Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Moore, Peter

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MOORE, PETER (1753–1828), politician, born at Sedbergh in Yorkshire on 12 Feb. 1753, was youngest son, by Mary his wife, of Edward Moore, LL.B., vicar of Over in Cheshire, who claimed descent by a junior branch from Sir Thomas More, whose quartered arms he bore. His father dying when he was quite young, he was educated by his eldest brother, Edward, a barrister, who was eighteen years his senior. The influence of the latter with Lord Holland and the whig party obtained for him an appointment in the East India Company's service, in which he amassed a handsome fortune. On his return to England his knowledge of Indian affairs enabled him to supply important material to Burke and Sheridan for their attack on Warren Hastings, and he became a sort of whip for the radical section of the whig party, while his manor-house at Hadleigh served as a rendezvous for many of its leading members. Sheridan was a frequent visitor, and rooms in Moore's house were always at his disposal. In 1796 Moore himself stood as parliamentary candidate for Tewkesbury, in company with Sir Philip Francis, and they obtained a majority of the householders in their favour, but were unseated on the House of Commons resolving that the freemen and freeholders alone had a right to vote. In 1802, in conjunction with Wilberforce Bird, he contested Coventry without success. One of the members, however, was unseated on petition, and Moore, after another contest, was returned on 30 March 1803. The prime cost of his seat was 25,000l., but he was reelected for Coventry in subsequent parliaments (29 Oct. 1806, 11 May 1807, 5 Oct. 1812, 25 June 1818, and 8 March 1820) at comparatively little expense. He took a prominent part in the Westminster election of 1804, as the proposer of Charles James Fox, and many scurrilities were levelled against him. In 1806, when Fox was endeavouring to form a ministry, Moore was selected as second on the Indian council, and was actually proposing to return to India when the king dissolved parliament. Had the whigs returned again to power after the dissolution, it was rumoured that a peerage dormant in his wife's family was to be conferred on Moore. As it was, he continued in the cold shade of opposition, but frequently spoke in the house, supported Romilly and other advanced whigs, and in 1807 voted in a minority of ten against the Duke of Wellington's Irish Insurrection Bill.

Moore was a member of the Beefsteak Club, and maintained intimate relations with all the leading men of his party. When it was decided that Sheridan should be buried in Westminster Abbey, his remains were deposited in Moore's house in Great George Street (July 1816), and it was Moore who had the memorial tablet placed above Sheridan's grave (Romilly, Memoirs, iii. 262). He was also distinguished as the most active promoter of a number of public works. Among these were the rebuilding of Drury Lane Theatre (in which he co-operated with Sheridan, and served for some time upon the committee of management), the Highgate tunnel, and the floating of the Imperial Gas Light Company. He became known as the most adroit and successful manager of private bills of his time, and the loss of his seat for Coventry in 1824 did not prevent the keenest competition for his services among projectors and company promoters of every kind. The freedom with which he lent his name as chairman or director eventually proved disastrous, and in 1825 he had to fly to Dieppe to escape arrest. He gave up all his property (except a small maintenance) for the benefit of persons who had lost money in companies with which he was associated, and spent the remainder of his days in the compilation of memoirs of his time, which did not, however, see the light. He died at Abbeville in France on 5 May 1828. He is stated to have been the last wearer of a pigtail in London society.

Moore married, in India, Sarah, one of the coheiresses of Colonel Richmond, alias Webb (the other became the wife of W. M. Thackeray, the grandfather of the novelist). Of Moore's children George Peter Moore was returned for Queenborough in 1806, but vacated his seat at Fox's request, to make way for Romilly. The only son who survived his father was Macartney Moore, who died in 1831, shortly after returning from India, leaving two sons, Captain Richard Moore, R.N., and the Rev. Peter Halhed Moore, present vicar of Chadkirk, Cheshire, and a daughter, who married Captain Gorle.

A portrait of Moore as a young man, by Gainsborough, is in the possession of Colonel Moore, C.B., of Frampton Hall, Lincolnshire, and a later portrait belongs to Colonel Marsden of Farnborough. A third portrait is in the possession of the Windus family, into which a sister of Moore married.

[Materials kindly furnished by Colonel Moore, C.B., F.S.A.; Gent. Mag. 1828, i. 568; Annual Register, 1828, p. 232; Pantheon of the Age (1825), p. 828; Notes and Queries, 7th ser. iv. 365; Romilly's Memoirs, passim; Moore's Byron, p. 288; Moore's Lives of the Sheridans; Clayden's Samuel Rogers and his Contemporaries, i. 217; Hansard's Parliamentary Debates, passim; Walter Arnold's Life and Death of the Sublime Society of Beefsteaks; Official Returns of Members of Parliament.]

T. S.