PHILLIMORE, Joseph (1775-1855), of Doctors' Commons and Shiplake House, nr. Henley-on-Thames, Oxon.

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



17 Mar. 1817 - 1826
1826 - 1830

Family and Education

b. 14 Sept. 1775, 1st s. of Rev. Joseph Phillimore of Kensington, Mdx., vic. of Orton-on-the-Hill, Leics., and Mary, da. and coh. of John Machin of Kensington. educ. Westminster 1789; Christ Church, Oxf. 1793, BCL 1800, DCL 1804. m. 19 Mar. 1807, Elizabeth, da. of Rev. Walter Bagot, rect. of Blithfield and Leigh, Staffs., 7s. (2 d.v.p.) 2da. (1 d.v.p.). suc. fa. 1831. d. 24 Jan. 1855.

Offices Held

Adv. Doctors’ Commons 1804; commr. for disposal of Prussian ships 1806, Danish ships 1807; judge of Cinque Ports 1809; regius professor of civil law, Oxf. Univ. 1809-d.; chan. diocese of Oxford 1809, of Worcester 1834, of Bristol 1842; member, bd. of control Feb. 1822-Feb. 1828; principal commr. French claims (under treaties of 1815 and 1818) 1833; admiralty adv. 1834-d.; commissary, St. Paul’s 1834; pres. registration commn. 1836; judge, consistory ct. of Gloucester 1846.

Ensign, R. Marylebone vol. inf. 1803, lt. 1805, maj., lt.-col. 1807.


Phillimore, who was described by a fellow Oxford professor in 1826 as ‘that everlasting meddler’,1 was an experienced and able civilian, with a reputation for eloquence. He was well connected but relatively impoverished, even though his wife’s kinswoman Mrs. Fulke Greville Howard had settled £500 a year on her.2 One of the Grenvillite parliamentary squad, he was again returned for St. Mawes by its head, the fat and odious 2nd marquess of Buckingham, at the general election of 1820; but he continued to take his political cue from Buckingham’s cousin Charles Williams Wynn, Member for Montgomeryshire, a close personal friend since their university days.3

He joined Williams Wynn in voting against the Liverpool ministry on the appointment of an additional Scottish baron of exchequer, 15 May 1820. He is not known to have done so on any other occasion that session and, in accordance with Buckingham’s wishes, he evidently sided with them for the appointment of a secret committee on Queen Caroline’s case, 26 June.4 He agreed that the duties of an Irish master in chancery were incompatible with membership of the Commons, but thought it only ‘just’ to give Thomas Ellis, the new Member for Dublin, a choice between the two, 30 June. He supported Williams Wynn’s attempts to have Sir William Manners† punished for defying the order to appear before the Grantham election committee (of which Phillimore was a member), 5, 10 July. On the 12th, in the absence of its chairman, he secured by 66-60 the adoption of a resolution outlawing the practice of paying out-voters under colour of indemnification for loss of time, observing that if it was rejected, ‘the House would open a door through which corruption would soon make alarming inroads’. His hobby horse was liberalization of the marriage laws. On 4 May he got leave to introduce a bill, essentially the same as the one which he had unsuccessfully promoted in 1819, to amend the Act of 1753 for preventing clandestine marriages. He carried its report by 47-23, 30 June, and saw it to a third reading, 3 July.5 In a bid to ease its passage through the Lords, he discussed its details and possible amendments with Lord Holland. The ‘wily’ opposition of lord chancellor Eldon dished it, but Phillimore, heartened by Lord Liverpool’s admission that ‘considerable reform’ was needed, was determined to persevere.6 In mid-August 1820 he wrote to Buckingham dismissing Lord John Russell’s* public appeal to William Wilberforce* to renew his bid to settle the royal quarrel, and observing that

the queen’s partisans mainly rely on the effect they can produce by their ... daily intimidation on the electors, hoping through their instrumentality to make the electors subservient to their plans ... At all events, the government will have received a shock in the control of the House of Commons, which, constituted as they now are, they never can recover. Never ... do I remember so general an idea that there must be a change of ministry.

He was commended by Buckingham for his speech in the House, 18 Sept., when he attacked the queen’s supporters Sir Robert Wilson and Hobhouse for introducing ‘an ex-parte statement’ of her claims. During the trial he sent ‘daily bulletins’ to Williams Wynn in Wales.7 Informing Buckingham at second hand of the rowdy scenes in the Commons on the prorogation, 23 Nov., he said that ministers, having ‘done ... everything they ought not ... are irretrievably gone’; and at the turn of the year Sir Henry Hardinge* reported that Phillimore, who had continued to keep Williams Wynn abreast of developments in the saga, had told him that he ‘considered the present ministers as too unpopular to be of any further service, and that he thought an administration of which Lord Grey ought to be the chief, indispensable to the well being of the state under present circumstances’.8

On the eve of the 1821 session Phillimore, believing that the king’s right to exclude the queen’s name from the liturgy should not be challenged by Parliament and that if she was given the rumoured £50,000 a year she ought to drop her insistence on having a palace, sought Buckingham’s views on the best line for the Grenvillites:

Our situation as a party appears to be more critical than it has ever been. The ministers have condemned themselves with great imbecility and indecision, and the opposition distinguished themselves by their violence and intemperance; and under these circumstances we are looked upon as a rallying point between the two extremes ... [Ministers] very much encourage the idea that we are to support them, and to take office at or about Easter; but this is a mere ruse de guerre.9

