PONSONBY, George (1755-1817), of Corville, Roscrea, co. Tipperary.
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Family and Education
b. 4/5 Mar. 1755, 3rd but 2nd surv. s. of John Ponsonby, Speaker of the Irish house of commons, 2nd s. of Brabazon, 1st Earl of Bessborough [I] and 1st Baron Ponsonby [GB], by Lady Elizabeth Cavendish, da. of William, 3rd Duke of Devonshire; bro. of William Brabazon Ponsonby*. educ. Fownes Court sch. Dublin; Trinity Coll. Camb. 1773; L. Inn 1776, called [I] 1780. m. 18 May 1781, Lady Mary Butler, da. of Brinsley, 2nd Earl of Lanesborough [I], 1da. surv.1
MP [I] 1778-1800.
Recorder, Youghal 1781-d.; bencher, King’s Inn 1786; KC [I] 1787.
Clerk of ships’ entries [I] 1780-2; first counsel to revenue commrs. [I] 1782-9; ld. chancellor [I] Feb. 1806-Apr. 1807; PC 5 Mar. 1806.
Trustee, linen board [I] 1792.
The son of the last of the ‘undertakers’ of English ascendancy in Ireland, Ponsonby, who obtained a lucrative legal place in 1782, preferred fox hunting and had virtually no experience in public business. After being deprived of his place for taking the Prince of Wales’s part in the Regency crisis in 1789, he lapsed into the same species of ‘patriotic’ opposition as had characterized his father’s later years, but also acquired one of the best practices at the Irish bar. He served over 20 years in the Irish parliament, seceding with the Whigs in 1797, but returning to fulminate against and attempt to obstruct the Union. Had his cousin’s husband Earl Fitzwilliam established himself as lord lieutenant of Ireland in 1795, Ponsonby, who had been summoned to London for consultation by the Duke of Portland, would have become solicitor-general (he had no objection to becoming attorney-general per saltum) and his family might have eclipsed the Beresfords as the ‘Castle Gang’. According to Lord Holland,
although he had resisted on the narrowest grounds the Catholic bill of 1793, he had of late years supported emancipation and reform, opposed the Union, and been the chosen advocate of the most popular measures. He was a lawyer, but connected with a powerful family and both from professional and parliamentary habits personally acquainted with the most active spirits and leading characters in Ireland. His reputation for abilities was high, his legal and constitutional knowledge much extolled, his disposition generous and affectionate, and his integrity unimpeachable. He was however, a slow, and, in politics, a timid and narrow-minded man.
In short, he had much to lose by the transference of the political arena from Dublin to Westminster, where his short, stout figure and ‘plain and farmer-like’ dress would add to his obscurity.2
Ponsonby lost his seat for Galway town under the Union arrangements, but was successful in the expensive contest for Wicklow on the death of Westby: backed by Fitzwilliam, he defeated Viscount Proby by 73 votes. The Times, announcing his return, 5 Feb. 1801, stated that he was ‘considered as the leading member of the Irish opposition and the greatest expectations are announced by that party, from his eloquence, application, and firmness’. Ponsonby took his seat the same day as Fox, 2 Mar., and on 19 Mar. opposed the Irish master of the rolls bill on its third reading, acting as teller in the division. He was likewise opposition teller on the motion of Grey, his niece’s husband, on the state of the nation, 25 Mar., and on 27 Mar. criticized Pitt’s foreign policy over the breach of the convention of El Arisch. This was a few days after his admission to Brooks’s Club, of which he became an habitué. On 22 Apr. he supported Tierney’s critical motion and on 24 Apr. was given leave to introduce an Irish courts regulation bill, which he brought in on 1 June. On 10 June, refusing to be placated by a timorous message from Addington that it would only last a year, he took a stand against the Irish martial law bill. He also intervened that session on other Irish questions. In fact, his first session at Westminster was an active one and Addington, nervous about the violence of his opposition, was reported to be ‘entirely setting up his lost character and authority’ by paying compliments to Ponsonby.3
Nevertheless Ponsonby had been cast by the Foxites for a bigger role than he played that session: he was to have moved the emancipation of the Catholics. It was his own family that discouraged any such motion. Charles Grey thought Ponsonby missed obvious opportunities for speaking. Moreover, he did not sustain his parliamentary activity: he was remiss in attendance and silent in debate from 17 June 1801 until 2 Mar. 1804. In April 1802 he and his connexions were evidently summoned to England by the Prince of Wales to assail Addington, and in November 1803 Fox rallied him to come over and support a proposed motion in favour of the Catholics, but he was prepared to drop it if Ponsonby, his expert on Irish opinion, thought it unpropitious: Ponsonby, together with Grattan, advised its postponement. Had Grey formed a junction with Addington’s government, according to Lord Hardwicke ‘less than the office of attorney-general ... would certainly not satisfy George Ponsonby’. Even this was short of the mark: Ponsonby had informed Grey from Dublin after Lord Clare’s death, 4 Feb. 1802, that his sights were set on the Irish lord chancellorship if there was a junction with government, unless Grey preferred, with an eye to his own succession to the peerage, to have Ponsonby in the House of Commons. Both ambitions were to be fulfilled. In the same letter Ponsonby made it clear that he had no objection to a coalition with Addington, if it excluded Pitt and satisfied the Prince of Wales.4
At the end of February 1804, in the midst of his legal business, which had included being counsel for the rebels involved in Emmet’s rising, Ponsonby left Ireland to join the concerted attack on Addington’s tottering administration. On 2 Mar. he took part in the Irish currency debate and a week later opposed the additional tax on Irish linen. Keeping his word to the viceroy Hardwicke, he abstained from the censure on the latter on 7 Mar. On 15 Mar. he joined Fox in speaking and voting in favour of Pitt’s motion for naval inquiry and on 19 Mar. voted against the volunteer consolidation bill amendments, but by 16 Apr. he had returned to Ireland, missing the final onslaught on Addington. Nor was he in any hurry to return for the session of 1805: on 29 Dec. 1804 he was reported to be against the government, but ‘supposed not likely to go over. If at all not early, and not neglect the law terms.’5 He reappeared on 8 Apr. 1805 to join in the censure of Melville, with an appeal to the Irish Members to rally against Melville. When twitted for this by Canning on 10 Apr., he retorted that he had as much British blood as Canning and regarded himself as much a British as an Irish representative. On 25 Apr. he spoke against prosecution of Melville by the attorney-general and was opposition teller. On 14 May he made a leading speech on behalf of the Irish Catholic petition, a subject that always inspired his best efforts in debate. He was less enthusiastic about Bagwell’s Irish election bill, 17 May, though he offered to help revise it.
