Posts Tagged ‘Sir William Hamilton 9th Baronet’

Regency Personalities Series
In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Thomas Hamilton (writer)
1789 – 7 December 1842


Thomas Hamilton

Thomas Hamilton was born in Pisa, Tuscany. He was the second son of William Hamilton , professor of anatomy and botany, Glasgow, and was younger brother of Sir William Hamilton, the metaphysician. After preliminary education at Glasgow, he was placed in 1801 as a pupil with the Rev. Dr. Home, Chiswick, and some months later with the Rev. Dr. Scott, Hounslow. For several months in 1803, he was with Dr. Sommers at Mid-Calder, Midlothian, preparatory to entering Glasgow University, where he matriculated the following November. He studied there three winters, proving himself an able if not very diligent student. His close college companion, of whom he saw little in after life, was Michael Scott, the author of ‘Tom Cringle’s Log.’

Hamilton’s bias was towards the army, and in 1810, after fully showing, in Glasgow and Liverpool, his incapacity for business, he got a commission in the 29th regiment. Twice on active service in the Peninsula, he received from a musket bullet, at Albuera, a somewhat serious wound in the thigh. He was also in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick with his regiment, which at length was sent to France as part of the army of occupation.

About 1818, Hamilton retired on half-pay, fixing his headquarters at Edinburgh. He became a valued member of the ‘Blackwood’ writers. He is specially complimented in the song of personalities in the ‘Noctes Ambrosianæ’ for February 1826. Hogg in his ‘Autobiography’ credits him with a considerable share in some of the ‘ploys’ led by Lockhart.

Hamilton married in 1820, and for several summers he and his wife lived at Lockhart’s cottage of Chiefs wood, near Abbotsford, Sir Walter Scott finding them very congenial neighbours and friends. In 1829, Captain and Mrs. Hamilton went to Italy, and at the end of the year Mrs. Hamilton died and was buried at Florence.

Some time after his return, Hamilton visited America, bringing back materials for a book on the Americans. Marrying a second time, the widow of Sir R. T. Farquharson, bart., governor of the Mauritius, he settled at John Wilson’s former house, Elleray, and saw much of Wordsworth, whom he was one of the first Scotsmen rightly to appreciate. Visiting the continent with his wife, Hamilton was seized with paralysis at Florence, and he died at Pisa of a second attack 7 December 1842. He was buried at Florence beside his first wife.

Hamilton’s novel Cyril Thornton appeared in 1827. It is partly autobiographical, with Hamilton’s early impressions of Scottish university life and Glasgow citizens when he could call Govan “a pretty and rural village”, on to his military experiences. The book went through three editions in the author’s lifetime, and was one of Blackwood’s Standard Novels.

In 1829, Hamilton published Annals of the Peninsular Campaign. His Men and Manners in America appeared in 1833.

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Regency Personalities Series
In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

William Fitzwilliam 4th Earl Fitzwilliam
30 May 1748 – 8 February 1833


William Fitzwilliam

William Fitzwilliam 4th Earl Fitzwilliam was the son of William Fitzwilliam, 3rd Earl Fitzwilliam, by his wife Lady Anne, daughter of Thomas Watson-Wentworth, 1st Marquess of Rockingham. Prime Minister Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquess of Rockingham was his maternal uncle. He inherited the two earldoms of Fitzwilliam (in the Peerages of Great Britain and of Ireland) in 1756 at the age of eight on the death of his father. He was educated at Eton, where he became friends with Charles James Fox and Lord Morpeth. His tutor there, Edward Young, wrote to Lady Fitzwilliam on 25 July 1763 of Fitzwilliam’s “exceeding good understanding, and…most amiable disposition and temper”.

In October 1764 Fitzwilliam embarked on his grand tour with a clergyman, Thomas Crofts, nominated by Dr Edward Barnard, headmaster of Eton. Fitzwilliam was not impressed with France, writing that the French were “a set of low, mean, impertinent people” whose behaviour was “so intolerable that it is absolutely impossible for me to associate with them…it is the opinion of everybody, that I had better quit the place immediately”. After spending time around France and briefly in Switzerland he returned to England in early 1766, not leaving to continue his grand tour until December. In May 1767 he was in Italy, writing not long after he arrived in Genoa that “I like this place beyond expression”. Between the summers of 1767 and 1768 he saw paintings in Verona, the regatta in Venice and the galleries in Padua, Bologna and Florence. Fitzwilliam’s taste in paintings was guided by Sir Horace Mann in Florence and William Hamilton in Naples. He returned to England in 1768 with fourteen paintings (eight Canalettos and some of the Bolognese School, such as Guercino and Guido Reni). Fitzwilliam returned to England for the last time in January 1769 after travelling from Naples over the Alps, through Switzerland, Mannheim and Paris.

Fitzwilliam’s fortune was substantial but not spectacular. His estate in Milton produced just under £3,000 a year on average for the seven years preceding 1769 (the year Fitzwilliam entered his majority). His other estates in Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire and Norfolk and the rents from Peterborough added on average £3,600 a year. The combined figure for 1768 from all his properties was £6,900. However Fitzwilliam inherited a debt of £45,000 with annual charges of £3,300. Fitzwilliam sold his Norfolk properties for £60,000, which was enough to clear the debt on the whole estate.

Taking his seat in the House of Lords, Fitzwilliam attended almost every notable debate, signing nearly every protest which the opposition used but never made a speech during Lord North’s premiership. He supported John Wilkes in his fight to keep the seat he was elected to and supported the American Colonies in their dispute with Britain. On 8 July 1776 he asked Lord Rockingham to arrange for a remonstrance to be sent to the King when war broke out in America, so the Americans would see “that there is still in the country a body of men of the first rank and importance, who would still wish to govern them according to the old policy”. George Selwyn MP recorded that on 6 March 1782 he had been confronted by Fitzwilliam at the Brooks’s and had to listen to Fitzwilliam on the dire state of the nation: “I do not know if he was in earnest, but I suppose that he was. He had worked himself up to commiserate the state of the country, nay, that of the king himself, [so] that I expected every instant that his heart would have burst”. When Selwyn asked Fitzwilliam “if there was a possibility of salvation in any position in which our affairs could be placed”, Fitzwilliam “asked me…with the utmost impetuosity, what objection I had to Lord Rock[ingham] being sent for. You may be pretty sure, that if I had any, I should not have made it”.

On his uncle Lord Rockingham’s death on 1 July 1782 he inherited Wentworth House, the largest mansion in the country, and his substantial estates, making him one of the greatest landowners in the country. The Wentworth estate in south Yorkshire was made up of 14,000 acres (57 km2) of farm land, woods and mines yielding nearly £20,000 annually in rents. The Malton estate in the North Riding yielded £4,500 in rent in 1783, rising to £10,000 in 1796 and £22,000 in 1810. An Irish estate of 66,000 acres (270 km2) yielded £9,000 annually in rents. Altogether Fitzwilliam possessed nearly 100,000 acres (400 km2) of British and Irish land with an annual income of £60,000. Added to these were his coal mines: in 1780 his collieries yielded a profit of £1,480; in 1796 £2,978 (with two new collieries yielding another £270). Total colliery profits in 1801 were over £6,000, reaching to £22,500 by 1825 (the output of coal was over 12,500 tons in 1799; in 1823 it was over 122,000 tons, making him one of the leading coal owners in the country). In 1827 he calculated that his net income from all his estates was £115,000.

Fitzwilliam, as a landlord, reduced rents and cancelled arrears in bad times, as well as supplying cheap food and giving to the elderly free coal and blankets. He also performed his obligations in repairing rented properties and his charitable dispensations were generous but discriminating. His chaplain at Wentworth said that he was “ever giving alms to the poor…the tale of woe was never told to him in vain”. Fitzwilliam also supported Friendly Societies and savings banks to encourage the poor to practice thrift and self-reliance. Fitzwilliam enjoyed the life of a country gentleman; hunting, racehorse breeding and a patron of the turf. At the Doncaster races in 1827 the Duke of Devonshire turned up on the first day with a coach and six and twelve outriders, the same as Fitzwilliam. Fitzwilliam appeared the next day “with two coaches and six, and sixteen outriders, and has kept the thing up ever since”.

Fitzwilliam also took up his uncle’s role as a major leader of the Whigs. Edmund Burke wrote to Fitzwilliam on 3 July 1782: “You are Lord Rockingham in every thing. … I have no doubt that you will take it in good part, that his old friends, who were attached to him by every tie of affection, and of principle, and among others myself, should look to you, and should not think it an act of forwardness and intrusion to offer you their services”. Charles James Fox wrote on 1 July: “Do not be satisfied with lamenting but endeavour to imitate him. I know how painful it will be to you to exert yourself at such a time, but it must be done…you are one of the persons upon whom I most rely for real assistance at this moment”.

Fitzwilliam started to contribute to debates in the Lords, with his first intervention on 5 December 1782 during the debate on the address, intervening to criticise Lord Rockingham’s successor as Prime Minister, Lord Shelburne, on the lack of principle on the concession of American independence. Fitzwilliam was one of the leading supporters of the Fox-North coalition government, being offered the Lord Lieutenancy of Ireland and a revived Marquessate of Rockingham by the Duke of Portland. However Fitzwilliam did not want the office and was not greatly concerned with the new title, which the King would not give anyway. On 30 June 1783 Fitzwilliam gave his maiden speech, giving the government’s objections to the Shelburnite MP William Pitt’s Bill to reform abuses in public offices. Horace Walpole recorded on 11 October that he did not know Fitzwilliam personally but that “from what I have heard of him in the Lords, I have conceived a good opinion of his sense; of his character I never heard any ill, which is a great testimonial in his favour, when there are so many horrid characters, and when all that are conspicuous have their minutest actions tortured to depose against them”.

Fitzwilliam was to have become head of the India Board under the Ministry’s ill-fated India Bill. Fitzwilliam was reported to have said in his speech on 17 December 1783 that “his mind, filled and actuated by the motives of Whiggism, would ill brook to see a dark and secret influence exerting itself against the independence of Parliament, and the authority of Ministers”. The failure of the Bill led to the fall of the Ministry and the appointment of Pitt as Prime Minister, with Fitzwilliam finding himself in opposition.

