorsed public borrowing to raise the subsidy for the allies, 8 Dec. On 3 Mar. 1796 he presented another petition from the West Indian interest, this time against the abolition of the slave trade: he voted against that on 15 Mar., and on 11 May had something to say on the slave carrying bill. He made several speeches on London affairs, notably in trying to secure a bill for the better recovery of small debts early in 1796; in opposing the merchants’ plan for new wet docks without the city corporation’s concurrence, February-March 1796, when he outlined the city’s counter-proposals, and in bringing in a bill to amend the Turnpike Acts which discouraged broad-wheeled carriages. On 2 Apr. 1796 he was one of the committee of seven London merchants deputed to advise the chancellor of the Exchequer on the state of specie.

At the ensuing general election, stressing his independence, he headed the London poll. Ministers were hopeful rather than sure of him. Edmund Burke wrote to him, 26 Oct. 1796, in remonstrance of his views,

I see you are of the same opinion with the Jacobins, that the faction in France has been irritated into the proceedings, which you reprobate ... by the hostility of civilised powers. If as you say, the conquest over the faction is impracticable, in the present state of things to talk of wresting their acquisitions out of their hands ... by any other means than war does not seem to be so.3

On 14 Dec. Lushington defended the allied subsidy and disparaged the livery meeting that had censured ministers for it as unrepresentative. He subscribed £10,000 and his bank £50,000 to the loyalty loan. He was an investor in East India Company stock, but nothing came of a report in the Morning Chronicle, 28 Jan. 1797, that he was to be appointed to office in Madras. On 24 Feb. he moved for a committee to investigate the losses of corn importing merchants, whose stocks were requisitioned by government during the scarcity of 1795-6. Neither then nor in May 1798, at the second attempt, could he secure indemnity for them. He was a spokesman for the Bank directors in crisis, 22 Mar. 1797. On 19 May he made ‘a good speech’ in opposition to Alderman Combe’s motion for the dismissal of ministers,4 denying that Combe was acting on the instructions of the majority of their constituents and claiming that vigorous prosecution of the war was the only path to an honourable peace: ministers were not to blame if the allies let them down. On 7 Dec. he complained that the assessed taxes would cripple the middle classes on whom the stability of the state depended: ‘he was for throwing the burden on the upper classes’. He was answered by Pitt himself. On 14 Dec., on the second reading, he claimed that he had supported ministers since he took his seat and was reluctant to oppose a bill which he approved in principle, if not in detail, though instructed to do so: he voted for it and professed himself satisfied with the amendments subsequently made. On 3 Jan. 1798 he came out in favour of the bill as a necessary vehicle to an honourable peace; he ridiculed fears of invasion and stated that parliamentary reform, though still in his view desirable, was not at present practicable. In December 1798 he had reservations about income tax but again overcame them for the sake of the objective. He was teller for the shipmasters’ relief bill, 10, 21 May 1798.

On 30 Sept. 1799, 19 Feb. and 11 Dec. 1800, 27 Apr. 1801 and 19 Feb. 1802, Lushington presented the petitions of the Grenada proprietors for extension of credit on Exchequer loans—he had been their agent since the insurrection of 1795 and attempted in December 1800 and March 1802 to secure statutory indemnity for them. His speeches for the remainder of the Parliament were chiefly in defence of the West Indian interest. He was on that account in the minority of 14 Dec. 1801 which favoured the continuance of the prohibition of distillation from grain. He also got leave for a bill to regulate the office of notary public, 5 May 1801. His last speech was in favour of a petition of the city shipowners against the tonnage duty, 17 June 1802. He was nominated, but declined the contest for London in 1802: he had resigned as alderman in 1799. For health and business reasons, he made no attempt to return to Parliament and died 11 Sept. 1823, leaving a modest estate to his daughter Charlotte. His obituary described him as ‘a man of great abilities, and an eloquent speaker, both in Parliament and in the city senate’, and as the author of The Interests of Agriculture and Commerce Inseparable (1808).5

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Authors: Arthur Aspinall / R. G. Thorne


  • 1. India Office Lib. J/1/5, ff. 12-15; City Biog. (1800), 52; Beaven, Aldermen of London, ii. 202; Farington, vii. 46.
  • 2. Debrett (ser. 2), xliii. 155; Whitbread mss W1/4427.
  • 3. Burke Corresp. ix. 99.
  • 4. Add. 48226, Morpeth to Boringdon, 19 May [1797].
  • 5. PCC 558 Erskine; Gent. Mag. (1823), ii. 472.