POLE CAREW, Reginald (1753-1835), of Antony, Cornw.

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



13 Dec. 1782 - 1784
4 June 1787 - 1790
1790 - 1796
1796 - 8 June 1799
1802 - 1812
1812 - Mar. 1816

Family and Education

b. 28 July 1753, 1st s. of Reginald Pole of Stoke Damerel, Plymouth, Devon, and bro. of Sir Charles Morice Pole*. educ. Winchester; Univ. Coll. Oxf. 1771; M. Temple 1770; European tour. m. (1) 18 Nov. 1784, Jemima (d. 16 July 1804), da. and h. of Hon. John Yorke of Sonning, Berks., 2s. 7da.; (2) 4 May 1808, Hon. Caroline Anne Lyttelton, da. of William Henry Lyttelton, 1st Baron Lyttelton, 2s. 2da. suc. fa. 1769; to Antony under the will of Sir Coventry Carew, 6th Bt., and took additional name of Carew 1772.

Offices Held

Commr. for auditing public accts. July 1799-1802; under-sec. of state for Home affairs Aug. 1803-May 1804; PC 14 Jan. 1805.

Capt. Cornwall yeomanry 1797; recorder, Fowey 1813-19.


In 1790 Pole Carew, a supporter of Pitt’s administration, gave up the seat he had held through his wife’s family and was returned instead for Lostwithiel, with his kinsman Viscount Valletort, on Lord Mount Edgcumbe’s interest. He seconded the address, 30 Nov. 1790, after informing Pitt that he could not refuse to do so ‘however painful the task may be’, congratulating government on the success of their foreign policy. In April 1791, he was listed hostile to repeal of the Test Act in Scotland. Also ‘pitched upon’ to move the previous question to frustrate opposition in the debate on Oczakov, he ‘disgraced’ himself ‘by stopping short in the middle of an intended speech’. His brother Charles assured him that ‘nothing but practice can get the better of your agitation and anxiety’, but Pole Carew was demoralized: he felt that he had ‘neither the talents nor the temper’ to cut a figure in public life. His letters to his brother during the next two years lamented the ‘perfect inutility’ of his existence. He slipped into the background, apart from acting as teller on the ministerial side. In 1793 he was chosen for the committee to review Warren Hastings’s impeachment. In 1795 he was a member of the corn committee and on 17 Dec. ventured to defend the tax exemptions proposed by Pitt. His hostility to the ‘Jacobins’ in opposition remained privately expressed.1 He voted against the abolition of the slave trade, 15 Mar. 1796: he was still reckoned hostile to it in 1806.

Despite his doubts about his public usefulness, Pole Carew was sure of a seat in the Parliament of 1796: Lord Mount Edgcumbe had offered it in October 1795 and he duly came in for Fowey, in the seat his patron earmarked for Treasury purchase. He continued to act as a teller for government and on 13 Mar. 1797 was picked for the finance committee. On 3 June he voiced his anxiety that the civilian population should be kept from contact with the naval mutineers. He wrote to Pitt, 29 Oct., because his friends (‘and I have none who are not well-wishers to your government’) had urged him to apply for employment: he had given the minister ‘cheerful support ... under many difficult and trying circumstances, because it has been the result of the clear conviction of my mind and of a strong sense of public duty’.2 Nothing came of this. On 5 Dec., in the debate on war supplies, he said he would not agree to any measure that damaged the funding system ‘which had enabled us to resist the ambition of the monarchs of France, and which could alone enable us to resist its republican tyranny’. On 15 Dec. he justified the separation in the civil list establishment of the two secretaries of state and explained the audit. Having voted for Pitt’s assessed taxes the day before, he objected to Tierney’s proposal of 5 Jan. 1798 to tax the royal family and on 27 Mar. opposed as improper a committee on the Prince of Wales’s financial affairs. On 18 May, however, he was in the minority for Buxton’s proposal that there should be no new land tax without a tax on all property. That session, as a member of the finance committee, he had taken the secretary of state offices as his province: on 23 June he presented his ‘police report’ to the committee. For the sake of his father-in-law, he had disliked the committee’s bid to investigate the administration of the courts of justice and on 24 Apr. 1798 he and Charles Yorke, with whom his marriage connected him, moved that that inquiry should be committed to the whole House.3 He took part in the debates on the articles of the Irish union, February-March 1799, accepting Pitt’s explanations when he objected to the postponement of uniform taxation.