When it seemed likely that Pitt would make a bid for Whig support in the autumn of 1805, Ponsonby’s name was again mentioned as a candidate for Irish law office. Nothing came of this and on 27 Jan. 1806 he joined opposition criticism of public funeral honours to Pitt, though he supported the payment of the minister’s debts, 3 Feb. Then, in the Grenville ministry, he was made chancellor of Ireland and a privy councillor. So that he could remain in London for consultations on the formation of the ministry, the seals were at first put into commission. He vacated his seat for Wicklow, though at first reluctant to suppose that he must give up his seat in the Commons on account of the chancellorship, as he was not to be a peer. The Speaker thought he might have sat for an English constituency. His elevation was seen by his family as part of their triumphant restoration to power in Ireland after nearly 40 years of proscription and the event was reported to have caused ‘general uneasiness’. Lord Redesdale, who had been brusquely displaced as lord chancellor, predicted that ‘the Ponsonby family will govern Ireland through the lord lieutenant, who is completely in their hands’.6
Yet Ponsonby’s tenure of the Irish seals was not a happy one. At the outset he alienated his friend John Philpot Curran, the Catholic champion, who wished to be attorney-general but had to be content with becoming master of the rolls—and that by an arrangement whereby Ponsonby had to pay £600 p.a. Lord Holland alleged that Ponsonby’s pomposity and change of manner disgusted many erstwhile friends and that he was ‘certainly remiss in not removing Orangemen and placing better men in the commission of the peace’. This neglect was publicly exposed by Richard Wilson I*. Holland also believed that ‘the approach of a general election and a regard for his family interests in boroughs swayed him too much in such matters’. This did indeed seem to be demonstrated by his complaints to Lord Grenville, while in England in the summer of 1806, that the lord lieutenant was giving insufficient backing to his family, particularly in the inevitable feud between them and the Beresfords over the collectorship of Derry: Grenville, not wishing to alienate the Beresfords, insisted on a compromise. Although Ponsonby was thought to be more reasonable on the issue than the rest of his clan, he was reluctant to agree and he certainly interfered in Irish election arrangements in 1806. He was regarded by some as the real governor of Ireland: if so, he was unable to allay Irish discontent. Like other stalwarts of the Irish bar, he had acquired his reputation by ‘quickness of parts and temporary exertions’ and spent ‘half his time at the table’. Eager to promote Catholic relief, initially by a scheme of tithe relief and by admission to the shrievalty, he reacted to the Orangemen’s protests by calling for coercion but was unable to prevent the Catholic petitioners’ pressure. In short, to quote Holland:
His possession of the seals was never felt by the Roman Catholic body as it was intended to be, a pledge of the sincerity of government, and a proof that the first opportunity of removing all obnoxious disabilities would be taken, and the body of the people of Ireland admitted to a full share in the management of their country.7
Ponsonby himself, while he enjoyed the power, disliked the burden of his office. Before Fox’s death, he informed Howick that he was prepared to resign the seals in order to assist in the House of Commons, with or without office, if thought ‘more useful’ there. Howick replied that he would be invaluable in the House, but as no office was available for him they could not dream of prejudicing his situation: Lord Grenville agreed. When the consequences of Howick’s going to the Lords were discussed in September 1806, Howick suggested that Ponsonby might have the Home department and, with his usual partiality to Ponsonby, wrote to Grenville, 20 Sept., ‘George Ponsonby I am persuaded will prove, if not at first, after a very short time, the most effective leader of the House of Commons’.8
This scheme was dropped. Ponsonby concurred in his colleagues’ stand on the Catholic relief bill, in which his role was passive and perhaps privately hostile, but made no effort to secure a seat in Parliament at the election of 1807, although he was active on his friends’ behalf. He had not been very effective, however, in mustering Irish support for Brand’s motion of 9 Apr. There was a notion floated by Sir (Simon) John Newport* of his succeeding to French Laurence’s seat on Earl Fitzwilliam’s interest, but Laurence remained in Parliament, and Tighe, the Member for Wicklow whose illness had inspired hopes that he might make way for Ponsonby, also disappointed them. ‘As to any other seat’, Ponsonby informed Grey, ‘I had it not in my power to command one except upon most disagreeable terms, and I have heard nothing from either Lord Fitzwilliam or Lord Shannon.’ Nothing came of a suggestion that he should stand for the King’s County. On resigning the seals in April 1807, Ponsonby received a floating pension of £4,000 p.a., which was the subject of a ‘wanton and illiberal’ attack by Huskisson in the Commons. The Duke of Bedford pointed out to Howick that, as Ponsonby had no prior knowledge of the pension and had sacrificed an ‘unprecedented extensive practice at the Irish bar’, as well as giving ‘such universal satisfaction’ in office, the attack was quite unwarranted.9
In anticipation of his father’s death, Howick had sounded Ponsonby as to his willingness to succeed him as leader of the opposition in the House, with a view to making him the instrument of his own and Lord Grenville’s views there. In this he was aided and abetted by Thomas Grenville*, who declined the honour for himself. Ponsonby professed reluctance, knowing that the various claims of Thomas Grenville, Whitbread, Tierney, Lord Henry Petty, Lord Temple, Grattan, Windham and Sheridan were, at least in aggregate, formidable. Howick, however, proceeded to open negotiations with the Duke of Devonshire for a seat for Ponsonby and, when his father died on 14 Nov. 1807, enlisted the support of Sir John Newport, who had already sounded him on the subject, to prove to Ponsonby that his taking the lead was indispensable. Ponsonby ceded to force majeure, 23 Nov., agreeing that he would do ‘more harm by declining than accepting’, though the responsibility was ‘really above my qualifications’. In the careful soundings of the most prominent Whigs that ensued, it emerged that Ponsonby was the person to whom the ‘fewest objections’ could be found as leader. His visible assets were, as Newport recognized, ability, good temper, moderation, experience and special knowledge of Ireland, which must take such a prominent place in parliamentary business: his invisible assets were his willingness to do what he was told by Lords Grey and Grenville and the confidence of the Whig aristocracy. His demerits were his being little known outside Ireland and his inadequate grasp of non-Irish issues, which might be remedied: what could not, was his inability to control ‘a large, intelligent, and independent body of gentlemen with scarcely twenty of whom he was personally acquainted’, as Lord Holland put it, and the most prominent members of which, though they might acquiesce in his leadership, simply could not be led, as the previous session had demonstrated, in the absence of a leader of Fox’s stature.10 Nevertheless, it was hoped that Ponsonby would reconcile his discordant competitors, and that hope put an end to his nolo episcopari. After a summit meeting at the Duke of Bedford’s house on 11 Dec., the explicit support of Grey, Bedford, Lord Grenville and his family, Lords Spencer, Fitzwilliam, Carlisle, Stafford, the Cavendishes, Lord St. John, Elliot, Tierney, Lord Holland, Lord Henry Petty, Windham, Coke of Norfolk and not least of the Prince of Wales and his set, as well as the conditional support of Whitbread and Sheridan, elevated Ponsonby to what Tierney dubbed ‘the high and lucrative post of leader of the opposition’. The rank and file of the party were expected to concur, as there could be no question of the acrimony of an ‘election’, and the snowball of support from the grandees, engineered by Thomas Grenville and Tierney, proved irresistible: Ponsonby was the person, as the Duke of Northumberland sarcastically remarked, that ‘Lord Grey chose to set up to govern them’.11
Concurrence in an ‘ostensible’ or ‘mechanical’ leader was the main object and when Ponsonby arrived in London late in December 1807 he did not realize that he could not expect a like enthusiasm for a forceful campaign at the opening of the session. To quote Lord Grenville, ‘it is not enough to choose a general unless the nature and object of the war can also be settled by common consent’, and he informed Ponsonby at Dropmore that he was not in favour of strong measures after the first day. As Grenville had only recently cited the maxim, ‘In opposition, people will follow, like hounds ... the man who shows them game’, he was not giving Ponsonby a good start. Despite mismanagement of the issue of the writ, Ponsonby was returned for Tavistock, until the Duke of Bedford’s heir came of age, in time for the session of January 1808. On the address, he cut a bad figure, obeying his masters’ voice in a ‘short and cold speech; deferring his opinion on the topics of the speech’ in favour of particular motions, lamenting the omission of Ireland and calling for no division. He had succeeded in muzzling Whitbread at an eve of session conference and his house became the venue for party conferences. As from 5 Mar. 1808, he also gave his followers pep talks in the division lobby.12
