MABERLY, William Leader (1798-1885), of Shirley House, Croydon, Surr.

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



1 May 1819 - 1820
1820 - 1830
19 Apr. 1831 - 1832
1832 - June 1834

Family and Education

b. 7 May 1798, 1st s. of John Maberly* (d. c. 1840) and 1st w. Mary Rose, da. of William Leader, coachmaker to the prince of Wales, of Bedford Row, Mdx. educ. Eton 1811; Brasenose, Oxf. 1815. m. 11 Nov. 1830, Katherine Charlotte, da. of Hon. Francis Aldborough Prittie*, at least 1s. d.v.p.1 d. 6 Feb. 1885.

Offices Held

Lt. 7 Ft. 23 Mar., 7 Drag. 20 Apr. 1815, 9 Drag. 1817; half-pay capt. 100 Ft. 1818-24; capt. 84 Ft. 1824; maj. 72 Ft. 1825; lt.-col. 96 Ft. 1826, 76 Ft. 1827; half-pay 1832; ret. 1881.

Surveyor-gen. of ordnance Jan. 1831-Nov. 1832; clerk of ordnance Nov. 1832-June 1834; commr. of customs 1834-6; jt.-sec. post office 1836, permanent sec. 1846-54; commr. of audit 1854-67.


Maberly stood for Northampton at the general election of 1820, having continued to cultivate the borough since his aborted attempt on it in 1818. In the view of Lord Althorp* he showed ‘great skill’ in throwing all the ‘odium’ of his own unpaid bills on Lord Compton, the sitting Member, whom he relegated to third place after a lively contest.2 He had joined his formidable father in steady opposition to the Liverpool ministry during his brief membership of the 1818 Parliament, and he continued in the same line, but, partly perhaps on account of the distractions of his army career, he never remotely matched his father in volubility and doggedness.

He participated in the parliamentary campaign in support of Queen Caroline, to whom he had presented the Northampton loyal address, 1 Dec. 1820, at the opening of the 1821 session, though he was a little less pertinacious than his father. He endorsed his constituents’ petition for restoration of her name to the liturgy, 1 Feb., and on 8 Feb. declared that ‘ministers ought to have resigned their places rather than have instituted the proceedings against the queen’.3 He voted on the opposite side to his father in favour of Catholic claims, 28 Feb., when he also presented a Northamptonshire petition for relief from agricultural distress.4 He spoke and voted for his father’s motion for repeal of the house and window taxes, 6 Mar. A founder member but not particularly dedicated attender of the Political Economy Club, from which he resigned in 1829,5 he divided rather spasmodically for economy and retrenchment during the 1821 session. He supported Lambton’s parliamentary reform motion, 18 Apr., but made clear his hostility to the specific plan, contending that to ‘make property the basis’ of the franchise ‘and then proceed on a principle of equality, was an objection not to be overcome’:

He had no hesitation in declaring himself to be a reformer, but one of the most moderate description; and therefore he could only approve of such a plan of reform as was moderate and temperate in its principle ... On the whole, he would prefer that that House should be connected with the peers and the crown, and be in some measure under the direction of secret influence, than that it should be controlled by the harsh and overbearing power of popular clamour.

He also voted for Russell’s reform proposals, 9 May 1821. Soon afterwards he went to Paris, whence he travelled with Samuel Jones Loyd, Member for Hythe, to Switzerland and Italy.6

At the Surrey county meeting, 4 Feb. 1822, Maberly ascribed agricultural distress to low prices, the return to the gold standard and, above all, the ‘enormous pressure of taxation’; echoing his father, he asserted that immediate abandonment of the ruinous sinking fund would facilitate reductions of £7,000,000.7 He voted for the amendment to the address, 5 Feb., and for more extensive tax reductions to relieve distress, 11, 21 Feb., but was again not the most assiduous of attenders in support of detailed cuts. He presented a Wellingborough petition for repeal of the leather tax, 29 Apr.8 He voted for inquiry into the Scottish royal burghs, 20 Feb., and Russell’s parliamentary reform motion, 25 Apr. On 25 Feb. he was admitted to Brooks’s, which his father never joined. On 14 Mar., when he voted for investigation of the duties of officers of the board of control, he supported his father’s motion for a select committee on public accounts. He voted against the government’s scheme to relieve the immediate burden of naval and military pensions, 3, 24 May, when he spoke briefly in support of Hume’s amendment deploring its invasion of the sinking fund. On 31 May 1822 he presented two Northampton parish petitions against Scarlett’s poor removal bill, which he said made ‘too violent an alteration’ to the existing system and would be ‘exceedingly oppressive to the rich’.

