VAUGHAN, Hon. John (c.1731-95).

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754-1790, ed. L. Namier, J. Brooke., 1964
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1774 - 30 June 1795

Family and Education

b. c.1731, 2nd s. of Wilmot, 3rd Visct. Lisburne [I], by Elizabeth, da. of Thomas Watson of Grindon Ridge, Northumb.; bro. of Hon. Wilmot Vaughan. unm.  cr. K.B. 15 Aug. 1792.

Offices Held

2nd lt. 9 Marines 1746; cornet 10 Drag. 1748; lt. 1751; capt.-lt. 1754; maj. 1759; lt.-col. 94 Ft. 1760; lt.-col. 16 Ft. 1762; col. army 1772, 46 Ft. 1775- d.; maj.-gen. 1777; gov. Fort William 1779-80; c.-in-c. Leeward Is. Dec. 1779-82; gov. Berwick 1780- d.

M.P. [I] 1776-83.


Vaughan served in Germany during the seven years’ war, and at the capture of Martinique in 1762. He also saw service in North America and in Ireland. He sat for Berwick on the Watson interest, which he seems to have inherited, and in Parliament followed his brother and steadily adhered to Administration. From 1775 to 1781 he was mostly absent on active service in America and the West Indies. In 1780 Robinson first thought that a friend to Government might be brought in to hold Vaughan’s seat in his absence, but Lisburne ‘resolved to offer General Vaughan again’.1 And in Robinson’s forecast of the new Parliament, December 1783: ‘General Vaughan will go with his brother, Lord Lisburne, who professes great attachment to the old Government.’2 Only one speech by Vaughan is reported: on 4 Dec. 1781, when Burke indicted Rodney and Vaughan over confiscations at St. Eustatius.3

General Vaughan said that it was commonly believed that he had made a great fortune by the St. Eustatius business; but he would say upon his honour, and was ready to confirm it upon oath, that neither directly nor indirectly ... had he made a single shilling by the business ... he had acted to the best of his judgment, and for his country’s good, not his own.

On 18 Feb. 1783 Vaughan dissociated himself from his brother and voted for Shelburne’s peace preliminaries; but in November supported Fox’s East India bill. Robinson wrote about the two brothers in December 1783:4

Lord Lisburne ... feels himself ... neglected by Lord North ... and does not attend. His brother, the general, is kept by the expectations given him of the government of Canada, or, some say, the lieutenant government of Gibraltar, and votes with administration.

And in a paper of February or March 1784 on ‘Places where [there] may be contests’, Robinson directed George Rose ‘to concert with the Duke of Northumberland for two candidates’ at Berwick. In the end a local candidate stood against the sitting Members, but seems to have withdrawn before the close of the poll.

In the Parliament of 1784-90 Vaughan voted with the Opposition. But on 9 Aug. 1788 John Rolle, a follower of Pitt, wrote to him,5 after having spent a few days with Lisburne and Vaughan who ‘opened his mind very freely’ to Rolle.

He expressed a high approbation of your conduct and the measures you had pursued in the last session, to some of which he had given his personal support, particularly for securing the additional troops to the Leeward Islands, likewise the question respecting Queenborough. He observed that neither yourself nor any others of your Government had noticed his conduct, although Opposition had expressed their anxiety and resentment ... He said his inclination was to support your Government if he had the smallest reason to know from you that it accorded with your wishes.

And he authorized Rolle to communicate to Pitt ‘his present political disposition’. Rolle urged Pitt to write to Vaughan who, he added, was anxious ‘to have some mark of the royal favour as an approbation of his services and support’; to which Pitt replied that ‘this must depend on his future attachment to Government’, as ‘his conduct previous to the last sessions had not been so favourable’ as to entitle him to it.

But Pitt obviously acted on Rolle’s suggestion: on 30 Aug. Vaughan thanked him profusely for his letter and stated that his signature ‘in a list, that has been formed and circulated’ was inserted without his knowledge and consent—he obviously refers to the circular proposing that the independent and unconnected Members of the two Houses should ‘form a third party for the purpose of preventing the Crown from being too much in the power’ of either Pitt or Fox. In spite of this correspondence Vaughan voted against the Government on the Regency bill.

He died 30 June 1795.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: Sir Lewis Namier


  • 1. Robinson’s electoral survey.
  • 2. Laprade, 46.
  • 3. Debrett, v. 93-94.
  • 4. Laprade, 95.
  • 5. Chatham mss.