Stewart's election at Lymington in 1832 was marked by controversy, in part around the issue of slavery: Stewart defended his own record as a slave-owner, denied that cruelty was practised on his estates in Demerara, and appears to have spoken in defence of slavery. Subsequently, on 31 May 1833, he presented a petition in the House of Commons against the emancipation of the enslaved in the colonies.
His first speech in the Commons was against Hume’s motion on the reduction of sugar duties, 6 March 1833, when he observed that those ‘immediately connected with the colonies, had purposely abstained from opposing, or in any way embarrassing, his Majesty’s Ministers upon the present question’, because they wished to see ‘the still greater question’ of the abolition of slavery settled ‘once and for all’.
In 1836 he made a rare contribution to debate on the question of slave apprenticeships (22 March 1836) when he said that for nine years before the passing of the Emancipation bill he had possessed the largest slave estate in Antigua but that it had not been profitable until he received ‘a large sum in compensation’.
He voted against Strickland’s motion on Jamaican apprentices, 30 March 1838, and against the slavery abolition amendment bill, 6 April 1838.
He voted against the government on the Jamaican question in the 1839 session.
From 1841 he generally supported the Conservative government.
On the Corn laws he supported Peel's government in March and May 1846.
On sugar duties he was not consistent, but he supported the government 22 June 1843, 3 and 10 June 1844, but opposed them in order to support the amendments of Philip Miles, 14 and 17 June 1844.
When he stood for re-election in 1847, he defended his conduct on the slave trade and his votes on the sugar question and the corn laws, but he was defeated in third place. Indeed, some of those who supported his fellow Peelite MP William Mackinnon [q.v.] had plumped for Mackinnon rather than also voting for Stewart. He seems to have taken no further part in politics after 1848.
Stephen Lees, forthcoming entry on Stewart in The History of Parliament, 1832-1868; we are grateful to the History of Parliament for access to this before publication.
Elections / Constituences
1832 - 1847