William Devaynes

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William Devaynes (baptised 1730 - 29 November 1809) was an Africa trader, London banker, Government contractor, director of the East India Company, the Africa Company, Globe Insurance Company, the French Hospital[1] and also five times Chairman of the East India Company. He was also for more than 26 years an undistinguished Member of Parliament for Barnstaple (UK Parliament constituency) or, for over five of those years, Winchelsea.[2]

Huguenot origins[edit]

Devaynes was baptised at St Martin-in-the-Fields Westminster 25 October 1730. He was the fifth of six children baptised there for Huguenot peruke maker John Devaynes and his wife Mary, only surviving child of London's City remembrancer, William Barker.[3]

An elder brother was apothecary to King George III and Queen Charlotte from 1761 to 1795. He appears in Boswell's Life of Johnson—"that ever-cheerful companion Mr Devaynes, apothecary to his Majesty." He was John Devaynes (1726-1801) of Messrs Devaynes & Hingeston, court apothecaries, married to Juliana sister of Chambre Hallowes, son-in-law of Edward Lovett Pearce.[3]

His first wife, Jane Wintle, provided a daughter (Harriott Augusta born 1773 who married Thomas Monsell) and a son also William Devaynes, born September 1783, who had children but died just 12 months after his father, 8 December 1810, aged 27.[3]

Mary Wileman, his second wife who he married 3 February 1806, was said to be 60 years younger than he was. He is reported to have made a settlement on her by which it was in her interest to keep him alive as long as she could and that proved to be almost four years. He died 29 November 1809 in his 80th year.
Years later on 13 April 1813 at Marylebone Mary married Serjeant Thomas Wilde who late in life was made Lord Chancellor and 1st Lord Truro. She bore Wilde a daughter and two sons.[3]

Devaynes was also survived by an illegitimate daughter and grandson, William Devaynes of Liverpool.[3]

Africa[edit]

He was a director of The African Company of Merchants. During Parliament's discussion of the slave trade Devaynes made various statements about West Africa:

that there "sugar grew almost spontaneously";[4]
that he had lately returned from the Gold Coast;[5]
that he had long experience as an agent in Dahomey[6] and the Kingdom of Dahomey he described as the most oppressive tyranny on earth.[7]

It seems he spent his early years in Sierra Leone, in his will he made provision for a mulatto daughter.[3]

Banker[edit]

Banking was his core occupation. After he had risen to senior partner his firm, which operated from 39 Pall Mall, London, was known as Devaynes, Dawes and Noble. Devaynes died a rich man. However his estate remained a partner in the bank and a year after his death his banking house was bankrupt. Consequential litigation involving his heirs was to persist 30 years after his death.[3]

Clayton's case[edit]

Part of the litigation gave rise to the rule in Clayton's case still commonly applied in the 21st century arising from the judgment by Sir William Grant in Devaynes v Noble. Devaynes in this case was the son 1783-1810 and Noble was his father's former partner in the bank. Clayton was a depositor of the failed bank who hoped for funds from the deceased partner's estate.[8]

India[edit]

Devaynes was active in the East India Company being chosen by his fellow members of the court of directors to be chairman five separate years. He was a friend of Warren Hastings.[3]

American wars[edit]

Between 1776 and 1782 Devaynes and MPs John Henniker (1724-1803) and George Wombwell (1734-1780) together with Edward Wheler (1732-1784) of Wheler Higginson & Co held army victualling contracts for 12,000, sometimes 14,000 men. Like Devaynes Wombwell and Wheler were directors of the East India Company.[3]

Parliament[edit]

In the House he invariably voted with the Government. He spoke very rarely.[3]

References[edit]

  1. ^ He was first elected a director of the French Hospital in 1770. For a full list of directors, see: Tessa Murdoch and Randolph Vigne with foreword by Jacob Pleydell-Bouverie, 8th Earl of Radnor, The French Hospital in England: Its Huguenot History and Collections Cambridge: John Adamson ISBN 978-0-9524322-7-2, pp. 95–101.
  2. ^ The India list and India Office list for ... - Great Britain. India Office - Google Books
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Fisher, David R. (1986). R. Thorne, ed. "DEVAYNES, William (c.1730-1809), of Dover St. and Pall Mall, London". The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820. Boydell and Brewer. Retrieved 1 June 2014. 
  4. ^ Stephen Tomkins, The Clapham Sect: how Wilberforce's Circle transformed Britain, Lion Hudson, Oxford, 2010
  5. ^ Alan Taylor, Writing Early American History, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005
  6. ^ Frank Howley, Slavers, Traders and Privateers: Liverpool, the African Trade and Revolution , Countyvise, Birkenhead, 2008
  7. ^ Anthony J Barker, The African link: British attitudes to the Negro in the era, Frank Cass, 1978
  8. ^ A G Salmon, The History of Wilde Sapte, Redwood Burn, Trowbridge, 1985
Parliament of Great Britain
Preceded by
Denys Rolle
John Clevland, junior
Member of Parliament for Barnstaple
1774–1780
With: John Clevland, junior
Succeeded by
John Clevland, junior
Francis Basset
Preceded by
Francis Basset
John Clevland, junior
Member of Parliament for Barnstaple
1784–1796
With: John Clevland, junior
Succeeded by
John Clevland, junior
Richard Wilson
Preceded by
Richard Barwell
William Currie
Member of Parliament for Winchelsea
1796– 1800
With: William Currie
Succeeded by
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Parliament of Great Britain
Member of Parliament for Winchelsea
18011802
With: William Currie
Succeeded by
Robert Ladbroke
William Moffat
Preceded by
Richard Wilson
John Clevland, junior
Member of Parliament for Barnstaple
18021806
With: Sir Edward Pellew 1802–04
Viscount Ebrington from 1804
Succeeded by
Viscount Ebrington
William Taylor