HOPE VERE, James Joseph (1785-1843), of Craigie Hall, Linlithgow and Blackwood, Lanark

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



1830 - 1831
1831 - 1832

Family and Education

b. 3 June 1785, 1st surv. s. of William Hope Weir of Craigie Hall and Blackwood and Sophia, da. of Joseph Corrie of Dumfries. educ. privately; St. John’s, Camb. 1801; L. Inn 1802, called 1820. m. 7 Sept. 1813, Lady Elizabeth Hay, da. of George, 7th mq. of Tweedale, 2s. 6da. suc. fa. 1811. d. 19 May 1843.

Offices Held


Hope Vere was the great-grandson of Charles Hope, 1st earl of Hopetoun (1681-1742), whose second son Charles (1710-91), Member for Linlithgowshire, 1743-68, succeeded to Craigie Hall on the death of his maternal uncle the 2nd marquess of Annandale in 1730. Through his marriage to Catherine, the only daughter of Sir William Weir, he obtained the Blackwood estate and an additional surname. It was he who held the office of commissary-general for musters in Scotland and not, as one source states, his eldest son William (1736-1811), this Member’s father, who had a brief army career.1 Hope Vere, who was educated in England, later described how he led a ‘retired life at Cambridge’, as ‘my health had not been good ... and I was advised to drink little wine, so I resolved to drink none at all’.2 While at Lincoln’s Inn he formed a lifelong friendship with George Pryme, the Cambridge political economist, whose daughter recalled his ‘elegant manners, refined yet vigorous mind, and delightful conversation’.3 In his admission records he is entered as James Joseph Hope, but by the time of his marriage in 1813 he had adopted the additional family surname in its Anglo-Norman form of Vere. In 1811 he succeeded his father to valuable Scottish lowland estates, which later in the century were reckoned to exceed 8,000 acres.4 He is not known to have practised after his belated call to the English bar.

Hope Vere emerges as a keen and occasionally ribald observer of politics in his surviving letters to John Philip Wood, an Edinburgh customs official and amateur historian with whom he corresponded regularly from 1823.5 A moderate Whig, who joined the Edinburgh New Club in 1815 and Brooks’s, sponsored by Lord Lansdowne, 18 July 1823, he was amused to acquire a radical connection in 1828, when his sister-in-law Lady Julia Hay married John Cam Hobhouse*.6 At a Lanarkshire county meeting for a loyal address to the throne, 11 Jan. 1821, he moved and carried an amendment for economy, retrenchment and reconciliation, 11 Jan. 1821.7 He claimed to have anticipated the recent financial crash by two years in December 1825, but was baffled by the Bank of England’s decision to issue £1 notes.8 At the Cambridge University election of 1826 he gave a plumper for Lord Palmerston, the war secretary, his near contemporary at St. John’s, and recalled how he had cast a similar vote at an earlier contest, probably that of 1811, ‘much to the annoyance of my Whig friends’.9 Following the formation of Canning’s ministry in 1827 he ruminated on the good fortune enjoyed by the new prime minister at crucial junctures in his career, but did not make his attitude towards him clear. He praised the duke of Wellington as a ‘good economical premier’ in 1830, though he disliked his interference with Lord Aberdeen’s stewardship of the foreign office.10 Claiming that he had attended a general assembly of the Church of Scotland purely out of curiosity, 30 May, he observed, ‘I ... have long been satisfied that a gentleman should have no ambition to open his lips anywhere but in the House of Commons’.11 At the 1830 dissolution, which he thought curiously timed, he decamped to London, mainly, he insisted, to avoid the Lanarkshire canvass, though with the evident aim of securing a seat for himself. He had apparently rejected Linlithgow Burghs as too expensive and denied a report that he would offer for St. Ives, 20 July.12 He eventually settled on challenging the established patron at Ilchester, under the aegis of the 1st marquess of Cleveland. On the hustings he indicated his support for civil and religious liberty and the reduction of sinecures and pledged to ‘oppose public oppression’. He was returned after a close contest which prompted a petition.13 On 9 Nov. he described the prevailing view at Brooks’s that the Wellington administration would not last a fortnight, though he was personally inclined to give them longer. Ministers had listed him among their ‘friends’, with a query, and though he ‘made every enquiry’ about the opposition to Wellington, he could ‘discover no good grounds, except unjustifiable discontent and a determined spirit of faction, that is against him’, 10 Nov. He expected ministers to win the anticipated showdown on reform, noting that the king was ‘set against them going out’, but was absent from the crucial division on the civil list which brought them down, 15 Nov., though present to witness the count. (Three days later he asserted that many of those listed as absent had actually voted with ministers, but it is unclear whether he did so himself.) Belatedly, he conceded that Wellington had made ‘a sad mistake’ by opposing parliamentary reform, 16 Nov.14 Commenting on the petition against his return three days later, he observed, ‘if I should be turned adrift it would not kill me’, but admitted he would ‘regret the loss’ of his seat, 23 Nov. His return was upheld by the committee after a ‘wearing and anxious’ eight-day hearing, 17 Dec. 1830.15 In the meantime, having been initially been unimpressed with the standard of oratory in the House, he found words of praise for Macaulay and Henry Brougham, while his remarks on the Liverpool by-election indicated his opposition to anything approaching universal suffrage.16 He reported general dissatisfaction at the modest reductions proposed in the civil list, though personally he had ‘never expected much, because I could not see how they could do it’, 11 Feb., and described Lord Althorp’s ill-fated budget as ‘an unlucky affair’, which ought to have been postponed, 28 Feb. 1831. He had expressed ‘much doubt’ about the success of any parliamentary reform plan, 17 Jan., and following the announcement of the Grey ministry’s proposals, could not see ‘either the necessity of the measure or the good expected to accrue from it’, 4 Mar. ‘You will see the Whig administration are about speedily to sweep away all us borough vermin as noxious animals that have not the good of our country at heart, and are blood suckers of the constitution’, he informed Wood that day, adding that ‘to be a successful speaker in the House one must have nerve enough to bawl out their opinions even though no one is attending, and all are talking. I have not yet made the attempt because that is a talent I profess not’.17 In spite of this, he voted for the reform bill’s second reading, 22 Mar., telling Wood that for it ‘to have been rejected at the outset might have led to unpleasant consequences’. He added that he did not expect this ‘perilous experiment’ to survive the committee stage, 4 Apr., but was surprised that it fell at the first hurdle, on Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, against which he voted, 19 Apr. 1831.18

