Edmond George Petty-Fitzmaurice Fitzmaurice.

Life of William, earl of Shelburne, afterwards first marquess of Lansdowne; (Volume 1) online

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Online LibraryEdmond George Petty-Fitzmaurice FitzmauriceLife of William, earl of Shelburne, afterwards first marquess of Lansdowne; (Volume 1) → online text (page 2 of 46)
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Free Trade Dr. Price and Dr. Priestley Priestley become* Librarian at
Bowooci Correspondence between him and Shelburne Political situation on
the return of Shelburne to England Questions of religious toleration
The Feathers Tavern petition The Latitudinarian party in the Church
The Presbyterian clergy and the question of subscription The Bill for their
relief Shelburne supports it Rejection in the House of Lords . 425




The Royal Marriage Bill The affairs of the East India Company The pro-
posals of Lord North Fresh disagreement between the two sections of the
Whig party Speech of Barri in the House of Commons Speeches of
Shelburne in the House of Lords His qualified support of Lord North's
proposals Controversy with the Duke of Richmond Unfortunate influence
of Burke on the counsels of the Opposition The Irish Absentee Tax
Advice of Chatham Shelburne declines to join the opposition to the Bill
Joseph and James Townshend Struggle between James Townshend and
Wilkes in the City of London Townshend elected Lord Mayor in 1772
A letter of Morellet on the struggle Wilkes succeeds in being elected Lord
Mayor in 1774 ........ 443



Parties in America and in England Extreme men Samuel Adams and George
III. Resistance to the Tea Duty Governor Hutchinson Influence of the
Colonial Governors generally The letters of Hutchinson to Whateley
Dr. Franklin and the Privy Council The tea thrown into the harbour of
Boston Correspondence of Shelburne with Chatham The Government
decide to take determined measures The Boston Port Act The Quebec
Act Criticism of the conduct of the Opposition in regard to the Quebec
Act The General Congress at Philadelphia Their first Petition Influence
of John Dickenson Attempts at conciliation The battle of Lexington
The second Petition of Congress Rejection of it by the King Speech of
Shelburne Attempts of Grafton to secure more cordial action between the
leaders of the Opposition The Colonists seek the aid of Foreign Powers
Ambiguous attitude of France and Spain Critical situation Shelburne
insists on the necessity of Chatham being Prime Minister Renewal of
Chatham's illness Shelburne looked upon as his successor in the leadership
Shelburne as an orator The opinions of Lord Camden and Lord Holland
Opinion of Bentham The satirists of the Rolliad Shelburne's anta-
gonism to Lord Mansfield Violence of the debates in both Houses of
Parliament at this time ....... 465


The Earl of Shelburne (afterwards 1st Marquess of Lansdowne)
from the picture at Lansdowne House painted by Sir
Joshua Reynolds in March 1764 . . . Frontispiece




WILLIAM FITZMAURICE, afterwards Earl of Shelburne,
was born on the I3th of May I737. 1 He has left the
following account of his own early life :

" I was born in Dublin in the house of Dr. Hort, then
Bishop of Kilmore, afterwards Archbishop of Tuam, in
Bride Street, Dublin, who married my mother's sister. I
spent the four first years of my life in the remotest part
of the south of Ireland, under the government of an
old grandfather 2 who reigned, or rather tyrannised,
equally over his own family and the neighbouring country,
as if it was his family, in the same manner as I suppose his
ancestors, Lords of Kerry, had done for generations since
the time of Henry II., who granted to our family
100,000 acres in those remote parts in consideration of

1 In the first edition the date was incorrectly given as the zoth of May.

2 Thomas Fitzmaurice, Earl of Kerry. Antony Petty, of Romsey, clothier, had
a son, William, afterwards Sir William Petty, who died December i6th, 1687. His
widow, Lady Petty, was made Baroness Shelburne in the Peerage of Ireland, and his
eldest son, Charles, Baron of Shelburne, by a simultaneous creation, December 3ist,
1687. The barony of Shelburne became extinct by the death of Charles, Lord Shel-
burne, without children in 1696. It was revived in favour of his brother Henry,
October 26th, 1699, who was further created Viscount Dunkerron and Earl of Shel-
burne in the Peerage, of Ireland, April zgth, 1719. These titles became extinct on his
decease without issue April I7th, 1751, when his estates and property passed under the
term of his will to John Fitzmaurice, the fifth and second surviving son of Anne Petty
daughter of Sir William Petty, by her marriage with Thomas Fitzmaurice, Earl of Kerry,
on condition of his using the name and bearing the arms of Petty. John Fitzmaurice
was in the same year raised to the Peerage of Ireland under the titles of Baron Dun-
kerron and Viscount Fitzmaurice. In 1753 the earldom of Shelburne in the Peerage
of Ireland was conferred upon him, and in 1760 he was raised to the Peerage of the
United Kingdom by the title of Baron Wycombe.



