AUBREY, Sir John, 6th Bt. (1739-1826), of Dorton, Bucks. and Llantriddyd, Glam.
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Family and Education
b. 4 July 1739, 1st s. of Sir Thomas Aubrey, 5th Bt., of Boarstall, Bucks. and Llantriddyd by Martha, da. of Richard Carter of Chilton, Bucks., Welsh judge. educ. Westminster 1752; Christ Church, Oxf. 1758; Grand Tour c.1767. m. (1) 9 Mar. 1771, Mary (d. 14 June 1781), da. and coh. of Sir James Colebrooke†, 1st Bt., of Gatton, Surr., 1s. 1da.; (2) 26 May 1783, his cos. Martha Catherine, da. and coh. of George Richard Carter of Chilton, s.p. suc. fa. as 6th Bt. 4 Sept. 1786.
Ld. of Admiralty July 1782-Apr. 1783, of Treasury Dec. 1783-Aug. 1789.
Aubrey deserted Pitt over the Regency and forfeited the office he had accepted only as a prerequisite for a peerage, which was refused him. Denying that he was going into opposition or making the Regency a pretext for avenging his disappointment, he reminded Pitt, 3 Mar. 1789, ‘that I formerly adhered to your adversity and that I now retire from your prosperity’. His protest went unanswered. Having fought Pitt’s battle, as he conceived, in the contest for Buckinghamshire in 1784, he now found his prospects for the county bleak and by October 1789 gave up.1 Lord Buckingham reported, in January following, ‘Aubrey has declared his intention of abandoning this county for ever; Dorton is to be let, and Llantriddyd to be blessed as the scene of his contentment and repose’.2 But Aubrey did not abandon the county for ever and, although he was unable to do anything at Wallingford where he had brought in his brother Thomas for that Parliament, he found another seat. He was brought in, significantly, by Thomas Lister†, the Duke of Portland’s friend. He had met with the Portland Whigs at Burlington House on 11 May 1790. On 12 Apr, 1791 he voted against Pitt’s foreign policy, was the same month listed a supporter of repeal of the Test Act in Scotland, and on 7 June joined the Whig Club.
Aubrey’s silent metamorphosis (he never spoke in the House after 1790) was now complete. On 13 Dec. 1792 he voted for Fox’s amendment to the address and was omitted from the list of Portland Whigs. The Foxites listed him among those who could be expected to make a further contribution to the payment of Fox’s debts in 1793.3 His next known vote, 21 Jan. 1794, was again with Fox and that session he was steady in opposition. At the end of it he informed his patron (as well as Portland) that he could no longer act with them and spoilt his prospects of being returned for Clitheroe.4 During the next two sessions he voted steadily against the war and the curtailment of civil liberty at home.
In 1796 Aubrey found another patron prepared to return Whigs and remained the Crespigny family’s guest until 1812. On 10 Jan. 1797 he was a steward at the Whig Club meeting.5 After voting for parliamentary reform, 26 May 1797, he seceded with Fox, returning only to vote against the assessed taxes, 4 Jan. 1798, the handling of the Irish rebellion, 22 June 1798, and the refusal to negotiate with France, 3 Feb. 1800. In the session of 1801 he resumed regular opposition. He voted for inquiry into the Prince of Wales’s finances, 31 Mar. 1802, and again on 4 Mar. 1803. He voted with Fox on the Nottingham election bill and the adjournment, 3 and 24 May 1803, and on defence, 23 Apr. 1804. He was duly listed a Foxite by the Treasury in March, May and September of that year; and ‘Opposition’ in July 1805, after opposing Pitt on the additional force bill, the war with Spain, and Melville’s conduct.
Aubrey solicited a peerage from Fox when his friends came to power in 1806, but was put off with a promise of future satisfaction. He voted for the repeal of the Additional Force Act, 30 Apr. 1806, and was listed among ‘staunch friends’ of the aboliton of the slave trade. On Fox’s death, Lord Grenville was prepared to apply for a peerage for him at the next creation, if he had Fox’s promise. In the ensuing inquiry into this matter, the Duke of Devonshire and Richard Fitzpatrick took Aubrey’s part.6 The displacement of the ministry, against which he voted, 9 Apr. 1807, ended his hopes.
