WEYLAND, John (1774-1854), of Woodrising Hall, Norf.

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



1830 - 1832

Family and Education

b. 4 Dec. 1774, 1st s. of John Weyland of Woodrising Hall and Woodeaton Hall, Oxon. and Elizabeth Johanna, da. of John Nourse of Woodeaton Hall; bro. of Richard Weyland*. educ. Christ Church, Oxf. 1792; St. Mary Hall, Oxf. 1794; L. Inn 1794; I. Temple 1796, called 1800. m. 12 Mar. 1799, Elizabeth, da. of Whitshed Keene† of Richmond, Surr. and Hawthorn Hill, Berks., s.p. suc. fa. to Norf. and Suff. estates 1825. d. 8 May 1854.

Offices Held

Lt. Bullington, Dorchester and Thame yeoman cav. 1798, W. Mdx. militia 1803.


Weyland was from an ancient Norfolk family, although since the seventeenth century some of its leading members had settled in London. Thus Mark Weyland (d. 1688) of St. Saviour’s, Southwark, had a son, also called Mark (1661-1742), who was an eminent merchant and a director of the Bank of England. One of this man’s sons, another Mark (d. 1797), was also a Bank director, while his eldest brother John (1713-67) lived at Woodrising Hall. John’s son John, who was born in 1744, married, 31 Dec. 1772, the daughter and coheir of an Oxfordshire gentlemen, and it was she who brought the Woodeaton estate into the family. He was sheriff of Oxfordshire, 1777-8, and one of the most progressive farmers in that county.1 His eldest son, John Weyland junior, was, as he later wrote, ‘brought up from my earliest days within sight of an university of which I subsequently became an unworthy member’.2 He initially studied for the bar at Lincoln’s Inn, and then transferred to the Inner Temple, where in 1798 he was unable to keep a term because of illness.3 By 1802, and for at least the following ten years, he was a London counsel, and was possibly employed by the duke of Clarence, since the Law Lists give his address as Bushey Park. In 1799 he had married the daughter and coheir of the Pittite Member for Montgomery, and it was perhaps through him that he established himself at Winkfield Lodge and, later, Hawthorn Hill, Berkshire, and became a proprietor of East India stock. A landowner and magistrate in Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Surrey, he concentrated his attention on the issues of poverty and employment.

Weyland’s first major work, published in 1807, was A Short Inquiry into the Policy, Humanity and Past Effects of the Poor Laws, which he supplemented later that year with his much shorter Observations on Mr. Whitbread’s Poor Bill. In these, as in his later writings, he empirically rebutted Malthus’s theory of population. He also defended the existence of the poor laws, while admitting that they needed careful improvement if they were to continue to contribute to the economic strength and moral well-being of the country. His emphasis on the importance of education as a means of inculcating religious principles was further explored in his Letter to a Country Gentleman on the Education of the Lower Orders (1808). Three years later, as the barrister and author William Roberts recalled, Weyland

being dissatisfied, as were the religious public generally, with the tone and spirit of the two popular reviews, resolved upon the bold enterprise of setting on foot a new critical journal, which, free from prejudice and party bias, should represent the opinions of that part of the public who view religion as a vital principle.

The British Review and London Critical Journal duly appeared for the first time in March 1811, and it continued to be published quarterly until November 1825, although after the first one or two issues Weyland resigned its editorship to Roberts.4 He took an interest in Indian affairs and, despite his diffidence, he moved some resolutions relative to the renewal of the East India Company’s charter in the court of proprietors, 19 Jan. 1813.5 He also wrote a public Letter to Sir Hugh Inglis (1813), on the means of improving the state of religion in India, which was answered by John Scott Waring†. As a ‘country gentleman, a proprietor of game’, he was the author of a Letter on the Game Laws (1815) and a Second Letter (1817), in which he advocated their reform. By this time he was a friend of the agriculturist Arthur Young and an ordinary member of the board of agriculture, to which in 1815 he submitted a short statement on the corn laws.6 That year he issued another defence of poor provision in his Principle of the English Poor Laws, which analyzed the evidence given by Scottish proprietors to the Lords select committee on corn.

