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Joseph Hume

Joseph Hume

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Joseph Hume, the son of a shipmaster, was born in Montrose in 1777. Hume was apprenticed to a local surgeon and after finishing his training in Edinburgh he worked as a doctor for the East India Company. Hume impressed his employers and he soon held a senior position in the company. When Hume returned to Scotland in 1808 he was a rich man. He now turned his attention to politics and in 1812 he was the successful Tory candidate for the Border constituency.

Once in Parliament Hume's political views began to change and by 1818 he supported the Whigs. As well as supporting universal suffrage, Hume campaigned for religious freedom including Catholic emancipation. In 1824 he managed to persuade the House of Commons to obtain a select committee to investigate the Combination Acts. Other policies advocated by Hume included the setting up of savings banks, the abolition of flogging in the army and an end to imprisonment for debt. Hume's Radical views meant that he had to switch to the Middlesex constituency.

By 1830 Joseph Hume was seen by many people as the leader of the movement for universal suffrage in the House of Commons. As a Radical, Hume was not satisfied with the 1832 Reform Act and continued to argue from an extension of the franchise. William Lovett worked closely with Hume: "Among those who supported the Charter was the persevering and consistent reformer, Joseph Hume. I believe that no man was ever more preserving in seeking to carry the principles of reform into every department of the state than was Mr. Hume. And certainly, of all men, whose efforts to free the working classes from the enthrallment of the infamous combination laws, he is the most worthy of honour, and of their grateful remembrance."

Hume worked closely with William Lovett and in 1839 he helped to present the Chartist petition for parliamentary reform signed by over a million people. With Francis Place Hume tried hard to unite middle class and working class radicals. However, Hume was totally opposed to the tactics advocated by Fergeas O'Connor and the physical force Chartists.

Samuel Smiles was also impressed by Hume's dedication: "Joseph Hume distinguished himself by his indefatigable industry. There is scarcely a page of the parliamentary register which does not contain some record of his sayings and doings. In the finances, the revenue, the excise, the public accounts, the army and navy, the representation of the people, the removal of religious disabilities, he was always at work. He was the most regular attender, the most consistent voter, the most laborious investigator, the most active and useful member, perhaps, who ever sat in Parliament."

In 1839 Hume and William Lovett presented the Chartist petition for parliamentary reform signed by over a million people. However, Hume was totally opposed to the tactics advocated by Fergeas O'Connor and the physical force Chartists.

Joseph Hume's support for the Nonconformist demands for a reduction in the power of the Anglican Church led to charges of him being part of a Popish conspiracy. In the 1837 General Election his opponents used the campaign slogan "No Popery" and the strong anti-Catholic feelings in Middlesex resulted in him being defeated.

Joseph Hume's attempts to became M.P. for Leeds ended in failure but in 1842 he was elected to represent his home town of Montrose. After the decline in Chartism in 1848, Hume lead the campaign for the Little Charter, based on the idea of triennial parliaments and the vote being granted to ratepayers. Joseph Hume represented Montrose until his death in 1855.

Among those who supported the Charter was the persevering and consistent reformer, Joseph Hume. And certainly, of all men, whose efforts to free the working classes from the enthrallment of the infamous combination laws, he is the most worthy of honour, and of their grateful remembrance.

From the time he took his seat in Parliament, down to the year 1841, when he offered himself to the Leeds constituency, Joseph Hume distinguished himself by his indefatigable industry. He was the most regular attender, the most consistent voter, the most laborious investigator, the most active and useful member, perhaps, who ever sat in Parliament.

Joseph Hume, 1777-1855

Joseph Hume was a Scottish radical who devoted his political career to championing the principles of retrenchment. He was born near Montrose, Forfarshire in January 1777, the first son of James Hume. Hume’s father, master of a small fishing ship, died when he was nine and the family was forced to fall back on the income provided by his mother’s crockery shop. Hume was educated at the Montrose Academy, where he befriended James Mill, four years his senior. At the age of thirteen, he was apprenticed to a local doctor and then in 1793 entered Edinburgh University to study anatomy, midwifery and chemistry. On graduating in 1797, he joined the naval service of the East India Company as a physician.

India was to prove the making of Hume. Having learned Hindustani, he worked his way up through the service of the East India Company during the Mahratta War (1802-03), eventually being put in charge of the supplies in Bengal. From such a position he was able, quite legally, to acquire a fortune and by the time he returned to England in 1808 he had amassed wealth to the tune of £40,000. With some of this in 1812 he bought a seat in Parliament for £10,000, via the influence of the Duke of Cumberland, at Weymouth & Melcombe Regis. Initially Hume pledged his support to Spencer Perceval, the Tory Prime Minister, but within a few weeks of entering the House of Commons he was demonstrating the heterodoxy and independence which became the hallmark of his radicalism. He attacked sinecures and sided with the opposition over the framework knitters’ bill. Cumberland withdrew his patronage and in the general election of September 1812 Hume was replaced, although he did receive some financial compensation from the Duke.

Out of Parliament until 1818, Hume became a close ally of Francis Place, the radical tailor and political fixer, whom he met through James Mill. Along with Samuel Whitbread they all gave support to the innovative educational system of Joseph Lancaster. Hume also became involved in attempts to break up the trade monopoly of the East India Company and in 1816 gave his backing to the call for decimalisation of weights and measures. In 1815 he married Mary Burnley, the wealthy daughter of a proprietor of East India stock, a marriage which did little to dispel suspicion of Hume’s propensity to use private means to augment his public reputation.

