William Feilden MP

MP (Liberal then Conservative)


'Locally prominent, but making little impression at Westminster, the most noteworthy aspect of Feilden’s political career was his shift of allegiance from the Whigs to the Conservatives.' (Rix)

Played a leading role in Blackburn’s public life.

Chaired the committee which secured the return of Benjamin Heywood, a pro-reform Whig, for Lancashire in 1831.

Seeking election for his newly-enfranchised native borough in 1832, Feilden emphasised his local connections and expounded his ‘liberal’ political sentiments, declaring himself an enemy to ‘unnecessary expenditure’ and the corn laws.

Attacked the East India Company’s monopoly.

Favoured abolition of slavery with compensation for proprietors.

Opposed to household suffrage and shorter parliaments, favourable to the ballot but would not pledge on it.

By 1835 had drifted towards the Conservative party:

Failed to oppose the sugar duties condemned as self-interested, given his Jamaican property, and he was mocked as ‘Old Sourpie’.

Endorsed Peel’s Tamworth manifesto and suggested that Conservative ministers would produce useful reforms if given a fair trial. Supported modification of the corn laws and repeal of cotton duty, but reiterated his opposition to electoral reform.

Although attentive to his constituency, Feilden was criticised for his lax parliamentary Remained among the least attentive Lancashire MPs.

His position on the corn laws differed from the bulk of his party, consistently dividing for Villiers’ annual motion to consider the corn laws. But joined Peel against reduction of the sugar duties, 18 May 1841.

At the 1841 election Feilden pledged to vote for Russell’s 8s. fixed duty on corn but he defended his vote on the sugar duties, arguing that ‘I will not be guilty of the gross inconsistency and inhumanity of encouraging the introduction of slave-grown sugar’.

Attacked the poor law and Whig financial mismanagement.

Backed Peel on repeal of the corn laws in 1846.

For a full account see Kathryn Rix, draft entry for the History of Parliament, House of Commons, 1832-1868.

Elections / Constituences

Blackburn Lancashire
1832 - 1847