Maberly voted for inquiry into the parliamentary franchise, 20 Feb. 1823. He had attended the Surrey county meeting to petition for relief from distress and reform, 10 Feb.; and when Denison, the county Member, presented its petition, 26 Feb., he signified his dissent from the proposition that the adjustment of the currency had created serious problems. He voted against inquiry into the currency, 12 June. He spoke and voted for his father’s motion for tax remissions of £7,000,000, 28 Feb., replying to objections to the scheme, which he reckoned would create a genuine sinking fund ‘perfectly secure from the rapacity of ministers’. He divided for parliamentary reform, 24 Apr., and reform of the Scottish representative system, 2 June. On Macdonald’s motion concerning the negotiations with Spain, 29 Apr., when he also presented a Daventry petition for repeal of the leather tax,9 he expressed ‘considerable dissatisfaction’ at their ‘whole tone and character’, feeling that they had achieved only a ‘temporary cessation of hostilities rather than ... a permanent and durable peace’; he and his father were trapped in the House to form part of the nominal minority of 20 against Stuart Wortley’s pacific amendment, which they had intended to support, the following day.10 Maberly supported repeal of the usury laws on account of their ‘total inefficacy and impolicy’, 17 June 1823, 16, 27 Feb. 1824, when he deplored Robertson’s ‘very remote and barbarian retrospect’ in opposing Onslow’s bill. He questioned the need for the proposed augmentation of the navy, 16 Feb. He presented a Northampton butchers’ petition against the leather tax, 24 Feb.11 On the presentation of a petition for protection for the silk trade, 5 Mar., he ‘deprecated the clamour which had been raised against the endeavours of ... government to introduce a sounder system of commercial policy, by the very parties whose interests these measures were essentially calculated to promote’. He spoke and voted for his father’s motion to transfer the tax on beer to malt, 15 Mar. On 4 May, according to George Agar Ellis*, he ‘spoke well’ in moving at some length for an advance of £1,000,000 to Ireland to provide employment for the poor and curb the evil of ‘excessive population’.12 In reply he complained that Robinson, the chancellor, had misunderstood his intentions, explaining that he meant the money to be deposited with manufacturers and traders who could furnish adequate security. He admitted the force of many of the objections raised against the scheme, which was rejected by 85-33. He was named to the select committee on the current Irish disturbances, 11 May. He voted for his father’s call for a repeal of assessed taxes, 10 May, and for repeal of the leather tax, 18 May, which he noted would be facilitated by adoption of his father’s proposal to tax malt instead of beer. He presented a constituency petition against the beer duties bill, 21 May, and voted against the measure, 24 May 1824.13 On 11 Feb. 1825 he voiced the ‘deepest indignation’ at the introduction of the ‘ruinous’ Irish unlawful societies bill ‘on the flimsiest pretext’, and warned that if Catholic emancipation was not graciously conceded as a matter of justice, it might one day be ‘extracted from them by a sanguinary rebellion’. He voted against the measure, 15, 18, 21, 25 Feb., and was appointed to the renewed select committee on the state of Ireland, 17 Feb. He divided for Catholic relief (which his father now supported), 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May. He suggested substituting the treadmill for the whip as an instrument of military punishment, 11 Mar. He opposed calls for enhanced protection for West Indian sugar, 18 Mar., arguing that the sooner those expensive colonies were got rid of the better; and voted for revision of the corn laws, 28 Apr. Like his father, he cast only one recorded vote against the grant to the duke of Cumberland, his own being on 27 May. He objected to the vagueness of a clause of the combination bill, 27 June 1825, when he voted for amendments dealing with intimidation and jury trial.

On 10 Feb. 1826 Maberly, speaking on the government’s plans to deal with the financial and commercial crisis, dismissed Baring’s bimetallic crotchet, paid tribute to the Bank of England’s recent conduct and argued that the basic causes of the difficulties were ‘overtrading’ and the ‘mania for speculation’. Although he had hoped to be able to support ministers on all commercial subjects, given their adoption of enlightened principles, he felt obliged to oppose their proposed restriction of the circulation of small notes, as he duly did on 13 Feb. Agar Ellis considered it

one of the most luminous and ingenious speeches I ever heard in Parliament, of course on the most purely politico-economical principles, and therefore according to my view too theoretical in some things; but his explanation of the causes of the late panic and present distress was admirable.

