HALDIMAND, William (1784-1862), of Ashgrove, nr. Sevenoaks, Kent and 38 Grosvenor Street, Mdx.

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



1820 - 23 Feb. 1827

Family and Education

b. 9 Sept. 1784, 2nd surv. s. of Anthony Francis Haldimand (d. 1817), merchant, of 51 St. Mary Axe, London and Jane, da. of J[oshua] Pickersgill, merchant, of 5 Adams Court, Broad Street, London. unm. d. 20 Sept. 1862.

Offices Held

Dir. Bank of England 1809-24, Guardian Fire and Life Assurance 1821-8.


Haldimand came from a Swiss merchant family of Yverdon, with branches in Turin and London, where in 1765 his father became a partner in Zachary, Long and Haldimand of Poultry, a firm specializing in Piedmontese and Italian silks, before establishing his own business in St. Mary Axe in 1769. William was the 11th of his 12 children, and his mother died in 1785 shortly after his brother Frederick’s birth. He grew up in the City, received his early education at home with his sisters and, at 16, entered his father’s counting house, where he soon showed an aptitude for finance.1 His father had inherited the estate of an uncle, the distinguished soldier Sir Frederick Haldimand (1718-91), and his business, in which Haldimand and his only surviving brother George became partners in 1806, when they traded as A.F. Haldimand and Sons of Bearbinder Lane, benefited from the family’s matrimonial ties with the banking and merchant families of Abrie, Aubergenois, Aubert, Bertrand, Bird, Devos (Doors), Long, Matthews, Mills and Morris.2 George’s marriage in 1807 to Charlotte, daughter of the London alderman and East India Company agent John Prinsep†, furthered Haldimand’s entry into fashionable society, and at 25 he became a director of the Bank of England, where his expertise in the foreign exchanges was valued.3 His father died in 1817, having willed that his estate, which included property in Italy, Switzerland and Clapham Common, should be divided between his four surviving children and their Saunders cousins. The partnership of A.F. Haldimand and Sons of Cateaton Street, to which Charles Morris and Anton Louis Prevost had been admitted, was required to continue trading for at least a further two years, and Haldimand was to have an additional £14,200 immediately, as he had ‘not yet married’ and received a settlement.4 Haldimand was known to favour a graduated scale of ingot payments and in 1819 was called before the parliamentary committee on the resumption of cash payments. Being frequently in Paris on business he had observed the regular traffic in French stock among ‘travelling gentlemen’ and estimated that Britons then held some £10,500,000 in foreign loans. He therefore concluded that ‘the spell of capital export was over and that the stage of interest import was setting in’.5 He was a leading signatory of the City address of condolence to the king on the death of George III.6

At the general election of 1820 Haldimand, who claimed to be ‘unconnected with party’, stood with Thomas Barrett Lennard* as a Whig or Yellow candidate at Ipswich, where the interest cultivated by Henry Baring* in the borough since 1818 was available to him.7 Barrett Lennard described him as ‘a good looking, rich, gentlemanly man’, who favoured religious toleration, was friendly to triennial parliaments and abhorred lavish expenditure. It was agreed that in the House Haldimand would ‘look to finance’ and Lennard ‘to other matters’.8 The political economist David Ricardo* observed:

I should be glad to have some enlightened commercial men added to ... the House ... I hope that Haldimand will succeed at Ipswich. He is brother to Mrs. Marcet and appears to be a clever man. He is rich, and has much influence amongst his brother merchants.9

Money was vital in a contest against the Ipswich bankers, Crickitt and Round, and Haldimand, who, after a severe contest, was returned at an estimated personal cost of £30,000, profited by bringing down four Bank of England directors to support him.10 The chairing was postponed until July, pending Barrett Lennard’s successful petition against Robert Crickitt’s return, but Haldimand, who was briefly the target of a counter-petition, presented on 11 May 1820, took his seat immediately and adopted a lower profile in A.F. Haldimand and Sons, which in turn was compensated for by admitting James Morris and John Lewis Prevost as partners.11

