ONSLOW, George (1731-92), of Ockham, nr. Guildford, Surr.
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Family and Education
b. 23 Apr. 1731, 1st s. of Richard Onslow. m. 29 July 1752, Jane, da. of Rev. Thomas Thorpe of Chillingham, Northumb., 4s. 1da. suc. fa. 1760.
Ensign 1 Ft. Gds. 1748; capt. 6 Ft. 1750; maj. 57 Ft. 1757; capt. 1 Ft. Gds. and lt.-col. 1759; ret. 1762.
Out ranger of Windsor Great Park 1765- d.
George Onslow of Ockham was usually known as Colonel Onslow to distinguish him from his cousin, George Onslow of Imber Court, and was nicknamed ‘cocking George’ because of his fondness for cock fighting. Small in stature and pompous in manner, his nickname fitted his appearance. Like his cousin he followed Newcastle, and in 1762 was one of the group of ‘warm young men’ eager for Opposition. He spoke and voted against the peace preliminaries, was a member of Wildman’s Club, and a frequent speaker against the Grenville Administration; and on 19 Jan. 1764 was the only M.P. to oppose the expulsion of Wilkes.
When the Rockingham Administration was formed he asked for the post of out ranger of Windsor forest, but with an increased salary. ‘I am concerned on your Lordship’s account’, he wrote to Rockingham on 20 Oct. 1765,1 ‘that ... fortune has not put it into my power to act the part I mean to do with your Lordship and the Whigs without any solicitation for myself.’ When this was granted, he asked that the office should be given him for life.
Considering how much I have cheerfully contributed out of my little in support of the Whig cause [he wrote to Rockingham on 18 Nov.] and the strong and steady part I took in the late Opposition, rejecting with contempt great offers made me, I hope from this merit and your Lordship’s favour my request will be granted, for circumstanced [and] situated as I am, it will be impossible for me to accept it on other terms.
This too was granted, and of course Onslow gave full support to all the measures of the Rockingham Administration. After Rockingham’s dismissal Onslow remained with the court and supported North to the end, even voting with him on points on which some followers deserted, such as the reduction of the land tax and Grenville’s Election Act.
He was a great stickler for parliamentary privilege: on 12 Mar. 1771 he complained of six London newspapers for printing reports of parliamentary debates—a complaint which led to the Brass Crosby case. On 25 Mar. he made his excuses for the trouble he had given the House:2
All this matter has lain very heavy on my mind. I have acted from the best motives, but am sorry I have been the means to bring Lord Mayor and Alderman Oliver into this situation ... I meant only to support the honour and dignity of the House.
And on 22 Feb. 1775, in the debate on Wilkes’s motion to expunge the resolutions on the Middlesex election, he said:3
I was bred a soldier, and though my abilities are as short as my person, yet if, by taking thought, I could add a cubit to them, I would willingly be a grenadier on the present occasion, where the necessary power, the honour and dignity of the House of Commons are strongly attacked.
In the debate on 15 Mar. 1782, on the motion of no confidence in North’s Administration, he stated his attitude towards the American war.4 The Stamp Act ‘was the source of all our public calamities’; and the Declaratory Act
gave as much offence to the Americans as the Stamp Act; for it maintained and asserted that right of sovereignty which the Stamp Act was calculated to enforce ... The nation at large upheld the idea of sovereignty over America; all that was great in England had sanctified the idea with their suffrage and authority.
The principle of the war had been supported ‘by every description of men, both in and out of office’. The cause of British failure was to be found in ‘the countenance that had been given in that House to the American rebellion’.
The cause of the rebels had been called the cause of liberty; and every species of encouragement had been given to induce them to hold out under a confidence that they had a strong party in the House of Commons in their favour ... the want of success in that war, in which the whole nation had concurred, was to be ascribed to those who from the beginning had declared that they would be sorry it should prove successful.
According to the printed list he voted against Shelburne’s peace preliminaries; according to Robinson’s list he did not vote. He supported the Coalition, and said ‘much good might arise from the junction of two such opposite parties’.5 In Robinson’s list of January 1784 he is classed ‘doubtful’, and in Stockdale’s of 19 Mar. as having opposed Pitt. He did not stand in 1784.
He died 14 Nov. 1792.