Weyland is principally known for his second major work, The Principles of Population and Production, as they are affected by the Progress of Society, with a View to Moral and Political Consequences (1816). In it he boasted that his Short Inquiry was a ‘publication which at the time attracted perhaps more notice than it deserved, but of which I may venture to say that I have not yet seen it fairly answered’. Seeking to draw together his various interests into a systematic treatise, he firmly believed that ‘Christian morality is the very root and principle of the questions discussed’ in his Principles. In its three books he argued that the population would not increase so as to press perniciously against the means of production; that there was no physical impossibility about maintaining the people in sufficient comfort, and that morality was essential to the salutary progress of mankind. He concluded that

the three books together may perhaps be allowed to exhibit something not far removed from a complete system of the elements of civil society, uniform in its tendency, agreeing with itself in all its parts, and strictly consonant with the revealed will of God, and with the moral laws thence derived. It shows that population may continue regularly increasing in numbers, wealth and happiness from the first step in the career of society up to the highest point of civilization, under the operation of the laws which God himself hath appointed for their introduction, checked by no impediments but those which arise out of wilful deviation from those laws; and above all unembarrassed by any principle of evil necessarily arising, not from their own propensity to vice, but from their obedience to the laws which God has given them to counteract it.7

Unsurprisingly, he was praised in his own journal, but his attack was answered by Malthus the following year in the fifth edition of his Essay on the Principle of Population.8 By this time Weyland’s career as an author had been largely completed.9

Described as a ‘dull pamphleteer’ by Lady Holland, he began to canvass Reading as a ministerialist and nominee of the corporation at the end of 1816. He was very active there in the months before the general election of 1818, and in one incident his donation of £5 to a bricklayer was censured as a bribe. He fared badly against the popular radical candidates, coming third in the poll, and lost the subsequent petition.10 After an initial hesitation he offered again for Reading at the general election two years later. A local woman, Miss A.H. Trefusis, feared he would succeed:

I say fear because he will do more harm than good - for he is a good sort of man, who always boasts of his independent principles - and will always vote against you, when you want his support, and with you, when it is of no consequence.11

In his address, 28 Feb. 1820, he declared that ‘I am not (as has been falsely asserted) devoted to ministers, nor am I ... devoted to opposition, for I have nothing to ask or expect of either party’. He expressed his wishes for the improvement of laws and the situation of the industrious classes, and on the hustings he supported moderate reform, ‘though he thought it should be in the morals of the people, before we could hope for political regeneration’. He eventually retired from the poll, narrowly finishing third, behind two advanced Whigs.12

Weyland’s father died in late July 1825. By his will he confirmed the settlement of his Norfolk and Suffolk properties on his eldest son which he had made during his lifetime. The residue from his personal wealth, which was sworn under £50,000 (later resworn under £60,000), was divided between Weyland and his younger brother, Richard, an army officer, who inherited Woodeaton Hall.13 Weyland then established himself in Norfolk, to the delight of Joseph John Gurney of Earlham Hall, who commented that ‘one does love to see people heartily and without reserves disposed to do all the good they can, and I should think from Weyland’s appearance and conversation he must be a person of talent’.14 One of the chairmen of the quarter sessions, he attended the Norfolk county meeting on the malt tax, 16 Jan. 1830, and that year he became one of the first directors of the Norfolk and Norwich Friendly Society.15 His Thoughts Submitted to the Employers of Labour in the County of Norfolk (1830), which argued in favour of economies and reduced taxation, the abolition of monopolies and an alteration of the currency, urged landlords to increase capital investment and wages in order to improve the material conditions of the poor. He was an acquaintance of the leading philanthropist Lord Calthorpe, to whom he had confided (in December 1827) his anxiety ‘to see something substantial done on behalf of the labouring classes, who (in parishes where no peculiar advantages are offered) appear to get worse and worse every year; and sooner or later it must end in a bellum servile’.16 On the retirement of his brother Arthur Gough Calthorpe at the dissolution in 1830, Calthorpe brought Weyland in unopposed for the vacant seat which he controlled at Hindon.