Except for a couple of rogue votes, Haldimand divided steadily and unstintingly with the main Whig opposition to Lord Liverpool’s ministry during his first four years in Parliament, and consistently with Hume and the ‘Mountain’ for economy, retrenchment and reduced taxation until 1823. He spoke only on trade and finance. The strong ‘No Popery’ cry in Ipswich had deterred him from declaring for Catholic emancipation until his election was assured, and he voted only to receive information on Catholic burials, 6 Feb. 1824, and paired against the Irish unlawful societies bill, 15 Feb., and for Catholic relief, 10 May 1825.12 A radical publication of that year noted that he ‘attended frequently, and voted with the opposition’.13 He voted to disqualify civil officers of the ordnance from voting in parliamentary elections, 12 Apr. 1821, for reform in England, 18 Apr., 9 May 1821, 25 Apr. 1822, 24 Apr. 1823, and Scotland, 26 Feb. 1824, and to receive the radical Greenhoe reform petition, 3 June 1822. He subscribed to Queen Caroline’s cause and silently supported the 1820-1 parliamentary campaign on her behalf.14 He was admitted to Brooks’s Club 10 May 1821, sponsored by Lord Lansdowne and Edward Ellice*. During the 1821 recess he paid his dues at Ipswich, where the bailiwick elections proved costly and local charities expected over £200 per annum from each Member.15 His vote to censure the conduct of the Holy Alliance towards independent states, 20 June 1821, was recalled in November when A.F. Haldimand and Sons underwrote a £3,000,000 loan to the Danish government.16

Haldimand voted for the amendment to the address, 5 Feb., and Brougham’s resolution calling for unspecified tax reductions, 11 Feb., but with the ministerial majority against Lord Althorp’s criticizing their relief proposals, 21 Feb. 1822. Forced to justify his vote to his Ipswich constituents, he explained that he regarded abolition of the sinking fund, which Althorp suggested, as dishonourable to the creditors of the state, of which he as a banker was one.17 He was added to the select committee on agrarian distress, 23 Feb. He voted in the minority of 25 for a 20s. duty on wheat, 9 May. Drawn into the debate on Western’s motion attributing distress to the currency changes, 12 June 1822, he defended the Bank and his own role in the resumption of cash payments in his maiden speech, and pointed out, ‘in a very low tone of voice’, that it was ‘too late to propose the reconsideration of that measure’.18 He justified the accumulation of gold by the Bank prior to resumption, arguing that ‘so long as the Bank was ready to pay its notes in gold, the House had no reason to complain whether there were five millions more or less of their notes in circulation’. Ricardo agreed, but he criticized the Bank for not increasing their issues so as to operate on foreign exchanges and prevent large importations of gold and thus implied that Haldimand’s judgement had been at fault. Opposing the military and naval pensions bill, 11 Apr. 1823, when government carried the division by 55-44, he disputed the chancellor of the exchequer Robinson’s interpretation of the agreement between the government and the Bank, which was due to expire in July 1828, and he maintained that the bill (which he again divided against, 14 Apr.), ‘was a mere delusion, intended to throw dust in the eyes of two classes of persons: those who desired a reduction of taxation and those who wished to support public credit by means of a sinking fund’. He had supported the London merchants’ 1820 campaign for trade deregulation and he robustly defended free trade and faulted protectionist arguments in petitions from Sudbury and other silk towns opposed to the repeal of the Spitalfields Act, 21 May 1823.19 He criticized the East India Company’s monopoly and spoke similarly against ‘that artificial support which was erroneously called protection’, 5, 8, 19, 22 Mar. 1824, but he now conceded the case for a two-year adjustment period and allowances for stock-in-hand, while tariff changes affecting silk were phased in. He had a stake in the proposed St. Katharine’s Docks, which he commended as a public benefit, and, amid strong opposition from directors of the London Dock Company, he spoke for the bill to establish it and was a majority teller for its second reading, 2 Apr. 1824. He presented anti-slavery petitions from Ipswich, 5 May 1823, and Clavering, 19 Mar. 1824, on which, as a slave proprietor, he made no comment; nor did he vote for inquiry into the indictment in Demerara of the Methodist missionary John Smith, 11 June, after presenting Ipswich’s petition for it, 31 May 1824.20