Phillimore did not vote for the motions for restoration of Caroline’s name to the liturgy, but Buckingham’s toady William Fremantle* complained to the marquess that he and Williams Wynn were ‘decidedly disposed to the opposition’. Buckingham at first wished his Members to ‘stay away’ from the debate and division on the Whig censure motion, 6 Feb., reflecting that in any case Williams Wynn would ‘follow his own whim and Phillimore will follow him’; but when his uncle Lord Grenville urged him to support ministers, he instructed Phillimore to ‘attend and vote against’ the motion. A report that Phillimore was to make an excuse of his wife’s weakness after giving birth to their fifth son on the 5th proved false, and, like Williams Wynn, he duly voted with government.10 He voted silently for Catholic relief, 28 Feb. 1821, and took an active part behind the scenes in the subsequent attempts of its leading supporters, including Lord Castlereagh, the foreign secretary, to draft legislation which would have a chance of success.11 In the House, he played down the significance of a hostile petition from English Catholics, 16 Mar., and spoke in support of the amended oath and the proposed securities, 23, 28, 29 Mar.12 He was given leave to introduce another Marriage Act amendment bill, 14 Mar., but did not do so.13 He supported the compensation claims of American loyalists, 21 Mar. He voted against parliamentary reform, 9 May, but for mitigation of the punishment for forgery, 23 May. He was involved in successful legislation to amend the salvage regulations, guiding two bills into law, 2 July (1 and 2 Geo. IV, cc. 75, 76).14 He endorsed and was a minority teller for Williams Wynn’s motion, 31 May, for James Stephen to be heard on behalf of the slaves affected by Maxwell’s removal bill, which he condemned the following day as ‘unjust and oppressive’. Like Williams Wynn, he voted for inquiry into the administration of justice in Tobago, 6 June, but with ministers for the duke of Cumberland’s grant, 18 June. He said that William Smith’s proposed reforms of the laws governing Dissenters’ marriages were ‘calculated to destroy ... [the] reverence and sanctity’ of ceremonies, 8 June, and reminded the House that Catholics were obliged to be married by the forms of the Anglican as well as their own church, 27 June.15 He supported the appointment of Thomas Frankland Lewis* to the Irish revenue inquiry, 15 June. At the request of the dean of Westminster, he denied allegations that the fabric of the Abbey was being wastefully neglected, 2 July 1821.16

When serious negotiations began in December 1821 for a junction of the Grenvillites with government, Phillimore told Buckingham that although his dearest object was to replace Sir Christopher Robinson† as king’s advocate, he would settle for a seat at the India board under Williams Wynn (having already satisfied himself that this would be compatible with his professional practice), on the understanding that he would be made judge of the admiralty court when the 76-year-old Lord Stowell died or retired. Buckingham, who thought he was jealous of Fremantle, did not urge his pretensions on Liverpool, but Williams Wynn took them up, arguing that his ‘abilities and eminence in his profession are such as would render him infinitely more capable [than Robinson] of rendering useful service to the government both in and out of the House’, and suggesting that a place at the admiralty would suffice for the moment. Liverpool paid lip service to Phillimore’s ‘claims for professional advancement’, which would ‘receive a most favourable consideration’, but refused to commit himself on his suitability as king’s advocate and could offer no immediate opening for him. Williams Wynn restated his claims and told the premier that he would be ‘mortified’ if Phillimore, his closest personal and political associate, was excluded from the arrangement.17 In mid-January 1822 Liverpool reluctantly agreed to offer him a seat at one of the boards ‘if he discontinued the practice of his profession’, a condition which Williams Wynn, who believed that Liverpool had never forgiven Phillimore for voting for Grenville in the election for the chancellorship of Oxford University soon after being made regius professor, considered ‘a mere contrivance to negative it’. He persevered, and Liverpool gave Phillimore a place at the board of control with no restriction on his professional pursuits.18 Buckingham, who received a dukedom as his part of the bargain, organized his re-election for St. Mawes, though he had considered seeking a treasury seat for him so that he could accommodate his Buckinghamshire neighbour Sir Codrington Carrington*, who might otherwise pose a threat to his county interest. Williams Wynn scotched this notion, warning that in view of Liverpool’s personal aversion to Phillimore, such a request might damage his prospects of future professional promotion.19