At the 1831 dissolution he retired from Ilchester, where he had not expected to come in again, and disclaimed all knowledge of his prospects of finding another berth, 30 Apr. By then Cleveland had secured his return for Newport, Isle of Wight. He remained in Edinburgh for his wife’s confinement and was notified of his unopposed return by ‘a friend in London’, 11 May.19 One hazard of such an impersonal arrangement was demonstrated by the discovery that his Christian names had been recorded as John James on the return, probably due to confusion with his kinsman John James Hope Johnstone*. The published Return (Pt. II, vol. i, p. 333) inexplicably states that his name was substituted with that of George Augustus Frederick Villiers, but in fact the error was simply corrected by an order of the House, 28 June 1831, though only, as he complained, ‘after much trouble ... and many walks about London in very bad weather’. The Speaker’s absence the following day caused another delay in his taking the seat and he was finally sworn in, 30 June.20 He voted for the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, and gave steady support to its details in committee, though he was sceptical about its chances and feared that its ‘slow progress’ would prejudice its success in the Lords.21 He confided to Wood his lack of faith in the durability of the ministry and fears of an imminent rebellion in Ireland, 13 Aug., was in a minority of 11 against the Irish union of parishes bill, 19 Aug., but divided with ministers on the Dublin election controversy, 23 Aug.22 He voted for the reform bill’s passage, 21 Sept., but remained ambivalent about its consequences, recounting a Tory Member’s forecast of ruin with the observation, ‘he is a man of considerable sense’, 6 Oct.23 He was ‘confounded’ by the scale of its defeat in the Lords, 8 Oct., and despite the success of Lord Ebrington’s confidence motion, for which he divided, reported that ‘the faces at Brooks’s are very long’, 10 Oct. 1831.24

