ALEXANDER, Henry (1787-1861), of Battle Abbey, Suss. and 37 Upper Harley Street, Mdx.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009
Available from Cambridge University Press



1826 - 1830

Family and Education

bap. 9 Apr. 1787,1 2nd s. of Robert Alexander (d. 1827), MP [I], banker, of Seamount, co. Dublin and Henrietta, da. of Henry Quin, MD, of Dublin. m. (1) 15 Oct. 1808, Eliza Leonora (d. 10 May 1840), da. of Joseph Pringle, consul-gen. at Madeira, 3s. 3da.;2 (2) 4 Jan. 1843, Sabina Hester, da. of Thomas Taylor of Sevenoaks, Kent, s.p. d. 14 Jan. 1861.

Offices Held

Writer, E.I. Co. (Bengal) 1802; 2nd asst. to export warehouse keeper 1805; dep. appraiser of piece goods at custom house, Calcutta 1806; out of employ 1807-18, private merchant; at home 1818, out of service 1822.

Dir. E.I. Co. 1826-53.

Commr. of lieutenancy, London 1831-d.


Alexander was descended from the Londonderry merchants Andrew Alexander and his son John (d. 1747), of Ballyclose, county Londonderry and Gunsland, county Donegal. The latter had three sons: John (d. 1766), the ancestor of the Alexanders of Milford House, county Carlow; Nathaniel (d. 1761), of Gunsland, and William (d. 1778). The youngest of Nathaniel’s three surviving sons, James, established the family’s East Indian and parliamentary fortunes, and, having represented Londonderry in the Dublin Parliament from 1775, was created successively baron (1790), viscount (1797) and earl of Caledon (1800) in the Irish peerage. His elder brother Robert, of Boom Hall, county Londonderry, was the father of Henry (1763-1818), James and Josias Du Pré Alexander, Members for Old Sarum. William, a Dublin merchant, was the father of William Alexander of Belcamp, county Dublin, lord mayor of Dublin, who was created a baronet in 1809 and whose heir Robert was a director of the Bank of Ireland. Robert Alexander, the younger brother of the 1st baronet, was a Dublin banker, who sat for Dingle, 1777-83, and Newtown, 1797-1800, in the Irish House of Commons.3

Henry Alexander, Robert’s second son, had a brief career in the East India Company’s service, and thereafter operated as a private merchant in Calcutta, probably in conjunction with his relatives there. After returning to England he travelled on the continent: his father reported to the 2nd earl of Caledon, 27 Aug. 1819, that he had been ‘sporting on the Austrian mountains’, and he expressed his confidence that ‘you will like Henry ... his manners are so pleasing and unassuming, with a comportment so mild, joined to a cheerfulness that is altogether winning’.4 From the early 1820s he rented Battle Abbey, the seat of Sir Godfrey Webster†, for which he was denounced as an interloper by William Cobbett†.5 A proprietor of East India stock, he was elected a director of the Company, 8 Mar. 1826, and remained on the board for over 25 years. In November 1824, he, or possibly one of his brothers, canvassed East Retford, but nothing came of it.6 Instead he cultivated the venal borough of Barnstaple, and stood there at the general election of 1826. On the hustings he professed himself ‘unfettered and independent’, but ‘strenuously attached to the splendid constitution of his country’. He was elected in second place, after a poll.7

Alexander voted against Catholic relief, 6 Mar. 1827. He divided for going into committees on the duke of Clarence’s annuity bill, 16 Mar., and the spring guns bill, 23 Mar. He presented a petition from the Protestant Dissenters of Barnstaple for repeal of the Test Acts, 15 June.8 Either he or his second cousin Josias Alexander, another director, was depicted in a cartoon in April denying that he now had any connection with the family business.9 The will of his father, who died in July 1827, aged 80, confirmed his inheritance of about £5,000.10 He may have been the ‘Mr. Alexander’ who, as Sir Henry Hardinge* informed the duke of Wellington, 7 Jan. 1828, opined that the Goderich administration could not and should not last.11 He presented a Barnstaple maltsters’ petition for repeal of the Malt Act, 18 Feb. He voted against repeal of the Test Acts, 26 Feb., but again brought up a favourable petition from Barnstaple, 18 Mar. He divided in defence of chancery administration, 24 Apr. He again voted against Catholic claims, 12 May. It was probably he, not James Alexander, who that day commented, in his only known Commons speech, that he ‘saw no reason why this House should wait for the decision of the other House on the Penryn bill, to dispose of the East Retford bill’. He voted with ministers against reducing the salary of the lieutenant-general of the ordnance, 4 July, but was in the minority against Fyler’s amendment on the silk duties, which was carried with government support, 14 July 1828. He was expected by Planta, the Wellington ministry’s patronage secretary, to vote ‘with government’ for Catholic emancipation; but his one known vote was hostile, 6 Mar. 1829. His only other recorded votes were against transferring the seats of East Retford to Birmingham, 11 Feb., and the enfranchisement of Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, 23 Feb. 1830. For reasons which he left unexplained, but which had perhaps to do with gaining insufficient return for his labours and the distraction of his other interests, he retired from Barnstaple at the dissolution later that year and never sat again.12 He died in January 1861, ‘deeply and deservedly lamented’, at Belmont Lodge, East Barnet, on the Hertfordshire and Middlesex border, where he had lived for some time.13 His estate passed to his eldest son Henry Robert (1811-69), of the Bengal Civil Service.

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Stephen Farrell


  • 1. BL OIOC J/1/18, f. 407.
  • 2. Ibid. N/1/8, f. 73; Gent. Mag. (1840), ii. 110.
  • 3. Foster’s Baronetage (1882), 4-5; Burke’s Irish Fam. Recs. (1904), 9-16; Hist. Irish Parl. iii. 75-80.
  • 4. PRO NI, Caledon mss D2433/B/4/2/8 (NRA 13276).
  • 5. Cobbett’s Rural Rides ed. G.D.H. and M. Cole, i. 57; ii. 541.
  • 6. Nottingham Univ. Lib. Newcastle mss Ne2 F1/1, 241.
  • 7. Syle’s Barnstaple Herald, 6, 13 June 1826.
  • 8. The Times, 16 June 1827.
  • 9. M.D. George, Cat. of Pol. and Personal Satires, x. 15370.
  • 10. PROB 11/1728/404; IR26/1115/772.
  • 11. Wellington mss WP1/913/8.
  • 12. N. Devon Jnl. 8, 15 July 1830.
  • 13. St. Albans Times, 19 Jan. 1861.