Ponsonby’s real debut was on 3 Feb. 1808, when he censured the Copenhagen expedition, a motion that was lost by 253 votes to 108. His speech seems to have given satisfaction on his side: Grey thought it ‘really very good’, though not ‘exempt from faults’: but Lord Palmerston found it ‘dull and heavy’. He was considered better in reply than as a leader in debate and in what turned out to be his most active session ever in Parliament had many opportunities to display that ability in combat with Canning on foreign affairs. When Whitbread produced three resolutions on the refusal to negotiate with Buonaparte through the mediation of Russia and Austria, concluding with a plea for peace, he submitted them to a party meeting at Ponsonby’s on 28 Feb. 1808. Thanks to Ponsonby’s mismanagement, according to Grey, a bid to tone down the resolutions failed: Ponsonby resolutely opposed the plea for peace, both then and in debate next day, thus exposing the division in the party, for many followed Whitbread on the occasion, though Ponsonby had sanction from above.13
Henceforward, Ponsonby was anxious to avoid the repetition of this ‘unpleasant scene’, but it was not easy. While his line against the orders in council and in favour of limited control over offices in reversion in March 1808 was unexceptionable, he was dragged by Creevey into intervention on East Indian affairs, of which he knew little, in April; was obliged to canvass his colleagues against support for Burdett’s championship of the distressed manufacturers which Whitbread wished to take up, and openly differed from them in debate in May in his opposition to permitting sugar distillation to relieve the West Indian interest, which he thought inimical to the Irish agricultural interest. Not surprisingly, his happiest interventions were on Irish affairs: against the curtailment of the Maynooth grant, 29 Apr., 5 May; in defence of Newport’s first fruits bill, 16 May, and above all, in defence of the Catholic petition, 25 May, the chief novelty of a well-reasoned speech being the endorsement of the Irish hierarchy for the concession of a royal veto on the appointment of Catholic bishops. This speech seemed greatly to enhance Catholic prospects. The veto as Ponsonby described it was, however, subsequently disavowed by the Catholic bishops lead by Dr Milner, and Ponsonby, who refused to correct his speech for publication, was obliged to warn Lord Fingall, their lay advocate, that on such terms Catholic claims could not be espoused.14
While Ponsonby saw nothing wrong with his efforts in the session of 1808 and thought of giving up his Irish residence for a permanent London home, being secure in his seat for Tavistock because the Duke of Bedford’s heir had come in elsewhere, the verdict of his more competitive colleagues was against him. Whitbread was satisfied that events had shown that he himself should have been preferred as leader and Tierney candidly informed Grey that Ponsonby had completely failed; the sooner he was told so and replaced, the better. Grey agreed, but was unable to suggest a solution, since Ponsonby did not see it the same way. When he arrived at Dropmore in December 1808 for a pre-sessional conference, he had no mind to a ‘disarrangement’, thought the party as united as it could be and was for taking the field ‘in great force’ at the opening. A broad agreement on tactics was, however, reached: an amendment to the address was to be suffered rather than encouraged, attendance not positively canvassed, and the topics of censure were to be the conduct of the war in Spain and Canning’s rebuff of French and American overtures.15
In order to rally the party to his leadership, a pre-sessional meeting of some 44 Whigs at Ponsonby’s house on 18 Jan. 1809 imbibed his, or rather Lord Grenville’s views, endorsed by Thomas Grenville and Lord Henry Petty*, that their attack should be reserved for debates on the Peninsular war and America and no amendment pressed at the opening. Whitbread objected beforehand, but was spurned and silent at the meeting; Tierney thought it futile to be at such pains to boost a general, as there would soon be no army. Ponsonby himself was reluctant to adopt a ‘waiting race’, but adhered to the ordained line in his speech of an hour and a half on the address, 19 Jan. 1809, promising individual motions of censure to follow. Although Tierney thought Ponsonby did well, Canning took advantage of this moratorium to expose the ill-digested views of opposition on intervention in the Peninsula, and it was in this debate that Ponsonby used the word ‘snouch’, which became his sobriquet among more jaundiced critics on his own side. On the army augmentation bill, 25 Jan., he went away and the opposition division was very thin, and though he tried to maintain leadership by consultation he was further embarrassed on 31 Jan., being obliged to differ publicly from Whitbread’s plea for peace, originally offered as an amendment to the address, on which, however, there was no division. Whitbread had informed Grey two days before, ‘I confess I should always yield my opinions with less reluctance if I thought Ponsonby had any opinion of his own, but I see no trace of it, either in general plans, or in particular motions’. An attempt was made to paper over the cracks by ignoring Whitbread’s provocations, by effecting some kind of reconciliation and by Whitbread’s adopting America as his topic in debate, while Ponsonby took Spain and Lord Henry Petty Portugal. Ponsonby’s critical motion on the events leading to the débâcle at Corunna, 24 Feb., was defeated, despite a muster, by 220 votes to 127.16
Ponsonby was saved by the bell from what was evidently a reluctant speech in censure of the Duke of York’s misconduct of army patronage, 15 Mar., though he voted against Perceval’s motion on 17 Mar. On this question, his lead was diffident. On 17 Apr. he rebuked Folkestone for his general motion for an inquiry into abuses and was cheered when he castigated such radical proposals, but he supported the inquiry into Castlereagh’s alleged corruption, 25 Apr.: on the other hand, he could not support Madocks’s radical motion against Treasury corruption, 11 May, and, ‘not succeeding in getting out of the House’, voted with the majority, splitting the opposition. Until government tampered with it he supported Curwen’s reform bill as merely regulative and innocuous, 4 May. He also supported the campaign against sinecures, Romilly’s efforts for the reform of the penal code and Parnell’s Irish tithe regulation scheme. He was a keen critic of continental subsidies and entanglements and at the end of the session he and Whitbread, who had clashed violently on 12 May, were in agreement on this, as also on Whitbread’s motion on placemen and pensioners in Parliament, which Ponsonby had ‘no difficulty’ in supporting, 8 June 1809.17
After Ponsonby’s clash with Whitbread, Thomas Grenville had tried to convince Lord Grey (Lord Grenville was evidently willing) that Ponsonby should be replaced as leader by Lord Henry Petty. The notion was scotched by Petty’s ‘difficulties’ and anticipated succession to the peerage in November 1809, but Ponsonby’s situation was still dubious. At the end of the session, Tierney, en agent provocateur, had informed Ponsonby that the party was so hopelessly split as to be virtually dissolved. Grey concurred in this. A misunderstanding ensued when Ponsonby’s nephew John, Lord Ponsonby, reported, mistakenly as it transpired, that his uncle had informed Lord Grenville that he was abdicating the lead. Grenville denied this and Ponsonby, who had merely warned Grenville that he would no longer endure insults from his own side, was sounded by Lord Ponsonby in December, in a clumsy manner that mortified him, as to his intentions. Despite the revelation of Grey’s and Tierney’s want of confidence in him, he clearly wished to retain the lead, at least of Grey’s and Grenville’s friends. Had the Whigs joined Perceval in government in October, Grey would have asked Ponsonby whether he wished to be Irish chancellor again. Ponsonby reserved his judgment, offering to suit party convenience both in this and in respect of the leadership. Grey, making amende honorable to Ponsonby for his forbearance towards Whitbread and other rebels, promised him support if he wished to continue, and Lord Grenville wrote ‘we must abide by Ponsonby’, 26 Dec. 1809: there was, he added next day, no other mode ‘of leading those who have no thought of being led at all’.18
If Tierney’s tactical despondency was a bid to displace Ponsonby, it failed, except as a coup rumoured in ministerial circles, but Tierney failed to placate Whitbread who, while claiming not to aspire to the lead himself, was unequivocally dubious about Ponsonby’s rehabilitation, sealed at Dropmore on his arrival from Ireland in January 1810, and absented himself from the pre-sessional meeting at Ponsonby’s house, 22 Jan., at which another attempt was made to rally the party, including Whitbread’s friends. The Speaker laconically noted in his diary: ‘Ponsonby reinstated in the nominal lead of the opposition. Tierney the efficient man on that side’, while Tom Grenville wrote apropos of the
supposed intention of George Ponsonby to resign his sceptre in the House of Commons ... he has suddenly sprung up in Arlington Street, with his sceptre in his hands, which he is ready to lay across the shoulders of any man who shall withhold all due allegiance ... upon the whole there will be less difficulty with him than without him.
