PUSEY, Philip (1799-1855), of Pusey, nr. Faringdon, Berks.

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



1 Mar. 1830 - 17 May 1830
1830 - 1831
16 July 1831 - 1832
1835 - 1852

Family and Education

b. 25 June 1799, 1st s. of Hon. Philip Pusey of Pusey and Lady Lucy Sherard, da. of Robert, 4th earl of Harborough, wid. of Sir Thomas Cave†, 7th bt., of Stanford Hall, Leics. educ. Mitcham, Surr. (Rev. Richard Roberts) 1807;1 Eton 1812; Christ Church, Oxf. 1817. m. 4 Oct. 1822, Lady Emily Frances Theresa Herbert, da. of Henry George Herbert†, 2nd earl of Carnarvon, 1s. 2da. suc. fa. 1828. d. 9 July 1855.

Offices Held

Pres. R. Agric. Soc. 1840-1, 1853-4.


The male line of the Pusey family, who had been settled at the north-west Berkshire estate of that name since the eleventh century, became extinct on the death of Charles Pusey in 1710. He bequeathed the property to his nephew John Allen, who was married to a sister of Jacob Bouverie, 1st Lord Folkestone, and took the additional name of Pusey. On his death without issue it was settled by his sisters on his wife’s nephew Philip Bouverie, Folkestone’s third son by his second marriage, who was born in 1746 and took the name of Pusey in 1784.2 His first two sons, Philip and Edward, the future Regius Professor of Hebrew and leader of the Oxford Movement, were born within 14 months of one another. As their mother recalled, both were studiously inclined and ‘clever; Philip had more talent, but Edward was the more industrious’.3 At Eton and Oxford, which he left in 1819 without taking a degree, Philip’s closest friend was Lord Porchester*, son of the 2nd earl of Carnarvon, with whose talented sister Emily he fell in love. Her family’s Whig politics were in harmony with his own liberal, if rather undefined opinions at this time, in contrast to the inflexible Toryism of his father, who forbade an immediate marriage.4 Pusey visited Paris and Rome and travelled with Porchester to Portugal and Spain, where they were captured by guerillas and were in danger of being shot as suspected constitutionalists until they established their identities. After close acquaintance with the Spanish peasantry, he concluded that they were ‘the finest race of men we ever met with and would certainly afford excellent materials for a free state’; but he took a dim view of the ‘upper orders’.5 He returned to England in 1822 and, his father’s objections having been waived, married Emily Herbert in the autumn.

Pusey was interested in theology and scriptural scholarship, and in December 1823 he told Edward that ‘my great object of ambition now is to be able to write something in defence of religion’. A year later he contemplated ‘a new arrangement of old matter with the hope of some new stuff of my own’; but nothing seems to have come of the project.6 He and his wife, whose health was not robust, spent lengthy periods on the continent, especially favouring Rome, where they moved in intellectual circles and became friendly with Baron Bunsen.7 Pusey, who joined Brooks’s Club on 2 Dec. 1826, sponsored by his father-in-law and Lord King, the currency pundit, turned his mind to financial questions. He devoted a year to the composition of a book on political economy but, as he told his close friend Lord Mahon*, son of the 4th Earl Stanhope, he was

preparing to publish it, when Lord Carnarvon suggested to me to write on political profusion, and I have since determined to lay my technical crotchets on the shelf. The science, if it can be called one, is so unpopular, that I do not wish to declare myself its votary. I agree with you that it is in very bad hands, but I own I think, though this is contrary to the resolution I have just expressed, that this is a reason the more for those who are honestly disposed, to engage in the science themselves and to endeavour to prevent it from becoming a tool of Jacobins. I am convinced that the doctrines of sound economical science are really ... extremely conservative.

Early in 1828 he published a ‘little financial squib’ in the form of A Letter to the Earl of Carnarvon on Peel’s financial statement of 15 Feb., in which he argued that the national debt, far from diminishing since 1815 as Peel claimed, had in fact increased because of the failure to adjust the value of the currency at the end of the war: ‘the first stroke of the mint hammer upon the new sovereign, was a blow which shortened the political existence of this country, at least, by half a century’. On learning that Stanhope considered it ‘very clever and well written’, he commented to Mahon that

I think an acquaintance with him, is the best antidote to that intolerance towards those who prefer established institutions to supposed improvements, into which the friends of unlimited toleration, of whom I confess myself one, are in danger of falling. I believe that a violent Whig, and am certain that a violent liberal, is in reality far more impatient of contradiction, and therefore less tolerant, than most decided Tories.

On domestic politics, he judged that ‘the only point of strength in the present cabinet is the iron firmness’ of the duke of Wellington. He confided to Mahon that he was ‘engaged in a negotiation for a seat in Parliament which I hope to bring to a satisfactory termination’.8 In May 1828 he published An Historical View of the Sinking Fund, which advocated capital investment in Ireland, colonial expansion and reform of the poor rates as the best means of reducing the national debt.