Weyland, who was listed by the Wellington ministry among the ‘good doubtfuls’, made his maiden speech, 3 Nov. 1830, when, as James Joseph Hope Vere* recorded, he ‘sat down three times, not being able to get on’, but ‘the House good-naturedly cheered him on and he at last succeeded in giving birth to his speech’.17 He complained that there was no mention in the address of poor labourers, and related his achievements at Woodrising:

I succeeded to a long neglected estate a few years ago, which I found in the usual condition of such estates. I had determined to make an experiment by placing myself in the position of an enlightened and benevolent legislature with respect to the people residing on it. I have taken from my own funds those sums which I calculated would have been in the hands of my tenants for investment or further improvement by labour, under a wholesome system of encouragement, by law, to productive industry, and I have invested them myself in the further improvement of my estate.

Robert Waithman complimented him in the House on his respectful manner and useful qualifications as a Member. Weyland obtained leave, 5 Nov., to introduce his settlement of the poor bill, which was designed to remove a legal loophole in the poor laws. He voted in the minority in favour of reducing the duty on wheat imported into the West Indies, 12 Nov. He divided against ministers on the civil list, 15 Nov. 1830; as he told the Commons, 11 Oct. 1831

what induced me as much as anything else to vote against the government of the duke of Wellington, nearly as much perhaps, as his refusal of reform, was, although I came here inclined to support him, the answer of ... [the home secretary, Peel]. When asked whether it was intended to institute any inquiry into the condition of the labouring classes, he answered that question by saying, that nothing could be done ... That was not the answer that ought to have been given.

Weyland again asserted, 2 Dec. 1830, that ministers could relieve distress: ‘let them but repeal injudicious taxes, so as to extend the market at home - let them but open up fresh markets abroad by cutting away injudicious monopolies - and much, very much, may be done by them for the relief of the people’. His bill was given a postponed second reading, 10 Dec. 1830, and he oversaw the committee stages, 10, 11 Feb. 1831, when he reiterated that its purpose was to prevent confusion and litigation over who was eligible for poor relief; it received royal assent that session. He spoke in favour of the chancellor Lord Althorp’s game bill, 15 Feb., arguing that opening the trade would end poaching and its attendant evils. He was granted ten days’ leave on urgent private business, 11 Mar. He presented the Hindon anti-reform petition, 22 Mar., when he voted for the second reading of the Grey ministry’s reform bill. He presented a settlement by apprenticeship bill, 25 Mar., which was lost at the dissolution. He voted against Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment to the reform bill, 19 Apr. 1831.

Calthorpe again put him forward for Hindon at the general election of 1831, when he was opposed by a Tory, Horace Twiss*. Weyland later explained:

From the time when the bill was first proposed in the last Parliament, I avowed myself a moderate reformer; and while parties were balanced so as to afford a hope of reasonable modifications, I uniformly voted for the bill. In consequence, at the general election, I had to sustain, in the borough which I represent, a contest against a strenuous and eloquent anti-reform Member ... On that occasion I fully stated my views to my constituents and pledged myself to support no measure which went beyond them. My constituents were satisfied and re-elected me.18

His brother Richard, who was returned for Oxfordshire at this time, proved to be a silent Whig, and although the Mirror of Parliament attributes many speeches to him, all were probably given by John, and are considered to be his in what follows. Unless it was in fact Richard, he obtained leave to introduce a settlement by hiring bill, 28 June, which was designed to improve the functioning of the poor laws by removing the impediments to the free circulation of labour in agricultural areas, and a liability of landlords bill. The former was favourably received, including by Althorp, but Weyland admitted that the doubts raised in the debate had shaken his confidence in the effectiveness of the measure. He did not vote in the division on the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, because (as he told the House, 22 July), at the recent contest

I had explained the nature of my [reform] vote to my constituents and I told them that, although I should at all times feel it to be my duty to support the principle of reform, I never would consent to their being totally disfranchised. I told them that, if they returned me to the present Parliament, I should hold myself at liberty to vote for the second reading of the bill, when it should be again proposed; and I should most undoubtedly have done so, had it not been for certain papers which were laid before the House and which convinced me that the measure proposed was not properly founded.