Rallying Ipswich’s London freemen at the Paul’s Head, Cateaton Street, 4 Feb. 1824, following a recent visit to France and Switzerland, he denounced the Holy Alliance, as he had done in 1821, criticized ministers for failing to curb its ‘despotic intentions’ and praised liberal Spain. He argued that ‘only by returning men of independent principles to Parliament’ like himself, might the country ‘resume its commanding power’ and signified his intention of seeking re-election.21 According to Prevost, as contractors in 1821 and 1823 A.F. Haldimand and Sons had been ‘much interested in the Spanish loans which were being negotiated, and in order to get the earliest possible information employed special couriers between London and Paris and had their own clippers in the Channel’. On 3 May 1824 they found it necessary to publish a letter in The Times advising clients of a delay in half-yearly dividends, as their agents, Ardoin, Hubbard and Company, had not been paid by the Spanish government.22 Haldimand was shouted down at the bailiffs’ election at Ipswich, 8 Sept. 1824, and charged with holding ‘republican principles’; and his absences abroad for ‘health reasons’ in 1825 and 1826 encouraged rumours that the cause was financial and the sufferer his business.23 He was granted a month’s leave on account of ill health, 18 Feb., and again, 14 Apr. 1825. He had resigned as director of the Bank in 1824, but he remained with Guardian Assurance and in 1825 negotiated successfully with the 2nd Earl Grosvenor, Seth Smith and William Cubitt for a 99-year lease on Belgrave Square, where he had 49 houses built: 16 to be owned by George Haldimand, 14 by himself, eight by Prevost, four by Smith and three by Cubitt.24 He went to Ipswich for the 1825 bailiwick elections and, unlike Barrett Lennard, sought a second return at the next general election despite the additional financial burden imposed by the corporation’s October 1825 ruling that Members should bear the full cost of future borough elections. He stipulated that he would not underwrite the return of two Whigs.25 He is not known to have voted in 1826, but speaking briefly on the navigation laws, in response to Alexander Baring, 13 May, he called for such tax reductions as would enable British merchants to compete with foreigners in world markets, and close scrutiny of the post-war tax burden which left government expenditure at £60,000,000 a year. He had commenced his Ipswich canvass in April by apologizing for his poor attendance, depositing £5,000 at Henry Alexander’s bank, and introducing the political economist and editor of the Globe Robert Torrens as his colleague; but poor health caused him to return to Aix-les-Bains before the election, leaving his brother George, his friend Richard Raikes, and business colleagues to campaign on his behalf.26 Denounced as a republican, atheist and absentee, he was returned at great cost with Torrens but they were ousted on petition, 23 Feb. 1827.27

Haldimand remained abroad. The partnership of A.F. Haldimand and Sons was liquidated, 31 Dec. 1827, and their affairs left entirely in the hands of Morris, Prevost and Company.28 In 1828 he settled at Denantou near Lausanne, where he had retained property and citizenship rights and he used his fortune to aid the Greek insurgents; to endow a hospital for the poor at Aix; to establish an Anglican church at Ouchy (although, as a religious sceptic ‘he hardly visited it’); and to purchase rentes to strengthen the new Orleans dynasty in France.29 His best known act of largesse was the endowment of an asylum for the blind at Lausanne at an estimated cost of £24,000. This became his life’s work.30 It was rumoured that he would stand for Nottingham in 1830 and 1831, but he did not do so.31 In 1845 he became active in Swiss politics as a liberal committed to a free market in Europe and religious freedom.32 He died without issue at Denantou in September 1862, predeceased in 1852 by his brother George, and was buried in the church at Ouchy.33 His will, which was proved in London, 7 Nov. 1862, provided for the Lausanne asylum and all his relations, the principal legatees being his nephews and nieces Frank Marcet, James and Jane Morris, Sophia Romilly and Alexander Prevost. He had donated General Sir Frederick Haldimand’s papers to the British Museum in 1857.34

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Margaret Escott


Draws on A. Hartman, Gallerie Beruhmter Schweizer der Neuzeit, 2 vols. (1868-71).