The previous month he had succeeded his father, whose personalty was sworn under £140,000, to the family estates, but he did not take up permanent residence in Berkshire for another two years.9 After suffering from a complaint of the trachea in the summer, he wintered in Rome, from where he told Mahon, 2 Jan. 1829, that ‘my hopes of Parliament are again disappointed’.10 A few months after his return to England in the spring, Porchester observed to Mahon that as far as coming into Parliament was concerned, Pusey, ‘who is ready to offer any sum, cannot contrive it, but will ultimately I suppose’. In June he had ‘two negotiations pending, one for an immediate occupancy, the other for a permanent arrangement, depending however upon the contingency of a dissolution’. The boroughs in question may have been the Cinque Ports of Rye and Seaford; and Pusey offered Mahon, who had rather fancifully suggested that he might try at the next general election to turn out one of the ‘brace of violent radicals’ currently sitting for Reading, first refusal of one if he himself was accommodated in the other. Nothing immediately came of this.11 Pusey was then toying with ‘a rambling survey of our financial condition, which appears to me more hopeful than the public has been led to imagine’; and he had it published in the November 1829 Quarterly Review (xl. 492-522) as ‘The Finance Committee’, after amending it in accordance with some judicious advice from Lockhart, the editor. Mahon, of course, was unstinting in his praise, but he reported that ‘more competent judges’, including Lord Goderich and Sir Henry Parnell*, had also ‘spoken of it in very high terms of commendation’. His father, though impressed by its ‘clearness of thought and comprehensiveness of style’, considered it ‘fallacious from viewing objects too much en couleur de rose’. Pusey was ‘not desirous to be known as a contributor even to so respectable a review as the Quarterly’, but neither did he ‘have any strong desire of concealment’; a month later the piece was attributed in the Morning Herald to ‘some ministerial or official personage’.12 In March 1830 Pusey reviewed for the Quarterly (xlii. 505-36) Parnell’s On Financial Reform, constructing an argument against its call for the abandonment of colonies to save money.

It was at that time that he entered the House after a contested by-election for Rye, where he stood on the established Lamb interest.13 He was sworn in on 4 Mar. 1830 and the following day voted for the transfer of East Retford’s seats to Birmingham. He divided against the emasculated disfranchisement bill, 15 Mar., and with the minority of 30 for inquiry into the management of crown lands revenues, 30 Mar. He was unseated on his opponent’s petition, 17 May 1830, the day of the second reading of the Jewish emancipation bill, of which he disapproved.14 In late June 1830 the Whig agent John Goodwin told Lord Holland that he had ‘hopes’ of finding a seat at the approaching general election for Pusey, who had professed willingness to ‘do honour’ to Fox’s ‘memory’.15 There was speculation in Berkshire that he might stand for the county, but it is unlikely that he seriously contemplated doing so.16 As it was, he successfully contested Chippenham, where he declared himself to be friendly to the Wellington ministry, in conjunction with and on the new interest of Joseph Neeld.17 A joint project with Mahon to make an attempt on Seaford had proved to be a waste of time and money.18

Ministers listed him among the ‘doubtful doubtfuls’, but, like his brother, he had become alarmed by the increasing clamour for reform, and he voted in the government minority in the crucial division on the civil list, 15 Nov. 1830, and went into opposition to the Grey ministry. His wife told her brother Edward, 18 Dec., that Pusey

says that the present ministers will quickly lose their popularity [and] will be torn to pieces by internal factions; that ... Peel rises each day in the ... Commons ... [and] is decidedly the leader, not Lord Althorp; that the ex-ministers from a sense of the country’s danger mean to give the present ministry assistance in all moderate views, by which they will be able to check the wilder schemes ... and ... that before Parliament meets again a general war may absorb attention and postpone these hasty plans of reform.19

Pusey obtained the production of information on terminable annuities as a portion of the funded debt, 10 Dec. On 21 Dec. 1830 he moved for accounts of national expenditure and revenue, 1827-1830. When Hume objected to the expense of printing them Pusey explained that he wished to have them ‘prepared in a particular way, so that at one view we shall be able to examine the finance accounts of the country’. From the government front bench Sir James Graham conceded that his scheme was ‘most ingenious’, and the motion was agreed to. He secured the insertion into these accounts of the various categories of civil expenditure, 7 Feb. 1831. He wished to question ministers on their foreign policy, with the object of advocating the need to close ranks with Prussia and Austria against France; but at the behest of Wellington and Goulburn, whom he consulted, and who did not wish to embarrass the government on this issue, he remained silent.20 He presented a petition from Grittleton (Neeld’s territory) calling for the establishment of a national fast day, 14 Feb. 1831.