their services against the Irish, with the title of Barons of
Kerry. 1 I have seen the original grant in the possession
of my father, and it must be now in my brother's. It is a
curiosity on account of its simplicity and brevity, compared
with grants of a later date, not being longer than a
common writ of subpoena or a summons to Parliament.
Both title and estates descending through so many
generations from father to son in a country quite un-
civilized, peopled by Catholicks, reduced by frequent
rebellions, and laws passed in consequence, my ancestors
necessarily exercised an absolute power over a great tract
of country, and the more so as they had in general
preserved their loyalty and their attachment to the English
Government. 2 My grandfather did not want the manners
of the country nor the habits of his family to make him a
tyrant. He was so by nature. He was the most severe
character which can be imagined, obstinate and inflexible ;
he had not much understanding, but strong nerves and
great perseverance, and no education, except what he had
in the army, where he served in his youth, with a good
degree of reputation for personal bravery and activity.
He was a handsome man, and, luckily for me and mine,
married a very ugly woman, who brought into his family
whatever degree of sense may have appeared in it, or
whatever wealth is likely to remain in it, the daughter of Sir
William Petty, 3 known by his services and his works, and
still more particularly to his family by a very singular will. 4
" Sir William Petty, in consequence of being Ireton's
secretary, became accidentally a trustee in some family
transaction, which becoming in the course of some law
proceeding necessarily known to the King and Lord
Chancellor Clarendon, he was advised by his friends to
suppress it, at the risk of injuring the Cromwell family ;
but he appears to have spurned such an act of ingratitude,

1 The Earldom of Kerry was not created until 1723.

3 See Sydney Pafers and Mcrysen's Itinerary. (Note by Lord Shclburnc.)

8 Anne Petty.

* This will is printed at length in vol. xxiv. of the Transactions of the Royal IriiA
Academy as an appendix to Mr. Hardinge's paper on the townland surveys in Ireland
from 1640 to 1688, and in the appendix to the Life of Sir William Petty, p. 318, by the
present author.


and says in one of his letters that so far from forfeiting
his favour of the King and Chancellor, they both told
him they thought much better of him, and they esteemed
him the more for it. 1 The great qualities of his daughter
are mentioned by Dean Swift in his letters.

" My grandfather had ceased all intercourse with his
eldest son, who was gentleman-like and spirited, but weak
and debauched, and married into a very weak family, the
Earl of Cavan's. 2 As soon as he heard that a son was
born of this marriage he exclaimed, ' the House of
Lixnaw is no more ' ; and so it literally proved, for the
present Lord Kerry, after being educated under the
direction of the Chancellor of Ireland and being left a
good deal to himself, fell in love with a married lady
twenty years older than himself, the daughter of an
eminent Roman Catholick lawyer, and, obtaining a divorce,
married her an extraordinary, vain woman. 3 Having
their way to fight up to get into good company, and
having no posterity, they sold every acre of land which
had been in our family since Henry the Second's time,
converting the remainder into life-rents ; to which she
brought a very considerable addition of her own, which
for want of children descended to her sister, and they will
thus have fulfilled the singular prediction I have here

" My grandfather, soon after he married, had retired to
the seat of his ancestors, disgusted with some injury which
he conceived to have been done to him in point of military
promotion. My grandmother was of an ambitious active
disposition, and during her life, by dint of superior under-
standing, address, and temper (for he made an excessive
bad husband as appears by several letters), sometimes
drew him back into the world, and by a conduct which
was a perfect model of sense, prudence, and spirit, educated
her children well, gained her family consideration at home

