LEGGE, George, Visct. Lewisham (1755-1810).
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Family and Education
b. 3 Oct. 1755, 1st s. of William, 2nd Earl of Dartmouth, by Frances Catherine, da. and h. of Sir Charles Gunter Nicoll. educ. Harrow 1770-1; Ch. Ch. Oxf. 1771-5; Grand Tour (France, Italy) 1775-8. m.24 Sept. 1782, Lady Frances Finch, da. of Heneage, 3rd Earl of Aylesford, 5s. 9da. suc. fa. as 3rd Earl 15 July 1801. K.G. 27 May 1805.
Ld. of the bedchamber to Prince of Wales 1782-3; ld. warden of stannaries 1783-98; P.C. 17 Mar. 1801; president of the India Board 1801-2; ld. steward 1802-1804; ld. chamberlain 1804- d.
Lord Dartmouth, Lewisham’s father, was first lord of Trade in the Rockingham Administration, 1765-6. He was connected by marriage with Lord North (whose father had married in 1751 Dartmouth’s widowed mother), and 1772-82 held Cabinet office in North’s Administration.
On 3 Feb. 1777 Dartmouth wrote to Lewisham, then on the Grand Tour:1
I wish you to be home by the 14th or 15th of April, though if Parliament should be up as early as we suppose it will, you will not then be in time to take your seat in the House of Commons, of which there seems to me to be great probability that you will at that time be a member. Lord North has proposed to me a seat that you will not dislike and in a manner you will be pleased with, and if it should be vacated in two or three weeks as is likely the whole business will be over without giving you any other trouble than to make a visit to your constituents when you come home.
The name of the constituency has not been discovered, and the expected arrangement did not materialize. In February 1778 Lewisham was still abroad,2 and possibly even in June, when he was elected for Plymouth on the Admiralty interest.
Lewisham consistently voted with Administration. Five speeches by him are reported, all of a formal nature. At the general election of 1780 he refused to stand again for Plymouth, possibly because he feared a contest.3 Robinson wished him to contest Kent, but wrote to Jenkinson, 22 Aug. 1780: ‘Lord North says that Lord Dartmouth will not spend a farthing.’4 Lewisham was also offered a seat by the Duke of Northumberland.5 He was eventually returned unopposed for Staffordshire, where the family estates principally lay. He was also returned for Horsham and Malmesbury, possibly to enable Administration to have these seats in reserve.
Before the dissolution of Parliament Dartmouth had raised with North the question of office for his son. In a list of suggested appointments, sent to the King on 5 Sept. 1780,6 North put down Lewisham for a seat at the Board of Trade. But he also wrote: ‘It is not yet certain whether Lord Robert Spencer wishes to be removed to the Admiralty. If he does not ... Lord Lewisham must wait for another vacancy before he is brought into place.’ In any case this arrangement was unacceptable to Dartmouth, who wrote to North, 13 Sept.:7
As to Lord Lewisham, whose mind is turned to business, and whose talents, if properly exercised in the early part of life, might hereafter qualify him to be useful to his country, I much lament that so much of his time has been lost already. Remember, my dear Lord, that it is employment that I desire for him and not mere emolument: I beg he may not be thought of for a place of mere idle attendance at court, such a situation will neither suit his inclination nor my wishes for him; a seat at the Board of Trade would not now, I believe, be very acceptable to him, and indeed, at the age to which he is advanced, he would not receive my approbation if he should accept of it.
On 24 Sept. North wrote to the King:
Lord North finds Lord Dartmouth so much hurt that Lord Lewisham is not in the present arrangement, that he should be very happy to gratify him; indeed it has always been Lord North’s wish to do it, but it has really not been in his power to recommend Lord Lewisham as yet to his Majesty.
He suggested that should Henry Penton refuse the staff of comptroller of the Household, it could be given to Lewisham. The King replied, 25 Sept.:
Lord Dartmouth deserves every kind of attention and I cannot see why Lord Lewisham should not at once have the comptroller’s staff. Lord North cannot seriously think that a private gentleman like Mr. Penton is to stand in the way of the eldest son of an earl, undoubtedly if that idea holds good it is diametrically opposite to what I have known all my life; besides Lord Lewisham stands for a county, his vacating frequently his seat is not therefore eligible, consequently here seems to be a very natural opportunity of pleasing Lord Dartmouth.8
North sent a copy of this letter to Dartmouth, and added:9 ‘All this is very kindly meant. You will judge how far it will suit you or your son.’ Nothing came of this, nor of another attempt the following year. Anthony Storer wrote to Lord Carlisle, 5 Feb. 1781: ‘Lord Lewisham is to have the White Stick which is vacant’; but on 18 July: ‘Lord Lewisham has refused the vacant stick from some considerations about his county re-elections.’10 Finally Lewisham took office in the Prince of Wales’s household, which did not involve re-election but marked a considerable reduction of his pretensions.
In 1781 Lewisham was elected to the select committee to investigate the administration of justice in Bengal and to the Treasury-controlled secret committee on the causes of the war in the Carnatic. He remained with North after April 1782; voted against Shelburne’s peace preliminaries; and was appointed under Fox’s East India bill one of the commissioners for the administration of Indian affairs. At the general election of 1784 he avoided an expensive contest for Staffordshire against Lord Gower, a Pittite, who had the principal interest in the county against which Lewisham could hardly have succeeded. Instead he unsuccessfully contested Tregony and Fowey, both on the interest of Sir Francis Basset (and probably at his expense), with whom he had become connected through his office of warden of the stannaries.
Lewisham (Earl of Dartmouth since 1801), died 10 Nov. 1810.