Aubrey did not waver in his opposition in the next Parliament and was in the minorities in favour of scrutiny of places and pensions, 7 July 1807, and of peace by mediation, 29 Feb. 1808. But his health affected his attendance for the rest of that session and subsequently he seldom saw a session out. It is true that he returned to vote favourably for Irish Catholic claims, 30 May 1808; but in 1809 no vote is known after that against ministers on the Duke of York (17 Mar.) and, after acting as a ‘thick and thin’ Whig from January to March 1810, he left the House ill before he could vote against Burdett’s committal to the Tower, 5 Apr., and did not reappear that session. He rallied to opposition on the Regency, but his only other known vote in 1811 was for Folkestone’s motion of 28 Mar. That month he could not be rallied to an extra-parliamentary meeting to promote constitutional reform. At that time he was expected to retire from the House.7 In 1812 he was in the minorities of 4, 13, 27 Feb. and 3 Mar., 24 Apr. (for Catholic relief) and 26 June (against the leather tax).
Aubrey was the Duke of Norfolk’s Member for Steyning from 1812 and later for Horsham. He voted with opposition on the vice-chancellor bill, 11 Feb. 1813, on the joint paymaster general’s salary, 8 Mar., and in the majority for sinecure regulation, 29 Mar. He supported Catholic relief on 2 Mar. and 13 May, but was absent with leave on the crucial division of 24 May. One vote, against the blockade of Norway, is known in the session of 1814. In 1815 he voted against the property tax, 19 Apr., against the transfer of Genoa, 28 Apr., for Whitbread’s peace motion, 28 Apr., against the civil list, 8 May, and against the Duke of Cumberland’s establishment bill, 30 June. No vote survives in 1816, when he took a month’s leave for illness on 27 Feb and another for bereavement on 25 Apr. From 1817 he resumed fairly regular attendance in opposition and voted for parliamentary reform on Burdett’s motion, 20 May. He voted for inquiry into popular education, 3 June 1818. He signed the requisition to Tierney to lead the Whigs in the House. In the ensuing Parliament he voted for criminal law reform, 2 Mar. 1819, and paired in favour of burgh reform, 1 Apr. As in 1817-18, he was an opponent of repressive measures and on 16 Dec. 1819 voted for consideration of Robert Owen’s plan to alleviate popular distress.
Aubrey died Father of the House, 14 Mar. 1826. Lipscomb wrote of him:
He was not a frequent speaker, but possessed a sound judgment and considerable penetration, intermixed, however, with an inflexibility of temper which approached to obstinacy. In the domestic relations of life, and in the incorruptible integrity of magisterial duties, he set forth an excellent example, was a good landlord, a zealous friend, and a gentleman of highly polished manners.
An obituary, too, described him as ‘not easily influenced, and rarely diverted from his measures’.8
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Authors: M. H. Port / R. G. Thorne
- 1. PRO 30/8/109, ff. 172, 174, 184, 194; Spencer mss, Aubrey to Spencer, 28 May 1789.
- 2. HMC Fortescue, i. 561.
- 3. Fitzwilliam mss, box 45, Bedford to Fitzwilliam [?8 Dec. 1793].
- 4. Portland mss PwF6448.
- 5. Morning Chron. 2 Jan. 1797.
- 6. Blair Adam mss, Ossulston to Adam, Sat. night; Add. 51799, Fitzpatrick to Holland, 2 Oct.; Fortescue mss, Grenville to Devonshire, 19 Oct. 1806.
- 7. Morning Chron. 9 Apr. 1810; Prince of Wales Corresp. vii. 2832.
- 8. Lipscomb, Bucks. i. 73; Gent. Mag. (1826), i. 273.