Sheridan called it the re-election of King Log and Lord Holland, putting off the evil day. Grey noted that Ponsonby had resumed his vexatious responsibility despite his frankly telling him that, in his shoes, he would have relinquished it. Lord Lauderdale commented that Ponsonby must be ‘strangely wedded to it’ and suspected ‘a complete leaning to the Mountain’. Earl Fitzwilliam was sure Ponsonby would do perfectly well, once freed from the onus of being patient with Whitbread out of courtesy to Grey, and events seemed to confirm this prophecy. Ponsonby’s long speech for the amendment to the address, 23 Jan. 1810, calling for an inquiry into the recent military disasters was described by Lady Holland as ‘a sharp, sarcastic speech which produced a considerable effect and reconciled those who had snouched most at him’. Grey agreed, and when on the 26th Ponsonby backed Porchester’s successful motion for an inquiry into the Scheldt campaign with his best speech to date, felt that he had given ‘universal satisfaction’. It was no panacea: Cochrane’s motion for the retrial of Lord Gambier, which Ponsonby strongly opposed, obtained a rump of opposition supporters. Ponsonby cut a wretched figure in opposing the vote of thanks to Lord Wellington, 1 Feb., on which, after some altercation, it had been decided to avert a division to please the Grenvilles, and although he resumed the offensive on the Scheldt expedition, concentrating on Lord Chatham’s ‘extremely unconstitutional’ apologia to the King, 19, 23 Feb., 5, 26, 27 Mar. 1810, the earlier success was not repeated.19
Ponsonby made up for this by the prominent part he played in urging the House not to risk its privileges by extreme action against (Sir) Francis Burdett*, March-May 1810. He opposed Burdett’s committal to the Tower as a provocation to parliamentary reform, 5 Apr., supported the petitions in Burdett’s favour and opposed taking any notice of Burdett’s ultimatum to the Speaker, 7 May, believing that action against Burdett in King’s bench was degrading the privileges of the House, 11 May. On 3 May he had refused the Speaker’s suggestion of a Speaker’s conference on the subject: forensic debates on this subject were congenial to him as a lawyer and his ‘alarmism’ was well seen by a government also headed by a lawyer, Perceval; it was the only subject on which he seems to have had a speech printed. On 21 May 1810 he spoke ably in favour of Brand’s motion for parliamentary reform which duly received 115 votes, but cautioned against a radical reform. On 25 May, in a speech admitted by Perceval in reply to be ‘eloquent and able’, he defended Roman Catholic claims, holding out for the veto which he claimed Dr Milner had first pledged on behalf of the Catholic hierarchy and then repudiated. These able performances, combined with large political dinners, did much to retrieve his standing and he and Whitbread averted collision.20
Ponsonby divided the Whigs by not opposing the adjournment on the King’s illness (as Burdett wished), though he would have preferred a shorter one, 15 Nov. 1810. He made an unsuccessful stand against adjournment a fortnight later. He was named to the committee to examine the royal physicians. On 17 Dec. he gave notice of his opposition to the Regency proposals, objecting particularly to the third, and on 20 Dec. in a forceful speech he moved for procedure by address on the Irish precedent of 1789, rather than by statute. In January 1811 he claimed that the debates about the issue of public money under the Regency were made inevitable by the wrong choice of procedure. On 17 Jan., opposing the Regency bill, he tried to limit it to six months and unsuccessfully moved against the Queen’s control of the Household. A further motion of his on 21 Jan. was designed to give the Prince of Wales the upper hand in Household appointments: after some hesitation about pressing for a division, it was defeated by 212 votes to 190. On 4 Feb. he uttered his ‘solemn protest’ against the ‘fraudulent fiction’ of a commission giving assent to the Regency bill. Had the opposition come to power at this juncture, he was earmarked for a place in the cabinet, with the seals of the Home Office: he had put his Irish professional career behind him. But he was not violent in opposition, was thought incapable of leading for government in the Commons and was reported to have been prominent in advising the Regent against a change of administration.21
Ponsonby did not press for an amendment on the address, 12 Feb. 1811, promising to defer his objections to the Peninsular campaign and relations with the USA to future debates. He led the criticism of Wellesley Pole’s circular to the Irish magistrates to frustrate a Catholic conference, but the attack was supported by only one English Member on Ward’s motion, 22 Feb., and defeated on 7 Mar. by 133 votes to 48. Ponsonby claimed that the ignorance and neglect of Ireland thus manifested had defeated his efforts, while in office, to restrain the Catholic petitioners. On 18 Mar. he opposed the Portuguese subsidy, though he favoured relief to the war-distressed in Portugal, seconding Perceval’s motion in its favour on 10 Apr. He concurred, for the first time, in the vote of thanks to Wellington on 26 Apr. He again advocated Catholic claims on Grattan’s motion, 31 May, in what Wellesley Pole considered the best speech on his side, and on 6 June ably opposed and voted against Milton’s motion against the reinstatement of the Duke of York as commander-in-chief, arguing that the duke had been sufficiently punished. He doubtless thought it prudent not to give the Prince Regent an impression of ‘absolute hostility’ to him and the Prince evidently regarded Ponsonby as one of the three leading Whigs (with Sheridan and Erskine) who did not hate him.22
Reluctant to leave Ireland in time for the session of 1812, Ponsonby did so on the advice of Lords Grey and Grenville, but assumed a negative role at the opening, when Burdett stole the address, forcing government to move the amendment. Ponsonby supported neither and complained of the omission of Ireland from the Speech, which he promised to remedy. His quibbles with the royal household bill were unconvincing, 16, 27 Jan., and he felt unable to support Brougham’s motion on the droits of Admiralty, 21 Jan. He made a pretentious speech on Morpeth’s motion on the state of Ireland, reiterating the necessity for Catholic relief, 4 Feb., but according to Wellesley Pole ‘made a wretched figure against us’. On 7 Feb. he defended the bill to regulate offices in reversion. In this session there were again signs of strain in his relations with Whitbread and remarks about Ponsonby’s absence on some questions, such as finance, certainly not his forte. They were not altogether fair: on 3 Mar. after recently breaking a rib, he ‘came out of his bed at four in the morning to head his party ... and voted in a loose great coat’, and that month he was too ill to speak. When he recovered his voice, he was more active than before for the rest of the session, trying new subjects such as the paper currency bill, which he thought ruinous, 26 Mar., and did not wish to see extended to Ireland, 10 Apr.; the barracks estimates, which he opposed sarcastically, 13 Apr., and Col. McMahon’s appointment as the Regent’s secretary which he questioned, 14 Apr.; as well as old favourites such as Grattan’s motion for Catholic relief, 24 Apr., which he strongly supported by his voice, though he allegedly did nothing to muster votes for it. He committed a faux pas by alleging that the Prince of Wales was pledged to the Catholics. He reassured Grenville and Grey by opposing Creevey’s motion against the sinecure tellerships of the Exchequer, 7 May, and by supporting Brand’s moderate proposals for parliamentary reform next day on condition that they were not extended. In tears, he seconded the proposal for a grant to the family of the assassinated Perceval, 12 May.23