At the general election of 1818 Hume was returned as MP for the Borders. Over the next few years he established his reputation as the watchdog of public finance, prolonging parliamentary discussion of the estimates long into the night and remaining on his feet by eating a steady supply of pears. Between 1823 and 1825, with behind-the-scenes prompting from Place, he was involved in attempts to repeal the Combination Acts, chairing a parliamentary select committee on the subject in 1825. Hume’s reputation for financial probity took something of a knock in 1826 when he was implicated in the Greek loan scandal. However, he re-emerged at the centre-stage of English radical politics four years later when, with the advent of a new Whig ministry, he was returned, somewhat reluctantly on his part due to the expense, as one of the MPs for the populous constituency of Middlesex.

Hume welcomed the accession of the Whigs to power, believing they were committed to retrenchment. In 1835 Hume was instrumental in bringing about the Lichfield House compact between Whigs, Radicals and the Irish MPs which resulted in the selection of a more sympathetic speaker for the House of Commons. But by the end of the decade his faith in Whig leadership began to expire, as they hesitated over further parliamentary reform and appeared to take an aggressive line in Canada and Jamaica. On the emergence of the Chartist movement Hume declared he was for household suffrage, but, as he had shown twenty years earlier, his preferred palliative for social discontent was fiscal reform and retrenchment. In 1840 he chaired the influential parliamentary select committee on import duties, helping to stack it with free traders, and many of its findings and revelations went on to provide the framework for Peel’s reforms in taxation. Hume had lost his Middlesex seat in 1837 and, with Daniel O’Connell’s assistance, had been returned instead for Kilkenny. In 1841 he was defeated there, but the following year returned as MP for Montrose, the constituency he represented until his death.

When the Whigs returned to power in 1846 Hume vied with Richard Cobden and John Bright for the leadership of the large Radical presence in Parliament. He now championed parliamentary reform to a far greater extent than hitherto, introducing motions for household suffrage in three successive years from 1848, and he also joined in the agitation of the National Parliamentary and Financial Reform Association. But, with his typically maverick style, he also managed to offend radical sensibilities, for example by supporting the West India planters in their constitutional struggles of the late 1840s, and by entering an unholy alliance with protectionist MPs over reform of the income tax in 1851. Hume’s manoeuvring, however, could still unsettle governments of the day. In 1852 his insistence on the government, including the secret ballot in its reform bill, was widely perceived to be one of the causes of the fall of Lord John Russell’s ministry.

Hume’s stalwart attendance in the House of Commons diminished as Britain became involved in the Crimean War. Returning from Scotland to his country seat at Burnley Hall, near Great Yarmouth, in the new year of 1855, he fell ill and died on 20 February, aged seventy-eight. Hume was not a popular man. He was considered too dour, pedantic and unpredictable to win many admirers, but his insistence on, and knowledge of, constitutional propriety, together with his defence of public economy and free trade – long before they became the shibboleths of the Liberal Party – ensured his place in the pantheon of liberalism.

There have been two fairly recent and reliable biographies of Hume: Ronald K. Huch and Paul R. Ziegler, Joseph Hume: The People’s MP (Philadelphia, 1985) and Valerie Chancellor, The Political Life of Joseph Hume, 1777-1855 (privately printed, 1986).

Miles Taylor was a Lecturer in Modern History at King’s College, London at the time of writing this piece. He is the author of The Decline of British Radicalism 1847-60 (1995), editor of The European Diaries of Richard Cobden, 1846-49 (1994) and co-editor of Party, State and Society: Electoral Behaviour in Britain since 1820 (1997).


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Impressment, also called crimping, enforcement of military or naval service on able-bodied but unwilling men through crude and violent methods. Until the early 19th century this practice flourished in port towns throughout the world. Generally impressment could provide effective crews only when patriotism was not an essential of military success. Impressed men were held to their duty by uncompromising and brutal discipline, although in war they seem to have fought with no less spirit and courage than those who served voluntarily.

The “recruiters” preyed to a great extent upon men from the lower classes who were, more often than not, vagabonds or even prisoners. Sources of supply were waterfront boardinghouses, brothels, and taverns whose owners victimized their own clientele. In the early 19th century the Royal Navy would halt U.S. vessels to search for British deserters and in the process would not infrequently impress naturalized American citizens who were on board. This practice was among the grievances that helped bring about the War of 1812.

Through the 19th century there was a gradual decline in the practice of impressment. As the manpower needs of the military continued to increase, more systematic methods of recruitment became necessary.

--> Hume, Joseph, 1777-1855

British politician and liberal reformer, from "Burnley Hall," County Norfolk, England.

From the description of Correspondence, 1813-1853. (Duke University Library). WorldCat record id: 122509832

From the description of Correspondence, 1813-1853. (Duke University Library). WorldCat record id: 19851286

William Carey was born in 1761. He became a Baptist minister and travelled as a missionary to India with his family in 1793. He learned the local languages and, with his Indian colleagues, translated the Bible into six languages.

John Campbell was born in Edinburgh in 1766. He was ordained in 1804 and preached at the Kingsland Independent Chapel, London. He was a supporter of the abolition of slavery and became Director of the London Missionary Society (LMS) in 1805. He travelled to Africa in 1812 on behalf of the LMS and on his return in 1814 wrote Travels in South Africa .