Hope Vere voted for the second reading of the revised bill, 17 Dec. 1831, following which he returned rapidly to Scotland, foregoing an overnight stop at Newcastle because of the cholera outbreak.25 He was back in time to divide for going into committee on the bill, 20 Jan., and again voted steadily for its details, though he was in a minority of five to exempt Preston from the £10 householder franchise, 3 Feb. 1832. That day he predicted ‘another tedious session’ in both Houses.26 He divided with ministers on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., and relations with Portugal (as a pair), 9 Feb. That day he secured a return of cases referred to the Lords from the Scottish court of session. Given the attitude of Lord Grey and Smith Stanley, the Irish secretary, whom he considered the ‘most useful of the whole cabinet’, he privately expected no creation of peers and a thorough mauling of the reform bill in the Lords, naming the enfranchisement of metropolitan districts and the division of counties as the provisions most likely to go, 20 Mar. He voted for the bill’s third reading, 22 Mar., and for the address calling on the king to appoint only ministers who would carry it unimpaired, 10 May. Reporting rumours of Wellington’s return to office next day, he conjectured that Grey had been ‘completely deceived’ by the king.27 He divided for the second reading of the Irish reform bill, 25 May, and against a Conservative amendment to increase Scottish county representation, 1 June. He was granted six weeks’ leave on urgent business, 10 July 1832.

At the 1832 general election he stood unsuccessfully for Linlithgowshire against his distant kinsman Sir Alexander Hope, the incumbent Conservative, citing his ‘independence of party’. (Eighteen months previously he had informed Wood that he would ‘not be sorry’ to be out of the reformed House, in which there would ‘no longer be so many absent or silent Members’.)28 He welcomed the opportunity to build a new Commons afforded by the fire of October 1834, observing that ‘the avenues, the secret windings, and the curious pigeonhole offices of the deceased were something more intricate than it is possible to fancy’.29 He viewed Wellington’s actions as caretaker prime minister in December 1834 with some concern, but does not appear to have contemplated standing at the subsequent general election, or at any time thereafter.30 He died in Park Lane, Mayfair, in May 1843. His will, dated 15 Dec. 1825, confirmed the entailment of the Craigie Hall and Blackwood estates on his elder son William Edward Hope Vere (1824-72), and by a codicil of 3 June 1836 he left £8,000 to his second son Charles (1828-1900).31

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Authors: Howard Spencer / Philip Salmon


  • 1. See Foster’s Peerage (1882), 353.
  • 2. NRA [S] 0888, Hopetoun mss 167, f. 173, Hope Vere to Wood, 10 Oct. 1830.
  • 3. G. Pryme, Autobiog. Recollections, 69.
  • 4. J. Bateman, Great Landowners (1872), 456.
  • 5. Hopetoun mss 167, typescript intro. by M. Brock, passim.
  • 6. Members ... of the New Club (1815), 27; Hopetoun mss 167, f. 40.
  • 7. Glasgow Herald, 12, 15 Jan. 1821.
  • 8. Hopetoun mss 167, f. 5.
  • 9. Ibid. f. 10.
  • 10. Ibid. ff. 17, 140.
  • 11. Ibid. f. 138.
  • 12. Ibid. ff. 151-6.
  • 13. Ibid. f. 157; Western Flying Post, 2 Aug.; Sherborne Jnl. 5 Aug. 1830.
  • 14. Hopetoun mss 167, ff. 181-5, 187, 189.
  • 15. Ibid. ff. 189, 193, 208; CJ, lxxxvi. 183.
  • 16. Hopetoun mss 167, ff. 177, 193-7.
  • 17. Ibid. ff. 214, 224.
  • 18. Ibid. ff. 240, 248, 255, 257.
  • 19. Ibid. ff. 261, 265-7; M. Brock, Great Reform Act, 197.
  • 20. Hopetoun mss 167, ff. 273.
  • 21. Ibid. ff. 272, 281.
  • 22. Ibid. ff. 289-90.
  • 23. Ibid. f. 311.
  • 24. Ibid. ff. 313, 317.
  • 25. Ibid. f. 323.
  • 26. Ibid. f. 336.
  • 27. Ibid. f. 368.
  • 28. The Times, 20 Nov. 1832; Hopetoun mss 167, f. 244.
  • 29. Hopetoun mss 167, f. 484.
  • 30. Ibid. f. 495.
  • 31. PROB 11/1985/603; IR26/1663/740.