Sir Robert Heron 2nd Bart.

MP (Whig)


'Eternally frustrated in his ambition to represent his county in Parliament'. A Whig. Presented himself as 'a man of honour and independent principles, implacable in his detestation of Tory reaction and corruption, but critically detached in his view of the Whig leaders, who seem to have taken little notice of him'.

Generally voted for Catholic Emancipation: thus he voted against the Bill to suppress the Catholic Association, February 1825. Welcomed RC Emancipation in 1828 (and thought that O'Connell should not be excluded nor that the Irish 40s freeholders be disenfranchised).

Generally for retrenchment, economy and lower taxation.

While opposing the ballot and universal suffrage, he was in favour of moderate parliamentary reform and voted for the Reform Bill in 1832.

Opposed to the Chandos amendment in February 1832.

In June 1826, when standing (successfully) for re-election for Peterborough, he condemned the Peterloo massacre and advocated RC Relief, abolition of slavery, parliamentary reform, and demanded enhanced agricultural protection.

When his Notes (1851) were published, Croker said that the work was a 'farrago of nonsense and libel' written by a 'crazy simpleton', while Macaulay hoped that Heron was 'a better zoologist than politician'. (Quarterly Review, XC (1852), pp. 206-25; Macaulay, Letters, vol. 5, p.159; cited Fisher, p. 594)

Details are from Fisher (ed.), The House of Commons 1820-1832, vol. 5, pp. 589-94. See also Heron's Notes (which are the major source for the DNB entry):

There are very occasional comments in his Notes (2nd edn., Grantham, 1851) which are of some interest. Heron emerges as a member of the gentry, rooted in rural society who, politically, is in favour of Whig-liberal commercial and economic policy, a defender of agricultural protection while coming to be a supporter of the abolition of the Corn Laws, in favour of the disciplining of the working class through the New Poor Law, and an opponent of slavery while also opposing, in 1837-38 immediate emancipation of apprentices in the Caribbean:

For example, on the new Poor Law of post-1834 he writes:

'The new poor law every day shows more and more its excellent effects; no other measure could have arrested the frightful progress of the demoralization of the labouring class.' (p. 223)

On apprenticeship: December 1837: 'I voted against their [his 'worthy constituents'] favourite measure of immediate emancipation to the West Indian negroes: a portion of my friends there were at first angry, but I gave them my reasons, [which he does not enumerate] and the arguments which which biassed my mind; and, though by no means converted, they acknowledged my right to decide for myself.' (p. 236)

This, and the reference above to the 1826 election, are the only significant mentions of slavery in the book. He does not, for instance, make any reference to abolition in 1833; and he missed the sugar duties debates in 1844-1846.

By January 1839 is coming to see the necessity of changes to the corn laws. 'I have always thought them bad' and now sees that our commerce and manufactures will be impeded unless changes are made to corn duties: thinks the duty must be much less (p. 241)

Elections / Constituences

Great Grimsby Lincolnshire
1812 - 1818 
Peterborough Northamptonshire
1819 - 1847