Joseph Hume was born in Montrose, Scotland in 1777. He enlisted in the East India Company in 1799, and made a fortune in the next few years. He became the MP for Weymouth, a rotten borough, in 1812 but lost his seat the same year. He returned to Westminster as the MP for Aberdeen in 1818, and became one of the leaders of the radicals for the next 30 years. He campaigned to extend the franchise, supported the introduction of secret ballots, and voted to abolish the death penalty. He lost his seat in 1837 but represented Montrose from 1842 until his death in 1855.

Thomas Babington Macaulay was born at Rothley Temple, Leicestershire in 1800. He was the son of the abolitionist Zachary Macaulay and his wife Selina (née Mills), and was educated at Trinity College Cambridge. He subsequently studied law at Lincoln's Inn and was called to the bar in 1826. He first entered parliament in 1830 as MP for Calne and subsequently for Leeds. He left parliament in 1834 to serve on the Governor-General's Council in British India, returning to Britain in 1838. In 1839 he re-entered parliament as MP for Edinburgh, keeping the seat until 1847 and spending several years as a cabinet minister. Macaulay was also known as a poet and author. Between 1839 and 1855 he wrote four volumes of a History of England . He was granted a peerage in 1857 and buried in Westminster Abbey after his death in 1859.

No information about John Philips was available at the time of compilation.

From the guide to the Carey, W Campbell, J Hume, J Macaulay, T B and Philips, J: correspondence, 1805-1847, (Senate House Library, University of London)

HUME, Joseph (1777-1855), of 38 York Place, Portman Square, Mdx. and Burnley Hall, Norf.

b. 22 Jan. 1777, yr. s. of James Hume, shipmaster, of Montrose, Forfar by w. Mary Allan.1 educ. Montrose acad. Edinburgh Univ. 1793-52 Aberdeen Univ., MD 1799. m. 17 Aug. 1815, Maria, da. and h. of Hardon Burnley, merchant, of Brunswick Square, Mdx., 3s. 4da.3

Offices Held

Member, RCS Edinburgh 1796.

Asst. surgeon, E.I. Co. naval service 1797, full asst. surgeon 1799 on Bengal medical establishment 1799-1808.

Rector, Aberdeen Univ. 1824-6, 1828-9.


Hume’s father, the master of a small coaster, died soon after Joseph’s birth. His mother was reputed to have supported herself and her children by establishing a retail crockery business in Montrose market. At the age of 13 he was apprenticed to a local apothecary. After studying at Edinburgh and Aberdeen and serving briefly as an assistant surgeon in the Duke of York’s retreating army, he qualified as a surgeon in 1796. The following year he secured an appointment as an assistant surgeon in the East India Company’s naval service, probably through the patronage of David Scott I*, and made a voyage of 18 months in the Hope. He became a full assistant surgeon in the Houghton in 1799, and on arriving in Bengal transferred to the Company’s land service. He mastered the native languages and joined the army on the eve of the second Mahrattan war as a surgeon and interpreter. During the war he proved himself an effective and energetic administrator and filled a number of important posts in the pay office, prize agency and commissariat, eventually becoming commissary general.

He returned to England in 1808 with a fortune of about £40,000 In 1809, he undertook a tour of the manufacturing districts and in 1810-11 travelled extensively in the Mediterranean and Middle East. It seems likely that on his return to London, where he settled, he renewed his acquaintance with James Mill, with whom he had been at school in Montrose, and began to imbibe from him the doctrines of political economy.4 He appears also to have developed an interest in the Lancasterian system of education, and to have become friendly with the Duke of Kent, a patron of the Royal Lancasterian Institution.

His return for Weymouth in January 1812 on the death of Sir John Lowther Johnstone was arranged by Spencer Perceval through one of Johnstone’s trustees, Masterton Ure*. In 1822, Brougham, stung by Hume’s recent criticism of Whig lukewarmness on parliamentary reform, wrote to Creevey:

I can remind him of their dividing some 120 on it in 1812, when he was sitting at Perceval’s back, toad-eating him for a place, and acting the part of their covert-doer of all sorts of dirty work in the coarsest and most offensive way thro’ the whole battle of the orders in council, when we beat them and him!5

While he did generally support government, defending the Sicilian subsidy, 25 Mar., and voting against the sinecure bill, 4 May, and Stuart Wortley’s motion, 21 May 1812, he showed signs of the independence which was to characterize his later career. In his first reported speech, 5 Mar., he opposed the expulsion of Benjamin Walsh, and on 9 Mar. he suggested the application of the Lancasterian system to Ireland. On the finance resolutions, 23 July, he expressed a wish that the government ‘would take example by the system which had recently been adopted by the governor-general of India, and keep their expenditure within their income’. The votes against the bill imposing capital punishment for frame-breaking and for inquiry into the Nottingham riots, 14 and 17 Feb. 1812, which are attributed in Parliamentary Debates to William Hoare Hume*, may well have been cast by Joseph. He investigated the causes of Luddism and concluded, as he wrote in his 1812 Letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer (page v), that harmony could best be restored to the framework-knitting industry by ‘a repeal of every restriction which can in any way fetter either masters or workmen in the disposal of their capital or labour’. He was added to the revived select committee on the framework-knitters protection bill, 10 July, and on the third reading, 21 July, opposed it root and branch. Although Hume, whose views were those of a doctrinaire political economist, was clearly acting as spokesman for the hosiery and knitting masters, he strongly condemned the ‘erroneous principle’ of existing legislation, that ‘the capitalists or masters are the only part to be protected against combination and injustice’, and argued that ‘the artisans or workmen have an equal right to be protected’. He did not divide the House, but the measure was defeated in the Lords on 24 July.6

