Paul Le Mesurier

The Monthly Magazine, XX (II) 1805, pp. 571 ff. 'At Upper Homerton, in his 51st year, Paul Le Mesurier, esq., alderman of London, representative in two parliaments for the borough of Southwark, a director of the East India Company, and Colonel of the Honourable Artillery Company.'

Mr. Le Mesurier was the descendant of a family settled during several centuries in the island of Guernsey; in the elder branches of which has been long vested the government (by patent) of the island of Alderney, which is the only remaining one of its kind. The alderman was born in Guernsey on Feb. 23, 1755, being the third son of John Le Mesurier, esq. the governor of Alderney. He received a liberal education in England, in part at the long-founded Salisbury seminary, and when of proper age was placed for commercial tutorage with Noah Lecras, esq. then a principal merchant in the Guernsey and Jersey trade, residing in Walbrook, London. In the year 1776, Mr. Le M. married Miss Mary Roberdeau, of Homerton, near London, of a very ancient and respectable French protestant family. Miss R. was a niece of Mr. Le Cras before-mentioned; and which union was farther cemented by a commercial junction between the parties. In the memorable American war, which had just then commenced, the house of Le Cras and Le Mesurier were conspicuously successful, both as agents and as adventurers, in privateers which, were so numerously and advantageously fitted out by the sister islands of Guernsey, Jersey, and Alderney. By these means Mr. Le Cras, at the close of the war, quitted business with a very ample fortune, and went to reside successively at Southampton and at Bath, where he died in 1801, aged 80.

The subject of our present narrative first expanded the germinating seeds of public spirit, which have been since so eminently and honourably matured, during the deplorable commotions of an infatuated populace in the year 1780, when he zealously assisted at the formation of the first and original military foot association, since consolidated into the Honourable Artillery Company, and of which he was elected colonel in 1795. From this company he received various substantial tokens of respect and acknowledgment of his important services; an elegant sword with a suitable inscription, and two very handsome pieces of silver plate, having been voted him by the general court. The same innate love of order and firm principles of founded right, called forth his active services in the cause of the East India Company, which in the year 1784 appeared to be threatened even to dissolution by the famous bill framed and brought forward by Mr. Fox, who then held the reins of administration, by virtue of a coalition ever to be deplored by all disinterested and unprejudiced admirers of this great statesman. Mr. Le Mesurier was one of the nine, who were delegated by the proprietors at large, as a standing committee to watch over the company's chartered rights; and which office they so well fulfilled, that to their indefatigable efforts in reports, elucidations, precedents, appeals, observations, &c. as well as by the united weapons of truth and satire in the public prints, the indignant attention of the nation was so aroused to oppose what was predicted to be but a prelude to the invasion and overthrow of all other chartered and protected property, that notwithstanding the usual attached and official majority with which the minister carried this sweeping measure through the house of commons, it was spiritedly rejected by the peers. The consequences of this rejection, and the fatality thereby entailed upon all its supporters and abettors, are too recent in memory to requite specific repetition. Al the ensuing parliamentary election, the public indignation against the India bill, its supporters and adherents, appeared most evident, by the rejection of thirty-one old members who had been active in carrying it through the house of commons, among whom was Sir Richard Hotham (since known for the Bognor speculation), who was unseated in Southwark by Sir Barnard Turner, then Sheriff of London, and Major of the Hon. Artillery Company. The accidental death of this last gentleman, within two months after his election, again occasioning a vacancy, Mr. Le Mesurier was called forth to oppose Sir R. Hotham’s renewed pretensions; upon which ensued one of the most arduous contentions that even this oft-conflicting borough had ever experienced. After an expence of nearly £10,000 to each candidate, by the election, petition, and committee-scrutiny, Mr. Le Mesurier was left the victor by a majority of eleven votes. In his representative capacity, his suavity of manners, decorous demeanour, and unremitting local attention, so endeared him to his constituents, that at the next general election in 1790 he was again returned without opposition, although not without expence; election management being now too much improved to admit of such a solecism.

Mr. Le Mesurier’s senatorial conduct was a continuation of assiduous propriety and unvaried attention to his public duties, where he obtained much notice, not as a chorus singer, taking time from the leader of the band, but as a man whose unbiased vote always waited for the decision of his own conviction, or at least for his conscientious opinion; and from his almost general adherence to the measures of administration, can only be deduced his sincere persuasion of their rectitude, propriety, or expediency. Upon the dissolution of parliament in 1796, Mr. Le Mesurier’s wish to procure more time for his commercial and private concerns, prevented him from engaging in the contest which then took place for the borough of Southwark; and was a cause of his retiring from the situation which he had so worthily filled during eleven years, in a crisis and concurrence of political events and situations as trying as any upon historical record.

