STOPFORD, James Thomas, Visct. Stopford (1794-1858).

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



1820 - 1830

Family and Education

b. 27 Mar. 1794, 3rd but 1st surv. s. of James George Stopford†, 3rd earl of Courtown [I] and 2nd Bar. Saltersford [GB], and Lady Mary Montagu Scott, da. of Henry, 3rd duke of Buccleuch [S]. educ. privately; Christ Church, Oxf. 1812. m. (1) 4 July 1822, his cos. Lady Charlotte Albinia Montagu Scott (d. 29 Feb. 1828), da. of Charles, 4th duke of Buccleuch [S], 3s. (1 d.v.p.); (2) 29 Oct. 1850, Dora, da. of Edward Pennefather, 3s. styled Visct. Stopford 1810-35. suc. fa. as 4th earl of Courtown [I] and 3rd Bar. Saltersford [GB] 15 June 1835. d. 20 Nov. 1858.

Offices Held

Sheriff, co. Wexford 1833-4, custos rot. 1845-d.


Stopford, whose grandfather and father, a Pittite Member of Parliament, 1790-1802 and 1803-10, were courtiers, was educated by John Giffard Ward (dean of Lincoln, 1845-60), who ‘came to be my tutor when I was eleven years old and remained with me in that capacity until I left Christ Church’.1 In 1818, when his father was captain of the gentleman pensioners, he stood unsuccessfully for county Wexford on the combined interest of his family, who were ‘powerful’, but whose Protestant principles were ‘detested’, and that of Lord Mountnorris, who blamed him for the defeat of his pro-Catholic coalition partner Lord Valentia*. At the 1820 general election he rejected the terms of another coalition and offered again with the apparent backing of the Liverpool ministry, citing his hostility to leaving the representation in ‘the hands of one or two individuals’ and his residence in the county. At the last minute Valentia withdrew and he was returned unopposed.2 A poor attender, who is not known to have spoken in debate, when present he generally supported government, who listed him as seeking a clerkship for a Mr. Devereaux and a position on the assessors list for a Mr. Bates.3 He voted against economies in revenue collection, 4 July 1820, and in support of ministers on the Queen Caroline affair, 6 Feb., and the revenue, 6 Mar. 1821. He divided against Catholic relief, 28 Feb. 1821, 30 Apr. 1822, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May 1825. He voted against government for repeal of the additional malt duty, 21 Mar., but reversed the vote on 3 Apr. 1821. He divided against parliamentary reform, 9 May, for the forgery punishment mitigation bill, 23 May, 4 June, and against an opposition motion for economy and retrenchment, 27 June 1821. He voted against condemning the trial of the Methodist missionary John Smith for inciting slave riots in Demerara, 11 June 1824. On 27 Sept. 1824 a county Wexford informant warned him that his ‘political opponents’ were ‘particularly active’ and, noting a report in that month’s Patriot that his Catholic tenantry would not support him at the next election, complained of his unnecessarily ‘explicit’ letter to an opponent which would serve as a ‘knock-him-down argument in the hands of your enemies’. Stopford replied:

You may rest assured that though I oppose the Roman Catholic claims in Parliament, it is from no enmity towards them. On the contrary, I never have or ever will make the smallest distinction between those of different persuasions in this country. With regard to what you say about a counter paragraph, I can have no objection to it, as I think such a testimony coming from a Roman Catholic friend would be of great service to me.4

That year he was listed as one of the ‘committee of the Grand Orange Lodge’.5 He divided for the Irish insurrection bill, 14 June 1824, and for suppression of the Catholic Association, 15, 25 Feb. 1825.