Phillimore, who affected to disbelieve opposition claims that they had reached ‘an understanding’ with disgruntled Tory backbenchers, voted with his new colleagues against more extensive tax reductions, 21 Feb. 1822.20 According to Sir James Mackintosh*, he asked Lord Londonderry (Castlereagh) for permission to abstain on a motion of 28 Feb. for reduction of the salt tax, of which he had himself proposed the repeal in 1819. Londonderry ‘positively refused’ as the government was ‘too much pressed’, and Phillimore was ‘fool enough to tell this and imprudent enough not only to vote but even to speak against’ the reduction. Yet Buckingham assured him that he heard ‘on every side praises of your speech, and that it had considerable effect, both personally in your favour, and to the advantage of the government’.21 He was in the ministerial majority against abolition of one of the joint-postmasterships, 13 Mar. When Creevey, aiming at the Grenvillites, proposed inquiry into the board of control, 14 Mar., he accused Phillimore of self-serving inconsistency on the salt tax. Mackintosh thought it was ‘very amusing to see Phillimore’s friends in spite of themselves convulsed with laughter all around him’. He defended himself as best he could, but Hudson Gurney* considered it a ‘wretched’ performance.22 Phillimore was named to the select committee on the Calcutta bankers’ claims on the Nabob of Oude, for which he spoke, 4 July. After he had given notice in March of his intention to introduce a new Marriage Act amendment bill, to stipulate that marriages could only be annulled in future by a law suit, he was contacted by Lord Ellenborough who, with Holland and Lord Redesdale, had sketched a proposal which they hoped would get Eldon’s support. As he explained when seeking leave to introduce his bill, 27 Mar., in a speech which he had published, Phillimore modified his scheme in deference to the peers’ suggestions. He remained in close contact with Holland and Ellenborough during its passage through both Houses. Although Eldon raised difficulties and the bill was in fact comprehensively amended, he had to swallow it for the time being; it became law on 22 July 1822 (3 Geo. IV, c. 75).23 Phillimore attended a meeting of seven leading supporters of Catholic relief, 16 Apr., when it was decided not to move it that session.24 While he had misgivings about the wisdom of pressing Canning’s bill to relieve Catholic peers, he endorsed it as ‘a measure of retributive justice and Christian charity’, 10 May, and concluded privately that its passage through the Commons would prove beneficial to the main question.25 He expressed to Buckingham, who was critical of ministers’ tolerance towards their fractious country gentlemen, his pleasure that they were to make the attack on Williams Wynn’s brother’s appointment as envoy to Switzerland a ‘vital question’. This earned him a lecture from the duke, which was approved by Williams Wynn, on ‘the absurdity of the distinction of vital and indifferent points’. After the comfortable government victory, 16 May, Phillimore explained to Buckingham that the moderate tone of their critics had left ‘no opening for any of us’.26 He voted for Mackintosh’s plans for reform of the criminal code, 4 June. He was in the ministerial majorities on the lord advocate’s dealings with the Scottish press, 25 June, the salt tax, 28 June, the Canada bill, 18 July, and the Irish estimates, 22 July. He supported Wilberforce’s call for an address to the king outlawing the introduction of slavery to the Cape, 25 July. He presented a petition against the public house licensing system, 30 July 1822.27 In the aftermath of Londonderry’s suicide the following month Liverpool and Canning, his successor, proposed Williams Wynn’s removal from the cabinet to the Speakership, in order to accommodate Canning’s associate William Huskisson*. Buckingham threatened to sever his formal link with the ministry by obliging Phillimore and Fremantle to ‘make their option at the beginning of the session between their official situations and their seats’ unless he himself was given cabinet rank. The difficulty was smoothed over and Williams Wynn, who had no wish to create problems for Phillimore, stayed where he was.28 Buckingham remained in ill humour and in January 1823, after the failure of an application for a naval promotion, he told Phillimore, whom he had used as his messenger to the admiralty, that he would not attend the opening of Parliament: ‘It is early for the government to begin to mark its disinclination towards me, but this is a challenge which I shall always be ready to accept’.29

Phillimore was preoccupied with the damage inflicted by the Lords on his marriage bill, as he told Holland, 12 Dec. 1822:

The general impression of my friends is that I am pledged ... to bring in some amendment ... and that it will be advisable that I should do so lest the ground should be occupied by an enemy to the principle of the bill, who might avail himself of the absurd clamour which has been excited to revert entirely to the ancient state of things. My own idea of the amendments necessary is limited to the abolition of many of the absurd, vexatious and ill-digested regulations introduced with respect to marriages by licence by Lord Redesdale.30

He got leave to bring in a measure for that purpose, 5 Feb. 1823. It was given a second reading, 14 Feb., but Phillimore had to set it aside when an amendment bill was sent down from the Lords two weeks later. He did not oppose it, because it repealed the obnoxious 1822 changes, but regretted that it was ‘not a permanent and final regulation of the law’, 19 Mar. It received royal assent on 26 Mar. (4 Geo. IV, c. 17).31 Soon afterwards he was in communication with the English Catholic leader William Poynter about a measure to legalize Catholic marriages and baptisms. He presented Poynter’s petition for such a bill, 12 June, and on 8 July introduced one, which was printed for consideration.32 On 10 July he introduced a bill from the Lords to validate marriages solemnized by British army chaplains overseas, which became law on the 18th (4 Geo. IV, c. 91).33 He was in the ministerial majorities of March 1823 on taxation and the sinking fund. On the 24th he opposed Barry’s motion for papers on the prosecution of the Dublin Orange rioters and was a teller for the majority. A few days later Buckingham confided to Fremantle that at the next election he would turn Phillimore out of St. Mawes for Carrington.34 He voted for the Irish glebe houses grant, 11 Apr., spoke and was a government teller against repeal of the Foreign Enlistment Act, 16 Apr., and was in the ministerial majority against inquiry into the Dublin prosecutions, 22 Apr. He voted against Scottish parliamentary reform, 2 June, and the Scottish juries bill, 20 June. He explained the prize money distribution bill, 17 June.35 He was a teller for the minority against a proposal to consider the poor bill, 27 June, when he voted for repeal of the usury laws (as he did again, 8 Apr. 1824, 8, 17 Feb. 1825). He was a ministerial teller for the majority against an amendment to the East India mutiny bill, 11 July 1823.