1 See The Life of Sir William Petty, ch. v. 133.

2 The second Earl of Kerry married Lady Gertrude Lambart.

3 Anastasia, daughter and co-heiress of Peter Daly, of Queensbury, Co. Galway,
married Peter Daly, of Callow, her cousin, from whom she was divorced. She is buried
in Westminster Abbey, and on her tomb is to be read an inscription suggestive of the
mental qualities mentioned by Lord Shelburne.


and abroad, furnished several houses, supported a style of
living superior to any family whatever in Ireland, and
with all this improved his fortune. After her death he
buried both himself and family in the south of Ireland,
where the great event of the year was the almanack,
which he would allow nobody to read but himself, and
served him in the stead of all other books. He read it
to them every evening till a new one came out, for the
satisfaction of descanting on every person who formed it
of whom he had known while he lived in the world,
stating what he might have been if he had continued in it,
and not forgetting those that had passed him by, upon
whom he bestowed his abuse pretty freely. With all this
he had high principles of honour and a strict love of
justice, which made him govern the country better than
he did his own family. He kept that barbarous country
in strict subordination. 1 He protected strangers and their
property and took care that the laws should be executed,
and all violences repressed. He governed his own family
as he did the country. In consequence his children did
not love him, but dreaded him ; his servants the same.
By all I have heard I was the only object of his affection
for the four last years of his life. 2 He determined to
charge himself with my education, which was to have been
pretty much upon the plan which has since made the
subject of so much refinement. Whether through affection
or fear, he made such an impression upon me, that I
perfectly remember him and several things concerning
him at this moment. I can say with very great truth
that, since I can remember, I have never forgot a kindness
nor an injury, though I have forgiven many of the latter,
having, thank God, by reading, reflection, and observation,
rooted whatever degree of revenge I had by nature out of
my character, of which I could give many proofs. I have
dwelt upon his character, because I ceased from his death

1 Lord Chesterfield, in a letter written in November 1757, says : "Let them (the
Irish Administration) make Kerry and Connaught know that there is a God, a King,
and a Government : three things to which they are at present utter strangers." Lord
Cktittrfelft Letten (edited by Mr. John Bradshaw), vol. i. Introduction, xxii.

2 The first Earl of Kerry died in 1741.


to be an object of affection with anybody except Lady
A. Denny, 1 to whom I owe any good I either learned or
imbibed in the early part of my education. My grand-
father died leaving the foundation of three families. His
eldest son 2 inherited the family estate, which would
amount to ^20,000 a year at this time if it had not been
dissipated by his son, the present Earl of Kerry, 3 who is
likely to die leaving a very ancient title without an acre
of land out of so much which has escaped so long. His
second son, my father, inherited from him what then
amounted to nearly ^3000 a year, and, being improvable,
now produces about ^6000 a year, which my father left
to my brother on account of my inheriting from him the
Petty Estates, for want of heirs male under the will of my
grand uncle, Henry, Earl of Shelburne. 4

" My father was forty-five years old when he emerged
from the state of slavery and feudal habits which have
been described. He had been bred at Westminster
School, and I do not know by what accident, passed
some time afterwards in the south of France, but was
obliged to spend most of his years in attendance upon
his father in his Court of Lixnaw, where he could not
acquire many new ideas in an ignorant neighbourhood,

1 Lady Arabella Fitzmaurice, sister of John, Earl of Shelburne, married Mr. Alfred
Denny, grandson of the Earl of Coningsby, and died in 1785. She left a curious will
of which the following is an extract : " With regard to my own person my desires are
very moderate : that I may not be buried till I am certainly dead ; that I may be
permitted to lie on my bed for 72 hours, and longer, if no signs of putrefaction appear,
and that change happening, that I may be put into a leaden coffin, and my jugular veins
opened, and then enclosed in an oak coffin, and conveyed to the church of Tralee on a
hearse with but one mourning-coach ; two servants and the driver of each carriage to be
allowed their expenses on the road, the servants 43. 4d., and the drivers 2s. 8d. per day
for fourteen days only, being full time for their return. I leave my chamber clock to
Sir John Hort because he values time and makes a good use of it." Dr. Priestley
describes Lady Arabella Denny as a woman of " good understanding and great piety."
She is also frequently mentioned in Wesley's Journals.

