Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Payne, Peter (1763-1843)

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PAYNE, Sir PETER (1763–1843), third baronet de jure, of Blunham House, Bedfordshire, born in February 1763, was third son of Sir Gillies Payne, second baronet, of Tempsford, Bedfordshire. His grandfather Sir Charles (d. 1746) had inherited from his wife large property in St. Christopher's, West Indies, and had been created a baronet on 31 Oct. 1737.

Sir Gillies Payne (d. 1801) was high sheriff of Bedfordshire in 1771. He formed in his youth a connection with Maria Keeling, daughter of a farmer at Potton, Bedfordshire, but delayed marriage with her until the death of his mother in 1761. Peter was the first child born subsequently. Nevertheless on the death of his father in 1801 he allowed his elder brother, John, to succeed to the title; and, when John died two years later, acted as guardian to his young children. It was not until 1828 that Sir Peter, having vainly offered to submit his claims and those of his brother's heir to a court of arbitration, was induced to allow the matter to be raised incidentally in the chancery suit Glascott v. Bridges. In the course of the trial Sir John's widow made affidavit that she and her sister had burned the marriage-certificate of Sir Gillies; but evidence brought forward convinced the court of its existence, and Sir Peter was declared the eldest son born in wedlock. This decision was however reversed by the lord chancellor in January 1829, and an issue was directed to be tried as to the legitimacy of John and Peter Payne. The question never again came before the courts; but during his lifetime Sir Peter's claim to the baronetcy was acknowledged. He refused, however, to register himself as a baronet.

Peter was educated at Hackney and at Queens' College, Cambridge, where he graduated B.A. in 1784 and M.A. in 1787. A handsome youth, though delicate, he took an active part in field sports, was a captain in the Bedfordshire militia, and was a deputy-lieutenant for the county for upwards of half a century. In politics he was a strong whig, and he exerted much political influence in the Midlands.

In 1810 he published two pamphlets, entitled respectively ‘England the Cause of Europe's Subjugation, addressed to the British Parliament,’ and ‘The Character and Conduct of British Ministers in War and Negotiation illustrated by Facts.’ In 1812 he attacked Pitt and attempted to convict Wilberforce of inconsistency in ‘Mr. Pitt the grand Political Delinquent; with a Dedication to the Solemnisers of his Birthday, and an Address to Wm. Wilberforce, Esq., M.P.’ In the same year he issued at Birmingham, under the pseudonym ‘Philagathos,’ ‘Seven Short and Plain Letters to the Inhabitants of Birmingham on the Leading Points connected with the Orders in Council.’

Payne was intimate with Major John Cartwright [q. v.], for whom he acted as bail when Cartwright was charged with sedition in August 1819 (Cartwright, Life of Major Cartwright, ii. 169, 175–6). Among other friends were Sir Herbert Taylor and Dr. Parr. With the latter he had much familiar correspondence, which became the property of his youngest daughter, Mrs. Elsdon Everard.

In 1819 he published at Birmingham a ‘Letter to Lord Erskine in Defence of the Whigs.’ On 5 May 1831 he was returned, with the Marquis of Tavistock, as a whig member for Bedfordshire, but retired at the dissolution in December 1832. He printed at Bedford in 1832 a pamphlet advocating repeal of the corn laws. He was also a strong opponent of the slave trade, and an advocate of higher education of women. In favour of the latter cause he wrote a pamphlet, which was printed at Birmingham and London in 1811, under the title ‘Trial between the Governess of a Ladies' Boarding School and the Mother of a Pupil committed to her Charge.’ He died at Blunham House, Bedfordshire, on 23 Jan. 1843.

Payne married, in August 1789, Elizabeth Sarah, only daughter of Samuel Steward, esq., of Stourton Castle, Staffordshire. She died on 12 April 1832, having had two sons and four daughters.

The eldest son, Sir Charles Gillies, called fourth baronet (1796–1870), graduated B.A. 1815 and M.A. 1818 from Merton College, Oxford, and joined the Middle Temple. He left a son, Sir Salusbury Gillies Payne (1829–1893), who, born in the West Indies, was educated at Rugby and Brasenose College, Oxford (B.A. in 1852), was called to the bar at the Middle Temple in 1857, and was chosen high sheriff of Bedfordshire in 1875, but did not serve. Sir Salusbury married Catherine, third daughter of Robert Chadwick of High Bank, Manchester. His son, Charles Robert Salusbury (b. 1859), retired lieutenant in the navy, claimed to succeed to the baronetcy in 1893. In 1863 the Rev. Coventry Payne, grandson of Sir John, the titular third baronet, raised the claims of the elder branch of the family in a pamphlet, which was replied to by Sir Charles Gillies Payne. Sir Bernard Burke, after giving particulars of the separate claims in the editions of his ‘Peerage and Baronetage’ between 1868 and 1878, thenceforth ignored the title. Foster's ‘Baronetage’ of 1882 relegates it to the Appendix ‘Chaos.’

[Lodge's Genealogy of the Peerage and Baronetage and Peerage (1893); Walford's County Families; Stockdale's Peerage and Baronetage for 1831; Ann. Reg. 1843, Append. to Chron. p. 231; O'Byrne's Represent. Hist. of Great Britain and Ireland, p. 43; Alumni Oxon.; Grad. Cant.; Ret. Memb. Parl.; The Journal of Emily Shore (1891); information kindly supplied by Miss C. L. Johnstone, who has had access to numerous family papers.]

G. Le G. N.