He was not much in evidence in the House in 1824, when he voted against the production of information on Catholic office-holders, 19 Feb., reform of Edinburgh’s representation, 26 Feb., and the prohibition of flogging, 5 Mar. That month Buckingham ‘particularly’ requested him to attend to oppose Stuart Wortley’s bill to reform the game laws, assuming that ‘your habits and pursuits have probably not led you to form a decided opinion upon it’. When Phillimore disclosed that he approved of the bill, Buckingham grumbled that ‘I was in hopes to have had the assistance of my friends, whom I do not trouble often ... and still venture to hope that I shall not be deprived of yours’. Phillimore stood his ground. One of his sons wrote 50 years later that Buckingham ‘could not forgive’ him for his ‘conscientious vote’ on the bill.36 On 13 Apr. he obtained leave for a new measure to liberalize the regulations affecting English Catholic baptisms, marriages and funerals, but it got no further than its second reading.37 He divided with his colleagues in defence of the prosecution of the Methodist missionary John Smith in Demerara, 11 June, and for the Irish insurrection bill, 14 June 1824. Phillimore voted for the bill to suppress the Catholic Association, 25 Feb., and for Catholic relief, 1 Mar. 1825. He opposed and was a teller for the majority against Hume’s motion for a return of Anglican clergymen on English borough corporations, 17 Mar., as he was for the majority against a call for information on the Bengal army, 24 Mar. He voted for the Catholic relief bill, 21 Apr., 10 May, when he was a teller for the majority, and said that the Irish franchise bill was ‘calculated to do away a great abuse and to confer a lasting benefit on Ireland’, 22 Apr. He was reported to be in ‘the greatest dismay’ over Buckingham’s brother Lord Nugent’s* assertion that the duke disapproved of the cabinet’s decision to leave the relief bill to its fate in the Lords.38 He dismissed a petition complaining of oppression by Irish tithe collectors, 9 May, when he was named to the select committee on James Silk Buckingham’s grievances.39 On the Indian judges bill, 13 May, he advised retention of the crown’s power of dismissal. He divided for the duke of Cumberland’s grant, 30 May, 2, 6, 10 June. He moved the rejection of the St. Olave tithes bill, ‘a direct spoliation of private property’, and was a teller for the minority, 6 June. The following day he was one for the majority against the production of information on an alleged job in Calcutta, and on 9 June he acted in the same capacity for the majority in favour of the naval improvement bill. He supported a clause of the universities police bill providing for the summary imprisonment of prostitutes, 20 June.40 He voted for the spring guns bill, 21 June 1825. That day he replied with platitudinous civility to Buckingham’s letter informing him that he would not be returned for St. Mawes at the next general election. In September Williams Wynn, with whom Buckingham had also broken off political relations, assured Phillimore that when a decision on the timing of the dissolution was made he would urge his claims for a seat on Liverpool, but reminded him that even treasury seats did not come entirely free of charge.41 In March 1826 Lady Williams Wynn remarked that the exclusion of ‘Philly’ from Buckingham’s ‘parliamentary squad’ would be ‘a most serious misfortune to him’; and two months later the duke told Fremantle that he was ‘Wynn’s, not mine’.42 Phillimore voted with his colleagues in defence of the Jamaican slave trials, 2 Mar., and the salary of the president of the board of trade, 10 Apr., and against Edinburgh reform, 13 Apr., and a resolution condemning electoral bribery, 26 May. He praised the education given to East India Company writers at Haileybury, 16 Mar. He acquiesced in the introduction of Sykes’s bill to allow district freeholders to vote in county elections, but declined to pledge support, 26 Apr. He repudiated Silk Buckingham’s charges against the Indian government, arguing that unrestrained freedom of the press would undermine British rule, 9 May, and was a teller for the minority against inquiry. He complained of Lord John Russell’s tactics on this issue, 11 May 1826. At the general election the following month he was returned for Yarmouth on the Holmes interest, presumably under the auspices of the treasury. He still coveted Stowell’s judgeship, but Williams Wynn advised him in August 1826 that ‘his resignation seems an event as distant as at any time during the last five years’.43

Phillimore voted for Catholic relief, 6 Mar. 1827. He agreed to production of the papers on Doctors’ Commons moved for by Hume, 14 Mar., but repudiated his criticisms. He divided for the duke of Clarence’s annuity, 16 Mar., and was a teller for the majority against the furnishing of information on the mutiny at Barrackpoor, 22 Mar. He voted for the spring guns bill, 23 Mar. He was retained in his office by Canning, though one observer noted that it might soon provide ‘a sop for some more valuable adherent’.44 He voted with government against the disfranchisement of Penryn, 28 May, and for the grant for Canadian canals, 12 June. He defended the Coventry election committee, whose report had led to the bill to curb corporation interference in elections, 18 June. The following day he supported Smith’s Dissenters’ marriages bill. In the negotiations to settle Goderich’s ministry after Canning’s death he was promised the first available vacancy in ‘one of the great civil law offices’, so that Mackintosh could be given his place at the board of control; but when the duke of Wellington formed his ministry in January 1828 he discarded Williams Wynn and Phillimore, to the delight of the Whigs.45 At a cabinet dinner Phillimore was ranked third in ‘fitness’ for the post of king’s advocate behind Herbert Jenner, who was duly appointed (Stowell having retired from the bench to permit Robinson’s removal to the admiralty court) and the Whig Stephen Lushington, Member for Tregony. Fremantle told Buckingham that the ‘unlucky’ Phillimore had been ‘ruined’ by this turn of events.46