He presented and this time endorsed another anti-reform petition from Hindon, 13 July, when he also presented one from Norwich for the settlement by hiring bill. He seconded the amendment against the first clause of the reform bill, and argued that the schedule A boroughs ought for the sake of justice to be retained, which he claimed could be done by organizing them into districts. He was criticized over the details of this plan and for inconsistency by Althorp, but he presumably voted in the minority in favour of the amendment. He divided in favour of using the 1831 census to determine the boroughs in the disfranchisement schedules and against the inclusion of Appleby in schedule A, 19 July. He objected to the total disfranchisement of Hindon, 22 July 1831, when he declared that

I give my vote on this occasion as an independent Member of Parliament. I care not for my seat, but I hope that these £10 householders into whom these freemen are to be, as it were, transmigrated, will, in the exercise of their franchise, send to Parliament a more efficient Member than I have been. With respect to disfranchisement I am a thorough reformer, an enemy to every disfranchisement that is not necessary - unnecessary disfranchisement I look upon as the greatest injustice towards any party. When we come to the enfranchising clauses, I trust that I shall be able to show that a consolidation of boroughs, placing them on the principle of scot and lot, would be a much better plan of reform than that which is now proposed. It would more effectually prevent improper patronage, and give a more independent set of electors than the principle of disfranchising one body of men for the purpose of enfranchising others.

There is no evidence that he actually pursued this plan.

Weyland reiterated his objections to the £10 householder franchise, 4 Aug. 1831, arguing that a House returned by such electors would attempt to abolish the corn laws and undermine other essential elements in the constitution. He summed up the reform bill as one ‘which I think sound in principle, but crude and hasty, and dangerous in its details’. He spoke, and probably voted, against the enfranchisement of Gateshead, 5 Aug. He made three interventions in favour of the game bill, 8 Aug., when he divided to postpone issuing the Dublin writ. He defended the poor laws and advocated their introduction to Ireland, 10 Aug. He answered queries about his settlement by hiring bill, 12 Aug., and, recognizing that there was insufficient time, withdrew it and the liability of landlords bill, 31 Aug. He voted for Lord Chandos’s amendment to enfranchise £50 tenants-at-will, 18 Aug., and he spoke (and probably divided in the minorities) against allowing borough freeholders to vote for counties, 24 Aug., and for a higher than £10 franchise in more populous towns, 25 Aug. He seconded Sadler’s motion for making legal provision for the Irish poor, 29 Aug., and voted in the minority for this, having stated that ‘I am decidedly of opinion that the poor laws of England, although in some instances oppressive, have still been one of the chief causes of our present greatness’. He stated his opposition to overturning the right to vote of existing property holders and members of corporations, 30 Aug., but he divided with ministers against allowing all the non-resident freeholders of the hundreds of Aylesbury, Cricklade, East Retford and New Shoreham to retain the right of voting for their lives, 2 Sept., and he supported shortening the duration of the poll, 6 Sept. Among other speeches, he urged ministers to make better provision for the poor and to fulfil their promise to investigate the subject, 26, 29 Sept., 11 Oct. He was listed as absent from the division on the passage of the reform bill, 21 Sept., but as having voted for the second reading of the Scottish bill, 23 Sept. 1831.

He regretted that the address omitted the subject of distress, 6 Dec. 1831, claiming that the ‘wretched state, moral and political, of the labouring classes, is the great canker which is eating out the vitals of the country’, and he repeated his call for an inquiry into it (as he did again, 27 Jan., 1, 3 Feb. 1832). He asked ministers about their intentions towards the beer and glove trades, 9, 14 Dec. 1831, 19 Jan. 1832. If he divided on it at all, he almost certainly voted against the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831, as he did against going into committee on it, 20 Jan. 1832. He sided with opposition against the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan. He approved of the division of counties, because it would free them from domination by a single family, but complained that the borough seats were unevenly distributed, 27 Jan., and he raised technical queries about the £10 qualification, 1 Feb., and the expenses of parish officers, 8 Feb. He objected to the funding of an Irish poor law from church property, and the non-collection of Irish tithes, 23 Jan., when he advocated throwing out the whole of schedule B of the reform bill and spoke and acted as a teller for the minority of 40 against Hobhouse’s vestry bill. He seconded Perceval’s motion for a general fast, 26 Jan., and supported the regulation of child labour in factories, 9 Feb. He spoke against the anatomy bill, 27 Feb., acting as a teller for the minorities of 13 and seven against its recommittal. He voted in the minority against the second reading of the malt drawback bill, 29 Feb. As part of a general desire to improve the economic prosperity of the country, he moved for leave to bring in an allotments bill, 15 Mar., which he said was preferable to the ‘usually bad and politically insufficient’ system of supplementing wages, because it would give people a share in the productive capacity of the soil. Althorp praised the depth of his knowledge, but indicated that he could not promise a good reception for the bill, which was read a first time, 20 Mar.; it passed that session. He voted against the third reading of the reform bill, 22 Mar., and for the second reading of the Liverpool disfranchisement bill, 23 May. He introduced a sale of beer bill, 22 May, but, after seconding Trevor’s motion for leave for a similar bill, 31 May, he withdrew his own measure, 5 June, not being sure of government support. He was listed among the ‘anti-reformers absent’ on the Russian-Dutch loan, 12 July 1832, and made no other recorded votes in the House.

