MANNING, William (1763-1835), of Coombe Bank, nr. Sevenoaks, Kent

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



14 Feb. 1794 - 1796
1796 - 1806
1806 - 1818
1818 - 1820
5 June 1821 - 1826
1826 - 1830

Family and Education

b. 1 Dec. 1763, o. surv. s. of William Manning, W.I. merchant, of 15 St. Mary Axe, London and Elizabeth, da. and h. of John Ryan of St. Kitts and Santa Cruz. m. (1) 23 Oct. 1786, Elizabeth (d. 29 Mar. 1789), da. of Abel Smith†, banker, of Nottingham, 2da. (1 d.v.p.); (2) 12 July 1792, Mary, da. of Henry Lannoy Hunter, barrister, of Beech Hill, Reading, Berks., 4s. (1 d.v.p.) 4da. (1 d.v.p.). suc. fa. 1791. d. 17 Apr. 1835.

Offices Held

Dir. Bank of England 1792-1810, 1814-31, dep. gov. 1810-12, gov. 1812-14; agent, St. Vincent 1792-1806, Grenada 1825-31; pres. London Life Assurance 1817-30.

Vol. London and Westminster light horse 1797; capt. Bank of England vols. 1798, maj. 1801, lt.-col. 1803.


Manning, a West India proprietor, headed the leading mercantile house of Mannings and Anderdon of 3 New Bank Buildings, where his partners in 1823 were his son-in-law John Lavincount Anderdon and his eldest son Frederick Manning.1 Throughout the 1820s he was an assiduous attender of West India merchants and planters’ committee meetings, and his business concerns accounted for much of his Commons activity. His other parliamentary preoccupation was the Bank of England, of which he was a director and former governor. His youngest son Henry Edward Manning, subsequently Cardinal Manning, the Roman Catholic primate, recalled

hearing him speak once in the House, from the second bench below the gangway, I fancy, on the opposition side; but how I cannot explain, for he supported the Tory government ... He spoke with arms folded, with perfect fluency, never recalling a word, with great clearness, and ... was listened to with great attention. It was very high speaking, but not oratory ... He was too refined, modest, and sensitive to make a display, or to overdo anything.2

At the dissolution in 1820 Manning was left without a seat, but he resumed his parliamentary career in June the following year, when he was again returned for Lymington by its patron Sir Harry Neale*. He took the oaths, 8 June, and voted with the Liverpool ministry against the omission of arrears from the duke of Clarence’s grant, 18 June, and a motion for economy and retrenchment, 21 June 1821.3 On 24 Jan. 1822 he told a meeting of West India merchants that the goverment’s proposed alteration to the sugar duties would ‘have the effect of a considerable tax upon a large proportion of the sugars imported’ and joined a delegation of protest to ministers, who in the event offered no more than a reduction in the duty on molasses.4 He voted against greater tax reductions, 11, 21 Feb., and abolition of one of the joint-postmasterships, 13 Mar. On 16 Feb. he presented the duke of Wellington with a silver shield recording his military triumphs, on behalf of an admiring coterie of bankers and merchants.5 He rebutted the complaints of agriculturists against the resumption of cash payments by the Bank, 18 Feb., and declared that if left free of government interference, the directors would have made the move earlier, 8 Mar. Since the Bank underwrote the risk of forgery, he thought it entitled to profit from dealing in public stocks, 11 Mar, and assured the House of the directors’ anxiety to take all precautions against counterfeiting of notes, 14 Mar.6 On 31 May he refuted a charge of ‘tyranny’ levelled against the Bank in a petition opposing the renewal of its charter. He blamed agricultural distress on overproduction, 1 Apr., and insisted that the privations of this interest paled into insignificance in comparison with the sufferings of those connected with the West Indies, for whom he sought relief, 17 May. On 26 Apr. he advised a meeting of the West India committee that a bill for the renewal of the West India Dock Company’s charter was unlikely to become law that session.7 He was in the minority against referral of the Calcutta bankers’ petition to a select committee, 4 July 1822.