In January 1831 Pusey, who was described at this time by his father-in-law as ‘a decided Peelite’,21 composed for the benefit of Mahon, who was about to return from the continent to take up his duties as Member for Wootton Bassett, a review of recent political events entitled ‘A Country with a Provisional Government’, in which he expressed his unease at the composition of the Grey administration and the state of public opinion, especially on reform; it was never published.22 He sent a letter to be read out at the Berkshire county reform meeting, 16 Mar., in which he argued that the ministerial reform scheme was ‘rather an appeal from our reason and justice to our passions and interests’, was admitted even by some of its supporters to be ‘too sweeping’ and had as its object the annihilation of the Tory party, to leave the king with ‘nothing but a Whig ministry and a republican opposition’.23 He voted silently against the second reading, 22 Mar. Between then and dividing for Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831, he rapidly composed and published The New Constitution, a detailed criticism of the bill, which he deemed to be ‘rash, but not bold; its principle is concession to temper, not conviction of evil’. He conceded the need for ‘moderate reform’, but argued that the measure would ‘go far to convert a free monarchy into a despotic republic’. The faithful Mahon deemed the pamphlet to be to be ‘one of the ablest among the myriad on this question’; and Pusey’s wife thought it was ‘very good’ and might ‘go far to damage’ the measure.24 Pusey was one of the leading Berkshire landowners who signed a declaration against the bill, admitting the necessity for the enfranchisement of unrepresented large towns, the elimination of corruption and diminution of the cost of elections, but condemning the proposed reduction in the number of English Members and the £10 borough franchise. He also, at the instigation of Mahon, signed the Kent anti-reform declaration.25

His opposition to the reform bill was very unpopular in Chippenham, and he did not try again there at the general election of 1831, when he was confined to London by his wife’s illness, though Mahon suggested eight months later that had he put his name forward he would have been returned.26 He stood with the Tory lawyer Thomas Pemberton for Rye, where the decision on the right of election which had cost him the seat in 1830 had since been reversed. There was serious disorder, and so fierce was the independents’ hostility to the attempted return of two anti-reformers that the patron was forced to concede them one seat. Pusey was unacceptable to the reformers and it was Pemberton who was returned.27 Pusey, who was gaining a reputation as a rising man of the Tory opposition, was accommodated in mid-July 1831 at Cashel on the Pennefather interest, with the blessing of the party organizers in Charles Street. Shortly before or just after his return, he was miffed not to be invited to a meeting there. Mahon remonstrated on his behalf, and was assured by Holmes, the whip, that the oversight had been ‘unintentional, owing to your present absence from the list of MPs, and that although the smallness of the room makes them very limited in number, you shall certainly be asked in future’.28

On the reintroduced reform bill he spoke and voted for Chippenham’s retention of both seats, 27 July, and argued, 29 July 1831, that Dorchester and Guildford had similarly strong claims on the basis of property if not population. He secured a return of the 113 least populous boroughs according to the 1831 census, 2 Aug. On 24 Aug. he criticized the limitation of the borough franchise qualification to property held under one landlord, but was told that to allow multiple holdings would invite fraud. He voted in the minority of 29 in favour of permitting non-resident freeholders in boroughs previously thrown into the hundreds to retain their votes for life, 2 Sept. He voted against the passage of the bill, 21 Sept., and the second reading of the Scottish measure, 23 Sept. He again obtained public accounts on his own model, 13 Aug., when he was appointed to the select committee on the charges of civil government. He voted to censure the Irish government for interference in the Dublin election, 23 Aug., and to safeguard the West Indian sugar trade, 12 Sept. 1831. The following month he was invited to lend his ‘zeal and abilities’ to the Tory central committee for conducting the Cambridgeshire by-election.29

Pusey voted against the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831. At the start of the new year Mahon, who had been urging him to take up his pen again, exhorted him to cultivate an interest at Chippenham and to take the plunge with a major parliamentary speech in the spring, either on the details of the reform bill or, better still, ‘finance’: ‘in that manner reputation for business may be combined with reputation for speaking’.30 Pusey did not comply. He was in the government majority on the registration clause of the reform bill, 8 Feb. 1832, but divided against the enfranchisement of Tower Hamlets, 28 Feb., and the third reading, 22 Mar. 1832. He was with Wellington and other opposition grandees during the crisis of May, and he formed the opinion, from which Mahon dissented, that the party should several months earlier have taken up ‘the line of moderate reform’. On the 16th he joined a small deputation of ‘influential men ... in the ... Commons’ who unsuccessfully entreated Peel to take office.31 His only other recorded votes in 1832 were in the opposition minorities against the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., and the second reading of the Irish reform bill, 25 May, and the majority against the production of information on military punishments, 16 Feb. He was named to the select committee on the East India Company, 28 Jan., and secured a further return of national accounts, 5 July 1832.