It fell to Ponsonby to explain to the House the unsuccessful bids of Lords Wellesley and Moira in turn to form a junction with Lords Grey and Grenville in June 1812, on which he had been consulted and had held token party meetings. He had had no part in Stuart Wortley’s motion of 21 May for a stronger administration, though he was in the majority for it with many other Whigs. On 11 June he read the correspondence to the House, refusing to support Stuart Wortley’s further motion, and on 19 June justified and endorsed the Whig lords’ refusal to treat for office without control of the Household appointments. Had they taken office, however, they would have let Canning eclipse him as leader in the House. Meanwhile he had supported Brougham’s motion against the orders in council, 16 June, and secured Castlereagh’s assurance of their suspension. On 22 June he vehemently supported Canning’s motion for Catholic relief, deprecating securities and ridiculing the cabinet for having no official line on the question. It had not been a particularly happy session for him, however, as Whitbread had drifted away and he, as well as his reluctant lieutenant Tierney, ‘instead of leading’, as Charles Williams Wynn* complained, ‘are always anxious to be led by the wishes of the party’.24
Ponsonby was returned in absentia for Peterborough on Earl Fitzwilliam’s interest at the election of 1812: there was some talk, encouraged by him, of his standing for county Waterford on the interest of the young Duke of Devonshire, which he had managed for the late duke, on the grounds that his popularity among the Catholics would secure that interest. This popularity was found to be somewhat exaggerated and the project came to nothing. In fact, among the Irish Members generally, there was a certain jealousy of Ponsonby, demonstrated by an informal meeting during Wellesley’s negotiations with opposition in May 1812 of Irish Members who were anxious to prevent the whole of Irish patronage from falling into Ponsonby’s hands, if he came into office.25
Ponsonby followed Lord Grenville’s line in resisting an amendment to the address, 30 Nov. 1812, when Whitbread insisted on one: he likewise opposed Whitbread’s friend Creevey’s next day and explained why he could not at present endorse their pressure for a bid for peace. On 3 Dec. he once more endorsed the vote of thanks to Wellington and on 18 Dec. differed from Whitbread and Burdett in supporting relief for distress in Russia. On other issues, however, he was in agreement with the dissidents: the paper currency bill, 8 Dec. 1812; the vice-chancellor bill, 11, 15, 22 Feb. 1813; the prevention of war with the USA, 18 Feb., and Burdett’s motion to regulate the Regency, 23 Feb., which he thought should have come from government. Characteristically, he championed the automatic reception of petitions from Dublin ‘the Irish metropolis’, 23 Feb., and on 2 Mar. briefly supported Grattan’s Catholic relief motion, subsequently supporting his proposals in committee. It was Ponsonby who announced the abandonment of the bill when the first clause was defeated on 24 May. He viewed with distaste the endeavours of Cochrane Johnstone and Whitbread to make political capital out of the predicament of the Princess of Wales, 5, 17 Mar. 1813. While he defended the sinecure offices bill, 29 Mar., he could not accept the clause halving the Irish pension list, considering himself pledged to it since he had been party to its settlement in 1793. He was a critic of the budget, 31 Mar., of the Weymouth election bill in April and from 31 May was active in debate on the renewal of the East India Company charter. Although his own inclination was to maintain the Company as a counterpoise to crown influence, he came out against the political sway and commercial monopoly of the Company and unsuccessfully moved on 14 June that the new charter be limited to ten years. He objected to the subsidization of Sweden and on 18 June called for the abrogation of the treaty with Sweden which sacrificed the national independence of Norway: his motion was defeated by 224 votes to 115. He might have fared better had he consulted Canning fully about the motion: but, according to John William Ward*, Ponsonby had only received his ‘long rigmarole’ of a motion from ‘his superiors’, Grenville and Grey, on the afternoon of the debate,
scribbled over hastily and so blotted and underlined that poor Snouch blundered in every other sentence as he read it and the Speaker himself, though his eyesight and understanding are both a good deal sharper, made frequent pauses—insufferably long, utterly despicable in point of composition, and full of propositions to which no man playing a great part in politics could be expected to assent ... without time and deliberation. Canning was vexed and disappointed beyond measure. Nothing but a first rate speech could have made such a performance go down at all with the House. Snouch was duller and feebler than ever.26
Having obtained leave of absence from his overlords to cope with his private affairs in Ireland, Ponsonby, who on 4 Nov. 1813 found them ready to agree that there was no ground for opposition to supply, did not again participate in debate until 1 Mar. 1814, and then only to concede the adjournment. On 30 Mar. he defended the decorousness of Morpeth’s proposed censure of the Speaker for his anti-Catholic speech. On 2 May he spoke for the address against the continuance of the slave trade, his first effort on that subject but followed by two others on 27 and 28 June. On 12 May he professed to find the reward proposed for the Duke of Wellington too small. He strongly criticized the blockade of Norway the same day. On 3 June he again in ‘a very judicious speech’ found himself unable to espouse the Princess of Wales’s cause, being sensitive to allegations of opposition opportunism in doing so and resisting attempts to win him over. Charles Williams Wynn reported Ponsonby as ‘wavering’ on the subject, especially when Grey favoured the Princess’s case, but the fact was that he was unable to accept the wording of Methuen’s motion, though he would support a revised version. Tierney saved the situation by securing the temporary withdrawal of the motion. Creevey reported Ponsonby at this time as sitting on the second bench. He was able to give a cheerful concurrence in the additional grant of income to the Princess, 23 June, 8 July 1814, finding this a more appropriate subject for the House than trying to storm the royal drawing room. On 29 June he endorsed the peace treaty, with the proviso of an attempt to end the slave trade by international agreement and a plea for the reunification of Poland. He opposed the expulsion of Lord Cochrane, 5 July, and on 11 July obstructed the army estimates, calling for a less expensive peacetime establishment, but also for a better pay deal for subalterns.27
Ponsonby regarded control of government expenditure as the main theme of the session that opened in November 1814, with the termination of the Anglo-American war as the second consideration. He missed the first two days and made no general canvass for attendance, but on 11 Nov. promised to obstruct military supplies unless government revealed the financial situation of the country. On 14 Nov. he combined an attack on the navy estimates with criticism of the conduct of war with America; and on 18 Nov. opposed the army extraordinaries. On 25 and 28 Nov. he complained of allied desertion of Murat, King of Naples, in favour of the Bourbon Ferdinand, and of Saxony, which Prussia had annexed. He also on 28 Nov. made a spirited defence of Romilly’s motion against the continuation of the militia in peacetime. Twice that month he pleaded for a fairer application of indirect taxes to Ireland, securing the repeal of the duty on Irish bleaching powder on 29 Nov. On 1 Dec. he tried to shorten the adjournment by a month, but was defeated by 86 votes to 23.28