- William, second Earl of Kerry, died in 1747. The third family mentioned by Lord
Shelburne is that of his younger brother, who married Mary O'Brien, Countess of
Orkney in her own right. Her grandson succeeded to the title.

3 Francis Thomas, third Earl of Kerry, dissipated the greater portion of his inherit-
ance and invested part of it in French assignats. On his decease in 1818 the title of
Earl of Kerry, with the Kerry property reduced to the burial-place of Lixnaw passed
to the younger branch of the family then represented by Henry, third Marquis of
Lansdowne. (See an article by Mr. Alger in the English Historical Re-uietv, x. 40,
October 1891.)

4 Henry, Earl of Shelburne, died in 1751.


and under a sense of domestic tyranny, except what his
own reflection bred. I must, however, do justice to my
grandfather by saying, that he had an acknowledged
love of honour, justice, and truth, which ought to
balance his excess of severity. As far as I can learn
both were the characteristics of the House of Lixnaw
for many generations, and are distinguishable to this
day in the small remains of it. I hope I have introduced
a degree of softness into it, but I must acknowledge, out
of regard to the truth, with which I profess to write these
memoranda, that it has arisen more from self-discipline,
good company, and observation of the world, than from
my own nature.

" If it had not been for the disadvantages I have
described, my father, with his fortune and the favour
of accidents, would, I am persuaded, have made a
distinguished man. He had an uncommon good plain
understanding, great firmness, and love of justice, saw
things public and private en grand^ but was not broke to
the world's little activity ; had all the habits and principles
of his father's Court worked into his very nature, and no
notion of governing his children particularly except by
fear. My mother, on the other hand, was active to excess,
and enterprising as far as her talents could carry her
one of the most passionate characters I ever met with,
but good-natured and forgiving when it was over with
a boundless love of power, economical to excess in the
most minute particulars, and persevering, by which means
she was always sure to gain her ends of my father, who,
upon the whole, loved a quiet life. 1 If it had not been
for her continual energy my father would have passed the
remainder of his life in Ireland, and I might at this time
be the chief of some little provincial faction. 2

" In Scotland, I suppose I saw the last of the feudal
lords, like my ancestors, in the person of the last Duke

1 John, Earl of Shelburne, married hi first cousin, Mary Fitzmaurice of Gallant.
There it a letter at Holland House to Lord Holland from Lord Kildare, attributing
the faults of the character of Lord Shelburne to his mother.

2 Mary, Lady Shelburne, died in 1780. Walpole, alluding to her death, speaks
of her "superabundant cunning" (Corretfondence, vii. 475). John, Earl of Shelburne,
bought the Bowood property. His monument is in the mausoleum in the park.


of Douglas. When I was introduced to him at Holyrood
House by appointment, he met me at the top of the
stairs with his hat and sword. Lord Dunmore, General
Scot, the father of Lady Tichfield, and Mr. John Home,
the poet, went with me. He spoke occasionally to Lord
Dunmore, but not much, and did not open his lips to
General Scot. When anything was said about his family
he nodded to Mr. John Home to narrate what regarded
it. I happened to say something about the Highlands,
which I had misapprehended or been misinformed about,
at which Lord Dunmore laughed. The Duke drew up
and vindicated fully what I had said, signifying by his
manner to Lord Dunmore his disapprobation. I told
him that I had seen a new house he was building in the
Highlands. He said he heard that the Earl of Northum-
berland was building a house in the north of England, the
kitchen of which was as large as his whole house, upon
which the Duchess of Douglas, an enterprising woman, as
may be seen from the famous Douglas cause, 1 observed
that, if the Douglases were to meet the Percys once more
in the field, then would the question be, whose kitchen
was the largest ? Upon this, the Duke nodded to Mr.
Home to state some of the great battles in which the
Douglas family had distinguished themselves. I told him
that I hoped to wait upon him in London. He said he
feared not ; he could be of no use there ; he was not
sufficiently informed to carry any weight there ; he could
neither read nor write without great difficulty. I told
him that many of the greatest men in the history of both
kingdoms could do neither, to which he assented.