Pole Carew informed his friend the Speaker on 27 Apr. 1799, ‘I have long found the attendance in the House of Commons adverse to my health and wholly inconsistent with the attention which I am desirous of giving to my family’. Hearing of an office ‘incompatible with a seat in Parliament’ in Pitt’s gift, he regarded it as ‘a gate to happiness’ and hoped that his ‘misfortune of differing in opinion from him on a single point’ would not prejudice him in Pitt’s eyes. On 17 May Pitt duly appointed him an auditor of public accounts. He did not regret giving up Parliament, so he assured his brother, 20 May:

The attendance there, at no time pleasant to me, was daily growing more irksome ... the early dinners, the late dinners, the no dinners, and the great dinners of the House of Commons I have always found as adverse to health as inconsistent with all domestic comfort. ... The duties of the office in question are moderate, at stated and convenient hours, the situation at Somerset House, the colleagues respectable men ... the tenure, quamdiu se bene gesserint—the salary ... as good as most of these sort of offices, and regularly paid, which under all the circumstances which I now stand, is of no small importance.4

Pole Carew’s security was disturbed by his friend Addington’s becoming prime minister in 1801. By July it was settled that he was to return to Parliament to join the Addingtonian squad. He relinquished his office and came in for Fowey, by agreement with the Rashleigh family. It was he who cleared the gallery in the debate on the adjournment, 6 May 1803. His support was rewarded by his appointment as under-secretary to Charles Yorke at the Home Office. On arrival there, 17 Aug. 1803, he took over the Irish and home defence correspondence, while the other under-secretary, John King*, was responsible for police and aliens. His acquaintance Sir Home Popham doubted if Pole Carew would be suited to this office, being not only ‘full of crotchets and points’ but ‘too little of a rattlecap for King, and King too much of a rattlecap for Carew’. Yorke, however, regarded his services as invaluable.5

Pole Carew resigned with Addington and went into opposition with him. His wife’s illness prevented him from doing so on 8 June6 but on 15 June 1804, apparently, he voted against Pitt’s additional force bill. He had already been considered by the Irish viceroy Hardwicke as a potential chief secretary. His wife’s death in July 1804, leaving him with nine motherless children, seven of them girls, was one obstacle and Pitt’s possible disapproval another. Addington also resented it, when in October 1804 Pole Carew told him of Hardwicke’s wishes: it showed ‘a determination to detach from me as many of my friends as possible’. When Addington was reconciled to Pitt with the reward of a viscountcy in January 1805, Pole Carew was made a privy councillor, an appointment that ‘staggered’ Lord Harrowby. Thomas Grenville heard that he had ‘earned this honour by the suggestion by which he has been fortunate enough to relieve Addington from the serious difficulty of fixing upon the most becoming title—a difficulty which had occupied the select councils of that great man for some days past’.7 In fact, Pole Carew’s suggestion of Viscount Raleigh was dropped in favour of Viscount Sidmouth. He himself was staggered at Sidmouth’s swallowing Pitt’s bait after having been ‘so ungenerously treated’: but Hardwicke now informed him that his own honour was, he hoped, ‘a prelude’ to Pole Carew’s appointment as his chief secretary and those hopes were encouraged by Charles Yorke, who informed Hardwicke, 30 Jan. 1805:

I have a strong persuasion that Carew will not decline the situation if offered to him, though he will not ask for it, or even hint at it; and when his rank, fortune and consequence, his habits and knowledge of the world, as well as his eminent qualifications are considered, he is certainly the fittest man that can be chosen at this time. I was till lately strongly impressed with an idea that nothing could have induced him to go, or I should have urged his being proposed to you long ago. It appears, however, now that the very circumstances, which I had hitherto looked upon as an obstacle, his family and daughters growing up, is a main reason for inclining him to undertake the office; with a view to their being a certain degree under the protection of so near and valued a connection as her Excellency.

Yorke was wrong: when Pitt offered Pole Carew the appointment, he refused outright. He was again listed Sidmouthite in July 1805, having done little to justify it, except for a few words on the Duke of Atholl’s claims, 24 June. In a letter of 27 June, he noted the growing opposition to Pitt in Parliament.8