Convinced that the time had come to ‘make a push’ at government, Ponsonby mustered attendance for an onslaught on the renewal of the property tax, 9 Feb. 1815, about which he had twice warned ministers: in fact, in the face of public pressure the property tax was then given up by ministers, reluctantly, as Ponsonby alleged in a speech against the new fiscal proposals, 20 Feb.: he preferred government retrenchment by peacetime reductions to relieve taxpayers, 13 Mar. He roundly condemned the transfer of Genoa to Sardinia, 13, 21 Feb. On the other hand he was an agricultural protectionist who endorsed the Corn Laws, 22 Feb., and on that account his house was attacked by the mob: but he deprecated, on constitutional grounds, the protection of the Houses of Parliament by the military, 6 Mar. On 2 Mar. he had supported the resumption of cash payments by the Bank. While he refused to commit himself on the peace settlement without more information, he advocated the independence of South America against Spanish efforts to retain her colonial empire, 13 Mar. When the resumption of hostilities was anticipated on Buonaparte’s escape from Elba, Ponsonby, after calling a party meeting, supported government, in opposition to Whitbread and Burdett, 6, 7 Apr.: he did not think war inevitable, however, and promised to censure ministers if they precipitated it. Moreover, he censured them freely on the subject of the peace made with the USA, which he said settled nothing, after a disgracefully conducted war: his motion was defeated by 128 votes to 37, 11 Apr. A few days later he managed to thwart the new aliens bill in a thin house and condemned the revival of the property tax, 19, 21 Apr. He thought the allies to blame for Buonaparte’s escape, 20 Apr., and objected to the subsidies agreed to by Britain under the Treaty of Vienna, 25 Apr. When on 28 Apr. Whitbread brought in his motion for a modus vivendi with Buonaparte, Ponsonby, arguing that Buonaparte should now eschew war, supported it. He also supported Horner’s motion critical of the allied desertion of Murat, 2 May, and deplored the renewal of war with Buonaparte, 22 May: this would have involved endorsing the Treaty of Vienna, which paid such scant attention to national self-determination. He accordingly supported the amendment against it, 25 May, parting company with his old friend Grattan, as well as with the Grenvilles. On 30 May he paid tribute to Grattan in supporting the Catholic petition, though he thought the time inopportune for legislation. Next day he criticized the unconstitutional misapplication of the grant of £100,000 for the Regent’s maintenance to the liquidation of his debts.29
The session had enhanced Ponsonby’s stature to such an extent that when Whitbread committed suicide, Buonaparte, now a detached observer, asked a Whig interviewer whether Ponsonby was to succeed Whitbread as leader of the opposition. But the ‘Mountain’ of his party remained critical and when ‘the old drone’, as Henry Grey Bennet* called Ponsonby, left for Ireland before the end of the session of 1815, they felt they were more effective under Tierney’s lieutenancy. To make matters worse, Ponsonby, suffering from what was sarcastically called ‘Grey’s disease’, was in no hurry to return from Ireland for the session of 1816 and a pre-sessional meeting held in his absence, 31 Jan., was ill attended, particularly by the Grenvilles. Ponsonby himself informed Grey that he saw no effective opening for opposition on the address and the decision reached in his absence to oppose it, fostered by the ‘Mountain’, would not have had his support, still less that of the Grenvilles, though the amendment was toned down.30
When Ponsonby resumed his place in February 1816, though he was particularly active in debate his critics found him ‘as inefficient as ever’. On 12 Feb. he intervened in the committee of supply to deplore the large military establishment and the renewal of the property tax, asking for a call of the House on the subject. On 14 Feb. he opposed the navy estimates, again calling, however, for pay increases for subalterns, and on 20 Feb., at Tierney’s prompting, condemned the cost of treaties with the allies. In the ensuing month he led the opposition to the renewal of the property tax, claiming, when it was successful, that government had given in to universal opposition, expressed in petitions, and that it was ‘an eternal lesson to the people of England’ that ‘when they were true to themselves, and declared their sentiments to their representatives, and their representatives attended to those sentiments, they would compel the ministers of the crown to yield to their wishes’, 20 Mar. Government economy was his answer and he applauded the reductions in military estimates now concocted by ministers, 22 Mar. He did not deny that government had to resort to a loan, but objected to the Bank loan bill, 29 Mar., because it showed the Bank dictating to ministers. Meanwhile he supported every call for retrenchment, by motion or petition.31
In April 1816 Ponsonby exchanged his English borough seat for an Irish county one, coming in again for Wicklow on the death of Tighe, with Earl Fitzwilliam’s blessing. He had not pressed his claim on the vacancy for that county the previous year, but Irish questions now exercised him increasingly. A witness of the distress of Ireland, he urged greater attention to it by the English government, 4 Apr. 1816, and supported Newport’s critical motion on the subject, 26 Apr. He approved the consolidation of the English and Irish Exchequers, 20 May, and next day supported Catholic relief, with or without securities. On 17 June he carried by two votes the reduction in the salary of the Irish vice-treasurership, the creation of which he had characterized as ‘a shameless and profligate job’, but missed the rest of the session from ‘idleness and fatigue’.32
Ponsonby contrived to arrive in time for a pre-sessional meeting on 21 Jan. 1817. He wished retrenchment to be the main theme of the opposition campaign and shelved parliamentary reform, which he had doubts about and which the Grenvilles disapproved of. On 28 Jan., reluctantly, but urged on by Grey, he moved an amendment to the address, emphasizing popular distress and calling for an inquiry into the state of the nation. On 7 Feb. he refused to be a member of the committee on public finance ‘packed’ by government. He was, however, a member of the secret committee on sedition and dismayed less moderate members of his party by being, as they thought, hoodwinked into compliance with its alarmism. He was obliged to reply to these critics in the House, 26 Feb., and redeemed his reputation by opposing the duration of suspension of habeas corpus, 26-28 Feb., and objecting to parts of the seditious meetings bill, particularly the power vested in individual magistrates, 4, 14, 28 Mar. On the adjournment, 31 Mar., he pointed out that ministers, having carried their coercive measures, should now take steps to alleviate public distress.33
On 4 Mar. 1817, Ponsonby had been given leave to bring in a bill to continue all civil appointments on the demise of the crown and on May he also secured a select committee on justice in Wales, having previously stated that he meant to veto the presence of Welsh judges in the House as unconstitutional. He regretted the withdrawal of the Irish grand jury presentments bill, 2 May, as he wished to see the rule of law in Ireland more in uniformity with English practice. He continued to attack the expense of the military establishments, 8, 12, 13 May, with particular reference to Ireland, and on Newport’s motion, 14 May, referred to the unexampled distress of the Irish. Although he was named to the revived secret committee on sedition, he absented himself when it became clear that it would lead to a renewed suspension of habeas corpus, which he opposed, 20, 23, 26 June. On 30 June, after speaking on the Irish grand jury bill, he collapsed behind the Speaker’s chair, dying on 8 July 1817. ‘He was a person, though short of stature, of considerable bodily strength’, wrote Henry Grey Bennet*, ‘and the fight he made for life was said to have been dreadful.’ On the day of his stroke he had told Tierney in confidence that he intended to give up Parliament at the end of the next session and poured out his sorrow at ‘the conduct of particular persons towards him’: Ponsonby felt this deeply, though he seldom spoke of it.34
Ponsonby’s loss was attended by much moralizing in Whig circles: Sir Robert Heron* echoed the views of many when he wrote:
No man has possessed or deserved a higher private character. As a statesman he was deficient in energy, and even in decision. He was too often the dupe of the compliments ministers paid to his candour; his principles were not sufficiently fixed; and honourable and virtuous as he was, he had not a sufficient detestation of corruption. His oratory was, in general, tame and weak; but he sometimes rose above himself.