On 22 and 27 Feb. 1828 he obtained returns of information to underpin his planned motion for leave to introduce a bill to regulate the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of county courts, but they were so long in forthcoming that he had to give up the plan for that session. Supporting Brougham’s motion for inquiry into the common law, 29 Feb., he suggested possible changes to ecclesiastical jurisdiction; and on 25 Apr. he argued that clergymen were not qualified to preside in those courts. He voted for repeal of the Test Acts, 26 Feb., and on the 28th said that it would accelerate the accomplishment of Catholic relief, for which he voted, 12 May. He voted against the extension of the franchise at East Retford to the hundred of Bassetlaw, 21 Mar., and was in the minority in favour of the bill to transfer its seats to Birmingham, 27 June. On the Penryn disfranchisement bill, 24 Mar., he saw no reason to restrict polls there to two days. He handled the bill from the Lords to indemnify witnesses before their Penryn inquiry, 2, 3 Apr., when he supported Williams Wynn’s proposed reforms of the machinery for dealing with controverted elections. He was added to the select committee on borough polls, 15 Apr. He supported the claims on the East India Company of individuals injured by the malpractice of the registrar of Madras, 18 Apr. As he drifted into opposition, he voted in the minority of 58 for a lower pivot price for corn imports, 22 Apr. In May and July he introduced and saw through bills to cater for the incapacity of the terminally ill Liverpool as lord warden of the Cinque Ports (9 Geo. IV, cc. 37, 71). He suggested that the Irish admiralty jurisdiction could be incorporated into the English, 20 May. He supported the grant to Canning’s family, 22 May. He offered amendments to the rights of executors bill, but had reservations about extending it to Scotland, 4 June. He conceded that the Marylebone vestry required reform, but thought that Sir Thomas Baring’s bill would only confuse matters, 6 June. When Hume moved for information on the prerogative court, 4 June, Phillimore insisted that allegations of ‘defects and delays of justice’ were ‘utterly unfounded’. However, on the 16th he condemned the bill allowing the archbishop of Canterbury, the Speaker’s father, to insert a third life into the patent appointing his registrar as one which sought to ‘perpetuate sinecures’, and was a teller, with Hume, for the minority against the third reading. He got leave for a bill to regulate the office and give the efficient officials ‘ample remuneration’, 25 June, but Hume objected to it, 10 July, when it foundered. On 17 July, replying to the strictures of Hume and Harvey on the prerogative court, Phillimore said that in none was ‘justice more diligently, more expeditiously, or less expensively administered’. Next day he assured Hume that reports of inflated fees for its officials were exaggerated. He voted for inquiry into the Irish church, 24 June. His attack on British support for Dom Miguel in Portugal led to a clash with Peel, 30 June. That day he spoke and voted against the additional churches bill, and he presented a hostile petition from St. Pancras, 3 July. He supported and was a teller for the minority for inquiry into Baron de Bode’s claims, 1 July. He gave qualified support to the benefices resignation bill, 4 July. He voted against government on the corporate funds bill, 10 July, and the silk duties, 14 July 1828.

As he told his second surviving son, Robert Joseph, an Oxford undergraduate, he regarded the ministerial decision to concede Catholic emancipation as ‘a great triumph to us who have for so many years struggled for this great measure’.47 In the House, 23 Feb. 1829, he denied that it would infringe the Protestant constitution. After voting for Peel in the Oxford University by-election, he disputed claims, based on a petition presented by Buckingham’s son Lord Chandos, that undergraduate opinion was hostile to emancipation, 2 Mar. He encouraged Robert to help get up a counter-petition, which he wished to present himself, but advised him to desist when the authorities intervened to quash it. He voted for emancipation, which he felt was granted ‘in the true spirit of conciliation’, 6 Mar. He called for extra protection for the Church of Scotland, 23 Mar., but Peel said it was not necessary. He voted silently for the third reading of the relief bill, 30 Mar., having failed to find a ‘good opportunity’ of speaking in an inattentive House. He thought it would be ‘unjust’ and ‘pitiful’ to exclude Daniel O’Connell for refusing to swear the oath of supremacy and voted accordingly, 18 May.48 He was appointed to the select committees on the Irish admiralty court, 7 Apr., and claims on the Madras registrar, 5 May, when he voted for the transfer of East Retford’s seats to Birmingham. The following day he welcomed a proposed bill to oblige Members appointed to Indian posts to vacate their seats, as he did Sir John Nicholl’s plan to reform the ecclesiastical courts, 12 May, when he explained that his own scheme would have to be deferred because the information he had requested was still not to hand. He supported the third reading of Nicholl’s ‘useful’ measure, 5 June. He announced on the 3rd that he would next session seek to regulate the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of county courts. He approved ministers’ intention to deal with outstanding claims on the French government and urged special attention to de Bode’s, 28 May. He voted for a reduction of the hemp duties, 1 June. On 5 June 1829 he praised Williams Wynn’s improvement of the administration of justice in India.