Since Sidmouth joined the Grenville ministry, Pole Carew gave it his ‘cordial approbation’: he had written to his chief, 25 Jan. 1806, ‘my whole heart and mind are with you whether absent or present’: more absent than present, evidently, for he found the requirements of his family prevented his attending regularly. He was in his place to move a new writ on 17 Feb. 1806 and voted for the repeal of Pitt’s Additional Force Act on 30 Apr., but slipped away until February 1807. He had been sceptical about peace negotiations the autumn before and, like his leader, gave up supporting the ministry at its crisis.9 He said nothing of this in Parliament. Just as, when Pitt’s ministry was foundering in May 1805 he reserved his criticisms for the stipendiary curates bill, when Grenville’s was dismissed he attacked the Poor Laws bill, April 1807. Moreover, with privately expressed doubts as to the morality of the Copenhagen expedition, he merely protested against the parochial schools bill, which he tried unsuccessfully to amend in principle, 4 Aug. 1807. Next day, admittedly, he ventured his ideas for a local militia in reserve, incorporating the volunteers, in the debate on the militia completion bill. In June 1807, February 1808 and January 1809 he was chosen for the finance committee. Though ‘a decided friend’ to the orders in council, 10 Mar. 1808, he was in favour of considering a petition against them and on 1 May 1809 he joined the minority on Ward’s motion critical of the Dutch commissioners, but he opposed Whitbread’s motion against places and pensions, 8 June 1809. He was listed ‘against the Opposition’ in March 1810, but he was inactive that session. He rallied to government on the Regency division of 1 Jan. 1811 and had views to express on the exemption of foreigners from the property tax, 12 May; in favour of Vansittart’s resolution on bullion, 14 May; of the Grand Junction canal bill, 16 May (as an interested party); against inquiry into delays in Chancery, 17 May, and on the committee on distressed manufacturers exceeding its brief, 5 June. On 7 June he supported Whitbread’s motion of inquiry into the lacunae in the Regency Act, in a minority of 22. He voted against sinecure reform, 7 and 24 Feb. 1812, and on 21 May against a stronger administration: but apart from calling a Whig Member to order in the debate on Catholic relief, 20 Apr., spoke only in favour of the Regents Canal bill, 7 May.

Pole Carew was obliged to give up his seat for Fowey in 1812 to William Rashleigh, for whom he regarded himself as locum tenens. Mount Edgcumbe brought him in for Lostwithiel instead. With Sidmouth at the Home Office, his support of administration was no longer in question. He voted against Catholic relief, 2 Mar., 11 and 24 May 1813, and for Christian missionaries in India, 1 July. He several times spoke in favour of the Corn Laws (15 June 1813, 18 May 1814, 3 Mar. 1815); opposed the disfranchisement of Helston, 21 June 1813, and savaged the stipendiary curates bill, 5, 8 July 1813. Apart from a quibble with one of the Ordnance estimates, 23 June 1813, and a minority vote on the East India ships registry bill, 6 June 1815, he was a reluctant attender and an unobtrusive supporter of government.10 In March 1816 he gave up his seat to his patron’s heir and retired from public life. He died 3 Jan. 1835.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. Pole Carew mss, CC/K/20, Pitt to Pole Carew, 20 Nov., reply 23 Nov. 1790, Pole to Pole Carew, 17 Apr.; NMM, WYN/106, Pole Carew to Pole, 16 Apr., 29 Nov. 1791; WYN/107, 19 Dec. 1792, 7 Jan. 1793, 25 Nov. 1795.
  • 2. NMM, WYN/107, Pole Carew to Pole, 10 May 1796; PRO 30/8/121, f. 3.
  • 3. Colchester, i. 141, 144, 151, 157.
  • 4. Pole Carew mss letter bks. CC/G3/2; PRO 30/8/195, f. 200; NMM, WYN/107.
  • 5. PRO 30/9/33, f. 91; Add. 35702, ff. 294, 339, 352; SRO GD51/1/68/2.
  • 6. Sidmouth mss, Addington to C. Yorke, 13 June 1804.
  • 7. Add. 35704, f. 77; 35706, f. 63; 45033, f. 135; PRO 30/8/328, f. 103; Sidmouth mss, Henry to Hiley Addington, 24 Oct. 1804; HMC Bathurst, 44; Pellew, Sidmouth, ii. 344; Buckingham, Court and Cabinets, iii. 407.
  • 8. NMM, WYN/107, Pole Carew to C. M. Pole, 1 Jan. 1805; Add. 35645, f. 151; 35706, ff. 141, 156, 162; 45041, f. 78; Colchester, i. 522.
  • 9. Pole Carew mss CC/L/39; Sidmouth mss, Pole Carew to Sidmouth, 27 Jan., 18 Oct. 1806, 31 Jan. 1807; Grey mss, same to Howick, 29 Dec. 1806.
  • 10. Pole Carew mss letter bks. CC/G3/6, Pole Carew to Rashleigh, 22 Apr. 1812; CJ, lxviii. 117; Sidmouth mss, Sidmouth to Pole Carew, 17 Jan. 1815.