  • 1. Ibid.; A. Prevost, Hist. Morris, Prevost and Company, 1-6.
  • 2. Oxford DNB sub Sir Frederick Haldimand; Gent. Mag. (1791), i. 586; Prevost, 6; Misc. Gen. et Her. (n.s.), iv. 369.
  • 3. Gent. Mag. (1807), ii. 1171; J.H. Clapham, Bank of England, ii. 68.
  • 4. Gent. Mag. (1817), ii. 474; PROB 11/159/630; IR26/713/1194; Prevost, 6.
  • 5. B. Hilton, Corn, Cash, Commerce, 42, 48, 49, 64, 88, 89; Clapham, ii. 67-69; I.P.H. Duffy, ‘Discount Policy of Bank of England during Suspension of Cash Payments, 1797-1821’ EcHR (ser. 2), xxxv (1982), 67-82.
  • 6. The Times, 1, 6 Mar. 1820.
  • 7. Ibid. 22, 28 Feb., 4 Mar.; Essex RO, Barrett Lennard mss D/DL/C60, St. Vincent to Barrett Lennard, 20 Feb. 1820; Suff. RO (Ipswich), J. Glyde, ‘Materials for Parl. Hist. Ipswich’, ff. 87-90; and New Suff. Garland, 435-54.
  • 8. Essex RO, Barrett Lennard mss C58/90, 91.
  • 9. Works and Corresp. of Ricardo ed. P. Sraffa, viii. 163.
  • 10. Ipswich Jnl. 4, 11 Mar.; Morning Chron. 13-15, 21, 24 Mar.; The Times, 15, 21 Mar. 17 Apr. 1820; Glyde, New Suff. Garland, 453.
  • 11. Morning Chron. 12 May, 14, 15 June; The Times, 8 July 1820; Prevost, 6.
  • 12. Suff. Chron. 18 Mar. 1820.
  • 13. Session of Parl. 1825, p. 467.
  • 14. The Times, 12, 16 Aug. 1820.
  • 15. Suff. Chron. 8, 15 Sept.; The Times, 11 Sept. 1821; Barrett Lennard mss C61, Lennard to fa. 30 Oct. 1821; O41/1-3.
  • 16. The Times, 19 Nov. 1821.
  • 17. Suff. Chron. 13 July; Ipswich Jnl. 20 July 1822.
  • 18. The Times, 13 June 1822.
  • 19. Ibid. 31 May 1820, 22, 23 May 1823.
  • 20. Ibid. 20 Mar., 1 June 1824.
  • 21. Ibid. 5 Feb. 1824.
  • 22. Prevost, 7-8.
  • 23. The Times, 13 Sept. 1824; Glyde, ‘Materials for Parl. Hist. Ipswich’, ff. 96-100.
  • 24. Prevost, 8; Survey of London, xl. 35-44.
  • 25. Ipswich Jnl. 10, 17 Sept.; Bury and Norwich Post, 7 Sept. 1825.
  • 26. Suff. Chron. 29 Apr. 8, 13, 20, 27 May, 3, 10, 17 June; The Times, 5 June 1826.
  • 27. Ipswich Jnl. 24 June 1826, 24 Feb. 1827.
  • 28. London Gazette, 1 Jan. 1828; Prevost, 7.
  • 29. Hartman; Oxford DNB.
  • 30. W. de la Rive, Vie de Haldimand.
  • 31. Add. 51813, Denman to Holland [July 1830].
  • 32. Hartman.
  • 33. PROB 11/2137/634; Gent. Mag. (1851), ii. 332; (1862), ii. 510.
  • 34. IR26/2291/949; Add. 21631-895.