He intended to seek re-election for Weymouth at the dissolution of 1812, having apparently been encouraged by Ure, but was unacceptable to the Duke of Cumberland, the dominant Johnstone trustee, probably because his independent views and conduct made him appear a potentially disruptive force. Johnstone’s widow told James Brougham, 26 Oct. 1812:

Entre nous I believe government wished Joseph put out, and I am not sure but he is better out of the way. He did a great deal too much here, and had got an amazing hold on some of the people.

His publicly expressed indignation threatened to embarrass Cumberland, and he was eventually bought off with £1,000, though he nominally stood the poll and was thought to have inspired a later attack on Cumberland in the Independent Whig. At the by-election of 1813 it was rumoured that he would join in the attack on the trustees’ interest, but he did not do so. He was probably the ‘Mr Hume’ who made an abortive attempt to open Lord Lonsdale’s pocket borough of Cockermouth in 1812.7

When he re-entered the House in 1818 it was as an aggressively independent radical, with a political philosophy based on the ideas of Bentham and Mill and a working relationship with Francis Place. It seems likely that his conversion to radicalism arose out of his interest in education and his consequent association with Place in the activities of the British and Foreign Schools Association and the West London Lancasterian Association. In 1827, Place recalled that he had first met Hume through the Quaker Joseph Fox in June 1813, when Hume was instructed by the Duke of Kent to ascertain particulars of Place’s attempts to settle the dispute between Joseph Lancaster and his trustees. The relationship was probably encouraged by Mill, their mutual acquaintance. In 1836 Place told Mrs Grote:

Mill fixed him upon me some 25 years since. I found him devoid of information, dull and selfish. From the country he came, India, and the way in which he commenced his public life here, I had no reliance on him for good service, and no grounds for placing confidence in his integrity. Mill said, work on with him and he will come out, there is much in him which will grow by good nursing . Mill’s predictions were realised. Hume showed his capabilities and his imperturbable perseverance which have beaten down all opposition and there he stands the man of men.

It took Hume several years to win Place’s full esteem. On 9 Dec. 1815 Place recounted with horror to Mill a current story that shortly before his recent marriage to a wealthy heiress, Hume had callously cast off his pregnant mistress, by whom he had already had two children:

I never liked Hume. I could not but see that he was proud, insolent, and offensive to all to whom he dared so to exhibit himself— mean, cringing, abject, to rank and power . I can do business with Mr Hume as with any common man but he shall be no friend of mine.8

He canvassed repeatedly but in vain for a seat on the board of the East India Company between 1812 and 1818, and became the most loquacious and relentless critic of the Company’s financial management.9 In 1816 he published A Plan for a New General System of Weights and a pamphlet advocating the establishment of a general scheme for savings banks.

In 1818, Hume, who was a member of the Westminster radicals’ election committee, canvassed Bishop’s Castle, but eventually stood, with the support of the Whig William Maule*, for the Aberdeen district of burghs, which included Montrose, where the establishment of a new constitution had given popular elements greater weight in municipal affairs. He provided a substitute for Bishop’s Castle and, standing on an explicitly radical, independent platform, carried the burghs with remarkable ease against the ministerialist sitting Member. In his victory speech, when he described himself as ‘the independent, unshackled representative of the only free and independent burgh in Scotland’, he advocated gradual progress towards the ‘happy medium’ of ‘a representation uninfluenced by power, and unmoved by popular clamour’ and the elimination of sinecures and extravagant expenditure, and condemned the maintenance of a large standing army in peacetime.10

Hume, who divided consistently and regularly with the left wing of opposition in 1819, quickly made his mark in the House as a voluble and doggedly persistent critic of waste and profusion in all branches of administration. The report in The Times of his remarks on Canning’s indifference to popular distress, 8 June, was considered libellous. Hume ascribed it to unintentional misrepresentation and the furore soon subsided, though he was astonished by Burdett’s allegation, 16 June, that his words had been accurately reported.11 He took no initiatives on parliamentary reform, but he opposed the hasty passage of the Westminster hustings bill, 1 and 3 Feb., supported Scottish burgh reform, 23 Mar., 1 Apr. and 6 May, and was appointed to the committee of inquiry. He voted for an extension of the franchise at Penryn, 22 June, and for Burdett’s reform motion, 1 July, ‘in compliance with the opinion of his constituents’ in favour of ‘a moderate reform’. He continued to expound the doctrines of orthodox political economy, called for Poor Law reform on the Utilitarian model and advocated judicial reform and repeal of the Combination Acts.