Manning again justified the Bank’s monopoly, 18 Feb., and the terms on which it funded the military and naval pensions bill, 18 Apr. 1823.8 He secured returns from the trustees of Ramsgate harbour and defended Sir William Curtis* from a related charge of financial misconduct, 27 Feb. He voted against a reduction in the sinking fund, 13 Mar., repeal of the Foreign Enlistment Act, 16 Apr., and inquiry into the prosecution of the Dublin Orange rioters, 22 Apr. He presented petitions from the St. Vincent colonial assembly complaining of distress, 19 Mar., and from Antigua against proposed alterations to the sugar duties, 25 Mar., when he presented another from his constituency complaining of the duty on coals.9 He was appointed to a West India planters’ subcommittee to implement resolutions for improving slave conditions, 25 Apr.10 On 9 June he was among those delegated to lobby the premier for a £5,000,000 government loan to support the plantations, which was refused.11 He presented a petition against the bill for consolidating the Slave Trade Acts, 11 June.12 He divided against reform of the Scottish representative system, 2 June, inquiry into the currency, 12 June, and the reciprocity of duties bill, 4 July 1823. He denied that the Bank of England was obliged to provide figures for the number of notes in circulation, 11, 19 Feb. 1824, and characterized a subsequent call for such accounts as interference, 6 May 1825.13 He presented a petition from Lloyd’s underwriters against the marine insurance bill, 27 May 1824, and endorsed it the following day.14 He was appointed to a subcommittee of West India planters on the sugar duties, 21 Jan 1824, and called for that commodity to be admitted for use in distilleries in preference to foreign grain, as ‘no class was more depressed’ than the West India proprietors, 8 Mar.15 He secured accounts of bounties and drawbacks on all British exports, 11 Mar.16 On 16 Mar. he contended that West India slaves were ‘a contented and happy people ... much better off than the lower class in England’, but indicated his support for a gradual extension of their rights. He insisted that he had never seen ‘exorbitant punishment’ used on the plantations, 10 June, and voted against inquiry into the prosecution of the Methodist missionary John Smith for inciting a slave rebellion in Demerara, 11 June 1824. Regarding the expulsion of another missionary from Barbados, he denied that colonists were opposed to slaves receiving religious instruction, 28 June 1825. He moved the second reading of a bill to incorporate the West India Company, 10 Mar. 1824, and after it had foundered in committee, reintroduced it, 21 Mar. 1825.17 When it ran into opposition from Fowell Buxton, he complained that the anti-slavery lobby had ‘paralysed the whole of the transactions between Great Britain and the West Indies’, 29 Mar. He secured its third reading by 103-25, 16 May, and it received royal assent, 5 July 1825 (6 Geo. IV, c. 197). He presented petitions from the London Dock Company (of which his son Charles was a director) against the St. Katharine’s Docks bill, 30 Mar., 5 Apr., and the South London Docks bill, 3 May 1824, brought up others in similar terms, 11 Mar. 1825, and unsuccessfully divided the House against the former, 24 Mar. 1825.18 He voted for suppression of the Catholic Association, 25 Feb., paired against Catholic relief, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., and divided against it, 10 May 1825. In a rare stand against ministers, he voted for repeal of the assessed taxes, 3 Mar., but he was back in their majorities in support of the duke of Cumberland’s annuity bill, 30 May, 6, 10 June 1825. In January 1826 he was appointed to a planters’ defence committee for resisting anticipated legislation against the West Indies.19 He endorsed a London merchants’ petition on distress and urged an exchequer bill issue, 23 Feb. He believed that a general return of the amount of notes in circulation ‘would tend rather to mislead than inform the House’, 27 Feb, but welcomed a commission to investigate commercial distress the following day. On 20 Mar. he secured a return on lunatic asylums.20 He drew attention to the efforts of the Antiguan colonial assembly to ameliorate conditions for slaves, 14 Apr., and rejected the claims of an abolitionist pamphleteer as an exaggeration, 20 Apr. 1826.

