A Position of Influence
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The decision of Lord Stafford to sink £100,000 in a railway came as a surprise to most people. Even Lord Gower was not told until the bargain had been concluded. Eyre Lee, the canal representative, discovered the alarming news from the newspapers. For astonished enquirers, James Loch tersely verified the reports. He gave no elaborate explanations; it was a fait accompli and no justification was offered. Lord Derby was not immediately told of Lord Stafford's action and took umbrage at the 'want of courtesy'. This was later given as the reason for Derby's continued opposition to the railway.l
Although the railway shares had been bought by Stafford, 'as representing the Bridgewater Canal', they were exclusively the property of Stafford alone. Stafford could dispose of them entirely of his own volition. Loch did suggest that Lord Francis (heir of the Bridgewater Canal) should be given the option of buying the shares on the death of his father, but the idea was never taken up. It is clear that the shares were intended for Lord Gower who had no place in the Bridgewater concern. The position of Lord Francis was invidious and Loch found it necessary to dispel any doubts about the allegiance of the younger son. Lord Francis gave the Railway Bill his 'decided support' and, insisted Loch, he wished to avoid all idea that he had any doubt about 'the propriety of the step that has been taken'. Similarly, doubts were expressed about the allegiance of Lord Gower towards the Birmingham and Liverpool Junction Canal which was also seeking parliamentary sanction. Lord Clive, a fellow promoter of the canal, asked Gower to issue 'a decided expression of
approbation ... to prevent misunderstanding on this matter'; it was essential to 'ascertain whether his Lordship is really firm in his determination to support the Canal'.2 The Stafford family's simultaneous assistance to both canal and railway naturally perplexed interests on both sides and the doubts were never entirely removed.