DAWNAY, Hon. John (1728-80), of Cowick Hall, Yorks.

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



1754 - 1768
1768 - 1774

Family and Education

b. 9 Apr. 1728, 2nd s. of Hon. John Dawnay, M.P., and bro. of Henry Pleydell Dawnay, 3rd Visct. Downe [I]. educ. Eton 1742; Ch. Ch. Oxf. 1745. m. 20 May 1763, Laura, da. and h. of William Burton, commr. of Excise, of North Luffenham, Rutland, 5s. 2da. suc. bro. as 4th Visct. 26 Dec. 1760.

Offices Held


Dawnay stood for Cirencester on a joint interest with Benjamin Bathurst and was returned unopposed. His brother, Lord Downe, wrote to Newcastle on 3 Dec. 1753: ‘Your Grace has gained a zealous friend in my brother and the Whigs a very steady man.’1 At the contested election of 1761 he was head of the poll. In Bute’s list of the 1761 Parliament he is classified as ‘pro’, with the comment ‘Bathurst and Government’; and he also appears in Henry Fox’s list of Members favourable to the peace preliminaries, December 1762. He appears in Jenkinson’s list of Government supporters absent from the division on general warrants, 18 Feb. 1764. In Rockingham’s list of July 1765 he is marked ‘contra’; in another list he is first marked ‘contra’ then ‘pro’, and Rockingham noted: ‘have seen him’. He did not vote against the repeal of the Stamp Act, and in June 1766 Rockingham recommended him for a British peerage.2 Yet in Rockingham’s list of the House of Commons, November 1766 he is classified as ‘Bute’.

But by spring 1767 he had become a follower of Rockingham. He voted against the court on the land tax, 27 Feb. 1767, and wrote to Rockingham on 9 Mar. 1767, on receiving his whip for the East India inquiry:3

Your Lordship may depend on my attendance this day; and I wish my abilities were greater, that I might be more useful to your Lordship, that is, to my country, for no person living is more thoroughly persuaded than myself that all your Lordship’s views ... are directed to the benefit of that single object.

He voted for the nullum tempus bill, 17 Feb. 1768.

In 1765 he sold his Ampney Crucis estate, and with it his interest at Cirencester. In December 1767 Rockingham offered to bring him into Parliament at the general election,4 which he at first declined. He seems to have been in poor health: his name does not appear in any division list for 1769, but he voted with the Rockinghams on 9 Jan. 1770. On 16 Oct. 1770 he repeated a request made to Rockingham the previous spring that he should be allowed to resign his seat because of his health;5 and henceforth his attendance was poor. He did not stand at the general election of 1774.

He died 21 Dec. 1780.

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: John Brooke


  • 1. Add. 32733, f. 610.
  • 2. Rockingham to the King, 5 June 1766, Fortescue, i. 355.
  • 3. Rockingham mss.
  • 4. Downe to Rockingham, 24 Dec. 1767, ibid.
  • 5. Ibid.