ORMSBY, Charles Montague (1767-1818), of Dublin.

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



30 July 1801 - 21 May 1806

Family and Education

b. 23 Apr. 1767, 1st s. of Capt. James Ormsby by Jane, da. of Capt. Stephen de Gualy of Languedoc, France. educ. Trinity, Dublin 1782; I. Temple 1785, called [I] 1789. m. June 1794, Elizabeth, da. of Thomas Kingsbury, LLD, of Dublin, 2s. suc. fa. 1807; kntd. 21 May 1806; cr. Bt. 29 Dec. 1812.

Offices Held

MP [I] 1791-1800.

KC [I] by 1799; commr. of barracks [I] 1799-1801; second counsel to revenue commrs. [I] 1801, first counsel 1802-6, 1807-d.; bencher, King’s Inn 1814.

Recorder, Athlone c.1801-6, Prince of Wales Island May-Oct. 1806 (but did not go).

Capt. Rathcoole inf. 1796.


As Member for Duleek in the Irish parliament, Ormsby could be relied on to support administration. On 4 Sept. 1799 Lord Cornwallis wrote: ‘I have given an office of about £400 a year to James Ormsby’s son, the lawyer, who is an able man and a good speaker’. On 30 June 1801, Chief Secretary Abbot informed the lord lieutenant apropos of the vacant seat at Carlow, placed at the government’s disposal by Lord Charleville:

The person whom I have recommended to succeed to the vacancy is Mr Ormsby, newly appointed counsel to the commissioners of the revenue. He was a strong unionist in the last parliament of Ireland, an able debater and a good lawyer. His conduct as judge advocate at Limerick last winter was highly creditable to him. We think he will strengthen our ranks very much next winter on Irish discussions, and assist us in our revenue bills.1

Ormsby duly made himself useful in debate, standing in for the ailing Isaac Corry in a cordial support of Abbot’s nomination to the Speaker’s chair, 10 Feb., and defending the Irish duties bill against John Foster, 16 Mar. 1802. Between then and July 1804, he spoke frequently on Irish affairs, mostly on the legal aspect of revenue business.

Ormsby’s ambition was to be promoted to the bench. Informing the lord lieutenant of this on 17 May 1802, Chief Secretary Wickham commented: ‘He is a very useful man in Parliament, and I should be sorry for any arrangement that would take him from here’. The lord lieutenant found the lord chancellor of Ireland conveniently hostile to the idea: and the premier, Addington, concluded on 8 Sept. 1803:

Mr Ormsby’s long separation from the business of the bar may be stated as a fair ground of objection, to which I must add that it is not usual or becoming to remove a person to the bench from the House of Commons. He is certainly a man of talents, and has given a steady and useful support to government; and I had flattered myself that the objections which I have admitted might be overruled by the pretensions which I suppose him to derive from his professional knowledge and private character. I am extremely sorry to find myself mistaken.2

Ormsby had been second on the list of Irish placemen whom government wished to seat in the Parliament of 1802, and Lord Charleville, who hoped for promotion in the peerage, was easily induced to re-elect him. But Ormsby soon complained of the inadequacy of his fees as counsel, though in one year they exceeded £3,600. As his professional work was in arrear because of his parliamentary duties, it was suggested to him that he might have to give up his seat to retain his emolument, if he would not forego the fees he had not actually earned.3 In June 1804 he intimated his willingness to quit Parliament if raised to the bench in Ireland or in India, but nothing came of it: the Irish chancellor made it clear that he would resign rather than promote Ormsby to the Irish bench, considering him unfit and hostile to the lord lieutenant. In 1805 Ormsby assured Lord Hardwicke that ‘upon the whole, though it might be against his interests and views, he wished to retire from Parliament rather than sustain a diminution of the emoluments of his office’. With reference to this, Hardwicke informed Pitt, 4 Sept. 1805:

Upon the whole I consider his proposition as a fortunate circumstance in reference to him alone, his political conduct being guided solely by his own interest, and his views being directed to an object to which he is by no means entitled, and in which he could not be gratified consistently with that attention which ought to be paid to the character both legal and moral of those who are placed upon the judicial bench. His language since his return to Ireland has been hostile and unbecoming, and his view is to raise himself to the bench, partly through his present seat in Parliament, and partly through Mr Foster, who is tempted by Mr Ormsby with the object of procuring for his nephew the office of counsel to the commissioners. If therefore I am authorised by you, I will lose no time in apprising Mr Ormsby that his wish of retiring from Parliament will be complied with, and that he will be left to attend to the duties of his office in this country.4

That relations between Hardwicke and Ormsby were strained is suggested by Ormsby’s open criticism of the lord lieutenant in his opposition to the Dublin paving bill, 18 Mar. 1806.

Nothing was done until the Grenville ministry, whom he supported, promised Ormsby the new post of recorder of Prince of Wales Island (Penang). He was granted a knighthood and prepared to sail in June 1806: but the East India Company objected to his appointment. When the directors decreed that he must serve ten years, instead of the usual seven, for his pension, he concurred after obtaining Lord Grenville’s promise of the first vacant judgeship in India. On 21 May he vacated his seat. While in Ireland packing his bags, he was informed that the Company now refused to confirm his salary of £4,000, which they thought excessive. He thereupon elected to resign Penang and wait for an Indian vacancy—he was disappointed in his hopes of succeeding to Sir Edward Carrington’s judicial office in Ceylon in July 1806, as it was abolished: but on 8 Oct. Grenville definitely promised him the next Indian vacancy and next day Ormsby resigned Penang. He also failed to obtain a baronetcy to compensate him, but Grenville promised instead a seat in Parliament, which at the end of the year, however, he saw ‘very little prospect’ of being able to supply.5

The fall of the Grenville ministry dashed Ormsby’s prospects, but in May 1807 he was restored to his Irish office by the Portland ministry, which also heeded his application for a baronetcy, though they saw no advantage in his being in Parliament. The baronetcy was among those deferred in August 1808, when Lord Hawkesbury commented that Ormsby was not very respectable. By 1812 the official view of him was more favourable, as he was ‘very useful as counsel to the revenue boards’, and he obtained his baronetcy. He might also have had a seat at the Irish treasury board, but there was no seat in Parliament available for him and the lord lieutenant remarked, ‘Ormsby could not afford to take that situation at present, as the few following months are his harvest’. A year later the Irish government was still desirous of his services and he of being in Parliament, but he ‘despaired of making any arrangement’ and none was made for him.6 He died 3 Mar. 1818.7

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: Arthur Aspinall


  • 1. Cornwallis Corresp. iii. 129; Add. 35711, f. 65.
  • 2. Add. 35708, f. 187; 35713, f. 97; Sidmouth mss, Redesdale to Addington, 30 Aug. 1803.
  • 3. Add. 35713, ff. 122, 129; 35761, f. 265.
  • 4. Malmesbury mss, FitzHarris to Malmesbury, 11 June 1804; Add. 31230, f. 65; 35718, f. 57; PRO 30/8/328, f. 171.
  • 5. Fortescue mss, Ormsby to Grenville, 3 May, 23 July, 3, 9 Oct., 29 Dec., replies 26 July, 8 Oct., 30 Dec., T. Grenville to same, 10 Aug., replies 11, 13 Aug. 1806.
  • 6. Wellington Supp. Despatches, v. 57; Wellington mss, Hawkesbury to Wellesley, 28 May 1807, Richmond to same, 29 July 1808; NLI, Richmond mss 62/461, 73/1633, 74/1633, 74/1816; Add. 40185, f. 111; 40285, f. 116.
  • 7. Gent. Mag. (1818), i. 470 gives 2 Mar. as his date of death.