STEWART, James (1742-1821), of Killymoon, co. Tyrone.
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Family and Education
b. 1742, s. of William Stewart of Killymoon, MP [I], by Eleanor, da. of Sir Henry King, 3rd Bt., MP [I], of Rockingham, co. Roscommon. educ. Trinity, Dublin 1758; Grand Tour. m. 1774, Hon. Elizabeth Molesworth, da. and event. coh. of Richard, 3rd Visct. Molesworth [I], 2s. 2da. suc. fa. 1797.
MP [I] 1768-1800.
Trustee, linen board [I] 1801.
Col. Strabane vols. 1780; capt. Cookstown cav. 1796, Newmills yeomanry 1802.
Stewart served in the army in his youth and succeeded his father to the county seat in 1768. In 1782 it was reported:
His father has a large estate in this county Tyrone and a valuable lease under the primate—a well disposed man—has generally opposed—he unfortunately killed his brother by his gun going off by accident, and he has never recovered his spirits since the event.
Stewart, whose wife’s sister was married to William Brabazon Ponsonby*, was one of the promoters of the Irish address to the Prince Regent in 1789, opposed the Union and remained a staunch Whig. Fox wrote of him in 1806 as ‘a very old friend of mine. He came into Parliament at the time I did, and I believe has supported our principles with less deviation than any other member of the Irish parliament, be he who he may.’ He added that Stewart had carried the county for nearly 40 years against the government.1
When Stewart was returned to Westminster in 1801, he was rated by the Castle a country gentleman who might be gained from opposition, but on 31 Mar. 1802 he voted with them for the Prince of Wales’s claims to the duchy of Cornwall revenue, and on 7 May when he again joined the minority the offical comment was ‘has seldom favoured us with his support’. He was in Ireland in March 1803 and a year later was expected to act with the Ponsonbys. He was in opposition to Pitt’s second ministry, seeking to delay the Irish additional force bill, 3 July 1804, after voting against the general measure in June, and was described as an Irish Fox and Grenvillite in September and ‘as independent as any Member in the House’ in November.2 He did not attend at the opening of the next session, but was named to the Irish finance committee on 18 Mar. and voted with the opposition majority censuring Melville, 8 Apr. 1805, as well as in favour of his criminal prosecution on 12 June. He voted against Catholic relief on 14 May: he had always opposed it.
Stewart supported his friends in power in 1806, appearing in the majority for the repeal of Pitt’s Additional Force Act on 30 Apr. On 3 May he called on Fox, ‘rather dissatisfied’ that his son had not been given ‘Sir George Shee’s place’ as promised, and Fox informed the viceroy that while Stewart was willing ‘to wait a little’, he ought to have ‘every mark of attention and regard shown him’.3 He was assured county patronage and support for his election and was listed as a supporter of his friends once more in opposition in April 1807.
Stewart was unable to leave Ireland for the opening of the Parliament of 1807 and his attendance could not be counted on thereafter—that winter he was known to be seeking a government Member to pair with.4 He appeared in the minority against Castlereagh’s supposed corruption, 25 Apr. 1809, and further voted with opposition on the Scheldt inquiry, 23 Feb., 5 and 30 Mar. 1810. On 1 June, not unexpectedly, he voted against Catholic relief. The Regency debates stirred up memories of old battles and on 17 and 21 Dec. he spoke in favour of proceeding by address, as the Irish had done in 1789, and duly voted against ministers on the subject, 29 Nov. 1810, 1 and 21 Jan. 1811. He was in the opposition majorities in favour of sinecure reform, 4 May, and a stronger administration, 21 May 1812, though he supported the bank-note bill on 10 Apr.
Although the Prince Regent expressed an interest in his return, Stewart was confronted with a coalition of the grandees of Tyrone in 1812 and withdrew before a poll. His son William recaptured the seat in 1818, when the chief secretary welcomed his candidature from respect for his father’s character. Stewart died 18 Jan. 1821.5
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: Arthur Aspinall
- 1. Procs. R. Irish Acad. lvi, sec. C, no. 3 (1954), 266; Add. 47569, f. 283.
- 2. Add. 35713, f. 92; 37882, f. 120.
- 3. Add. 47569, ff. 283, 284.
- 4. Grey mss, Stewart to Howick, 19 June; Wellington mss, Daly to Wellesley, 13 Dec. 1807.
- 5. Add. 40295, f. 141; Gent. Mag. (1821), i. 189; PRO NI, Stewart mss D3167/2/268.