At the 1826 general election Manning was expected to offer for Wallingford, but he lost interest before he had even made a canvass.21 Instead he came forward for the venal borough of Penryn, where he was introduced by his son-in-law partner Anderdon, who had been an unsuccessful candidate in 1818. After a contest he was returned with another London merchant, but it did not prove to be a secure berth.22 In a petition lodged by a defeated rival, 27 Nov., Manning was accused of bribery and treating, and although a committee cleared him and confirmed his return, they found sufficient evidence of corruption to justify proceedings against the borough, 9 Mar. 1827. He protested at the borough’s proposed disfranchisement on account of the ‘misconduct of a few individuals’, 28 Mar., and campaigned steadily for a reprieve thereafter. He presented a constituency petition in these terms, 18 May, and complained that the electors were being made to suffer for the sins of their forebears, 28 May, when he voted against the second reading of the disfranchisement bill.23 He successfully moved that a constituent incarcerated in Newgate for giving false evidence to the Penryn election committee receive a reprimand at the bar of the House, 1 June, and thereby secured his release, 6 June.24 Next day he seconded a wrecking amendment and was a minority teller against the third reading of the disfranchisement bill, which subsequently foundered in the Lords. He paired against Catholic relief, 6 Mar. 1827, 12 May 1828. On behalf of the Bank directors, he disclaimed responsibility for an ‘extraordinary circular letter’, 30 May 1827.25 On 7 Jan. 1828 Sir Henry Hardinge* informed Wellington that Manning, though ‘more disposed to support than oppose’ the ailing Goderich administration, was conscious of the premier’s ‘great loss of character’ and desirous of ‘a reconciliation or change by which your grace and Mr. Peel may be at the head of affairs’.26 He spoke against the reintroduction of the bill to disfranchise Penryn, 28 Jan., and presented a hostile inhabitants’ petition, 7 Mar. He contended that by the admission of one of its framers, the original petition against his return had been nothing more than a ‘base conspiracy’ and complained that the proposed transfer of its seats to Manchester had prejudiced their case, 14 Mar. He called for an extension of the borough’s franchise to the neighbouring hundred, 24 Mar., and protested against its fate being linked to that of East Retford, 12 May. After the bill fell in the Lords, he called for an account of the costs incurred by the investigation, 17 July. (Wellington had refused his request for treasury assistance for witnesses’ expenses, 7 July.)27 Manning was named to a planters’ delegation to urge the case for a reduction in the sugar duties on the new ministry, 8 Feb.28 He moved that correspondence concerning slavery in India be placed before the House, 12 Mar., and when Brougham suggested a bill to render slave evidence admissible in West Indian courts, 9 June, asserted that such was already the case. He spoke in support of the continuation of the Slave Consolidation Act governing the traffic in slaves between islands, 1 July. Alarmed at the number of anti-slavery petitions calling for a commercial boycott, he portrayed the West India trade as ‘an extensive and valuable nursery for seamen’, 17 July. He voted against repeal of the Test Acts, 26 Feb. He wanted the circulation of Scottish banknotes to be restricted to that country, 16 June, and secured information on the number of prosecutions for coin counterfeiting during the previous decade, 1 July. He divided against ordnance reductions, 4 July 1828.