Phillimore attended the debate on the address, 4 Feb. 1830, and took the view, which Williams Wynn endorsed, that ‘the division [was] most alarming to government’. Three weeks later he doubted to his son ‘whether they will survive the session’.49 He voted for the transfer of East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 11 Feb. and 5 Mar., when, invoking the spirits of Chatham, Pitt and Fox, he said that refusal to enfranchise such large towns would ‘amount to a species of infatuation’. (He did not, however, vote for Russell’s motion to enfranchise Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, 23 Feb.) He voted against government on Portugal, 10 Mar., the admiralty estimates, 22 Mar., taxation, 25 Mar., and the Bathurst and Dundas pensions, 26 Mar. He regretted ministers’ ‘vague and unsatisfactory’ response to his question about de Bode’s claims, 5 Apr., when he voted for Jewish emancipation, as he did again, 17 May. He spoke and voted in the minority of 16 against Ellenborough’s divorce bill, 6 Apr. On the 28th he expressed concern over the effect of increased stamp duties on law suitors, before speaking at length against government on the ‘act of insult and outrage’ committed against Portugal at Terceira. He was a teller for the opposition minority which, he told his son, did not reflect their ‘triumphant debate’.50 He voted with them on the treasury estimates, 10 May, privy councillors’ emoluments, 14 May, Irish first fruits, 18 May, the government of Canada, 25 May, the commercial state of Ceylon, 27 May, and the grants for diplomatic services, 7, 11 June, and for Prince Edward Island, 14 June. He paired for abolition of the death penalty for forgery, 24 May, voted for it, 7 June, and opposed a Lords’ amendment to the bill, 20 July. On 3 June he proposed inquiry into the divorce laws with the aim of facilitating divorce on the ground of adultery by ‘legal process in courts of competent jurisdiction’; his motion was defeated by 100-45. He secured returns of information on divorce cases, 15, 19 June. He reported at this time that ‘government has sunk into such insignificance in the House of Commons some persons think Lord Grey will be prime minister’.51 He condemned the Additional Churches Act for making the law ‘a dead letter’, 1 July, when he postponed ‘indefinitely’ his motion for reform of the ecclesiastical courts, which was now in the remit of the judicial commissioners. He spoke and voted against Hume’s proposal to reduce judges’ salaries, 7 July. On 9 July 1830 he divided against any increase in recognizances in libel cases.

Since the death of George IV Phillimore had been hunting for a seat at the impending general election. He received, he informed his son, ‘several offers’, but they were ‘all too expensive or too hazardous’. One such was from Norwich, where he was invited to stand ‘upon the Dissenting interest’; but Holland could not assist him, and in any case he shied at the estimated cost of £5,000, ‘a sum which I cannot command and which (hampered as I am by a numerous family) I should not be justified in spending on such an object’. Arundel was too ‘expensive and uncertain’, an approach to Lord Grosvenor about Shaftesbury proved unavailing and he dismissed suggestions that he should apply to the duke of Devonshire, Lord Fitzwilliam or Lord Anglesey, whom he did not know, merely on the strength of his recent voting record. He told Holland in mid-July that he had

little ... expectation of being returned ... I regret this exceedingly. There are several measures in progress and others likely to be introduced in which I take a deep interest. I have of late felt myself much less embarrassed in delivering my sentiments in the House than I used to be, and had just begun to think that my experience and information, such as they are, might not be without their use to those with whom I might act during the remainder of the present Parliament.52

In the last week of July he went (with his wife) on a fool’s errand to Stafford, where he found the ground occupied and the likely costs prohibitive. Williams Wynn later told him that this excursion had deterred his friends on the circuit from alerting him to a possible opening for £500 at Worcester.53 He conceived hopes of finding accommodation at Devonshire’s borough of Knaresborough or at Bletchingley on the interest of William Russell*; but Williams Wynn thought they were unrealistic, and in early August Phillimore told his son that it was ‘too late now to think of any borough till the meeting of Parliament, when it is just possible that some arrangement may be made’.54 He made an approach to Tennyson, one of the Members for Bletchingley, in the hope of securing his nephew Russell’s interest, but the change of ministry in November 1830 gave him further cause to lament his lack of a seat. He lost no time in telling Holland, a member of the new Grey ministry, of his pretensions to the post of king’s advocate, citing seniority in his profession, his ‘virtual’ possession of the place when the Goderich administration collapsed and the backing of the Huskissonite ministers Lord Palmerston* and Charles Grant*. Holland discouraged him, pointing out that if it was decided to remove Jenner, Lushington would have first claim on the government.55 A suggestion by lord chancellor Brougham that there was a chance of a free return for Beverley came to nothing, and there was another disappointment over an unspecified borough in early December 1830.56

Phillimore, who seems to have been rather alarmed by the reform bill, failed to find an opening at the general election of 1831.57 On 31 July his aged clergyman father died virtually penniless: the residue of personal estate sworn under £600 was less than £20.58 Phillimore added Reports of Cases in the Arches and Prerogative Courts of Canterbury, 1752-8 (1832-3) to his Reports of Cases in the Ecclesiastical Courts, 1809-23 (1818-27). At the dissolution in late 1832 he received an invitation from ‘electors ... of every shade and variety of party’ to stand for Marylebone, where the attorney-general William Horne* was one of the candidates. He consulted Williams Wynn, who doubted

whether a seat ... for a very large and extensive constituency and which consequently could not be vacated for office without much expense and hazard could be really desirable to you at the present moment ... I do not understand your scruples about [the Conservative William] Holmes’s* assistance. In the present situation of politics it would be in vain to hope for success in such a place ... without committing yourself to a decided line with one party or the other. Holmes is the parliamentary agent and whipper-in on one side ... and if you wished to have Conservative support you must apply to the agent of that party. Still ... in the present unsettled state of politics you are much better situated and have a greater probability of office by remaining out of Parliament than by coming in ... You are I think personally much indisposed to Peel and the other heads of the Conservative party, while your principles would not allow you to support the present administration. Are you not then better where you are, than to be put under the daily necessity of steering between them and probably pleasing neither party?

