GREGOR, Francis (1760-1815), of Trewarthenick, Cornelly, Cornw.
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Family and Education
bap. 1 June 1760,1 1st s. of Capt. Francis Gregor of Trewarthenick by his cos. (once removed) Mary, da. of Joseph Moyle of Bake. educ. Bristol g.s.; St. John’s, Camb. 1778; L. Inn 1783. m. (1) 1 June 1786, Catherine Luke (d. 17 Apr. 1794), da. and coh. of William Masterman† of Restormel Castle, s.p.; (2) 9 Oct. 1795, Jane, da. of William Urquhart of Craigston, Aberdeen, s.p.
Sheriff, Cornw. 1788-9.
Lt. R. Cornw. militia 1792, capt. 1795; lt.-col. commdt. 2nd (Roseland) regt. 1798, 1803, col. 1798.
Gregor’s family had been settled at Trewarthenick since 1640: they had previously made a mercantile fortune at Truro. Francis Gregor was the first of them to sit in Parliament. At Cambridge, where he was a contemporary of Pitt, ‘his application was rewarded with the first honorary distinctions’. In the summer of 1789, he was sponsored ‘at the instance and under the patronage of administration’ as candidate for his county to challenge the Whig sitting Members, and was returned in second place after a contest said to have cost him £20,000. According to an obituarist, ‘he attached himself to no party, although he generally supported Mr Pitt’s measures, but on all occasions he voted to the best of his judgment for the good of his country’. Boswell described him during his Cornish jaunt of 1792 as ‘a civil, sensible young man’; in 1800 he was described as ‘a most active sensible man—and much in favour as a Member of Parliament’.2
Gregor, who was listed hostile to the repeal of the Test Act in Scotland in 1791, first surfaced in debate on 25 May 1792, to voice his approval of the royal proclamation against sedition, which as a magistrate he hoped to do his best to implement. On 17 Nov. he attacked the opposition leaders Fox and Grey and obliged Fox to defend his ‘highly dangerous’ principles. He was a spokesman for, and beneficiary of, the Cornish copper trade: on 21 May 1793 he successfully proposed a clause obliging the East India Company to provide shipping for the export of 1,500 tons of copper a year, the property of private adventurers, if their own export fell short. In 1799 and 1800 four further speeches on the subject were reported: a member of the copper committee, he opposed government regulation of the price of copper and denied that higher prices were due to monopoly, 4 Apr. 1800. On 2 June 1801 he expressed the consent of the Cornish mines proprietors to the abolition of restrictions on the trade. In the same month, to please his clerical brother William, he opposed the prosecution of absentee clergy under the non-residence bill. It was a subject he returned to in debate in May 1803.
Before 1801 Gregor scarcely ever voted with the minority: he did so for Sumner’s amendment on the Prince of Wales’s debts, 1 June 1795. (He was at loggerheads with the Prince over the Cornish militia in which, like his father, he took a keen interest, in 1797, when Colonel Thomas Tyrwhitt* found his opposition to the Prince’s ‘claims’ very ‘enigmatical’.) He at first supported Addington, but acted as a steward for Pitt’s birthday dinner, 28 May 1802, and moved into opposition with Pitt’s friends in 1803. After he had spoken against the adjournment on 6 May, William Wickham* described him as ‘a very respectable man’ who ‘heads a new party of young oppositionists’. In fact he was one of the group of ‘decided Pittites’ cultivated by Canning to prepare an onslaught on Addington in Pitt’s favour. On 20 May he supported the motion on Maltese affairs and on 3 June spoke in favour of Patten’s motion of no confidence, describing ministers as ‘unfit for their situation’, and ‘very pointedly condemned the delusive hopes of peace which they had held out to the country’. In a debate on the property tax, 5 July 1803, he opined that long term tenants should share the burden with their landlords; on 14 Mar. 1804, when the property tax assessments were discussed, he threatened a motion on the consolidation fund. Having been appointed to the secret finance committee in 1797 and reported on the army pay office and the excise, he took a keen interest in ‘the revenues of his country, considering them as second only to her liberties’.3 On 5 Dec. 1803 he pointed out defects in the India bonds bill and on 19 Mar. 1804 moved for an account of the property tax return. He voted for the defence motions by which the opposition ousted Addington in March and April 1804 and supported Pitt on his return to power, though he voted against the salt tax, 4 Mar. 1805, and got up from his sick-bed to vote for Whitbread’s censure of Melville, 8 Apr. He was intended by Whitbread for the select committee on the subject and was ‘inclined to support’ Wilberforce’s amendment to the vote of thanks to the commissioners of naval inquiry, 2 May. He was still listed a friend of Pitt in July 1805.