Fitzwilliam led the debate for the Whigs in the Lords on 4 February 1784. He attacked Pitt.

However in the general election Pitt won a large majority. Fitzwilliam repudiated Lord Shelburne’s attempt to get him the office of Lord Lieutenant of the West Riding of Yorkshire. As he wrote to Lady Fitzwilliam on 4 September: “Having experienced very closely and very attentively his Lordship’s conduct of late, and consequently having formed an opinion of his present principles, I can see no reason to expect that as an honest man I shall ever be able to give support to his administration, and therefore as a fair one I must decline receiving any favour at his hands”. Fitzwilliam was now considered the Duke of Portland’s deputy, and was a key figure in Whig councils and was frequently the first Whig speaker in parliamentary debates. On 18 July he attacked Pitt’s trade policies with Ireland as “a system that overturned the whole policy of the navigation and trade of Great Britain”, satisfying neither Britain nor Ireland. He said he spoke “as an Englishman” when he criticised the opening up of British and colonial markets to Ireland as detrimental to Britain and “as an Irishman” when he criticised the considerable burdens Ireland would be placed under. Ireland’s grievances were constitutional not economic, and he cited the government’s plan to prevent public meetings. Fitzwilliam was chosen to open the debate on the address at the opening of the next session of Parliament in 1786, and said that “The wisdom of Ireland had accomplished what the prudence of this country could not achieve”. In 1787 Fitzwilliam spoke only once, in opposition to trade with Portugal as this would be detrimental to Yorkshire manufacturers.

In 1785 Fitzwilliam had been depicted in a magnificent portrait in oils by the leading painter of the day, Sir Joshua Reynolds, President of the Royal Academy, an engraving of which, by Joseph Grozer dated 1786, is shown here. The portrait, with its turbulent sky, alludes to both the emotional turmoil the Earl had relatively recently suffered on the death of his uncle, Rockingham, and the political turmoil in which he had become embroiled following the dismissal of Fox and North from government at the end of 1783. Set in a landscape background, it also alludes to Fitzwilliam’s wider responsibilities, which extended beyond the Parliamentary debating chamber. As Ernest Smith has perceptively noted, ‘Fitzwilliam grew up to be the typical eighteenth-century aristocrat – a man to whom politics was a natural responsibility due to his order, his family and his country, but not a field for the display of ambition. He was always fonder of the country than the town, of the local rather than the national arena. He saw his role throughout his life as that of leader of his local society and a link between the party and the public…Fitzwilliam’s world…was that of the great estate owner…. Agents, tenantry, mortgages, leases and properties were his daily concern, and to these his life had in some measure to be dedicated.’ The portrait of Fitzwilliam by Reynolds had been missing since 1920 and was rediscovered in 2011.

On 8 April 1788 Fitzwilliam wrote to Zouch on the Whigs’ impeachment of Warren Hastings for his rule in India: “…disgraced, degraded, run down as they were, scarcely suffered to speak in the infancy of the present Parliament, this very Parliament has already conferred on them the distinguished duty of vindicating the justice of the nation, and of rescuing the name of Englishmen from the obloquy of tyranny over the inoffensive and the impotent”.

The Regency Crisis of 1788–89 led to an outbreak of support for Pitt in Yorkshire in the aftermath of Fox’s assertion that the Prince of Wales had as much right to the throne during the King’s illness as if he had inherited it. Zouch countered Fitzwilliam’s proposal for a popular address in favour of the Prince of Wales’ hereditary right: “[it would be a] very hazardous experiment”. Fitzwilliam opened the debate in the Lords on 15 December 1788, claiming that the Prince’s right was “a question which…could not be brought under discussion without producing effects which every well-meaning and considerate individual must wish to avoid”. In January 1789 when the Commons’ resolutions in favour of a Regency Bill (which would restrict the Prince of Wales’ regal authority) came up to the Lords, Fitzwilliam said they would “reduce the constitution from the principles of a limited monarchy, and change it to the principles of a republic”. He criticised Lord Camden’s proposal that the Regent could create new peers only if the two Houses of Parliament consented: “[This was] in the highest degree unconstitutional, and he should, in consequence, think it his indispensable duty to come forward with a declaration condemning all such doctrines as repugnant to the principles of the British constitution”. If the Duke of Portland had formed an administration upon the Prince of Wales becoming Regent, Fitzwilliam would have been First Lord of the Admiralty, although Fitzwilliam was relieved when the King recovered from his illness and prospects of assuming this office subsequently disappeared.

The Prince of Wales and the Duke of York toured the North of England in late 1789, and on 31 August they went to the race course at York and went in Fitzwilliam’s carriage to enter the City of York, which was carried by the crowd rather than horses. On 2 September they were received by Fitzwilliam at Wentworth House for a lavish party, with 40,000 people enjoying a festival in the estate. The Oracle described it thus: “It was in the true style of ancient English hospitality. His gates…were thrown open to the loyalty and love of the surrounding country. … The diversions, consisting of all the rural sports in use in that part of the kingdom, lasted the whole day; and the prince, with the nobility and gentry, who were the noble earl’s guests, participated in the merriment”. The Annual Register said the ball was “the most brilliant ever seen beyond the Humber”. In the general election of 1790 Fitzwilliam contributed £20,000 to the Whigs’ general election subscription and subsequently the Whigs in Yorkshire enjoyed a recovery.


In the dispute within the Whig party over the French Revolution, Fitzwilliam agreed with Edmund Burke over Fox and Richard Brinsley Sheridan but did not wish to split the party or endanger his friendship with Fox, the party’s leader in the Commons. Burke’s son Richard had lately been appointed Fitzwilliam’s London agent. When Richard Burke wrote to Fitzwilliam on 29 July 1790 to persuade him to turn Fox against Sheridan (who had split from Edmund Burke in February), Fitzwilliam replied on 8 August that he agreed that “the propriety of entering a caveat against the enthusiasm, or the ambition of any man whatever leading us into the trammels of Dr Price, Parson Horne, or any reverend or irreverend speculator in politics” but Fitzwilliam’s letter to Fox did not change his behaviour. Fitzwilliam did not praise Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France in public when it was published on 1 November 1790, although Burke claimed on 29 November that Fitzwilliam had acclaimed it. Fitzwilliam wrote to his wife (in an undated letter) that the Reflections was “almost universally admired and approved”.

Fiztwilliam wrote to William Weddell 2 March 1790 that he supported Fox’s support for the repeal of the Test Act (which excluded Dissenters from power). When his friend Zouch campaigned against repeal Fitzwilliam wrote to him on 28 April 1791 that repeal could only be opposed on “an undeviating adherence to that which is—a principle to which I feel a strong attachment in most cases, because alteration and innovation is so seldom proposed to me, without a great alloy of experiment and uncertainty” but that Dissenters circumvented the Act and thus in practice the Church of England gained nothing from it but the Dissenters’ hostility. Also, the Dissenters’ leaders (Price, Priestley) would lose their influence by the removal of the Dissenters’ main grievance.

On 27 March 1791 Pitt had mobilised the navy and sent an ultimatum to Russia to evacuate the Ochakov base it had occupied in its war against the Ottoman Empire. Fitzwilliam made the opening speech in the Lords on 29 March against the government. He objected on constitutional grounds giving the government discretionary power to augment the armed forces without fully laying out the circumstances, and that war with Russia would be “unjust, impolitic and in every way detrimental to the interests of this country”. The crisis nearly split up Pitt’s government and he had made plans for a coalition with moderate Whigs (with Fitzwilliam or Viscount Stormont as Lord President of the Council).

Burke broke with Fox in a debate in the commons on 6 May 1791 over the French Revolution. Later that month Fitzwilliam offered financial assistance to Burke, who sat for one of his pocket boroughs, Malton in Yorkshire. Burke replied on 5 June, declaring that he would quit his seat before the session ended and that “I beg to appeal to your Equity and candour, whether I could receive any further Obligations of any kind out of a party whose publick principles are the very reverse of mine…let me beg the continuance of your private friendship and partial goodness—and believe there is not living one who more respects your Virtues publick and private, or that loves you with a more warm true and grateful attachment than I do”. Burke would refuse money from Fitzwilliam again on 21 November. Fitzwilliam continued his friendship with Fox but his opinions were moving more in Burke’s direction. French Laurence wrote to Burke on 8 August, claiming that Fitzwilliam had praised the Reflections “in a large, mixed company [and]…in a manner which made it understood to be his wish that his opinion should be as publicly known as possible”.

After the news reached Fitzwilliam of the September Massacres in Paris, he hoped Fox would now join his old friends in the Whig party in condemning the violence of the French Revolution. He attended the races at Doncaster that month, which enabled him to sound out county opinion. He wrote to Edmund Burke on 27 September that the French “cause is now looked upon with execration, and the fallacy of their system as universally admitted, as the wickedness and cruelty of their proceedings abominated. You will recollect the change of sentiment in the public upon the subject of the American war: on this occasion, the vane has veered not only more suddenly, but more completely too”. Lord Carlisle wrote to Fitzwilliam about the concern he felt about the state of the Whig party. Fitzwilliam replied on 31 October that the Friends of the People real aim was to split the Whig party.

He also regretted Burke’s attacks on Fox and Pitt’s objection to Fox in a possible coalition government. In the aftermath of the Battle of Valmy (20 September) and the retreat of the counter-revolutionary armies, Burke and other conservative Whigs claimed that the Whigs must now be explicitly anti-French, even to the point of war. In late November Thomas Grenville wrote to Fitzwilliam and said that he spoke of “giving greater latitude to the principle of interference in internal governments of foreign countries, than I am prepared to give”. When France announced that King Louis XVI was to put on trial, Pitt recalled Parliament by calling out the militia, an action Fitzwilliam thought unwarranted and designed to curry favour with conservative Whigs. He also viewed Fox’s toasts to the rights of people as the only legitimate form of government as provocative at that moment, writing on 6 December: “I by no means like him”. At a meeting of leading Whigs at Burlington House on 11 December, Fitzwilliam tried to conciliate Fox in his desire to oppose the government. On 15 December Fox advocated recognising the French Republic and Fitzwilliam resisted pressure from conservative Whig MPs to split from Fox, supporting the Duke of Portland’s attempts to keep the party together. With the mass-resignation from the Whig Club of Burke and other conservative Whig MPs, Fitzwilliam wrote to Lady Rockingham on 28 February 1793 and spoke of the Whig party split into three factions: those who wholeheartedly support the Revolution; those who wholeheartedly condemn it, support the government and wish for a war to destroy it; and the third (which Fitzwilliam identified with) “thinking French principles…wicked and formidable, are ready to resist them” by supporting the government’s “measures of vigour” but “engaging for nothing further”. The Friends of the People were responsible for the split, Fitzwilliam contended.