In August 1819 Hume explained his political credo to his friend George Sinclair*:

Economy with me is the order of the day, and I look on that as the best reform that can be attempted . Taxation and extraordinary expenditure . are the diseases of the State and reduction of expenses . will cure it.12

He provoked uproar by moving the adjournment of the debate on the address, 23 Nov. 1819, and the following day argued that ‘the true source of our difficulties and distresses was to be traced to our overwhelming taxation, and to the denial of a proper reform in that House’. He divided to the bitter end against the Six Acts, moved an unsuccessful amendment to the seditious meetings bill, 13 Dec., and secured the production of information on colonial and naval expenditure, 29 Nov. and 8 Dec. 1819. In February 1820 he persistently badgered ministers for clarification of their plans for provision for Queen Caroline.

In 1821 Farington described Hume as ‘a plain, steady speaker, but not an orator’. He was, indeed, one of the most painfully boring speakers of his day and had little imagination or tactical awareness. He himself admitted to Sinclair:

the House of Commons . are . impatient of detail, and render every man who, like myself, has the misfortune to consider that a whole is made of parts, and that an increase or decrease, or proper understanding of that whole, is best acquired by an intimate knowledge of the parts, only bearable because decorum forbids them altogether to put him down.13

Yet he was impervious to ridicule and, with his immense physical energy and stubborn perseverance, established himself during his long career as the foremost parliamentary champion of retrenchment and economy, and a prominent figure in radical politics. He died 20 Feb. 1855.

On Enlightenment humanity

Today, David Hume is honoured by a bronze statue on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. The statue takes its place at the historic heart of a great city in which Hume lived and worked. It sits a few footsteps from the Advocates Library, a place he diligently served as Librarian, fostering knowledge and its circulation among the privileged reading public, and to which he contributed as a writer, thinker, and interlocutor with other intellectuals in Scotland and across Europe.

The modern statue, long greened by oxidation, imagines Hume as a modern Greek or Roman philosopher. His almost undignified loose robes and book suggest a greater commitment to scholarship and knowledge above worldly comforts — ironic for a man known as a stylish bon vivant. Many tourists have seen the statue, selfied with it, posed beside it, affectionately rubbed Hume’s toe “for luck” until it smoothly shines. I’ve walked past the statue myself many times in all the weathers Scotland can muster for its visitors: in the vicious winds that tear across the cobbles in sleet and snow in the infamous “haar” fog that sweeps in from the Forth in rain that soaks with a determination so unconquerable you’d call it bloody-minded and in glorious, brilliant sun. In all weathers, there sits Hume reassuringly with his book, in oxide green comically offering his bronzed toe. Complexions anything but white. There’s an irony there too.

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David Hume has long been considered one of the leading intellectual figures in a remarkable period of Scotland’s history today referred to as the Scottish Enlightenment. Scotland’s Enlightenment was a local iteration of a Europe-wide intellectual, cultural, political, and social renovation across the eighteenth century. Once described as a single, unified movement — The Enlightenment — scholars tend now to speak of a multiplicity of Enlightenments from Scotland to Russia, Scandinavia to the Mediterranean. While some scholars speak of global Enlightenments, all agree that Europe’s Enlightenments had a profound effect on world history, and indeed was responsible for generating our “modern” understanding of the globe as an integrated entity, linked by trade and commerce and underwritten by an assumption that humanity is a value universally shared, in equal measure, by all human beings.

Whether in its parochial European variants or in global iterations, Enlightenment is today understood as a period of extraordinary intellectual dynamism that bequeathed to us ideas of universal humanity, natural rights, government based on the consent of the governed, prison reform, medical advancement, and a host of scientific achievements.

I have spent a good part of my career researching, writing about, and trying to understand Europe’s Enlightenment, and have focussed special attention on Scotland’s Enlightenment. It was Scotland’s Enlightenment that produced the first modern theory of the geological antiquity of the earth (James Hutton), the political economy of what we now call capitalism (Adam Smith), the first moral and sociological analyses of the division of labour (Adam Ferguson), the first experimental studies of oxygen and carbon dioxide (Joseph Black), as well as a host of innovations in the fields of medicine (William Cullen), anatomy (Alexander Munro), anthropology (John Millar), and philosophy (David Hume).

Life of Sir Joshua Walmsley – Chapter XVI.

CHAPTER XVI. This chapter is taking us back into politics. The frame-work knitters referred to in the chapter were producing knitted cloth, and lace. It was very much a cottage industry working from home doing piece-work. Basically they had a pretty appalling life. The tiny stitches in the fabric they were producing ruined people’s eyesight quite quickly. The frames used were rented from middlemen, so were expensive to use, and the knitters were working for poverty wages. Sir Henry Halford was the Tory M.P. for Southern Leicestershire, so Josh supporting his Bill to reduce the influence of middlemen was a cross-party effort. Petitioning against the elected M.P.’s was an almost standard procedure at the time, and was sometimes successful, sometimes not. Finally to the briefest mention of family – ” Death had been busy, too, in his own family. ” This one sentence covers the deaths of probably two daughters. Adeline – Josh’s fourth child, born in 1824 had died at Ranton Abbey in 1842 aged 18, and another daughter Mary born in 1832 died the same year. It’s a curiously cold sentence from Hugh about two younger sisters. There is even the intriguing possibility that it could refer to Josh’s mother as well she gets the briefest of mentions in chapter one ” Mrs. Walmsley is described as a woman of energy and ability.” and ” but trouble…….. the husband and wife separated. ” It is entirely possible that she could have died in her late seventies around this time. But almost nothing is known about her, and she doesn’t seem to have been part of his life since his very early childhood.

