About Edmund Waller, MP
Family and Education b. c.1699, 1st s. of Dr. Stephen Waller by Judith, da. of Sir Thomas Vernon, M.P., of Farnham, Surr., and 2nd w. of John Aislabie; bro. of Harry Waller. educ. Eton 1707. m. bef. 1720, Mary, da. of John Aislabie, 4s. 2da. suc. uncle Edmund Waller in Glos. estates c.1700, and fa. 1707.
Cofferer of the Household Dec. 1744-Dec. 1746.
Biography Descended from the seventeenth century poet and politician, Waller owned estates near both Great Marlow and Chipping Wycombe, carrying considerable influence in both boroughs. As a youth of 21, he was used by Aislabie (his stepfather and father-in-law) as a cover for his own speculations in South Sea stock. The facts came out when the South Sea committee of the House of Commons, on examining the books of the Sword Blade bank, found entries totalling nearly £800,000 representing Waller’s stock exchange transactions between March and November 1720, with a credit balance of £77,000 due to him in respect of these transactions. On further investigation it transpired that £33,000 of the £77,000 admittedly belonged to Aislabie, who himself is reported afterwards to have said that the correct figure was £53,000.1
Returned as a Whig on the family interest at Marlow, Waller helped his brother, Harry, to capture Wycombe in 1726, spending more ‘to get one borough than would buy a score’.2Following Pulteney into opposition, he was one of the anti-ministerial tellers on the Petersfield election petition in 1727, thenceforth becoming a prolific speaker against Walpole’s Administration.
On Walpole’s fall Waller was offered a seat on the Treasury board but ‘refused until the whole party were agreed and satisfied in the measures to be pursued’.3 Elected to the secret committee of inquiry into Walpole’s Administration, he moved the opposition address against the Hanoverians on 10 Dec. 1742, signed the opposition whip sent out in November 1743, and served on the committee of six set up to co-ordinate opposition activity in the Commons during the next session. In 1744 he was one of the ‘junto’ of nine opposition leaders who were united ‘upon one principle, which was to get into place’, an aim achieved on the formation of the Broad-bottom Administration in December 1744.4 Appointed cofferer of the Household in this Government, he did not resign with the Pelhams in February 1746 but was not dismissed on their return to office. In December 1746, having become so deaf that he had ceased to attend the House, he gave up his post in return for the appointment of his younger son, Edmund, to a life sinecure vacated by the death of George Berkeley, carrying with it a well paid deputyship for his brother Harry.
In the next Parliament Waller was classed by the Government as Opposition and by the 2nd Lord Egmont among the Prince’s supporters, which did not prevent him from applying to Newcastle for a company in the army for his eldest son.5 He gave up his seat in 1754, spending the rest of his life in retirement.
Horace Walpole describes Waller as
a dull obscure person, of great application to figures and the revenue, which knowledge he could never communicate. He spoke with a tone which yet was the least cause of the unintelligibility of his speeches. Lord Chesterfield went for six weeks to his country house to be instructed in the public accounts, and when he came back said he had been beating his head against a Waller.6 He died as Apr. 1771.
Ref Volumes: 1715-1754 Author: Romney R. Sedgwick Notes 1. CJ, xix. 432, 519; Hist. Reg. 1721, p. 309 et seq. 2. HMC Var. vi. 5. 3. HMC Egmont Diary, iii. 250. 4. Owen, Pelhams, 198-9; R. Glover, Mems. 30. 5. 6 Nov. 1747, Add. 32713, f. 389. 6. Corresp. (Yale ed.), xvii, 352 n. 25