On 24 Feb. 1826 he declared his intention of offering again for Wexford on the ‘independent interest alone’.6 His canvass showed clear support from Protestants and opposition from Catholics, one of whom advised him that his stance on relief formed ‘the only bar to what your known character as a landlord and resident ... entitles you’.7 On the hustings he repeated that he was opposed to relief ‘solely on principle’ and had ‘no enmity to Catholics’. His controversial alliance with the pro-Catholic sitting Member forced another pro-Catholic candidate to withdraw and he was returned unopposed.8 He signed the petition of Irish landed proprietors against Catholic claims in February 1827 and voted thus, 6 Mar. 1827, 12 May 1828.9 He was granted three weeks’ leave on urgent private business, 13 Mar. 1827. On 3 Feb. 1828 his father, who had left the household the previous year on the formation of the Canning ministry, informed Peel, home secretary in the new Wellington ministry, that Stopford was in Rome and could not attend Parliament at present as his wife was too ill to travel; she died there later that month.10 Stopford chaired the first meeting of the Newtownbarry Brunswick Club, 16 Nov. 1828, and was secretary to the Gorey Brunswick Club presided over by his father, which drew up a declaration promising ‘to resist all attempts to disorganize society ... should it be necessary at the expense of our lives’, 5 Jan. 1829. The following month Planta, the patronage secretary, correctly predicted that he would be ‘absent’ from the divisions on Catholic emancipation. (On 24 Jan. his father, in an apparent volte face, had offered Wellington his proxy in the hope that some measure would be taken to grant emancipation.)11 Stopford voted against allowing Daniel O’Connell to take his seat unhindered, 18 May 1829. He divided against the transfer of East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 11 Feb., and the enfranchisement of Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, 23 Feb. 1830. He voted against Jewish emancipation, 5 Apr. He was granted a month’s leave on account of ill health, 28 Apr., and divided against the Galway franchise bill, 25 May 1830.

At the 1830 dissolution Stopford retired without explanation. He was a ‘staunch supporter’ of the anti-reformer Valentia, his erstwhile opponent, at the 1831 general election, when he complained that the Grey ministry, which had come to power ‘pledged to reduction of taxation, economy and reform’, had

augmented the army and ordnance estimates, thereby increasing the burdens of the people ... [and] brought forward a budget which was the laughing stock of the country ... Finding they were becoming unpopular in the country and abused by their own friends, they then brought forward this wild and revolutionary scheme of reform.

Contending that if the bill passed the ‘lowest class’ would be ‘entirely excluded from the representation’, he warned, ‘Look at what has happened in France, look at the effect of a revolution brought about by the folly of an obstinate king and wicked ministers’.12 In June 1834 he helped fund the abortive attempt of his brother Colonel Edward Stopford to come forward as a Conservative for the county.13 Next year he succeeded to his father’s peerage and estates.

During the Bedchamber crisis of 1839 Stopford informed Peel that ‘it would not be unreasonable ... if I, who have always given my warm support in both Houses to the Conservative party, wish to follow the example of my father ... but the fact is that ... life about a Court ... would entail a longer residence in London than would suit my health’, and recommended his brother.14 On the formation of Peel’s ministry in 1841 he declined an offer of a lordship-in-waiting, saying his income was ‘too small’.15 Thereafter he regularly solicited government patronage, especially on behalf of his brother-in-law, the Rev. Abel John Ram.16 In 1842 he voiced his ‘most decided objections’ to Peel’s plan of Irish education and recommended a subsidy to safeguard the ‘schools of the established church’.17 He died at his seat of Courtown House in November 1858 and was succeeded in the peerage by his elder son James George Stopford (1823-1914).18

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Philip Salmon


  • 1. Add. 40426, f. 383; 40575, f. 384.
  • 2. Dublin Evening Post, 11, 21 Mar. 1820; Add. 38283, f. 241; TCD, Courtown mss P/33/14/1.
  • 3. Black Bk. (1823), 195; Session of Parl. 1825, p. 486.
  • 4. Courtown mss 14/11, 12, 18.
  • 5. PRO NI, Leslie mss MIC 606/3/J/21/4.
  • 6. Courtown mss 14/79.
  • 7. Ibid. 14/124.
  • 8. Wexford Evening Post, 16, 20 June; Dublin Evening Post, 20 June 1826.
  • 9. Add. 40392, f. 5.
  • 10. Add. 40395, f. 203.
  • 11. Wellington mss WP1/991/8.
  • 12. Courtown mss 14/136.
  • 13. Ibid. 14/136a.
  • 14. Add. 40426, f. 383.
  • 15. Add. 40487, ff. 394-5.
  • 16. Add. 40489, f. 147; 40523, ff. 292-4; 40541, f. 281; 40549, ff. 94-97; 40558, f. 447; 40572, ff. 235, 238, 240; 40575, ff. 384-6.
  • 17. Add. 40500, f. 249.
  • 18. Gent. Mag. (1859), i. 101; The Times, 23 Nov.; Dublin Evening Post, 23 Nov. 1858.