Brougham reflected, ‘Had he been in any place but the one he filled, he would have been a most valuable member of the party; in all respects, he was unhappily in the only one he was unfit for ... it makes one quite afraid of hearing the name of a leader again’. The trouble was, in his view, that Ponsonby was a ‘half leader’, ‘eternally committing’ the party ‘against its real sense—and thus reducing us all to the dilemma of either being supposed to agree with him or (what is hurtful both personally and to the party) getting up and disclaiming’.35
The fact was that Ponsonby was the stopgap leader of two parties coalesced in uneasy opposition; and after his death, the problem of leadership was more acute than ever. The Marquess of Buckingham’s comment before he died was,
Ponsonby was blamed unjustly by those who made it a crime in him the not leading those who were determined not to be led, and still more unjustly by those who were determined to take advantage of the shelter of his moderate politics, for the purpose only of more securely carrying on their violent ones.
Henry Grey Bennet concluded:
In a word he was a useful leader in one respect only, that his good character and honourable, unsullied life, and the moderation of his political principles, kept persons attached to the party who might have been driven from it, if anyone who had not his temper and mildness had not been at the head. He was regretted by the government, as there can be no doubt he was to them a good friend in the extent of his neutralizing the activity of others. He was not much regretted by the party, as all men had long felt his inefficiency as a leader; but everyone lamented his loss as a private man, who for generosity, utter contempt of money, liberality of sentiment, and amiable gentleness of character was most remarkable. As a proof of his generosity, Duncannon told me that he had paid out of his own pocket above £200 to the person who wrote the notes to the opposition requesting their attendance. Brougham asked him for money for the Guardian, and he gave immediately £200; and he was ready at all times to contribute money for any purpose that was wanted, to an extent not only beyond his means, but beyond what anyone was entitled to expect from him.
Not surprisingly he left debts of £30,000 on an encumbered estate worth £2,900 p.a., and his family, who could not expect a parliamentary pension, were left in distress. The Whig magnates averted their eyes. Grattan, who thought Ponsonby ‘lived and died worthy of his race’, justly remarked: ‘with respect to his family, his death is calamitous, most injurious to his party, and fortunate for his fame’.36
Ref Volumes: 1790-1820
Author: R. G. Thorne
- 1. Sir J. Ponsonby, Ponsonby Fam. 66 gives him an (illegit.) son, Geo. Conolly Ponsonby of the Indian Army (1799-1866).
- 2. O’Flanagan, Chancellors of Ireland, ii. 323; Auckland Jnl. iv. 85; HMC Carlisle, 705, 715; HMC Fortescue, iii. 37; Holland, Mems. Whig Party, ii. 166-7; Ponsonby, loc. cit.
- 3. Colchester, i. 250, 265, 271; Rose Diaries, i. 356; Castlereagh Corresp. iv. 93.
- 4. Chatsworth mss, Duchess of Devonshire jnl. 21 Feb., 10 Mar.; Grey mss, Grey to his wife, 17 Mar. 1801, Ponsonby to Grey, 4 Feb. 1802; Sidmouth mss, Abbot to Addington, 26 Oct. 1801; Prince of Wales Corresp. iv. 1735; Fitzwilliam mss, box 63, Fox to Fitzwilliam, Sunday [29 Nov.], 17 Dec., Fitzpatrick to same, 23 Dec. 1803; Add. 31309, f. 184; 35772, f. 155; 47565, ff. 100, 108; 47582, f. 235.
- 5. Prince of Wales Corresp. iv. 1820; Grey mss, Grey to Fox, 16 Apr. 1804; Add. 35705, f. 135; 35754, f. 296.
- 6. Add. 35718, f. 153; Geo. III Corresp. iv. 3198; Fitzwilliam mss, box 68, Ponsonby to Fitzwilliam, 5 Feb., Mrs Ponsonby to same, Sunday [17 Feb. 1806]; HMC Fortescue, viii. 6; Wilberforce Pprs. 115; Wickham mss 1/9/29, Abbot to Wickham, 29 Mar. 1806.
- 7. Greville Mems. ed. Strachey and Fulford, iv. 114-15; Holland, ii. 167-9; Grey mss, Bedford to Howick, 17 Nov., Howick to Bedford, 4 Dec., to Ponsonby, 31 Dec. 1806, 10 Jan. 1807; HMC Fortescue, viii. 194-5, 232, 235, 238, 249, 267, 282, 287, 290, 293, 313-14, 357-8, 411. Farington, iii. 167.
- 8. Grey mss, Ponsonby to Howick, 5 Aug., reply 26 Aug., Grenville to same, 21 Sept., Howick to Whitbread, 20 Sept. 1806; HMC Fortescue, viii. 346-7; Prince of Wales Corresp. v. 2239.
- 9. Jnl. of Lady Holland, ii. 205; Grey mss, Howick to Ponsonby (copy), 18 Feb., 27, 28 Mar., 24 Apr., Ponsonby to Howick, 22 Mar., 1, 2, 10 Apr., 13 May, 2 June, Newport to same, Sat. [28 May], Fitzwilliam to same, Thurs. [7 Apr.], Bedford to same, Sat. [July]; Fortescue mss, Lady Downshire to Grenville, 29 Apr. 1807.
- 10. Grey mss, Bedford to Howick, 19 Oct., Ponsonby to Grey, 23 Nov., 9 Dec., Tierney to same, 13 Dec.; Add. 41857, f. 60; Fortescue mss, Newport to Grenville, 13 Dec. 1807; Holland, ii. 236-9.
- 11. Grey mss, Grey to Holland, 14 Nov., 6 Dec., Tierney to Grey, 7, 10, 14, 17, 21 Dec., Petty to same, 14 Dec., Devonshire to same, 19 Dec., Cavendish to same, 23 Dec., Grenville to same, 27 Dec. 1807; Buckingham, Court and Cabinets, iv. 216-18, 224; Hants RO, Tierney mss 33d, 72b, 72c; Lansdowne mss, Grey to Petty, 4, 23 Dec., Holland to same, 11 Dec.; Spencer mss, Grenville to Spencer, 12 Dec.; Add. 37887, ff. 182, 184; 41851, f. 332; 41852, ff. 323, 335, 341, 345; 41854, ff. 136, 231; 41857, ff. 72, 73; 51534, Grenville to Holland, Fri. [11 Dec.]; 51593, Fitzwilliam to same, 13 Dec.; 51824, St. John to same, 22 Dec., Norfolk to same, 28 Dec. 1807; Whitbread mss W1/2434-5; Wentworth Woodhouse mun. F32/61, 62; Prince of Wales Corresp. vi. 2461.
- 12. Whitbread mss W1/2446; Add. 34457, f. 392; Buckingham, Court and Cabinets, iv. 209; Grey mss, Devonshire to Grey, 10 Dec., Tierney to same, 28, 31 Dec. 1807; Wentworth Woodhouse mun. F32/63; Colchester, ii. 137; NLI, Richmond mss 65/835; Dorset RO, Bond mss D367, Jekyll to Bond, 9 Jan., 23 Apr.; Waldegrave mss, Whitbread to ?, 20 Jan., Ponsonby to Whitbread [late Jan. 1808]; Parl. Deb. x. 48, 919, 1068.
- 13. Jnl. of Lady Holland, ii. 238-9; Lytton Bulwer, Palmerston, i. 80-81; Geo. III Corresp. v. 3610; Grey mss, Grey to his wife, 29 Feb. 1808.
- 14. Colchester, ii. 150; Grey mss, Tierney to Grey, 16, 26 May, Ponsonby to same, 21 May; Whitbread to same, [26 May], Grenville to same, 5 Nov., Grey to Whitbread (copy), 31 Oct., 20 Nov.; Lansdowne mss, Grey to Petty, 18 Nov. 1808; Buckingham, Court and Cabinets, iv. 275.
- 15. Fortescue mss, Adam to Grenville, 25 Aug., Lauderdale to same, 30 Aug., Tierney to same, 24 Dec.; Add. 37888, f. 120; Grey mss, Tierney to Grey, 12 July, 19 Dec., Ponsonby to same, 23 Oct. 1808, 2 Jan. 1809; Creevey Pprs. ed. Maxwell, i. 90-92.