" Under the circumstances 1 have described, I had no
great chance of a very liberal education ; no great
example before me ; no information in my way, except
what I might be able to acquire by my own observation
or by chance ; good-breeding within my own family,
which made part of the feudal system, but out of it

1 I conceived such a prejudice upon the sight of the present Lord Douglas's face and
figure that I could not allow myself to vote in this cause. If ever I saw a French-
man he is one. (Note by Lord Shelburne.)


nothing but those uncultivated, undisciplined manners
and that vulgarity which make all Irish society so justly
odious all over Europe. I must, however, make one
illustrious exception to all that has been said within and
without my family, in the person of Lady Arabella Denny,
to whose virtues, talents, temper, taste, true religion, and
goodness of every kind, it is impossible for me to do
sufficient justice, any more than to the unspeakable
gratitude I owe her. If it was not for her I should have
scarce known how to read, write, or articulate, to being
able to do which I am indebted, perhaps, for the greatest
part of the little reputation I have lived to gain in the
House of Lords. It was to her alone I owed any allevia-
tion of the domestic brutality and ill - usage I daily
experienced at home. She was the only example I had
before me of the two qualities of mind which most adorn
and dignify life amiability and independence. She was
married young to a neighbouring gentleman, one of the
oldest family among the English-Irish, a very good sort
of man, uninformed and ignorant, but who had a brother,
Sir Denny, a coward, a savage, and a fool, who set
himself to make her life unhappy. She knew that if she
complained, or even told her husband, it would make an
irreconcileable breach between the two brothers, and there-
fore she could not reconcile it to her principles. She told
me however that, finding she could not endure his
brutality, and that her nerves began to fail her, she had
recourse to the following stratagem. She determined to
learn privately to fire a pistol. When she had practised
sufficiently to become a very good shot, she prevailed
upon him, without letting him into the secret, to accom-
pany her to the retired spot where she practised, and
showed him how dexterous she had become, telling him at
the same time that she suffered so much from his brutality,
that if he did not alter his behaviour, she was determined
to apply the skill she had obtained by coming behind him,
or by the surest means she could invent, his ill-usage
having made her regardless as to her own life. After this
conversation he immediately changed his manner, and


never afterwards gave her the least trouble. It is im-
possible to form any judgment of her merit in this
transaction without having known her feminine manners,
character, and figure. She told me that before she had

7 O

recourse to this stratagem, in a little apothecary's shop
which she kept for the benefit of the poor, furnished
with shelves, she was obliged to put the laudanum upon
the upper shelf, that the motion of going up the step-
ladder to get at it might make her change so desperate
a resolution. When her husband died she had too much
experience ever to become a slave again, and she refused
two or three of the most respectable marriages Ireland
afforded. Her husband left her the means of devoting
herself to public charities of different kinds, an account of
which deserves to be collected for an example to her sex ;
with all which she mixed decency, hospitality, and
elegance in house and table as well as a variety of
innocent resources. She frequently told me it was all
owing to order. I am determined if I live a very few
years to collect everything I can about her, for her life
deserves much better to be examined and recorded than
that of Madame de Maintenon or Madame Roland, or
even Catherine II. of Russia, if it was not for the public
events originating from the vices and crimes of the last
personage. As to morals, whoever knows anything of
Ireland knows how rare they are in any rank of life. In
England they are much oftener to be met with among the
middling classes, who are obliged to be active and diligent
to make their own and their children's fortune, than among
the higher classes, whose fortunes are made and who have
no motive for exertion except ambition, which may be
one case in a hundred. In Ireland there was, at that
time at least, no middling class, and the manners of the
better sort were, and still are, justly proverbial.

" From the time I was four years old till I was four-
teen, my education was neglected to the greatest degree.
I was first sent to an ordinary publick school. I was
then shut up with a private tutor, my father and mother
being in England. My tutor was a narrow-minded


clergyman, whose name was Pelissier, of a French refugee
family, with no great parts and no great learning, as
good-humoured and as good-natured as a narrow mind is
capable of being, with a dash of that pertness of character
which commonly belongs to the French. There was,
indeed, one advantage which I might have found in his
society, and that of his friends and family, which was
learning French, for they spoke little else. My father
particularly insisted on it, but that very circumstance
determined me against it. As I was crossed in every-
thing, I was determined to cross in my turn, and

Online LibraryEdmond George Petty-Fitzmaurice FitzmauriceLife of William, earl of Shelburne, afterwards first marquess of Lansdowne; (Volume 1) → online text (page 2 of 46)