HUSSEY, Richard (?1715-70), of Truro, Cornw.
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Family and Education
b. ?1715, s. and h. of John Hussey, town clerk of Truro 1722-7. His mother was a Gregor, prob. of fam. of Trewarthenick, nr. Tregony. educ. Balliol, Oxf. 30 Oct. 1730, aged 15; M. Temple 1731, called 1742. unm.
Counsel to duchy of Cornw. 1752, to Admiralty 1757; K.C. 1760; bencher M. Temple 1760; attorney-gen. to the Queen 1761-Jan. 1770; auditor to duchy of Cornw. 1768.
On 12 Sept. 1753 Henry Pelham wrote about Mitchell to Lord Hardwicke:1
Mr. Hussey is a young lawyer greatly attached to the Boscawen family, and one who has a good personal interest in many parts of Cornwall. Lord Falmouth and the Admiral [Edward Boscawen] desired in the beginning of last winter that they might choose this gentleman in one of their boroughs. I told them in the room of one of themselves with all my heart, but I could not think of removing any of those recommended by the King to introduce a stranger, though never so worthy a man. With this they seemed contented, but I heard afterwards that Mr. Hussey had one or two places in view, in one he was to oppose Lord Edgcumbe’s interest [Grampound], and in the other my own. This your Lordship may imagine I greatly objected to, and the Admiral promised to use his interest with Mr. Hussey to give it over, which he did at that time, but being I think Parliament mad he then sends me word that he was invited and could certainly carry it for Mitchell.
In a paper of 22 Mar. 1754, docketted ‘Lord Falmouth’s state of the borough of Mitchell’,2 Hussey is described as having ‘the undoubted interest and majority at Mitchell’. He stood on a joint interest with Simon Luttrell, backed by Edgcumbe and Falmouth, and supported by Newcastle; and after a long and bitter struggle in the House was seated on petition.
In 1761 he was returned on the Falmouth interest for St. Mawes, and was classed in Bute’s list as ‘Admiralty and Government’. His stature as a lawyer was such that in December 1761 he was considered for the post of solicitor-general. Newcastle opposed his appointment, though he admitted Hussey was ‘a very good and a very amiable man’; while Bute considered he ‘had lately had great things done’ for him.3 Hussey appears in Fox’s list of Members favourable to the peace preliminaries, and in the autumn of 1763 was classed by Jenkinson as ‘pro’.
He turned against Grenville’s Administration over Wilkes. He did not vote with the Opposition in the division of 15 Nov. 1763, but his speech in the debate on Wilkes’s privilege, 24 Nov., was described by George Onslow as ‘the finest ... that ever was made for us’.4 ‘He was copious and learned, and reasoned well’, wrote James Harris. ‘No one on his side the question made so able a figure.’ Like most West country Members he supported the attempt to repeal the cider duty. He voted against Administration over general warrants, 15 and 18 Feb. 1764, but with them on Nicolson Calvert’s motion on ex officio informations, 4 Mar. 1765;5 and was classed by Newcastle as a ‘doubtful friend’.
Rockingham in July 1765 classed Hussey as ‘doubtful’, but in one of Newcastle’s lists he is put down for the office of attorney-general.6 On American policy he took a point of view nearer to that of the Rockingham Administration than of his friends Camden and Pitt. ‘If the Stamp Act is illegal that of Navigation is illegal’, he said on 3 Feb. 1766.7 ‘The obligation to obey must be entire or it cannot exist at all.’ On 24 Feb. he spoke ‘very finely indeed’ both for repealing the Stamp Act and maintaining the right of taxation.8
When the Chatham Administration was formed it was generally expected that Hussey would be given a more responsible office. ‘I am anxious to know Mr. Hussey’s sentiments on the present system’, wrote Grafton to Chatham, 17 Oct. 1766; to which Chatham replied: ‘That gentleman’s ability and weight are great indeed, and my esteem and honour for his character the highest imaginable’, and referred Grafton to Camden.9 According to Walpole,10 Hussey refused ‘any preferment’, but he supported Chatham’s Administration; and in 1768 was given a Government seat at East Looe.
On 25 Apr. 1768 Hussey attended a meeting of men of business to discuss the expulsion of Wilkes. ‘Mr. Hussey was strongly against a second expulsion for the same offence, in being the author of a political libel’, wrote Bradshaw to Grafton; and North: ‘Mr. Hussey will certainly be against expelling Wilkes, though he declared he had not formed his opinion entirely.’11 Yet Hussey voted for both the expulsion of Wilkes, 3 Feb. 1769, and the seating of Luttrell, 8 May 1769. On America he maintained his opinions: the Townshend duties, ‘however inexpedient and impolitic’, were neither an innovation nor unjust. ‘When the Americans see you are resolute and determined’, he said on 26 Jan. 1769,12 ‘they will ... acknowledge their error, and own the supreme power of the mother country.’
When Camden was dismissed in January 1770 Hussey resigned his office of attorney-general to the Queen. Whether he followed Camden into opposition is not clear, for no further speeches by him are recorded; and he died 11 Sept. 1770.
Hussey was an able lawyer, but not a great parliamentary figure. He was universally respected. Walpole describes him as ‘a very honest man’.13 Lord John Cavendish wrote:14 ‘Of all the lawyers in the House of Commons he seems to me the ablest and the honestest’; and North:15 ‘He is a most amiable estimable man, and gives a credit to every question he supports.’
Ref Volumes: 1754-1790
Author: John Brooke
- 1. Add. 35423, f. 162.
- 2. Add. 35592, ff. 290-1.
- 3. Add. 32932, ff. 238-239, 278.
- 4. Add. 32953, f. 37.
- 5. Harris’s ‘Debates’.
- 6. Fortescue, i. 128.
- 7. Newdigate’s ‘Debates’.
- 8. Add. 32974, f. 79.
- 9. Chatham Corresp. iii. 111; Grafton, Autobiog. 108.
- 10. Mems. Geo. III, ii. 269.
- 11. Grafton mss.
- 12. Cavendish’s Debates, i. 197-8.
- 13. Mems. Geo. III, ii. 269.
- 14. To Portland, 1 Jan. 1768, Portland mss.
- 15. To Grafton, 26 Apr. 1768, Grafton mss.