CAMPBELL, Hon. John Frederick (1790-1860), of Stackpole Court, Pemb.

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



20 Dec. 1813 - 1 June 1821

Family and Education

b. 8 Nov. 1790, 1st s. of John Campbell†, 1st Bar. Cawdor, and Lady Isabella Caroline Howard, da. of Frederick, 5th earl of Carlisle; bro. of Hon. George Pryse Campbell*. educ. Eton 1805; Christ Church, Oxf. 1808. m. 5 Aug. 1816, Lady Elizabeth Thynne, da. of Thomas Thynne†, 2nd mq. of Bath, 4s. 6da. suc. fa. as 2nd Bar. Cawdor 1 June 1821; cr. Earl Cawdor 5 Oct. 1827. d. 7 Nov. 1860.

Offices Held

Ld. lt. Carm. 1852-d.

Cornet Castlemartin yeomanry 1807, capt. commdt. 1811.


Campbell, a pro-Catholic Whig committed to securing criminal law reform and the abolition of the Welsh judicature and courts of great session, had failed to come in for Pembrokeshire on his father’s Blue interest in 1812, and was subsequently returned by him for Carmarthen, where the threat of mob hostility made it impossible for him to be chaired or to secure a public hearing.1 Somewhat against his will, he stood there again in 1820, and came in unopposed after his great rival John Jones* desisted to afford Lord Dynevor’s son George Rice Rice an unopposed return for the county.2 He divided with the main Whig opposition on the civil list, 8 May, against the appointment of an additional Scottish baron of exchequer, 15 May, for economies in revenue collection, 4 July, and against the barrack bill, 17 July 1820. He supported the 1820 and 1821 parliamentary campaigns on behalf of Queen Caroline, voted to censure the conduct of the Allies towards Naples, 21 Feb., and divided for Catholic relief, 28 Feb., and reductions in public spending, 6, 15 Mar. 1821. On 21 Mar. and 3 Apr. he voted to repeal the additional malt duty (against which, deputizing for his brother, he had brought up a Nairnshire petition, 2 June 1820). He divided for parliamentary reform, 9 May 1821.3

Lord Castlereagh’s* brother-in-law Thomas Wood*, a defender of the Welsh courts until the mid-1820s, complained privately that ‘the Member for Carmarthen does not know what is good for the Principality and would, for the sake of a party question, forget he is a Welshman’ by seeking their abolition.4 Campbell revived his campaign (instigated during the deliberations of the 1817 select committee) by asking ministers whether the vacant appointment of compounder in the court of great sessions for South Wales had been filled, 4 May 1820. He opposed the prayer of a Carmarthenshire petition presented on the 25th, which suggested improvements to and retention of the courts.5 Moving for a select committee ‘to consider the state of the court of judicature in Wales; the propriety of abolishing the same; and the means by which Wales may be most readily included within the English circuits, and to report their opinions thereupon’, 1 June, he condemned the entire Welsh legal system and the peculiar role and status of the Welsh judges, who could continue to sit in Parliament and practice at the English bar. Charles Warren, the chief justice of Chester, interpreted his remarks as a personal attack and was ‘well roasted’, while Castlereagh, as leader of the House, had to defend the Welsh bar, concede the committee and carry an amendment restricting its remit.6 According to Sir James Mackintosh’s* diary:

Campbell made a capital speech on the Welsh judicature. He really showed as great a power of clear conception as most men in the House and a happier flow of early and elegant expression than almost anyone. Lord Cawdor sat under the gallery, a justly delighted hearer.7

As the select committee’s chairman in 1820 and 1821 and author of its report, Campbell argued consistently for the integration of Wales into the English court system.8 He also seconded a Whig motion for a bill to expedite county court proceedings and facilitate actions for small debts, 21 Feb. 1821, and suggested that judges’ salaries might be paid out of county rates.9

According to Farington, shortly after succeeding to the peerage and estates in Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire, South Cardiganshire and Scotland in June 1821, Cawdor, as he was now known, narrowly avoided being charged with a breach of the peace for challenging Sir George Gibbs, his late father’s physician, to a duel over a breach of etiquette.10 The Liverpool ministry refused to make him lord lieutenant of Pembrokeshire in 1823, but he obtained promotion in the peerage through Lord Lansdowne in 1827.11 His Letter ... to Lord Chancellor Lyndhurst, published in 1828 with a view to persuading the royal commission on the courts of common law to recommend the abolition of the Welsh system, was regarded outside the Principality as representative of intelligent opinion in Wales; but within the Principality his recommendations for redrawing assize district and circuit boundaries created a furore and he was shouted down when he tried to promote them at public meetings in Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire in the autumn of 1829. Many of his other recommendations were incorporated in the 1830 Administration of Justice Act.12 He divided for the Grey ministry’s reform bills and supported Blue parliamentary candidates in West Wales, where his interest was boosted by the inclusion of Atpar in the reformed Cardigan Boroughs constituency; but from the mid-1830s he aligned with the Conservatives, and it was as a Protectionist that he was appointed lord lieutenant of Carmarthenshire in 1852. He died and was buried at Stackpole in November 1860 and was succeeded in his titles and estates by his eldest son John Frederick Vaughan Campbell† (1817-98).13

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Authors: Robin Healey / Margaret Escott


See Oxford DNB sub Campbell fam. of Cawdor, 1511-1821; M. Cragoe, ‘Carm. Co. Politics, 1804-37’, Carm. Antiquary, xxx (1994), 75-79, and ‘The Golden Grove Interest in Carm. Politics, 1804-21’, WHR, xvi (1993), 467-93; R.G. Thorne, ‘Pemb. and National Politics, 1815-1974’, Modern Pemb. ed. D.W. Howell, 227-30.

  • 1. HP Commons, 1790-1820, iii. 376.
  • 2. Carmarthen Jnl. 3 Mar. 1820. See CARMARTHEN.
  • 3. The Times, 3 June 1820.
  • 4. NLW, Mayberry mss 6906.
  • 5. PP (1817), v [unfoliated]; The Times, 5, 26 May 1820.
  • 6. NLW, Coedymaen mss 939.
  • 7. Add. 52444, f. 125.
  • 8. PP (1821), iv. 7; M. Ellis Jones, ‘’An invidious attempt to accelerate the extinction of our language’: The abolition of the Court of Great Sessions and the Welsh Language’, WHR, xix (1998), 240-1.
  • 9. The Times, 22 Feb., 16 Mar. 1821.
  • 10. Farington Diary, xvi. 5690.
  • 11. Add. 38297, f. 10; 40395, f. 94.
  • 12. M. Escott, ‘How Wales lost its judicature: the making of the 1830 Act for the Abolition of the Courts of Great Sessions’, Trans. Hon. Soc. Cymmrodorion (2006), 135-59.
  • 13. M. Cragoe, An Anglican Aristocracy: The Moral Economy of the Landed Estate in Carm. 1832-1895; Howell, 14, 119-35.