When William Adam MP asked Fitzwilliam for money, he replied on 2 August that he would not pay a farthing to newspapers which propagated republicanism: “I trust I was always found as ready to make my proportionable deposits for services done as any of my associates, but the party was broke up a year and a half ago” and “from that period…I must be understood…as free from all demands for existing or future services”. When Adam suggested that Fitzwilliam could join with Fox in condemning the conduct of the war (which Britain had joined in February 1793), Fitzwilliam replied on 15 November: “I never will act in party with men who call in 4,000 weavers to dictate political measures to the government—nor with men whose opposition is laid against the constitution more than against the Ministers…[I support the] interference for the purpose of settling the internal government. … France must start again from her ancient monarchy, and improving upon that is her only chance of establishing a system that will give happiness to herself, and ensure peace and security to her neighbours”. The only hope for the party was “a completely successful termination of the present war” because it was this and not parliamentary reform which divided the party. However when a public subscription was founded to settle Fox’s debts (over £60,000), Fitzwilliam contributed a considerable amount.

Edmund Burke was deeply upset by this letter and brought forth from Burke a “severe remonstrance” to Fitzwilliam “which affected Lord Fitzwilliam so much that he kept to his bed, and was actually ill for several days. When Burke heard this he was so much hurt in his turn, that he went to Lord Fitzwilliam and the whole thing was made up”. However Burke still felt unable to receive money from Fitzwilliam, declining it on 29 November. Fox wrote to William Adam on 15 December that Fitzwilliam’s “unremitting kindness to me in all situations quite oppresses me when I think of it. God knows, there is nothing on earth consistent with principle and honour that I would not do to continue his political friend, as I shall always be his warmest and most attached private friend”.

On 25 September the Duke of Portland met Pitt and was persuaded that Pitt would accept his terms for a coalition government: however Fitzwilliam convinced him that a coalition could only happen if the Whigs’ were equal members and that Pitt must not be Prime Minister. Fitzwilliam declared in a letter to Grenville on 7 November that Pitt’s unwillingness to come out in support of a restoration of the House of Bourbon as the aim of the war was the main reason why he did not support Pitt. On 25 December news arrived of the fall of British-occupied Toulon to the French revolutionary forces. The Duke of Portland immediately wrote to Fitzwilliam to inform him that he would visit Fox and tell him he would “support the war with all the effect and energy in my power” and end all ties to the Friends of the People. Fitzwilliam now declared “to take a more decided line than they had hitherto done, in support of the administration”. At the meeting of leading Whigs at Burlington House on 20 January 1794, the Duke of Portland delivered a blunt speech in which he supported the government and urged other Whigs to do the same. Fox believed this separated him from the leadership of the party and was the beginning of a future coalition government.

Throughout June the Portland Whigs were very close to forming a coalition government and it was the Duke of Portland’s need to win Fitzwilliam’s support for such a policy that alone stopped him taking the decision. Fitzwilliam met him at Burlington House on 25 May in which he told Fitzwilliam he had met Pitt the previous day, with the Prime Minister telling him for his wish for a coalition as “the expulsion of that evil spirit [of Jacobinism]…and [said] that his wish and object was that it might make us act together as one great Family…[he] lamented the scantiness of Cabinet employments he had it in his power at this moment to offer us” but assured him that they would be offered when they became available. Fitzwilliam declined to meet Pitt with the Duke of Portland on 13 June as he was organising the Volunteers in the West Riding but his objection went deeper: “However frequently I have thought on the subject…it never occurs to me without presenting itself in some new point of view, which generally tends to render decision more difficult”. He would not take that decision until Pitt clarified his offer of positions for Whigs in any prospective government. The Duke of Portland claimed he could not further negotiate with Pitt without Fitzwilliam’s support, with Fitzwilliam replying that without a declaration from Pitt that the main war aim was the restoration of the House of Bourbon he could not take office but he reassured him that if he joined the government he would have his support. Fitzwilliam also still thought the way Pitt had come to power in 1783 was “a severe blow to the spirit of the constitution and to Whiggism, which is the essence of it”.

On 18 June Pitt heard Fitzwilliam’s objection from the Duke of Portland. Pitt assured “that the re-establishment of the Crown of France in such person of the family of Bourbon as shall be naturally entitled to it was the first and determined aim of the present Ministry”. Pitt wished to discuss this with Fitzwilliam in person. On 23 June Fitzwilliam wrote to the Duke of Portland that he believed the government had moved to the Whig position and that “for my own part I am now ready, not only to adopt the opinion that a junction should take place, as your sentiment, but to advise it as the genuine offspring of my own judgement…[his only condition was that] as much weight and sway should be given to us as possible. … In my humble opinion, this junction will not produce half its effect if it is not opened to the world by such marks of real substantial favour and confidence on the part of the Crown towards us as will mark beyond dispute the return of weight, power and consideration to the Old Whigs…after thirty years’ exclusion from patronage in the line of peerage” new Whig peers should be created. He also rejected office except of “going to Ireland, but…it is impossible”. However the Duke of Portland and Lord Mansfield implored Fitzwilliam to accept office and when Lord Mansfield saw Fitzwilliam when he came down to London on 28 June he got Fitzwilliam “to admit that if ever he was to take office this was the time”. The next day Fitzwilliam met the Duke of Portland and reported that: “I see little prospect of escaping office…the duke…seems so intent upon my accepting, as almost to say that he will not, if I do not—I left him last night my reasons for thinking that I should be more serviceable out of office, than in…if I find I have not persuaded him, I must submit”. When Pitt met the Duke of Portland on 1 July he offered the Lord Lieutenancy of Ireland to Fitzwilliam as soon as Lord Westmoreland could be compensated for the loss of it. Therefore on 3 July Fitzwilliam agreed to join the coalition government as Lord President of the Council for the time being, writing that day to Lady Rockingham: “It is a time when private affection must give way to public exigency”.

Fitzwilliam wrote on 11 July: “I do not receive this honour (if it is one) with much exultation; on the contrary with a heavy heart. I did not feel great comfort in finding myself at St James’s surrounded by persons with whom I had been so many years in political hostility, and without those I can never think of being separated from, publicly or privately, without a pang”.

Throughout June the Portland Whigs were very close to forming a coalition government and it was the Duke of Portland’s need to win Fitzwilliam’s support for such a policy that alone stopped him taking the decision. Fitzwilliam met him at Burlington House on 25 May in which he told Fitzwilliam he had met Pitt the previous day, with the Prime Minister telling him for his wish for a coalition as “the expulsion of that evil spirit [of Jacobinism]…and [said] that his wish and object was that it might make us act together as one great Family…[he] lamented the scantiness of Cabinet employments he had it in his power at this moment to offer us” but assured him that they would be offered when they became available. Fitzwilliam declined to meet Pitt with the Duke of Portland on 13 June as he was organising the Volunteers in the West Riding but his objection went deeper: “However frequently I have thought on the subject…it never occurs to me without presenting itself in some new point of view, which generally tends to render decision more difficult”. He would not take that decision until Pitt clarified his offer of positions for Whigs in any prospective government. The Duke of Portland claimed he could not further negotiate with Pitt without Fitzwilliam’s support, with Fitzwilliam replying that without a declaration from Pitt that the main war aim was the restoration of the House of Bourbon he could not take office but he reassured him that if he joined the government he would have his support. Fitzwilliam also still thought the way Pitt had come to power in 1783 was “a severe blow to the spirit of the constitution and to Whiggism, which is the essence of it”.

On 18 June Pitt heard Fitzwilliam’s objection from the Duke of Portland. Pitt assured “that the re-establishment of the Crown of France in such person of the family of Bourbon as shall be naturally entitled to it was the first and determined aim of the present Ministry”. Pitt wished to discuss this with Fitzwilliam in person. On 23 June Fitzwilliam wrote to the Duke of Portland that he believed the government had moved to the Whig position and that “for my own part I am now ready, not only to adopt the opinion that a junction should take place, as your sentiment, but to advise it as the genuine offspring of my own judgement…[his only condition was that] as much weight and sway should be given to us as possible. … In my humble opinion, this junction will not produce half its effect if it is not opened to the world by such marks of real substantial favour and confidence on the part of the Crown towards us as will mark beyond dispute the return of weight, power and consideration to the Old Whigs…after thirty years’ exclusion from patronage in the line of peerage” new Whig peers should be created. He also rejected office except of “going to Ireland, but…it is impossible”. However the Duke of Portland and Lord Mansfield implored Fitzwilliam to accept office and when Lord Mansfield saw Fitzwilliam when he came down to London on 28 June he got Fitzwilliam “to admit that if ever he was to take office this was the time”. The next day Fitzwilliam met the Duke of Portland and reported that: “I see little prospect of escaping office…the duke…seems so intent upon my accepting, as almost to say that he will not, if I do not—I left him last night my reasons for thinking that I should be more serviceable out of office, than in…if I find I have not persuaded him, I must submit”. When Pitt met the Duke of Portland on 1 July he offered the Lord Lieutenancy of Ireland to Fitzwilliam as soon as Lord Westmoreland could be compensated for the loss of it. Therefore on 3 July Fitzwilliam agreed to join the coalition government as Lord President of the Council for the time being, writing that day to Lady Rockingham: “It is a time when private affection must give way to public exigency”.

Fitzwilliam wrote on 11 July: “I do not receive this honour (if it is one) with much exultation; on the contrary with a heavy heart. I did not feel great comfort in finding myself at St James’s surrounded by persons with whom I had been so many years in political hostility, and without those I can never think of being separated from, publicly or privately, without a pang”. Some days earlier Fox had written to Fitzwilliam:
Nothing ever can make me forget a friendship as old as my life and the man in the world to whom I feel myself in every view the most obliged. … Whatever happens I never can forget, my dearest Fitz, that you are the friend in the world whom I most esteem, for whom I would sacrifice every thing that one man ought to sacrifice to another. I know that the properest conduct in such a situation would be to say nothing, nor to inquire any thing from any of my old friends, and so I shall do in regard to all others, but I feel you to be an exception with respect to me to all general rules, I am sure your friendship has been so. God bless you, my dear Fitz.

