DICK, Quintin (1777-1858), of 20 Curzon Street, Mayfair, Mdx.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Constituency

Dates

21 Dec. 1803 - 1806
1807 - Mar. 1809
26 Dec. 1826 - 1830
1830 - 1847
29 Mar. 1848 - 1852

Family and Education

b. Mar. 1777, 1st s. of Samuel Dick, E.I. proprietor and merchant, of Dublin by Charlotte, da. of Nicholas Forster of Tullaghan, co. Monaghan. educ. Trinity, Dublin 7 Oct. 1793, aged 16½; L. Inn 1797, called [I] 1800. unm. suc. fa. 1802.

Offices Held

MP [I] 1800.

Capt. W. Essex militia 1839, lt.-col. 1846-52.

Biography

Quintin Dick owed his start in public life to the great wealth of his father, a Dublin East India linen merchant who represented the fourth generation of a Scots family settled in county Antrim.1 He sat for Dunleer in the Irish parliament just before the Act of Union which, as his kinsman John Foster’s* nominee, he opposed. In the same year he was called to the Irish bar. Soon afterwards his father died and he came to London, where his uncle and namesake was a merchant,2 and probably went into business with him. In 1803 he entered the English Parliament on the Buller interest for West Looe, presumably by purchase, for his conduct was independent.

Dick took his seat on 2 Feb. 1804. On 2 Mar. he objected to the debate on the Irish exchange and currency as tending to diminish public confidence in the Bank of Ireland and criticized a pamphlet of Lord King’s attacking the Bank: tranquillity and English backing would restore faith in the institution. He had some objection to Pitt’s additional force bill in June 1804, appearing to have voted against it on the 15th, and was listed as ‘Foxite and Grenvillite’ by Pitt’s friends in September, but on 8 Apr. 1805 he voted with the government minority against the censure of Melville. He was listed as a Pittite in July.

Left without a seat in 1806, he was brought in (by purchase through the Hon. Henry Wellesley*) for Cashel, an Irish borough placed at the disposal of administration, in 1807. He had at first bargained for Tralee for £5,000, but Castlereagh stopped this, ‘that he may not mistake that he owes his seat to government. He voted with us in opposition and we have therefore no right to be suspicious, but it is better there should be no doubt as to the quarter whence the seat is derived.’ He may have been the ‘Mr Dick’ who applied too late to become one of the ‘Danish commissioners’ in November 1807.3 In March 1809 he found himself in disagreement with government in favouring the investigation of the Duke of York’s alleged abuse of military patronage and, feeling unable to vote with administration, resigned his seat of his own volition after a private discussion of the matter with Castlereagh. Dick evidently regarded it as a matter of honour to resign, but complained loudly of obtaining no rebate on his premature vacation of the seat. An unsuccessful attempt was then made by William Alexander Madocks to accuse government of having forced Dick to resign his seat, 11 May 1809. The Irish secretary reported next day:

Mr Madocks brought forward his motion last night, which was answered in the first instance in a most proper and manly manner by Perceval. The former stated his intention to examine evidence as to the corrupt interference of the Treasury with seats in Parliament, beginning with Mr Quintin Dick and the borough of Cashel, and Lord Castlereagh’s alleged requisition to the latter to give up his seat for voting against the Duke of York. Lord Milton moved one amendment, that instead of being heard at the bar of the House, the charge should be referred to a select committee, and Mr Tierney moved that it should be restricted to the putting Mr Dick out of Parliament, saying nothing as to the bringing him in. Both amendments were negatived without a division, and on the main question 85 voted for Mr Madocks’s motion, and 310 against it. This is rather a damper upon Jacobinism.4

Dick himself wrote to Madocks and also to his kinsman Foster assuring them that ‘the statement of Lord Castlereagh having suggested to me that I ought to resign my seat rather than vote against the Duke of York’ was ‘totally unfounded’. Madocks had alleged that Spencer Perceval was involved in putting pressure on Dick but Perceval stated that, on the contrary, he had pressed him to continue in the House.5

After this, Dick, who was ‘thrown out of his gig and nearly killed’ in August 1820, was out of Parliament until 1826, when he resumed his public career, as a Tory opposed to Catholic relief. He retired in 1852 and died unmarried 26 Mar. 1858, aged 81, ‘respected as a man of independent thought, sterling good sense and unwavering attachment to protestant principles’, leaving a great fortune of between two and three million pounds to his sister’s son. Harriette Wilson published a scurrilous account of Dick in her memoirs as

a man of 15 or 20 thousand a year at least ... one of the most unpopular men within the United Kingdom. By birth an Irishman, by trade a linen draper, no ... it was his father who they say dealt in linen and not Quintin himself, carroty Quintin: of whom I cannot say I ever knew any particular harm.

She found him not so mean as he was reputed to be, but ‘a man of very few words ... he scarcely spoke at all, and when he did he attempted to be satirical: but his were the very worst attempts I ever heard’.6

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: R. G. Thorne

Notes

  • 1. Burke Irish LG (1904).
  • 2. Quintin Dick, merchant: at Cateaton Street, 1770; 7 King’s Street, Cheapside 1780; Old Jewry (Dick Co.) 1808; 49 Finsbury Square 1811; Dick and Clement 1812; disappears 1813.
  • 3. Wellington mss, Castlereagh to Wellesley, 7 May [1807]; Wellington Supp. Despatches, v. 48.
  • 4. Grey mss, Grenville to Grey, 10 May; NLI, Richmond mss, Saunders Dundas to Richmond, 12 May 1809.