Some time previous to Mr. Stephenson’s death, Sir Joshua had left Ranton Abbey. Death had been busy, too, in his own family. Country pursuits began to pall on him, and so when in the spring of 1847 a numerously-signed requisition was forwarded to him from the inhabitants of Leicester, he finally made up his mind to contest that borough. He was no stranger to the town, for the extensive collieries of Snibstone and Whitwick adjoined and supplied it. In June, 1847, Parliament died a natural death. The condition of the frame-work knitters had long excited his warm interest. These people worked from twelve to sixteen hours a day, not un-frequently losing their eyesight after some years of this labour, after earning on an average about six shillings a week, all charges deducted. Sir Henry Halford had brought this state of things before Parliament, but with no result. The words of one of these poor fellows, before a Parliamentary committee, will sum up their case better than any description that we can give of it : “ There is no race of people under the sun,” he said, “ so oppressed as we are, who work the hours we do for the pay we get.” During Sir Joshua’s connection with Leicester he was continually battling against their wrongs. The extortions of the middlemen, who hired out the frames at arbitrary prices, and who had the giving out of the work, ground the unfortunate labourers to the dust. These middlemen had virtually become their masters, and it was asserted loudly that, besides charging a percentage on the work they gave, they actually paid a lower price for it than that which they themselves received from the manufacturers.

Bell Hotel, Leicester. It was originally a Georgian coaching inn.

Sir Joshua’s address to the electors was in substance, much the same as that issued to the electors of Liverpool years before. The two candidates were introduced to the constituency. A crowd had assembled before Bell’s Hotel, from the balcony of which the candidates spoke. Somewhat apart hung a group of careworn-looking men, gathered around a cart, in which stood one man, evidently the leader of the opposition. These were the frame-workers, and their leader was George Buckby, who had stated his determination to contest the borough, should he not be satisfied with the Liberal candidates. At the close of Sir Joshua’s speech he rose, and drew a vivid picture of the frame-workers’ wrongs, to which the knitters listened eagerly.

Referring to Sir Henry Halford’s Bill, Mr. Buckby asked Sir Joshua if he could pledge himself to vote for a similar bill, should one be brought forward in the next Parliament. Sir Joshua’s answer was direct and to the point. He would not pledge himself to vote for any bill before he knew whether its provisions would be really beneficial. ” I tell you,” he said, ” that we never can either directly or indirectly legislate on the question of the rate of wages. “ As the crowd cheered this sentiment the knitters muttered “Shame ! ” “The rights of labour, “ continued Sir Joshua, ” are sacred to the poor man, and I shall be the last to interfere with those rights. But if it is shown to me that injustice is done to you, I shall receive any information you are willing to give me, and then see what can be done to remove the injustice. But you must first make your minds up clearly upon the subject, discuss it fairly and calmly, and let us know the result. I shall not pledge myself to any particular measure but this I assure you, that not this measure alone, but every bill that comes before me which promises really to benefit the working classes, that is my bill, and that shall have my support. In benefiting the working-man I benefit the whole community, for I know the rich and powerful are able to take care of themselves.”

Mr. Buckby declared that the drift of Sir Joshua’s answer was that no legislative interference would be of any use to the frame-work knitters, and accordingly he announced his intention of going to the poll and opening houses in different parts of the town.

Two nights after, Sir Joshua again met the electors at the New Hall. The building was crowded several knitters had succeeded in securing places. ” The quietness of their demeanour, “ he says, ” and the attention with which they followed my speech were noticeable throughout, and contrasted with the aggressiveness with which they had met me on the previous evening. ”

The day following this meeting there appeared a handbill, signed by a number of frame-work knitters, amongst which figured conspicuously the signature of Mr. Buckby, calling upon the working classes to vote for Sir Joshua Walmsley and Mr. Gardiner Mr. Buckby, satisfied with the Liberal candidates’ views, had renounced his intention of endeavouring to enter Parliament.

The election took place on the 31st July. Before five o’clock in the morning, the streets were full of bustle. It was an anxious day for the knitters, who crowded the market-place before the polling hour. Sir Joshua’s name headed the first return, Mr. Gardiner came after him, and to the end of the contest the two Liberals kept their places. At four o’clock the mayor proclaimed their election.

Sir Joshua now set himself to inquire into the cause of the great misery of the frame- work knitters.

” Before the opening of Parliament, “ he says, ” I spent much time in Leicester, personally visiting and receiving visits from the workmen. It was with the determination to advocate their cause, and if possible to obtain some amelioration of their lot, that I took my seat in the House. ”

When Sir Henry Halford again brought forward his bill. Sir Joshua strenuously supported the proposed inquiry. ” In the midland counties,” he said, in the course of his speech, ” there are thirty-six thousand frames, each supporting on an average three or four individuals, so that the population employed in frame- work knitting amounts to one hundred and twenty or one hundred and thirty thousand souls.” He drew a vivid picture of the destitution which he had himself witnessed.

On the occasion of Sir Joshua’s first speech in Parliament, Mr. Hume and he took opposite views of the question at issue. The former, opposing all interference between workmen and masters, voted against Sir Henry Halford’s Bill. It is one of the few instances in which, during the period they worked together in Parliament, Sir Joshua’s and Mr. Hume’s votes were opposed.