In late February 1829 Planta, the patronage secretary, predicted that Manning would vote ‘with government’ for Catholic emancipation, and he paired accordingly, 6 Mar. No other parliamentary activity has been found for that year, which may have been owing to business difficulties. In making a provision of £1,000 for his son Henry on his coming of age, 18 Aug. 1829, he regretted that ‘from the very unfavourable alteration in West India affairs I cannot at present do more for you’ and advised, ‘Your future success in life must depend upon your own exertions’.29 Shortly before this he had joined the council of King’s College, London.30 He was back in the House to vote against the transfer of East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 11 Feb., and paired against the enfranchisement of Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, 23 Feb. 1830. He moved for returns of customs duties on West Indian sugar and other merchandise, 30 Mar., and rum imports, 29 Apr. He voted against reduction of the grant for South American missions, 7 June. On 14 June he complained of government indifference to the tribulations of the West India interest and warned that the measures of relief in contemplation would come too late for many. He ruefully reminded Huskisson of his decision to allow the import of sugar from Mauritius during his spell as president of the board of trade, but nonetheless supported his motion for a general reduction in the duties, 21 June. Describing the package of relief offered by Goulburn, the chancellor of the exchequer, as ‘very inadequate’, he announced that he would vote for Lord Chandos’s motion for a larger remission of the sugar duties, 30 June. On 13 July he denounced Brougham’s attempt to agitate the question of colonial slavery so late in the session and suggested that he go the West Indies to view at first hand ‘the comforts which the negro population enjoy and the protection that is afforded to their persons and property’. He objected to the printing of an anti-slavery petition and suggested that many of their proponents knew little of the subject, 20 July 1830.

At the 1830 dissolution Manning retired from Penryn. He did not seek election elsewhere. A note to his son Henry on 19 June 1830 had referred, somewhat obliquely, to ‘the trials to which I may be exposed in the remainder of my life’ and his hope ‘that our prospects may improve’.31 His difficulties were rooted in the long term decline of the West India trade. Henry later observed that

from 1820 to 1830 he had great cares, which ended at last in complete ruin. During those years he was in London most days in the week. When he came down to Coombe Bank he was worn and weary. He was fond of fishing, and would stand for hours by the water at Coombe Bank. He used to tell me that his chief delight was the perfect quiet after the strain and restlessness of London.32

Apparently Mannings’s house had first run into trouble in 1823, when they obtained a loan of £60,000 from Smith, Payne and Smith, the banking firm to which he was connected through his first marriage.33 Diversification and expansion was his formula for commercial survival, and he became deputy governor of the Australian Agricultural Association in 1826 and was one of a syndicate of leading merchants who lobbied Huskisson for exclusive trading rights with New Zealand at around the same time.34 In 1828 Mannings and Anderdon speculatively purchased estates on St. Kitts, prompting the planter Charles Pinney to observe that ‘they may make a considerable sum by this ... but unless one of the firm come out to judge of local circumstances, etc., they may lose considerably’. Less equivocally, he predicted that a similar acquisition on Nevis would ‘never return one shilling’.35 In April 1831 Manning was reported by Maria Edgeworth to be seeking a buyer for his ‘beautiful’ Coombe Bank estate and it was sold later that year.36 As he explained to his daughter Mary Carey, 27 July 1831, the price of sugar had fallen by two-thirds since he had purchased the property in 1813. ‘Could I have foreseen all this’, he lamented, ‘I would have lived in a nutshell rather than have exposed my family to their present difficulties’.37 To his wife’s niece Mary Sargent he confided that his annual income had stood at £25,000 in 1810 and blamed his subsequent descent to the brink of ‘calamity’ on ‘the total neglect of the West India colonies by every succeeding administration, and their allowing the foreign slave trade to be carried on’. His outgoings for the previous year, he added defensively, ‘did not exceed £2,700’.38 Mannings and Anderdon ceased trading, 30 July, and were declared bankrupt, 5 Sept. 1831, when their balance sheets revealed debts of at least £374,372. Their chief creditors were the brokers Kemble and Son of Mincing Lane, on whose behalf the commissioners uncovered considerable assets, including property in Antigua, Monserrat, St. Kitts, Nevis, Trinidad and St. Croix, and debts due to the bankrupts of £187,395.39 Henry, who witnessed his father’s surrender of his gold watch and seals, recalled that he felt the humiliation ‘like a wound’ and had once told him, ‘I have belonged to men with whom bankruptcy was synonymous with death’.40 Relatives subscribed to provide him with an income and in his reduced circumstances he found solace in religion.41 In October 1832 he made a convalescent trip to Bath and reported that his finances were reasonably stable.42 He lived for a time at Tillington, Sussex, but died in London in Upper Gower Street in April 1835.43 In his will, dated 20 Oct. 1832, he left £500 to his wife and the same sum to her brother in repayment of an advance, and registered ‘deep regret’ that ‘since my misfortunes in trade it has become impossible for me to add to the provision already made for my dear children’, to whom he bequeathed £50 each to purchase a ring as a memento.44 His sons Frederick and Charles nevertheless both died in relative prosperity in 1880, while Henry, prevented from pursuing an intended career in politics, eventually wore a cardinal’s hat.45

