FOSTER (afterwards SKEFFINGTON), Hon. Thomas Henry (?1772-1843), of Collon, co. Louth.
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Family and Education
b. ?1772, 5th but o. surv. s. of John Foster*. educ. Eton 1784-9; Trinity Coll. Camb. 15 Apr. 1790, aged 18; L. Inn 1790. m. 20 Nov. 1810, Lady Harriet Skeffington, da. and h. of Chichester, 4th Earl of Massereene [I] (whom she suc. 25 Feb. 1816 as s.j. Viscountess Massereene), 5s. 3da. Took surname of Skeffington 8 Jan. 1817; suc. mother as 2nd Visct. Ferrard [I] 20 Jan. 1824; fa. as 2nd Baron Oriel 16 Aug. 1828.
MP [I] 1792-1800.
Commr. of revenue [I] Feb. 1798-9, of treasury [I] May 1807-13; PC [I] 17 Oct. 1809.
Trustee, linen board [I] 1808.
Gov. co. Louth 1805; sheriff, co. Louth 1811-12, co. Antrim 1818-19.
Col. co. Louth militia 1793-d.; 2nd capt. Collon inf. 1796.
On the death of his elder brother John in 1792, Foster became his father’s heir and replaced his brother as Member for Dunleer in the Irish parliament. This family borough was disfranchised at the Union, which, like his father, Foster had opposed, thereby forfeiting his place at the revenue board, a point upon which Pitt himself was adamant.1 Foster therefore had no seat at Westminster, though, should his father at any time vacate county Louth, he was regarded as his inevitable successor.2 The Irish government urged Addington to restore him to the revenue board for the sake of conciliating his father in 1801, but received no encouragement from London.3
When in 1807 his father was restored to the Irish exchequer, Foster was assured of a seat at the Irish treasury board if he obtained a seat in Parliament.4 He was duly returned for Drogheda, ousting the sitting Member and, according to the chief secretary, attended well. No speech is known and he did not succeed in a private bill for the benefit of his constituency, 1808-9. Like his father he voted against Catholic relief. Having been made a trustee of the linen board shortly before, he was anxious to be of the Irish privy council in July 1808; but later that year the Home secretary urged the postponement of this, as ‘he has been too short a time in office to have any strong claim to it at present’: he hoped Foster would not press matters.5 He had to wait less than a year. He stood by government in the divisions on the Scheldt inquiry, January-March 1810, and voted with them against radicalism, sinecure and parliamentary reform that session, as also on the Regency in the ensuing one. He was in the government minority against a more efficient administration, 21 May 1812.
Foster surprised his father by giving up Parliament in 1812 without warning him of it.6 Having come to terms with his erstwhile opponent at Drogheda, Ogle, who replaced him on condition of maintaining ‘the same parliamentary feelings’ as himself, he affected indignation when called upon to resign his seat at the Irish treasury. In asking him to resign, 21 Jan. 1813, after a delay advised by the prime minister to avoid alienating Foster’s ‘connection’, the chief secretary maintained that government disliked the precedent of his retaining office without a seat in Parliament, which would open the treasury board to all comers. Foster produced two precedents which did nothing to convince the chief secretary, who assured him that it was the wish not only of the Irish but of the English government that he should resign his office. He resigned ‘in very ill humour’ when forced to it, finding his treatment uncalled for, especially in view of his father’s services. William Fitzgerald informed Peel, 3 Feb. 1813:
I confess that I did not anticipate that Col. Foster would show that he cared in the slightest degree for the office, but I do think that he feels naturally respecting his father and his services and his claims; and really, if favours are conferred, I know not who has a right to look at them, if Mr Foster has not.7
Foster subsequently grumbled about government’s neglect of his family, maintaining that they had ‘drawn a curtain across the past’;8 but he was not of the same calibre as his father, who could not induce him to return to Parliament until he succeeded him to the county seat in 1821. He had sought to redeem the family fortunes by his marriage,9 but in this he did not succeed. He died 18 Jan. 1843.
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: Arthur Aspinall
- 1. PRO 30/8/329, f. 29.
- 2. The Times, 4 Jan. 1802.
- 3. PRO 30/9/1, pt. 2/1, Abbot to Addington, 5 Jan.; Sidmouth mss, same to same, 11 Dec., Hardwicke to same, 28 Dec. 1801.
- 4. NLI, Richmond mss 70/1347.
- 5. Wellington Supp. Despatches, v. 389, 503; Add. 38242, f. 286; 38320, f. 100.
- 6. Add. 40278, f. 44.
- 7. Add. 40181, f. 25; 40225, f. 206; 40280, ff. 72, 82; 40281, ff. 35, 107, 144; NLI mss 7818, p. 22 [letter incorrectly dated 1812].
- 8. NLI mss 7820, p. 150.
- 9. Heron, Notes (1851), 172.