In mid-1832, facing the abolition of his seat at Hindon, Weyland offered for Norfolk East, ‘as the advocate of moderate and impartial politics’, a supporter of the corn laws, a proponent of repeal of the malt tax, a defender of the church, an opponent of slavery, and a friend to economies and peace abroad. He also explained his conduct on the reform bill, stating that

I made every exertion, public and private, to obtain the modifications to which I stood pledged, and which I conscientiously thought necessary to render the bill safe, practicable and just. Failing in them all, I could not do otherwise than withdraw my support from the measure.

His candidature was briefly supported by the Conservative lord lieutenant John Wodehouse*, but nothing came of it, nor of a rumour that he might offer for Norfolk West.19 He therefore left the House at the dissolution in December 1832, and he is not known to have sought another seat. He plumped for the Conservative William Bagge at the Norfolk West election in 1835, and split for Bagge and another Conservative William Lyde Wiggett Chute in 1837.20 He died in May 1854, leaving his estate to his brother Richard.21

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Stephen Farrell


  • 1. Oxon. Arch. Soc. Rep. (1917), 114-15; VCH Oxon. v. 312, 315; Gent. Mag. (1797), i. 356.
  • 2. J. Weyland, Principles of Population and Production (1816), p. vi.
  • 3. CITR, v. 640.
  • 4. Life, Letters and Opinions of William Roberts ed. A. Roberts, 37-38; Biog. Dict. of Living Authors (1816), 381.
  • 5. The Times, 20 Jan. 1813.
  • 6. Add. 35132, f. 19; 35133, f. 297; 35700, f. 506.
  • 7. Weyland, pp. ix-xxiv, 484-7.
  • 8. British Rev. viii (1816), 290; Works of Malthus ed. E.A. Wrigley and D. Souden, iii. 609-21.
  • 9. He edited Boyle’s Occasional Reflections (1808). A Pat from the Lion’s Paw ... by Leo Britannicus (1815), and A Remonstrance addressed to the Author of Two Letters to the Right Honourable Robert Peel (1819) have been attributed to him in the Univ. of London Lib. cat.
  • 10. Horner Pprs. 634; [W. Turner], Reading 70 Years Ago ed. P.H. Ditchfield, 61, 73, 75-79, 82-83; HP Commons, 1790-1820, ii. 15.
  • 11. Add. 38458, f. 303.
  • 12. The Times, 29 Feb., 3, 11, 17 Mar.; Reading Mercury, 6 Mar. 1820.
  • 13. PROB 11/1703/463; IR26/1069/648.
  • 14. Hants RO, Calthorpe mss 26M62/F/C 927.
  • 15. Norf. Chron. 23 Jan., 26 June 1830.
  • 16. Calthorpe mss F/C 386, 1132.
  • 17. Hopetoun mss 167, f. 179.
  • 18. Devizes Gazette, 5 May 1831; Norf. Chron. 14 July 1832.
  • 19. Norf. Chron. 23 June, 14 July; Bury Post, 27 June, 4 July, 5 Sept. 1832.
  • 20. W. Norf. Pollbook (1835), 103; (1837), 153.
  • 21. Gent. Mag. (1854), i. 670; DNB; Oxford DNB.