Pusey was beaten in a contest for Berkshire at the 1832 general election, but was successful there in 1835 and held the seat for 17 years. A friend of Peel and William Gladstone†, he came to enjoy a high reputation as a thoughtful and intelligent backbencher.32 He was one of the leading theorists and practitioners of agricultural improvement and a founder member and mainstay of the Royal Agricultural Society, whose journal he edited for many years. He found other outlets for his intellectual energies in journalism and hymn writing.33 Bunsen, who spent some time with him in 1830, admired his ‘extraordinary statesmanlike judgement’ and ‘speculative talent and depth’, and thought him ‘a most unique union of a practical Englishman and an intellectual German’.34 After the death of his wife in November 1854 he moved into his brother’s rooms in Christ Church. Within a week he suffered a stroke, and he died from a second one in July 1855. By his brief will, he left his two daughters equal shares in his consolidated railway company stock, and all the remainder of his property to his only son, Sidney Edward Bouverie Pusey (1839-1911), on whose death without issue the Pusey estate passed to the Fletcher descendants of his married sister Clara.35

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: David R. Fisher


  • 1. H.P. Liddon, Life of Edward Bouverie Pusey, i. 9.
  • 2. VCH Berks. iv. 473.
  • 3. Liddon, i. 10.
  • 4. Ibid. i. 2, 14, 27.
  • 5. Ibid. i. 28, 50; Oxford DNB; Add. 51831, Porchester to Holland, 19 Dec. 1821; Bodl. Eng. Lett. d. 58, f. 4; Berks. RO, Pusey mss D/EBp C8/1, 2.
  • 6. Bodl. Eng. lett. d. 58, ff. 6-8; Pusey mss C8/3-7, 15, 19.
  • 7. Baroness Bunsen, Mem. Baron Bunsen, i. 264.
  • 8. Pusey mss C1/7, 21; Cent. Kent. Stud. Stanhope mss U1590 C130/4, Mahon to Stanhope, 13 Apr.; C355, Pusey to Mahon, 8 Apr. 1828.
  • 9. PROB 11/1742/373; IR26/1173/332.
  • 10. Bodl. MS. Eng. lett. d. 58, f. 10; Stanhope mss C355; Pusey mss C1/39.
  • 11. Stanhope mss C353, Porchester to Mahon, 10 June; C355, Pusey to same, 18 June 1829; Pusey mss C1/29, 36.
  • 12. Stanhope mss C355, Pusey to Mahon, 18 June, 28 Nov. 1829; Pusey mss C1/4, 26.
  • 13. Hants RO, Carnarvon mss 75M91/H2/1.
  • 14. Pusey mss C1/35.
  • 15. Add. 51835, Goodwin to Holland, 27 June 1830.
  • 16. Reading Mercury, 7 June 1830.
  • 17. British Library, Talbot collection, Pusey to Fox Talbot [June]; Devizes Gazette, 1 July, 5 Aug.; Keenes’ Bath Jnl. 2 Aug.; The Times, 5 Aug. 1830; Pusey mss C1/15.
  • 18. Pusey mss C1/43; Stanhope mss A122/1, Mahon’s acct. bk. 1823-35.
  • 19. Carnarvon mss F4/3.
  • 20. Wellington mss WP1/1175/12, 15.
  • 21. Carnarvon mss E4/93.
  • 22. Pusey mss C1/13; F5/2.
  • 23. The Times, 17 Mar. 1831.
  • 24. Pusey mss C1/38, 44; Keele Univ. Lib. Sneyd mss, Mahon to Sneyd, 5 May 1831; Carnarvon mss L16/2.
  • 25. N. Gash, Politics in Age of Peel, 301; The Times, 9 Apr.; Kentish Gazette, 26 Apr. 1831; Pusey mss C1/44.
  • 26. Pusey mss C1/1; Carnarvon mss L3, H. Howard to Lady Porchester, 4, 25 May 1831; L14/12.
  • 27. See RYE.
  • 28. Pusey mss C1/45.
  • 29. Ibid. C1/24.
  • 30. Ibid. C1/1, 8.
  • 31. Three Diaries, 260; Pusey mss C1/22; C2, Wellington to Carnarvon, 15 May 1832; Carnarvon mss H5/3, 4.
  • 32. Gash, 304-6; Pusey mss C1/12, 18, 22, 25, 31, 40; Wellington mss WP1/1239/35.
  • 33. Gash, 309-10, 311, 318; Oxford DNB; Sir E. Clarke, Philip Pusey, 7-16.
  • 34. Bunsen, i. 504, 522.
  • 35. Gent. Mag. (1855), ii. 319; PROB 11/2218/721; IR26/2043/793.