John Evelyn Denison* also thought that Maberly ‘spoke well’, even though he ‘did not hit the mark’ in his analysis.14 He voted for reform of Edinburgh’s representative system, 13 Apr., parliamentary reform, 27 Apr., and Russell’s resolutions to curb electoral bribery, 26 May. He spoke and voted for investigation of the corn laws, 18 Apr., complaining of the ‘inconsistency’ of ministers and urging the adoption of ‘a judicious legislative enactment’ to stop wild fluctuations in price and end the current high protection, which ‘exposed the country to disorder and distress on the one hand, while it operated as a severe check upon our wealth and prosperity on the other’. On 12 May he contended that the laws as they stood encouraged the cultivation of bad land and so made it ‘impossible to know what was a remunerating price for the agriculturist’. On 11 May 1826 he persuaded Hume to drop his plan to introduce a bill to promote the export of machinery. At the general election the following month he stood again for Northampton, where the Tory corporation had publicly pledged to finance his opponent to the tune of £1,000. Althorp reported that his effective oratory and strong support among ‘the back lane gentry’ gave him an edge over Gunning, the corporation man; and he was returned comfortably in second place after a turbulent contest in which his father joined after his own re-election for Abingdon.15

Maberly obtained a lieutenant-colonelcy at the end of the year. On 14 and 21 Feb. 1827 he presented petitions from electors of Northampton complaining of the corporation’s application of corporate funds to electoral purposes; and on the latter date, when he detailed and denounced this ‘palpable abuse’, in what the backbencher Hudson Gurney thought a ‘very good’ speech, he moved that they be referred to a select committee. Before the close of the debate he altered the terms of his motion to make it one for general inquiry into the corporation’s payment of or engagement to pay election expenses.16 He was named to the committee, which reported on 9 Mar. He voted for inquiry into alleged electoral malpractice by Leicester corporation, 15 Mar., and on 10 Apr. got leave to introduce a bill to prevent the use of municipal funds for electoral purposes. The next day he said that he would not obstruct a threatened inquiry into the claim of some Northampton residents that their names had been fraudulently attached to the anti-corporation petition. His bill passed the Commons, 21 May, but was rejected on its third reading in the Lords, 13 June.17 He supported Althorp’s motion for inquiry into the possibility of reducing the duration and expense of county polls, 15 Mar., but urged him to extend its scope to include boroughs, pointing out that the Northampton poll had dragged on for eight days. He was appointed to the select committee, 5 Apr. He voted for Catholic relief, 6 Mar., and for the production of information on the Lisburn Orange procession, 29 Mar. On 9 Mar. he supported as the lesser of two evils Wolryche Whitmore’s proposal for a protecting price for corn of 50s. rather than 60s., though he preferred a fixed duty; and on 27 Mar. he was in Hume’s minority of 16 for a gradual reduction of the duty to 10s. He voted for investigation of the mutiny at Barrackpoor, 22 Mar., the opposition motion to withhold supplies until the uncertainty over a new ministry had been resolved, 30 Mar., and inquiries into the Irish miscellaneous estimates and chancery delays, 5 Apr. 1827. He was in the minority of 15 against the Wellington ministry’s proposed vote for 30,000 seamen, 11 Feb. 1828. On 21 Feb. he gave qualified support to Davies’s election polls bill: while he did not think it would provide ‘a complete and practical remedy’, he had not wished to risk his silence, as a member of the committee, being construed as an admission of the validity of the objections raised to it. He urged Davies to postpone the second reading, 3 Mar., though he said he was prepared to put the case for the bill in committee. He voted for repeal of the Test Acts, 26 Feb., presented three favourable petitions from Dissenters, 11 Mar., and voted for Catholic relief, 12 May. He was in the minorities on chancery delays, 24 Apr., recovery of penalties under the customs and excise regulations, 1 May, and civil list pensions, 20 May. Soon afterwards the duke of Wellington, seeking to strengthen his ministry in the Commons after the defection of the Huskissonites, sought to recruit Maberly as clerk of the ordnance. The king was agreeable, and Maberly was sounded, but he must have declined the offer.18 He presented Northampton petitions against the friendly societies bill, 30 May, and voted for the Irish assessment of lessors bill, 12 June, and inquiry into the Irish church, 24 June, and against the additional churches bill, 30 June 1828. Maberly’s only known votes in the 1829 session were for Catholic emancipation, 6, 30 Mar., and the transfer of East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 5 May. He was scarcely more active in the following session, when he voted against the grant for the navy pay office, 22 Mar., the Bathurst and Dundas pensions, 26 Mar., and the ordnance estimates, 29 Mar.; for Jewish emancipation, 5 Apr., 17 May, and for reform of Irish vestries, 27 Apr. It was almost certainly his father who voted for the production of information on privy councillors’ emoluments, 14 May 1830.