- 16. Grey mss, Grenville to Grey, 13 Jan., Tierney to same, 16, 19, 24 Jan., 1 Feb., Grey to Piggott, 23 Jan. 1809; Buckingham, Court and Cabinets, iv. 298-300; Add. 41853, f. 5; Creevey Pprs. i. 94. Whitbread mss W1/2452; Colchester, ii. 164, 165; Geo. III Corresp. v. 3787, 3804; Malmesbury mss, Palmerston to Malmesbury, 23 Jan.; Sidmouth mss, Ellenborough to Sidmouth, 2 Feb.; Waldegrave mss, Ld. Ponsonby to Whitbread, Mon. [10 Apr. 1809].
- 17. Holland, Further Mems. Whig Party, 29; Londonderry mss, Castlereagh to Stewart, 12 May; Grey mss, Grey to his wife, 12, 13 May 1809.
- 18. Spencer mss, Grenville to Spencer, 28 Mar.; Fortescue mss, Grenville to Grey, [27 Mar.], 30 Mar., 1 Apr.; Add. 41853, ff. 5, 8, 11, 166, 171; Grey mss, Tierney to Grey, 20 June, 5, 9, 20, 21, 26, 27 Dec., Grenville to same, 29 Nov.; Tierney mss 33h, j, s; Grey mss, Ponsonby to Grey, 2 Oct., 16 Dec., reply 23 Dec., Lauderdale to Grey, Fri. [22 Dec. 1809]; Further Mems. Whig Party, 44.
- 19. Malmesbury Letters, ii. 199; Tierney mss 72f, g; Grey mss, Grey to Holland, 5, 12 Jan., n.d. [Jan.], reply 16 Jan., Lauderdale to Grey, Tues. [9 Jan.], Fitzwilliam to same, 12 Jan., Grey to his wife, 24, 26, 29 Jan. 1810; Creevey Pprs. i. 117, 121, 122, 124, 125; Colchester, ii. 225; HMC Fortescue, x. 7; Buckingham, Court and Cabinets, iv. 418, 421; Leveson Gower, ii. 353; Add. 51544, Holland to Grey [7, 13 Jan. 1810]; Jnl. of Lady Holland, ii. 254; Richmond mss 62/525; Harewood mss, Canning to his wife, 1 Feb. 1810.
- 20. Bond mss, Jekyll to Bond, 10 Feb. 1810; Creevey Pprs. i. 128; Geo. III Corresp. v. 4120, 4122, 4126, 4138, 4147, 4156, 4159, 4177; HMC Fortescue, x. 27, 33-34, 37; Colchester, ii. 269-70, 274; Fortescue mss, Fremantle to Grenville, 22 May 1810; Buckingham, Court and Cabinets, iv. 444, 445; Add. 51549, Lady Holland to Grey, Mon. [24 Dec. 1810].
- 21. Lonsdale mss, Ward to Lonsdale, 17 Nov.; Grey mss, Grey to his wife, 16 Nov., Tierney to Grey, 22 Dec. 1810; Blair Adam mss, Ponsonby to Adam, 18 Jan. 1811; Rose Diaries, ii. 475; Romilly, Mems. ii. 365; HMC Fortescue, x. 98; Bath Archives ed. Lady Jackson, i. 206; P. H. Fitzgerald, Life of Geo. IV, ii. 30; Phipps, Plumer Ward Mems. i. 384, 387, 393.
- 22. Richmond mss 63/558, 73/1734; HMC Fortescue, x. 146, 149; Fitzgerald, ii. 163.
- 23. Prince of Wales Corresp. viii. 3320, 3341, 3344; Whitbread mss W1/3903; Morning Chron. 15 Feb. 1812; Phipps, i. 450; HMC Fortescue, x. 226, 236, 240, 243; Buckingham, Regency, 280; Richmond mss 66/926, 67/985, 987; 68/1139; Add. 34458, f. 335; 52182, Abercromby to Allen [n.d.]; Colchester, ii. 380; Grey mss, Grenville to Grey, 12 May 1812.
- 24. HMC Fortescue, x. 270, 277, 288; Romilly, iii. 33; Creevey Pprs. i. 164, 165; Geo. IV Letters, i. 105; Add. 41853, f. 291; NLW mss 2791, C. to H. Williams Wynn, 7 July 1812.
- 25. Wentworth Woodhouse mun. F127/107; Leveson Gower, ii. 461; Carlisle mss, Lady to Ld. Morpeth, 3 Oct.; Grey mss, Fitzwilliam to Grey, 18 Nov. 1812; Add. 37297, f. 73.
- 26. Add. 41853, f. 298; Colchester, ii. 413, 434, 447; Grey mss, Holland to Grey, 10 Dec., reply 13 Dec. 1812, Ponsonby to Grey, 10 Jan. 1813; Ward, Letters to ‘Ivy’, 206.
- 27. Grey mss, Ponsonby to Grey, 27 Sept. 1813, 3, 23 Jan. 1814, Grenville to same, 21 Oct.; Fortescue mss, Ponsonby to Grenville, 9 Oct.; Add. 51531, Grenville to Holland, 22 Oct. 1813; Creevey Pprs. i. 217; Horner mss 6, f. 60; NLW, Coedymaen mss 8, ff. 510-12.
- 28. Grey mss, Ponsonby to Grey, 25 Nov. 1814; Add. 40287, f. 185.
- 29. Grey mss, Ponsonby to Grey, 25 Dec. 1814, 4 Jan., 3 Feb., Tierney to same, 21 Jan. 1815; Colchester, ii. 531, 537, 545-6; Romilly, iii. 161, 162; Farington, viii. 7.
- 30. Pope of Holland House ed. Lady Seymour, 118; Creevey’s Life and Times, 82; Grey mss, Ponsonby to Grey, 15 Jan., Tierney to same, 27 Jan., 1 Feb.; NLW, Coedymaen mss 5, ff. 303, 304; Carlisle mss, Holland to Morpeth, 31 Jan.; Creevey mss, Bennet to Creevey, 2 Feb. 1816; Add. 38741, f. 7; Romilly, iii. 214-15.
- 31. Creevey Pprs. i. 251; Grey mss, Tierney to Grey, 21 Feb. .
- 32. Wentworth Woodhouse mun. F82/55; Fitzwilliam mss, X515/14, Fitzwilliam to Milton, Wed. [20 Mar. 1816]; Creevey Pprs. i. 257.
- 33. Grey mss, Ponsonby to Grey, 8 Dec. 1816; Fitzwilliam mss, box 88, Elliot to Fitzwilliam, 22 Jan. 1817; HMC Fortescue, x. 419, 421; Heron, Notes (1851), 78, 82, 83.
- 34. Romilly, iii. 274, 282-3; Fitzgerald, ii. 181; Add. 51585, Tierney to Holland, 21 July 1817.
- 35. Heron, 85; Grey mss, Grenville to Grey, 2 July; Chatsworth mss, Abercromby to Devonshire, 8 July; Lambton mss, Wilson to Lambton, 9 July; Romilly, iii. 307; Brougham mss, Brougham to Lambton, 10 July; Brougham letters 129, same to same [n.d. 1817].
- 36. Fremantle mss, box 55, Buckingham to Fremantle, Wed. [3 July]; Fitzgerald, ii. 181; Fitzwilliam mss, box 89, Grey to Fitzwilliam, 2 Nov. 1817; The Marlay Letters ed. Bond, 315.