ALEXANDER, Josias Du Pré (1771-1839), of Freemantle Park, Hants and 7 Grosvenor Square, Mdx.

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



17 July 1820 - 27 Mar. 1828
1830 - 1832

Family and Education

b. 1771, 5th s. of Robert Alexander (d. 1790) of Boom Hall, co. Londonderry and Anne, da. and coh. of Henry McCulloch of Ballyarton, co. Londonderry; bro. of Henry Alexander† and James Alexander*. m. 1 Feb. 1808,1 Mary, da. of Rev. Thomas Bracken of Calcutta, 1s. illegit. ?d.v.p. 2s. 8da. d. 20 Aug. 1839.

Offices Held

Writer, E.I. Co. (Madras) 1796; asst. under-sec. to bd. of trade 1798; dep. commercial resident, Colombo 1799; asst. to collector of government customs 1801; leave to Bengal 1803, private merchant; at home 1818, out of service 1820.

Dir. E.I. Co. 1820-38.

Commr. of lieutenancy, London 1831-d.


Like his elder brother James and several other members of the family, Alexander gained considerable wealth and influence from a career in the service of the East India Company. James wrote to their uncle, the 1st earl of Caledon, 13 Dec. 1800, that Josias, who had already held a number of appointments, had been promised the office of commercial resident in Ceylon:

I sent my mother the favourable testimony which [the governor] Mr. [Frederick] North† was good enough to express of his conduct. I think to be so early called into notice and placed in a situation which must exercise his talents will be of service to him. He is very attentive to his duty and is generally liked from his good temper and obliging disposition.2

He did not in fact receive this appointment, but, having in the meantime obtained another, in 1803 he left for Calcutta, where he became established as a merchant, agent, banker and naval agent.3 As James informed the 2nd earl of Caledon, 14 July 1817, the brothers were each considering laying out £100,000 on a joint property in Ireland. He added that Josias would thereby get a better return than from the funds, and

besides, he really has a warm heart, and will be glad when he sees all its bearings and effects to enter into a measure which promises aggrandizement to the family. I have been too scrupulous in not talking to him more on these subjects, and opening views and considerations to him which are not apt to influence Indians. India is a good nest-egg for the family, and if the fortunes made there and realized here were judiciously and wisely directed and applied here, the consequent influence would be very great.4

Nothing came of the Irish plans, but Josias, who acquired a Hampshire estate, did co-operate with his brother in their purchase of the borough of Old Sarum from Caledon, who had returned James there since 1812. He seems to have deferred to James in the choice of Members, but was himself returned in July 1820, immediately after the purchase had been agreed.5 Receiving the support of Nicholas Vansittart, the chancellor of the exchequer, who professed to harbour no resentment against the family over his removal from Old Sarum in 1812, Josias was elected to the board of directors of the East India Company, 16 Aug. 1820, and he remained a member of it almost until his death.6 A misunderstanding between him and Caledon, over the patronage of a writership, was smoothed over by James Alexander in 1821.7

Alexander was an entirely silent supporter of the Liverpool administration, but he did not attend as frequently as his brother, from whom, as they were sometimes both referred to as ‘J. Alexander’, he cannot always be distinguished.8 He voted against the censure motion on ministers’ conduct towards Queen Caroline, 6 Feb. 1821. Unlike his brother, he voted for Catholic relief, 28 Feb. He was regularly listed in the majorities against Whig motions for retrenchment and reductions in taxation that year, as in subsequent sessions, and (unless it was James) he voted against parliamentary reform, 9 May 1821. He may have voted against more extensive tax reductions to relieve distress, 11 Feb., and certainly did so, 21 Feb. 1822. It was probably James who voted against the Catholic peers bill, 30 Apr., but it may have been Josias who voted against inquiry into Irish tithes, 19 June, for going into committee on the Canada bill, 18 July, and for the aliens bill, 19 July. He divided against inquiry into the conduct of the lord advocate relative to the press in Scotland, 25 June, and against referring the Calcutta bankers’ petition to a committee, 4 July 1822. He voted against inquiries into the right of voting in parliamentary elections, 20 Feb., the legal proceedings against the Dublin Orange rioters, 22 Apr., and the duties on East Indian sugar, 22 May 1823. He voted against repeal of the Foreign Enlistment Act, 16 Apr., and possibly against reform of the Scottish representative system, 2 June 1823. He may have been the ‘J. Alexander’ who divided against reform of the representation of Edinburgh, 26 Feb., and for the usury bill, 27 Feb., for which he is known to have voted, 8 Apr. 1824. He may also have been the one who presented a petition for, 3 May, and oversaw the passage of a bill to incorporate the Alliance British and Foreign Life and Fire Assurance Company, and was a teller for the majority for the marine insurance bill, 11 July 1824, when one of the brothers voted against condemning the trial of the Methodist missionary John Smith in Demerara.9 He divided for the usury bill, 17 Feb., and the Irish unlawful societies bill, 25 Feb., and possibly for the duke of Cumberland’s grant, 2, 10 June 1825. Given his previous Catholic vote, it was almost certainly he who voted for the second reading of the relief bill, 21 Apr. 1825.

