BARNETT, Charles James (1798-1882).

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



1831 - 1834

Family and Education

b. 20 Dec. 1798,1 1st s. of James Barnett† of 4 Dorset Square, Marylebone, Mdx. and w. Anne. educ. Haileybury 1815. m. 29 June 1839, Sabine Louisa, da. of Sir William Curtis, 2nd bt., of Culland’s Grove, Southgate, Mdx., 3s. (1 d.v.p.) 5da. suc. fa. 1836. d. 31 Dec. 1882.

Offices Held

Writer, E. I. Co. (Madras) 1817, res. 1820.


Barnett, whose father sat for Rochester, 1806-7 and 1816-20, was a member of a cadet branch of the Barnett family of Stratton Park, Bedfordshire. On the recommendation of John Inglis, deputy director of the East India Company and an old friend of his father, he obtained a place at its training college in 1815. He was appointed a writer in Madras in 1817, but never joined the service and resigned in England in 1820.2 Instead he followed his father into a career in banking, probably with the firm which by 1826 was known as Barnett, Hoare and Company of 62 Lombard Street, London, and whose senior partner was their relation, George Henry Barnett of Glympton Park, Oxfordshire. Like his father, who still played a part in Kentish politics, Barnett was a staunch Whig. He was elected to Brooks’s, 17 May 1828, sponsored by Lords Fitzwilliam and Anson. He is not known to have been active in politics until he was approached by the Maidstone Blues who were looking for a third candidate to oppose the sitting Tory, Henry Winchester, at the general election of 1831. This was probably at the suggestion of the Whig Member, Abraham Wildey Robarts, another London banker, who introduced him to the electors as the son of an ‘old, tried, inflexible patriot’, 1 May. In reply, Barnett promised to follow closely in the steps of his colleague, and in his address he claimed to be ‘influenced solely by an anxious and earnest desire to support the great cause of parliamentary reformation’.3 On the hustings, 3 May, he acknowledged his youth and inexperience, but declared that he had been educated in his ‘father’s political school’ and had ‘always been actuated by the feeling which was paramount in his breast, that the people’s rights and welfare ought to be paramount to every other consideration’. He promised to oppose any infringement of privileges that might be proposed in the reform bill and objected to the use of machinery at the expense of jobs. He swore to land in Burton Regis and North Repps, Norfolk, as his property qualification. When Winchester withdrew at the end of the first day, Barnett was elected just behind Robarts, with whom he shared almost all his votes. At the Kent reform dinner in Maidstone, 8 June 1831, he spoke in praise of reform and of the zeal of his constituents.4

He voted for the second reading of the Grey ministry’s reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, at least twice against adjourning discussion on it, 12 July 1831, and steadily for its details. In his only known speech in Parliament, he supported uniting the representation of Rochester, Chatham and Strood, 9 Aug. In response to a newspaper report in Rochester, where the suggestion was unpopular, he wrote to the editor, 18 Aug., denying that he had stated that the electors there were ‘perfectly satisfied’ with the bill, but that he had said he firmly believed they were

so satisfied with the bill, that they would not wish to throw any obstacle in its way; and that I could not imagine the interests of Rochester were so at variance with those of Chatham and Strood as to require different Members to advocate their interests and rights.5

He voted for the prosecution of those found guilty of corruption at the Dublin election, 23 Aug., and paired that day against censuring the Irish government for its involvement in the contest. He spoke in favour of reform at the Inflexible Society’s annual fête near Maidstone, 5 Sept.6 He was in the minority for the total disfranchisement of Aldborough, which ministers allowed to be transferred to schedule B, 14 Sept. He divided in favour of the third reading, 19 Sept., and passage of the reform bill, 21 Sept., and Lord Ebrington’s confidence motion, 10 Oct. He voted for the second reading of the revised bill, 17 Dec. 1831, again for many of its details and the third reading, 22 Mar. 1832. He divided for Ebrington’s motion for an address calling on the king to appoint only ministers who would carry it unimpaired, 10 May, paired for the second reading of the Irish bill, 25 May, and voted against increasing the county representation of Scotland, 1 June. His only other known votes were with ministers for the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., 12, 16, 20 July, and against them for the appointment of a select committee on colonial slavery, 24 May. He presented Maidstone and Canterbury petitions for inquiry into the case of Alexander Somerville, 8 Aug. During the general election of 1832, he backed government’s economic and foreign policies and urged adoption of the ballot, repeal of the Septennial Act, abolition of slavery and, as a ‘very sincere member’ of it, reform of the church. He and Robarts defeated the Tory Wyndham Lewis*, who described him as a ‘gentlemanly man in his appearance and manner’, although the duke of Richmond once referred to him as ‘more or less vulgar’.7 Lewis had his revenge at the following general election, and Barnett apparently never stood for Parliament again. He died in Brighton on the last day of 1882, being succeeded by his sons William and Henry Lake Barnett.8

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Stephen Farrell


  • 1. BL, OIOC J/1/30, f. 49.
  • 2. Ibid. ff. 46-52; C.C. Prinsep, Madras Civil Servants, 8.
  • 3. Maidstone Jnl. 26 Apr., 3, 10 May 1831.
  • 4. Ibid. 10 May, 14 June 1831.
  • 5. Rochester Gazette, 23 Aug. 1831.
  • 6. Maidstone Jnl. 6 Sept. 1831.
  • 7. Ibid. 14 Aug., 11, 18 Dec. 1832; Bodl. Hughenden Dep. D/I/D/140; W. Suss. RO, Goodwood mss 1486, f. 283.
  • 8. The Times, 3 Jan. 1883.