On 18 August Fox wrote to his nephew Lord Holland:
I cannot forget that ever since I was a child Fitzwilliam has been, in all situations, my warmest and most affectionate friend, and the person in the world of whom decidedly I have the best opinion, and so in most respects I have still, but as a politician I cannot reconcile his conduct with what I (who have known him for more than five-and-thirty years) have always thought to be his character. I think they have all behaved very ill to me, and for most of them, who certainly owe much more to me than I do to them, I feel nothing but contempt, and do not trouble myself about them; but Fitzwilliam is an exception indeed.

Burke, however, was very pleased. He wrote to Fitzwilliam on 21 June to give notice that he intended to resign his seat in the Commons. Fitzwilliam offered Burke’s seat of Malton to his son Richard, who accepted.

Fitzwilliam believed the coalition was formed not to support Pitt but to destroy Jacobinism at home and abroad. The Protestant Ascendancy in Ireland alienated Catholics from British rule and might drive them into supporting Jacobinism and a French invasion of Ireland. The loss of Ireland in such an event would weaken British sea power and make possible an invasion of England. Fitzwilliam aimed to reconcile Catholics to British rule by delivering Catholic Emancipation and ending the Protestant Ascendancy.

Fitzwilliam accepted the Lord Lieutenancy on 10 August. The Duke of Portland wrote to Fitzwilliam four days later to say he had told Ponsonby, an Irish Whig, of the appointment. He wrote to Henry Grattan on 23 August: “The chief object of my attempts will be, to purify, as far as circumstances and prudence will permit, the principles of government, in the hopes of thereby restoring to it that tone and spirit which so happily prevailed formerly, and so much to the dignity as well as the benefit of the country”. He said he could only do this if Grattan and the Ponsonbys assisted him. On 8 October Fitzwilliam wrote to the Duke of Portland to inform him of rumours in Ireland that Lord Westmorland was to continue as Lord Lieutenant and that if he was not announced soon as Lord Lieutenant he would resign from the government. The Duke of Portland replied that Pitt “harped” on needing to find Lord Westmorland another office and that he did not want the Irish Chancellor Lord FitzGibbon removed, as some Whigs were calling for. Fitzwilliam in turn responded that he would accept the office unless given a free hand in both men and measures; he would not “step into Lord Westmorland’s old shoes—that I put on the old trappings, and submit to the old chains” and declared he would resign.

On 15 November leading Whigs met Pitt and Lord Grenville to discuss the situation. No record was kept of this meeting except by Fitzwilliam, and by Lord Grenville in March 1795. According to Fitzwilliam they decided that: “Roman Catholick not to be brought forward by Government, that the discussion of the propriety may be left open”. Fitzwilliam claimed this meant that whilst the administration would not put forward Emancipation, they would not obstruct it should it pass the Irish Parliament. Lord Grenville however interpreted the meeting as deciding that Fitzwilliam “should, as much as possible, endeavour to prevent the agitation of the question during the present session; and that, in all events, he should do nothing in it which might commit the king’s government here or in Ireland without fresh instructions from hence”. On 18 November Fitzwilliam wrote to Burke to reassure him: “the business is settled: that I go to Ireland—though not exactly upon the terms I had originally thought of, and I mean particularly in the removal of the Chancellor, who is now to remain, Grattan and the Ponsonbys desire me to accept: I left the decision to them”.

Fitzwilliam arrived in Balbriggan, Ireland on 4 January 1795. On 10 January he wrote to the Duke of Portland that “not one day has passed since my arrival without intelligence being received of violences committed in Westmeath, Meath, Longford and Cavan: Defenderism is there in its greatest force…I find the texture of government very weak” and chaotic. On 15 January he again wrote, claiming that the violence committed by peasants was not political but “merely the outrages of banditti” which could be solved by helping Catholics of rank to preserve law and order. This could only be done by Emancipation: “No time is to be lost, the business will presently be at hand, and the first step I take is of infinite importance”. However he “endeavoured to keep clear of any engagement whatever” on Emancipation but that “there is nothing in my answer that they can construe into a rejection of what they are all looking forward to, the repeal of the remaining restrictive and penal laws”:

I shall not do my duty if I do not distinctly state it as my opinion that not to grant cheerfully on the part of government all the Catholics wish will not only be exceedingly impolitick, but perhaps dangerous. … If I receive no very peremptory directions to the contrary, I shall acquiesce with a good grace, in order to avoid the manifest ill effect of a doubt or the appearance of hesitation; for in my opinion even the appearance of hesitation may be mischievous to a degree beyond all calculation.

On 6 January he offered the Primacy of Ireland to the Bishop of Waterford and Lismore and Tho
mas Lewis O’Beirne the Bishopric of Ossory. He also offered Richard Murray the post of Provost of Trinity College, Dublin and George Ponsonby the Attorney-Generalship in place of Arthur Wolfe (who would be Chief Justice). The Duke of Portland consented to all these. On 9 January Fitzwilliam informed John Beresford, First Commissioner of the Revenue and the leading supporter of Protestant Ascendancy in Ireland, that he was relieved of office with a pension of the same amount as his salary. On 10 January Fitzwilliam relieved John Toler of the Solicitor-Generalship and promised him the first vacant seat on the judicial bench and his wife was to be made a peer. On 2 February the Duke of Portland protested at Ponsonby’s promotion and Wolfe as Chief Justice. On 5 February Fitzwilliam wrote to Pitt: “I have every reason to expect a great degree of unanimity in support of my administration: nothing can defeat those expectations unless an idea should go forth that I do not possess the fullest confidence, and cannot command the most cordial support of the British Cabinet”.

On reading this the King claimed emancipation would mean “the total change of the principles of government which have been followed by every administration in that kingdom since the abdication of James II…[it is] beyond the decision of any Cabinet of Ministers”. Fitzwilliam was “venturing to condemn the labours of ages…[which] every friend to the Protestant religion must feel diametrically contrary to those he has imbibed from his earliest youth”. On 7 February the Cabinet decided that Fitzwilliam must postpone as much as possible an Emancipation Bill. Writing on 10 February to the Duke of Portland, Fitzwilliam said Emancipation would have a good effect on the spirit and loyalty of the Catholics of Ireland, and Catholics of rank would be reconciled to British rule and put down disturbances. He also proposed a native yeomanry officered by Catholic gentry which would enable the British Army garrison to leave be used against the French. Two days after, Grattan requested in the Irish House of Commons permission to introduce a Roman Catholic Relief Bill.

Beresford and other Irish supporters of Ascendancy were alarmed at Fitzwilliam’s policies. Pitt wrote to Fitzwilliam on 9 February that Beresford’s removal was never “to my recollection…hinted at even in the most distant manner…much less…without his consent” and that he should have discussed it at the meeting held on 15 November. Furthermore Fitzwilliam’s policies were “in contradiction to the ideas which I thought were fully understood among us. … On most of these points I should have written to your lordship sooner but the state of public business has really not left me the time of doing so; and it is not without very deep regret that I feel myself under the necessity of interrupting your attention by considerations of this sort while there are so many others of a different nature which all our minds ought to be directed”. On 14 February Fitzwilliam replied that it was support national security that he made those appointments: the disaffection amongst Catholics was great and so a change in direction was needed to retain Ireland. His fears of Beresford’s “power and influence” had been “too well founded: I found them incompatible with mine…and after the receipt of this, you will be prepared to decide between Mr Beresford and me and that the matter is come to this issue is well known here”. Fitzwilliam asserted that he had already informed Pitt of his intention to remove Beresford and he had “made no objection, nor, indeed, any reply”, which he took to mean the decision was at his discretion. If Pitt refused his advise, he should be recalled: “These are not times for the fate of the empire to be trifled with. … I will deliver over the country in the best state I can to any person, who possesses more of your confidence”.

The Duke of Portland wrote to Fitzwilliam on 16 February, in a letter approved by the Cabinet, that the Bill would “produce such a change in the present constitution of the House of Commons as will overturn that, and with it the present ecclesiastical establishment”. In his private covering letter of the 18 February to this letter, he spoke of being “too much hurt and grieved” by Fitzwilliam’s ultimatum and begged him to be patient. Two days after he sent the Cabinet’s demand that they “inform you in the plainest and most direct terms that we rely upon your zeal and influence to take the most effectual means in your power to prevent any further proceeding being had on that Bill until his Majesty’s pleasure shall be signified to you with regard to your future conduct respecting it”. The next day the Cabinet met and the Duke of Portland advised that Fitzwilliam be recalled.

On 6 March Fitzwilliam said in a letter to Lord Carlisle that it was his removal of Beresford and his friends for their “maladministration” and not Emancipation that was his downfall. Pitt was determined to use the Bill as an excuse to get rid of the Whig government in Ireland, spurred on by “secret, unavowed, insidious informations” and breaking the terms of the coalition agreed with the Duke of Portland. The claim that he had breached the agreement was merely the excuse needed to get rid of him due to the resentment by the Ascendancy at their loss of power. He instead claimed his administration had been a success, enjoying widespread popularity amongst the Irish and granted by the Irish House of Commons “the largest supplies that have ever been demanded”. Fitzwilliam urged Lord Carlisle to show this to “as many persons as you shall think proper”. On 9 March Fitzwilliam said in a letter to James Adair: “Here I am, abandoned, deserted and given up—an object of the general calumny of administration, for they must abuse me to justify themselves”. After hearing reading in government newspapers that his recall was due to Emancipation, Fitzwilliam wrote to Lord Carlisle on 23 March and said that the Catholic question entered for nothing into the real cause of my recall” and that he acted within the bounds of the agreement decided on 15 November. He said repeated requests for instructions to the Cabinet on the bill had been ignored whilst they had responded almost at once to the dismissal of Beresford and his friends. The visit of Beresford to London and the prospect of a “change in system” in Ireland made the Cabinet recall him. The Duke of Portland had been seduced into altering “all his former opinions respecting the politics of this country” and he was now Pitt’s instrument. Pitt had used the situation to abandon the coalition agreement with the Whigs that the Irish administration be under the Home Secretary, the Duke of Portland. Pitt had resumed control of it and handed it back to the corrupt Ascendancy.

