Archivist projects: Lord Palmerston’s Papers – Home Affairs and Miscellaneous and Patronage Correspondence

The papers of Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston, form part of University of Southampton Library MS 62, the Broadlands archives. The semi-official correspondence and papers of the third Viscount Palmerston cover the whole of his ministerial career from 1809 until his death as Prime Minister in 1865. Lara Nelson, who is working in Special Collections from October 2013 to July 2014 as an archivist, describes the Home Affairs and Miscellaneous and Patronage correspondence that she has catalogued.

Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston

Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston

“Amongst the 40,000 letters to and from Lord Palmerston, I have catalogued the Home Affairs papers and part of the Miscellaneous and Patronage correspondence. Dating from the 1820s-1860s, the Home Affairs papers relate to political, religious and environmental issues.

The following items would be beneficial primary sources to consult for those studying the relationship between church and state during the nineteenth century. Statements of Protestant Dissenters in relation to the Corporation (1661) and Tests (1673) Acts reflect their wish to have equal rights to those who take the Church of England sacraments (MS 62 PP/HA/B/1-3). These rights include membership of town corporations and holding civil or military offices. Items relating to Catholic emancipation can also be found (MS 62 PP/HA/C/1-2). These include a voting sheet listing persons and their votes for or against Catholic emancipation (March 1827), and a memorandum from Sir Robert Peel’s speech introducing the Catholic relief bill (1829).

The examinations before the Privy Council of those accused of treason and murder relate to the Cato Street Conspiracy in 1820 (MS 62 PP/HA/A). The conspiracy involved a group of Spenceans led by Arthur Thistlewood. They planned to overthrow the government by assassinating the Cabinet during their meeting at Lord Harrowby’s home. Intentions included beheading every member of the Cabinet, and placing the heads of Lord Castlereagh and Lord Sidmouth on spikes on Westminster Bridge. The examination sheets are in the form of witness statements of the accused, providing a valuable resource for studying radicalism during the early nineteenth century.

The Miscellaneous and Patronage correspondence dates from the 1820s and 1860s, and largely consists of requests for jobs and financial assistance. The jobs requested are mainly British consulships and clerkships in the Foreign Office. Other intriguing items include a letter that dates from 1831, discussing the cost of setting up a ship canal in Portsmouth (MS 62 PP/MPC/16). Together this series of records provides a valuable insight into the kind of enquiries Lord Palmerston was addressed with during his various roles in parliament.”

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