PORTMAN, Edward Berkeley (1771-1823), of Bryanston, Dorset.

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



1802 - 1806
1806 - 19 Jan. 1823

Family and Education

b. 31 Jan. 1771, 2nd s. of Henry William Portman of Orchard Portman, Som. and Bryanston by Anne, da. of William Wyndham of Dinton, Wilts.; bro. of Henry Berkeley Portman*. educ. St. John’s, Camb. 1788; Grand Tour. m. (1) 28 Aug. 1798, Lucy (d. 20 Mar. 1812), da. of Rev. Thomas Whitby of Portland Place, Mdx. and Cresswell, Staffs., 4s. 3da.; (2) 16 Mar. 1816, Mary, da. of Sir Edward Hulse, 3rd Bt., of Breamore House, Hants, s.p. suc. bro. Henry 22 Mar. 1803.

Offices Held

Sheriff, Dorset 1798-9; lt. Dorset yeomanry 1798, 1803.


Portman succeeded his brother to a landed income of £12,000 p.a. in 1803. The year before, he had entered Parliament by purchase for the Duke of Newcastle’s borough of Boroughbridge. Nathaniel Bond* claimed to have put him up to it. In 1798 he had been well disposed to Pitt’s administration.1 He did not oppose Addington’s ministry until March 1804. He joined the minorities on the war in Ceylon, 14 Mar., and for Pitt’s naval motion next day. On 13 and 16 Apr. he voted against Irish defence measures and on 25 Apr. was in Pitt’s crucial minority against Addington. Yet in September 1804 his adherence to Pitt was queried and by July 1805, after voting in the majorities for the censure and criminal prosecution of Melville, he was in ‘doubtful Opposition’.

Portman’s seat was no longer available to him in 1806 and he offered for Dorset. One of the sitting Members, Browne, was reported to have retired in his favour and he was first in the field. Lord Fitz-Harris described him as a government man, but Lord Grenville did not support him. On the hustings he was accused of being a negligent Member of Parliament. He was described as a champion of the yeomanry against the grandees when he defeated Henry Bankes* in an expensive contest. He drew no attention to himself in the House and was reproached for it when the contest was renewed in 1807. He was again successful. He at first supported the Portland administration.2 On 27 May 1808 he made his first known speech, against the timing of the prohibition of distillation from grain. He joined the minorities critical of the conduct of the Duke of York in March 1809. He voted with Perceval’s ministry on 23 and 26 Jan. 1810, but with the opposition on the Scheldt expedition on 23 Feb., 5 and 30 Mar. 1810, thus justifying Whig hopes of him. On 5 Apr. he went on to vote against Burdett’s committal to the Tower, on 17 May he voted for sinecure reform and on 21 May for parliamentary reform. On 29 Nov. 1810 on the adjournment and on 1 Jan. 1811 on the Regency question, he again sided with opposition. But there is no evidence of further activity during that Parliament.

After the election of 1812, Portman appeared on the Treasury list, but his conduct remained independent. He voted for Catholic relief throughout in 1813 and was in the majority for sinecure reform, 29 Mar. In February and March 1815 he voted steadily against the revised Corn Laws and on 10 Mar. moved as a rider to the bill that the protection price should be 76s. not 80s. He was defeated by 213 votes to 73. No further speech is known, but his opposition to government again became conspicuous from March 1816. He voted against them on the army estimates, 8 Mar.; for a committee on public offices, 7 May; against the leather tax, 9 May; against the unconstitutional use of the military, 13 May, and, although he was in their majority on the civil list, 24 May, in the majorities against them on 12 and 17 June. He also paired with opposition on 20 June. In 1817, he not only voted three times against ministers on further questions of retrenchment, but opposed the suspension of habeas corpus both in February and June. In the ensuing session he voted for the reduction of the army, 6 Mar. 1818, and against the ducal marriage grants, 13, 15 Apr. and 15 May. In the Parliament of 1818 he voted for criminal law reform, 2 Mar. 1819, and even for Tierney’s censure motion, 18 May. He was in the minorities on the public revenue resolutions, 7 June, against the malt duty, 9 June, and against the foreign enlistment bill, 10 June. On 2 Dec. he voted against the seditious meetings bill and on 6 Dec. for limiting its duration. He also voted against the seizure of arms bill, 14 Dec. 1819. He died in Rome, 19 Jan. 1823.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: Winifred Stokes


  • 1. Leveson Gower, i. 221; Nottingham Univ. Lib. Newcastle mss NeC 6059; Sidmouth mss, Bond to Sidmouth, 31 Oct. [1806] (not 1804 as endorsed); PRO 30/8/168, f. 180.
  • 2. See DORSET; J. Wilson, Biog. Index (1808), 189.