Fitzwilliam left Ireland on 25 March, the Dublin streets silent and decked in mourning. Grattan said although they were silent and unhappy there “Never was a time in which the opposition here were more completely backed by the nation, Protestant and Catholic united”. The two letters to Lord Carlisle were published in Dublin and then in London (without Fitzwilliam’s knowledge) in a pirated and a somewhat altered state under the title A Letter from a Venerated Nobleman, recently retired from this country, to the Earl of Carlisle: explaining the causes of that event. The publication shocked many of Fitzwilliam’s friends and brought forth their condemnation. Fitzwilliam was unrepentant, writing to Thomas Grenville on 3 April that the Duke of Portland “has been bewildered, and in his confusion has been led into irretrievable error; but that error is of a nature never, I fear, to be got over: he has been induced to abandon his principles, and give up his friend, his firm, his steady his staunch supporter. … [He] suffered himself to be the dupe of cunning and design, has been made the instrument of his own and my disgrace—a disgrace of a nature most gratifying to our common enemies. [I am resolved] to separate myself altogether from every sort of intercourse with the man with whom I have passed so many years of my life in the most intimate, cordial, unsuspecting friendship”.

Fitzwilliam decided upon a memorial to be presented to the King defending his Lord Lieutenancy. It was drafted by Burke and shortened by Lord Milton. Burke wrote that “My Idea was to proceed not so much by way of a direct answer to a charge, though that too, obliquely, was not be neglected; as in the way of a charge on your Enemies, so as to put them upon their defence”. Fitzwilliam attended a levee on 22 April and had an audience with the King in the closet, where he presented his memorial. He wrote to Grattan on 25 April that at the levee “Very little was said to me; only a few questions about my son’s health; however, I thought the manner gracious, as the King, upon seeing me, passed by some people to come directly to me”. During the audience Fitzwilliam explained his position and the King “Upon the whole his attention was gracious, but he gave no opinion whatever, only as to my intentions”. The King wrote to Pitt on 29 April that the memorial was “rather a panegyric on himself than any pointed attack on Ministry…I cannot say much information is to be obtained from it”.
On 24 April he spoke in the Lords to demand an investigation into his Lord Lieutenancy and the reasons why he was recalled, claiming that the government had attempted “to throw all the blame from their own shoulders, and…to fix the load on his”. Lord Grenville replied that “the mere fact of a nobleman being removed from being Lord Lieutenant of Ireland” meant no censure of a personal nature, nor for any investigation. Lord Moira and the Duke of Norfolk supported Fitzwilliam and moved for a committee of inquiry. On 8 May the debate on this took place but the government claimed appointments and dismissals were the prerogative of the King, although all sides declared their belief in Fitzwilliam’s integrity. The motion got the support of only 25 votes. Fitzwilliam’s protest he had wanted in the Journal of the House of Lords stated that he had “acted with an enlightened regard to the true interests of the nation” and that religious prejudices be dissolved “in one bond of common interest, and in one common effort against our common enemies, the known enemies of all religion, all law, all order, all property”.

Beresford wrote to Fitzwilliam on 22 June that his character had been unjustly attacked: “Direct and specific charges I could fairly have met and refuted, but crooked and undefined insinuations against private character, through the pretext of official discussion, your Lordship must allow, are the weapons of a libeller”. Fitzwilliam replied the next day that domestic matters took charge of his attention but on 28 June that he let Beresford know he was now in town and “As I could not misunderstand the object of your letter, I have only to signify that I am ready to attend your call”. Rumours of the impending duel leaked and Fitzwilliam was “obliged to quit the house…hastily in the morning, for fear of arrest by the police”. His second, Lord George Cavendish, met Beresford’s second (Sir George Montgomery) on 28 June and debated an apology by Fitzwilliam. His proposed apology was not acceptable to Beresford. Their first arena, Marylebone fields, was crowded with prospective spectators so they moved to a field near Paddington. As Beresford and Fitzwilliam were taking their marks a magistrate ran onto the field and arrested Fitzwilliam. Fitzwilliam said to Beresford “that we have been prevented from finishing this business in the manner I wished, I have no scruple to make an apology”. Beresford accepted and they shook hands, with Fitzwilliam saying “Now, thank God, there is a complete end to my Irish administration” and hoped that “whenever they met it might be on the footing of friends”. Burke wrote to Lord John Cavendish on 1 July that “it is happy, that a Virtuous man has escaped with Life and honour—and that his reputation for spirit and humanity, and true dignity must stand higher than ever, if higher it could stand”.

Fitzwilliam was now in opposition to both the Pitt–Portland coalition government and the Foxites. He wrote to Adair on 13 September 1795: “I stand unconnected with any political party”. During the summer of 1794 he took a leading part in organising West Riding yeomanry cavalry in order to put down the Jacobin threat to law, order and property and as colonel-commandant of these regiments he in person led them to put down disturbances in Rotherham and Sheffield in the summer of 1795.

On 4 August 1795 in Sheffield a newly raised regiment complained that their bounties were being withheld from them. A crowd assembled in their support and refused to disperse. The Riot Act was read and the local Volunteers fired on the crowd, killing two and injuring others. Fitzwilliam wrote to Burke on 9 August: “…the Volunteer corps have shewn their readiness to act in support of Law and Order, in a manner that must give great satisfaction to all those, who wish to see them maintain’d … in the manner, in which it has ended, I trust it will be productive of good, and tend much to the future quiet of the place”. Fitzwilliam wrote on 6 October to George Ponsonby that the Foxites were supporting “the most desperate system of universal subversion” and could not be trusted: “With my disinclination to the Ministry,with the affections I shall ever bear to the most conspicuous part of Opposition, I must…agree with my neighbours in thinking that before Opposition can be Ministers they must give to the public, security…for the maintenance of things as they are”. On 8 December Pitt announced that the government was considering peace with the newly established Directory of France. The next day Burke wrote to Fitzwilliam: “You are to judge, whether you ought to come down and make your Protest against this shameful and ruinous Business. You will certainly stand alone. But this is not always to stand disgraceful”.

When the new parliamentary session began on 6 October Fitzwilliam moved an amendment (drafted by Burke) to the address criticising Lord Malmesbury peace mission to France, the only person to do so. This near universal support was due “not from Opposition concurring in the measures of Government but from Government abandoning their own measures of to adopt those of Opposition—the regular order of things seems subverted”. It was futile to desire peace with “a species of power, with whose very existence all fair and equitable accommodation is incompatible”. Furthermore such a peace would be dishonourable because the government had previously stated it would only seek peace “through the ancient and legitimate government long established in France” and that he solemnly recorded his discharging “of the duty I owe to my king and country”. The Annual Register said Fitzwilliam’s protest “breathes the genuine spirit first roused, and perhaps, still actuated to a greater extent than was acknowledged by the British government”. Laurence wrote to Fitzwilliam on 26 October that Henry Addington, Speaker of the House of Commons, viewed him as “man of high integrity; no person could say that his lordship had abandoned his principles”. Burke wrote to Fitzwilliam on 30 October of his appreciation of “the solo you played in the grand orchestra” and that his arguments were “relished by the public” and were given greater power due to “your personal weight and character”. Burke further stated that his Two Letters on a Regicide Peace were a “poor attempt to second what you have done”. Fitzwilliam wrote to Burke on 10 November that his pamphlets had “roused a spirit in the country, which does not act, only because those, who ought to make use of it, choose to keep it under”. He also claimed that “It is the dread of an [French] expedition slipping over to Ireland, and erecting there the standard of revolt, which makes him [Pitt] drive England headlong into peace”. Fitzwilliam wrote to Laurence on 10 November that “Every other political consideration, continental connexions, balance of power in Europe—the existence of civil society itself—is to be sacrificed, rather than give up their system in Ireland. … Had it been permitted to me to have gratified them [the Catholics] in the little they looked for, Ireland would not have been what it now is, a millstone upon the neck of England”.

On 30 December Fitzwilliam moved an amendment in the Lords in the debate on Lord Malmesbury recall from France following his unsuccessful peace negotiations. It stated “the dangerous principles advanced by the French Republic, the necessity of a perseverance in the contest, and the impropriety of courting any negotiation of peace with France in its present state”. Lord Grenville and Lord Spencer spoke out against it, however. Fitzwilliam agreed with Fox over the unconstitutional nature of Pitt’s loan to Francis II, Holy Roman Emperor, who did it without Parliament’s consent. Writing to Laurence on 11 December, he said Pitt was guilty of “a proud, arrogant assumption of power, that…if it passes unnoticed, it is a dangerous infraction upon a most material constitutional principle and usage”.

Fitzwilliam wrote to Laurence on 22 February 1797 that he did not wish for a change in government lest it “lead to a change in the constitution” but agreed that a “reform in the abuses of executive government” was needed and that Fox would carry on the war “for the same reason [as the government], and peace would be made by him more to advantage, because, made by him, there would be virtually a saving of the country’s honour—made by Mr Pitt, the country is beat into it’ made by Mr Fox it is a measure of choice”. In March 1797 he looked with sympathy on a scheme by MPs and peers to form a government without Pitt and wrote a Memorial on the state of Ireland in which he called for Emancipation and the sacking of anti-Catholic members of the Irish government, which would reconcile Catholics to British rule and halt the spread of Jacobinism. He spoke in the Lords to put forward these proposals but it was rejected by 72 votes to 20. Fitzwilliam wrote on 2 April that he was “the most isolated individual in politics in the king’s dominions…a person who approves of nothing doing and therefore of no set of men whatever”. The government had abandoned its principles and the Foxites were “more hostile in ten times in my opinion, and more decided to act upon principles contrary to my views, than the Ministry”. On 30 May Fitzwilliam met Burke at his home in Beaconsfield during his last illness before his death. Burke reported to Laurence that Fitzwilliam had “a strong predilection to Mr Fox” and “influenced, too much so in my opinion, though very naturally and very excusably, by a rooted animosity against Mr Pitt”. Fitzwilliam returned to his previous independence when the scheme for a “third party” collapsed and Laurence wrote to Fitzwilliam on 9 July (the day of Burke’s death) that Burke had said on his deathbed: “Inform Lord Fitzwilliam from me that it is my dying advice and request to him, steadily to pursue that course in which he now is. He can take no other that will not be unworthy of him”. Laurence said “this was almost if not quite the last thing which he said on public affairs”. Fitzwilliam wrote to Laurence on 11 July of Burke’s death:

The loss is irreparable in every point of view: with him is gone all true philosophy, all publick virtue; there is nothing left but factious schemes and time-serving manoeuvres, contending one with the other, which shall do most mischief—not one English sentiment, not one statesmanlike idea—this is the publick loss. the private one is of everything that was warm, zealous, partial, where once he had placed his affections; for my own part, I feel it is the loss, not of a friend, but of a father; of one to whom I looked up for advice and instruction; and who gave them with the interest and fidelity of a parent.