” The career which I was now eagerly entering upon, “ says Sir Joshua, ” was suddenly cut short. A petition against the member for Leicester, on the plea of bribery, was sent up to Parliament by the Tories. No sooner was the petition presented, than the leading Liberals in Leicester subscribed a fund more than sufficient at the very outset to cover all expenses, and engaged the services of eminent counsel to defend their representatives. “

” It was some time before a Parliamentary inquiry was granted. Most of the frivolous charges against Mr. Gardiner and myself melted before the cross examination of our counsel. One charge, however, our opponents were able to substantiate. Some bills at two public-houses that were wont to hang out the Liberal colours had been left unsettled at a previous election by the Liberal candidates. These bills our agents had paid. The committee, clearing us of all connivance in the matter, reported the result of the inquiry to the Houses, and towards the end of August a new writ was issued for the borough of Leicester. “

” I was deeply hurt by the slur cast upon my election. I was disheartened also at being interrupted in the work I had so far gone into connected with the cause of the frame-work knitters. On the news reaching Leicester of the issuing of a new writ, a meeting was called in the town. Its purpose was, first, to deplore the loss of their representatives secondly, to clear the borough from the charge of corruption, by determinedly acting upon the principle of purity of election. Mr. Ellis and Mr. Harris, who had been our zealous supporters, came forward as candidates, and their nomination and election were uncontested. ”

Sir Joshua pledged himself to his late constituents to stand for Leicester the first opportunity that presented itself. He was to redeem his pledge a few years later, and that also of calling the attention of Parliament to the condition of the knitters.

Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Hume, Joseph

HUME, JOSEPH (1777–1855), politician, was younger son of a shipmaster of Montrose, Forfarshire, where he was born on 22 Jan. 1777. His mother, early left a widow, kept a crockery stall in the market-place, and having put her son to school in the town, apprenticed him in 1790 to a local surgeon. After three years he was sent to study medicine successively at Aberdeen, Edinburgh, and London, and in 1796 became a member of the College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, and on 2 Feb. in the following year an assistant surgeon in the sea-service of the East India Company. This post was obtained for him by the influence of David Scott of Dunninald, Forfarshire, a director of the East India Company and M.P. for Forfar. He made his first voyage out in 1797, became a full assistant surgeon on 12 Nov. 1799, and was posted to the ship Houghton. On the voyage out he discharged satisfactorily the duties of the purser who died. He was then transferred to the land service of the company, and devoted himself zealously to the study of the native languages and religions. Having rapidly mastered Hindostani and Persian, he was employed by the administration in political duties. In 1801 he joined the army at Bundelcund on the eve of the Mahratta war as surgeon to the 18th sepoy regiment, and was at once appointed interpreter to Lieutenant-colonel Powell, commanding one of the forces. In 1802 he rendered the government an important service by devising a safe means of drying the stock of gunpowder, which was found to have become damp. During the war he filled several high posts in the offices of the paymaster of the forces, the prize agency office, and the commissariat, and at its conclusion was publicly thanked by Lord Lake. His opportunities of enriching himself had not been neglected, and in 1807 he was able to return to Bengal with 40,000l. and to quit the service. He landed in England in 1808, and spent some years in travel and study. He visited the whole of the United Kingdom in 1809, more especially the manufacturing towns, and travelled during 1810 and 1811 in the Mediterranean and in Egypt, and he published in 1812 a translation in blank verse of the `Inferno' of Dante.

In the same year he began a political career at home. On the death of Sir John Lowther Johnstone he was returned in January 1812 for Weymouth, having purchased two elections to the seat but when upon the dissolution in the autumn of 1812 the owners of the borough refused to re-elect him, he took proceedings for the recovery of his money, and succeeded in getting a portion returned. While he held the seat he supported the tory government, and opposed the Framework Knitters Bill in the interest of the manufacturers.

Before re-entering parliament Hume took an active part upon the central committee of the Lancastrian schools system, and studied the condition of the working classes, publishing a pamphlet on savings banks. He also devoted great attention to Indian affairs, and tried strenuously but without success to obtain election to the directorate of the East India Company. He was indefatigable at proprietors' meetings in exposing abuses, and published some of his speeches at the Court of Proprietors. Upon the expiry of the charter of 1793 he advocated freedom of trade with India, and pointed out that it must result in an immense expansion of commerce with the East. He re-entered parliament under liberal auspices in 1818 as member for the Border burghs, joining the opposition in 1819. He was re-elected for the same constituency in 1820, and remained in parliament, excepting during 1841, when he unsuccessfully contested Leeds, until his death. He represented the Aberdeen burghs till 1830 Middlesex from 1830, when he was returned unopposed, till July 1837, when Colonel Wood defeated him by a small majority Kilkenny from 1837 to 1841, for which seat he was selected by O'Connell (see Harris , Radical Party in Parliament, p. 285) and Montrose from 1842 till he died. In 1820 he drew attention to the enormously disproportionate cost of collecting the revenue, and forced the appointment of a select committee, which reported in his favour. In 1822 he opposed Vansittart's scheme for the reduction of the pension charges, in 1824 obtained a select committee on the Combination Acts, and moved in the same year for an inquiry into the state of the Irish church. In 1830, however, he with other reformers supported the Duke of Wellington upon Knatchbull's motion on the agricultural distress, and so saved him from defeat for the moment. He advocated the extension of representation to the colonies during the debates on the Reform Bill on 16 Aug. 1831, and in 1834 moved the repeal of the Corn Laws. In 1835 and 1836 he was active in attacking the Orange Society, to which was imputed a design to alter the succession to the throne (see Martineau , Hist. of the Peace, ii. 266).