Maberly did not seek re-election for Northampton at the 1830 general election, and failed to find a seat elsewhere.19 Shortly before the fall of the Wellington ministry, when he was in Ireland with his regiment, he married Katherine Prittie, a member of the Irish Whig aristocracy, and a kinswoman of Lord Duncannon*, the opposition whip; she brought him an Irish estate. The Grey administration wished to appoint him to a place at the ordnance, but were at a loss to find him a seat. As soon as the Evesham election was declared void, 13 Dec. 1830, John Maberly issued an address declaring his son a candidate for the anticipated by-election as a supporter of the new ministry ‘in all its measures tending to promote economy, reduction of taxation, reform of Parliament, and non-interference in the domestic affairs of other states’. However, the Tory opposition exploited in the House the blatant corruption exposed by the election committee’s investigation, and the issue of a new writ was cancelled, 16 Dec. 1830.20 Maberly was nevertheless appointed surveyor-general of the ordnance in January 1831, when John Hobhouse*, noting that his and other ordnance appointments were ‘generally disapproved’, uncharitably surmised that he must have solicited the place, for ‘how else would he have had it’.21 At the end of March he was approached by the corporation of Queenborough to stand there at the next general election on the ordnance interest; but a few days later the 2nd Earl Grosvenor contacted Duncannon offering to bring him in on a vacancy for Shaftesbury. He was returned unopposed, 19 Apr. 1831, too late to be able to vote against Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment to the reform bill that night. Parliament was dissolved only four days later, and at the general election Maberly was returned again for Shaftesbury after a contest.22

As a minister, he voted steadily for the reintroduced reform bill, though he was in the minority for the disfranchisement of Saltash in the confused division of 26 July 1831. When speaking in favour of the passage of the bill, 20 Sept., he answered objections raised to its provisions for the mechanics of polling, defended it as a necessary and final corrective to the defects which time had wrought on the constitution and argued that far from being ‘democratic and revolutionary’, it was ‘quite aristocratic in principle’, and would be found to be so in practice from ‘being framed with a view rather to property than to numbers’. On departmental business, he joined in tributes to the ‘ability and economy’ of the previous board of ordnance, 27 June. He had something to say on the Irish miscellaneous estimates, 18 July. He voted with his colleagues on the Dublin election controversy, 23 Aug., and for Lord Ebrington’s confidence motion, 10 Oct. 1831. He was appointed to the renewed select committee on the East India Company, 27 Jan. 1832. He was a steady, though silent supporter of the revised reform bill in the 1832 session, when he also divided with his fellow ministers on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., 12, 16, 20 July, relations with Portugal, 9 Feb., the navy civil departments bill, 6 Apr., the motion for an address asking the king to appoint only ministers who would carry undiluted reform, 10 May, and the Irish, 25 May, and Scottish reform bills, 1 June. On the navy estimates, 13 Feb., he defended the state of the buildings in the Cork depot. He explained the government’s attempt to present the ordnance estimates ‘in a constitutional and efficient manner’, 22 Feb.; corrected Hume’s misapprehension about the role of the Royal Military College, 28 Mar.; advocated a reduction in the enormous dead weight burden of military pensions, 2 Apr., and apportioned all the credit for reductions in the Irish ordnance establishment to the Grey ministry, 2 July. He was appointed to the committee of secrecy on the Bank, 22 May 1832.

In November 1832 Maberly, who was showing an interest in church reform ‘for the sake of the church itself’, was made clerk of the ordnance. At the general election the following month he was returned with government backing for Chatham after a contest with a disgruntled Liberal. He was also nominated for Abingdon by the supporters of his now financially ruined father in a vain attempt to prevent the seat falling into Conservative hands.23 He vacated his Chatham seat in 1834 to take a customs place, and two years later was appointed joint-secretary to the post office, where he remained for 18 years before being moved to the audit office. At the post office he was frequently at loggerheads with Rowland Hill†, whom he despised, and for whose reforming schemes he had little time; but he was hardly unique in his resistance to the introduction of the penny postage, and in fact helped to implement a number of improvements in the office and had an ability to select talented men for executive positions.24 Trollope, who crossed his path there, did not get on with him; but the novelist and journalist Edmund Yates, who was appointed to a clerkship in his department in 1847, denied that he was ‘cruel and unjust’:

Though he was always pleasant to me after a fashion, his chief characteristic was ... indifference. He liked his station at the post office, he liked the salary which it gave him, he was fond of money, and he went through the work; but he was an Irish landlord ... married to a beautiful and brilliant lady, who wrote fashionable novels and went into society, so he had much besides the post office to occupy his thoughts ... [He was] a clear-headed man of business, inclined to let matters run in their ordinary groove, detesting all projects of reform, and having an abiding horror of Rowland Hill ... He was with me generally easily good-natured, but he could assume an air of hauteur and be uncommonly unpleasant sometimes.25

Maberly’s lively and indiscreet wife, who published half a dozen novels, was sometimes an embarrassment to him, never more so than in 1846-7, when the ‘ridiculous and unbecoming’, though apparently platonic liaison into which her charms had betrayed Duncannon (then 4th earl of Bessborough and old enough to know better) caused tongues to wag and threatened to interfere with his ability to perform his duties as Irish viceroy in the new Russell ministry. His premature death in May 1847 possibly prevented a scandal over Mrs. Maberly’s suspected meddling in government business and patronage.26

She died in 1875. Maberly himself, who enjoyed pensions from both the post office and the audit office, died at his London home at 23 Gloucester Place, Portman Square in February 1885. By his will, dated 31 Mar. 1876, he left all his property to his brother Evan Maberly. By a second codicil (15 Apr. 1879), he left annuities of £50 to two married women in Paris and the daughter of one of them, and to Emma Rosanna Harding (usually known as Bingham) of 353 Edgware Road.

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: David R. Fisher


  • 1. William Anson Robert, bap. 21 Sept. 1838 at St. Marylebone, Mdx. (IGI).
  • 2. Althorp Letters, 101-2; Northampton Borough Recs. ii. 510; Northampton Mercury, 5, 12 Feb., 4, 11, 18 Mar.; Leicester Jnl. 11 Feb. 1820.
  • 3. Northampton Mercury, 2 Dec. 1820, 20 Jan.; The Times, 2 Feb. 1821.
  • 4. The Times, 1 Mar. 1821.
  • 5. Pol. Economy Club (1921), 2, 5, 6, 12, 15.
  • 6. Overstone Corresp. i. 158, 160, 165, 173, 179, 184.
  • 7. The Times, 5 Feb. 1822.
  • 8. Ibid. 30 Apr. 1822.
  • 9. Ibid. 30 Apr. 1823.
  • 10. Ibid. 1 May 1823.
  • 11. Ibid. 25 Feb. 1823.
  • 12. Northants. RO, Agar Ellis diary.
  • 13. The Times, 22 May 1824.
  • 14. Keele Univ. Lib. Sneyd mss SC8/79; Nottingham Univ. Lib. Denison diary, 10 Feb. 1826.
  • 15. Northampton Borough Recs. ii. 510-11; Althorp Letters, 128-9; Northampton Mercury, 10, 17, 24 June 1826.
  • 16. The Times, 15, 22 Feb.; Gurney diary, 21 Feb. 1827; Add. 40392, f. 303; 40393, ff. 60, 62.
  • 17. The Times, 11, 12 Apr. 1827; CJ, lxxxii. 405, 422; LJ, lix. 403.
  • 18. Wellington Despatches, iv. 455; Arbuthnot Jnl. ii. 189-91; Add. 40307, f. 138.
  • 19. The Times, 20 July 1830.
  • 20. Add. 76373, Althorp to Grey [12 Dec.]; Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale, 12 Dec.; The Times, 15 Dec. 1830; Croker Pprs. ii. 106.
  • 21. Add. 56555, f. 80.
  • 22. Three Diaries, 46; St. Deiniol’s Lib. Glynne-Gladstone mss 197, T. to J. Gladstone, 29 Mar.; 521, Capel to T. Gladstone, 1 Apr.; Grey mss, Durham to Grey, 8 Apr.; Dorset Co. Chron. 21 Apr., 5 May 1831.
  • 23. Brougham mss, Maberly to unknown, 19 Nov.; The Times, 14, 28 Dec.; Berks. Chron. 15 Dec. 1832.
  • 24. H. Robinson, Britain’s Post Office, 136, 143, 155, 157, 163, 171; British Post Office, 287, 325, 327, 335, 336, 363-4; cf. Oxford DNB.
  • 25. A. Trollope, Autobiog. (1883), i. 59; E. Yates, Mems. of a Man of the World, 63-65.
  • 26. Oxford DNB; Lieven-Palmerston Corresp. 70; Disraeli Letters, iv. 1284; v. 1784, 1975, 1981; Greville Mems. v. 338, 339-40, 356, 446, 448; D. Howell-Thomas, Duncannon, 263, 314-16.