We have omitted in the Order of time the chronology of his civic honours. In 1784, upon the resignation of Alderman Hart, he was unanimously elected Alderman of Dowgate Ward, upon Mr. Skinner (the present Alderman of Queenhithe) declining a contest where the habituated intercourse of neighbourhood insured the success of Mr. Le Mesurier. In 1787 he served the expensive office of sheriff of London and Middlesex; an office requiring an expenditure of between 2 and 3000/. In 1793 he was elected lord mayor, before the usual rotation would have called him to honour. In this exalted feat of magistracy it was his lot to meet with continual calls upon his activity, perseverance, and resolution. The mulct of 10,000/., and the judicial censure incurred by the hesitating chief magistrate of the tumultuary year 1780, will long remain in terrorem to his successors! To avoid this Scylla many have run upon the Charybdts of unnecessary asperity and unfeeling despotism. Mr. Le Mesurier's judgment and philanthropy were his preservatives from either extreme; for, in the course of that arduous season, when 'The Rights of Man' were spreading their baneful principles, he had the wisdom to steer the middle course, insomuch that a mistake, committed in a moment of serious and of founded alarm, when the peace of the city was in some danger, only added another laurel to his civic crown. We allude to a verbal committal to the Poultry Counter; the appeal for which to a judicial tribunal obtained the nominal damages of one farthing, and procured Mr. Le Mesurier the thanks and approbation of Lord Chief Justice Kenyon. During his mayoralty alarming riotous attacks were made on crimping houses, he called out the Honourable Artillery Company, and restored peace in every part; and, by a like attention, prevented riots at the time of the trials of Hardy, Tooke, and Thelwall.

The festivities of the Mansion-house (no secondary feature of a London mayoralty) were splendid, frequent, and general. The directors of the several chartered commercial companies, the body of civilians, the foreign protestant clergy, in addition to the usual corporation banquets and private parties, had each (with many others) a separate convivium; and the most magnificent gala, with which the Oriental victor, Lord Cornwallis, was entertained, upon being presented with the freedom of the city, will long remain in memory as the triumph of luxurious elegance. Upon this occasion (which was of voluntary and private expence to the amount of 700l) nearly twenty peers of the realm, five of whom were of the cabinet ministry, honoured the entertainment with their presence, in approbation of the lord mayor's public conduct and splendid munificence, an occurrence which defies all precedent. In following Mr. Le Mesurier to the domestic shade of private life, it becomes the pleasing talk of the biographer to record a character which neither malevolence, envy, nor party-spirit, has ever been able to tarnish. An indulgent and attentive husband; a kind and affectionate father; a warm, faithful, and benevolent relative and friend, are but the faint outlines of the delineation of a portrait, the colouring of which can only be given by those who were in happy intercourse with the original. It were superfluous to describe him with a hand ‘open as day to melting charity;’ for few amid the beneficent institutions, which form the most brilliant ornaments of our metropolis, can be found unsupported by his name and contribution. We have referred for the climax of this truly great and worthy public character, his unequivocal and indisputable independence to an extent almost unparallelled; it being an unimpeachable fact, that after a devotion of his time and fortune during twenty years to public service; after the most active support of government in church and state; after displaying, in the most turbulent of political seasons, an ardent and inflexible zeal for his sovereign, with a fervid adherence to the British constitution; neither title, place, pension, or office of influence or emolument, has ever been possessed or procured by him, either for himself, family, or friends: thereby well meriting the application of Butler's oft-quoted distich upon his own unrequited loyalty.

‘True as the dial to the sun, Altho' it be not shin'd upon.’

Mr. Le Mesurier was the third of five sons; the elder of whom, Peter Le Mesurier, esq., died about three years since, governor of Alderney, in which patrimony he was succeeded by his eldest son, Major John Le Mesurier (of the 47th), who has lately finally sold the patent government of the island to the crown for £20,000. The second brother, Frederic, died some years since, captain of the Ponsborne East Indiaman. The fourth brother, the Rev. Thomas Le Mesurier, after having practised some years at the bar, went into holy orders, and is now rector of Newton Longville, Bucks. The fifth and younger brother, Havilland Le Mesurier, esq. was in a mercantile partnership with the subject of these memoirs, after having successively filled with great eclat and unimpeachable punctuality, the office of commissary-general to the allied army, in their retreat from the continent after the disastrous campaign of 1794; also that of commissary-general or the southern district of England, at the establishment of home-depots and district magazines of provision and forage in 1797; also commissary-general to the British army in Egypt, at the close of, and at their return from, their brilliant and successful operations in that well-disputed country. Mr. Alderman Le Mesurier had two sisters, the elder of whom was the wife of Sir John Dumaresq, the chief law-officer of the island of Jersey; the second was married to Richard Saumarez, esq. (a brother of Admiral Sir James Saumarez, K.B.) a gentleman well known in the walks of literature and chirurgical science at Newington, as was also his accomplished and much-lamented lady as a most successful essayist in poetry and belles lettres.—Mr. Le Mesurier had a numerous family, of which one son and three daughters are now surviving.