SWANN, Henry (1763-1824), of Lower Green, Esher, Surr. and New Close Wood, Ufford, Northants.

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



1 Oct. 1803 - 20 Feb. 1804
1806 - 26 Feb. 1819
1820 - 24 Apr. 1824

Family and Education

bap. 15 Nov. 1763, 1st surv. s. of John Swann of Wansford, Northants. and w. Mary Adams of Stamford Baron St. Martin, Lincs.1 educ. I. Temple 1787, called 1792. m. 21 Jan. 1785, Katherine, da. and h. of Robert Symes of Esher, 4s. (1 d.v.p.)2 2da. suc. fa. 1797.3 d. 24 Apr. 1824.

Offices Held

Commr. for issuing exch. bills 1817-d.


Brought before king’s bench for judgement, 17 Nov. 1819, after being found guilty of electoral bribery at Penryn, ‘Lawyer’ Swann made a rambling speech in which he admitted that proven corruption warranted ‘exemplary’ punishment, but claimed that ‘in Parliament he had ever acted as a conscientious, independent man, unshackled by ministerial or other influence, and was therefore unlikely to be guilty of wilful or corrupt bribery’. He was sentenced to a year in the Marshalsea.4 Three months later Sir Alexander Cray Grant* reported that on a visit to the prison he had seen ‘that wretch’ Swann dining with Henry Brougham* and Joseph Hume*:

He avows himself to be compiling a history of all transactions involving jobbery or profligacy of any kind as connected with Parliaments as well as the conduct of the royal family in pecuniary matters, etc., which he means to publish or (we may conclude) to use as a means of extorting money. He says he is sure of his election for Penryn [at the forthcoming general election] without expending a shilling!5

His renewed candidature for Penryn was promoted by his many friends in the borough, where he had built up a strong interest, partly through his success in securing a contract for the use of local granite in the construction of the new Waterloo Bridge.6 At the end of the debate on the second reading of the bill to suspend the writs for Penryn, Barnstaple, Camelford and Grampound, 21 Feb. 1820, Lord John Russell answered Sir Joseph Yorke’s complaint that Swann had been harshly treated ‘in the language of the poet - "Rara avis in terra nigroque similima cygno"’. The bill’s subsequent rejection by the Lords cleared the way for a contest at Penryn, where Swann was returned in second place after a three-day poll.7 A petition was lodged against his return, 9 May, and on the motion of Charles Harvey, 1 June 1820, he was given permission to appear ‘in custody’ at the bar of the House on the 13th, if he wished to defend himself.8 The election committee confirmed his return, 16 June. On Russell’s motion for the early release of Swann’s fellow scapegoat Sir Manasseh Masseh Lopes*, imprisoned for bribery at Grampound, 11 July, several Members called for mercy to be shown also to Swann, who was supposed to have ‘two children at death’s door’. However, the motion was withdrawn and Swann served his full term. His release, 16 Nov. 1820, was celebrated by his supporters at Penryn, who formally addressed him in acknowledgement of his services to the borough.9

He continued his practice of giving general support to the government of the day, while displaying his independence on certain occasions. He voted in defence of the Liverpool ministry’s conduct towards Queen Caroline, 6 Feb., and paired against Catholic relief, 28 Feb. 1821. He divided for Russell’s parliamentary reform motion, 9 May, and was in small minorities against including arrears in the grant to the duke of Clarence, 8, 29 June. He was a majority teller for adjourning the debate on the Newington select vestry bill, 16 May 1821. As the owner through marriage of the Oxford plantation in Jamaica, he attended general meetings of the West India interest in 1822 and 1823.10 He paired against relieving Catholic peers of their disabilities, 30 Apr., and for the aliens bill, 5 June,11 and voted against repeal of the salt duties, 28 June 1822. That autumn James Macdonald* facetiously remarked that if Canning succeeded in his rumoured plan to make the Speaker governor-general of India in order to remove Charles Williams Wynn from the board of control to the Speakership, opposition should put up Swann or Billy Holmes, the shady government whip, against him.12 Swann divided with ministers against repeal of the Foreign Enlistment Act, 16 Apr., and inquiries into the prosecution of the Dublin Orange rioters, 22 Apr., and delays in chancery, 5 June 1823.

He died in April 1824, having previously signified his intention of vacating his seat.13 He gave his wife a life annuity of £150, charged on the Oxford plantation, which he left in trust for his younger sons Frederick Dashwood, a half-pay captain in the Grenadier Guards, and Charles Henry, subject to the jointure of one Georgiana Elizabeth Malthus. On her death it was to be sold or mortgaged to raise £4,000 to be invested for the benefit of his eldest son John Thomas and his daughter Caroline Gibson. He distributed his property in the area between Stamford and Peterborough, which variously lay in Huntingdonshire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire and Rutland, among his children. His personalty was sworn under £800.14

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: David R. Fisher


  • 1. IGI (Northants.).
  • 2. Gent. Mag. (1811), i. 275, 396.
  • 3. Ibid. (1797), ii. 806.
  • 4. The Times, 18 Nov. 1819.
  • 5. NLI, Vesey Fitzgerald letterbks. 7858, pp. 169-70.
  • 6. West Briton, 11 Feb., 24 Nov. 1820; Add. 58977, f. 171.
  • 7. West Briton, 25 Feb., 3, 10, 17 Mar. 1820.
  • 8. The Times, 2 June 1820.
  • 9. R. Cornw. Gazette, 18 Nov.; West Briton, 24 Nov. 1820.
  • 10. Inst. of Commonwealth Stud. M915/4/1, 80.
  • 11. Add. 52445, f. 86.
  • 12. Cockburn Letters, 69.
  • 13. Gent. Mag. (1824), ii. 185; R. Cornw. Gazette, 1 May 1824.
  • 14. PROB 11/1686/1320; IR26/1018/486.