Frewen, Moreton (1853–1924), adventurer and political activist, was born 8 May 1853 in Brickwell, Sussex, younger son of Thomas Frewen (1811–70), a prosperous landowner from an old Sussex family and MP for South Leicester (1835–6), and his second wife, Helen Louisa, daughter of Frederick Homan of Co. Kildare. Moreton was educated privately and from the age of 12 spent his summers at his father's estate in Innishannon, Co. Cork. In 1872 he went to Trinity College, Cambridge, and graduated BA (1877); he had spent the previous two years in Ireland and Leicestershire, steeplechasing, buying horses, and running through his patrimony. In late 1878 he left with his brother Richard for America, and (after a period ranching in Wyoming) set up the Frewen Brothers Cattle Company, which later went public as the Powder River Cattle Company Ltd, under the chairmanship of the duke of Manchester. The Frewens' rich and influential friends, including Lord Dunraven (qv), poured investment into the company and for a time Frewen looked like a rising star. He built Frewen Castle in Wyoming and managed to marry (1881) the American heiress Clara Jerome, whose sister Jennie had married Lord Randolph Churchill, while another sister, Leonie, married Sir John Leslie of Co. Monaghan. However, the severe winters of 1884–5, coupled with the worldwide slump in cattle prices, badly affected the company. Frewen was forced to resign from the board in March 1886 and Horace Plunkett (qv) was sent by the London directors to investigate. Plunkett had to sack foremen, reduce wages, and eventually sell the company off to its major creditors at a loss of £200,000. Frewen's American adventure was over by autumn 1887 and he returned to England a pauper, full of innumerable money-making plans, none of which came to anything. These included marketing a sewage disinfectant and becoming a leading advocate of bimetallism (making silver an alternate currency medium). In 1890 he put his energies behind the ‘gold crusher’, an instrument for extracting gold from slag heaps, and was so persuasive that he drew Lord Randolph Churchill, the duke of Marlborough, and the future Lord Grey into a syndicate. The latter invested £45,000. Its failure earned Moreton the nickname ‘mortal ruin’ and led to his father-in-law's dismissing him as hopelessly visionary, and settling money directly on Clara and the three children.
At the turn of the century Frewen moved for reasons of economy to the Innishannon estate, where he tried to introduce quail and rainbow trout, only to lose them to hawks and heron. He developed an interest in Irish politics, writing letters to the papers and maintaining lively correspondences with William O'Brien (qv), T. M. Healy (qv), George Wyndham (qv), and Lord Dunraven. However, in politics he was also visionary rather than specific; he favoured a form of federalist home rule within the empire but his views were too wide-ranging to be fully grasped and held little appeal. He proved more useful as a go-between; his birth, marriage, and reckless charm earned him a wide circle of influential friends and he relayed the views of the chief secretary, Wyndham, and the lord lieutenant, Lord Dudley (qv), to Healy and O'Brien. A member of O'Brien's All-for-Ireland League, he spent most of 1910 in America, trying to dissuade Irish-Americans from supporting John Redmond (qv). With his old friend, Lord Grey, now governor-general of Canada, he set up a League of Federals as an American–Canadian rival to the United Ireland League of America. He told Asquith that he had been pledged £25,000 for O'Brien, but actually raised just £4,000 as against Redmond's £48,000. It was an example of Frewen's grandiloquence, which is also apparent in indiscreet claims in his letters. However, he remained high enough in O'Brien's favour for the latter to nominate him as a candidate for the December 1910 election. The announcement of his candidacy was greeted by a dead silence till a voice rang out: ‘Surely Mr O'Brien we will elect your old hat if you say so’ (Leslie, 175). The Redmondites did not contest the seat and Frewen was elected unopposed to Cork North-East (December 1910–July 1911). He was not a successful MP, being individualistic, indiscreet, and an arch-protectionist in a party of free-traders. O'Brien was incensed by his continued hobnobbing with landlords, though he assured Healy that Frewen had a heart of gold; to which Healy replied: ‘Bi-metallic’ (ibid, 175). Frewen lasted only seven months in the commons, being induced to give up his seat to Healy in July 1911. Thereafter he continued in his ‘gofer’ role; in 1912 he signed the Ulster covenant and lobbied Bonar Law to come round to a federalist compromise. However, from 1914 he became increasingly disengaged, and after Innishannon was burned down by the IRA in June 1921 he never again visited Ireland. He died at home in Brede Place, Sussex, on 2 September 1924. Aside from Plunkett, who disliked him and thought him duplicitous, most of Frewen's acquaintances delighted in him, and some – such as Lords Grey and Dunraven – even forgave him their lost investments. His papers are in the Library of Congress, Washington.