Gregor was not friendly to the Grenville ministry and opposed the repeal of Pitt’s Additional Force Act, 30 Apr. 1806. Anticipating a contest, and also because of ‘increasing infirmities’ (he was crippled with gout), he retired, 26 Oct.4 He was not again in Parliament, but remained active as a county magistrate and as a pamphleteer hostile to the radical Whigs. Thus he defended the civil list against its ‘modern reformers’, January 1810; deplored the glorification of radical conspirators of the 1790s and criticized the Burdettite view of the evolution of Parliament, March 1810; opposed Cornish gestures towards parliamentary reform, July 1811, and Catholic relief, 1812-13; and in 1813 unfavourably compared Vansittart’s plan of finance with Pitt’s.5 He frequently contributed letters on public affairs to the Royal Cornwall Gazette. He died 12 July 1815, in his 56th year, ‘early and happily impressed with a strong sense of religion ... immersed in literary pursuits ... kind, liberal, social and indulgent’. To quote an ‘Effusion, on hearing the death of Francis Gregor esq. by a humble friend’.
Yes:—high in glory, where earth’s Abdiels sit,
Thy soul rejoins the kindred soul of Pitt.6
Gregor’s niece recalled him, with ‘his plain features marked with smallpox, and his tall awkward figure’, as a military enthusiast who had given up the army for the law to please his jaundiced father, and as a man of integrity capable of conciliating by his public conduct the established county families who had been suspicious of him at his first election as a parvenu allied to a wealthy heiress, herself a stranger.7
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: R. G. Thorne
- 1. Privately (publicly 18 Aug.), Cornelly par. reg., ex. inf. Mrs Barbary Thorn.
- 2. N. and Q. (ser. 11), xi. 300; cxcii. 2. (Gregor’s grandfather and namesake, a scholar and antiquary, contested Tregony in 1747 to oblige Frederick, Prince of Wales, but failed.); Cornw. RO, Mem. of Loveday Sarah Gregor, (T/S) 195; Gent. Mag. (1815), ii. 185; Ginter, Whig Organization, 86; R. Cornw. Gazette, 15 July 1815; Boswell Private Pprs. xviii. 157; Staniforth Diary ed. Hext, 35.
- 3. Prince of Wales Corresp. iii. 1230; Add. 35714, f. 75; Creevey mss, Creevey to Currie, 7 May; Harewood mss, Canning to his wife, 20, 21, 26 May 1803; Colchester, i. 92; prefatory biog. to F. Gregor, Works (Taunton, 1816); Mem. of Loveday Sarah Gregor, 176.
- 4. Fortescue mss, Gilbert to Grenville, 26 Oct. 1806.
- 5. The pamphlets are collected in his Works (the earlier ones did not carry his name); Pole Carew mss CC/L/45, Gregor to Pole Carew, 11 Nov. 1812.
- 6. Prefatory biog. to F. Gregor, Works (1816). Gregor’s correspondence with Pitt, when not concerned with local patronage, is in defence of the Cornish pilchard fisheries, PRO 30/8/140, ff. 19-33.
- 7. Mem. of Loveday Sarah Gregor, 57, 149, 195.