Phillimore declined to involve himself, on the pretext, as he told Brougham, that his intervention would lead to Horne’s defeat.59 He saw the possibility of a seat for Oxford in March 1833, but it escaped him.60 On Robinson’s death that month he applied for the admiralty judgeship, worth £2,300 a year, and was furious when, despite having the support of Brougham and Holland, he was passed over for the decrepit Nicholl.61 He did at least secure a place on the French claims commission. He renewed his bid to become king’s advocate in late September 1834, but was ‘astonished’ when, after he had been led to believe that the place was his, John Dodson* was preferred to him; he rightly suspected Brougham of ‘treachery’. After some acrimonious correspondence he was made admiralty advocate, and he held the post, which carried a nominal salary of £13 6s. 8d., until his death.62 Within a month he applied to Wellington, in temporary charge of affairs pending Peel’s arrival from Italy to form his first ministry, to have himself installed as king’s advocate, and hinted that he would like a treasury seat. He got a dusty answer from Peel.63 He remained short of money, and in 1837, still moaning that Brougham and Nicholl had cheated him out of the office of king’s advocate, he plagued Holland again with his pretensions to the admiralty judgeship, which were never fulfilled.64 He did, however, reach the bench of a minor ecclesiastical court in 1846.

He was devastated by the accidental death by drowning of his youngest son Richard, an Oxford undergraduate, in June 1843. Dr. Bliss of St. John’s noted that he had been ‘a youth of great promise, with all the abilities but more of steadiness than the Phillimores generally possessed’.65 Phillimore, who failed in his bid to be made a privy councillor in 1853, died at his home at Shiplake in January 1855.66 In his will, dated 22 Nov. 1852, he stipulated that he was not to be buried ‘in a coffin cased in lead or of any other material which may arrest the progress of natural dissolution’. He left a London leasehold house at 62 Gower Street to his wife, with reversion to his only surviving daughter Mary. He divided £4,000 charged on the Shiplake estate by his marriage settlement between her and four of his five sons. Shiplake went to his wife for life, with reversion to his eldest son John George Phillimore (1808-65), a jurist and Liberal Member for Leominster, 1852-7. By a codicil of 12 Aug. 1853 he left ground rents and buildings at Kensington to his youngest surviving son Augustus (1822-97), a naval officer.67 He was succeeded as admiralty advocate by Robert Joseph (1810-85), Liberal Member for Tavistock, 1853-7, who attained the honours which had eluded him, as queen’s advocate (1862), judge of the admiralty court and a privy councillor (1867) and temporary judge advocate (1871), and was created a baronet in 1881.68

