CORNEWALL, Sir George, 2nd Bt. (1748-1819), of Moccas Court, Herefs.
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Family and Education
b. 5 Nov. 1748, 1st s. of Sir George Amyand†, 1st Bt., of Carshalton, Surr. by Anna Maria, da. of John Abraham Corteen, Hamburg merchant. educ. Eton 1758-64; Christ Church, Oxf. 1766. m. 18 July 1771, Catherine, da. and h. of Velters Cornewall† of Moccas Court, 2s. 5da. Took name of Cornewall 20 July 1771; suc. fa. as 2nd Bt. 16 Aug. 1766.
Capt. Herefs. yeomanry 1794, maj. commdt. 1798, brevet 1804-8; lt.-col. Herefs. militia 1803, col. 1805.
Cornewall considered himself safe in the county seat he owed chiefly to his wife’s family. He had been in opposition to Pitt and was surprised that the Whig recovery was not greater in the election of 1790. To his brother-in-law Lord Malmesbury he wrote, ‘I hope your opinion as to peace is well founded; in mine, nothing is ever to be got by war, even the most successful’. He voted against Pitt’s bellicose Russian policy, 12 Apr. 1791, but in the same month was listed absent and hostile on the forthcoming motion to repeal the Test Act. In December 1792 he was a Portland Whig; on 17 Feb. 1793 according to Lord Sheffield, he was present at Windham’s ‘third party’ meeting and, next day, he ‘strongly urged the necessity of resisting the progress of French aims and principles’ in the House. In company with his brothers-in-law (the other was Sir Gilbert Elliot*), he went over to ministers, though he spoke and voted for delay of the transportation of the radical cleric Thomas Fyshe Palmer, 24 Feb. 1794. On 30 Oct. 1795 he informed Elliot, ‘I, now, ought to be in London ... but, having had my full dose last year, I mean to play truant this ... unless a call of the House forces me up’. He wrote to Pitt for local patronage twice that session.1
Cornewall was shocked when he was ousted by a revanchiste Whig at the poll in 1796, styling himself one of ‘the Duke of Portland’s martyrs’. Having spent nearly £2,000, he dreaded a ‘constant canvass’ to recapture his seat for himself or his son George and, still more, ‘a real thorough contest’. It looked as if he would slip into the seat quietly on the retirement (disclosed privately to him) of Thomas Harley, county opinion having swung in his favour; but he faced another unexpected contest in 1802. He defeated the Whig Member, but was embarrassed by a tactical petition against him for treating, in the wake of another which unseated the other sitting Member on that ground. Elliot came to the rescue in securing its rejection: Cornewall’s election was confirmed.2 No vote of his against Addington’s ministry is known. A member of the civil list committee in 1803, he figured in debate only as a promoter of the unsuccessful general turnpike bill, 8 June 1803. As chairman of the election committee, he introduced the Aylesbury bribery prevention bill, 26 Mar. 1804, and saw it through. He was listed ‘Fox’ by Pitt’s friends in March 1804 and ‘doubtful etc.’ in May. After voting against Pitt’s additional force bill in June, he was listed ‘doubtful Addington’ by the Treasury in September. That his attachment was to Addington is indicated by a letter of his of 17 Jan. 1805, for Addington’s information, in which he approved his reconciliation with Pitt and added, ‘I hope to form part of the union in a few weeks’, being delayed ‘later than usual’ in the country by his daughter’s marriage to Thomas Frankland Lewis*. He concluded ‘In case of urgent necessity, I hold myself open to a summons’.3 He was in the majorities against Melville, 8 Apr. and 12 June 1805, and was listed ‘doubtful Sidmouth’ in July.
In August 1805 Cornewall was reduced to a nervous wreck when it was discovered that the family bank in which he had been a partner for nearly 30 years was ‘on the brink of insolvency’. He had withdrawn most of his capital to redeem a war-ravaged estate in Grenada, but his brother Thomas Amyand had just died owing the bank £20,000. If the bank were to be liquidated Cornewall stood to lose £20,000; to save it he must borrow £15,000 at once. This was not easy, as most of his estates were settled. (They brought him £4,500 p.a. and Grenada £2,000 more.) Demoralized, he relied on Lord Minto to raise the funds to save the situation.4 He could not now afford a contest and was spared one in 1806, though he spent £1,400 in anticipation of one. His support of the Grenville ministry was indicated only by his vote for Brand’s motion following their dismissal, 9 Apr. 1807. He retired at the ensuing election rather than face a contest, though he was confident that he could have braved the cry of ‘No Popery’ and come in.5 He remained a Grenvillite. His son was defeated for the county in 1818. Cornewall died 26 Sept. 1819.
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Authors: M. J. Williams / R. G. Thorne
- 1. Malmesbury mss, Cornewall to Malmesbury, 28 June, Mon. [25 July 1790]; Add. 34448, f. 296; NLS mss 11122, f. 41; PRO 30/8/125, ff. 203, 205.
- 2. Malmesbury mss, Cornewall to Malmesbury, 13 June, 30 July , 5 Dec. 1801; The Times, 16 Jan. 1800, 16 Jan. 1802; see HEREFORDSHIRE; NLS mss 11122, f. 53; Minto, iii. 276.
- 3. Sidmouth mss, Cornewall to Dacres Adams, 17 Jan. 1805.
- 4. NLS mss 11059, ff. 16, 22, 32, 39, 44, 60.
- 5. Ibid. 11148, f. 45, 53, 64, 66, 71.