Writing on 25 January 1798 to a friend, Fitzwilliam claimed his objections to the Foxites stemmed not mainly because of their advocacy of peace with France but over their support for parliamentary reform, which “will truly frenchify us: for my part I have nothing less at heart than to be frenchified. In February the King offered him the Lord Lieutenancy of the West Riding of Yorkshire after the Duke of Norfolk was relieved of it after his toast to “Our sovereign—the Majesty of the People”. Fitzwilliam accepted on the condition that it was to be publicly known that the offer came from the King and not the government.

A rebellion in Ireland broke out at the end of May, with a friend in Ireland writing to Fitzwilliam that his Irish estate was “the seat of war and rebellion in this part of the county”. Fitzwilliam believed the origin of the rebellion was to be found in the spread of Jacobinism after his recall as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and that the solution was “a fundamental change of system” there. Fitzwilliam voted with the Foxites in the debates on the issue and completed his progress back to joining them. The next year he also opposed the Union between Britain and Ireland and that “the measure cannot be carried but by the length of the sword. It cannot be an Union of consent on the part of Ireland. On 19 March 1799 he led the opposition in the Lords and said Emancipation should be enacted without Union because: “Did anyone at this time of day believe that the family of the Stuarts would be supported by the Catholics?” In 1800 he spoke again, declaring that he would support a Union but only if it would really unite the two kingdoms together, and that the penal laws were “framed against a particular description of persons which now ceased to exist: they were directed against superstition, bigotry and disloyalty; and therefore should not affect the liberal, the well-meaning, and the loyal Catholics of the present day”. Fox wrote to a friend on 6 December 1799 that Fitzwilliam and Lord Holland were the only “two who have from me every degree of good will and affection”. However in February 1800 Fitzwilliam openly disagreed with Fox’s desire for peace with France because the national interest called for a prosecution of the war at least until the enemy accepted the status quo ante bellum, although he criticised the government for conduct of it. Writing to Laurence on 2 August and 26 October Fitzwilliam changed his position on the war in the light of Austria (Britain’s remaining ally) making peace with France: “I am ready to confess that I do not see how war without Continental alliances can tend to produce a counter-revolutionary system in France”. France under the rule of Napoleon was in Fitzwilliam’s view was less revolutionary: “He may continue the use of revolutionary jargon, but he will check all revolutionary practices. He may gratify his lust of glory by subjugating kingdoms and nations, but he will subvert the roders of things in them no more than is necessary for his first purpose. …[the British] people have seen that, after all, revolutions are but a lottery for power, the people…are left worse than they were found, having been fleeced of everything valuable. From the result of the consideration, then, I am inclined to think peace desirable”.

On 2 February 1801 Fitzwilliam moved an amendment in the Lords, the same as Grey was introducing into the Commons. Fitzwilliam said in his speech: “It had been his lot, perhaps, more than any other individual, to urge that house to the maintenance of the principles upon which the war against the revolution had been founded. … But he must own that the thing was hopeless. … France was now, in fact, established into a monarchy under republican forms. … The die was cast—he must submit”. Fitzwilliam had now rejoined the Foxite opposition after six years of independence, and the only issue that separated him from them was parliamentary reform.

In February 1801 Pitt resigned as Prime Minister, having failed to convince the King of the necessity of Catholic Emancipation and repeal of the Test Acts. Henry Addington was appointed Premier. Fitzwilliam was eager to co-operate with the Pittites on Emancipation and foreign policy. He did not value Addington: “the idea of an Addington administration is the joke of every party” he wrote to Lady Fitzwilliam on 23 March. Fitzwilliam opposed Addington’s negotiated peace with France. Thomas Grenville wrote to Lord Grenville on 22 October to say that Fitzwilliam was “determined to oppose the peace even if he should be single”. On 12 October Fox spoke at the Whig Club to rejoice at the peace. Fitzwilliam wrote to Laurence on 16 October that “English humiliation has reached its acme…[the peace was] a great trial of patience, what passed at the Whig Club is no less so: I cannot bear to think of either. I stand up a little for English dignity and I look for English feeling: I find none of the first in the one, nor the latter in the other”. On 3 November Fitzwilliam delivered his speech against the peace, describing it as “a hollow and precarious truce…for the two islands of Trinidad and Ceylon, this country had been nine years engaged in war, and had wasted some hundred millions of money, and the lives of thousands of her subjects”. He also claimed that the peace might lead to “the letting loose of corresponding societies, and giving an opportunity of dispersing the pernicious principles of the French Republic to the seditious and disaffected”. Fitzwilliam was one of sixteen opposition peers to vote against the definitive treaty of peace when it was put before Parliament in May 1802. He also opposed the government’s policy on the civil list as it was not in accordance with Burke’s Civil List and Secret Service Money Act 1782. He also opposed the government’s Militia Act 1802 (which augmented the militia) due to his Whiggish opposition to standing armies and also because the militia was unequal socially and “a levy on the poor”. He also opposed the Combination Acts in principle, though had reservations about combinations which had a tendency to limit the freedom of trade.

Napoleon continued territorial acquisitions worried Fitzwilliam, with Grey writing to Fox on 19 March 1803 that Fitzwilliam was “full of indignation against Bonaparte, and of fears for the situation of the country”. War resumed in May. Fitzwilliam wrote to Laurence on 14 August on the Volunteer system: “All the higher orders, particularly when you get into the manufacturing district, tremble at the thought of arms being put into the hands of the people indiscriminately…having none in authority over them, at least, not such as ought to be”. He instead advocated volunteers in regiments where “we are sure at least of having proper commanders”. On the recent coming together of Pitt, Fox and Windham he said: “It is that sort of junction, which I feel to be necessary for the security of the country in these times, and in all for the maintenance of the Constitution in its true spirit”. On 6 December he wrote to Lady Rockingham:

My heart…is to agree on all subjects with Charles Fox: but your opinions have been terribly at variance. New occurrences and change of circumstances will, I hope, bring us together again—but still I am anti-Gallican: I ask not, what sort of Government prevail, but under none, can I submit patiently to the strange assumption of power over independent nations, daily making by France. Here is the root of my present opinions: I am sure, it is the growth of good Whig soil.

In April 1804 talk of an alternative government led to Grey proposing to Samuel Whitbread MP that Pitt and Fox serve in the same administration with Fitzwilliam as nominal Prime Minister. Pitt offered Fitzwilliam the office of Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs but as Fox would be excluded, he declined the offer. In the end Pitt resumed the Premiership in May. In May 1805 Fitzwilliam secured Grattan a seat in Parliament, offering him one of the Malton seats. With Pitt’s death in January 1806 Fitzwilliam was again spoken of as a possible Prime Minister, with the King reportedly speaking of him “with great warmth and esteem”. Fitzwilliam looked favourably on the union of Lord Grenville and Fox in the aftermath of Pitt’s death, writing on 27 January to Lord Grenville: “I assure you, it has been the anxious object of my wishes very, very long”. Fox convinced Fitzwilliam to accept the Lord Presidency of the Council in Lord Grenville’s ministry, after originally being nominated for the Lord Lieutenancy of Ireland. Fitzwilliam would have liked to have been Lord Privy Seal but accepted Fox’s suggestion because he had pressed Fitzwilliam that it would matter to him personally. However he did not submit to Fox’s suggestion that he resign the Lord Lieutenancy of the West Riding of Yorkshire to the Duke of Norfolk.


Thus begun the Ministry of All the Talents. Fitzwilliam did not take a prominent role in this new government, preferring to leave this to those who he could trust to implement policies he was in agreement with. He still opposed Fox on abolition of the slave trade but did nothing to stop the government from passing it, though he did speak in the Lords on 24 June 1806 that he “felt rather alarmed at the consequences the resolutions might produce” but “he could not help feeling disposed to support them”. Following Fox’s death in September Fitzwilliam offered to resign his office to Addington (now Viscount Sidmouth) so Lord Holland could become Lord Privy Seal. Fitzwilliam remained in the Cabinet as Minister without Portfolio, with Lord Grenville saying that this was “a condition to which we all attach the highest importance”. The Cabinet proposed that Fitzwilliam be made Marquess of Rockingham, with Grey writing to him on 25 September: “[It] would be particularly gratifying to myself as marking at this moment a just respect for the principles and character of the party first united under the Marquess of Rockingham, and so long supported by Fox, and not as one upon which I suppose you to be personally solicitous”. Fitzwilliam replied two days later that the decision was not a Cabinet but an individual one and that Rockingham’s memory might have been honoured if the marquessate was revived in 1782 or 1783

In December outbreaks of violence were occurring in Ireland, and Fitzwilliam wrote to Grey on 12 December that “one administration after another has lost the confidence of Ireland, and ours I fear will do so too; we shall do nothing till the hour of necessity is come, and then what we shall do will be done too late for any advantageous effect”. When the Cabinet unsuccessfully put forward proposals for Catholic Emancipation, the King demanded that they pledge never again propose Emancipation. They refused and the government fell. After Grey had suggested to Lord Grenville that Fitzwilliam be offered the Garter, Lord Grenville offered it to Fitzwilliam (who accepted) on 1 January 1807 but the King refused.

He continued as a leading Whig in opposition, although he became gradually less politically involved. As the Regency Bill in January 1811 made its way through Parliament, there were rumours that the Prince of Wales would appoint Fitzwilliam or Lord Holland Prime Minister.