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Authors: Philip Salmon / Howard Spencer


  • 1. V.L. Oliver, Hist. Antigua, ii. 232-3.
  • 2. E.S. Purcell, Life of Cardinal Manning, i. 7-8.
  • 3. The Times, 9 June 1821.
  • 4. Inst. of Commonwealth Stud. M915/2/2.
  • 5. Bodl. MS. Eng. lett. c. 651, ff. 368, 370.
  • 6. The Times, 15 Mar. 1822.
  • 7. Inst. of Commonwealth Stud. M915/4/1.
  • 8. The Times, 19 Apr. 1823.
  • 9. Ibid. 20, 26 Mar. 1823.
  • 10. Inst. of Commonwealth Stud. M915/4/1.
  • 11. Ibid. M915/2/2.
  • 12. The Times, 12 June 1823.
  • 13. Ibid. 7 May 1825.
  • 14. Ibid. 28 May 1824.
  • 15. Inst. of Commonwealth Stud. M915/4/1.
  • 16. The Times, 12 Mar. 1824.
  • 17. Ibid. 22 Mar. 1825.
  • 18. Ibid. 31 Mar., 6 Apr., 4 May 1824, 12, 25 Mar. 1825.
  • 19. Inst. of Commonwealth Stud. M915/4/1.
  • 20. The Times, 21 Mar. 1826.
  • 21. Berks. Chron. 25 Mar.; Reading Mercury, 10, 17 Apr. 1826; Berks. RO, Wallingford borough recs. W/AEp 8, election handbills, 22 Mar.-6 Apr. 1826.
  • 22. West Briton, 2, 9 June; R. Cornw. Gazette, 3, 10, 17 June 1826.
  • 23. The Times, 19 May 1827.
  • 24. Ibid. 1, 2, 7 June 1827.
  • 25. Ibid. 31 May 1827.
  • 26. Wellington mss WP1/913/8.
  • 27. Bodl. MS. Eng. lett. c. 651, f. 378.
  • 28. Inst. of Commonwealth Stud. M915/4/1.
  • 29. Bodl. MS. Eng. lett. c. 651, f. 388.
  • 30. W.R. Williams, Worcs. MPs, 155.
  • 31. Bodl. MS. Eng. lett. c. 651, f. 392.
  • 32. Purcell, i. 8.
  • 33. Bodl. MS. Eng. lett. c. 651, f. 405.
  • 34. Add. 38763, f. 99.
  • 35. R. Pares, West Indian Fortune, 310-11.
  • 36. Edgeworth Letters, 517; Purcell, i. 71.
  • 37. Bodl. MS. Eng. lett. c. 651, f. 396.
  • 38. Ibid. f. 402.
  • 39. Oliver, ii. 235; R.B. Sheridan, ‘West India Sugar Crisis and British Slave Emancipation, 1830-1833’, Jnl. Econ. Hist. xxi (1961), 543-4.
  • 40. Bodl. MS. Eng. lett. c. 652, f. 62; Purcell, i. 71.
  • 41. Bodl. MS. Eng. lett. c. 651, ff. 399, 400.
  • 42. Ibid. c. 652 f. 1.
  • 43. Purcell, i. 71; Gent. Mag. (1835), i. 667.
  • 44. PROB 11/1847/308; IR26/1391/156.
  • 45. The Times, 17 Jan., 30 Nov., 4 Dec. 1880.