For thirty years he was a leader of the radical party. His industry and patience ​ were almost boundless, and he was indefatigable in exposing every kind of extravagance and abuse, but he particularly devoted himself to financial questions, and it was chiefly through his efforts that `retrenchment' was added to the words `peace and reform' as the party watchword. He spent much time and money on analysing the returns of public expenditure, and maintained a staff of clerks for the purpose. His speeches were innumerable. He spoke longer and oftener and probably worse than any other private member, but he saw most of the causes which he advocated succeed in the end (see Notes and Queries, 6th ser. i. 15, 200). He secured the abandonment of the policy of a sinking fund, urged the abolition of flogging in the army and pressing for the navy, and of imprisonment for debt he carried the repeal of the combination laws, and those prohibiting the emigration of workmen and the export of machinery was an earnest advocate of catholic emancipation, the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts, and of parliamentary reform. In 1824 he became a trustee of the loan raised for the assistance of the Greek insurgents, and was subsequently charged with jobbery in connection with it. All, however, that he appears to have done was to press for and obtain from the Greek deputies terms by which, on the loan going to a discount, he was relieved of his holding advantageously to himself (see John Francis , Chronicles of the Stock Exchange, ed. 1855, ch. xiv. Quarterly Review article on the 'Greek Committee,' vol. xxxv. Lockhart , Life of Scott, vi. 383). When he died he had served on more committees of the House of Commons than any other member. He was a privy councillor, deputy-lieutenant for Middlesex, a magistrate for Westminster, Middlesex, and Norfolk, a vice-president of the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce, a member of the Board of Agriculture, and a fellow of the Royal Society and of the Royal Asiatic Society, and was twice lord rector of Aberdeen University. Though of an excellent constitution, his health began to fail as early as 1849 ( Cornewall Lewis , Letters, September 1849) in 1854 he was taken ill when in Caithnessshire, and died at his seat, Burnley Hall, Norfolk, on 20 Feb. 1855, and was buried at Kensal Green cemetery. He married a daughter of Mr. Burnley of Guilford Street, London, a wealthy East India proprietor, by whom he had six children, of whom one, Joseph Burnley Hume, was secretary to the commission to inquire into abuses at the mint.

[Hansard's Parliamentary Debates are the best record of Hume's incessant political activity. See Speech of Lord Palmerston, 26 Feb. 1855, for an estimate of his character and career. See also Anderson's Scottish NationGreville Memoirs Harris's Radical Party in Parliament Times, 22 Feb. 1855 an obituary poem by his son, J. B. Hume, in Brit. Mus., Lond. 1855 Ann. Reg. 1855 Fitzpatrick's Correspondence of D. O'Connell Buckingham's Memoirs of the Court during the Regency and Reigns of George IV and William IV, and authorities cited above. There is a description of his personal appearance in the People's Journal, iv. 37, and a ludicrously hostile article in the United States Review, iv. 291, which seems to collect all the gossip ever uttered against him.]

Political career [ edit ]

In 1812, he purchased a seat in Parliament for Weymouth, Dorset, England, and voted as a Tory. When the parliament was dissolved the patron refused to return his money, and Hume brought an action to recover part of it. Six years later, Hume again entered the House, and made acquaintance with James Mill and the philosophical reformers of the school of Jeremy Bentham. He joined with Francis Place, of Westminster, and other philanthropists, to help improve the condition of the working classes, labouring especially to establish schools for them on the Lancastrian system, and forming savings banks.

In 1818, soon after getting married, he was returned to Parliament as member for the Aberdeen Burghs, Borders, Scotland. He was afterwards successively elected for Middlesex, England (1830), Kilkenny, Ireland (1837) and for the Montrose Burghs, Montrose, Scotland (1842), in the service of which constituency he died.

Chapter 11 - Joseph Hume and the reformation of India, 1819–33

In August 1831 Joseph Hume, the radical MP for Middlesex, introduced a little-known amendment to the reform bill. He proposed that nineteen extra MPs should be added to the House of Commons for the colonies (four for British India, eight for the Crown Colonies, three each for British America and the West Indies, and one for the Channel Islands). All those eligible for jury service would constitute the electorate in these colonies, and their chosen representatives would sit in Parliament for a guaranteed three years. Somewhat surprisingly, Hume's amendment was supported, not by his radical or Whig colleagues, but by a rather motley collection of ultra Tories: the Marquis of Chandos, Sir John Malcolm and Sir Charles Wetherell amongst the most prominent of those who seemed to have little problem with extending the vote to thousands overseas whilst resisting the £10 franchise at home. Less surprisingly, the amendment was defeated, and although the Duke of Richmond tried to press it on his cabinet colleagues later in the year as they drafted the third version of their reform bill, the attempt to introduce direct representation of the colonies was unsuccessful in 1832, just as it had been when advocated sixty years earlier by principled Whigs such as George Grenville, and as it was later in the nineteenth century when put forward by cunning Tories such as George Curzon.

Hume's amendment, however, is more than a curious footnote to the history of parliamentary representation.

Watch the video: PHILOSOPHY - David Hume (June 2022).


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