When Lord Liverpool’s government passed the Seditious Meetings Act 1817, Fitzwilliam supported it, although only as a temporary measure: “I shall be sorry indeed should it pass permanently—it will operate an essential alteration in the constitution”. After initially supporting it, he also came to think the suspension of habeas corpus in 1817 unnecessary after visiting the West Riding: “I was led to think nothing beyond ordinary powers [of the law] was called for…and therefore (whatever I might have thought before) that the prolongation of the suspension was not then necessary”. In May that year intelligence of a planned uprising for June in the manufacturing areas of Lancashire, Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire was acquired by the authorities and its leaders were arrested. A meeting of delegates planned three days before the uprising was due to start was intercepted by the yeomanry, who arrested the eleven who turned up.

On 16 August 1819 a crowd had assembled near Manchester to listen to a speech by Henry Hunt and was run down by the yeomanry cavalry, with fifteen dead as a result. Fitzwilliam’s first reaction to “Peterloo” was cautious. He wrote on 24 August: “I see they are making much of what has happened in Manchester, in London. No doubt much may be said against interfering with a legal meeting…but circumstances may arise to call for the intervention of the magistrates even on such occasions, and to be impartial, one must hear what they have to say for themselves”. On 5 October Fitzwilliam wrote to Lady Ponsonby: “If we do not set this matter to rights, the military are henceforward the governing power in the British Empire”. At the county meeting of Yorkshire held on 14 October, Fitzwilliam was represented by his son Lord Milton, and it adopted the resolutions drafted by Fitzwilliam: the right to public assembly and condemnation of unlawful interference with it, and a demand for an inquiry into Peterloo.

On 21 October the Home Secretary Lord Sidmouth despatched Fitzwilliam’s dismissal as Lord Lieutenant of the West Riding in response to the county meeting. Lord Holland wrote to Fitzwilliam on 25 October: “It is an open indication of the temper and designs of Ministers. They have…overshot their mark. … By attempting to affix the stigma of Jacobinism on you they must convince many moderate men that it is their intention to exact implicit servitude or to charge disaffection on every person of weight and character in the country”.

Fitzwilliam’s conduct over Peterloo strengthened his position in the Whig party over the reformers. Lord Grey wrote to Lord Holland on 24 October that he could easily separate with the “violent reformers” in the party “but I do not know how I could bear…a break with some of those who have a tendency at least to the opposite extreme, and particularly after his conduct on this occasion, with Fitzwilliam. Yet I am afraid there is nothing so hopeless as the idea of gaining his acquiescence in any measure of parliamentary reform”.

On 6 December 1820 Lord Grey wrote to Fitzwilliam, asking him to support parliamentary reform: “Your known opinions bear no inconsiderable part in the difficulty which I feel on this subject. Do you still feel it quite impossible to admit any modification of them?” Fitzwilliam replied on 10 December “that hitherto the parliamentary reform has never been placed before me in a manner that has in the least degree weakened my objection, or lessened my apprehension of the extreme danger, that would in my opinion inevitably attend its admission”. The reformers themselves could not agree on a specific reform programme, constitutional perfection would never be seen to have been reached so there would be endless reform, and that the present system was beneficial: “Are we quite sure that the theoretic systems will be better for the purpose of good and free government, than the existing, undefined, indescribable mode of election, loose and various as it is?” On 12 February 1821 Fitzwilliam wrote to Wood that reform was “a dangerous experiment—certain destruction in the hands of vain and presumptuous fabricators of constitutions”. On 17 February he again wrote to Wood: “I feel the constitution is on the wane, its spirit being gone, it cannot last—whether despotism or anarchy will be the first upshot I know not, but if the constitution is not now maintained in its true spirit both will ensue”.

In spring 1822 Lord Milton gave to Fitzwilliam a list of English boroughs and their Members’ political party. It showed that boroughs with smaller populations had more government supporters than those with larger populations, which had more Whig MPs. Milton therefore asked Fitzwilliam to support reform which would strengthen the Whig aristocracy. Fitzwilliam conceded that such a scheme would improve the system, as he wrote to Lord Grey on 22 March, “but ninety other plans would do as much, and with me the question is, is it for the advantage of the country, and for the good of the public to moot the subject at all—where are you to limit alterations, at what point are they to stop?”

Lord Fitzwilliam married firstly Lady Charlotte, daughter of William Ponsonby, 2nd Earl of Bessborough, in 1770. After her death in 1822 he married secondly the Hon. Louisa, daughter of Richard Molesworth, 3rd Viscount Molesworth and widow of William Ponsonby, 1st Baron Ponsonby, in 1823. She died soon after in February 1824, aged 74. Lord Fitzwilliam died in February 1833, aged 84, and was succeeded by his son from his first marriage, Charles.

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Regency Personalities Series
In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

James Byres
1733 — 1817


James Byres

James Byres of Tonley was a Scottish architect, antiquary and dealer in Old Master paintings and antiquities, a member of a family of Scottish Jacobite sympathisers who settled in Rome in 1758, where he became a cicerone to Scottish and English gentlemen on the Grand Tour until his return to Scotland in 1790. His house was in Via Paolina.

Byres was a painter and an adept designer, whose Vanvitellian design for a palazzo facade won a prize from the Accademia di San Luca in 1762. In Rome members of his circle were drawn by Angelica Kauffman in a sketchbook she used from 1762 to 1764: the portraits include the English painter Nathaniel Dance, Gavin Hamilton, and the abbé Peter Grant. By 1764 he was so well acquainted with the ancient sites and the cabinets of collectors that he took about a party of colonial Americans, including Samuel Powel of Philadelphia, who unlike his British peers, took assiduous notes.

William Constable purchased from Byres many of the Italian paintings and marble copies after Roman sculptures at Burton Constable, Yorkshire, and Byres was responsible for introducing the artist Anton Maron, who painted William Constable and his sister in the pose and dress of Cato and Marcia. Among the antiquities that passed through his hands, the most famous may be the Portland Vase, which he sold to Sir William Hamilton in 1770. Among the commissions for which he acted as agent was the Noli me Tangere of Raphael Mengs, 1771, for an altarpiece for All Souls College, 1771.

A clear idea of his own collection can be gleaned from a 1790 inventory made upon his return to Tonley. Though he sent many of his clients to Pompeo Batoni, the only Batoni portrait hanging in his house was of his sister Isabella, Mrs Robert Sandilands.

Concerning the Etruscans Byres formulated the hypothesis that Etruscan literature has not come down to us because it was purposely destroyed by the Romans.

Before he left Rome in 1790 he made a payment to the maître d’hôtel of Henry Benedict Stuart, Cardinal York in favour of the Duchess of Albany, illegitimate daughter of Bonnie Prince Charlie, so it may be inferred that his Jacobite sensibility ran deep.

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Regency Personalities Series
In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

John Wilson
18 May 1785 – 3 April 1854


John Wilson

John Wilson was born at Paisley, the son of John Wilson, a wealthy gauze manufacturer who died in 1796, when John was eleven years old, and Margaret Syme (1753–1825). He was the fourth child, but the eldest son, and he had nine brothers and sisters. He was only twelve when he entered the University of Glasgow, and continued to attend various classes for six years, mostly under Professor George Jardine, with whose family he lived. During this period Wilson excelled in sport as well as academic subjects, and fell in love with Margaret Fletcher, who was the object of his affections for several years.

In 1803 Wilson was entered as a gentleman commoner at Magdalen College, Oxford. He was inspired by Oxford, and in much of his later work, notably in the essay called “Old North and Young North”, he expresses his love for it. But his Magdalen days were not altogether happy, though he obtained a brilliant first class degree. His love affairs did not go happily, his “Margaret” eloped to New York with his younger brother, Charles and he made no close friends at his own college and few in the university. He took his degree in 1807, and at twenty-two was his own master, with a good income, no guardian to control him, and no need to work for a living. His profession was an estate on Windermere called Elleray, ever since connected with his name. Here he built, boated, wrestled, shot, fished, walked and amused himself for four years, besides composing or collecting from previous compositions a considerable volume of poems, published in 1812 as The Isle of Palms. He became intimate with William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Robert Southey and Thomas de Quincey.

In 1811 he married Jane Penny, daughter of the Liverpool merchant and slave trader James Penny, and they were happy for four years, until the event which made a working man of letters of Wilson, and without which he would probably have produced a few volumes of verse and nothing more. Most of his fortune was lost by the dishonest speculation of an uncle, in whose hands Wilson had carelessly left it. His mother had a house in Edinburgh, in which she was able and willing to receive her son and his family; he was not forced to give up Elleray, though he was no longer able to live there.

He read law and was elected to the Faculty of Advocates in 1815, still with many outside interests, and in 1816 produced a second volume of poems, The City of the Plague. In 1817, soon after the founding of Blackwood’s Magazine, Wilson began his connection with the Tory monthly and in October 1817 he joined with John Gibson Lockhart in the October number working up James Hogg’s MS a satire called the Chaldee Manuscript, in the form of biblical parody, on the rival Edinburgh Review, its publisher and his contributors. He became the principal writer for Blackwood’s, though never its nominal editor, the publisher retaining supervision even over Lockhart’s and “Christopher North’s” contributions, which were the making of the magazine.

In 1822 began the series of Noctes Ambrosianae, after 1825 mostly Wilson’s work. These are discussions in the form of convivial table-talk, including wonderfully various digressions of criticism, description and miscellaneous writing. There was much ephemeral, a certain amount purely local, and something occasionally trivial in them. But their dramatic force, their incessant flashes of happy thought and happy expression, their almost incomparable fulness of life, and their magnificent humour give them all but the highest place among genial and recreative literature. “The Ettrick Shepherd,” an idealised portrait of James Hogg, one of the talkers, is a most delightful creation. Before this, Wilson had contributed to Blackwood’s prose tales and sketches, and novels, some of which were afterwards published separately in Lights and Shadows of Scottish Life (1822), The Trials of Margaret Lyndsay (1823) and The Foresters (1825); later appeared essays on Edmund Spenser, Homer and all sorts of modern subjects and authors.

