April 9, 1812: Hero of Trafalgar Blocks Sea Water Baths Bills

On April 9, 1812, Admiral Sir Eliab Harvey blocked the Sea- Water Baths Bill "out of deference to the fear of the Essex gentry that they would be overwhelmed by metropolitan bathers"[1]Harvey represented the Essex constituency, which his father and brother had also represented. Harvey was a distinguished naval officer who was known for his quick temper, gambling and duelling.  Harvey had become a hero at the Battle of Trafalgar, when his ship the HMS Temeraire had forced the surrender of two French ships, "Redoutable" and "Fougueux". The debate in the House of Commons is reproduced below:

HC Deb 09 April 1812 vol 22 cc251-2 251

Mr. Peter Moore presented three several Petitions in favour of a Bill before the House, for the erection of Sea Water Baths in the vicinity of the metropolis. The first Petition was from the members of the royal college of physicians, setting forth the great utility of these Baths, as necessary to the comfort and convenience of the inhabitants of the metropolis, as being highly beneficial to the health of the inhabitants in the cure of cutaneous and eruptive disorders.—The next Petition was from the inhabitants of the city and liberties of Westminster, to the same effect, and the third Petition was from the inhabitants of the city of London, staling similar benefits as likely to arise, if the House would permit the Bill to pass into a law.—The Petitions were laid on the table.

Mr. P. Moore then moved the second reading of the above Bill.

Admiral Harvey opposed it, principally on the ground that some of the landed properties in Essex, either were against it, or at least remained neuter. He therefore moved, that instead of" Now," the Bill be read the second time this day six months.

Lord Henniker supported the motion.

Mr. Moore observed, that as the two hon. members had objected to the progress of the Bill in perfect good humour, and not having stated one real solid objection to the Bill passing into a law, and after the royal college of physicians and the cities of London and Westminster had come forward in favour of it, he thought the House would allow it to go into a committee. With respect to the Bill itself, of 209 persons slated to be interested in opposing its progress, 104 had given their assent, 86 were neuter, because as their names were not in the papers, they were not consulted, and only 19 dissented. So that, in a line of 40 miles, which the works necessary for completing the undertaking would occupy, there were 7–8ths of the parties interested in favour of it.

Mr. Hume supported the Bill, as tending to the comfort of the metropolis, and stated, that in the committee, the prepared would be prepared to prove that 7–8ths of the county of Essex had given their consent.

Mr. Curwen conceived, that as the public would derive great benefit from the erection of sea water baths, at least he hoped the House would allow it to go to a Committee.

The House divided on the second reading now—Ayes 17; Noes 29. Majority against it 12.


1. The quote is from Harvey's entry in the History of Parliament which can be found here and for further information see here. The painting is from the Temeraire at the Battle of Trafalgar from a painting by J. M. W. Turner

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