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: David R. Fisher


  • 1. Add. 40342, f. 305.
  • 2. Williams Wynn Corresp. 229.
  • 3. NLW, Coedymaen mss bdle. 29, Williams Wynn to Phillimore, 10 Apr. 1820.
  • 4. Christ Church, Oxf. Phillimore mss, Buckingham to Phillimore, 21 June 1820.
  • 5. The Times, 2, 5 May 1820; CJ, lxxv. 147, 159, 180, 207, 270, 379, 389.
  • 6. Add. 51813, Phillimore to Holland, 11, 21 July, 2 Sept. 1820; LJ, liii. 251, 299, 320, 329; Buckingham, Mems. Geo. IV, i. 56.
  • 7. Buckingham, i. 66; Phillimore mss, Buckingham to Phillimore, 20 Sept.; Coedymaen mss bdle. 29, Williams Wynn to Phillimore [7, 12, 18 Oct., 2 Nov.] 1820.
  • 8. Buckingham, i. 79-80; Coedymaen mss bdle. 29, Williams Wynn to Phillimore, 19, 21, 30 Dec.; Phillimore mss, Buckingham to Phillimore, 27 Nov. 1820; Cent. Kent. Stud. Camden mss U840 C530/6.
  • 9. Buckingham, i. 109-11; Phillimore mss, Buckingham to Phillimore, 4, 17 Jan. 1821.
  • 10. Buckingham, i. 115; Bucks. RO, Fremantle mss D/FR/46/11/45; 46/12/35, 36; Phillimore mss, Buckingham to Phillimore, 3, 8 Feb. 1821.
  • 11. Phillimore mss, Buckingham to Phillimore, 11, 26, 30 Mar. 1821; Buckingham, i. 128-30, 141-2, 145-6.
  • 12. The Times, 17, 30 Mar. 1821.
  • 13. Ibid. 15 Mar. 1821; CJ, lxxvi. 166.
  • 14. CJ, lxxvi. 347, 351-2, 371, 468, 489-90, 492; The Times, 23, 26 June 1821.
  • 15. The Times, 9, 28 June 1821.
  • 16. Ibid. 3 July 1821.
  • 17. Buckingham, i. 253-5; Fremantle mss 46/12/24; Phillimore mss, Williams Wynn to Phillimore [17 Dec.], to Buckingham, 23 Dec. 1821; Add. 38290, ff. 176, 210, 222.
  • 18. Buckingham, i. 273-5; Coedymaen mss 615, 618.
  • 19. Phillimore mss, Buckingham to Phillimore, 27 Jan. 1822; Buckingham, i. 279, 281; Hobhouse Diary, 85.
  • 20. Buckingham, i. 280-1.
  • 21. Add. 52445, f. 64; Phillimore mss, Buckingham to Phillimore, 3 Mar. 1822.
  • 22. Add. 52445, f. 66; Gurney diary, 14 Mar. 1822.
  • 23. CJ, lxxvii. 144, 175, 290, 399-402, 446; The Times, 4 Apr., 21, 22 May, 13 July, 1 Aug.; Phillimore mss, Ellenborough to Phillimore, 16, 17 Mar., 28, 31 May, 16 June; Add. 51813, Phillimore to Holland, 8 Apr. 1822; Buckingham, i. 319, 343.
  • 24. Fremantle mss 46/10/56.
  • 25. Buckingham, i. 314, 319-20, 323, 328.
  • 26. Buckingham, i. 324, 326, 327; Phillimore mss, Buckingham to Phillimore [12 May 1822].
  • 27. The Times, 31 July 1822.
  • 28. BL, Fortescue mss, Buckingham to Grenville, 3 Oct. 1822; Fremantle mss 46/12/72; Add. 38743, f. 236.
  • 29. Phillimore mss, Buckingham to Phillimore, 10 Dec. 1822, 3, 22, 29 Jan. 1823.
  • 30. Add. 51813.
  • 31. CJ, lxxviii. 7, 19, 24, 81, 116, 157, 165, 175, 376-7; The Times, 11, 15, 18 Feb., 18 Mar.; Phillimore mss, Mackintosh to Phillimore, 13 Mar. 1823.
  • 32. Colchester Diary, iii. 282; The Times, 4, 9 July 1823; CJ, lxxviii. 451, 465.
  • 33. The Times, 11 July 1823; CJ, lxxviii. 474, 479.
  • 34. Fremantle mss 51/5/17.
  • 35. The Times, 18 June 1823.
  • 36. Phillimore mss, Buckingham to Phillimore, 16, 17 Mar. 1824, 19 June 1825.
  • 37. The Times, 16 Apr. 1824; CJ, lxxix. 292, 303, 367, 456.
  • 38. Buckingham, ii. 265.
  • 39. The Times, 10 May 1825.
  • 40. Ibid. 21 June 1825.
  • 41. Phillimore mss, Buckingham to Phillimore, 19 June, reply, 21 June, Williams Wynn to Phillimore, 18 Sept. 1825; Fremantle mss 46/11/118; 46/12/56.
  • 42. Williams Wynn Corresp. 347; Fremantle mss 46/12/90.
  • 43. Phillimore mss, Arbuthnot to Phillimore, 6 June, Williams Wynn to same, 6 Aug. 1826.
  • 44. Canning’s Ministry, 269.
  • 45. Add. 38750, f. 180; 51690, Lansdowne to Lady Holland, 16 Sept.; Bucks. RO, Buckinghamshire mss, Lansdowne to Goderich, 2 Sept., replies, 6, 13 Sept.; Fremantle mss 138/21/2/17; Aberdeen Univ. Lib. Arbuthnot mss, Hardinge to Mrs. Arbuthnot, 7 Nov. 1827; Creevey Pprs. ii. 140; Grey mss, Ellice to Grey [30 Jan. 1828].
  • 46. Phillimore mss, Fremantle to Phillimore, 22, 29 Jan. 1828; Wellington mss WP1/915/73; 916/2; 920/3; Ellenborough Diary, i. 14; Buckingham, ii. 370.
  • 47. Phillimore mss, J. to R.J. Phillimore, 6 Feb. 1829.
  • 48. Ibid. same to same, 23 Feb., 3, 5, 6, 31 Mar., 16 May 1829.
  • 49. Coedymaen mss bdle. 29, Williams Wynn to Phillimore, 6 Feb.; Phillimore mss, J. to R.J. Phillimore, 22 Feb. 1830.
  • 50. Phillimore mss, J. to R.J. Phillimore, 29 Apr. 1830.
  • 51. Ibid. same to same, 9 June 1830.
  • 52. Add. 51813, Phillimore to Holland, 14 July; Phillimore mss, Holland to Phillimore, 12 July, J. to R.J. Phillimore, 14 July 1830.
  • 53. Phillimore mss, Mrs. E. to R.J. Phillimore, 26, 27 July, Williams Wynn to Phillimore, 1 Sept. 1830.
  • 54. Ibid. Williams Wynn to Phillimore [1 Aug.], 9 Aug., J. to R.J. Phillimore, 3 Aug. 1830.
  • 55. Ibid. J. to R.J. Phillimore, 17 Nov., Holland to Phillimore [19, 23 Nov.]; Add. 51813, Phillimore to Holland, 18, 20 Nov. 1830.
  • 56. Add. 51813, Phillimore to Holland [?30 Nov.]; Phillimore mss, J. to R.J. Phillimore, 7 Dec. 1830.
  • 57. Phillimore mss, J. to R.J. Phillimore, 15 Mar.; Add. 51813, Phillimore to Holland, 5 May 1831.
  • 58. Gent. Mag. (1831), ii. 186; PROB 11/1789/480; IR26/1268/410.
  • 59. Coedymaen mss bdle. 29, Williams Wynn to Phillimore, 28 Nov.; Brougham mss, Phillimore to Brougham, 6 Dec. 1832.
  • 60. Add. 34571, f. 211.
  • 61. Add. 51813, Phillimore to Holland, 24 Apr., 23 May; Brougham mss, same to Brougham, 27 May 1833.
  • 62. Add. 51813, Phillimore to Holland, 28, 30 Sept., 2, 9, 13, 16 Oct.; Brougham mss, same to Brougham, 30 Sept. 1834.
  • 63. Add. 40309, ff. 282, 284, 286; Wellington Pol. Corresp. ii. 516, 517, 538.
  • 64. Add. 51813, Phillimore to Holland, 11, 29 Oct. 1837.
  • 65. Add. 34575, f. 79.
  • 66. Add. 43067, f. 29; Gent. Mag. (1855) i. 319-20.
  • 67. PROB 11/2207/152; IR26/2041/84; W.P.W. Phillimore, Genealogy of Fam. of Phillimore, 231.
  • 68. Oxford DNB.