Wilson left his mother’s house and established himself (1819) in Ann Street, Edinburgh, with his wife and five children. His election to the chair of Moral Philosophy in the University of Edinburgh (1820) was unexpected, and the best qualified man in the United Kingdom, Sir William Hamilton, was also a candidate. But the matter was made a political one; the Tories still had a majority in the burgh council; Wilson was powerfully backed by friends, Sir Walter Scott at their head; and his adversaries played into his hands by attacking his moral character, which was not open to any fair reproach. Wilson made a very excellent professor, never perhaps attaining to any great scientific knowledge in his subject or power of expounding it, but acting on generation after generation of students with a stimulating force that is far more valuable than the most exhaustive knowledge of a particular topic. His duties left him plenty of time for magazine work, and for many years his contributions to Blackwood were voluminous, in one year (1834) amounting to over fifty separate articles. Most of the best and best known of them appeared between 1825 and 1835.

In his last thirty years, he oscillated between Edinburgh and Elleray, with excursions and summer residences elsewhere, a sea trip on board the Experimental Squadron in the English Channel during the summer of 1832, and a few other unimportant diversions. The death of his wife in 1837 was an exceedingly severe blow to him, especially as it followed within three years that of his friend Blackwood.

John Wilson died in Edinburgh.

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Regency Personalities Series
In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Thomas Bruce 7th Earl of Elgin
20 July 1766 – 14 November 1841


Thomas Bruce

Elgin was born in Broomhall, Fife, the second son of Charles Bruce, 5th Earl of Elgin and his wife Martha Whyte. He succeeded his older brother William Robert, the 6th Earl, in 1771 while he was only five. He entered the army as an ensign in the 3rd Guards. He was elected as a Scottish Representative Peer in 1790, remaining one until 1807. In 1791, he was sent as a temporary envoy-extraordinary to Austria, while Sir Robert Keith was ill. He was then sent as envoy-extraordinary in Brussels until the conquest of the Austrian Netherlands by France. After spending time in Britain, he was sent as envoy-extraordinary to Prussia in 1795.

On 11 March 1799, shortly before setting off to serve as ambassador at Constantinople, Elgin married Mary, daughter and heir of William Hamilton Nisbet, of Dirleton;

Elgin was ambassador to the Ottoman Empire between 1799 and 1803; he showed considerable skill and energy in fulfilling a difficult mission, the extension of British influence during the conflict between the Ottoman Empire and France.

Acting on the advice of Sir William Hamilton, he procured at his own expense the services of the Neapolitan painter, Lusieri, and of several skilful draughtsmen and modellers. These artists were despatched to Athens in the summer of 1800, and were principally employed in making drawings of the ancient monuments, though very limited facilities were given them by the authorities. About the middle of the summer of 1801, however, all obstacles were overcome, and Elgin received a firman, from the Porte which allowed his lordship’s agents not only to ‘fix scaffolding round the ancient Temple of the Idols [the Parthenon], and to mould the ornamental sculpture and visible figures thereon in plaster and gypsum,’ but also ‘to take away any pieces of stone with old inscriptions or figures thereon.’

The actual removal of ancient marbles from Athens formed no part of Elgin’s original plan, but the constant injuries suffered by the sculptures of the Parthenon and other monuments at the hands of the Turks induced him to undertake it. The collection thus formed by operations at Athens, and by explorations in other parts of Greece, and now known by the name of the ‘Elgin Marbles,’ consists of portions of the frieze, metopes, and pedimental sculptures of the Parthenon, as well as of sculptured slabs from the Athenian temple of Nike Apteros, and of various antiquities from Attica and other districts of Hellas.

Part of the Elgin collection was prepared for embarkation for England in 1803, considerable difficulties having to be encountered at every stage of its transit. Elgin’s vessel, the Mentor, was unfortunately wrecked near Cerigo with its cargo of marbles, and it was not till after the labours of three years, and the expenditure of a large sum of money, that the marbles were successfully recovered by the divers. On Elgin’s departure from Turkey in 1803, he withdrew all his artists from Athens with the exception of Lusieri, who remained to direct the excavations which were still carried on, though on a much reduced scale. Additions continued to be made to the Elgin collections, and as late as 1812, eighty fresh cases of antiquities arrived in England.

The removal of about 1/2 of the frieze metopes, frieze and pedimental sculpture was a decision taken on the spot by Philip Hunt, Elgin’s chaplain (and temporary private secretary, i.e. representative, in Athens), who persuaded the voivode (governor of Athens) to interpret the terms of the firman very broadly. Lord Elgin bribed local Ottoman authorities into permitting the removal of about half of the Parthenon frieze, fifteen metopes, and seventeen pedimental fragments, in addition to a caryatid and a column from the Erechtheion. He used these antiquities to decorate his mansion in Scotland and then later sold them to the British Museum in an attempt to repay his escalating debt.

On the recommendation of a parliamentary committee, which also vindicated Elgin’s conduct, the “Marbles” were bought by Great Britain in 1816 for £35,000, considerably below their cost to Elgin (estimated at £75,000), and deposited in the British Museum, where they remain.

Elgin, who had been ‘detained’ in France after the rupture of the peace of Amiens, returned to Britain in 1806. Finding that he could not get the British Museum to pay what he was asking for the marbles, Elgin sued his wife’s lover for an appropriately high sum. He divorced Mary, for adultery, by legal actions in 1807 and 1808 in the English and Scottish courts—and by act of parliament—which caused much public scandal. Then, on 21 September 1810, he married Elizabeth (1790–1860), youngest daughter of James Townsend Oswald of Dunnikier. Elgin moved to the European continent.


Mary, Countess of Elgin

Elgin married twice. On 11 March 1799, he married Mary (1778–1855), only child of William Hamilton Nisbet, of Dirleton; They had a son and three daughters:

  • George Charles Constantine (1800–1840), died unmarried, known by the courtesy title of Lord Bruce.
  • Mary, married on 28 January 1828, Robert Dundas
  • Matilda-Harrie, married on 14 October 1839, John Maxwell son of Sir John Maxwell, 7th Baronet
  • Lucy, married on 14 March 1828, John Grant of Kilgraston.

After their marriage ended in divorce Mary later married Robert Ferguson of Raith (1777–1846) who had been cited in the divorce. Elgin, on 21 September 1810, married Elizabeth (1790–1860), youngest daughter of James Townsend Oswald of Dunnikier. They had four sons and three daughters, including:

  • James Bruce, who became governor-in-chief of British North America and viceroy of India and successor to the Earldom.
  • Robert Bruce (1813–1862), who became a Lieutenant-Colonel in the Grenadier Guards, married Katherine-Mary (d 1869), 2nd daughter of Sir Michael Shaw-Stewart, 6th Baronet.
  • Sir Frederick Wright-Bruce (1814), who became a diplomat
  • Thomas Charles Bruce (1825), who became MP for Portsmouth
  • Charlotte-Christian, married on 1 July 1850, to Frederick Locker, grandson of Rear-Admiral Sir Edward Locker
  • Augusta-Frederica-Elizabeth, lady in waiting to Queen Victoria, and married to Arthur Stanley, who became Dean of Westminster.
  • Frances-Anne.

Elgin died, on 4 November 1841, aged 75, in Paris.

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Regency Personalities Series
In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Sir William Hamilton 9th Baronet
8 March 1788 – 6 May 1856


William Hamilton

Hamilton was born in Glasgow. He was from an academic family, including Robert Hamilton, the economist. His father, Dr William Hamilton, had in 1781, on the strong recommendation of William Hunter, been appointed to succeed his own father, Dr Thomas Hamilton, as Regius Professor of Anatomy, Glasgow; and gained a great reputation.

William Hamilton and a younger brother, Thomas Hamilton, were brought up by their mother. William received his early education in Scotland, except for two years which he spent in a private school near London, and in 1807 went as a Snell Exhibitioner, to Balliol College, Oxford. He obtained a first class in lit ens humanioribus and took his B.A. in 1811, M.A. 1814.

He had been intended for the medical profession, but soon after leaving Oxford he gave up this idea, and in 1813 became a member of the Scottish bar. His life continued to be that of a student; years filled by researches of all kinds. Investigation enabled him to make good his claim to represent the ancient family of Hamilton of Preston, and in 1816 he took up the baronetcy, which had been in abeyance since 1701.

Two visits to Germany in 1817 and 1820 led to William’s taking up the study of German and later on that of contemporary German philosophy. In 1820 he was a candidate for the chair of moral philosophy in the University of Edinburgh, which had fallen vacant on the death of Thomas Brown, but was defeated on political grounds by John Wilson.

In 1821 he was appointed professor of civil history, and as such delivered several courses of lectures on the history of modern Europe and the history of literature. The salary was £100 a year, derived from a local beer tax, and was discontinued after a time. No pupils were compelled to attend, the class dwindled, and Hamilton gave it up when the salary ceased. In January 1827 his mother died. In 1828 he married his cousin, Janet Marshall.

In 1829 his career of authorship began with the appearance of the well-known essay on the “Philosophy of the Unconditioned”-the first of a series of articles contributed by him to the Edinburgh Review. He was elected in 1836 to the Edinburgh chair of logic and metaphysics, and from this time dates the influence which, during the next twenty years, he exerted over the thought of the younger generation in Scotland.

About the same time he began the preparation of an annotated edition of Thomas Reid’s works however, he was struck 1844 with paralysis of the right side, which seriously crippled his bodily powers, though it left his mind wholly unimpaired.

The edition of Reid appeared in 1846, but with only seven of the intended dissertations, one unfinished. He had formed his theory of logic, the leading principles of which were indicated in the prospectus of “an essay on a new analytic of logical forms” prefixed to his edition of Reid. The elaboration of the scheme in its details and applications continued during the next few years to occupy much of his leisure. The results of the labour gone through are contained in the appendices to his Lectures on Logic.

In 1852–1853 appeared the first and second editions of his Discussions in Philosophy, Literature and Education, a reprint, with large additions, of his contributions to the Edinburgh Review. Soon after, his general health began to fail. Assisted by his devoted wife, he persevered in literary labour; and during 1854–1855 he brought out nine volumes of a new edition of Stewart’s works. The only remaining volume was to have contained a memoir of Stewart, but this he did not live to write. He taught his class for the last time in the winter of 1855–1856. Shortly after the close of the session he was taken ill, and died in Edinburgh.

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