He is also likely to have been the one who voted for Catholic claims, 6 Mar. 1827. He divided in favour of going into committees on the duke of Clarence’s grant, 16 Mar., and (or was it James?) on the spring guns bill, 23 Mar. He was granted three weeks’ leave of absence because of illness in his family, 23 Mar. Unless it was his second cousin Henry Alexander, Member for Barnstaple, it was he who, in April 1827, was depicted in a cartoon of the directors of the East India Company, saying that ‘so help me God, I have no more connection now with the firm [of Fletcher, Alexander and Company], than either Alexander the Great or Alexander the Pope’.10 He may have been the ‘Mr. Alexander’ who, in January 1828, was said to be hoping that the duke of Wellington would soon replace the hapless Lord Goderich as prime minister.11 In March he vacated his seat to make way for his brother’s son-in-law Stratford Canning, but he returned to the Commons at the general election of 1830, when he may have been involved in the Londonderry borough contest.12 Listed by ministers among their ‘friends’, he voted with them on the civil list, 15 Nov. 1830. He divided against the second reading of the Grey ministry’s reform bill, 22 Mar., and for Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831. He was again returned for Old Sarum at the ensuing general election. He divided against the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, at least once to adjourn proceedings on it, 12 July, and against its passage, 21 Sept. He either paired or voted against the second reading of the revised bill, 17 Dec. 1831, and may have voted against its committal, 20 Jan. 1832. He divided in the majority against limiting polling in boroughs of under 1,200 electors to one day, 15 Feb. He voted against the enfranchisement of Tower Hamlets, 28 Feb., the third reading of the bill, 22 Mar., and possibly the second reading of the Irish reform bill, 25 May. His only other known votes were against government on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., 12 July. He was added to the select committee on the East India Company, 2 Feb. 1832, and was present to hear the evidence given on its financial affairs.13

Alexander was deprived of his seat at Old Sarum by the Reform Act and did not sit in the Commons again. He died in August 1839, at Stone House, Broadstairs, Kent, his then residence.14 By his will, dated 23 Feb. 1836, with two codicils, he made bequests to his surviving children from an estate which included property in England, Ireland and Bengal, and personal wealth sworn under £250,000. The three children of his illegitimate son James, who was born to his future wife in 1806,15 and became a lieutenant in the 7th Madras Native Cavalry, received £500 each. His second legitimate son Josias Bracken Canning (1826-82) inherited £20,000 instead of the originally intended one third share, while his elder brother Caledon Du Pré (1817-84), of Auberies, Essex, a lieutenant in the 1st Life Guards and prominent member of the Jockey Club, was the residuary legatee.16

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Stephen Farrell


  • 1. BL OIOC N/1/8, f. 189, gives 1809.
  • 2. PRO NI, Caledon mss D2432/5/4/4.
  • 3. Calcutta Ann. Reg. and Dir. (1814), p. i.
  • 4. Caledon mss B/4/1/59 (NRA 13276).
  • 5. Ibid. B/4/1/95, 103, 104.
  • 6. Ibid. C/11/40-42.
  • 7. Ibid. B/4/1/100.
  • 8. Session of Parl. 1825, p. 448.
  • 9. The Times, 4 May 1824.
  • 10. M.D. George, Cat. of Pol. and Personal Satires, x. 15370.
  • 11. Wellington mss WP1/913/8.
  • 12. O’Connell Corresp. iv. 1746.
  • 13. PP (1831-2), xi. 19.
  • 14. Gent. Mag. (1839), ii. 435.
  • 15. OIOC N/1/8, f. 276; L/MIL/9/146, f. 105.
  • 16. PROB 11/1916/551; IR26/1507/718.