SIMEON, John (1756-1824), of Walliscot, Oxon.
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Family and Education
bap. Mar. 1756,1 2nd s. of Richard Simeon, lawyer, of Reading, Berks. by w. Elizabeth Hutton. educ. Eton 1765-74; L. Inn 1773, called 1779; Merton, Oxf. 1775. m. 14 June 1783, Rebecca, da. of John Cornwall of Hendon House, Mdx., 3s. 3da. cr. Bt. 22 May 1815.
Master in Chancery 1795-d., sen. master 1808-d.; commr. for management of Geo. III’s property 1812-20.
Recorder, Reading 1779-1807.
Simeon, the elder brother of Charles Simeon the evangelical divine, was himself sneeringly described by John Cam Hobhouse† in 1818 as a ‘methodist’.2 A practising barrister, he was elected recorder of Reading, his native town, in 1779 and unsuccessfully contested the borough in 1782. He became a master in Chancery in 1795 and two years later was returned unopposed on a vacancy for Reading, where he had the backing of the corporation.
Simeon gave general support to Pitt’s government; spoke for the land tax redemption bill, 4 Apr.; was teller for the majority who voted for its second reading, 23 Apr. 1798; defended the income tax, 14 Dec. 1798, and supported the Bank charter bill, 21 Mar. 1800. He was capable of independent action, however, and criticized the assessed taxes augmentation bill, 3 Jan. 1798, before abstaining in the subsequent division, and, with other Members ‘not in the habit of voting with the opposition’, divided in favour of inquiry into the Ferrol expedition, 19 Feb. 1801.
There is no record of his having opposed Addington’s administration but at the general election of 1802 he was defeated at Reading by an Addingtonian intruder. With the aid of his wealthy merchant brother and his own allies in the corporation Simeon re-established his position by means of an expensive programme of ostentatious charity and some dubious business transactions. He came in unopposed in 1806, when the other sitting Member stood down, retained the seat unchallenged in 1807 and survived a contest forced by a reformer in 1812.
On Martin’s motion condemning the appointment of Perceval as chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster for life, 25 Mar. 1807, Simeon claimed to have ‘wished the late administration to have remained in place’, but, believing that its successor was ‘better than none’, he deprecated any attempt to impede its formation. He continued to mix general, though evidently not very regular, support for government with occasional wayward votes. He defended the attack on Copenhagen, 29 Mar. 1808; voted for the address, 23 Jan.; vindicated the orders in council, 26 Jan. 1810; voted with government on the Regency proposals, 1 Jan. 1811; rebutted criticisms of delays in Chancery, 7 Mar. 1811 and 6 May 1812; supported the frame-breaking capital punishment bill, 18 Feb. 1812, and voted against Stuart Wortley’s motion for the formation of a stronger administration, 21 May 1812. He voted initially for inquiry into the Scheldt fiasco, 26 Jan. 1810, but in subsequent divisions, 5 and 30 Mar. 1810, sided with government and was accordingly reckoned ‘doubtful’ by the Whigs. His votes against Perceval’s exculpatory motion on the Duke of York, 17 Mar., and for Hamilton’s attack on Castlereagh, 25 Apr. 1809, possibly owed something to constituency pressure, for reforming zeal was currently rampant at Reading.3 Yet he opposed the release of Gale Jones, 16 Apr., and Brand’s reform motion, 21 May 1810; and when he and his colleague presented petitions from Reading on these subjects, 10 May 1810, he declared his personal hostility to their reforming sentiments.
The Liverpool government counted on Simeon’s support after the 1812 general election and received it on the vice-chancellor bill, 15 Feb. 1813; judicial fees, 21 Feb.; the civil list, 13 Apr. 1815; the army estimates, 8 Mar.; the Irish deputy vice-treasurer’s grant, 20 June 1816; Binning’s appointment to the finance committee, 7 Feb.; Admiralty salaries, 25 Feb.; the suspension of habeas corpus, 23 June 1817, and the domestic spy system, 5 Mar. 1818. He voted against government on the Corn Laws, 16 May 1814, 3 and 10 Mar. 1815; the property tax, 18 Mar. 1816; the Irish vice-treasurer’s salary, 17 June 1816, and the Duke of Clarence’s allowance, 15 Apr. 1818. He consistently opposed Catholic relief, but voted for the extension of Christianity in India in 1813. He was an investor in East India Company stock.
Simeon, the author of a successful Treatise on the Law of Elections (1789), advocated measures to improve awareness of electoral law, 28 Feb. 1808, but his attempt to amend that dealing with controverted elections, 9 Feb. 1807, was frustrated. A frequent speaker on the Poor Laws, who sat on the select committees of 1817 and 1818, he explained, 27 Nov. 1801, that he was averse to schemes for wholesale reform, but ready to countenance piecemeal practical improvements. Accordingly, he opposed the proposals of Lord William Russell, 13 Mar. 1801, and Whitbread, 13 July 1807, but introduced measures of his own in 1799 and 1802, neither of which made much progress. His bill of 1800 designed to facilitate transfers of stock in Equity suits, passed into law in amended form.4
In 1817 Simeon made unsuccessful applications to be raised to the bench of Lincoln’s Inn and to be appointed chancellor of the duchy of Cornwall. He retired from the House at the dissolution of 1818 because of failing health. Mary Russell Mitford, praising his reliability as a franker of letters, described him as having been ‘stationary as Southampton Buildings, solid as the doorpost, and legible as the letters on the brass plate’.5 He died 4 Feb. 1824.